“Will I be the only woman not wearing a head covering?” Melissa asked, pulling down the vanity mirror in the passenger side of Troy’s Ford pickup truck. He had driven north to Lowell to bring her to church rather than making her arrive by herself.
“Nah, there will be a few.” Troy glanced over at her, keeping one hand on the steering wheel and his other elbow, leaned on the arm rest between them. “You’ll probably be the only woman with her hair down though.”
“What?” She had taken twenty minutes curling her long hair into soft ringlets. “Why?”
“A woman’s long hair is a glory to her and is given to her for a covering,” Troy said. “There are two kinds of head coverings, A natural covering—a woman’s hair—and a sign covering, which represents prayer and worship and thus must be something that can be put on and taken off.”
“If it’s just for prayer and worship, why do women in your church wear the cap all day, every day?”
“Should we not seek to spend all day in Christian service?” Troy asked. “If so, then she should wear the devotional head covering whenever she appears in public as a constant testimony of her submission to God and to her husband.”
Melissa wanted to say something about women not being submissive to their husbands, but she held her tongue. No need to cause contention when they were on their way to church.
“I should also tell you about the Holy Kiss,” Troy said.
“The Holy Kiss?” What did he mean by that?
“The Holy Kiss is used as a Christian Salutation. But don’t worry. No one will try to kiss you because you are not of the church.”
“Not… uh… holy kiss… uh, okay.” As Melissa stammered to grasp the multiple connotations of his statement, Troy turned from the gravel road into a large and modern church building with a parking lot filling up with pickup trucks and minivans.
“It’s a greeting between two brethren in the church, or between two sisters,” Troy explained. “From a worldly perspective, the practice may seem strange, but we are not of the world.”
“Of course not,” Melissa reassured him. “Don’t worry about me. I’m not one to judge others.”
“The brethren will be welcoming me back into the fold as one who has sinned and repented.” Troy pulled his truck to the far corner of the parking lot and parked in a way that the cab was facing away from the building providing a moment of privacy to compose themselves before entering the church.
“What did you do?” She laid her hand on his arm.
“I slept with you.” His statement was so matter of fact as if the answer should be obvious.
“But Troy, we didn’t do anything.” Melissa scoffed. “All we did was fall asleep.”
“But I wanted to do things with you. My body wanted to do things with you.” His intense gaze was sending her a clear message to read between the lines.
“Troy, that’s kind of an involuntary thing first thing in the morning, isn’t it?” She raised her eyebrows.
“Not like that.” Troy shook his head. “That would not have happened if you hadn’t been lying on top of me.”
“Did you… tell other people about that?”
“They knew. They’re all men. They called me out on my sinful behavior.”
“Is that considered sinful once we’re married?” She hoped not.
“Heck no!” He cleared his throat. “I mean, no, that’s not considered sinful once we’re married.”
She made a show of wiping her brow and they both chuckled.
“So, let me get this straight—” Melissa began ticking things off on her fingers. “I’ll be the only woman with my hair down and not covered, every guy in the building knows we slept together, and they’re all going to kiss you?”
“Very funny.” He reached over and tugged on one of her curls, then held the strands in his hand and let them slide through his fingers. “But… pretty much, yeah.”
“Great, let’s do this.” Melissa feigned enthusiasm she didn’t feel, butterflies fluttering in her stomach.
Troy climbed down from his truck and hurried around to the passenger side to help her down from the cab. Before placing her on the ground, Troy captured Melissa in his arms and pulled her close. “For the record, your hair is beautiful curled like that, I loved sleeping with you, and you are the only person in the world I want to be kissing.”
As if to prove his point, Troy captured her lips briefly and Melissa wished she could remain in that moment, kissing in the church parking lot, relishing in the feeling of being in his arms. Too soon they pulled away and they took a moment to regain composure.
Before rounding the truck to head toward the front doors of the church building, Troy reached for Melissa’s hand. “You ready for this?”
“Nope.” She shook her head adamantly but slipped her hand into his and walked with him across the parking lot.
The first people to greet them on the way in the door were Craig and Jessica, who reached out to hug Melissa. Craig, however, placed his hands on Troy’s shoulders and wrinkled his nose.
“Really?” Craig shook his head, keeping his hands on his brother’s shoulders. He glanced at Melissa and then back to Troy. “That’s a lovely shade of lipstick. It looks much nicer on Melissa than it does on you.”
“Oh crud.” Troy covered his mouth with his hand and glanced at Melissa with wide eyes. “Excuse me while I make a side trip to the men’s room.”
“Good luck,” Melissa called after him as he rushed away. Then she turned to Jessica and giggled. “It’s the kind that lasts eight hours.”
“Oh, no.” Jessica cringed.
“What an idiot,” Craig mumbled, then leaned close to his wife. “Glad you don’t wear lipstick.” He picked up baby Jesse and strode away to go find them a pew.
Melissa and Jessica chuckled again as Becca approached and gave each of them a hug. “What was Troy hurrying off for? Is he sick?”
“He will be when he looks in the mirror,” Jessica said.
“He’s about to learn the finer aspects of makeup removal.” Melissa raised her eyebrows at Becca.
“He didn’t…” Becca’s jaw dropped.
“He did,” Jessica confirmed. “He kissed her.”
“In the church parking lot.” Melissa nodded.
“What an idiot,” Becca said, failing to hide a grin.
“That’s what my husband said, too.” Jessica wrapped her arm around Melissa. “Come on, let’s go sit down. Troy can find us when he gets out of the restroom.”
“He’s going to be in there a while.” Melissa snickered.
“Serves him right for kissing you before marrying you,” Becca said.
“Got that right,” Jessica added.
With barely restrained laughter, they headed down the aisle and slid into the pew where Craig had already reserved a spot, leaving space at the end where Troy slid in at the last minute.
Troy wrapped his arm around the back of the pew and leaned closer to Melissa. “You wanna take off?”
“Nope.” She turned and blinked innocent eyes at him. “The lipstick will wear off… in about eight hours.”
He shook his head in playful resignation. “Great… just great.”
The sermon that morning spoke of purity and cleanliness and the importance of keeping oneself spotless before the world. It was like they’d prepared the sermon just for Troy. Melissa rested her head against his shoulder and sighed, more content than she’d felt in a long time.
Book Club Discussion Questions: I threw a lot at you in this chapter. I personally wear the kind of lipstick that doesn't kiss off. Can you relate to anything in this scene?