God

I.D. SYNTHESIS – Story Trailer 4

TWAR77 – Chapter 3

Sunday night, at dinner, when I planned to ask mom and dad if I could go to homecoming, before I told them I promised to take Melody, mom and dad sprung some surprising news on Abbey and me. Since mom didn’t have school on Friday, because of the parade in Whiteriver, she and dad were going to their friends’ wedding rehearsal that evening in Phoenix. They would be there Saturday for the happy nuptial ceremony, and then either late Saturday night or way early Sunday morning they’d travel home and be to church by 10 am. Since we don’t have school on Fridays (something new the school is trying this year), they figure they can leave Annika with us and we would share the responsibility of looking after her. It’s an ingenious parenting strategy. We can’t have guests over, or throw a wild party if we have to take care of a 16 month old. Well, now I have a legitimate excuse to bail on Melody. I have to babysit my little sisters. Let’s face it, as being the oldest child; I will mainly be responsible for the household while the parental units are away.

Miss Combs, Lexi we usually call her, will check in on us around dinner time on Friday and around breakfast time on Saturday. She lives three doors down from us. She teaches second grade at Whiteriver Elementary, where my mother teaches fourth grade. Dad hasn’t gotten a teaching job here, even though the district could probably use him. Right now, he’s just serving as the assistant pastor at the church. Dad says God is teaching him to rely on Jehovah Jireh. So far, it’s not bad. We have a roof over our head, we have food on the table, and we get gifts for birthdays. God is providing just fine… perhaps more than fine.

I decided this morning, the first chance I get, I’ll break the news gently to Melody in person. The second I put the car in park, Abbey pops open her passenger door and springs out of the car. She doesn’t even say goodbye. She slams the door and in the rear view mirror I see her take off running. That can’t be good. Clearly, she has something sneaky in store, and I have a gut-wrenching feeling it’s related to the homecoming dance.

Walking across the parking lot, I noticed Melody in the distance arguing with her best friend Meaghan. I’m too far away to hear what the conflict is about. Melody’s in full fledge tears holding a single red rose as Meaghan hollers at her with a scowling face. Melody, in a begging manner, tries to hand Meaghan the rose, but Meaghan smacks the offer away causing the rose to fall onto the ground. Meaghan looks for it on the ground only to stomp on it. After yelling one last time in Melody’s face, Meaghan storms off without looking back at her friend once.

Melody flails her back against the huge black pickup truck I’ve seen her drive often to campus. Cupping her face with her hands, she wails in sorrow crying over her dispute with her friend, if they’re still friends at all.

She doesn’t notice me. I could keep on walking and maybe break my bad news to her tomorrow. I take one foot forward and the thought: Love her like Christ loves me came to mind again. Ugh! I don’t want to love Melody! I don’t even really want to be her friend. Because I’m tired of listening to her beliefs when she won’t sit and listen to mine. She just hums in agreement and nods condescendingly, with her ears closed and her eyes covered with blinders. Me on the other hand, like when Colton talked about the LDS church, I listen. I listen enough to allow doubt to creep into my soul. But after every time, God reassures me of truth, and then my heart breaks… I just want her to experience completeness in Christ… not the illusion of completeness in Christ.

I cautiously trek over to Melody. Seeing me causes her to latch onto me, and sob into the fabric of my green cotton, button-up shirt. Again, embracing her feels impeccably uncomfortable. Rub her back or don’t rub her back? When I finally decide to rub her back, she releases me from our embrace as she wipes the running mascara from her eyes. I thought they made waterproof mascara now? She looks at my chest, near my left shoulder, where she happened to be crying and she pouts her bottom lip.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

I look down and sure enough there’s a black, blotchy, spotty area of gunk on my forest green shirt. Luckily for her, I’m wearing a white undershirt.

“It’s okay.” I say, unbuttoning my shirt. I take it off, bundle it up, and stuff it in my backpack.

“You’re a real friend,” she pauses to sniffle, “You know that?”

Am I really? If she knew my thoughts she’d know I’m not really a friend of hers. I’m more likely a man on a mission doing what God told me to do.

As I suspected, she pulls a white handkerchief out the back pocket of her ocean blue, form fitting jeans. She finishes wiping her eyes and then she blows her nose. She folds up the handkerchief and stuffs it in her back pocket. That’s even grosser than when she wiped Annika’s nose.

“Could you walk me to class? I don’t want to be alone right now.”

How could I refuse her? We stop at her locker, before walking to her 1st period class. We both look down the end of the hall when we hear a group of people laugh. Jon Hurst, the QB and most popular guy in school (is that not textbook cliché?), is escorting Meaghan Holmes down the hall with their elbows locked together. Her brother, Charley, and Zander walk behind alongside Teagan and Reagan. Keegan trails the back with Tenor. Jon’s about my height, 6’5”, and his black hair isn’t as curly as mine. It’s more of a wavy quality than curly… in my opinion, its guy hair, while mine is total chick hair. His eyes are droopier than mine, but that’s probably a good thing. The vibrant hue of his blue-green eyes is eerily creepy. The more closed his eyelids are, the better chance not see the hue. Being an athlete he’s built with a sleek muscle tone. And for a white boy, he’s got a dark complexion, but at least it’s not blotchy. He looks complete… a look I wouldn’t mind having.

As they walk past us, something surprising happens. Jon doesn’t glance at Melody once. That’s a first. Since I went to Redridge, Melody and Jon ogled each other every chance they got. Melody’s doing her best to avoid eye contact with him too. The entire group ignores Melody and me… No glances from Charley or Zander? What’s going on? I have a feeling that fight between Meaghan and Melody was monumentally serious and it looks like Meaghan won. I’m MAJORALLY glad I’m not a girl. Girls are mean.

Melody begins tearing up as she grabs what she needs out of her locker. Not being able to hold it together, she tosses her books and binder into my arms as she darts off to the nearest ladies room. Okay… now I’m full of curiosity itching to know what’s going on or what exactly took place to exile Melody from her beloved, chain link group. What could turn brother against sister? Best friend against best friend? Admirer against admirer?

Since I’m a student that’s never late to class, I figure I can handle the consequences just once. Melody looks like she could really use a friend right now. I might as well come to terms with it. Melody and I are friends, because by the looks of it, I’m going to be her only friend for a while.

A few minutes after first bell, Melody emerges from the bathroom. She looks like she just lost her breakfast to the porcelain throne seeing that she’s three flesh tones lighter and pretty ghostly looking. If I was a Ferris Bueller type of boy, I’d say let’s blow school off and go gallivanting around town, but I’m not. Wrapping her under the wing of my one armed embrace, I nudge her to walk with me.

“Maybe we’ll go off campus for lunch?” I say. In my cheesiest, raspiest, machismo voice I add, “Queiro Taco Bell.”

By a small miracle, it gets Melody to breathe one laugh. Who knew I could be funny? The second bell rings when we get to her class. I’ll be late to mine but at least she’s on time to hers.

We didn’t go off campus for lunch, because I couldn’t find her. I ate with Pernel and he gave me all the juicy details traveling through the grapevine. Apparently, Charley and Melody were dating, but they weren’t public yet because they were taking it slow. But Melody confessed to either Teagan or Keegan that she’s not over Jon. I guess her and Jon dated as well for years. From Freshman Year to Junior Year, they broke up a year ago because they were just tired of the drama between them. Since the beginning of July, Meaghan’s been dating Jon, and that’s been very public. Meaghan asked Melody if it was okay to go out with him and everything. Melody swore she was so over him.

Yesterday, after church, Meaghan caught Jon and Melody kissing in his red truck. Jon claims they were just talking and Melody kissed him out of nowhere. Whether that’s true or not, Meaghan took her boyfriend’s side. So this morning, the disaster I witnessed in the parking lot was Meaghan ordering Melody to stay away from Jon, Charley, and all their friends. If she bothered any of them, Meaghan would tell Melody’s parents something that would break their hearts. I asked what that something was, but Pernel didn’t know.

Abbey texts me that she’s going to the movies with a group of friends and that someone will give her a ride home after school. She claims she called and asked dad… I hardly believe it, but it’s her that has to answer to our parents if she didn’t ask for dad’s permission. Exiting school, I see Melody at the pick-up and drop off curb arguing with someone on her cellphone.

“Today’s my day to have the truck! How am I supposed to get home?”

By the sounds of it, she’s arguing with Tenor. He went all grand theft auto and hijacked the truck from his sister… Normally, I would laugh about this, but she’s having a really rotten day.

Angrily, and patronizingly, Melody barks, “I love you too Tenor,” and then she hangs up on him. Without thinking, she chucks her phone against the nearest redbrick school wall. On impact, the case pops off, the back falls off causing the battery to fall out, and the screen cracks as it flops to the concrete ground. Just looking at her phone in pieces on the ground, her face tears up as she breaks down crying. Clearly, she’s PMS-ing. How else could she go to blazing angry to weeping willow sad? Continuing her song of sobbing, I pick up her phone and put it back together as best as I can. It takes a moment, a moment longer than it should, for it to turn on. It will definitely be hard to check her text messages, but I think she can manage calls.

I place her cellphone in her hand as I again sweep her into a sideways embrace. I don’t even ask. I guide her across the parking lot to the car, and open the passenger door for her.

Shocked by my kindness, she questions, “Are you sure?”

“Not quite. I’m not sure where you live, but it will be a good practice run for Saturday night.”

Flashing me a weak, feeble appeasing grin, she gets into the car. Once I’m buckled in and I have the engine going, she says, “About Saturday night…”

“No. I’m not letting you cancel. You can’t let those… let’s not be mean and call them what they are… you can’t let them win and keep you down. You wanted to go to homecoming, now you got a date, so we’re going to homecoming… and you’re gonna like it!” I say.

My pep talk seems to assuage Melody a bit. She nods her head as I back up.

TWAR77 – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

The day I first saw her, I swore she was the one. Before I learned her name or heard her voice, a shift in my heart opened a place for her, and somehow I just knew. It’s the moment men in literature and in films talk about. How they just looked at their future-bride-to-be and knew without a shadow of doubt she was the one. I was especially convinced, because as I looked at her, I recalled the story of how my parents met.

