Sunday, December 9th
The night air was chilly, and strong, gusty wind blew hard against her as shw walked towards where her car was parked. Velma climbed into her car, slammed the door shut, and quickly turned the ignition key to start the car. As the engine came to life, she took note of the time. It was 11:30 p.m. No one in her neighborhood was outside, and all the houses save a few were completely dark. Satisfied that she was unnoticed, she drove towards the Institute, and parked in the garage whe she arrived. She went into the building from the garage entrance, making sure no one would see her, and headed for the computer room, where the servers resided.
Pulling up a chair, she sat in front of the server that housed the Ratings database. A long tenure at the Institute made her aware of logins and password. Entering the name she wanted, the records came up. “Now, Miss Evie. Let’s see what we can do to ruin your ratings.” All of Evie’s scores were reduced by at least forty points, to the point that they looked dismal. Done, she cracked a derisive smile and left.
Monday, December 10th
Another sunny December put Evie in a good mood. She walked happily into the Institute, and came to Ashleigh’s desk. “Hi, Ashleigh,” she said.
“Hey, Evie! I’m just great. By the way could you pull down the blinds on the front door? The light is hurting my eyes.”
This was odd: it had never bothered her before to have the blinds open on the front door. Evie’s radar went up several notches, as she eyed Ashleigh; curious, yet discreet.
“Is something wrong?” Ashleigh asked. “You’re staring at me. Is there something you need?”
“Umm…no, Ashleigh. I’m fine. Have a great day.”
“You too. I’m happy to help, and I’m really beginning to love my job.”
Evie walked away, puzzling over Ashleigh’s behavior. She seemed a little too perky, for someone who had made a dramatic change in location and was adjusting to being in the work world and a new job. But Evie just continued toward her office. As Evie walked down the hall, she passed by Velma’s office, poked her head in the door, and said, “Hi, Velma. How are you?”
Velma didn’t even bother to look up at her but just said, “I’m fine and I’d appreciate it if you minded your own business.”
Taken aback, Evie stared at her in shock. Gathering her wits a few moments later, she said, “Alright, Velma. I’ll see you later.” As Evie sat at her desk, puzzled and frowning, she said, “I can’t believe she is acting so rudely towards me. I was just trying to be friendly. It’s horrible...just horrible.”
The end of the day had come, and the staff filed out of the Institute, one by one. Velma watched as Evie left for home, muttered to herself. “Young, pretty upstarts. I hate them all, but especially her since she is getting in good with Mr. Bocelli. Well, I won’t be pushed aside by these wet behing the ears young people. She won’t get the better of me. I’ll make sure of it: I’ll ruin her career at the Institute.” She walked towards Evie’s desk, and looked at her lesson plans. She took them up, headed back towards her office and printed out hers. Finished, she took them to Evie’s desk and laid them there. On her way out, she noticed that Carlo Bocelli was still at work.
“Hey, Velma. You’re leaving late. Everything alright?”
“Yes, Carlo. I’m fine. Just had some work to catch up on.”
Agent Angelo made his next appearance very business like, in a governmental sort of way, and stood waiting patiently for Agent Farooqi. Within a few minutes, Agent Farooqi walked up to him just outside of Christ Community Church. “You are a man of your word,” Michael observed. “This is a good character quality.”
“I’m mostly here to keep an eye on you,” answered Farooqi. “I only agreed to meet you here, because you said you’d be here, and it was worth the chance.”
“You’ll learn that I’m a man of my word, Agent Farooqi. I promise you that I’ll always do as I say. Now, if you and your associates would be so kind as to follow me, I believe you might find what’s going on today to be worth your time.”
Michael led Farooqi and his two partners into the church, and had them sit in the back. Michael saw Evie towards the front of the congregation, and pointed her out to Farooqi.
“I’m a friend of Ms. Chen,” he pointed out. They don’t know I’m here today, because I chose to talk to you directly. So, you may find that dealing with me directly is more beneficial than harassing Evie and the rest of the Chen family, wouldn’t you agree, gentlemen?”
He knew they were doggedly determined to frequently interview and harass the Chens, but if he made a habit of going to them, he could at least minimize the hounding of the Chens.
“I’m not averse to exploring all avenues of acquiring any and all information I can get about you. I can’t promise that I won’t explore more than one means to that end,” stated Farooqi dispassionately.
