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What's New
Chapter One
by Aaron Bartholome
For Sale
Author requests article critique


Chapter One

Brian Wilkinson stepped from the porch and out into the bright August sunlight. Today was the big day. Behind him stood the modest-looking house that he had called home for eighteen years. He would miss, living there, of course, but he needed a change. Pine Acres wasn’t exactly the place he envisioned himself settling down. With its two hundred residents and quaint little cottages, it was charming but nauseating. Everyone knew everyone else, and there was no private affair that wouldn’t become common knowledge sooner or later. The school principal was best friends with the town doctor, who in turn was known to have the mayor and his family over for dinner two nights a week. All this was simply too much for Brian. He couldn’t stand everyone knowing his business. He needed independence, the freedom to do anything he wanted without dozens of ‘concerned’ people nagging him about it. The main reason for the change of environment, however, wasn’t the town itself, but the building that sat at the very heart of it - both physically and spiritually. It was Living Witness Fellowship, the town’s one and only church.
Brian had no problem with religion itself. He had been raised up in a God-fearing home by wonderful - though sometimes eccentric - parents, and had in fact once been a member of Living Witness. He’d read the Bible, studied it, even memorized hundreds of verses, and although he didn’t live it, he was mature enough to admit it and to accept the opinions of those who did. The problem was that meeting such people, even in this close town, was extremely difficult. They were few and far between. Half the congregation of the church didn’t live up to the Bible’s standards, the other half chose to do the very opposite, and none of them cared. They were hypocrites, always complaining about fellowship suppers, budget cuts and, of course, fundraisers. So Brian had decided to set out on his own, to be his own man.
He would be a freshman in the state university when the semester started, but rather than pay the added expense for room and board, he and his two best friends, Pete Helford and Mike Stockton, had gotten a decent apartment not far from the campus. They had all grown up together in Pine Acres, all had the same religious upbringing, and all had ignored it. Christianity wasn’t for them, and they were okay with that, as long as nobody tried to force it on them, which Brian’s parents, Donna and Robert, often did.
“Do you have everything, honey?” his mother called from the doorway as he finished loading up his car. “Your T.V.? Your radio? Your Bible?”
“Yes, yes, and don’t need it,” he answered her. “Look, mom, I’ve told you before that Christianity just isn’t for me.”
“That’s what I don’t understand, B,” said Robert Wilkinson, who was now standing in the entryway beside his wife. He always called his son “B” when he wanted to get a serious point across. “How can it not be for you? You’ve always loved going to church. You even had plans to be a pastor, remember?”
“Yeah, well, people change, dad. That might have been cute when I was five or six, but I’m eighteen now. I’m too old to play Christian anymore. Look, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what you believe. Hell, you’ve raised me to believe most of it, too. I just can’t live it all the time like you do.” He shot his father a look of earnest pleading, then swept his gaze toward his mother.
“Oh, B,” she managed to get out before bursting into tears and running inside. Robert shook his head at his son.
“Now look what you did. Do you know that your mother spends two hours in prayer every night, asking God to humble you and turn you around? And here you go shooting your mouth off about how you’ll never accept it. It’s a slap in the face. You owe her an apology…no, wait, I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you just get out of here? You’ve done enough damage.”
Robert stormed back inside and slammed the door, leaving his son staring jaw-dropped at the house. He had never before heard his father speak so violently, nor had he known about his mother’s prayers.
Quickly fumbling for his keys, he got into his car and started the engine. As he headed for the shortest route out of town, he was thankful that he would soon not have to deal with anyone else trying to force the Bible on him. Except maybe for Gabby.
Gabrielle Shaw had been Brian’s girlfriend since the sixth grade. The two of them had always been inseparable, doing everything together, until a couple of years ago when they no longer attended church with each other. More specifically, Gabby had continued going and Brian had quit altogether. Yet she stayed with him, incessantly urging him to go back. Brian was sure it would make a lesser man insane, but he had been with her for six years now and loved her deeply enough not to break up with her. Besides, he knew she loved him, too, and only meant well. Still, she could be a pain sometimes, and he couldn’t believe she had enrolled in the university this fall with him, knowing his friends would be attending as well. She had never cared much for Pete and Mike, and every time they were in the same room together they always seemed to end up in some sort of debate or argument about God. To say the least, Brian was not looking forward to his first semester of college. But at least he could rest easy that his parents would no longer try to run his life.

“Pastor Taylor, we need you to talk to Brian.”
Donna Wilkinson sat in a small wooden chair across from the pastor of Living Witness church. Her husband, who had come up with the idea, was seated in a chair next to her. Both of them felt at the end of their rope and knew they needed someone else to help convince their son, and the last person they knew of to fill that position was Brian’s old Sunday school teacher, the man now sitting before them.
