She stood at the kitchen island watching a replay of the Hot for God show put out by the Highroad Community Church while she poured hot liquid from a double boiler into a few dozen mason jars arranged neatly in rows on the granite countertop. Once all the jars were topped-off, she clipped four-inch candle wicks in wooden clothespins and set them across the mouth of the jars to hold the wicks upright, in-place.
“Jesus doesn’t want you to be religious!” a youthful man in dark jeans and a dark, un-tucked business shirt exclaimed from the television. “Oh no, people. Jesus,” he lowered his voice to a conversational volume and tone as though he were telling a bedtime story to a toddler, “he wants you to have,” he paused, “you know what? Do you know what? You do, don’t you? I think you do. Jesus wants you to have…” he said, a conspiratorial grin spreading across his carefully-unshaven face and his head nodding slowly.
“Say it with me,” he commanded in a firm but quiet voice. The audience shifted expectantly and watched him gesticulate with the microphone before pointing it at them with a flourish.
“Faith,” the woman said sarcastically as the congregation on the television responded sincerely. “You need a new act, buddy” she said to the empty room as she grabbed a remote from the counter and switched the set off. “That was waaaay too Phil Donahue. But that’s what happens when your wife takes you back. You were never that cheesy with me.”
She retrieved a thick stack of colorful labels, sixteen per sheet, from the printer. She began peeling and applying them to the jars. Tara’s Soy Candles are Soooy-Good, they read. Once she applied the last label, she inspected each jar, adjusting the candle wicks in a few. She then retrieved a bottle of Pinot Grigiot from the refrigerator, topped off the glass already on the counter, and turned off the lights as she left the kitchen, picking up a laptop from a side table in the hallway before climbing the staircase to the second floor.
Upstairs, she opened a bedroom door slowly and quietly, peeking in. Two elementary-aged twin blonde girls lay in identical white, wood-framed twin beds. Dark pink letters spelling “Molly” and “Maddy” hung facing each other from opposite light pink walls.
She closed the door and walked softly down the hall to the master bedroom. She sat on the bed with her laptop and opened it. A browser window was already open to the dating site, Bees and Buds where her profile with the heading Monica, 39 appeared with pictures of her in a variety of poses and settings. She scrolled through them: a shot of her wearing bib overalls with one strap undone in front of a barn while holding a glass of red wine; one of her sitting on her bed wearing a slip and staring at the camera with bedroom eyes, lips parted and eyebrow raised; one of her clapping in the stands at some kind of sporting event; one in a form-fitting dress at a wedding, her leg extended and ankle turned to display a multi-colored tattoo of a dragon, its tail wrapped around her ankle and body spreading out in flight on the top of her foot; there was also a shot of her dancing in a club, and one of her wearing hearing protection and sunglasses firing a Glock at a shooting range.
“Add more photos?” the screen prompted. She clicked the “No thanks, I’m done” option. A new page loaded with a large text area that contained only the words “I’m a” and a pink popup box that advised, “Tell us more about you to make your profile public.”
She stared at the screen and sipped her wine for a minute or so, then put the glass down and began typing. After a few minutes, she stopped typing and read her self-description:
Spiritual (not religious!) quality woman, recently divorced, seeking same in a man who has his act together. Friends first and we’ll see how it goes.
I enjoy the outdoors and especially hiking. Camping not so much unless it’s in a cabin with a shower. I do enjoy occasional sports but I’m not all about it and hopefully you’re not either. A morning spent garage sale-ing/antiquing followed by a nice hike around a lake and ending with a gourmet meal and wine by the fire is my idea of perfect. A word of caution: I am sweet but sassy and run my own business so I’m used to being the boss. I am low drama and expect the same. Seeking my soulmate, my last One, my ride or die who knows how to take charge but also how to enjoy the ride.
I respect myself and want a real connection with chemistry, passion, and respect. Notice that says, “Want, not Need!”
I look forward to hearing from you!!!
Reading that over, she left the wording unchanged but punctuated the text with emojis of various kinds to emphasize her text. After another read she shrugged, said, “Here goes nothing,” and clicked the green “Let’s Do This!” button.
She closed the lid and sat drinking her wine and staring at her reflection in the mirror atop her dresser on the opposite wall. She practiced a few different smiles, head tilts, and casual, flirty winks. She lifted her chin, moving her face around, touched her neck in a few places. She licked her lips, let out an audible sigh, and began softly weeping and sipping her wine. The only sounds in the house were her breathing and an occasional sniffle. Outside, she could hear a man whistling and calling for his dog.
The restaurant was very crowded and busy. She exhaled with relief and smiled at seeing his text in the dating app letting her know he was already there and had a table by the window.
“Full disclosure,” she said as the man who had introduced himself as “Benjy”–the same as his profile!–pulled her chair out for her, “Oh! Thank you! Full disclosure,” she said, “my name isn’t really ‘Monica’. It’s Allison but most people call me Allie.”
Benjy made sure she was seated and secure then walked around to his side of the table and sat down as well. Allie looked him over as he turned his back. He was over six feet tall, slim and athletic for the most part, only a slight bulge at the belt line but certainly no muffin-topping or gut. His jaw was strong and his neck lean, just a slight softness to his face common among men nearing fifty.
“Oh, I understand perfectly,” he said as he settled into his seat. “You can’t be too careful these days. I admire and support your caution,” he said with a smile. “But, I’m really Benjy. Just like the dog.”
