Nathan begins to question the teachings of his chuThursday Afternoon. A Suburban SubdivisionNathan was panting and his heart was beating faster than he could ever remember. Shelby’s breast was beautiful, perfect. White, soft, firm, with a dark, hard, puckered nipple surrounded by a small circle of slightly lighter flesh. He had dreamed of seeing it, touching it, kissing it, for nearly a year, ever since he first saw her at the church picnic. She wasn’t his first girlfriend, if you used a loose interpretation of the word. He had gone out with Adrienne a few times, and had held her hand, but that was as far as that went. And Liz had kissed him on the lips that one time, after their third movie date, but then they broke up.But Shelby was something different. Compared to the other girls at Harmony Christian Life Academy, she was a little more daring. Maybe because she came from the city and had actually gone to public school before coming to Harmony, but for whatever reason, she was the only girl that Nathan ever heard question the teachers—heck, she was the only student, boy or girl, who argued with the teachers. Nothing seriously blasphemous, and she never directly disputed the basic principles that they all were taught, but she would push and question the teachers, sometimes to the point of being sent to Pastor Stephens’ office.Of course, Nathan didn’t know that when he first saw her at the church picnic. What he saw was a tall, beautiful brunette, wearing what seemed to be a modest sundress that somehow fit her a little more snugly than the clothing worn by any of the other senior girls at the picnic. No one could look at her and say that she was breaking any of their church’s written or unwritten rules, but if you looked carefully, and Nathan did, you could tell that she was pushing up against the standards. Also, her eyes were piercing blue, and Nathan thought that they cut right through him. He felt every type of impure thought that teenage boys were capable of, even good Christian boys, and he knew that night he would be secretly touching himself in a way that Pastor Stephens would certainly disapprove of.Now, months later, his mother and little brother were out, his father was at his accounting office, Shelby was in his room, her perfect breast was nestled in his palm, and Nathan didn’t know what to do. He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to kiss it. He desperately wanted to kiss it, to lick the hard brown nipple. He wanted to bury his face in Shelby’s cleavage, immersing himself in her scent, while squeezing her breasts. But somehow he could not.Nathan forced himself to tear away his gaze from the perfection of Shelby’s left breast and look at her face, which was flushed, at her pink lips, of course bare of any lipstick or gloss, which was not permitted, and then at those ice blue eyes. She looked confused.”Is there anything wrong?” she whispered, which considering their behavior seemed appropriate even though no one was in the house. Her voice was a few registers huskier than usual “It’s all wrong,” Nathan said, not quite understanding the words that came out of his own mouth.Shelby jerked away from him, as if struck, and her breast pulled away from his cupped hand. She quickly hid it back inside her bra and buttoned her shirt, standing as if to flee.”Wait,” Nathan said, asking more than demanding. “Please.””What did you mean?” Shelby demanded, smoothing her clothing reflexively, returning to a more proper appearance.”Mean?” Nathan asked. “Mean about what?””How is everything wrong?”Nathan thought before speaking, because he knew that what he was about to say could change their relationship, for better or worse. He had always been a thoughtful boy, considerate and pious. He believed in Jesus as his personal savior, believed in what Pastor Stephens and his parents taught, believed that the Lord had blessed him and looked out for him. But recently he wondered why the Lord had placed Shelby, this luscious temptation, before him. Somehow he knew that this was a test, and it was a test that he was miserably failing in so many ways.While he thought, he looked at Shelby, who was waiting, but beginning to look impatient at his silence. Why, Nathan thought, would God create this perfect creature, smart and beautiful, who loved Jesus, and then make him think thoughts about her that were impure and improper? And why would these thoughts make him aroused, and make him want to do things that only married people should do.”I don’t know,” Nathan finally whispered. “Shelby, I just don’t know.”She looked at him and smiled, causing a warmth to spread from Nathan’s solar plexus through his whole body. If that was not something divine, then what was it? Nathan shook his pounding head.Shelby reached out and took his hand. “I don’t know either, I guess,” she said.Nathan thought about the past months, as their relationship developed. He remembered the shy, halting conversation that they had at the picnic, when he had poured Shelby a Diet Coke. How he felt that spark, that thing that was missing from his dates with Adrienne and Liz, and he thought that maybe she did too. Which scared him. He had just turned 18, and was beginning to think about college, and leaving town. His parents, of course, pushed for a Christian college, and Nathan was about 90% sure that they had made the right choice. He worried about the Godlessness of the other colleges he had investigated, with their d**g use, and drinking, their casual sex, and their liberal professors. He worried about being laughed at, marginalized, mocked for his beliefs. But what if he had found the girl for him, right there in town? How would that change things? And as the year went on, it got worse. When school started, they became friends, and Nathan was a bit scandalized by some of the things she said in class, while at the same time being intrigued. She even asked him out on their first date, and after that they were nearly inseparable. They talked for hours before ever touching. Holding hands had progressed to kissing. Kissing progressed to above the clothing rubbing, above the waist, and even that was on the fringes of acceptable behavior, but they had gone no further, until today. And then there was that breast. In his hand. But they weren’t married. In fact, they knew that they would be going to college in different states, hours away from each other, and they knew that time and distance tested relationships. Even though they had said they loved each other, and meant it, they were both smart enough to realize that things you say when you are in lust in high school don’t always carry on to college. They had danced around the future, knowing that they did not understand God’s will, and that they were in his hands. Like Shelby’s breast was in Nathan’s, and he didn’t know what to do or how to act.”It is wrong, right?” Nathan asked. He sort of believed that Shelby might not think it was wrong, considering that she had been the one to open her shirt, and didn’t stop his hand from reaching in to first touch the smoothness of her bra, and then the warm softness of her breast. And he saw the look on her face, her eyes closed, head tilted back, as he touched her. And he heard the soft purring sound that she made. But it was exactly this, the pleasures of the flesh, that Nathan had been told to guard against for as long as he could remember.Shelby looked at him. “I know that’s what they say, but is it really wrong?””We can’t. I can’t, at least right now. But you need to know that it isn’t you. You’re so beautiful. There’s a part of me that wants to throw you on this bed, rip off your clothing and worship your beauty, then make love to you.”Shelby started breathing harder as Nathan spoke, and Nathan felt her squeeze his hand harder. The mental picture of Shelby on his bed that Nathan created made his cock stiffen uncomfortably in his pants. With effort, he continued, “But that is not how I was brought up, not what I was taught.”Nathan saw Shelby’s body relax, and she said. “This is making me crazy. We need to figure out what to do. Maybe we need to speak with someone, because I’m having trouble reconciling how I feel with the words that are bouncing around my brain. I need to understand.””Not Pastor Stephens?” Nathan said.”God, no,” Shelby blasphemed. “Not him. I know what he will say, and even what Scripture he will quote.”Nathan nodded in agreement. She had been in town less than a year, but had heard Pastor Stephens enough times to know his views on premarital sex, or even premarital almost sex. “What about Pastor Cullum?” Nathan suggested.”I don’t really know him,” Shelby said.”I know he has only been here a few months,” Nathan said, “but he was over for dinner at our house a few weeks ago, and he seems like a good guy.”Shelby thought about it. “He is young, and not married,” she noted.”True,” Nathan replied.”O.K.,” Shelby replied. “Let’s see if he can explain this to us.”Nathan realized for the first time that Shelby intended to essentially ask Pastor Cullum for permission for them to fool around. Or that she would challenge him to explain why in a way that made sense to them. The thought horrified him, initially, but then he wondered if there was a chance that they might get his approval. Even the small chance of this happening made it worth the discomfort. He thought again of Shelby’s perfect breast and knew that he was powerless to resist her.”Fine,” Nathan responded. “Let’s go to his office after school tomorrow.””You won’t chicken out?” Shelby teased.”No. I promise.” Shelby took Nathan’s hand and placed it on her breast, above the shirt. “Swear?”Nathan felt the softness and knew that he wanted to do whatever was possible to be able to see it again. But he wasn’t sure he could. “Swear,” he whispered. Shelby leaned forward and briefly kissed him, and before he could react, she was heading out the door, saying, “Goodbye, see you in school tomorrow.”He waited until he heard the door slam and Shelby’s car engine start before stripping off his clothing and running into the shower. He knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t help it. As the hot water poured over him, and he jerked off, he tried to understand how the Lord could give man the ability to feel such pleasure, but then deny it to him. Being the good Christian boy that he was, he never, ever had surfed the Internet for porn, had never read a Playboy magazine. His fantasies about women were, previously, remarkably chaste, but now, he had seen an actual woman’s breast, and it was beautiful. Imagining the rest of Shelby’s body, naked and with him in the shower, Nathan came explosively, and felt guilty about how good it felt. He prayed for forgiveness and guidance as he cleaned the shower to make sure that his mother was unaware of his weakness.After Nathan dried off and put on clothing, he read his well worn copy of the Bible, looking for something, but finding nothing new to help him. At dinner, after they thanked the Lord for his bounty, Nathan’s father James asked him about school, and they had a discussion about his AP History class. They discussed Tommy’s day at school and then talked a bit about baseball, a passion which James had passed on to his sons. Which was the cue for Nathan’s mother Marcia to begin clearing the dishes. Nathan and Tommy jumped up to help, as expected, and James brought in the rest of the food. While they were scr****g the dishes into the sink, Marcia turned to Nathan and asked, “Was Shelby here yesterday when Tommy and I were at the park?”Nathan knew better than to lie because his mother would not have asked the question if she didn’t already know the answer. “Yes, Mom, she was.” He saw his mother’s eyes flash to meet his father’s.”I assume you were behaving,” Marcia said.Nathan was glad that he did not visibly blush, because he felt the warmth of embarrassment flood his face. “Of course, Mom,” Nathan lied.His father jumped in, “Son, we know how things are,” he began, looking again at his wife before continuing, “but you must respect your chastity, and Shelby’s.”Nathan nodded silently as his father continued, “I don’t think it is wise for you to be alone together unchaperoned.””Dad, we are both 18—” Nathan began.”All the more reason for you to be careful. You’re adults and responsible for your actions.” He flashed another look at Marcia, who nodded. “Not to mention, all of our reputations are at stake.”Nathan knew that they were both right and wrong, but he also knew that he had no easy way out, except to agree. “O.K., Dad, it won’t happen again,” he said.”Good,” James responded. “I think that you will find that to be the smartest and safest course.”Putting down his dish towel, Nathan left the kitchen to go to his room. As he walked, he wondered how much of his parents’ concern was really directed toward his well-being, and how much was concern about the neighbors’ gossip. Clearly, someone saw Shelby’s car in the driveway, or saw her leave the house, and blabbed about it to his mother, he thought. Nathan appreciated the security that his church community had provided him and his family over the years, but as he moved through his teens he began to understand the negative flip side to constantly being watched and judged.He opened his textbook and immersed himself in his homework, which distracted him at least until it was finished. Nathan then went online for a while, and then left his room to join his father in the living room to watch some baseball. Nathan was relieved that their conversation was limited to the game, and when it was over Nathan went back to his room and prepared for bed.Lying in bed, Nathan’s mind was racing. He knew that meeting with Pastor Cullum was likely to be a waste of time, but he knew that Shelby wanted to do it, and he had found it impossible to say no to her from the time she had asked if he would pour her a Diet Coke at the picnic last summer. Not that she had ever asked him to do anything he didn’t want to, although he wasn’t sure what he would do if she did. And he had lied to his parents, and also knew that it would be risky for her to come over again when the house was empty. His phone vibrated, and he reached over and saw that it was a text from Shelby. His heart raced just seeing her name on the screen.”We are going to have that meeting tomorrow, right?” she asked.Nathan typed back, “Yes. Although I’m not sure what good it will do.””Maybe,” she responded. “But worth a try.””I guess,” Nathan texted.”No chickening out?” Shelby challenged.”No. I’ll be there,” he responded.There was a pause, and Nathan considered what the meeting would be like. He assumed that their conversation was over, when the phone vibrated again. It was Shelby.”Some incentive,” she wrote, and there was an attachment. He downloaded the picture, and when it opened, it was that breast again. Its delicious curves. The dark, hard nipple. Nathan’s heart leapt in his chest.There was another text. “Erase that immediately.”Nathan erased the picture from the phone, but the image was seared into his brain. It took him a long time before he finally was able to sleep.Friday Morning, Harmony Christian Life AcademyPublic displays of affection were forbidden on the campus, so Nathan received his usual smile from Shelby when they passed in the hall on the way to their homerooms. Today, however, Nathan thought that he noticed a look in her eyes, a look that he sometimes saw when Shelby was in the middle of disputing something a teacher said. It was a look that often led to trouble. Nathan felt himself shiver, but whether it was with fear or anticipation, or some combination of both, he could not decipher.During lunch, Nathan and Shelby sat with their friends and chattered about the usual things, but when they were clearing their trays and were, briefly, alone, Shelby said, “Nathan, before we speak with Pastor Cullum, we should talk. Meet me in front of the school after the final bell.”This was a new concern for Nathan. Shelby’s unpredictability in his regimented world was one of the most powerful reasons that he was attracted to her. That, and her eyes, her wit and, increasingly importantly, that breast. He had absolutely no clue what her real motive was, and he felt like a leaf thrown into a rushing brook, hurtling along who knows where at the whim of a power much stronger than him. He had often thought that way about the power of the Lord over his life, and he hoped that there was some purpose to this all. He tried to figure out the possibilities. There was, of course, a slim chance that Pastor Cullum would give them some sort of permission to move further in their relationship, a result that Nathan would, of course, enjoy. He could do the opposite, and forbid them from seeing each other, and tell their parents, which probably was improper, since they both were, technically, adults, but would be consistent with the way their church operated. Or there was some sort of middle result, or results, but what they might be, he could not figure out. He decided to trust Shelby, and prayed, while he walked to class, that things would go smoothly. He assumed that praying to see Shelby naked was not appropriate. Although he had not specifically tried that yet, he did not expect that it would pass muster either with the church or the Lord.Somehow, the clocks in school seemed to move twice as slowly as usual, but eventually the final bell rang. Nathan ran to his locker, swapped out what he was carrying for what he needed for the weekend and went, as quickly as possible to the front of the school. Shelby was sitting on the low brick wall, her long, jean clad legs swinging slowly as she waited for him. She smiled as she saw Nathan approach and slid off the wall so that she was standing when he approached her. It was clear that they wanted to at least touch, but knew they could not.”Walk with me,” she said, and he fell in beside her as they walked down the stone path away from the school door, past the imposing metal cross on the lawn, and toward the road.Nathan was silent. This was Shelby’s walk, and he figured she would get to her point when she was ready. They were at the edge of the campus, heading toward the town, when Shelby led him to a rock