It was a beautiful early summer morning, the first Sunday of June, when Molly and Kayla exited the church together with their children.
Sherlock and John were absent, tying up the loose ends of a case that had kept them occupied for the previous week.
Sherlock had grumbled about having to go down to New Scotland Yard on a Sunday morning, but unfortunately police work did not rest on Sundays, as Greg Lestrade had told him.
The women were outside, enjoying the warmer than usual weather when an elderly lady from church walked slowly towards them.
"Good morning, Alice," greeted Molly with a polite smile.
Alice Benson was one of those women who prided herself on knowing everything that was going on in the church. She looked at the list of announcements and prayer needs every week. If the secretary, Nancy Schmidt, ever dared to have an accidental spelling error somewhere, Alice would be sure to point it out.
Alice peered into the car carrier which contained baby Adam. "My goodness, he's growing so fast, isn't he?" she remarked then turned to say, "Hello, lovey," and reached a gnarled, arthritic hand out towards Victoria, whom Molly was holding in her arms.
"Yes, he is," responded Kayla, as Victoria shied away from the elderly woman, clinging to Molly tightly, even as Rosie hid behind Kayla's skirt.
It was interesting how neither of the little girls had taken to the spinster. Perhaps it was the condescending way in which she sometimes spoke to children in general in the church, reprimanding them for making noise during the church service or running around outside afterwards.
Nevertheless, Molly knew her heart was in the right place, so she was always friendly with the woman who was in her mid-eighties.
It was rather funny, actually, Molly reflected, that she continued to come to the church despite the more contemporary theme in the past several years which had replaced some of the hymn singing. Alice would sit in her pew near the back and piously read her Bible during the praise singing rather than participate. Oh, and heaven forbid that a visitor should ever sit in 'her' pew accidentally. On the odd occasion that happened, Miss Benson would say, "That's my pew," and stand beside it with her arms folded until the intruders had exited it.
Now she turned to Molly. "I see that congratulations are in order, Molly, dear. I noticed your name has been added to the list for safe pregnancy once again. A little unexpected, I must admit, seeing as Victoria is barely a year old."
Molly gave her a tight-lipped smile, noticing Kayla's sympathetic glance. Alice was very good at paying a compliment and then back-ending it with a hint of censure. "A very welcome surprise for us, though, Alice."
"Of course it is," responded Alice, oblivious to the discomfort she had caused Molly. She turned to Kayla. "And you, dear. I never did ask how you met your husband. I know he is Sherlock's work colleague, but it seemed that one minute you were single, and the next you were seeing him and a few months later married too. So nice of you to take on a widower with a child as well."
Molly could see Kayla's jaw set at that, even as Victoria continued to hud her face in Molly's neck. "I love Rosie as if she were my own daughter, Alice," she said firmly, then continued. "John and I met when we were both helping with Molly's move to Baker Street." She smiled at the remembrance. "In fact it has just been two years since we met."
Alice frowned slightly. "So that would have been at the end of May? But Molly and Sherlock only got married in August." Then her eyes narrowed and she cast an accusing glance at Molly. "You and your husband were living together before you got married?"
Molly could feel herself flush as she rocked Victoria gently.
Adam chose that moment to let out a lusty wail. "I'm so sorry, I need to duck back into the church for a few minutes and feed him before we leave," Kayla said, with an apologetic glance at Molly. Molly could tell she felt embarrassed to have said something that Alice had pounced on. "Come on Rosie, darling, let's pop back into the nursery so I can feed your brother and you can play for a bit," she told her step-daughter, who peeked around her skirt and then took her hand.
"Okay Mama," responded the little girl and they headed back into the church, leaving Molly facing the censuring gaze of the elderly woman who was obviously waiting for an explanation.
"I...well," stammered Molly. She knew she shouldn't feel ashamed. For one thing, it was none of Alice's business, and for another, she and Sherlock had shared a bed, yes, but they had not consummated their relationship until their wedding night. But Alice was still looking at her with a pinched expression on her face and Molly felt she needed to venture an explanation. "I moved to Baker Street early because Sherlock was concerned about my safety and wanted me near him. In fact," she rushed on, "I'm sure you remember that I was kidnapped and Sherlock saved me." The memory of her treatment at Sebastian Moran's hands suddenly caused tears to fill her eyes. He had been an evil man, and he would have raped her if Sherlock had not found her in time. That had also ended up being the catalyst for Sherlock putting his trust in Jesus as his Saviour as well.
