Tag Archives: Dating

TWAR77 – Chapter 16

I can’t believe I left my pencils at home. Now, I must buy overpriced mechanical pencils at the campus bookstore. The line could not be longer!

The song ‘Love is an Action’ blares from my pocket. The gf is calling for the umpteenth time. I pull my cell out reluctant to answer it. Seeing Melody a few weeks ago brought more to the light than I anticipated. I’m beginning to wonder if I truly love my girlfriend. Last month, I was certain we were ready for marriage. I have the ring picked out. I got permission for her hand. And God hasn’t told me not marry her. Double negatives really mean yes, right?

A small person abruptly runs into me from behind. How do you bump into someone standing still in line?

A panicked, petite voice shrieks, “I’m SO sorry!”

Rolling my eyes, I take a deep breath, I turn around and smile. “Don’t worry about it. I’m not bleeding.”

The pretty young lady laughs. She’s an African American woman, sporting a small afro. Her lime green and cream paisley go-go dress looks like it could be vintage and now a recreated fashion trend. She keeps her eyes closed enough to prevent anyone from actually seeing them clearly.

I haven’t felt this way since I was a teenager. That indescribable, yet cosmic proportion, sensation in my heart that I now set eyes on the ONE.

I’m craving to ask what her name is and to get her number. Then I remember I have a girlfriend, who I love, and I can plan a life with… Dang it, I’ve already started planning that life!

“Again, I’m sorry. I’ll buy whatever you’re getting in line.”

“No, it’s fine.” I turn away from her and face the front.

Only third in line from reaching the register, a slender hand grabs my forearm to get my attention. I look behind me and the African-American timidly asks, “Excuse me, but are you Asher Lucas?”

“Yes,” she holds out her copy of Everloving with a pen. She wants my autograph.

Cordially, I accept to fulfill her request. “Who do I make it out to?”

“Janet Washington,” she bops up and down ecstatically, holding her purse. She thanks me and says, “You may not be Melody but you’re the next best thing. Your role in her life encouraged me to invite every non-believer I know to church.”

Having signed her nearly purchased book, I hand it back to her, and yet she keeps talking.

“I wanted to buy the book a couple weeks ago at her speaking engagement, but I had zero funds… I barely meet my tuition deadline payments.” She smiles clutching the book to her chest.

Neglecting my burning desire to ignore her, I figure small talk can’t hurt. As we talked my admiration for her grew. Without understanding it, every part of my being wants to marry this woman. My head reminds me I have my dream girl. Eventually, I block out my head’s reasoning for the remaining duration of our conversation.

I purchase my pencils and she gets her book. We exit the bookstore together. Outside the front doors, I confess I must dart to class if I don’t want to be late. She admits she has a lecture to catch in the opposite direction. I defeat the urge to ask for her number. We wave goodbye to each other and I walk away feeling like I’m walking on the moon. I can’t remember the last time I felt this way, if ever after talking to the opposite gender.

‘Love is an Action’ rings loudly from my pocket. Like a man, I answer my gf’s call.

“Hey, what’s up?”

TWAR77 – Chapter 10

What’s done in the dark will eventually come to light… Another biblical truth I can’t run away from. I broke down in the car before I drove home. I cried out to God because I knew he was the only one that could sooth my aching heart, bleeding spirit, and troubled mind. After a fervent prayer pleading for guidance, a voice I thought I’d never hear again… which is crazy… how could I believe the lie, spoke to me, “Will you listen to me Asher?”

Considering that not listening to Him last time put me in this situation… I have to… I need to… There and then I swore to Him that I would. As He told me, “Good,” a wave of relief rushed through me and peace I could only credit to my God, my Savior, my Lord took root in me and sprouted in my entire being.

Melody doesn’t want to tell either of our parents yet… she thinks we need to break the news in stages. The stages being: stage one: Unveiling our relationship by telling our parents over dinner; stage two: Going public on social networking cites, since she’s the only who’s on them that will be her job; stage three: Reveal that Melody’s pregnant with our unborn child.

