Three teenagers arrived home from school about three or four houses away from each other, at approximately the same time, and none of them planned to start right away on the homework that weighed down their backpacks. The sun shone in the cloudless sky and a few neighbors mowed their lawns.
One of the teens, a girl with blue and green streaked hair and who looked twice her sixteen years, impatiently pulled a key from behind the rose bush and struggled with unlocking her front door. She paused a moment, cocking her head as if she had heard something. Muffled giggles and taunts came from the other side as she listened. Finally, her face melted into a scowl and she yelled, “Timothy! Let me in before I tell Mom! Let me in, now!” The threats seemed to be taking no effect on the little brother who held the door on the other side.
“I mean it Timothy, now!”
The door opened a crack, and the girl shoved on the door, which fell in quite easily. The mischievous little brother was nowhere to be found. As the girl picked herself off the floor, she gave an exasperated grunt and furiously slammed the door closed.
As the neighborhood rang with the sound of the door’s slam, about four houses down a boy punched in the numbers for his garage door, just as fast as he was texting on his cell phone, without looking up from the device in his hands. With a quirky jangle, his cell phone rang, causing him to pause his frantic punching and press two buttons before continuing.
“Hey bro, what’s up?” His laid back voice sounded in the quiet neighborhood, and a muffled voice came from the gadget.
“Nah, I’m skippin’ it. Oh yeah, I’ll be there. You know me, never one to miss a party….” He walked into the garage, his voice trailing away as he disappeared, and a few seconds later the garage door closed again.
The last teenager, about two houses away from the first boy, also punched in the numbers to his garage door and waited for it to open. He was the same age as the other two teens, with an iPod clipped to his baggy jeans and his headphones blaring with music. He bobbed his head in time to the beat and punched in the numbers for the garage door again.
As the previously open garage door began to descend, the boy ran to the middle of his driveway, and then back, dodging under the bottom of the door just in time. A skidding sound came from the closing space and a triumphant, “Oh yeah! Awesome!” before the door closed all the way.
All three of these teenagers were oblivious to a tall, glowing figure standing on the other side of the street, watching it all. In spite of the bright sun, the figure burned a thousand times brighter, and sparkled in the sun’s rays. The neighbor mowing his lawn next door was completely oblivious to the magnificent individual that stood not fifteen feet away. The figure raised its shining arms, and with a whirl and blast of light, disappeared.
And suddenly, a voice whispered, seemingly to no one in particular, “The time has come. Yes, it is time.”
# # # # #
Rebecca Silver sat down hard on her bed, staring at her Converse that she had just kicked off. Her day had gone from bad to worse, beginning with no breakfast and ending in her boyfriend breaking up with her. Tanner had heartlessly told her that he was interested in another girl, and that he didn’t want to be with Rebecca anymore. He said that she would be fine, that she would get over it…eventually. Barely able to contain her overwhelming emotions, Rebecca had dashed from the hall and into the girl’s restroom, remaining there until she had cried herself dry. Her fifth period teacher found her there and quietly asked her to come to class. Later, Rebecca learned that she had not been counted tardy or absent, but present and accounted for. That was the only thing that had gone right that day, but every thing else had gone downhill and then some.
What was really getting to her was his stated reasons for dumping her. On a recent date, Rebecca had invited Tanner to her house, when she would (finally) reveal to him that she had naturally unnatural hair. He had outwardly reacted calm enough, but looking back Rebecca could remember the tightness in his jaw and the way his eyes never left her hair when she had finished washing it.
Rebecca touched the ends of her short hair consciously. Her hair was colored in streaks of blue and green, but her natural hair color was a very bleached blond, almost white. She was very embarrassed about it, so she had cut it as short as her earlobes, and colored it in bright colors. But she had a hat on most of the time too.
Tears were filling her dark green eyes, and a burning pain was in the back of her throat. Her eyes were also a startling dark green, but they weren’t the kind of dark where you couldn’t tell their color. They were an emerald color, so you could definitely tell their color though it was more pronounced with her natural hair color. She wiped away her tears and began to think about what she might be able to say to Tanner to win him back. Maybe she could promise to color her hair a different color, this time a natural color. She reached for her cell phone and immediately dialed Tanner’s number. It began to ring, but then a sudden stubborn and indignant attitude overtook her. Why should she try to change for him? That was what her last boyfriend had tried to make her do. And it had worked…for a while. But after she broke up with him, she had sworn she would never try that hard to make someone love her ever again.
Rebecca’s tears overflowed and she angrily hung up. Throwing herself on her bed and pressing her tear-streaked face to a pillow, Rebecca sobbed out her feelings of abandonment and loneliness. She knew deep down that, even though she might not try to conform to a boyfriend’s wishes, she routinely tried to be someone she wasn’t so that others would accept her. When she had cried herself dry, Rebecca rolled over and stared up at her ceiling. Would anyone love her for who she really was and not who she pretended to be?
She admitted bitterly to herself that she shouldn’t have told Tanner about her natural hair color, but he had seemed so trusting, so loving and caring. And now he had destroyed all of that.
