Three weeks later I’m still feeling very conflicted about this one for a couple of reasons. The heroine of this story is 17 years old and while 16 is the age of consent in Georgia we have to factor in that Cadence is Mark’s current student.
Sure they didn’t have intercourse until she was 18. However they did just about everything else before then and SHE STILL WAS HIS STUDENT. I do have to say even if those scenes were pretty hot (most especially that classroom closet scene)… SHE STILL IS A STUDENT.
Then we have to add in all the religious aspect of it all. That right there just made things even more more “ugh” for me.
I thought maybe if their pairing was convincing enough that I could get past all my doubts and hesitations. Did I think they could be soul mates? No. Do I think that they have enough in common to make things work? I don’t think so either. Even if Cadence was somewhat mature for her age…to me, there just wasn’t enough there.
I only caught a brief glimpse into Mark’s life in this book. I want to know more about him- his secrets and his life history. Maybe there’s something in his past that will change my mind about their pairing. I’m also curious to know what his logic is about how he thinks this unconventional relationship could possibly work. And just for that I would most definitely read the 2nd installment.
Because I’m still so conflicted and since Mark still piques my interest….
As soon as I heard the music start, I knew it was time to go in. I placed the rest of the programs on a nearby table and tentatively walked inside the sanctuary. I slipped into our usual row and tried my hardest not to look at Mr. Connelly. But it was impossible, and when I did glimpse him, I saw a tiny smile playing on his lips. What was that? I rolled my eyes and directed my attention to the large screen on stage that highlighted the words to the current song.Ours was your typical big ass non-denominational church complete with Starbucks-toting attendees, a church band that liked to play U2 hits before the service, and a pastor who always wore jeans. He did more teaching than preaching, which I liked very much, never having been the type of girl who enjoys being yelled at or sweated on.The church was more an auditorium than a classic sanctuary, and there were no pews. Just rows and rows of cushioned chairs. No hymnals. No cross up front. No pulpit. None of the traditional “churchy” things. We rarely took communion. And many people dressed inappropriately, at least according to my mom. She went livid the first time she saw a teenage girl walk in wearing sweatpants with the word “Juicy” plastered on her butt.
After the offering was collected, Pastor Tom took the stage and began his lesson. Mr. Connelly didn’t have a Bible, and while the verses were displayed on the screen up front, I shared with him. Another clichéd habit: when you see someone without a Bible, you share yours. I shouldn’t have, though, because when he leaned into me to get a better look at the page, I smelled his cologne. And it made me feel something I wasn’t supposed to feel inside a sanctuary. Or auditorium. Holy auditorium. Whatever.
“So it’s really about weighing options: what I can do versus what I should do,” Pastor Tom continued. “We have the will to choose. That’s how God designed us. Free will. Everything’s permissible. Go on and do it. But understand the consequences first.”
I inhaled deeply, almost tasting the cologne on my tongue, and wanted to rest my head on Mr. Connelly’s shoulder.
“Let’s read this verse again,” Pastor Tom said. “Paul says, ‘Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive’. So yeah, you can do whatever you want, right? Sure. But why would you do something that would ultimately harm you? What you really need to ask yourself before you engage in anything is, ‘Does this glorify God or me?’”
Mr. Connelly has nice lips.
“And why don’t we take it completely out of the “Christian” context for a minute,” the pastor went on.
I wonder what it would be like to kiss them.
“Whether you believe in God or not, whether you’re a Christ-follower or not, Paul’s words resonate with all of us. Ask yourself this: I’m permitted to do whatever I want, but how will it affect my life, my health, my relationships, my friendships, my community? Because whether you’re a Christian or not, those things matter. And unless you’re completely self-destructive, you want to live a healthy life. You want to have healthy relationships. You want what’s best for your community.”
What am I thinking? I can’t kiss my math teacher!
“So, in essence, that’s living ‘beneficial’,” Pastor Tom explained.
But maybe I could kiss him. Just a little. You think that’s a good idea, Cadence? I heard my conscience ask. I mean, have you not been paying attention to the lesson for the last thirty minutes?
What lesson? The lesson about not doing things you shouldn’t be doing. Like your math teacher, for one. Pay attention! my conscience cried.
I shook my head and huffed.
I was only fantasizing, I argued.
And that’s where the trouble begins.
Whatever, I replied.
At the end of the lesson, we sang one more song. I didn’t sing any of the songs in the beginning of the service because I was too nervous being so close to Mr. Connelly. But I couldn’t resist the closing song, and sang along with the crowd, forgetting for a moment that Mr. Connelly was standing beside me until he mentioned my singing after church.
“You have a really pretty voice, Cadence,” he said.
“Thank you,” I replied, eyes glued to the floor.
“If there was a choir, you ought to be in it,” he went on.
“No choir here. This is a contemporary church,” I said, grinning.
“I gathered as much. And I suppose ‘contemporary’ defines a place of worship that, in no way, resembles a traditional church?” he asked.
“You got it,” I replied.
“It’s very sneaky,” he said.
I laughed. “Sneaky?”
“Oh yes. You make it look this attractive, and who can resist?” he asked.
I instinctively smoothed my hair. I knew he was referring to our church service, but the way he looked at me suggested he was really talking about me. It was that same look. The one from Highway 28.