It seemed wise a couple of weeks ago when she proposed it. Unfortunately, we failed to implement it since our friends and family kept us busy with our birthday weeks. Last Friday, the 4th of October, was Melody’s 18th birthday. September 30th to October 11th during our fall break to celebrate Melody’s 18th birthday, her dad flew the whole family to Hawaii… for the entire break. Wednesday, on the 9th, on my 18th birthday youth group threw a surprise birthday party for me. Melody Skyped me from her fancy hotel room before I went to bed for the first time as an 18-year-old. Then for the weekend, my parents took me down to Tucson, we went to Old Tucson since Westerns are my favorite genre of literature. I can’t totally get into Western movies though. But what’s more romantic than a cowboy, in a white hat seeking redemption from his old wild ways by protecting the folk of the old west who need it, and in the end winning the heart of the fairest lady in town. Therefore, a dinner at my place and then hers, didn’t pan out, but I figured we get to it by this week.

Monday wasn’t good because it was a school night, except for my mom (her fall break was this week). Tuesday same excuse as Monday, Wednesday night Melody was too tired to attend church with me, Thursday night was family game night for the Gartner Clan only. Friday, Melody had to go into school since she’s failing English, and she knew after her day she would be exhausted. I woke up this morning expecting her to cancel, but I didn’t receive a text or a call, therefore I figured we were a go.

Today, with our Saturday tradition well and alive to commemorate our 6th weekiversary, as we walk holding hands like the love struck teens we are, along the lakeside Melody’s proposal shocks me, “Let’s get married,” she just blurts out.

Not given the chance to think it out, she kisses with an intensity she never has before, or maybe she has, I just can’t remember. Spellbound by the magic of this moment I find myself weak in the knees and running on fumes just to continue the motion of kissing with passion. And yet, holding her, kissing the mother of my child, I want more… Do I really want my kid born outside of wedlock; do I want Melody to worry that I’ll leave at any moment? What a better way to assure Melody and our future child that I’m never going anywhere than saying, ‘I Do’ at the altar before God, family, and friends.

Abruptly, prying her lips from mine to catch her breath she gently begs for clarity, “Is that a yes, Mr. Lucas?” Her hands clasped at the small of my back, her bottom lip tucked inside her mouth, her eyes on fire with anticipation, and my thoughts soaring through the euphoric clouds of my mind I proudly accept to have Melody Gartner become Mrs. Asher Michael Lucas, “Yes,” I tell her.

It’s not until after I dropped Melody off, I realize that I didn’t consult God. I didn’t ask for his direction. I’m scared to ask Him… I got the gut-wrenching feeling He’s going to make me choose the harder road… the one I’ve been avoiding. But I promised Him that I would listen to Him… that I was done doing things my way… But if I don’t marry Melody, she’ll probably just think I don’t love her, or that I want out of the relationship, or even worse she may close her heart to Christ altogether.

Suddenly the Lord says to me, “It’s not you who saves Asher. I SAVE.”

“What do I do God?” I beg for His guidance. He doesn’t say anything…

I’ve learned His silence means I got things in my heart I have to sort out before He can answer that question. He could tell me exactly what to do right now, but the big question remains: would I listen to Him? God doesn’t ask us questions because He doesn’t know the answer, He asks the questions to help us open our eyes. To help us realize where we’re at in life or to help us acknowledge a desire or a sin in our heart we haven’t recognized yet. Does God keep asking me if I’ll listen to Him, because in the deepest, truest part of my heart I won’t listen to Him? I keep doing my thing… Or do I keep doing Melody’s thing? Making me feel bad for her, she swindled me in to asking her to homecoming. I wanted to stop drinking punch and she persuaded me to drink more. Pitying her, I asked her to be my girlfriend. Thirty minutes ago she kissed me into accepting her proposal. Melody’s a devil, a snake! She’s the weed in my heart making me disobey God…

What do I do God?

As clear as the first time He said it to me, “Love her like I love you.”

God’s love is unconditional… I’m fully human… how can I love her unconditionally? A thought crosses my mind: Would I love her if she never found Christ? My love for her is conditional… I want her to accept Christ with every inch of my soul, that I’m compromising my soul just to please her. As if I fall from the graces of her favor, she’ll not only say the heck with me, but Jesus too… I’m standing in as savior of her life instead of allowing Jesus to come in and be her savior. I was there for her when she had no friends, I became her boyfriend to spare her a broken heart, and now I’ve agreed to marry her for security. What happens, if for whatever reason, I’m suddenly removed from the equation? What would Melody do? Would she just find another boy to be her knight in shining armor, would she run to her father like the daddy’s little girl she is? And what if, Natasha didn’t say yes to Zeven, and by some miracle she said yes to me (if I got the chance to ask her out)? I wouldn’t have taken Melody to homecoming, we wouldn’t be a couple, and the baby wouldn’t exist.

“Yes, he would,” the Lord inaudibly speaks to my heart.

