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The Preacher and The Prostitute

The Preacher and The Prostitute

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Maribel struggled to forget her past, when she dabbled in prostitution, made porn videos and was a nude poster girl. She became a Christian and made a decision to use her singing talent to glorify God. However, she quickly realized that a young, single, attractive, talented girl was never going to remain unnoticed at church. First, she captures the attention of a jealous church sister who is determined to dig into her mysterious past and then the new pastor who seemed to reciprocate her affection. After falling in love with him, her past rears its ugly head and Maribel realizes that she has to tell her new found love the truth about her history before she can accept his marriage proposal. Can a preacher and an ex- prostitute be happy together?
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“Flash up yuh lighter!” the selector yelled over the microphone.
It was early Sunday morning and the dance, which had begun at eleven the night before, was just heating up.
Several persons, mostly male, milled about the street; most of them were clutching drinks in their hands and smoking. The air was redolent with the scent of tobacco and marijuana mixed with the aroma of spicy jerk chicken.
The pulsating beats of heavy dancehall music rocked the early morning air as paid dancers, and other partygoers writhed to the heavy beat. Some dancers were spurred on by the obscene commands of the selector, and they attempted gravity-defying dance moves, to the pleasure of their street-side audience.
Maribel loved the freedom of it all. There was no time to self-examine and to feel pain at a party like this; she flung a hunk of her blonde wig over her shoulders and licked her lips suggestively at the selector.
He grinned at her; she was a regular dancer, one of the local girls from Negril that they hired to dance at local street dance sessions that they held in small communities across Jamaica.
Her eyes were slightly glazed, and she swished her hips seductively in his direction. He felt in his pockets to see if he had any loose change and then shrugged his shoulders at Maribel, pulling out his empty pockets for her to see.
She smirked at him and then turned away disinterestedly, looking in another direction—she never spoke to guys who had no money, and he knew this well.
He laughed and shouted into the mike, “Big up to Peaches, the hottest gal in the dance tonight.”
Maribel turned around and smiled at him, holding up her empty plastic cup. He winked and indicated to the bartender at the makeshift bar to fill up her cup.
Maribel headed toward the bartender, feeling slightly tipsy. She had to fight off several groping hands as she made her way to the bar. Her sheer top and boy shorts, both in hot pink, proved to be too much of a temptation for the drunken party-goers scattered throughout the street; they groped her exposed body every chance they got and whistled and hollered at her to give them some attention.
It gave her a rush to know that whenever she came to street dances, she was generally the focus of the male attention. Her honey-gold skin, paired with her usually outlandish wigs, was a real eye-catcher, and if her current patron was to be believed, her eyes were brown orbs of seductive mischief.
She laughed out loud, lost in her inner musings, and danced up to the bar, happy that her work for the night was finished and that she could just enjoy herself at the party.
“Peaches, you is a real sexy woman, y'know,” said the bartender admiringly. His black eyes gleamed with rampant lust.
Maribel hissed her teeth and held up her cup. “You can’t afford me.”
She watched him as he poured the liquor in the cup and then a soft drink, just the way she liked it.
“I used to know you from before …” the bartender grinned, “back when you used to sell your body for $500, on the side street at West End in front of Pete’s shop. I could afford you then.”
Maribel inhaled sharply, her hands trembling; she hated being reminded about the last two years. She thought of it as ancient history, when she bothered to think of it at all. The things she used to do didn’t make good memories.
The music sounded like it was coming from afar and she shook her head as she stumbled away from the bar.
“Peaches, you all right?” asked the bartender as she retreated. The drink sloshed over the rim of the cup as she used one hand to steady the other.
She staggered to an empty spot near a couple that was grinding and gyrating against a wall. The female, who was in a short tight green dress, was trying to emulate a new sexual position that was gleefully suggested by the sound selector.
She closed her eyes and tried to block out the couple beside her and the memories from her past. Every time she thought that the past was truly behind her it seemed to rear its ugly head again. She rested her drink on top of a concrete block and sat beside it gingerly.
She had to remind herself that she was better off now than back in the days when she was forced to leave home by her abusive father, whose disciplinary measures involved beating her until she could not walk. Her sister had been unable to take the abuse and had run away from home, leaving everything behind, and at sixteen, after becoming the sole recipient of her father's brand of abuse, she had followed.
