TITLE: Prologue: Beholden Or Not
By angela belock
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And Jesus said, “For Judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” John 9:8-41
Maj Anne wants to bang her head against her locker, but instead she opens it and throws her stuff inside. Her two best friends are waiting on her. She did not want to meet their gaze. She did not want to have this unavoidable conversation. She had hoped the afternoon would end quickly. She hoped Dan and Jen would drop the subject all together. The Mighty Freeze Dairy Dream which was down the road was beckoning--yet, Dan pushes on.
As several other students shove their way pass, arguing over the latest Ohio State basketball game, Dan wouldn‘t change focus. “Come on Maj. You can’t sit at home all the time. For three and a half years life has passed you by. All you do is take care of your brothers. What about what you want?”
She turns angrily on him. What she wants is to be allowed to make her own decisions. Nobody seems to think she’s capable of this. Her brothers swore she didn’t know how to say no to anyone. Her friends were constantly bugging her about her church. Frustration and anger mingle with the tears that unexpectedly roll down her cheeks.
“What I want?” she finds herself practically shouting, “I want to go get ice-cream. I don’t want to have this conversation. It won’t do any good. You know as well as I do that I’m not free like you. I’d love to choose what’s right and wrong. But I don’t get that choice. My mother works and I raise the kids.”
When was the last time she felt free to laugh with her friends without the worry of her brothers? When has she ever been able to date anyone? Go to a movie with anyone? Eight years ago! Eight terrible years ago, her father was still at home and her mother wasn’t working.
Jen places a hand on her shoulder, feeling helpless. Maj has a right to be a teenager for one night out of the year. With the intensity of Maj’s gaze Jen realizes that Maj doesn’t even know she has these rights.
Reaching over Maj’s head, she slams the locker shut. Maj slings her bag over her shoulder, and tries to out walk Dan’s urge to talk. She doesn’t want to hear the sympathy in Jen’s voice, but Jen tries to intercede, “Don’t you see Maj, Prom is a one shot deal. You’ve missed every dance this school has because of your church’s laws and your mom‘s work schedule. It’s now time for making some laws of your own.” Jen hurries after her.
Brushing her curly brown mass of hair out of her face, Maj sighs. She knows Jen means well, but her life is based on church doctrine. It doesn’t matter if church doctrine makes sense or not. If Pastor Patrick said it--then its true. End of story. No arguments allowed.
Dan has always been her greatest ally. ‘Doctor Dan’ as they call him, is a brother. He’s been her best friend since their Freshman year in high school. They both were in a small business class together. They sat by each other but never talked. Maj had been shy and insecure, and Dan was popular. Top of the A list.
Then the question, the question that changed everything came from their teacher. He was a man who encouraged his students to think big. Mr. Delray asked them what their plans were after graduation. The class hummed with excitement. Everyone wanted to share their dreams. Everyone except Maj Anne. All she wanted to do was leave home. She hated the rules and the confinement, beyond leaving, she had no real goals.
The rest of the class had big dreams. Some wanted to be Police officers, others wanted to study accounting, even a few preachers stood up--but she said nothing. What could she offer? She had nothing.
Dan on the other hand was impressive. That day he said, "I want to take control of cancer research. I don't want to sit on the side lines. I want to offer hope and encouragement that cancer patients will get better. I want to see the sick healed; through faith and medicine."
The whole class was in tears as he explained, "I have sat night after night watching my sister, Kayla, grow weaker. The doctors don't offer much hope because they can't. Her appetite has diminished. Her attitude about life has changed. She takes each day with hope. We never hear her complaining or wondering why she was chosen to suffer. But I hate it. I hate being able to do nothing but pray."
He was already reading as many books as he could on the disease. He was going to take charge of the cure. At the end of class, thoroughly impressed with him, Maj Anne had proudly said, “You’ve got real heart Doctor.”
And from that moment he had become ‘Doctor’ Dan. He was likeable, kind, and supportive. His athletic ability and sandy blond hair and blue eyes made him extremely good looking. He was and is highly desirable to all the girls in their school. Yet they became best friends because he was truly a wonderful guy.
Dan is always available, always willing to pray or study the word of God. He is there with Kleenex when her mother piles one more responsibility on her. They can spend long hours with a bible and prayer journals--praying and sharing the desire to make the world a better place. With Dan, Maj can be herself. That is what freedom is, but even knowing this she can’t give into his demands. Not even for him.
Standing in front of the math rooms Dan confronts her gently. "Jim just told me he asked you to go with him. He said it took him a while to get the courage up. But when he finally did, you turned him down flat. Why in the world did you turn him down?”
She shrugs her shoulders, and holds her hands up to deflect his complaints. She looks into the math room, praying Mrs. Beholder hasn’t heard their discussion. Frantically she grabs Dan’s arm and pulls him further away from the door, “Doctor Dan, don’t make me feel worse then I already do. It’s like asking me to choose between water and oxygen.” She swings back towards Jen, motioning her to follow. Hoping Mrs. Beholder isn’t going to open the door.
As they rush passed, Jen smiles, “She’s not in their. I didn’t see the bee hive anywhere.”