Yes he would? Now I’m confused. God is love shouts from east to west in my mind.

God is love. In God’s Word Translation of the Bible, it uses the word love from Genesis to Revelation, with all its different forms and variant definitions of the word, but even with all of love’s many meanings, one underlying truth is clear: God loved us first, so we could love Him. We’re only capable of loving others because we’re made in His image. We were made to love. The reason why we fall short or fail to love is because of the callous nature sin brings into our lives. For our sake, out of love, God came as Christ to save us. God isn’t in the business of being liked… He’s in the business of being loved! To obey the Lord I have to be bold enough to love her more… to love her without conditions. The real question now is: how?

TWAR77 – Chapter 9

To an extent, Melody’s my precious little secret. No one knows we’re an item, but I imagine people suspect we are. We agreed not to partake in public displays of affection; in fact we don’t kiss much. Occasionally, she’ll bid me farewell with a peck on the cheek, or to thank me for her weekiversary gift, she’ll lightly lay a tender a kiss on my lips, but for the most part the only level of physical intimacy we practice as of late is hand holding. How I love to walk with her and just hold her hand, a warm blanket of security snuggles my heart in a bundle of joy.

The dawn of our couple-hood opens windows into each other’s soul every day. As friends we enjoyed the company of one another, but we didn’t exchange details about ourselves to grow and truly learn who we are. Who is Melody Gartner?

A girl without a middle name because her parents want her to keep Gartner as a part of her name once she’s married. Despising her flat, dull, nearly black hair she dyes it to look like a sandy blonde and by five in the morning she’s up styling her hair to make it wavy or curly with a special hot iron… I forgot what she calls it. All the creepy crawlies yet to be discovered, known, and classified terrify her to her innermost core and for that reason, she’s not a camper. The common white daisy holds the title of Mel G’s favorite flower, I of course, already knew that, but as of late, the wild, yellow daisy grows on her and her favoritism ventures toward a crossroads. I don’t see why she can’t like both? She tries, and tries, and tries, and tries, and tries but she’s a C+ student and she’s completely envious of my perfect 4.0 GPA. Jessie J stands alone as the pop, borderline hip-hop, diva when it comes to the Queen of Music in Mel’s opinion. If she were to meet Niall Horan of One Direction, she’d drop me in a second to be his lawfully wedded wife, if he’d have her. Unable to describe what attracts her to him, it could be his voice or his charm, but whatever it is makes her head spin daydreaming about him in math class… maybe that’s the problem with her grades? Mel harbors a well-guarded secret for her love of ‘enjoying the aromas of air fresheners’. In her closet, in the far back left corner there’s a chest full of aerosol cans and spray bottles of disinfectants and deodorizers of the popular brand variants. The latest thing I learned about Melody Gartner, though we hardly talk about religion since our relationship began, she’s deadly afraid God doesn’t exist and disappearing from existence when she dies.

Speechless I remained as we embraced in a long, lingering hug. When we were by the lake in the park, and she told me that about God, I wanted to say she’ll never doubt God or fear death knowing God personally, but I feared sparking an argument. I exhaled and I let the subject go. I stayed quiet that time, and we sat on the bench among the trees, where the light glowed like beaming rays from heaven through seams in between the branches of the pine trees. The entire forest-park was alive with the sounds of nature working around us…

Today marks our first monthiversary and I know I should get her something special… like a piece of jewelry. At Hallmark, in town, with mom and Abbey I notice a platinum, Celtic-inspired, ringed cross near the check out. Kyrene’s maiden name is O’Malley and if I’m not mistaken O’Malley is an Irish Surname. It would be perfect. I just have to figure out how to buy it without mom and Abbey seeing me. I have the cash ready when I see mom and Abbey in the far back corner by the mugs and I rush to buy the cross.

The mixed girl behind the register recognizes me from school. She even knows my name.

“How you doing Asher?” she asks.

“Pretty good,” I admit smiling to be polite. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name.”

Putting my purchase in a small paper bag, she’s not surprised she’s nameless to me. “No one ever notices me… I’m a wallflower you know?”

Clearing my throat I apologize, I clarify what I meant to say, “May I get your name. I want a name to match the face in my memory? Pre-cal front center desk, right?”

A subtle rosy tint flushes her cheeks as she flashes an impressed grin my way handing me my purchase. Quietly, barely loud enough for me to hear, she shares her name, “Melanie Glover.”

