Lusts of the FleshbyJaymal©
'Listen to this next bit.' Danny Woodward's finger hovered over the page dramatically, as he read. ' "From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her." ' There was a knowing smile on Danny's lips, as he scanned the congregation. 'That's all it took. He's out taking the air one morning, thinking over how well everything's going, and BAM! In an instant he's gone - plotting an act of adultery with a married woman, enlisting his servants to help him.'
Danny stepped out from behind the lectern that served as his pulpit and strolled down towards his audience, the Bible lying open in his left hand. 'This is the man who was chosen to be King over God's people.' Even away from the microphone his insistent voice carried easily to the back of the hall. 'Who led them to victory over their enemies. Whose wisdom and compassion as a leader had been proven time and again. And like that...' - a snap of his fingers - 'he's lost the plot.' Danny was warming to his subject now and his listeners were wrapt. 'That's how easy it is for us, any of us, to fall prey to what they used to call 'the lusts of the flesh': jealousy, greed, and above all - sexual sin.' He faked a sheepish grin. 'Trust me, I know. I'm a guy.'
The youth group members in the front rows all burst into laughter at Danny's cheekily honest flourish. Pastor Simmons would raise an eyebrow, he knew, but what the hell? The teens looked up to Danny; why shouldn't they know that he, the church's Youth Pastor, was aware of his own temptations? Being wise to the pitfalls of sexual desire made you all the more able to navigate round them. It made you a better role model. Especially if, like Danny, you stood at six feet, with dark hair and a face that would pass in a shaving products commercial; enough people in his lifetime had said as much for him to know it was true and there was no virtue in false modesty, was there? Had it not been for his commitment to God, he could have done very well for himself where sex was concerned. Yes, these young people knew he was celibate from choice.
'Who knows why King David let himself be lured?' he continued, sweeping his rhetorical question over the assembled masses. 'Maybe he'd stopped praying as regularly as he should. Maybe he'd become too confident in his own supposed godliness. Because all it took was one glance at an attractive woman when she was splashing in her outdoor Jacuzzi and he was history.' Danny's own eyes settled on a young woman seated mid-way down the hall, a woman he had noticed at the church several times before. She had a gypsyish look to her, with her wavy, dark hair and black eyes, her tassled, maroon dress and her arms laden with pottery bangles. He had no idea who she was, but she reminded him of a girl he had met at a student disco back in his agnostic early youth, before his initial encounter with Christianity. His mind flashed back to that encounter - the urgent flight to the gents' toilets, how busily that girl had guzzled him in and sucked him off, as he stood pressed against the inside of a cubicle door. He could remember her hot little furnace of a mouth working on him to that day...
The memory emerged instantaneously as he locked eyes with the gypsy rose and she alone, perhaps, noticed the slight falter, as he grabbed for his drifting train of thought. 'And that's why,' he said with emphasis, diverting his gaze elsewhere, 'we've always got to be on our guard.'
Pastor Simmons, it turned out, was pleased with the sermon. He seemed willing to overlook Danny's occasionally flippant sense of humour; the young people, as he said when the morning service broke up, needed as much encouragement as they could get in their battle against rising adolescent hormones, especially in today's sexualised society. It was good to know that they had a young man like Danny to support them in their struggles. Danny in turn found himself able to overlook the senior preacher's pomposity and accept his vote of confidence. Yes, he thought to himself as he stacked the final few folding chairs against the side of the hall, he was there for the youngsters, helping keep them focused on the demands of their faith. He was making a difference at Alton Bridge Community Church.
'Pastor?' He turned and was a touch startled to see the girl in the maroon dress just feet away from him, shifting her weight hesitantly from one foot to the other, a look of earnest enquiry on her face. Close up he could appreciate just how attractive she was, the milk-white of her bare arms and graceful neck contrasting with her dark eyes and tumbling, black hair. She had a petite, slender figure and the low neckline of her dress hinted at a neat, gently curving little bust, nicely in proportion to the rest of her. 'Can I have a word?'
'Certainly. And it's Danny, please.' He proffered his hand and she shook it warmly. Her hand felt cool and smooth in his.
'Rhianna,' she responded, returning his smile. 'I enjoyed your talk.' She had a polished Home Counties accent, somewhat at odds with her free-spirited appearance.
