Title: Paying My Penance (completed)
Author: FC Barnes

Copyright: The characters belong to me, though they do resemble our
two favorite characters of Xena and Gabrielle.

Sex: Yes, it's kind of the point of this story. It is of the F/F variety and gets a bit graphic.

Language: A little rough, but not as bad as it could be. <g>

Feedback: All feedback is most welcomed. Please send to fcbarnes3@yahoo.com . Thank you to everyone who takes the time to drop me a line and tell me what you think. It means a lot to me when you do.

Paying my Penance

I'm going to Hell. In a hand basket. On the express train. And I probably have enough frequent flyer miles to upgrade to first class or a sleeper car.

This knowledge used to keep me awake at night, but now I'm just resigned to the facts, and try to go on with my everyday life. I'll deal with the Hell thing once I'm dead.

You may wonder what terrible things I must have done to deserve such a fate. Did I murder someone? No, though the thought has crossed my mind, but I am sure it has crossed your mind at one time or another, too.

Did I sleep with my brother? Ewwww, that's disgusting, and definitelyhell-worthy. No, my sin was one that, on the outside, looked pious and righteous. I simply went to church.

Now, being born to a pig farmer and his devoted wife in the great state of Iowa, I've attended church since the day I was born. In fact, it is quite possible that on the way home from the hospital, my Mama insisted on a quick side trip to the church, just to see the pastor and to confess her sins. She's big into confession, and I,being the good daughter, followed in her footsteps.

Penance was my forte. Not the burn some candles and say a prayer kind of penance that our Catholic neighbors practice. No, our church insisted that to be forgiven you have to make amends to the person that you wronged, or if that wasn't possible, donate time to the church. I have cleaned more pews, dusted more crosses and scrapedup more chewed up cheerios that were ground into the carpet than anyone else I know.

Church to me was a routine that I gave no more thought to than, let's say, brushing my teeth. I did it routinely, I felt cleaner for it, but I couldn't tell you the words of the sermon from two months ago. For that matter, I couldn't tell you what brand toothpaste I used two months ago either.

Now, that was the difference between my Mama and me. She could tell you exactly what the minister said, down to the Bible verses he quoted and the she remembers the amount she put in the tray that was passed among the congregation. I once took money from the tray, but that is another story altogether. But just so you rest assured, I did replace the money anddid five hours of church related labor.

So, I would say that up until the time that I was eighteen years old, I was on the fast track to St. Peter's pearly gates and I had a reserved seat in Heaven, right next to my mother, bless her soul.

They probably already had my wings and robe sized for me. I think about that once in awhile now, and I think I will only regret not being able to fly like an angel for eternity. I never could sing worth a darn, so being in the heavenly choir was never going to be an option for me. But the flying thing, yeah, that was pretty cool.

What happened at eighteenyou ask? Well, I went away to college. That wasn't the problem. I worked hard, studied hard, and went to church every Sunday. Mama was proud of me. Daddy was proud of me. Yep, Heaven-bound for sure, that was me.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years, my Mama took sick. So, I came home to help Daddy run the farm. Pretty simple, but very important chores needed to be done on a routine basis. Well, I excel in routine, so within a few days, we had caught up and were ready for the monthly pig auction that took place in town.

If you have ever listened to the radio in farming country, you have probably heard the reports. Winter wheat is up 5¢, summer hogs are up 10¢, and so on. Now, if you don't farm or raise animals for your livelihood, these reports may seem inconsequential to you. But to those of us who live and die by those numbers, which reflect the selling rate of our goods, that report is more important that the New York Stock Exchange.

I won't go on about the whole farming thing. I just wanted you to understand why I had to come home, and why I couldn't leave until school started again in September. And this is where the problem started.

Things around town hadn't changed at all in the two years that I had been absent. The Dairy Queen was still the local hang out for high schoolers. The corn in the never-ending fields were in their mature state, with the stocks standing over six feet tall. And the smell of the local slaughterhouse competed with the factory that cooked oats. Neither smell was pleasant; and the olfactory treat that you got on a daily basis was determined by the direction the wind was blowing. After my third day home that summer, I stopped noticing the smells. Guess that comes from spending eighteen years exposed to them.