Now I remember her, Melanie in the front. The thought rolls into the shoreline of my mind like a wave riding up to the coast: is Melanie Glover the childhood friend of Melody Gartner? I’m sure it’s just coincidence…

Is it? Questions a thought.

“What did you buy Ash?” Abbey’s voice pries into my business.

Facing her I tuck the bag into my back pocket, and in all honesty I inform my sister, “It’s none of your business.”

Abbey steps up to me and stares up into my eyes, “You’re so secretive lately, what are you hiding?” Her gaze scrutinizes me. I deliver a firm, “Nothing,” as I shuffle sideways toward the door, but Abbey follows me.

“I don’t believe you,” she huffs crossing her arms and if looks could severely dismember a body, my limbs would be spread throughout the store thanks to Abbey Gail Lucas’ deathly scowl. “Welcome to the dark side brother,” she smirks cockily as she steps around me and pushes the door open. Before exiting the store, she says, “I’m gonna go help dad and Ann with the groceries.”

I don’t know what happened to my little sister. Once upon a sweet time ago, she embodied the grace of a princess and her heart was that of gold. As an ugly reminder of her current state of witchery, that time ago is ever in the past, and a part of me longs for Princess Abbey Gail to return and once again share her love of singing gospel hymns and the peace of Christ’s Gospel she loved to share with the lost sheep. Where did she change? Was it here or back in Sanders? And what happened that changed her? It couldn’t be her christening into the teenage years, a different perspective of life fogged by raging hormones and the overwhelming desire to “fit in”. An event mom, dad, and I don’t know about? Some deep dark secret she’s harboring and allowing her heart to blacken with bile?
[*All I can do for her is pray. Again the thought poses the question Is it? It’s the type of thought not entirely my own… I know it comes from that place in me I’ve been ignoring one day shy of a month… well, since I didn’t listen to Him at the dance, today could count, and therefore, it’s been a month. (confusing)*]

A comforting, familiar slight hand touches the middle of my back. I look down and it’s mom creeping under my arm, folding me in her sideways mama bear clutch. Patting my stomach, she asks if I’m hungry. I am actually, but dad’s buying groceries and he’ll probably whip something together when we get home. Instead, she asks if I want to go to the Chinese Buffet a few doors down. I love my father, but I’ve been my mama’s boy since birth. Normally, I can talk to her about anything, but I don’t want to break her heart… I’ll wait for as long as I can to break the news gently. I want to accept her offer, but afraid from my growing guilt that I may spill everything about Mel, not just how great she is, but how and why we’re dating may be the main topic of our table talk, therefore, kindly, I convince her I can wait until we get home.

We agreed to meet at Woodland Park around ten in the morning last night while we were texting in bed. I’m the first to arrive by the mucky lake, the air refreshingly reeks of pine needles and a faint coolness follows the warm breeze. On a bulky rock, with a smooth top, about the height of 17-month-old Annika, I take a seat. Holding the Hallmark bag in my hands, I figured I could get away with not wrapping it, since I’m a guy.

The forest floor gets crushed and crunched by approaching footsteps behind me. The pace is rushed; someone is excited to celebrate our first month together. I stand up in preparation for a huge, bear caliber hug. But the face of Melody opposes the celebratory expression I expected. For the first time, before me, she’s without makeup. Her eyes swim with tears and glare with the gloss of a troubled soul. Dressed in baggy sweats, her dad’s Brigham Young Tee, old, scuffed white tennis shoes, and her hair− flat and un-styled thrown into a sloppy hybrid of a bun and a ponytail she looks like she was reluctant to leave the house.

“What’s wrong?” I ask reaching out to her.

She rambles anxiously and incoherently as she begins to accept my embrace but when she notices the Hallmark bag in my hand, she asks curiously, “What’s that?” with a twinge of poutiness in her tone.

“It’s a gift that can wait until you tell me what’s wrong.”

Looking into my eyes, she questions, “For our monthiversary?” with the whine in her voice still present.

“Yeah, but what’s wrong?”

Turning her back to me, staring out at the lake, and with gray, stormy clouds looming in the sky she thinks for a moment. Finally, she builds up the courage to admit… “I don’t want to lose you…”

I step up and stand next to her looking out at the lake too. I figure she’ll be more comfortable if I don’t look at her. “How can you lose me? I’m right here.”