'Thanks - well I didn't put anyone to sleep, so I always take that as a good sign.' She laughed, so that the sunshine falling through the hall windows glinted in her eyes and he felt a sudden sense of privilege at being given the opportunity to counsel this girl. 'I've seen you here a few times before. Have you attended any other church?'
'No, no, I was never brought up to go to church, my parents weren't really religious at all,' she told him. 'But - em...' She seemed to be feeling about for the words. 'I suppose you could say I've been searching for something these last few years - you know, I've read up on Eastern religion, I've tried meditation... But the few times I've been here - well - there just seems to be a real sense of community and - and togetherness. You know what I mean? Well obviously you do. And it just struck me that maybe here was a place I could get some answers. Maybe Christianity's what I've been looking for all this time.'
Danny's heart sped up a little. A searching soul, and a pretty one at that, just strolling into the church - and it was falling to him to lead her to salvation. Thanks God. 'Yeah, well, I know totally what you're saying,' he responded eagerly. 'I'm not from a church background either. I was at university before I really gave any thought to Jesus Christ. Look...' He thought it best, nonetheless, to be circumspect. 'We've got a young adults' group that I lead every Tuesday evening - perhaps if you came along next week, you'd have a chance to ask some more questions...'
'Well...' she said reluctantly, 'I'm not sure if I want to take on a whole crowd just yet. I sort of feel your experience is something I could relate to... Could I maybe just talk things over with you?'
Danny was flattered in spite of himself. 'Yes, of course. I'm supposed to be meeting some people for lunch, but...'
'No please, you keep your lunch appointment, I insist. Look, I live nearby. Maybe you could call in some time this week and we can chat a bit? I mean I'm sure you've a busy schedule, I don't want to impose...'
'Oh no no no no no! That's not a problem. No, it's really important you get to discuss what you've been thinking about. What days are good for you? I can do tomorrow...'
Before he had given it a further thought, she had scribbled down her address on the back of a business card (she made and sold her own jewellery, it turned out, in the style of the bangles she was wearing) and they were booked for the following evening. He stood in her perfumed wake, as she sailed gracefully from the hall, considering how completely he had just broken one of his own rules. Never enter a stranger's house alone when doing evangelistic work: that was what he told the youth group members when they were going door-to-door, distributing invitations to church events. Always go with an opposite-sex partner; that way you stay safe and avoid any compromising situations.
He smiled. Sometimes you just had to wing these things; strike that iron while it was hot and trust you had enough Christian maturity to cope. He would risk being late for the monthly leaders' Bible study with Pastor Simmons and the church elders, something that had slipped his mind during his conversation with Rhianna, but it was in the name of leading a searching soul to Christ, so they could hardly complain. Especially if she became a leading light in the church, and how could such a vivacious and intelligent young woman not do?
Late that evening in his flat he spent some additional time in prayer and Bible reading, preparing for his counselling session the following evening. He checked through his notes on 'Listening for God's Guidance' in preparation for Tuesday evening's discussion at the Young Adults' Group. Then unaccountably he found himself jerking off to 'Stormy Monday Meets the Jizz Brothers', lifted from the stash of pornographic DVDs he kept stored at the back of his underwear drawer. The movie chronicled what befell the voluptuous Miss Monday and her girlfriends, when they encountered the eponymous Jizz Brothers, a duo of strapping, sexually enthusiastic black gentlemen. It was a small moral compromise on Danny's part that he had stopped throwing away such titles, bought over the Internet in his occasional porn binges; eight years' failure to beat this temptation had proved to him that he would only buy replacements, so why not work on resisting the dirty movies he owned, rather than the ones still for sale? At least this way he wasn't spending any more money.
He stopped the DVD at a point where its heroine lay sticky, exhausted and looking terribly pleased with herself, between her two well-endowed suitors. Danny too was in a sticky condition, but his feelings, as he reached about for some tissues with which to mop up, were familiar ones of guilt. So he retired to his bedroom and made his usual chagrined apology to God. He asked for forgiveness that he had succumbed to thoughts of lust once again. He asked for forgiveness that he had looked on young Stormy as a masturbatory fantasy, not as a lost sheep needing returned to the fold. He would have asked forgiveness that he had let Rhianna, from the morning service, enter his mind when he was mid-wank, but that would have meant admitting to himself it had actually happened. At any rate, his sleep that night was not as easy as it might have been.
