The Former Sister Margaret (PG-13)

Brandon was sitting at his computer late one night when he opened the e-mail and found a message forwarded to him from his sister. He was surprised to see that the original was a message posted by Margaret sent to a wide group of addressees.

My dear Friends,

I recently marked my fourteenth year since my profession of vows as a religious Sister. . It was a memorable occasion embarking on a divine adventure in the service of God and the Church. This journey has seen many joys and accomplishments as well as sorrows and unexpected struggles. Some unforeseen circumstances also developed.

A few years ago, doubts crossed my mind as to the solidity of my vocation and I found myself entertaining a desire to leave. I spent nearly a year in a quiet community convent discerning and reflecting upon my situation. It became apparent to me that Divine Providence had allowed these painful events to take place in order to prepare me for a new mission within the Church.

Each of us are led by different paths to discover new designs upon our lives but all bring away from our experience many lessons.
I write to inform you that I have received an 'indult' which is the technical term for the official recognition of the dissolving of my religious vows. This means that I'm no longer obliged by Canon Law to live the same vows that I made as a religious Sister but that I am required to live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience as every Christian is called to according to their state in life.

For the moment, I am in the hands of God, confident that He will guide me to understand His holy will and discover the mission that is left for me to undertake for His glory and in service to the Church. I humbly ask forgiveness if this news causes anyone pain or unease but I need to continue with my life without creating a dual personality… it's the same me, with or without the habit.

Please continue to pray for me as I search to live out God's Will day by day. I hold each of you in my heart and in my prayers.

Yours always in Christ,

Margaret

Brandon stared at the computer screen for a long time as a wide range of emotions overwhelmed him. He thought about Margaret, the only woman he ever loved, the one woman who broke his heart and left him for another man: Jesus Christ.

He never got over the loss and now, all these years later, he had no idea how he felt about Margaret leaving her religious order. Hell, he still didn't know how he truly felt about her joining her religious order!

Margaret had always been deeply religious, even as a youngster. Her parents were devout Catholics and Margaret was equally as taken with the Faith. She was not given to use or tolerate curse words. She was so virtuous she and Brandon rarely kissed when they decided they were boyfriend – girlfriend Freshman year and even then she was talking about entering the religious life.

Fear gripped Brandon every time Margaret talked about becoming a nun. He couldn't bear to lose the one girl he was truly and deeply in love with.

Margaret was involved with several youth groups and other Christian activities. She attended several summer retreats and Catholic camps. Brandon tried not to resent having a girlfriend so in love with God but there were times when he couldn't help himself. Brandon's friends gave him a hard time about dating the holy and virtuous Margaret but he tried not get in the way of her love for God whom he knew she loved more than him.

Fearful of losing her, Brandon was usually supportive of her interests. He went to Church with her as often as he could and they usually joked about their "Sunday morning dates". He prayed the Holy Rosary with her on most days. He went with her when she visited the Adoration Chapel, sometimes late at night or early in the morning.

His pals said he was being a martyr but Brandon was doing it for one simple reason: he loved her.

"A person who loves God shows that love by loving others," Margaret often said and Brandon pinned his hopes to that sentiment.

The more Brandon helped Margaret enjoy her love for God the more he figured she loved him back as an expression of her love for God.

It hurt when Margaret left him, of course.

"If I could change my religious calling, I would," Margaret told Brandon on the night before she left. "I would marry you but the first person that I love is God and I have my Faith and my principles and this is what makes me who I am. And if you love me, you should love God too."

Brandon held on to the hopeless fantasy that Margaret would change her mind about giving up her worldly possessions and individuality to become a nun even as he stood on her front yard watching her parents driving her away on that final morning. He was heartbroken by her decision but he never stopped loving her even if he refused to see her once she took her vows knowing it would be too hard on him.

He knew he shouldn't have been surprised by any of it. Margaret was talking about Jesus being her boyfriend from the time they were ten and her love for God grew stronger each day. She told Brandon on her thirteenth birthday that she wanted to make a full-time commitment to Jesus and whenever she came home from some retreat she seemed so at peace and in such calm that Brandon knew she was truly taken by the life.

