The church had ceilings which were too low for a large building, windows that were too narrow for the long walls, and red carpet that didn’t quite suit Dixie’s style at all, but it was a church, the church her family had gone to and now she would go to ever after. She like to get there before the candles were lit for the service so she could smell the burning flame as the tiny fire took hold, reminding her of the flames that she might burn in if she wasn’t observant.
The benches were too cold in the winter and too sweaty warm in the summer. Someone always put flowers on the alter which made the air, which circulated poorly due to the ceiling hanging so low, cloying. Kay often left the church with her nose stuffed and her eyes watering.
It didn’t matter. Dixie wasn’t going to let Emrys steal her daughter’s soul.
“Mommy. I can’t breathe in there,” Kay had said. She was probably eight, tired, having been wakeful the whole night.
“Your soul doesn’t need to breathe,” Dixie said. Lorne wasn’t around. He’d have taken Kay’s side and said God wouldn’t care if she missed a Sunday, but Dixie wasn’t taking any chances.
“But my nose does.”
Dixie sighed and strapped her into the car so they could go to the church. When she closed her eyes, Dixie still saw Emrys sometimes, looking at her sadly. She imagined he looked at Kay with longing, but that demon wasn’t going to get her child.
Lorne slowly came out of the house, dressed in nice slacks and a button down shirt. It was one of the few times he looked nice, like a man should. Still, he adored her despite the fact that she’d murdered their son by consorting with that demon.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Lorne insisted over and over again when Dixie would wake in the night, needing to confess.
“But I talked to demons,” she said quietly. “I engaged with them. They told me only I could save the town.”
“Sshhh…” Lorne would soothe, quieting her over and over again, though his voice never quite reached the deep dark spot in her soul where the guilt lay. And blame. For she did blame Emrys for killing her baby. She didn’t believe it was just not meant, that there were problems with the fetus, that it never would have survived outside the womb. She was too far along for that to have been the case. The only thing that had kept her going during those dark days was the promise of a daughter.
Now that she had her daughter and she’d told Emrys to leave her alone, Dixie tried to avoid his face. She rarely went to the backyard. She kept busy in the church, helping with rummage sales and taking food to those in need—and there were a lot of needy in Corbin Meadow now.
If she just did enough.
“I don’t like church,” Kay said loudly as Lorne got in the car.
“Honey,” Dixie said, turning around. “Church is where you go to be closer to God. It’s not about liking it. It’s about worshiping something greater than yourself. If you don’t, you’ll die and burn in hell for all eternity.”
“I think there’s more to it than that,” Lorne said mildly, watching Kay in the backseat where she looked miserable. Her nose was already dripping, probably the springtime blooms which were bothering her more and more each year.
“That’s the important part,” Dixie said firmly. “There’s nothing more important than your immortal soul.”
Kay sniffed and rubbed her eye which was already beginning to drip.
Lorne started the car so they could get to the church. Dixie bit back the sigh she wanted to make, relieved because so often he didn’t listen when it came to church, wanting to let Kay out of going. He didn’t understand that his daughter was born to a sinful woman, a woman who had consorted with demons, however innocently.
Kay sneezed and then sneezed again.
“Mommy, do you have a tissue?”
Dixie rooted around in her purse where she had a small pack of them. She should have put two in there. Kay was already miserable. Lorne would probably walk her out into the back of the church and which meant there would be a week where the demon might trick her daughter into a bargain.
Dixie wished her own mother had been as protective. She’d had some protections, according the demon, but clearly not enough, for Emrys had found her. And she’d made her own bargains and deals with him. It had seemed innocent enough.
Her mother had taken her to the Bible church at least once every few months and definitely on all the holidays, but she’d been easy about it.
“Everyone knows God,” her mother used to say. “He lives in your heart, and if you listen very carefully to what’s in your heart, not to your wants, not to your wishes, but to your heart, about what’s right and wrong, then you’ll hear God all on your own.”
Except that wasn’t true. Dixie had always listened for God in her heart and she’d only found Emrys. And he was clearly a demon. Hadn’t she read the chapter about God casting out demons as she’d lain in her bed after the miscarriage? That was when that idea had formed, and the more she thought about it, the clearer she became.
The best wish she’d ever made was that the demon not touch her child. But she wasn’t taking any chances. Kay would go to church. Every single week. No matter what.
Kay sniffled in the backseat.
Lorne sighed, glancing at her.
Dixie looked straight ahead, willing him not to say anything.
They arrived at the church, their Accord only the second car in the lot. The minister walked as he had a small home just around the corner. Lorne parked, and Dixie got out. Kay moved more slowly, eyeing the blocky little brick building that looked more like a prison than a church. It had once been the old community center but when the old Bible Church, which had looked more like a normal church, had been destroyed in a winter storm, the congregation had used the building. Eventually the city gave them a deal on the land and the building, and they’d had a huge fundraiser to make the down payment and to make some changes to the building, like the narrow stained glass windows.
It was why it looked so un-church-like, though they’d done what they could to make it look better. Still, it would always be a blockish room in a small building, a church dressed in second hand clothes.
“Come on, Kay,” Dixie said, trying to be pleasant.
Kay sniffed and followed her parents inside, across the red carpet and into the square room with the light wood pews that lined the aisles. Kay sneezed four times when they walked in, making the usher who was moving around up front turn and smile a little at them.
Dixie headed to the middle of the church to sit. Lorne followed her, and Kay sat on the end, sniffling and sneezing. The girl was sneezing so much Dixie was beginning to think she was faking it, but Lorne, always the one to be easily pushed over, took her out of the church, heading back towards the parking lot as most people were entering, a salmon swimming upstream.
Dixie fidgeted, worry eating at her. Could the demon find her child there in the church parking lot or was she protected on God’s property? Should she go out and drag her back in? Had the demon afflicted her with those allergies to keep her from hearing the word of God, hoping to catch her too innocent to understand what he was?
Dixie had far too many questions and far too few answers. She wanted to pray about it, but realized she had no idea how to do so. Every time she cleared her mind, Emrys was there, either in reality or in her memory. She was damned for certain. Her only hope was to save her daughter.
Chapter 32 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.