Seeing that nothing had changed, I went to church on my first Sunday there. I expected Pastor Steve O'Callahan to greet us on the stone staircase as we entered the building. Steve has been the minister at our church ever since I was a babe in my Mama's arms. He is the one who baptized me and who gave me my first communion. He also has heard all of my sins, well, at least the first eighteen years of sins. I do confession at the college-based church that I attended in the city. And I can tell you that the pews in that church shine brighter than they ever have, thanks to yours truly.

As I entered the church that first Sunday I was home, many familiar faces greeted me. Their inquiries into my well being were overwhelming. At least five of the older women had the gall to pinch me on the cheek and one even commented on how I hadn't lost my baby fat yet, even though I was twenty years old. 'You always had such cute cheeks, ever since you were a baby.' Ok, it was notnecessary for her to say that to me. I admit I look closer to fourteen that I do to twenty, but, really, did she have to point it out?

Most of the parishioners asked about my Mama, how she was doing, was there anything they could do to help, how was Daddy holding out. Questions liked that, which my Daddy handled with his low-key and gentle responses. Daddy is a good man, salt of the earth kind of guy. Worked hard everyday of his life and never once complained. Ok, one time I heard him complain, but that was all. I wish I had inherited that trait from him, but I think being a woman, I was resistant to the gene.

So, here I was with all these people who have known me since I was in diapers, and I am sure a few of them had changed a diaper or two of mine when I was younger, when I get to the top of the stairs to enter through the large double doors. I looked up, expecting to see an old man with stock white hair and out of control eyebrows. Instead I look into six feet of beauty wrapped in a minister's robe.

Her long jet black hair was pulled into a pony tail, her blue eyes were accented by the light makeup that she wore, and her smile, oh, her smile was like heaven shining down on me. My Daddy softly sighed then walked up and briefly shook her hand. I take it he wasn't too fond of the new minister.

He introduced me as his daughter who was home from college for the summer. I quickly shook her hand. It was gentle, soft and firm all at the same time. Then Daddy wrapped his arm around my shoulder, guided me inside and found our usual spot in the chapel. We sat down together and I asked him about our new minister.

He said the church had become more "progressive". His tone made it clear to me that he didn't agree with the new changes, including the woman who stood on the staircase welcoming everyone in for the service. I looked around the chapel, expecting to see a rock band or neon crosses hanging from the rafters. Nope, everything was just as it had been for over thirty years. Every pew, cross, confessional box and candelabra was in place. They were just a bit dustier, due to my two-year absence.

The sermon itself was not memorable. Pastor Steve gave it his all, and his sincerity and devotion to the good book was evident to all in attendance. There was one rousing thing though, at least for me, and it should have sent a red flag up in the mind of this Iowa farm girl; but it didn't, or if it did, I wasn't paying attention.

As we all dutifully came forward to receive the communion, I ended up in herline. I didn't realize it until I was at the front. As her hand extended forward to offer me the wafer, I instinctively opened my mouth to accept. Her blue eyes stared right past my green ones, and into my soul. She gently placed the wafer on my tongue, and in that moment, my whole world changed. It wasn't a wafer I wanted from her; it was much, much more.

So, you see, that was the beginning of my u-turn that would lead me straight to Hell. The rest of the service went by in a blur as my mind tried to comprehend what my body was telling it. I tried, I really did try, to listen to the words coming from Pastor Steve mouth. But my soul was on fire, and his words could not quench the burning.

We left and went home, but I knew that with the thoughts that my mind was creating, I would have a lot to repent for that week. I planned to go to confession on Wednesday mornings, as that was the time of week that Daddy went to town for supplies and I could catch a ride with him. Mama was well enough to be alone for a couple of hours, and it would be a nice break for both of us to be off the farm and out of the house.