Mom and dad were freshmen at Belmont University. A week or so prior to the first day, they bought books at the same time. It wasn’t until they were in line, they noticed each other. Well, dad noticed mom first, because she stood in front of him in the checkout line. Her wavy auburn hair wrapped up in a bun, platinum three inch hoop earrings in her ears. Wearing a floral purple dress, with pink flowers, and pink leggings to match, and worst of all she wore big, clunky black boots. My mom’s fashion sense in the early 90s wasn’t the greatest. To her, that outfit was tame Madonna-esque.

Dad’s gaze gravitated to her. She must have felt him staring, because she looked over her shoulder at him, and nervously he shied away looking the other direction. When she had stepped up to the cashier, dad found himself watching her again. Supposedly, the way he felt in that instance was indescribable, but like me, he just knew… Mom was the woman he would marry. Of course, hearing the end of this story makes you wonder how they ever ended up together. Dad let mom leave the bookstore without saying hello or getting her name, but the thought of her and what life could be like didn’t leave his mind.

The first day of school, they had one class together: Bible History 1. They learned each other’s names by the instructor calling on them to answer questions, but still, they never talked to each other outside of class. The semester ended.

After winter break, the spring semester came. After summer break, Sophomore Year came. Throughout both semesters they saw each other on the campus and waved and said hello, but they never sat and held a conversation. In the middle of Junior Year, when dad saw mom at a café off campus, dad worked up the courage to ask mom if he could buy her a coffee. From then on, they became friends. About 7 months later, dad asked mom out on their first date. And a week after graduation, the two were married, and it’s been happily ever after ever since.

When we first moved to the Fort Apache Reservation on the White Mountain, the church my dad got hired at, wanted to show him the premises immediately. It was a Friday Night, the Youth Worship Team practices for the Sunday Youth Service. Then usually church members spend that night cleaning the church.

Mom, Annika, and Margret (the pastor’s wife), were off taking their own tour of the church. Dad, Abbey, and I were with Pastor Josiah and Pastor Chastity (the Youth Pastor) on our way to the Youth Sanctuary. We walked down the white-walled hallway partaking in typical small talk. The Youth Sanctuary doors were just ahead, when we heard a door open up from behind us. Natasha stepped out of the nursery room.

Her black hair, with crimson red highlights was bundled in a floppy, unorganized bun. Strands of hair draped around the crown of her forehead. Dressed in faded blue jeans, a neon yellow ‘EYE on IT’ TobyMac tee, and hot pink canvas shoes, she wore yellow cleaning gloves and she held a rag in one hand and a bottle of disinfectant spray in the other. With genuine happiness she beamed with delight as a smile that expressed her thrill to meet the new comers. Before I heard her voice, or knew her name, with one eye glance, and in that moment as her cool gray eyes met mine a shift opened a place in my heart for her and somehow, I just knew… she was the one

***

I was so sure Natasha Lane was the one, but now I’m not very certain she is. She just got a boyfriend and he isn’t me. Zeven Thackett… now they have a storybook love story… if they’re met for each other. They’ve been bffs since they were toddlers. They grew up in the church together. They’ve served on the Youth Worship Team since they were 13. Now, in their Senior Year of High School they have become an item. It’s like their life has been perfectly designed for each other.

That’s what I get for waiting… Today, marks one year Natasha and I have known one another. Tonight, we’re going to the Lane home for dinner, and I planned to ask her out either before or after dinner. Last month, I even asked dad how you ask a girl out, and if I should ask Natasha out. The only tidbit of advice he gave me was, “Did you ask God?”, followed up with, “If it’s meant to be, sloppy or smooth, it will all work out.”

That’s the thing, I didn’t really ever consult God as to whether Natasha was the one or not. I think a part of me was afraid that she wouldn’t be. All my life, I’ve heard the story of how my parents met again and again, and every time I hear their love story the love I’ve reserved in my heart for my future wife gets stronger and stronger. And before we moved to the White Mountain, I heard about a couple that were brought together by God. They were friends for five years. They didn’t kiss until their wedding day. It was the sweetest thing I ever heard, more romantic than my parents’ story. I pondered if it was possible. Then God reminded me that in the OT, people were strangers when they got married. Or they knew each other through family for years before they got married. I slowly became a believer.

Not too long after hearing about that seemingly perfect couple, God told me to do something strange. Write a letter to my nameless, faceless, complete-stranger-to-me-currently, future bride. I wrote one without question. I talked about my dreams, my fears, and I told her how much I love her. It was the girliest thing I ever did, but I don’t regret it. Not long after that, God told me to pray for my future wife, and as I prayed I thought about her and our future together.  And of course, I fantasized about our possible future as I prayed, almost every time. But I stopped praying for my future bride a year ago, when I met Natasha Lane. I prayed for Natasha often, but consumed by the crush I had for her, and still have for her, I have neglected my future bride in prayer. Some future husband I am.

It’s annoying when looking at something triggers a whole fret train of thought. Mom’s probably wondering where Annika and I are. I cradle her in my arms, with her back against my chest so she can get a good look at the flowers. I know she’ll want to touch them too. Her little fingers touch the daisy petals, and she’s cooing with giddy sighs and happy giggles. While Annika amuses herself, I try to eye the perfect bouquet of daylilies, well, at least close to perfect. I don’t understand why we have to bring flowers to dinner; well, I guess Christians don’t really bring wine. We could bring grape juice though. Daylilies are Natasha’s favorite so it’s cool the store has them. By getting daylilies, will Natasha think it was intentional or coincidental? What does it matter, Zeven will probably be joining us for dinner. Who cares, I’m still getting them.

“Hey there fellow red hawk!” I hear a high pitched, flirty voice say. I know who it is too: Melody Gartner, a girl that never ceases to puzzle me.

She doesn’t like me in that way, so she’s claimed, but she’s always flirting with me. I didn’t figure out it was flirting, until Pernel pointed it out to me. That’s one thing I don’t do… at least I don’t think. I don’t flirt because I sort of don’t see the point. If you like someone, why not just be straight forward about it.

“Hey, Melody.”

“Picking out flowers for the dining table too?” She inquires as she picks up a bouquet of white daisies and then she smells them closing her eyes. Annika stares at Melody with her mouth agape. I think someone wants to learn how to do that.

“Ahh!” Annika moans reaching for the flowers in Melody’s hands. She gibbers some language only one-year-olds comprehend.

Melody’s light brown eyes, accented with bronze eye shadow, pop open, and her ruby red glossed lips coyly smile at Annika. Maybe that’s just how Melody is. Her mannerisms and attitude are flirtatious toward everyone. Come on, who smiles coyly at a baby? She puts the bouquet to Annika’s face and Annika plunges her face into the bosom of daisy blossoms. Just as quickly, Annika jerks her head back and sneezes a few consecutive times.

Melody and I happen to be laughing in sync, but Annika doesn’t find it so humorous with the wad of snot drizzling from her nostrils. Melody sets the daisies back, and then she pulls a powder blue handkerchief out of the back pocket of her blue, brown, and tan plaid patterned cream color Bermuda shorts, and she wipes Annika’s nose. Annika’s a pretty good baby, she doesn’t fuss when someone cleans her up, in fact, she looks like she enjoys it. She likes being pampered.

“Someone loves to be pampered.” Melody says after she’s finished wiping Annika’s nose. She folds up the snotty part of the handkerchief and stuffs it into her back pocket. Gross.

“I know it’s kind of grody, but handkerchief’s come in handy.” She says with a faint spirit of giggling in her tone.

Melody picks up the exact same bouquet of daisies and says, “Well, I’ll see you at school on Monday. I have to get back to dad before he finds me flirting with a boy unsupervised.” She winks at me walking backwards cautiously. The corner of her lip curled up in a teasing smile. Then biting her bottom lip she pivots on one foot, turns, and walks away from which she came.

The thought, how little she knows the love Christ has for her, crosses my mind. And I question, asking God, how can You help her Lord? And in that still, small, inaudible voice… not even in the tone of my own thoughts, I hear Him say, “Love her like I love you.”

My phone alerts me that I have a text message by blaring 20 seconds of Paramore’s Part II. I take it out of my pocket and its mom, wondering where we are, she says she’s in the meat section. I text her that I’ll be right there. I pick up the first bouquet of daylilies, I don’t second guess, and I speed walk with baby and bouquet in tote to the meats!

During my hurried pace to mom, I think about what the Lord said to me. Love her like He loves me. Then suddenly I panic. A fear I forgot I had, rises up in me.

Melody Gartner isn’t just some faithless, lost soul. She’s a faithful, damned soul. She’s a Mormon, like most of the people at my school. There are a few Methodists, Baptists, and Catholics, thank God, but for the most part… everyone’s Mormon. And even though the world considers us all Christians the truth is we’re not all Christians. Unlike us Methodists, Baptists, and Pentecostals and other followers of Christ, the Mormons are not who they claim to be. I know, because God never instructed me to read the Book of Mormon. I know because God has reassured me, I’m not crazy, that there aren’t many paths to God and that God may be three persons in one, but He’s not three deities that work together… Well, I’m not sure if they think the Holy Spirit is God or a god, I don’t know what they think about Him at all… I don’t know much about them and by secular standards it wouldn’t be right to judge them without knowing more, but am I judging them or observing what I see?

Back on the Navajo Reservation in Sanders, before my mom got hired at on the Apache Reservation in Whiteriver, my best friend Colton Begay converted to Mormonism. There was a girl, Kaylie Jenkins. They became friends quickly and Colton was really excited to share the real Jesus with her once he knew she was Mormon. Well, every time he talked about his faith, she shared hers. They never really argued, but at school we always heard them talking about her religion and his faith (or at least I thought he had faith to share). She made it seem like she wanted to date him and that they should be respectful of what each other believe. She came to our church and then he went to her church. He told me how weird and different it was. Every time he talked about anything Mormon I felt an ick feeling in my spirit, and I grew afraid. I saw my friend slipping away and I didn’t know what to do to stop him. I prayed and prayed and prayed, but my prayers seemed to go unanswered.

