Lindsay sat on her bed, staring at the floor, much like many other Wednesday nights.  The plain, beige carpet of her bedroom seemed to be nothing more than a blank canvas for her thoughts.  She was contemplating many things and worrying about too much for a fifteen-year-old girl.  So much had happened in the last week that she was struggling to process it all.

———-

Last Thursday

Her father, Gavin, was a corporate type who focused much of his time on making his way up the ladder, so to speak.  Her mother, Cindy, had given up a career in education to allow her husband to transfer half way across the country for a big promotion.  Since the move, Cindy had become a housewife.  She said it was because jobs in education were so hard to come by in the area of their Phoenix suburb.  Gavin did not care that she was not working, but Lindsay knew there were lots of jobs for teachers in Phoenix.

“Mom?” Lindsay said as she pushed open the door to her parent’s bedroom, which was already slightly ajar.

“Yeah,” her mother said with a little bit of a slur.

“Can we talk for a few minutes?”

“I guess, but I’m pretty tired,” Cindy answered with a sigh.

“Have you been drinking again?”

“Did you need something or did you just want to get on my case?”

“I was just hoping to talk to you about some stuff that’s going on.”

“Care to narrow that down a bit?” Cindy asked in a tone that made Lindsay wish she had stayed downstairs.

“Oh, well, I just wanted to talk about my friends in Harrisburg.”

“What about them?”

“I really miss them.”

“Look, change is part of life.  I miss my friends back there, too.  However, your father drug us out here to the middle of the desert.”

“He was just trying to do what is best for us.”

“No, he was trying to do what is best for him.  He couldn’t care less about us.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sleep,” Cindy answered as she rolled over and turned her lamp off.

A single tear rolled down Lindsay’s cheek as she left the room, gently closing the door behind her.  It was not hard to see that her dad was gone more than he was at home, but Lindsay had just accepted that as a fact of life.  She had only hoped to confide in her mother and try to leave the lonely darkness she had been feeling behind.

She went back to her room and wrote down some more of her thoughts in the little book she kept stashed under her mattress.  A few more tears rolled down her face as she closed the book and turned off her lamp.  Like many other nights she cried herself to sleep.

———-

Last Friday

Lindsay had gotten up and ready before her mom even got out of bed.  She caught the bus, as had become her routine.  Once she reached her school, she deftly slipped into the crowd at school, watching many of the other kids being dropped by their parents.  She knew that was something she would never again enjoy.

“Hey! Lindsay!” called a familiar voice and Lindsay smiled a little.

“Hi Steph,” she replied.

Steph had emerged from the bustling swarm of kids at Lindsay’s high school as the only one to welcome her after a full month of class.  The school was not huge, but it was just big enough for a person to move about without being noticed by most.

“Thank goodness it’s Friday, huh!”

“Oh, yeah, sure,” Lindsay replied, her smile fading a little.  She knew that the weekend was fun for most, but that it meant she would be sitting at home alone for the next two days.

Unfortunately for Lindsay, Steph lived in a suburb about half an hour away from the private school they attended.  This left her with no one to spend time with in the evening and she was never very interested in spending time online.  So, writing down her thoughts and even some poetry about her feelings had filled her time since moving to her new home.

“No big plans then?”

“Uh, no, not really.”

“Hey, you want to go to church with me on Sunday?”

“Church? Well, I don’t know.  I doubt my mom would be up for driving me to church.”

“Oh, well, I’m sure my parents wouldn’t mind picking you up.”

“Alright, well, I guess that would work.”

“Great!” Steph replied.  “I guess we’ll need to pick you up around nine to make it to church on time.”

“Sure, that’s fine.”

“Ok, hey, I’ll see you in home room alright?”

“Yeah, see you then.”

Lindsay did not really have any interest in church, as her parents had never taken her.  However, if it got her out of the house for a few hours and she got to hang out with Steph she would do it.

First period English was boring as usual and Trig wasn’t much better.  She had always excelled in her studies, but anything less was considered unacceptable by her parents.  She smiled to herself a little as she made her way to homeroom, knowing she would get to talk to Steph for a little while.

This brief moment of joy was shattered when she saw that her seat was occupied by Brenda, one of the girls that usually sat in the back and had gone out of their way to make Lindsay’s life miserable.

“I think you are in my seat.”

“Well, shows how smart you are then.  I told Mr. Green that I couldn’t read his notes on the board from in the back and asked if I could move up here.  He was happy to help.”

“Oh, yes, Lindsay,” Mr. Green said, “You’ll have to sit in the back.  Just take the seat between Mary and Trisha.”

There could not be a worse seat on the face of the planet.  She knew these girls were trying to get to her in some way.  She had basically ignored them and not given in to their bullying for the last four weeks, but this was going to make that task much more difficult.

“Well, hello Lindsay,” Trisha said as Lindsay slid into her seat.

“Hi.”

“Whoa,” she does speak to us,” Mary replied.

“Maybe she isn’t a complete loser.”

“No, I’m pretty sure she’s a loser,” Mary quipped and the two girls chuckled.

“Nothing to say for yourself there Lindsay?  You probably wish your girlfriend could come and save you,” Trisha added.

“Screw you.”

“You wish.  See, I told you Mary, she likes girls.”

“I do not. Leave me alone.”

“Oh, poor Lindsay,” Mary said with a fake pout.

“We should be nicer, I think,” Trish said with faux concern.

“You want us to be nice to you, poor little new girl?” Mary asked with obvious disingenuousness in her voice.

Lindsay did not reply, instead choosing to focus on a book she had purchased a few days earlier.  She knew that her quiet nature and apparent intelligence had made her a target for this trio of girls.  She also knew that Mr. Green was basically oblivious as he worked on other things during that period, paying little attention to the snide commentary at the back of the room.

“It is rude to ignore a polite question,” Trisha responded and threw her gum onto Lindsay’s book.

“Why did you do that?!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, it slipped.”

