“The hardest choice she ever had to make was between true religion and true love.”
Rose Gluck thought she had everything in life. Just out of high school, she spent her days working as a pioneer minister of her Jehovah’s Witness faith, going door-to-door teaching others about the Bible and the happifying future God had planned. She thought she knew what it meant to be happy, but things would change when Wyatt True shows up.
Drawn to the dashing young brother, Rose experiences feelings that she never knew existed. Meanwhile, despite his vow of singleness, Wyatt can’t but help to fall for the beautiful young sister. But the Presiding Overseer of the congregation has his own plans for Rose. Will Rose find eternal happiness?
Rose groaned as she noticed the dark circles of sweat radiating out from the underarms of her shirt. She looked up at the clock, nearing eight, and pressed on bagging up the trash of the Kent Springs post office. She was supposed to meet Wyatt at his apartment and was running short on time. It would be the first time she saw Wyatt outside of meetings or field service, her first time at his apartment, and the first time she would see him without her formal meeting clothes. She wanted to look half way presentable.
After taking out the last of the trash she ducked into the restroom for a quick inspection in the mirror. Her face was flush and her forehead dotted with sweat from the last hour of speed cleaning. She frowned wishing that she had some makeup or at least some powder to take the shine off of her face, but her grandmother wouldn’t allow it. As she patted her forehead with her t-shirt she thought she might have to ask Viola if she wouldn’t mind buying her some makeup on the sly.
Rose sighed looking at the thin shirt near soaked through with perspiration. The reason she was behind in cleaning was it had taken her some time to decide what exactly to wear. After much deliberation she settled on a pale brown t-shirt that read, “McCook Nebraska” with a picture of a buffalo on it. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was the only thing in her wardrobe that wasn’t emblazoned with a clown, a rainbow, a teddy bear, or any other juvenile decoration. Rose hadn’t worn this particular shirt in awhile and was surprised at how tight it felt on her chest. She figured it would have to do as she wasn’t going to go over to Wyatt’s and run the risk of wearing the same Winnie the Pooh t-shirt as twelve-year old Sophia Whitmore.
Rose tugged the damp t-shirt off and worked it under the blower dryer. As she dried the shirt she couldn’t help but to cast worried looks toward the restroom door even though she was the only one at the Post Office. She felt weird standing there in just her bra.
With her shirt sufficiently dry and back on, Rose headed over to Wyatt’s apartment which was in what had once been the Camelot Motel & Mini Golf on the west side of town. There, Rose checked the apartment number that she had written down on the inside of her notebook, grabbed her Bible, and walked up the concrete steps with flaking teal paint to the second floor. She followed the bronze numbers nailed to sea-foam green doors of the former motel rooms until she arrived at number twenty-six. She checked her shirt one last time, knocked, and took what felt like her first breath of the evening. She had made it.
“Rose! I’m so glad you came,” Wyatt said as he opened the door.
“I’m glad you asked me to help you with your part,” Rose answered with a smile.
Wyatt was wearing his normal meeting clothes, but had unbuttoned his top button and gotten rid of the tie. Rose looked down at her wrinkled t-shirt and blue jeans and felt severely underdressed.
“I tried to telephone you, but your grandmother said that you were out cleaning.”
“Yeah, that is why I’m not in meeting clothes. I hope it is okay.”
Wyatt looked at her outfit, his eyes lingering at her chest.
Rose blushed. She wasn’t used to guys looking at her that intently and especially there. She alternated hoping that he was simply reading the shirt and hoping that he was interested in her … assets. That was the word Viola had used.
“Where in the hell is McCook Nebraska?” Wyatt asked after a hanging moment.
Rose startled. She wasn’t use to such rough language coming from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially a congregation elder, but she tried not to show her shock.
“I’m not sure,” said Rose, “I got it at a yard sale. I thought the buffalo was neat.”
“It’s a fine buffalo,” he said. “I got a call from Sister Whitmore and she said that both of her children are puking, so we can’t expect them tonight.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Rose. She hated to think that she had rushed to make it over just for a quick greeting and hoped that they would go ahead and work on his part together.
