Rune Rofke - Glenn Emery
Exactly 40 days after I returned home from Athens, the phone rang at the center. It was Desiree. She had driven to Indianapolis and wanted to see me. I gave her directions, and a short time later she pulled into the driveway.
I introduced her to Carl and Nina and Carol. She wanted to go someplace to talk, so we drove up to Broad Ripple Park. It was overcast and there was a chill in the air. Autumn was setting in. The leaves had begun to turn.
“I had to see if you were real,” Desiree said. “After you left, it was like a dream. Everyone pretended like nothing had happened, and I began to doubt it myself. I started to think that maybe you were an angel, one of those visitations in the Bible.”
“I’m no angel. I was there. It was real.”
I was curious how the emergency meeting of the congregation had gone. I knew the outcome, of course, but I wanted to know the details.
“Pete was your strongest defender. He was the most passionate about why you should be allowed to stay. He said he knew you better than anyone, that you had confessed your identity to him and explained why you hadn’t said anything. And he said he understood your reasons, that you felt you had no choice and it was very difficult for you because you were an honest and open person who wanted to tell us who you were but you felt that as soon as you did we would reject you. He said you hoped that by us getting to know you first, we would be able to accept you.
“Some people like Boo and Katie and a few others agreed with him. They said we should let you stay, get to know you better and see how it goes. They said we could always ask you to leave later if we felt you were a negative presence.
“But Kevin and Martin and the others insisted that you should leave right away, that you had already proven you were not trustworthy, and that there were probably a lot of other things about you that you hadn’t told us and we would be sorry if we let you stay. They said you were Satan and should be cast out. It was just like you said they would.
“And then Pete got angry and said, ‘What are we so afraid of? Are his beliefs so powerful and our beliefs so weak that we can’t risk having him in our midst? Is our faith so small that we are afraid of this one man from a strange church we know nothing about?’ But hardly anyone wanted to listen to Pete. They had all made up their minds.”
“And what about you?” I asked. “Were you for me or against me?”
Desiree was silent for a few minutes. “I knew you’d ask me that, but it’s why I came to see you. That’s what I wanted to tell you.”
She started crying a little bit. For the first time, I felt free to hug her. I kissed her cheek. I squeezed her tight. I wanted her to know it was all right. The worst was over. Nothing else bad was going to happen.
“I was so angry and hurt. I felt so betrayed. I thought you had to be the worst excuse for a human being to have done that to me, and I hated you.
"And then they started asking me about our relationship, and it was exactly like you said it would be, that night in my apartment, even though I didn’t really understand at the time what you were telling me. But as they started to question me, I understood. They wanted to know if you and I had had an intimate relationship. Kevin started accusing you of trying to seduce me.
“As much as I hated you in that moment, I knew the truth. You had prepared me very well. You were exactly right. As long as we never had a physical relationship, no matter what anyone said, I would know the truth. You did protect me. You made sure we didn’t go too far because you knew what would happen if we did. When I tried to hold your hand, you would let go. When I wanted to kiss you, you said no. When I wanted to go further, you walked away. This is what I told them.
“Some of them didn’t believe me. They said you had brainwashed me."
"What do you think?"
"I don't know. I mean, I know nothing happened between us, but I've never been around anyone like you before. Here with you now everything seems normal. But then..."
"I know what you mean."
It was getting late and starting to drizzle.
"I should go," she said. "I have a long drive back. I'm glad I got to see you again."
"Me too. I think about you every day. What I did makes me very sad. I'm sorry I hurt you."
The rain started falling a little harder.
"I'm thinking of taking off for a while," she said finally. "Leave Athens and travel around a bit. See new places. Meet new people. Have some adventures."
"That would be good for you."
"I'm thinking of going to the Grand Canyon."
I hugged her one last time. "If you do, go to Ribbon Falls. It's amazing."