Paula Jenkins, Janessa's mother, sat at their small kitchen table with her feet propped up on the chair next to her, her high-heel shoes discarded on the floor. She smiled tiredly at her daughter when she entered the house.
"Hey Nessa! How did everything go? I wish I could have been there for you."
Janessa plopped down on the chair across from her mom and rested her head and arms on the table. "The baptism was beautiful. I felt clean and wonderful, and warm." She sighed. "Afterwards wasn't so great." Janessa told her mother about Iris's absence and her reaction at the court.
Paula rubbed her hand across her eyes. "Don't judge Iris too harshly. This religion stuff is new to her; I doubt she really understands any of it--I know I don't get a lot of it."
"But shouldn't she support me in my choices? She supposed to be my best friend."
"She should," Paula nodded, "but Iris has to make her own choices." Paula looked at her daughter for a moment. "If it comes down to choosing between Iris and this new religion of yours, what will you do?"
Janessa studied the scratches on the tabletop. "I hope it doesn't come to that."
Paula patted Janessa's hand as she rose from her chair. "Me too, Nessa, but you need to think about what's really important to you. You and Iris have been friends for a long time." She bent down and retrieved her shoes. "I'm headed to bed. You have another big day tomorrow."
On Sunday, Janessa sat beside her mother on one of the short pews along the wall of the chapel. Even though her mother wore a skirt of some kind nearly everyday to work, she appeared uncomfortable and out of place. "Relax, Mom," Janessa whispered in her ear.
"Are you sure no bolts of lightening are going to come out of the ceiling?" Paula asked with a slight smile.
"Well, not entirely."
"How encouraging. So what happens now?"
Janessa explained how the meeting would go, when the elders would confirm her a member of the church, and what would follow.
"No preacher shouting fire and brimstone?"
As the meeting progressed, Janessa glanced frequently at her mother, hoping she was feeling some of the spirit that Janessa was. When she sat back down beside her after her confirmation, Janessa thought she saw wetness at the corners of her mother's eyes, but she couldn't be sure.
Paula was quiet as Janessa walked with her to the car after the meeting ended. "That was a nice meeting," she finally said as she climbed in and started the engine.
"It was. I wish you could stay for the rest of church."
"Sorry. You know I have to get to work. I'll see you tonight."
Janessa watched her mother drive away and again felt some of her joy melt. Iris was supposed to come with me today. I really wanted to take her to Young Women's and introduce her to some of the girls. Her mind drifted back to her mother's words the night before. Please don't make me choose between You and Iris.
to be continued...