Dan sighs with relief. He doesn’t want to confront the bee lady either. Not with her stinger out to hurt Maj. “Look,” He says touching both her shoulders and turning her to face him again, “Jim is one of the nicest guys I know. He is also one of the most popular. His Christian ideals can compare to nobody else’s, but what I am concerned with is you.”
Jen voices up as she comes nearer, “Yeah Maj. We just want you to go.” She then whispers, “Susie is going on and on about how he should ask her. She’d treat him better then you. She keeps telling everyone how his brown hair and brown eyes go perfectly with her fresh face.” Jen rolls her eyes as she speaks.
Susie’s fresh face is a disgusting collage of makeup. Susie is nothing to be proud of. She is the richest girl in school. Her father owns the largest golf course in the area with 400,000 dollar estates residing on it. But she parades around the school like she is entitled to own everything and everyone.
Jen continues, “He didn’t ask Susie. He asked you. And let me tell you, she is livid. She feels Jim should belong to her because she’s head cheerleader. He’s the captain of the basketball team and so that says it all. They should go together.”
Dan smiles sliding an arm around Jen, “Jim certainly did not agree.”
Despite herself, Maj smiles at this. Susie and her have a history. Maj Anne stopped Dan from dating Susie several months ago. He too was fooled by her fake smiles, and insincere flattery. Until the day Maj caught her in a blatant lie in front of Dan and called her out on it. They‘ve had a mutual dislike ever since.
This whole conversation makes her stomach hurt. As they continue down the hall, Maj wants it all to end. They were lucky. Mrs. Beholder wasn’t in her room but if she shows up anywhere in the hallway Maj can’t promise anyone will be safe from a tongue lashing, even if she doesn’t hear their conversation. Mrs. Beholder has an opinion on everything, and she dislikes Maj Anne’s friends. “I can’t guys. I just can’t.” she replies with finality, hoping and praying Dan and Jen will just drop the whole subject.
“But why,” Dan sounds exasperated.
Maj Anne doesn't respond.
As they reached the door to head outside Maj Anne’s worst fears are realized. Mrs. Beholder, with her hair piled high on her head in the form of a stringy, unkempt beehive, glares at them from the doorway. “Don’t even think about going to Prom.” Her steely gray eyes beet into Maj Anne. “You know exactly how Pastor Patrick feels. Only sluts and tramps go to school dances and the prom is no exception.” Her expression falls on Jenny with undisguised contempt.
Dan flies into a rage. No one insults his girl friend in such a manner--not even a teacher. He pushes past Maj and Jen, inserting his five foot, muscular figure in front of the four foot blockade. His blue eyes scream anger, “Look I’m a Christian and I have gone to every dance our school has ever had. My friends and I are not reckless, inconsiderate, or disrespectful. We do not hurt women or expect anything from them. My girlfriend is a descent, loving sweet lady. I will not tolerate you talking to her or Maj Anne with such blatant disrespect.” He’s seething with anger, curling and uncurling his fist. This woman has too much control over Maj Anne but he wasn’t going to give her anymore.
Sighing, Mrs. Beholder shakes her head, “Your young and you are naďve to what the real church says about dancing.” Her gravely voice is cold and unemotional as she pivots away from Dan and turns her gaze on Maj Anne. “Please don’t do anything that is going to endanger your standing within our church. It will go badly for you and your Mom.”
With that the Beehive stomps back towards her classroom. Dan gently wraps his arm around Jen and follows Maj out the door. Angry, Dan and Jenny don’t drop the discussion on how horrid Mrs. Beholder is. If anything good came out of the confrontation it had to be that Dan finally changed the subject. Maj didn’t disagree with them about Mrs. Beholder, but her Mom insisted Pastor Patrick’s rules be followed. All her life she has followed his doctrine. Maybe now that they have witnessed what she goes through on a daily basis they will drop the whole prom issue. Ice cream helps cool the conversation, and allows Maj Anne enjoy her friends for the first time that afternoon, but the peace would not last.
A week later, after saying very little to Maj Anne, Dan begins again. The day, a glorious sunny March day. The afternoon sky promises warmer days to come. Maj hopes the track meet her brothers are participating in won’t take too long because she has a history test to study for. Shutting her locker she turns to leave when she sees Dan and Jenny walking towards her. They are smiling and dragging someone with them.
His dark curly hair and lively green eyes smiled at her. They wouldn’t--Not now. Not after the last conversation. But of course they did and here he is. Smiling broadly and looking a little nervous. Knowing this young man can date any one in the school, doesn‘t help. Her heart begins to race, and hope rises even as she tries to push it back down.
His soft voice falters into her ears and directly to her heart. He leans against her locker and looks searchingly into her eyes, “Dan said you might still be interested in the Prom. Is this true?”
Could she do this? Could she defy her mother? The church? The Beholders? She wants to. For the first time in her life she wants too. Jim’s eyes were making her feel vulnerable. His expression soft and inquiring dug into her heart. She so much wanted to ignore the warnings from Mrs. Beholder and just go for it. This certainly would make her senior year rememberable.
