When Jess woke up in the morning there was another text from Simon that she did not understand. It was not the word exactly but the tone of the text that had her worried. Deciding not to respond, she got ready for church her mind filled with a sense of doom for whatever was to come in her day. She knew she was not perfect enough for a guy like Simon and she realized that if she did not get her act together, she would lose him forever. She could not lose Simon, that would just break her. Simon was her only hope, where would she go without him? What would she do with her life?
These questions did not make it any easier for her though that morning as she stood in the choir singing to the Lord. Well, she was supposed to be singing to the Lord but instead, she was just singing while her mind was trapped in the fear of what she would say to Simon or how she would act when she saw him. Thanks to her service in the choir, she had not been able to see him when she got there in the morning. And he had been busy doing other things anyway so they would not have had a chance to talk. She had seen Simba though and he had looked at her in a strange way and apologized to her before running off. What was he apologizing for?
Her fear of impending doom increased and she wondered what had happened in her absence. What had taken place yesterday to have Simon sending her weird texts and Simba apologizing before running off? She had also thought that a few leaders had looked at her weird but then maybe that was just her mind playing tricks on her. She still couldn’t shake off the sense that something had happened though and she hoped she would have the strength to deal with whatever was coming her way. She would have usually depended on Simon to get through things, or Dave but neither were an option right now.
When the service was finished, Jess went over to Ruth to ask if she was also getting any weird vibes from everybody. Before she even got to say anything, the look she saw on Ruth’s face made her realize she was not imaging things. But before either of them could say anything, they saw their Young Adults Pastor coming towards them, along with the Youth Pastor. Looking at each other in confusion, they followed them when the Pastors requested they follow them. They also noticed that certain people were also giving them weird looks as they walked past and Jess couldn’t help but wonder why.
Sitting across the table in the Pastor’s office, Jess couldn’t even look up at her as she took in the tension in the room. Whatever was going on probably wasn’t good.
“You must be wondering why we have called you here,” Pastor Thandi began before she cut short by a knock on the door.
“Hey guys, you have a meeting? Can I just take a moment to grab those boxes real quick,” her husband, Pastor Josh interrupted.
Looking for something to distract her, Jess got up to help him carry one of the boxes he wanted to take. In her confusion, as she scrambled for something to do, she didn’t notice that both she and the Pastor went to grab the same box until their hands touched. Having not been prepared for it, she jumped back at his touch only to bump into her chair and almost fell over. The only thing that stopped her from falling over was his hand on her arm to steady her but that just made things worse and sent her into a panic and causing her to freeze.
Oblivious of her panic, Pastor Josh helped her to straighten up and asked her if she was okay but she couldn’t answer him. She tried to push the words out but they were not coming, she tried to move away from him but she couldn’t control her body. It was becoming harder to breathe and she opened her mouth to try to breathe through her mouth and started to shake even as her heartbeat increased. She was aware of the moment when he realized something was wrong and started backing away from her. When he had moved away, she somehow forced herself to back away into an empty corner in the room. Everyone in the room was now standing looking at her and she could tell they wanted to come to her but heard Ruth telling them to stay away.
As she tried to control her breathing, she randomly thought about how Ruth had only ever witnessed her panicking once before but probably not as bad as this. She remembered telling her that unless it was David or Jonathan, nobody could touch her when she was in this state. She stopped herself from going to the corner and looked at the door instead, could she make it to Dave without passing out? But maybe he was already on the way, Dave always seemed to know when she was going through something like this. She had been having panic attacks way before she met Dave but she had stabilized after meeting him. Her panic before had been caused by social anxiety and the pressure from being her parents’ daughter but when the reason for it changed she hadn’t told anyone until she had talked to Ruth.
There was now silence in the room but Jess knew she couldn’t turn around to look at everyone, instead she stared at the door willing Dave to come and save her. She prayed that he would come to her and help her before immediately wondering at her ability to pray for Dave to come help when she hadn’t even prayed for God to help her. Her thoughts stopped though when she began to feel lighted headed and she took a another step towards the door willing it to open and reveal Dave. As if she had conjured him, the door opened and Dave stood there looking at her for a few seconds before he rushed to her and slowly pulled her into his arms.
It was 20 minutes later when she had calmed down and had a glass of water that she moved out of his arms, but she stayed close. And it was at that moment that she realized that Pastor Josh had been the only one shocked by her panic attack, if anything, Pastor Thandi had looked resigned. She realized that somehow they knew, they knew she was keeping a secret and she had lied to them. She looked at Dave and wondered how much he knew, how much did they all know?
“It seems that the conversation I wanted to have with you is actually right now overdue as evidenced by what just happened here. When do you think you could be comfortable to talk to us? I don’t want to cause any further problems today,” Pastor Thandi said.
Jess moved back and leaned towards Dave but she didn’t say anything. Obviously worried about her, Dave put his arm around her should and looked her, eyes loaded with questions.
“What’s going on?” Dave asked when Jess still didn’t respond.
