Melody opens the door and leaps to embrace me. Dressed to withstand the outdoors, in snow boots and a huge, ankle length jacket over her flannel pajamas, she steps outside to join me. Stuffing my hands back in coat pockets, I wish I brought my gloves today, then again no one really believed the weather man when he said it would snow after lunch today. The White Mountain usually doesn’t see snow until after Turkey Day, but this year winter came way early in mid-October.
“Thanks for coming by. I would invite you in, but it isn’t appropriate for us to be alone together.”
It’s 4:15 according to my phone. I tried to be here earlier, but there was an accident on the main road by school, traffic was backed up for over an hour and it was the only way out.
“Grab some essentials and come with me right now.”
Melody stares into the distance contemplatively. Conclusively, she crosses her arms and shakes her head no. “I’m gonna stay, Asher. I’ll be okay.”
The ambient crunching noise of car tires treading over mulch and dirt means I’m out of time. One car door slam, several rushed heavy steps, and the hum of angered breathing behind us moments later keeps me put just a little longer.
“Go inside, Melody,” Adam sternly commands. Father like son when it comes to demands.
Slowly, I turn around to face a mortal judge. A mortal judge that given the authority would kill me with a deathly glance.
“Adam, good afternoon.”
“Allow me to make this clear, you are no longer welcomed at our residence.”
“Sir, Melody is—,” Adam cuts me off giving me no room to speak.
“We will have papers drawn up relinquishing your rights to the child, so you don’t have to worry about anything. We’ll see to it that he or she gets a good home.”
“Tenor told me that Melody believes like my faith now, and—,” again, he interrupts me.
“Melody is just confused.”
“Sir,” I say and then regret it. He talks over me and hogs the attention.
“That night after she told us, I made it very clear, she wasn’t welcomed in this house if she didn’t respect our beliefs. She started packing her things. She set her cell phone, her driver’s and medical insurance cards on the table, and she was fixing to walk out the door with just a hoodie to keep her warm…” He pauses scratching the back of his neck, “She was mumbling that believing your way meant God would provide everything she and the baby would need. She wouldn’t listen to reason. She failed to remember the guidance of her religion…” Draping his head, he sighs. “I hate to say it, but that near miscarriage or that vanishing twin prevented my daughter from leaving my protection. That’s the providence of a god I serve.”
“But You can’t hold her against her will, Adam.”
Defensively, he jerks his head up and firmly aligns his gaze with mine, he states, “She is free to go whenever she wants, but if she is going to live in my house, eat my food, use my money, she is going to abide by my rules. She isn’t in school right now because the doctor prescribed bed rest. We talked it over, but when she is well enough, she will go be with my sister and her husband down in the Valley. We will place the child in adoption. The Bishop even has a few wonderful, faithful couples in mind. Then in the Fall, she will attend Brigham Young.”
Nothing can follow that up. He is in no positon to reason otherwise and for whatever reason Melody has seemingly agreed to his terms. Like I already knew, there is nothing I can do.
As I walk down the steps of the porch, Adam explains why I’m not welcomed in their home. Apparently, I’m home alone with his daughter too often, even though this is only my second offense, he is under the illusion we sneak around all the time.
Driving home I ask God why all this happening. Melody should be with me right now. If she went to all that trouble of lying in the first place, she wanted to keep her baby, and now her family won’t allow her to. She finally chooses Christ for real and now she’s trapped… I should be relieved. I should relax. I didn’t have to break up with her. I didn’t have to tell her I know she is a manipulator and a liar to her face. I’m entirely free from Melody Gartner drama in my life.
Yet, the burden on my heart for her is not lifted. Part of me wants to turn around, risk going to jail, and ask her to marry me just so has another option to leave. The other part of me realizes how dumb that would be… We’d be homeless and broke together facing the same issues she would out in the world alone.
These mixed emotions bring on tears, which blurs my sight, and therefore forces me to pull off on the side of the road to give me the chance to gather myself. I don’t even get why I’m crying. I didn’t even love Melody like that… At least I didn’t think I did. But it is true. I do love her. I care about her and I’m really scared she’ll go back to being Mormon. She doesn’t know enough about real Christianity to stay rooted in Christ. She doesn’t understand how to have dialog with God. She needs a body of believers to be her support system. She has yet to learn the power of prayer.
I jerk to look in the back seat but no one is back there. I rub my eyes dry and look around outside but cars pass by on the left and the snow-kissed forest sits on the right. I check my phone to see if butt dialed anyone, but my cell isn’t on the line with anyone.