She begins to nod her head. She wants more then anything to take control of her life. This could be the start in that direction. She isn’t angry with Dan or Jen. All she sees is Jim. Tall and strong, leaning against her locker, and feeling proud that he’s not at Susie’s. Is this really happening? Is this giant of a man asking her out again? Is she ready to do this? Is she ready to take on her glass world and smash it to a million pieces?
He scuffs his white sneaker against the linoleum floor and nervously runs his hand through his thick black hair. His white smile steels away Maj’s last bit of resistance as he says, “Well, if you're interested I would really like to take you.”
Maj Anne’s heart jumps into her throat. “Are you serious? After all I said the last time?” She remembers her harsh words too well to believe he forgot them. “Or despite what I said?” No one has ever asked her out twice. Once was usually rejection enough.
Most of the student body knows her history. They gave up along time ago including her in any after school activity. If it wasn’t for Dan and Jen, she’d have no friends at all. Many knew the hold Mrs. Beholder had on her and wouldn’t dare challenge the lady; but here is a new start. Could she do it?
Jim nods his head, “I know Mrs. Beholder is hard on you, but I really think we could have a great time together. What do you say?”
She looks from Dan to Jenny--back to Jim. They all nervously wait for her reply. She takes a deep breath, “I would love to go with you.” As his eyes light up she puts a hand on his shoulder, wanting to be nothing but truthful with him, “But I will have to make sure it’s okay with my Mom.”
Doctor Dan intervenes, “She’ll go with you.” He stands next to her and Jim. His blue eyes are moist at the corners. Maj Anne’s heart wants to scream, quit pushing, but her mind knows that Dan loves her like a sister. His eyes are fighting for control because his heart is so happy she said she’d go. He whispers in her ear, “This is it Maj. You said you wanted freedom. Jim is offering you a start. You are 18. Make your own decision.”
Even now, with Jim at her side Maj Anne knows Dan’s wrong. For as long as her Mom helps put clothes on her back, she knows she is very much at her mercy. But still she wants to go. She wants to spend sometime with Jim. To get to know him better, to be on the arm of someone who likes her for who she is. So she just nods her head, silently agreeing with Dan, but cringing at her boldness. An invisible chain has snapped. She is going to do something just for herself.
As they leave school that day all Jenny and her do is talk about prom. With thick chocolate milk shakes in hand, they stroll to the Junior high track meet. They watch Johnny run the 100m dash and Tommy fly over hurdles, but all either one of them can think about is Prom. As they stroll back home that afternoon Jenny promises to go to the mall with her. They’d shop until their feet ached, or until they found the perfect Dress.
* * *
Now, a month later and Maj finds herself still unable to confront her mom. How she has managed to keep this secret for so long she is unsure, but Prom is only three weeks away. With the daffodils in full bloom, the birds arriving daily, and the signs going up all over school she can’t delay much longer.
Jen and her have been shopping twice for dresses. The first time was a disaster. All the dresses were dark and dreary. Their necklines were too revealing, and nothing made Maj Anne feel glamorous. The next time they went, Jen found a perfect yellow silk one and Maj found a very subtle dress with billowing skirts which is now tucked away in Jen’s closet.
Brushing her hair, her ears prick up as she hears Johnny yelling at their mother. What was going on? Tommy and Johnny never seem to pick fights with mom. Walking from her room, she hurries down the stairs. Her eyes dancing over the pictures of her father, but ignoring them, because she had to find Johnny. What she sees astounds her. He is standing in the kitchen with his hands on his hips, eyes biting into their mom, “I want to go to that dance. I am not a girl. I am not bound by the same rules as the women are in our church.”
Maj Anne’s mom shakes her head, “That dance is on the same night as Prom. I can’t let you do that. If I said yes to your dance I’d have to say yes to Maj Anne’s prom. No way.”
Would she have okayed it otherwise? Was her mom so full of double standards that her brothers would be treated differently if prom wasn’t on another day. Crestfallen Maj walks into the room, the battle lines were drawn. It is now or never. “Mom, I have something to confess.” Her mom‘s eyes flash angrily towards her. “I’ve been meaning to tell you this for awhile, but I never found the courage.”
Her mom shook her head angrily, “Your not going Maj.” Her blond hair had fallen out of it’s tight bun. Her hands were clasped together, knuckles white, as she looks at her daughter “I don’t care who asked you or what your friends have been telling you to do, the answer is NO!”
Maj places her hand on John’s shoulder, ignoring her mother’s angry words, she whispers, “Dan is picking me up for the Prom--if you’re sure you want to go we’ll work something out. Okay?”
John nods imperceptibly but his mom catches them, “What are you whispering about? I come home from work and I‘m attacked by my own children. Do my rules mean nothing in this house?”
Maj Anne sighs, her mom did look tired but this battle had to be fought. “We’re going to our school dances mom. I am no longer a member of your church. I haven’t been for a while.” Seeing the shock in her mom’s eyes she hurries on, “Since you work most Saturday and Sunday midnight turns you never checked to see if I was going to the Beholder’s Temple church. I’m not. I haven’t been for over a month.” Not since Jim had asked her out. She knew she could not continue to attend The Baptist temple and go to prom. She couldn’t give Mrs. Beholder anymore control over her life. So she quit attending. Her brothers were dropped off routinely but then she went onto Dan’s church.