“I guess what I’m saying is that I won’t be able to have you into my apartment if it is just us here.”
Rose tried to understand. She knew that it was frowned upon to be in a place alone with someone of the opposite sex who you weren’t related to, yet she wondered if Wyatt was just following Theocratic direction or perhaps he thought something really might happen.
“Could we just go over it out here on the balcony?” Rose asked, not wanting to leave. While she enjoyed the time they got to spend together in field service and at the meetings, she welcomed some alone time to get to know Wyatt better without having to watch her every word for fear of what someone might say. She just wanted an opportunity to be herself — whoever that was.
Wyatt agreed with a slight smile and excused himself to go get them something to drink. Casually she peered into the apartment through the open door to check out his place. All she could see was a black leather sofa, a glass coffee table, and behind that a polished mahogany bookshelf filled with Watchtower literature. She had never seen anything that looked so sleek and modern as his living room.
Rose snapped her head back outside, as Wyatt walked out of the connecting room and into the living room. He had changed out of his meeting clothes and was wearing a billowing white collared shirt tucked into faded blue jeans cinched with a braided leather belt at his waste. He returned a few minutes later with two frosty glasses of lemonade, handing her one.
“I hope you don’t mind if I changed into something a little more comfortable.”
“Not at all.” Rose took a drink of the sweet, cool lemonade. “I hope you don’t mind that I was admiring your place.”
“It normally isn’t this clean,” Wyatt admitted looking back. “I’m sorry that I can’t have you in and give you the two minute tour.”
“That’s okay. The weather is beautiful tonight.” She didn’t really know what to say beyond making small talk about the weather. The heat of the late summer day had dissipated and there was a slight cooling breeze gently stirring Wyatt’s slightly tussled hair. She leaned over the metal tube railing overlooking what was left of the miniature golf course, a small rock garden full of weeds arranged around a fading windmill. Looking over to the steps, she saw a woman with crimped, curly red hair carrying two full bags of groceries.
Rose searched for something to say. “I was thinking — ”
“Excuse me for a second,” said Wyatt cutting her off. He walked over to the next apartment, where the red haired woman was struggling to fish her key out of her pocket, while managing the grocery bags.
“Here let me hold that,” said Wyatt taking one of the bags.
“Thank you,” said the woman finding her key and opening the door.
She set her grocery sack inside the apartment and stepped back out to take the other. “I’m Regina,” she said to Wyatt.
“Wyatt True,” he said handing the grocery bag to her. “I’m your next-door neighbor from twenty-six.”
“Margarita?” she said looking at the glass that Wyatt held in his hand.
“Just lemonade.” He smiled.
“It’s a good night for it.” She smiled back. “Well thanks again,” she said disappearing into her place.
Wyatt returned to Rose. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I hadn’t yet met her and didn’t want to miss the opportunity for an introduction. Jesus encourages us to show love to our neighbors.” He smiled. “What were you saying?”
“It was nothing,” said Rose, looking back at the windmill as a vagrant cat darted into it.
“No, I’m interested,” Wyatt urged.
Rose was not used to someone wanting to hear what she thought.
“Well I was considering about what you said about not prejudging people. It has given me something to think about.”
Wyatt nodded. “Honestly, I always used to judge people, especially in the ministry. Do you know what the Pharisees use to call people in Jesus’ day?”
“Well, they called them Am Ha’Aretz which meant people of the dirt. I kind of saw that we did that sometimes.”
“How so?” Rose had never heard anyone she knew at the Kingdom Hall call someone a dirt person.
“Well we don’t say ‘people of the dirt’, but how often have you heard a brother or sister refer to someone at the door as a goat? It’s kind of the same. Don’t you think?”
“I guess we sometimes say those things, but they are just words from the Bible; we didn’t invent them.” Rose felt a bit defensive having referred to the man at the door as a goat just the other day.