“I’m tired of all this,” she said aloud, “I’m tired of putting a mask on my face and disguising myself every day so that people will accept me.”
But you have to, a voice said inside her head, because if you don’t, everyone will think you are a freak, a nobody….
Rebecca shoved away the depressing thoughts looming inside her head like storm clouds. Tomorrow, she would have to stand everyone pelting her with questions and the loneliness of no boyfriend to love. And she would have to slip on the “school-day Rebecca”, and no one would know the creative, daring, lonely Rebecca, who wasn’t that bad if you got to know her. If her friends really knew her, they might find out that she had a black belt, was an amazing volleyball player, and could listen better than anyone you will ever meet. She sighed and turned back to her textbook.
“Rebecca! Dinner’s ready!” Her mom’s voice rang up the stairs.
“Okay, okay, I’m coming!” She wiped away her tears and closed her book, concluding that she would have to wait to read the chapter until after dinner.
As she walked out of her room and headed down the hallway, Rebecca’s older brother, Seth, was just walking out of his room.
“Hey Bec!” His cheerful smile disappeared when he saw her tearstained cheeks. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“It’s nothing. I’m fine.” She sniffed and kept walking.
Seth didn’t look convinced. “Are you sure? ‘Cause you sure don’t look-.”
“I said I’m fine!” Rebecca glared at him and then turned on her heel and marched down the stairs. Why did he always have to poke his nose into everyone else’s business?
She did not see her brother standing in the hallway, whispering a prayer, and looking up through the skylight. A soft glow momentarily pulsed from the opening in the ceiling, and then was gone. Seth smiled and nodded as if in silent gratitude, or as if something had just been confirmed, and looked worriedly in the direction his sister had gone.
Later that evening during dinner, Rebecca tried to concentrate on her food and not the conversation going on around her. Her father was in the office making phone calls, and her mom was listening with little interest to Tracy ramble off about her latest date. Timothy stacked his mashed potatoes and began to sculpt them into a tower. A moat made of peas was forming as well. Seth sat in silence and seemed to have no problem calmly cleaning his own plate.
The three eldest siblings, two sisters and a brother, were absent from the table. One of the sisters, Amanda, had just married, and Tania was off in college. The brother, Matt, was out on a date.
“…So we’re going out again this Friday night. There’s this great movie playing….” Tracy’s food was still untouched.
The same movie Tanner and I would have been watching this Friday, Rebecca ruefully added to herself. That is, if they were still dating.
“Okay Tracy, tell me more later. Just finish your food. Timothy, please don’t play with your mashed potatoes, eat them.” Mrs. Silver leaned over and tapped the side of his plate. “Eat everything else too, if you want dessert. Even if you don’t want dessert, you still need to eat your dinner.” Timothy stuck out his lip, but reached for his spoon and mashed his potato tower with it.
Rebecca looked down at her plate and tried to finish her lasagna. This was usually her favorite meal, but tonight, she was just so overcome with feelings of abandonment that she felt like she could barely swallow. She gulped and tried to drink some water.
“Are you okay Rebecca?” Her mom’s voice broke through her loneliness like the sun’s rays through clouds.
“Huh?” Rebecca looked up and saw everyone looking at her.
“You look awful Bec, did something happen today?”
Rebecca’s cheeks burned and she quickly looked down. “No.”
“Are you sure?”
Tracy piped up, “How’re things with you and Tanner? I heard you guys have a date this Friday.”
Rebecca scowled at her. “Shut-up.”
“Rebecca, watch your mouth.” Mrs. Silver gave her daughter a warning look.
Tracy tried again. “You guys are going to the same movie as we are, aren’t you?”
Rebecca stuffed her mouth full of lasagna, chewed slowly and deliberately, and swallowed. She repeated her process throughout the following conversation.
“Oh,” Tracy nodded as if all-knowingly, “I see. You guys aren’t going this Friday, are you?”
Rebecca just forked another bite in her mouth.
“Did you guys have a fight?” Timothy looked quizzically toward Rebecca, who gave him such a chilling look that it made him hurriedly eat his mashed potatoes.
“Ah-ha! I see now!” Tracy beamed. “She and Tanner broke up! What happened Rebecca? Did you grow bored of Tanner?”
“SHUT-UP!” Rebecca jumped up and slammed her palm on the table, making glasses clink and silverware jump. “Leave me alone! Mind your own business! You don’t know anything!” And with that she bolted up stairs to her room and shut her door, locking it. Then she threw herself on her bed and cried. Mrs. Silver came up to knock on the door and ask her if she was alright, but after a while she told Rebecca to take her time and come downstairs when she was ready.
Outside her window, a figure watched her cry. It was the same glowing figure from the skylight, and the street. It watched her for a while, then evaporated into the air. A few sparks were sparkling on the windowsill, but even those vanished as well. And though she couldn’t hear it, the voice whispered, “Rebecca, ‘servant of God’.”
And there was nothing more.