“Asher…” the same voice calls my name.
Am I crazy? Am I having a psychotic break or am I hearing the voice of God?
“I Am, Asher.”
That’s definitely a God answer. I would never call myself ‘I Am’ and that is God’s true name.
“Yes, I Lord.” I say back.
“Melody is my daughter.”
“Do you believe that Asher?” The LORD seems to question my honesty. He’s right, I don’t really believe Melody is totally saved. Most of her theology must still be predominantly Mormon.
The LORD adds, “I’m also Qanna. Melody is safe with me.”
“What does Kahn-Na mean?”
“Look it up. Exodus 34:14 is a good place to start. Or Google it.”
“Why can’t you just tell me? I asked you.”
The atmosphere in the car changes. My overloaded heart feels like a lightweight now. A joy sparks in my soul. I have peace and somehow, I’m certain everything will work out. I don’t know how. I certainly don’t fully understand why.
I’m so stoked I want to speed home. Treat 77 like the Audubon, but wisdom convinces me to remain a law-abiding citizen. I get back on the road, blast the worship music, and enjoy the experience of this victory in Christ that goes beyond words.
Dad had repairs to oversee at the church. For once, I need my father both as a parent and as a pastor. I go inside through the unlocked side door and I follow the noise echoing through the empty dark halls. Dad and Elder Cain Blair are in the men’s room replacing the piping underneath the sinks. Immediately, Dad instructs Elder Cain to keep working and escorts me to his office.
To endure the trek, he makes small talk with me.
“We’re blessed God provided the means for these repairs. I’m tired of soaking wet floors, holy walls, and torn up carpet.”
“God is good.” I say, still analyzing in my mind the best way to bring everything up to dad and to get some direction.
Chuckling softly, dad says, “All the time…”
Sure that’s only half the saying but when you grow up in church, Christianese gets old and boring quickly.
Dad sits down in his brown leather, swivel chair behind his dark mahogany desk. The wall behind him sporting his credentials and awards over the years. I sit across from him, in a simple, armless green sanctuary chair, wide and sturdy enough to hold all sizes. To postpone the burden, I’m about to place on dad, I ask where Pastor Josiah is. Dad says the board decided he would handle maintenance needs for the church since Pastor Josiah holds many other responsibilities.
“Enough with the chit-chat, what’s troubling you?”
I want to cry, but the strength to fend off that urge sustains my plain countenance.
“Melody Gartner−,” I go to explain, but dad chimes in.
“The girl you bring to youth group sometimes?”
Dad chortles, “Son, I’m your father first and a pastor to you second. Drop the sir. Call me dad. What about Melody?”
“She’s my girlfriend.” I say.
The shock on his face could stop time with his wide-eye stare and slight agape mouth. I know my parents believe I’d follow in their footsteps and not date until college. My dad did a lot of research on youth dating and majority of the data reflects more negatives than positives.
Taking a very deep breath, as I exhale I confess, “And she’s pregnant.”
That knowledge causes his face to fall into the palm of his hand as a feeble attempt to hide his broken heart.
“She also wants to get married.”
Sighing as he wipes his face lifting his head, “When did it happen?”
I knew the it inquiry referred to the night of conception.
“She says the night of the homecoming dance…” Relief rushes over me. I used to think back on that night a feel ashamed, now I no longer do.
“You’re not so sure?”
I shake my head. Everything about her and me makes me completely uncertain. “No.” I say, but I explain, “Before I came here I was spending time with the Lord… I felt so guilty… I regretted going to that dance, I regretted becoming Mel’s boyfriend, and I deeply regretted creating that baby… I thought if I never went to that dance the kid wouldn’t exist and as clear as day the Holy Spirit told me that the baby would. If I never slept with Mel, she wouldn’t be my girlfriend. I would have never slept with her, if the punch wasn’t spiked, and−,” dad holds his hand up to stop me from talking.
“Are you sure you had sex with Melody? If you were drunk, do you remember that night?” Dad asks a justifiable question.
“The last I remember is getting in the passenger seat of my car…I felt so weird I just wanted to sleep it off…”
“How far along is she according to the doctor?” Dad asks a good question. “If it happened the night of the homecoming dance she’d be about 5 or 6 weeks”
“The dance was a month ago?” I say.
“Maybe you should take that sex ed class at school. Son, women are pregnant before they get pregnant. That’s just how the doctors count.”