outcropping and sat down. They could still be seen from the street, so they still needed to show propriety because anyone driving by could, and some probably would, tell their parents, or Pastor Stephens, if they deviated from the church’s rules.Nathan looked into Shelby’s eyes and wanted to kiss her, but knew he could not. Finally, she said, “You must want to know what is going on.”Nathan nodded. “You are being pretty mysterious, you know,” he replied, smiling.Shelby smiled back, and Nathan felt happy. “Before we go to see Cullum, I wanted you to know a few things about me. Things I probably should have told you before.” Nathan’s brow furrowed with concern, and Shelby continued, “Nothing bad, I think, but you should know this stuff. It’s about why I’m here.””O.K.,” Nathan said, “If you want to. You know you can tell me anything.”Shelby smiled again, and Nathan felt that brightness again in his chest, a feeling that he had to attribute to something holy.”So, you know that I grew up in the city.” Nathan nodded. He realized he was just supposed to listen. “My parents were good Christians. Are good Christians,” she corrected, “and they tried hard to instill in me all of the things they believed. And I did, I mean, I do, mostly, believe.”Shelby paused, as if trying to figure out exactly what to say next. “But I was in public school, with lots of nonbelievers. Some of my teachers were Jewish, some were atheists. Few of them were Christians, and of those that were, few were truly believers. And my schoolmates were the same. I was, when I was little, teased for being what I was. So, I decided to hide it, pretend not to care.” She paused again before continuing. “And when you pretend as long as I did, and when you are exposed to doubts and doubters, anyone with half a brain is going to question, and I did. My parents tried, but peer pressure is powerful. They worked during the day, and I wasn’t supervised. I started to drink, use some d**gs—nothing serious, just some pot—” Nathan’s eyes widened, “Really?””Yeah. Everyone was doing it. Which is no excuse, but yeah. So, anyway, I discovered boys. And I realized I liked them. I began to do things—””What—” Nathan interjected, but Shelby put her finger to his lips to quiet him, and he stopped.”It really isn’t any of your business,” she said sternly, but then her expression softened. “But more than we have done. Not much more, but more. And I thought that I was ready to, you know, go all the way. Everything felt so good, and my boyfriend was encouraging me, and I didn’t understand why not. So, one day after school, we were at my apartment, and we were naked and in my room, and we were a little high, and things were moving toward, you know, when my mother burst into the room. She had a headache and left work early, and she walked in on us.””Oh God,” Nathan blasphemed, losing his control, as he understood Shelby’s embarrassment, but also being more than a little aroused by the thought of Shelby’s nakedness.She chuckled. “It is funny now, the look on her face, seeing me naked, seeing David naked with a condom on, and seeing the joints we had smoked, but at the time, I was horrified.” She shook her head. “As you can imagine, there was a great deal of praying after that, and talks, with my parents and with our minister. And I realized that I was headed down a dangerous track. But I also realized that what we had done felt good, and I wondered why the church was so adamant that I shouldn’t do it, and even more.”Nathan’s cock was hard, and it embarrassed him. He shifted his weight to try to cover his state, and Shelby saw it and smiled at him, which didn’t help the situation. She looked at her phone and turned to Nathan, saying, “Time for our meeting.”Just thinking about having to discuss sex with Pastor Cullum deflated Nathan almost immediately and he stood up and walked with Shelby toward the church offices, in a white building separate from, but attached to the school. As they walked, Nathan wondered whether this was where all the good will he had built up over the years at the church and school over the years would be gone, and that he would be considered dangerous, the way people talked about Shelby behind her back. Who, he was still surprised to know, had used d**gs and been naked with a boy. And who had actually been taught by Jews and atheists. But he looked at her as he walked next to her and he couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.Nathan had been coming to that building his whole life, and could smell its mustiness in his mind even before he and Shelby opened the door and entered the waiting area.”Nice to see you again, Nathan, Shelby,” said the white haired woman sitting behind the desk. Nathan remembered when Mrs. Proctor had blonde hair, before her husband, Deacon Proctor, had passed away, and had a typewriter, rather than a computer on her desk. The pace of change at Harmony was slow, but it did happen. Nathan wasn’t sure whether it was going to change fast enough for Shelby, but as always, he was impressed and aroused by her willingness to push against the limits that had been set for them. “Nice to see you, too, Mrs. Proctor,” Nathan replied, smiling, and Shelby made some sort of agreeable noise that passed for a response. “We have an appointment with Pastor Cullum,” Nathan stated, trying to sound as if he stopped by every day with his girlfriend for a chat with a clergyman.”Yes, I see that on the calendar,” Mrs. Proctor responded. “I’m always happy to see our best young people meeting with the pastors. Everything is alright?” she asked, displaying the concern that came from having watched Nathan grow up. And, Nathan thought, maybe she assumed that Shelby, a known “troublemaker” had somehow caused him problems.”Everything is fine, Mrs. Proctor,” Nathan replied a little unsteadily, “we just have some things to discuss with him.” The church secretary smiled and Nathan felt that she had some inkling of what was going on.”Go on in, k**s,” she said, “he’s expecting you.”They walked down the hall past other rooms and offices until they came to Pastor Cullum’s, a relatively small room next to the much larger and more fearsome office that Pastor Stephens used. Nathan had gone years between visits to that place, but he knew that Shelby had been summoned there at least 5 times in the short time that she had lived in town.Shelby knocked on the door, and they heard Pastor Cullum say, “Come in.” She pushed open the door, and they could see his worn desk covered with papers, and two mismatched wood guest chairs. Nathan had never been to this office, which was, he believed, a storage closet before Pastor Cullum had joined their church. He was not surprised to see a large metal cross on the wall, but he was surprised to see a red electric guitar and amp, an acoustic guitar and a poster on the wall for a band that while not expressly forbidden to church members was certainly not a Christian band.”Do you like them?” Pastor Cullum asked.Nathan wondered if it was a trick, but figured that was unlikely. But he decided to hedge his bets with the new minister. “I’ve heard them, they’re pretty good,” he said.”I’m a big fan,” Pastor Cullum said, motioning to them to sit down, and they followed.”So, what did I do to get a couple of our school’s leading seniors to visit me on this beautiful day?” he asked, smiling. He was pretty young for a preacher, Nathan thought, and seemed friendly. Nathan looked at Shelby, and he saw that look in her blue eyes, and realized that things were about to get interesting.Shelby looked at him, then turned to face Pastor Cullum. “Um, Pastor Cullum,” she began unsteadily. Nathan was surprised that she seemed to be flustered a little. “Um,” she continued, “Nathan and I have been dating for a while now-“”About 9 months,” Nathan interjected. Hearing that number, Pastor Cullum’s head whipped to face him, then to Shelby’s trim midsection.Shelby noticed his look, and said, “No, no, no, it isn’t that, no.” The minister’s face relaxed. “But,” Shelby continued, “I guess you are on sort of the right track.” Pastor Cullum leaned forward, his chin on the top of a pyramid formed by his pale hands, listening. “What I want to ask you, is, I guess, what is wrong with sex?”Nathan almost fell off his chair at the directness of the question. The young minister tried to maintain his composure. He had, in his relatively short career, dealt with questions about love and sex, but never from someone so young, and so directly. Not to mention so attractive.Pastor Cullum took a deep breath, leaned back in his chair and started, “Nothing is wrong with sex, Shelby. I’m not going to quote Scripture to you—I know you have been hearing it forever and are smart young adults, so I’m going to speak to you that way. The truth is just that there is a time and a place for everything, and we believe that the time and place for sex is in a loving marriage.” Shelby thought for a few seconds. “So, Pastor Cullum,” she ventured a bit unsteadily, “if the marriage isn’t loving, then they shouldn’t have sex?”The young minister smiled. As he expected, based on her reputation, this one wasn’t going to swallow the party line so easily. “Of course, that would be an issue for the couple to work out themselves,” he replied.Nathan saw that Shelby’s face flashed a look of disapproval at that response, or what Nathan realized was a non-response. He waited for her to speak.”But what if a couple is in love, really in love, but aren’t married for some reason?””Then we believe it isn’t appropriate. We believe that Scripture requires that a couple be married and show each other the appropriate respect for their bodies, and that sex outside of marriage does not show that sort of respect.”Shelby weighed that comment before responding, “But sex, which was created by God, feels good, doesn’t it?”Nathan was again shocked that Shelby was willing to be so frank with a member of the clergy. It excited him, and scared him at the same time.Pastor Cullum replied, “Yes, it may feel good, but that is no excuse. Just because something feels good, doesn’t mean that we should do it without thinking of the consequences.”Nathan noticed Shelby smile. He expected her to simply ask “why not?” but instead, she said, “I realize that maybe this was a mistake,” she said, but not apologetically. She continued, “I mean, how can you give us advice about sex when you haven’t had sex? You haven’t, right?”Nathan’s mouth opened in shock. His girlfriend just asked Pastor Cullum if he had ever had sex. Then, he looked at the minister, and saw that his face was turning red. Nathan waited for the expected denial, but instead, Pastor Cullum played with a pen that was on his desk.”That is really none of your business, Shelby,” he finally responded in a voice that was no longer friendly.”So you have? And you aren’t married, right?” Shelby shot back, with a look of triumph on her beautiful face.”I think this meeting is over,” he finally whispered. “I will be discussing this with Pastor Stephens. You will not discuss this with anyone, understand?” he said, increasingly sternly, but his attempt to intimidate Nathan and Shelby seemed forced.Shelby stood and looked at the minister, smiling, “Thank you Pastor Cullum for helping to clear things up for me.” She looked at Nathan, “C’mon Nathan, let’s leave Pastor Cullum alone.”Nathan stood, looked at Pastor Cullum and realized he had nothing that he could say. He turned and followed Shelby out into the hallway.Shelby was bouncing with delight, while Nathan was horrified. They hurried down the hall, out the door, waving goodbye to Mrs. Proctor and out into the sunshine.”Let’s go,” Shelby said with glee and started running toward the school parking lot. Although he could have easily caught her, Nathan was satisfied to run behind her, and watch her long legs and cute butt. When they got to the lot, Shelby panted, “Get in my car.” Nathan opened the passenger door and climbed in. “Where are we going?” Nathan asked.”Did you understand what Pastor Cullum just basically admitted?” she asked, her eyes flashing with excitement. Nathan couldn’t help but notice that Shelby’s nipples were poking through her shirt, and he felt himself getting hard.”I’m not an idiot,” Nathan responded, shifting in the seat to accommodate his growing erection.”Then what?” Shelby pressed, as she drove.Nathan shook his head. “I’m pretty sure that you got him to admit that he has had premarital sex.”Shelby laughed. “Fucking right.”Nathan’s head spun to his left. He had never heard a woman in their community curse before, and again realized how far in above his head he was with Shelby. And yet, he was in what he certainly believed was love. And there was that breast, etched into his memory.”Do you understand what that means?” Shelby asked, as the car pulled into the parking lot of the town park.”I think so, but what are you getting at?” Nathan asked with some annoyance in his voice.They got out of the car and Shelby started walking into the park, past the playground filled at that hour with little k**s and their mothers, who sat on benches chatting. Nathan recognized some of the mothers from church, and they waved at him as he and Shelby walked further into the park. Finally, when they were away from the mothers, Shelby said, “Pastor Cullum has had sex, and not only isn’t he dead, but he is a minister. A minister who does one thing and says another—”Nathan interrupted, “we don’t know the story. Maybe he was like you—”Shelby’s head snapped to face Nathan, and she did not look happy. Nathan continued—”I mean, maybe, he wasn’t a Christian his whole life. Maybe he had sex when he was younger, and saw the error of his ways—”Shelby stopped walking and grabbed Nathan’s hand. “The error of his ways?” she mimicked. “Do you hear yourself spouting the doctrine that you’ve been fed your whole life?” She pressed his hand to her chest. “Does this feel like an error to you?” Leaning forward, she kissed Nathan on the lips, then pulled back. “Does that?”Nathan’s head was spinning. He realized that Shelby was right—he was simply parroting what he grew up hearing. He wanted to kiss her again, and do more, but was stuck between the two worlds, the world he knew and was comfortable in, and the world that was exciting and dangerous. Both felt good, and Nathan was aware that he was reaching a point where he had to decide which world he wanted to live in.He sat down on the grass and looked around. Shelby had led them to a fairly secluded area of the park. The odds on anyone seeing them there were slim, and he wondered whether it was just luck, or whether Shelby had scouted the location. Nathan understood what Shelby was doing. She had exposed one of their church’s ministers as a likely hypocrite. But that did not necessarily mean that what he said wasn’t true. Maybe sex was something that was really supposed to be for married people. But why, then, did he want it so badly?Turning to Shelby, Nathan asked, “Why?””Why what?” she replied.”Why are you doing all of this?””To show you, and to confirm to me, that all of this bull that they have been selling us about sex it just that.”Nathan paused, recognizing that he was about to risk everything with Shelby. “Shelby, you are beautiful, smart, amazing. I’m sure that if you wanted to have sex, you could find someone to oblige you without all of my hesitation.””Nathan, you’re an idiot,” Shelby responded, but without anger. Nathan waited for her to storm off, and he started to figure out how he was going to get back to his car. But she didn’t leave. She took his hand and said, “I’m doing this because if I’m going to have sex, I want to have it with you.”That warm feeling began to spread from Nathan’s chest again, this time making it quickly to his groin. Shelby continued. “One thing I do agree with Pastor Cullum about, and that is that sex should be between people who love each other, and I love you. I was close once, like I told you, but that wasn’t love, that was just lust and d**gs and what I thought I wanted. You’ve been the best friend I’ve ever had. You are nice, smart, funny, loyal and frankly, I appreciate your morals and the fact that you are struggling about this. And I trust you and respect you, and I know you respect me. I suspect that you are right, that most guys would simply take me up on my offer without a second thought. But you are different. So, if I’m going to lose my ‘precious virginity’ to anyone, I don’t want it to be some random guy. I want it to be you.” She leaned over and kissed Nathan, and they kissed passionately for a few minutes, and their hands strayed, but still above the clothing and above the waist.Nathan pulled away. “Wow,” he said, smiling. “You know I feel the same way that you do, but, I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’ve only known this church and its ways my whole life, I still don’t know. I understand what happened today, I really do, and your willingness to speak to him that way was one of the hottest things that I have ever seen, other than that cell phone picture that you sent me—””Which you erased—””Which I erased,” he said, reaching into his pocket and tossing Shelby his phone. Without turning it on, she tossed it back.”I said, I trusted you,” she said, softly.Nathan stood up and offered his hand to Shelby. She took his hand and stood up. Hand in hand, they started to walk back to the parking lot. “I need to think,” he said.”I know,” Shelby responded. “But I’m ready, and I’ll wait for you to let me know if and when you are ready.” They kissed quickly, and before they got in sight of the playground, they disengaged their hands and walked to Shelby’s car. When they got into the car, they held hands and listened to the radio, alone with their thoughts until they got back to school.Nathan got out of the car and said goodbye before getting into his own car and driving home. He pulled into the driveway and noticed that his father’s car was there, earlier than usual. He turned off the engine, walked to the front of the house and walked in.His parents were waiting for him, and they looked furious.”Nathan, what has that girl gotten you into?” Marcia asked.”What do you mean, mother?” Nathan responded.”Don’t play dumb with