Here she met friendly people. The girls were all willing to talk openly about their faith. They played baseball and basketball. They wore blue jeans to church. They had makeup on their face. The whole outlook of the church was different then she had ever experienced at Temple.
New freedom was found. She was involved for the first time with a youth group. Boys and girls sharing testimony together. Songs, worship, and fellowship all shared without guilt.
Her mom’s anger boils over, “You can’t quit our church. I fought too hard to keep us members after my divorce. I am still your mother.”
Sighing and fighting back tears, Maj tries to keep her voice steady, “I am old enough to vote now, Mom. I am old enough to sign up for the military and die. You can yell and scream all you want but I am not your slave. I am your daughter. God gave me a free will and it’s time I used it.”
Her mom slaps her keys angrily down on the table, “Then your grounded. You won’t drive the car to school, and you won’t be given any extra babysitting money for watching your brothers.”
Maj had expected this counter but hates the lines being drawn, “Mom, I love you. I have done everything I can to make your life easier while you went to school and worked nights. But for once I must do this for me and the boys. I’m going to prom.”
When her mom tries to argue she holds her hand up, “Mom, I have taken a part time job at the local grocery store. Martin was more then happy to hire me. Jen works there so I have a ride. Dan’s mom, who is the principal at the twins school will begin bringing them home starting Monday. So you see, I’ve taken my responsibility seriously.”
Her Mom’s anger grows with each phrase, how could she? How could her own daughter do this to her? The church? She‘d talk to Patrick and his wife. They‘d know what to do. “I am going to talk to Pastor Beholder about this Maj.”
With that her Mom walks away. John looks over at his sister, “Wow. You have been planning this for a while.”
Maj nods her head, “It’s not over yet. Mom and the Beholders will come firing all guns at us in the next few weeks. You need to prepare for the onslaught.”
* * *
As April gives way to May the arguments at home grow worse. Prom is threatening to be the end of Maj Anne and her brothers. At home her Mom won’t let up. She pulls out The Temple Doctrine daily. She leaves notes berating her sons for listening to Maj Anne. She scolds Maj for attending Dan’s church instead of Temple.
Still Maj Anne believes the worst battles are fought at school. Dan walks Maj Anne to Math class because Mrs. Beholder won’t leave her alone. “You are becoming more like your father daily. That’s not a good thing.” Mrs. Beholder screeches in her ear during one class.
“You’re going to ride in a sin wagon with boys who have no respect for your Christian ideals. If your father had been a true Christian he would have held you to higher standards then this.” Mrs. Beholder tells her another day.
All the while Maj Anne tries to ignore her. She tries to shut out the angry attacks. She struggles to keep her math grade high, not giving Mrs. Beholder any leverage to use against her. She quit attending the The Temple in hopes that Mrs. Beholder’s assaults would end, but if anything they had increased.
The Friday before prom Maj Anne is escorted to class by both Dan and Jim. They watch as she slides in just before the bell rings and they both see the steely glare Mrs. Beholder lays on her.
The look is nothing compared to the confrontation. While she set the other twenty-two students working on algebraic equations she stalks over to Maj Anne’s desk and stands before her, arms crossed, trying to control what Maj Anne knows as her volcanic temper.
Mrs. Beholder leans over her desk, “I have tried everyway I know to stop you from going to prom. If I have to I will find a way to flunk you in Algebra so that you ruin your perfect 3.0 and can’t get into your fancy college.”
Maj Anne tries to just do the paper in front of her. But the hissing and smashing of Mrs. Beholder’s teeth is hard to ignore. Mrs. Beholder leans forward again, “Quit being a trash enhancer Maj Anne Johnson. Your better then that. If I taught you nothing else in Bible school I have been sure to tell you how wrong it is for young ladies to attend dances with boys. Your just asking for trouble.”
Maj Anne couldn’t take it anymore, “Just flunk me. Ruin my grades. I am not a member of your church anymore. I don’t have to bow to your influence. I am 18 years old. I intend to go to my prom.”
Maj Anne rises from her desk, hands her half answered test to Mrs. Beholder, the hornet, and gathers her stuff. When she leaves she doesn’t look back. She doesn’t witness Mrs. Beholder ripping up her test in a fury or see her pick up her cell phone and call her husband.
But while Jenny is in the bathroom trying to extract Maj Anne--the principal of the school is confronting an angry Pastor Patrick.
Principal Mark is a good man. Since being hired he has increased the number of graduates from his school. It’s a record he is proud of. He likes his students and he’s trying to build his high school up on a firm education foundation. He doesn’t like intrusions and the school security staff always escorts visitors into his office. So when a red face Patrick is shown in--he is ready.
Patrick paces the office. He forgot about the security guards. But he can’t let his wife lose control. “Look. I just need to talk to Maj Anne Johnson. That’s all. I can even do it with you in the room.”
