A Heathen Among Fundamentalists


Stepping into my slip, I pulled it up and stole a quick glance out my bedroom window. “Oh, sweet Jesus. She’s here!”

I dashed by my bed, snatched my skirt from it, and hopped toward my bedroom door slipping it on and yanking it up. Swinging my door open, I rushed across the hall and yelled down the stairwell, “Mom! Dad! She’s here!”

Mom’s head popped around the corner. “Already? She’s fifteen minutes early. Get your brother, Esther, and hurry down.”

I bounded to Mark’s door and bounced my knuckles off it. “Oh, brother dearest, move it. Angela’s here.”

Mark’s muffled voice filtered through the door. “Slow down, man. I’m still in my underwear.”

“You better hurry. She’s here now!” I banged the door to make my point.

“Duh, Esther, you wouldn’t want me to greet the new girl in my underwear now, would you, ditz-head?”

I pounded on the door repeatedly. “Then get out of your underwear and get downstairs!”

“Great idea. Then I’d have to greet her naked.”

I gritted my teeth and spoke through them. “You know what I mean. Put on more clothes.” I kept banging the door until it opened. My little brother posed before me in a long-sleeved white shirt and his Fruit-of-the-Loom, maroon briefs.

“Are you happy, dork brain?” he asked. “Do you believe me now?”

Spare me the view, I thought, gawking at the putrid color of his briefs. I pushed past him, charged into his walk-in closet, yanked a pair of black dress pants from its hanger, and marched out again. He strutted toward me with a big grin stretching his face.

The little show off. I bet he fantasizes all the time about walking around in his underwear in front of girls. Twelve-year-old boys think only with their hormones … and it only makes them do the stupidest things. But I don’t care if he wants to parade around like that. He’s a jerk, anyway.

The bulge in his briefs caught my attention. A shiver ran up my spine. I threw the pants in his face and scurried past him. Stopping by the door, I turned to see him pull the pants off his head. “Just get your pants on. You don’t impress me … child.”

I slammed the door, pattered down the stairs, and entered the foyer to discover my parents trying to run in all directions at once. Rushing to the window by the front door, I peeked out.

Oh, no. Mrs. Braxton’s opening the passenger door. There’s the girl. She’s fifteen like me. What a pretty skirt. And that short-sleeved top is nice, too … what am I doing? This isn’t a fashion show. The family’s depending on me to get them ready.

My father rushed into the foyer adjusting his tie as my mom scurried in from the opposite direction patting her hair in place.

“Where’s Mark?” my mother said.

“He’s coming, Mom.”

My father eased my mother and me together, shoulder-to-shoulder facing the door. “Come on. Let’s look shipshape. Mark’ll be along soon enough.” He hurried to the stairs and cupped a hand by his mouth. “Mark. You get down here pronto. Do you hear me, son? On the double.”

A faint voice drifted downstairs. “Coming.”

My father swung around in front of us. “Now, remember, this girl’s been through a lot. She lost her parents at age five and was raised by her great uncle the last ten years. From what I understand, she and her uncle were very close. He wasn’t a churchgoing man, so she’ll probably be a little difficult … of course we’ll have to deal with that after we get her over her grief.”

My mother smiled. “It’s all right, dear. This is the path God chose for us. It will be a wonderful thing to bring someone into the presence of the Lord who has been wandering so long in the forests of darkness. She’ll appreciate the light … once she sees it.”

My father patted my mother’s shoulder. “Well spoken, Ruth. It is truly a wonderful thing to save a soul for Christ.”

The sound of a drum roll echoed behind me; and, without looking, I knew it was Mark thudding down the stairs. A few seconds later, he popped alongside me.

Well, here we stand in a row; Mom, Mark, and me, soldiers in our father’s army … crusaders for Christ.

Images flashed through my mind—mostly sad images. When the door opened, standing in it would be a tear-filled girl struck with the grief of losing her only loved-one. Little did she suspect that she had loved a goat in the forest—a heathen—a Godless man who had led her in the wrong direction for most of her life.

However, good feelings swept all that away, because we were here to correct her past. We would lead her to a full life with Jesus as her savior. She may fight and struggle at first, but it would end in her thanking us—but first the tears.

A knock sounded on the door, my father opened it, and in stepped Mrs. Braxton, the social worker, with one arm around Angela Vitali.

I scrutinized my would-be sister. Angela’s long, straight, chestnut hair appeared as soft as an infant’s. Her pale skin radiated all over her hundred-and-fifteen-pound, medium frame. She beamed beauty without makeup, something difficult for any girl to do. At five-foot four she stood two inches taller than me. A glance at her bust struck a bad note.

A ‘C’ cup. She’s a full cup size bigger than me.

But something seemed wrong—terribly wrong about her face. On it rested a pair of thin lips turned up into a big smile. Not a sign of grief existed anywhere on her.

Death had stolen the only person she ever loved since age five … and she stands there smiling?

Angela set down a suitcase and nodded at each of us in turn. “Hi. I’m very happy to be here, and I’m pleased that you have decided to allow me to share your home.”



