“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 rolled over in her bed and looked at the clock. The digital readout read 1:32 PM. Usually she enjoyed her Friday off but since the incident at the Kingdom Hall the previous evening she hadn’t the desire or energy even to get out of bed. A knock cause Rose to flip back over toward her door where her grandmother pressed in holding a small serving tray with a bowl of soup. The old woman breathed heavily as she strained to set the tray down on Rose’s dresser.
“Rose this reminds me of the time that your grandfather and I took you to the carnival when you were nine years old. Everyday we drove by the park where they were setting up the Ferris wheel and all you could talk about was going for a ride.”
Rose scooted over in her bed to allow the elderly woman to sit down next to her.
“Do you remember what happened when we got there?” She patted Rose’s knee compassionately.
Rose shook her head, no.
“Well when we tried to get you on the Ferris wheel, you pitched the biggest fit, dug your heels into the ground, and begged us not to make you go on it. We didn’t understand why you were suddenly so stricken with fear when it was something you had talked about for a whole week. So your grandfather took you to the side and we said a prayer asking Jehovah to give you courage. That calmed you down enough to get on the ride, although you were still shaking like a leaf, but once the ride started up and you realized you weren’t going to die, you enjoyed it. We must have ridden that Ferris wheel five times and you still wanted to go again.”
Everytime Rose had tried to pray, but her thoughts were quickly overtaken by the voice of Jasper Green. She shuddered hearing his terse proclamation about liars not inheriting God’s Kingdom. Why couldn’t he understand that she just made a mistake in committing to the engagement?
“It is the same with this marriage,” Rose’s grandmother continued. “It is something you’ve been excited about forever, but now that the day is drawing near, you’re digging in your heels. However, when you jump on board you’ll see how much you enjoy the ride.” She took Rose’s hand and looked at the finger that no longer bore an engagement ring.
Rose had removed the ring hoping not to have the painful reminder, but in its place she had a tan line, taunting her with a marriage that seemed irrevocable. That childhood Ferris wheel ride was only five minutes long, but a marriage was for eternity. She had only been engage two months and it already felt too long. “Whenever I’m with Clinton, I just feel smothered,” said Rose, attempting to explain her feelings. “I know that I should respect him as my husband, but he feels so controlling.”
“You’ve got to understand that a marriage is a new thing for both of you and it will take a bit of time to grow into your new role as husband and wife,” explained the grandmother, rubbing Rose’s hand.
“I worry that I’ll never grow into that role, that I’ll never be a good wife.” Rose sighed.
“I’m sure you’ll do fine.” Her grandmother smiled with confidence. “You have never let me down yet.”
“But what about Clinton?” Would he ever change?
“Well you know how his father can be. I’m sure Clinton is just trying to follow his example.”
“I don’t know if I could marry someone like Jasper!”
“It may not be exactly like that Rose,” her grandmother said softly. “With a gentle hand a shrewd wife can guide her husband. It just takes time and patience and the fruits of the spirit. You may find it difficult to believe, but your grandfather was a rather stern man when I first married him.”
It was difficult to believe, as Rose knew him her grandfather was a gentle soul. His only bouts of anger were reserved for the buggy electric typewriter he constantly fought with.
“Do you ever think there should be something more? Like in the romance stories you read?”
Her grandmother blushed. “Those things? They are just silly made up love stories for old ladies, no more real than a story about men from outer space.”
Rose knew better than to believe that those drugstore paperbacks would hold any answers, but they seemed to depict a kind of passion that she didn’t feel for Clinton. Even if those stories were made up, surely the feelings existed. All of the love songs and poetry and books and movies had to be about something real and not merely some unattainable fantasy. Had she not felt them for Wyatt?
“How do I know if I’m in love with Clinton?” Rose cared for Clinton, that was true, but he did not excite her. She didn’t look forward to seeing him and when she was with him she simply felt bored. Things were so different with Wyatt.
“Love feels comfortable,” her grandmother explained.