One time, she came back from a summer retreat and she told Brandon that she was looking at a Statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the chapel when a sudden urge to speak to His image overwhelmed her.

"So I said "Jesus, I want to be your girlfriend forever. I promise you that I will never get married so I can be your girlfriend forever."

The funny thing was Brandon believed her.

Brandon and Margaret continued to date through high school but something wasn't right.

"There's something inside me that won't let me be," Margaret told Brandon one night when he tried to be a little bit more forward with her than usual.

"Where do you see us in the future, Maggie?" He wanted to know.

"I want to be committed to service," she answered without missing a beat.

Brandon knew he was always going to be second fiddle in Margaret's life and it took him a long time to get over her once she dumped him for Jesus although he really never did get over her or her leaving him for a lifetime job with God.

"Some girls give up a lot for God," he remembered Margaret whispering into his ear on the morning she left for good.

She was choosing a life of celibacy and a love of God, accepting a religious life and the abandoned desire of physical attachment to him. Deep down he never really understood that. She had remained virtuous, virginal and chaste all through their courtship and Brandon often wondered if she had a fear of sex which was why she never allowed herself to see the sexual act as pleasurable.

"Sexuality didn't exist for me until the day I began to menstruate," Margaret told him one day in unusual candor. "That's when I started being careful about boys."

Brandon figured that's when her sexual repression began along with her Catholic indoctrination of sex variously described as dangerous, bad, dirty, and sinful. She was uncommonly modest and a prude, often speaking negatively or judgmentally of those girls who dressed seductively or knowingly 'put out'.

On those occasions when Brandon was unusually horny or desperate and tried to be forward with Margaret she warned him that sex would ruin their lives. One night, in a moment of sexual frustration, Brandon took his penis out of his pants and begged Margaret to touch it but she refused and she looked away in embarrassed shock and humiliation.

"I never want to see another penis," She cried.

"Don't you ever get wet down there, Maggie?" Brandon sighed.

"Don't talk about such things," she pleaded.

Although she allowed kissing, any form of petting was forbidden and the very idea of skinny dipping with Brandon was considered a mortal sin in her book every time he brought it up (he had a swimming pool in his back yard).

"Sometimes I think your only interest in me is in the part of me below my waist," Margaret said one night. "That all you want is to see me naked."

"That's not all I want," Brandon protested although he was admittedly conflicted between his love for her and his lust for her.

Brandon thought that one of the reasons Margaret wanted to join the order was so she could renounce her unspoken sexual desire which she did not allow herself to experience and to live a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience because that was what she felt ideally suited for.

Margaret's disinterest in sex wore on Brandon who found secretive relief in other ways and with a girl he knew in Greenville. Meanwhile, Margaret maintained her Straight A average at St. Anne's Catholic High School. She went to Mass every morning on her way to school.

"It starts my day out calmly and with peace," she told Brandon.

Brandon was convinced that Margaret was so dissociated from her sexuality that she had no dreams or fantasies about him. Her sexuality was sublimated by spiritual practices and it was easy to suppress sexual feelings because she knew they had no place in her life. She never expressed any outward display of sensuality and she spent her teenaged years in sexual dormancy.

Margaret was shocked when Brandon asked her if she ever masturbated or touched herself.

"That is a sin against God," she said with disgust. "We are taught in the Catholic Church that our bodies are the Temple of Christ. Therefore, if you violate your body in any way, you violate Christ's space. Since I accept this philosophy completely and I receive communion daily, I feel my body is truly special, so special that sex would contaminate it. I therefore wish to remain celibate."

When Brandon thought about it now, he had no idea why he stayed with Margaret through those torturous high school years except that he really did love her. And now, with her e-mail flashing on the screen in front of him (even though she hadn't written it to him directly), that love came flowing back through his veins as if it had all happened yesterday.

###

Brandon Gallagher never married. He taught English at Green College and lived alone in a log cabin in the woods of Mt. Griffin with the Blue River not far behind his house.

He enjoyed the occasional affair and had no problem seducing willing graduate students but something was always holding him back from getting totally serious with any woman: a nun named Margaret.