Silence rises between us and creates a giant of awkwardness. It didn’t really matter how far along Melody is in her pregnancy. Dad and I had a mutually strong feeling the baby isn’t mine. When I muster the courage to speak up, dad beats me to it.
“Let me see if I understand why you’re dating her… You took her to homecoming, to be nice. Then you thought you lost your virginity to her, so you asked her to be your girlfriend?”
I just nod my head yes feeling a little embarrassed.
“Why do you think you did that?”
The horrid sensation of my masculinity dissolving as I think of the real reason why, I slouch crossing my arms over my chest as if this position could protect how I feel inside… Sighing I confess, “I’m gonna sound like a girl if I tell you.”
“No, you’ll sound like my son. It’s just you and me.” Dad says.
“I want to wait or at least I wanted to wait until I’m married to have sex… Any kind of sex…” I shift forward and dangle my arms from my bent kneecaps. Scratching my head, I try to feel less exposed then I do right now. Why does guilt rack my heart with trouble when I’m just being honest? I go on to say, “I want to be like you and mom. You two waited until you met ‘the one’. And—,” before I could go any further, dad bursts into laughter.
“What?” I ask.
Cupping his mouth, he takes a deep breath. Shaking his head, he removes his hand and grabs a push pen from his desk. He presses the button again and again, and makes the pen click again and again as the ballpoint tip plays hide and go seek according to his actions.
“What makes you think I was a virgin when I married your mom? I never stated that and I hope I didn’t imply that.”
“You and mom both said several times you waited to sleep together until you married each other.”
Dad raises his eyebrows, stops clicking the pen and sets it down as he looks me in the eyes. He says, “Yes, we said that… So I guess I see where you get that concept from, but I had a few girlfriends before your mother. One reason why I allowed your mother to leave that bookstore without saying anything to her, is because I was in a long distant relationship with my high school sweetheart. She went to Liberty University. We did a lot of fooling around. The girlfriend before her is who I lost my virginity to. We were both so scared that she could have been pregnant… Luckily, she wasn’t… And before that girl, I fooled around girls all the time at church camp since 7th grade. I actually got caught in 9th grade making out in the boys’ bathroom with the hottest girt at camp. And what we did is not safe for your ears to hear.”
Dad gets real. He divulges the first time his eyes set sight on a dirty magazine when he was 11 years old. He admits that fantasizing and fondling himself wasn’t enough. He got the real chance to kiss a girl and explore the sensations of raging hormones. He added his middle school peers only inspired him with ways to explore the sexual desires within him without getting caught. In high school, his guy friends made it seem like a man was gay if he wasn’t having sex. For a long time, dad just flirted with girls on campus and went out on dates, and he allowed his friends to think what they wanted. However, it was different when he got a girlfriend. Making out and groping stories wasn’t enough to prove dad was a man. The pressure to prove his masculinity made him convince his girlfriend to have sex.
When I asked dad, what about church and God, wondering if he felt guilty? He said he wasn’t serious about his faith. He added his church just preached on burning in hell a lot. If you weren’t a drunk, a homosexual, or an adulterer… no one feared going to hades. His church growing up taught him how to be a church goer not a Christian.
His high school sweetheart, who was a different girl than who he lost his virginity to, was the girl who introduced him to the concept of a relationship with Jesus. They were never alone together. The only places she’d go out with him were to bible study, Sunday School, church, and church fellowship events. They would talk over the phone about the bible and he listened to what Jesus put on her heart. He wasn’t sure why he dated her for so long. He thinks it may have been because a few of his guy buddies were getting in trouble having sex. One caught Chlamydia, one got a girl pregnant, and the other got accused of rape, but was acquitted. All of them knew their friend was guilty, for he had no respect for women and was a very troubled young man.
Dad planned on marrying the Liberty University girl, but that changed on their third-year-anniversary. She flew out to Tennessee and visited him at Belmont University. He was excited to see her. They went and grabbed coffee off campus and she explained this dream she had to dad. At the end of telling him about it, she confessed the dream made her realize she wasn’t in love with dad and didn’t think it would be a good idea to be together anymore. Simply because God was leading them both in separate directions and dad didn’t disagree with her. The break up lifted a weight off his shoulders and he felt free. He told himself when he saw mom next, he would talk to her. Liberty University girl left as mom walked into the café. The rest I know.
