Into the Unknown
Part XI: Forgiveness
It was a thirty minute drive to Saint Andrew’s presbyterian church, so Allen got to meet my mom and grandparents who of course bombarded him with questions. Some innocuous, some less.
“Where are your parents?” Grandma asked.
“They don’t live around here,” Allen answered.
“Couldn’t they take the weekend off?”
I saw Allen flinch a little at the continued questioning.
“They’re very busy people.” I said, coming to Allen’s aid. I found his hand on the seat and gave him a little finger squeeze in support before diverting the conversation to more innocent topics, like food, that was always a good way to get the others talking.
Soon enough, we arrived at the church, I’d been there the last few sundays. Saint Andrew’s presbyterian church was one of those simpler church, a small brick building with a white belltower and some simple stained windows on the sides.
Just like usual, Reverend Burke was at the door greeting everyone and welcoming them into the house of God. He was this tall mixed race man in his sixties with salt and pepper hair.
“Misses Campbell. It’s good to see the both of you again.” He said recognizing my mom and I. “I believe we have some new faces.” My grandparents introduced themselves and then the Reverend’s gaze settled on Allen.
“I don’t believe I’ve had the honor of meeting you before.”
“Hello Reverend, I’m Allen,” he said, ducking his head a little in respect.
“Welcome to our church Allen, please come on in and make yourself comfortable.”
We went inside, found an empty pew by the middle of the church and sat down. It didn’t take too long for the service to get started. Everything was pretty standard, prayers, hymns, children’s story time, the sermon —which the Reverend opted to focus on the importance of loving one another and the unity of the community— after a good two hours, the service concluded and the usual little social mixer began, with canapés prepared by the Reverend’s wife and some of the older church ladies.
While mom and company talked to the Reverend, I dragged Allen to the little buffet, stuffing some food into my mouth.
“So, how was your first presbyterian service?” I asked once I was done chewing my first bite.
“I guess I was expecting something different.” He said, bringing his arm up and rubbing the back of his head. “I mean it was, but it was also really similar to what I’m used to. Just more hope and forgiveness instead of fire, and anger and shouting?”
I laughed. “Well, I hope you liked it and I’d love it if you’d come again with me.”
“I’ll think about it, but it is nice to be in a church again,” he admitted.
“Were you afraid god might smite you with a lightning bolt if you dared come for being such a sinner?” I teased.
“With the way my mum talks about parahumans…a little,” he laughed.
“I’m sorry.” I pouted and quickly gave him a hug. “No smiting here, just repentance, forgiveness, and love.” Although I hadn’t meant it, the words took a little sour note at the end.
“Caroline?” Allen said, frowning.
“Sorry, it’s just I’m thinking about Charlie and I wasn’t really fair, or understanding, or forgiving toward her this morning… I just left with a bitter feeling in my heart rather than try to make it up…”
“Oh, If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly happened?” he asked, looking a little uncomfortable.
“I don’t really know… Charlie has this friend called Marian she never mentioned, that girl who showed up at the dinner. And apparently they’re really close, Charlie swears she’s straight but Jenna says otherwise and I don’t know what to make of it all… I mean, I believe in Charlie, at least I want to… I’m probably just being dumb and silly, am I?”
“Okay… I don’t really know why Charlie never mentioned Marian but perhaps she would’ve in time as she felt more comfortable with you. Marian might be straight or Jenna might be right and she isn’t. But I don’t think that really matters because Charlie is with you and you seem to make her extremely happy. I don’t think you need to be doubting your relationship… did that help at all?” he finished.
I took a moment to think it over. “You, know what, you’re right. I’ve been thinking about this way too hard, Charlie and I love each other, that’s what matters.” A smile appeared at my lips. “Thanks for listening to me vent.”
“Any time, least I can do,” he replied.
“Well, thank you. You’re a good friend.” I said, my smile getting wider. “Say, I doubt you ever thought you’d give some gay relationship advice in a church, right?”
“Gotta say it’s a new experience,” he laughed.
“We’re Presbyterian, it’s okay here. Heck, Reverend Burke married a gay couple two weeks ago.”
