Chapter 14:

The Cleric's Ghosts


November 5, 2022 AD. Sunview University, California, USA, EarthBookmark here

The group had just finished a long session of D&M. Jordan had not joined them today, so the Sunviewers had spent their time fighting through a nest of were-chipmunks. Annette, Dinah, and Ella had already said their goodbyes and left, but Bekah was still lingering in Cam’s room. He waited a minute or two, but it became clear that she was waiting for something. “Bekah, is something wrong? Is it about the monster killing thing in the game” he asked.Bookmark here

She jumped, shifting from foot to foot. “N-no, it’s not that. There’s nothing really wrong, Cam,” she said, averting her gaze. “I just wanted to ask you something once everyone else was gone.” She looked up at him with an intense expression. “Please hear me out.”Bookmark here

Cam froze. No way no way no way, this is definitely not happening. But this atmosphere…she’s not going to tell me she likes me, right? I mean, I would be happy to know that, and she’s a nice girl, but…Bookmark here

“Alright,” he managed to say. “What is it?”Bookmark here

“Cam, will you…” the gap in her words lasted a heartbeat. Cam gulped. “…go to church with me tomorrow morning?”Bookmark here

“What.”Bookmark here

Her eyes were sparkling with excitement. “Please, come listen to what the pastor has to say at church. I pray for your soul every day.”Bookmark here

“Gee, I’m glad my soul is in such good hands,” he said dryly.Bookmark here

“It is in God’s hands!” she exclaimed, apparently not hearing the sarcasm.Bookmark here

Cam hesitated. “I run with Ella in the mornings.”Bookmark here

“You can take a day off! Please, Cam!” She was standing very close to him, hands clasped. Cam really wanted to say no, but with that look in her eyes, he just couldn’t find it in his heart to disappoint her. Bookmark here

“All right,” he gave in. “Just this once.”Bookmark here

“Yay!” In her excitement, Bekah grabbed his hand in both of hers. “I’m sure you won’t regret it!” She released him, bounding out of his room. “All right, I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning. Good night!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, night.” Shaking his head, he texted Ella to cancel the next day’s run.Bookmark here

True to her word, Bekah knocked on Cam’s door bright and early the next morning. Fortunately, Cam’s month of getting up early to work out had prepared him, so he answered the door fully dressed and ready to go. He wasn’t really sure how to dress to attend a church, so he played it safe: simple blue jeans and a grey polo shirt.Bookmark here

When he opened the door, he saw Bekah was wearing a white summery dress. The weather was cooling, but the California autumn was still warm enough that the short girl looked comfortable in her outfit. With a beaming smile, she asked “ready to go?” As Cam nodded and stepped outside, Bekah looked over his shoulder, noticing Jordan who was reading a book inside the room. “Jordan, do you want to come to church as well?”Bookmark here

“No thanks” Cam’s roommate said, not looking up. “Don’t want to get between you two on this special occasion.”Bookmark here

“You wouldn’t be—” began Bekah before Cam slammed the door, cutting off any further snarky roommate comments. The two began the rather long walk to where the cars were parked. Bookmark here

Bekah was always cheerful enough, but Cam had never seen her this excited. She was talking about everything, making jokes, and running ahead before coming back to hurry him on his way. She must really love church, Cam reflected. Bookmark here

At one point, she enthusiastically grabbed his hand to pull him faster. “Come on, we’re going to be late,” she said, but based on her expression she clearly wasn’t really worried. With Bekah pulling on his arm this way, the two rounded a corner and almost ran headfirst into Dinah. Dinah’s eyes clearly went to Bekah and Cam’s hands. She then looked at the two with a shocked expression. “Oh, good morning Dinah,” said Bekah, apparently totally oblivious to Dinah’s mood. “Would you like to join us?”Bookmark here

Without a word, Dinah spun around 270 degrees. She ran off faster than Descartes did when being chased by monsters. Cam called out “wait, it’s not what it looks like…” but the other girl was already out of earshot. He said to himself “I’ll have to patch this up with her later.”Bookmark here

