Today I decided to give you part one of a story I wrote some time ago. It is one of my older writings, but I hope you'll still enjoy it! Part 2 will come out on Tuesday.
Light exploded around me.
Forcing more strength from my legs, I pushed away from the old tunnel and into the sunshine. My route was almost done, but my legs still had more to give. I grinned as I whipped through the forest.
This run was a good idea. True, it was early, and true, I’d probably come close to being late for school, but I didn’t mind. A run always cleared my head.
It would be a good day.
I walked slowly into the house, cringing as the hinges squeaked on the screen door. Like I had expected, my mom awaited me at the kitchen table, her grade books around her.
"Where’ve you been, Sydney?"
"Running." I didn't meet her eyes.
"Is that a good reason for being 48 minutes late to school? And I am assuming you still need a shower, right?"
"No and yes." I wiped sweat from my forehead. "No, I shouldn’t have been late, and yes, I need a shower.”
She turned to the window, away from me. "Then I suggest you go take one and get to work as quickly as possible." She kept her voice down, probably trying to keep me from getting angry, which had been happening a lot lately. Life had just been… difficult.
"Okay." I turned and hurried away, through the living room and up the stairs to my room. I had known it was a stupid idea to take those extra laps on my homemade track, but the running had felt amazing this morning. I could actually think clearly while I ran outside, away from school and friends and Mom’s unexpected pregnancy and everything that was going on. I rustled around in my drawers for a clean T-shirt.
I wished real life was as peaceful as my morning runs.
Halfway through the afternoon, I took a break from school. Being homeschooled had many advantages, but for me they were somewhat nullified by a mother who assigned schoolwork in bulk.
I hopped up from my desk and looked at my bookshelf. Gotta be a good read here somewhere. I glanced over the titles. Some I had read, most I hadn’t, but … oh, wait. My Bible was in the middle of the shelf. I hadn’t had time to touch it before running that morning.
I snatched it off the oak shelf and hoisted myself up onto my bed to read a bit. Psalms was usually my book of choice, mostly because it has a lot of short chapters, and today I flipped to Psalm 6.
"O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed."
There were more verses, but I didn’t really feel the Psalm applying. I didn’t think the Lord was angry with me. Why would He be? I was a Christian.
Switching over to prayer, I said, "Dear Lord, thanks for this day. It’s really gorgeous outside. Thanks for helping with my schoolwork, and please help Dad at work…" One of my eyes peeked open, and I saw the title of an interesting-sounding book on my shelf. "Please help all the sick in the church. Amen."
Within a moment, I had escaped into the fresh pages of an unread book.
The phone rang shrilly above the sound of the TV in the next room. I glanced up at the handset in my room, trying to read the caller ID. It's Jessica.
Tossing my science book off of my lap, I sprang up to answer the phone. "Hello?"
"Hey, Syd, what's up?"
"Nothing much, why?"
"I was wondering if you had time to come over and hang out. We're watching a movie tonight, and I was going to ask Shelby to come, too.'
"Sounds like fun." I looked at the clock. It wasn't even seven PM yet, but still, I had loads of schoolwork to do. "What movie?"
She named one of my favorites.
I looked down at the pile of books on the floor – history, English, literature, and the science book lying face down where I'd thrown it. "I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my mom."
"Oh. We can do it some other time if you need to." She knew how things had been lately with my mom.
I frowned. I didn’t get many chances to see Jessica besides church. Didn’t I deserve a break?
"I’ll call you back, okay?"
"Yeah," she said. "Bye."
I tossed the phone on my bed and walked over to my parents’ room. Knocking barely louder than the TV, I waited for an invitation to come in.
"Syd?" my dad called.
"Yeah, can I talk to Mom?"
My mom opened the door. "What’s up, Sydney?"
"Can I could go to Jessica’s tonight? She’s inviting Shelby to come, and we were going to watch a movie."
Mom frowned slightly. "Didn’t I see you carry a big stack of schoolwork up here after supper? You can’t be getting further behind, Sydney."
I felt frustration creep in. I knew what I was doing. Really. "Mom, I know. But I want to go. I’ll make it up tomorrow." My tone was a bit south of respectful.
"Don’t talk to me that way."
"What’d I do?" But I knew.
She pursed her lips. "Fine, you can go. But tomorrow, you’re catching up. No matter what."
I felt a twinge of hesitation. Mom’s no matter what’s were serious. But now I really wanted to get away from everything. From my messed up life. From my newfound attitude problem I couldn’t seem to control. "Okay, then I’m going."
The next day I dragged myself to work after fighting through my mountain of homework. Flipping burgers was not my ideal job, but it was one of the only openings in Riley, the nearest town to my home. So I cooked burgers.
"Five juniors," my manager, Hannah, called from the front. I started slapping together sandwiches and then slid them into their racks, barely avoiding a collision with my friend Blake and a strainer full of hot fries.
Getting back to the grill, I stared at the spatula.
"So what’s up, Sydney?" Blake asked.
“Nothing. Nothing much.”
"How’s your mom doing with the pregnancy?"
“Fine.” Honestly, it was the last thing I wanted to talk about. After being an only child for so many years, the idea of a sibling was unsettling. In fact, the day she had announced her pregnancy was the day things had become strained between us.
"You don’t sound fine." He was pressing me, and he knew it.
"Seriously, I don’t want to talk about it."
"Everything! I don’t know." I paused for a moment. "I don’t even know what’s bothering me."
"Let’s go over the options." He smiled as he measured out another batch of fries. "Parents?"
I saw another order come up on the screens and started a new burger. "Not really. Mom and I have been a bit… off. But it’s my fault. I know that." My heart twinged. I knew that my problems were deeper than my attitude, even though I couldn’t identify them.
I moaned, slapping a burger into a bun with more force than necessary. "I’m behind. As usual. I get up every morning thinking that I’ll have time for everything and there are plenty of hours in the day, and then I get to the evening and I realize that I’m out of time without getting everything done."
"Are you using your time well?" His voice held a tinge of a deeper question; I didn’t know what he meant.
"Not too well. But I’m kinda keeping up with school. I mean, things are working out."
"Sydney, I meant ... spiritually." Blake was a serious Christian, and I knew it. But I still wasn’t getting his point. "I mean have you--"
He was cut off by the phone ringing. The manager grabbed it, leaving the other girl in the front to handle the customers by herself. After a few quiet words, Hannah hung up and turned to me.
"Give me the spatula, Sydney. Your dad’s coming to get you."
I looked at the clock. 8:19 p.m. My shift ended at 9:30. "Why?"
She paused. "It’s your mom."
I ran to the parking lot.