“But Clinton makes me feel uncomfortable.” Rose squirmed just thinking about him.
“Love is like a new pair of shoes. You are excited to get them, but they may not fit correctly at first. They may be too tight or pinch your toes, but as you walk around in them and wear them for a little while, they grow on you. That is love.”
“I just don’t know that I can commit to something that I’m not sure of.”
“True, but sometimes you’ve got to trust those who love you. Believe me, that Clinton is perfect for you.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of a car pulling up the driveway. They were not expecting anyone and the two seldom received any unannounced visitors. Her grandmother made the precarious walk down the narrow stairs to investigate. After about ten minutes, she called up. “Rose you have a visitor.”
A visitor? Had Jasper Green come over to reprimand her again or perhaps kick her off of the pioneer list? Rose huffed, climbed out of bed, pulled over an old t-shirt and slipped on a pair of purple sweat pants. Passing the mirror she observed how pathetic she looked, with her matted, unwashed hair and streaked face. What did it matter? She couldn’t impress Jasper anyway. She trudged down the steps to see him, but, when she reached the bottom she was startled to see that it was Wyatt standing there.
“Hello Rose,” Wyatt said. “I need to talk to you about last night.”
Rose winced that Wyatt had seen her in such disarray, but she could do nothing about it now. She walked over and took a seat with him on the couch as her grandmother excused herself to go brew some sweet tea.
“I feel so awful putting you in that situation at the meeting,” said Wyatt. “If I would have known that Clinton objected I would never have asked you to participate.”
“There is nothing you need to be sorry about,” said Rose. “It was my fault. I was supposed to tell you earlier that I couldn’t help, but I decided to do your part anyway. I thought it would really be a nice change for the congregation.”
“I could only imagine how Brother Green’s local needs part must have made you feel. I tried to talk him out of giving it, but, he wouldn’t be dissuaded. He even accused me of stealing you away from his son.”
“I’m sorry,” said Rose earnestly. “I didn’t mean to drag you into this.” Why should Wyatt have to suffer for her mistakes?
“I’m used to being in trouble,” said Wyatt with a forced smile. “If I in anyway encouraged you away from Clinton, I need to fix that. It’s just that — well I — ” It was the first time Rose ever witnessed Wyatt getting tripped up over his words. “I value you as a sister in the congregation, but if I lead you on, well, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.” Wyatt absently ran his fingers through his hair. “I just hope you didn’t confuse my attention for something else.”
“Of course not,” said Rose taken aback. Even though she didn’t expect him to like her in return, it didn’t stop her from hoping for it.
“Good, the last thing I ever wanted to do was to get in the way of you and Clinton’s relationship.” Wyatt smiled warmly. “From what I’ve heard you two have been an item since you were little kids.”
Rose broke down sobbing. “That’s not true and no one understands it.”
“What’s the matter?” Wyatt moved over closer to Rose. He started to place his arm around her, but then stopped short, awkwardly bringing his hand down on his own leg.
Rose continued to cry, feeling stupid for doing so, but unable to constrain the torrent of emotion bursting out of her. “Everybody always acts like we are a couple and it was never true. I like Clinton as a brother, but not anything else. I’m just sick of everyone pushing us together!”
“So you don’t want to be engaged?”
“No,” said Rose. “I just agreed because I felt pressured and didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and now I’ve just made things worse.”
“I’m sorry. I had no idea,” said Wyatt. He moved his hand up and rested it on her shoulder. “It was just a mistake made out of care. No one should condemn you for that.”
“Jasper wants to remove me from the pioneer list for breaking a promise and lying,” said Rose through her cries.
“I won’t let him do that,” said Wyatt. “It would be a worse thing for you to lie about your feelings and keep the relationship if you couldn’t return Clinton’s love. He’ll have to understand that.”
“I hope,” said Rose leaning forward and burying her face in her hands.
“I’ll help you through it.” Wyatt slid his hand from her shoulder to her back, rubbing it softly. “I did have some good news for you that might cheer things up. That brother I was telling you about is willing to pay your way to visit Bethel.”