“What was that?” asked Bekah.Bookmark here

“Nothing, don’t worry about it.” Bookmark here

“Oh, also, Cam. I know I asked you to come with me, but I have a favor to ask. Could you drive us to the church? I don’t own a car, so if nobody can pick me up, I usually have to take an Uber to get there.” She laughed. “The cost really adds up after a while.” Bookmark here

“Doesn’t church say you’re not supposed to be greedy?” he teased. Bookmark here

“Don’t say it like that! You make me sound awful for asking.”Bookmark here

“I’m kidding,” Cam laughed. It was hard not to be caught by Bekah’s infectiously cheery attitude. “Of course I’ll drive.” The same mood continued for the remaining minute of the walk plus the fifteen-minute drive to the church. The two talked and laughed, Bekah clearly happy to be visiting church, while Cam just enjoyed being around her in this state. Bookmark here

Cam would not have noticed the church building without Bekah pointing it out to him. It appeared more like a remodeled warehouse than a church, just a boxy building with no spire, cross, or other noticeable feature. Cam parked in the small parking lot, and the two joined the small rush of people flowing into the church. He had expected that they would simply walk in and find their seats, but it seemed like Bekah knew half the people milling around on the church’s patio, and apparently, she felt the need to say hello to each and every one of them. Several times, she introduced him to one of these friends or other. A collection of young, healthy looking people with various Biblical names spun by until Cam believed his head was going to explode. Bookmark here

One person in particular, however, stood out. Unlike the brief encounter with most of the people, Bekah spent at least five minutes talking to a tall, buff young man about Cam’s age with blue eyes and sweeping sandy blonde hair that made him look like a surfer. This man extended his hand. “I’m Paul,” he said in a deep voice. Bookmark here

“Cam.”Bookmark here

“It’s awesome to meet you, Cad,” Paul said, shaking Cam’s hand with such strength that Cam swore he could feel his bones shattering.Bookmark here

Bekah explained “Paul and I volunteer in children’s ministry.”Bookmark here

“Oh, yeah,” Paul said. “Bekah and I work really closely together. We spend a ton of time together taking care of the children. That’s how I know she’ll be an amazing wife and mother: she’s so great with kids.”Bookmark here

Bekah laughed. “And you’ll be a wonderful father someday too, Paul.”Bookmark here

“Yes, as soon as the Lord blesses me with an amazing wife…” he trailed off meaningfully, looking at Bekah.Bookmark here

Cam had had enough. “Right. That’s real great. So thrilled I met you, Paul. Bekah, shouldn’t we go in? It’s 9 o’clock already.”Bookmark here

Bekah said, “you’re right, let’s go.” She walked inside. Much to Cam’s chagrin, Paul followed her, leaving Cam no choice but hurry behind the two. Inside the building, the seats were packed. Bekah pointed out the only empty three seats next to each other in the very front row. Bekah walked in first. Paul sat in the seat next to her, leaving Cam no choice but to sit next to Paul. No sooner had the three sat down, however, then Bekah jumped up. “I’m on the worship team, so I have to go now.” She hurried on stage, leaving Cam sitting next to Paul.Bookmark here

After a middle-aged man came up and said a few words of welcome, the group of young people on the stage began playing worship music. Bekah, too, was on stage. She played the keyboard and sang. Cam had never heard her sing before. He was struck by how clear and bright her voice sounded. Paul whispered in Cam’s ear “she’s amazing, isn’t she?”Bookmark here

Cam jumped and turned his head. Paul was watching the worship performers with no indication that he had said anything. Still, the one interaction freaked out Cam enough. Bookmark here

After a handful of worship songs, Bekah returned to her seat. The church service continued on with the middle-aged man, presumably the pastor, returning to the stage. He started talking a lot about religious-sounding stuff. Cam was thoroughly uninterested, but he did manage to notice that the sermon mentioned “honoring your father and mother” quite a lot. Cam kept wanting to take out his phone, but since he was sitting in the front row, he felt like the pastor was staring at him the whole time.Bookmark here

Midway through, while very bored, Cam idly turned his head to glance at Bekah. To his surprise, the girl seemed distraught. She was not fully crying, but she was clearly upset by the contents of the sermon; her eyes were wet. Cam also didn’t miss that Paul tried to place his hand on one of Bekah’s, but by accident or on purpose, she moved her hand out of the way.Bookmark here