us,” James replied. “We spoke with Pastor Cullum tuzla escort this afternoon. And we know that you went to the park with that girl to do who knows what”Nathan was furious. He thought that what they discussed with Pastor Cullum was private. Not to mention the nosy mothers in the park. And, if anything, Nathan thought, it was Pastor Cullum who had something to be embarrassed about, not him. “What did he tell you?””That you came in with that girl and asked about sex.””That’s true. Aren’t we supposed to discuss questions of morality with our ministers?”Nathan’s parents looked at each other. His father responded, “Of course, but he told us that girl was rude and wanton.”Before Nathan could defend his girlfriend, his mother interjected, “He said that she was asking for permission to have sex, presumably with you.”Nathan shook his head in protest. “That is just not true. Shelby, and that is her name, you know, had questions about why the church is so hung up on sex, and wanted to understand why. She never asked for permission or anything like that. Did he tell you anything else about the conversation?””Don’t you think that is enough?” James replied.Nathan knew that it was going to be their word against Pastor Cullum’s, but he was angry that the minister had betrayed what Nathan thought was a confidential conversation. “Did he tell you that Shelby asked him whether he had ever had sex?”Shelby’s mother looked horrified, “That girl asked a minister that question? You cannot see her anymore.”Nathan ignored the prohibition for the time being and said, “And did Cullum tell you that he didn’t deny it?””So what?” James responded. “He doesn’t have to answer questions like that from k**s like you and that girl.””Her name is Shelby, we are not k**s, and you can’t stop me from seeing her.” As Nathan stormed away, and headed toward his room, he could hear his father yelling, “As long as you live under my roof……..”Nathan slammed the door, causing some of the books and trophies in his room to shake, and threw himself on the bed. What the heck was going on, he thought to himself. Before yesterday, he was a respected member of the senior class and of the church. He had a beautiful girlfriend, and although they were making out, they were pretty much behaving within the rules. Then, yesterday, there was the breast. And the picture of the breast. And today, his girlfriend asked direct questions about sex to a minister and basically got him to admit that he had premarital sex. And his girlfriend offered herself to him, and he hesitated. Then his parents yelled at him, took Cullum’s side against him and Shelby and don’t want him to see her anymore.He didn’t know which way to turn. He couldn’t talk to his parents. The church was clearly not going to help. He couldn’t call any of his friends, because they would be scandalized. He had only one person to turn to, so he turned on his phone and called Shelby.”Hey,” she said, and Nathan felt his heart beat faster just hearing her voice. “Are you getting it bad?””Yeah,” Nathan responded. “I can’t believe that Cullum called them. And that they are taking his side against us.””Why are you surprised? You always tell me how you feel like everyone in the church is constantly watching and trying to control you.””I know, but I thought that, as actual adult members of the congregation, a minister isn’t supposed to disclose—””We—I—embarrassed him, and he needed to put the blame on us—mostly me, because I’m the new girl, the bad girl, corrupting one of the good boys. And they don’t see us as adults, even though we technically are.”Nathan was quiet for a second. “You know I don’t think that you are corrupting me,” he said.”I know.””They don’t want me to see you anymore,” Nathan said.”I figured as much.””I’m not going to let that happen.””Good, I couldn’t take that. But don’t do anything with your parents that you can’t fix.”Nathan realized that Shelby’s advice was prudent, but he refused to not see her. Then he realized that he had been thinking only of himself. “What did your parents say?””They are angry, too. Mostly, they are concerned that we are still new here, and don’t want to be looked on as bad people or bad parents. And they are worried that I’m going down the same dangerous road as I did in the city.””And?” Nathan asked.”I told them everything, about my concerns, your concerns and why we went to see Cullum. And that I was still a virgin, and that you were more than a gentleman. I think that satisfied them. They asked me to apologize to Cullum, and I might, just to calm things down, but they aren’t going to try to keep us apart. In fact, they said that one of the reasons that they moved here was so that I would meet more boys like you.”Nathan felt his face warm. “I’m no saint,” he said, “and if they could see what I thought—“”Don’t go there,” Shelby laughed. “Let them think that you are the perfect Christian boy. And, you still are,” she chuckled.”Not if you have any say in the matter, you evil, wanton woman,” Nathan joked.”You have no idea,” Shelby responded, laughing. There was a long pause as they both sorted through some mental imagery.”Look, Nathan, we can get through this.””I know.””I love you.””I love you, too.There was a pause before Shelby spoke again. “I think it might be smart for us not to see each other tomorrow. But I will see you at church on Sunday.”Nathan realized that it would probably be a good idea. He had a ton of chores to do on Saturday, anyway, and some homework, and it would give him a chance to maybe speak with his parents, once they had calmed down. “Agreed,” he said. “See you at church.” Shelby disconnected the call, and Nathan lay on his bed, thinking.BSunday Morning, Nathan’s houseNathan woke and heard his parents moving around downstairs. The smell of the traditional Sunday bacon tickled his nose. It did nothing to alleviate the pit in his stomach. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he dreaded going to church. When he was a k**, of course, he didn’t like having to sit still and wear nice clothing, but afterwards, he got to run around with his friends and eat cookies. As he got older, he enjoyed the ritual, the readings, and the sermons, which reinforced his beliefs. And even into his teenage years, when some doubts crept into his mind, he was comforted by the familiarity of everything—the services, the sermons and the members of his community.And, of course, for the past few months, he knew that he would see Shelby, dressed up and looking beautiful. His Shelby. Who loved him.But today, he knew that there would be tension. He knew that the gossips in the group would have already passed the word around about the meeting with Pastor Cullum. And that no one would have heard any of their side. He knew that there would be whispering, and continued denigration of Shelby. And he knew that his parents would be watching him like hawks to prevent him from spending any time with her. Even if it would be impossible for them to keep them apart, because of school and the fact that they were not home during the weekdays, they could certainly make things difficult.But he had no choice. Nathan got out of bed, went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth and ran a brush through his short, sandy hair, and went down to breakfast.Although his parents tried to pretend it was a Sunday like every other Sunday of his life, everybody, other than Tommy, realized that it was different, and they soon ate in silence. Nathan cleared his plate, rinsed it in the sink and put it, and his coffee cup, into the dishwasher, and silently went to his room to shave and change for church.The ride over was quiet, punctuated by Tommy’s c***dish babble, and his mother’s attempt to engage the young boy in what he would be hearing at the service. Nathan leaned his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes, visualizing first Shelby’s face, and then her breast. But he realized that was dangerous, and he tried to focus on Scripture, to take his mind off of Shelby, but it didn’t work.His father pulled into the crowded parking lot, and they got out of the car, greeting their friends, as usual. Nathan’s head swiveled around, looking for Shelby, and his heart leapt when he though he saw her near the church door, only to realize that it was Marcy Johnston, a junior who looked a little like Shelby from a distance. They approached the church entrance, when Nathan felt compelled to turn his head, looking back to the lot, and he saw Shelby getting out of her parents’ car, looking beautiful in a patterned dress that was more appropriate for church than her usual outfits.He knew that his parents would freak out if he waited to see Shelby, so rather than cause a scene, he followed them into the church. Nathan was not sure if he was imagining it, but he was pretty sure that people were subtly pointing toward him and speaking while using their programs to block their mouths. He began to feel pressure behind his eyes, anger welling up inside him about the pettiness and nosiness of his fellow churchgoers. Nathan wondered what Jesus would tell them about minding their own business and not judging their neighbors. He wondered how many of the whisperers could pass the John 8:7 test, since he figured none of them was without sin. And his sin, and Shelby’s, to the extent they even had sinned, was trivial.Nathan took a seat with his family, and not, as had become his custom, with Shelby and some of their schoolmates, and glanced at the program. His eyes went immediately to the text for the sermon: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).Seriously? Nathan thought to himself. This could not be a coincidence. Pastor Stephens pulled out his old standard anti-sex sermon to shame him and Shelby in front of the entire community. Nathan turned and saw that Shelby’s family was sitting toward the rear of the church. He saw her reading the program, then look up, her face turning red. She caught his eyes and they quickly looked at each other before Nathan turned around.Pastor Stephens was sitting in his big chair, on the stage, with Pastor Cullum and Mr. Stanton, the deacon. Nathan thought that Pastor Cullum’s eyes narrowed when he looked at him, and he hoped that it was his imagination.The choir began to sing, and the service began. It was a blur to Nathan, who went through the rote motions, but paid no attention to any of it until Pastor Stephens stood to deliver the sermon. He wondered how bad it would be, and whether the old minister would actually single Shelby and him out for shaming.Pastor Stephens stood before the lectern and waited for silence. Everyone in the congregation who had heard about Nathan and Shelby’s meeting with Pastor Cullum, and that was likely almost everyone, understood the meaning of the text chosen, and waited to see what would happen. When the crowd was silent, and he had waited long enough to create dramatic tension, the tall, slim, white haired minister began to speak in his booming baritone, with its hint of his birth in the deep South.”We all know, or at least we all should know,” he began, looking first at Nathan, then at Shelby, “that the Lord commanded us against the sin of adultery. We know, or at least we all should know, that marriage is a sacred bond between one woman, and one man, joined in the presence of the Lord, and that certain things are permitted of married couples that are strictly forbidden to unmarried people.” He looked again at Shelby, and then at Nathan, who sunk down in his seat, trying unsuccessfully to hide his 6 foot tall body.The sermon went on from there, with Pastor Stephens dragging out most of the usual war horses, the passage from Hebrews that was the inspiration for the sermon, Matthew 19:4-5, Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 6:16 against prostitutes, which Nathan didn’t think was all that relevant to the discussion, the other passages in 1 Corinthians about marriage, and all the other verses that had been pounded into Nathan’s head since before he even knew what sex was.Nathan felt the eyes of his fellow church goers on him the entire time, and it was not a pleasant feeling. Meanwhile, Pastor Cullum sat on stage, looking smug, even though he was a bigger sinner than either he or Shelby ever was. The anger continued to build inside Nathan as Pastor Stephens sonorously inveighed against that which Nathan knew in his heart was not a sin—showing his love to Shelby.And then, it was over. Nathan had never been happier to hear the word “Amen” in his life. He breathed out and looked back at Shelby. She and her parents were gone.The service ended, and Nathan ran out of the church without engaging in any pleasantries, but when he got outside, he saw that Shelby’s parents’ car was gone. He called her cell, but it went to voicemail, and he didn’t leave a message. The rest of the crowd was gathering for the traditional punch and cookies on the lawn, but Nathan wanted nothing more than to be able to leave. He texted Shelby, but she did not respond.Nathan stood apart from the crowd, watching them happily chatting away, drinking punch and eating cookies. He saw the little k**s running around and through the crowd, and the groups of teenagers flirting and teasing each other. He saw his classmates studiously avoiding him while stealing furtive glances his way. He thought back to his younger days, and how much fun he had after church. And now, it was awful.Then, Nathan reminded himself that he actually hadn’t done anything wrong. And really, neither had Shelby. But he was being treated like a sinner, an immoral person, and Shelby was being humiliated as if she was a whore. Without doing anything more than asking questions. Yes, there was that breast, in his hand, but it was an aberration, and it went no further. Nathan started to laugh, slowly at first, then louder, as the tension inside him bubbled to the surface. He was laughing so hard that he didn’t notice Pastor Cullum step in front of him.”What’s so funny?” the young minister asked him, a cruel edge in his voice.”Nothing,” Nathan replied.”I hope you learned something today,” Pastor Cullum replied, and it was clear that he was not just talking about the Scripture lesson.”I’m not saying anything to you, Pastor Cullum, since it is clear that nothing that we discuss can be considered confidential.”The minister looked hard at Nathan. “I see that your whore of a girlfriend’s lack of discretion is rubbing off on you. I expected more from you. I expect that you will show more care in the future, or there will be consequences.”It took all of Nathan’s self-control not to take a swing at the smaller man, and Pastor Cullum knew that he was in no physical danger. He looked back at Nathan and said, “I admitted nothing, and anyway, no one will believe anything that you or that slut say. I’ve made sure of that.” He strode away, toward a group of older women, who fawned over him.Nathan’s phone went off, and he pulled it out of his pocket. It was a text from Shelby. “Better for you to stay away from me, I think.”Nathan furiously texted back, “Never. I will call you later. Please take my call. ILY.” He stared at his phone, as if his gaze could make Shelby’s response come faster.Finally, the phone went off. “O.K. Tonight. ILY2″Putting the phone back in his pocket, Nathan looked around and was relieved to see his parents and Tommy headed toward him. They did not, however, look happy.”Well, that was humiliating,” his mother said in a low voice.Nathan looked at his father, but James’ face was stony. Nathan realized that nothing he could say would make things better, so he stayed quiet as they walked to the car, Tommy skipping ahead of them, oblivious. The ride home was silent, and when they arrived home, Nathan went straight to his room, changed, and started working on his homework. He hid in his room for the rest of the day, coming out only for a hushed dinner, which he ate quickly and joylessly, before withdrawing back to his room.Finally, he felt that it was time to call Shelby. Nathan was worried that she would ignore his call, but she picked up.”Hi,” she said, and Nathan felt happy just hearing her voice.”How are you doing?” Nathan responded.”O.K., I guess. My parents are still being pretty cool about the whole thing, but they are being ostracized by the other parents and I can tell it is uncomfortable. I can’t believe that this is enough to set everybody off. What’s next? Flaming torches?”Nathan laughed. “My parents are furious. They have been pillars of this community for a long time, and now they feel ashamed.””Sorry.””You have nothing to be sorry about. You asked honest moral questions to a minister, which is exactly what they have told us to do our whole life here. And now, we are being punished because that asshole, excuse me, because Cullum told everyone to protect himself.””I know, that guy is creepy,” she said.”He basically tried to intimidate me after church today.” Nathan chose not to tell Shelby exactly what Pastor Cullum had said about her.”That asshole.”Once again, Nathan was both surprised and a little excited by her use of language that was forbidden. “I know that my parents are going to try to stop me from seeing you.””I can’t believe the way everyone is reacting. I should have just walked naked into church. It couldn’t be worse.”Nathan imagined that happening, and got aroused. “You’re right. This whole thing is nuts.””I want us to be together, now more than ever,” Shelby said, in a low, husky voice.Nathan paused. His body continued to crave Shelby, but he still wasn’t fully ready to give up everything he had believed his whole life. However, the hypocrisy and behavior of Pastor Cullum and the overreaction of pretty much everyone else was making him think. “Don’t worry,” he replied. “We are 18, and they can’t stop us, if we want to be together.””I love you, Nathan.””I love you too.””See you in school tomorrow.””Of course. Good night.”Shelby responded, “Good night,” and disconnected the call.Nathan brushed his teeth and prepared for bed. He was getting ready to get into bed, when there was a knock on his door. His parents came in, looking serious.”We need to talk,” his father said.”I have nothing more to say,” Nathan replied.”Nathan, I am