SHILOH whooshed out a long deep breath through her mouth and set down the bible. There was no need pretending that she was reading the words on Romans 15 when she wasn’t. She pushed off the bed, stretched and cast a furtive glance at her phone.
He hasn’t called her all day.
He hadn’t called her all of last week and the last two days. They’ve talked and only because she’d made the calls. They hadn’t seen each other or spent time together. His busy schedule wasn’t permitting it.
He was avoiding her. There was no pretending that obvious fact. Or pretending the fact that the entire situation annoyed, hurt and scared her.
Shiloh exhaled again and ran her fingers through her weave. He was avoiding talking to her and spending time with her. He’d even skipped Thursday’s service just so they wouldn’t see in church. Of course, his excuse had been an unexpected late coming client. But she’d known better. She’d heard the lie behind the stuttering excuse. He was avoiding her—and simply because he didn’t want to be with her anymore.
The prick behind her eyes made her blink and the heavy ball in her throat made her swallow hard. She wanted to cry… well, she’d cried in soft sobs and with her face buried in her pillow last night and the night before. She hated that she’d let it all get to her but she hadn’t been able to stop it from doing so.
She missed him.
She loved him.
She wanted him back in her life—loving her, pursuing her with relentless passion and treating her like the most precious and rarest gem.
She hated him. Hated him with the poison of anger growing in her heart as dawn turned to dusk each day and still he had only excuses.
Darn it! How dare he treat her like this?
Shiloh pressed her fingers between her burning eyes. Maybe she was overreacting. Maybe she was reading this wrong. Maybe he was indeed busy. Maybe he wasn’t avoiding her but just had too much on his desk right now.
“Stupid maybe excuses.” She muttered into her palms.
Of course he was avoiding her and of course his excuses were all lies. Cheap, stupid, cowardly lies and she was a fool for wanting desperately to believe them. She was a stupid fool for letting him into her heart and giving him the chance to treat her like this.
“Is that some kind of meditation pose?”
Shiloh jolted at her mother’s soft-voiced question. She hadn’t heard her footsteps. She dried her eyes, silently inhaled before she turned. “Not exactly. Was just thinking.”
“About Jethro?” Joy strolled into the room.
Shiloh lightly moved her shoulders. “Sort of. I wish I wasn’t though.”
“Why?” Because she’d taken a sit on the bed, Joy did too. “Trouble in paradise?”
“I don’t know. He’s busy… that’s what he keeps telling me.”
Joy’s heart missed a beat but she kept her calm tone. “You don’t think he’s truly busy?”
“No, I don’t.” Shiloh said after a pause. Then she lifted her shoulders again. “Maybe he is. But it’s got to be some mega kind of busy if he can’t spare a minute to call me or even send a text.” She blinked because her eyes pinched. “I feel like such a fool, mum.”
“Why? Because you fell in love with a good man?”
Shiloh raised her head and looked at her. “You still think him a good man?”
“Of course I do. And he is.” Joy smiled a little at Shiloh’s doubtful stare. “He may be busy as he said he is. Or…” she tugged up her own shoulders. “Or he might be going through some difficulties processing all that you told him.”
“I wish I hadn’t told him. I wish I’d left the past in the past.”
“You told him because you wanted no dark secrets between you two.” Hurting for her, Joy slid a hand over hers. “Telling him was a brave thing to do and I am proud of you for doing so. Processing it is something he has to do on his own and maybe giving him the space to do so is something you have to do.”
“He held me and told me it was all right but I knew, even as I leaned against him, that something was already off. He was just too stiff, too shocked.” Shiloh blinked severally to force back the threatening tears. “He said the past didn’t matter, that he cared only about today, only about our tomorrow. Mum, he lied. He lied because it is obvious he cares too much about my past. It’s been more than a week since I shared everything with him and he hasn’t even called. Not once, mum.”
Joy’s heart squeezed with pain. With the pain she knew she was feeling. “Give him time.”
“I have given him time.” Hurt and impatience made Shiloh snap. “I have given him nine days so far, how much more time does he want?”
“You’ve called him almost every day of those nine days, maybe you should back off and just let him be.”
She wanted to back off. She wanted to let him be. She wanted to toss him out of her heart, out of her life. “I love him, mum.” That was why she couldn’t toss him out or let him be. “I love him so much and I miss him. Why is the fact that I was open with him and that I love him not enough for him?”
