The note fell into my lap during the hustle for the classroom door as the students stampeded out for lunch. It was a torn piece of an index card, with tiny, cramped handwriting. Squinting at the impossible script, I made out the equally impossible request.
Crumpling it in hand, I turned to toss it in the trash and caught my homeroom teacher, Mr. Nelson, giving me The Look. I held his gaze and spat out the wad of chewing gum in my mouth, wrapping the scrap of index card around it.
He looked away. I tucked it into my pocket. I could dispose of it in the girl’s bathroom.
“Cerina?” My best friend, Sandi poked me from behind. “Lunch?”
I grabbed my stuff and followed her outside. We could enjoy our lunch wherever we pleased, as long as it was within the Millsworth Private School grounds and during the appointed time. Lucky us.
“Was it Talia?” Sandi unwrapped a fat sandwich, grimace at the slice of tomato on one side.
“Nora.” I reached over and stole the tomato.
Sandi grinned. “Who has it?”
“Marsha.” I dropped the tomato in my salad and stabbed at it. “We pass each other before Chemistry, but there’s no time now and she always eats in the science club room. I could get Greg in Math to pick it up, but his friend is friends with Kenneth, who-” I stuffed my mouth.
“Who’s friends with Clara, who’s friends with Mr. Nelson.” Sandi winced. “Ouch.”
I didn’t answer. Maybe I didn’t have any business doing what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop now. I had a point to make. The point about the impact of thought-provoking books in young lives.
The only complaint I had against Millsworth, was their banned books policy.
Treasured classics like Treasure Island, Moby Dick, The Secret Garden, Catcher In The Rye, Where The Red Fern Grows, The Magician’s Nephew, Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Corrie Ten Boom, The Last of The Mohicans and—good grief, the list was miles long. The reasons they gave for such a ridiculous policy ranged from absurd to insane on every level imaginable.
I was surprised our literature class actually had a spot in the general education curriculum.
I’d discovered it the hard way, reading The Secret Garden, only to find myself sent to the principal’s office and subjected to a lecture I still can’t make heads or tails of.
The incident had the surprising side effect of making me popular among the upperclassmen. They thought I was noteworthy for breaking such a rule. In an age of shiny digital e-readers and smartphones, my paper and ink book was something of a novelty.
For lunch that day, I gained an attentive audience that wanted to know all about my book and other books in general. They came from families where their parents wouldn’t let them read or they couldn’t afford the luxury.
Somehow I ended up dealing books out of my gym locker.
The elaborate lending system existed just beneath the teacher’s noses and behind their goody-two-shoes snoops that tried to rat me out.
Books brought people together. I started making friends—Sandi, for one—and I started speaking up. I joined the Debate Club after encouragement from the upperclassmen, after spending an entire week’s lunch time debating books and book policy.
My parents—rest their souls—gave me the best gift on our final day together. They’d pressed a Bible into my hands and made me promise to never stop reading. They were escorted away by police, as I hid in the arms of a terrified missionary supporter who smuggled me back to a place called home.
I never saw them again.
But they left me books. Books upon books.
Dealing books felt like a way to honor their memory. So I thought of them every time I investigated a potential new reader, before inducting them into the private reading society. I remembered them as I updated my booklist and sent whispers through my grapevine. I didn’t cry with every page turn beneath the covers, reading by the light of my standard-issue cellphone.
Now I was strong enough to understand the gift they’d given me.
“Cerina!” Marsha joined us. “Best book ever. Got anything else?”
“New list tomorrow.” I promised. I looked around, scanning the school courtyard for Nora. I waved her over a moment later, smiling at her surprise. Marsha was always a fast reader.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.