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Take Me to Church by Courtenay Gillett

From the first moment I saw her, I knew she was different; knew she was trouble. Not in the way the other girls I’d known were trouble, with their blue eyes, blonde hair and high-pitched giggles that drew me in. Trying to taint me with curious thoughts. No, this girl was trouble in the way you know there's fire when you see smoke on the horizon. That's what she was like. A smoky sheen that clouded my mind.

Her hair was dark, her eyes darker, and her skin looked like she bathed in golden honey. She was unlike anyone I’d ever seen – dressing in long flowing skirts and brightly colored scarves that flitted in the breeze. Her name was Samara, and when I first laid eyes on her I not only knew that she was trouble, but that I had to have her.

I come from a family where God comes first, family second, and everything else after that is up to you, but you must never ever let the first two falter. The consequences of letting that happen were grave for sure. Although never tested.

I’m the eldest of three children, so it was always on me to set an example. That means: no cussing, no drinking, no smoking, no parties, no sex, and always being in that front pew next to my parents on Sunday morning. That's what was expected and that's what I delivered.

Until one fall night...

It was a Friday in October; I was at my locker gathering books, absentmindedly shoving a few into my bag for my next classes. Then it was like my senses became hyper aware, the hairs on my arms standing on end as if the air was filled with electricity.

I looked to my left and there she was, also getting books from her locker, with a short blonde girl yammering at her about a party happening Saturday night. Samara, my golden idol, was nodding occasionally where it fit with the blonde's narrative, who was pleading with her to attend.

I was never interested in the party scene or the people who went along with it, but I often heard of parties in round about ways. It was a smaller school and people liked to talk.

I overheard the blonde say that there was a bonfire at the old apple orchard on the edge of town. I knew exactly where she was talking about because my brothers and I had often gone to raid the old apple trees for what little fruit they still held.

After a small amount of deliberation, Samara looked past the blonde, directly into my eyes, and said that she would go, if everyone was in attendance.

Then she smirked at me.

I was blown away. The blonde didn't notice any of this and continued hounding on about how everyone will be there, how much fun it's going to be, and what she's going to wear.

As they walked down the hall past me, I couldn't take my eyes off Samara. She was a vision. As they passed, she turned to look at me, the smile still playing on her lips. That look told me what I needed to do. I needed to be at that party. I needed her in a way I never knew I could need someone.

The next day I told my parents I was leaving that evening to stay with one of my friends, feigning work on a school project, but that I would meet them at church the next morning. I told them that it was important for school, and I promised I would be at church right on time the next day.

They agreed to let me go because they had never had to question me before. I was the golden child. Why question me?

It was the first time I had ever seriously lied to my parents.

And what scared me, was that it felt... good.

That evening I shower, shave, put on my favorite clothes, and dab on a bit of cologne – just for good measure.

As I take one more look at myself in the mirror, I wonder why I’m doing all of this.

What if she isn't there? What if I get caught? What if she wasn't implying that she wanted me there?

But these thoughts are all quickly dismissed recalling the look that was in her eyes when our gazes met at school. I have to be at that party.

Taking the farm truck, I leave my house and arrive at the entrance of the apple orchard a little after 8:30. From the road I spot the smoke coming up over the apple trees, and as I roll through the front gate, I come upon the party already in full swing.

While parking my truck with the rest of the vehicles, doubt starts to creep in again.

What was I giving up as a person by doing this? I was betraying my parents. Betraying my faith. Who was I?

I always thought I knew, but now I wasn't so sure anymore.

That's when I spot Samara walking by; turning at the last moment, she sees me and gives me that knowing smirk. She knew I would come here; she knew I was here for her.

I watch her walk towards the party, and after a couple of minutes I get myself together enough to follow her.

When I reach the little clearing in the trees where the party’s being held, people immediately start giving me sideways glances. I imagine the thoughts going through these people's minds to be something like...

Why is the bible thumper here? I bet he's going to narc on us. What a poser the goody goody is.

But I don't care; I am on a mission. I am there for the girl who has been swirling my mind for months.

I spot Samara, standing across the fire, the light from the flame illuminating her every feature in an otherwise ink dark night.