A feeling of change rises in my spirit the instance our gaze reconnects… a little like when I saw Natasha for the first time… knowing… thinking we were destined. I’m not sure what I’m feeling… Entirely wrapped up in her light, golden brown eyes I hardly notice what she places in my hand. A cold end of a hard plastic stick, and as I look down at what it is, Melody says apologetically, “Probably the worst gift for an unwed teenage boy…” The words from Melody that follow afterwards trail off. Two pink lines… I’m pretty sure that means she’s having my baby.

Tears try to escape my eyes, and the overwhelming urge to flee rises tall within me, but I fight the cry pleading to breakout from me and I force myself to stay. I allow Melody to fall apart in my arms. Both weighed down with shame, guilt, and regret we fall together to the dirt soil ground and kneel on a bed of twigs, pinecone remnants, and pine needles as we grieve over the loss of a bright future and prep for the hard one to come.

TWAR77 – Chapter 4

On the ride to her place, I ask if I’m going the right way. She nods and hums if I’m right. If I’m wrong she corrects my directions in a mopey, borderline monotone voice.  I pull into her long, narrow driveway. When I turn into the half-roundabout area near her front porch, I’m a little struck with awe gazing at the three story log cabin house. It’s like a woodsman plantation home… It has that type of magnetism of a southern home but the cryptic exterior look of a mega cabin in the woods.

Opening the passenger door, she asks, “Do you want to come in for a snack? It would just be us, no one else is home.”

I am hungry, but I’m not going to be alone with a girl, in a house with a bunch of empty bedrooms, especially, when that girl is low in spirit and prone to act out of madness. I got enough common sense to turn this one down.

Right as I’m about to say no, she entices me by saying, “The caramel apple bites I made should be ready to eat.”

I have no idea what a caramel apple bite is, but it SOUNDS DELICIOUS! I put the car in park, lock the doors behind me, and I hurry to follow Melody inside.

Once we enter her screen door, and wood door, she says, “Give me your shirt.”

For a second, I’m actually stupid enough to think she meant the white shirt I’m wearing, but she’s talking about the shirt in my backpack, which I brought in with me. Opening up my bag, I try to remember why I brought it in, and then I remember why. I like to do homework while I eat my snack. I keep my brain energized while I work… It’s a win-win for my mind and my body.

The foyer’s the size of my dining room and living room combined. Across from us at the door is the first flight of stairs leading to the second floor. To the right seems to be the living room or a family room. I’m guessing family room, because it’s filled with two sofas, a couple reclining chairs, a coffee table, bookshelves but no television set. A brown, typical piano is tucked back in the corner. To the left, the direction Melody begins walking as she takes my shirt is a confined hallway. She opens sliding, shutter, closet-like doors and reveals a washer and a dryer. Pointing further down the hallway, she tells me to walk straight into the kitchen.

Each step creeks along the plank wooden floor, I’m relieved by the silence when my feet meet tile ground. The tile is bright jade, marble-like flooring. Maybe it is marble tile? I think it’s safe to say the Gartner’s have money. I look out the window above the sink and notice the lake. They have lake front property… Yeah… they’re rich alright…

The kitchen’s like two and half of my family’s kitchen. The cherry wood finish of the cabinets make the floor and the matching countertops pop.  There’s a dark, wooden, elegant-looking, four person table by a row of tall windows that showcase a riveting White Mountain landscape. The slate gray clouds make the lanky, thin pine trees below look somber, and the calm lake appear mystical. The view is absolutely, cinematically serene.

I take a seat where I can focus on the view and into the heart of the kitchen. Melody joins me in the kitchen, and sets her things across the table from me. I get out my homework as she prepares our snack. She pulls a metal tray out of the fridge covered with wax paper. The potent aroma of fresh caramel and tart granny smith apples engulf my nose.

“Almond milk, vanilla almond milk, grape juice, or water?” Melody asks, pulling tall, plain glasses out of the cabinet. “Vanilla almond milk tastes really yummy with the caramel apple bites.”

“Okay, I’ll try it.” I say.

She carries both plates on one arm, while carrying an empty glass in each hand as she walks over to the table. With poise and grace, she sets everything in the proper place by the table: A plate and glass before me, and a plate and glass at her setting. She goes back and collects the metal tray, serves us, then she carries it back to the double door, black fridge and she puts the caramel apple bites away in exchange for a glass canter of what I presume to be vanilla almond milk. As she pours my glass to the brim, she mentions, “It’s homemade,” referring to the almond milk.

 “Did your mom make it?” I ask.

She chuckles as she pours herself a glass. “My mother has many talents but none in the kitchen. This is my dad’s forté. But no, I made it actually.”