Steve Taylor was a relatively young pastor. At 34, he looked more like a reformed thug than the leader of a church. He had slicked-back black hair, a mustache and a goatee. He had a pierced ear from his younger days and even continued to wear a plain, modest earring.
His manner of clothing was also not very flashy. He was normally dressed in blue jeans and long-sleeved denim shirts, but his spiritual traits more than made up for his appearance. He was a hard-working, caring individual who always put the needs of others above his own. Brian would call him a goody-two-shoes, but he didn’t care. He wanted to help his young friend as much as the boy’s parents did.
“Donna,” Steve said soothingly as he stared across the desk at Brian’s mother, who was now weak from sobbing. “Brian, as you know, can be very opinionated at times, but it doesn’t always mean he doesn’t care, especially when it comes to Christianity. Trust me. I taught him God’s Word for ten years.” Steve sat back in his chair and propped his feet up on the corner of the desk. A glimmer of light shone in his eyes as he began to recall something from his days as Brian’s Sunday school teacher.
“I remember,” he continued, “the day that your six-year-old son first started my class. Before I began the lesson, I asked him if he wanted to learn more about Jesus. He said, ‘Well, Mr. Steve, I’m not sure there’s anything I don’t already know about Him, but I’ll give you a shot at teaching me anyhow.’ He was so cocky and self-assured.” He couldn’t help but laugh at the memory.
“He still is,” Robert broke in angrily, “and I don’t see what’s so funny about it.”
Steve apologized, “Oh, I don’t mean to make light of the situation, but it’s just that he hasn’t seemed to change much in his attitude. He was too smart for God, even back then. Still, I had hoped that he would have come to his senses by now.”
“Well, he hasn’t,” Donna managed. “It’s very painful. Why hasn’t God done anything? I pray and pray that something would happen, but nothing seems to work. Brian hasn’t changed at all, and God is silent.” At this she began to burst into fresh tears, covering her face with her hands. Pastor Taylor moved to reassure her.
“Sometimes we may not hear God, but that doesn’t necessarily mean He’s silent. He works in ways we can’t possibly see, and we just have to trust His timing on things. Maybe there is a change in Brian, but it’s so small that we don’t see it.”
“No,” Robert disagreed. “No, Steve, that boy hasn’t changed a bit, except for the worse. He stays up all hours with them friends of his, partying and carrying on.”
“By ‘friends’ I take it you mean Pete Helford and Mike Stockton.” Pete and Mike were Brian’s age and had been in Sunday school class with him. They, too, chose to leave the church as soon as they were able. The Helfords and the Stocktons continued to attend, as did the Wilkinsons, yet seemed to be less concerned for their children’s spiritual welfare.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into those boys, Steve,” Robert said, shaking his head. “They used to love God and Jesus and the whole nine yards, and now they act like they’ve never heard of them. They got saved when they were younger. Shouldn’t that have changed them at all?”
Steve wanted to tell them the truth, that Brian and his friends had more than likely never been saved at al, but he didn’t want to hurt any feelings. He knew Donna and Robert cared for their son very much, as did he, but somehow he couldn’t bring himself to tell them that Brian was lost and headed for Hell.
He rose from his chair and strode over to the window. Opening the curtains, he let in the late morning sun and all its light and warmth. He wondered to himself at the symbolism of it. Brian was missing this. Not the actual sun, no, but the warmth and glow of the other Son. Yet in all the doubt, he felt an assuring peace let him know that somehow, somewhere, Brian would feel the Son.
“What did you say?” Donna asked. Steve was dumbfounded. He wasn’t aware that he had said anything.
“I guess I said that Brian and will feel the sun. You know, on his way to school.”
“Oh,” Robert replied dejectedly. “We had hoped you meant that he would feel God’s Son.”
“I did,” Steve said purposefully. “Somehow, somewhere, Brian and his friends will feel the presence of the Son of God.”

“Hurry up, now, B. You don’t want to miss enrollment.”
“Very funny, Pete,” Brian retorted as he threw a sock roll at his friend. “You’ve almost got my mom’s voice down exactly.”
“Well, it’s just that we worry so much,” Mike added in his best impression of Brian’s father.
“Listen, guys, I told you, we don’t have to hear about any more of that Christianity stuff now that I’ve left home, so drop the whole thing. Just help me unpack so we can get down to the college and get decent classes.”
“Yeah,” Pete said. “Mike would be mad if he missed out on ‘Walking for Dummies’.” Mike gave a half-hearted smile, but couldn’t keep it up. He wasn’t exactly the smartest of the bunch, and he knew it. Pete and Brian gave him a hard time about it every chance they got, especially Pete, although everybody knew that Brian was the genius. A perfect ACT score and an IQ of 172 easily qualified him to be the brains of the group.