She hadn’t dared to go back because she knew that her father would have killed her for sure. He had gotten more violent in the last days leading to her escape. At one time a neighbor had to hide her under a bed until he had calmed down sufficiently to listen to reason—her infraction that day was that she had reached home from school five minutes late.
Her father's primary mission in life, after her mother and sister had run away, was to turn her into a true lady of upstanding character. He often said he wanted to eradicate any lingering character traits of her sister and mother that could be found in her, and his favorite weapon of eradication was his half-pound belt. The ugly thing had blunt studs fashioned in the center of the worn black leather and would leave bruises and scars on her body for months.
After leaving home she had survived for a while by living with a man, but his wife soon found out, and she was kicked out on the streets once more. For a time she was lost and lonely in Negril, with no one to turn to, but then she met Felicia, whose street savvy had rescued them both from one scrape after another.
When Felicia had suggested that she take up a street name for her seventeenth birthday, she had agreed, and from then on, she was called Peaches. It was also Felicia who had determined that they were both too pretty to be street-side whores.
“We should be earning much more from better-looking men," Felicia had announced seriously. The next day she signed up Maribel to star alongside her in a porn video. One video became two, and before she knew it, she had starred in a grand total of fifteen videos.
Maribel jerked out of her reverie as she heard the selector screech, “All the women, who know that them have them own man, put up your han’ in the air.”
Women were waving their hands all over the place and shouting. Maribel got up shakily and accidentally upended her drink. She looked at it dazedly, wondering how on earth she was so happy just fifteen minutes ago and was now so unnerved by the blasted bartender’s comments.
Felicia had always insisted that she should grow a backbone. Well, Felicia wasn’t here right now, was she?
Tears were welling up in Maribel’s eyes as she took off her shoes and walked past the selector and the sound boxes onto the warm asphalted road. The music was loud, and she could feel the pulsating beat of it in her own heart rate. The sound boxes were stacked so high, they looked like hulking black specters in the night.
She winced as she passed the little groups of men standing at the side of the road leering at her suggestively; she ignored the catcalls and whistles and went toward the taxi that she had earmarked to take her home.
It was a fifteen-minute drive to Negril’s West End, where she lived with an American national called Jim. She only saw him for four months of the year when he visited Jamaica and fondly referred to him as her sugar daddy, a role he was quite happy to fill. He didn’t ask her many questions, and she did not ask him any. She lived in his cottage and was ostensibly his house sitter; he trusted her enough with the responsibility to pay the housekeeper and gardener, and basically keep his house in one piece. In return, he had a bed partner when he was in Jamaica.
She tiredly grabbed the handle of one of the car's doors and the taxi man, who had been snoring lightly around the wheel, jumped up confusedly. He saw her shrugging on the sweater that she had left on the back seat and sat up, coughing.
“You ready?”
“Mmmm,” she muttered noncommittally. She wanted to leave, but at home there were only memories and emptiness.
“Why are you crying?” the taxi man asked, looking at her glassy eyes through the rear-view mirror.
She sniffed, “Today is my twentieth birthday and the anniversary of my best friend’s death.”
The taxi man, looking slightly taken aback, pulled out of the cul-de-sac where he had parked and slowly pulled out onto the main road.
“Well, erm…happy birthday, I guess.”
“Thanks,” she said impatiently. She didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for her.
“How come your friend died on your birthday?”
“Got shot at a party.”
“Oh.” The taxi man looked thoughtfully back at her. “I would feel afraid of parties after that.”
Maribel hissed her teeth. “Without parties, what do I have? I am a dancer. I have to dance; partying is my job.”
“Well … there must be something else you can do,” the taxi man snorted. “Most people have more than one skill. I can cook, so I used to own a cook shop.”
“I have other skills,” Maribel snapped. “I was good with mathematics and accounts, but that was before I left school.”
After Felicia died, Maribel had to take responsibility for tidying up her accounts and paying her bills, a chore which had revealed that Felicia was not the poor street urchin she had pretended to be. Instead, she was a wealthy young woman in her own right, and she had left all her money to Maribel—money that Maribel still had difficulty using. Maybe, someday, when she was not as raw with emotions from Felicia’s sudden death, she would consider it, but for now she drifted from party to party, feeling empty and alone.
“You shouldn’t have left school,” the taxi man mumbled. “Men like good-looking women for a while, but they prefer the intelligent ones who can challenge them for the long term."
