Chapter Twenty-four

“Well, well, well. What have we here?”

Wisdom did not even turn around at her sister’s voice, but continued to stand by her charge.

“I should have known you would be here.” Folly walked into Wisdom’s line of vision, leaning on the desk across from her. “Not even going to say ‘Hi’?” Folly waited. “Of course not.” Her eyes fell on the young woman Wisdom was guarding. “Such a sad story, isn’t it? Caught her husband looking at porn, again, after he was supposedly ‘done with it’.” Folly did air quotes with her fingers.

Wisdom looked at her then. At the fire in Wisdom’s eyes, Folly held up her hands and backed up a step.

“Wow, wow, wow—don’t look at me like that. That was all Lust’s doing. Well”—she smirked—“I might have had something to do with it.” She fanned out her bright red fingernails, blowing on them and rubbing them on her shirt. She pinned Wisdom with a smug look. “But it was his choice. What a shame.”

Folly circled the desk where the young woman was sitting. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and she was trying desperately to focus on her work.

“So, you never answered me. What are you doing here?”

Wisdom sighed. “Not that it is any of your business, but she asked for help.”

Folly cackled in glee. “Not that that would make any difference to you! You try to help whether these poor, helpless things ask for it or not!”

“I don’t see what’s so funny.”

“Of course you don’t.” Folly drew near to Wisdom, her sulfuric breath stinging Wisdom’s nose. “You never see the humor in it. You pour yourself out for these creatures, and then what? Well, they have to accept the help, don’t they?”

Just then, a man entered the room and began to walk by the woman’s desk. Folly’s eyes lit up.

“Watch this.”

She was immediately at his side, draping her arm over his shoulder. The man paused. She turned him to face the desk, and he shuffled through his papers, wondering why he had stopped.

Folly leaned close and whispered in his ear.

“Look at your poor secretary. She doesn’t seem herself today. Her ever-ready smile is not as bright. Why, are those dark circles under her eyes?” Folly winked at Wisdom. “It looks like she’s been crying! You should go ask if she’s okay.”

The man stepped forward, concern written all over his face.

Wisdom stayed him with a hand on his arm.

“You should ask Mrs. Clenden to come check on her; see if everything is all right.”

The man nodded and turned away.

Folly draped herself over him, causing him to pause once more.

“But what if you are the only one who can brighten her day? You should at least ask if she’s okay. Show her someone cares.”

“Be carefu—”

The man brushed off Wisdom’s hand as he leaned over the desk.

“Ann, how are you doing today, my dear?”

Ann looked up, startled and flustered.

“Oh, Pastor, it’s you! Forgive me, I did not see you…” Her voice trailed off and she bit her lip.

“Is everything all right?”

To her shame and embarrassment, tears filled Ann’s eyes.

“Oh! Oh!” She dug for a Kleenex in her purse. “Forgive me, I did not mean to…”

The pastor sprinted to one of the ever-present tissue boxes in the church office, gallantly offering it to her.

“Thank you very much.”

She took a couple and delicately blew her nose. Just then, a deacon walked by. Ann ducked her head and fumbled with some paperwork, ashamed of her tears.

Wisdom stepped close and spoke in the pastor’s ear. “Invite her and her husband to dinner, then you can take her husband fishing in your pond while your wife speaks words of comfort and wisdom to her heart.”

Folly rolled her eyes and huffed, jumping from the desk she had been sitting on. She moved to his other side. “Yes, you could do that, but you know how your wife loves a clean house before you invite people over. She might not be ready for guests. You should talk to her about it first. Just ask Ann how you can pray for her.”

The pastor hesitated, watching his sniffling secretary. “If you ever need to talk, remember I am here for you. Is there anything specific I can pray for you about?”

Ann began twisting her Kleenexes in her hand.

“It’s a…delicate…matter.” She wouldn’t meet the pastor’s gaze.

“Oh.” The pastor looked at the clock. “I have some time right now, if you would like to go to my office.”

Wisdom laid her other hand on Ann’s shoulder. “Ask for Mrs. Clenden to join you.”