“Supportive and loyal?” Allie said with a smile.
He laughed. “And adorable,” he added.
“And humble,” she observed with a wry smirk.
“Oh, yes,” he agreed. “So Allie,” he said, changing the subject, “you mentioned in your profile that you own your own business?”
“I do,” she said with a nod. “I make soy candles and vegan soaps.”
“What’s it called? Your business.”
“Tara’s Soy-Goods,” she replied.
“Clever,” he said. “Who’s Tara?” he asked.
“Oh that’s me, too.”
“A woman of many talents, and aliases,” he remarked. “Or maybe personalities,” he said jokingly.
She flashed an angry smile but shrugged it off and said, “It’s complicated.”
“Well you’re certainly interesting!” he said enthusiastically. “Is that a full-time enterprise?”
“Not quite, yet,” she said. “But the business is growing. I do farmer’s markets and craft shows, sometimes, when my schedule with my daughters permits, and I’m hoping to be in some stores soon.”
“Must be tough doing all that on your own.”
“Oh it is,” she agreed. Lot of driving around and stuff, but my ex makes a good living and I did ok in the divorce so I’m not looking for a paycheck from anyone.”
“Oh I didn’t mean to imply anything like that,” Benny replied. Just that you’re very entrepreneurial.” He looked around. “Bit slow tonight. Or they forgot about us.”
“Very busy,” Allie replied. “They can be so slow here, too,” she said with exasperation. “But what about you?” she asked. “You mentioned you were a professional going through a transition.”
“Guilty. As. Charged.” he said, slowly and deliberatly, holding his hands up in mock surrender and chuckling. “I have been in the pastoral counseling ministry for twenty years,” he continued. “But am currently working on getting my trading and financial advisor certifications, and am going into financial planning.”
“Well you should know I’m not religious,” she pointed out. “But I am highly spiritual. Always have been. I think that god or the universe or whatever you want to call it definitely has a higher purpose for us all. Discovering that purpose is what makes life so…interesting. Even when pursuing that purpose causes difficulties in other areas. I try to maintain true to myself, though, and hold myself to the highest possible standards, which is one of the reasons I had to end my marriage. I got married too young and spent too much time just getting by.”
Benjy nodded sympathetically. “Understandable. How old were you when you got married?” he asked.
“Thirty-one,” she replied. Benjy didn’t bat an eye as she continued, “but now, at forty-three, I’ve gained so much more wisdom and insight. Clarity. And I’ve learned so much from God, from attending Highroad Church, from being both a mother and a father to my girls. That really helps you see how we are created in God’s image, and have both a male and female side.”
“Didn’t your profile list your age at 39?” he asked.
“I don’t know really, I’m not sure how to work that thing. Why?” she said firmly. “Is that a problem? The point is, experience brings wisdom, especially when feeding our souls on a regular basis.”
“Totally agree,” he said, nodding. “I’ve found my beliefs changing and expanding to something more inclusive than exclusive, which can make things a bit more difficult in a mainstream, somewhat more conservative denomination. One of the reasons for the career change.”
“Oh really?” she asked. “What are the other reasons?”
He smiled at her and shrugged. “That’s it, really. Just kind of grew out of it. Time for a change, if that makes sense. I was always disappointed that mainstream Christian religion doesn’t make more room for the erotic in relationships. I always found something very erotic in having a ‘relationship’ with God. Even the language where the church is the ‘bride’ of Christ, etc. My soon-to-be-ex didn’t understand that, and I felt myself being drawn more and more to really spiritual women who were more…holistic…in their beliefs.”
Allie shifted in her seat as he looked at her with his bright blue eyes. “You know you’re far more handsome than your pics,” she said, a little boldly just as the waitress appeared at the table to welcome them and take their drink orders.
“Once,” he continued after the waitress left to get their drinks and appetizer, “I was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with a Holy Land tour and I am firmly convinced I encountered an angelic being while out strolling by myself one moonlit evening in a quiet garden full of olive trees…”
Benjy’s large blue SUV was parked among rows of similar vehicles on a big car lot. The windows were heavily fogged when he looked up briefly from where he lay on the back seat under Allie as she sat up and removed the shirt and bra that were already hanging off her small frame. She looked around and giggled.
“I sure hope we don’t get caught like this,” she said. “Maybe I should leave my top on.”
“It’s my brother’s dealership,” replied Benjy. “We’ll be fine. Besides,” he continued with a wicked smile, “the rest of you is naked.”
“Come on,” she said. “My babysitter’s going to be calling wondering where I am.”
Once her top and bra were off, Benjy carefully began turning her so that she was on her back, under him, while maintaining penetration.
“Nice trick!” she squealed. “You’re strong.”
He resumed thrusting.
“Oh god this feels so fucking good,” she said. “Fuck me harder.”
“Ok but say it, baby. Say it!” he said, his breathing quickening again.
“Harder,” she cried out. “Deeper!”
“Say it!” he growled.
“I’m spiritual,” she gasped. “Not religious. Spiritual not, not, oh god, religious. I’m spiritual not religious!”
“Keep it going, baby, keep it going,” he commanded as he fucked her. “But louder! Louder, baby!”
Pulling her arms from where they were wrapped around him, Allie stretched them back behind her head. Her palms flattened against the door panel as she pushed herself firmly against him, and complied.