“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?
On the night of the Thursday meeting, Rose alternated between excitement and nervousness. She was looking forward to doing the game show sketch with Wyatt, but had no idea how Clinton would react when she told him the news. Hopefully he wouldn’t be too angry; it wasn’t as she was defying him to go to a bar and smoke drugs.
When she got to the Kingdom Hall, Clinton was once again waiting for her at the door. Rose took a deep breath and asked Clinton to step off to the side coat room to talk.
He looked at her expectantly, while in turn Rose stared at her feet.
“Clinton, I’ve decided to help Brother True with his meeting part,” Rose told her dress shoes.
“But I told you that I didn’t want you to.” Clinton sounded more confused than angry. “Didn’t you understand me?”
“Yes Clinton I understood you and I’m sorry to let you down.” Rose looked up at him. “It just didn’t seem right to leave Brother True out on a limb like that.”
“So you can let me down, but not Wyatt?” Clinton’s voice raised.
“I’m sorry,” said Rose, her voice starting to tremble.
“I won’t let you do it. I forbid it,” said Clinton. “Let’s take your stuff to our seats.” Clinton reached to grab the books out of her hands.
Rose jerked them away from his grasping hands. How could Clinton speak to her like that? It reminded her exactly of how his father spoke to his mother, not necessarily cruel, but matter-of-fact as if daring her to further defy him.
It was only one little meeting part, soon to be over, but it felt like so much more to Rose. If she gave up on this would she be giving up little things the rest of her life? If she had to grow into her relationship with Clinton, then he too should grow into his relationship with her. He couldn’t get so upset when things didn’t go exactly his way.
“I think I might sit with Grams tonight,” said Rose walking past him. She hoped that some space would give Clinton some time to cool down. Besides that she feared that if she sat next to him he might try to restrain her when she got up to go on stage for Wyatt’s part.
“But you have to sit by me, we are engaged,” Clinton demanded, his voice was a wash of anger and confusion.
“Well than maybe we shouldn’t be engaged,” said Rose. Just as soon as the words cleared her mouth she immediately wished she could cram them back in. The look on Clinton’s face was of complete shock as his head turned bright red and a vein on his forehead throbbed, looking as if it might burst. Rose didn’t wait to see what would happen next, but turned around and walked into the auditorium, sitting down at her grandmother’s seat.
Rose opened one of her meeting books and used it as a shield to block out the rest of the congregation. She thought of her conversation with Clinton and was surprised that there was a part of her that felt proud for being so assertive. During the whole course of their pseudo-relationship it was the first time she felt anything other than completely spiraling out of control.
At seven o’clock the conductor walked up to the stage to start the Theocratic Ministry School. Normally Clinton would be waiting to adjust the microphone, but he was nowhere to be seen. The conductor stepped around and positioned the microphone himself and then asked the congregation to find their seats.
Rose’s grandmother came over, just realizing that Rose was not sitting up front by Clinton. The elderly woman looked at her with bewilderment, but couldn’t say anything as the opening song began playing.
As the Theocratic Ministry School progressed, Clinton was still nowhere to be seen. Was he so upset that he had gone home? The thought slightly depressed her. Despite Clinton’s overbearing attitude Rose certainly didn’t want to hurt him.
As the number two talk was beginning, Rose observed Jasper Green walk down the aisle and lean over to whisper something to Wyatt. Out of the corner of her eye, Rose watched nervously as Wyatt followed Jasper back to the room that served as the Kingdom Hall library and elder’s meeting room. When the elder opened the door for Wyatt, Rose noticed Clinton seated at the table inside, his face still red and tense.
What where they talking about? Rose feared for the worst. A trip to the back room with Jasper Green was never positive and involved stern counsel. Rose chewed her bottom lip with worry. Had she gotten Wyatt in trouble?
Rose wanted to run back and tell Brother Green that Wyatt had nothing to do with her decision, but she dared not interrupt them. Instead she was left to worry and count the seconds waiting for the three brothers to once again emerge from the back room.
As the Theocratic Ministry School concluded, the conductor invited Jasper Green to the stage for the mid-meeting announcements. When Brother Green didn’t appear, the conductor looked to Sister Green, who in turn looked back to the library, and shrugged her shoulders. At that moment, Jasper came bursting through the door, causing the metal mini blinds to clank loudly. He hurriedly walked to the stage looking completely out of sorts. As the conductor adjusted the microphone, Jasper apologized to the congregation for being late and then announced the song. The congregation stood to sing, as Rose continued to watch for Wyatt. Next to emerge from the back room was Clinton walking stiffly up the aisle to his spot in the front row. His jaw was clenched tightly and he kept his gaze locked straight ahead and did not look at the congregation or Rose.
