• Meg Sechrest

Counting on Eternity-preview

Updated: Mar 29




ONE

I suppose you could say I’ve led a 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 an average family and small dreams—I never looked down on what was mine and thanked my maker for what I had been given. Weekends were filled with small-town sports and church events and family was important where I came from. 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 never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined life would take the drastic turn it had either. For an introverted teen like me who usually felt out of place and self-conscious, I was about to get shaken from my comfort zone with two life-altering moments and I hadn’t even recognized it at the time.



August 28

From an outsider’s perspective, there was nothing earth-shattering about this day, in particular, to set it apart from any other day. It began like 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 at the high 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 redhead—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 see either, but I saw another friend of mine from the band and headed in her direction.

“Hey, Becca.”

“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?” Becca 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 deep down it was more than that, and eventually, I told my mom.

“Earth to Madison…” Becca 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. Becca 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 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 overflowing already—half were hiding under oversized clothes and hoping not to be seen, and the rest (wait… that math doesn’t add up! Math would inevitably be my ruin.) Anyway, you get the point. The rest of us were just trying to survive. I think this was my category. I waved to my friend and headed off to English class to survive the day.

Being a band nerd, I loved all things music, but I was also a literary buff and enjoyed immersing myself in 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. It sure felt like I was. History wouldn’t have been so terrible, except I was pretty sure I had the oldest teacher alive, and when he talked, it took longer for his sentences to come out of his mouth than it would’ve taken for me to run from here to Brazil. English was the only good thing happening that morning since I was mostly able to graze the pages of an exciting book I’d been wanting to read. It kept me afloat through math, which could’ve pretty much been mistaken for purgatory. Although 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 becoming 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 history syllabus to us word… for… word… like we were freaking second graders. *insert major eye roll here*

Anywho, it truly was something short of a miracle that 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.

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.

The bell for 4th period rang and I felt a sense of freedom and happiness, 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 small high school to have three different rotations for one grade. I found Kaitlyn in the hall and we headed for the choir room together in the basement on the other side of the school from where we’d been.

“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 hurried 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. With my average-Jane brown hair, brown eyes, and five-foot three-inch medium build, I felt her far prettier than me any day of the week. There was nothing overtly special about me when it came to attractiveness. 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 in 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.”

“Oh, thanks.”

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, 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, and 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 were 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.

“Madison…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 which 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 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, despite the very obvious fact that this blue-eyed stud was way out of my league, but I also noticed he was now talking to a guy I thought Amy knew.

“Amy,” I said as she stood and tossed her bag onto her back.

“Hm?”

To keep from gaining attention, I turned my back to my blue-eyed stud and began walking to the door.

“Who is that tall guy?”

Amy looked back, staring right at him.

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,” Amy said and looked back again, tapping her chin. “Tall guy… you mean the cute one talking with Brady?”

“Is Brady the dark-haired one you’re going to homecoming with?”

“Yep.”

“Then yes.”

“That’s Charlie. Why?”

“Um, duh.”

“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 through the doors, up the stairs to the outside foyer, and rested my back against the red brick 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. I grabbed my temples and gave in to my bad side—my Mr. Hyde.

“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?”

Fortunately, the episode of zoning out was gone by then and I shrugged. I shrugged for two reasons. 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 that I wasn’t sure what emotional state was coming over me. Also if I was completely honest, I didn’t want her to know about the zoning out. Not 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 with 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, Madison, you don’t even stand a chance.

“Maddie,” Amy said once I got myself together.

“Hey.”

“Are you alright? You’re acting so weird today.”

Glancing around the common area, I said, “Yeah, just feeling the pressure.”

“High school?”

I nodded.

“You sure it’s not that guy you asked me about in choir?”

Panicking, I shrieked, “No!”

Amy smiled. “Mad, it’s okay to like a guy. He is cute.”

The blush in my cheeks rose. “Yeah, he’s cute.”

Amy nudged my side. “I knew you thought so. You can’t hide secrets from me, Maddie Blake.”

We walked across the park and into the corner pizza shop to have lunch like we always did. I ordered a pepperoni roll and a tea, then took a seat on the bench just outside the shop to wait for Amy. Meanwhile, her date for homecoming and some friends of his walked up.

“Maddie, right?”

It was terrible timing because I had just taken a bite of the pepperoni roll, which left me with a full mouth as I covered my mouth with my hand and nodded and mumbled, “Um, yeah.”

“You’re Amy’s friend,” he said and sat next to me, shoving a slice of pizza into his mouth.