Danny sat down for a moment's prayer the following evening, to put himself in the right frame of mind for his discussion with Rhianna. He flung on his leather jacket and checked in the mirror, teasing a few clumps of gelled hair into place before heading out. No reason why you shouldn't look your best doing God's work. The girl's flat was in the town's rather dingy student area; however able she was at crafting jewellery, it didn't seem that her business had taken flight just yet. Danny pressed the second storey button and was almost immediately buzzed in.
'Up here!' Rhianna called down the gloomy stairwell. He moved upstairs towards her voice. 'Double back and it's the first door on the left! You're very punctual - sort of caught me unawares!' On arriving at her door he understood what she meant. She was wrapped in a red silk kimono and, judging from the way it was sticking to her body, had just dashed from the shower.
'Sorry - you want me to call back?' Danny asked distractedly.
'No, don't be silly,' she said lightly, ushering him inside. 'Come on into the kitchen. I just need to fetch a towel for my hair. Hailey'll get you something to drink - she's my flatmate. Here, let me take your jacket.' The humble student dwelling had been prettified throughout with art prints and the occasional film poster. A copy of Henry Miller's 'Tropic of Capricorn' lay on an armchair in the living-room. Here was a smart cookie, thought Danny, as he walked through to the kitchen. Literate, artistic - a soul worth saving. Not that all souls weren't equally worth saving, he added to himself hastily.
'Hiiii!!!' Rhianna's young roommate almost sang, as he entered the little kitchen. 'You're Rhianna's preacher guy!' So this was Hailey - American by the sound of it, a vision of sunshine in a revealing, white T-shirt and a tiny pair of pink, cotton shorts. She virtually swooped on him in welcome, her sizeable breasts swaying in braless freedom under her sleeveless top. 'Sit down, let me get you some lemonade. Rhianna'll be back in a moment. So what do I call you - Reverend?'
'No, no - it's Danny, please.'
She passed him a full glass and sat next to him, biting her bottom lip, her great Bambi eyes drinking him in with fascination. 'So you run your own church and everything!' Her dark brown hair was tied back, displaying her pretty, round face, with gently upturned nose and full mouth.
'Well not yet,' he laughed, disarmed and feeling unaccountably lucky. 'I just finished training last year - I've been a sort of junior pastor there for the past nine months.'
'And very good he is too.' Rhianna had arrived from her bedroom and she joined them at the kitchen table, still towelling her damp hair. She had deemed it unnecessary, he noted, to change from her kimono. There were still a few beads of water on her upper chest. 'Got me thinking about a lot of things,' she said, slinging the towel over the back of her chair. 'You should come there with me next week, Hailey.' She put a hand on Danny's knee and he tremored imperceptibly. 'Do you mind if Hailey sits in on our chat?'
'Not at all.' Danny was a little knocked back; he had been gearing himself for an intense one-to-one counselling session with Rhianna, culminating in prayer and an emotional commitment on her part to her new-found faith. Now he had to reassess how the situation should be played. 'You from a church background, Hailey?'
'Oh yeah,' she said jauntily. 'I was a real good girl. Went to Bible Class every week. My first ever crush was on the Bible Class teacher.' She giggled and eyed Danny like a child gawping at a candy bar. 'I bet you get that a lot.'
'Ehhh yeh, I'm a real matinee idol,' he said, laughing away the flirtation and managing, he felt, to mask his unease.
'Hailey's my little sweetheart, aren't you darling?' said Rhianna, giving her friend's arm an affectionate squeeze. 'I was touring the States last year and I met her when I was in Boston...'
'And I'd finished school and didn't know what I wanted to do next,' Hailey followed on, rolling her eyes despairingly at her own lack of direction, 'so Rhianna said I could hang out with her in England for a while, until I'd made up my mind. She lets me help out with her business and everything. Isn't she a sweetie? And she takes me all sorts of places round London and oh, the stuff we do together...'
Rhianna broke in, clearly recognising that her flatmate's childish eccentricity, while charming, was not to the point. 'Now Hailey, I've hi-jacked Danny here to talk about God. Let's not waste his time.'