Realizing that is was just better to get it out now and speak to all of them once, she moved away from Dave and got up to sit with Ruth instead. She was grateful when her friend took hold of her hand and smiled at her encouragingly, Ruth too must have realized what was going on. And she must have realized too that Jess was about to tell the truth…well, at least some of it. But then she had to go and open her mouth and make Jess do more than just that.
“What about Simon and your parents, I am pretty sure you don’t want to talk about this twice,” Ruth offered her helpful but unsolicited advice.
Rolling her eyes at her friend, she nodded at Pastor Thandi before looking back at Dave. He looked really tense and had his hands curled up into fists, his head bowed down to look at them and she realized that she couldn’t tell him in front of everyone else. Maybe in-front of Ruth but definitely not the pastors or her parents.
“Could I have a moment with alone with Dave? I mean Ruth can stay but not everyone else,” she added.
“He doesn’t know and I need to tell him alone, but Ruth can stay, in-fact I need her to stay.”
With much reluctance, the Pastors left the office and Jess checked to see that Dave still had his head bowed down before she called Joseph and handed the phone Ruth after putting it on speaker. Ruth raised her eyebrows before she shrugged and accepted to hold the phone and moved closer to where Jess would be talking.
“So, D, I know you probably suspected at some point that this happened but there is no better way to say this than to just come out and say it. The triplets weren’t conceived in a drunken night, and it wasn’t consensual either…”
Jess was prepared for the outburst but she wasn’t prepared for what came after.
“Please tell me I heard wrong, I was prepared for you to confirm my suspicions on who the father is and explain to me why he is being such a crappy father, not for you to tell me it wasn’t consensual,” he ended in a whisper as he got up from his seat and knelt in-front her.
“Who do you think is the father,” she asked frowning as she hadn’t realized he thought he knew something. She hoped he didn’t suspect the truth because then she couldn’t lie to him.
“No, you tell me who the father is, after what you just said, I can’t make that assumption, he wouldn’t that…what happened Jess, who did this to you, I will take care of it, I promise, no matter who he is. I may have failed to protect you then but I can still defend you now, just tell me who it is.” Dave pleaded with her taking her hands into his.
“It’s not what you think D, it wasn’t consensual for either of us, I can’t tell you who it is, but know this, we were drugged, both of us. We were drugged and the drugs had a different effect on each of us, I weakened me and they made me unable to defend myself. And it made…well, it had the opposite effect on him.”
“Who is it Jess, I need you to give me a name.”
“He doesn’t know,” she whispered in pain, hating the fact that she was hurting him. But she couldn’t tell him the truth of who it was, that would break him.
“Like I said, it had the opposite effect on us. He got randy, I got weak; he was unaware of what he was doing, and I was very much aware of it all; he doesn’t remember what happened and I remember everything. So you see, I cannot say anything, my life is forever changed by this but why should another innocent person’s life be ruined by the reality of what happened as well?”
“Oh, Jess…why…why didn’t you tell me?” He asked.
“Because why would I burden you and ruin your life with the truth?”
“No David, I am only telling you this now because people are bringing it up, obviously someone must have found and told the Pastors…now that I think about, it was probably Simba, he must have overheard me and Ruth talking at the camp,” Jess added looking at Ruth thoughtfully.
“Oh yes, he did like to spend time in that room connected to the music room!” Ruth said standing up from her chair, “that explains everything, including how weird he has been acting since then.”
Jess nodded and looked back at Dave who was still looking up at her pleadingly. She realized he still wanted to know who it was, probably to judge for himself if the person was someone who could be trusted.
“Dave,” she sighed,” I am sorry but I can’t tell you who it is. I just need you to trust me that its not someone who would have ever wanted to hurt me.”
“But Jess, then how will we find who drugged you since you are saying it wasn’t him. I need to know who he is so that I can find out who drugged you both…wait, you know who it was don’t you, Jess, who did this?”
Jess sighed, realizing that something on her face must have given her away.
“No D, I cannot tell you who it is, and I cannot tell you who drugged us either because then you would be able to find out who they drugged with me and that’s not an option.”
“You will tell us their names right now! How can you want to protect this person so much that you would hide who drugged you? Or maybe you just lying and you weren’t drugged at all? What are we supposed to believe now with all this lying and all these secrets? Tell us!”
Jess, Ruth, and Dave all jumped and turned to the door to watch her mom ranting with everyone else standing behind her, even Simon and Simba were there. She wondered how long they had been at the door listening in but it was just like her mother not to respect her privacy.
Not bothering to say anything out-loud and beginning to feel trapped in the room, Jess just shook her head. They were all staring at her accusingly and she couldn’t handle it, she needed to get out the room. She looked down Dave who was still kneeling down, seeking for his help and ever in tune to her emotions as he always was, he asked everyone to move away from the door and she was able to rush from the room holding tightly to Ruth’s hand, praying she wouldn’t have another attack before she was able to leave the premises.She looked back at Dave, leaving him standing at the door ready to defend her and was thankful for his presence in her life before she ran, not even stopping to speak to Simon.