I watched DVDs talking about the falsehood of Mormonism, I read books about how to converse with (or witness to) Mormon Missionaries, if they ever came to your door, and I listened to everything Colton told me about Mormonism. Before he converted, I could already tell he was on the verge because he talked about marrying Kaylie. In his company, I spoke to his intellect trying to get him to see that he was being led into darkness, instead of relying on the Holy Spirit in me to do the talking for me to speak to his inner spirit man. I marginalized what God could do instead of trusting how miraculous God is.

It took only two hours after he made his conversion for the whole church to find out. Now I know, if my father was the pastor at the church, what happened to Colton, wouldn’t have happened. The entire congregation murmured and gossiped about his decision. His parents kicked him out of their house. And when he tried to come visit our church, when Barry Holiday, who was like a grandfather to all of us, passed away to see how we were holding up, the deacons swarmed like a battalion of soldier-bees and escorted him out into the cold, dark winter night. The Holy Spirit told me to go wait with him outside, but I was afraid of what everyone at church would think, and above all I worried most about my father’s image as a pastor. He wasn’t even a part of that pastoral staff… and I was concerned for his reputation… something that wasn’t my responsibility, my only responsibility was to be a son of God and act in love as Christ would have in that scenario.

Though God made it clear to me Colton’s choice wasn’t my fault and even if I had listened to the Holy Spirit that night, Colton is his own person and he has the power to choose: God or the World, and he chose the World whether he ever realizes it or not. I still talk to him occasionally, but not often does a day go bye I don’t think of him, and feel partly responsible for him slipping away.

“There you are!” Mom says dumping packets of red meats into the cart. The impact of the pounds she picked out rattles the cart.

Mom sees the daylilies and says, “Good choice. Those are beautiful.”

“Really?” I question with a nervous sense of happiness tingling through me. I’m probably blushing.

I put Annika in the provided baby seat, and set the bouquet inside the cart, on top of cereal boxes.

“Could you go find your sister? She’s not responding to my texts. I sent her off to go get pasta and marina sauce a while ago and she’s not back yet.” Mom explains.

“Yeah, sure.” I tell mom as I head to the pasta and sauce aisle.

It figures that Abbey is talking to a boy when I reach the location mom sent her. And of all boys, it had to be Miss Flirty’s brother: Tenor Gartner. He’s an Adonis to my sister. The type of boy she’s always pictured herself marrying. He plays wide receiver on the football team. He’s way taller than her standing at about 6’6”. She’s maybe 5’4” if she’s lucky. Like an Abercrombie and Finch model cut out of an ad, he wears the latest fashion gear: Faded blue, sagging, skinny jeans, a flamboyant, salmon pink, short-sleeved, v-neck tee, and loud, colorful kicks that match his outfit. His walnut brown hair is moosed in a statuesque hairdo like a Mediterranean work of art. And his wise, wide, glossy gold eyes look pensive and insightful with a charismatic smile that makes a sophomore girl melt. I may be a man, but I have to admit he’s handsome, if not gorgeous.

Mom says I’m handsome. That any girl would kill to have my tight curly, black hair (not sure why my mom compared me to the opposite sex). That she would give anything to have my relaxed, hazel-blue eyes, and my strong cheekbones. I look at my reflection and just see an incomplete person, but I guess that’s what happens when you have a biracial mother, and a pasty white dad. It’s hard to say what Annika will look like, but so far, Abbey’s the prettiest capturing most of mom’s beauty.

Brownish-red, curly hair, big dark brown, beautiful eyes, a cute button nose and full pink lips, and brown, olive skin… absolutely gorgeous if you ask me. Me… I look too white next to mom, and too odd next to dad. I’m odd… not handsome or ugly… just odd.

Tenor’s whispering something in Abbey’s ear that makes her laugh.

Mormonism can’t take my sister too! The thought blares in my mind. Anger lodges in my throat with a thick, hot energy I’m anxious to release on Tenor either with a fist punch or slew of nasty, awful words. Just as I open my mouth, Abbey’s eyes get wide spotting me and she pushes Tenor away.

“Asher, what do you want stalker?”

Tenor looks over his shoulder at me smugly. Like he knows he’s bothering me and he’s enjoying it. Without saying hello to me and before I can order Abbey to follow me to mom, he looks back to her and asks, “So will you go with me?”

Say no, Abbey. Don’t you dare go to church with him! I want to say aloud.

“Abbey, do you have the spaghetti and sauce?” I ask.

Ignoring me, she answers Tenor, “I don’t know… I have to think about it.”

“Abbey,” I snap and immediately, I feel bad for being short and impatient with my sister.

Then the Lord says to me, “What are you afraid of Asher?”

“Chill for a sec Ash,” she barks back. Talking to Tenor, “I already got a couple other offers and I don’t even know if my parents will let me go.”

Walking backwards, toward me, he bids his farewell, “You can text me your yes later. I gotta go find my dad and Mel.” Then he pivots quickly on one foot like he’s making a dance move, and he looks toward me with the same crooked, flirty smile his sister gave me as the aftershock from flashing it at Abbey. The smile shifts to an arrogant smirk when his creepy gold eyes catch mine. Our shoulders brush each other as he peruses past me. I know he knocked into me on purpose. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch him disappear to the left, and relief finds me now that he’s gone.

“Abbey, you shouldn’t go−,” I start to say but she just rolls her eyes at me.

“Don’t freak out Ash, I’m not going to convert… He just asked me out to homecoming, which you and I both know mom and dad won’t let me go to, especially with a Mormon.” She says, grabbing a box of spaghetti and a jar of marinara sauce off the shelf. The two items conveniently stocked beside each other. Sighing disappointedly, she walks around me and I assume she’s off to meet up with mom.

She’s right. Mom and dad won’t let us date anyone they don’t know, plus, Abbey doesn’t meet the minimum household dating age, which is 16 years old. The fact that Tenor is Mormon, it’s going to be an epic NO because my parents will just pull out the “unevenly yoked” card or use the “light and darkness don’t mix” statement. In my parents’ world, dating isn’t really a thing. It’s more of a courtship… But it’s not like once you start a courtship that’s the person YOU HAVE TO MARRY… it’s more like… MAKE SURE GOD BROUGHT YOU TWO TOGETHER.

As I turn the corner, coming out of the aisle, Melody Gartner reappears before me. Abruptly, bumping into each other was unavoidable. She laughs flipping her long, wavy-styled, sienna sand hair. Melody’s pretty tall for a girl at least 5’9”, 5’11” maybe. Her gaze up toward me isn’t long like it is for my sister and my mother. I didn’t notice until now, as she gapes at me, like her bother, she has similar wise, wide glossy eyes.

“Hey again, Asher,” she beams cheerfully with her grin showing the dimples in her cheeks and her bleached white, perfectly straight, teeth shining at me.

“Hi… again… Melody…” I say, as kindly as possible, trying to keep the restlessness within me at bay.

“Have you seen my brother? He’s supposed to be getting Alfredo sauce.”

Pointing left, I leap at the chance to say, “He went that way,” though foolishly I give a full report, “but unfortunately he had no sauce of any kind with him.”

“Oh that’s okay. I’ll get it for him.” She titters.

As she stepped around me, a powerful, grumpy, bold, and agitated attitude compelled me to tell her, “And tell your brother to ask someone else to homecoming. My sister can’t go.”

Melody freezes her feet in place and she cocks her head sideways glaring at me in disbelief. Like what girl’s parents don’t let her go to a dance? Pouting condescendingly, she asks, “Why not?”

Why not is a simple question to answer, yet I can’t bring myself to answer it, because the only thought that crosses my mind is: Love her like Christ loves me. Melody interrupts my thought process with her own words.

“Well, that’s a bummer. At least she got asked to homecoming. And there are plenty of girls from church and school dying to go with Tenor, he’ll be fine. See you later red hawk.” She says as she continues to walk by me.

At least Abbey got asked? Was Melody implying that no one asked her to homecoming? Jon Hurst and she nearly undress each other with their eyes from across the hall at school. Zander Arvizu talks about her being on his ‘to do’ list in the locker room at school after P.E. And Charley Holmes, her best friend’s twin brother has had a crush on her since elementary school, or so I hear. None of those three guys asked her out? Why not? They’re all Mormon, they’re all around her age, and Melody’s a beautiful young woman. What sane, teenage boy would not ask her out, especially to a school dance?

I can’t believe I’m asking her this, “No one’s asked you to homecoming, yet?”

For the first time ever, I see flirtatious Melody dissolve into the air around her, and the real Melody Gartner revealed her true colors. A young woman, with outer beauty a lot of girls are probably jealous of, burdened with low self-esteem as her disappointed gaze met the marred and scuffed tile floor of the store. Her feet were twisted inward, with the tips of her shoes overlapped, and her knees buckled in.  The jar of Alfredo sauce nestled in her clasped hands as her shoulders slouched.  Quietly, slightly below a whisper she utters something. I ask her kindly to repeat herself. Looking up at me, with tears in her eyes, she mutters, “No.”

Then she tries to speed walk away from me, but I end up getting in her way, blocking her clear getaway path. I want to ask why she’s upset. But that would probably just upset her more. The shock hits me after the words escape my lips, “Would you go to homecoming with me?”

Questioningly, she raises an eyebrow at me. If I could, I’d raise an eyebrow to myself? What did I just ask her? And why? WHY?! I can picture Abbey calling me a hypocrite right now. I can hear mom and dad telling me I can’t take Melody to the dance next Friday night. You can’t take her to the dance. I hear myself telling me not to take her.

“Seriously?” she inquires with a faint smile. If I say I was kidding… No… I won’t go there. I’ll be honest… At least I think I’m honest.

“Seriously,” I say in my most serious tone with a very serious expression.