Several months had passed since Margaret's e-mail flashed across his computer screen and Brandon heard no further updates or information on the plight of the former Margaret Sherman. Did she plan on coming home? Living a more secular life? Getting married? Would he ever see her again now that she had abandoned her Habit? Did he even want to see her again?

It was summer and Brandon had no classes to worry about so he once again tried to work on his failed novel that he had been languishing with for years. It was a quiet Thursday morning and he was sitting at the kitchen table reading the Greenville News and Dispatch. He was so involved in the story that he didn't hear the stones turning on the drive outside the window and he didn't look up until the door bell rang.
Brandon walked to the front door and he opened it to see a woman standing on the porch. He knew right away who it was and he was taken aback when she fell into his arms and gave him a hard and long hug.
"Hello, Maggie," he finally said into her hair which he found himself stroking.
"Hello Bran."
In high school, she wore her brown hair long and straight but now it was much shorter and curled around her shoulders. There seemed to be a red hue to it, almost like a halo he thought to himself.
"How did you find me?" He asked when they finally broke the embrace.
"Your sister gave me directions," Margaret informed him as she stepped back.
"She always liked you better," Brandon joked.
He wasn't sure if he was looking at a ghost, an angel, a saint, a vision, or a memory.

"Come in," he said, not sure if he should feel resentful, bitter, happy, relieved, nervous, uncertain, confused or amused by her presence.

She nodded and followed him into the comfortable log cabin, handsomely decorated and furnished, open with plenty of large windows that let in the sun and daylight.

"This is very nice," an appreciative Margaret said as she took in the surroundings.

"Thanks," he replied, gesturing to the couch. "Would you like to sit?"

"Yes, thank you," Margaret replied, taking a seat on the couch.

Brandon collapsed into the easy chair across from her and stared at her for a long moment. It had been almost fifteen years since he last saw her.

"What are you doing here, Maggie?" He wanted to know.

"I'm not sure," she admitted with a shrug. "I guess I just wanted to see you."

He studied her for a long moment. "Are you…home?"

"I am," she confirmed. "Staying with my sister right now."

"So your parents aren't even speaking to you?" He guessed.

"They were horrible upset," Margaret admitted. "It has been very hard for them to accept my decision."

"I bet," Brandon replied, remembering her parents' overzealous attitude about their religion and Maggie's calling.

"They're slowly coming around," Margaret added hopefully. "I start at St. Anne's Catholic School in September. Freshman and Sophomore Religious studies."

Brandon couldn't help but laugh and she gave him a frown.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing," he insisted. "I guess I'm just surprised that you would end up there."

"I'm still Catholic, Bran," she reminded him. "Besides, you know what they say," she joked. "Those who can't do, teach!"

"What are you doing here, Maggie?" Brandon asked again.

"You sound suspicious," she said nervously.

"I'm just wondering," He replied. "We haven't seen each other in fifteen years."

"I thought about you though," she offered.

He chewed on his lip for a moment. "What's going on?"

She shrugged. "I'm making the transitions in life now that I have been released from my vows."

"So are you finally discovering yourself as a sexual being?" He asked cynically.

"I'm struggling with my spirituality and sexuality," she confessed. "I'm seeking the answers to the questions that still confound me. You're the only person I can turn to about all this."

"Perhaps it will be a rewarding challenge for you," Brandon said.

"I am conflicted between what it means to be a 'good Catholic woman' and at the same time be attractive to a sexually aware man," she said, looking at him intently. "I'm finding the road to discovery long and sometimes tortuous as I search for understanding. I've always wanted to be judged by the quality of my mind, my character and integrity, not by sex but by hiding behind such high-minded thinking I denied myself the fundamentals of my womanhood. I could never become truly who I was until I recognized and honored that part of me; that lusty, sexual part that was buried in my childhood."

"Why are you telling me this?" Brandon asked.

"You are part of my childhood," she answered plainly. "My sexuality played a major role in your life as I made my transition from secular life into religious life and now back again. Fear of my sexuality helped me enter into an asexual environment and maybe that's why I left."