Pete was something different. He was more of the rebel type, with dark clothes, short spiked hair and more body piercings than he knew what to do with. He was into the witchcraft and ghost stuff, along with Ouija boards, tarot cards and astrology, but neither Brian nor Mike cared that much. To them he was Pete. He wasn’t stupid by any means, yet he didn’t have a gifted mind, either. He was somewhere around average.
Mike, besides being a bit slow, was a party animal. His big things were drinking, drugs and loud music. Every time there was a party going to happen, he knew about it and was always able to convince his two best friends to come along. Brian was sure that it was all the partying that left Mike devoid of most of his brain cells, yet it didn’t deter him from joining in whatever was going on. It’s not that he didn’t care about preserving his mind. He just cared more about having a good time.
“Hey, fellas,” Mike announced as they finished unloading the last of Brian’s boxes. “I got a hot tip on a cool rave tonight at 9 PM.”
“No can do,” Brian declined. “I got a date with Gabby tonight. She’d kill me if I broke it off to go to a party.”
“Then don’t tell her,” Pete answered. “Just go. You don’t need a woman always telling you what to do. Stand up and be a man.”
“Besides,” Mike put in, “she tries to remind you about Christianity every time you two get together. You don’t need that in your life, pal.”
Brian was defiant. “I love her. We’ve been together six years.” He looked at his friends, and he knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere.
“Where’s the party at?” he asked.
“That’s more like the Brian we know!” Pete exclaimed.
“It’s at the night club on Main. Nite Life, I think it’s called. You’ve heard of it, haven’t you?”
Brian nodded his head. Nite Life had been the subject of controversy for quite some time, with rumors being spread about undercover drug rings and ties to the mob. He didn’t particularly feel like getting mixed up in any of it, but they were only rumors, he decided, and he and his friends were only three insignificant kids in what was sure to be a crowd of thousands in the spacious interior of the club. Brian agreed to go and the matter was settled.
“Now,” he remarked, “it’s time we headed over to that college to sign up for semester.”
“That’s our Brian,” Mike chuckled. “Always thinking about school.”
“That’s not true,” he said, trailing off and becoming lost in thought. “In fact, I can make the date and still go to the party.”
Mike grumbled, “Come on, man. I thought we had that settled. The date’s off.”
“No, no, listen. I’m meeting Gabby at the bistro on Main at 8. I figure I can spend an hour with her and then just walk up the street to the club. It’s perfect.”
“How’s she getting home?” Pete inquired.
“Oh, we always meet somewhere. We never pick each other up. See, it’s a brilliant plan.”
“I don’t know, Brian,” Mike wondered. “I’m not the sharpest hammer in the drawer, but I don’t think she’s going to accept only an hour-long date.”
Brian replied, “You know what, Mike? You’re right. You don’t think. Just trust me on this one. I’ll be there at nine. In the meantime, we should be getting down to the school.”
The university campus was about ten minutes away from the apartment and sat on roughly seventeen acres of land. There were six large buildings, including the Vo-Tech facilities, the Fine Arts building, which housed the drama and music departments, the Gymnasium, the Sciences building, the Library and the Administration building. It was this last building where everyone was headed in order to enroll for the fall semester.
Brian spotted Gabby in the crowd and called her over to him and the others. She had on a plain white T-shirt and a pair of tan slacks. Her straight, shoulder-length red hair was pulled back into a ponytail and danced behind her as she jogged her way to her boyfriend.
“Hi, honey,” she greeted Brian, then noticed Pete and Mike and acknowledged them. “Dumb. Dumber.”
“Nice to see you, too, Miss Perfect,” Pete sneered at her.
“I told you, I’m not perfect. I’m just…”
“Yeah, we know,” Mike interrupted. “You’re just forgiven. Do us a favor and spare us the lecture, will you? We don’t want to hear it today. None of us do. Right, Brian?”
Brian swerved on his friend. He couldn’t believe Mike had just put him in that position. Gabby didn’t seem to be in the mood for a debate with him, and he needed credibility if he was going to end tonight’s date after only an hour. What could he possibly say right now?
“Well?” Gabby demanded. “I’m waiting to hear your answer, B.”
“Well, sweetheart, the thing of it is, is that…what Mike is trying to say is that…our minds are too focused on what classes to take right now. Any discussion about God might throw our concentration off and, uh, we might not get the classes we really hoped to get. Yeah, that’s it.”
“Concentration?” Gabby wondered aloud, looking at Pete and Mike. “These two? Somehow I doubt it. Look, anyway, I don’t really want to get into this at the moment. I have to think about my classes, too.”