“Looking back on things now, she showed me what it was like to personally know God. It was the process of growing closer to him, I thought about sex less, so I fed those desires less, and eventually, I didn’t think about sex again until your mom and I got serious. Then I had to practice self-control. It really boils down to where your mind is at, when you want God’s will more than anything else, because you trust God understanding that He knows what is best for you and that He loves you…”
What’s done in the dark will eventually come to light… Another biblical truth I can’t run away from. I broke down in the car before I drove home. I cried out to God because I knew he was the only one that could sooth my aching heart, bleeding spirit, and troubled mind. After a fervent prayer pleading for guidance, a voice I thought I’d never hear again… which is crazy… how could I believe the lie, spoke to me, “Will you listen to me Asher?”
Considering that not listening to Him last time put me in this situation… I have to… I need to… There and then I swore to Him that I would. As He told me, “Good,” a wave of relief rushed through me and peace I could only credit to my God, my Savior, my Lord took root in me and sprouted in my entire being.
Melody doesn’t want to tell either of our parents yet… she thinks we need to break the news in stages. The stages being: stage one: Unveiling our relationship by telling our parents over dinner; stage two: Going public on social networking cites, since she’s the only who’s on them that will be her job; stage three: Reveal that Melody’s pregnant with our unborn child.
It seemed wise a couple of weeks ago when she proposed it. Unfortunately, we failed to implement it since our friends and family kept us busy with our birthday weeks. Last Friday, the 4th of October, was Melody’s 18th birthday. September 30th to October 11th during our fall break to celebrate Melody’s 18th birthday, her dad flew the whole family to Hawaii… for the entire break. Wednesday, on the 9th, on my 18th birthday youth group threw a surprise birthday party for me. Melody Skyped me from her fancy hotel room before I went to bed for the first time as an 18-year-old. Then for the weekend, my parents took me down to Tucson, we went to Old Tucson since Westerns are my favorite genre of literature. I can’t totally get into Western movies though. But what’s more romantic than a cowboy, in a white hat seeking redemption from his old wild ways by protecting the folk of the old west who need it, and in the end winning the heart of the fairest lady in town. Therefore, a dinner at my place and then hers, didn’t pan out, but I figured we get to it by this week.
Monday wasn’t good because it was a school night, except for my mom (her fall break was this week). Tuesday same excuse as Monday, Wednesday night Melody was too tired to attend church with me, Thursday night was family game night for the Gartner Clan only. Friday, Melody had to go into school since she’s failing English, and she knew after her day she would be exhausted. I woke up this morning expecting her to cancel, but I didn’t receive a text or a call, therefore I figured we were a go.
Today, with our Saturday tradition well and alive to commemorate our 6th weekiversary, as we walk holding hands like the love struck teens we are, along the lakeside Melody’s proposal shocks me, “Let’s get married,” she just blurts out.
Not given the chance to think it out, she kisses with an intensity she never has before, or maybe she has, I just can’t remember. Spellbound by the magic of this moment I find myself weak in the knees and running on fumes just to continue the motion of kissing with passion. And yet, holding her, kissing the mother of my child, I want more… Do I really want my kid born outside of wedlock; do I want Melody to worry that I’ll leave at any moment? What a better way to assure Melody and our future child that I’m never going anywhere than saying, ‘I Do’ at the altar before God, family, and friends.
Abruptly, prying her lips from mine to catch her breath she gently begs for clarity, “Is that a yes, Mr. Lucas?” Her hands clasped at the small of my back, her bottom lip tucked inside her mouth, her eyes on fire with anticipation, and my thoughts soaring through the euphoric clouds of my mind I proudly accept to have Melody Gartner become Mrs. Asher Michael Lucas, “Yes,” I tell her.
It’s not until after I dropped Melody off, I realize that I didn’t consult God. I didn’t ask for his direction. I’m scared to ask Him… I got the gut-wrenching feeling He’s going to make me choose the harder road… the one I’ve been avoiding. But I promised Him that I would listen to Him… that I was done doing things my way… But if I don’t marry Melody, she’ll probably just think I don’t love her, or that I want out of the relationship, or even worse she may close her heart to Christ altogether.
Suddenly the Lord says to me, “It’s not you who saves Asher. I SAVE.”
