|General Fiction posted November 27, 2011||Chapters:||1 -2- 3...|
From hurt to happy: A window opens
A chapter in the book Stand Strong
Alive and Awake
A sheltered, socially awkward young girl struggles to stay true to her Christian principles as she enters the morally ambiguous atmosphere of a public high school.
Previously: Mara is given an early birthday present of two tickets for a Christian Rock Concert. Poised to turn fourteen, her parents are allowing her more freedom, and she is anxious to prove to them she can be trusted. Accompanying Mara will be her best friend, and Mara believes the concert will be a life-changing event for both of them.
Jujee came over the morning of the concert to help Mara decide what to wear. The two girls studied the clothes on hangers and those tucked neatly onto shelves of the small closet. With a loud sigh, Jujee waved her hands like she was swatting bugs. She rolled her eyes and her voice had a sharp edge."I swear all you have are jeans and sweat shirts."
"That's not true! I've got a denim skirt somewhere in the back of the closet. I was thinking of wearing leggings underneath it."
"That'd be okay, but thigh-high boots would be cool, especially over Vera Wang tights." Jujee arched an eyebrow and challenged, "It's not a sin to dress in style, you know."
Mara crossed her arms and shoved the closet door shut with her foot.
Jujee, who never backed down from a disagreement, opened her mouth to reply but stopped as her phone's ring tone filled the room. She checked to see who was calling and smiled for the first time that morning. Stepping into the hallway, she tossed off a remark to Mara, "This will only take a sec."
Mara heard her laughter but couldn't make out the words. Why couldn't she have ignored the call? Today is really important to me.
Fifteen minutes later, Jujee returned. Her smile was gone and there was a hard glint in her eye. She offered no explanation or apology for taking the call, and Mara was afraid to ask since Jujee never shared much about her personal life, including the names of other people she hung with.
Jujee moved to the side of the bed and grabbed a handful of Mara's hair. "You don't want my suggestions on what kind of clothes to wear. At least consider a new 'do." She dropped the strands of hair and crossed to a nearby laptop.
"Come here, I've got an idea." Jujee pointed to a spot on the carpet next to her then focused on the computer screen. She executed a Google search and tapped the screen for emphasis. "Emily Brandt showed me this website last week. It explains how to make your hair look just like a Hollywood hottie."
Mara bit her lip and pushed down the urge to ignore Jujee's order. Despite the rebellious voice in her head, she said, "Guess it wouldn't hurt to check it out."
Browsing the site, Mara's stomach clenched tight. Mom won't let me out of the house looking like this. Of the three styles Jujee chose, she didn't feel any of them were right for her and expressed her doubts.
"Those models have oval-shaped faces and they're wearing a lot of make-up. More than my parents would ever approve." Sliding her fingers through her long, black hair, Mara continued, "Mom's hairdresser says wearing my hair longer is more becoming for someone like me with a round face and high forehead."
The ballerina-thin blonde, Jujee, placed her hands on her hips and gave Mara an I-know-what's-best-for-you look. "We're high school freshmen now, remember? You thought I was making a big mistake when I got my hair cut and styled at that new place downtown. But now, boys who wouldn't give me the time of day before, take a second look when I pass by. Plus, you don't have to use as much make-up as they do here."
Turning to face Mara, she pressed her point home, "Your mother's been going to the same hairstylist forever. That's fine for her, but you need to see someone like I did who's young and up on the latest hair trends. Just try this for me, will you?"
Mara brought her hands to the sides of her head. "Okay," she agreed, "but no cutting off hair! Promise me, or I'm not letting you touch it."
Jujee flushed and her hand went to her right pocket. "I cut my own bangs all the time with manicure scissors. I was only gonna do a little trimming." She puffed her lips into a pout and scrunched her face, all the while watching herself in the mirror. After a few moments she laughed. "Oh, all right, I promise."
An hour into the hairdo experiment, the air in the bathroom was thick with the smell of perfumed styling products. Making matters worse, a headache crept up Mara's scalp from the twisting and yanking of her hair. She threw up her hand to ward off a hot-iron-fisted Jujee.
"No more. Face it, Jujee, my hair is straight as a plank. Why do you think I always wear it the same way? You see what I go through? I know you're trying to help, but I'm going to wear my hair like I always do... straight."
