Title: Sin in the Kingdom of God
Rating: T (to be very
much on the safe side), for references to possibly-underaged sex,
lesbianism, and (duh)polygamy.
Summary: Sarah doesn't believe in love. She doesn't believe in God, either. Heather believes in both, and it's tearing her apart.
Disclaimer: Sarah, Heather, and any other Big Love characters or scenarios mentioned in this fic don't belong to me. They belong to whomever holds the copyright, which is not me. (Given the convoluted state of Hollywood copyrights, I'm gonna leave it at that.)
A/N: I'm posting this very late without betaing—hopefully I will repost it beta'd, but for now, rest assured that my grammatical issues should be minor anyway.
"Do you think she'll ever leave him?" Sarah asked.
Heather looked up from her math book. "Your mother?" she asked, voice full of concerned sympathy.
"I don't know," Heather said.
"I hate it. Shehates it." Sarah turned to look at her friend. Then, more quietly: "He doesn't deserve her love."
Heather tried to think of something to say. "Love is strange," she offered. "It's not logical."
"It's horrible." She turned back towards the desk and kicked half-heartedly at the wall. "I'm never going to fall in love. It makes you too vulnerable."
Heather bit her lip and looked down at her lap, then back up at her friend. "It can be a good thing, too," she replied quietly.
Sarah grimaced. "The divorce rate is what, fifty percent? And then there are even more people, miserable but staying married because of their religion, or because they're too scared to leave." She shook her head cynically. "Love just lets people use you."
"But that's why God gives testimony, so you know to choose the right person."
After Sarah was silent for a while, Heather thought the conversation was over and returned to her math homework. It was several minutes later that her friend spoke again.
"I don't know that I believe in any of it anymore," Sarah announced.
Heather looked up again, confused and concerned by the sudden proclamation. "'It'?" she asked carefully. "What do you mean?"
"God. Jesus. The Celestial Kingdom. Testimony. Any of it. It's just…" she trailed off.
"Sarah, don't let your issues with your family damage your faith!" Heather exclaimed earnestly, closing her textbook and getting up to sit nearer to her friend. "What they're doing isn't what God wants. Disagreeing with them—it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the church."
"I know that," she replied. "But I've just been thinking about all of it. The things people do for faith and how stupid it is. What you said about testimony, and how people think they know, how it's used as an excuse to do anything. And I realized that the faith itself doesn't make any sense to me."
Heather bit her lip, trying to figure out how to respond.
Sarah glanced over at her friend, then back down at her book. "I don't know why I just told you that," she murmured.
"No! I mean, it's okay you did. I, I wouldn't want you to lie about it."
"I had sex with Scott," Sarah admitted, glancing covertly at her friend briefly before fixing her gaze firmly on the desk.
Something unpleasant welled up in Heather that had nothing to do with fear over Sarah's soul. She tried not to think about what exactly that feeling was. "Oh," she managed.
Sarah looked up at her friend. "'Oh'? That's all?" she asked nervously. Then, burying her face in her hands, she added, "I have no idea why I told you that, either."
"You know you can always talk to me!" Heather rushed to assure her. "I mean… I'm worried about you… I want to help."
"I know." Sarah's voice was muffled by the hands still covering her face. "You always want to help, everybody, all the time."
"I'm sorry I didn't make more effort to see you when my parents forbade me," Heather blurted out. That guilt had been festering for a while and Sarah's heartfelt comment about helping just added to the shame.
Sarah slid her hands away from her face. "It's okay. I didn't, either… I was too concerned with Scott."
Again, that unpleasant feeling in the pit of her stomach that Heather refused to identify. "But… what you said before… I mean… you don't love him, do you?"
There was an odd sort of desperation in her voice that made Sarah look up, brow furrowed as she regarded her friend.
"I guess not," she said finally.
"Then why did you… you know." Heather blushed.
Sarah shrugged listlessly. "Because I wanted to leave all of it behind. It's… it's all or nothing. Chastity was just one more symbol of everything I don't believe in anymore." She glanced over at her friend, who looked strangely devastated.
"Oh, Sarah," she whispered sorrowfully. "You should have at least loved him."
"What does that matter? It's a sin either way," Sarah pointed out.
"Yeah, I know, but… I don't mean morally. I meant… for your sake. Your first time should be with someone you love."
"Love gives men too much power. They have sex without just for fun without caring too much about it. Why shouldn't I?"
"Not all men do that," Heather insisted.
"Enough of them."
"But…" Heather hesitated. "Do you really want to live your life without love?"
"No? I don't know." Sarah looked at the other girl pleadingly, as though somehow she could fix things. "Every time I see someone fall in love, it just causes pain," she said helplessly.
