General Non-Fiction posted March 14, 2023 Chapters:  ...7 8 -9- 10... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Tom discovers a friend closer than a brother

A chapter in the book Angels Unaware

Friends and Brothers

by forestport12

Tommy survives the near death of his mother when he was two, and then is made to live with his father as a teen when he seeks a greater person and purpose
Friendships in teen years meant everything. I suffered from a sense of isolation. Having only three or four channels on TV couldn't fill the void. My father would be working on the road a few days at a time. I had no idea that this unknown God I talked to in the woods was about to show himself to me. He proved to be nothing like the wizard who hid behind a curtain that Dorothy discovered was not so big and important. The great one I sought had been hiding in plain sight, but I was blind.

I threw on my coat on and walked up the road on crisp cold winter day. Grey clouds and darkness threatened all remaining light. From the road I spied through the picture window the Nash family horsing around, an unbroken family in a broken world. I was the odd boy without a friend.

I turned and kept walking down my country road to nowhere in particular. My cold breath looked like smoke signals, cries for help. Up the road, likely bored as me came Mark McGill, son of a pastor. He was a sophomore in High School, I was a freshman. We hardly ever crossed paths. I was surprised when he stopped and asked if I would go to church with him.

I didn't need to check my calendar to see if I was free on Sunday morning. When I walked through the door, I must have been greeted by half the folk. They sang music with gusto, as if they meant every word written in the song book. There were no scowls on their faces, and when the service was over, they didn't fight each other to get out the door.

By the next week, the pastor spoke about taking Jesus from history and making him real in your life. I don't recall all the words, but it seemed like suddenly words punched at my heart. How could I have not seen or understood this Jesus? He took my place. He paid the price for me. I needed to invite him into my heart. For the first time I prayed believing he would truly be my savior. From then I realized I had a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

When my father found out I was going to church and youth group, he didn't seem to care. His only concern was whether it could be a cult. When I told him they respected parental authority he was okay with it. Youth group was a game changer.

I dove into the youth group, going to Bible quizzes and youth retreats. But what got my attention was the so-called Sweetheart banquet for teens around Valentine's day. Everything about girls scared and excited me at the same time. I was still under the influence that my mother had abandoned me and that there must be something wrong with me because of my gender. I wondered what girl would go on a date with me the ugly duckling.

If I didn't have enough strikes against me, my father wasn't exactly a role model on hygiene and clothing. I once watched him leave the house in plaid pants and a striped shirt to go play golf!

When date night came Mark's older brother Matt had a license to drive and a seventies Road Runner. I sat in the back seat. Mark had his date, and then we picked up mine. Things were blur. I do remember sweating profusely, even though it was cold outside. The nervous sweat found its way to the palm of my hands. Touching a girl or holding hands scared me, let alone thinking about my first kiss.

Rhonda was a doll. Because of her name, I smile to this day when I sing the Beach Boys song, "Help me Rhonda." She was probably fifteen. She had sparkling blue eyes and fluffy brown hair. When we all sat down for a dinner, I tried not to look like I was sweating inside like hot spring geyser about to blow.

I looked over at Rhonda and she smiled back at me. We found candy shaped like hearts on them. I didn't know how to have a conversation, so I passed different candy hearts to her with the messages. It seemed to help start a conversation.

Rhonda talked enough to get me warmed up. I'm not even sure I did more than pick on my food. Rhonda left me with only an appetite for her. Mark always seemed to have a girl on his shoulder. He sat across the way smiling enough to be the class clown. He was the life of any party, even for a preacher's kid.

I'm not sure how, but I snagged a second date with Rhonda. On the way into the city to drop her off, Mark kept nudging me in the back seat until I couldn't help but feel her body next to me, sending jolts of fear and excitement from head to toe. I think Mark practically asked her out for me.

On the night of the next date, we found ourselves having dinner at Mark's house, but this time we were able to have privacy with our dates in the finished basement where we tried to navigate through games like Operation. A real buzz kill. Sweaty hands again.

Then we watched a movie. Alone, the four of us that is. I recalled how Rhonda sat with me in the same chair. The movie was boring, but she wasn't. I was glad the basement wasn't lit up like runway lights..

During the movie, Rhonda looked over at me and leaned in, her mouth sort of opened and her lips parted. It was my cue to go for it. I froze. I couldn't bring my lips to hers. I left her flailing like a fish out of water. It proved to be my last date with her.

Next thing I knew, we had visitors in our youth group meeting at church. His name was Steven, and he had a car. He drove to high school every day. His parent's had given him a Ford Pinto for his birthday. When I looked back from my pew, craning my neck, I could see Rhonda and him were holding hands. After youth group, Rhonda jumped in the car with him. I watched in horror, as she leaned over and kissed until they were practically stuck to each other.

My lack of experience and fear of women would haunt me for years until one day one girl in particular refused to give up on me. Back then she would have only been eleven and living in Texas. One day I would find her on a broken road beneath a billion stars.

Through faith, I could see the future, one with true love, someone who was meant for me. I'm not sure there is such a thing as blind faith...

Tom (Me growing up. Not my real name in order to protect me from angry family members.)
Mark McGill (Best friend growing up)
Rhonda(First Date)
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