Jenn is my best friend, despite my growing jealousy of her. While I am constantly feeling held back, I see her being pushed forward. I cannot help but constantly compare our situations. I got in so much trouble last year when I turned 13. She and I had a plan to get our ears pierced together when she turned 13. I am 14 now and she just turned 13. She got her ears pierced without me as Mom and Dad think it will go to my head. I have just chosen my boyfriend, and the pastors have also called her in and she chose her boyfriend. She chose David. David is Charlie’s younger brother. Her and I are excited to be sisters someday. She is physical with David, they hold hands and when we are hanging out she will jump on his back. I long for this type of comfortable relationship.
Charlie refuses to hold my hand when I reach out. I understand that he is more shy than his brothers. I do not know if he likes me or feels stuck with me. Upon the suggestion of Pastor W (Charlie’s dad) we start writing letters to each other. It gives me a ticklish feeling of excitement to get a letter from him. I love writing him back. I became very cautious when I found out that Charlie was sharing my letters with his parents. I was so embarrassed. There was never inappropriate content in the letters, but I was still embarrassed. All four of us, Jenn, David, Charlie, and I, worked for the car wash at the church. I would get there early since Mom had to drop me off on her way to work. While laying with my eyes closed one day, I heard Charlie say “she is so beautiful” to his brother about me. This would be the only compliment that I would hear from him out of our four year relationship.
Jenn lives at the church, and I have been spending a lot of time with her there. We would go for walks sometimes, but mostly just hang out and talk. One day we were in her bedroom and she got really quiet. I asked her what was wrong. She wouldn’t tell me, but she looked like she was going to cry. She refused to look in my eyes. I asked her if everything was okay with her and David. She shook her head, no. Jenn told me that she thought Renee, Ted’s girlfriend, was mad at her. She said she was in trouble. I asked her why but she would only say that she had done something she shouldn’t have. She looked so sad. I tried a bit more to get information out of her, but she wouldn’t say. I had a pit in my stomach that something had happened with Ted. Just then, one of the five women that she shared a bedroom with came home and we couldn’t talk about it anymore. I learned the next day that Jenn’s mom decided to move them out of the church, and she took Jenn and her brother out of the school. I didn’t get to say goodbye, and the last memory of my friend is her feeling shame and regret.
A few months later, Jenn’s mom reached out to my mom. She told Mom that some awful things had happened to Jenn. She wanted Mom to take us kids out of the cult. She warned of danger. Mom saw the church as a safe haven and refuge from the rest of the “world”. This is how the pastor’s described the “church”. I am grateful for Jenn’s mom for reaching out. I am also grateful for my life and experiences that I can share with you now.
I can now view my suffering and experiences as a beautiful work of art, full of shadows and light, depth and breadth.