“Slipped?  Are you kidding me?”

“Is there a problem Lindsay?” Mr. Green asked from his desk.

“No, Mr. Green,” Trisha replied.  “I was just asking her about her book and my gum fell out.  It was an accident, my fault.”

“Alright then,” he said as he went back to whatever he had been doing for the last ten minutes.

“Don’t mess with me Lindsay,” Trisha said as the bell rang.

Lindsay did not move an inch until the other two girls met their cohort and disappeared into the hallway.  Steph came back to talk to her and try to get her going for the next period.

“Come on Linds, forget them.”

“I hate this place.”

“No you don’t, you just don’t like being treated like that.  None of us would like that.”

“Other than hanging with you, I think I do hate this place.  I think I’d be just as happy to be home schooled by my drunk of a mother.”

“No you wouldn’t.  Now, come on, let’s get to Spanish.  I bet we are doing listen and repeat today!” Steph said, trying to lighten the mood.

Lindsay stood up and headed off toward the door, a little smirk on her lips.  For some reason Steph was always able to make her feel better.  Spanish was not too bad and the rest of the day went by without any major problems.

“Hey, don’t forget, nine o’clock on Sunday,” Steph said as she walked towards her mom’s SUV after school.

“I’ll be ready,” Lindsay replied with a smile as she turned to make her way to the bus stop.

———-

Last Saturday

The alarm clock from her mother’s room woke her.  Lindsay lay in bed, staring at the ceiling waiting for her mom to shut it off.  A few minutes passed and the blaring radio continued.

“Geez!” she said as she threw off her blanket and stomped down the hall.  She fully expected her mother to be passed out on the bed.  Instead she found her mother’s bed vacant and still neatly made from the day before.  Lindsay just sighed as she cancelled the alarm and walked out of the room, knowing her mom had not made it home the night before.

This was not the first time, so Lindsay was not immediately worried.  She went down the stairs to the kitchen, where she made a big bowl of cereal.  The couch welcomed her and she flipped through the channels as she enjoyed a quiet breakfast.  Just as she finished the phone rang.

“Hello,” she answered, expecting her mother.

“Hey loser.”

“Who is this?”

“Its Trish, loser.  I can’t believe you answered the phone.  Is your girlfriend there?”

Lindsay just hung up the phone and started to walk back to the kitchen.  She had almost made it out of the living room when the phone rang again, the caller ID said “Private Caller.”

“Hello?”

“Don’t hang up on me again.  I’ll make your life hell.  In fact, I’m gonna do that anyway.  My mom knows a lot of what goes on around here and she knows about your mom.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh, don’t play stupid.  Everyone knows she is a drunk and that your dad is messing around behind her back.  It wouldn’t surprise me if she was doing the same thing.”

“Shut up Trish.”

“You’ll end up just like her you know.”

Lindsay was so mad she just hung up the phone and stomped into the kitchen where she dropped her bowl in the sink, causing it to shatter.  The phone started ringing again, but she just marched up to her room and grabbed some clothes she had laid out the night before.

“Pick up the phone loser!” yelled Trish over the answering machine.

Lindsay simply went about her business of getting ready for the day.  A shower, quick hairdo and the decision to go sans makeup allowed her to leave the house only twenty minutes later.  She noticed on the machine as she walked out the door that there were eleven messages.  The phone was ringing again as the door closed behind her.

The day was perfect, again.  The warm sun seemed to make an appearance almost every day.  This was something she was still unaccustomed too, having spent her entire life up until a few months ago in the unpredictable weather of southern Illinois.
As per her normal routine, she made her way along the sidewalk to the major thoroughfare at the end of her cul-de-sac.  She was just another body walking along the sidewalk towards the center part of town.  Saturdays had become her day to check out new books and simply spend some time in the peaceful quiet of the public library.

She dropped off a couple books at the circulation desk and headed off toward the section with the new releases.  She was reading some commentary on one of the volumes when a familiar voice whispered to her.

“Hey.”

“Hi Clinton,” she said softly as she continued reading.

“What brings you here on this fine day?”

“The same thing that brings you here.”

“You are here because you are here?  That seems paradoxical.”

“Nerd.”

“Maybe, but really, what book are you looking for today.”

“Not sure yet, I was just kinda looking over a few of these new ones.  What about you?”

“I really am just here to see you.”

“Whatever,” she said with a smile, doing her best to be coy.

“Got any suggestions?”

“I’d suggest The Road by Cormac McCarthy.”

“I heard that movie is coming out soon.”

“Ugh,” she replied, looking up at him.  “Don’t ever say that to me again.  Movies are a sorry empty shell of a story that shares a name with a book.”

“Well, tell me how you really feel, Lindsay,” he shot back with a grin.

“I’m going to go read now,” she said as she walked off toward the big chairs in the back of the library.

“Mind if I join you?”

“Are you going to read or just flirt with me?”

“Flirt? As if!  I am here to increase my scholarly pursuits.”

“Well, you can join me anyway,” she with a smile over her shoulder and he quickly caught up to her.

They did not say another word for a while as they both began working through a book.  Lindsay tried not to smile when she would notice him looking at her over the top of his book.  She was not allowed to date, but found herself really liking Clinton.

After about an hour of reading, Lindsay caught Clinton just watching her.  He was not even pretending to be reading anymore, so she decided maybe they should talk.

“So, what is it you like about me?” she asked as she closed her book.

“What?”

“What do you mean ‘What?’”

“Oh, uh, well, you are nice and cute and you like to read just like me.”

“Well, one of those is true,” she said with a grin as she tapped on her book.

“Nope, all of them are true.”

“Whatever you say,” she said, blushing a little as she held her book up to block his view of her face.

“Do you want to get some lunch?”

“Uh, I’m not supposed to date.”

“Date? Who said anything about a date?  I just figured it was time to eat.”

“Oh, well, I suppose that would be alright.”

