Jason and I grew closer and closer throughout the spring and summer. We did all the things boyfriends and girlfriends did in our small town. We went to each other's practices, dances, and various "functions" (he was in football, I was in track, band, and art club), to the movies, hung out at Toni and his house, and so on and so forth. I loved being with his entire family. Their Mom became my 2nd Mom, making sure I was doing well in school, practicing my flute (which was easy since Toni and I both played the flute), and making sure I stayed in line. Time passed in a happy blur for me, with Jason beside me. They had started attending a new church sometime that summer. I didn't pay too much attention to it at first. I did notice that some things changed around their house like all movies that were deemed "immoral or inappropriate" were gotten rid of and we were forbidden to rent such movies, swearing ceased, and there were multiple Bible studies during the week. I went to church with them a few times, and it seemed like a nice church but a little strange to me as I'm Lutheran, and they were going to a Jehovah's Witness church.
One Sunday afternoon I went over to their house after I had gotten out of church. Their Mom met me at the door with a pained look on her face and I immediately panicked thinking something was wrong with someone. She assured me that everyone was ok, and told me to come in, that all of us needed to have a "talk". She was so serious it scared me, but I reluctantly followed her into the kitchen where everyone was gathered around the kitchen table. Jason was slumped over with his head on the table and his Mom went to stand behind him. Their Dad was sitting next to him with his hand on Jason's back. Toni was sitting across from them patting the chair next to her for me to sit in. I slowly crept towards the chair, a ball forming in the pit of my stomach as I sat down. As I sat across from Jason he slowly raised his head and he had been crying. His eyes were all red and poofy, his cheeks wet and red, and he looked utterly miserable. He looked at his parents and then looked back to me muttering "I can't do it...Mom, Dad...PLEASE...I just can't do it, it hurts to bad." I started to ask what was going on when his Dad started to explain:
"Chris, today as a family we decided to become official members of the Jehovah's Witness congregation."
"Oh that's great, I'm glad you finally found a church that you all like and are into...but if your so gung ho about it, why is Jason so upset? Jason, what's wrong...tell me...you can tell me anything, you know that."
Jason and Toni's Mom continued...
"Sweetheart, you've been to church with us, what do YOU think of it?"
"Ummm the people were nice, some of the church's teachings are strange to me, but I'm a Lutheran, why?"
"So you have no interest in converting to our church?"
"NO, I love my church and religion...Why would I want to convert?"
Jason started sobbing at that point.
I eyeballed all of them suspiciously, and asked Toni what was going on, and why was I being asked if I wanted to convert.
Toni looked at her parents for direction and again their Mom picked up the ball.
"Chris, you know we all adore you honey, especially Jason..."
"Ya I know, and I love all of you too...Mom what's going on?!?"
She let out a deep pained sigh and continued...
"Well one of our beliefs is that a boy or girl shouldn't date until they are ready to get married and are looking for a future spouse. Do you realize what the means?"
My stomach fell to my toes and my heart felt like someone was ripping it out of my chest as I answered...
"OH...yea I understand that belief, Toni and I have talked about that before. So Jason and I can't go out anymore?" I choked out the words in disbelief.
Toni grabbed my hand and gave it a tight squeeze as I tried not to cry over loosing Jason. I looked at her and she told me...
"That's what's wrong with Jason, he's been like this ever since Mom and Dad finished formally joining the church. I'm so sorry Chris, I know it hurts. C'mon, lets go to my room, I know you don't like to cry around people." Toni got up and put her arms around me trying to hug me and get me to stand up out of my chair all at once. I accepted her hug but refused to budge out of my seat. This was complete lunacy in my mind. What kind of religion caused it's followers pain in their lives in any way? The questions reeled through my young mind as I started asking questions. What I asked I can't exactly recall, but their parents answered all of them with complete conviction. The only question I remember asking them was if that is why they had asked me if I had any interest in converting to their new church. They told me yes it was, that they hated that Jason and I had to break up as they thought we were made for one another, and they apologized for having to do it.
Jason looked up at me totally distraught. He looked like he was being torn in two looking between his family and me. About twenty seconds was all of that I could take and I ran past them, down the garage stairs and outside.
I crawled into the bed of the El Camino Jason had been restoring for when he got his drivers license. I cried...bitter, hot, heartbroken teenage tears. Toni came out and found me by listening to my sobs. She climbed into the back of the Cammy with me and put her arms around me and I just sobbed how unfair it was. I cried until I ran out of tears in her arms. I sat there staring at the stars, wondering how long it would take for them to break way from that wretched church and Jason and I could get back together. Mom came out to check on us occasionally and Toni went inside to get us some Dr Peppers at some point. When Toni left I climbed out of the back of the El Camino and into the front seat. Sometime while I was sobbing in the back, Jason had came out and gotten in the Cammy. As I slid into the passenger seat, I looked up and there he was, still crying.