The social worker, Mrs. Braxton, looked at Angela, then the rest of us in turn. “I do most humbly apologize. This is so against our policy.”

My father beamed. “It’s all right. You’ve already explained that this is an emergency placement.” He looked as Angela’s smile increased. “And she does seem to be just what the pastor ordered.”

Mrs. Braxton glanced at the floor. “It’s just that the system is so overloaded right now … and Angela really needed immediate attention … and you being a good Christian family and all ….” She stretched out her hands to either side and shrugged. “She seems like such a good fit for you.”

My mother coughed. “I’m sure we can make it work at least until you can find real emergency placement.”

Mrs. Braxton nodded. “And if you think she may work out, then it would have meant that we skipped a few steps.” She looked at her watch. “Unfortunately, I’m pressed for time as well. I have to change placements for a set of twins in about an hour. Normally I stay longer, but—”

“I know,” my father said, “the system’s overloaded. Well, we’ll relieve you of one foster child and do our best to make it work.”

“Thank you.” Mrs. Braxton sucked in her lips. “Well, then … I’m happy to introduce your new foster daughter. As you can see, she’s a cheery soul.”

Mark wrinkled his lips and scrunched his eyebrows. “What she got to be cheery about?”

Mom reached over and grabbed his arm. He looked at her, and she scowled back.

Angela smiled, and I continued to search her face.

The man who raised her died only six days ago. The funeral’s just ended … and she stands there smiling? What’s that all about? Doesn’t she have any sense of grief?

We stared at Angela, but she kept smiling. Mrs. Braxton apparently sensed the awkwardness brewing, because she lurched forward and swung an arm toward our parlor. “Shall we sit and chat a bit? I can spare a few minutes.”

My father reached for Angela’s bag and waved a hand for Mark to take the one Mrs. Braxton held. They plunked them down by the stairs on the way to the parlor. My father sat in the center of the sofa with Mom to his left and me to his right. Mark stood next to me. Angela settled in an easy chair, and Mrs. Braxton stood behind her. Mrs. Braxton made the official introductions, and an uncomfortable silence set in again.

My father cleared his throat. “Well, Angela, we sure are pleased to have you here. You understand that, though an emergency, this can be a trial agreement, and if we can fit into a cohesive family unit ….” He glanced at my mother. “Ruth and I have every intention of adopting.”

Still smiling, Angela leaned forward and drew her hands together over her knees. “Thank you for taking me on such short notice. I’ll work hard to fit in with the family, Mr. Price. I understand what you’re doing for me and how difficult it is for a fifteen-year-old to get adopted. This is my chance, and I hope to make the most of it.”

Wow. Dad must be impressed. Angela sounds so well-mannered … so mature … so intelligent. I can’t figure out why she’s stopped grieving over her loss so quickly. She could be a fraud. She must have known my father has money. The report she received on us would have told her that. Maybe she figured she’d do anything so she could have all the nice things that Mark and I have.

“Was your uncle a Christian man?” my father asked.

What’s he doing? He knows he wasn’t.

“No, sir,” Angela said.

My father leaned forward. “An atheist?”

Angela held her smile, but her eyes shifted to me.

Well, for the first time she looks a little uncomfortable.

I frowned. She looked past me to Mark, and then moved her eyes back to my father. “No, sir. Not that either.”

My father spread his arms wide and hunched his shoulders. “Well, which is it? You’re either against God or for Him.”

“We respect the beliefs of everyone,” Angela said.

My father sat back and grinned. It wasn’t a grin that showed he was satisfied with the answer, but one that foretold how tough he would make it on Angela to straighten out her life. “That’s good to hear. I think you’ll fit in nicely … once you’ve accepted the Lord as your personal savior.”

Angela’s smile disappeared replaced with two seconds of concern before reshaping into a smile again.

Gotcha! Gotcha, Angela Vitali! You’re a heathen, and all heathens only desire Earthly treasures. You want all the nice things we own, but you’re not willing to convert to get them. Well, we’ll see how long you last.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Price,” Angela said. “I’m aware of your family’s religion, but I have my own philosophy of life … and it works well for me.”

Mrs. Braxton sprang from behind Angela’s easy chair. “Well, got to go. I think we’ve made a fine start.” She hurried to my father, and they shook hands as he rose. “I’ll call later this afternoon. Tomorrow’s Saturday, so I’ll make arrangements to stop by then for a longer visit.” She broke off the handshake. “No need to see me out. I know the way.”

And just like that Mrs. Braxton is gone? She apparently doesn’t want to stay for the fireworks.

The sternness I knew so well sprang into my father’s voice. “Everyone out but Angela.”

Mark and I know very well what that means. The person staying behind is about to get a good Christian tongue-lashing … and how well she deserves it, too.

My eyes met Angela’s for a second.

You little heathen. We’ll just see how long you dance with Satan.

Mark and Mom walked out through the arch before me.

“Esther?” I turned to my father. “Stay, Esther. I have a role for you.”

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