A Heretic’s Heart

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Chapter 1

My story is one of dismay born of a shocked heart and mind, and who knows what of my soul, if such there is.

Doubting was something new to me, specifically about my church beliefs. I had gone to church faithfully since shortly after I was born, my parents being faithful Christians, and attending the same church for many years.

It was a good church, one in which most of the people were very friendly, always concerned about each other, and more than willing to help when one was in need. For the longest time I was more than comfortable in it, had many friends, though none were really close. There were a few of us that one could say constituted a group; that is, where one of us was when not at home, the others were usually there too.

Much was preached about love, and some of the scriptures were expounded from the pulpit. As far as being radically opposed to certain things as some churches were, that was not the case in our church, yet those things were preached against from time-to-time. While much was made of politics in some churches, and some politicians loudly pushed their beliefs as they stumped for votes for whatever election was to be held, our preacher didn’t follow in that vein. Still, he did agree with much of what was said, and occasionally sprinkled his sermons with those beliefs.

Conservatism, “family values”, and most of all, our “family” of believers coming together to hear the word of God, and enjoy fellowship with each other as we praised God thereby, could be said to be what we were. If there was such a thing as Americana, I thought it was in our church. We were homogenous, though exclusively anglicized, though no attempt was made to make us exclusively so—it just happened naturally.

We, the group, all were a part of the Young Christians, and our leader was the Youth Minister, Brother Albert. He was a good person, personable, and did all he could to make things interesting for us. Helping him was his betrothed, Maggie, another good and sweet person that we all liked. She too, made our meetings something to be looked forward to.

My problem started when I began to grow uncomfortable around my group, as well as other girls, particularly, Mary Beth. At first, I hid my nascent feelings very well, but in time, they started to grow to where I had to work on them, suppress the strange sensations I was beginning to feel whenever I was around her, or later, when she just came to my mind as a thought, or even just a sensing. It all began to be too much for me, and unfortunately, I was made to truly wonder about what was happening within me. Thankfully, Mary Beth wasn’t a part of our group, nor in my gym class.

Worse though was that homosexuality was being mentioned too much in the news in so many ways that it was just about impossible for it to escape my wondering mind if that was my problem—was I a homosexual, a lesbian?

I hadn’t had any problems after gym classes when they ended and we all took our communal shower, but my wondering about me and how I was starting to feel toward Mary Beth had me becoming uncomfortable. That was in my junior year of high school, and I was worrying about not just my new feelings, but about my senior year yet to come. However, seeing all of the girls in the new light that had my attention didn’t help as I began to wonder what Mary Beth looked like too.

At the time I thanked God for all of the good teachings that were given to me in his church thus when thoughts of my unseemly new nature tried to occur to me, I reminded myself of God’s will, his desires for all of us, and for my salvation, of course. I also worried that somewhere along the line I might slip and thus be noticed, or just as bad, that I would be seen in an extreme distancing of myself from Mary Beth, and set people to wondering.

Needless to say, I began to suffer the pangs of hell. It didn’t help when those times when our pastor did take up what was increasingly popular in conservative circles, and let us all know the abomination homosexuality was in the sight of God, and what would befall those who gave into such sinning. I was increasingly becoming sure that I must have homosexual tendencies, though why was something that troubled me sorely.

My days were a living hell, if such a thing were possible, as I was plagued by the sight of the girls in the shower in my senior year, and yearned for Mary Beth more and more until she was an obsession with me. Just what I yearned to do with Mary Beth was a mystery, and I dared not try to learn just what lesbian love was. That would surely be self inflicted punishment on myself.

In time, my normal way of being began to be noticed as changing; to be certain, my worrying drove me to be more solitary. That I was thought to be very studious helped me as the others in our group, as well as my parents, thought I might be worrying about getting into a good college, and thus was becoming even more serious in my studies. Of course, I did nothing to dispel that notion. I needed all the help I could muster, and there was little I could bets10 come up with to help myself. No, I was grateful for every gift of circumstance that presented itself.