“I knew that before I said my piece earlier, Agent Farooqi. But you can’t blame a guy for trying, now can you?” He smiled smugly, because irritating Farooqi no end gave him immense satisfaction. “Well, gentlemen, I believe Pastor Wright has some things to say that you will find quite interesting. Shall we be seated?”
They all agreed, and sat at the back of the church.
The congregation functioned more like one, big happy family. They appeared to be of many and disparate ethnicities and ages. Evie recognized friend and family, and introduced herself to the pastor and his family. Social niceties over, she sat down next to her sister, and joined with her new family.
The program guide listed today’s subject as Salvation, so she listened intently, hoping to glean any pertinent advice she could on getting back into her Father’s good graces. She tried to personalize what he was saying about having a personal relationship with Christ via the sacrificial death on the cross, and placing your faith in Him. At the end of the service, as is customary in most churches, he gave the customary ‘altar call.’
“Anyone feeling the Holy Spirit impressing upon their heart the need to make themselves right with God is invited to come up front to receive ministry. I will pray with you for you to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.”
The realization hit that she may never have actually prayed in her brief tenure among humankind, except for a quick ‘note’ to the Father every now and then.
“Have you ever prayed before? Gracie asked.
Boy, she even reads my mind. “I’ve always talked to the Father or Jesus directly. I’ve never thought about praying like you do; it seems rather round-about.”
“Well, we can’t always hear Him in an audible voice, but He hears us and answers our prayers.”
“How do you know?”
Gracie smiled confidently. “He answers by working in our lives; not always the way we want Him to, but certainly the way we need Him to.”
In her mind, she was back in her warrior days. She had always known the Father, Lord Jehovah, and His Son, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, as they called Her. She thought she had a personal relationship with God. At least she hoped so; but she couldn’t shake that alienated, far‑away‑from‑God‑and‑anyone‑in‑Heaven feeling that started when she left Heaven. She wished there were some way to make it go away, but it never seemed to.
Father, why won’t you talk to me any more? I’m beginning to think you don’t love me.
Michael and the agents walked out the doors and towards their car. “So, gentlemen,” Michael said as the service was over, “What did you think of the service? Was it meaningful to you?”
“I was brought up a Muslim,” Farooqi said. “I don’t really practice much of my own religion, never mind that of Western Christians. It sounded all nice and soothing, but religion has no practical place in my life, Agent Angelo.”
He had to chuckle at the spiritual blindness of Farooqi.
“You see, Agent Farooqi, God doesn’t want a religion, he wants a relationship between you and Him. No church organization can ever give that to you; it is something you have to want for yourself.”
“Well, Agent Angelo, I’m glad that you have a nice relationship with your God. I, on the other hand am comfortable with my life just the way it is. I will let you know if I should decide to explore your views further.”
“That’s just fine. I’d be glad to introduce you to my God. You might realize what an awesome person He really is. So, until that day, eh?”
Michael patted Farooqi on his shoulder.
“Well, Agent Angelo, religion aside, I’d like to ask you some questions. I need you to cooperate and step into the car; we can make this short and painless for everyone involved,” said Farooqi. “Further, we believe that one Evelyn Anne Chen is in this country illegally; we have no background on her.” [See Character Information for Evie’s background.]
“We’ll solve that in due time, Agent Farooqi; but for now, I must go.”
The angel walked towards the sun, so that its intense light blinded Farooqi and his colleagues. Before their eyes could adjust to the bright light, he immediately became invisible to them. “Where did he go?” demanded an angry Farooqi.
“Dunno, boss,” said Smith. “He was there one minute and gone the next.”
“Do me a favor, and don’t lose him like that the next time. It’s embarrassing to have to explain to the boss that we keep losing Angelo.”
Sunday December 9th, That Afternoon
The chill of the cold December day permeated the condo with a brisk coolness that made Gracie wear her shawl. The heating unit put warm air into the apartment, and the tea warmed her and her hands. She mused over many things, mostly on the message on Salvation Pastor Wright’s sermon on Salvation. She couldn’t help being perplexed hat her roommate didn’t understand the concept, as she had been before God for millennia. The approach of her new sister interrupted her thoughts.
“Gracie?” asked Evie.