They gathered their things and made their way to the circulation desk to check out their books.  Neither said a word as they presented their library cards and put the selected books in their bags.  Minutes later they walked out the front entrance and into the warm afternoon sun.

“Great day,” Clinton stated.

“Every day here seems pretty great, as far as the weather goes anyway.”

“Well, I guess we are kinda lucky in that sense.  What part isn’t so great?”

“Uh, it’s a long story.”

“I got no where to be.”

“Maybe another time, let’s just get some lunch.”

“Alright, but you have to tell me more about you sometime.”

“We’ll see,” she said as she looked down, the smile dropping from her face.

“Hey, let’s try that new Italian place over on Seventh Street.  I bet we can walk there in less than ten minutes.”

“Sounds great,” she said as she looked up again.

They headed off towards the restaurant, chatting about whatever popped into their heads.  Lindsay was just happy to have someone to talk to without being ridiculed.  Clinton was more than happy to be her much needed friend.

———-

Last Sunday

Lindsay had come home from her trip to the library to find her house still empty.  She had tried her mom’s cell phone, but got no answer.  When she got up on Sunday, she found her mom passed out on the couch.

Cindy was still wearing the same clothes she had been wearing when Lindsay saw her on Friday.  Lindsay could do nothing but sigh and continue on to the kitchen for some breakfast.  After a quick bowl of cereal, she got ready and waited for Steph to arrive.

She was sitting at her desk reading when she saw the blue minivan pull up out front.  She quickly grabbed a Bible she had checked out of the library and left the house, ignoring her mother, who was still asleep on the couch.

“Hey Lindsay,” Steph said as she opened the side door of her van.

“Hey Steph,” Lindsay replied with her first smile of the day.

“This is my mom, Lisa, and my dad, Frank.”

“Nice to meet you,” Lindsay replied.  “I appreciate the ride.”

“It is our pleasure,” Lisa answered.

“So, how are things?” Steph asked as her parents began chatting about something to do with Sunday School.

“Oh, about the same as usual.”

“Nothing new?  What did you do yesterday?”

“Went to the library to read.”

“That’s cool.  Find anything good?”

“I got this,” Lindsay said as she held up the Bible in her left hand.

“Interesting choice,” Steph said with a smile.  “You would have been okay without it though.  A lot of people don’t even bring one anymore.”

“Oh well, maybe I can follow along or something.”

“Yeah, our pastor is pretty good about that.  So, anyway, I was running some errands with my dad yesterday and I was just wondering how that new Italian place is.”

“You saw me there?!”

“Yep,” Steph said with a grin.  “And I noticed you had a date with you.”

“It wasn’t a date.  He even said so himself.”

“Well, tell me who he is at least.”

“Alright, his name is Clinton.  We met at the library a couple months ago.  I guess we just both like reading,” Lindsay said with a shrug.

“That’s awesome!”

“Yeah, I kinda like him.”

“Where does he go to school?”

“He is home schooled, since his dad is in the military.  He said they move around a lot, but they’ve been here in Arizona for almost two years.”

“I can’t imagine starting over like that.”

“I can.”

“So, he just comes up here from the base to go to the library?”

“He said his mom brings him up so he can interact with non-military people sometimes.”

“That’s cool.  Hey, there’s the church.”

Lindsay turned to see a simple looking brick building.  It was probably built in the 1960s, but was neatly ordained with shrubs and a few trees.  The property simply seemed peaceful to her as they found a parking space.

She noticed a handful of children playing on a small playground near the back of the building.  As she got out of the van, she heard them laughing and felt like she wanted to go play with them.  She wanted to move away from the stress and darkness that had become part of her life over the last few months.  Being a child again sounded like a great idea.

“This way, Lindsay,” Steph said with a smile as she motioned towards the building.  Lindsay realized she had stopped walking and was just watching the kids enjoy themselves.

“So, Steph, I haven’t been to church since I was pretty young,” Lindsay said as they approached the church.  “I’m not sure I’ll know what to do.”

“Oh, it is a very relaxed atmosphere.  Just do what feels comfortable.  Sing along if you want, but don’t feel like you have to.  I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“I’m sure I’ve been through worse,” Lindsay said under her breath as she followed Steph through the door.

Steph’s parents turned down a hallway that was labeled with some classroom numbers, while the two girls continued on to a different wing of the building.  Lindsay just followed along silently as she watched people chatting, drinking coffee, and just generally enjoying each other’s company.  She felt herself beginning to relax.  After just a few minutes, Steph turned right into a room full of people their age.

“Hey Steph!” said one of the girls.

“Hey, Tina,” Steph answered.  “This is my friend Lindsay from school.”

“Nice to meet you,” Tina replied.

“It’s good to be here,” Lindsay answered.

She immediately thought about what she had said and decided that it really was good to be there.  For once she felt like maybe she could be liked.

“Let’s sit over here,” Steph said, pointing to a pair of vacant chairs near the far side of the room.  Lindsay just nodded and followed her.

“Alright everyone!” called a voice from the doorway.  A man in his late thirties or early forties was leaning on the doorjamb and smiling at the group.  “I’d like to start on time today, so hurry up and get your donuts!”

“I was hoping to wait until you were just about ready to start to get my donuts,” said one of the boys with a laugh.

“Funny, Jason,” the man said.  “You have three minutes.”

Jason and a couple of the other guys jumped up and ran out the door, presumably to get some donuts.  Then, before Lindsay realized it, the man from the doorway was standing a few feet in front of her with his hand out.

“Welcome to Grace Church,” he offered.  “I’m Charlie and I teach the high school class here.”

“Charlie,” Steph answered, “this is my friend Lindsay, we go to school together.”

Lindsay smiled and realized she enjoyed be introduced as Steph’s friend, it had been some time since she had really had a friend.

“Hi,” Lindsay said as she gently shook Charlie’s hand.

“Alright, let’s get started then,” Charlie said as he stepped back and looked across the room.  “Jason, Fred, and Martin… you guys get back in here.”