"So now you're just going to walk back into my life after a fifteen year absence?" Brandon asked with disbelief.

"I don't know," Margaret admitted.

"Why did you come here, Maggie?" Brandon asked gently. "What are you doing here?."

"Maybe I want to apologize to you," she said quickly. "Maybe I want to make amends."

"For what?"

"For using you. For hurting you. For leaving you."

He felt his heart banging in his chest.

She stood from the couch and went to the sliding glass door overlooking the back yard. "Will you give me a chance to tell my story?"

"I already know your story," he said.

"Not all of it," she said, looking over her shoulder at him.

"Okay," he said, sucking in a deep breath. "But I think I'm going to need a drink."

"It's ten o'clock in the morning, Bran."

"Not in Rome."

She laughed and watched as he went to the portable bar in the corner of the room and poured himself a stiff drink.

"Anything for you?" He asked.

"No, thank you," she said, returning to the couch.

Brandon sat in his easy chair with the drink in his hand, staring at Margaret. "Tell me," he whispered.

"Do you think my mother is sexy?" Margaret asked.

It was not the question Brandon was expecting and he couldn't help but laugh. "I always thought your mother was very religious and outgoing and attractive."

"I did too," Margaret replied. "But she wouldn't let me be any of those things."

"You were outgoing and attractive," Brandon let her know.

"But not sexy."

"I always saw you as sensual," he admitted.

"I was raised a good Catholic girl which meant I was inculcated with a great deal of fear about sex," she said. "I never went out on an official date. My pleasure as a kid came from being in school and being in the Faith.

"You seemed happy with that," Brandon remarked.

"I know I was the object of ridicule behind my back," she sighed.

"Not by me," Brandon said.

"I love my Mom and Dad dearly but I couldn't go to them with things that were troubling me back then," she sighed. "Sexuality was just not a part of my life. I didn't think about it or talk to anyone about it, especially you."

"I know."

"I realize now that I grew up in a pretty sexually repressed family even though I thought my mother was quite sexy and attractive. She had four kids so I know my parents had sex but it wasn't something that was even talked about."

"I know," Brandon said again, speaking from his experience trying to be sensual with her.

"I remember I saw two dogs mating and I thought that it was bad and dirty," Margaret said. "But I also really did feel as though God was calling me to the religious life. I really did want to be intimate with God."

"I know," Brandon validated her. "I always knew it was very important to you."

"But looking back on it I see it was a way of not developing intimacy with you," she sighed. "I thought religious life was a higher way of life and a choice that allowed me to have a career and do something bigger for the world and for God."

"That was true for you then," Brandon agreed. "So, how are you doing now?"
"I have a fear of judgment and a fear of God's abandonment," she admitted.

"God never abandons us," Brandon reminded her.

Margaret looked at him and smiled. "Do you even go to church anymore, Bran?"

"Christmas and Easter," he admitted.

She laughed. "I just came from Mass," she revealed.

"That's good," Brandon said with sincerity.

"My experience of God is like a rope leading up to the hands of Jesus," Margaret remarked. "I am always loved and lovable to God even with my most recent….difficulties."

"That's good," Brandon said again.

"Do you think I went into the convent because of a fear of sex?" She asked bluntly.

"Partly," he admitted truthfully.

"I loved being in a women's environment," Margaret revealed. "The women I met in the convent were different from any women I'd ever met. They are some of the most amazing women of vision working for justice. The most courageous females I've ever met are nuns. One of the hardest parts about leaving was that I wouldn't continue a relationship with them. I'm still interested in the spiritual life. I'm still a die hard Catholic."

"So why did you leave?" Brandon wanted to know.

"Something was missing," she admitted.

"Something?" Brandon asked.

Margaret sighed and stood again, walking slowly to the door window and staring out at the trees in the back yard.

"I liked boys, you know," she said, folding her arms behind her so they were over her shapely backside. She was wearing a summer skirt and flowered blouse with sandals. "I wanted to be around them. I wanted to be around you."

"I'm glad."

"I had a great time but I would never go out unless there were at least ten of us so I wouldn't have to deal with the sexual thing."