Alice folded her arms. "I remember, dear, and I'm sorry that happened, but still, you were living in sin before you married. I do not think God would approve of your actions, even if they were well intentioned."
"Please, Alice, understand that we were living together, yes, but it came about as a result of Sherlock wanting to protect me. There were extenuating circumstances."
Alice sniffed. "Well, you will be held accountable for it on judgement day regardless. It is your duty as a Christian to be above reproach, to not show by your actions that what is wrong, is right."
Molly could hardly believe what she was hearing. To be told she would be held accountable for her actions on judgment day was tantamount to being told her faith was not sincere. It was as if she would have to pay for her sin that Jesus had already shed his blood for. Nevertheless, the accusation was very hurtful and she swallowed.
"I..I'm sorry, Alice. I need to go," she said desperately, feeling the tears threaten to spill over. Being condemned by a fellow Christian was not a nice feeling, but she did not want to be drawn into further argument. The woman's mind was made up.
She left the old woman still standing there with folded arms and pushed lips and headed to the street, managing to flag down a passing taxi, even as she continued to hold her daughter tightly as the tears came loose at last.
"Mama?" questioned Victoria, once they were seated in the taxi. Molly was holding her on her lap, but her daughter lifted her head up and frowned, apparently noticing her mother's agitation.
Molly held her daughter against her. "It's okay, darling, Mummy will be okay," she told her. She felt bad about not saying goodbye to Kayla, but she simply could not endure another minute of Alice right then. She had never felt so unfairly judged by someone who went to her church. It was one thing to be looked down upon for her faith, she expected that. A lot of people had a perception that Christians felt they were better than other people, which wasn't at all the way Molly felt. However, to feel the condemnation and censure of someone who thought they had a right to tell her off, was very hurtful.
Molly was a little disappointed when she arrived home to find Sherlock still not there. She would have liked some comfort from him. Her phone pinged and she set Victoria temporarily down into her playpen. She looked at her message, knowing it wasn't Sherlock's text alert and saw it was from Kayla.
Molly, are you okay? When I came out of the church, Alice told me you stormed off after she told you off for living in sin. I'm so sorry that happened! I shouldn't have told her when John and I met so specifically. :(
Molly thought for a moment, then responded. She didn't want Kayla to feel bad for something that had been an inadvertent slip, and Alice was probably the only person in church who would have reacted that way.
It's okay, Kayla. I didn't storm off either, just said I had to go. I tried to explain the circumstances for my move, and she didn't even want to listen. It hurt, because I don't like people thinking badly of me, but I don't blame you at all. If people want to think the worst, that is up to them.
I know, but I'm sorry, anyway. Oh, got to go. I hear John. Talk to you soon. Try not to let what happened bother you too much.
Easier said than done, thought Molly as she put her phone back down. She had never really thought about how her moving in with Sherlock, innocent as it was, might look to other people. This was the first time somebody had openly accused her of living in sin with Sherlock.
She picked up Victoria, who had been happily playing with a block puzzle, from the playpen and fed her lunch, then put her in her cot for a nap. Then she ate a sandwich, wondering what was taking Sherlock so long, seeing as John had apparently arrived home already.
After eating the sandwich, Molly promptly expelled it into the toilet. She didn't know whether it was morning sickness or feeling sick as a result of what had happened after church. Still feeling somewhat nauseous, Molly took a Prochlorperazine tablet. She had been prescribed the medication to combat severe nausea a couple weeks earlier. It had worked well when she had been pregnant with Victoria, except on the occasions when her nausea was so severe she was getting sick every twenty minutes. In those instances, the tablet did not stay in her stomach long enough to be effective.
Molly thought again about the old woman's words, and felt her stomach clench. She expected that the news would be all over the church very quickly. Unfortunately Miss Alice Benson was an inveterate gossip as well as busybody. Molly didn't think the other people in her church would look down on her as Alice was obviously doing, but it was still embarrassing to think that people might think less of her if they knew she and Sherlock had lived together before their marriage. What if people thought she wasn't a good role model for the Christian faith as a result? The combination of not feeling well and probable hormonal changes of pregnancy, caused Molly to once again start to cry.
She continued to sit on the sofa as tears ran slowly down her cheeks when at last she heard Sherlock's footsteps ascending the stairs and he opened the door. He didn't look directly at her as he began to talk immediately. He was busy taking off his coat and hanging it up.