Principal Mark shakes his head. “From one of my other student’s I have heard how your wife has been brow beating her about some church doctrine. I will not have you attacking her over her religious choices.”
Patrick leans forward and glares at Mark. “That’s not for you to decide is it? I am her Pastor. I make those decisions.”
Mark leans forward too. He is just as big as this man standing before him. He feels nothing but dislike for this pastor who has nothing but anger in his small slanted eyes. “I am the principal of this school and I decide who talks to my students. Your wife is going to be put on a two week suspension for her treatment of Maj Anne Johnson. Religion and Education are not suppose to meet in a public school.”
Pastor Patrick thunders his fist down on Mark’s desk, his anger rising with each word, “That’s where you’re wrong. Education and Religion should be together. I should be allowed to talk to my own members even here.”
Mark calls security in. As the guards grab Pastor Patrick’s arm Mark stares back at him, “I agree with you. Religion and Education should be together, but not taught the way you teach it. Morals fell when we took religion away. I have a hard time teaching good behavior but I will not tolerate you or your false ideas.” He couldn’t wait to see this man leave. He couldn’t believe anyone would subject their child to a man like him. God is so much more then rules.
* * *
Saturday, the morning before Prom, rolls around with little change in the hard fought battle. The bright sunshine and promising beginnings were sure to give into the canon fire of battle later on. Still Maj Anne leaves the house before her Mother is awake. She picks Jen up and they head to the hair dressers. She has never worn make-up before so Jen and her pay for a whole make over at J.C. Penny’s.
Then they walk to a little boutique and pick out jewelry that goes with their new gowns. Maj Anne stays simple. She picks out a white pearl necklace and matching bracelet. Jen goes for the sparkle of diamonds.
Finally they make their way to a little hair salon in the back corner of the mall. As they walk, the girls talk dreamily about what the night holds. “Dan is renting a fancy tuxedo. I don’t think I’ve seen him out of his jeans and his cowboy boots.”
Maj smiles, “I bet he’ll look great. I’m just glad it’s you he’s going with and not Susie.”
Jen flashes a grin at her friend, “Me too. She’s awful. She still calls his house. His mom went off on her just last night.”
Maj laughs, “That young woman has more money then her family can spend, and I’m glad she finally didn’t get what she wanted. Besides our Dan deserves better then her.”
Jen nods her head. “I couldn’t agree more.”
Inside the boutique they both have very different styles done to accentuate their beautiful made up faces. Maj Anne has some small wisps of hair covering her neck and dangling behind her ears. She hopes this might help convince her mom she isn’t going overboard.
Jen has her golden curls straightened and pulled into a French twist. This helps accentuate her elegant neck and her new necklace. Both girls are glowing with excitement. Floating from the salon they leave to meet Jen’s mom and older sister.
Jen’s family gush over both of them. Her mom takes several pictures of them and promises to send Maj Anne copies. Inside Jen’s house Maj Anne’s heart fills with excitement. What would it be like to see Jim, in his tuxedo, Dan smiling in his own suit? What would the dance hall look like?
What could go wrong?
She still has to leave all of this, with her new dress and enter into her mom’s world. No pictures, no gushing, nothing but hurt feelings and rage were going to greet her when she left. So for now, sitting in Jen’s living room dreaming of the men, she tries to think of nothing else.
As she leaves Jen and her family she take the long way home. Her eyes devour the gorgeous day outside. As she approaches her beautiful little white house she is certain the beauty will be overtaken by the storm of rage and insecurity brewing inside.
On Maj Anne’s way to the door she hears her mother hollering at John and Tom. “Now or never.” she mumbles to herself. Help me God. Please.
Taking a deep breath and saying a small prayer, she opens her door and there before her is the woman she loves. But her mom looks haggard and unkempt. This is not Jen’s mother. This woman standing before her is a tiger.
Maj Anne closes the door quietly and says, “Hi. Mom.”
Hands on hips, strands of honey blonde hair flying in all directions, her mom swings around and glares, “Where have you been? These boys keep telling me they are going to a dance. Is this true?”
Maj Anne nods, “Dan’s Mom is going to bring them home so Dan has offered to take them along with us in the limo.”
“Your not going anywhere in a limo with Dan! They are not going to no Dance! Why can‘t the three of you get this into your heads. The answer is and has been NO!”
Maj Anne walks past her mom and stomps up the stairs. She’s heard this argument over and over for the last month. No longer is she going to listen. She only has a few hours to finish getting ready before Dan and Jim show up.
She closes her door and sets her purchases down on her bed. But no sooner does she do this then the door slams open. Maj Anne jumps expecting to see her mom’s blood shot blue eyes biting into her like a viper on the prowl. Instead she sees the somewhat frightened eyes of her brother Tom.
Tommy stares at her. John and him have been fighting with their mother all day. They didn’t expect Maj Anne to desert them today. His anger grows when he sees she’s determined to go through with it. “You truly want to give Mom a heart attack tonight don’t you.” He announces angrily.
“Not a heart attack but maybe an eye opener.” She turns to her brother trying to keep a positive focus on what would be a stressful night. “We are doing nothing wrong Tom. We have no reason to feel ashamed for wanting to go to a dance with our friends.”
