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3rd Place: 'Sanctuary to Sanctuary'

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I traded in my Sunday morning church-going with going out every Saturday night to a bar, aptly named Sanctuary. It's the type of place where if a fight broke out, the crowd might cheer for a few minutes before trying to break it up. Until a couple years ago, I was a twice-a-week church-going Christian. I moved out to Charlotte to be a minister, attended that storage facility church. Some people call it a cult with all the singing and dancing, fortune telling and tongues. But it was my life for four years. I was completely inundated in the culture.

Now, I sit in the corner at the bar, ordering High Life and observing. Sometimes I dress up in my jeans and high heels, on the prowl for some loving, but mostly I sit in the corner and contemplate my life choices. All the bartenders know me, but not by name. There are pool tables in the back and they serve the best fries in the city. The bar is splattered with subpar art. As I'm browsing the room, I notice a tall, built young man. Hipstered out — tight jeans, Doc Martens with a hand-me-down Members-Only jacket. Tattooed neck with product in his hair. Damn sexy. At least eight years my junior.

"Can I buy you a drink?" He sits next to me.

"Not that original, but sure."

His long legs reach the floor. I notice the outline of his cock in his tight jeans.

"You look familiar."

"Never heard that one before," I say with a smirk. Flirty, I hope.

"How's your relationship with God?" he says then takes a swig from his bottle.

"Now that's a new one." I don't know how to answer his question. It's a question I used to pose back in my ministry school days. Get them thinking about Jesus and death, but I try not to think about these things too much anymore. "I practice yoga."

"Doesn't really answer my question, but I can definitely tell you take it seriously," he says while scanning my body.

"I believe in God, spirits. Just rather concentrate on the physical world right now."

He smiles. Damn, he is sexy like a tattooed Gosling with a hint of Tatum. He takes another drink and exposes his Adam's apple. I want to nibble on it like Eve in the garden.

"And you and God?"

"It comes and goes." He motions for two more drinks. "You really do look familiar."

"You don't. I would've remembered you."

"Oh really," he says, grinning. "Come here often?"

"Are you going to use every pick-up line?" I say, and touch him on the forearm, girl code for, I want you.

"You don't seem to want to go too deep."

Our drinks are placed in front of us, sweating a bit. He wipes mine off with a napkin. I nod in thanks, then gulp down more than a swig. If this is going to lead anywhere, I'll need my inhibitions loosened up. You never quite leave the guilt behind. I try not to make a habit of sleeping with guys I've just met, but it happens. Besides, there is something intriguing about this guy, familiar in a way.

Without speaking a word, he challenges me to chug the rest of my beer. He joins in.

"Finished," I say triumphantly, slamming the bottle down. I motion for two more.

"I like it when the woman finishes first," he says.

After a couple more, someone suggests going back to his place, but he has three roommates. We end up on my couch, which is exactly two hundred-and-thirty-seven feet from Sanctuary. He's got thick lips. Soft stubble. I just want to tear into this kid, but right before he whips it out and we have the time of our lives, he pulls back.

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

I wasn't sure. I'm usually sure.

I unzip his pants anyway and nod my head yes. He eases into me. I bite my lower lip as my insides pull and stretch to make room. It's hard and slow. We don't use a condom. He pulls out and spurts on my torso. One-night-stand sex isn't as romantic as the movies make it out to be. I hold my shirt up and waddle to the bathroom to clean up, making faces as it drips from my stomach to the floor. As I'm looking in the mirror at my matted hair, I realize I don't even know his name.

He's sitting in his boxers without a shirt; he has more ink on his chest and shoulders. One is of a cross with Hebrew written underneath.

"The Lord, our God, is one God," I say to him as I touch his chest and curl up beside him.

"You read Hebrew?"

"I dabbled a bit while in school. Kinda mixing religions in that tat?"

"Your name is Julie, isn't it?"

I look around my place to see if my name is written anywhere. "Yeah. How do you know that?"

"Julie Shepherd?"

"This is freaking me out."

"I told you, you looked familiar."

I turn on the lamp next to my couch, look into his face. And before he even says it, I know.

"I'm Josiah Matthews. You were my Sunday school teacher at Morning Star." He laughs as he says this.

I'm mortified. I can't believe I just fucked a kid I used to teach Bible verses. I leap from the couch, putting my clothes back on. "You have to leave. I can't believe we just did that."

He can't stop laughing.

"I'm serious. This isn't right. We are going to be in so much trouble."

"And who are we in trouble with?" he asks as he grabs my hands and pulls me back to the couch.

"God, I guess."

He laughs even harder.

Kelly Jo Bladl is a native of Missouri, currently lives in NoDa, doesn't seem like the type to have nine tattoos and wants to be a writer when she grows up.

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