In this part we're introduced properly to Rebecca's friend Sandra, and her daughters Annie and Marissa are also mentioned.
It was a hot summer day. Sandra and I had arranged to go to the County Fair together, not least because I had never been.
“Jessica! Come downstairs, please!”
My oldest daughter, Jessica, came running. Her blonde hair was tied in bunches decorated with pink ribbon bows that matched her pink t-shirt.
“Jessica, how many times have I told you not to run down the stairs? You could really hurt yourself.”
“Sorry Mommy.” Like all young children, her knees were constantly being scraped and covered in plasters.
“That’s OK. I just don’t want you to break a bone and end up in the emergency room.”
“No. Are we going now?”
“Yes. That’s why I called you down.”
The fair was packed. As I approached the entrance, I saw Sandra’s red hair.
“Look, there they are,” I said.
“Hi, Becky,” she called, waving.
“Hi, Sandy. My, Annie and Marissa are so big now!”
“I know! Sometimes I catch myself thinking, where did the baby years go?”
She smiled at her girls. It seemed almost ridiculous that we both had two daughters, who were the same age- Annie was three weeks older than Jessica and Marissa was two months younger than Faye.
We’d spent no longer than 30 minutes inside (primarily playing and failing at a hook-a-duck game) when Faye tugged at my arm.
“Moooommmmyyyy,” she whined, “I wanna driiiiiink.”
“OK,” I said brightly, “let’s go find one.”
I took her hand and we ventured forth in search of one. I reckoned that there would be plenty of vendors.
Almost immediately, I spotted a large sign emblazoned with the words “Free Soft Drinks!” Instinctively, I paused. Something was telling me that this seemed a little dodgy, that there was some catch. I wasn’t sure what, though, so I carefully ventured a little closer.
It was then that I noticed two of the people standing beside the booth. One was a woman, with greying hair, dressed in a white t-shirt and navy pinafore dress (what would be called a jumper in American English). The hem stopped at her ankles and the whole ensemble gave a shapeless appearance. The other figure was a man, also with greying hair, wearing a white polo shirt and blue jeans. The polo was tucked into the waist of the jeans. I guessed they were married.
A figure moved to stand beside the woman. I noticed that she, too, was in a white t-shirt and navy jumper. She had long, dirty blonde hair that cascaded down her back. She was holding a sheaf of small bits of paper.
It was then that I took in the crowd surrounding the booth properly. There were five male figures, all of differing ages, dressed like the first man, who I now guessed was the father. Beside the mother stood a small girl, who couldn’t have been much older than Faye. She looked incredibly bored. Even the navy bow in her hair drooped forlornly.
Who the hell were these people? Why were they all dressed identically? The age range was too wide to be a school group- and besides, it was the holidays. The girls all had long, loose hair.
“Mommy, what are you doing?”
“Sorry, sweetie,” I said absent-mindedly, totally confused as to who these weirdly-dressed people were.
It was then that I overheard one of them speak.
“Do you know the Ten Commandments?”
Huh? What kind of a question was that?
After observing them for a few more seconds, it transpired that getting a free drink came with being quizzed on the Ten Commandments. I grabbed Faye’s hand tighter and hurried away. I knew most of the Commandments, but I didn’t fancy discussing them with a bunch of matching strangers.
I purchased Faye and myself some orange juice before going to find Sandra.
“Are you OK? You look kinda weird,” she asked.
“I just saw the weirdest people…” I began. “The women were all in long jumpers and they were talking about the Ten Commandments…”
“You met the Taylors,” Sandra grinned, holding up a hand to stem my gibbering. “They’re fundamentalist Christians.”
“Fundamentalist Christians. You saw them proselytising- trying to convert people. The little pieces of paper they were holding are called tracts.”
“How do you know about them?”
“I got proselytised at last year,” Sandra grimaced. “I couldn’t get away. They made me feel awful. I told them I’m religious and go to church but they still made me feel bad for not being like them. Once I finally tore myself away I scrunched up the tract and burnt it.”
“Ouch,” I sympathised. “Sounds like I had a lucky escape. If they found out about my atheism they’d probably have some kind of apoplectic fit.”
“Oh, they’d love you. You’re exactly the kind of person they’d target.”
Despite being Christian, Sandra didn’t make it the biggest part of her life. We agreed on pretty much everything. She just happened to believe in Heaven. She certainly didn’t go round trying to convert everyone she came across.