“What are you thinking about taking?” Brian asked her.
“I told you, I’m going to major in religious studies with a minor in elementary education. I’m going to be a Sunday school teacher. Don’t you listen to anything I say?”
“Sure I do. It’s just that I forgot. I’m sorry.”
“Apology accepted,” Gabby replied. “So what are you going to take?”
“I don’t know. I’ll figure out when I get there. In the meantime, we’re finally in the building.”
The inside of the Administration complex was enormous. There were three levels, each one designated for a different department of enrollment. The bottom floor consisted of the actual processing of school records and enrollment into the school. The second level contained the various financial aid offices, including scholarships, grants and student loans. Brian had taken the ACT test here and had been given a full-ride academic scholarship for his perfect score.
The third and topmost floor of the building was where the majority of people were headed. A long line extended from the steps while hundreds of students waited their turn to go into one of several offices. Brian noted that there were thirteen of them, each marked with two letters of the alphabet in turn, A-B, C-D, and so on. These were where everyone went to select their classes. He hoped that there weren’t too many other students whose last name started with W. He was pretty confident that not a lot of people had last names starting with X, but it still felt like he would be waiting an eternity to sign up for his first set of courses.
“Are we still on for tonight?” Gabby asked him. The sudden question startled him out of his reverie.
“Uh, yeah, of course we are. The bistro on Main. Eight o’clock sharp.”
“Good, because you know how I get if you break a date, especially to go run around with Lucifer and his sidekick back there.” This was met with a loud, “Hey!” from Pete and a puzzled, “Which one of us is Lucifer?” from Mike.
Brian looked up again at the line and was pleased to see that only a handful of people now separated them from the topmost step. The door to the W-X office opened, and out came a kind-faced old man with sparse white hair and large spectacles. He wore a green cardigan over a white long-sleeved shirt and had on a pair of black suit pants and loafers.
“Next,” he said sweetly. To Brian’s surprise, no one ventured forward to be the next W to go into the office. Finally it was his turn.
“Wish me luck,” he whispered to his friends and girlfriend. He made his way through the dozen or so students to the top of the stairs and followed the older gentleman into the office.
“Come on in,” the man said excitedly. “Close the door behind you and come have a seat.” He pointed to a cushioned chair to Brian’s left and sat down in his own chair directly across the desk from it. Brian shut the door and proceeded to do the same.
“My name is John Hamilton,” the kind old man said with a smile. “I’ll be your academic advisor. And your name is?”
“Brian Wilkinson,” he answered.
“Ah, yes, young Mr. Wilkinson,” Mr. Hamilton remarked excitedly, pulling Brian’s file from the brown cabinet in the corner. “You have very impressive records. A perfect ACT, near perfect SAT, and it even shows you at a high IQ. I can already tell you that with the proper instruction and training our staff provides, you will go on to do extraordinary things.”
“Thank you, Mr. Hamilton. I appreciate it.”
“Oh, don’t mention it. Now, my job is to put you into a curriculum that is best suited to your needs, and I see from your test records that you score high in two specific areas – sciences and religious studies. Had you planned to major in either of those areas?”
“I hadn’t thought about it before, but now that you mention it, I will major in one of them.”
“Religious studies?”
“No,” Brian replied, “sciences. I’m pretty sure I’ll be staying as far away from religion as I can.”
“All right, well, we’re not here to judge,” Mr. Hamilton said. “What sort of sciences did you have in mind?”
“Well, I’ve always leaned toward physics and temporal mechanics. Space-time continuum stuff.”
“Of course, of course. Our school has a wonderful physics department, headed by Professor Luke Fitzsimmons. He’s a wonderful man and knows his material. I’ll enroll you in as many of his lectures and labs as I can.”
“Thank you, sir,” Brian said and rose to leave. Before closing the door behind him, Mr. Hamilton halted him.
“Oh, Brian,” he said, “with Professor Fitzsimmons as your instructor, you’re sure to have an interesting time. It’ll certainly be an adventure.”
Brian thanked him again and shut the door. He noticed that Pete, Mike and Gabby were all finished and waiting for him on the first floor. He hurried down to tell them about his classes and about what the advisor had said.
“Hey, Brian, guess what?” Pete announced playfully. “Mikey the mindless is going to do Vo-Tech and work on cars! I think I’ll start taking the bus.”
“Go ahead and laugh,” Mike scowled at him. “Choir boy.”
Brian couldn’t stop himself. Before he knew it, he was doubled over with sidesplitting laughter. Tears welled up in his eyes and his cheeks turned a bright red. He tried to regain his composure and straightened up, but the bewildered look on Pete’s face was simply too much, and he launched into another fit of chuckles and roars.