still your father, and you will show me respect.””Yessir,” Nathan replied without much commitment.”Today was truly one of the worst days that your mother and I have ever experienced.””I’m sorry,” Nathan responded.”Nothing like this ever happened before you started seeing that girl.””Dad, her name is Shelby, and if you want to talk about her, please use her name.””Fine. Your mother and I don’t think that you should be spending time with her. Shelby,” he continued, emphasizing her name with a sneer in his voice, “is a disrespectful and dangerous girl.”Nathan felt anger welling up inside, and it took all of his power to control it. “Mom, Dad, I love Shelby. She is amazing. She makes me think and she makes me happy. I’m not going to stop seeing her because Pastor Cullum is trying to make her look bad to protect himself.””You said that before. What do you mean?””I told you. Shelby asked why we should take advice about sex from someone who never had it, and it was clear that he had, even though he has never been married. And when she asked him directly, he refused to answer and threw us out. Now, he wants to make us look bad so no one will believe us.””That is ridiculous,” Nathan’s mother stated. “He didn’t respond to …. Shelby,” Marcia spat out her name like a curse, “because you have no right to ask those questions to a man of God.””Mom, whether or not you believe me, it is clear that he is a hypocrite and sinner. And whether or not you believe me, Shelby and I haven’t done anything wrong.”James looked at his son and said, “Nathan, you are not to see Shelby, and that’s that.””You can’t stop me,” Nathan yelled. “You’re being an ass.”Marcia gasped at the word and James raised his right arm as if to strike his son, and Nathan grabbed James’ wrist. Although James was in good shape, Nathan was stronger, and he prevented the blow. They struggled briefly, before James withdrew his arm, and he and Marcia turned and walked toward the door. James turned and rubbed his elbow, saying, “This is far from over, Nathan. Far from over.” They left the room.Nathan was breathing hard. His father had not struck him in years, and then it had been only standard spankings. And Nathan had never, ever, raised his hand to his father. Or used that kind of language in front of his parents, much less at them. He got into bed and under the covers, but his mind was racing.He lay in bed, awake, for hours, thinking, until he realized that he needed to be ready to leave home, if his parents really tried to keep him away from Shelby, or even threw him out. He looked at the clock, surprised to see that it was 3 a.m. Nathan got out of bed, and quietly packed some clothing in his backpack. He took all of the cash that he had saved from birthdays, Christmas and the occasional odd job and stored in one of his extra Bibles, and put it in his wallet. He realized that he might have to find a job, and needed his birth certificate.Nathan quietly opened his door and listened. The house was silent and dark. Wearing his pajamas and socks, he padded down the hall, down the steps and into his parents’ office. Closing the door behind him, he turned on the lamp to the lowest setting. He saw the smiling family pictures, and could not believe that the events of the past couple of days had turned his parents against him. Somewhere, he knew, there was a file of important papers, and he opened the filing cabinet, and pawed past tax returns and insurance papers until he found a folder marked “Important Papers.”He opened the folder, and saw Tommy’s birth certificate. Passing that, he saw his parents’ wedding certificate, from the church, signed by Pastor Stephens. He was about to leaf past that, when he noticed a mistake. The certificate said that their wedding date was November 24, when he knew that they were actually married on August 24. That was strange, he thought, but figured it was no big deal, and moved on. The next document was the marriage license from the state, issued on November 23. Something was wrong, but Nathan wasn’t sure what.He leafed past the marriage license, and found his birth certificate, which was properly dated June 30. All of a sudden, it struck him, and he dropped the folder on the floor. Scrambling to pick it up, he confirmed the math. If his parents were actually married on November 24, he was born 7 months after that. No one had ever said that he was premature, and his parents always celebrated their anniversary in August.Nathan began to shake. Everything his parents had told him was a lie. They were only a few years older than he was now, and his mother must have gotten pregnant before they were married. And they lied about their anniversary to cover it up. And they pretended to believe that premarital sex was wrong. And Pastor Stephens, and probably other people in the church knew, and said nothing, letting this sin go unpunished, and sinned themselves by lying. After the events of the past few days, Nathan seriously wondered if there was anyone in the church who wasn’t a sinner.He sat in the desk chair, holding the folder, and shaking. Tears began to pour down his cheeks. He felt empty inside, as if everything he knew had been torn out and left with nothing. Eventually, he calmed down, took his birth certificate and replaced the folder in the file cabinet. Turning off the light, he padded back to his room, put the paper into his backpack and got back into bed.Nathan lay in the dark, thinking and feeling both free, but hollow, like a helium balloon floating on a swirling breeze. Although he never fell fully asleep, he was jarred from his half consciousness by the alarm.Monday MorningIt was an effort for Nathan to get out of bed, but he knew that he needed to go through the motions, as if nothing had changed, even though everything had. On autopilot, he prepared for school, ate breakfast, made uncomfortable small talk with his parents, grabbed his heavier than usual backpack and headed to school.He waited outside the building for Shelby, who was, as usual, cutting her arrival close. When she arrived, Nathan’s spirits rose as he watched her graceful and beautiful form approach. He barely noticed the attention that was directed towards them by the other students, teachers and administrators as Shelby approached. It was as if they were waiting for something to happen, some further breach of order, but they were disappointed.”We need to talk,” Nathan said, as Shelby neared and he could smell the fresh scent of her shampoo.”Lunch?” Shelby asked, as they walked into the school, next to each other but not touching, followed by the rest of the crowd.”Yes, O.K.” Nathan said, looking into the icy blue eyes of his girlfriend and trying to send her his love, telepathically.Shelby could see in Nathan’s eyes that something had happened, and that Nathan was in pain. She knew that she would not be able to concentrate in class.Nathan struggled through his morning classes until it was, finally, time for lunch. He hurried to the cafeteria and sat at a quiet table in the corner, away from his friends. A few minutes later, Shelby sat down next to him, and he noticed that their schoolmates were watching them, probably hoping for some publicly scandalous behavior.Shelby turned to face him, and Nathan could see the anticipation on her pretty face. She opened her eyes, questioning him silently.In a low voice, Nathan said, “You’ve been right all along. All of this,” he gestured around the room, “is bull. Today, after school, it’s time. Let me show you how much I love you.”Shelby was surprised and didn’t answer immediately. “Are you absolutely sure?”I’ve never been more sure.””What happened?””I’ll tell you after school. I love you,” he whispered. His chest was pounding from a combination of fear, love, anger and lust.”I love you too,” Shelby whispered back. The quietly ate their lunches, not wanting to give the gossipmongers any more ammunition, occasionally glancing at each other and smiling.If Nathan thought it was difficult to concentrate before lunch, it was worse after lunch. When Mrs. Albert called on him in English class, and he had no idea what she had asked, the teacher said, “Well, Nathan, I hear you have been a little distracted lately,” in a tone that expressed her disdain. Nathan could do nothing but grunt in response and pretend to read his notes.Finally, though, the last bell rang, and Nathan hurried to his locker, grabbed his books and backpack and went to the parking lot. Soon, Shelby arrived, and he said, “Let’s go in my car.”Shelby, unaccustomed to Nathan taking charge, got into the passenger seat of the car. He started the engine and backed out. Shelby knew that it was time for her to wait for Nathan to start talking, and eventually he did.”So, yesterday, my parents started in on me again, about how I couldn’t see you anymore, and my father almost hit me.”Shelby gasped, but said nothing as Nathan continued.”I stopped him, but it was terrible.” Nathan’s voice weakened as he spoke. “I lay in bed, thinking, and realized that they would try to keep us apart, and I needed to be ready, in case—you know—in case they threw me out.”Shelby felt Nathan’s pain. She knew how hard it was to fight with your parents. She reached over and placed her hand on his thigh to comfort him.Her touch was like an electric shock through Nathan’s body, and he felt stronger and continued. “So, at 3 AM, I snuck downstairs to get my birth certificate, and found my parents’ marriage certificate.” He paused, and continued with a catch in his voice. “Shelby, they lied.””About what?””About when they were married. They have lied about their anniversary because,” he paused again, and sobbed. Shelby squeezed his leg and looked at him, tears flowing down her smooth cheeks.”Why?””Because my mother must have been pregnant when they got married,” Nathan finally blurted out. Nathan was sobbing, and pulled the car to the side of the road.Shelby leaned toward him and took Nathan into her arms, holding him while they cried. The hug turned into a kiss, which became increasingly passionate, but before it went further, Nathan pulled away. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and sniffled, trying to pull himself together. He looked at Shelby, tears staining her face, lips slightly reddened from their kiss, and thought that she had never looked more beautiful.Nathan started the car, pulled into traffic and started driving. Shelby turned to him and said, “Should we stop at the d**g store?”Why?” Nathan asked.”You know, protection…condoms,” Shelby responded.”Yeah—um, sure,” Nathan replied.”You do know about condoms?” Shelby asked, softly.”Sort of. I mean, they don’t talk about them at school, but I have read some stuff on line.”Shelby shook her head. She should have realized that the church school taught abstinence only. She had tuned out when they had discussed it, but she realized that it was the only thing that Nathan knew.They drove to the CVS, walked in to the d**g store and found the condom section. Nathan was overwhelmed by the number of options, and he and Shelby stood in front of the display, staring, until Nathan randomly reached out and grabbed a package. “This one O.K.?” he asked.”I guess so, I really don’t know,” Shelby replied.They held hands as they walked to the cash register, and Nathan paid.As they walked to the car, Shelby said, “You’re not worried that someone will see us?””Fuck them all,” Nathan spat out. Shelby’s head snapped toward him at the uncharacteristic profanity, but she realized that he was emotionally in a strange place. She wanted to comfort him, and expected that she would soon be able to do so.In nervous silence, they drove to Nathan’s house and went inside. The house was empty, and as if in slow motion, they walked upstairs and into Nathan’s room.Shelby looked around and saw Nathan’s trophies and certificates, pictures and books. The clothing on the floor and the furniture. She saw his bibles, including the well-worn one on the bedside table. Then, she looked at Nathan, who was devouring her with his eyes. She stepped forward and tilted her head slightly up, offering her lips. Nathan pressed his against hers, and they kissed, tongues darting. Nathan pulled Shelby close, and they stood at the foot of Nathan’s bed, kissing and holding on to each other.Nathan could feel Shelby’s firm breasts pressing against his chest, and his hard cock pressing against her body. He felt, for the first time in days, that things were right. He was doing something that was good and pure, and nothing that any of the sinners and hypocrites at Harmony Church could say would convince him otherwise.He reluctantly came up for air, and looked at Shelby, her blue eyes fiery with passion. Nathan reached up and began to unbutton her blue shirt, exposing the smooth pale skin of her neck and upper chest, the white sheerness of her bra and her flat, taut stomach covered by fine, downy hair. Shelby took off the shirt and tossed it aside. Nathan stared at her, overcome by her beauty, and reached behind Shelby, fumbling with the clasp on her bra before figuring out its mysteries. He gently pulled it off, exposing both perfect breasts, the left one that had been seared into his memory and had, to a great extent, started things on their present course, and its equally beautiful twin.Nathan’s knees buckled and he sat on the bed and Shelby stepped toward him, allowing him to bury his face in her cleavage. He could feel her trembling like he was with excitement as he began to kiss her breasts, starting at their intersection, and moving outward toward the nipples, which were hard and tasted delicious. Shelby’s head dropped back, and she moaned with pleasure as Nathan’s hungry mouth and tongue explored her chest.She regained her composure and reached forward, tugging at the collar of Nathan’s shirt, and he took the hint, standing up and removing his shirt, exposing his well-developed torso, his tiny nipples and sparse, curly blonde hair. He pulled Shelby toward him, and felt her warmth against his, and the warmth inside his body grew. He felt the pounding of his engorged cock as it strained against his jeans, crying for release.Shelby stepped back and began to unbuckle her belt, and Nathan followed her lead. Soon, they were standing before each other wearing only their underwear, Shelby’s white cotton panties staining dark with moisture, and Nathan’s blue boxers, tented out, barely containing his twitching member, damp from his leaking pre-cum. Shelby looked at Nathan and saw only the love in his eyes.”Are you absolutely sure?””I’ve never been surer of anything. Ever.”Shelby pulled down her panties, exposing her dark pubic triangle, and Nathan was surprised that his cock didn’t tear through the thin fabric encasing it. He lowered his boxers and stood, facing Shelby. He moved toward her, and they hugged, naked, feeling each other’s heat. Holding hands, they turned toward Nathan’s bed, and he pulled the blankets back, exposing the sheets. They crawled into the bed and lay there, holding each other, kissing and using their hands to explore each other completely for the first time.Nathan had never seen a naked woman before, not even a picture of one outside of the sketchy line drawing in his biology text, and that was, clearly, not an accurate depiction. He had never seen anything more beautiful than Shelby, and it reaffirmed his belief that the Lord would never have created something so amazing and made her available to him if He did not want Nathan to fully appreciate His creation.He was fascinated by the smoothness and softness of her body, and rubbed it all over, causing Shelby to purr with pleasure, but never more vigorously than when Nathan explored her pussy, feeling its slickness, and occasionally, at first by accident, brushing against her sensitive clit.They were panting with desire when Shelby stood up, found the CVS bag, tore open the package of condoms and ripped open a square packet. Nathan could not tear his eyes off of her naked body, and almost came as she rolled the condom onto his throbbing cock. She got back into the bed and rolled onto her back, spreading her legs. “Now, Nathan, make love to me.”Nathan rolled on top of her and tried to find her opening, but could not. Shelby sensed Nathan’s frustration and reached down and guided the latex-covered tip where it was destined to go. Nathan could feel the warmth as he slowly inched his way inside of Shelby, feeling the heat of her against his rock hard cock. He pressed all the way in, as far as he could go, and Shelby wrapped her long legs around him.It felt incredible, better than Nathan had even imagined. Again, he knew that this was right, and human instinct took over as he slowly withdrew, and began to pump in and out of Shelby, who grunted and moaned, sighing with pleasure. Nathan felt pressure building, and he sped up, until he was thrashing uncontrollably against Shelby, whose hips rose to meet his thrusts, until he could hold out no longer, unleashing his cum in spurts into the condom and collapsing his full weight onto Shelby. He lay there, panting, smiling, heart pounding, his head on Shelby’s heaving chest.”Sweetie, you need to get the condom off, so it doesn’t slip off inside me,” Shelby said softly, and Nathan rolled off of her. “It is something I remember from sex ed from my old school,” she continued. He took off the full condom, tied it off and looked around for a place to put it before leaving it on his night table.Nathan grinned at Shelby, who smiled back. Even sweating, and with her brown hair a twisted mess, she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.”Was that O.K.?” Nathan asked softly. “I really have no idea what to do.”Shelby reached up and pulled him to her, and her kiss gave him her answer. The kiss led to more kissing, and more stroking, and soon Nathan felt himself getting hard again. Shelby reached down and stroked his cock until it was again hard and throbbing. This time, Nathan stood up and got his own condom, rolled it on and found Shelby’s welcoming pussy.This time, he moved slower and with less urgency, and soon Shelby’s hips were writhing and she was ataşehir escort breathing harder and harder. Nathan increased his pace, and Shelby met him. The