The alarm rang shrilly at 5:30 a.m. and Kalli bolted upright. Her heart started to pound even as she snapped the button to the off position and swung her legs out of bed. Oh, geez. Lord God, the new year begins today. It's a new beginning, and I don't want to make the same mistakes as I made last time. I have four new resolutions, and I hope you'll help me keep them.
This year I'll keep my temper.
This year I'll get everything done on time.
This year I'll remember that this is where You want me to be.
This year I'll remember that You have a plan and a purpose for every moment I spend in school.
Kalli hurried through her shower and put on the clothes she had laid out the night before. Red - a power color. Maybe its bright, bold cheeriness would keep her from getting nervous. Why did she always get nervous on the first day of school? This was her eleventh September. She should be past getting butterflies by now. But every new year brought the same old worries.
Maybe they won't like me.
Maybe they'll steal my things.
Maybe I won't be allowed to sit with anyone at lunch.
Kalli bent over the bathroom sink and carefully applied her makeup. Her deep brown eyes looked back at her, slightly too wide and not blinking nearly enough. That would never do. She couldn't let anyone know she was afraid. Deliberately she narrowed her eyes and tightened her lips into an almost-frown. Much better. If she could hold that expression, she would be all right.
What if they throw things?
What if I lose control?
What if they laugh at me?
Kalli pressed a hand to her jittery stomach and hurried downstairs to the kitchen. Nick and Diana were already there, eating cereal out of the white bowls with faces painted on the sides. Their brand-new bookbags were already stuffed full and ready to go, and Gus had already made them their lunches. She hugged him tight as a thank you. "That was my chore for this week," she said. "Thanks for doing it for me."
"I figured you had enough to worry about this morning. How are you feeling?"
"I have four new subjects and three new teachers to deal with. I'm just peachy."
Gus laughed and patted her shoulder. "You'll do fine. You've done great every year."
"Yeah," Nick said through a mouthful of cereal. "And at least you don't gotta take math from Mr. Marx. He's really mean."
"And I've got Mrs. Ruff," Diana piped up, pulling her timetable out of her jeans pocket. It had arrived in the mail a week ago and the paper was already wrinkled and torn. Her brow creased and her small pink mouth turned down. "What if she is rough?"
Gus reached out and ruffled her hair. "I think we're all a little nervous. Let's have a prayer before we go to school, okay?"
"Sounds good," Kalli said. They all bowed their heads and Gus began to pray.
"Dear Lord, all of us have jitters today because everything is so different and unfamiliar. We don't really know what we're supposed to do and we're worried that we won't be able to find the things we need. But you promised that you will never leave us nor forsake us, so we know that you'll be with us as we start this new year. Please help, guide and protect us, and bring us all safely home tonight. In Jesus' name, AMEN."
"Amen," Nick and Diana chorused. A loud blast of a horn made the windows shiver and they jumped up from the table and grabbed their bags. "That's the bus. Bye Mom! Bye, Dad!"
"Have a good day, kids," Gus called, and watched them run through the front door, leaving it swinging behind them. Then he turned to Kalli. "Feel better now?"
Kalli picked up her briefcase and straightened her bright red business suit. "With God, all things are possible," she said.
"Exactly. You'll be the best teacher in the school."
Kalli grinned and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks. Well, here goes."
"I'll be praying for you."
Kalli walked out the front door and took a deep breath of the warm autumn air. The new year begins today, Lord. Together, we'll make a difference.
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