Two dark figures stood at the end of a silent, neighborhood street. Dusk had just settled over the tiny houses; a few lights flickered from behind drawn curtains. Both were still, blending in with the darkness slipping in on inky wings of black, waiting, watching.
Simultaneously, they began to walk. They did not stop until they stood by a nondescript house about half way down. One remained in the street, as the other silently glided forward, to stand in front of a first floor window. Inside six girls giggled in their pajamas, passing around a bottle of unopened wine.
"Open it Sam! Itís your party. You have to be the one to open it!" a girl with flaming curls demanded.
"I donít know. My dad will probably notice itís missingÖ" Sam responded, a tad sheepishly.
"No he wonít! Heís got at least a hundred in his wine cellar. Well, if I open it, then you have to be the first to taste it!" the same outspoken girl bargained. A chorus of nervous laughter tittered across the room. The smallest of the girls pulled her legs up, resting her head on her knees. She was the only one who didnít laugh.
"Fine Lilly! As long as Hope goes next!" Sam countered. All eyes turned to the silent girl, arms wrapped tight around her. "Well? Hope?"
"Um. No thanks Sam."
"Oh come on Hope. Donít be a chicken. Itís just like the champagne we accidentally tasted at your cousinís wedding!"
"No, really. I donít want any. And, that was different, we didnít know thatís what we were drinkingÖ" Hope trailed off meekly.
"Ooookay party pooper," Sam trilled, taking a sip before passing the bottle on to the other giddy girls. "Hey! Letís watch that movie my mom rented for us!" The other girls, having tasted the wine and not thrilled by the bitter taste, were excited to move on to something else. Hope breathed a sigh of relief, thanking God the wine bottle was being put up and forgotten, and she could feel like a twelve year old again. She trailed after the five as the black figure turned, and walked away.
Music throbbed from a parked F-150 at the dead-end of a winding, country lane. Two sixteen year olds sat close together in the front seat, staring at the sunset blazing low on the evening horizon.
"Itís beautiful," the girl sighed.
"Not as beautiful as you," the boy said, reaching down to squeeze her hand that lay softly in her lap. A deep blush, crept up her neck.. Her eyes fluttered quickly up to meet his intense gaze, and before she could speak, he was crushing his mouth to hers, pulling her close to him in a movement smooth, and well executed.
Her heart beat out of control, but not from delight or passion; fear bit at her as his hands squeezed her a little too rough.
"Waitóplease. I donítóI donít want to do this!" she cried out, pushing desperately against his strength.
"Oh Hope, donít be a baby. Weíve been dating for two months. This is natural. Everybodyís doing this. I promise, I wonít hurt you," he reasoned, as he slid one hand down her arm.
Hope pulled violently away. Flinging herself hard against the passenger door, she streaked out into the fields, praying fervently. She was relieved to hear the carís engine start up with an angry growl, tires spitting dirt into the air as the truck sped away in the opposite direction. Two shadowed figures trailed silently behind.
Four college students sprawled out under a tall oak tree, on the outskirts of campus, each taking turns ripping out pages from a battered looking bible. One wrote horrible words across the precious pages, while the others took turns tearing them into pieces. A lone girl approached them, a stricken look plastered on her face.
"What are you guys doing?!"
"Destroying this book of lies! Help us Hope!" one angry guy declared.
"You canít tell me you believe this garbage? Weíre in college, adults now. We donít have to conform to this book anymore!" another cried. Empty eyes watched nearby, unseen.
Hesitantly, she lowered herself onto the ground beside them, the closest guy handing her the damaged bible in anticipation.
Holding it firmly in one hand, she spoke quietly, "I have never once conformed."
Two dark figures slunk back as she stood with a sad smile, turned her back and walked away.
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