“Oh my God you are so SWEET!” She shrieks as she reels me into a very tight, powerful hug. I feel awkward embracing her back, not really sure what to do with my hands on her back. Pat her or don’t pat her? By the time I make up my mind to do a quick pat, she breaks away from me demanding my phone number as she holds the jar of sauce in one hand and as she pulls out her phone from a back pocket, hopefully not the same one with the snotty handkerchief in it.

I can’t cease to amaze myself as I give her my number. She sends me a quick text.

This is Mel G. Thanks a billion Mr. Sweet Guy! XOXO

Right when I think we’re going to part ways, she ends up following me back towards my mother and sisters. Speaking like a motor mouth, she asks what color I look best in… Should we go out to dinner or just straight to the dance? At some point I tune her out. I know she’s talking, I just don’t know or care what she’s talking about.

My mom and sisters have made it to the eggs. As always my mother meticulously inspects as many egg cartons as possible so she can choose the right carton.

“This must be your mother, Becky right?” Melody double checks looking at me, I nod.

Mom sets her selected carton into the cart as her outstretched hand takes Melody’s and they shake introducing each other to themselves.

After Melody shares her name, mom wonders, “Tenor’s sister?”

Melody excitedly nods yes with humming a strong, “Uh-umm.”

How does mom know who Tenor is? Don’t tell me mom agreed to let Abbey go with Tenor to homecoming?

“Well it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Mom says to Melody.

Is it really? I think.

“You as well,” Melody says. She rests a hand on my shoulder, “You have quite the good Samaritan for a son… He’s super sweet.” Her hand slides down my back as she backs away.

What’s up with her and Tenor backing up? It must be a genetic trait. Do they think they’re cool or something?

“I gotta go, but it was lovely meeting the wonderful mom Asher talks so much about.” Then referring to Abbey and me she says, “See you red hawks Monday.”

Mom and Abbey stare at me not sure what to think. I imagine my countenance mirrors theirs. Normally, I’m calmer around Melody and not so edgy internally.

Last year, we were science partners in Chem. It wasn’t until that partnership we built a relationship that was more than an acquaintanceship. Occasionally, she invited me to sit and eat lunch with her and the ‘-eagans’: Meaghan, Teagan, Reagan, and Keegan.

In the beginning, she talked about being LDS and her church, and of course, she tried to get me to go with her, but I held my ground… I refused to go… in a kind way… When she realized I’d never go to church with her, we stopped having lunch together, but that didn’t stop her from saying hello to me in the hallway, or sitting next to me at sporting events and catching up. I wouldn’t say were friends, but we’re not not friends… if that makes sense?

We all opt not to say anything and we finish grocery shopping. On the minivan ride home, Abbey’s trying to sell mom on letting her go to homecoming. I know if I say I’m going, mom and dad will probably let us both go. But I guess, a part of me is hoping something comes up to where I don’t have to take Melody.

Change (To #ManuscriptMonday)

Happy Thursday everyone! I can only hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As November comes to a close, keep an attitude of gratitude.

I recently went to a seminar for documentary filmmakers and the speaker, who worked on Oscar-nominated projects, said the most successful people she worked with carried two key perspectives to life: Gratitude & Sense of Abundance. Therefore, thanking God for everything you have under the sun and believing you have more than enough to work with in any given situation will take you far in life.

I must be lacking thankfulness and abundance because all I see lately in my life are failures. LOL. JK.

If you got to see any part of my creative process, you would know I sometimes write a bunch of different versions of any given concept my brain develops. Sometimes, I have three or four different versions in my head before I commit the idea to pen & paper, or to keys & word doc. My goal with this blog was to be disciplined. To force myself to stay the course of my first thoughts, but this isn’t the case… I think I’m just trying to create a formula for my creative process and I now know that is impossible and if it is possible, I should treat such a process as non-applicable.

Part of the excitement in life is the journey, correct? Just because I thought of one plot point first, doesn’t mean it is the best plot point, correct?

What are you trying to say, Brianna?

I’m saying I decided to change the story featured on Manuscript Monday. Instead of chapters of “Girls of Grace”, you will read sections of “The Wildflowers Along Route 77” every week.

Check out the title graphic art below. I made it in Canva with my free access. I used white font, size 12, style Trocchi. I used Unsplash for the photos. I’m incredibly grateful for the creative eye of “gades photography” and “Nathan Anderson” for the beautiful photos they captured. I did add a filter to the forest to brighten it up and I made the sunflower more transparent than normally.

BT - TWAR77

My inspiration for the graphic and the story come from Whiteriver, Arizona along Scenic Route 77. In July, after the monsoon rains flood the land, along the two-way highway flowers spring up along the road. They look like sunflowers, but I don’t think they are, I’m pretty sure they’re weeds. Whether they are weeds or flowers they are absolutely beautiful. Especially, when the green grass is vibrant from drinking in the rain. The wind blows gently as soft gray storm clouds loom over the mountain plateaus in the horizon. Simply breathtaking to see as you cruise 55 mph down a winding road.

What is this story about?

Let’s back up a bit and talk about Whiteriver, AZ a little. The town sits on the Fort Apache Reservation. The only people who live there are Natives and Hired Teachers. Depending on how fast you drive, the town Pinetop-Lakeside is about 40 minutes away, Show Low is another 10 minutes away. The land is a mixture of chaparral and piney forest inside a valley on a mountain. The White Mountain Apache have four tribes: the Eagle, the Bear, the Roadrunner, and the Butterfly. Of course, these English words have Apache word counterparts, however, I do not know the language “AT ALL” to even relay the information.

(I will also confess, all this information I have about the tribe I picked up through observation, and what my friends at church told me. If I get anything wrong and you have empirical evidence or first hand knowledge that I describe something wrong, please email me with the details or leave a comment and I will make the correction, and credit you for the update.)

Their language is not lost, though much of the youth don’t know it, the Apaches are hopeful the language will be kept alive. Members of the tribe are either Christian, Traditional, or both. Many of the tribal members who live on the reservation experience alcoholism, suicide, teen pregnancy, physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, gang violence, witchcraft, and spiritual warfare in their families. Though there are Christians, there can be a big emphasis on RELIGION over RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

The Apache identify as a people group through their native culture. Christianity preaches that all of their native practices are of witchcraft and are of the devil. And I would agree a lot of it is demonic based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard. But I have seen some struggle to hold onto their culture and pursue God will reckless abandonment, because they do not want to lose who they are.

In Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low, the wealthy or upper middle class vacation there for skiing, hunting, and fishing all in the appropriate seasons. For the people who live there year round, like other towns they have their share of the poor and the wealthy. Small businesses for the time being are able to flourish there, but who knows when big business will fully takeover. (Oh that’s so grim, let me change it!) I mean, IT’S AMAZING AT ALL THE GREAT SMALL BUSINESSES THERE!

Must go to places are Darby’s, Baked in Pinetop, White Mountain Ice Cream, and Village 8 (Movie Theater). If you ever pass through the area, try to grab breakfast at Darby’s. For sure pick up a fresh loaf of sourdough from Baked in Pinetop. If you love ICE CREAM, go to the Ice Cream Shop by the movie theater in Pinetop-Lakeside. And, for those like me who can’t go on vacation without going to the movies… GO TO THE MOVIES in the WHITE MOUNTAINS because I used to work at VILLAGE 8 and it was one of the most fun jobs I ever had. The theaters are privately owned by the Croney Family and they LOVE what they do and owners like that give the people the best deals and the best service!

Believe it or not, Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low are heavily affected by the drug scene. People who are born in the area, rarely ever leave. Many families encounter alcoholism, abusive homes, teen pregnancy and drug addiction.

And I can continue to compare and contrast life on the Reservation as opposed to life in the towns, but hopefully, it becomes evident in the fictional story I wrote.

The White Mountain area is a huge Latter Day Saints region. They have churches in Pinetop-Lakeside, Whiteriver, and in Show Low. In Taylor and Snowflake there are statues to commemorate important LDS moments or history in those towns. Then there Assemblies of God Churches and plenty of Baptists. There’s a Methodist church somewhere up the hill (Pinetop-Lakeside or Show Low). And even a Unity Church.

I will state I believe the LDS church and the Unity Church are falsehoods preaching doctrines of men and devils. It depends on the Assembly of God Church and Methodist Church… some are starting to stray away from the truth.

Now, I lived in Whiteriver for three years with my mom. She taught 2nd grade on the Reservation and I lived with her until I went away to college for a second time in Columbus, Ohio. We went to Canyon Day Assembly of God, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, and to this day, that church family is FAMILY. When we go to Pinetop-Lakeside or Showlow, if we’re there on a Sunday, we go to Canyon Day for church!

These two facts play a big role on the story you will read on Manuscript Monday. The main character Asher, moves to the Reservation with his family. His mom is a school teacher and his dad becomes the new associate pastor at a church near teacher housing. Asher is multiracial like I am, but he’s mixed differently.

Would you say the story is autobiographical, a little?

I’m gonna say no. I used realities in my life and applied them to the main character Asher, but there’s so much the story covers and goes into I’ve never lived or experienced in my life.

Now religion vs. relationship with God is a huge theme in this story. Many moments will feature Asher wrestling with his faith and the pressures of being a teenage boy in our modern culture. I do include a lot about the LDS Church. It may be different than what you’ve heard or seen or know. I can honestly tell you, I’ve heard different things from different LDS members. I think a lot of it has to do with what region the members are from and because the LDS Church is not based entirely on the Word, and not truly led by the Spirit of God, stories and doctrine will be contradictory.

True, a lot of people say Christianity is contradictory. The Bible has loads of evidence authenticating its many books. All legitimate denominations believe in core values from the Bible, therefore, unifying us under one belief. And all and all, I believe there’s only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus the Messiah. Once you believe in Him, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and you pretty much live your whole life, from the point of belief, growing closer to God.

Of course, you’ll see my trademark ingredients to a story. Who knows, maybe I’m the future Nicholas Sparks of Teen Faith Fiction. His books always feature a death, a forbidden love story (one person comes from money and the other is poor), and a broken relationship (an abusive relationship, a bad daddy-daughter relationship, or estranged parent and child relationship). I still love the stories all the same, but he has a very clear niche that has made him very wealthy.

