The moment she laid eyes on him she was smitten. Molly was drawn to David so strongly like he was a magnet and she was a measly piece of iron filing. When he looked at her, or in her general vicinity, she felt an unnatural heat. She thought about him constantly -how his teeth gleamed in the light when he smiled, how he smelled like sandalwood with a hint of citrus and sweat, how he fit in his clothes. At night she dreamt of him, of his strong arms wrapped around her, of his lips on hers.
After Molly had been at the Simiyu house for a month, she and David went out on their first date. Granted, there were only so many places they could go due to the pandemic but David took her to a quaint little alcove a hop skip and jump away from La Bel. They had coffee and cake as they talked and listened to a man crooning from the speakers above their booth.
They shared a kiss a month later. Molly had moved back into her tiny apartment – which she spent the better part of her time cleaning – and David came over to see her. In the privacy of her own space, Molly was tempted to do more than just kiss but David pulled away. “Not yet,” he said. “I want it to be perfect.”
Molly believed him.
When she wasn’t thinking about him, she worked. The first couple of weeks as La Bel’s sales clerk were tough. She had lots to learn about working in the service industry but she settled into the role with grace. The staff were friendly and made her feel like she always belonged. The only person who gave Molly “a creepy vibe” was the delivery guy, Patrick, but he only came across her path a few times. Too few to further explore the vibe. Working alongside David was also a thrill. Molly could often catch herself stealing glances at him when he walked by. David was notoriously serious in the way he carried himself at the restaurant – a sharp contrast to how he could be with her in private. This thrilled Molly. He was her secret. Her very handsome secret.
“You look different when you work,” Molly told him once. They were on a lunch date. David had just come from Temple, Molly seldom went. He looked dapper in his dress shirt, the top buttons undone, sleeves rolled up to expose his toned forearms.
“How so?” David said.
“I don’t know,” Molly said. “There’s a certain air about you there. So serious.” She smiled. “Maybe it’s the tie.”
David laughed at this. He always had a tie on at the restaurant. His father had drilled into him the importance of appearance since he was young. “It’s probably the tie.”
Three months passed. David asked Molly to move in with him and Molly couldn’t say yes fast enough. The night they settled in, they made love. Basking in the afterglow, Molly thought that she had made it in this life. She was winning the game – whatever the game was – and her prize was David. She wanted to share everything about him to anyone who would listen but she could not. The more she thought about David, the less she thought about anyone else. In the few months since she met him, she slowly lost touch with the people that were in her life before La Bel, especially her mother.
“The travel ban has been lifted, dear. Why don’t you come visit?” Her mother would say.
“Mum, I just started this job,” Molly would say. “I can’t take time off just yet.”
“Okay. I just miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
Variations of the same conversation happened. Soon enough the calls came in less. The texts faded away. And Molly barely gave it a thought.
One day, as she and David cuddled in bed, he asked if she wanted to go to Temple with him. “It’s a cool place, and a big part of my life that I’d like to share with you,” he said.
Molly wasn’t so sure about joining him. She had been to a couple of meetings before and it was the usual religious dribble that she found resided at almost every church. Do good things and good things will happen to you. That Karma stuff. She didn’t need it. She had gotten by without it for a long time. There was also something else she couldn’t quite put a finger on that bothered her. She had noticed that every time David came back from Temple he had a fire in his eyes. A sinister fire like he had been up to no good. Yet his skin glowed and he looked younger and when they made love it was explosive. It was like she could feel his hands everywhere and everywhere they touched went off like a thousand different energy blasts.
She agreed to go to Temple with him. The first few meetings Molly had attended were held on Friday but Molly discovered that the real meetings happened on Saturday. The Friday thing was for newcomers, prospective members. Saturday was for the elite. There were plenty of people she recognized. Plenty of rich people. People with power and influence. They sang hymns in a language Molly couldn’t understand and drank communion wine, red and viscous and tasted of berries and slightly metallic, in wine flutes.
David and his father led these meetings. He looked good up there at the dais, David did. His presence was electric. That night, they made love and it felt like liquid fire. Molly knew that she had fallen inexplicably in love with this man and that she knew that she would never leave him. No matter what happened, David was hers and she was his.
She made her feelings to David known after they were finished. David smiled, kissed her on the forehead, and told her that he felt the same way.
That was the last time Molly had the semblance of a normal life.
The next Temple meeting David invited Molly to was a strange one. Instead of going to their normal building which was in the heart of the town, David took her to La Bel.
“The meeting is in the restaurant?” Molly asked.
“It’s a special one,” David said. He parked his car in his usual spot and turned off the engine. “Do you trust me?” He asked.
Molly said, “That’s a strange question. Kwani what’s about to happen?”
David took her hand in his. His warmth covered her, the same warmth that she cosied up into at night. “Molly,” he said, his voice deeper, his eyes searching hers, “Do you trust me?”
“I love you,” Molly said. “Yes. Yes, of course I trust you.”
He smiled and kissed her lips. “After tonight, your life will change.”
They left the car and walked to the back entrance. Molly wanted to ask questions but the reassuring warmth of David’s hand on hers kept her silent. He led her through the food locker and through the secret door, down the steps into the fire-lit cavern below. Her eyes went wide at the scene before her. David turned her to face him. “Look at me,” he said. “You trust me, right?”
“Right,” Molly whispered.
“Take off your clothes,” he said.
David was already half undressed before Molly said, “What?” She put her arms around her torso, hugging herself and looking around.
“He said take off your clothes, honey,” a woman said from behind her. She was old and naked and her breasts were saggy and deflated. David was already undressed. He stood tall, his penis half erect as if he found the old woman somehow attractive.
“Mrs. K,” he said.
“David,” the woman said. Something unspoken passed between them but Molly was still too shocked to notice it fully due to their naked bodies on display.
The woman called Mrs. K smirked and left the naked David with a shaken up Molly to care for. He started unzipping her dress from the back. Molly shrugged him off. “Stop it!” she hissed. “What is this?”
“Calm down,” David said.
“Don’t tell me to calm down!” Molly said. Her voice reverberated around the cavernous hall. The other congregants’ voices dropped and the only sound that could be heard was Molly’s breathing.
“You said you trust me,” David said.
“That was before I knew you were in a, what, a nudist colony?” Her voice was lower now but still loud enough to carry. Someone chuckled after she said this.
“I told you, it’s a special meeting. And there are robes,” David said. He opened a locker and withdrew a red hooded robe.
“This is too strange, David,” Molly said.
“I’m right here with you,” he said.
Maybe it was that. The sincerity in his voice that made Molly disrobe. She kept her eyes on him as she did, willing in her mind the others, who were still undoubtedly watching them, away.
He kept his hand on hers the whole time. When David’s father stood on the altar, his hand was on hers. When he drew back the shroud from the figure lying there, his hand was on hers. When she saw the dagger and the blood, and she shrieked in horror, his hand was on hers. And even after the orgy started around them, people indulging in their most depraved proclivities, they sat together side by side, her face wet with tears and emotion, David’s hand stayed on hers.