She stares at me. Stares into me. That's when she lifts her hand and beckons me to her.

It feels like I'm in a trance; I don’t care who around me is looking or what they are saying, all I care about is making it to her.

By the time I make it around the fire, she's walked to the tree line surrounding the clearing, and I follow her without a doubt in my mind on whether I should or not.

She moves swiftly and easily into the darkness of the orchard, turning her head every so often to make sure I’m still following her. My whole body feels like an electrical current is coursing through it and it only grows as we travel further into the trees.

Suddenly she stops her strides and begins musing at a giant old tree, walking around it soundlessly. She reaches up for a branch, where a single bright red apple is hanging. It is so red it almost looks like it’s glowing in the dark.

She plucks the apple, brings it to her lips, and takes a bite. Crunching through layers of skin and meat, chewing thoughtfully. She brings her eyes back up to meet mine, and without a word offers the apple to me.

I gladly take it from her and sink my teeth into the apple, taking a bite from the same spot she did. The fruit is perfect. It’s crunchy, and sweet, with a skin that isn't too thick. And as I chew, I can't help but think how oddly ironic this situation is.

When I look up again, I’m met with Samara’s smirking look.

We don’t exchange a word as she moves the two or three steps it takes to close the distance between us. I drop the apple.

She’s standing directly in front of me now. Close enough that I can smell how sweet she is. Her face seems flawless as she stares up at me. Slowly, her hands rise to touch my sides, and continue to climb until they are resting on my chest.

My heart beats a million miles a minute and I'm nervous that she can feel it hammering through my chest.

She moves forward a bit more – bringing her hand up to the back of my neck to draw me in.

I've never kissed a girl. And in this moment, I cannot remember why I’ve waited this long.

Samara presses her lips to mine, and I awkwardly try to reciprocate her movements. She parts her lips and in doing so parts mine, as well. Then her tongue is in my mouth, massaging my tongue, and she tastes so good I can barely contain myself.

A moan escapes from my mouth into hers. She leans back to smile at me.

Her hands find the bottom of my shirt and start pulling it upward. I raise my arms and let her take it. Goosebumps form as I’m exposed to the night air. Samara leans forward to begin trailing kisses from the bottom of my jaw to the middle of my bare chest.

I lift my hand and without much thinking I tangle it in her full, dark hair and pull back gently so she's looking up at me again. This time, I kiss her more intensely and at first it seems to take her by surprise, but as she matches my feverish kisses her body melts against mine.

I bring my hands to her sides and let them run upward until I can feel the swell of her breasts from underneath the dress she's wearing. She immediately grabs my hips and pulls me as close against her as she can.

I reach up and move the straps of her dress off her shoulders. She takes a step back and lets the dress fall to the ground.

She's completely nude.

And her skin, like the skin of the apple, glows in the darkness.

I follow suit and undo my pants. I let them and my underwear drop before stepping out.

We stay like that for a minute, examining each other, but that isn’t the right word. Not for me. I was marveling at Samara. Not just her body but the power she held over me. If this was sin, if she was sin, then I would pick her over purity and salvation every single time.

She closes the distance once more and presses herself against me. Her skin flush against mine feels like silk. I breathe her in again. Her scent is intoxicating, and I cannot get enough.

Next her hands are on my waist and she's pulling me down to lay on the ground.

She positions herself under me just so and my basic instinct kicks in. I consider for a moment what I am about to do, the repercussions of my actions. I think of the future and waiting until marriage, but then she tilts her hips upward and all is forgotten. Fleeting. Like smoke in the breeze.

After it's over I stay laying on the cold ground next to Samara – panting and warm in the autumn darkness.

Rolling towards me, she kisses my cheek, and whispers softly into my ear, “There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin.”

It confuses me, but before I can think of a response, exhaustion wins out and I'm slipping into the welcoming darkness of sleep.

Suddenly, I snap awake and upon looking around me, realize that all traces of her are gone. Was she even here at all? My memory responds with reassurance, and I relive last night all over again. Every detail. Everything I offered to her and all that she gladly took.

Forever in my mind there will be an altar for her. A new type of deity rising above the rest.

That's when I notice the sun in the sky. High enough to be close to noon.

And I realize...

I've missed church.

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