I didn’t feel radically different after praying with Chad. I wasn’t taken over by any strange spirit, I didn’t start dancing in the street, I just knew that I’d been heard and answered. At the same time, I knew that I would always be heard and answered, and that thought made me so happy that I couldn’t stop smiling.
“He heard me!” I whispered to Chad.
His smile matched mine as nodded. “I know.”
That’s when I froze. “What time is it? I have to get back home. Nathan’s coming for dinner. Hey, do you want to come with me?”
Chad shrugged. “I’ll ask my, wait. Who’s cooking?”
I laughed. “Don’t worry. My mom’s cooking. It won’t be like Abby’s hamburgers.”
We were both silent for the duration of the shared memory. Abby had fixed hamburgers for a cookout and seasoned them with so much salt that the people who could make it past the black, charred crust choked anyway.
“In that case,” Chad resumed, as if there had been no break in the conversation, “I’ll ask my grandmother. If she says I can, I’ll be over in half an hour.”
“Okay, sounds good!” I tried to smile, realized I was already smiling so broadly I couldn’t look any happier if I’d tried, and tried anyway. As we went our separate ways, I mentally prepared myself to walk into my house and face the two people who probably had the power to shoot me down from my high spirits.
Surprisingly, they were busy getting ready for Nathan to come and forgot to annoy me. I made a mental note to ask Chad about this occurrence and told them that I’d invited Chad over too.
Abby immediately flipped out, of course, and ran upstairs to change. She had already dressed to make a good on impression on Nathan, who everybody knew didn’t like her too much, so I wasn’t looking forward to seeing all her extra embellishments for Chad. I put the thought of my mind though and took over her job of making a salad.
I had just shredded the carrots and scraped them into the bowl over the lettuce when Abby came back down in the same outfit she’d left in, but carrying three options. Apparently she’d decided to use perfume as well, because the strong smell of some flower preceded her by a mile.
“Which one do you think I should wear?” she asked no one in particular.
I was too happy to be mean or ignore her, so I looked at each outfit she was holding and tried to imagine them on her. I quickly decided that the best outfit was the most casual one and told her so. She looked a little disappointed.
“Are you sure? I really like this dress!” She held up a dress that I wouldn’t have been caught dead in.
I pretended to consider the option, then came back with, “It’s a little too dressy for just dinner. Besides,” I managed to come up with a genuine compliment, “that top would bring out the subtle blue in your eyes.”
She frowned, and I could tell that the compliment had her convinced I was setting her up. I looked over at my mom for support.
She shrugged. “You know I think you’re beautiful no matter what you put on. You should wear whatever you want to. I’m sure no one will mind.”
Abby smiled broadly, and as she ran off, I had no doubt that she would next appear in the revealing dress she seemed to like so much. To be honest, it hurt that my mom would intentionally do something like what she just did. I was genuinely trying to help, and she came back with sting after painful sting. For one thing, my mom had never told me that she thought I was unconditionally beautiful. The closest I’d ever come to hearing that was the one time she told me that with make-up on I looked almost pretty.
Then, she pretty told Abby that I was trying to set her up by not backing me up. I gave Abby a compliment, and my mom dragged it through the dust and presented it as if that was all it was ever meant to be. And to top it all off, she took my explanation for why Abby shouldn’t be too dressy and simply voided it. She could have validated that no one else would be wearing anything remotely dressy, and she could have just not made any other mistake, but she went out of her way three times to let me know that my honest effort wasn’t enough and wasn’t appreciated.
So much for thinking they were going to be different just because I was.
While these thoughts played themselves out in my mind, I shredded cheese, cut tomatoes, chopped up green onions and multi-colored bell peppers, and poured croutons into the now diversely colored salad. I tossed the salad with my hands while questioning my importance to my family with my mind. I had just come to the conclusion that no one in my family really appreciated me, and if it weren’t for Chad I would probably just leave and they wouldn’t even notice when there was a knock on the door, and it opened.
“Anybody home?” Nathan called out, shutting the door behind him.
Just hearing his voice proved my conclusion wrong, and leaving my salad and pity party behind, I rushed out into the hall and gave him a huge bear hug.
“Hey, Jess. How’ve ya been?” he asked, returning the hug.
I shrugged. “Fine,” I answered. “My friend Chad’s coming for dinner too. It should be ready soon.”
He grinned. “I’m not starving, don’t worry.”
I grinned back and suddenly my rollercoaster day was going uphill again. unfortunately, I knew that as soon as it crested, I would be plunged back down, and it happened sooner that I’d expected.
Abby hadn’t shown up again since running upstairs to change, and I was starting to wonder what she was up to, but I remembered my pity party and quickly put the thought behind me while talking to Nathan about how life had been. It wasn’t until the doorbell rang, I answered it, and Chad stepped into the hallway that I realized her game.
As I closed the door behind Chad, I heard someone on the steps, and next thing I knew, Abby had made her grand entrance. She had sure fixed herself up, and she walked over to me so that Chad couldn’t help but notice the difference.
She’d cleaned up and put on a nice dress for him.
I was in the same shorts and t-shirt I’d been skateboarding in, but I was determined to not be outdone. Smiling brightly, I led Chad into the living room where Nathan was waiting, noticing that Abby had quickly stepped to his side.
Let the games begin.
*NOTE: All characters and events portrayed in this story are purely fictitious. Any resemblance to actual people or events is entirely coincidental.*
Next part next Thursday! Suggestions, names for various characters, or other questions, comments, or concerns can be left below, or you can e-mail me at the address on my contact page.
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