Later that evening, Brad came in his Sentra to pick me up. He was heading up to Mansfield to celebrate his birthday, and he invited me along so I could meet his parents.
“Do you have everything you need for the long weekend, babe?” he asked.
“Sure do. You don’t know how much I’m looking forward to this.”
"So you’re excited to meet my folks, huh? I must not be the only one who thinks we have something special here.”
“Yeah, but it’s more than that. I just got into a little argument with my sister and it’ll be good to get away from campus.” The weekend away would give me time to study Brad too and see if Kirsten’s words had any merit.
“What’d you two fight about?”
"You, actually. She says you’re not good enough for me.”
Brad scoffed. “She doesn’t even know me. Where does she get off? I’m sorry to tell you this, sweetie, but your sister is a witch with a b if you know what I mean.”
“Just telling it like I see it.”
“Let’s just drop it, ok?”
I didn’t like to hear such harsh words against my sister, but I hated arguing more. I wanted to stat our weekend on the right foot.
Brad put his hand on my knee, moving it in slow circles gradually up my thigh. What would happen if I didn’t stop him? Once again I wondered how far was too far. The call to purity rang clear as a bell through my brain and a shame spiral began anew. Lost in a world of self-condemnation, I hardly said a word to Brad.
“You’ve been unusually quiet since we left Elkridge,” Brad commented as he navigated the car through the hills along Route 13. “Still angry that I called your sister a name?”
“Not really. Well, maybe just a little. Actually, there’s something else on my mind, but I don’t really want to talk about it. Don’t worry. It’s not a big deal anyway.” I fell back into silence, continuing to stare out the window.
“Could have fooled me. I’ve never seen you this down. Could it be that you’re nervous about meeting my parents?”
“Nervous? Why?” I gave a half smile. “Parents usually seem to like me.”
“Is that so?”
“Sure, what’s not to like?” I tried to fake a fuller smile.
“What is it then? Out with it. If we’re going to get married one day, you have to be able to tell me what’s bothering you. Please don’t make me guess, it drives me crazy.”
So he did have marriage on his mind! I remembered the still small urging to talk about my secret shame with someone. Maybe Brad was the right person … especially if he wanted to marry me. I started and stopped several sentences, looking for the right words.
“Just spit it out already,” Brad said.
“I’m sorry, but this is difficult for me,” I said, hating the whine in my voice. “I don’t know how to say it.”
His knuckles went white on the steering wheel. “You want to break up with me.”
“What? No, don’t be silly. I’m going with you to meet your parents and tell them we’re in love. Why would I break up with you?”
His hands relaxed but his body remained taut. “Babe, just tell me. I don’t like these kind of games.”
“Okay, I’ll try. Did you ever read Romans chapter seven? ‘For the things I want to do, I don’t do and the things I hate, that I do?’”
“Vaguely. What does that have to do with anything?”
“Well, we’ve been studying it in church the past few Sundays, and it just sums up what I’m going through lately. There is a sin that I keep going back to; even though I promised myself I would stop. I was doing really great for a while, but yesterday … well, I didn’t flee from temptation, and I fell into this sin again.” My voice broke. “I’m so ashamed.”
"What are you crying about? You’re seriously freaking me out. Are you a drug addict or something?”
Suddenly my tears turned to giggles.
He clenched his jaw and turned away.
“I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you, I promise. It’s just that,” I broke up laughing again, “drug addiction is so far from what I was trying to get out. I was simply shocked you got that out of it. I’ve never even been offered drugs. I wouldn’t know the first thing about where to get them or how to use them.”
He began to laugh along with me. “Wow, you really scared me there for a minute. I don’t know what I was thinking. You, on drugs! Ha! You’re so absentminded half the time as it is, you’d lose your head if drugs were added to the mix.”
How ditzy did he think I was? At first I thought his jokes about having my head in the clouds were good natured, but this time it hurt. I straightened up and squared my shoulders. “Brad, that’s not fair. Besides, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about those type of comments. It hurts my feelings when you talk like that,” I said. Did he just roll his eyes? “I know I can be forgetful, but you don’t need to harp on me about it every chance you get.”
“Gee, babe, loosen up will ya? Learn to take a joke. I’m not used to dealing with someone who’s so sensitive.”
I folded my arms and didn’t reply.
“Here we go! Don’t pull a silent wounded act. Just talk to me. So if it’s not drugs, then what?”
I stammered some more, but finally got a coherent sentence out. “I like to read romance novels, or sometimes stories like that online, and well … I’ve never told anyone this before,” I whispered.
This time he did the laughing. “Oh my word. I can’t believe you were so worked up about that.” He laughed again, more derisively. “You really had me going there, thinking it was something serious.”
“You don’t seem to understand. It’s wrong. It’s disgusting. I’m sinning against my body. The Bible says to lust is the same thing as committing adultery.”
“Babe, don’t you get it? That’s just the crazy talk of a repressed society. Your parents or your pastors—or more likely both—taught you to be ashamed of your sexuality, but there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It’s natural. Didn’t God say all creation was good? You’re beating yourself up for nothing, overdramaticizing everything as usual.”
Brad turned up the car stereo and I turned inward.