Heather's heart ached. She wished that she could fix things, that she did have the answers her friend so desperately needed. But all she could think to do was reached out her hand, awkwardly placing it on her friend's arm. Heather always felt awkward whenever she touched anyone, whenever she gave or received affection, and she knew it showed.
Sarah deserved comfort that came naturally, and Heather wished intensely that she could give it. Instead she patted her friend's arm self-consciously and tried to smile comfortingly, though maybe it came out more as pity. Her affection was genuine, but she never knew how to express it.
Sarah attempted a smile back, and placed her hand on top of her friend's. Heather's heart sped up as she felt Sarah's hand upon her own. She turned her hand the other way so that they were holding hands.
"It'll be okay," she said. "Your family betrayed you, but that doesn't mean everyone will."
Sarah nodded, but looked unconvinced.
"And hey," Heather added, trying to sound bright and upbeat, "you've learned from your mother's mistake. You'll know to get out if something like that happens to you."
She knew it had been the wrong thing to say when all the blood drained from Sarah's face.
"What is it?" she asked, alarmed.
Sarah was trying valiantly to hold back tears, but one or two slipped down her cheek. "I didn't learn," she said bitterly. "Right before I slept with Scott, he cheated on me. With his ex. And I knew it. But I wanted to keep him."
Her eyes begged Heather to understand, but more than that, they begged forgiveness. I'm weak, they said, and maybe if you don't hate me I can stop hating myself.
"Oh, Sarah." Heather stroked her hair gently.
"I'm just like my mom. I'm making all the same mistakes."
"No, you're not," her friend replied earnestly. "You said before that you slept with him to get away from everything having to do with your upbringing. It—it didn't have anything to do with him really. You wanted to have sex to break from your upbringing—he was just there."
Sarah laughed through her tears. "So what you're saying is, I'm not sacrificing my happiness to keep a man—I'm just a slut?"
"Er." Put that way it didn't sound so comforting. "The important thing is that you're not making the same mistakes as your mother. You're making your own."
"And that's better?"
"Well…" Heather wracked her brains for a good answer, and amazingly, stumbled upon one. "It means that you've learned from her mistakes, so when you learn from your mistakes too, you'll have twice as much experience to draw from."
Sarah pressed her lips together and nodded. She pulled her hand from Heather's to wipe the tears from her cheeks.
"Sorry for having a breakdown like that," she said.
"No problem," Heather replied softly.
Sarah shook her head and laughed. "Maybe I should just swear off men altogether and become a lesbian," she joked.
When Heather had gone on roller coasters when she was younger, whenever she went over a small hill, it felt like her stomach plummeted right now of her. Like butterflies in her stomach times ten, all churning in the same direction. She'd called it "leaving my stomach behind."
Somehow her body managed to recreate exact same sensation in response to Sarah's words.
"Uh…" she stuttered.
"I'm kidding," Sarah assured her quickly.
"I know." Heather's smile was forced, but luckily her friend seemed to preoccupied to notice.
"Thanks for listening," she said. "You know, you're a really great friend."
"I was afraid you'd judge me," she admitted.
"Well, I told you when we met that I'm open-minded."
"I thought you were just saying that to get me to admit about my family."
The banter was good; it helped Heather get back in control of her nerves. "Yeah, so I wasexpecting you to be a freak," she teased.
Sarah rolled her eyes but smiled. She turned her head and happened to get a look at the clock.
"Oh man, I really need to get home," she said.
"Are… are you going to be okay?" Heather asked.
Sarah shrugged. "I guess I'll have to be."
"Well… you can always stay here," Heather offered.
Sarah hesitated. "What about Rhonda? Isn't she getting back soon?"
"No, she's staying overnight in Arizona for the stupid television thing. My mom's with her, so it's just my dad here. I'm sure if you just tell him you are trying to get away from your family that he'll let you stay overnight. In fact, he'd probably let you move in."
Sarah raised her eyebrows. "Not while Rhonda's living here, thanks."
"I really don't blame you."
"But…" Sarah looked thoughtful. "Is it really okay if I stay here? I could use the non-polygamist company."
"Sure!" Heather tried not to sound too enthusiastic. "Do you think your parents will let you on a school night?"
"Yeah, my mom will let me. I'll call though before we ask your dad." She pulled out her cell phone.
"Hey… mom? It's Sarah. I'm feeling really tired, do you mind if I stay at Heather's place tonight? Yes, she has a spare toothbrush." Sarah caught her friend's eye before rolling hers. "Okay, great. Thanks. I'll see you tomorrow. I love you too." She hung up.
"Cool!" Heather said. "So, I'll go ask my dad. Do you want the guest room?"
"Where Rhonda normally lives?"
