Carl picked Juliet up on Saturday morning.
Amid everything at school she still hadn’t told him about the band touring, but now it started to weigh more heavily on her mind. She pushed it away.
“So where are we going?” she asked. It was a beautiful spring day, warm and sunny. She had deliberately worn a lower cut top than usual, making the excuse to herself that it was to stay cool.
In reality it was because she wanted to tempt her sexy fiancé as far as she could.
Juliet leant back in her car seat, managing to deliberately undo a button so she revealed even more, and ensured her skirt was rucked up a little. She saw Carl flick his eyes to her then back to the road. She could tell he was trying to concentrate on not being distracted by her.
She wriggled so her skirt was even higher up her legs.
“Yes?” She feigned innocence.
“Are you trying to make me crash?”
Carl tried to focus on driving. “I can’t pull over, we’re meeting someone there.”
Juliet gave a sly smile. “Are we?” She loosened her neckline even further, arching her back, leaning her head back and closing her eyes.
Five seconds later Carl had parked off the side of the road.
“It’s hard enough seeing you at school all week without seeing you like this now.” His gaze was thick with desire. He kissed her, pressing her into the car seat.
Juliet took his hand and put it over her breast. She felt him groan as his fingers moulded around her flesh while he continued to embrace her. His thumb brushed over the sensitive peak, making her gasp at the sensation even through the thin cotton of her clothing.
She longed for Carl to touch her bare flesh but he was teasing her through the material. Gently squeezing and tugging between his fingers.
His mouth moved from her lips, kissing down her neck, on the sensitive skin below her ear. “I want you but we’re still going to wait,” he murmured and Juliet moaned in frustration from wanting him.
“The more you try and wind me up, the more I’m going to make it as hard for you as it is for me,” he threatened her. He was only half joking.
“Is it really that hard for you?” she asked, deliberately pretending to misinterpret as she slipped her hand to the front of his jeans. It was the first time she had managed to put her hand on him there without him stopped her, and she froze momentarily feeling his size and the rock hardness of it.
“That’s how much I want you,” he told her. “And if you can’t behave then it’s going to be torture for both of us.”
Sexy torture though… Juliet wasn’t sure if she minded…
Until he suddenly pulled off her and she was left with her entire body longing for him, abandoned.
“Some practising can’t hurt,” she pleaded.
“We’ll definitely get some practice in but we’re not going all the way. The first time I make love to will be after you become my wife.”
Juliet shivered at the determinedness in his tone and the possessiveness of “my wife”. Graduation couldn’t come too soon.
He drove off again and it wasn’t long before he turned down a track. They were in the hills outside the town, an area of woods and fields. Carl parked at the end of the track and they got out. He led her down a path through some trees.
As they came out on the other side Juliet was overawed at the view. It was on the top of a hill and you could see for miles across the valley to other rolling hills beyond, misty from this distance.
Around them were what looked like benches laid out, seats roughly hewn from tree trunks. There were birch trees at intervals, forming airy walls with the sky open above them.
“This is beautiful,” Juliet said. “What is it?”
“It’s called the Forest Cathedral. It’s used by a Unitarian Universalist church led by an old friend of mine, Mike Talbot.” Carl looked back. “Who’s just arrived. I wanted you to meet him.”
A man of about the same age as Carl approached and greeted them warmly. “This is Juliet?” he asked. “Welcome to our church, or nature’s church, I should say.”
Juliet was confused. “It’s very beautiful.”
Carl saw her bewilderment. “Let me explain. Or rather, maybe Mike can tell you about his church.”
Juliet, who hadn’t really heard anything about Unitarian Univeralism beyond the name, was curious.
Mike told her the basics. How it was a non-denominational tradition that welcomed all people seeking for spiritual truths. “We have other religions here, not even just Christians. Even agnostics and non-believers who are open to searching,” he said.
“I thought you might like us to get married here,” Carl said. “It means you can choose how you would like the service to be, whatever you’re comfortable with, and of course it’s a great location.”
“You wouldn’t mind?” Juliet asked Carl. She was anxious that he might prefer his own church.
“It truly doesn’t matter to me,” he told her. “To me, God is everywhere. Whether I get married here, or back at my church, or even in a Catholic church, He’s still there. I don’t think the specific ritual matters so much as what’s in our hearts when we commit to one another.”
Juliet loved the idea. She was holding his hand and she squeezed it to let him know. “What it if rains?”
Mike laughed. “Everyone asks that. We have many large umbrellas, and there’s a kind of wooden structure further in the forest that we can use instead if we need to. The view isn’t as spectacular but it’s still pretty cool.”
“I absolutely love it. It’s perfect.”
Carl saw how happy she was and he knew it was exactly the right thing for her. For them both.
As they walked back to the car, Juliet felt the cold anxious feeling in her stomach. She wanted this so badly, it felt right. But so did being in the band.
It was time to make a decision. How was she going to choose?
Carl knew from the moment that she couldn’t meet his eyes in church that he had been right.
Juliet hadn’t come that evening, having had an overload of assignments ahead of upcoming exams. At least that was what she had told him. Half of the reason was that she was still suffering an agony of doubt over how to let Drew and Jax and the rest of the guys down.
Dan and Jenny were also at church, with all the old ladies cooing over Sara Grace who looked angelically quiet before the service. It would have been the most normal thing for Rebecca to try and hang out with them but she kept her distance.
“Is your young lady not with you tonight?” Agnes asked him.
“Too much homework.”
“That would be your fault then, for setting too much,” Agnes said. She chuckled. “Latin verbs instead of church indeed!”
Juliet was actually buried in a history assignment but Carl didn’t correct Agnes. His mind was elsewhere. He wasn’t sure what to do about Rebecca. He didn’t want to cause a scene and he couldn’t prove it, but he never wanted to interact with her again.
He also had no intention of telling Dan or Jenny, though he knew they would be horrified if he did so and Jenny would likely refuse to ever speak with Rebecca again.
“Rebecca’s acting weird this evening,” Jenny said to Carl after Rebecca studiously avoided them. “Perhaps she’s finally got the message that there’s no going back.”
“Maybe.” Despite everything Carl felt sorry for her. Or perhaps because of everything. Because Rebecca was the architect of her own unhappiness, and her latest spite had isolated her even further.
He wasn’t going to mention anything to Jenny or Dan though. For one, he had no proof, and the two of them had enough on their plate anyway what with the baby.
There were better things to think of, Juliet for one. She had told him that she was going to tell her aunt soon about their engagement. Carl had offered to be there with her but Juliet had thought it was best for her to do it alone. “Once she’s done freaking out, I’ll introduce you. I think she’ll be okay once she’s met you.”
“If you’re sure?”
“It’s best this way. I might not tell her quite everything though.” She had looked at him anxiously when saying this, worrying he would disapprove of anything but the full and absolute truth.
But he smiled. “I think that very wise.” It would be kinder and more sensible not to shock Juliet’s relation more than necessary, at least to start with.
Thinking about this, he caught Rebecca’s eye in church. Pastor Brown was droning on in a sermon that wasn’t managing to inspire Carl for some reason. His eyes wandered, and he saw the guilty and accusatory glance his ex-fiancée gave him.
Carl wished for her sake more than his that she hadn’t done it. Despite everything he still didn’t want to believe she was so truly awful as she had seemed these past few months. Partly because it made him feel bad for her, and partly because it made him feel like an idiot.
He hoped she would find someone else quickly and move on. He was so happy himself that he wanted everyone else in the world to know the same joy.