“Guilty as charged,” I replied, raising my right hand.

Amy walked out just then with her pizza in hand and looked at Brady.

“Leave my friend alone. Stop messing with her, whatever you are doing.”

“I’m not messing with her.”

It must’ve been nerves or something, but as they were arguing, I gagged on a piece of my food.

“Shit, Amy, your friend is choking. She needs CPR.”

“She doesn’t need CPR, you moron; she needs the Heimlich.”

My face reddened and I shook my head. Just then, an arm reached out and handed my Coke to me as I coughed.

“Here you go.”

I glanced up to my rescuer and saw those blue eyes that had stolen my heart only a little while ago in choir.

“Thanks,” I said, after taking a drink and swallowing down that death bite.

“No problem.”

I wanted to be brave enough to give him my name, but my belief in myself was that he was so superior to me and I was this nobody girl who would end up alone with 25 cats that would someday eat her corpse after she’d died alone from her own pathetic existence. He stood there a moment—most likely waiting for me to initiate conversation—but I had no confidence in myself, so I only sat sipping my Coke.

“You coming, Charlie?”

“You okay?” Charlie asked me.

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Charlie hurried off with his friends and I watched him the whole way into the park, wishing I had been braver.

“Madison Marie!” Amy hollered.

“That’s not even my name!”

“It is today!”

I rolled my eyes. “What?”

“He was right here.”

“So?”

“Girl, you should've at least told him your name.”

I tossed my backpack onto my back and we started walking towards the park.

“Amy, it’s not like I have even the smallest chance anyhow.”

“And how do you know that? Looked to me like he was pretty sweet on you.”

“No. Trust me. I saw him chatting up a super cute blonde in choir. There’s no way he’s interested in me.”

Amy rolled her eyes and said, “Bet me.”

“Bet you what?”

“Bet me he’s not interested in that other girl.”

“Who’s not interested in who?” Kaitlynn asked, walking over.

“Maddie likes Charlie,” Amy said, taking a swig of her pop, “But she thinks he likes some blonde girl in choir.”

“Want me to find out?”

“No!” I shrieked.

“Hey, Charlie!” Kaitlynn hollered and ran over to him. Tossing her arm up and around his neck, she whispered something to him and then smiled before coming back over to me as he glanced my ways with a smirk.

I felt mortified as we sat on the stairs in front of the school.

“He doesn’t have a girlfriend,” Kate said with a wide smile.

“Told you!” Amy said and stuck out her tongue.

I turned to watch everyone outside in the park and on the sidewalk. “You’re both so immature.”

“Whatever,” Amy said. “At least now you know.”

Amy turned away from me and went into a monologue with our friend Jessie about her morning, but my eyes were caught over Jessie’s left shoulder by the sight of my new-found hobby, and I went into a trance, following his movements as he walked past us.

“Maddie?” Jessie said. “Maddie?”

“I’m sorry… were you saying something?”

“Oh, don’t mind her. She’s in love,” Amy said and bumped arms with me and pointed to Charlie as he walked past.

Jessie smiled at me as my face reddened and I looked away when Charlie tried locking eyes with me.

“You like Charlie?” Jessie asked.

I didn’t say anything, but Amy replied, “She’s in love. Maddie hasn’t stopped staring at him since choir!”

“Really?” Jessie asked. “Well, I’m going to Homecoming with one of his closest friends. Want to come with our group? I’m sure it would be fine.”

“N…” I spit out before Amy shouted. “Of course she wants to join! It’ll be great!”

Life pretty much stayed the same for the next four weeks. My new hobby was watching every movement Charlie Doust made and loving every second of it. I felt him the most superior being on the face of the earth and nothing would ever change my mind of that, especially after the day I crashed into him shirtless, drenched in sweat, coming out of the weight room with a group of ballplayers.

“Maddie, I need to give my brother his notebook back. Wait here,” Becca said as she headed into the back entrance to the school where the weight room was.

I walked circles right outside the door as I waited for Becca since she was supposed to give me a ride to band practice, and when I heard the door open—thinking it was Becca—I paused in my walking and turned around. Much to my surprise, I was bumped right into by a sweaty and shirtless, stud of a 16-year-old.

“Oh! I’m sorry!” I squeaked.

“No. It was definitely my fault,” he said, tossing his towel and bag over his shoulder. With a slight side smirk, he said, “Madison, right?”

I nodded.

“See ya later.”

Too nervous to spit out any comprehensible words, I only waved my fingers back at him and mouthed, “Bye,” as I watched him walk away and appreciated every move of his muscles as he turned back a few times to look at me as he walked towards his truck parked on the edge of the street.