Thankfully, I did get through my senior year, and graduated third in my class of over four hundred. It was enough to gain me a scholarship to a good college, and best of all, though I hated it, Mary Beth was going to a different college, and some distance away. All in our group were going to different colleges also.

Chapter 2

There were so many subjects that interested me, so I couldn’t say what major I aspired to, so I left it open, more or less, as a liberal arts major. The new setting gave me a respite from my growing obsession with Mary Beth, but that only opened me up to the many other girls in the college. Thankfully I was very busy with my schedule and beginning classes, so I was able to act as if those were my only interests.

Thankfully, there were three other girls in my dorm room, and two of them were very interested in the great selection of young men, particularly if they were jocks. The other one was pretty anti-social, or put on that facade, which I suspected it was. At any rate, the two, Julie and Terri were often out, so that left me to study in peace. However, all the classes I was taking were pretty easy for me. Dara, the unsocial one, was generally out, but when she was there, she buried her nose in her books too.

Scouring the map as to where what was where, I located a few nearby churches, and went to all of them one after the other. The last one seemed to be the one I would be most comfortable in, but only attended the worship services. The pastor seemed similar to Pastor Henson from my home church.

I breezed through all of my classes and made the Dean’s List. That made it easier for me to be a bit more selective in my optional classes. I was loving college, and very relived not to have to take gym classes and shower afterward, though I do have to admit to regrets over that too.

While home for the holidays, I enjoyed my time with my family, and going to my home church and singing all of the traditional Christmas songs, caroling through the neighborhood, and generally enjoying all of the festivities. Though I was disappointed, I was glad I didn’t run into Mary Beth for there had been too many times when her picture magically appeared in my mind and sending hoped for expectations, but of what, I still had no idea.

I knew I feared trying to find out what exactly it was that lesbians did to show their love. Feared it, yes, but still some part of me felt a thrill when I did wonder about it. Fortunately those times didn’t happen too often, but enough so that they seemed to grow in me as time went on.

During what was supposed to be summer vacation, I stayed at the college and worked to help with the expenses. My parents approved, though I knew they worried. I assured them that it was a safe job in a good neighborhood, and that there were no late nights.

When my second year began, I decided to take a class in Ancient Egyptian History, a class that would begin a quest in me that would shake my soul and all that I previously believed. To make matters worse—or better, but not immediately—I noticed a blonde with a svelte, delicate, and sexy figure and a face that was as fragile looking as could be. Worse, or better, was a matter of opinion, and I held to both as she began to haunt me with each sighting of her. Then too, there was a time when our eyes met and we smiled at each other. My life would never be the same.

Still, the good student in me was in charge when it mattered, and I loved the class about Egypt and thanked myself for taking it. Surprisingly, the two things that stayed with me the most was the era of the Tuthmosis Pharaohs, and how it was that Hatshepsut, the wife of one of them, was herself a Pharaoh and ruled, apparently, very well until the time when the young son of her husband by another wife came of age.

Hatshepsut proved an able ruler, or so it was recorded, until Tuthmosis III was about twenty-two. Another thing that surprised me was that Tuthmosis III was cited as the greatest of Egypt’s warrior Pharaohs, being dubbed The Napoleon of Egypt. Until then, I’d always thought that Ramesses II, the Pharaoh believed by just about everyone I knew to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

In short order, we came to Ramesses II. His exploits in battle were just about as daring as Tuthmosis III. Both had traveled long distances through Canaan and beyond to battle their foe. Though Ramesses nearly was beaten, the manner in which he was said to have saved the day was something else, and eventually had a peace treaty that seemed to leave his territorial hegemony intact, which seemed to be beyond Syria.

That set my mind to push out a thought that I’d not seen, nor did anyone I knew of had either: If this Ramesses was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, how was it possible for the Jews to do as the bible said they did? It didn’t make sense. Ramesses ruled as if he’d won his battle instead of bets10 giriş fighting to a draw, meaning he had control of all of Canaan and beyond. That thought bothered me such that I decided to ask the preacher where I had been going to church on Sundays. When I did get him alone, I wished I hadn’t.

“In the class I’m taking, Ramesses II, according to what is known, controlled all of Canaan and beyond.”

