XXXV - Going to church

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[RECAP: Carl Spencer has suggested that Juliet attend his church every Sunday evening, as a way of spending time together in an appropriate way]

Aunt Mary seemed surprisingly unconcerned when Juliet mentioned she was attending a friend's church service on Sunday evening. Her conservative choice of dress probably helped. She certainly didn't look as though she was really about to sneak out to a party.

She had even been honest enough to tell her aunt that it was a Baptist church. By lucky chance it turned out that a woman in Aunt Mary's knitting group, whom she particularly liked, was a Baptist.

"It doesn't seem to have done Doris any harm," Aunt Mary said. "I dare say the Lord doesn't disapprove of us visiting His other houses."

The Lord might well disapprove if he had an idea of Juliet's true motive for going there. "I won't be late back," Juliet promised. She was relieved she hadn't had to lie. "There may be coffee afterwards." This wasn't exactly a lie either, as there might well be. Although she hoped that any coffee would be at Mr Spencer's place, just him and her.

She walked briskly through the cold night air. The streets through the suburb were well lit but even with her winter coat she didn't want to linger. She also didn't want to arrive at the church with bright red shiny cheeks but there wasn't a lot she could do about that.

Juliet felt increasingly nervous as she approached. The church was lit up at the front and looked really bright and shining. It had been the same when she visited with Margot and by herself, but this was different. She was invited.

Inside Mr Spencer was already there and her heart leapt to see him. He was talking to a couple of other people including the man she recognised from the Green Room, but he stopped speaking with them and came over to Juliet.

"Juliet. I really am very glad to see you." Mr Spencer's eyes held even more that he didn't dare say. "Come and meet some people."

It was another fifteen minutes until the service started and not everyone was taking their seat yet. Mr Spencer introduced her to the man she had seen before, who was Dan, as well as to a very pregnant woman who turned out to be Dan's wife, Jenny. She seemed very nice but Juliet felt awkward as they were all around the same age and she was younger. Did they know who and what she was?

And what about Rebecca, was she here? Juliet sincerely hoped not.

Her dilemma at how to introduce herself was solved by Mr Spencer. "This is Juliet, one of my students from St Gillian's."

Dan gave her a slightly curious look. It wasn't unfriendly but he was appraising her. "You're the one we saw singing in the bar that time, aren't you?"

"Yes, that was our first ever time performing together," Juliet said.

"What kind of music is it?" Jenny asked.

"It's sort of a mix. Kind of trip-pop. I just sing, I'm not really the musical one. Jax, our keyboardist, writes most of the music." Juliet didn't want to take the credit as Jax really was the mastermind of it all.

"You sing very well, from what I heard," Dan told her.

"You'll have to let us know when you're next performing, we'll come and listen," Jenny said. She had a gleam in her eye and she cast a brief look at Mr Spencer. "Only it had better be soon, because time's running out for my days of fun and freedom." She indicated her belly.

Juliet thought how friendly Jenny and Dan were. "I'd be happy to get you tickets. We'll be at the Green Room again in a couple of weeks."

A few people stopped to chat, including Agnes who recognised Juliet and was very glad to see her. Juliet was feeling overwhelmed with niceness. It was almost surreal.

Then finally the organ started and those that weren't already seated hurried to their chairs. Juliet sat beside Mr Spencer, relieved to be have something else to focus on.

* * *

Dan had obviously said something to Jenny. Carl dreaded to think what, but the look that Jenny had given him after the Green Room was mentioned said it all. Carl knew he could trust them, but Jenny had a dangerously lively imagination. She had probably already put two and two together and made a very incriminating number.

Though she wouldn't be far off the mark, of course. Because there he was, sitting next to Juliet, barely able to concentrate on anything Pastor Brown was saying as he was completely distracted by her presence beside him.

He realised that he really wanted to be alone with her. Wise or unwise, it was going to have to happen. After all, how risky could pizza at his place really be? They both knew what was at stake, Juliet was hardly going to broadcast it around school.

He would hold out for this week, he thought. Take it slowly. Next week he would see about asking her back for a meal. She would need to clear it with her aunt anyway.

Juliet's voice sounded clear and beautiful as she sang the hymns even though she wasn't very familiar with them. He felt a sense of pride at being next to her. She wore a small silver cross that glinted in the hollow of her neck and even the brief glimpse of skin was giving him very unholy thoughts.

Prayers came as a relief because he could make his own imprecations to the Lord. Most of which were about resisting the girl kneeling next to him.

"Is your friend staying for tea and coffee?" Agnes asked after the service, cornering Carl and Juliet as they filed out of the congregation.

Carl looked at Juliet questioningly. "I'd love to," she said.

"What would you like, dear?" Agnes asked.

"Let me fetch them, Agnes." He didn't want to leave Juliet stranded but he didn't want to trouble Agnes. Dan and Jenny had come up again so Juliet wasn't left by herself.

As Carl returned with the mugs he couldn't help scanning the room for Rebecca. He hadn't seen her before the service and she didn't usually attend on Sunday evenings because of preparing for the week ahead.

Jenny missed nothing. "She's not here," she told Carl. "Though I wouldn't be surprised if she shows up next week," she said, flicking her gaze to Juliet, who didn't notice as she had been asked something by Agnes and was absorbed in conversation with her.

"Really?" Carl asked.

"If word gets out," Jenny said. Then she added quickly: "Not that I'm suggesting there's anything to gossip about, but you know how things are."

Carl felt tired just thinking about it. He had really hoped that Rebecca wasn't minded to rekindle things between them, but from what Jenny was suggesting he might face another confrontation with his ex-fiancée yet again. She had been so unpleasant after they broke up that it had made him feel very comfortable with his choice. He understood that she was hurting, her pride more than anything, but it didn't incline him to change his mind. Quite the opposite.

The group chatted for a while longer on church affairs, Juliet mainly listening, and then things started to break up as people drifted home.

"Let me drive you home," Carl offered to Juliet, thankfully out of earshot of the all-knowing Jenny.

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely. It's dark and cold and it makes no sense for you to walk all that way. I'm sure your aunt would be happier for you to get home quickly."

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