Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Easter (05/30/05)
TITLE: The Real Deal
By Debbie OConnor
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Gary was disappointed. Mary had a momentary pang as she clicked off her cordless phone, but turned her mind toward Jason – the boy who had eluded her throughout high school.
Not this time, she smiled.
Mary took especial care with her appearance. She diffused her long, curly blond hair until it hung in spiral ropes. She meticulously applied makeup and sprayed her favorite perfume into the air above her head. She slid into her favorite green dress and found the sling back sandals that matched. She checked every angle in the mirror. Perfect.
She found Jason at his locker. An eclectic mixture of jocks, nerds and nobodies that Mary couldn’t comprehend surrounded him. Jason is nice to everyone, she reflected.
“Hi Jason,” she said, suddenly nervous.
“Hey Mary. What’s up?”
“Can I talk to you alone?”
“Sure,” he said, looking puzzled.
They walked outside. Mary smiled her most winning smile, “Jason, will you go to the prom with me?”
Jason looked floored. “You’re asking me to prom? Mary, you must have had a hundred guys ask you already.”
She laughed and tossed her hair admitting, “I’ve had a few invitations, but Jason, I’ve always wanted to go out with you. We’ll be going separate ways in June.”
“True.” His face was a deep shade of red. “Mary, I’m honored you asked me, but I have to say no.”
“No?” Mary was dizzy with shock and shame.
“I’m part of a youth worship band at church. We’re performing a special on Easter Sunday. We’re practicing Saturday night.”
“Oh, umm, okay,” Mary said feebly, turning to walk away.
“Mary? Would you like to visit my church Sunday? We could grab lunch with my friends afterward. It isn’t prom, but it will be fun.”
Mary turned to search Jason with her eyes. He looked sincere.
“Okay,” she heard herself say.
“Great,” Jason grinned, relief etched all over his face.
Mary spent the rest of the day trying to figure out why she had agreed to attend Jason’s church on Easter Sunday. Mama’s going to have a fit!
“You’re not going to prom?” her mother was incredulous.
“No. I wanted to go with Jason Saunders, but he can’t because he’s practicing with his worship team. He invited me to go to church with him the next day.”
“That’s Easter Sunday, Mary!”
“I know Mama. I can go to Mass Saturday night and visit Jason’s church on Sunday. We’re going to lunch with some friends afterward. It will be fun.”
“Go to prom with someone else and attend Mass with us on Easter Sunday.”
“Please, Mama? I really like Jason. School’s almost out. I’ll probably never have another chance.”
“Do what you want, Mary. You know what I think.”
“Thanks Mama!” Mary hugged her mother and went to attack her homework.
Mary’s stomach churned with anxiety as she entered the Abundant Life Church. It was a new sensation. She found her way to the front. Jason was on the platform with his band. He smiled and waved.
Mary sat down. After a few minutes, Jason joined her and service began. Everyone was clapping and singing. She read the words to the song on the PowerPoint screen and tried to sing along. Jason closed his eyes and raised his hands. He looked different. I feel different, she thought.
After worship, the pastor introduced himself and ushers took the offering.
“I’ll be back,” Jason whispered.
Jason reappeared on the platform with his team. They played a fast-paced Christian rock song. They’re good, Mary thought. Afterward they played a slow, intimate song that astounded Mary; it was so personal and loving.
Jason suddenly stopped playing. He laid his guitar on the stage and raised his hands. He seemed to glow. He sank to his knees.
Mary felt something she hadn’t felt in a long time -- something pure, holy and tangible. It frightened her.
She ran out of the sanctuary. Fumbling to unlock her car, she prayed desperately, “Help me, God!”
The key went in. She got inside and cried. She saw her life, with its petty achievements and successes for what it was…empty. She remembered her confirmation, the only other time she had felt that holy presence.
“Dear God,” she prayed, “Please…I want to know you like that.”
Suddenly, there was peace. Mary got out of her car and walked back into the church.
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