“You ready?” Becca said when she walked out and saw me staring.

“Sure.”

“You okay?”

“I will be.”



TWO

“Madison, what about this one?” My mom hollered across the store. I hid my face to be sure no one was watching us and no one I knew was looking, and then I approached her.

“Mom, please don’t yell across the store like that.”

“Madison, no one cares which dress you’re picking out. Just take these dresses and go try them on.”

Feeling frustrated with my insensitive mother, I took the pile of dresses and headed for the dressing room, mumbling profanities along the way.

“Hate dress shopping?” Some girl asked me as I walked by.

I looked in her direction and recognized her, saying the first thing that came to mind.

“No. Just hate parents.”

“Right. Know the feeling.” She hung her unwanted dresses on the rack and said, “Wait, don’t I know you?”

“Yeah. We are in choir together, and I think you are on the dance team. My name’s Madison; I’m in the band.”

“Right. I’m Mandy. Who’s your date for homecoming?”

“A friend of a friend from another school. Are you going with Charlie?”

“Ew, God no. Gross! Whatever gave you that idea? He’s my cousin!”

“Oh, I saw you talking to him after class… I assumed…”

“Ha, well, you learned your lesson. I’m going with my boyfriend. I gotta go, but I’ll see you later, maybe at the dance.”

“Bye.”

Something about that conversation in the dressing room made my day just a bit brighter, and I tried on those dresses with a smidge more happiness and confidence than I had before. Knowing that Charlie wasn’t going with her gave me perky spirits. Even though deep in my soul I still knew I stood no chance, and when I stood in front of the mirror in my lavender dress and examined myself, I saw a girl who was plainer than a blank canvas, but my heart was happy because he didn’t belong to another.


HOMECOMING


“Maddie, won’t you come and dance?” Amy asked.

“Nope. I’m content right here.”

Amy looked to the table where we dropped our things and saw Charlie sipping on a Mountain Dew and shoving his face full of chips about three spaces down from me, and she gave me a playful smile.

“Of course you are. You have the perfect view.”

“Amy! That is not why I’m staying here.”

“Sure. Welp, I’ll be dancing the night away!” She said in a sing-songy voice and twirled out to the dance floor leaving me to the table where my blue-eyed stud and I sat three chairs down from each other—just an awkward pair—understanding that we both sat hating our current situation. Yet in the same way, we were also both pretending to be oblivious to each other’s existence for most of the night. Had we not both been shy and introverted, then we might’ve realized just a tad bit sooner what he would someday be for me and I for him. Yet, there we sat, two chip eaters, two peas in a pod, unaware of what was to come.

My stud escorted a classmate and I went with an arranged date, who held little to no significance for me as long as I was in the same universe as my blue-eyed stud. Our group shared a table and those gorgeous blue eyes sat three chairs down from me most of the night and devoured the bowl of chips from our table and drank down five sodas to be exact. My thoughts were that maybe he was nervous or that maybe he just didn’t want to be there… I wasn’t sure which was the truth. Either way, it was clear to me—while we watched our friends dance every group dance there was in the year 2000—that he was miserable. I wanted to make conversation but wasn’t sure how to start or what to talk about. There was also the issue of my date. Every time there was a slow dance, the boy I went with asked if I wanted to dance. With a polite refusal, I turned him down because… Well, I had no excuse, really; I just didn’t want to leave the presence of my stud because I was in fact in heaven.

After sitting for a long time in silence, I asked my new heart-throb if he wanted another Mountain Dew.

“I’m grabbing a Coke. Do you want another Dew?”

Those blue eyes looked up at me and I swear I got lost in the waves of those oceans because I had no idea if he said “yes” or “no”. I simply nodded and walked away, scolding myself for being an idiot.

When I got to the drink table, I reached my arm into the tub of ice to dig for my Coke, but then a voice from behind me said, “I needed to stretch my legs.”

Startled by the sound, I jumped and yanked my arm out of the ice, flinging the water off my hand, whacking him in the chest.

He chuckled and caught my hand. “Ooo, your hand is freezing.”

“Ice tends to do that to things,” I replied as he held my hand in his.

My inner panic was in barrels of commotion as my blue-eyed stud locked eyes with me and now held my hand against his chest.

“I’m Charlie.”

I swear to everything in life and all the universe that the gods must have been on my side at that moment because I don’t think I ever thought I’d get near him let alone him touch me on purpose. I must’ve been biting my lip harder than was reasonable because I began to taste blood when he said, “Thanks for the Dew, Madison.”

