Ostentatious. That was the only word that came to my mind at the view of the Fellowship of the Sun’s church. As I unbuckled Hunter from his car seat, I have to admit that I was quite impressed by the building standing in front of me. Absentmindedly, I turned the two rings that were now adoring my left ring finger.
“Victoria, dear, stop playing with your rings and close your mouth or else you’ll catch fly” said Gran, completely in character.
“It’s quite… I don’t know, Gran… Are you sure we will fit in? I mean, Rick and I are simple people…”
“Well, Rick has never been the religious type…”
I smiled. Yes, we were ready for our infiltration. We entered the huge church and were welcome by a real life incarnation of Malibu Barbie.
“Hi!” cheerfully said the blond. “I’m Sarah Newlin, may I help you?”
“Oh my God! You’re THE Sarah Newlin?” I asked, trying not to sound too over the top, but failing miserably. “Gran can you believe it? It’s the reverend’s wife!”
“Please, excuse my granddaughter, Mrs. Newlin. You see, you are quite the role model for her. She even has a whole scrapbook with everything she could ever found about you…”
“Gran!” I blushed. “I… She’s right, you are such an inspiration! The way you weathered the storm after the untimely death of Reverend Newlin Senior gave me the force to keep going when my husband Rick was shipped to Iraq. But where are my manners! I’m Victoria Preston and this nice lady is my grandmother, Laura McCain.”
“So nice to meet you. And who might be this little man?”
It took everything not to flinch as she pinched Hunter’s chubby little cheek.
“This is RJ, Rick Junior. He’s the ray of sunshine in the darkness that is our life ever since Rick was deployed. But those dark days should be over soon. Rick’s tour finish next month and we’ll be moving here in Dallas where he’ll work for his brother’s construction company. Gran and I decided to come early to set up everything at our new house. And since Dallas is where your Church is based we were hoping to join your Fellowship.”
“We are always more than happy to welcome new people in the midst of our family, because that is what we are here at the Fellowship of the Sun, one big family.”
“This is such a relief!” exclaimed Gran, channelling her inner Meryl Streep in an Oscar winning performance. “We had to leave our former Church, back in Virginia. The reverend, if we can call such a callous man a reverend, was having an affair… with a fanger! A male fanger!”
“Oh my sweet baby Jesus!” exclaimed Mrs. Newlin.
“You must understand that there was no way we could continue attending service there, especially with little RJ. I wouldn’t want such a perverse man around my child!”
“I completely understand. Children are so pure!”
“If only I could have one of my own… It’s not as if Steve is working hard on the job… Maybe I could get one of those Soldiers of the Sun… Jace Turner would give me a beautiful baby… It’s not as if Steve would suspect anything…”
So Mrs. Newlin wasn’t the perfect Christian, after all.
“They sure are!”
“How about I give you a tour of our wonderful temple?”
And so we toured the Fellowship Church. Sarah Newlin was as bad as a Carnival worker, trying to entice us. She showed us the Fellowship kindergarten, where I imagined they started their indoctrination of the next generation.
“Our Sunday School program is quite successful. Your little RJ is going to feel very welcome. We also have several groups for the stay at home mothers and for our seniors.”
“We will feel right at home, don’t you think, Gran?”
“We will, dear. Tell me, Mrs. Newlin, do you have a program for those poor lost sheep that went along the Devil’s path?”
“Of course we do, Mrs. McCain! Our 12 steps program for V addict is quite successful.”
She continued talking about how they were able to save many who had fallen under the evil crutches of vampires. It was hard to keep a straight face. From what I gathered from her thoughts, Sarah Newlin really thought what they were doing was the right thing.
“And this is my dear husband’s office” she said, knocking on a massive wooden door.
“We wouldn’t want to disturb your husband, Mrs. Newlin!”
“Please, Mrs. Preston, you must call me Sarah! We are to be friends!”
Friends? Yeah, as if.
“Then you must call me Victoria… But really, I wouldn’t want to bother the Reverend.”
Too late, the door opened on the youthful Steve Newlin.
“Sarah, dear, you know I’m in a meeting, right now…”
“Steve, darling, I’m sure you can spare a minute or two to meet the new members of our Church! These are Mrs. Victoria Preston, her son RJ and her grandmother, Mrs. Laura McCain. They are new to the area. Victoria’s husband is in Iraq and will join them shortly.”
For one tiny little second, Steve Newlin seemed suspicious. I was afraid our cover would be blown, but one look at his thought told me otherwise.
“Thank the Lord these are not the spy we were told about… With our big celebration at dawn it’s not like I have time to deal with spies sent by those fangers…”
“It is such an honour to meet you, Reverend Newlin! Rick will never believe me when I’ll write and tell him I met you!”
“Your husband is serving over sea, if I understand?”
“Yes” I said in a low voice, tears in my eyes.
“We will be sure to keep him in our prayers, won’t we, Steve?” added the Reverend’s wife.
I looked at my watch, nearly 5PM. We had arrived after 1 and I hadn’t found anything except for the fact that Newlin had clearly been tipped off about our coming here. Luckily they had no clue that the spies were us.
“Look how fast time has passed! Gran, we should end back home if we want to get dinner ready…”
“Oh, but you are not leaving us yet! Steve, darling, how about we invite them for dinner?”
“Oh, we wouldn’t want to impose…”
“You wouldn’t” said the Reverend. “We are actually having one of our Light of Day Institute members down to our place for dinner, in preparation of our lock-in tonight.”
“A lock-in?” asked Gran, curious. “What is that?”
“Like a big sleepover” explained Mrs. Newlin. “You must stay!”
