Troy’s mind was racing. His heart was racing. He wanted to race right out to his truck, race from the parking lot, and race home. To his own church. To where he understood the Gospel as taught in the Bible.
He wanted to race home to a place where there were no golden fake scriptures, where the women respected their devotion to God enough to prepare themselves for prayer and worship by properly covering their heads, where men didn’t arrive at church wearing war uniforms, where no one spoke of temples and marriage that somehow lasted for eternity.
How was that even possible? There was no logic. And why would Melissa want this temple marriage when she knew she could never have that with him? Did that mean she didn’t want to marry him? If she married him, she would be forever resentful that he couldn’t marry her forever. She would be disappointed. She would hate him.
Troy refused to take that away from her. He refused to be the reason she spent the rest of her life wishing for something she couldn’t have.
He hurried down a hallway he thought led to the door where they’d entered the building. Instead, he seemed to be going in a large circle or horseshoe. Wondering if he missed the door, he doubled back and ran right into Melissa. She must have been following him.
“Troy, are you okay?” Melissa’s compassionate voice was like a jolt to his already racing heart.
“No, I’m not.” He backed away, holding his hands up like touching her would cause him pain. “This is worse than I thought. You were right. We’re too different. We’re not meant to be together. There’s no way we can make this work.”
“Okay,” she whispered.
Okay? She wasn’t even going to argue? She wasn’t going to try to convince him they were meant to be together? She wasn’t even going to fight for their relationship? “Just like that?”
“Just like what?” Melissa crossed her arms over her chest, her face a mask of feigned indifference.
“You’re not going to even try to convince me to stay with you?” The disappointment was startling to him. Wasn’t this what he’d wanted a moment ago?
“Troy, our relationship has been doomed since the day we met,” Melissa said with a shrug. “All of our family members have been trying to tell us that and we refused to listen to them. I think it’s time we wake up and smell the manure. This isn’t something we can fix with handwashing and a bandage.”
“You deserve one of those temple marriage things where you can be with your husband forever.” Troy wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince her or himself.
“And you deserve to marry someone who won’t cause you to get excommunicated.” Melissa’s point was valid.
“You deserve to read whatever scriptures you want, even if they’re written on golden plates.” Troy didn’t try to hide the derogatory nature of his comment.
“And you deserve to interpret the Bible however you want.” Melissa lifted her chin with resolution.
“You deserve to wear your long, beautiful hair down and flowing.” He reached out and pulled a lock of silken strands through his fingers, letting them slide down and rest across her shoulders.
“And you deserve to marry a woman who’s willing to tuck all their hair up into a bun and cover it all day long.”
“Our families will be happy we broke up.” Troy’s words stuck in his throat. Never were words more true.
“Finally, something we agree on.” Melissa chuckled with irony.
“Shall I drive you home?” Troy held up the keys to his truck.
“Well, I certainly don’t want to walk,” Melissa said, turning on her heel and heading back the way they’d come to a hallway Troy didn’t realize led to the outside door.
He followed her and held open the door, relishing the scent of her body lotion. The thought of never experiencing the intoxication of her fragrance nearly crushed his resolve to end this relationship before it got any further out of hand.
Troy kept his hands in the pockets of his dress slacks in an attempt not to hold her hand or wrap his arm around her waist. He did offer his hand to help her up into the cab of his pickup and had a difficult time letting go.
They were quiet on the drive home to Lowell. When he parked in her cousin’s driveway, Troy walked around the truck to help her down from the cab. Just as when he’d helped her up, he didn’t want to let go. Setting her on the ground, he kept his hands on her hips longer than necessary, begging with his eyes for her to ask him to stay.
Troy backed away and watched Melissa walk up the porch steps to her cousin’s house.
She turned one more time to meet his gaze before opening the front door and disappearing within, taking his heart with her.
Book Club Discussion Questions: What's it going to take to get Troy and Melissa back on the same page?