"Chris, I'm so sorry...I didn't want it to end this way, I don't want it to end at all."
"Jason...Why? I'm not asking you to choose me over God, but you were happy going to the Christian church, and while you were there we could be together...What happened?"
Anger slowly crept over Jason's face amongst the tears as he slammed his fist against the steering wheel.
"Don't you get it? Dad is the head of the household, I have no choice! Mom has no choice. Toni has no choice. If Dad wants us to join this church we HAVE to join as well!" he screamed at me.
"Ok ok I get it, I understand, but, but, but I hate it. I just absolutely HATE it! I love you, I don't want to let you go! PLEASE Jason there has to be some way, some how...Hold me Jason, just this once, I need you...someone...please" I whispered pleading with Jason still crying.
We slid over at the same time and I collapsed in his arms. As I slumped against his chest, I saw his parents out the window, his Dad starting towards the car and Mom grabbing his arm pulling him back. As he looked back at her, she shook her head at him and I saw her say something to him and he stopped stepping back beside her, staring at us in the car.
I don't know how long we spent in the car just holding one another, each of us crying but at some point Mom came to the car and knocked on the window. Jason rolled down the window and she motioned for us to get out of the car. Very reluctantly we got out of the car and she told me that my Dad was on his way to get me.
Toni stepped up from behind me and guided me to the porch from the side yard. We sat in silence, my head on her shoulder, crying. Shortly afterwards, Mom came outside and Jason was trailing behind her.
"Chris, it'll be a few minutes before your Dad is here. I think both you and Jason need to say your good-byes sweetheart, but I have to stay out here with you."
I stuttered "Ok" and Jason stepped around his Mom and gathered me in his arms. I grabbed him violently as if my life depended on it and he clutched me back. His cologne, the fabric softener, the softness of his shirt, the buttons pressing into my cheek, his strong arms wrapped around me, the cool breeze wrapping around us and rustling the leaves on the ground. We stood there, tightly wrapped in each other's arms as time stood still.
Soon I heard a truck pull up to the curb and whispers from that general direction. Shortly afterwards I heard my Dad...
"Jason, I'm sorry, I know it hurts, but you have to let go, I have it from here. Take care son."
"Take care of her, PLEASE...take good good care of her sir."
"I will, I promise, I always do." my Dad reassured Jason as he gathered me from Jason's arms and I fell against him fresh sobs starting.
"Daddy, oh Daddy...." and my voice trailed off...
Dad smoothed my ruffled hair and picked me up like when I was little girl...
"I know, broken hearts hurt more than broken bones...lets go for a ride sis."
Dad carried me to his truck and Toni opened the door for him. He sat me in the truck seat, and shut the door. I heard Toni asking Dad to take care of me and he reassured her he would, and he thanked their parents for calling him and postponing this until he was going to be home.
As Dad got into the truck he asked me if there was anyplace I wanted to go. Still crying I wasn't able to answer him as he dragged his box of Kleenex out from behind the seat, but I shook my head no. I sat there, snotty and drippy, staring at Jason out the window of my Dad's truck. He looked as devastated and hopeless as I felt.
Dad drove north out of town, the town whizzing past. He handed me a cold Dr Pepper, and turned on the radio. I leaned over on Daddy's shoulder, fighting back the tears as I tried sipping my pop. Dad stopped at a convenience store on the way out of town and called Mom to let her know I was with him and we'd be a while before we were home.
Dad drove out to his farm and pulled into the parking lot adjoining the gate facing the cemetery.
"I bet you wish you were out there with them huh?" he asked me nodding his head towards the headstones across the road.
I shrugged and cuddled up to him as the evening was getting rather cool. He wrapped his jacket around me and his arm around my shoulders.
"God, it was so much easier when you were 5. McDonald's and an ice cream cone made anything, any boo boo, any disappointment or heartbreak all better. I wish I knew what it would take to make this all better, but I don't. Time is the only thing that can do that, and I can't speed time up." As he finished, Dad let out a sigh that made me realize that he'd been where I was, even if it was years ago.
I eventually cried myself to sleep with Daddy holding me. When I woke up, Daddy was carrying me into the house. He gently roused me enough to get my pajamas on and get ready for bed. I crawled into my bed, and popped a couple of tapes into my stereo and as Peter Cetera sang, I cried into my pillow. Soon I felt someone sit on the edge of my bed, stroke my hair, and pull my covers up.
"I'm so sorry baby, love hurts, but it fades with time, I just hope it's fast for you..." his voice trailed off as I heard Mom walk away from my door muttering...
"For Christ's sake, she's 13, she has no earthly idea what heartbreak is..." her voice irritated and trailing off as she stomped down the hallway.
A kiss to the top of my head, and he left as swiftly as he came in...then the yelling began...again...and I turned my stereo up, praying to God to end it all, by whatever means he felt necessary, and reciting my standby bedtime prayer...
"Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
... and sometime drifted off into a fitful sleep.