“But is it worth all of this turmoil? Mom hasn’t slept all night. She’s been crying. She keeps asking John where she went wrong? Why are we doing this to her?”
Maj Anne sits down at the mirror and takes out some of her new make-up. She begins to retouch her lipstick and eye shadow all the while trying to figure out how best to explain this to her brother, but all she can think of is her mother.
Her mom is determined to make them suffer for their daring choice. Maj Anne decides to explain the facts to Tom. He needs to know the truth about their church and not the lies Mom and the Beholders hide behind.
“Have you read the new doctrine our church is passing around about women and what they can’t do? It’s not based on anything biblical. It’s on Pastor Patrick’s own opinions. Though he denies this. He says his doctrine comes from conversations with God. The list keeps growing. It seems every time I turn around there is a new law applied just to my sex. I can‘t even breathe without being called a sinner by Pastor Patrick.”
Pulling her beautiful dress out of it’s plastic covering she sighs. Would she be able to wear this and enjoy the night? Or would the whole evening be ruined? Where is God in all of this and why is he making this battle so difficult for her?
Tom walks over and sits on her bed. He keeps stretching out his new cowboy shirt. He can’t help it--he too is nervous about tonight. Maj Anne is his rock. When Daddy left it was Maj Anne who stepped up and filled in.
For the last year she has taken him to ball games and track meets. Yet the church they attended said dancing was sinful. That men and women should not fraternize in this way unless they were engaged or married. And at the same time he really would like to go to his own school dance.
His friends always talked about how much fun they were. Tom wonders aloud, “Is challenging Mom’s authority the best way? She does try Maj. Every speck of money we have is because of all the hours she works. Since Daddy left she has done nothing but support us. First night school and holding down two jobs and now as a Nurse. Why push her so hard?”
Before Maj Anne can answer, her brother John comes scurrying into the room. “Get dressed in a hurry. Mom has just made the fatal phone call.” He replies as bravely as he can. John is not certain being this bold is such a good idea now. The fun and games are gone. Now the storm of the century is brewing and his only protection is a sapling called his sister.
Mrs. Beholder is one of the scariest people he knows. Challenging the system is one thing, but challenging ‘the beast’ another. Mrs. Beholder is definitely a beast.
“Get out. Both of you. Finish getting dressed. Or sit in your rooms. No matter what happens Dan says he’s picking us up. Now get.” The brothers scurry from the room and Maj Anne hurriedly slides into her dress.
The beautiful satin puffs out around her waist and the sleeves poof out to her elbow. The lady at the store had said that the dress was a little dated for prom but Jenny and Maj Anne agreed it was also the least offensive to the eye.
It covers her cleavage and her shoulders. And yet it has some style by accenting her waist and displaying a small portion of her back with crisscross straps.
Bah Boom! Bah Boom! Bah Boom! Rat-a-tat-tat-tat. The old Ford Escort wheezes into the driveway as Tommy opens the door and replies, “Now you’ve done it. Now we’re all in for it! Why did you have to bring Dan into this? Mom and the Church are going to label him as evil too.”
Maj Anne turns on her brother, hands on hips eyes fuming, “Then don’t go. Spend the rest of your life bowing to Mrs. Beholder’s rules. I keep telling you this is not wrong. Jesus went to dances. It was at a wedding that he changed water into wine. We are not sinful for wanting to spend time with our friends.”
Tom sputters in dismay. His Mom has been crying for days. His sister has been defiant in her determination to be free of the chains and he is so confused. He didn’t want to let her down but he isn’t sure he wants to fight like this.
But John intercedes on Maj Anne’s behalf. He pushes past Tom to stand by his sister. Looking at his brother defiantly, “We have to fight for what we believe in. It‘s time we had a say in our own life. Even if ‘The Beast’ is scarier then anything in this world. It’s time we stand up for our own beliefs. You know Mom won’t do that. She wants us to believe all the same things she does, and none of us do.”
Maj Anne has had enough discussing this issue. If she is going to get to the dance on time she has to face ‘The Beast’ now. “You two talk between yourself. Decide what you are doing. Please try to do it as a team. I’ve got to go and get this battle over with.”
Entering the foyer she once again sees her Father smiling down at her. It was one of many pictures of her father and Mother together. Why her mom kept these pictures on the wall Maj Anne can not fathom. Her father left them, in the early morning hours, no explanation. He hugged and kissed them good bye. He never said he wouldn’t be back, but soon they heard about the divorce filing. At first Maj and her brothers were angry, but now Maj wonders if there is something more to it. Did her dad leave because he wanted to or Had to? Still she couldn’t think on this now.
She sees the nightmare of her dreams standing just below her. ‘God help me through this.’ her heart screams as she takes the last two steps and stands before the woman.
The brown bun wraps so tightly on top of the short little head Maj Anne can almost hear the buzzing from the hornets nest. The angry beady brown eyes darting from room to room looking for some sign of sin, and the voice that grates worse then the screeching of fighting cats makes Maj Anne‘s palms sweat. This is the person that her mom looks up to and even now, at this moment, Maj Anne can‘t understand why.