Jujee shrugged her shoulders. "Chill, Mara." She bent to retrieve her backpack from the bathtub where she'd dumped it. "l need to go home and start getting ready for tonight." Without another word, she was out the door faster than a lightning bug.
Mara took in the styling products, electric curlers and a brush full of hair and sighed. As usual, I'm left to clean up the mess.
The concert's venue, Mueller Auditorium, doubled as a sports facility. It was a general admission concert, so Mara's father dropped the girls off ninety minutes in advance of the doors' opening. He also printed out a seating chart, highlighting the areas for the best viewing of the band.
Armed with the knowledge that Christian rock concerts allow the taking of photos, Mara cajoled her father into letting her use his Nikon. They shared a love of photography, and Mara dreamed of a career in photojournalism. The bag holding the equipment hung from one shoulder and her purse from the other.
When they'd arrived at 4 p.m., temperatures hovered in the mid-thirties. The crowd's spirits were high. Clusters of teenagers posed for selfies, which they downloaded then excitedly shared with each other. Jujee kept herself busy gossiping, via text messages, with friends behind them in the line.
A blast of February cold rocked Mara forward. With temperatures following the course of the setting sun, Mara regretted her choice of footwear. Her toes were turning red where exposed through the peep hole of her cousin's fuschia wedgies. Why did I let Jujee talk me into wearing these instead of my Asics?
Several of the group from Mt. Zion set up a CD player in an open area. They began dancing and lip-dubbing lyrics: 'I ain't sellin' my soul... can't be sold... cause I been saved...'
There was a restless, growing buzz behind Mara. "Skil..let, Skil..let, Skil..let," the crowd chanted. A dozen kids stood between her and the glass doors of the entrance. Snaking a quarter mile behind were fans of all ages anxious to get the fun on. When the doors opened, Mara grabbed Jujee and steamrolled her way through the crowd pouring into the auditorium.
Visualizing her father's map, she made her way to an east-side balcony that was adjacent to the stage. She located two seats in the center of the front row and collapsed.
Jujee, claiming she needed to use the restroom, took off. Standing up to remove her jacket a few minutes later, Mara saw her friend on the lower gymnasium level, talking with some of the people from the Mt. Zion youth group. She could see Jujee shaking her head and pointing in Mara's direction.
When Jujee returned, Mara wasted no time in confronting her. "You've hardly talked to me since we got here. It seems like you're more interested in the group down there than you are in me. If you want to sit with someone besides me, go ahead. You'll just end up moping if you think you have to keep me company."
Jujee looked away from Mara toward the stage. "What'll your parents say if I leave you here alone?"
"Really, Jujee? You've never cared much about what my parents think of anything. It's obvious you prefer to be with the REVaTEEN group. Just go."
Mara watched a series of emotions cross her friend's face. For a minute, she let herself hope Jujee would choose her over the others. The answer, when it came, felt like the cut of a knife
"Are you sure you're okay with this? 'Cause I don't want you mad at me."
"I invited you along so you could have fun. Just go. The concert's starting."
Jujee scooped up her backpack and, without a thank you or, even, a goodbye, hurried down the steps.
Mara huddled in her seat with her head down and hair spilling around her face, soaking up the tears. What did you expect, huh? You're fat and awkward. Of course, Jujee wants to be with those other girls. They're pretty and popular. She belongs with friends like that...people who have something to offer her.
Lost in her miserable thoughts, Mara was startled by a tap on her shoulder and a friendly male voice asking, "Aren't you in my Spanish class?"
I know that voice. Could this really be happening?
Mara made a slow turn and found herself pulled into the orbit of dark-lashed, brown-eyed Gabe Sanders -- someone girls like Jujee called choice.
He's even more gorgeous up close. God, help me not to blow this!
Asics: A brand of running shoes.
Choice: Great Looking.
Lip-dubbing: Mouthing the words without actually vocalizing.
Selfies: Pictures taken of oneself, usually with a phone.
Vera Wang: Popular Designer.
Mara Devlan: High School Freshman.
Jujee Mattson: Mara's best friend.
Awesome artwork, Days-Breaking, courtesy of tekayep.
Skillet is a wildly popular Christian Alternative Rock Band. They have received numerous Dove Award Nominations. Their album - AWAKE - received the Top Christian Album Award at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards and one of the tracks from that album - Awake and Alive - is featured in the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Thank you, AvMurray, for the use of the great artwork!
Artwork by avmurray at FanArtReview.com
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