The three boys walked back in with a donut and a cup of coffee.

“I hardly believe any of you need coffee,” Charlie said with a grin as they took their seats.  “Now, did any of you manage to look at the quarterly for this week?”

Charlie watched for a hand, but saw none.

“I should have guessed.  Well, then I guess I’ll just tell you that we are going to talk about Matthew, chapter five, verses one through eleven.  It is some pretty strong teaching.  So, please, try and pay attention.  There is something in here for everyone.”

He read, “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him.  And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.  Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.  Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

Charlie took a sip of his coffee as he looked at the group and waited for a few moments, allowing the passage to process a little before he began the lesson.  No one said a word, including Lindsay.  Her head was reeling with thoughts, questions, and general confusion.

“Let’s take this a little bit at a time, shall we?”  Charlie said rhetorically.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” he repeated. He waited a moment and then asked, “Any ideas what this might mean?”

“Well,” Jason said, looking around, “I guess it means you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to get into heaven?”

“Good, that is part of it.  Anyone else?”

“Maybe it means something like even if you have doubts you can get in?”

“Very good.  I believe that Jesus wants us to know that he knows we are human and we will have our doubts from time to time.  It is very difficult to trust implicitly, so he wants us to know that is alright.”

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” Charlie continued.

“God knows we all are sad sometimes,” Steph said.  “I would guess this is a way of Him letting us know he will take care of us if we will let him.”

“I couldn’t have said it better,” Charlie said with a grin.  Lindsay thought about this line and wondered if maybe there was hope for her after all.  She was not sure what to do with these thoughts and tossed them around while Charlie continued talking about the meek inheriting the Earth.  She immediately became aware that she was missing what he had to say and turned her attention back to the teacher.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled,” he read again.  “Now, contrary to what Jason, Fred, and Martin might think, he is not referring to donuts and coffee.”

The group laughed, including the boys.

“Very funny,” Fred said with a big smile.  “Actually, I would think that it means that if someone really wants to find God, then He will go to them and welcome them into His family.”

“I’m impressed, Fred,” Charlie said with a smile of his own.  This verse also struck a chord with Lindsay and her thoughts began to drift again.  This time however, her cell phone brought her back to reality.

The blaring ring tone she had assigned to her mother filled the room and she scrambled to silence it.  Everyone just kind of looked at her, but no one said anything.

“Sorry,” she said, blushing.

“Its fine,” Charlie assured her.  “Do you need to take it?”

“Uh, yeah, I probably should.”

“The best reception is about ten feet back toward the entrance, near the coffee bar.”

“Thanks,” Lindsay said, still feeling embarrassed.  She quickly walked out the door and to the spot Charlie had recommended.

“Hi Mom.”

“Where the hell are you?”

“I’m… well… I’m at church.”

“Do what?  Why would you be at church?  We don’t go to church!”

“Well, Steph invited me and I didn’t think it would be a big deal.”

“It is a big deal!  Now, you get yourself back here right now or I’ll come and get you.”

“But Mom…”

“Don’t you dare challenge me!” her mother yelled into the phone.

“I’ll see if Steph can bring me home right quick.”

“What church are you at, I’ll just come and get you.  I can’t believe you would pull a stunt like this!”

“I’ll just have Steph bring me,” Lindsay answered, knowing that she didn’t want her mother coming to this peaceful place.

“Your father will be here in thirty minutes and your butt had better be here!” Cindy screamed as she hung up the phone.  Lindsay began to sob as she forced herself to walk back to the classroom.  Charlie was listening to a response from one of the youth when he noticed the teary eyed girl at the door.

He took a few steps in Steph’s direction and whispered, “I think your friend needs you.”

Steph turned a little in her seat and saw Lindsay.  She wasted no time in grabbing her Bible, quarterly and the Bible Lindsay had checked out from the library just one day earlier.

“Hey, are you alright?” Steph asked as she gently took Lindsay’s arm and led her back along the hallway.

“Oh, that was my mom,” Lindsay said, her voice cracking because of her crying.  “She wants me home right now.  She is very upset I came to church.”

“Alright, that’s no problem,” Linsday said as they started down the hallway her parents had used.

“I don’t want your parents to be mad.”

“They won’t be, trust me.”

Lindsay stopped outside one of the rooms and tapped lightly on the door.  She then opened it just enough to poke her head inside.

“Dad, can I talk to you for a moment?”

Frank just smiled and left his seat.  The discussion continued as he left the room.

“What’s up?” he asked, just as he noticed Lindsay crying.

“Lindsay’s mom wants her to come home, right now.  She is angry with her for coming to church.”

“No problem, I understand,” he said.

“I don’t want to inconvenience you or…” Lindsay started to say.

“Trust me, Lindsay.  It is no problem.  Let’s go.”

The three of them walked out to the van and took off toward Lindsay’s house.  Neither Steph nor Frank said anything as Lindsay did her best to not complete lose her composure.  The tears still flowed down her face, but she was trying to pull herself together.  She knew that her mom would be even angrier if she was showing this sign of weakness in public.

Twenty minutes later, they arrived at Lindsay’s house.  She opened the door slowly and stepped out onto her driveway.

“I’ll see you at school tomorrow, Lindsay,” Steph said.  “Call me if you need anything.  I mean it.”

“I’ll be fine, but thanks.”

Lindsay closed the door and watched as the van slowly pulled away.  She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes one more time as she turned to go inside.  She knew that a barrage of hatefulness was waiting for her on the other side of the door.  She tried recalling some of the pleasant thoughts from the morning as a shield, but she had little faith her ability to withstand the attack she was about to endure.

“Just what do you think you were doing?” Cindy said as Lindsay opened the door.  “Are you some sort of goodie-two-shoes now or what?  Since when did you get all churchy on me?  Don’t you have anything to say?!”

“I’m just trying to make friends and Steph invited me to go.”

“That’s how it always starts!  They pretend like they are your friend and then they get you sucked in to their trap.  Are you sure it isn’t a cult or something?!”