“It’s not funny,” came a hurt voice.
“I’m sorry, Pete,” Brian said as he finally attained some sense of decency. “It’s just that I’ve never pictured you as the choir type.”
“Yeah, well, the counselor said it was either choir or drama, and I don’t do plays.”
“No,” Mike cut in, “but I bet you sure do musicals.”
Brian warned, “Okay, that’s enough. Let’s just all get back to the apartment and get ready for tonight.”
“You mean our date, right,” Gabby interrupted, catching Brian off guard. In all the excitement of Pete and Mike’s classes, he had forgotten she was standing there.
“Yes, of course, dear,” he assured her. “Our date tonight.”
“And what do you mean by, ‘Let’s get back to the apartment’? I thought you would stay in the dorm. You didn’t actually move in with those two, did you?”
“Look,” Brian tried to calm her, “let’s discuss this tonight. I’m looking forward to the bistro. I’ll see you there at eight, all right?”
“All right,” Gabby said half-heartedly. She turned and left the Administration building looking somewhat rejected. Brian and the others left the campus shortly afterward. All the way back to the apartment, while Mike and Pete continued to hassle each other about their classes, Brian realized he was not looking forward to tonight.

Steve had no sooner ended the conference with Donna and Robert Wilkinson, assuring them that Brian would, indeed, turn around, when he received a call from Gabrielle Shaw. She sounded desperate on the phone, and he could only imagine what facial expressions she was using at the moment.
Gabby had called to talk to Steve about Brian and wanted to know if the pastor would talk to him. Steve tried to tell her what he had told the Wilkinsons, but she saw through it.
“Don’t play games, Pastor Taylor,” she rebuked. “You know as well as I do that my boyfriend is as lost as an atheist and will stay that way unless we do something.”
“Look, Gabby, I firmly believe that God will intervene in his life and turn him around. We’ve done all we can. All we can do now is wait and pray.”
Gabby was stubborn. “I do pray. Every day. All day. I know Donna does, too. But the fact remains that nothing is going to happen until we make it happen.”
“What do you suggest we do?” Steve asked her. “Only God can save him. It’s not up to us to convict him of sin and bring about his repentance. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. We’ve talked to him time and again and he hasn’t listened. Now our only option is to plead with the Father on his behalf. And trust me, I’m convinced God will ultimately bring him to repentance.”

The phone rang. Pete and Mike were still carrying on about their schedule, so Brian figured he would go ahead and answer it. They didn’t appear as though they would be stopping anytime soon, and he didn’t feel like interrupting them just for a phone call.
“Hey, B,” said the voice on the other end. It was Steve. “Your girlfriend called here not too long ago and was wondering if I would talk to you. I told her I would think about it. What do you think?”
“Steve, you know what I think. I don’t want to discuss anything about God or Christianity anymore. I just want to live my life and be left alone.”
“Gabby loves you, Brian,” Steve pleaded. “She’s worried sick about your spiritual health. So are your mom and dad. So am I. I’ve talked it over with all three of them, and we decided to offer you one last chance to talk about what’s bothering you. It won’t even involve them. Just you and me, one on one, like we used to do in Sunday school. What do you say?”
“I say thanks, but no thanks,” Brian insisted. “There’s nothing bothering me. I just don’t want to do the church thing anymore. It doesn’t fit in my life. I understand what you’re trying to do, and I appreciate it, but I would like to be left alone about this.”
“All right,” Steve agreed. “Done deal. You won’t hear another word from me about how you should change your life. However, I’m leaving the offer open to talk to me, should you choose to need it.”
“I can live with that, but I’m sure it won’t be necessary. Thanks again. Bye.” Brian hung up and noticed that Pete and Mike had stopped their childish joking to eavesdrop on his phone conversation.
“It was Steve, wasn’t it?” Mike asked.
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“Well,” Mike answered, “I’m not that slow. I could tell from the tone of your voice and your body gestures.”
“Plus,” Pete added, shooting a smug look at Mike, “it didn’t hurt that you actually called him ‘Steve’ over the phone.” Mike stared back at him in disgust.
“Hey, I didn’t quite understand that last part. Why don’t you sing it for me?”
“Okay, guys,” Brian said before Pete had a chance to respond. “Look, Steve has agreed not to push Christianity on us anymore, so I say that calls for a celebration.”
Pete spoke up. “No can do, sir. You’ve got a hot date in an hour.” Brian looked at the clock. Sure enough, it was seven o’clock. He couldn’t believe time had slipped by so fast.