“Yes,” he interrupted me a bit impatiently. “And?”

“I had to wonder about what I thought I knew, and hoped you could maybe help my understanding,” I said as he nodded his head, again as if wanting to get it all over and out of the way. “Forgive my ignorance, but somehow I had always thought that he was the Pharaoh of the Exodus though the bible doesn’t mention him as such by name. Is he?” I dared to ask even more nervous than when I began.

“Young lady, what they don’t teach you in school is that faith is the most important thing to have both in your heart and in your mind as well. Who the Pharaoh was is not important; what is important is that you believe in what the bible tells you for it is the word of God. I hope that gives you peace of mind.”

“Uh, yes sir, and thank you,” I said not able to leave as quickly as I suddenly wanted to.

To tell the truth, I felt as if I’d been slapped much as if I’d been a naughty child who just wouldn’t mind her parents. Though I felt as if I’d been chastised, and my mind seemed to have gone blank, it later troubled me even more. In a couple of days, when I had some free time, I opened my bible, and lo and behold, I found where Jacob had been given a parcel of land for the Jews in the land of Ramesses, and probably much later on, that the Jews were made to build Pithom and Raamses.

Looking further, the time of the Jews in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. Surely, I thought, it didn’t take them that long to build those cities, if indeed they did build them. If not, then there couldn’t have been a “land of Rameses” as in Genesis, as Ramesses wasn’t even born yet. Even in those days, it couldn’t have taken that long to build them. It continued to vex me. For certain, Ramesses II wasn’t the Pharaoh who could not stop the Jews from pillaging Canaan.

When the Christmas holidays came, again I was at home, and decided to ask Pastor Henson; surely he’d be much easier to talk to about this.

I was right, he was easier to talk to, but…

“Jennifer, that’s a good question. The movies sort of suggest that the Pharaoh might be Ramesses, but then maybe not,” he said with a truly perplexed furrow of his brow. “However, the one thing we must keep in mind is that we must have faith that the bible is the word of God, and somewhere it all makes sense. It is a pretty big book, isn’t it?” he ended with a smile.

As I thought, he was friendlier, but the question still wasn’t answered, and neither of the two pastors knew the answer. In my heart and mind I knew it couldn’t have been Ramesses, but who was it, and more importantly, when did it happen?

* * * *

My wondering was set aside when I returned to take my next semester. It was time to seriously work on my studies and hope I didn’t dream too much about whoever that blonde girl was that so troubled me, though I did hope to see her again and often. That last hope came true.

I’d elected to take a class on Significant Women in History. It sounded interesting, something I would like to know about. It had to cover more than Joan of Arc, Amelia Earhart and Marie Curie. It was a class that I was really looking forward to when I thought of it. Men had always been at the forefront of just about everything so I wondered what all this class might hold since little had ever been taught about us.

Sitting in the class early, I was more than surprised to hear her.

“Hi, I’m Paige; mind if I sit next to you?”

Turning, I saw her and my mouth flew open but no words came out, at least not right away.

“Sure, and Hi, I’m Jennifer.”

“Hey, Jennifer. I wondered if we’d ever meet. I’ve seen you around a lot.”

“Yeah, me too. Seen you a lot, that is,” I stumbled as I tried to control my excitement.

“This class seemed so interesting when I saw it. I just had to take it. Wonder what it’ll really be like?”

“Me too,” I agreed. “I’m looking forward to it; I hope we’re not disappointed.

We weren’t disappointed by the class, and I was quickly having to learn to control my heart rate and my wandering mind that couldn’t seem to keep from wondering about Paige. Wondering and wanting to dream!

My first instant reverie where Paige was concerned was interrupted by her.

“What’s your schedule? I mean, do you think we have any other classes together, or lunch period?”

She had a combination of a near squeaky, yet soft voice that was like a beautiful somewhat high pitched music note. Already I loved hearing her speak, but as luck would have it, we had no other classes together, but we did have the same lunch period every day.

“Wanna have lunch bets10 güvenilir mi together?” she asked.

