Route 77

TWAR77 – Chapter 14

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.

“Asher…”

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.”

“I know.”

“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.

TWAR77 – Chapter 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do I do God?

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

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

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

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

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

TWAR77 – Chapter 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 2

Chapter 2

Natasha runs off to put the daylilies in a vase of water while Chastity escorts us to the dining area. The table is set with all the fixings, seven place settings, and a high chair for Annika stands at the end of the table where an eighth place setting would normally be. When Natasha joins us, she’s accompanied by Zeven holding hands.

We all take our seats, the way everything works out, Natasha ends up sitting across from me. Today she sports a blue, faux peacock feather in her hair. It matches her dangling, lab-made sapphire earrings. Zeven has frosted the tips of his black Mohawk with blue to match Natasha’s color phase fascination with blue. Looking at the two of them, side by side, they do look like a cute couple. Their features complement each other, and will one day blend well together… if… they’re meant to be together…

Chastity asks dad to say grace, we all take hands and bow our heads.

“Dear heavenly father, thank you for this gathering of friends. Thanks for the food you’ve provided for the Lane household and we’re grateful they’re sharing it with us. We ask that this food be blessed, and especially, our time together. Thank you for all that you do. In Jesus’s precious holy name, Amen.” The rest of us follow suit and say a collective amen.

Chastity hands the main course, meat loaf, to dad and allows him to serve himself. Natasha picks up the basket of crescent rolls and takes one as she passes the basket to Zeven. Zeven does the same, continuing to pass it on to Chastity.  Zeven grabs the bowl of green beans and serves Natasha a few spoonfuls on her plate. Graciously, she thanks him with a peck on the cheek. They’ve been dating for a week, and they’re already at the kissing phase? Getting through this dinner is going to be harder than I thought.

Chastity kicks off the table talk by telling my mother, “The flowers are gorgeous Becky.”

“They are, aren’t they? Actually,” mom starts to say.

“Daylilies are my favorite.” Natasha interjects.

Zeven looks to Natasha surprised, “I thought wild, yellow daisies are your favorite.”

In unison, without intention, Natasha and I say, “They were.”

She looks at me caught off guard. She further explains without breaking eye contact with me, “But once I saw and smelled my first daylily back in June, daylilies are my new fav.” Clearing her throat, she directs her attention to Zeven, “I thought you were around when I talked about it at Worship practice?”

Zeven shrugs his shoulders as he takes the dish of meat loaf from my hands. “I guess I need to pay more attention to my girl.” He remarks.

Mom finishes what she meant to say earlier, “Actually, Asher picked out the flowers.”

Both Chastity and Natasha look at me, but with different opinions displayed on their faces. While Chastity’s expression reads as impressed, Natasha’s expression seems conflicted. Getting the daylilies was a good move… Natasha knows my selection wasn’t by chance.

We move on to another subject: Chastity’s upcoming sermon series for Youth on Sexuality creatively titled Knowing Him and Her. She came up with that title from the scripture Genesis 4:1a from the New King James Version, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife…”  More modern versions tell how it really was by replacing “knew” with “made love”. Since Chastity was a teen mom, and based on the high rate of teen pregnancy in America and on the Res, and some of the concerns parents have brought to her, she felt God placed on her heart to discuss sexuality with the youth of the church.

In actuality, it’s more about God’s design and purpose of marriage, and how Christ comes first for both husband and wife. She’s hoping that through the message God will instill in the youth a desire to do things God’s way, and that each young man and young woman will feel precious in the eyes of God. And as current temples of the Lord our God, we’ll respect that honor and choose to do it God’s way… by waiting to have sex until we’re married.

Mom and dad are impressed. They agree that the youth are in need of such a message and they are glad to hear she’s doing it. Showing the sliver of uncertainty left in her, she asks dad and mom for their prayers that when she begins the message the Holy Spirit leads the series. Proudly, my parents accept the request and promise her they will do so.

After dinner, Zeven shares the new worship song he wrote in the living room with everyone else while I help Natasha stack the dishwasher. Natasha isn’t her normal, snarky, talkative self. Deafening silence builds a barricade between us. I can tell she’s deep in thought. I want to speak… but I don’t know what to say. The song of Zeven travels faintly into the kitchen. I listen to what I imagine the chorus is… it sounds like it’s in the Key of E or maybe C.

“We will shout on the hilltop.

  We will sing in the streets,

  And dance in the yard.

  Praising the only worthy-

  Of our praise- Jesus Christ

  Lifting our voices

  On high,

  We sing- Hallelujah

  To our King-

  As we band together

  In unity not conformity

  The light that’s in us

  We let it shine

  As we lift our arms

  Lifting praise we sing

  To our king

  Of everything

  As the body of Christ

  We will shout from the hilltop…” he continues to sing on, singing the chorus again.

Now I have a talking point. “That’s a pretty good song.” I say.

Natasha winces, “It needs a lot of work. The words don’t flow. They’re good, but the song needs to be fluid, not forced. I’ve tried to help, but he’s too proud of it. Maybe now that I’m his girlfriend he’ll let me revise it.”

“Musically, it’s perfect though.” I comment.

Smiling in defeat, “True, when it comes to notes Zeven is a genius.”

“So maybe he’s the music and you’re the lyrics,” I say. Wow, I sound supportive of their relationship. I know I’m kind of coveting my neighbor’s significant other, it just feels like she’s been taken away from me, and I didn’t ever really have her.

Her whole face lights up with excited joy as if I prophesied to her. “You’re so right!” she closes the dishwasher, now that it’s stacked full, and then gives me a quick hug. Every hug from her is magical and heart-warming. As she slips out of my reach I wish the hug could have lasted a second longer, and I wish I had the guts to reel her back in, but I let her walk away. I follow her into the living room, where we’re all about to enjoy a game of Bible Trivia. Well, Annika’s gonna watch.