After the song concluded and the congregation took their seats, Jasper went into the congregation announcements. He spoke about the newest literature that had arrived and the upcoming schedule for Kingdom Hall cleaning. It was the standard fare and Rose wasn’t paying much attention, still worried about what was going on. Wyatt’s part was just two minutes away and he was still nowhere to be seen.
Rose held the script for the part on her lap; she knew that she should be using the final minutes for review, but her mind was on Wyatt. What had happened to him? The worry caused Rose to tremble. Rose wished that she could rewind the meeting and do it all over again. At the very least she would have taken back the part about not wanting to marry Clinton. It was a knee jerk reaction to his harsh attitude. She hadn’t really meant it, had she?
Jasper concluded the announcements by saying that there was a change in the program for the night and that he would move right into a local needs part. The abrupt change in schedule didn’t phase the congregation any, but it further caused Rose to worry. The local needs topics tended to revolve between three things: meeting attendance, field service participation, and Bible study. On the rare occasion that someone got into trouble and broke one of God’s rules there would be a change of topic and the talk might as well be titled, “What Brother or Sister So-and-So Did”.
Jasper Green cleared his throat and spoke loudly in the microphone. “Is it okay to break a promise?” He narrowed his gaze at Rose. There was a stir in the congregation and she could only assume they were doing what she herself did during a local needs talk like that: trying to figure out who in the congregation did what. When Jasper began to talk about vows and promises he paid special attention to engagement promises. As he spoke, the majority of the congregation followed Jasper’s hard eyes that didn’t once break from Rose’s direction.
Rose felt sick inside. She prided herself in always being obedient and had never gotten into any trouble in their congregation. As Jasper continue to lecture about how liars will not inherit God’s Kingdom, Rose began to tremble. Had she thrown everything away for a momentary slip of the tongue and a word said out of frustration?
She felt ready to throw up, but then a hand touched her shoulder. She looked up, tears blurring her eyes as Wyatt stooped down next to her. She hoped in heart that he would say something to comfort her.
“Rose, there has been a change of plans and I won’t be needing you for my part,” he whispered and then returned to his seat saying nothing more.
Her throat constricted tightly. All she had ever wanted to do was to help Wyatt interject happiness into the congregation. She was only trying to do something good, so why did everything get so messed up?
Jasper Green finished the talk and invited Wyatt up onto the stage. Instead of the gameshow as planned, Wyatt went into a straight talk about the challenges that Christian youth faced in school. The interview portion had been changed to Wyatt simply asking questions to young Caleb and Sophia Whitmore, who remained seated in the audience. The stir in the congregation over the local needs part had faded and was replaced with typical boredom. On stage, Wyatt’s disposition was void of his usual joy. Instead he look beleaguered as he quickly went through the assigned material, finishing a full-five minutes early.
Rose was relieved the terrible meeting was coming to an end, she wanted nothing more to escape. “Grams, I don’t feel good, let’s go home,” said Rose as soon as the concluding prayer finished.
The grandmother nodded and they moved to leave. However, as they neared the back doors, Jasper Green stopped them and redirected them to the back room. Rose felt as if the entire congregation was looking at her with disdain as she followed Jasper to the back. When he opened the door she saw that Clinton was there waiting.
“Sister Gluck,” Jasper said. “Clinton here says that you broke off the engagement.”
This came as a shock to Rose’s grandmother who hadn’t yet put the pieces together. “Rose, how could you?” the old woman exclaimed.
“Grams, that’s not exactly correct, I just said — ”
“You said that maybe we shouldn’t be engaged,” Clinton blurted.
Rose started to tear up again. When she said maybe they shouldn’t be engaged, she just wanted to give Clinton something to think about, but now her off-handed comment had landed her in trouble.
“Breaking an engagement is a serious matter, not quite at the level of a divorce, but definitely up there,” said Jasper. “The elder body is going to have to decide if you can continue serving as a pioneer.”
Taken off of the pioneer list? It was too much! Rose felt her legs giving way and she grabbed the chair in front of her to steady her faltering balance.
Rose’s grandmother pleaded in her defense. “Please don’t take the pioneering away from the girl. What would she do with herself. Let’s give her time to think this through.”
“I would agree that it isn’t time for rash, knee-jerk reactions,” said Jasper. “Rose I’m sure you’ll come to the right decision.”
Rose had wished that Jasper would have had that thought before he decided to publicly humiliate her with a targeted local needs part and threaten to remove her as a pioneer. Rose looked down at the engagement ring on her trembling hands. She didn’t know what the right decision was; however, for the first time she felt like she actually had a choice, even if the consequences were severe.