Is my aim wealth?

I certainly don’t want to be a dead published author or a starving one. But I write for this simple fact: writing is my passion and telling stories is life for me. I would write for nothing. Wait, I already do! At times, I’m a little vain glorious, but God so help me, in the end let my work not be in VAIN!

This venture is going to be an amazing journey and I’m glad you decided to join! I pray this story blesses you in some way! Enjoy.

Bussing It – Part 10

…10 Years Forward…


“Homecoming”

I’m honored to do Genie’s hair. Brings back memories of doing hair while Derek and I were both in college. He was finishing up his Bachelor’s in Religious Studies and I was getting my Master’s in Education. I worked at a high end salon, so I was racking in a lot of dough. Derek was working two jobs on top of going to school. And when I wasn’t at the salon, I was taking care of our girls… we barely saw each other.

But now, I work at Brink as a Math Teacher and Derek works at a Christian School as a Chaplain. He still works at warehouse some nights and on the weekends, but we’re not crazy busy like we used to be. He’s currently working on his Masters and wants to get his Doctorate eventually. I’m amazed at where we are!

“Wha-la!” I say spritzing her tight, pulled back bun with hairspray to hold it in place all night. I really didn’t do anything fancy.

She stands up and gives me the mightiest hug for the skinniest girl. Then she holds my shoulders and looks me in the eye, “I had a dream you and Derek had a baby boy.”

With an eye roll, “Derek and I are happy with both our girls… we don’t need anymore kids.”

We really couldn’t afford that right now.

“I’m just saying… he’s adorable! He looks like Papa Trick.”

Julie is pasty white with straight black hair and hazel eyes. Priscilla has straight red hair and ice blue eyes with freckles. She’s trying to tell me Derek and I are going to have a kid with brown skin and curly hair? HA!

“What are you smoking?” I joke.

“I know this is hard to accept but accept it!” She says keeping her cheery smile. She takes her navy-blue ball gown off its rack that helped it hang on the door of her closet. The bell of the gown embellished with faux diamonds and pearly-looking jewels. The sleeves of the gown matching blue but also see-through.

“I’ll wait for you downstairs with everyone else.” I say as I leave.

I was prepared to go through the whole safe sex talk. I know that makes me a little hypocritical as a Christian… but I think it’s better to have that conversation, but Genie’s pretty on fire for God… which I know we’re all prone to falling and sinning at times, but her heart desires what God wants for her life. At least I’m pretty sure, if her heart isn’t in that place, she is a GREAT actress.

In the foyer, Bobby lectures Oliver, Genie’s date, about when to be back and all the things father’s lecture their daughter’s date about. I picture Derek doing the same thing in like seven years when Julie goes to her first school dance. O my God! That’s only seven years away… I feel OLD. Okay, I’m only 26, but I have a 9-year-old! All my friends are just getting married and starting to have kids…

Xzavia, Bobby’s wife, has Albany on the home video-chat system. She’s away at college in Columbus, OH… That’s so far away from us, but we’ll see her at Christmas.

I purposely step in the line of sight to steal the attention.

Albany: Savvy!

Me: Hey Al!

Albany: I miss you.

Me: I miss you more! I can’t wait for Christmas… why aren’t you coming home for Thanksgiving again?

Albany: I’m going to spend it with Philip’s family. They’re right here in town.

Me: Aw… I forgot you have a serious boyfriend. Stop growing up! Just stop!!!

Albany: Whatever! You can take it.

Me: No, I can’t… (I get all teary-eyed.)

Albany: Are you crying? Are you finally pregnant again?

Me: Did Genie tell you about her dream?

Albany: No, we were praying for our families in class last month and I had a vision of you having a boy. He looks like your dad, just a lighter version. His curls are so gorgeous. You’ll finally have a kid that looks like you.

Me: (Trying not to be offended I say🙂 Julie and Priscilla look like me! We have the same eyes and noses.

Albany: Whatever, your son is gorgeous! I can’t wait until you find out your pregnant.

Me: D and I are done having kids!

From the top of the stairs, Genie yells, “No, you’re not!”

Looking at Albany on the hand held  video-chat sphere, Xzavia comes to my rescue, “Stop pestering her. Prophecy can change according to obedience, are you sure you were released to share that with Savvy right now?”

Albany: (wincing from shame) Oops. Sorry Savvy. I love you.

Clearing her throat loudly and theatrically fake, Genie directs everyone’s attention to her. We applaud her and tell her how beautiful she is as she descends the stairs. She walks up to Oliver, who nervously tells her how pretty she is. He puts the red rose corsage he brought on her right wrist.

In front of the door, she stands locking elbows with Oliver. Oliver’s black bowl-cut hair is slicked with a lot of moose to stay in place. He wears a gray suit with a navy-blue bow tie and a burgundy dress shirt. They smile for photos. I don’t get why Genie died her beautiful blonde hair jet black, but she wanted a different look. I never pictured Genie dating a Native American, but they look cute together. I for sure thought she would date a Mexican with her love of Mexican culture.

I remember when she was tiny playing princess in Bobby’s living room! I can’t handle this!!!

After pictures, I swoop in and hug her not wanting to let her leave. I whisper in her ear, “Guard your heart…” She totally knows what I mean by that.

Derek is the youth pastor at church, that we all go to together, and he preached a sermon about sexuality and purity. He preached when we guard our hearts we’re holding dear all the promises of God, and when we trust God and follow in His precepts, when we receive God’s promises it gives glory to God and prevents us from damaging our souls or hurting others. He emphasized sex out of marriage compromises our relationship with God. Because we’re designed for marriage and only meant to have sex within marriage, doing it outside of marriage damages our heart, but within marriage sex ignites our hearts and helps us build healthy concepts of commitment, love, and intimacy. I wish I heard a sermon like that as a teenager… Even though Derek and I didn’t have sex until our wedding night, this night ten years ago, which was like 4 months after Julie was born… I think Derek and I would have just had a smoother first year of marriage, if we heard the message he preached on “Guarding Our Hearts” at Genie’s age…

“Can you let go now? I don’t want to show up after all the fun is over.” She says loudly.

I release her drying my tears on my sleeve.

“Oh, Happy Anniversary! Why are you hear and not with your husband?” Genie wonders.

“He had to work… we’re gonna celebrate next weekend. Thank you.”

Bobby embraces me on the left and Xzavia embraces me on the right, as we stand outside by the door and watch the young couple get in Oliver’s mustang and drive away to one of the best nights of their high school career.

“Belated Happy Anniversary”

Half awake I feel a warm light appear in front of my face. The smell of pine firewood hits my nose and I perk up suddenly opening my eyes. To my wonderful surprise, it’s Derek holding a new candle of my favorite sent to my nose. I look at the alarm clock and it’s 4:13 am. He must have just gotten in.

“Happy Anniversary… Have I told you lately… I love you so much.” He set the candle down on my night stand and kisses me.

He breaks away and goes to stand up, but I hold him by the head, “Are you coming to bed?”

“I’m all sweaty and musky from lifting packages all night. Don’t you want me to shower first?”

“You can shower afterwards.” I kiss him back.

He pulls away to gain clarity, “You mean I’m actually getting lucky tonight?”

“So, you don’t want to then?” I tease.

Quickly, he stands up and whips off his shirt and then leaps over me and lands on his side of the bed. His long locks cover his face like a curtain. I turn over and I hover his head. I wipe the hair out of his eyes, strand by strand. For a good while, we just smile and stare at each other. He doesn’t look that different than he did 10 years ago. He’s a little thicker. I remember after military school for two years he had a six pack but now it’s a pouch… I’m very grateful he isn’t going bald like his dad…

But beyond his looks, I’m so in love with who he is on the inside now. I love the man of God he is. I love the father he is to our girls. I love the type of son he is to his parents. The type of brother he is to his siblings and to mine. I love the kind of neighbor he is to everyone around us. I love how he treats me like I’m his queen, but he leads me like a king. I love him more than I did yesterday. And yesterday, I loved him a lot because he picked up an extra shift at work to earn more money for our family vacation next June.

He lifts his head to kiss me, but I back up.

“What? You changed your mind?”

“Genie, Albany, and Xzavia have had visions of us having another baby… and I know we can’t really afford that right now?”

“Well, I wasn’t planning on going unprotected tonight.”

Yeah, we’re that couple that still uses condemns… Birth control makes me sick… we tried many different kinds but I’m one of the women in the world that gets terribly sick under hormone manipulation… and neither one of us like the idea of getting fixed… I’m usually pretty good about tracking my ovulation and make sure we avoid making love on the days I ovulate to be extra safe, but I don’t know… I kind of want another baby.

“You don’t have to tonight… if you think we can manage the expenses as they come up…”

“Oh, we can handle anything together. Are you sure?”

“Yeah…” I say right as I kiss him.

“The AMAs”

Tyler Swipe, who some how transformed into a pop star after rising to fame as a teen country star, announces who the New Artist of the Year is, “Kaylie Johnson!”

Julie and Priscilla leap off the couch and start jumping radically all over the floor. Julie does a somersault in between the coffee table and the TV yelling, “SHE DID IT!”

“Aunt Kaylie won! Aunt Kaylie FREAKING WON!” Cillie shouts exuberantly.

I’m like crying… This is the moment she’s been working for the past ten years. She moved to Nashville after high school. She would call me after every rejection, every fallen-through deal, and every disappointment for encouragement and prayer. When she took the huge risk to transition from a Christian artist to a Secular artist, she got a lot of criticism from our circle of Christian friends. But last September, her album dropped and beat out some of the top artists in the country. Her single “Love & Freedom” still sits at number one. Her album is the most downloaded across all platforms. Over half the songs on her album have been featured on TV shows, and in films…

Kaylie wears a stunning red dress, he long hair in a fancy fishtail braid, with sparkles and jewels woven in. She hugs the songtress Tyler Swipe and accepts her AMA.