look of pleasure on Shelby’s face made Nathan happy and proud, but nothing made him happier than when Shelby’s legs stiffened and she screamed out “OH FUCK,” at the top of her lungs before collapsing on the bed, laughing.Nathan was pretty sure that Shelby had just had an orgasm, and it made him want more, so he began to pump harder into her, and she moaned and yelled out as he reached his own second release. Spent, Nathan rolled off of Shelby, and she curled into his arms, and they lay there quietly, listening to each other breathe.But Nathan’s parents were coming home soon, so they had to get out of bed, straighten up, clean up, get dressed and flush the condoms. Nathan drove Shelby back to the school to get her car, and they held hands in the car.”Any regrets?” Shelby asked.”Only that we couldn’t spend more time together.””It was perfect,” she said. “I’m so glad I waited for you.””I’m glad you did, too, and that we didn’t wait any longer.”Shelby smiled. “And we haven’t been struck down,” she said, laughing.”Not yet,” Nathan responded, with a straight face, but he could not hold it, and began to laugh.Shelby squeezed Nathan’s hand before she got out of her car, but they did not risk a kiss on school property. He watched her get into her car, waited for it to start before he drove home, smiling. All of the doubts and anxiety of the past few days were gone.He went into his house and showered, looking at himself and realizing that he looked no different now that he wasn’t a virgin. He also knew that he could no longer believe what his parents and church said they believed. In fact, he had no idea what he really believed anymore, except that he loved Shelby.After the shower, Nathan was starving, so he made a snack and started working on his homework at the dining room table, occasionally losing focus as he thought about Shelby’s beautiful breasts, or her legs, or the incredible warmth between her legs and the way that she felt while they made love.Then, his parents came storming through the door, having picked Tommy up at his afterschool program. They glared at Nathan, and Marcia hustled Tommy upstairs.His father stood above him, and Nathan stood up, looking slightly down at his father.”You went through with it, didn’t you?” James hissed.”What are you talking about?””Don’t play dumb with me, Nathan. I know that you and that whore went to CVS and bought condoms today.”Nathan realized that it was likely that someone saw them, but he didn’t care. But calling Shelby a whore was over the line. “If Shelby is a whore, what does that make mom,” Nathan barked.James slapped Nathan across the face, hard, and he stumbled back a step. “How dare you speak about your mother that way.”Holding his cheek, Nathan shouted, “Dad, I know.”James looked at his son, standing before him with a red handprint showing on his cheek. “You know what?” he said, unsurely.”Don’t play dumb with me, Dad,” Nathan mocked. “I know that you lied about when you and mom got married. And I have a pretty good idea why.”James appeared to deflate in front of Nathan. “How—””I saw your marriage certificate.””You don’t know what you are talking about,” James retorted.”Then explain.”At that point, Marcia had entered the room. “Explain what?” she asked. “You are the one that has explaining to do.””He saw our marriage certificate. He knows.”Marcia began to sob. “We made a mistake.””I was a mistake?” Nathan spat out. “Thanks.””No, no, no,” his mother said. “We were young, and we should never have had sex, but we did, and my parents threw me out of the house. Your father and I came to Pastor Stephens, and he was kind. We agreed to get married right away, and agreed on the little white lie to protect our reputation.” She took a deep breath. “You are not a mistake, you, and your brother, are the greatest blessings the Lord has given me, and I want to protect you.””From what?””From the world, from pain and trouble.””The only pain I have felt recently is from you, and dad, and Pastor Cullum. All of your lies and cruelty. And the only happiness I have felt is with Shelby. So stop protecting me, already.”Marcia sat down on the couch, crying, and James went to comfort her. Nathan stood awkwardly, gently rubbing his burning cheek, waiting to see what would happen next.The phone rang, but nobody moved to get it. The Caller ID said, in its robotic voice, “Harmony Church,””What could that be?” James asked, and walked to the ringing phone. He picked up the receiver. “Hello,” he said. “Yes.” “Of course.” Yes. 8 o’clock. We’ll be there.” He hung up the phone.”What was that all about?” Marcia asked.”Pastor Stephens. He wants to see the three of us, tomorrow morning.””I’m not going,” Nathan said.”He is the leader of our church, and you will go,” James demanded.”Please, Nathan,” his mother pleaded.”Fine,” Nathan replied. “I’ll go, but I’m not going to sit there and be lectured to by you hypocrites, or stand for anybody insulting the girl I love.” Nathan turned and went upstairs, slamming the door to his room.He pulled out his phone and texted Shelby, “My parents admitted their lies, and we have to meet with Stephens tomorrow morning. I don’t regret anything and I love you.”He waited, staring at the phone until he got a response. “I love you too. My parents are giving me a hard time, but mostly because they are worried I’ll get hurt. Nothing from Stephens.””I will never hurt you. See you tomorrow.””I can’t wait.”Nathan put down his phone and lay on his bed thinking. He could, he believed, smell Shelby on the pillowcase, or, at least, he imagined he could. While he tried to figure out what to do about the meeting, he heard his parents yelling at each other. He heard what he believed was his mother storm up the stairs and slam their bedroom door. He had never heard his parents fight, and it unsettled him, even more than finding out that they were liars.CTuesday Morning, Harmony ChurchThere was a part of Nathan that felt free and another part that felt like he was heading to meet his executioner. He was prepared to do whatever was necessary to just move on, to be left alone and to finish school, but he had no idea what Pastor Stephens had in mind, or what his parents would do. But he knew that nothing would stop him from seeing Shelby, or from continuing to make love to her. His love for Shelby filled the emptiness that he felt when he realized that his faith had been misplaced.They trudged into the church office, and Mrs. Proctor wordlessly motioned for them to go to Pastor Stephens’ office. His parents had barely said a word all morning, and he detected tension, and a little fear, in the way that they were acting. They walked down the hall past the small office that Pastor Cullum used, to the big office that the church’s leader used. James knocked on the door, and the familiar voice rumbled, “Come in.”The distinguished looking minister looked extra imposing behind his huge, carved wooden desk, and he had set the office up so that he was towering over any visitor. Nathan looked around the impressive office, with its pictures of the congregation going back decades, photos of Pastor Stephens with politicians, including five governors, President Reagan and both Bushes, certificates of appreciation and proclamations on the wall, and more books and bibles than many small libraries.They sat in the small, uncomfortable visitor chairs and waited for Pastor Stephens to give them his attention. In the past, he had always been pleasant and solicitous of Nathan’s parents, who were long-time congregants and leaders of their generation, and of Nathan, who had long appeared to be one of the true believers and young leaders. Today, however, Pastor Stephens was treating them like they all had been called to the principal’s office for misbehavior.Finally, the grey haired minister looked up and said, in a low voice, “Nathan, I’m very, very disappointed in you.”Nathan felt the blood rush to his face and the competing emotions of anger and embarrassment fight for supremacy in his mind. He decided to stay quiet and wait.”We have always counted on you to do the Godly thing, but now, you seem to be under some evil influences.”At that veiled reference to Shelby, Nathan’s eyes narrowed to slits, as Pastor Stephens continued, “I have heard a number of reports about your misbehavior and violation of the rules of the church and of the Lord, and I want you to apologize to me, to Pastor Cullum, to your parents and to the congregation.”Hearing that, anger began to win the fight for Nathan’s emotion, and he clenched his fists, but held his tongue.The minister turned his gaze to James, “And I’m disappointed in you, James, and Marcia, because you failed to stop this behavior before it crossed the line.” James and Marcia lowered their heads.”It is clear to me that you need my help again, so here is what is going to happen. We will be expelling Shelby from school and her parents from the church—we took a chance on them, and clearly they are not Godly people.”Nathan felt that his head was about to explode, but Pastor Stephens kept talking, so he clenched his fists tighter. “You, Nathan, will not see her anymore. You will apologize, in writing to Pastor Cullum and to me, on behalf of the congregation. You will do 30 hours of volunteer work for the church before graduation, at my direction. James and Marcia, you will meet with Pastor Cullum to discuss your parenting skills, so that we do not have this problem with young Thomas, and I will expect a generous donation from your family this year because of the trouble that you have caused. Is that understood?”Nathan watched his parents meekly nod and accept the conditions, but he could not. He stood up, so that Pastor Stephens no longer loomed over him and yelled, “I do not accept. It is unfair for you to discipline Shelby more than me. And anyway, I know that you are a hypocrite, my parents are hypocrites and liars, and so is Pastor Cullum. Everything you have told me since I was a baby is, is, is, bullshit.”The outburst, and especially the profanity, shocked Nathan’s parents and the minister, who responded, angrily, “Young man, that language is uncalled for. And what do you mean by your insults to me and your parents?”James interrupted, in a low defeated voice, “Thomas, he knows.””Knows what?” Pastor Stephens asked warily.Nathan jumped in, “I know that my mother was pregnant with me when they were married and that you helped them cover it up. I also am pretty sure that Pastor Cullum is not pure, and is also a nasty, vicious man. I will not apologize. Instead, I will tell everyone about this, and the marriage certificate is proof of all of your lies. And I bet that if I looked harder, I could find some more similar situations.”Pastor Stephens turned to James and growled, “Look what you have done.”James looked like he had been slapped. “We did this together, and I never thought that it would come to this.”Pastor Stephens looked at his congregants and saw their pain. And he realized that if Nathan was serious about exposing his willingness to marry couples who had engaged in sinful behavior, it would not only erode his authority, it might lead to prying that would expose his other secrets. He decided to see what he could do to defuse the situation.”Son, sit down,” he said to Nathan in a consoling voice. “What can we do to prevent you from embarrassing yourself, your family and the church?”Nathan thought. He didn’t care about embarrassing “the church” which he realized really meant its leader, but his parents didn’t deserve being the butt of gossip. They had fallen prey to the same emotions that he and Shelby had, and he could not condemn them for that. Or even for trying to cover it up to protect their reputations and him. But he could not forgive their hypocrisy. He looked at Pastor Stephens and said, “Here is what I would like. First, nothing happens to Shelby or her parents. We finish school and graduate like nothing happened. No written apologies to anyone.” He looked at his parents, “Shelby and I continue to see each other. We promise to be discreet, and to be safe, so that history doesn’t repeat itself. Also, I think that I will not go to Tabernacle Bible College next year. I’m going to go to community college for a year, and work.””Is that it?” The minister responded.Nathan felt like he might still have one more card to play. “No. I want you to fire Pastor Cullum.”Pastor Stephens looked at James and Marcia, who nodded. He turned to Nathan and said, “We will agree to all of those conditions, except that I will not fire Pastor Cullum—” he raised his hand to stop Nathan from interrupting, then continued, “I will speak with him, and if he has not been truthful, I will consider letting him move on to another post. And you, young man, you have to promise that nothing that was said in this room is repeated to anyone inside or outside of the congregation. And that you will not encourage any of your friends to behave in the way that you and Shelby have.”Nathan realized that it was not all he would want, but it was a good deal for him and Shelby. He was surprised at how easily Pastor Stephens gave up, but he decided not to worry about that. He stood and offered his hand to the tall, thin minister. “We have a deal, Pastor Stephens.” They shook, and Nathan noticed the older man give his parents a withering look before saying, “You may go. Nathan, I expect you to go directly to school. You may get a late pass from Edith—I mean Mrs. Proctor.”Nathan nodded, and he and his parents left the office and started walking down the hall. After a few steps, James put his hand on Nathan’s shoulder and said, “Stop.” Nathan turned to face his father. “Were you really willing to destroy our reputation for that girl?””Shelby,” Nathan responded. “Her name is Shelby. And yes. You were prepared to stop me from seeing the woman that I love to protect your reputation. But it all works out, right? Everything gets swept under the rug, and nobody gets hurt.””You think you are so clever, don’t you?” James replied.Marcia interrupted. “James, leave the boy alone. Somehow, he is making this all work.””Only because Pastor Stephens agreed to protect us, again,” James replied.”Dad, don’t you get it? He only wants to protect himself. He doesn’t care about you or me or mom.””That’s ridiculous. Let’s say you released our marriage certificate, everybody would know we were sinners, but Pastor Stephens would just say he was trying to help out two k**s in trouble. He would look good, not bad.”Nathan thought about that, and couldn’t think of a good answer. “Dad, it doesn’t matter, does it? He agreed, we agreed, and it is done.””I guess so,” James said, unconvinced. “We have to get to work, and you need to get to school. Get your pass from Mrs. Proctor, and we will see you tonight.”Marcia hugged her son as they left the building, and Nathan turned to get his pass from the church secretary. Nathan took the paper from the middle-aged secretary, but she didn’t let go immediately. “Are you O.K., Nathan?” she asked.”Yes, very good, Mrs. Proctor.””Everything went O.K.?””Yes.”Mrs. Proctor looked a little surprised, and let go of her end of the pass. “Nathan, let me know if you ever need anything.”It was Nathan’s turn to be surprised, but he responded, “um, sure, thanks Mrs. Proctor, I have to get to class.” He ran out of the building toward the school, and Shelby.Nathan walked the quiet halls of the school and slipped into his second period class, handing Mr. Burgess the pass. Shelby sat in the front, and their eyes met. Her eyes opened silently questioning Nathan, and he allowed her to see a brief smile as he walked to his desk in the back of the classroom.After class, Shelby was waiting for him at the door to the classroom and as they walked out into the hall she whispered, “How did the meeting go?””Better than expected,” Nathan whispered back. “We need privacy—let’s talk at lunch.” Her smell made Nathan’s nerves tingle, and he desperately wanted to kiss her, but he knew that it was not the time or place. They separated to go to their third period classes, and Nathan “accidentally” brushed his arm against hers. She smiled back at him, appreciating the ruse.When lunch finally came around, Nathan met Shelby and they again sat alone at a table away from their friends.”What happened?”Nathan had decided not to try to hide any of the details, and he gave her a blow-by-blow of the meeting, including his decision to go to community college for a year. He didn’t tell her that he hoped to be able to transfer to her college, or one nearby, after the first year.”That’s incredible,” she replied, wanting very badly to kiss Nathan for his loyalty to her.”But there is one thing that bothers me,” he said quietly.”What?””That Pastor Stephens gave in so easily. My dad pointed out that even if I disclosed my parents’ lie, it would probably make them look bad, but not Stephens or the church. I wonder if he is going to double cross us.”Shelby thought about the situation, and it did not make sense. “Unless,” she said slowly, “unless he has more to hide.”That possibility had not occurred to Nathan and he pondered the possibility. Nothing that anyone connected to the church did would surprise him at that point. “Maybe you’re right,” he said, “but what?”Shelby shrugged, and they turned their attention to lunch, occasionally accidentally on purpose brushing their arms or legs against each other. As they cleaned up their trays and garbage before their afternoon classes, Shelby said, “back to the group tomorrow?””Yeah, I’m tired of acting like an outcast.” He was surprised to see Shelby frown. “But you are more than worth it,” Nathan said, and he was rewarded with a radiant smile, whose heat he felt all the way to his crotch. They went off to their separate classes, hoping that things would be calm until graduation.Later that night, Nathan’s houseDinner had been awkward, and it was clear that Nathan and his parents had a long way to go to repair their damaged relationships. Luckily, Tommy was oblivious and filled the dinner table with his c***dish babble so that the silences between Nathan and his parents were less painful. After dinner, Nathan legitimately had work to do for his AP classes, and went to his room. It was