I look at my plate. Golden brown, flakey pie crust square bits encase what I can only guess inside is the taste bud pleasing combo of caramel and granny smith apple. I pick one up to bite into it, when the thought: pray reminds me to be grateful. Dropping my first bite attempt startles Melody.

“Too cold?” she worries as she tosses a bite in her mouth.

“No. I don’t know… it’s fine… We just haven’t prayed.”

I don’t know why I’m praying before a snack. I never do at home. I just eat.

Then the Lord questions the intent of my heart, “Do you trust Me, Asher?”

I close my eyes bowing my head. I pop one eye open and notice Melody bowing her head ready for prayer.

“Dear heavenly father, thank you for this time together as friends, and thank you for the snack we’re about to enjoy, bless this food, bless our evening, in Jesus’s name, the name above all names, the king above all kings, thank you again for all that you do, AMEN.”

“Amen.” Melody repeats after me.

Finishing the bite she held in her mouth, she stares at me waiting for me to take a bite. I bite into half of one. Buttery, flakey goodness kicks off the start of my taste bud pleasure followed by a soft, yet crisp tart gush of granny smith apple covered with cold sticky, chewy caramel. Food like this brings nothing but food-tapping good joy to my soul. That’s something I do when I eat food that wows, amazes, and impresses me as I enjoy eating what I taste: I tap my right foot to the natural rhythm of my joyful heart.

“How is it?” Melody asks, nervous to hear the verdict.

“Fantastic,” I say right before I shove a couple into my mouth.

Melody blushes as she tucks her hair behind both ears.

The milk blows my mind. Creamy, sweet, rich, yet not thick like the stuff from the store and it has the perfect amount of vanilla. No after taste either, like most milks…

Raising my glass to Melody, I say, “Epically delicious Mel.”

Happily, she points out, “You called me Mel…”

Gulping a huge swig of milk I shrug my shoulders. I manage to question, “So?” after the milk is officially swallowed.

“I love being called Mel.”

“Well, don’t ever call me Ash, I hate it.”

Nodding shortly and sternly, she says, “Sure Ashhh,” she drags out and then quickly she adds, “Sher!”

We end up eating the entire tray of caramel apple bites as we complete our homework. I look at my phone to check the time and see that it’s nearly six. The hour of dinner approaches and I’m not home. Just as I’m about to call home, a text message from mom comes through.

            Are you M.I.A. for dinner tonight too?

I text back:

I’m at a friend’s doing homework. Forgot to tell you… Sorry…

Mom’s response:

       Should I keep a plate warm for you or are you eating there?

“Are you hungry?” Melody asks.

Exaggerating of course, I say, “I’m starving!”

Texting mom, I say:

          I’m having dinner here.

Mom’s response:

          Ok, be home by 10 please. It’s a school night.

Wow… I’m allowed to stay out until 10… well 9:30 if I want to make it home by 10…

I text:

            Thanks mom, love you!

Mom’s texts back:

            Love you too! You have your key, right?

I inform her that I do and that I’ll probably be home sooner than curfew. She just texts back a simple:

            K

Melody whips up a couple Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage Links, kettle fries, and sautéed sugar snapped peas. Of course, Melody didn’t let me sit by idly. I scrubbed the potatoes clean, and I chopped the potatoes into uneven strings of fries.

Once we sit down to eat, I’m curious where her family is. I may be crossing boundaries by asking, but I thought Mormons were extremely family-oriented. Wouldn’t they all be home for dinner? Wouldn’t her parents be asking me 20 questions trying to figure out the intentions I have for their daughter?

I try to be as subtle as possible, “Are you usually alone for dinner?”

Holding up a finger, requesting I wait patiently as she finishes chewing her mouthful of food she shakes her head no. She swallows her food and then says, “My mom is with a bunch of other moms from church planning the fall festival dance, which you’re welcome to come to, if you want. And my dad has a critical patient at the clinic. Tenor, well, he probably seized the opportunity to hang out with his buddies.”

“You’re dad’s a doctor?” I’m surprised to learn. I didn’t even know Pinetop had a clinic, I just thought there was the hospital. Wait the hospital’s in Show Low… Maybe Pinetop does have a clinic.

Melody laughs, covering her mouth so she doesn’t expose the mouthful of her food mush. Shaking her head she corrects my misconception, “He’s a pet doctor. You know a vet.”

Wow, I’m an idiot. But it’s not like they have a bunch of pets to give me a hint.

“Aren’t vets normally animal lovers?” I inquire.

