I study my wife’s movements carefully as she retrieves two new wine glasses from the rack in the kitchen and serves us. I decline her offer of more garlic bread and wonder if she’s stalling or buttering me up before dropping a bombshell. Whatever the case, I sense the tension in the air. Amy finally joins me on the couch, takes a sip of wine, and gazes at some point on the carpet for a few moments before opening up.
“I first met Chelsea and her husband, Walter, in a park. I’d been really depressed that day, and we got to talking. They were really easy going and I felt we connected. We met for coffee a few times. I didn’t really have any friends like them; they were older and wizened and really knew how to listen to me. I guess Chelsea was kind of like the mom I never had.”
I watch Amy bite her lip and expect tears at any moment, but she holds it together. Amy’s mother, Diane, ran off with a man she’d met at a class reunion when Amy was only nine. The man turned out to be an abusive drug addict with an estranged family of his own, and when Diane wandered back almost a decade later with her tail between her legs, her family barely recognized her. She swore she’d given up her old lifestyle, but certain habits proved impossible to kick and Amy’s father wouldn’t put up with it. He filed a restraining order against Diane and she disappeared. In the end, she never reconciled with her family, and eventually died alone in some other state. Amy doesn’t talk much about it. I doubt those scars will ever heal.
“Well, the woman, Chelsea, seemed nice enough,” I say, feeling the need to comment.
“Oh Luke, you have no idea. She’s bent over backwards for me. Her and Walter both.” Amy shakes her head slowly as she smiles and takes another sip.
But why? I wonder. What is their angle? What are they after? “They don’t have any kids?” I ask.
Amy shakes her head. “They have a son, I think. But he’s grown and out of the picture.”
“What does that mean?”
“He’s just not around. They don’t talk much about him. I guess they’re not close.”
That doesn’t sit well with me. If these people are so charitable, what had happened with their own family? Why latch on to strangers? Is it a scam? I rack my brains for a scenario where my wife might be a potential victim but come up with nothing. What do we have that anyone could possibly want? There’s a slim savings in a bank account, nothing extravagant. The apartment is a rental and the furnishings are nothing to covet.
“Anyway,” Amy continues. “I found out that Chelsea and Walter liked to read and study the Bible. Turns out they are Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
I analyze my wife’s expectant expression as the pieces click together. Mr. Harris. The comment about my wife. Chelsea and Walter. They’re all part of the same religious circle.
“How deeply are you involved?”
“I–I mean, we–Chelsea and I, and sometimes Walter–well, we study the Bible together.”
“And? That’s it?”
“Well, no I guess, I also go to their meetings…”
I sigh. I set down my glass and rub my temples with the heels of my hands. “Why didn’t you tell me this earlier? How long have you been sneaking around?”
“It’s been a while…”
“How long, Amy? When did you start?”
“Well…About a year, I guess.”
“A year! What were you thinking! Why didn’t you say anything earlier?”
“I was scared, Luke. I didn’t know how you’d react. You’ve always been such a good husband, but I was just worried that…I don’t know. I was just worried.”
I finish off the wine in my glass and pour another.
“I got a promotion today,” I finally say after a long silence.
“A promotion? Sergeant?”
I nod. “Pryce told me today.”
“Well… That’s great news, babe. I know you’ve worked so hard for it.” Amy reaches over to pat my arm, but I have to doubt her sincerity. She’s been after me to change jobs, after all. Then again, what can she really say about it with things the way they are? She’s in no position to nag at the moment.
“Yeah. He said the whole department is behind me. The new uniform comes in soon.”
“That’s wonderful, Luke. I’m really happy for you. And it means less patrol duty, right?”
“Yeah. But there’s a catch.”
“I can’t be religiously affiliated.”
Amy’s eyes widen. “It’s just incredible…” she says softly.
“Luke, all of this, the Liberation Act, the religious violence, and now this, restricting even police officers… It’s all part of what we’ve been studying… in the Bible, I mean…”
I stare at my wife blankly. Her enthusiasm scares me. It’s not like Amy to get excited about anything, especially religion.
“No, really, babe, look at this,” she continues, reaching into her purse on the bedside table and flipping up an application on her iPad. It’s some digital copy of the Bible. She fans through the chapters with the tip of her finger. “Here, this part here. In Revelation chapter seventeen, there’s this woman wearing scarlet, and she symbolizes–“
“Amy,” I cut in, “did you not just hear what I said? I cannot be involved in anything religious. That includes the Bible. I could lose my job. Do you understand?”
I watch as my wife stares into my eyes sadly, the iPad slowly falling into her lap. I wonder if the restrictions against religious affiliation extended to officers’ families. The captain didn’t really specify when we talked earlier, so maybe that means that Amy’s study isn’t explicitly forbidden. I can’t imagine it would be encouraged, though.
Still, I wish I could’ve nipped this all in the bud. Had I known back when my wife first met these people, I could’ve steered her away. Why take chances? After all I’ve done to get this promotion, why jeopardize our future with some silly Bible lessons? Then again, how bad can it be? Amy’s clearly thrilled with the friends she’s found, and I can’t deny that she’s seemed happier lately, calmer, more content with our relationship. I finish off my second glass of cabernet and sigh.
“What are you thinking, babe?” Amy asks, her fingers lightly brushing against my arm.
“I’m thinking you’d better be careful. Especially with things as crazy as they are now.”
“Oh, we are Luke. That’s why we don’t use the Kingdom Hall anymore for meetings, we have them in–“
I raise my hand in protest and give Amy a stern look.
“Stop. Please. No more,” I say, shaking my head. “The less I know, the better.”
Amy bites her lips shut and nods somberly. “Ok. I’ll be careful,” she says softly.