“It’s not a cult.  I was actually enjoying it.”

“Well, I forbid you from going there ever again.  I don’t trust people like that.  They are all so condescending and judgmental.  Now, you go up to your room and wait for your father.  He’ll be home in a just a little while and maybe he can talk some sense into you.  I swear child, as if I don’t have enough to worry about in my life, I have to constantly stress over what kind of stupid thing you are going to do next.”

Lindsay was torn between sadness and a little bit of anger.  She knew that arguing would be futile, but she could not make herself leave the room.  Her mom was ignoring her as she opened one of the cabinets and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.

“What!?  You have a problem?  You better get up to your room before you get a REAL problem!”

Lindsay turned and ran up the stairs, closing her bedroom door behind her.  She threw herself on the bed and began to cry.  Her emotions ran wild as she pounded the pillow and felt the tears streak down her face.  She buried her face in her pillow and let out a scream, which no one else heard.

The emotional roller coaster she had been on the last few days finally got the best of her and she passed out with her face buried in her pillow.  She eventually shifted in her sleep and curled up in a ball.  She did not even hear her dad come home.  She did, however, hear the yelling that began shortly thereafter.

“You are a joke!” screamed her mother.

“You have a problem!”

“Yeah, YOU are my problem.  You and that ridiculous child who is probably upstairs crying her eyes out.”

“Your drinking is out of hand, Cindy!”

“Well, it is YOUR fault Gavin.  You leave me here alone for days at a time.  I don’t know anyone and I didn’t want to come here anyway.  This marriage is all about you.”

“I had no idea you’d have trouble finding a teaching job, Cindy.  The things I read said there is a shortage of teachers here!”

“Well, I couldn’t seem to find anything.  So I guess you are going to say I’m incompetent or something?”

“No, I wasn’t going to say that!”

“You don’t have to, I can tell that is what you think!”

“Give me a break Cindy.”

“Oh, I think I’m the one who needs a break.  In fact, I’m going to take one, right now!”

Lindsay listened as her mom stomped up the stairs and along the hallway to the master bedroom.

“What are you doing?” Gavin asked, having obviously followed her to their room.

“What does it look like?” she asked.  “I’m packing a suitcase.  I’m going to get out of here.  You are making me crazy.  That stupid little girl of yours is also making me crazy.  I just want my own life, I’m tired of watching you live yours and having to deal with the stupid things that kid keeps doing.”

Lindsay could not even cry anymore as she just stared at the ceiling and listened.

“What has she done that is so bad?”

“Oh, let’s not even go there!  I think you’ll have plenty of time to figure it out on your own.  Good luck having a career with that weight hanging around your neck.”

Lindsay heard drawers slamming and the closet crashing open, almost as if her mother had pulled one of the doors right off the hinges.  She did not know what to think as she did not hear another word from either of her parents.

Several minutes passed before she heard her mother stomp back along the hallway and down the stairs.  She assumed her dad was close behind, but she could not hear his steps.

“I’m leaving Gavin.  I’m not coming back.  You will be hearing from my attorney very soon.  I’m going to go out and enjoy myself at your expense.  Have fun with that little brat.”

“Cindy…”

“No, forget it.  You have had more than enough chances to try and make this work.  Work, ha, that’s funny.  The only thing that has even mattered to you is work.  Well, you enjoy yourself with your pathetic little career in the big rat race.”

“Look…”

Before he even got another word out of his mouth, the impact of the door against its frame seemed to rattle the entire house.  Neither Lindsay nor Gavin moved as they heard the tires squeal on Cindy’s car as she sped away from them.

Lindsay continued to stare at her ceiling, feeling mostly numb to what was happening.  What seemed like an eternity passed before she heard a gentle knock on her door.

“Lindsay? Can I come in?” her father asked.

“Yeah,” she answered and wiped her eyes.

Gavin could not help but notice the streaky makeup on his daughter’s face and the small pile of tissues on the bed next to her.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he sat on the edge of the bed.

“For what?”

“For dragging you away from your life back in Harrisburg, for running off your mother, for just not being there for you.”

“No problem.”

“Lindsay,” he pleaded.  “I was only trying to do what was best for our family.”

“Money isn’t everything dad,” she said as she rolled away from him, hiding her face.

“I know.  I just wanted you to be able to go to a good school and have nice things.  I never had that.”

“Well, to be honest, I’d give up whatever nice things you are talking about if it meant I had my parents back.”

“I’m sorry,” he repeated.  “I don’t know what else I can do.”

“I don’t either, Dad.”

Just then, Gavin’s cell phone rang.  He ignored it.

“Answer the phone.”

“It can wait.”

“Just take the call.”

“Hello, Ben,” Gavin said as he answered the call.

Lindsay just lay silently as she listened to one side of the conversation.

“I had something I really needed to do… No, I understand, this is a huge client… Alright, I guess I can do that… I know, I’m sure Jeffries would be happy to do it if I won’t… Ok, I’ll be in New York tomorrow then.”

Lindsay did not move a muscle as she heard him end his phone call.

“Lindsay, I have to go to New York.”

“I heard.”

“There is nothing I can do about it.”

“Fine.”

“I don’t think you believe me.”

“I said I heard the call.”

“Well, I’m going to be gone until Thursday afternoon, but I’ll make it up to you then.  Alright?”

“Sure.”

Gavin did not know what else to say as he stared at Lindsay’s back.  He eventually sighed and left the room.  He repacked his suitcase and walked back along the hallway, stopping at Lindsay’s door.

“I’m going to fly your aunt Linda out here.  I don’t want you to be alone.”

“Whatever you say.”

Gavin picked up his suitcase and walked down the stairs.  Lindsay began to cry and she heard the garage door close.  After all that had happened in the last two days, she could not feel more alone than she did at this moment.  Part of her wanted to call Steph, but she could not bring herself to leave her bed.  The darkness that had begun to envelop her in the last month closed in around her even more.  Her tears soaked her quilt as she stared at the wall.