“That’d be nice,” I told her honestly, if maybe a bit too honestly.

* * * *

Right on schedule, we met in the cafeteria and sat to lunch. I still had a problem in having to remind myself not to stare at her, yet several times I caught her as if staring at me. It was odd, and it confused me, but somehow it gave me a good feeling, one of hope, for I was wanting to see more of her any way I could. Well, almost any way.

Our initial class had been as expected, an overview and a syllabus outlining all that was to come. We spent our lunch eating, trying not to stare at each other, and minor talk about things in general as they might apply to us. There really wasn’t much time before we had to head to our next separate class. What I remember most about our time together was that she had a slightly lighter color of blonde hair, and blue eyes that were like a light blue ice. That, and her eyes seemed to light up as she looked at me.

I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I told her about my wondering about Egypt, the Exodus, and how it was a mystery to me.

“You’re pretty much into church, huh?”

“Yes, I guess so. I’ve always gone to church with my family, and while I’m here, I found one to attend worship services at.”

I told her about the pastor there, and how he reacted to my question.

“Will you still be going there?” she asked.

“I guess so. Honestly, now that you ask, I don’t know. How about you? Are you into church?”

“Catholic,” was her one word answer.

“I’m not sure I know much about Catholicism.”

“We have a mass; more a ritual thing.”

“You don’t sound too enthusiastic about it,” I gently prodded.

“I’m not. I haven’t gone since I’ve been here.”

“Oh.” What could I say other than that?

* * * *

Lunch together became the usual thing with us, but if accidentally or subconsciously wished, we also quickly started our mornings having breakfast together also though most times it was just coffee and something small, if anything else at all. Paige preferred hot camomile tea which they offered us. When I tried it, I sometimes had that too sans sugar as Paige did always.

Though we talked, and often about our class together, I couldn’t help but stare at the delicacy of her face, it’s porcelain beauty and fine features. When I looked into her unusual eyes, I tended to want to get lost in them, to try to plumb their depths. Her beauty was amazing, so rare, especially when looked at up close where one could really appreciate all of her beauty.

As time went on, we both were enjoying the class, and were both fairly shocked at much of what we were learning. It was unbelievable that so many well educated and qualified women often worked without pay. In talking, we couldn’t help but feel the excitement of knowing just how much had been accomplished by women, and some anger that much more might have been accomplished had it not been for the prevalent attitudes of what a woman should be doing instead of what was considered man’s work.

Aside from the usual well known females like Margaret Mead, Jane Goodall, and others made famous by our media and attained celebrity status, there were, and still are, so many women of more than great talent. We tirelessly spoke of all of them reverently. Those conversations helped to seal our bonding to each other, though at the time neither of us noticed that.

The one woman who most held our fascination, as well as our admiration, was Hypatia who was said to be one of Alexandria Egypt’s most learned and powerful women. It is said that she was killed in the most horrific of ways and all because she was a close friend of Orestes, the Roman prefect (political leader), and was consulted by him instead of Cyril, the local Catholic bishop.

Cyril spoke out against her because of her knowledge and popularity. It was thought that he may have used her being a Pagan to incite a mob, some thought to consist of monks, who dragged her from her chariot into a church and cut her to skin her with sharpened oyster shells, all while she was still alive, then burned her.

Needless to say we shuddered. Many, we were led to believe, thought that this signaled not only the close of women in science, but as a warning to other scientists not to cross the church, particularly their teachings. We knew from other, well documented evidence, that this was more than true from Galileo and Copernicus, to many others who had discovered other facts but were too fearful of letting them be known for fear of the church.

Personally, Hypatia became my heroine, and I suspected, Paige’s too. However, there were, and are, so many others of astounding example and merit. A close favorite was Rosalind Franklin who actually was the first to see the DNA double helix, but didn’t pay it due attention, else she might have been considered the discoverer of DNA. Her work was apparently taken without permission by an associate who fashioned himself as her superior, Maurice Wilkins, who shared her work without permission with Watson and Crick, and also shared the Nobel prize for the discovery of DNA. No mention was made of Rosalind’s plagiarized work, much less given any credit.

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