“There you are.” The accusation echoes around the silent room as the beady eyes turn challenging towards Maj Anne.
There is no television or radio noises to drown out the woman’s voice. Maj Anne know her mom has hidden all evidence of these things. She just can’t figure out why her mom tries so hard to please this woman and her husband? Taking a few unconscious steps away from the woman Maj Anne tries to steady her convictions and rely on what she knows about God and his kindness. “Here I am.” she responds quietly.
Jane, walks around Leslie Beholder and over to her daughter’s side. She looks deeply into her eyes and sees a deep resolve. Jane wonders where she went wrong. Why has it come to this? The battle lines are drawn and she can‘t stop it.
Slowly she motions Maj Anne to the living room hoping to hide her own deficiencies as a parent from her neighbors. Besides she thought she saw her ex-husband’s truck sitting across the street. He is friends with them and she didn’t want him to hear the ensuing argument. She didn’t want him to realize how little influence she has over their kids.
As Maj Anne follows her into the living room she knows she’s on her own. Her mother will not back her up tonight. Oh how I envy Jen.
They were probably at Jen’s house now. Her Mom taking pictures of Dan and her together. Her older sister poking fun of them, her father giving that firm fatherly lecture to Dan who is probably nodding and smiling. Oh if I could only be with them now instead of here with this unsupportive group of women.
Maj Anne notices her mother’s red eyes and puffy cheeks with some regret. Her mother has had a hard time since Daddy left. The house and the comfortable furniture were all provided by her mom’s own hard work. Maj Anne didn’t want to discredit her mom but tonight has to be.
With a feeling of emotion and love Maj Anne turns to her, “Can I get you a drink of water or something Mom? You haven’t sat down since I’ve been home.” But this act of kindness is quickly cast aside by the little lady still in the hallway.
Mrs. Beholder senses weakness and attacks. “You are now realizing the stress you have put your poor mother through? You wicked child, you should be ashamed of yourself.” Rubbing her bony fingers together warming up for battle she stomps towards Maj Anne, “Do you know how much stress you are putting onto this family just because you want to go strutting around in that ...tramp outfit? Corrupting your younger brothers to boot?” Her beady eyes skim her as if she’s nothing but an ornament.
As Leslie speaks she also feels fear building inside of her. Never did she think Maj Anne would go through with this act of rebellion. Maj Anne has always been a pretty girl. She understood how the girl wanted to explore the world, but she didn’t realize the dangers. She is the only daughter she ever would have. She feels like another parent, a helping hand for Jane, and she is determined to stop the child before Maj makes the biggest mistake of her young life.
No she can’t lose tonight. Patrick is so angry with her right now that if she loses tonight she knows he’d lose his faith in her. It has taken years for her to build up his trust and she knows if Maj Anne goes to the dance tonight Pat would never forgive her. Love her yes, but not forgive her.
At the same time Maj Anne looks down at her soft pale blue dress. The same dress, minutes ago, made her feel like Scarlet O’Hara on her way to Ashley’s barbecue. Now with those horrid words thrown at her she felt dirty. Is there nothing she can do right to impress Mrs. Beholder or her mother? Where is the love? The encouragement? The support?
Jane didn’t like the look of the two circling cobras but she didn’t know how to stop the hissing. She turns to her mentor and friend, “Oh please, Leslie. She means well. Let‘s just stick to the doctrine. Let‘s use Patrick‘s facts to reach her. Isn‘t that better then this fighting you’re doing?!”
She pleads weakly, reaching for her favorite chair and settling herself into it. Desperately she turns to her daughter hoping against hope that Maj Anne would behave just this once. ‘Please Maj, just listen this once because I don’t want to go to church on Sunday and hear Pastor Patrick talking about out of control children and bad parents. I want to be praised by these people who I have always looked up to. I just want to be a better Christian in the eyes of the church.’
All these thoughts course through her head as she sits down. Leslie ignores Jane’s discomfort and instead circles Maj Anne with piercing eyes. “What do you know about this, Jane? You haven’t been home to take care of this problem.” spitting the last few words out like acid burning her tongue.
But as she looks at Jane her expression softens, “If your husband wouldn’t have left you in such poor shape, Jane, I’m sure we wouldn’t be here today.” she replies softly before continuing her vulture like circling. Shaking her head Leslie can’t help but feel sorry for Jane. Poor, poor thing has no real control because the useless slug of a man she once married.
Once she married someone like him her own religious beliefs were lost. The man was the head of the household, his influence was strong. Yet she was sure when he left, the Johnsons would fall right back into the mold. She’d convinced Patrick it would happen. Now she is here to make sure it happens. Jane isn’t the problem but the children seem to still be headstrong. It has to be John Senor‘s fault.
As the predatorily circling continues Maj Anne notices her two brothers slowly come down the stairs. She is relieved to see Tom in his new blue jeans and cowboy boots. John looks scared but determined in his own dress shirt and blue jeans.
They were close, these two brothers, and the Church and Mrs. Beholder are instruments of stability. They love Maj Anne and they love their mother. They are caught in a wild animal snare with no way out unless one side snaps.