"I remember," Brandon sighed.
"One of our teachers was talking about French kissing once, saying how evil it was and I was sitting there thinking what is it?" Margaret recalled. "I didn't even know what she was talking about. I was embarrassed not knowing what it was so I just pretended I knew."

"I'm pretty sure we did that, Maggie," Brandon informed her.

She blushed as she turned and faced him. "But that's all we did."

Brandon nodded in sad agreement.

Margaret returned to the couch.

"People ask me if there were lesbians at the convent," she revealed. "I wasn't aware of any sexual fooling around. There were no sexual feelings as far as I knew. But we had some great friendships and it was a wonderful place to be. I loved the people. I loved the structure. It all worked with the rules. The biggest thing the convent did for me was show me that I had power as a woman. I had talent and I was going to use it. I got to be a teacher. It's something I respect and feel good about. I became a very strong person and I really feel good about who I am and the convent was a real growth place for me. It gave me the opportunity to be away from the sex stuff and I was able to grow in a safe place. We had sexual instruction and it was treated as something that was fine and being a woman was a good thing to be and you should be the best woman that you could be. We're all sexual people but those of us who took a vow of chastity and a promise of celibacy didn't act it."

"So, you're not a lesbian?" Brandon teased.

"I was attracted to some of the women mainly because they were assertive and smart and they were the leaders of our community," Margaret told him. "I was attracted
to those qualities but not in a sexual way. I was totally in love with God. I felt so happy and proud of how close I felt to God and how really connected we were."

"Do you still feel that way?" Brandon wondered.

"Yes, but not in the same way," Margaret revealed. "It's still about love, but putting my love and the capability of my heart at the service of others. Teaching for instance."

"So, you have no regrets?" Brandon asked.

"I gained something going into the religious life," she said with a wry laugh. "But I gave up some things too."

"Were you happy?" He asked.

She gave a cheerful laugh. "I was very happy," she insisted. "Even the dumb little chores we had to do I did with great joy. Can you believe it?" She laughed again. "I didn't see it as demeaning. I remember particular friendships. I really did believe that I had a vocation. I loved my order and I'm grateful for that time. It developed a spirituality in me that I'm not sure I would have had if it hadn't been for that. God is my friend, my companion, my lover, my soul mate."

"But you left."

"The Religious order, not God," she said.

"But you still haven't told me why you left," Brandon reminded her.

"I paid such a price for not being in touch with my sexuality and for what I gave up all those years," she sighed. "By the time I hit thirty I started to realize that I didn't want to live a divided life anymore. I want something to be whole for me and I couldn't see it being whole in the community anymore. I want to make peace with myself and my sexuality. My attempts at denial of the existence of a sexual nature caused me to castigate myself. I want to experience physical sex."

Now it was Brandon's turn to get up and go to the window. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and let out an audible sigh. "So you thought you could just waltz back into my life after fifteen years?" He sounded bitterly angry.

There was a long pause and he finally turned to look at her. She was sitting dumbstruck on the couch.

"I don't know what I was thinking," she seemed to realize at that very moment. She stood. "Maybe I should go."

"No," he said, more gently this time. "Don't."

"I must be crazy. I don't know what I'm doing here," she moaned. "I'm so sorry."

"I'm glad you came," he said, walking across the room and taking her hand in his. "Stay."

"I want to spend my life with you," she blurted out.

"What?" He asked with shock.

"That's the real reason I left the order," she admitted, wiping a tear from her eye. "I left a life of repressed sexuality because I want to be with you."

He dropped her hand and stepped back. "This is unbelievable."

"Do you still love me?" She whispered. "I've never forgotten that feeling of knowing you really loved me. It was such an incredible feeling even though it scared me to death. I had no feelings back then but you made me feel so happy and alive even though I always denied it. It was wonderful and I've missed you so much and I want to be with you forever."

Brandon went and poured himself another drink.

"Maybe I'll have one too," Margaret said.

He glanced at her with surprise.

"Well, it's late in Rome," she smiled.

He poured two drinks and handed her one of the glasses. She took a long sip while looking at him over the rim of the glass.

