Counting on Eternity-preview
Updated: Aug 21
I suppose you could say I led a fairly simple life. Having grown up in a small town in a house some would envy in the middle of suburbia—and though I had no big money to ever speak of and had average family and small dreams—I never looked down on what was mine. We went to high school football games every Friday night or Saturday afternoon. On Sunday mornings, our neighbors waved to us as we went to church where my dad was the preacher. Nothing terrible ever happened in our version of Mayberry and everyone knew everyone else, for the most part. My life in retrospect was a typical Midwesterner’s life. In one sense, however, it was extraordinary.
I never dreamed I’d fall in love at only 15 years old, but I also never dreamed life would take the drastic turn that it had either. For a shy teen like me who usually felt like I didn’t have a place in the whole world where I belonged, I was about to get smacked right in the face with one gigantic life-defining moment and I hadn’t even known it at the time.
From an outsider’s perspective, there was really nothing earth-shattering about this day in particular to set it apart from any other day. It began as any normal day, apart from the fact that I was scared out of my mind to be starting high school. I woke, shoveled down a bowl of cereal, and then my mom drove me and my older brother to school.
When I arrived to school that day, I walked into the cafeteria and searched out one of the two people who would be my saving grace over the next four years.
My band nerd bestie, Kaitlyn, or my fiery red head—whom I’d befriended way back in the 2nd grade when the teacher placed our desks together—Amy.
Glancing around the cafeteria, I didn’t immediately see either, but I saw another friend of mine from band and headed in her direction.
“Hey, girl. How’ve you been since band camp?”
“I’m okay. Nervous about today.”
“You’re gonna do fine. I promise.”
“Easy for you to say. This is your last year. Got any tips for a newbie?”
She glanced up to the clock and said, “Yeah. Don’t be late.
“Maddie, you okay?” Becka said when I had zoned out for a moment.
Zoning out had become kind of regular for me, though I hadn’t thought anything of it. I wanted to believe maybe it was the stress of starting high school, but as the episodes of fuzziness became more frequent, I knew I needed to tell my mom.
“Earth to Madeline…” Becka said, waving her hand in front of my face. “C’mon, you’re freaking me out.”
I shook my head and blinked my eyes.
“What the heck just happened to you?”
Before I could reply, the bell rang, sending me to my first class of the morning and also the only class of the morning I enjoyed until choir—English. Becka walked down the senior’s hall and I went down the main hall to find my locker assignment doing my best not to get lost in the land where boys become men and girls… well, I wasn’t really sure yet what happened to girls in high school. Everything seemed so confusing at this point. Half of the girls I knew were stuffing their bras—even though their bras were over-flowing already—half were hiding under oversized clothes and hoping not to be seen, and the rest (wait… that math doesn’t add up… see why I hate it?! Anyway, you get the point…) the rest were just trying to survive. I think this was my category. I waved to my friend and headed off to English class to face the day.
Being a band nerd, I loved all things music, but I was also a literary buff and enjoyed immersing myself into a good novel or writing my thoughts down onto a page. English class allowed me to do that. However, the classes that fell between the two were pure torture. Math was like a trek through the desert without water simply because I was the worst math student to ever grace the planet. Okay, maybe not quite. I sure felt like I was. After math came history, which wouldn’t have been so bad except I had the most boring and oldest teacher in existence; I was convinced.
You might surmise there was no way I could ever survive my first morning of Hell wrapped in a package disguised as high school. Nonetheless, I did, and there were even parts I enjoyed. *gasp* Don’t spread that around.
English was great since I was mostly able to graze the pages of an interesting book I’d been wanting to read. It kept me afloat until my next period, which could’ve pretty much been mistaken for purgatory: Math. And though I survived the torturous punishment that was math class, it should’ve been considered miraculous anyway because I had to figure out where the hell x belonged and y or whatever. X? Y? Freaking F of X? What the heck?! I thought math was supposed to be numbers?! Who said anything about letters?! Leave that for writing! I was fairly certain that math was invented as some sort of punishment for crimes I’d committed in a previous life because there was no way any of this could ever make sense. After enduring the confusing torture of algebra, I was pretty sure I counted 247 ceiling tiles in History, which was the only thing that kept me awake while Mr. Broderick read the syllabus to us word… for… word… like we were freaking second graders. *insert major eyeroll here*
Anywho, it truly was something short of a miracle I even made it through my first three periods to choir, which after what I’d just endured, I was sure would be like water in the desert. Especially, since I would be with my two best friends in the whole world, Amy and Kaitlyn, both of whom I’d been separated from for most of the morning. Leave it to my high school to have three different rotations for one grade, and one as small as mine.
I met Kaitlyn in the hall and we headed for the choir room together, which was kept all the way on the far side of the school in the basement.
“My morning pretty much was the worst few hours of my life,” Kaitlyn said as she shifted her backpack to carry it on one shoulder and grabbed the handle as we stepped down the stairs.