Folly snorted. “What? And have the entire church know of your humiliation by this afternoon? They would kick you out of the church. And remember, Mary said she was sure Mrs. Clenden was the one spreading rumors about Suzie.”

Ann met the pastor’s gaze, wondering at her unease. The pastor counseled people all of the time.

“You would do that? What about your meeting?”

The pastor smiled kindly at her. “I always have time for you, Ann.”

Ann’s heart leapt and pink touched her cheeks at the pastor’s considerate words. He really cared.

“Well, sure, if it won’t be too much trouble.”

“Not at all.”

The pastor straightened and gestured to his office. Following her down the corridor, his gaze traveled her petite frame. It was not the first time she had come crying to work, but it was the first time she had agreed to talk to anyone about it. Happiness warmed the pastor’s heart. This was why he had become a pastor. To help people.

Wisdom grabbed his hand as he moved to shut the office door.

“Leave it open.”

Ann watched him, wondering at his hesitation.

He laughed self-consciously and tugged the door closed. Of all the strange things—he was questioning himself so much today. He smiled, pulling out a chair for her.

She sat hesitantly, watching him move around his desk to his chair.

Wisdom warned her. “This is not a good idea.”

“Pshaw! What could possibly happen? It’s not like you are committing adultery! You’re just talking. People talk every day. Besides, this is his job.”

Wisdom glared at Folly while the pastor and his secretary began to talk. Folly crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe, one brow lifted and a smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth.

“This is going to be good.”

“She is a godly, young woman. She loves the Lord and listens to His voice. She will overcome.”

“Oh please, you are so confident in these weak creatures of yours. Have you learned nothing over the centuries?” Folly sauntered close and whispered in Wisdom’s ear. “They fail. Eventually, every single one of them falls.”

“You speak lies. There are those who overcome.”

Folly laughed and moved back to her post. “They are few and far between. Even they fail half of the time, and have to come crawling back, covered with soot and grime.”

Wisdom turned back to her charge. “She will overcome.”

“Such faith. Such blind, glowing faith in these fragile creatures.”

“Not in them, in their Creator. They overcome because of who He is.”

“Ha! Let’s just watch this unfold, shall we?”

Ann was sobbing into her hands. The pastor’s anger was growing by the second. Who did her husband think he was, treating his precious wife in such a fashion? Anyone could see what a treasure she was. She was kind, compassionate, beautiful, and worked hard for the furtherance of God’s kingdom. How had she ended up with such a loser?

He reached across the desk and grasped her hands, speaking words of comfort.

Ann was surprised at the contact.

Wisdom leaned over the desk. “Leave! Leave! You should leave.”

Ann shook off her words. Why should she leave? Here was a man who truly understood her. A godly man, with whom she was perfectly safe.

The pastor prayed with her, bowing over their clasped hands.

They stood, both of their eyes glistening with tears.

The pastor moved around the desk and shook her hand, then wrapped her in a hug. The hug stretched on.

“This isn’t right!” warned Wisdom.

“Oh, you don’t mean anything by it.” Folly laughed off Wisdom’s concern.

Both people brushed aside the warning in their hearts.

Ann left the office, her heart singing. She felt so much better after confessing her troubles to her pastor. Things were going to get better. He was such a sweet, understanding man.

The pastor watched Ann leave his office. A woman that beautiful should not be married to such a jerk. The first opportunity he had, he was going to take her husband aside and talk to him. Right now, though, he had to get ready for that board meeting.

Folly laughed in delight. “That went rather well, didn’t it?”

“It did not. You know there are boundaries. Those two should not be alone together.”

“Exactly.” With a smile and a wave, Folly sauntered out of the room.

Wisdom hurried after Ann. She had a radiant smile on her face, and her thoughts were focused more on—the pastor—than what he had said. Wisdom looped her arm through Ann’s, beginning to speak to her.

Ann shrugged off her uneasy feelings and spoke aloud on her way to the car.

“Oh for pity’s sake! I am not going to let depressing thoughts enter my mind after that. Thank you, Lord, for Pastor Ted.” She walked away, leaving Wisdom behind her.