Crying joyfully, she wipes her tears, “O dear Jesus my Messiah… I don’t have any words… but… Thank you! Thank you God, thank you to my producers Lauren and Ed, to all the musicians who played on this album… thank you to Neill, my husband… I love you honey… Oh, and I have to thank my bestie- Savvy! I’m so grateful for this and I would not be hear today if I did not trust the path God sent me down. My glory is God’s glory. Oh- and thank you Julie and Cillie, your prayers got me through- now go to bed!”

The girls freak out they got mentioned on national TV.

God’s goodness can be overwhelmingly beautiful.

“Cash Moneymaker, Future NBA ALL-STAR”

“Let’s go defense!” I blare at the top of my lungs.

“Cash Money!” Trick hollers.

It’s nice that we’re all here. Derek, my girls, Bobby, Genie, and Xzavia, Netty, and Deshaun, and Arnie and Jessica. Trick too, my dad, who is the best. I still can’t bring myself to call him dad like Netty and Arnie, but he’s cool with me calling him Trick. So… after Julie was born, I did start writing him letters, but even after he got out of prison we didn’t connect until my grandma, his mom, got sick. Julie was five and Priscilla was three. Julie has always been close to my grandma since she was born, so over the last week of her life we camped out at the hospital and Julie bonded with my dad right away. I knew there was no way to avoid him anymore.

Cash takes after his dad. He has a beautiful set of curls and yet, he shaves them all off to sport a bald look… He’s so tall for 13… 6’0”! College scouts are already recruiting him. He plays varsity for the high school he’ll be attending next year as point guard. Last week an analyst on ESPN brought him up and says he’s the second coming of Kobe Bryant…

Watching him on the court dazzles us.

One-minute left in the 4th quarter, we’re down by two points, and the other team has the ball. Cash didn’t play most of the game because he hasn’t been listening to the coach. He’s in right now, because he’s the best player defensively and offensively. He’s also the number one stealer in the region right now.

Sure enough, Cash steals the ball from the opposite team’s point guard. He drives to the hoop. On his way up for a lay-up he gets fouled, but he still makes the basket. He makes the extra point putting the team ahead by one.

 The clock slowly whines down, between the fouls and the time outs and the free throw shots, from both sides.

Ten seconds to go, we’re down by two, our ball. Full court pressure after the ball gets passed in to Cash. Cash spins around his defenders and rushes to the top of the key at the three-point line, he pops his shot off and it goes in putting us up by one!!! Yes.

They put full court pressure on the other team and the clock runs out before they cross over to their side of the court. We WON!

The whole family high-fives and hugs as we cheer about the victory. Cash leaves his teammates to join in our family hug. We don’t care that he smells and is drenched in sweat. We put him in the center of us and smother him with love!

This is one portrait of family I never pictured. I wanted a close family like this my entire life, since I was a little girl. We are far from perfect. We fight a lot and get on each other nerves, but there’s no doubt any of us love each other. We are all alcohol and drug free. We spend every holiday together. We get together once a month and we take giant family vacations together. We attend the same church. We live in the same city, and whether we’re blood or not, because we’re family, we’re there for each other, no matter what… All things are possible with God.

And my nephew will make it to the NBA if my prayers have anything to with it!

As we release Cash to go back to his team, Trick announces, “Pizza on me at Mama’s EVERYBODY!”

Trick does really well financially. He wrote a book about his life and his conversion to Christ while he was prison. He goes around the world sharing his testimony and preaching the gospel. And last month he just sold his book’s rights to Pureflix so they can make a movie about his life. Makes me wonder if I should write a story about my life… no one would believe I’m not on drugs, not a smoker, and not an alcoholic. That I’m a teen mom that lives in upper-middle class with a Master’s Degree. That I’m married to my childhood sweetheart. That I survived rape, kept and raised my rapist’s baby, and put my rapist behind bars… No one would believe my story.

“I Miss You”

Ten years ago today, a time of tremendous gloom

I sat in your hospital room

I witnessed you rededicate your soul to the One

Who bled, died, and rose again for you- the Son

Messiah Jesus- our glorious savior

Who won your heart through a painful cross labor

I’m at peace knowing you’re in paradise

I can’t imagine the glory you know and the size

Of the smile on your face

In that wonderful place

I have so many unfulfilled wishes really

I wish you got to hold Julie and Cillie

I wish you were there when Derek and I said I do

I wish I could hold you and kiss you and tell you I love you

I don’t really remember telling you that

And even though you put me through a lot of crap

I’m so grateful we had that best time together

For your finale in life, that it was better

Than our ugly beginning

I know you know in life now I’m winning

But with all my blessings- it doesn’t change this fact

I MISS YOU. I MISS YOU. I MISS YOU.

“Truth Prevails”

I stare at the letter from Kurt. He got sentenced for 15 years but he’s up for parole due to good behavior. He claims to have found Christ and his letter is filled with a long-winded apology. He wants me to be a character witness for him at his hearing! I believe he’s changed, but I don’t want to help him get out sooner. He wants to meet Julie too.

Now, we’ve told Julie that Derek isn’t her birth father. We told her that Kurt was and that he wasn’t a very good man and he was in prison for something bad that he did. We did not tell her about the horrendous act that led to her conception. We’re waiting until she’s older and more mature to handle that reality. We’re not lying to her, we’re just withholding part of the truth.

For the past year, I’ve allowed Julie and Kurt to exchange letters, but Julie’s never expressed she wants to meet him. She’s never referred to Kurt as her father. She tells her best friend Stacey that Kurt her is sperm donor dad. She came up with that take all on her own, after she watched a PBS special about IVF and egg and sperm donating in America, and how laxed our restrictions are on how often people can donate their genetic material. She may be 9, but at times she’s like 30.

I don’t know what to do… I don’t think I can handle this right now. Christmas is coming up, Derek and I just found out we’re pregnant for a third time- I really don’t why I let my sisters manipulate me into this pregnancy, and I have the classrooms from hell this year!

God, what do I do?

GO.

I laugh.

Julie walks past me and sits down at the kitchen table, and she set her backpack on the tabletop. Cillie follows her lead and sits next to her. They pull their school iPads out and log in to start their homework.

I snap out of it and put the letter in the junk drawer.

“What do you both want for a snack, before dinner?”

“A peanut butter and banana sandwich.” Julie asks.

“That’s weird!” Cillie says sassily to her big sis. “I just want PB&J mommy,” in a sweet girl tone to me.

That was Kurt’s favorite snack…

“Have you ever had a peanut butter and banana sandwich, Julie?”

“No, but Daddy Kurt says it’s is favorite snack and he misses it.”

“How come Julie has two daddies and I just have one? Paulie has two daddies too, but they live together, but he doesn’t have a mommy… that must suck.”

“Cillie, watch your mouth.”

I try to process Julie calling Kurt dad and wanting to eat a snack like him as I gather the ingredients. It’s so much easier to talk about forgiveness and moving forward when you don’t have to face the person who hurt you… I mean, I know I don’t have to worry. He has to register as a sex offender and he can never be alone with Julie, but I can’t stop my heart from racing with panic…

DON’T BE AFRAID.

Yeah, I don’t have to be afraid.

“Ooo! There are beautiful angels surrounding you mommy!” Cillie exclaims. She’s a seer. She sees angels all the time and she’s been getting visions about her baby brother like crazy. She told us his name the other day, Rodney, which before then we couldn’t choose between that name or River for a boy and Delany or Laney for another girl. We’re very private when discussing baby names not revealing the name until the seven month, but with prophetic kids and family members you can’t keep anything secret.

“Yeah, mom, God sent His messengers to help you be okay with Daddy Kurt’s letter. So are you okay with going to see him?” Julie wonders…

The mail was in the house, waiting on the kitchen island counter when I got in the door… The girls came in after me and there’s no way Julie could know about the letter let alone know what it was about…

Okay God… I will go… I’ll speak on his behalf but God… just keep me sane and my girls safe…

Both my girls get up and race over to me. They hug me as I start crying.

“It’s okay mommy.” Cillie says.

“You don’t have to go if it’s too hard.” Julie says.

Laughter tickles our hearts and as I crouch low we just keep laughing in the Holy Ghost. They smother me in kisses on my cheeks. Then Julie hands me the kitchen hand towel to wipe my tears.

“I’m okay… How did I get blessed with the best girls?!”

“Because God is too good!” They shout in sync.

…Back to the Present…


“God is Too Good”

I want to write a poem but I can’t really settle on rhyme and meter… But just thinking about God’s goodness, blows my mind… I went to church with Derek and Kaylie last week and I learned why awful things happen to people.

We live in a fallen world and we all have free will, because God loves everyone unconditionally, He will not override anyone’s freewill. Unless we submit our will to pursue after His will, is when He’ll interfere in our affairs and impact the earth because He gave authority of the Earth to us.

When we have relationship with God and we live our lives for Him, we build the Kingdom on the Earth. Through loving people like He loves us is how we change our world and bring people to Him. We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to listen and to trust Him and have faith everything we go through has a purpose that will make God’s Kingdom bigger. As believers we are one big family and our job is to add to the family God has designed and to build a home for God on the earth.

I have to forgive the jerk, Kurt- I have to forgive Kurt… Because Jesus died for all of us, he deserves forgiveness. I have no idea how I can forgive him… but I know with God… anything is possible.

I think last night I had like a vision of my future… Ten years from now… I don’t remember anything but the names of my kids… I think… nope… I don’t remember. I have immense peace! Whatever life throws at me, God is with me, and He will never leave me or forsake me!

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me.

And I must be this way because Netty’s been praying for me… probably Derek’s prayers too… And well Kaylie’s as well… who cares! Jesus is the best friend I’ve ever had… greater than Derek and Kaylie put together.

I don’t hate my life anymore. I’m sad my mother is dying. I’m sad I don’t know my dad. But I got this hope, knowing everything is going to get better. I have a purpose now. And that purpose is living life with God, after all He made humanity because He wanted to enjoy community with us (Rev. 4:11).

