Each Friday on WrittenVoicesBlog.com, we will be featuring guest authors. Our theme for this month is “A Taste of Romance.” Helping us kick-off this feature is Blogger and Publicist, Dee Stewart. Dee has also provided the story in audio.
Roses and Juniper
by Dee Stewart
The sun beamed down the center aisle. Its presence further intensified the guests in the wedding chapel, as they patiently waited for the bridal procession. A quiet stillness enveloped the sanctuary with God’s spotlight on her. He caught his breath when he saw her standing there. She reminded him of a forbidden dream. Her gown shimmered. He shuddered, because he swore he heard her whisper his name.
Sandra stood at the aisle’s entrance, directly under a sunbeam. She couldn’t see, but she felt his eyes melting her. She closed her eyes and prayed. Her face was hidden behind a small ivory pill box hat trimmed with small white roses and an intricate veil that hung just above her chin. The hat and veil was perfect. It complimented her vintage 1960’s bridal gown that rested right above the tip of her shoes and the cathedral train that flowed out into the lobbyMost importantly it hid her torment, sorrow and unrequited love for the man standing at the chancel waiting for her.
No one could see the pain in her eyes, even her father, who held her hand and stood so close, impressed and proud. She gulped. To the rest of the world she looked like a black Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis standing over Camelot. Affiancing City Councilman Carlton Bishop proved her virtue and her incredible beauty; affiancing Carlton proved her undying devotion to her father at any cost, including her love for the other man down there.
Sandra could not raise her head to see him standing in front of the altar, anticipating her, praying for them both, because she knew he wanted her still. Thank goodness for the length of the wedding chapel, at this distance she could barely make out his form. She sighed and wished her heart would be smart and stop this madness.
Carlton was not the man she was trying to avoid, trying to unlove, but Justus, the officiating minister, her true love, the man she had to give up. She stepped back the minute his face came into full focus. Lord, could she do this?
Their last conversation was as fiery as their last passionate kiss. No longer could they meet at the cherub fountain inside her father’s private walled garden. No longer could they speak about their future together. No longer could she touch the back of his neck with her back hand and toil his curly locks that smelled of juniper and roses. She closed her eyes to remember.
She was too afraid to tell her father, to afraid to refuse Carlton’s proposal. The Bishop’s were devoted church trustees. They handled all the finances, including the family home, Sandra’s education and now her position at the church. Denouncing their son meant ruin to her family. She could not live with that burden, so she chose to burden her heart instead. Yet, she could not forget that last kiss, the smell of juniper and roses. She could not forget Reverend Justus Angelhoff.
His last name was an interesting conversation piece, the lure that drew her in. His father was a Soviet refugee, who migrated to the US in the early 1970s. While attending an American citizenship class at the US Immigration Office in New York, he fell in love and married Justus’ mother, a French speaking Haitian schoolteacher. Their marriage produced four children all daughters except one. Justus’ mother named him after on of the disciples in the Book of Acts. His father said that his name meant a new life, a new freedom, and acceptance into a world that loved him unconditionally. Sandra found all those things in Justus as well.
Shuffling feet and squeaking church pews brought her back to reality. The congregation stood, smiling, awing and fawning over her dress, her grace and her good fortune. Sandra saw their mouths moved but could not hear a word. She knew what they were saying. How great a couple they would be together? What a wonderful mother she would be, a wonderful trophy for her ambitious husband. He would surely run for the state senate office as soon as the honeymoon was over and a baby was conceived. No one spoke about her future, her ambition…her choice.
The wedding march began. Her father pressed her hand again. Without his strength she would have stood in the entrance for hours. She felt herself moving toward the altar, more life floating or gliding along to her inevitable doom. She felt like a lamb heading to slaughter.
She smelled her bouquet. Roses. Her eyes met the floor. Tears stung the tip of her eyelashes. They refused to fall. The smell of Juniper grew nearer.
Justus stood before the altar, holding his prayer book, staring straight ahead, restrained, and calm. He wrote a poem for her in that book. The tears came faster now. A flute flowered the air with the most beautiful music, but Sandra couldn’t stop crying now. She had become the cherub fountain.
Her father noticed her high emotion and pulled out his handkerchief. The congregation cooed. They mistook her tears for joy. How sad?
Sandra shook her head. She regained her composure: she reminded herself of her duty. She could do this. She exhaled, then continued down the aisle.
As Sandra lightly stepped upon the rose petals inside the chancel, Carlton moved toward her, prepared to take her hand. She saw Justus flinch. She felt it, and trembled with sadness.
There was no way that Sandra and Justus could be together without losing the thing most dear to them–Reverend Percy’s approval. Sandra needed her father’s devotion and Justus needed his mentor’s recommendation for pastoring a new church. They both needed a way out.
Carlton touched Rev. Percy’s shoulder. It was time. Sandra looked up. She had forgotten herself and locked into Justus’ eyes. It was hard not to resist. The sun shimmered through the gold specks in his hazelnut colored eyes. A tear formed at his cornered crease. Sandra gasped. Her gut ached for him so badly, but she could not run to comfort him now. She was the cause of his pain.
Underneath Sandra’s fear slept a strange urge, which awakened when the floutist stopped. Sandra froze and did not extend her hand to Carlton. Her father turned to her, to see what was the matter. Her eyes were focused on Justus. She became the cherub fountain again, but stronger somehow. Her father touched her, but she did not move.
Justus stepped forward. She stepped toward him. Her eyes would not lie for her anymore. Carlton and Rev. Percy looked at each other, then called for her. And then it happened. She fainted.
She needed to escape from it all. She needed another second to think. But then she smelled Junipers all over her. She opened her eyes and realized Justus was carrying her out of the chapel.
“What are you doing?” she gasped.
“It’s finished.” He said, then leaned down to kiss her cheek. “This isn’t our burden to carry anymore. Don’t you agree?”
She felt lifted and laughed. “I do.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dee Stewart is a bookseller, multimedia journalist, novelist, publicist and now talk show host. She is the owner of DeeGospel PR. She is also inspirational book reviewer for Romantic Times Magazine, Atlanta Satellite Bookseller for The Mocha Bookstores, and owner of Christian Fiction Blog. Her writings have appeared in: Spirit Led Woman, Gospel Today, Advanced Christian Writer, Atlanta Christian Family, Mosaic Literary, Precious Times, Vertical Fix just a few. In 2009 she will begin hosting book marketing coaching sessions. Follow her on Twitter at DeeGospel. Or visit her site at www.deestewart.com.