“What do I do God?” I beg for His guidance. He doesn’t say anything…
I’ve learned His silence means I got things in my heart I have to sort out before He can answer that question. He could tell me exactly what to do right now, but the big question remains: would I listen to Him? God doesn’t ask us questions because He doesn’t know the answer, He asks the questions to help us open our eyes. To help us realize where we’re at in life or to help us acknowledge a desire or a sin in our heart we haven’t recognized yet. Does God keep asking me if I’ll listen to Him, because in the deepest, truest part of my heart I won’t listen to Him? I keep doing my thing… Or do I keep doing Melody’s thing? Making me feel bad for her, she swindled me in to asking her to homecoming. I wanted to stop drinking punch and she persuaded me to drink more. Pitying her, I asked her to be my girlfriend. Thirty minutes ago she kissed me into accepting her proposal. Melody’s a devil, a snake! She’s the weed in my heart making me disobey God…
What do I do God?
As clear as the first time He said it to me, “Love her like I love you.”
God’s love is unconditional… I’m fully human… how can I love her unconditionally? A thought crosses my mind: Would I love her if she never found Christ? My love for her is conditional… I want her to accept Christ with every inch of my soul, that I’m compromising my soul just to please her. As if I fall from the graces of her favor, she’ll not only say the heck with me, but Jesus too… I’m standing in as savior of her life instead of allowing Jesus to come in and be her savior. I was there for her when she had no friends, I became her boyfriend to spare her a broken heart, and now I’ve agreed to marry her for security. What happens, if for whatever reason, I’m suddenly removed from the equation? What would Melody do? Would she just find another boy to be her knight in shining armor, would she run to her father like the daddy’s little girl she is? And what if, Natasha didn’t say yes to Zeven, and by some miracle she said yes to me (if I got the chance to ask her out)? I wouldn’t have taken Melody to homecoming, we wouldn’t be a couple, and the baby wouldn’t exist.
“Yes, he would,” the Lord inaudibly speaks to my heart.
Yes he would? Now I’m confused. God is love shouts from east to west in my mind.
God is love. In God’s Word Translation of the Bible, it uses the word love from Genesis to Revelation, with all its different forms and variant definitions of the word, but even with all of love’s many meanings, one underlying truth is clear: God loved us first, so we could love Him. We’re only capable of loving others because we’re made in His image. We were made to love. The reason why we fall short or fail to love is because of the callous nature sin brings into our lives. For our sake, out of love, God came as Christ to save us. God isn’t in the business of being liked… He’s in the business of being loved! To obey the Lord I have to be bold enough to love her more… to love her without conditions. The real question now is: how?
WARNING: Contains content that may be a trigger for anyone who has experienced sexual assault. However, the content is not graphic just a relay of events.
On Saturday, at 7:29 pm I pull up in the Gartner driveway in front of the porch. In the rearview mirror, I notice my tie is crooked. Usually mom ties my tie, and does a perfect job, but I am capable of tying a tie myself. I should probably do it more often to get better.
Walking up the stairs, I freak out for a second worried I didn’t wear the right colors. Tan suit, pastel green shirt, and sunburst (or closest shade I had to) yellow, and brown leather dress shoes. Fortunately, as a pastor’s son I have a wide variety of suits and dress suits. I haven’t worn one lately because the church on the Res isn’t very demanding that we dress up every Sunday.
A petite, boldly, blonde woman with a fake sun tan and heavily masked face caked with makeup opens the door with an exaggeratedly happy face of salutations. As if she’s a relator ready to sell me this overpriced home.
“Come on in Asher.” She encourages me to step inside. Closing the door, she tells me, “I’m Kyrene, Melody’s mama.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Kyrene.” I say looking down at the woman looking up at me.
“You’re almost as tall as my husband.” She jokes knowing I’m a good 4 to 5 inches shorter than him.
“MOM!” Melody frantically hollers.
“If you’ll excuse me, Asher, I have to finish Mel’s hair. She’ll be right down.” Kyrene explains as she heads up the stairs.
Adam emerges from the living room holding a huge blue leather bound book and wearing gold, wire-rimmed reading glasses. Astutely, he takes off his glasses, folds them up, and tucks them into the front pocket of his shirt. I know it’s a father’s duty to be intimidating, but is there any way he can tone it down a bit? It’s not like I’m dating his daughter, we’re just friends going to homecoming together.
Clearing his throat, in a deep gurgle, he steps further into the foyer, inching closer to me. I see the silver inscribed title of the book, which reads: Doctrine and Covenants and the subtitle reads: of the Church of Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Adam cups the book to his chest.
“Have her home by midnight,” he says looking at the ground, yet I can feel the seriousness of that request. As if it was a threat if I don’t have her home by then.