That Wednesday, Pastor Steve was at the church to accept confessions. I entered the wooden box, closed the door behind me and sat on the bench waiting for absolution. I heard him enter the other half of the confessional and settle himself in. He had no idea he was in for the long haul that day.

"Pastor Steve, I confess my sins." I went on to tell him of impure thoughts I had been having. I didn'tgo into details. And I didn't tell him my thoughts were about a certain woman minister who was serving in his charge. I think that information would have killed him on the spot, and not wanting to be guilty of murder, I decided to skip the details and just mention the sin itself.

He offered me forgiveness, in exchange for five hours of service within the church walls. I figured it was best to get the hours out of the way, so I offered to stay and work the five hours. He didn't need to point out where the cleaning supplies or the dusting rags were located. Eighteen years of penance made me very familiar with the small closet in which they were housed.

So, pew after pew, I dusted, polished and shined the wood. All the while wondering if shewas there, what she was doing and how she would look without her Sunday robes on. I estimated the width of the pew I was working on, and wondered if people had ever, you know, done itin the church. Oh, that thought was going to cost me big next week at confession.

I was still working when my Daddy came inside to pick me up for the ride home. I had only given two hours of service, so I would have to come back to finish up the time I owed. Pastor Steve assured me that coming back on Saturday morning would be fine, so I put the supplies away and walked to the exit in the rear of the church. It was on this walk that I caught sight of her in her small office that was next to Pastor Steve's. She glanced up as I walked past, and gave me a quick smile. I smiled back, and prayed that my legs wouldn't collapse under me as I walked towards my Daddy.

The sight of Pastor Malyssa, her name now known to me thanks to the sign by her office door, only made things worse for me. She had been wearing a well fitting pair of gray slacks and a white button down blouse. Now I knew how she looked without her robes on, and that knowledge fedthe fire that was kindled within me.

Her hair had hung loosely and though she tucked it behind her ears, a few wayward strands had found their way out. When she smiled at me, she had also taken her hand to those strands and retucked them back into place. God, I would have given anything to be her hair at that moment.

But the moment was too quickly gone, and I was back in Daddy's truck riding towards the farm. "I spoke with Pastor Steve." He informed me in that deep voice that I love. "He and that woman preacher are coming out to see Mama tomorrow."

My heart thumped so loudly in my chest, I was sure that Daddy could hear it over the roar of the old truck's engine. Shewould be coming to myhouse. Tomorrow. Never had I worked so hard to tidy the house up as I did that Wednesday afternoon.

Mama attributed it to my excitement that Pastor Steve was coming to visit. I didn't have the heart to disagree with her. Add deception to my list for next Wednesday's confessional.

The two Pastors showed up around six p.m. and Mama welcomed them into the parlor room of the house. Mama had prepared dinner, and though they hadn't planned to, they both stayed for dinner.

As luck would have it, she sat right across from me and after saying grace, we all passed the bowls of food around. I swear to this day that she was looking right at me and not the pork chops on the platter in her hands when she simply said "Looks good enough to eat." Of course, she added that smile to her comments and Mama thought she was bragging on the food, so Mama was appropriately modest in her thank yous.

Pastor Malyssa engaged me in conversation, almost to the exclusion of everyone else at the table. She asked me question upon question about my schooling, my social life, my church at college until I had bored myself to tears with information about me. I was sure she was ready to fall asleep from the rather mundane information, but she looked quite interested and continued the questioning.

Nobody else paid us much attention until she asked thequestion, "So, Shannon, are you seeing anyone? Have any special person in your life?"

Okay, so it was really two questions. The room immediately became silent as my Mama, Daddy and the Pastor all waited for the answer.

"Um, no not really." It was as close to the truth as I was willing to get. I mean did they reallywant to know that their daughter slept with other girls at college? And I was sure that the last thing they wanted to hear was that I was in some serious lust with the woman sitting across the table.

Nope, I wasn't even going to go there. Wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole, as my Daddy would say.