not until after 10 that he was able to take time to call Shelby.”I was hoping you would call,” she said”How could I not? I missed you,” Nathan responded.”I’m really proud of what you did today,” Shelby said.”Thanks. I can’t believe that I was able to pull it off. You’ve given me the strength to stand up to them.””You always had it in you. Maybe I’ve helped you see things differently.”Nathan thought about how much he wanted to see Shelby, and he paused, thinking about her body. “You have made me think. About a lot of things.””I’m glad,” she said huskily. “You make me think about things, too.”There was a pause. Nathan broke the silence. “I love you.””I love you, too.””See you tomorrow.””Can’t wait.”Nathan ended the call and laid on his bed, thinking for a while before getting ready for bed.Wednesday Morning. Harmony Christian Life AcademyNathan waited outside the school, waiting for the habitually late Shelby, who found the last spot in the student parking lot and ran toward the door, checking her watch. She smiled as she approached Nathan, oblivious to the stares of their schoolmates. Everyone knew that they had been called to Pastor Stephens’ office, and they watched Nathan and Shelby for some clue about why, or what had happened. There was little time left before homeroom, and, painfully without touching, they turned and hurried to their lockers.Shelby stopped in front of hers, gave Nathan a meaningful glance, and he smiled, nodded and headed down the hallway to his locker to put away books and grab his morning books. When he opened his locker, he was surprised to see a sealed white envelope with the return address of the church embossed on it. The envelope was heavy, and he heard a metallic click when he picked it off the floor, sliding it into his notebook before rushing off to class.Curious as to what was in the envelope, but unable to get any privacy during class, he struggled to pay attention to the lesson, and floundered embarrassingly when the teacher called on him. He took the criticism stoically, and tried desperately to take notes afterward, but the envelope kept intruding into his thoughts.After class, Nathan ran to the bathroom, locked himself into a stall and tore open the envelope. There were two keys inside—one large, like a door key, and a smaller one. Nathan looked inside the envelope for a note, or something that would explain, but there was nothing. He heard the bell, and ran out of the bathroom to make sure he made it to class on time.He made it to lunch before Shelby and sat at what had become their private table, rather than attempt to rejoin their friends. Shelby saw him and looked at him quizzically, and Nathan pointed to the chair next to him. Shelby got her lunch and sat down.”I thought we were going to rejoin polite society today,” she noted.”Yeah, but something has come up.””What?” Shelby asked.”When I opened my locker this morning, there was an envelope with two keys.””What do they open?””I have no idea,” Nathan answered. He reached into his notebook, keeping it under the table, and pulled out the envelope, handing it to Shelby under the table. She opened the envelope and peered at the keys.”The big one looks like a key to a door or something and the smaller one looks like a key to a filing cabinet,” she whispered. She handed the envelope back to Nathan and he slid it back into his notebook.”That’s sort of what I thought. But where? And why?”They were silent for a while, and ate their lunches. Shelby turned to Nathan and said, “You don’t think…?”What?” Nathan asked.”The church office?””But why? And who would do this?””I don’t know, but not many people have access to them, right?””I guess,” Nathan replied. “What should we do?”Thursday, 2:00 a.m. Harmony ChurchNathan and Shelby stood in front of the church office door holding flashlights. Nathan could not believe that he had actually snuck out of his house. It was surprisingly easier than he had thought, but the walk to the church took a bit longer than he expected.”Try the key,” Shelby urged.Nathan took the larger key and, with trembling hands, inserted it into the lock. He turned it and felt a satisfying click. He pushed the door open and paused. No alarm—at least none that he could hear. They slid into the dark building and looked around using their flashlights.”We better move fast, in case there is a burglar alarm,” Shelby whispered.Nathan hadn’t really considered what would happen if the police came, and, he started to move quickly toward Pastor Stephens’ office, which they had decided was the most likely place to find a lock that fit the second key.The Pastor’s office door was unlocked, and the two explorers entered and ran their flashlights over the office. Shelby walked behind the large wooden desk and saw a large, two drawer file cabinet. She motioned Nathan toward her, and he inserted the second key into the lock, which turned and popped out. Nathan opened the top drawer and saw a small ledger book and a portable hard drive. He looked at Shelby with a questioning look.”Take it,” she hissed, with excitement in her voice. Nathan took the book and drive out of the drawer and closed it. He opened the second drawer, and it was filled with old VHS tape and silver discs. Nathan pulled out a tape and it said, “Edith” and a date about 15 years earlier. He removed the tape and grabbed a handful of discs—each with the name of a woman and a date. The most recent disk, with a date about three months earlier, had the name “Amanda,” which they both knew was the name of one of their classmates, who had left school unexpectedly a few weeks before to take care of her sick grandparents. Nathan took that disk and few others and tossed them with the ledger and hard drive.”Let’s get out of here,” Shelby whispered.Nathan closed and locked the cabinet, grabbed the pile of stuff and followed Shelby out of the office. They quickly made it down the hall and out of the church office. Walking away from the church, they whispered their speculations, both worried about what they would find, and what would happen to them if they were caught.When they got to the point where they needed to separate, Nathan put down his burden and took Shelby into his arms. He craved her touch, and when she pressed her body against his, he immediately got aroused. Shelby wiggled her hips against him while they kissed. Although he didn’t want it to end, Nathan pulled away, panting. “I need to get home and see if I can figure out what we have here.” They slowly parted and Nathan hurried home and quietly snuck back into his room. Turning on his laptop, he attached the hard drive and saw that it was filled with spreadsheets. He opened one, but saw only incomprehensible columns of numbers. Nathan couldn’t make heads or tails of them. He reached for the pile of discs and put the one titled Amanda into the DVD drive.After a few seconds it began to run and a few seconds later, Nathan, horrified by what he was seeing, turned it off. He felt sick to his stomach. But he knew that he had to do something. But what?He knew that he was in above his head, and he had only one choice. He picked up the laptop, the hard drive and the disc and walked down the hall to his parents’ room and knocked on the door.”Huh, what?” he heard his father’s confused voice respond.”It’s me, Nathan. Can I come in?””It’s 4:00 in the morning. Is everything alright?””No. No it isn’t,” Nathan responded, opening the door.James had turned on his beside light, and was looking at him uncomprehendingly. Marcia was squinting at him similarly confused.”What’s going on, Nathan. Are you sick?” James asked.”Not exactly.””What are you holding?” Marcia asked.Nathan took a deep breath. “I need to explain.””I think you should.”He explained about the keys in his locker, and how he and Shelby had snuck back to the church and taken the things from Pastor Stephens’ office.”You did what?” his father said, shocked.”Wait until you see what is here before judging me,” Nathan demanded. He turned the screen around and started playing the DVD. James gasped and Marcia screamed.”Is that Amanda Carter?” Marcia asked.”Yes,” Nathan said angrily. “And that is Pastor Stephens fucking her while she is crying.””Turn it off,” James insisted, and Nathan happily complied.”Dad, there are dozens of these discs there, and VHS tapes even that go back years and years.”Marcia was sobbing, and James looked angry. “What’s the rest of that?”Nathan hooked up the drive and handed the laptop to his father. James opened a spreadsheet and stared at the screen. He opened some more files and kept staring at the screen, toggling between spreadsheets. After a few minutes, he looked up and said, “Holy shit.”Nathan had never heard his father curse before and was shocked.”What is it, James?” Marcia asked.”It looks like Thomas has been siphoning money from the church for years and depositing it into offshore accounts. Is there anything else?””Yeah, a ledger book.” Nathan said, stunned.”Get it,” James demanded.Nathan ran to his room and returned with the book. James looked through it and shook his head.”I think this book shows payments he made to a number of women going back many years. But I’m not sure.””What should we do?” Marcia asked.”I think we need to go to the police. Tomorrow morning. Before Stephens notices that things are missing.””O.K. dad,” Nathan replied. “Before school?””No, just me. You need to go to school like everything is normal. And Marcia, you need to be with Tommy.”They nodded. James continued, “Marcia, can you put up some coffee? I can’t imagine any of us will be sleeping any more today.”Marcia got out of bed, put on her robe and headed down to the kitchen.”Nathan, I’m not sure whether to scream at you or pat you on the back. I still don’t condone what you and Shelby are doing, or that you have lied and snuck around, but it looks like you have uncovered some pretty awful behavior by Pastor Stephens.”Nathan had nothing to say, so he turned and left his parents’ room. He returned to his room and texted Shelby, “Call me. ASAP!!!!!!”A few minutes later, as Nathan smelled the coffee brewing in the kitchen, his phone rang.””So, what is it?” Shelby asked, excitedly.”You won’t believe it.” He described the video, and what his father said about the spreadsheets, and that James would be taking everything to the police the next day.”Can you trust him?” Shelby asked. “He won’t destroy everything and stand behind Stephens?””You didn’t see his face. Or my mother’s. They are disgusted. As well they should be.””That cocksucker,” Shelby spat out.Nathan continued to be shocked by her vocabulary, but responded, “No, I didn’t see that on the video.”Shelby paused before laughing. “Very funny. Maybe I really am corrupting you,” she said softly.”Only in a good way,” Nathan responded. “Let me go see what is going on. I’ll see you in school.””Love you.””Me too.” Nathan disconnected the call and went to the kitchen to talk to his parents.Later Thursday morning. Harmony Christian Life AcademyJames and Marcia insisted that Nathan go to school like any other day. He saw Shelby in the morning, but just said, “My father is taking care of it.”After lunch, Nathan and Shelby were in History class when they heard police sirens outside of the school. Tim Phillips, whose desk was by the window, interrupted the class, yelling, “The police are pulling up to the church office.”Shelby shot a look at Nathan, who shrugged. Everybody stood to see what was going on, but it was too hard to see. Nathan began to walk out of the class, followed by Shelby and then the rest of the students. Ms. Turnbull tried to make them come back, but it was not every day that something this interesting happened at school, and they ignored her threats.The students, and others who were brave enough to leave the building, stood outside the school, watching the door to the church office. It was a warm day, and a light breeze rustled the leaves on the trees as the students and a few teachers made hushed conversations, speculating on the reason why the police had appeared. After a few minutes, the doors sprung open, and two police officers walked out, leading the taller Pastor Stephens, who was yelling at them in his deep, powerful voice. He was followed out by the smirking Pastor Cullum and Mrs. Proctor, who walked down the stairs, part of the way to the police cars.Pastor Stephens continued to berate the police, threatening them with eternal damnation and professing his innocence. He turned to the crowd outside the school and yelled, “I did nothing wrong. As God is my witness, I am an innocent man. A martyr.” As his eyes scanned the crowd, he saw Nathan and pointed at him. “God will punish you for your sins, young man. You and that harlot you are fornicating with.”This, of course, caused all attention to turn to Nathan and Shelby, who found themselves on the receiving end of hundreds of stares. Nathan turned to look at Shelby and saw Mrs. Proctor, standing on the steps of the school office, a small smile on her face. She saw Nathan looking at her and Nathan was fairly certain he saw her wink at him.Nathan grabbed Shelby’s hand and pulled her away from the crowd. They walked to the parking lot, and got into Nathan’s car. Nathan started the engine and began to drive away.”Holy shit, Nathan,” Shelby exclaimed.”I couldn’t have said it better,” Nathan responded, taking Shelby’s hand and squeezing it as he drove. He turned to look at her beautiful face and was struck by the look on her face, a combination of surprise and triumph, and when she looked at him, love, and a bit of lust. Nathan almost had to pull over to the side of the road, but pulled himself together and was able to navigate them to his house.When he arrived, his parents were sitting at their dining room table, speaking with Deacon Stanton and a few other members of the church council. They looked up when Nathan and Shelby came in, and Nathan could see from their faces that they did not fully consider him and Shelby to be heroes.”Nathan, Shelby, please come here,” James said in a way that made it clear that no dissent would be tolerated. They went into the room, and Deacon Stanton said, “We understand that you two uncovered the incriminating evidence against Pastor Stephens.””Yes, sir,” Nathan responded.”You know that Pastor Stephens devoted his life to this church and helped many, many people, including your family.”Nathan was about to angrily respond, but both his father and Deacon Stanton put their hands up in the “stop” gesture, and Nathan reflexively obeyed.The Deacon continued, “It does seem, though, that he was a sinner, a thief and a fornicator, and if so, he will be called to task, both by the law and by the Lord. And although I cannot say that I approve of the way that you snuck into his office, I assume that the Lord directed you.”Nathan realized that nothing that he could say would help or change the situation. And he was surprised that Shelby also was silent. He looked at the people in the room, smiled and said, “You’re welcome,” took Shelby’s hand and left the house.”Now what?” Shelby asked. “We could go to my house.””That could be fun,” Nathan said, smiling as he felt a warmth spread through his body.”Yes, it could,” Shelby said, turning and hugging Nathan on his front lawn, then tilting her head up for a kiss, which quickly turned passionate. They broke contact, got into the car and Nathan started to drive.Thinking about the prospect of being in an empty house with Shelby, Nathan sped to her house, actually running a red light before pulling his car into her driveway. They nearly ran into the small, ranch style house, pausing briefly to confirm that no one was home before running down the stairs to Shelby’s room. Alone in Shelby’s room, Nathan reached out, and Shelby melted against him. The anxiety of the past days faded away, replaced by desire, and their mouths met in a passionate kiss.Shelby could feel Nathan’s arousal pressing against the crotch of her jeans, and she felt the tingling and warmth of her own desire. They continued to mash their faces together, exploring each other’s tongue and lips. Nathan ran his hands up Shelby’s sides, from her hips to the side of her chest, and she leaned back far enough to allow him to cup her breasts. The feel of his hands on her hard nipples, even over her clothing was intense enough to cause her head to drop back as she moaned with lust. Nathan pressed his hardness against her, panting. Nathan returned his hands to Shelby’s hips and slid her shirt up over her breasts. Shelby raised her hands, and Nathan continued to pull the shirt up over her face and head, and over her arms, staring all the time at her heaving lace covered chest, nipples straining against the thin material. Shelby reached down and pulled Nathan’s shirt out of his jeans and unbuttoned his shirt. Nathan reluctantly removed his hands from Shelby’s firm breasts to allow his shirt to fall to the floor behind him, and he hugged Shelby close, feeling the warmth of her body and the softness of her breasts against his bare chest.Without breaking their embrace, Nathan reached up and fumbled with the clasp to Shelby’s bra, eventually releasing it and pulling the straps forward. Shelby leaned back and allowed Nathan to remove her bra, which he tossed onto the floor before pulling her back to him and pressing his lips to hers. He could barely contain the throbbing between his legs and worried that he would come in his pants.Sensing Nathan’s discomfort, Shelby unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned his jeans and lowered the zipper before pushing his pants to the floor. Nathan stepped out of the legs and kicked them away. He stood before the half-naked Shelby clad only in his boxers, which were straining to contain his erection. With a smile, Shelby pulled down the boxers and fell to her knees. She looked up at Nathan, past his vibrating cock and licked her reddened lips before kissing the tip.Nathan moaned, and his moaning increased as Shelby licked the head of his cock before opening her mouth and taking it in. Nathan maltepe escort gasped. He had never imagined feeling the pleasure that he was currently being given by his beautiful girlfriend, even when they had made love. The intensity