———-

Monday

Lindsay woke up, having barely moved from the spot where she fell asleep crying.  The house was very silent, even more than usual.  She slid out of bed and walked down the hall to the master suite.  The door stood wide open, the bed was empty.  Some of her mom’s clothes were strewn across the bed and she knew it was not just a bad dream.

The pain still filled her, so falling into her normal routine helped suppress it a little.  A bowl of cereal, a glass of juice, and an apple took her mind of her sadness for a while.  She then showered, dressed and gathered her things for school, operating almost as if she were on autopilot.  Less than an hour after getting out of bed, she made her way down the street towards her bus stop.

Lindsay could not help but think about all that had happened in the last few days.  The good things like Clinton and Steph seemed to be overwhelmed by the dark cloud brought on by the stuff with her parents and the girls in her homeroom.  She had been at the bus stop for about ten minutes when the bus pulled up.

As usual, she climbed aboard and found the first empty seat.  She was one of the last stops on the route, so she merely looked out the window for fifteen minutes.  The other passengers were chatting about their weekends and all the fun things they had done with their families.  Lindsay chose to block the other students out.

Finally, the bus arrived at her school and she made a quick exit.  The side entrance to the school was her preferred option, so she could avoid the throngs of kids in the commons at the main entrance.  Her locker was only a few feet from the side entrance, so it made for a very convenient option.

“Hey, Lindsay!” called a familiar voice from behind her.  She slowed her pace but did not turn around.  The girl caught her quickly.  “How are you today?”

“I’ve been better.”

“I’m sorry for getting you in trouble yesterday.”

“Don’t worry about it.  She would have found something to be mad at me about if it weren’t going to church with you.”

“Still…”

“Seriously, me going with you was definitely not the cause.  Besides, I did enjoy what little bit I got to experience.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, but I doubt I’ll be able to go next week.”

“Why not?”

“My mom left yesterday.”

“She left? What do you mean?”

“I mean, she’s gone.  Packed her bags and left.”

“Wow, sorry to hear that.”

Lindsay did not say anything.  The pair walked through the side entrance and to  Lindsay’s locker.

“Well, if you change your mind, we’d be happy to pick you up again.”

“Alright, maybe in a couple weeks.”

“See you in homeroom,” Steph said as she turned to walk away.

“See ya,” Lindsay said in a barely audible voice.

She swapped out a couple of her books, selecting the ones she needed for the first couple classes.  She began thinking about her Aunt Linda, who she had not seen in probably two years.  She really wished that she were just old enough to not need anyone.

“Hey, Lindsay,” called a girl about thirty feet away from her.  “Heads up!”

She looked up just in time to see something flying through the air over the top of some of the kids.  She jumped to the right and the tomato smash into the wall behind her.  She immediately turned to see who had thrown it, but the crowd was too dense.  Her best guess was that it was one of the three girls from homeroom.

She trudged on to first period, where she paid no attention to the lesson.  Instead she tried to think about Clinton.  She wondered if she would be able to see him again on Saturday at the library.  While five days seemed like an eternity, she hoped it would be enough to pull her through this week.  Some thoughts of her mother slipped into her mind and she knew that Steph would be a crutch she would need to make it to the weekend.

The passing from first period to second was uneventful and, for once, Linday was glad to make it to Trigonometry.  She found math to be one of her more enjoyable classes, but she was always fighting boredom with the massive amounts of homework.  She always wondered why she had to do dozens of problems when she understood the concept after two or three.  The bell rang to signal the end of class and Lindsay cringed, knowing it was time for homeroom.

“Lindsay, can you stay for just a moment?” the teacher requested.

“Sure, Mrs. Light,” she replied.

The rest of the students filed out and the door closed behind the last one before the teacher said anything.

“I just wanted to ask you if you need to talk about anything.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you are doing quite well in Trig, but it seems like you have been a little distant lately.”

“Oh, no, I’m fine,” Lindsay lied, immediately looking down.  “Just a lot of stuff going on.”

“Alright, well, I just want to let you know you can talk to me anytime.  I had to transfer schools when I was in high school and I know it was no fun.”

“You did?”

“Yes, so believe me when I say I know what you are going through with trying to fit in somewhere new.”

“I’m glad to know I’m not the first to go through this.”

“Not even close,” Mrs. Light said with a smile as she grabbed a slip of paper off her desk.  “Here is a hall pass to get you to homeroom.”

“Thanks.”

“Seriously though, Lindsay, don’t be afraid to come and see me if you want to discuss anything that is going on with you.”

“I will,” Lindsay said before walking to the door and out in the hallway.

The bell rang a few moments later and she saw a few people go scrambling in through different doorways.  She could not help but feel the darkness close in around her again as she realized she was alone for the second time that day.  Mr. Green barely noticed when she walked in the room and put the pass on his desk.    Steph just smiled at her as she made her way to the back of the room, where Trish and Mary were grinning evilly.

“So glad you made it, we were getting worried,” Trish said.

Lindsay chose not to respond.

“Uh oh, she’s not talking to us.  Whatever shall we do?” Mary commented with feigned concern.  “Maybe she doesn’t like tomatoes.”

They both laughed to themselves and Lindsay wanted to disappear.  She realized that Saturday was a very long way away and that she was not sure how she would endure another four homerooms this week.

Surprisingly, neither of the girls said another word to her before leaving quickly once the bell had sounded.  Steph was waiting at the front of the room.

“Hey, it was pretty quiet back there today.”

“Yeah, they were only mildly obnoxious today.”

“Well, that’s a start I guess,” Steph replied with a light laugh.

“I suppose so,” Lindsay said, her spirit lightening a little with Steph’s laugh.

“Come on, let’s go, time for some fun Spanish.”

“Fun and Spanish should never be in the same sentence.”

“Well, maybe, but let’s see if we can have a little fun with it anyway.”

“Fair enough.”