“Ah-huh,” she nods, “but get this. My mom’s allergic to cats. My brother’s allergic to dogs. I’m allergic to rodents, and all three of us are allergic to rabbits. And though my dad loves fish, he likes to eat them more than take care of them. Hence, we are a pet-less family.”

Our laughter synchronizes, but falls out of sync when Melody drops her laughter as her hands clutch the ends of the table. She looks nauseated. I hope we’re not eating spoiled food. I would feel sick too then, wouldn’t I?

“Are you okay?”

Silently, she nods, but it’s not very convincing. Softly, she says, “I have a… an… intolerance… toward… sugar snap peas… and green beans… I guess I’ve had too much lately… because…” holding her stomach she rises out of her seat, “if you’ll excuse me…” she blurts as she runs out of the kitchen and down the hallway. Why would you eat something your body rejects? Some people I may never understand.

In a wood house, doors opening and closing, and especially footsteps are incredibly audible. Big, heavy footsteps gait toward the kitchen down the hall. That definitely isn’t Melody coming back. I look to the doorway, and a nearly seven foot tall man, with an all-white beard like Santa, but a clean cut head of dark brown, almost black hair looks at me. Wise, wide golden brown eyes gape at me in shock. The man wears a maroon polo shirt tucked into khaki slacks. Stepping into the kitchen toting a brown, leather brief case he says, “Hello, are you a friend of Tenor’s?”

Standing I reach out my hand to greet him properly. He sets his briefcase on the counter nearest to the table as he shakes my hand. I give all the basic info, my full name, and the truth: that I’m a friend of his daughter not of his son. Smiling to be cordial, I can tell he’s trying to not to reveal his ugly face of fury.

“Is my wife home already?” He asks knowing she isn’t.

I rub my hand due to his bone crushing handshake. I know handshakes tell a lot about a man, but I’m still trying to build up the muscle to give a firm handshake. Unfortunately, my handshake says… bony wimp. It’s odd having to look up at someone for once. I’m the tallest member of my family, so I’m always looking down at my parents. I know it’s not just in my head. Mr. Gartner is laying on the intimidation thickly. I admit, “No sir.”

“Please, call me Adam, Asher is it?”

“Yes sir,” clearing my throat I realized I screwed up by calling him by a title instead of his name as he requested. Quickly, I correct my error, “Yes Adam, my name is Asher.”

“That’s some hair you got.” He comments turning to face the stove. He walks over and picks a fry out the stove top kettle. Nibbling on a bite he hums in delight enjoying the potatoey goodness of a homemade fry.

I guess I could cut my hair, but I kind of like the floppy fro I got going on lately. However, by the tone in his voice I know he doesn’t really like it. Thank God I’m not dating his daughter, or else I’d be a thousand times more nervous.

“Do you think two teens of the opposite sex alone in a big empty house is appropriate, Asher?”

I’m not sure of what answer he’s looking for. An actual response or silence, I guess it depends whether or not the question was rhetorical.

“Would your parents find it appropriate?”

Okay, he wants an answer. “Not if we’re not related sir.” I sigh because I did it again. “No Adam.” I add.

Facing me again, Adam says, “You’re welcomed in our home any time, when I’m home or Kyrene is home, okay?”

“Okay,” I nod. “I should probably get going anyhow.”

I began gathering my textbooks and notebooks into my backpack.

“You haven’t finished your food. Please, stay… enjoy. Sit, finish eating.” He says walking over to the fridge. With his head in the freezer, he asks, “Where is Melody?”

Melody returns beating me to a response, “I’m right here daddy.”

Adam drops his quest for food to give Melody a loving embrace. Adam makes a joke about being alone with boys lead to trouble. We all laugh, but it’s safe to say Adam finds it more humorous than Melody and I do.

Adam cooks himself a premade (by him) turkey burger, fresh kettle fries, and sautéed broccoli while Melody and I finish eating. Melody takes my dishes and rinses them in the sink. I offer to help, but she insists I do nothing because I’m a guest.

Melody walks me to the car. She apologizes for creating an awkward moment between me and her father. I just make her promise to avoid all possible future moments like that by not letting us be alone together in that house again. She vows so solemnly to me.

I open the driver door, toss my backpack in the passenger seat, and as I go to get in, Melody surprises me with a smothering hug.

“Thanks for being my friend today. I really needed someone and I’m glad that someone was you. I don’t know what I would have done.” She says with a cry underscoring her tone.