Finally, the sermon came to an end. The people in the church building began streaming out of the doorway. Bekah still appeared distressed, so Cam ushered her outside as quickly as possible. Paul, too, followed them. The buff man said “hey, Bekah, would you like to get an early lunch now? Your friend Cal can come too,” he said, nodding at Cam. Bookmark here

Bekah seemed at a loss. She still looked inexplicably unhappy. Cam wasn’t certain, but it seemed like she did not want to accompany Paul at the moment. Paul repeated the question. Dude, learn to read a room, Cam scolded the other man in his mind. Out loud, he stepped in between them. “Sorry, Paul, but Bekah told me she has some stuff to do back on campus. Right?” he asked her.Bookmark here

“Yes, that’s right,” she said with a relieved note in her voice.Bookmark here

“Oh. All right then. See you. It was nice meeting you, Crim,” Paul said, sounding disappointed. Bookmark here

Not bothering to correct Paul’s error in saying his name, Cam quickly walked Bekah back to the car. He drove out of the parking lot, perhaps moving a bit faster than necessary. At the first stoplight, Cam glanced at Bekah. She seemed more composed than before, but still gloomy. Cam decided to start the conversation lightly. “So, that Paul guy, huh.” Bookmark here

Bekah gave a sad chuckle. “Paul is a wonderful boy, but he can be a bit…dense about others’ feelings at times. Just like you.” After a beat, she added “not that that’s a bad thing!”Bookmark here

“You’re not wrong about me. So what’s your relationship? Are you close, or…?”Bookmark here

“Oh, we’re just friends. Well, he has told me he likes me many times. He asked me out once. He’s a sweet guy, but I turned him down. I just don’t think God has him picked out as the man for me.”Bookmark here

“Ah.” Cam couldn’t quite identify the feeling in his chest. Was it relief? Bookmark here

They drove in silence for a little while. Cam wanted to ask Bekah about what had happened during the sermon. He tried to muster the courage to do so but failed twice. On his third attempt, though, he was able to ask, “So are you all right?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

It’s fine. Relax. “You seemed upset during the sermon.”Bookmark here

“Oh, right. It was a rough message for me to hear.” She didn’t say any more, instead staring out the window.Bookmark here

“Do you want to talk about it? Not that you have to or anything,” he added, flustered, “but maybe it would help get things off your chest.”Bookmark here

“Thanks, Cam.” She sat silently for a full minute before speaking again. “My family is Jewish. Both of my parents are devout orthodox Jews, and they raised me that way. How much do you know about how Jews feel about Christians?”Bookmark here

“Not much,” Cam admitted.Bookmark here

Bekah sighed. “It’s complicated, but to sum it up, Christians believe Jesus was the fulfilment of Jewish teachings. Jews do not. There’s a lot of bad stuff that happened between the groups throughout history because of that disagreement. So for a good Jewish girl like me to convert to Christianity would be, well, a betrayal to my family, my lineage, and my religion. At least, my parents think so.”Bookmark here

“So the sermon today, about honoring your parents…”Bookmark here

“It was hard for me to hear. I converted just before entering college. I haven’t had much time to talk to my parents about my faith, but when I see them on breaks, they seem really distant. I’m afraid they hate me for converting to Christianity. I love them and respect them as my parents, but I really do believe in Jesus. I’m not sure what to do.”Bookmark here

“Maybe…maybe they need time?” Cam couldn’t think of anything else to say. Bookmark here

“You’re probably right. It’s funny. Now that I think about it, I realize I haven’t told anyone else about this. So, thanks for listening to me be selfish.”Bookmark here

“I’m happy to listen to you whenever you need it.” They remained silent for the rest of the journey. Cam didn’t even want to put on any music in fear of damaging the mood. Bookmark here

Soon enough, the car reached the Sunview campus. Cam dropped Bekah off in front of her dorm room. As she waved goodbye, her white dress billowed in the wind. As he drove away, her appearance reminded Cam of a ghost, waiting for something or someone that would never come. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.