"Sorry I'm late, love. It took forever to get all the paperwork done on this latest case. I let John make his statement first so he could get home quicker. After all, he does have a new baby to deal with-" he stopped suddenly, noticing the tears on Molly's face. "What's wrong, sweetheart? Were you worried because I didn't text you? I'm so sorry," he told her, walking over to the sofa and sitting beside her, then wrapping his arms around her.
"It's not that," said Molly with a sigh, leaning her head against his shoulder, feeling the warmth of his embrace enveloping her. "Alice Benson found out we were living together before we got married and she told me that God disapproved of me for...living in sin with you." She sniffled.
Sherlock's arms tightened around her and he said in a voice that was low and full of anger, "Interfering old woman. How dare she lecture you on what's right and wrong when she sits at the back of the church each week and sticks her nose up in the air as if she is better than everyone else. How did she find out about that anyway?"
Molly raised her head to look up at him. "She asked Kayla when she and John met. Kayla mentioned it had been two years ago, when she was helping me pack up to move here. Alice put two and two together and realised that was before our wedding."
Sherlock kissed Molly's forehead. "Don't worry about her, darling. God knows our hearts, and he also knows we were not being sinful. In any case, even if we had been sleeping together, that is between us and God, not her. We are all sinners and make mistakes, and it says in the Bible that no one sin is worse than another. Remember too, that sermon recently by Pastor Briggs where he was talking about that woman who was going to be stoned? Jesus said, 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,' and everyone had to drop their stones and leave."
Molly smiled wryly. "I guess Alice missed that sermon or fell asleep during it, in that case."
"The point is, Molly, she has no right to tell you off that way based on her own narrow perception of things. If she really knew you properly, she would see that you are kind-hearted and always willing to help people in the church when they are ill or have other issues. Look at the way you've cooked extra food for Caleb and Abigail since the whole thing happened with their daughter developing retinoblastoma. You and Kayla organised a group of women to make sure they were being taken care of for meals when they were at the hospital with her, and I know they appreciated it."
Molly swiped at her tear dampened face. "I know. I just hate the thought of people thinking less of me, and questioning whether I am just 'talking the talk' instead of 'walking the walk' if you know what I mean. It makes me feel sick inside to think that people might be saying one thing to my face and judging me beneath the surface."
Sherlock frowned. "Nobody has the right to judge anyone else. We all make mistakes. I'm sorry this happened, sweetheart, but you should not feel guilty about something that was more than two years ago anyway. Even if we had made love before the wedding night, it isn't as if God would have condemned us for it. He knows our hearts and our intentions and that's all that really matters. We would have been forgiven as we are forgiven for every unkind thought we have or self-serving action we take when we repent." He raised a hand to cup her face and gave her a tender kiss.
When their lips parted, Molly ventured to say one more thing that had really bothered her about Alice Benson's words. "Alice also said I would be held accountable on judgment day for my sin."
Sherlock stroked her hair. "It is my understanding, correct me if I am wrong, that the accountability for our sin was taken on by the blood of Jesus. When judgment day occurs, you will be seen as sinless in God's eyes, because Jesus' blood has covered the sin of all who believe and trust in him. Hang on, let me look something up in my Bible app."
Molly watched Sherlock pull out his phone and walk to the coffee table to grab his reading glasses from beneath. Then he sat beside her and opened his Bible app. She saw him put in a search for "no condemnation".
"Ah, here it is," he proclaimed triumphantly. "Technology is indeed a wonderful thing. Here is what Paul says in Romans 5:
"'Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[ free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.'
"So you see, my love, the Bible itself says we are free from condemnation. Let Alice have her own beliefs. I'm sure she things she is doing what is right and I would never presume to think she too is not sincere in her faith, but I will not have her upsetting you and causing you to question your past and have you feel guilty for your choices."
Molly couldn't help feeling somewhat in awe of how much Sherlock had grown and changed over the past two years. At times, he seemed more knowledgeable about the Bible than she was herself.. He was certainly making her feel better, but she still felt the need to add something. "I know what you're saying and I appreciate it. You're right, about everything, and I'm so thankful we can talk about this together."
She paused a moment, collecting her thoughts and then began again. "I guess the thing is, I expect non-Christians to look at us carefully, to see if we are really sincere in what we believe, and that doesn't bother me. I know I'm trying to show people what I believe in the way I act. It's just really hurtful when another Christian passes judgment on me. As Christians, we should be building one another up, encouraging one another, not tearing them down."