He guffawed when Maribel shot him a dirty look.
“Men are not interested in me for anything else but my looks and how I can please them in bed.”
“Sometimes you have to do something other than pleasing men,” the taxi man said philosophically. “You should probably make an effort to do something to enhance those brain cells that God gave you and go back to school! Perhaps you should go get some peace at church … now that would be something.”
He grinned as Maribel screwed up her face and cringed. “I am not into no God business,” she rebutted quickly, pleased to see her house in the car’s headlamps. “God has never done anything for me yet.”
The taxi man took the money she shoved at him and watched as she scrambled out of the car.
She hobbled in her pink high-heeled shoes toward her gate; her short clothes and daring hairstyle made her look so vulnerable to him—like a lost little girl just turned twenty and probably lived a lifetime already. He shook his grey head.
The morning was clearing up as he glanced at the dashboard clock; it was five-thirty and a cool breeze was blowing from the sea in the distance.
"Listen, Miss," he shouted from the taxi as she turned around to close the gate, her mascara running as tears fell freely down her face.
“You might not think you need God now, but my granny used to say that it’s the people who think that they don’t need him that really do.”
She gave him the finger and strolled up her walkway, slamming the front door behind her.

Chapter One

Five Years Later

Maribel sat at the front of the church, bobbing her head to the music as the choir sang. It was Wednesday evening and it felt strange to be sitting in a church with empty pews, but she had vowed this year, after being in the church for three years, that she would be participating in church activities, and after sitting beside the choir mistress one Sabbath, she was ordered to join the choir.
“Meeting begins at five sharp,” Sister Claudia had said to her sternly. “I detest it when people who should know better waste their God-given talent. You are wasting your lovely singing voice.”
Maribel had nodded bemusedly. The well-spoken Sister Claudia had always reminded her of a stern principal, and so she had always felt a little nervous around her. She spoke with a crisp British accent and carried herself upright and had a firm, no-nonsense voice. She wore a tight bun and had well-plucked, finely arched eyebrows. Many of the church folk were unsure of her age; she just seemed timeless.
Maribel focused on her as she agilely played the piano.
“That’s enough.” She turned to the choir, thirty individuals who were attired in their work clothes and looking pretty tired.
Maribel’s friend Cathy, whom she had met at University and who was instrumental in bringing her into the church, winked at her.
Sister Claudia, whose face was set in stern lines, glared at the group. “Ladies and gents, our choir is an award-winning choir. Unfortunately, this evening you are sounding like you have never gotten an award.”
Everyone murmured their assent, looking sheepishly at each other.
She picked up her director’s stick and walked slowly across the platform in front of the choir loft. “The garbage that passes for music today, even if it is religious, has spoiled your musical ear. We need to go back to the times when real music stirred the senses and brought glory to the Savior. We can well do without the hauly-drauly drivel that I hear passing for gospel music, accompanied by screeches and screaming that must, I am sure, make our dear Savior wince.”
The choir chuckled.
She cleared her throat. “I want us to sing Worthy is the Lamb with all the parts: soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Sister Maribel sings the most heavenly soprano I have ever heard, and I am grateful that she has graced my ancient ears with her wonderful voice.”
Some members of the choir giggled.
“Silence.” Sister Claudia looked at her brood reproachfully. “I am in the mood to extend practice tonight.”
You could hear a pin drop as the threat sank in. No one wanted to stay longer than usual for practice, and they did not take Sister Claudia’s threats lightly. The Saints of Christ choir was an award-winning outfit and highly respected both locally and internationally. Choir membership was considered a privilege, so no one dared to jeopardize his or her position.
Maribel edged closer to the end of the seat as Sister Claudia turned to her. “Well Sis Maribel, let us hear how well you can do.”
“Deep breaths,” Maribel whispered to herself. She glanced at Cathy, who gave her a thumbs up.
Okay, here goes. She stood up and thought to herself, Okay Lord, you want me to glorify you with my singing talent, so sing with me.
She closed her eyes and sang. “Worthy, worthy is the lamb … worthy, worthy is the lamb … that was slain.”
After she finished the last high note, which was no real effort for her, the choir clapped.
“Well, well,” Sister Claudia said happily, “Sister Bertram, make space for Sister Maribel beside you, in the first soprano section.”