“It will be.” Joy touched her face and wiped off the tears. “When he’s done processing it all and he’s finally accepted what once was, your openness and your love will be more than enough for him. More than enough for you both.”
“What if he doesn’t accept it?” Shiloh felt another tear slid down her cheek. “What if he decides that my past is something he can’t live with?”
“Then he is unworthy of you and of your love.” Joy said firmly. “And he’d definitely be unworthy of your tears. I don’t like his silence, I have to admit that. But I don’t like even more that you are pressing him with calls. It makes you appear clingy. Give him a few more days. If he comes around, fine. If he doesn’t, well, then it is time to turn another page.”
“It’s not that easy, mum. It’s not going to be easy to turn another page.”
“I know.” Joy drew her against her and soothed her with one arm. “I know this is like reopening the wound of Seyi leaving you two years ago.”
“Well, it’d have been a miracle if he’d stayed after finding out his cousin was one of the guys I messed around with in my wild and cavalier days.” Shiloh murmured. “I didn’t expect him to and I am not sure I should be expecting same from Jeth. He’s a man, mum. Whatever they say and whatever the century we are in, they still want their women modest if not pure at the very least. And he is a church boy who went for a church girl; he expected me to be the closest thing to a virgin if I wasn’t one. I guess I disappointed him.”
“He disappointed himself if he let himself judge anyone by the measure of their past lives.” Joy retorted, annoyed that her daughter was getting hurt again by another man who possibly was expecting way too much. “He doesn’t come untouched himself, so I don’t see why he should have expected you to be.”
“I don’t think he expected me to be a virgin, mum. But a body count of thirteen and one abortion is probably too much for his sanctimonious self.”
The edge of derision pleased Joy. Because it meant she wasn’t wallowing anymore. At least for now. “Well, if he considers himself too pious for you, he should at least have the moral big balls to say so to your face and stop mousing about.” And because she was always fair-minded, she added after a short sigh. “But I still think you, and I for that matter, shouldn’t judge so hastily. If he is taking time to think things through, then give him that time and don’t make any hasty decisions yet. All right?”
Give him time. Shiloh nodded. “All right, mum. I’ll let him be… for now.”
Joy smiled and hugged her close. But her heart hurt—with pain for her daughter and a mild annoyance against Jethro. She’d thought him a better man. He’d better be a man, she thought savagely.
HE was still in shock and the fact that he was shocked Jeth even more.
He’d listened to her, first with a heart that had constricted with pain and compassion. But compassion had turned to astonishment and the pain he’d felt for her into confusion.
Shocked and confused. That was the state he was in. The state he’d been in since she confided in him nine days ago. He hadn’t expected himself to feel this way—shocked and confused. He hadn’t expected himself to feel so disjointed he couldn’t discern what to do—if he should be doing anything.
He didn’t know what he’s expected to hear when she’d said she wanted to share her past with him. He had thought, had always believed, that the past didn’t matter. It was the past and so didn’t… shouldn’t matter.
But it did.
It did this time. Jeth breathed and pressed trembling fingers against his eyes. He wasn’t taking this well. He wasn’t handling this well. He didn’t know how to handle it. He was supposed to be handling it, wasn’t he?
But how? That was the trouble.
Thirteen men? Holy Christ, thirteen men!
He hadn’t… he’d never much thought about her past relations with men. He hadn’t allowed himself to because it hadn’t mattered to him. Not when he wasn’t thinking about it… and not when he’d unconsciously had this image in his head about her.
But should it matter if they were thirteen or just three… or even just one?
That shouldn’t matter, should it?
In receiving Christ, she’d become a new creation and it was that new creation he was in love with, wasn’t it? Jeth stopped his pacing feet and stared unseeing at his muted television screen. Why was he so shocked that she’d been with that many men? Was thirteen that many even? It was just a number, wasn’t it? Three more after the count of ten. One more after the count of a dozen. That wasn’t many, was it?
“Oh Lord, please don’t let me become self-righteously judgmental.” He muttered aloud, expelling a deep breath.
It wasn’t against him she had sinned. That part of her life had nothing to do with him. It was her past. A past he hadn’t been a part of. A past that wasn’t… that shouldn’t be part of their present or their future.
