Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: On The Other Hand...
By Jan Ackerson
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We both made it, and I finally got to talk to Mallory during our first read-through. In the play, Fyedka introduces himself to Chava with a great line, for a Bolshevik: <i>I’m a pleasant fellow, charming, honest, ambitious, quite bright, and very modest.</i> So I tried it out on Mallory, offstage.
She was doing algebra, chewing her pencil and scribbling out equations. I sat down beside her. “Hey,” I said. “I’m Zach. I’m a pleasant fellow, charming…”
Mallory pulled off a triple—she simultaneously laughed, blushed, and sneezed. A wad of gum shot into the hair of a nearby ninth-grader.
Mallory and Zach…Chava and Fyedka…I think we were meant to be together. We both liked French fries with ranch dressing. We both hated <i>Beowulf</i>.
We both wore purity rings.
And we meant them, too, because God was another thing we had in common. Mallory’s faith was as obvious to the rest of the cast as her green eyes. I let my tee-shirts do the talking.
So…about those purity rings. I don’t have to tell you what happened at the cast party.
Afterward, Mallory sobbed into my shoulder, and I stared at the pile of costumes in the backstage closet. When Mallory’s tears slowed, I closed my eyes and tried to remember a Bible verse that would make this all right while she fumbled for her clothes.
I remember choking back an ironic laugh—we were still Chava and Fyedka. Mallory’s father was a minister. He’d never let her be with me if he knew what I’d done. I imagined him doing a Tevye: <i>No! If I try and bend that far, I’ll break!</i>
Mallory wouldn’t meet my eyes the next day at lunch. Over pasty mac and cheese, I whispered “I’m sorry” to the top of her head.
I wondered if Mallory had the same wooden stomach as I did, the same tripping heartbeat, the same brain fuzz. I decided to leave her alone—she didn’t need the sight of me, reminding her...
And then I got my letter of acceptance to New Covenant Bible College. I wasn’t sure I’d get in with an ACT of 16, but there it was. Maybe I wouldn’t have to work for my dad after all—maybe I really could become a youth pastor.
I didn’t talk to Mallory for weeks. I thought about her all the time, and I watched her in the library and the cafeteria. She seemed okay. It was hard to tell, with Mallory. I decided to call her, to see if she wanted to hang out.
But she texted me first. We’re not supposed to have our cells on during school, but I turn mine on in study hall. Mrs. Hays is usually on the computer, and as long as no one’s actually committing murder, she lets us do whatever. I felt the vibration and checked the message: im late need 2 tlk 2 u
My first thought was crazy: <i>Late? I haven’t asked her out yet</i>…And then, alarm bells. <i>She’s late. She’s pregnant.</i> And finally a jumble: <i>Mallory must be going nuts…what about college?...her dad’s gonna kill me…was it a sin if we love each other?… I hope Mallory’s okay…there’s going to be a baby…a baby…a baby</i>…Then, realization gripped me like a parasitic alien: <i>I’m gonna be a father…</i>
I almost skipped out. It’d be easy to convince Mrs. Hays—she falls for the “fake nosebleed” every time. <i>Fourth hour…Mallory’s in band…I should be with her.</i> But as I shoved papers into my backpack, I saw the most recent letter from New Covenant, a roommate survey.
<i>New Covenant Bible College will not want a youth ministries major with a pregnant girlfriend.
What kind of ministry can I have with teens, when I couldn’t even keep the promise of that purity ring?
If I ask God to forgive me, it’ll all be washed away, right? Like it never happened? So I could work with teens after all?
I should go to Mallory…but…I’m not ready to be a father.</i>
In one hand, I held a letter. In the other, my cell, with Mallory’s text. I said a prayer. And sitting there in study hall, I made the hardest decision of my life.
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