They continued to chat about various things as they passed to their next class.  Lindsay found herself distracted from her problems and was not sad for a few moments.  The rest of the day went great and she thought maybe Monday had turned out better than she had hoped.  Only Physical Education and Literature remained, neither of which were classes she shared with Trish, Mary, or Sandy.

While kickball and running around the track were generally things Lindsay detested, she was pleasantly surprised that the teacher had selected archery for the day’s activity.  The equipment was very basic of course, but it sure beat running around in circles.

“Melanie, Sarah H., Frances, and Lindsay, you’re up,” called the P.E. coach.

The four girls made their way up to the line and selected a bow.  Three sad little arrows were with each one.

“Now, ladies, you will want to look along the arrow and find the yellow dot in the middle of the target.  Then you will want to move the arrow up a little bit to allow for gravity,” the coach explained, as she had done for all the previous groups.  “When you are ready, you can take your first shot.”

Each of the girls pulled the string back on their bow and lined up their shot.  Then, four arrows became airborne for a few moments.  Frances and Sarah sent theirs off into the grassy area beyond the targets, Melanie hit the very edge of the outer ring, and Lindsay hit the edge of the yellow bull’s eye.

“Very good, Lindsay,” the coach said and a couple of the girls applauded politely.  She was the first one to hit the center of the target in the whole class.  Lindsay was not used to positive attention, so she simply reached down for the next arrow.

“When you are ready, try again.”

The arrows flew a second time.  Each of the arrows hit a target this time.

“Very good everyone.  However, Sarah, you are really supposed to hit the target in front of you, not Melanie’s,” the coach said with a laugh.

“Sorry coach.”

“Don’t worry about it.  Now, take your third shot.”

Each of the girls grabbed their final arrow and got ready for their last shot.  Lindsay had managed to hit the bull’s eye a second time, so she just tried to aim for the same place she had the first two times.  The arrows took flight and once again, they all hit their target.  Lindsay, however, was still the only one to hit the bull’s eye.

“Three bull’s eye shots, Lindsay,” the coach said proudly.  “That’s pretty amazing, have you done this before.”

“No, actually, I’ve never been the hunting type.”

“Well, you must be a natural then.”

Lindsay just retrieved her three arrows and returned to the group.  Two more sets of shooters went to the line and still Lindsay was the only one with a perfect record.  She was mildly pleased with herself, but said nothing as she followed the other girls back to the locker room to change back into her street clothes.

She went to her assigned locker in the changing area and froze as she saw that her door was standing wide open.  She knew she had locked it and then noticed that the lock was lying broken on the floor.  She noticed that her backpack was still there, but her clothes were gone.  Lindsay quickly went to the coach’s office.

“Coach, someone broke into my locker!”

“What?” the coach replied as she stood up from her desk.  “What did they take?”

“It looks like they took my clothes, but my backpack is still there.”

“Did they take anything out of it?”

“I didn’t look yet.”

“Alright, let’s go see.”

They walked out to Lindsay’s locker and the coach inspected the broken lock.  She watched as Lindsay went through her backpack and confirmed that nothing was missing.

“Do you have someone to bring you more clothes?”

“Not really,” Lindsay said, a hint of sadness entering her voice.

“I guess you’ll just have to wear your gym clothes to your last class.”

Lindsay just sighed as she dropped down on the bench.

“This little t-shirt and seventies style gym shorts aren’t exactly what most people wear.”

“I don’t know what else to suggest.  I could probably get you excused from your last class, but I’m guessing you don’t have a ride home either?”

“No, I don’t.”

Lindsay grabbed her backpack and walked out of the locker room and to the hallway.  People did little to hide their stares as her gym outfit stood out like a sore thumb among all the Abercrombie and American Eagle clothes around her.

“Looking good, Lindsay,” Trish yelled at her from across the hall.  Mary and Sandy were leaning up against the wall next to her.  Lindsay just kept walking, as she knew they had taken her clothes, but it would do no good to confront them.

She was only slightly relieved that no one said anything during Literature, or at least she did not notice.  The teacher was reading an excerpt from “The Old Man and the Sea,” which was one she knew well.  The class went by rather quickly and she began to dread the bus ride home.  She wished that she could call someone to save her from that miserable fifteen minute ride.

After school was dismissed, Lindsay went to her locker and gathered her things.  She took only a couple of books with her, although she did not know why.  She did not intend to do any homework and hoped that her Aunt Linda would be there so she did not have to take a bus to get dinner.  All this was mixing around in her head as she reluctantly made her way to her bus.

“Hey, Lindsay,” called Steph’s familiar voice.

“Hi.”

“Melanie told me what happened after gym.”

“Oh, well, I guess I’m the talk of the school then.”

“Actually, quite a few people are aware of who did it,” Steph replied.  “Several of the girls are planning to confront those three tomorrow.”

“Great,” Lindsay replied, “Trish will probably think I am behind that.”

“Try not to worry about it; they are just trying to help.”

“I guess I better get on the bus, this is not going to be fun.”

“You want a ride home?”

“Absolutely.”

“I’m sure my mom won’t mind.  Come on, she’s parked over this way.”

Lindsay was relieved to avoid the bus and at the same time got to talk to Steph for a little while longer.  Somehow she always felt a little more at ease when Steph was around.  Her mom’s blue van was waiting for them and she gave Lindsay a big smile as they opened the door.

“Hi Lindsay.”

“Hello, thanks for the ride.  I hope its okay.”

“Anytime.”

The van pulled away from the curb and they merged in with the traffic on the street in front of school.  Steph and Lindsay started chatting about several things at once and Steph’s mom could only think that she used to be that way.

“So, anyway, Mrs. Light offered to talk to me if I needed a confidant of sorts.  She said she kinda had a feeling something was up with me.”

“That’s cool.  She always has been pretty in touch.  I know a couple of kids who have ridden in bike races with her.”

“Bike races?”

“Yeah, she does some endurance races in the summer, during her break.”