of the pleasure and the look of happiness on Shelby’s face as she lovingly used her mouth and tongue on his pulsing rod brought Nathan to a frenzy, and he thrust himself into Shelby’s warm mouth. Startled, Shelby gasped, before pressing her hands on Nathan’s ass and allowing him to keep thrusting, until, with a sharp breath, he shot a huge load deep into her throat. Shelby gagged, but instinctively closed her lips around Nathan’s spewing member, swallowing his cum until he was finished. On weak legs, Nathan stumbled to the side of the bed and sat, as Shelby stood up, and Nathan watched, enthralled, as her breasts jiggled. They were beautiful, and Shelby was beautiful, he thought. Still recovering from Shelby’s attentions, Nathan watched as she removed her jeans and panties, and stood before her. Nathan knew that she was perfect, and he sat there, transfixed, realizing that he was seeing something divine, as she approached him, standing between his legs and letting him nuzzle his face between her firm orbs.He kissed the underside of her breasts before moving up to suck on the nipple of one, then the other before kissing down to her bellybutton. Nathan could smell the strong odor of Shelby’s arousal, and he reached down with his hand to stroke her soft pubic hair, causing Shelby to sigh. He explored her folds and was surprised at how wet and slippery they were, easily and happily accommodating his finger when he pressed it inside.”Shelby, please get on the bed,” Nathan whispered, and she sat next to him. Nathan turned and kissed her, tasting the remnants of his orgasm on her lips, before moving to her chin, her neck, her cleavage and nipples. He kissed down her breasts to her belly and then to the edge of her pubic mound. Inhaling her sharp scent and smiling, Nathan kissed Shelby’s pubic hair and began to explore her with his tongue, causing Shelby to begin to writhe and moan. Not really knowing what to do, he licked somewhat randomly, but was smart enough to return to the areas that made Shelby’s moans louder. Eventually, she reached down, and directed his head until his tongue was stimulating her clit.Nathan understood what she wanted, and he kept at it as Shelby’s hips began to buck faster and faster, until she yelled out and collapsed on the bed, panting and giggling. It was, maybe, the most beautiful thing that Nathan had ever heard.”Come here, my love,” Shelby whispered, and Nathan crawled up the bed until he was even with Shelby. He took her in his arms and held her, happy and at peace. Shelby, however, noticed that Nathan was hard again. “Don’t go anywhere,” she said.”Right,” Nathan said, “like I’m going to leave?” he continued, grinning as he watched Shelby’s naked form leave the bed, and walk to her dresser. He stared at her slim back and round, perfect butt as she bent down and reached into the back of the bottom drawer before turning around and showing Nathan a condom package.”I figured I needed to be prepared,” she said with a shy smile.”I’m glad,” Nathan responded. Shelby returned to the bed, tore open the package and unrolled the condom onto Nathan’s hard cock. Before he could react, she jumped onto the bed, straddling him and guiding his length into her still lubricated pussy.Nathan was in heaven. He loved seeing his beautiful, naked girlfriend on top of him, her piercing blue eyes half closed with desire, her brown hair wild, her perfect breasts swaying, and the feeling of Shelby’s warm pussy enveloping his cock was incredible. He lay on his back, watching Shelby slide up and down on his cock, grinding her hips, grunting, panting and moaning, as she used him to pleasure herself. He felt his hips begin to rise off the bed to meet her thrusts, until he was participating equally in their lovemaking.As their pace increased, Shelby fell forward, pressing her warm body against Nathan’s and pumping her hips faster and faster until she jerked her body, which trembled against Nathan, who held her tight. But she didn’t stop her pumping around Nathan’s cock, and he thrust into her until he reached his own release.It was silent, except for the sound of their breathing, which, without their attention, coordinated, until they lay there, Shelby on top of Nathan, breathing. Spent.Shelby eventually turned her head and saw the clock. “Nathan, we need to get up and get you out of here before my parents come home.” She reluctantly slid off of Nathan, and his limp condom covered cock slid out of her. Nathan removed the condom, tied it off and placed it into a tissue. Shelby took it from him, got off the bed and left the room.Nathan lay on the bed, smiling, looking at the decorations of Shelby’s room for a few seconds before he stood up and got dressed. As he was putting on his shirt, Shelby returned from the bathroom and ran her hand down Nathan’s chest before he buttoned it up. He marveled again at her naked beauty and wondered why he hadn’t been willing or able to see it earlier. He shook his head and continued dressing in silence.Shelby had gotten her clothing back on, and she kissed Nathan. “I can still smell myself on your lips,” she said, and Nathan put his hand to his mouth and breathed out.”You’re right. It’s amazing,” he replied. Shelby led him to the bathroom, where he washed his face and hands while she brushed her hair and pulled herself together.They walked down the stairs and kissed again before going out to Nathan’s car. After they got in, Nathan took Shelby’s hand and they drove back to the school to pick up Shelby’s car. Nathan squeezed Shelby’s hand before she opened the door.”I love you, Shelby,” Nathan said.”I love you, too,” she replied before pivoting out of the car. Nathan watched her as she got in, started the engine, waved at him and drove away.DFriday MorningNathan’s parents would not give him any more details about what was going to happen at school or church, and he dreaded what would happen. After Pastor Stephens’ outburst in front of everybody, Nathan knew that his chances of just quietly making it to graduation were slim, at best. He parked in his usual spot and walked toward the school worrying about what would unfold. He also knew that he no longer believed, at least not the way he had before everything happened, and he wondered if he would even be able to sit through all of the hypocritical religious doctrine that was somehow integrated into each class. He had increased respect for Shelby’s willingness to question the authority, and her ability to do so without totally confronting what she clearly thought was wrong. And he kicked himself for having been such an unquestioning member of the flock for so long.By the time all of these thoughts had swirled through Nathan’s head, he was at the door to the school, oblivious to the looks he was getting from the other students. As he approached the door, he noticed that Pastor Cullum was standing on the steps, surveying the students and looking very pleased with himself.”Nathan, come here,” he demanded.Nathan considered ignoring him, but wanted to know what he was going to say, so he approached the young preacher.”I know that you wanted to have me fired,” he said in a low voice so that only Nathan could hear him, “but the joke is on you, boy, because Stephens is gone and I’m still here, and running the church.” He smiled malevolently at Nathan before continuing. “And I want you to know that I intend on making your remaining time here miserable, but that will be tame compared to what I intend to do to your slut.”Nathan again wanted to strike Pastor Cullum, but was able to restrain himself. Instead, he turned to the smaller man, smiled falsely and said, “And the Lord be with you too, Pastor Cullum,” before heading into the school. When he closed the door behind him, he allowed himself to breathe deeply before heading to his locker.His day brightened briefly when he saw Shelby approaching him in the hall before homeroom. She smiled at him, and he felt that warmth again filling the emptiness inside him, but he motioned to her, and she approached him.”Did Cullum say anything to you?” Nathan asked.”Yeah, it was strange. He called me over and said that now that he was in charge, the rules would be enforced strictly. And that I was warned.” She paused. “Then he looked me up and down, and I feel like I need a shower.”Nathan fumed. He told her what Pastor Cullum had said to him, and they agreed that they needed to be careful. “I’ll speak to my parents tonight,” he said before they headed off to class, painfully without touching each other.Later, on his way to lunch, Nathan was, as so often happened in the crowded hallway, jostled by an underclassman running to class. Nathan kept walking toward the cafeteria when he heard Pastor Cullum’s voice.”Nathan, come here.”He turned his head, and saw the clergyman standing in the hallway, smiling. Nathan walked toward him.”I saw you purposely bump Henry before. I cannot believe that you would do that to a younger student. I’ll see you in detention after school.”Nathan felt himself getting warmer, and not in the way he did when Shelby looked at him. He stared at the minister and realized what was happening. He knew that if he lashed out in any way, it would only get worse. He felt the eyes of everyone in the hallway staring at him. Nathan took a deep breath and said, in a low, calm voice, “You know that it was an accident, and that Henry bumped me.”Pastor Cullum smiled at Nathan and said, “That’s not what I saw. Detention today, for the roughhousing, and tomorrow, for your insolence.” He turned and walked away.Nathan was fuming, but he gathered his wits and walked to the cafeteria, where he knew that Shelby would be waiting for him. He noticed people whispering and pointing at him, but he was rapidly becoming immune to that. But when he saw Shelby, sitting alone at what had become their private table, with puffy eyes betraying the fact that she had been crying, he felt a pit in his stomach and went running to her.”What’s the matter?” Nathan whispered.”Cullum,” Shelby said, beginning to sob again.”What did that bastard do,” Nathan said, careful that no one else could hear his language.Shelby sobbed quietly, dabbing at her eyes with a crumpled tissue. Nathan sat, and in violation of school rules, took her hand and squeezed.”Tell me,” he demanded, firmly but with tenderness.She looked at Nathan and he could feel her relax a little. “I was in the hall, and I dropped my notebook. I bent over to pick it up, and he….he…..he,” she dabbed at her eyes and Nathan squeezed her hand. She continued, “He called out my name. I said, ‘What Pastor Cullum?’ as polite and calmly as I could. He looked me up and down, like he does, and said, ‘I see that you enjoy displaying your rear end for everyone to admire.’ I was stunned. I said, ‘No, sir, I was just picking up my notebook.’ At this point, everyone in the hall was looking at me. I started to walk away, and he said, loudly, ‘Of course, a whore like you has no problem displaying yourself for anyone. Don’t you have any self-respect?’ I was humiliated. Everyone was staring.””Oh my God,” Nathan blasphemed. “I’m going to kill him.” Nathan stood up. But Shelby held his hand.”No, you can’t do that.”Nathan strained briefly at Shelby’s grip, but realized that she was right. “He gave me detention today for bumping into Henry Jepsen, who barreled into me in the hall and then another day for asking him what I did wrong.””Well, I guess we will be in detention together, since he gave me a whole week.””For what?” Nathan asked.”He said that I was a woman of loose morals and needed spiritual guidance that I clearly wasn’t getting at home.””I’ll have to talk to my parents tonight. I don’t know what else to do.”They sat there, quietly, holding hands, not hungry for their lunch until it was time to go to class.At detention that afternoon, Nathan was required to write an essay about obedience and humility and Shelby was required to write about chastity. After reading their essays, Mrs. Newman allowed them to go home. They ran out of the school and to their cars.”What now?” Shelby asked.”I think that we should go home. I need to talk to my father,” he said, reluctantly. Because they were still on school property, there could be no kiss, so they looked at each other longingly before saying “I love you,” and getting into their cars.Later Friday Evening”Can you prove it?” James asked. He no longer was sure whether to believe his son or Pastor Cullum. Although James’ faith in the Lord was unshaken by the scandal at Harmony Church, he knew that the clergy were not guaranteed to be paragons of virtue. He also had some doubts about Pastor Cullum, at the very least whether someone his age had the background and experience to run a church.”I’m pretty sure that if I went to Henry, he’d tell the truth,” Nathan told his father across the dining room table. The little that James knew about Henry Jebsen made him confident that the boy would be honest if asked.”What about the allegations against Shelby?” Marcia asked.”That might be harder,” Nathan admitted. “I could ask her whether she remembered the names of any of the k**s in the hall when it happened and I could call them and see.””I think that may make sense,” James noted. “The church council is meeting with our lawyers tonight, and then there will be a full church meeting tomorrow afternoon, and decisions will be made.””About what?” Nathan asked.”Everything. The leadership of the church and school going forward. Our legal options.””Anything else?” Nathan asked?James paused, then shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “I suspect that your status, and that of Shelby and her family will be discussed.”Nathan stared at his father. “When exactly were you going to tell me about that?””I just did,” his father replied.”Only after I had to ask twice,” Nathan noted.”It isn’t something that makes me happy,” James responded. “That my son is involved in this mess, you know…”Nathan stood up. “Are you serious? I’m a problem because I have made love with the woman I love—like you did? Compared to what Stephens did? And Cullum? I’m going to be at that meeting to defend myself, and Shelby, if necessary.””I wouldn’t,” James replied.”I’m an adult member of this Church and I have every right to attend. And I will,” Nathan asserted.James looked down at the table. Nathan was unsure if he was thinking or praying, but he didn’t wait to find out. He turned and went to his room and called Shelby.After bringing her up to date on what he knew, Nathan asked, “Do you remember anyone who was in the hall when Cullum accused you?””I’ve tried not to think about it,” Shelby replied.”C’mon, it’s important.”After thinking for a while, Shelby said, “I think that Carrie Reynolds was there, and Adrienne.””Great,” Nathan responded. “The most religious girl in the junior class and my first girlfriend.””But they would support me, don’t you think?” Shelby asked, uncertainly.”I’ve known them forever, so maybe I should call them.””If you think so,” Shelby agreed. “I love you.”Nathan replied, “I love you too. Let me call them. I’ll let you know.”It took a few minutes before Nathan could get Carrie Reynolds’ number, and after a somewhat chilly call, first with her father then with Carrie, he convinced her that telling the truth was the correct thing to do, and she agreed to attend the meeting the following day.Before calling Adrienne, which he expected to be a little awkward despite the fact that their relationship, such as it had been, ended amicably more than a year before, he called the Jepsens and spoke with Henry, who was happy to set the record straight without much convincing. Nathan took a deep breath and called Adrienne on her cell.”Hey,” he said.”Well, Nathan, it has been a while,” Adrienne said, neutrally.”Yeah, I know,” Nathan responded uncomfortably.”I assume that this has something to do with your, um, issues at school,” Adrienne responded.Nathan had been attracted to her initially because she was pretty, but also because she was smart and always a girl who got to the point. It didn’t work out between them because there really wasn’t any spark, and because they were inexperienced. “Yeah, Adrienne, it is. I need your help.””What can I do?” she asked.”You were there when Cullum ripped into Shelby today, right?””I was there when Pastor Cullum gave your girlfriend detention, yes,” she replied.”Look, Shelby says that she had dropped her notebook and was picking it up—not that she was doing anything lewd. He was just picking on her.””Nathan, I know that she is your girlfriend, and all, but you know that I don’t approve of what you two are doing. You know that, right?””Adrienne, what we are doing isn’t anyone’s business. What is our business is that Pastor,” the word burned in Nathan’s mouth, “Cullum is a mean, vindictive person, and if I can show what he is really like, then he won’t be able to ruin the rest of our senior year, or the school for all of the younger k**s. So, what did you see?””What you said, Nathan. But I won’t go against Pastor Cullum.””Why not?””Because he is a minister. God speaks through him.””How is that possible? You know that he is lying about this. Look, Adrienne, I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for us. I’ve always liked you, and always thought that you were a fair person. I need your help.”There was a pause. “Let me pray on it, Nathan. I’ll let you know later.””Thanks, Adrienne. Text or call me tonight because there is a meeting tomorrow and I need to know if I can count on you. I hope I can.””I will, Nathan. I’m sorry that you have decided to do what you are doing, but you’ve always been nice to me. But I need to think and pray.””That’s all I can ask,” Nathan said, even though he really didn’t mean it. “Good night, Adrienne.””Good night, Nathan, and remember that Jesus loves you. No matter what.”Nathan disconnected the call and sat in his room thinking. He wondered if he sounded the same as Adrienne did for all of those years, and was pretty sure that he had. There was nothing left to do but to hope that Adrienne would come through. He called Shelby and brought her up to date, then went downstairs. His father was gone, presumably to the meeting with the church’s lawyers, and his mother was puttering