"Um… it might defeat the point of company. Do you mind if I stay in here? It's okay if you'd rather I—"
"You staying here is fine!" she exclaimed. "I'll get extra sheets from the hall closet when I go ask my dad."
"Okay, but could you wait a sec? I want to go to the bathroom and freshen up."
"Go on, I'll ask without you."
Sarah nodded and headed for the bathroom. When she got back to Heather's room, the other girl was just arriving with an armful of blankets.
"He said yes," she informed Sarah, and started arranging the blankets on the floor.
"Thanks for setting this up for me," Sarah said as she knelt down to help.
"Oh, no, I'm sleeping on the floor!" Heather rushed to correct her. "You're the guest, after all."
"I couldn't," said Sarah.
"I can't let a guest take the floor," Heather replied firmly.
"Can't we both take the bed?" Sarah asked tentatively. "Like we used to do when girlfriends slept over when we were little."
Heather froze. She had never done that when she was little. She had no idea how to answer; it was like her blood was rushing in her ears. Every day it was harder and harder to deny that Rhonda was right about her. Part of her hated Sarah for it, because she didn't want to admit that she was feeling something so unnatural. A much bigger part of her hated Rhonda for pointing it out, for making it harder to hide from, for once it's been named it's always harder to stay in denial.
But mostly she hated herself, for feeling the way she did. Because she knew that given even the smallest encouragement from Sarah, she would give in to sin. And because she didn't get encouragement, except that which came from friendship, that which came from Sarah's thinking of her so platonically that the thought of tension never even crossed her mind.
Sarah grew visibly nervous as Heather didn't answer. "Sorry, never mind, if it's not—"
"No, it's fine!" Heather cut her off.
"Are you sure."
"Yes. I'm sure. Really." She nodded intently.
"…okay." Sarah leaned over to fold up the extra bedding and put it in the corner. "Do you have any pajamas I can borrow?"
Heather went over to her bureau and took out nightgowns for both Sarah and herself. "I'll go to the bathroom to change and, you know, everything else," she said awkwardly. As she turned and left the room she cursed herself silently for being an idiot. Sarah would figure out that something was up if she kept being so darned awkward and weird!
After changing and getting ready for bed, Heather lingered in the bathroom for a moment to stare in the mirror and give herself a silent pep talk.
This is no big deal. You are not into Sarah, and you're just going to sleep next to each other innocently like kids do. You won't touch her. You won't act weird. Just be normal.
She sighed and reentered the bedroom. Sarah was sitting on the bed, looking at her book collection.
Heather tried to think of the least suspicious thing she could say. "So, um, are you still going to keep coming to church with me even though you don't believe in it? Because I don't know if my parents will let you come here otherwise, and you know, you could always discover that once you get used to normal LDS, you'll rediscover your faith."
"My mom really wants me to keep going to," Sarah said. "So yeah. I guess I'll keep going to keep parents happy. Well, not most of my parents, but whatever. It'd probably be a bit of a lost cause anyway."
"I don't want to imagine what you'd have to be like to keep Nicki happy," Heather replied with a giggle. Her friend looked pained. "Well, to bed?"
"Sounds good," Sarah agreed.
She crawled under the covers as Heather switched off the overhead light, then got into the bed on the other side. She turned off the lamp on her bedside table, leaving them in darkness. She tried to shift in a comfortable position not touching the other girl in the bed, but that was extremely difficult on a twin-sized bed. Eventually she turned to sleep on her side facing away from Sarah, so that the parts of her that touched the other girl were incidental and not something she could control. She wasn't savoring every point of contact—absolutely not.
"Heather?" Sarah whispered in the darkness.
"Thank you for listening, and letting me stay."
"It was nothing. I just wish there were more I could do to help."
"You've been a really good friend," Sarah said. "You're the only person I can really talk to, now that Scott's part of the problem."
"I'm glad you can talk to me," she replied sincerely.
"You know, if you ever have any problems or issues you need to deal with… I'm here to listen," Sarah told her.
Heather blinked back tears, glad that it was dark and that she was facing away from her companion. "Alright," she said.
"Is anything bothering you? You know you could tell me, right? It can be good to tell a more neutral party."
Heather closed her eyes, willing herself to sleep so that she could forget about everything for a little while.
"I'll keep that in mind," she said, as she fake yawned and tried to pretend she was already drifting off, "but right now I don't think I need a neutral party."
Sarah reached up to gently squeeze her friend's arm. Heather pretended to be asleep, because if she was asleep, then she wasn't enjoying (obsessing over) the touch. If she was asleep, then she didn't care that she was lying in bed next to her best friend. If she was asleep, if she touched Sarah it was only unknowingly, and had nothing to do withwanting to touch her.
If she was asleep, she was safe for a while.
Unless, of course, she dreamt of Sarah.