'Oops, sorry, I just get chatting sometimes... No, you guys talk away. Here, let me get you some more lemonade.' She reached over to the shelf for the jug she had made up, causing her shorts to ride far up her healthily rounded ass cheeks; Danny had not meant to be looking, but caught an unmistakable flash of plump, pink pussy lips beneath Hailey's shorts, before he quickly averted his gaze. He averted it to the front of Rhianna's satin robe, which had fallen open just enough to expose the gentle, porcelain contours of her cleavage. His penis began to respond inappropriately to the various feminine attractions on display and he missed what Rhianna was saying.
'Sorry, what was that?' He fumbled with the glass Hailey had just refilled, almost knocking it over.
'I was just saying how impressed I was about some of what you said yesterday morning. You make Christianity very relevant to - well - modern life.' Suddenly, despite the fleshly distractions, he was running with what he knew best. They were talking about Christ's teaching on social justice, on the role of the church in removing Third World Debt, on how Christian faith could make you a better environmentalist. Hailey was looking back and forth between them, chin resting delicately on her clasped hands, as if she were in the presence of two great intellects. The only time she broke her concentration was when she went to fix her hair and dropped her elastic scrunchy under the table. She went rummaging after it, insisting that they leave it to her. Then she returned to her former position, looking on with a strangely enigmatic smile, as the other two wrestled with the things of the spirit. The conversation was running beautifully, Danny thought, until Rhianna frowned.
'There's just one problem I run into with your type of Christianity,' she said. 'You've got great ideas, Danny, and a lot of what you say makes sense, it's just - well don't you find it all a bit prescriptive?'
Danny stared at her in mild confusion. This did not sound like someone all set to jump on board the Jesus train. 'How do you mean?'
'Well, it's like - you've got to be this type of person to be saved. You've got to live your life just so. You tithe so much money, you takes Sundays off, there's no room for people to find their own way. I mean, take sex for example.'
Oh God, must we? thought Danny, a whole selection of pre-programmed alarm bells sounding in his head.
'Yes,' said Rhianna forcefully, now the one warming to a theme. 'You've got be straight, not gay. You've got to be married, not single. You're expected to carry around all these impulses and longings and human drives and not act on them until you're in some safe, sanitized marital relationship that drains half the fun out of it anyway.'
'Now hold on, marriage doesn't have to be like that!' protested Danny, reaching desperately for his stock responses. 'And there are good reasons for the Christian teaching on sex.'
'Okay, okay, maybe I'm expressing it a little strongly, but I mean look at you for example. You're what, early thirties, and when you became a Christian you were - what -?'
'Twenty-one,' said Danny, fearing where this was going. 'But...'
'You're young, you're healthy, you're a good-looking guy... Danny, you're standing at the front of that church talking about God and holiness, while all your best fucking-years are passing you by!'
Danny would have choked on his lemonade if he had not already finished it. 'Rhianna...Look...Look, this isn't what I came here to talk about...' In all his years of streetwise evangelistic work he had never been flustered like this.
'And it's not as if there's no sex in the Bible.' Rhianna had worked up quite a head of steam by now. 'It's full of sex... Sodomy and incest, who lay with whom, Solomon and his fifty wives or whatever... I mean even Jesus took Mary Magdalene on his travels with him...'
'Wait, that wasn't a sexual relationship!' said Danny hotly.
'Oh read between the lines, Danny!' exclaimed Rhianna in exasperation. 'Anyway, he spent all his time going around preaching peace and healing people and then he got crucified for his trouble. I'm surprised you begrudge the guy a bit of action...'
'Rhianna, there's no call for that!' Danny tried to mask his outrage with a polite smile, but there was no masking how rattled he was by the turn of the conversation.
'Look... Look I'm sorry if I've shocked you, Danny.' Rhianna did not sound remotely sorry. 'I just thought it needed to be said.'
'I love sex,' Hailey chimed in happily.
Danny tried to ignore the American girl's somewhat random contribution and addressed himself solely to Rhianna. 'It's okay, I'm not shocked,' he lied. He was casting about mentally for a reason to leave. 'I mean it's a fascinating discussion, maybe for another time, but look... I've got a meeting with the Senior Pastor and I'm going to be late as it is...' That was true, at least. He was already getting up from his seat, trying to make something approaching a casual exit, and consciously aware for the first time of involuntary activity in his trousers. He hoped that no tumescent bulge would be apparent to his hosts. 'It's been nice talking, but...' He twisted away from the table to make for the door, but without warning something pulled tight around his ankles and he pitched face first on to the kitchen floor, hands flying out in front of him for protection. He hit the cold surface with a slap.