"Maybe I shouldn't have been so honest," she realized. "I guess I've really scared the hell out of you, huh?"

"No, not scared," he said, collapsing onto the couch and motioning for her to join him. "Just stunned."

She sat beside him on the couch and looked him in the eyes.

"I've never stopped thinking about you, Maggie."

"Your sister says you've been waiting for me."

He laughed loudly at that observation. "Yes, I suppose I have," he admitted, taking a sip from his glass while never taking his eyes off of her. 'How do you feel?" He wanted to know.

She looked at him intently. "I feel wonderful."

He nodded with understanding. "I'm feeling…..pressured," he told her.

"Pressured?" She asked with surprise.

"That you left your religious life behind for….me."

"Oh," she said. "I guess that was rather presumptuous of me, wasn't it?"

"Well, you have been looking at it from your perspective," he said.

"I'm dealing with a lot of guilt, Bran," she sighed. "Making such major decisions in my life. Letting down my parents so much. But I don't think God would give me all these feelings if he didn't want me to have them because what's the point?"

"You've been thinking about this for a long time, Maggie," Brandon said.

"Haven't you?" She wanted to know. "Your sister told me she forwarded my e-mail to you months ago."

"She did," he confirmed. "And I have," he revealed.

"If you're not ready for all of this, that's okay," she said with surprising calm. "I'm still convinced that I was meant to love and marry and maybe have kids. I'm not going all the way unless there is some commitment involved."

"You know, guilt is something that's not controllable," Brandon told her. "It's something you have because of your past and being brought up Catholic."

"How 'bout guilt, shame, anger, depression, confusion, distrust, sexual maladjustment, and feelings of abandonment?" Margaret replied, rolling her eyes.

Brandon smirked but didn't say anything.

"You're still a handsome hunk of a guy," she teased.

"And you're still the most beautiful girl I've ever known," he replied honestly.

She looked away and blushed again.

"Would you like some lunch?" He asked.

"Okay," she agreed.

She followed him into the kitchen and he prepared some BLT sandwiches for them with some iced tea.

"I look at my life now and I can't believe how different it is," Margaret admitted as they sat across from one another at the kitchen table. "Becoming a nun was my own choice and I don't regret it but now I appreciate this life I have too."

"What was a typical day like?" Brandon asked.

"Mornings started at six with an hour of meditation in the chapel, followed by Mass and prayers as well as studying the meaning of chastity, poverty and obedience," she said. "Then it was off to the job of teaching and then there was the hour of private prayer before evening prayers."

"Sorry I didn't say Grace just now," Brandon said sheepishly.

"We ate well because the nuns cooked everything from scratch," Margaret laughed. "My parents phoned once a week, wrote letters and e-mails and sent me Oreo cookies. I missed them but I felt I was doing the right thing for me. My life was certainly regimented but it wasn't miserable."

"It was for me," Brandon confessed.

"I started to tussle with my growing doubts for many months, increasingly uneasy that my way of life," she said. "In the same way that I'd felt a calling to be a nun I gradually felt a pull towards the ordinary life too."

"And now here you are," he said.

"It's been weird," she confessed. "I lived out of the real world for fifteen years and I had no idea what life would be like when I came home. I had absolutely no plans but I just knew it was the right decision."

He sensed some uncertainty in her voice. "But?" He asked.

She smiled at him, glad that he could still read her so easily. "But rehabilitation hasn't been an easy process these past several months since I left the order," she revealed.

"Why not?

"I've found making friends difficult and my old friends don't treat me quite the same. My family is still adjusting and there is tension there. People are quick to label me," she sighed. "Many think me being a nun is odd and I've tried to keep my past a secret because I don't want to be judged. I don't want to tell people what I used to do. Simple pleasures feel like ordeals out here in the real world where it's so different from the rules and structure and culture and attitudes of the order."

"It is sort of surreal to see you all of a sudden," Brandon said.

"Being a nun taught me that the most important thing in life is to have a kind heart and I'll always carry that with me," Margaret concluded.

"You had that when you were ten," Brandon reminded her.