“Why is it that relationships are treated so casually these days? I’ve noticed that young people live together, share the same living quarters, and even have sex with each other. Don’t they see that they are using each other for their own convenience, and are substituting a spiritual connection for a moment’s pleasure?”
Gracie just looked at her for a moment, not saying anything. “I can’t really tell you. It seems like it’s become only a thing of pleasure, like going out and having pizza together.
“Well, I’ve done some thinking about it, and I’m saddened to know that they treat such a gift from my Father like their were no consequences.”
Well…” Gracie had to gather her wits to explain this one, especially since she had done this very thing when she was younger, and didn’t want to sound hypocritical. “You see, sex certainly feels good, and it’s easy to want it when you like the guy you’re with; even if you’ve only made arrangements to live together.”
“Yes, I see that. If a man and a woman truly care about each other, why can they not wait until they make a commitment to each other in marriage? That way, neither one is intentionally hurting or using the other. Makes more sense to have The Father honor your commitment to each other and bless not only the act, but the marriage as well.”
Grace again paused before she spoke. “I would agree. It means a lot more to have the Lord honor your physical intimacy, and thereby your marriage.”
“Even the Romance Novels you read, and I started to read, had nothing to do with love; they portray love as sexual attraction. They cheapen the whole idea of relationships and marriage. You have sex with more than just your body. You’re sharing your soul with the person as well. It’s a very intimate sharing of all of you: body, soul, and spirit.”
At length, Gracie finally said, “Well...it’s hard to explain it, but I suppose that young people these days are very self-centered, and want all the benefits of a relationship but no commitment. It’s a matter of personal gratification.”
“You’re right.” She felt a little angry, remembering that her Father frowned upon sexual immorality. “The way young people these days treat relationships saddens me. Have you ever had sex before without being married?” She smiled at Gracie. “Don’t worry, I’m not condemning you, but just want to know; and if so, what was the outcome?”
Gracie looked down at the couch, and was silent for a few moments. When she finally looked up at Evie, she quietly answered, “Yes; back in college. I regret it now. I gave away my virginity, and I did it to rebel, because I wanted approval -- the wrong way.”
“Yeah. Neither the guys nor I really cared about each other. We were using each other. I’ve already told you about Brian. He hurt me bad. Turns out he was no different.”
“Wait! You were using each other? I thought guys used women.”
“Mostly; but both of us were involved. Each one has a say in what takes place, except in cases of rape, where it’s forced upon you.”
Evie shuddered. “Oh gracious: rape is very disturbing. Let’s move back to the original subject.” Calmed, she continued. “Okay. I’m sort of following what you’re saying.” She thought a moment. “But wouldn’t waiting until you’re married make sex better?”
“Honestly, Evie, I’ve never experienced it, I’ve heard from some of my newly-married Christian friends that when you wait, there’s something very unique and supernatural about marital intimacy.”
“So, will your not being a virgin when you get married take something away from your love making?”
’I…” Gracie’s voice caught for a moment. “I can’t totally answer that. I’m sure the Lord will bless Peter and me, but I still regret that I’ll never be able to give him my virginity.”
“Wow, Gracie. I wish there was something I could do to for you.”
Gracie smiled wanly. “The best thing you can do is to learn from my mistakes. Don’t do as I’ve done, Evie. Your virginity is something you can only give away once.”
“I understand about losing your virginity, but most young people these days think nothing of it.”
Gracie replied sadly. “You’re right.” Then her countenance turned serious. “You and I need to really stay in prayer about this. It seems hard to stay pure when everyone around you doesn’t seem to care about such things.”
“That sounds like a good start sis. Even things like how you dress can influence the outcome.”
“Yes; absolutely.” Gracie went on to explain the pitfalls of the hedonistic bent of most young people, and how their view of morality had changed drastically from days past.
In her room, later, Evie thought what Gracie said seemed perfectly reasonable, but she still couldn’t understand why young people did not see how they harmed themselves with sexual impurity. “Seems to me that immorality and an ever increasing lack of a moral compass must be fueling the behavior of all people, she reasoned. Everything she saw on TV, the movies, and in magazines seemed to make selfishness attractive. She looked heavenward. “Father, this truly is a fallen world, and it’s easy to get caught up in the pervasive world view. Help me to discern the lies in it.”