Walking over to a drawer, a part of a fancy, tall end table with a dark wood finish, he slides the drawer open and pulls out a small, hardcover blue book, which I’ve seen before. Kaylie gave one to Colton. It’s the Book of Mormon. I’m prepared to reject the offer to take it, but Adam faces the living room archway. Barely looking over his shoulder, looking back at me out of the corner of his eye, he says, “Have fun… and keep my daughter safe.”
“Yes sir,” I promise… I forgot to call him Adam, but I suspect he’s okay with it this time. He knows I’m serious, but to be safe, I correct myself, “Of course Adam.”
Adam’s trek into the living room is interrupted when Kyrene announces, “May I present to you the lovely, Melody Gartner,” from the second floor by the stairs.
From around the corner, Melody makes her descent down the stairs. Her sienna sand hair is up in a voluminous bun of big, roller-made curls. Little yellow, wild daisies are woven with the strands of her hair. Two long, wavy strands of hair dangle, one beside each ear. She wears a long, pastel green shawl around her shoulders to accent her simple, yet elegant sunburst yellow dress gown. Once she makes it to the bottom of the staircase, she turns to the side, and the waistline of the gown is tightened by a rope-looking tassel tie wrapped in a bow, the colors of the tassel rope are brown and tan. Under direct light, her skin sparkles with a golden, glittery glint. I totally get it; she’s a wild daisy along the roadside under the sun.
Kyrene forces us to model before a camera to document this special night. For the first pic, we stand side by side, but for the second pic, Kyrene has us stand like were in a conga line. She’s folded in my arms around her stomach, her outward facing head rests against my chest, and her hands are clasped over mine. The third take is similar to the second, Melody stands in front of me off to the side, but our arms and hands are near the same position. I know we’re not a couple, but it feels like it currently, in this pose… I’m not sure what to compare it to or what feeling describes it. To hold her in my arms, the way her hands clutch to mine, it’s like she needs me to stay tethered to life, and every part of me wants to be that stability for her.
All eyes are on us, when we walk into the galaxy-themed, strobe lit, various neon flashing lights gym. Okay, not all eyes are on us, just the jealous eyes of Jon Hurst, the jaded glance of Meaghan, and the envious stare of Charley. Living on a prayer, I hope they all leave us alone.
Melody drags me to the dance floor immediately, and I follow her lead. We keep a safe distance of a foot and half apart. I’m not really into the whole dancing thing, but Melody clearly is. She has serious dance moves… like she could dance professionally… Not like a pole dancer but like a backup dancer for Beyoncé or some other pop star.
After a gazillion songs I need refreshment and a break. Reluctantly, Melody drags me to a table and sits me down. Talking over the music, she tells me she’ll go get us some punch. I try to do it instead and ask her to rest, but she demands I let her do it. Her demanding side has the bite of a hungry wolf. I’m not a fool… I’ll let her do what she wants. The punch citrus flavor packs a powerful kick, but sweet tanginess settles the kick a little. It’s pretty good.
We rest. We dance. We repeat the process. I lose track of time. By the time I have my fifth or sixth glass of punch, I must have a sugar rush because I feel super charged! I’m SO amped to dance, Dance, DANCE! I never noticed how strobe lights can make you dizzy, but they can. I didn’t think I’d have this much fun at a dance… Dancing… I love dancing… it’s like… AWESOME!
After a bathroom break, Melody hands me another glass of punch. If I drink anymore I’ll be peeing all night.
“No thanks,” I say nudging the cup toward her.
“Aren’t you thirsty from all the dancing though?” She questions.
That is true. I’m pretty parched from all the grooving. I hold out my hand and she smiles handing it to me. As I drink from the cup, the thought don’t drink it comes to me… Why not drink it?
“Asher,” I hear someone say.
I look around, but I don’t recognize who it could be. I guzzle down the punch and lightheadedness comes over me instantaneously, and my breath drops down into my stomach… you know, the type of feeling you get on a roller coaster ride lunging down the slope. Hunched over, holding my stomach makes the feeling cease. When I stand up, the strobe lights jumble everything in sight around and people start to double. I hope I’m not epileptic… I hear lights like this can trigger a seizure and since this is the first dance I’ve ever been to with such lights, how would I know?
Rest. Drink. Dance. Restroom. Repeat. Rest. Dance. Drink. Restroom. Repeat. Dance. Drink. Dance. Restroom. Dance. Repeat. Rest. Repeat… Repeat… Dance? Rest? Drink? Repeat? Sleep? Yes… sleep!