###

When they were done with lunch, Brandon showed Margaret the house and then they took a walk along the property. It was a sunny and warm summer afternoon as they walked along the secluded bank of the river in the woods beyond the log cabin.

"The water looks refreshing," Margaret said. "Do you swim here?"

Brandon pointed to a deep pool around the bend. "That's the best spot," he said.

Margaret walked to the rocks along the bank and she glanced back at him. "Do you think we could go in?"

He nodded affirmatively. "Nobody comes down here."

She looked at him and swallowed. "Do you think its time I finally go skinny dipping with you?" She asked nervously.

"Yes," he replied honestly.

"I've never been naked in front of a man before," she told him.

"You're back in the real world now, Maggie," he reminded her.

She nodded with understanding and stood facing him on the rock as she slowly unbuttoned her blouse and let it fall open, revealing a white bra underneath. She kicked off her sandals and let her skirt fall down her legs to reveal yellow panties.

Brandon pulled off his tee shirt to make her feel like she wasn't alone while kicking off his sneakers and pulling down his jeans so he was standing in just his briefs.

Margaret let the blouse fall off her shoulders and onto the rock and then she slowly unhooked her bra from behind and let it fall to the rock too.

She looked at Brandon as he looked at her and she smiled bravely.

"You're beautiful, Maggie," he assured her as she covered her breasts with her arms. "I never knew you had freckles on your breasts too!"

She giggled as she relaxed and she let her arms fall. Then she boldly pulled her panties down, revealing her pubic hair to him. She turned and he saw her lovely tush as she dove into the river.

Brandon walked up onto the rock and looked down at her in the water. She looked like a mermaid as she smiled back up at him. He dropped his briefs and stood before her.

"Two naked penises in thirty-three years and it's on the same guy," she said with a knowing smile before he dove into the water next to her.

"Is this our Baptism, Maggie?" Brandon wanted to know as they began to swim around the water pool.

"This is my liberation," she said boldly and happily. "Now I can begin to pull down the walls of my self-doubt and ignorance."

"I'm glad I'm the one," Brandon said.

They stopped on a shallow plateau of the river and stood in the water, the surface barely covering her breasts. The water was clear enough so they could see each other's nudity in the water.

Brandon stood still and waited to see what she might do given the situation and the circumstances.

"I'm not afraid of sex anymore, Bran," she whispered. "I know now that sex is not evil. It's part of life."

"But you're still Catholic," he reminded her.

"That's what Confession is for," she said quietly.

"We waited all this time, we can wait a little longer," he said gently. "Our relationship can become sexual in a wonderfully casual non-threatening way if you want," he said. "You can even be the initiator!"

She giggled and then she glanced down at the water between them. "Will that even fit in there!" She teased, gesturing with her chin at his member sticking straight out even in the cool river water.

He grinned. "Oh, yes," he laughed.

I want to love sex, Bran," Margaret told him. "This is a milestone in my life. I've finally crossed the chasm, joyfully, from consecrated virginity to the open acknowledgment of my passionate sexuality. It's time for me to move on from being the child permitting everyone else to control my sexuality and to finally own it, enjoy it, and grow with it. Realizing that I have control of my body has mysteriously given me a whole new outlook on my life. I was truly unaware of the damage being done to my sense of self let alone the frustration and pain I inflicted on you. Understanding my sexuality has freed me from that misery."

"How do you see your spirituality and sexuality being merged?" Brandon asked as they stood naked in the water, one of his hands rubbing the side of her cheek, the other brushing through her hair.

She put her hand on his chest. "It's so deep that I'm not even sure I can explain it," she admitted. "I didn't masturbate or do anything sexual all this time, Bran. I had very little knowledge of my body and now when I see God as lover it's not physical. It's lover in the sense of being cherished and being special which is true of all of us."

"I feel like we're Adam and Eve," Brandon grinned.

"Letting you see me naked is the most freeing thing I've ever done for myself," Margaret said.

"I don't know what to do now," Brandon sighed.

"You could kiss me," she suggested. "This is like a fairy tale."

"This is a very important moment in our lives," Brandon said as he leaned in and kissed her happily.

"I know," she replied as she kissed him back.