“‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus…….”
The piano plays the next three bars, but my voice refuses to cooperate. Sure, I open my dry, sticky mouth. But no sound comes out. Mrs. Richardson stops playing, then begins the introduction for the second time.
Hot sweat seems to ooze from every pore in my body, as I observe the expectant congregation below. Some dear old ladies, smile encouragingly, others stare at their shoes uncomfortably. The entire back pew literally shakes with stifled giggles, as Michael and Andy Evans keep nudging Aaron Newman, whose face seems to be bright red. The embarrassment must be spreading.
Finally my legs which seem glued to the stage are able to move. I start to run. I don’t stop until I’ve made it through the church doors, reaching Daddy’s jeep. Thankfully, the back door is open. I climb in, and slouch down, wishing I could disappear. Tears threaten to fall, but a tap at the window makes me jump.
“Aren’t you coming back in?” My Dad opens the door and places a hand on my shoulder. “It’s okay, you know.”
“I don’t even want to talk about it!” I cut him off before he can ‘comfort’ me further.
“Come on. We’ll slip in at the back. No-one will notice.”
Seeing that he won’t take no for an answer, and not wanting to make a further scene, I step down onto the car park gravel.
“I’m never going to sing a solo again!” I hiss before opening the door, hiding behind Daddy into the back row, where the Evans boys stare and snigger.
Not one word of the pastor’s sermon is going in this morning. As soon as the service ends, we get up quickly before anyone starts a conversation. Somehow Pastor James makes it to the door before us.
“Same piece next week?” he offers, as he shakes my hand. I look at him as though he has two heads. “I’m preaching on trusting Jesus, next week. The words would fit perfectly. I guess God wanted that song saved ‘til then.” he winks.
My face burns like a beacon, and I can’t look at him. I want to tell him that the song is going to be ‘saved’ for a long time - never to be erased from my memory no matter how hard I try! Instead I find myself saying “I’ll think about it.”
Silence permeates the journey home, and at the table as we demolish the Sunday roast dinner. I wash the dishes speechlessly, as Daddy dries them. I’m just about to stomp off to my room when there’s a knock at the door.
I roll my eyes as Dad opens the door. Old Mrs. Newman’s crackly voice greets him pleasantly.
“Here’s just a little something for you both.” She hands him a tin, no doubt filled with home baking. I cringe, as I notice she’s accompanied by her grandson - Aaron Newman! Now what’s he doing here?
“Put that in the kitchen, honey.” Dad hands me the tin, and I just look at them both. Aaron is still blushing. Well it can’t have been that bad!
I wonder if I have to stay and talk to them. I guess it would be polite to.
“Well I didn’t make it out this morning, and I was so disappointed.” Mrs. Newman comments. “Why, I missed your first performance, Olivia.”
Why didn’t I stay in my room?
“Aaron says you did a great job with the first line.”
I now glare at Aaron, whose face is becoming redder.
“Well,” Dad speaks up bravely, “if you’re feeling well enough next week, Mrs. Newman, you might just get another opportunity to hear it.”
I’m now fuming. “Dad - I’m not doing it again! There’s just no way!” I jump up from the settee, and start to make my way upstairs.
“Wait!” Aaron calls. “I’d like to hear you too. Everyone makes mistakes, Olivia, and no-one thinks anything worse of you. When you sing next week, just close your eyes. Don’t look at all those people in front of you. Look to Him. Think about who you’re singing those words to.”
It’s my turn to redden. I stare at Aaron in disbelief. Somehow this boy who I once thought of as a bumbling idiot seems different.
“Thanks.” I mumble, though continue up the stairs. Making my way into my room, I pick up the telephone at my bedside and punch in a number.
“Hello. Pastor James?”
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