I think I’m going to write a book about my life… or at least blog about it… so if anyone suffered like I did or do… they know there’s real hope. Not the kind of hope where you wish for things to be better, but with hope that confidently knows something better is COMING!


Author’s Note

Originally, “Bussing It” was going to be 12 parts. But I cut it short, when I incorporated the flash-forward, I felt like it offered enough to showcase the direction Savvy was going to take with her life.

I was seriously thinking about Savvy putting her first child in adoption, but I decided against that. I felt like a stronger story of forgiveness prevailing that way. But I’m pro-adoption…

This story is the first Story Sunday where I have campaigned like crazy on social media and the first series where I was very adamant about being consistent. I only broke once by failing to post a part one week, but life happened and I didn’t plan enough to make up for it.

I’ve had this idea since 2012. There’s many different versions on my flash drives. The only part I used from those other versions are the characters and the stories that Savvy told her little sisters. In one version, I was going to have Savvy grow up to be a famous children’s author and I think based on this version, we can see she definitely followed some path of writing in life, but I left it very open-ended as to where that goes.

In all the other versions but this one, Savvy and Derek were going to break up and he was going to die in  a car accident and or a drug overdose. But I really fell in love with this idea of the two of them forever and never separating until death from a ripe old age.

Originally, she was going to be pregnant by Derek and not Kurt. Originally Kurt was really sweet and Bobby was the child molester, but somehow those roles changed and I’m okay with that.

As usual I have people getting saved in my story because salvation is the best and I love seeing the power of that even in a fictional context. I think I’ve used the power of conversion too much. For the next one, we’ll have a series with already saved people!

Thank you so much for reading this serious. If you loved reading it, feel free to share it with someone you think would enjoy reading it!

If you have any questions for me, drop them in the comments section, and I will respond as soon as I can.

I know Disney uses the slogan “Dare to Dream”… and I don’t know how long they’ve been using that, but I thought of the for story title back in 2013/2014, and I feel like I came up with it first… but I have no proof and I very well could be wrong. But I dare you to dream and to never give up on your dream, you have that dream for a reason, and you are meant to fulfill it. God will show you how to do it the best way! And if God crushes your dream, he has something better in mind because He knows you the best!

Best regards,

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Bussing It-Part 9

“My Boys”

Cash sleeps peacefully in his car seat in the back. I can’t avoid looking in the review mirror to watch him sleep. His mop of maroon red hair reminds me of Patrick, dear old dad. For a second, I wonder how he holds up in prison.

Arnie talks just above a whisper not to wake Cash Moneymaker up. That name, right? I’m surprised the hospital let them walk out of with an infant named CASH MONEYMAKER.

“Thanks for coming to dinner with us tonight. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen my favorite little sister-cousin.”

I hate it when he calls me that… An abhorrent reminder of our terrible family tree.

“Yeah. It was nice. It’s a bummer Jessica couldn’t join us.”

Arnie sighs as he slowly rolls to a stop at a red light. “You know why she couldn’t join us?” He questions with hand gesture air quotes. I’m not sure if he’s really asking or being rhetorical… He continues without my response. “She’s out with her girls… enjoying her youth while she’s young! She don’t cook, clean, or take care of Cash. I do all that. She never picks up her phone. She gets in late at night. If I didn’t work overtime, we wouldn’t be making ends meet because she doesn’t chip in with her check at all… Jessica couldn’t join us because she’s a ghost!”

That sounds rough.

The light turns green and he looks back at Cash through the review mirror as he drives forward.

“I was going to break up with Jessica the night she told me she was pregnant; did you know that?”

I quietly shake my head no and moan subtly, “Nah-ah.”

“You know I only married her thinking about what my mom might of wanted… did you know dad didn’t marry my mom until after I was born? Netty was the only one born in wedlock…” He chuckles. “They of course told everyone they were married when they moved in together, but they weren’t yet.” He adds.

It’s weird. Our father had children with a set of sisters… Aunt Betty got breast cancer, fought it for three years, and died right before Arnie’s 16th birthday. Arnie and Netty went to go live with dad’s mom- Grandma Patricia. Aunt Betty never kept Arnie and Netty away from Grandma Pat, but Jewel never lets me see her. Maybe if I ask, I could go see her.

“Not to change the subject,” and by not trying to I totally am trying to, “how is Grandma Pat?”

“Good. Really good. She asked about you last week, I told her all the cool things you have going on and I left out all the drama- like the baby, D, and Aunt Jewel dying.”

“I get I disappointed everyone by getting pregnant as a teen too, but ironically, they baby, D, and my mom are the three main things giving me hope.”

“You really gonna marry D? Just because he knocked you up?”

“No… I mean sort of… I mean, D and I are going to get married one day any way, but due to this, we’re moving up our timeline.”

“You should put the baby up for adoption.” He says bluntly as he turns onto the street that leads to Bobby’s house.

“Well, tonight was great up until right now! Not everyone is like you, okay? D, is not you. D and I are nothing like you and Jess. I’ve been in love with D since we first met as kids. My love for him only gets stronger over the years. I love him more now than I did before I was pregnant. You have no idea the lengths he would go for me, how much he has already sacrificed for me, and how much more he is giving up for my sake. Sometimes, I think he’s too good for me, but I’m wired to love him, and if I don’t have to live without him, I won’t. Marriage wasn’t even on my mind, but he proposed to me. He got his parents blessing, he got my mom’s okay, and our families are surprisingly behind us. Life is always going to be hard, much of it will suck, but its not so much about where you’re going in life, but who is on the bus with you, bussing it through life with you. Derek is with me. Only death will separate us.”

The minute Arnie stops in front of Bobby’s house. I get out and slam the car door. Cash wakes up crying. As much as it sucks to disturb Cash from a peaceful slumber, I get satisfaction in charging away from Arnie with the final say in my court.

“Going Once, Going Twice… Sold?”

I stand amazed. I marvel at the beautiful, jungle styled nursey at Netty’s and Deshaun’s that used to be the office, across from the room I stayed in…

“We want you and the baby to stay with us.” Deshaun says.

That’s surprising.

“For as long as you need. We want school to come first to you.” Netty adds.

“You can focus on school and motherhood…” Deshaun falls silent.

“And if motherhood proves to be too challenging, we would be willing to take custody for you.” Netty shares the true motive of the baby room. They want my baby.

I take a deep breath in. I exhale as I count backwards from ten in my head. For some reason, this sweet offer pisses me off. Why do people think I can’t handle school and motherhood? Doing homework and raising kids isn’t a challenge for me. I did that with my sisters. They came out of my mother’s womb with me as their full-time caretaker. I was seven, went I was putting bottles of baby formula together and changing Albany’s diapers. When Jewel and Bobby were busy partying all weekend, I took care of the three of us.

And as a kid, even though I missed a lot of school, I never fell behind making honor roll every year until high school, where my grade went down for a lack of attendance. One teacher accused me of cheating, saying I couldn’t pass my tests if I wasn’t in class learning the material. Well, that one teacher was wrong! Obviously. Therefore, I left and I went to Brink.

“Thank you… this is really sweet… but I have to decline your offer.”

“We’re not going to offer something like this later.” Deshaun says firmly.

“That’s okay. D and I got this.” I say, proudly holding my bulging belly.

They chime in about how were too young to get married. I laugh because Netty married Deshaun when she turned 18 and he’s five years older than her. They started courting when she was 17 and half, but they were friends since she was 11 and he was 16. He was her youth leader in middle school and in high school. Granted, they didn’t kiss until their wedding day, but he groomed her to be his wife. And they are lecturing me about getting married too young… I can’t!

My phone pings with a fresh incoming text. It’s from Kaylie. She’s here to pick me up.

“I really appreciate this offer. I feel super loved, but I don’t need to take it. I can handle D, school, and the baby. I have to go, my ride is here.”

“The Darkness Gets Exposed”

Sliding into her car like a whale balloon, I sort of forgot we had a nasty fight. Remembering the last thing I said to her makes me want to climb right out. Why is she picking me up?

“Thanks for coming…” I say.

“I’m sorry.” Kaylie says turning off her ignition and pulling out her keys. “I had no business trying to force a huge life decision on you like that… I was wrong about that dream anyhow.”

Now I’m curious. As I struggle to put my seat belt on, I ask her what the dream did mean.

“Well… I think I know what the dream was about…” Kaylie admits nervously.

“I’m sorry too.”

“I get why you said what you said though… if I’m right about the dream…”

“What do you mean?”

She proceeds to tell me about her dream. She sees a dark figure looming over me at night while I sleep.  She seems me crying in Derek’s arms. I’m without clothes but he isn’t. She saw me give birth to a girl. She knows what I name the baby, but she won’t tell me.

She sees me place my baby girl in the arms of a light skin black man, he could be mixed. He has a maroon red afro, a matching goatee, and he dresses like he’s stuck in the 70s- paisley patterns and orange and yellow colors. He stood next to a woman with porcelain white skin and bright red hair. She had the most gorgeous aqua eyes. She wore clothes like she was in the 80s.

Then she sees the dark figure follow me as I age. Derek tries to help me, but I never let him. Before Kaylie saw anything else, she woke up.

“So based on that you think I give the baby to a couple that looks like my Grandpa Marion and Grandma Pat? How do you know I’m having a girl?”

“I know you’re having a girl because my dream from God said so… and yeah, I thought you were supposed to give your baby to a biracial couple, but I got it all wrong. The man is your dad, and the woman is your grandma, and after your daughter is born, you’re going to reconnect with them. But the dark figure… Kurt hurt you, didn’t he… he’s really the baby’s father, not D, isn’t he?”

I break down and cry. The burden of keeping that secret from everyone I love and care about hurts. Holding in such a filthy, dirty secret weighs on my heart. The more I cry… the lighter I feel. Like somehow, I’m letting go of all the darkness that shackles me.

