Ann hunched over her desk, staring at her paper and trying to block out the taunts of other students.
“Hey Grease, wanna help us after school? We’re gonna fry some chicken. We could use the oil from your face.” Charlie Gibbs howled at his ridiculous joke and the others snickered.
“No man,” Shane laughed, “I want her to come change the oil in my car. I bet we could squeeze a few quarts out of her hair!”
Ann scribbled furiously on her notebook, the image of a dove taking shape beneath her pencil. The words that had become her daily mantra repeated in her mind—oh that I had wings like a dove... It was from a Psalm. She couldn’t remember which one— hadn’t read her Bible in a long time—but remembered that David said it. He’d known what it was like to be tormented, to long for escape.
But where could she go? Not church. She’d tried that, but youth group wasn’t much different. Though the kids didn’t openly ridicule her, they wouldn’t include her. She felt even lonelier at church than she did at school, couldn’t make sense of such treatment from her “brothers and sisters.” After a month, she’d quit.
Ann missed the days when she was younger and attended Bible club. It hadn’t seemed to matter if you were pretty or cool. She’d memorized more verses and won more awards than anyone. That was the last time she could remember feeling special.
Jenna, a cheerleader, was at it now, her voice full of disgust. “Oh my gosh. How can you guys stand to sit by her? If one of those zits pops, you’ll probably drown.” The group cackled wildly.
I wish I could fly. She erased the dove’s beak and began to sketch the face of a girl there, then replaced the tail feathers with human legs and feet. Now a winged girl soared across the page, her hair whipping in the wind.
“Ann Miller!” Lost in her flight-fantasy, Ann hadn’t noticed her teacher’s arrival. How many times had she called?
Ann peered up through her overgrown bangs. “Huh?”
“Do you think you could wake up and join us, Ann?”
Snorts of laughter surrounded her. She tried to ignore the whispered insults. “She probably couldn’t hear because her ears are full of grease…”
Ann avoided the cafeteria, hiding in bathroom stalls like David in the caves of En Gedi, or finding other pointless errands to kill time. Sometimes she’d go to the nurse’s office and ask for a tissue. Or she’d open her locker and pretend to be searching for something. Anything to avoid the emotional torture that awaited in the unsupervised lunchroom.
Today, she wandered the halls aimlessly, out of ideas. She was tired of this endless cycle—hiding, hurting, hating. The years until graduation loomed before her like impassable mountains. She just wanted it to end. Turning a corner, she nearly collided with the vice-principal.
“Where are you supposed to be?”
He glared at her over the top of his thick glasses. “I suggest you get there.”
Ann scurried down the hall, but passed the lunchroom door. No way. She wouldn’t go in there. Instead, she headed for the exit, picking up speed, until she burst out into the fresh air and began to run. I’m going to fly.
Adrenaline pumped through her as she ran to the bridge. When she reached it, she slowed to a walk and began the ascent. Vehicles zoomed by indifferently, expelling exhaust that made her feel sick.
I’m going to fly away.
She reached the highest point and gazed down at the water. She’d given her heart to Jesus once; He’d take her home.
“God, I can’t stay here. It hurts too much.” She climbed halfway up the railing.
The clouds shimmered, illuminated by the sun. A verse she’d memorized came to mind. You shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds. She wished He’d come now. We shall meet the Lord in the air. The clouds drifted on.
She hoisted herself up to the next rung. Another verse popped into her head. Lo I am with you always. And another. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Tears seeped from her eyes. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart. She eased herself back to the ground. She wasn’t alone. And it wasn’t yet time to fly.
*Ps. 55:6, 34:18 1Thess. 4:17, Matt. 28:20, Heb. 13:5
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