“But you asked…” Wisdom’s voice trailed off as she watched Ann walk away from her.

 

“It was just a kiss,” the pastor told himself. “A sweet, innocent, brotherly kiss.”

Folly sank onto the pastor’s lap.

“It seems like Mr. Pastor-man has no idea he’s playing with fire.”

She brushed his hair back and dusted lint from his shoulders. Of course her hand passed right through him, but it didn’t stop Folly from pretending she could touch Love’s favorite creatures anyway.

The pastor cleared his throat and adjusted his too-tight collar.

“Or maybe he does.” Folly chuckled. “Oh well, looks like he’ll find out how much it burns soon enough.”

She got up and waltzed through the wall. Pausing, she looked around the hallway. Wisdom was nowhere in sight. A slow grin spread across her face. She shot through the ceiling, flying to see how Ann was faring. Life was good.

 

Wisdom sat next to the sobbing Ann.

“Tell your husband. Tell him right away, dear one. Stop this before it goes any further.”

Ann nodded, wiping her eyes for the hundredth time.

The front door opened and closed.

Ann bolted from her bed with a gasp.

“Oh, no! What’s he doing home already?”

She darted into the restroom and scrubbed her face, trying to clear away any signs she’d been crying.

“Honey, what’s for dinner?” her husband hollered up the stairs.

“In a minute, darling!”

She reapplied her makeup, adding a squirt of her husband’s favorite perfume.

Dinner, and then I’ll tell him, she promised herself.

She lightly ran down the stairs and searched through all the rooms.

“Baby, where are you?”

She froze in front of the closed office door. Dread wrapped its fist around her heart. Slowly, she reached forward and eased the doorknob to the side. It didn’t budge.

She took a step back, anger blossoming in her stomach. Her fists clenched. She pounded on the locked door.

“What?” He sounded startled.

“Sweetie, what do you want for dinner?” Her voice overflowed with false sweetness.

“I’m busy. Something came up with work. Make whatever.”

Ann’s chest heaved. She considered picking the lock, finding out exactly what kind of “work” he was doing.

Wisdom nodded. “Yes, dear, pick the lock. Don’t allow this disease in your home a moment longer.”

Fear overwhelmed Ann’s anger. Her fists slowly relaxed. But, her mother always said it was just what men did. What right did she have to get upset?

Shoulders slumped, she trudged to the kitchen and started making pasta salad.

“Ann…”

She ignored Wisdom. Wisdom tried again.

“Pray, dearest. The Maker will show you what to do. Trust Him.”

Ann nodded. Pray…

“Yes. Pray. Then tell your husband about Pastor Ted.”

Her defeat grew into rage. Ann slammed the lid down on the pot.

“No. He doesn’t deserve to know.”

Wisdom gently laid a hand on her arm.

“Then tell someone else. Someone you trust. Tell them everything.”

Ann jerked her arm away, jaw set, furiously stirring the pot of simmering pasta.

Folly arrived just as Wisdom left.

 

Folly smirked and hung up her latest leather outfit.

One affair. Two divorces. Another pastor’s testimony down the drain. Check, check, check.

Yes, life was good, now that she had gotten rid of that pesky guilt that had plagued her night and day. Okay, it wasn’t completely gone, but at least she didn’t listen to it anymore.

She rifled through the selection of clothes.

Lucifer kept her well-stocked once he learned of her voracious taste for the creature’s clothing. Folly grabbed a flaming red dress with very little material and slipped it over her head. Probably just a bribe to make sure she stayed and served him.

Folly’s smirk wasn’t as big this time. What choice did she have? She had missed her chance. Again and again.

Folly tugged the dress so hard it ripped. Casting it aside, she grabbed the first piece of clothing her hand found and jerked it on.

Fury lit inside of her, and she barreled through the tunnels to the outside world, searching for someone.

Someone to take her anger out on.

 

Wisdom and Folly: Sisters by Michele Israel Harper, Chapter Twenty-four, copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.

L i l i t h by Corvinerium on DeviantArt.com, copyright © 2015.

Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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