Kaylie rubs my back… It’s soothing… Kaylie leans over and hugs me as she cries with me. Sometimes, it’s a relief to have someone sit with you, hold you, and grieve with you. Nothing needs to be said. No one needs to tell what to do to get past your pain. People who do that aren’t strong enough to bear the pain with you. But the person daring enough to empathize with you, and to labor in sorrow with you… that’s a true friend…

But how could she know the sex of the baby? I haven’t told anyone. Not even my sister. How could she know about the jerk? Just my mom and Derek know and neither of them would tell a soul. I’m a fool to ask when I know her answer. She’ll say that God told her through the dream…

I pat her on the back for I’m all cried out. She pulls back and sits back in her driver’s seat. We wipe our wet faces with our fingers. I rub my snot on my forearm like a little kid… not the most sanitary thing to do. Taking in a deep breath, I try to get back to normal… Finally, I ask something that really bothers me about God, “Why does God let awful things happen to good people?”

“Because He loves everyone.” She says…

We start laughing hysterically. I don’t know why, but the laughter perks up my downcast soul like a shot of a pure high straight through my whole body and mind. I seriously feel like we smoked some seriously good weed, but better! It’s like it’s a sunny, warm summer day, and I’m being hugged by everyone I love at once, while staring at the night sky. Those are my three most wonderful types of things in the world and this moment feels like all three of those things are happening right now. There’s a literal warmth coursing through my body. There is this energy, this presence all around us.

“I love you Savannah.”

“I love you Kaylie.”

Kaylie stops laughing, “I didn’t say anything.”

I stop laughing. I look at Kaylie and she looks back at me.

“I love you Savannah.” I hear softly but I don’t see Kaylie’s mouth move.

I check the backseat to see if Derek is with us, but he’s not. I want to freak out and panic, but I can’t. I have too much joy.

“A warm sunny, summer day… A starry night… Hugs from your favorite people like Genie and Albany, and Derek, and Arnie, and Cash, and Netty and me…” I hear and see Kaylie say. She adds, “God loves you very much Savannah. He has a plan for you and for your baby. The final days with your mother will be the best of times you’ve ever had with Jewel. Your father is getting out of prison soon and you’re going to get a letter in the mail from him, Netty will deliver it to you. Write him back. And don’t be afraid of the truth, expose the darkness and you will get justice. Turn Kurt in. Don’t wait any longer…”

There’s no doubt in my mind anymore. God is real.

“God”

All my life I didn’t understand

Who I was and especially the Great I Am

It didn’t matter how much everybody talked

I didn’t see what they saw that gave them their faith walk

So many times, I wanted to believe

But with all my terrible garbage I couldn’t perceive

Then something crazy happened to set me free

God audibly spoke to me

Now all I got on my mind is that God is real

He is real. He is real. He is real.

I feel like I’m falling in love all over again, but it’s stronger

I feel like I’m worth it, like life is worth living much longer

Jesus- died for me

Holy Spirit- sealed me with this revelation

Now I know G-O-D as FATHER

I don’t know much about dads because I never really had one

There’s this peace I have that somehow, I got this

God, I love you

Thank you for loving me

The poem doesn’t have a solid meter or rhyme

But it’s what’s in my heart this time (SMH-blah!)

Bussing It – Part 8

“Surprise, Surprise. Promises, Promises.”

Right now, I should be in the middle of Botany, confused out of my mind, instead Kim is and jotting notes for the two of us. I wait with Alexis at the airport for Derek.

I can’t believe we’re still together. All day I’ve felt like I’m in daze. Maybe, I’m in a coma and Derek isn’t coming in real life, just in my dreamscape… Then again, if I was dreaming I sure as heck wouldn’t be pregnant with the Jerk’s child, it would be Derek’s baby.

Alexis flips through a celebrity gossip magazine she has with her as I just sit rubbing my baby bump. I feel like the baby finds it soothing, but I do it mostly because it makes me feel calm.

“Poor Gina…” Alexis sighs referring to the famous Broadway Starlet.

“I don’t think she’s that bad off… I think it’s good she asked for help after a mental breakdown… That takes courage.” I say.

“Oh I agree, but the media just won’t stop talking about it. She doesn’t owe the public any explanations. She has every right to keep her life private.” Holding up the article about Gina, “They interviewed a friend of a friend of her cousin about her breakdown… the person wasn’t even there when it happened.”

“But yet, you’re reading the GUIDE TO THE STARS and supporting their exploitation of celebrities.”

Defensively, Alexis says, “I didn’t buy this, a co-worker gave it to me. I don’t buy stuff like this.”

I just let silence make things awkward between us. I scroll through my social media, which I haven’t done in a while, and notice about 75 comments on my post announcing my pregnancy. A lot of love from people with some drama from people who say I’m trapped in poverty now. I wonder how people would react if I confessed I would have rather aborted my baby… And the weird part is, it’s not because I don’t love my baby, but every night when I go to sleep I’m reminded of what that monster did. In my sleep, I’m haunted by what he did to me, some nights I can’t stay asleep. What will it be like, when the baby is here?

“I thought you both would be more excited to see me…” I hear Derek say as I sense his presence approach me.

I leap up as fast as I can and I spring into his reaching arms for me. I hug him tightly like my life depends on holding onto him. He smells a lot different. Instead of teenage male body spray that borderline mimics the fragrance of teenage girl body spray, he smells like he wears a grown man’s cologne.

Marveling at how his man mane is gone and he now sports a crew cut fade, I just stare at him. He even stands up straight with a posture like a soldier and his biceps actually have some muscle tone. He sort of reminds me of the jerk, I hate it more than I love it, but I love him.

I go to kiss him on the lips and he turns his head and makes me kiss his cheek. He takes my hand and intertwines our fingers. Then he gives me a soft peck on the back of a held hand.

“I missed you so much baby!” Derek says rubbing the back of my hand.

Did we enter the Twilight Zone and cross over into the 50s of America… How come he won’t kiss me like a normal teenage boy? If this has to do with Jesus, I’m gonna curse and I don’t swear.

Without asking, he cups the outside of my womb. The baby does move and then he retracts his hand a little freaked out.

“That feels weird…” He retorts.

“Imagine how it feels for me.” I say.

Alexis stands looking at us. I’m curious why we’re not leaving. I watch Derek give his mother a look and she slightly tilts her head forward, giving him a similar look back. Derek lets go of my hand and reaches into his blue, straight jean pants. I still can get over how he’s dressed. His red T-shirt is tucked in and he’s wearing a belt. Out his pocket, he holds a red ring box in his hand. As she opens the box as he gets down on one knee.

What is happening right now?! Is he proposing and Alexis knew about this? OMG, why is he proposing? Can we even get married? We’re teenagers!

“Savannah Lorene Moneymaker, will you marry me?”

Everyone in the waiting area stares at us, waiting to see what I’m going to do. If I say yes, and we get married, financially it will be a little easier, won’t it? Or will I get more money from the state being single? I really need to look into that… I know I want to marry Derek one day. I cannot picture my life without him. I don’t want to live life without him…

“Yes… I’ll marry you…” I say crying. I don’t like that I’m in tears, but I can’t help it.

He gently slides the modest diamond ring onto the proper finger and stands up to embrace me. He kisses me on the forehead and he shouts excitedly that I said yes. The crowd happily applauds for us.

This is definitely a surprise.

“Light and Dark Don’t Mix, Spiritually”

Kaylie’s silence worries me. I thought she would be happy for me and Derek. I hold my hand out so she can look at the ring, but she ignores it as she gets off her bed and crosses over to her closet on the other side. She slides her shutter closet doors open and the upper half of her body disappear behind a wall of her hanging clothes. She backs up and turns around holding a worn out shoe box. She comes back and sits down up against her cherry wood headboard. She pulls the lid off and the inside is cluttered with note cards, flooded pieces of paper, and pictures- polaroid pics, 4 x 6s, and a few wallet size pics too. Before she opens her mouth I know its her Trevor Box… I have an ALL-THINGS-DEREK-BOX too.

“Trevor will forever be my first love… but he’s not saved… he’s no good for me. Light and Dark don’t mix, and as hard as it was, I had to break it off with him for good.” Kaylie whines from her self-righteous soapbox.

I don’t need to hear this preachy stuff from her. I rock back for momentum and then I slowing roll off her bed. “You know,” I say, turning to put my tude in her direction. “I thought you would appreciate how Derek called my mom and got her blessing before he popped the question. That he secured a job through one of his dad’s friends before he came back. How Alexis and him are going to convert the garage into an apartment for us until we finish school… But no, your religion has to come before me… Moses wasn’t married to a Jew… she was from Media- not even his own kin. And Hosea married an unclean prostitute!” I pause for a second not sure why I brought the Bible into this… That’s what happens living with Netty and being forced to attend church twice a week. Plus, her and Dashuan talk about the Bible and their faith all the time at dinner- it consumes the conversation.

“I expected this from my sister, but not from you. And I don’t care if Jesus is a better friend to you than me right now… Knowing Him doesn’t give you license to tell people what to do with their life!” I yell.

Wow, I rarely yell, but hitting the 2nd trimester my emotions stay on high, in every single mode… And I can’t control it…

“It’s just I had a dream and I think it was about placing the baby in adoption…” She blurts.

“SO WHAT! I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care! I don’t have to follow God like you. I wish I could be as lucky as you and have this kid die in my WOMB!” And now I shut up.

Kaylie hangs her head as she trembles crying. Everything in me just wants to hold her and apologize until I really do die.

“I’m sorry…”

Not even looking at me, “Just get out…” Kaylie manages to say.

“The South Side-Again”

I like moving homes while being pregnant. I’m not really expected to do anything. Mom and I sit on the couch and we tell Bobby, Derek, the girls, and Bobby’s friends where to put things.

I guess Jewel and Bobby started talking right when she found out she was sick. He’s been seeing the girls every Sunday, since I moved back, and taking them to church. He no longer denies Genie is his. He can’t really, she looks like he spit her out.

The plan as of right now is that all of us live together until I marry Derek. Then I’ll go live with him and Alexis. Bobby has an extra truck that he’s letting Derek use, therefore, he can pick me up and take me to and from school.

I don’t remember a lot about Bobby, but I really hope living with him will be pleasant and as drama free as possible.