“Maddie… well, Madison… you can call me whatever.”

Ugh… I felt like an idiot.

Great first impression, you loser! Call me whatever? What the heck was that?!

I snatched my arm away and hurried back to the table, plopping myself in a chair. Trying my best to hide my embarrassment, I scooped a handful of chips and leaned my elbows onto the table as I watched everyone else Boot Scootin’ Boogie.

“You seem to be avoiding the dance floor just as much as I am,” he said when he sat in a chair next to me.

Caught off guard, I looked over, wide-eyed and alert. “What?”

“Not having fun?”

“Oh,” I wiped my fingers on a napkin as I sipped my Coke. I nodded and replied, “Not really. I’d rather be at home… lost in a fantasy world… reading.”

“Gotcha.”

“What about you? You’ve been sitting here all evening.”

He shrugged. “Dancing isn’t really my thing.”

“Oh, then why did you come?”

“Sam needed a date.”

“Ah, I see. It seems then, you are her hero.” I smiled and returned to my chip eating. Out of the corner of my eye, however, I noticed his gaze remained on me and my internal critic turned on.

He is watching you. The super studly, blue-eyed hunk is staring at you! Stop eating the chips! For the love of everything good in life, Madison put down the chips and be cool!

“I doubt that,” he said, and I’m very certain I saw his cheeks redden as his smile widened as he looked down at me from under his brow, his dimpled grin catching my complete attention.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” I replied and shrugged, trying to keep things light. “You’re the very reason she isn’t sitting at home alone tonight watching reruns of The Golden Girls and missing out on that.” I pointed to her dancing the YMCA.

He chuckled. “I suppose you’re right.”

I smiled and grabbed a handful of chips, going back to my usual awkward self—unlikely to grab a hunky-licious guy like Charlie.

“So, Madison, how are you liking high school? Is it everything you thought it would be?”

Instead of telling him how terrible high school had been so far, I focused on the beautiful image before me and how fortunate I was to have it thrust into my life to spare me of any future misery, and I stared right into those beautiful blues as I said, “Life is good.”

He smiled a signature dimpled grin and said, “Glad you’re not suffering too much.”

“Not at all.”

Who would suffer any while sitting and staring at you? Enlighten me, please.

Of course, I didn’t find it in myself to engage in conversation any more than that. Yet, despite myself, every few minutes—as he continued our endeavor to devour the chip bowl—I glanced his way, noticing him looking up at me, and I etched his beautiful face into my memory to remember the brief conversation we’d had, not knowing what the future held and what he would eventually be for my life… neither of us having no idea… none at all.

After the dance, we went to a friend’s house, and I was feeling very jealous of Sam for how hot Charlie was looking when he untucked and unbuttoned his shirt and sat on the floor, relaxing his back against the lazy boy.

To flirt in my way—knowing my hair would be fabulous—I pulled all the curls down out of the pins and let them dangle over my shoulders.

“Madison, Charlie is staring at you,” Sam said when she plopped onto the couch next to me with a slice of pizza.

“Nah,” I said, my gaze locking onto Charlie, noting he was looking at me. “Besides, he’s here with you,” I said, trying to gauge her relationship with him.

“He is only my date. It’s not like we are dating. Anyway, you can have him. His mother is too much.”

I looked over to Charlie, admiring him as he laughed with his friends, and I thought again how cute he was and thought about the conversation we’d had. But now in the back of my mind as his eyes moved my way were Sam’s words, and I felt weirded out.

Weeks went by before either of us would make any kind of move. It was after Thanksgiving break before he even spoke to me again. I waited with my usual level of impatience for him to talk to me every day during choir. But alas, nothing. One day, I felt all was hopeless and stopped even looking in his direction, and I think he felt the hit because two days later, he approached me.

“Madison,” he said after choir class one day and handed me a piece of paper.

“What’s this?” I looked at the paper.

“My messenger ID.”

“Okay.”

To keep the hand in my favor, not letting him know how elated I was to be holding that small piece into his life and him, I took the paper and walked away with no level of enthusiasm whatsoever. Unsure why, since he was pursuing me at that point, and I had every right to flaunt my victory—I really could be a brat sometimes—I kept my cool and let him keep thinking he needed to up his game. One of the things I think I liked best about Charlie was that he was so low-maintenance. All the other guys at school were so “look at me” and “give me so much attention”. The girls were really like that too. Charlie wasn’t like that though. He was okay with me taking the paper and walking away to lunch. He was so low-key.