around the kitchen. Nathan went to the living room and turned on the TV.After a few minutes, Marcia sat down next to him.”You know, Nathan, your father and I never meant to hurt you.”Nathan looked at his mother and saw the hurt in her eyes. “And I never meant to hurt you and dad.””It is hard doing the right thing,” his mother replied.”Especially when the right thing is different from what you’ve always been told,” Nathan responded.Marcia nodded slightly and realized that her son was not just a sex-crazed teenager, but a young man who had his whole world turned upside down in a short time. She reached out to him, and he moved closer and laid his head on her shoulder as she reached her arm around his broad shoulders. They sat there quietly, watching the television.Saturday MorningNathan had trouble concentrating on anything. His father told him, in confidence, that the church council had requested that the church’s home office send an experienced minister until they could decide on a full-time replacement. He also told Nathan that he had convinced the council to hear evidence on whether to retain or fire Pastor Cullum, and that decision would, to some degree, determine whether or not any discipline would be meted out to Nathan, Shelby and their families.He called Shelby and gave her as much information as he felt comfortable, but hadn’t heard from Adrienne, which troubled him. At 2:00, he dressed for the meeting, and drove over with his parents and Tommy, who was sent to the school for babysitting.The mood in the church was different from any time Nathan had ever experienced. He had become accustomed to the fact that everyone looked at him and looked for Shelby. He didn’t see her, or Adrienne anywhere. Carrie Reynolds was there with her parents, and Nathan caught her eye, and she nodded. He looked around and saw Henry Jebsen, who looked nervous, but the fact that he was there was positive. James walked up to the stage, and sat there with the rest of the church council. Pastor Cullum was sitting on the stage, but off to the side. Adrienne was sitting with her parents, looking forward, and Nathan thought, uncomfortably, that she was avoiding him.There was a tense feeling in the room, and Nathan heard the hubbub of hushed conversations as he waited, sitting next to Marcia. A wave of sound moved forward from the rear of the church, and heads began to turn. Nathan looked back at the church entrance, and he saw Shelby, dressed more conservatively than he had ever seen, in a long, shapeless dress, her hair simply tied in a ponytail, walking between her parents. They took a seat near the back of the sanctuary and waited, as everybody did, until Deacon Stanton stood up at the lectern and cleared his throat. The big, white room went silent, waiting to hear what he was going to say. “Friends,” he began, “Harmony Church is a family, and unfortunately, sometimes in families there are problems. But when problems present themselves, we have to address them head on, and nip them in the bud.”Nathan tried not to laugh at the obvious lies, and listened as Deacon Stanton continued.”I assume that most of you know that Pastor Stephens, who has been our spiritual leader for so long, appears to have strayed, significantly, from the righteous path of the Lord, and he has been suspended from his post. He has been arrested, and is currently out on bail.” There were gasps from some members of the audience who were not fully up to speed on the gossip. “Some of you have heard rumors of the charges, but our attorneys have made it clear that we are not to discuss anything now. Pastor Stephens will have the opportunity to defend himself, and we can address his status after the legal process runs its course.” Deacon Stanton looked at an unfamiliar man on the stage, who Nathan assumed was a lawyer, and the man nodded. He continued, “The church offices in Des Moines are sending us Pastor Busch, who some of you may remember from his guest sermons a number of years back. He is retired, but has agreed to act as the interim Pastor of Harmony.”Nathan noticed a look of surprise on the face of Pastor Cullum, who fought to control his emotions and forced himself to smile.There was some conversation in the audience before Deacon Stanton spoke again. “As I said, we cannot discuss any more details at this time, but I will try to answer any questions to the best of my ability, and with the help of the Lord’s guidance.”A few members of the church asked questions, but Deacon Stanton was unable to respond in any detail, much to the frustration of the crowd. Then, Mr. Carson, the father of the most self-righteous of Nathan’s classmates, Doug Carson, stood and asked, “What are you going to do about the lewd and wanton behavior that has taken root in the senior class?”There were a few yells of “yes, what?” from the crowd, and heads turned to look at Nathan and Shelby. Nathan felt himself getting warm, but when he looked at Shelby, she sat, quietly, looking at the hands folded on her lap.Deacon Stanton raised his hand for quiet and, when it was achieved, he said, “That is a matter that will be discussed, in private, by the church counsel, after this meeting.”Mr. Carson yelled out, “You need to stamp that behavior out now, before everyone at that school is fornicating like at the public school.””Larry,” Deacon Stanton said, “we will review the evidence and pray and try to do the right thing.”There were no other questions, so Deacon Stanton said, “I’d like the individuals involved to meet in the church office in 15 minutes. This meeting is over. Thank you for coming, and the Lord be with all of you.”Nathan ran to the door and made sure that Henry and Carrie and their parents would attend the private meeting, then ran off to find Adrienne.”I don’t think I can help you, Nathan,” she said, quietly, when he found her.”Why not? You are just telling the truth.””My parents won’t let me,” she admitted.”Adrienne—you are an adult. You need to do what is right. And you know that telling the truth is right.”She thought for a few seconds. “I’m not sure that supporting you, and Shelby, in sinning, is right, Nathan. I’m sorry.””So that is more important than telling the truth. Adrienne? I thought you were better than that.””And I thought you were better than this, Nathan. I’m sorry.” She turned and left.Nathan realized that they still had Carrie, so at least there was something. But he was disappointed in Adrienne. But not surprised.The meeting with the church council was tense. Nathan was surprised that his father recused himself from being involved, and sat next to him. Pastor Cullum was astonished initially to see that he was being accused of misconduct. Nathan delivered his comments and statement well, and Shelby was uncharacteristically subdued and modest, even as both admitted to their premarital sex while professing their love and respect for each other, and that it was, in all ways, consensual.Both Carrie and Henry did the right thing, and told the truth.Pastor Cullum tried, initially, to dismiss the young people’s testimony, but was surprised to find himself on the end of pointed questioning from the members of the council about his prior behavior as well as his actions toward Nathan and Shelby.After two hours of hearings, the council withdrew to discuss the issues. They deliberated for more than an hour, as Nathan, Shelby and their parents, and Pastor Cullum sat uncomfortably, waiting.Finally, the council returned to the conference room and Deacon Stanton cleared his throat and said, “This has been a difficult period for our church and community, and the council has made the following decisions, after hearing all of the parties, discussing the issues and prayer. We think that what we have decided will be in everybody’s best interests and the best interests of Harmony Church.”Nathan sat on the edge of his seat. He desperately wanted to hold Shelby’s hand, but understood that would not be appropriate.Deacon Stanton continued, “Considering all that has happened, we have decided to allow Pastor Cullum to resign as assistant Pastor. We appreciate your service, and of course, will give you only the best references.”Nathan looked at Pastor Cullum, who seemed flabbergasted at the council’s decision.”The Church thanks you for your service, and your resignation is accepted, effective immediately. As a courtesy, the Church will pay you for three months, or until you find another position, whichever comes first.”Cullum stood up and, without saying a word, looked daggers at Nathan, and left the room, slamming the door on the way out.”As for you, Nathan and Shelby, we are very, very disappointed with your sinful behavior over recent days, and do not condone or approve them. It does appear that your detentions last week were a mistake, and they will be removed from your records. We also do not believe that anything would be gained by expelling you at this late stage of your high school careers, so you will be permitted to graduate with your class. You will be on special probation, however, and any violations of Church or school rules, no matter how minor, may result in immediate expulsion and notification of your potential colleges. Do you understand?”Both Nathan and Shelby said, “Yes.””And to the parents, we are also disappointed in your inability to control your c***dren. You are also on probation, and should we find any more improper behavior by you or your families, we will consider expelling you from the church. James, despite your long service to the Church, we believe that you should resign from the council at this time. Do you understand?”All four parents nodded yes. “James, do you agree?”Nathan’s father said, “Yes, I resign from the Church Council, effective immediately.” He took Marcia’s hand and squeezed it.Deacon Stanton continued, “Thank you. Your resignation is accepted. I think we are done here. Good night, and remember that Jesus loves you.”The families stood up and left the room. Nathan looked at Shelby, who looked relieved, and smiled at her. Her smile back filled him with the warmth that he had been craving, and they headed out. When they got to the entrance they were surprised to see Mrs. Proctor working at her desk.”I’m surprised to see you here at this hour, Edith,” James said.”Well, with the meeting and the council, there was paperwork to be done, plus Pastor Busch is arriving tomorrow, so I need to do some prep work.””That makes sense,” James responded. “Thanks.””No problem, James. Actually, Nathan,” she said, “do you have a second to help me with a heavy box? It will only take a minute.”Nathan looked at his father, who nodded. “Sure, Mrs. Proctor.””Nathan, we will meet you at the car,” James said, and they turned to leave.Once they were out of the building, Nathan said, “O.K. Mrs. Proctor, where is the box?”The older woman smiled at Nathan. “There is no box, Nathan. I wanted to speak with you privately.””Why?””I need my keys back.”Nathan smiled, as his suspicions were confirmed. “Can I bring them to church tomorrow?””No, there will be too many people. Bring them to the office on Monday, O.K.?””Sure. But Mr. Proctor, why did you—?”She interrupted, “You saw the tapes, right?”Nathan nodded as she continued, “Pastor Stephens was very kind to me when my husband passed. But then, well, then things changed. I was lonely, and in retrospect, he took advantage of that, and the fact that I was supposed to trust him, because of who he was. I didn’t know until much later about the taping, but by then it was too late.” She began to sob. “I realized, finally, that I needed to do something to protect the other girls, too. And you have always been such a good boy, and didn’t deserve what you and Shelby were getting.”He reached out his hand to the crying Mrs. Proctor, and she squeezed it”Nathan,” she said, “we never discuss this again, right?””Right, Mrs. Proctor. Good night.””The Lord be with you, Nathan.”He turned and left the building, heading toward the parking lot and his parents.Sunday MorningNathan awoke to the smell of bacon. He lay in bed trying to make sense of the previous night, and the ten days since he first held Shelby’s perfect breast in his hand. It was almost too much to process, and he shook his head and got out of bed and began to get dressed for church, where, he expected, he would see Shelby.When he was ready, he went downstairs and went into the kitchen for breakfast. Marcia looked at him and said, “Your father and I think that you might want to skip church today.”This was a first, and Nathan looked at his mother. The confused expression on his face caused Marcia to smile and say, “We just think that after all that has gone on, it might make sense for you to stay home, and let everyone have something else to talk about.”Nathan thought for a few seconds. He realized that going to church had become a habit, but he no longer felt the need to go, so he replied, “That makes sense, mom. I need to do some reading, anyway.” He ate his breakfast, wished his parents well, and went back to his room. He texted Shelby, who replied that her parents had suggested the same thing. It didn’t take long before they made plans to get together. Nathan jumped into his car and drove to Shelby’s house, but parked three streets away and walked through some yards to get to her back door, away from prying eyes, most of whom were in church anyway.Shelby opened the door, and Nathan was surprised, but pleased to see that she was wearing a robe, and when she closed the door behind him, she dropped the robe, showing that she was completely naked. Nathan was again filled with a feeling of peace seeing her flawless body and beautiful face, and he kissed her, hard, on the lips.”I know that we don’t have much time, so I figured that clothing would only get in the way,” Shelby said with a mischievous grin that turned Nathan on even more. She took his hand and led him to her room. Nathan began to take off his clothing and struggled because of the distraction of Shelby lying naked on her bed, but finally he wrestled off the last sock, and fell gently on top of her. The feeling of her warm, supple flesh against his made Nathan sigh, and he nearly came simply from the excitement. But he kept control and began to kiss her while fondling her breasts.Shelby moaned with pleasure and grinded her hips against Nathan’s hard cock while running her hands down his strong back to his butt and back again, which made Nathan press himself against Shelby’s moistening pussy. They were panting hard as they kissed and stroked each other. Nathan reached down and ran his finger between Shelby’s dripping folds, pressing gently against her engorged clit, and she gasped, throwing her head back.Nathan took the opportunity to kiss her soft, white neck down to the gap between her breasts, then continued down to suck one, then the other hard nipple while continuing to rub between Shelby’s leg with his hand. Shelby was writhing and moaning with pleasure, and it seemed that everywhere that Nathan touched was electric. Nathan continued his ministrations until Shelby’s hips were flying up and down against the bed. When Nathan plunged two fingers deep into her well lubricated vagina, Shelby felt her body explode with pleasure, and she shook, uncontrollably until the feeling ceased.She looked at Nathan and saw his love and reciprocated, kissing him sweetly on the lips. Rolling his body off of her, she went to her bottom dresser drawer and emerged with a condom in her hand and a wicked look in her eyes. Nathan smiled, and stared at Shelby, her hair wild, face red, perfect bobbing breasts and dripping pussy as she opened the package and rolled the condom down his vibrating shaft. She returned to the bed and lay on her back. Nathan took the obvious hint and climbed on top of Shelby, who guided his hard cock into her warmth.Fully penetrated, Nathan stayed still and savored the feeling before slowly, agonizingly slowly, withdrawing until only the tip remained inside Shelby. He looked at her face and saw the happiness in her eyes before plunging himself inside her, making her gasp. Beginning to lose control, Nathan began to thrust faster and faster, and Shelby grabbed on to his back, holding on while her hips bucked forward to meet him. Faster and faster they went until Shelby screamed as a second orgasm took over her body and Nathan grunted as he unloaded into the rubber before collapsing on top of Shelby, his face landing on the fragrant side of her neck.They lay there, breathing hard, and in unison until Nathan reluctantly rolled off, took off the condom and wrapped it in a tissue. He kissed Shelby again and looked at the clock. He realized that he needed to get home, and they got dressed and went downstairs. Shelby took Nathan into her arms and kissed him.”I love you Nathan.””I love you too, Shelby. See you at school tomorrow?””Of course.””Should be interesting,” Nathan noted.”I don’t care,” Shelby said, as Nathan ducked out the back door and headed to his car.He was showered, dressed in sweats and a t-shirt and reading when his parents and Tommy came home from church. He asked, out of politeness, about how the service went, and his parents told him about Pastor Busch’s sermon about forgiveness, and coming together as a community, and Nathan listened politely. But he realized that he no longer cared. He went to his room and lay on his bed thinking.Although the hypocrisy that he and Shelby had exposed was very troubling, it wasn’t, Nathan realized, the reason why he was turning from the Church. The misconduct of so many who had set themselves up as moral paragons had only given Nathan the opportunity to think for himself. It wasn’t that he no longer believed in God, but he now understood that it was O.K. to have doubts, that he needed to decide for himself what he believed. He was only 18—nearly 19, and had his whole life to try to figure that out. Nathan picked up the Bible that he had next to his bed as long as he could remember. He looked at is leather cover and its worn pages as he riffled though it, smelling the mustiness of the pages. Nathan closed the book and put it onto his bookshelf with the other bibles and books from his c***dhood. He took his phone out of his pocket and called Shelby.