Amanda sighed as she stared at the phone. How she hated phones.
There had been no good thing that had ever come forth from one of the hated devices. She recalled nothing so vividly as the ring of the phone, and that sick feeling in the pit of her stomach that resulted from the knowledge that it was her husband calling.
"Just so I know where you are, honey," he would have said. She recalled that slight edge he would place on the first syllable of the word; that faint sheen of ice that masqueraded a subtle threat. He used to have other threats too. The brushing of the back of his hand across his cheek, with a slight smirk on his lips. The dropping of the bible on the counter: a reminder that whatever he did, God would be on his side.
She had hated him, and now he was dead.
That thought brought a shiver through her as she considered the blunt, plastic receiver. He was gone, and he had taken his daughters with him. Her daughters. She could still recall the first moment that she had held them, the first steps, and...
Amanda winced, her eyes closing and a shudder running through her body. There were other thoughts there. Horrible thoughts about how her husband had taken her lovely, free spirited girls.
Taken was the wrong word. It was nothing short of a rape. A rape of the mind, like he had once done, long ago, to her own body. He had controlled their thoughts, forcing them into a mental slavery dominated by dogma and hatred. And to make it all worse... he had been right.
It was the only explanation. The only possible way. God had indeed come and taken his people.
A people that she loathed. A people that had taken her daughters.
A people that had... Irene.
That last thought broke Amanda free of her reverie. A new sense of purpose poured into her as she once again contemplated the phone. She knew where Irene had gone to church. She knew who she had been married to...
But what to say...
"New Hope Village Church, Come and Hear the Good News!"
"Uhm, hi, my name's Amanda White... I uh... attended a home bible study there a few months back."
"Well, Good Morning Amanda! I'm Pastor Barnes, and I'm looking forward to seeing you here on Sunday!"
"Uhm, no I... I was wondering if..." Amanda thought furiously, trying to come up with the most nonchalant way of phrasing the question, "I was remembering a friend who was there, and I was trying to get in touch."
"We're all friends here at New Hope Village Church," Amanda could practically hear the "TM" at the end of that, "But I'd be happy to check the guestbook for you if you'd care to come down to see us."
"Oh, I am born again, don't worry about that," Amanda spoke the code words that she knew by heart. It had been a survival instinct for so many years, falling into habit was easy, "But I wanted to thank that member, because it was her conversations which led to my personal relationship with Jesus."
She felt sick in the pit of her stomach as she recited the words. Every little spark of sound a reminder of the sparks that had once dazzled in front of her eyes when she had failed to speak them.
"Well that's wonderful to hear. Not many people truly understand why God left us behind, but I'd be happy..."
"Actually, I was hoping you could help me find Irene Steele. I remember her name because..." FUCK! Amanda realized that she had said too much. It was a stupid move, and she needed to find some way... "because it sounded like Iron and Steel."
She winced. No, THAT was stupid.
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