I glanced up to my tall, thickset friend, whose blonde hair was always beautifully set with crunchy curls and whose stunning blue eyes were the envy of my friendship with her. Though she might’ve sometimes been self-conscious of her taller and sturdier—though not fat—build, I felt her far prettier than me any day of the week with my average-Jane brown hair, brown eyes, and five-foot three-inch medium build. Looking at me, there was nothing special about me… at all. My two friends, however, were gorgeous with Kate’s blonde hair and blue eyes, or Amy’s thin frame and red hair. But me? I was smack dab right in the middle of “average girl” category.
“Yeah, I feel you there,” I responded as we walked across the courtyard to the music rooms. “High school is going to suck… a lot.”
We arrived to choir class and dropped our bags in the corner, each of us finding a place on the risers. Being an alto, I had the unfortunate displeasure of standing next to the guys. Fortunately, Kate was right there to support me in my misery.
“Hey,” she said following me up to the top. “I grabbed a folder for you.”
As our teacher started on instructions, my mind wandered and that was it—the moment—the first defining moment of my life. It was the exact reason the first day of school changed everything in my life—this moment. Standing only three feet or so from me was the most gorgeous guy I had ever seen; I was sure of it. He was tall with wavy blond hair and blue eyes and a smile that lit up his entire face. His dimples left me breathless, so much so that I found myself staring, lip biting, mouth watering as though I was a dog staring at a huge juicy steak.
“Maddie,” Kate nudged me.
I glanced up at her, my eyes wide and alert.
“What are you staring at? I asked you something.”
“Oh. I’m not staring. What did you want?”
“Yeah. Right. Your eyes were practically glued in that direction. Anyway, I asked if you were walking to band after school.”
“Um. Yeah, I’m walking. Walk with?”
The teacher sat at the piano and was ready for class to start. Kate took the opportunity and leaned in and whispered, “Definitely. Let’s stop by and get a snow cone first.”
Kaitlyn was my band camp roomie and was pretty much my band nerd go-to girl whenever I needed someone to hang with at band practice. When it came to all things band-nerdy, she was my gal.
The whole period I found myself having a hard time focusing, especially when the teacher called my name along with a few others to come to the front and look at a list of songs for the upcoming state competition.
“Madeline…come down and pick your song,” she said, which in a freshman girl’s mind felt like she was screaming it through a megaphone while I was standing on the risers alone...naked. It was mortifying as I walked each step with fear and dread. I felt like all eyes were on me and it was a feeling I hated. After scanning the list of songs, I checked whichever song hadn’t been chosen by anyone else and hurried to my backpack to gather my things for lunch as the bell rang. I was sure to let my gaze wander back to my blue-eyed beauty as he jumped off the risers and went to grab his own backpack that was placed not too far from mine.
As he was doing that, I realized that he was chatting up a girl I knew from band. My heart was crushed with absolutely no reason to be. I didn’t even know him or his name or the reason he was talking to her. Yet, with eyes like those, what girl wouldn’t be jealous? In my 15-year old’s brain of judgment, I felt she was far prettier than me and assumed she was his girlfriend. On his way out the door, I took the opportunity to eye-up my new hobby, in spite of the very obvious fact that this blue-eyed stud was far out of my league and also noticed he was now talking to a guy I thought Amy knew.
“Amy,” I said as she stood and tossed her bag on her back.
Without wanting to attract notice, I turned my back to him and began walking to the door.
“Who is that tall guy?”
She looked back.
I smacked her arm and gave her stern eyes for almost giving me away.
“Don’t get all fussy. They don’t know what we are talking about.”
She looked back again.
“Quit looking at them!” I hissed.
“Maddie, I have to look at them to know who you’re talking about. Duh.”
“Do you mean the one with Brady?”
“Is Brady the dark-haired one you’re going to homecoming with?”
“That’s Charlie. Why?”
“Oooh, right. Well, he’s a jock and is into sports and all that. I’m not really sure he’s your type, Mad.”
This time, I was the one to look back at the two guys who were now walking our way. When his gorgeous eyes locked onto mine, panic surged through my body, and I darted out the door, up the stairs to the outside foyer, and rested my back against the building to collect my thoughts.
Once outside, the worst happened. The zoning out tended to be brought on by stress, caffeine, and a plethora of other things that I had a difficult time avoiding in everyday life.
“Maddie!” Amy hollered as she tried to catch up with me. When she burst through the doors and saw me, she said, “What was that about? Are you okay?”
I shrugged. I shrugged for two reasons, really. The first was because I didn't want my best friend to know I was having a freak out episode over the stud that I didn’t even know. The second reason was mostly because I wasn’t sure what emotional state was coming over me, and if I was being completely honest, I didn’t want her to know about the zoning out… yet. Perhaps it was my nervousness about the first day of high school. Maybe it was that gorgeous guy and knowing he was far out of my league and the overwhelming feeling of inferiority and the girl he was chatting but also knowing I was no competition—a combination of it all, perhaps—or maybe it was something that was yet to be determined. Either way, Amy was right. I wasn’t acting like myself. Normally, I was determined, headstrong, and resilient. For some reason, however, I was acting unsure, confused, and vulnerable, and it was all because of a pair of gorgeous blue eyes attached to a big smile that happened to look in my direction. Get ahold of yourself, Madeline, you don’t even stand a chance.