“We were at the university over six hours,” Pete remarked, seeing the quizzical look on his friend’s face. “That line was pretty long.” Brian agreed that it must have been, and that in any case he needed to hurry and get ready to meet Gabby at the bistro.
He quickly showered and dressed in a button-down shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. Shaving would have to be put off until tomorrow, he decided, since it was already now 7:20 and the bistro on Main was a good half-hour away.
He sped into the living room, where he got a brief approval of his appearance from his friends, then grabbed his keys and headed out the door. During the long drive, he remembered how nervous he was about the date, and he had a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach that he just couldn’t explain. He just knew that something bad was going to happen.

Gabby was waiting outside of the small bistro at eight, seated at one of three tables in front of the quaint café. She had on a stunning black dress and leather sandals. Large, black hoop earrings hung from her ears, throwing stark contrast to her crimson hair, which this evening was piled up into a neat bun.
Brian pulled up to the curb at a minute past and scrambled out to meet his date. The cool, late August air hit him instantly and seemed to settle his nerves a bit. He made his way over to the table where his girlfriend sat and stopped short.
“What’s wrong?” Gabby wondered, seeing the look of distress on his face.
“Nothing,” he answered her. “It’s just that, well, you’re facing up the street, and there are only two chairs.” He fumbled around with words and dropped hints, but didn’t have the courage to ask for what he really wanted. He knew how Gabby would respond. Luckily, she had come to expect his passiveness.
“Do you want to sit here so you can see up the street?” she asked, frustrated.
“Well, if you don’t mind.”
“No, it’s all right. I’m just wondering why it’s such a big deal to you.”
“I just need to see that side of the street, that’s all.” The reason for this, of course, was that the nightclub was on that side of the street, and Brian needed a good view of it, but he wouldn’t dare let Gabby know that he was going to the party tonight.
“So, let’s eat,” he finally said to change the subject. “I’m starved. What sounds good?”
“How about we talk first?” she replied.
“Talk? What about?”
“About what you said earlier today. ‘Let’s get back to the apartment.’ Remember? You said we would discuss it tonight. Well, it’s tonight, so let’s discuss.” Brian could see that he wasn’t going to get around this question or get through the date without giving in a little, so he bit his lip, faced his fears and gave a straightforward answer.
“I moved in with Pete and Mike, okay? Now, I think I’ll have the salmon.”
“Forget the salmon, B,” Gabby pressed on. “How could you move in with those two? You know that they’re not good to hang around with.”
Brian was fidgety now. Why had he agreed to talk about this stuff? He knew Gabby would act like this. He tried to cleverly look up the street past her and concentrate on the club, but she caught his eyes wandering. She followed them and turned around in her seat, then swerved back to Brian.
“Why are you looking up the street and not paying attention to me?” she demanded. “Have you heard a word I’ve said?” Continuing to look for the source of his interest, she finally glanced at the club and started giving her boyfriend the third degree.
“What’s so interesting about that immoral night club?”
“Nothing, honey,” Brian responded, desperately trying to keep his focus on Gabby. “I’m here, with you. You were talking about your classes.” As he said this, he unconsciously glanced at his watch. It was 8:30.
“No,” she insisted, “I wasn’t. I was talking about you living with Pete and Mike. And why did you just glance at your watch? Got other plans?” She was clearly mad now.
“Not for another half hour.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth he kicked himself. This was going to be a long night.
“Oh, I see,” Gabby shouted, her nostrils flaring. “You intended to spend an hour with me and then cut me off to go run around someplace else. The nightclub up the street, perhaps? Got a party there at nine? Well, let me save you the trouble of checking your watch. As far as I’m concerned, this date is over.” With that, she stood up and stormed off in the other direction, leaving Brian feeling awkward sitting there all alone.
He started to feel uneasy about how he had just treated his girlfriend. Gabby had every right to be upset, of course. He had thought only of his own gratification and completely ignored the needs of those he loved. Immediately, guilt and remorse began to set in, and Brian knew that there was only one thing to do. He headed up the street and entered the club. If drugs and beer couldn’t numb his feelings, he didn’t know what would.
Nite Life had been around for a few years now and had steadily grown in popularity. What began as a small bar had now become a two-story, three-thousand-square-foot hot spot. Some of the regulars said that it was because of the fine cuisine and wonderful atmosphere, but most everyone else knew that it was the fact that the beer was cold and the women were hot.
Brian made his way past a crowd of dancers and found a table with four chairs. Mike had said that the party would start at nine, but already the place was alive with noise. He sat quietly and watched the hundreds of moving bodies jumping to the beat supplied by the DJ. As he scanned the room, he noticed Mike had just come in the door, so he motioned his friend over to where he sat.
“Where’s Pete?” Brian asked him. “Parking the car?”