The last thing I want to do is leave her crying. Rubbing her back would be soothing right? As I do that, I find me hunched low resting my head on top of hers, and for the first time between us our hug feels genuine. It doesn’t touch on the type of hug Natasha can give, but this is good. After she thanks me again, I kiss her on the top of her head, which shocks me. Why did I do that? She may get the wrong idea that I want more, and all I’m willing to offer is friendship.

Wiping her tears from her eyes, she again tells me, “You’re a really good friend.” She stands outside her door, until she sees me off down the bumpy, rocky narrow road that leads to the street.

On the drive home, I realize I don’t want to disappoint Melody. I have to find a way to take her to homecoming dance. To be a good friend because that’s what a good friend would do.

When I pull into our parking lot, I see Melody’s and Tenor’s time-share truck backing out of a parking space. The tinted windows prevent me from seeing inside. For all I know Tenor could be making funny faces at me as he drives by. I park next to the minivan and walk inside. The door wasn’t even locked.

Abbey’s disrespectful voice yells from upstairs, “That’s so unfair! I swear you two want me to be unhappy! It’s just a school dance. I don’t see what’s wrong with one dance.” The smack of slamming her door rings through the townhouse.

Dad strongly tells her, “Sweetheart, you know the rules. No dating until your 16, plus, we don’t know Tenor or his family very well. There will be plenty of high school dances in your future.”

Wow, dad is like the parent of Mercy and Grace. He rarely ever yells, even when we act up. He’s never spanked us or threatened too. Yet, the idea of disrespecting him, at least for me, absolutely terrifies me. Dad’s just cool… All kids with loving dads proclaim this but my dad is the best in the world. I’m glad I didn’t get stuck with a dad like Adam… he’s just creepy.

Mom descends down the stairs with Annika on her hip, who’s been crying ever since the door slammed. Babies never like conflict, but the sudden, loud noise would alarm anyone with exceptional hearing. Or is her hearing normal by now? I stopped reading about babies a few months ago.

I was in the bookstore, by the grocery store, reading a parenting book concentrated on the toddler years. Annika was with me because Abbey and mom were getting their mani-pedis a few doors down in the plaza. A woman, with toddlers of her own, mistook Annika for my daughter and she started sharing her parenting secrets with me. I was reading the book because I wanted a heads up on what Annika would start acting like soon, since I was 2 going on 3 when Abbey was born and I don’t remember how she behaved.

Once at the base of the stairs, I make a funny face at Annika. She giggles feebly, but determined to keep crying her faces gets ugly as she begins to wail again. This time I spit a raspberry (stick out my tongue while making a motor sound) as I make another funny face. Annika looks at me uncertain of what to do: laugh, cry, or just stare blankly at her big brother? She chooses the latter. With wiggling fingers, I tickle her tiny pot belly that forces an upside down frown to post on her face. Annika’s current status is: happy, which means her big brother did his job.

“Whose house were you at?” Mom finally gets to the investigation. I’m surprised she didn’t text interrogate me.

“Melody’s house,” I admit. There’s no point in lying to parents. The truth always comes to light eventually.

“Oh,” mom huffs a little staggered by my answer. Trying to make sense of it, she asks, “Did you do homework together?”

“Yeah,” I say passing mom and stepping onto the first step.

“Where are you going?”

“To my room… I want to draw.”

I haven’t felt like drawing in eons… On the drive home, with the cinematic scenery of the open forest, and the wild yellow daisies that line the sides of the road, made me think about Melody at the grocery store last Saturday. She picked a bouquet of white daisies. In the past, I’ve seen her wear a yellow daisy in her hair to school. Clearly, she likes daisies.

Sitting at my desk, facing the large window in my room, that overlooks the wilderness valley of the White Mountain Res, I ready my sketch book and I hold the pencil still in my hand. I try to clarify the imaginary floating through my mind. Finally I see it, Melody hitchhiking her way down the hill, standing in a bushel of wild, yellow daisies with the grassy meadow behind her against a wall of piney forest, topped with a beautiful blue sky accompanied by a few glorious, puffy clouds. There’s a slight breeze that rustles her hair. A few strands swiping across her face making her look like a model from an ad.

I’m still drawing when dad knocks on my door.

“It’s almost 11 buddy, light outs in fifteen okay?” Dad says. That’s his kind, gentle way of telling me to go to bed.

I can get up early and finish it. I think all that’s left are the daisy petals, her hair, her eye color, and the double yellow line of the road. Everything else I’ll just outline in black marker. It will be perfect.