She knows she has to stand her ground. I’m tired of being beaten down because I think differently then this red headed vulture. I just want to be fall in love with a cushion of stability behind me. But as she looks at her Mom, she’s not sure that’s even possible now.
Mrs. Beholder swings her stiletto blade tongue again, “You think you’re going to step out of this house tonight, don’t you?”
Maj Anne says nothing. Her silence says enough. Mrs. Beholder sighs, trying to hold her temper in check--she touches Maj’s shoulder, “I can’t let you go Maj. You can’t carry our church’s name into the mud.” Maj’s eyes defy these words.
“I’m not even a member of your church anymore. You have no control over me.”
All kindness forgotten, Mrs. Beholder drops the soft tone and shoves away from Maj Anne. As she paces angrily to the window she sees Maj Anne’s Doom buggy pulling into the drive. It was now or never.
Sensing the change Maj tries to move out of the way but she’s too slow. Mrs. Beholder strikes like a viper. She pins Maj’s shoulders between her vice grip talons, “You are going upstairs now! Get dressed and tell your friends to leave. They are not welcome here.”
Maj shakes her head. Words would not come but she refuses to back down. Jane, her mom, buries her face. Any sense of motherly protection is gone. But her brothers are no longer paralyzed. Their mom’s immobility strikes the fire into their unity. Tommy runs to the door and throws himself into the darkness. Meanwhile, Johnny, rises like a lion. As he stalks his pray Mrs. Beholder begins to shake Maj Anne. “Don’t defy me you insolent child. I am telling you what is going to happen!”
Johnny screams, clawing at the evil woman’s arm. “Let her go! Let my sister go!” He kicks at the church ladies shins but she takes her own bony hips and shoves him to the floor. Regaining his feet, he tries grabbing the old bat’s wrist only again to be bounced to the floor. “Let go!” Mom help Maj Anne!” But Jane turns away from her son’s pleading.
Jane jumps from the couch in fright. John rises from the floor unsure whether he should try again to save his sister or flee from the power that broke the front door down. Inside marches a tall giant of a man. Blue eyes blazing sheets of ice around the room and behind him an even larger guy pulsating anger at the scene.
Without a word Dan walks over and presses his own steal grip against Mrs. Beholder’s wrist. His voice cold and unfeeling, “Release my best friend now or I will make sure that my Dad hears about your assault.”
For once Leslie’s eyes drop to the ground and a sense of fear creeps in. She knows this giant’s father is the local chief of police. Is she going too far? But if she didn’t stop Maj Anne now there would be no stopping her in the future. She didn’t want to fail. She can’t fail. Patrick said failure is not tolerated.
“She is not going with you.” she declares angrily, courage rising as she thinks of Pat, “This is not your concern. I can’t worry about your soul but I have a responsibility to hers.” To emphasize this she tries to increase her grip and as Maj Anne yelps, her mother finally comes out of shock.
Jane rises from the chair and pushes her way between the two battalions. It is clear to all that Leslie will not fight Jane. “Please Leslie, I will talk to her, but you need to stop.” Mrs. Beholder backs away angrily.
Dan pushes the math teacher against the wall.
Maj Anne rubs her arm, severely shaken she falls into Jim’s arms. The scene he sees around him is nothing he would wish on anyone. Gently clasping her shoulders he whispers in her ear, “Are we going?”
Maj Anne nods her head in assent.
Jane cries, “No Maj! No! You can’t go! I forbid you to take my children!” Maj Anne walks out head high. Jim following protectively behind, neither one paying attention to the frantic woman in the room.
Tom and John both march out the door. Jane screams again but does nothing to prevent them. Dan keeps Mrs. Beholder cornered against the wall until he is sure his friends are all safely in the limo. He ignores the pleadings of Mrs. Johnson and looks in disgust at the whole situation.
When the limo door closes he let‘s Mrs. Beholder go. Then he addresses Mrs. Johnson, “I’ve been friends with your daughter for a long time. I’ve sat in this house and we’ve done bible studies together, and yet you still doubt how much your daughter can be trusted?”
This only fuels the flames for Mrs. Beholder. “You must be the one they call Doctor Dan. You are the one that has filled Maj’s head with all this free thinking. Well I don’t know what church you go to son, but I believe it‘s creating more sinners then Christians.”
Dan turns to her in disbelief, “The same could be said about yours. Christ isn’t about violence and hurting people. He preached kindness and forgiveness. He defended hookers, healed thieves and robbers of there ailments. He never once caused one to hurt. He took that all on his own shoulders.”
With these words Dan turns to leave the house still shaken by what he has witnessed. “Maj Anne is an adult. My mom has offered to let her stay at our house. She’ll come home only if she wants too.” Walking towards the door Dan stops and stares at the tear stricken mother, “My mother would have torn your friend apart for hurting Maj Anne. What type of Mom are you?” he whispers.
Never before has he seen such misconstrued Christianity. Was this really what some churches believed? Is Maj Anne ever going to learn to Love God? He could only pray she’d come around to know a loving God.
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