Maribel heaved a sigh of relief; she felt such a sense of accomplishment that she had made it that she had to laugh inwardly. There was a time when she had been bold to show off her body or her seductive dance moves, but while she was auditioning for a church choir, she had been as nervous as a cat on hot bricks. She moved toward the sitting choir members and sat down beside stout Sister Bertram.
Who knew that the girl from Negril, who had told the taxi man that God had nothing to do with her that long-ago day, would be first soprano on an award-winning choir? She smiled and thanked the Lord for his mercies.
When they had a break from the surprisingly tiring practice, which was partly due to Sister Claudia’s perfectionism, Sis Bertram walked up to Maribel, smiling.
“Sister Maribel, I am so happy that you are actively participating in the church services.”
Maribel nodded; she was finally feeling as if she belonged after sitting in church for over two years doing nothing. At first, she had been afraid to interact with anyone. She feared that they would sense that she was a fraud and did not belong with righteous people. Her only friend in church for several years was Cathy, and this was so because she knew her from her university days.
Cathy had taken her to a church crusade, which was held near the school. Maribel had only gone because it was her birthday and that year, she was feeling lonelier than ever.
She had gotten several party invitations to various clubs from her regular party crowd, but then her roommate, Cathy, had announced that she was going to the biggest and best party around. Maribel had gone more out of curiosity than anything else because she hadn’t known Cathy to be a party girl.
It turned out that she went to the crusade in a mini skirt and a skimpy top and came back with a Bible and an invitation to go back.
She tuned in to Sister Bertram and saw that the lady was looking at her with a faintly impatient air. “As you know, I am the head of the Women’s Ministries Department at our church.”
“I didn’t know,” Maribel replied.
“Didn’t know that I was the head?” Sister Bertram looked hurt.
“No, didn’t know that the church had a department called the Women’s Ministries.”
Sister Bertram looked a bit mollified by that admission. “Well, the previous leader only allowed her friends to join,” she looked peeved at this declaration, “and she kept the department like a friendship club, so I am not surprised that you don’t know about it. Let me tell you, it’s a department that caters to the special needs of women in our church. We pray for each other and share our advice as women and friends. We are like a women’s support group.”
Maribel nodded, fascinated.
“We meet every Sunday morning at seven. You can bring a friend—female, of course. We have breakfast afterward and share our hopes, dreams, and aspirations. All secrets are safe with us."
Maribel smiled and thought silently, Not my secrets.
“I will come this week,” Maribel said, smiling as Sister Bertram clapped her hands and grinned.
It would be good to know the women in church and to make more friends. There was nothing better than a female support group, or so she had heard. Some of the men had already tried to chat her up and she had not been exactly blown away by their approach.
Besides, whenever she thought of relationships her past reared its ugly head. Would she have to confess her past to a future husband? Perish the thought; no docile church brother would be comfortable to know that she used to be a prostitute.
Sister Bertram turned to somebody else who demanded her attention, patted Maribel's hand and walked away.
“What was that about?” Cathy sidled up to her and asked.
Maribel glanced at Cathy and laughed, “Sister B wants me to join the Women’s Ministries.”
“Didn’t I tell you that when it rains it pours?” Cathy hugged her. “I am so glad you are participating in church. Church participation strengthens your faith and gives you that extra impetus to come to church and share with the brethren, even if you don’t want to.”
Maribel rolled her eyes, “I hope she doesn’t expect me to share my deep, dark secrets and cry into my tea at these meetings.”
Cathy smiled, her big brown eyes lit up in glee. “Don’t even think about telling them that when we met, I had to bribe you to come to church.”
Maribel smiled. “And that I was in a skimpy skirt and sheer top, thinking that I was going to go to a huge party, or that my sugar daddy had rented a hotel for us to spend the weekend and I had just come back from said weekend slightly drunk.”
Cathy laughed, “You were indeed the worldly roommate from hell.”
Maribel sighed. “But God can change a worldly roommate into an exemplary church sister, can’t He?”
Cathy nodded. “Exactly. A word of warning, though: some people only go to the meetings to hear the business of others, so keep the confessions to a minimum. Even though most church people mean well, there are some who will hold your past against you and make attending church that much harder.”
Maribel nodded vigorously. There was no way on earth anyone—not even Cathy—would know about her real past. As far as she was concerned, Peaches and her colorful history were dead and buried, and from that Maribel had arisen.