106 Tewkesbury Street was, at first sight, a rather average house. All its members were third year students at Cardiff University and were just beginning to question themselves about what they really wanted to do with their lives. Their names were Derrick, Rebecca and Sam. The house looked rather dinghy on the outside with its whitewashed walls and damp green corners but the inside told a slightly different story. Rebecca was the only woman in the house and there were signs of her feminine presence all over the house. As soon as you walked into the house, there was the lounge to your right, and what had initially been a plain, uncarpeted room with a couch and two rickety chairs had been transformed by Rebecca’s creative eye. There was now a pale shaggy rug on the floor, grey and blue cushions on the sofa and pictures of the Welsh countryside all along the walls. There were also vanilla scented candles placed on the mantelpiece which only Rebecca ever lit but which got rid of the slightly damp smell which clung to the floors.
Derrick, an American exchange student, was in love with Rebecca. He often spent hours in his room with its larger than life movie posters writing poetry about Rebecca. Whenever he looked into Rebecca’s eyes, he saw something of the calm and peace which he craved, but which had eluded him for as long as he could remember. The worst part was that on the surface, nothing was really missing from Derrick’s life. He came from an upper middle-class family. His parents were still happily married in America, and he had grown up in a house where only gentle words were spoken and there was more than enough love to go around. His parents had even forgiven him when he had decided that he didn’t want to do medicine, in spite of his excellent grades, and had gone on to study English Literature instead. He felt that he would finally feel complete and get over that vague sense of there being something more than this if he managed to win Rebecca’s affections. She was just like that, she made him feel so comfortable and like maybe life could be met with the fresh enthusiasm of a young child enquiring into the mysteries of the world around them.
Rebecca was equally in love with Derrick. But there were some obstacles in their path like the fact that Rebecca was a Christian and Derrick wasn’t sure what he believed. He always said that he would probably find more reason to question whether or not there was a God if someone close to him died. Rebecca, on the other hand, had been a Christian since the age of 14 when she had a life-changing encounter with Jesus. It happened just after she had been beaten by her alcoholic father. Whenever her dad got too unruly, her mother would send Rebecca down the street to her grandmother, who had always been a praying woman. That night, Rebecca was unable to escape the drunken wrath of her father in time and only just managed to drag herself through the front door, just before her father tried to administer a near-fatal blow to her head. When she had arrived on her gran’s doorstep, she hadn’t said a word, she had merely started to wipe Rebecca’s bloody face and promised her that she would never have to go back. Rebecca had never been sure that she believed in God up to that point, although she had been somewhat fascinated by her Gran’s steadfast faith. That night as she lay in bed, she raged at God and asked him why he would give her a father who would hate her enough to beat her. She suddenly felt a kind of presence enter her room. She had heard of things like evil spirits entering into people’s homes and she was instantly afraid. But there was something good and sweet about this spirit and gradually, her fears subsided. The curtains at the window were rustling and she remembered a phrase her Gran had once said to her, the Wind of the Lord. She felt a strange peace envelop her and suddenly hundreds of bible verses which her Grandmother had read out to her over the years came flooding back to her. One she actually heard spoken to her in an audible voice and she just knew it was the voice of God. “Be not afraid for I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” She saw a vision of a staircase in a place which looked like heaven and saw angels descending and ascending the glorious staircase. “I will give my angel’s charge over you to keep you in all your ways.” Rebecca looked around her bed and saw to her surprise that she was surrounded by angels. They didn’t look like the cute cherubims one saw on the Hallmark cards, these were mighty beings with magnificent golden wings and were brandishing flaming swords. In that moment, Rebecca knew God had never really left and he was promising her that he never would.
All these years later, Rebecca was slightly at odds with God. She was deeply in love with Derrick but knew the word of God said “Do not be yoked with unbelievers.” She knew that it was not quite as black and white as that for in the bible, Boaz had fallen in love with Ruth before she had converted. Rebecca merely loved God too much to step outside of his will for her life, so she prayed daily for Derrick’s salvation. She sometimes felt that Derrick placed her on pedestal which she couldn’t always occupy and that he wanted her to play the role of God in his life, someone who could love him wholly and unconditionally, something which Rebecca in her humanness couldn’t promise to do. Derrick needed a saviour.
He wasn’t the only one. Sam had been feeling suicidal for months. He came from a family of high achievers and he was constantly plagued with feelings of inadequacy. This was not helped by living with Derrick who was naturally brilliant and Rebecca, who had a peculiar kind of grace over everything she did. Thoughts of ending his life played in his mind over and over again and whats worse, he had recently started having terrible dreams and visions. In them he was always being held down by some sinister force which seemed to relish his helpless state and often began to torture him cruelly. Each day became harder and harder to bear, until they all turned into a grey and endless tunnel which he couldn’t see the end of. At times his depression was like a physical thing which had attached itself to his body and was persistently draining any life and joy out of him. One day he woke up and there were disembodied voices in his head, taunting him and mocking him, telling him to end his soulless existence. When Sam took his life, his last thought was that he had never really known a life-changing love but that maybe where he was going, he would be able to experience it for the first time.
Rebecca was feeling unsettled. All day long, she had had a nagging feeling that something horrible was going to happen. She had prayed for everyone she could think of but still, the feeling had persisted. When she finally found Sam, he was hanging from the shower curtain rail which he had tied himself to with an old sheet. She had to be sedated when the medics arrived, she couldn’t stop screaming and begging God to bring him back to life. Both Rebecca and Derrick blamed themselves for being too caught up in their feelings for each other to notice that Sam was dying inside. The counsellors they saw tried to reassure them that Sam had probably been in pain for a while.
Derrick and Rebecca married each other two years later. They promised each other that they would name their first son Sam. Derrick found God for himself in the Starbucks on Queen Street when he heard Kim Walker sing a cover of’ How He Loves Us’. The guy who wrote it also lost his best friend, this one to a car crash. He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. They both decided that they needed a change of scene from Cardiff and so moved back to Derrick’s hometown in America. Both began to serve in the church and Derrick started writing songs for the Lord. Every now and then, a shadow passes over both their faces as they recall the loss of their dear friend Sam but they are learning to remember only the good times and blot out the bad.
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