Rose sat up looking at Wyatt dumbfounded. She totally had dismissed their early conversation about going on a bus trip to Brooklyn.
“That’s wonderful!” she said, wiping her tears. “But, what will Grams say?” Rose looked in the direction of the kitchen.
“Leave her to me,” Wyatt said confidently. This assured Rose, because if there was anyone who could convince her grandmother to allow her to go on a bus trip to New York, it was Wyatt True.
Wyatt walked to the kitchen where Rose’s grandmother was adding ice to the pitcher of tea. Rose paced behind staying in earshot.
“Don’t come in here, you’ll see all of my dirty dishes,” the grandmother scolded Wyatt.
“Sister Gluck I’ve seen dirty dishes before. You should see the stack I’ve got at my place. It is a regular tower of Babel.” Wyatt laughed.
Wyatt helped carry the glasses of tea to the living room. “I need to tell you something about Rose.
The grandmother cast a worried look at the young elder and then at Rose.
“Sister Gluck don’t look so distraught,” Wyatt said, “this isn’t anything bad.”
“Oh good.” Rose’s grandmother exhaled sharply as if she had been holding her breath.
“It is actually very wonderful news. There is this brother that likes to help our pioneers visit Bethel. I spoke to him about Rose and he has agreed to sponsor her and pay her way on a bus trip.”
“Oh Grams can you believe it?” said Rose, unable to restrain herself. Just the thought of visiting the worldwide headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses pushed her problems with Clinton out of mind and lifted her spirits.
“Oh my,” said her grandmother. “It is like a dream come true.” She turned to Wyatt and asked, “Who is this brother?”
“This brother prefers to give anonymously.” Wyatt pantomimed zipping his smiling lips.
“You must thank him for us,” Rose’s grandmother said, “and let him know that we really do appreciate his generosity,but we must refuse.”
Rose felt her heart sink and the tears queue up again.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” said Wyatt.
“Well I just can’t see allowing Rose to go. What if she was to get hurt or in trouble? She has had some problems lately as you know.”
“I assure you these trips are very well supervised.”
“But will anyone else in our congregation be going?”
“I don’t believe so,” said Wyatt, “but there are many good brothers and sisters from neighboring congregations going.”
“I don’t know …” Rose’s grandmother trailed off considering the offer.
Rose could tell that her grandmother was almost on the ropes and she hoped that Wyatt would knock her down.
“How about this,” Wyatt said. “I’ve been meaning to go visit a friend of mine at Bethel, maybe I could rearrange my schedule and combine it with this bus trip. That way you’d have someone who knows Rose who could make sure she doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.”
“I do appreciate your kindness Brother True,” Rose’s grandmother said. “But I’m sure that Rose wouldn’t want to put you out like that. We’ll have to look at it for another time.”
“But grandmother there is no other time,” interjected Rose exasperated. The trip slipping away.
Wyatt grew remiss. “This is such a shame. I was really hoping that Rose might have the opportunity to meet Freddy.”
“Freddy?” asked her Grandmother.
“Oh I’m sorry. I meant Brother Franz.” Fredrick Franz was the president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, their preeminent Bible scholar and writer of many of their publications. Meeting him would be like meeting Jesus, an amazing honor for anyone, especially a country girl from the midwest. “He is usually pretty busy with all of his duties, but I was hoping that Rose could at least shake his hand.”
Rose’s grandmother chimed in, “Well it is a once in a lifetime opportunity, maybe I could allow it just this once.”
“Thank you Grams!” Rose tried to not bounce up and down lest her grandmother think her too excited and kill the trip.
“I’m sure it will be a spiritually moving experience for your granddaughter,” Wyatt gave assurance.
Rose was elated, nothing could ruin that moment.
That was until her grandmother said, “Of course, we will have to check with Brother Green to make sure that it is okay for you to go on the trip.”
Rose looked at Wyatt in shock. Her grandmother was one thing, but how would he ever convince Jasper Green to let her go?