She and He

She had manipulated others as she had me, perhaps to spare herself shame, or guilt. The reality remained: I was a teenager and she an adult. I should have been left alone, allowed to be a teenage boy, to finish high school.

Behind a veil of Christianity, she convinced those who knew us that we were in love; the teenager and the older woman.

Our first son was born after my 18th birthday, but the truth is he might have been our second child had she not had an abortion. She had to. Not because she might be pregnant by a teenager but possibly another man she was sexually involved with, a volunteer police officer.

One thing that was certain, any child could not have been her husband’s, considering he’d had a vasectomy after the birth of their second daughter, years earlier.

They were the youth leaders in a late-1970s small-town Pentecostal church. I sat in his Sunday school class. We had regular outings as a group, where he’d take us ice-skating, and once to a revival starring Andre Crouch and the Disciples.

He wouldn’t control his sexual behavior either. More than a few women (and men too), whispered about the youth pastor’s wearing of skin-tight Angel Flight’s without any underwear to Sunday service (and quite often). The outline of his manhood noticeable enough to illicit gossip.

Yet, amid their marriage of infidelity, she convinced the congregation I had somehow misled her into believing we were in love. Me, a teenager.

My innocence had already been stolen, having been raped at ten, molested at twelve. Now my puberty would be marred by the antics of a felon (who spent five years in Folsom Prison) and his wife.

It was the biggest scandal to ever hit the little chapel off the highway, on a hill overlooking our river-view hamlet. Decades later, those who witnessed the depravity claim the pastor was asked (politely) to leave. After all, he’d brought the born-again man and wife to the assembly, and therefore somewhat responsible. Today, people say the church “never recovered.”

I’m told a church is not a house of saints, but rather a hospital for sinners. If so, it’s not where any of those involved healed.

It took me a lifetime to understand what I had no control over, where complicit, but most-importantly when innocent. They were playing adult games with my teenage life, with dire consequences. I didn’t stand a chance.

Small Town Seduction: Deception, Hypocrisy and Redemption book mockup by Sheryl Rhoades.