He still wanted a future with her, didn’t he?
Jeth couldn’t answer the question that had been repeating itself in his head for many days now and it tortured him that he couldn’t. It tortured him that he was confounded which way he wanted to go. He missed her. He loved her. But… he didn’t know what to do now.
He wanted to call her.
God help him, he wanted to drive over to their place, take her in his arms and hold her against him as he’d mechanically done when she’d finished telling her story. But it won’t be mechanical this time. It won’t be a robotic, automatic action. It would be real, genuine, affectionate… passionate even and all because he loved her and he wanted her with him.
But can he do it?
Can he take her again into his arms and not think about those thirteen men? Can this confounding anger and inexplicable jealousy he felt against men he didn’t know and possibly… mercifully would never know ever ebb away? Would he ever forget or even more, accept and let go?
“I wish she never told me!” Jeth grated the words as he felt the pinch of tears.
Maybe this was one thing they should have left unsaid between them because he just wasn’t handling it well—and he didn’t know how to. He didn’t know if he’d be capable of ever doing so. Love should be enough. But it wasn’t. Or was it?
Maybe it was him not letting it to be enough. Maybe it was him blocking off his heart and holding on to an anger and pain he shouldn’t be feeling. He didn’t have any rights to feel righteously enraged and wounded, did he? After all, it had all happened long before they’d met and fallen in love with each other.
“But Lord, why choose her for me when you knew what she’d been?” Jeth staggered to his couch and fell into it. “You know her, know what she’d been and you know me—know what I am capable of bearing. Why give me this burden when you know I can’t handle it? I don’t have the grace or the strength to deal with something like this. I don’t, Lord!”
Feeling desperately overburdened, he bent over and buried his face into his palms, sobbing into it in silently. God, he loved her still so much and he wanted to be with her. But he didn’t want to think about them. He didn’t want to think about the men… about the abortion. About the years of repeated sex and the taking of an innocent life.
There is only one law-giver and judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?
“Oh God, forgive me if I am judging. But I am so confused as to what to do.”
Jeth brokenly cried the words. Then he sniffed and brushed dry his eyes when his phone started to ring. His heartbeat skipped when he wondered if it was her calling. He never knew what to tell her when she called and he hadn’t been able to face her for that same reason.
But it wasn’t her. It was his brother.
“Afternoon, bros.” Jeth managed in a clear tone.
“Afternoon. How come no one’s seen or heard from you in the last few days?” Ethan’s voice was brisk. “You and Shiloh so buried in your lovey-dovey world, you can’t spare a moment for other people?”
“Ah… yes… no.” Jeth swallowed and blinked. “Sorry, I’ve been busy.”
“Busy? With what?”
“Work.” The lie scraped against his tongue as it always did whenever he told it to Shiloh the last couple of days. “I’ve got a lot of work lately.”
“Is that right?” The note of doubt was distinct in Ethan’s tone. “How is Shiloh then? Hope you haven’t been too busy for her too?”
“I… she’s fine.” She hadn’t sounded fine when she’d called last night. And it had broken his heart and left him even more helpless and confused. “I… um, haven’t had much time to be with her either. But she’s just fine.”
There was a pause.
“Are you all right, Jeth?”
Jeth shut his eyes and wished he could share this one with his brother. But he couldn’t. He just couldn’t. “I am. We are—Shiloh and I. It’s just this busy schedule. We’ll make time to come see you guys again once I’m less busy.”
“Okay.” Another pause. Then Ethan said quietly. “She is a fine woman, Jeth. And I am not just talking physically. She is fine inside and out. A woman like that can only be a blessing from God. A gift from God.”
“I know.” He blinked and a tear slipped. “We are okay and we will see you guys soon. My greetings to Sister Gloria and the kids. Thanks for checking in, bros.”
“Jeth.” Ethan called. Then he said after a brief pause. “All right. See you soon.”
Jeth set down the phone with a sigh of relief that he hadn’t asked more questions. This was one thing he wanted… needed to deal with on his own.
Shiloh was a fine woman—in and out. She wasn’t the problem. He was. It was his head refusing to get past one dark insignificant past. It was his heart afraid that he might never be able to get past it.
So he was the problem.
*** *** ***
#TM whistling as she walks away…