Sherlock nodded. "Don't you think that the majority of our friends at church are like that? Unfortunately, there are always going to be some people out there, even Christians, who think they know better than we do about what is right and what is wrong, as if they have a direct line to God which we lack. We walk a fine line, Molly, being in the world but not of it. All we can do is try and live what we believe."
He stood, pulling Molly up with him. "Where is Victoria, anyway?"
Molly indicated the baby monitor on the coffee table. "Sherlock, can't you see she's sleeping? Some detective you are," she teased, feeling decidedly better.
He huffed at that. "Well, I was rather distracted in trying to console my wife." He slid an arm around her waist. "While our daughter is sleeping, why don't we-"
Molly pursed her lips. "Sherlock, we don't have time for that. Victoria could wake at any minute."
Sherlock's lips twitched in amusement. "You have a one-track mind, woman," he informed her and she blushed. "Actually, I was going to suggest we work on packing some books away into cartons. We are moving soon, you know."
Molly smiled at him. It was true. The offer they had placed on a house a couple weeks earlier had been accepted and they were in the process of finalising the details. Baker Street would soon no longer be their home. It was rather ironic that two years earlier Molly had been packing up to move here, and now she and Sherlock were packing up to move to a house of their own where they would have more room for their expanding family.
Molly's tension and nausea eased. Sherlock had made her feel so much better and he was right. Whether the elderly Miss Benson decided to gossip about Sherlock and herself, it didn't really matter. The people who were closest to them knew the truth of things, and those that didn't could think what they wanted. There were always going to be people who enjoyed finding fault in others. These were the kind of people who usually acted as if they were more holy than others and did not actively go out and share their faith with anyone else.
Molly picked up the video monitor and headed upstairs to the spare room with Sherlock. There was a bookcase in there full of books she had brought to Baker Street. What can I do to share my faith more openly with others? wondered Molly to herself as she and Sherlock began to pull books from shelves and put them in one of the boxes he had procured.
"Sherlock," Molly said, looking at her husband who was grabbing a handful of Barbara Cartland books off one of the shelves, "I want to find a way for us to share our faith more with others."
He looked over at her and raised an eyebrow. "I assume this idea popped into your head because of what happened today?"
Molly nodded. "Yes. Just in case Alice starts gossiping about us, I want to make sure people know we are not just playing at being Christians, that we are living as Christians."
He regarded her seriously. "I think people know that already, sweetheart. I'm sure people will take anything that old gossip says with a grain of salt. But in any case, what do you have in mind?"
Molly shrugged. "I don't know yet. I want us to pray about it and follow God's direction when the time comes." She bent towards the box and placed some of her precious Harry Potter collection carefully into it.
Sherlock's hands brushed hers as he too placed some books into the box. "We'll do that tonight, after we've done our Bible readings for the day."
"Thank you, honey. And thank you as well for making me feel better."
They stood then and Sherlock pulled her into a tight embrace, giving her a lingering kiss. She inhaled the scent of him, luxuriating in his closeness, his wisdom and their devotion to one another.
Their lips only parted when the sound of Victoria waking came from the monitor. They both looked towards the monitor, watching as Victoria pulled herself upright and held the railing, then said in a plaintive voice, "Mama? Dada?"
"Go ahead," offered Molly. "You haven't seen her all day. I'll get this box finished and be right down."
Sherlock nodded and headed downstairs.
Molly continued to pack the books, adding to the box the Chronicles of Narnia collection that she had purchased for Sherlock slowly as gifts during their engagement and beyond. Perhaps she would find some time soon to write a little more fanfiction about the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy during their time in Narnia. Those books were such a wonderful way to introduce Biblical themes in the allegory of Aslan the lion representing Jesus, and writing had become a passion she enjoyed in her limited spare time when Sherlock wasn't home and Victoria was not demanding her attention. She had started writing it for fun years earlier, but hadn't done too much of it.
Typing on a phone was much more difficult than typing on an iPad as she usually did these days. Sherlock found it rather amusing that she had discovered she enjoyed creative writing so much and had suggested she write an alternate to John's blog of his cases. Molly, however, knew that was an area she would stay well clear of. She preferred to read about Sherlock and his friend's exploits through John's blog. It was much more entertaining than hearing the dry accounting of things from Sherlock's own mouth.
Molly closed the flaps of the box and headed back downstairs to join her husband and daughter. She had a feeling that God was going to reveal something to her very soon - a new way to share her faith with others. There was a time of transition ahead, moving to a new house, preparing for the next Holmes baby. What exciting times lay ahead? Only time would tell.