“Wow, better not mention that part when I tell my mum I found a church. She’d probably need more blood pressure tablets.”
“You’re going to church, they don’t need to know the details beyond that.” I said with a grin. “And if they’re not happy, the Reverend could give them a sermon or two about homosexuality in the bible and how it doesn’t apply today to consensual relationships. And unlike your parents he’s got a doctorate in that stuff.”
“I guess I’ll keep it in mind, good thing I’m straight at least. I think being parahuman is bad enough for them to cope with…”
My first thought was that his straightness could be questionable but I didn’t voice it, he was slowly coming to term with everything being different, better not push it and risk a panic.
“You try being a doubly disabled, trans, possibly gay, girl on top of it.” I said, nudging him. “But as hard as the transition is, I can tell you that it won’t always feel like something massively stressful, I had people harass me when I first manifested, but eventually people just accept it, moved on and it became barely noteworthy.”
“I have no way to imagine that. The closest thing I can use is the difficulty I get as a person of colour. I admit I don’t know a lot about the whole gender gap issues but I do have some awareness I’m better —”
I interrupted him. “Allen, it’s fine I was teasing.” I said with a chuckle.
I looked around and saw people were starting to leave for other things, notably sunday brunch. “It’s almost time to go. Let’s find me parents.”
He nodded and we started looking around. As we did, I spoke to him.
“So, I’m going to go home, make things better with Charlie and get my girlfriend back. Then how about we continue your training? You did so well last time, imagine how far you’ll be in a few more sessions?”
“Sure,” he nodded sounding apprehensive.
We found my family and after a few minutes left. We went for a quick brunch in town and then we dropped Allen at Ravenhold before going back to the Coleman house. I didn’t have to go inside to find Charlie along with her friend Mariam. The two of them were outside on Charlie’s own personal skatepark, sitting on the ramp and eating. While the others went inside I went to Charlie’s side, feeling my chest tighter than ever, my heart trying to escape it.
When Charlie saw me, she waved at me. “Hey again.” She then said, a nervous tinge to her word.
“Hey Charlie.” I bit my lip, my heart already beating out of my chest. “Marian.” We looked at each other and nodded. “Would you mind if I talk to Charlie?”
“Okie-dokie.” She said before going for the house after asking for Charlie’s snack stash.
I looked back at Charlie and we took a seat on the edge of the skating ramp. I took a deep breath before speaking.
“I’m sorry… I should’ve had more faith and not rushed you like that about Marian.”
“And I’m sorry for getting defensive.” Charlie sighed. “If I hadn’t we probably wouldn’t have had this dumb argument.”
I opened my arms and she came forward, giving me a hug.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.” I whispered. “Water under the bridge?”
“Why don’t you properly introduce me to your best friend then? We didn’t really have the chance last night.”
She smiled, took my hand and we both went to the house together. Mariam was in the living room, snacking on some gummies from a large bag while giving Grump some ear scratches.
“Yo.” She said. “Everything alright?”
“I think it’ll be.” I said looking at Charlie who nodded. “I’m Caroline.”
“Well we kind of introduced ourselves back at the dinner. But I’m Marian, I’m glad to meet you and I’m sorry if me just coming out of the blues caused you some troubles.”
“It’s not your fault and it’s all water under the bridge.”
“Glad to hear that.” She said with a smile. “Since you’re my BFF’s girl, guess we better be friends. I heard you like cooking, I’m craving something sweet, how about we bake some cake? You’ll see I’m pretty good at baking.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.” I said a grin appearing on my lips. “Can’t be worse than a certain someone.”
“Oh I have got to tell you the time Charlie mixed celsius and fahrenheit we ended up with a log of coal. Or that time she put salt instead of sugar or— If I keep going we’ll never have a cake.”
“I have enough money to buy a dozen bakeries, I don’t need to learn how to make a cake though.” Charlie said, pouting.
“But store bought is so not the same thing.” I said, which Mariam agreed with a ‘heck yeah it isn’t.’ “Good thing you have us.”
“Go bake!” Charlie said, “No more picking on me!”