“Yeah. He said he’d be here in a bit.”
“That’s cool. We can wait a little while.”
“What time is it, anyway?” Mike inquired. Brian checked his watch again.
“Almost nine. The party should start any min…” but he was interrupted by a commotion at the front door. Five armed police officers stepped silently into the club and surveyed the scene. Those nearest the entrance who saw them seemed almost not to care, but Brian was aware of what was going on.
“Mikey,” he asked his friend, whose back was to the door, “the guy that gave you the hot tip on the rave tonight, did he happen to be wearing a flashy piece of metal on his shirt, like a badge?”
“He might have,” Mike said nonchalantly. “I don’t know. I was eavesdropping on somebody.”
“You idiot! We have to get out of here.”
“Why? What’s going on?” he asked as Brian stood up, and then turned around to see the officers in the club. “Holy crap! It’s not a rave. It’s a raid!”
“Exactly,” Brian said. “Come on, we have to find a back exit.” But he was too late. No sooner had the two moved to leave than the lead cop yelled for everyone to remain where they were. This was certainly a huge bust for the precinct.

Pete was headed for jail. He had scrounged up some money and was on his way to bail his friends out after hearing news of the raid on the club. It had been only a matter of time before the inevitable occurred, he knew. The rumors of mob involvement and South American drug cartels couldn’t be entirely false. He was just glad he hadn’t been there to be arrested, both so that he could now pay Brian and Mike’s bail, and so that he wouldn’t have missed the greatest experience of his life.
As he turned down the side street that would take him to police headquarters, he spotted Gabby sitting alone on a bench, her head in her hands. It looked as though she had been crying. Pete pulled up to the curb and rolled down the window.
“You all right, Gab?” he called out the door.
“Do I look all right, genius?” she snapped. “That good-for-nothing friend of yours just brushed me aside to go to some stupid party at Nite Life. I’m surprised you’re not there.”
“Well, I’m glad I’m not,” he answered, and Gabby shot him a puzzled look. “It’s a long story. Hop in and I’ll tell you all about it.”
She agreed and got into the car. Pete drove off and continued toward the jail, wondering where to begin his story. Gabby looked over at him and saved him the trouble.
“So where are we going?”
“The police station. That party at the club got raided and they arrested Brian and Mike.”
“Oh, my Lord,” Gabby gasped. “Do you have the money to get them out?”
“Yeah, but that’s not the half of it. I heard on the news that they’re facing some rough charges and even prison time.”
“This just keeps getting worse. I don’t know what I’d do without him around for a few years.”
“What?” Pete asked incredulously. “Just a minute ago you were ready to kill him.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand relationships, Mr. Helford,” she said snobbishly. “They’re very complex. One does not end them simply because of a single transgression.”
“Thank God for that,” Pete replied. “Literally.”
“That’s a good point. Although I wouldn’t have expected it from you.”
“Well, get used to it,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“That’s what I wanted to tell you. It’s the reason I’m glad I didn’t go the party.”
“Because you didn’t go to jail?” she asked.
“No,” he said, “but it does have to do with being free. I got saved.”

Brian sat on his bunk while Mike paced the cell floor. He had a lot to think about now that he had been arrested. The two of them were facing charges of underage drinking, possession of an intoxicating substance and drug trafficking. If convicted, they looked at a minimum of seven years in prison. This wasn’t exactly what he wanted out of life.
He knew Gabby had been right, of course. Even though he still refused the Christian life, and chose not to give up Mike and Pete as friends, he had no business being at that club. The mob activity and drug rings had made him and his friend guilty by association, and now they would be locked away for nearly a decade.
“Would you stop that pacing?” Brian demanded.
“I’m sorry,” Mike said, “but I don’t like this any more than you do. This is how I deal with it. I pace.”
“Yeah, well, it’s making me nervous. It’s bad enough we’re in here. You don’t have to make the cell seem smaller.”
Mike was about to respond again when they heard the sound of keys rattling. The face of one of the guards appeared in the small window of the door.
“You two are free to go,” he said. “Two of your friends paid your bail.” He unlocked their door and held it open for them to leave.
Brian couldn’t believe their luck. He was sure the amount of their bail had to be well over $25,000, but he also knew there could only be two friends that had gotten them out.
Sure enough, when they were shown to the room where they would be processed out, there stood Pete and Gabby. He had a ton of questions for the both of them, like why his girlfriend had bothered to show or why Pete hadn’t been there at the club, but he decided they could wait until they got back to the apartment. All of them, that is, except for one.
“What’s with that stupid look on your face, Pete?” Brian asked as they walked out the door.
“I’ll explain it to all of you when we get back home,” he answered. “Like I told Gabby, it’s a long story.”
