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An Older Sister’s Warning

“I don’t want to sound like an older sister, but do you know what you’re doing? I mean you’re playing with fire down there,” said Brenda.

“I know,” Joellen answered, cradling the phone between her shoulder and right ear while she spread peanut butter on a sandwich for Noreen. “I can’t really talk about it right now, but can I call you later?”

“Call me at work,” Brenda said. “I’ve got to run too.”

Joellen finished packing the lunch bags and saw the kids onto their buses. This was the day she was to meet Brent at Monika’s office to sign the new agreement. Two days before the Christmas school break. As soon as the last bus pulled away Joellen looked down at her hands and realized they were shaking. This was new. She wanted to call North, but she knew that was out of the question. So she dialed Brenda at work and waited while they transferred the call to her office – or her cubicle or whatever she had. Joellen didn’t even know exactly what Brenda did. It was something that had to do with loans. After all these years, they were still almost strangers. Still Brenda had been good to her in Brooklyn. It was a beginning.

“So, you were saying?” Brenda didn’t even bother with a greeting. She had been up north a long time. She sounded more like a New Yorker than a Southerner now, although every once in a while Joellen heard a trace of the old Brenda in her voice or attitude.

“I wasn’t saying . . . yet,” Joellen said. “But here’s the thing. I feel like Brent wants to make the marriage work. But I don’t want to give up North.”

“North? He’s your pastor, right?” asked Brenda. “Your PASTOR, for God’s sake! Sorry about that, maybe a bad choice of words?”

“He’s not really my pastor. I mean, he is, but only technically. Since he just came to the church when all this happened. I mean I never really thought of him as our pastor except maybe that one time when I first went to him for some guidance. Oh hell, I don’t know. Maybe he is. What’s the difference?” Joellen asked.

“You don’t see the difference?” Brenda almost roared.

“No, I don’t,” said Joellen. “Don’t yell at me. I didn’t go out looking for all this. It happened to me.”

“And that makes it okay?” asked Brenda.

“You’re being awfully judgmental,” Joellen said. “What if you were in my place?”

Brenda didn’t say anything for a minute. When she did speak her tone was different.

“You can’t think this is going to all just work out. That you can have a husband and a lover who’s your pastor and nothing will happen,” she said finally.

“I don’t know. I’ll admit I’m confused. But I also feel alive for the first time since I got married. I mean, I look forward to getting up in the morning and I want to see North all the time and now I don’t know . . . I think maybe Brent has some qualities that I didn’t ever know about. I mean he’s been so sweet. And the sex . . . ” she stopped talking, feeling embarrassed.

“Okay, I don’t want to hear about your sex life with your husband,” said Brenda. “Or is he your ex-husband?”

“What do all these classifications matter? What’s so important about what our status is?” she asked, almost as much to herself as to her sister.

“Hell, what do I know? I don’t care about it, but society sure does,” said Brenda. “Especially for the woman. And think about this: If sex is so good with Brent now, then why do you need the pastor?”

Joellen Part 3, Episode Thirty-Seven

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