Tom was outside, tapping gently on my window; yellow squares of light framing him as he stood waiting. “Come on.” He whispered as I slid one leg and then the other across the sill. “We’re going to miss the beginning.”
I leaned back against the house, my senses full of Tom. Of hair spiky and damp, and skin like milk, splashed with crumbs of gingerbread. “Just one minute.” I begged. He joined me against the wall, under the rambling rose, our faces pale in the buttery light of the moon. “Do you think Anna will be there?” I asked.
“Of course. She’s the one who asked us to come.”
I giggled. “Mom and Pops will ground me for ever if they find out.”
Tom bent forward, dropped a kiss on my cheek and then we were off, springing lightly across the back lawn, threading through carrots, weaving through tomatoes, trying not to laugh until we reached the safety of the oaks.
“There it is.” Tom hung over the fence and pointed down the field. We’d known it would be there, down on the dusty site that everyone used.
“The tent is smaller than the circus’s,” I gasped, trying to get my breath. “And not as colourful.” In fact it reminded me of a squat camping lantern. One with frosted glass and a dull khaki light that diffused softly into the shadows.
“Listen. They’re singing.” Tom grabbed my hand and began to run. “My dad says they roll on the floors in there and sometimes they even speak in strange tongues.”
I wasn’t sure if I liked the sound of that. “I’m leaving if I don’t like it.”
The air inside the tent was moist and close, brimming with the emotions of a hundred voices. A woman stood on a platform, belting out a full throated version of Amazing Grace. A spotlight followed her as she strode from side to side, its beam a shaft of suspended sawdust. “Where’s Anna?” I whispered, feeling a little nervous. From our spot, we could only see people’s backs.
“Come on.” Tom pulled me towards a couple of empty seats in the back row. “We’ll find her later.” We settled down just as the evangelist walked onto the stage.
“I greet you all tonight in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He was a tall broad-shouldered man with coiffed locks of ebony hair and a voice that resonated deeply. I imagined God would have a voice like that. One with authority and power, yet gentle and tender. I didn’t understand everything he said, but snatches of life jumped out and hit my heart as though he was only speaking to me:
“For the wages of sin is death.”
“Jesus has paid the price for your sin.”
“You need to give your life to Jesus.”
He leaned over the wooden pulpit. “I beseech you tonight, beloved. If Jesus is speaking to your heart, come up here. I want to pray for you to accept Jesus as your personal Saviour. Come, come.” A plump woman pounded out a tune on the organ and people started streaming up to the front. Crying, weeping, repenting of their sins. The tug on my heart was so strong.
I felt a cool hand take mine. “Do you want to go up? I’ll go with you.” Anna had found me.
“Come now.” The evangelist called. “Don’t delay. Come and give your life to Jesus. Tomorrow may be too late.”
I stood and looked across at Tom, seeing the same hunger burning in his eyes. I held out my other hand and the three of us pressed into the crowd, made our way up to the front.
I opened my eyes and felt as though bubbles were bursting up inside me. Like someone had taken a brush and soap and scrubbed me clean from the inside out. I Looked at Tom and could see he felt it too. That incredible joy of being a new creation in Christ.
We leaned against the wall of the house a little later, sheltered under the rambling rose, our faces pale in the buttery light of the moon. “We must go again.” Tom said. “We must ask our friends to come tomorrow night.” I slid one leg and then the other across the sill. Tom bent forward, dropped a kiss on my cheek and then he was off, springing lightly across the back lawn, threading his way back home.
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