All during the trip to the apartment Brian was thinking, mulling over everything that happened that day. He was looking forward to starting classes on Monday, but began to wonder how the criminal charges would affect that. Why had he listened to Mike and gone to the club? Why did he hurt Gabby in order to do it? And what in the world was up with Pete? This story would have to be good, he decided, no matter how long it was.
As soon as they were in the door, Gabby and Mike hurriedly sat on the sofa, looking up expectantly at Pete, while Brian stood against the wall. Gabby, it seemed, had not even been told this story, although she appeared to know something. Brian was certainly wondering what it was, and didn’t have long to wait before he found out.
“First things first,” Pete began, “Mike, Brian, I’ll tell you what I told Gabby. I got saved tonight.”
“You what?!” Brian exclaimed. “You mean you went and got yourself brainwashed, too?”
“Well, my brain definitely needed cleaning, that’s for sure,” Pete replied. “Now if you’ll let me continue, I’d like to tell you how it happened.” He paused to look at Brian and, seeing no objections, went on with the story of his conversion.
“Okay, Mike, you know how I let you off at the club and went to park the car, right?”
“Yeah,” he said sounding enthusiastic. “Go on.” Brian couldn’t believe Mike was so eager so soon, but then again, he wasn’t very bright.
“I couldn’t find a parking space anywhere,” Pete continued, “so I drove around for a while trying to find one, and I realized there weren’t any anywhere. So I figured I might as well listen to some music while I looked for an open spot. I turned on the radio, and as I was tuning it, something caught my attention. It turns out it was a Christian station, and it was the tail end of the broadcast.
“Anyway, the guy on the program was wrapping up the show by sharing the gospel message. Well, of course, my first instinct was to turn it off, but something inside me whispered, ‘Leave it alone’, so I did. I kept arguing with the guy on the radio, rejecting the message, yet he sounded so sincere and so loving that I actually started considering what he was saying. He said a prayer, asking the listeners to repeat it, and I did. I told God that I knew my life was messed up and that I was sorry for doing all the things I had done. I asked Him to save me from Hell and to forgive me and help me change. And He did.
“Immediately I felt better. I didn’t like my sin anymore. All of a sudden I only wanted to please God and glorify Him with my life. I got so excited that I rushed back here and forgot all about you two being at the club. I called Steve and your parents, Brian.”
“You called mom and dad?” he shouted. “How could you do something like that? Now they’ll start hounding me again.”
“Don’t get so upset, B,” Pete said. “I’m going to anyway, so what’s the difference?”
“You just shut up about that stuff around me, all right?”
“I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try,” Pete replied, and Brian nodded in approval.
“Hey, Pete,” Mike spoke up, “how did you know we were locked up?”
“Oh, I almost forgot,” he apologized. “After I got off the phone with Brian’s mom, I turned on the news, and their top story was the raid on the club, so I got some money together and rushed over to the jail. Thankfully, I had enough to get you guys out.”
“Pete,” Gabby interrupted, “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. Where in the world did you get all that cash?”
“Drug dealing money,” he said matter-of-factly. “I figured that since I’m leaving that life behind, I might as well put the money to good use. I felt God leading me to do it.”
“Oh, please,” Brian objected. “I told you I don’t want to hear any of that junk, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bed.”
“Brian,” Pete called after him as he neared the bedroom door. “Try reading the book of Luke.”
“All right, whatever,” he responded, entering his room and shutting the door. He sat down on the bed and turned on his lamp. After getting ready to go to sleep, he lay down and stared at the ceiling. The book of Luke. He had no real intention of reading it, but knew that Pete would more than likely ask him about it the next morning, so he figured he would at least scan it.
He had read the whole Bible before, knew all of its doctrines and teachings. Nothing in all of its sixty-six books was actually new to him, but still he picked up the leather-bound book and turned to the third gospel account. His Bible used to be extremely dusty, but that had been knocked off during the move.
“ ‘Forasmuch,’ ” he began aloud, “ ‘ as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.’ Well, at least I know I’m not the only one who had to endure reading this. I feel your pain, Theophilus.”
He kept plodding through the verses, reading about Zechariah and the angel, Mary and Joseph, the census, Jesus’ birth. After two chapters, he couldn’t stand anymore. He closed the Bible, set it on the bedside table, and shut off the lamp. Tomorrow he would read some more. Maybe. Right now he needed to rest.
As he lay in bed, he began to fall asleep, hovering somewhere between fully awake and deep, dreamful sleep. He was aware of people standing around a huge building, expectant looks on their faces. He realized that he was dreaming of the characters from the chapters he had just read, but right now he was too tired to care, and he let the darkness of peaceful rest envelop his mind.

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