“What the heck were you thinking?” Craig yelled the minute they were out of the hardware store. “You just made the biggest mistake of your life.”
“I disagree,” Troy said, heading toward his truck. When arriving at the Farm and Tractor Supply twenty minutes ago, Troy had slid into the parking lot and created his own space, diagonal and taking up three spots. When he’d gotten several texts from his friends telling him that Melissa’s ex-boyfriend was at the store, he’d left the restaurant faster than he could pay for his lunch. Thankfully he and Craig had driven there separately because he left without saying goodbye.
Craig caught up with him before Troy could reach the driver’s side of his pickup. “You just kissed a woman to whom you are not married. In public. In front of dozens of people who had cell phones raised taking pictures and videos of you kissing that woman in public.”
“You said that twice.” Troy ignored his horrible parking job and turned to his brother. “Would you rather have me kiss her in private like you did with Jessica?”
“What I did with Jessica was nothing compared to what you did with Melissa.”
“How would anyone ever know?” Troy asked, baiting him. “At least I’m honest in the way I feel about Melissa. My love for her is written all over my face for the world to see. I can’t hide my love for her any more than I can hide the nose on my face.”
“I’m honest with my feelings about my wife.” Craig seemed a little less emboldened now that he’d been called out. “I don’t need to make a public fool of myself to show that.”
“Yours was an arranged marriage. How do you know whether or not you would have loved each other if you’d met each other and fell in love without having someone tell you that she is the person you should love?”
“Love is a choice,” Craig said. “I’m glad that our fathers and the minister recommended that we should marry so that I wasn’t blinded by how beautiful Jessica is. And believe me, she’s beautiful. I love everything about that beautiful woman.”
“Melissa’s beautiful too, what’s your point?” Troy spun his car keys around his finger.
“I don’t lust after my wife the way you lust after Melissa. And I’m glad that she was chosen for me so that I didn’t ever have to question whether I was marrying her for the wrong reasons.”
“And what are the wrong reasons?” Troy asked, lifting his chin and not liking the direction of this conversation.
“Her looks, her body, the way she gazes into your eyes and sees your soul. What does that even mean?”—Craig reached for Troy’s right hand and practically flung it in Troy’s face— “The way she washes your hands. That’s not a reason to love each other. And that’s not a reason to marry each other or to build a lifetime foundation. You don’t even know that woman. And how could you kiss her when she has betrayed the man to whom she is betrothed?”
“She is no longer engaged to that man.” Troy pointed his finger in the direction of the store, knowing Melissa’s ex-boyfriend was still inside, presumably saying goodbye forever.
Craig ignored Troy’s insistence. “She kissed you right in front of the man she promised to be with for the rest of her life. If she did it to him, she’ll do it to you. She’s a cheater. And once a cheater, always a cheater.”
“She is not a cheater,” Troy yelled right back at his brother. “She broke up with him.”
“She promised her life to him,” Craig said. “There is no stronger bond than that. Divorce is not an option.”
“She was never married to him,” Troy said. “Just because she promised to get married doesn’t mean that she ever was married.”
“That’s not the way the church will view this situation.” Craig shook his head with disgust. “You have defiled her. You have defiled her parents. You have defiled yourself. You have defiled your commitment to the church.”
“Good thing I don’t claim to be perfect, just like you’re not perfect, and father isn’t perfect, and mother isn’t perfect, and Jessica isn’t perfect, and Melissa isn’t perfect, and no person in our church or her church is perfect.” Troy took a moment to calm down, knowing this spirit of contention was proving the validity of his rant. “That’s why we have the power of repentance. That’s why God sent his son Jesus Christ to be our Redeemer. Because we’re not perfect. And we never will be.”
“You’re just a walking sermon today, aren’t you?” Craig sneered. “And after your brazen display of sinful behavior. You shouldn’t even be entertaining the thought of marrying that woman.”
“I’m not entertaining the thought,” Troy said with finality. “I’m planning a wedding.”
With that, Troy stomped over to his pickup truck, flung open the door, and spit gravel as he sped out of the parking lot.
Book Club Discussion Questions: Troy has shifted from the rebellious kid he was at the beginning of the story to a submissive, humble man willing to follow God's will, and now to a determined man who is not willing to live by someone else's rules. Or is he?