“That’s true,” said Wyatt. “But in the Bible it says that it is only when the Son of Man arrives in his glory that he will separate the sheep from the goats. I don’t know that it is our place to make that kind of judgment right now.”
“I see,” said Rose. However, she couldn’t commit to the idea because she knew the Society’s literature taught differently, though she wouldn’t correct a brother.
“You’re holding back. It’s okay to tell me what you think. I’m not going to jump down your throat.”
Rose turned back to Wyatt. “It is just that the Society always says how our ministry is a separating work and based on how people at the door treat us they are either sheep or goats. Certainly chasing Brother Green down the sidewalk screaming at him would make a man like that seem like a goat.”
“Yet when we went back the man was receptive,” said Wyatt. “Maybe he just didn’t like Brother Green or was confused about our message or maybe he really didn’t like the Truth, but now he has changed his mind.” Wyatt reached for Rose’s Bible and opened it to 1 Corinthians chapter four and read part of verse five, “Hence do not judge anything before the due time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring the secret things of darkness to light and make the counsels of the hearts manifest.” He closed the Bible and looked at Rose. “I’m not going to say the Society is wrong, but it just seems to me that we are often premature to judge people and that it really hurts. How effective is our ministry when we are looking down on people, calling them goats? I really found that I have my most success in the ministry when I don’t elevate myself above another. Jesus certainly didn’t.”
Rose opened her mouth to say something, but then as quickly closed it. She couldn’t argue that Wyatt wasn’t extremely effective in the ministry. What he had done at the opposed man’s house, getting him to accept one of their books, had been nothing short of a miracle.
Wyatt looked at Rose. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” said Rose hesitantly in apprehension of the question.
“When you first saw me at the convention, what did you think about me?”
Rose didn’t know how to respond. She dare not open her heart and tell him the whole truth about how attractive she found him. “Well I wondered if you were a Witness.”
Wyatt laughed. “Why?”
“Well no brother I know of looks or dresses like you do.” Rose paused briefly before tacking on a disclaimer. “Not that there is anything wrong with it.”
Again Wyatt laughed kindly, making her feel at ease. “It’s okay. It’s just funny because lots of brothers back east dress and wear there hair like it. It’s not immodest is it?” He ran his fingers through his hair mussing it slightly. Somehow it made it look even more attractive.
“Well, no” said Rose, “just different.”
Wyatt teased, “Well do you still think I’m ‘worldly’?”
“Of course not,” said Rose, “you are one of the most spiritual brothers I’ve ever met.”
“You must not have met very many brothers.” Wyatt rolled his eyes in jest. “I’ve got flaws.”
“Like what?” Rose was genuinely interested. If he had flaws they were well hidden. Did he have a tattoo or something?
“You mean besides my worldly hair?” Wyatt elbowed Rose in jest. “Spend enough time around me they’ll become obvious.”
Rose thought back to the convention and how she hated to see Wyatt engaged in lively conversation with those girls that were dressed so worldly. Had she rushed to judgment? Could it have been that Wyatt simply wasn’t judging them for their lack of Christian modesty and getting to know them? It made her wonder about his attention to her.
“So when you first bumped into me, what did you think about me?” asked Rose.
“Practically perfect in every way, just like Mary Poppins!” Wyatt smiled at her.
“I have flaws too,” demanded Rose. It felt strange to demand that you weren’t perfect.
“Relax,” said Wyatt, “Why don’t you ask me again later. I’m just getting to know you and I haven’t made up my mind. It would be bad to judge you before the due time.”
“Well I should hope I don’t have to wait until Jesus arrives!” Rose returned the joke.
“It’s just around the corner, right? Sister surely you believe we are living in the last days? Surely you don’t think the Lord is delaying?” Wyatt teased her.
“Yeah what I meant was — oh just forget it.” Rose blushed and shook her head. She knew she couldn’t compete with Wyatt; he was too quick.
Wyatt laughed and said, “Why don’t we go over what I have in mind for this meeting part. It is going to be fun and hopefully like nothing your congregation has ever seen.”