Pastor Malyssa went on about how surprised she was to hear that. "A pretty girl like you not having someone special in her life?" She couldn't believe that some handsome boy hadn't already snapped me up and married me.

Lord, if she only knew. I was sure if I had told them the truth she have run screaming from our house. So I shoved another spoonful of potatoes into my mouth and held my tongue. I knew that come Wednesday, I was going to be spending an awful lot of time in the confessional booth. I didn't look forward to it at all, but I had no choice but to repent and pay my penance.

Since I still had three hours of penance to pay for thisweek's sins, early Saturday morning, after all the pigs were fed and the chores were done, I headed back to the church. Daddy lent me his truck, giving me a list of items to pick up while I was in town.

I prayed the entire trip from the farm to town. Half of me prayed she wouldn't be at the church. It would've sure made my life easier if I didn't have to face her again, butthe other half of me prayed she would be there. Compared to my torture, Hell was going to be a piece of cake.

I headed straight for the church and went inside to do my three hours of service. Half of me, including my libido was thrilled to see her kneeling in the front pew, but then the genetic makeup that I received from my Mama took over, and the guilt of my thoughts weighed medown, crushing any momentary pleasure I experienced at seeing her again.

I went over to the closet where the tools of my trade were stored and grabbed the feather duster, cloth rags, and the wood polish. I started cleaning where I had left off on Wednesday, doing my best to not disturb the praying woman.

Deep in thought about the details of my cleaning routine, I hadn't noticed that she had finished praying. Her deep, sultry voice spoke to me from the pew behind mine. "You have a lot of forgiveness to seek?" I turned and immediately blushed as I noticed her shirt was unbuttoned just enough to see the faintest hint of her breasts.

She saw where I was looking and leaned forward a bit to give me a better view. Ah, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but the moment she leaned forward, all my good intentions were thrown right out the window.

"I have to get back to work, but drop by when you're done cleaning and say good-bye." And with that, she moved away from me. Shit, I knew I was in real trouble, but I didn't have a clue what to do about it.

I finished my work, but didn't go to say my farewells to her. It would have been too hard for me to see her and have to play the pious farm girl routine. So, I took Daddy's truck, got the items on his shopping list, and headed towards the nearest cornfield.

You can get lost for days in a field of corn. Row after row of corn stalks that are higher than your head makes it easy to become disorientated. I knew that if it was so easy to get lost, it would be hard for me to be found. I took a blanket from behind the seat and, marking my entry point, headed in about fifty yards.

I laid the blanket out best I could in the fairly narrow row between the stalks. Then, I lay down and allowed my mind and my hands to roam freely.

Oh, Lord was there going to be hell to pay for this on Wednesday. But right then and there, I didn't care. The only problem was, instead of making things better for me, my little jaunt into the cornfield made it worse.

I was consumed by thoughts of her; I wanted her so badly that I could think of nothing else except when I would see her again. Which, ironically enough, was at church.

That Sunday I dreaded getting up and going to worship. I felt like a hypocrite sitting in the pew thinking of nothing but the woman in the purple minister robes who litmy fire with scarcely a glance. The road to Hell is a slippery slope, and once you are on it, it's hard to turn back without sliding downhill.

I was leaving the service, following the crowd like a cow in the herd, when I noticed her again. She was standing outside and shaking everyone's hand, thanking them for coming and wishing them a blessed Sabbath. My hands were shaking so badly by the time I got to her that I knew if she touched me, even in a casual manner, I would spontaneously combust.

As luck would have it, someone diverted her attention just as I was approaching her. I thought I was safe, but I should have known better. Just as I got by her, she turned and the next thing I knew two strong hands were on my shoulders, turning me around.

Her blue eyes bore into my soul, which was the lastthing I wanted to expose to her. Her hands moved from my shoulders, down my arms and to my hands, which she loosely grasped.

"You weren't trying to sneak by me, were ya?" Damn it, I was caught. "I would have missed having the chance to say goodbye." Her hands were still holding mine, and Daddy was watching us from the bottom of the stairs.