“If you insist…”
And that’s how we got invited to the Newlins for dinner. It was surreal. But Gran and I were pretty good actresses. Gran was even able to help Mrs. Newlin with making dinner all while the younger woman was spewing her hate for so-called ‘Devil worshipper fangers’. Me, I spent my time shielding Hunter from her heinous thoughts. Soon dinner was ready and Reverend Newlin came back to the house.
“Sarah, honey, we’re here!”
I got up and nearly had a heart attack. Standing next to Reverend Steve Newlin in an old faded Louisiana State University t-shirt was my brother!
“Mrs. Newlin… I mean, Sarah and my grandmother are in the kitchen, Reverend. Do you want me to…”
“No need, Mrs. Preston. Jace, Mrs. Preston and her son… RJ, right?”
“They are some of our newest members. Mrs. Preston, Jace Turner, the best recruit from the Light of Day Institute.”
Jason seemed surprise for a second before shaking my hand.
“Sookie, what the hell are you doing here?”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Turner.”
“Please, call me Jace, Mrs…”
“Preston” I said.
How I wished my brother was a mind reader as well!
“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go see what’s taking my dear wife so long” said the Reverend before heading toward the kitchen.
As soon as the Reverend was out of the room, Jason was by my side.
“What the hell, Sookie!” he whisper-shouted.
“What the hell? What the hell yourself, Jace?”
“I’m undercover, that’s what I’m doing! Godric sent me here!”
“Well Godric’s gone missing! Isabel called Eric and asked us to come here. We think the Fellowship might have kidnapped him!”
“What?! I knew they had a vampire, but Godric?! And what is this about your grandmother being here? You didn’t bring Gran here? And who’s that baby?”
I took a deep breath and checked my shields. The Reverend, his wife and Gran were still in the kitchen.
“Gran insisted on coming here. Don’t worry, they’re not suspecting anything. And this is your nephew, Hunter… Eric and I… He’s Hadley’s biologically, but Eric and I are going to raise him.”
I think it was too much information for him.
“Eric shouldn’t have sent you!”
His hand caught Hunter’s and a tiny little smile appeared on my son’s face.
“That’s your Uncle Jason, doodle bug…”
“Hey there, champ!”
Seeing them interact warmed my heart.
“You can’t stay, Sook… You have to leave…”
“I can’t! We’ve been invited to the lock-in…”
“Shit… The lock-in… Do you know what they plan to do?”
I bit my lower lip and nodded.
“I gathered from the Reverend’s thoughts that they’re planning some sort of ‘celebration’ at dawn… They’re planning to have Godric meet the sun, right?”
“Yes… Which is why you have to leave!”
“No! Look, Jason, they’re not suspecting anything, they really think I’m Victoria Preston, a young military wife… When we’ll go back to the Church later I’ll sneak out and try to get to Godric and get him out… You have to trust me, Jason!”
“Dinner’s ready!” yelled Mrs. Newlin from the kitchen.
“Alright” thought Jason. “I trust you, sis. But if things go south…”
My Crazy Sookie smile was back on as Gran, the Reverend and his wife came back. Gran was one hell of an actress, she didn’t show any sign of being surprised of seeing Jason.
“Jace!” exclaimed Sarah Newlin. “We are so happy to have you here! You meet Victoria and her son? This is her grandmother, Mrs. McCain.”
“A pleasure meeting you, Mrs. McCain” said my brother, acting as if Gran was a total stranger.
We all sat down and, after saying graces, enjoyed a rather awkward silent meal. Well, silent for those who couldn’t hear thoughts, for me it was full of information.
“I wonder how long it will take for the fanger to burn… I’ll have to make sure they cut the sprinklers… Wouldn’t want the water to cut the party short…”
“Steve will be so busy with the preparation for tonight that he won’t even notice if Jace and I disappear… I can’t wait to feel him inside me… Please, Lord, forgive me for what I’m about to do… I want a baby so badly…”
“Where are you from, Mr. Turner?” I asked Jason, sick of the awful thoughts of those so-called Christian.
“Louisiana, Ma’am. From a tiny little town outside of Shreveport, you mustn’t have ever heard ‘bout it. And you?”
“Virginia, but originally from Maryland. My husband, Rick, is based at Quantico, but he’ll join us here in Texas as soon as his tour is over. He’s very eager to come down here.”
“I bet he’s eager to come and rip those bigots’ heads off!”
I nearly choked on my Chicken Parmigiana at Jason’s thought.
“You okay, Ma’am?”
I nodded, taking a sip of my glass of water.
“Tell us more ‘bout that husband of yours… Rick, you said?”
“Oh, there’s not a lot to say about my Rick…”
“Victoria is being too modest” said Gran. “Her story with her Rick is quite romantic!”
“I love romantic stories! You mustn’t keep us waiting, Victoria!”
I smiled shyly.
“Well, Rick and I met when we were children. We were neighbours and… He’s always been my best friend! We were high school sweethearts. He always said he would join the Marine after high school and he did, but not before asking me to marry him. And of course I said yes. But it’s been rough, you know. He’s been deployed so many times and I’ve been alone… Luckily Gran came to stay with me. I don’t know what I would have done without her, especially when I found out I was pregnant with RJ… You see, Rick missed his birth by a week and we only had a couple of months together before he was redeployed… It’s so hard being apart…”
“Soon you will be together again” said Mrs. Newlin with a smile.
“Yes. It’s strange, but I feel him getting closer and closer…”
I wasn’t really lying, I could feel Eric rising from his day rest.
Soon dinner was over and we were heading back to the Church for the lock-in. The sight of entire family coming to attend this so-called celebration made me sick. I couldn’t believe Newlin would allow young children to watch a vampire burn to death. But then, they wouldn’t see a vampire burn to death, I wouldn’t let it happen. I was going to find Godric and the five of us would leave before shit hit the fan.