"Nothin' Says Lovin' Like Something From The Coven!" This bumper sticker was proudly displayed on the fender of the VW Bug in front of Mary. Joseph and Mary Dubois had come to Princeburg Indiana to visit their daughter Cheryl, who was going to Princeburg Community College to study holistic medicine and coloring meditation techniques. Mary had wondered about that but set it aside. Cheryl had always been a free spirit and independent thinker. Going to Mercy Baptist Academy as a young teen Cheryl had shown all the signs that she'd end up at Jordan University. However, that all changed when Cheryl turned 16 and her parents, now, Mary thought, rather foolishly, took her to a double bill concert; Enya and Yanni. After that evening of soft voices and notes within notes Cheryl became enamored with the New Age and alternative spirituality. She took to burning incense, eating vegetarian, wearing clothes made from natural fibers and supporting many causes such as the 'Free Tibet' and 'Women's Reproductive Rights' movements. She scorned makeup, cruelty free or not, and she had taken to not shaving most of her body. She once joked in a letter home that she planned to grow the hair on her legs so long she could braid it. Mary kind of understood the whole not shaving part; razor blades were terribly expensive and shaving every day became tiresome after awhile. Mary smiled bittersweetly as she recalled the day Cheryl's first issues of her New Age magazines came.
"Look, mom! They came! They all came!" In Cheryl's hands, hands which were quivering with excitement, were 7 magazines. 'New Age Journal', 'Magical Blend', 'Parabola', 'Witches & Pagans', 'Mindful', 'Universal' and 'Radiant' were being held by a girl, nay, woman who had chosen to walk away from her childhood faith to embrace her adult spirituality. She was so happy, her green eyes shining, that Mary couldn't bring herself to chastise her daughter. She went over to the desk and retrieved a Bible. She then handed it to Cheryl.
"Honey, for every minute you give these magazines please give God equal time." Cheryl eyed the Bible and looked at her mother with eyes that held both pity and love.
"I will, mom, I promise. You know, the Proverbs are very much like Zen koans!"
Cheryl lived in a small apartment off-campus and worked at a restaurant run by 7th Day Adventists, 'The Garden of Eatin''. It was a vegetarian's delight and right up Cheryl's alley. Her apartment was plastered with New Age posters and smelled strongly of incense. It was cozy, though, and Joseph and Mary were thankful she was staying safe. They were there to pick up their daughter for a meal of roasted squash and peppers on a bed of couscous at her workplace. She came out of the bathroom dressed in a simple off the shoulder blouse, long peasant skirt and traditional slip on sandals made from plant sources. She looked radiant and, for a few seconds at least, Mary wondered if maybe Cheryl had found the better way. She shrugged it off, however, and they headed out to dinner.
'The Garden', as it was affectionately known by most, was crowded. This was odd for a Wednesday, but the vibe was youthful and exciting and it caused Joseph and Mary to feel like kids again. They'd gone to Jordan University and had enjoyed their time there, but it was moments like this that made them wonder what they'd missed out on by not going to a regular college. However, those days were long past. No use crying over spilled soy milk now! A lovely young waitress appeared carrying the large platter of squash and peppers. She put it down on the table, smiled and, oh so gently, brushed her hand against Cheryl's arm. Cheryl blushed and quickly began to serve her parents. She didn't want them to find out that the waitress was trans. And her girlfriend. So she hastily plopped food onto plates so that her parents wouldn't ask any questions. She knew they'd have them soon enough.
Cheryl was seated across from her girlfriend, Jenna Blake. They were coloring, soft jazz in the background, soft Jenna in the foreground, and things were sweet and gentle on Cheryl's mind. Jenna was all woman, even if from the waist down that could be disputed. She hadn't always been trans. 10 years ago she'd been he, James Nelson, blonde, blue-eyed and unsure of his sexuality. One day he saw some trans porn at a friends house and he wanted nothing more than to be one of the fabulous trans women he saw on the screen. Now she was, long legged and lascivious. And thoroughly in love with Cheryl Dubois. Her eyes studied Cheryl.
"Babe," she began, her voice sissified just so, "are you going to tell your parents about us?"
"I don't think so, Jenna. It's not that I'm not proud of you. I am. In spades. It's just that I can't bring myself to burst mom's bubble. She wanted me to read from the Bible every time I read from one of my magazines. I never did. It's somewhere in the box where I keep the things at once too precious to toss but too painful to use." Jenna stood, reached over, took Cheryl's head in her hands and gently kissed her.
"My woman," Jenna announced, "you are loved by me. Even if the universe forsakes you, I will not. My woman you are, and always shall be." As Jenna's arms encircled Cheryl she chose to let go and let nature take its course. Things would be fine.
Joseph was up early, per his usual routine, and he was engrossed in his Bible. Mary was still asleep, wrapped up in the sheets that smelled like hotel sheets always smell; cut-rate detergent and bleach. She awoke with a start as the sobs that were racking Joseph's body grew louder. She propped herself up on one elbow and whispered low.
"Babe? What's wrong, babe?" The haggard expression on Joseph's face cut her to the core. He knew something that he was either keeping from Mary for her good or because he wasn't sure he was right.
"Our daughter's gay." Mary was taken aback. She knew better than that. Cheryl's 'girlfriend' had worn tight jeans at the restaurant, and much like Joseph had, 'she' had risen to attention in the presence of 'her' love. Cheryl was not gay.
"Honey, Cheryl's girlfriend is a guy." Joseph sat so still Mary worried he'd had a stroke.
"A guy? How do you you know?"
"'She' rose to attention, like you used to do."
"Ah, t'were that I could rise to the occasion still." A gentle laugh was had by both and it was indeed bittersweet. The old saying that youth is wasted on the young fits from around forty on because now you're getting wiser but your youth fades a little more each day. Joseph sighed. "How can she play that he's a girl? Doesn't she know the truth?"
"Babe, she's of the world. That's her thing. Goddess worship, free love, no rules, loose morals. She even balances her chakras. She's chosen the world and the ways thereof. We must always love her, though. Hate the sin, not the sinner." Mary walked to the coffee maker and prepared her morning fuel. Joseph headed towards the window and threw back the curtain to greet a brand new day.
"I don't get it." Joseph declared. "I only found out just this trip how much she'd changed. I realize that I'm a touch slow but you seem to be up on all her goings on. Mary, how'd you know?"