“Impressive.”

“I know I couldn’t do it.”

“Still, I don’t know what I would tell her though.  I mean, how do you just open up about stuff to someone you barely know.”

“I guess maybe, if you want, you could just tell her a few things and see how it goes.”

“True.  Well, I want to see how things go with my Aunt Linda tonight.  Maybe she can be that helpful person I need.”

“Could be, what about your dad?”

“What about him?” Lindsay retorted, sounding a little sour.  “He was home for a grand total of an hour yesterday before leaving on another business trip.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

“Hey, is that your aunt’s car?”

Lindsay looked up to see a black BMW in the driveway.  She did not recognize it, but also knew it was probably a rental from the airport.

“Probably.  She was supposed to fly in today sometime.”

“Cool, well, I guess I’ll just see you at school tomorrow then?”

“They probably wouldn’t like it if I didn’t come back.”

“It’ll all work out.”

“I hope so,” Lindsay said as she opened the door and stepped out onto the driveway.  “Thanks for the ride.”

“Like I said, anytime you need one just let me know,” Steph’s mom said.

“Call me if you want,” Steph said with a wave as she pulled the door shut.  Lindsay gave her a quick wave and watched them drive off.

She made her way into the house and was happy to hear some noise where it had been absolutely silent that morning.  She dropped her bag at the base of the stairs and went to the living room.  There sat Aunt Linda, flipping through some channels.

“Oh, hey, Lindsay,” she said when she noticed she was not alone.

“Hi.  Thanks for coming out.”

“No problem kiddo.  Your dad gave me the low down on this whole situation.  Sorry to hear your mom kinda lost it.”

“Yeah, well, that’s life I guess.”

“It shouldn’t be for a fifteen year old.  I know you may not believe it, but your dad feels really bad about all this.”

“If you say so.”

“Eventually you might understand why he is gone so much, but he just wants you to have nice things.”

“I’d rather have him around.”

“Well, maybe you should tell him that.”

“He’s never here to be able to do that.”

“How about if I tackle him when he gets back and sit on him.  That way he’ll have to listen.”

“Yeah right.”

“Hey it wouldn’t be the first time!”

Lindsay grinned a little at the thought of her aunt tackling her dad.  She felt more at ease with her aunt than she thought she would after such a long time without seeing her.

“So, I know it’s only four, but I’m starving.  You want to get a pizza or something?”

“Sure, we can go to O’Malley’s over on 22nd street.  That was the first good pizza place I found here.”

“O’Malley’s?  Is it Irish pizza?” her aunt asked jokingly.

“I know, sounds funny, but the food is great.”

“Well, I’m up for it if you are.”

“Let’s do it.”

Linda turned off the television and grabbed her purse.  She led the way out the front door and to the BMW in the driveway.  Lindsay was pretty sure she had never ridden in a Beamer.  She typed in the name of the restaurant on the GPS system and the directions popped right up.

“I love these things,” her aunt said.

“I’ve never used one, but it looks pretty cool.”

Linda backed out of the drive and directed the car to follow the direction given by their little electronic navigator.

“So, how was school today?”

“I hate going there.”

“Why?  I thought you were a top student last time I talked to you.”

“Yeah, I do okay in class, but there are a lot of other things that just make my life horrible.”

“Such as?”

“Just some other girls that do all they can to make my life awful”

“That’s no good.  What’s their problem?”

“No clue really.”

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that.  Surely there is something good.”

“Well, yeah, there is Steph.  She is basically my best friend here.  She and…,” Lindsay said stopping herself.

“And who?”

“Nevermind.”

“Come on now, you can’t hold out on me.  I bet it’s a boy.”

Lindsay just blushed a little and smiled.

“I knew it and you can’t say anything because your parents don’t let you date?”

“You’re good.”

“Believe it or not, I used to be a teenage girl.”

“Really?” Lindsay replied with a fake sense of shock.

“I could tell you some stories, but I better not.  Your dad wouldn’t want me giving you any ideas.”

“Well, he’s not here and I won’t tell.”

“Let me think about which ones I won’t get in trouble for.”

“Alright, but those are usually the best ones.”

“Very true,” Linda commented as she guided the car into the parking lot at O’Malley’s.

They continued to chat over dinner, with Linda finally caving in and telling a few stories from her youth.  She even told a few on Gavin, which made Lindsay laugh a little too loud.

“So tell me about this boy.”

“Aww, I was hoping you forgot.”

“No chance.  Now, I told you my stories, you can at least give me this information.”

“Alright, his name is Clinton.”

“Clinton?  Interesting.  Do you go to school with him?”

“No, actually we met at the library.”

“Come on, are you serious?”

“Yes.  We are both fans of reading I guess.”

“Nothing wrong with that.”

“I usually only get to see him every Saturday when I go to the library, but I had thought about seeing if he would meet me there tomorrow night.”

“Sounds like you really like this guy.”

“I guess.”

“Well, I won’t object to you doing some extra homework at the library tomorrow if you want.”

“Really?”

“If you dad find out though, I’ll plead innocence.”

“I’m okay with that.”

“It’s a deal then.”

They finished their dinner and returned home.  They continued to talk about all sorts of things as the caught up on things from the last few years.  Lindsay truly loved having a person to chat with at home.  She knew this was not a permanent thing, but it was fun for a while.


5 Responses to “Out of the Darkness – Part One”


  1. 1 Lacy Truitt
    November 18, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Very well written. Im excited to read more. Keep letting the Lord guide your thoughts. 🙂

  2. 2 Gale Meseke
    November 19, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Excellent! Looking forward to reading more!

  3. 3 Becky Pryor
    December 8, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I love reading your work, great job!!!

  4. 4 Cheri
    December 11, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Post some more. I feel like the story is really starting to develop.

  5. 5 Debbie Hobbie
    January 1, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Great story Shane! I think I know this girl…..and unfortunately many like her from my junior high classes. Can’t wait to read more!


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