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Redemption is sweet is but salvation is better. 

Salvation was the most important thing. My convertees knew it and I knew it too. This was heaven we were talking about. No sacrifice was too big. If I needed to go on a few dates to save a poor man's soul...so be it. 

That was until I met him. Mr. Sunshine. Mr. Sunshine was not attractive. 

He stood at about 5 feet 6 inches and had a gremlin face. His light brown hair was too long and it whisked in his face in a way that annoyed me. His light brown eyes were the only part of his features that drew me in. There was a loneliness in his eyes. 

It was a yearning for something. I don't think even HE knew what it was that he was searching for. Perhaps redemption. Maybe companionship...or hope. I took a deep breath before I approached him. I needed to muster my strength. His attitude sucked and when I was asked to 'show him around' I wanted to puke in my mouth. 

I didn't like this guy. I didn't like to be told to 'Look past his words' when he said that I was nothing more than a pretty face. I didn't like the way his eyes lingered over me just a little too long and when I met his gaze he pretended as though he was looking at something else. 

It turned out that his mother had joined the church and the thought of her son going to Hell made her want to do anything she could to save his soul. My mother and his had become best friends. It was only natural that I should be the one to convert him. 

The pressure to save his soul only increased as their friendship blossomed. 

"Help him Cathy" my mother begged me. 

The guy annoyed me more than I would have preferred. I wasn't used to someone behaving as though they were better than me. This ugly piece of human excrement was troublesome to my sensibilities and I was going to have the displeasure of pretending to like him in order to save him from the fiery pit of Hell. 

'What was I getting myself into?' I wondered. I would need to dig deep within myself to find a way to help him help himself. I would need to manipulate him. Though I prefer to use the term 'persuade', it sounded better this way. Also, I like to believe it fits better. What does Webster-Merriam know anyway?

Of course, like the beauty and the beast story he grew on me and I grew on him. He eventually joined the church (they all did) and our mothers rejoiced. No one would suffer eternal damnation today. Well, no one except my father and siblings, aunts, uncles, grandmother, cousins, and friends but nobody else. 

At some point in time, he and I ended up leading together. We had become a power couple that hadn't become 'official'. Mr. Sunshine would come over to my house and spend every free moment he had with me. We recruited couples. We prepared our lesson plans together. We were taught that the men lead the ministries and the women lead the women. 

It didn't matter that I knew my bible better and that I helped him navigate the scriptures. It was fine, I told myself. I would support him, and he would rise up to the challenge. Support him I did. He grew quite confident in himself as he continued to ingratiate himself into my life.

Years passed with him and I. We were together but we weren't together. He wanted to marry me. He wanted to have me in his life forever and I wasn't sure how I felt about him. Did I love him? At some point, the face that once had seemed so monstrous appeared quite beautiful. He had grown on me. There was a gentleness to his features. 

The way his mouth curved when he smiled. The ways his eyes fixed on mine when he looked at me. His gaze told me that he could stare at me forever and never grow weary. Yet there was always a nagging voice in the back of my mind that filled with doubt. Was I even capable of loving someone? 

When he told me that he was going to ask for permission to become 'official' a part of me thought he was lying. 

"I want to ask them at church this Wednesday Cathy. We can ask after service" His smile lit up the room. It would be hard to say no to this.

"Do you think its the right time?" I asked trepidatiously.

"Absolutely," The twinkle in his eyes told me that he truly believed every word he was saying. He wasn't lying. He wanted this. 

Did I? I searched my feelings. Dug deep inside of myself and the only truth I could see was that while I had grown fond of him, I didn't love him. I felt pretty confident that he didn't love me either. I will admit that I wanted him to love me. I liked the idea of it. I liked the idea of someone loving me so much that I went with him to ask the church for permission to be with me. Maybe, it would be OK. 

We traveled to the leaders together. He asked. We were flatly denied. The reason given, we were too young. 

"But there are other couples younger than us together," he said. 

"I mean you are too young spiritually." was the reply. 

Mr. Sunshine stunned into silence simply said "but" as his voice trailed off. 

Seeing his dismay, the person speaking looked at us both and said "You two are great leaders and one day you will make a powerhouse couple but we cannot tie you both together when you have so much growth still ahead of you. I'm sorry but the answer is final. Let's revisit this in a few more years." With those harsh words, the conversation ended. 

We were 19 at the time. We both knew that what they said didn't resonate. He and I had been leaders within the church for three years. We were there before many of the people that had come after. We were leaders. Our union should have been blessed but it wasn't and it didn't bother me. Not.even.a.little. Isn't that odd?  Seeds of doubt had been sown, I just didn't know it yet. 


Author's Note: This part looks further into the future with the character being 18 but in later parts, it will go back and forth between timelines. I'll do my best to make sure you are able to follow along on this bumpy journey. If you liked this chapter please mark it and thank you for reading. 

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