“I can see it now,” said old Mrs. Jones. “He’s going to do it again. He’s not sorry. He’s just sorry he got caught.”
Sandra and Dave looked round at the television to see what she was talking about. Mrs. Jones was very hard of hearing and the news program was blaring. A pudgy, balding man in an expensive suit and flashy tie was looking contritely at the camera, saying something about asking repentance from the Lord. He was holding the hand of his very pregnant wife who was staring at the ground, her face blank.
“Brothers and Sisters, I have failed you at this time. The Devil tempted me, and I was weak. We live in difficult times, surrounded by those who would lure us into sin. I stand before you to plead for forgiveness.”
“What are you watching, Gran?” Sandra asked, pitching her voice to be heard. “Who is that?”
Mrs. Jones tutted.
“Don’t you young people keep up with things? It’s that holy roller Reverend Grant Willoughby, from Praise and Penitence Ministries.”
Sandra vaguely remembered hearing the name.
“Didn’t you attend that church? I was surprised. It’s not like you’re the church going sort, especially a mega-church like that.”
Mrs. Jones snorted.
“Hell, no, pardon my French. I went a couple of times with my friend Gladys Arbuthnot, from two doors down. She started attending and kept going on and on about how the Reverend there was filled with the Spirit. Now the only spirit I’m interested in comes in a bottle, but I was worried because she was giving a lot of money to the church. She claims it all goes to orphans in Africa or some such story, but this man drives a Mercedes and lives in a mansion. I accompanied her to see what was going on. I must admit the man’s got the gift of the gab. Claims he can do healing and save sinners and I don’t know what-all. It seemed way over the top to me, but Gladys was vulnerable. Her husband had not long died, and she was lonely.”
“Isn’t he the one who keeps preaching hellfire and damnation about gay people?” said Dave.
“Amongst other things. Unwed mothers, Democrats and modern music are some of his other pet peeves.”
“He’s looking sorry in every sense of the word there. His wife looks like she’d rather be holding a dead fish than his hand. What’s he done?” said Sandra.
“He got caught playing the organ with the new church secretary, and not in the musical sense, if you get my meaning,” said Mrs. Jones. “I wouldn’t have thought he had it in him. Apparently, he’s not as limp as he looks.”
“Gran!” said Sandra, trying not to laugh at Dave’s shocked expression. The old lady, a twinkle in her sharp blue eyes, patted her snowy white hair and cackled.
“Oh, don’t act so prissy, young man. You young folks like to think that you invented sex and shenanigans, but there’s nothing new under the sun. I was young once too, you know.”
“I know, I know,” Sandra said hurriedly, before her grandmother could launch into some of her more uninhibited reminiscences. “Did the Reverend’s wife catch him at it?”
Mrs. Jones shook her head.
“That man is a fool as well as an adulterer. He had told the secretary that his marriage was over, and he was just staying with his wife for appearances until they could work out what to do about the divorce. Then it turned out that his wife was pregnant. Miss Secretary was none too happy about that and told his wife, the elders, the congregation and anyone else who would listen. In her version she was an innocent lamb led astray by a man of God who promised to make an honest woman of her.”
She looked at Dave in mock severity.
“Take heed, young man, and be careful how you treat the women in your life.”
Dave nodded nervously.
“Wait,” said Sandra. “This news conference doesn’t seem to be going according to plan. I think his wife was supposed to forgive him at this point. What’s happening?”
They all stared at the screen.
The Reverend had introduced his wife.
“Here is my help-meet and soulmate. I have abjectly asked her forgiveness. I do not deserve a woman like this. She has asked to speak a few words to you.”
His wife swatted his hand away and advanced to the microphone. She cleared her throat, looking nervous but resolute.
“As my husband mentioned, we do indeed live in a world full of temptation. I am sorry to say that I too succumbed. I knew he was being unfaithful. This was not the first time it had happened. To add to my humiliation, his behavior was well known to the church elders, but they kept forgiving him, and telling me to forgive him, as long as the money rolled in. An old friend got in touch to offer support and one thing led to another. We fell in love, and I am expecting his baby. I was going to ask for a divorce, though I had not planned to do it in such a public way. I will be moving away to start a new life and wish my soon to be ex-husband well. Being the Christian that he is, I hope he will be as ready to forgive me as I am to forgive him.”
She stepped away from the podium with dignity and walked off accompanied by a tall good-looking man.
There was a shocked silence for a moment. Cameras began clicking and a hubbub of questions broke out from the reporters. The Reverend stood with his mouth agape, speechless, staring after his wife. Mrs. Jones clicked the television off.
“Well, amen, sister,” she said, laughing gleefully. “That’ll teach him a lesson. He’s right that he doesn’t deserve a woman like that. Now no wife, no girlfriend, no church. Mind you, his kind are harder to get rid of than toenail fungus. He’ll be back weaseling his way into some other church or scam. There are plenty of gullible fools out there who’ll never learn. Which reminds me that I need to go and check on Gladys. She may be gullible but she’s a good person and this will upset her. I’ll take her out to lunch.”
“Aw, Gran,” Sandra said, laughing. “Your bark is so much worse than your bite. You’re a kind soul.”
“Now, girl, careful,” said Mrs. Jones, winking. “ Don’t you go ruining my reputation.”