The scent of clean linen and lavender comes from the soft fabric my face is buried in and it’s a glorious smell to wake up to. Did mom switch the laundry detergent? Turning my head, not wanting to open my eyes and admit I’m awake, the thread of the sheets caresses my skin with a fresh sensation. That was so sweet of mom to change my sheets… I’ve had the same ones for a week. They were getting grimy and gross. I feel liberated lying in bed… I don’t feel smothered and imprisoned by my PJs. Am I in my boxers?
Upon the realization I’m butt naked under the covers I wake up and find myself in a room that belongs to a girl, not me. This room is the size of two of mine, therefore, definitely doesn’t belong to my sisters. I’m in a huge beige, framed canopy bed, under a tangerine sheet, and a lemon-yellow comforter. The bottom of the walls are paneled with wood the color of the canopy bed frame, and the top of the walls are thin vertical lines of tangerine orange and pearl white. I see my suit laid out on a chair by a window that peers into the piney forest.
An ache ten times stronger than a brain freeze pulses through my head. Looking toward any source of light intensifies the headache. Closing my eyes helps, but the pain twinges on. I hear a door creek open and close gently. Soft, but fast footsteps creep toward me. The bed dips lower as I sense someone sitting beside. A moist, faint pressure purses against my lips and startles my eyes to open wide. I jerk back to part Melody’s lips from me. She’s wrapped in nothing but a towel and her hair is flatly straight, dripping wet.
“Well, you’re kissing attitude has certainly changed from last night.” She titters.
I scoot away shutting my eyes tight. I don’t want to see anything I shouldn’t.
“What are you freaking out about? You already saw all of me last night… well it was dark. Maybe you just felt your way.” She says poking me in the ribs.
I sense her stand up and hear her walk away from the bed. I hear doors slide open. That must be the closet. Hangers rattle and clang as she looks for a wardrobe.
“I’m not looking your way if you want to get dressed.” She says.
I open my eyes, thinking she must be hidden behind a changing partition, but instead I’m exposed to her entire back side. For the first time, I experience what the first Adam felt for his wife after he left the garden: lust. Instinctively, I stare at her backside asset and marveled by a fascination I can’t grasp it’s hard to look away.
A flood of shame inflicts my spirit and hurriedly I avert my eyes. I rush to get dressed. When I finish, I discover fully clothed Melody’s been watching me. She’s wearing jeans and a white t-shirt.
Another thought invades my mind: Adam! He’ll kill me!
“Your dad,” a panicked squeal leaps from my mouth.
“No one noticed us sneak in. It rained last night, hard. I called dad and said we were going to wait for the rain to let up. He said he couldn’t wait up any longer, that he was going to bed.”
“But how am I going to get out of here?” I ask.
“Out the front door… My parents are already on their way to church. Tenor drank the spiked punch too, so he’s still out like a light.”
How could I be so stupid?! Strobe lights don’t make the world spin, intoxication does. It was the Lord that called my name last night… That thought wasn’t me saying not to drink the punch, it was God! And now I did the worst thing possible… I lost my virginity to a woman that isn’t my wife. I disrespected her body and took advantage of her while we were influenced by alcoholic spirits (alcohol in our system)…
I’m so sorry God! Unable to stand I buckle to the ground on my knees. I try not to cry, but my breath shallows as the salty tears leak from my eyes. An ache in my heart plagues me with sorrow and spiritual agony… How could I be so dumb to fall so low? Melody bends on her knees, rushing to my aide. Her arms reach to embrace me, but I reject her comfort by scooting back from her extended arms-length.
I fold myself into an empty corner near her bed. I repent again and again and again, but relief doesn’t find me and I lack the sense of God’s forgiveness. I betrayed Him. I broke my promise to stay pure. And worst of all, I disobeyed God by ignoring His voice. I try to be still enough to hear God’s voice say something. To hear Him say He’s still with me. To hear Him say He forgives me. I’d take comfort in a simple hello, but nothing. I just feel the overwhelming guilt of my sin consume my spirit and place a bleak hopelessness in my heart, taking root in my mind.