At home that evening, I contemplated on and off about sending him a message. So many drafts started as something like…

Hey Charlie, It’s Madison. I hope I’m not disturbing you. Thought it might be nice to chat.

OR

Charlie, since you gave me your ID, I thought you might want to chat. Just wondering what’s up? – Maddie

AND

Hi Charlie. It’s Madison. What’s up?

But by the end of the evening, the logical end of my mind won over my heart. The thing about me was, I wasn’t low maintenance. It wasn’t that I was high maintenance in a fashion or trendy sort of way. It went much deeper than that. It just wasn’t in my future to have a boyfriend. Looking at my planner, I saw all the future doctor’s appointments and tests I had coming up and I found it unfair to bring all my misery and grief into his life. To drag him into my life of chaos didn’t seem like a good sense of justice, and the thing I wanted more than anything in life was to find a good sense of justice because at this point in my life, I’d found none. “Sigh… You’re not for me, Charlie.”

I closed my messenger and went to sleep. He deserved better than I would ever be able to give him.

The next morning, Kaitlynn met me in the cafeteria and tried her darndest to usher me in his direction. Still thinking on the previous evening’s logic in my mind, I told her I was doing my best to avoid him.

“Why? Aren’t you thinking he’s a major hottie?”

I sighed, “Yes, but I told you that I have a lot going on right now. I just feel it unfair to involve him in all of that.”

“Maddie, he gave you his messenger. He wants to be involved with you.”

“But he doesn’t know…”

She grabbed my arm, dragging me over to where he was sitting. “Charlie! Good morning! Smile!” Then she snapped a picture of him with her old Polaroid, winking at me.

Feeling mortified, I widened my eyes, shrugged, and hurried toward the cafeteria doors. When she caught up with me, I fussed, “Why?! Why would you do that to me?!”

“That’s why.” She smiled and handed it to me.

When I looked at the picture seeing Charlie’s gorgeous smile, I laughed, “Thanks. You’re the greatest.”

“Now you can look at his face when you’re at the hospital going through whatever it is that you have to endure. Come here…” She motioned to hug me, and then the bell rang and we walked to class.

The morning passed with the speed of a tortoise as I waited with anticipation for choir. I did my best to pay attention to the lectures to no avail. I found all my thoughts fixated on him and watched the clock in each class, even English. Finally, after a dreadful three class periods, choir came. I smiled at him as I walked up to take my place. He half-smiled back, which I felt was flirty, but I wasn’t making any assumptions, especially since I hadn’t messaged him last night and was certain my response to his note—or lack thereof—communicated that I didn’t want to take our relationship to the next level. Class began and I looked his way no longer.

“You didn’t send me a message,” he said, jumping off the risers, walking toward me where I was kneeling at my bag after class.

“That’s true. I did not,” I responded as I continued getting my things together.

“How come?”

“Um, I dunno,” I replied with a shrug.

“Madison,” he said.

I looked up at him as I gathered my things into my backpack, feeling a little skeptical since he had gone so long without speaking to me.

“Yeah?”

“Um… do you want to have lunch with me today?”

I looked around myself as though it was a mistake. “Me?”

“Yeah.”

“Uh…Why?”

“I don’t know. I like you.”

After staring at my feet and chewing on my nail as I deliberated on his proposition for a few moments—watching him sweat it out as a form of punishment for not having spoken to me for like an eternity—I nodded and said, “Okay, sure. I don’t want to eat in the cafeteria though. I never eat there.”

He smiled wider than I’d ever seen in class and motioned for us to head out the doors to the foyer. “Okay. We’ll eat wherever you want.”

As he tossed his backpack onto his shoulder he said, “Sometimes I go to the pub across the street. Where do you eat?”

“I usually go for pizza, but the pub is fine.”

“I’ll meet you on the front stairs.”

“Okay.”

Lunch was fabulous and we ate and laughed, and he flirted… a lot, and he even paid for my food—which I felt made it almost a date, if lunchtime dates at school were a possibility—and a feeling inside me knew from that moment something was happening for both of us, yet neither of us knew what. As I stared at him across the table from me at lunch that day, listening to him tell me corny jokes and watching his face light up when I said I’d have lunch with him the next day, I just knew he had to be something wonderful. Maybe I was praying for it because with what was transpiring in my life, I needed something wonderful. Truth be told, I needed more than something wonderful. I needed a miracle.



Like what you read? It's coming soon! Follow me for faster updates!


© 2021 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved.

This is only an excerpt. This novel may be purchased soon in its entirety in either digital or paperback version.

This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

50 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All