"I, uh, I gotta go." Lame, weak and stupid, butit did the trick and she released my hands. Little did she know that she still held my heart.

The next couple of days flew by, and the routine chores were a balm to my troubled soul. I thought of her less and less and was finally down to about once a minute, which in my estimation was quite an accomplishment. Of course, every morning when I milked the cow,well you understand that was a difficult time for me. I knew I had it bad when any teat in my hand was exciting to me.

Come Wednesday, I was ready to bend Pastor Steve's ear and prepared to serve many, many, many hours of church service. My Daddy dropped me off, telling me to take my time, he had quite a bit of business to do in town and he would be awhile. That was good because it meant I could work off a few hours of penance before he came back.

I went into the church, the heavy wooden doors opened to expose an empty chapel. I walked around looking for Pastor Steve. I didn't see him and figured that if I waited, he would be back. So I sat in my favorite pew and stared at the cross and the decorations in the room. I doubted there would be enough hours left in my mortal existence to gain forgiveness for the things I had thought of and done this past week.

I felt her presence before I heard or saw her. A shiver ran down my back and I knew she was nearby. I prayed harder than I'd ever prayed before that Pastor Steve would show up and rescue me from my plight.

But he didn't. It was just me and her, sitting side by side in the pew. "Pastor Steve had to leave for a couple of days for a family emergency." Her deep voice ran like silk over my ears. "If you are here for confession, I can listen."

Oh,hell no. That was the last thing I could ever imagine doing. Sharing my confessions with the one person who was the reason for my sinning. She placed her hand on top of mine, trying to reassure me. "I've been told I'm a very good listener and I can offer you the same absolution as Pastor Steve does."

Why did I even come today? And why, when I really, reallyneeded it, did God not send a tornado ripping through the town and the church?

I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I'm sure that being a female member of the clergy she faced all sorts of prejudice and persecution. I didn't want to add to that, so I agreed to let her hear my confessions.

I entered the familiar wooden box, closed the door behind me and sat on the bench waiting for her to be ready to hear of my sins. I heard the door on the other side of the confessional close, and heard her settle in.

"Pastor forgive me, I confess my sins."

"Tell me of your sins, child."

Child! Child? I am NOT a child!

"I have had impure thoughts about another person." There I had said it and it was out. All she had to do was tell me how many hours of service I owed.

"Tell me of your thoughts."

What? My voice cracked my response, "What?"

"Tell me so that I may offer you absolution."

"Well, um, I have had feelings for another woman." Of you.

"What have you thought of?"

What hadn't I thought of? "I have thought of doing things to, uh…with her."

"What sort of things?" The tenor of her voice had dropped as she spoke.

I couldn't believe this. She was asking for details. And God forgive me, I wanted to tell them to her. "All sorts of things."

I heard the door next to mine slide open and I knew that I was about to be kicked outside, banished from the church forever.

She opened the door to my room and entered, closing the door behind her. "I want you. I've wanted you since the moment I saw you." Her voice was shaking.

I stood and she cupped my face. Her lips met mine in a passionate kiss. Her tongue demanded entrance into my mouth and I willingly submitted. Her lips were soft as silk as she claimed me with one kiss. This was better than any fantasy my mind had created, and I felt my entire body respond to her as she sucked my lower lip and then reentered my mouth for another passionate exchange.

"You're the one I dream of." My confession was complete.

That was the first time that I confessed my sins to Pastor Malyssa. Every Wednesday we have a standing appointment for me to pay my penance. She confesses her sins to me, and I offer her absolution for her body and soul.

My going back to school was hard for both of us, but I make sure to keep my school schedule free on Wednesdays, and somehow we're making it work. It makes it a lot easier to sacrifice since I know my future lies with a blue-eyed goddess who happens to wear a minister's robes.

So, you see, Hell will have to wait a little while longer for me. And no matter where I end up when this life is over, I'll be in heaven as long as she and I are together.

The End

Ok, that's it. I hope you liked it. Feel free to send some feedback my way. FCBarnes3@yahoo.com

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