My parents… they trusted me to be alone and I broke their trust. They’ll never trust me again. And now I’m so confused. In the Old Testament, once a man and a woman lied down together, they were married in the eyes of God… And even though we have a ceremony today, the truth is a soul tie was made between Melody and I. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we’re closer now than we were before, because we have exchanged a piece of each other. There’s no going back to the way things were, pretending like nothing happened. Does that mean I should date Melody now… give her a chance… but what if she never gets saved…
Oh God! I’ve ruined my witness. I claim to be a legit born-again Christian waiting until marriage to take that step of intimacy sex offers and I just slept with her because I was drunk? Saliva pools in the corner of my lips as nausea-on-roids attacks my stomach.
“I’m gonna be sick.” I moan.
Melody rushes and grabs the trash pale beside her desk and hands it to me just as barf bursts out of my mouth. Soothingly, she rubs my back as I empty the contents of my stomach. At the least optimal time, she jokes, “Glad I kissed you before you hurled.” I’m too depressed to laugh.
Since Tenor was trashed too, Melody drove us home in the black truck. My dad’s car is still at school. When my stomach settled enough to travel, she drove me back to school. Parked beside the old silver Toyota Corolla, Melody questions if I’m okay to drive home, and I tell her yes, but I must not have been convincing. She drives out the parking lot and takes us through the Mickey D’s drive thru.
In the parking lot of Mickey D’s, she forces me to drink an iced-coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I’m surprised that she downs three breakfast sandwiches and three hash brown bars. Driving back to my dad’s car, she makes me drink a coke too. She’s claims it will help with the hangover. Surprisingly… it does… I feel way better than I did thirty minutes ago.
Parked again beside the Corolla, Melody questions, “You’re not gonna blow me off are you?”
“Well, you kept your end of the bargain… You took me to homecoming… You could like let things go back to the way they were… and just wave hi to me in the halls.” She explains entirely convinced that I used her for sex and now I’m going to treat her as if she didn’t exist.
I start off to say we’re friends but how do you stay friends with someone after having sex with them? Wouldn’t we be lying to ourselves? I don’t know what to say.
“Melody…” I sigh.
What should I do? I’m tempted to ask for God’s help… to have Him speak for me… but my sin has separated me from Him… He’s the furthest He’s ever been in a while for me. Internally, I feel completely alone, yet I can feel Him watching me… looking down on me with disappointment and embarrassment. But just because I messed up once, doesn’t mean I should change who I am all together. I’m about honesty and doing the right thing, especially when it’s hard, but what is the right thing to do? What is my honest opinion? What do I want our relationship to be from here?
“Melody… I never meant to give you the wrong impression…”
She interjects, “We don’t have to be more than friends… I get that what happened last night was a mistake, but you’re the only friend I have right now and I don’t know what I would do without you. I’d be totally alone…” she whines with tears swelling in her eyes.
“Of course we’re friends Melody. It’s just… You have no idea how sorry I am for not treating you like the treasure you are.”
Sniffling, she looks at me confused.
I continue, “You deserve more than a drunken night with a fool… I took something that belonged to your future husband.”
“You didn’t take anything. I’m not a virgin…” She admits shamefully.
“That’s not exactly what I’m talking about. I took a moment of intimacy that was meant to be for you and him… and whether you acknowledge it or not… We gave a part of ourselves to each other last night, and the only way we’re going to get it back is through God’s grace… We’re never going to think of each other in the same light and therefore, our friendship is going to be a struggle.”
“So you don’t want to be friends?” She asks with a quivering lip. Crinkled, meshed ripples coil in her chin.
I take her right hand and hold it delicately. “No… I want you to be my girlfriend…”
Pure awe embodies her gaze as she looks at me. I think she expected me to dump her as a friend altogether.
“But, we’re not having sex again unless we’re married, because we owe it to ourselves to honor God as being His living temples.”
Melody nods excitedly, as tears stream down her face. She tugs me into a hug, locking my neck in the fold of her arms. “Thank you,” she shudders in my ear…
Then her hands slither to cup my face, and slowly her lips approach and for the first time we kiss… without being under the influence. The moment is everything I dreamed and dreaded at the same time. The fact of having a girlfriend, something I’ve wanted since early boyhood, fills me with joy, but the way I got my first girlfriend breaks my heart. With her being Mormon and me being a Christian… there’s no way this relationship will last, not without one of us making huge sacrifices and I will not give up Jesus for religion.
Note from the Author:
The night of Homecoming in this story can be a trigger from those who have experienced sexual assault. If you or anyone you know need help to recover from trauma, please DO NOT hesitate to reach out for assistance. The link below is from the RAINN website and the info there can connect you to resources that will lead to healing and can even lead to justice. There is HOPE.
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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.
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.