VII - Church quest

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[RECAP: To try and seduce her hot Latin teacher Mr Carl Spencer, Juliet has decided to try and visit his church.]

Margot and Fhemie had been scathing about the guy who allegedly wanted Juliet to audition for his band.

"It's the oldest trick in the book," Fhemie said. "I'm surprised he didn't try and tell you he was a big shot record company exec and try to get you to his private studio."

"Which would be some dungeon that he'd tie you up in. Probably a cabin in the woods. No one would ever find you," Margot continued for her.

Juliet, who had felt flattered, now felt deflated. But she couldn't bring herself to throw the piece of paper away. The guy had just seemed like a regular person not a serial killer.

Tonight though her mind was on other things. She and Margot were making their first trip to one of the two baptist churches that they thought Mr Spencer might attend. Fhemie had to babysit her little sisters and couldn't come.

"You need to dress like a good Christian girl," Margot told her. "Like for church on Sunday."

Juliet had a special wardrobe for this: conservative clothes that she wore to appease Aunt Mary. In the first years of staying at her aunt's house she had fiercely fought against having to attend church every week, but Aunt Mary had made it a condition of Juliet living with her.

"You too then," Juliet said. "Or it will look really weird."

So there they were, dressed like the dowdiest girls in school, heading off to a church service on a weeknight.

Juliet was secretly worried that they were taking things too far and felt uncomfortable about going. So she had made a secret bargain with herself: if he wasn't there, she would persuade Margot to give the whole thing up.

But if he was there, then she would take that as a sign from Fate or whatever that she should stick with this. Juliet didn't really believe in Fate, but it seemed blasphemous to interpret Mr Spencer's presence as a sign from God. She imagined God had more important things to worry about than high school crushes and bets. After all, gambling was a sin, wasn't it?

Two friendly African American women met them at the door. "Welcome!" They didn't ask any probing questions about why Juliet and Margot had shown up to their church but ushered them in and had someone else show them to a seat. Most of the people there were in Sunday-style clothes: the men in dress shirts and slacks.

An old lady handed them both hymn books. "Are you baptised in Jesus Christ my dears?" she asked them.

Juliet wasn't entirely sure if they were or not. "We're actually Catholic," she said.

The woman was all smiles. "All people are welcome here. The love of Christ is for everyone and we're all here to learn from His teachings. We have a meet-and-greet for new folks afterwards, I hope you'll stay and join us."

It was certainly a very different experience to the staid and solemn Sunday morning mass that Juliet attended with her aunt. Did they do the sacrament here as well? she wondered. Would they do it midweek? She had no idea what the rules were.

Margot was looking around the congregation trying to see if she could spot Mr Spencer. Now they were actually there, Juliet didn't dare look. She felt she would be freaked out if he was there and disappointed if he wasn't.

"Target sighted at eleven o'clock. Locked and loaded," Margot said.

Juliet's stomach lurched. "What the hell does eleven o'clock mean?" she hissed.

"Over there by that pillar. I think that's him anyway."

Juliet looked and sure enough, there was the well-sculpted head of Mr Spencer. She had made a thorough study of the back view of his head during all the times he wrote on the whiteboard in class.

"I can't believe we're really doing this. Maybe we should just leave now, while we can."

Margot ignored her. "I wonder who that is next to him." There was a woman with long dark hair seated by Mr Spencer. They couldn't see her face. Juliet found herself burning with curiosity for her to turn around.

The service started. There was a lot of singing: a mix of contemporary and traditional songs. Juliet recognised at least some of them but didn't feel confident enough to sing. Margot was in full Gospel mode with the ones she knew.

* * *

There was no quick escape: they were cornered afterwards by the friendly old lady. "Come and meet our pastor, we're always glad to see new faces."

Feeling like the biggest fraud on earth, Juliet followed Margot to shake hands with Pastor Brown, the head minister of the church. They were offered cups of tea and introduced to other people. They weren't the only first-timers which was something of a relief.

Then across the room Juliet saw Mr Spencer and he saw her. He raised his eyebrows in surprise and she felt her face grow red.

He came over to them. "Juliet, Margot. It's unexpected seeing you both here."

Margot took the lead."We're on a spiritual journey," she said. She had already used this phrase several times, including to the pastor. Juliet was waiting for a lightning strike to come down upon them as Margot didn't even believe in God, or so she said.

"We didn't know it was your church," Juliet said. This wasn't exactly a lie. "We can find somewhere else."

Mr Spencer looked bewildered. "Why would you need to do that? I'm delighted to see you. Everyone is welcome here."

The dark haired girl who had been sitting next to him during the service appeared by his side. Juliet could see her face now: she was pleasant enough but nothing special.

"Care to introduce me?" she said to Mr Spencer.

"These are two of my students from St Gillian's," he told her. "Juliet - Margot - this is Rebecca."

"His fiancée," Rebecca added. Her smile looked fake, Juliet thought. "Aren't you both Catholics, going to that school?" There was a trace of suspicion in her eyes.

Juliet tried to sound convincing. "We're trying out other faiths. It's kind of a spiritual experiment."

"I see. Well I hope you've enjoyed your visit to our church." There was a subtle emphasis on the "our" and she made it sound as though the visit should be a one-off. Rebecca apparently didn't welcome the idea of Mr Spencer's students attending the same church as him.

"We look forward to seeing you again," Mr Spencer said, his eyes meeting Juliet's. Rebecca shot him a glance, she clearly wasn't pleased by him extending the invitation. "And I'll see you both in Latin tomorrow, so I hope you've done your homework."

He smiled and Juliet felt her stomach flip. She really hoped he couldn't read her mind. She couldn't stop thinking about the image of him in her dreams: stripped, muscles rippling, taking her right in his classroom.

Not that it was ever going to happen in real life. Was it?

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