The Unexpected Help of Nicholas Smith
Within the past year a lot of things had changed in the life of sixteen year old Joanie Stevenson. Not only had she herself changed, both in maturity and outlook, but her best friend had gone and gotten married last April, leaving Joanie with no accompaniment to this church "singles conference." And this was the first year that Joanie was old enough to participate in the activities that were going on, now that she was sixteen.
She had come the previous year with her aforementioned friend, Anne, so that she could see what went on and whether or not she wanted to come the following year and be a full participant. However, last year she had kept a relatively low profile, staying with her aunt who went to the church instead of with the family in the church that was keeping all of the twenty technically "single-aged" girls at their house.
Joanie had decided, though, that she wasn't going to let her now-married friend's absence stop her from coming. She may not have been too keen on the idea of participation in the game of volleyball and game-show night that she knew was coming up, but she had decided that she was a big girl. She could handle it and have fun while doing so; so here she was.
And yet there was that other issue… Nicholas Smith. As of the previous year, he had been twenty-three years old, horribly immature, and constantly flirting with Joanie in some of the most obnoxious of ways. While Joanie didn't half mind him as a human being, his antics and the reason behind those antics had bugged her to the point of distraction.
After the singles conference, Joanie had discussed Nicholas with her best friend and a few others who had met him before and she'd been warned rather strongly of his wildfire personality and unpredictability, along with what her friend had called a "girl in every port" sort of attitude. And yet, every once in awhile, Joanie still found herself thinking of him, the first boy who had ever had a crush on her. Not that she had a crush on him - not quite a crush, anyway, just an innocent curiosity of sorts.
"If I was you, I would just stay away from him," Anne had declared. "Besides, he lives in Kentucky; it's not like we see him any other time besides once a year for three days during the singles conference. If he's there next year - and he probably will be - I'll protect you."
But the following the following singles conference had rolled around and brought two problems with it: Anne was married now, thus not here with her. But Nicholas was here, and unfortunately it seemed like he was still interested in her.
For the first two days of the conference, Joanie managed to avoid him, which was pretty easy considering all the friends that both of them had at the conference to keep them sufficiently distracted. But then the third and final day of the conference rolled around, and Joanie found herself ending up alone in a quiet hallway with just Nicholas, although the reasoning behind it was quite innocent. They had both been busy helping with the cleanup from the church-hosted breakfast when the church service had started, so now they found themselves waiting on one side of the door that separated the dining area from the auditorium while the preacher led in prayer on the other side of the door.
"Hey," Nicholas whispered with a smile. "I've been meaning to catch up with you. There's something that I've been wanting to talk to you about."
Joanie shifted nervously, asking, "Oh yeah?"
"So, you're staying here an extra couple of days after the conference with your aunt, right?"
"Cool; I was wondering then, since I'm not planning on leaving and going back to Lexington until tomorrow, would you want to go out tonight? See a movie or something?"
Joanie fought to keep her expression from showing all of the thoughts that ran through her head just then. This was the first time that she had ever been asked out on a date, and she thought that it was supposed to be special, but instead it was just… pretty much everything but special, since she had seen it coming since last year, and already knew what her answer would be. But giving him that answer wasn't supposed to be as hard as it was proving to be.
"What about Ashley?" Joanie asked, referencing Nicholas' pretty-much-girlfriend.
Nicholas shrugged replying, "Ashley lives in Florida now; she'd never know if I went out with someone once, and, besides, she's a lot of work."
So many responses to his statement flew into Joanie's mind at that instant that it was hard to keep them straight. She decided to try to tick them off one at a time.
"Nicholas… I'm not that kind of girl. You already have a girlfriend, and I'm going to respect that, just like I would want done to me if the tables were turned and I was Ashley. And even if I were to go on a date with you behind Ashley's back, doing things like that tend to find you out, which I absolutely wouldn't want. I don't want to go out on one date with someone just for the sake of one date; I want to date so that I can find a husband. And for the record, all relationships take work, I know that, and you should too by now, even if you don't. After all, you're seven years older than me, and right now at my age that is a reason in an of itself to say 'no.' So… thanks for asking, and in a way I'm flattered, but no, I don't want to go out with you. Sorry."
Nicholas swallowed, glancing down at the hardwood floor in embarrassment before he looked back at her and smiled his signature goofy grin. "Oh well; you don't know what you're missing."
Then he realized that the prayer was over in the auditorium and shot out there and into his seat in order to get away from her. Joanie sighed and made her way silently to her own seat. She never noticed that one of the reasons that Joanie had decided to come - her sometimes-crush Lucas Reed - had been standing nearby in an out of the way spot and listening, a look of admiration growing on his face.
Lucas had always kind of thought of Joanie simply as her aunt's niece - since she pretty much only came over in order to visit said aunt. He had also thought of the three years age difference between them as more than what it really was. But listening to Joanie talk to Nicholas, he began to see Joanie in a new light. Though he had known her for forever, Lucas now realized that somewhere along the way, Joanie Stevenson had become a mature, Christian young lady. And that was a young lady that he wanted to get to know.
So later that evening, after the final church service once most everybody had gone home, Joanie was once again helping clean up afterwards - this time in the auditorium - when Lucas came up beside her.
"I heard what you told Nicholas today, about going on a date with him." Joanie looked over at him in alarm, so he hurried to add, "I didn't mean to, I just happened upon you two talking and had to wait to go into the auditorium for the same reason that you guys did."
Joanie relaxed a little, asking, "What about it?"
"I just want you to know that I admire you for it; it took guts to stick it to him like you did. You told Nicholas some stuff that he's needed to hear for longer than he's known you."
"Thanks," Joanie blushed.
Lucas paused, took a deep breath, and added, "I was wondering… would you like to come to my parents' house for supper tonight, or maybe tomorrow?"
"Wouldn't they think something of it if you just suddenly asked me over to your house?" Joanie asked, her eyebrows raised in curiosity.
"Exactly." Lucas grinned before flushing himself as he admitted, "After what I saw this morning, I'd like to get to know you better, Joanie."
Joanie smiled shyly, "I'd like that too, Lucas."
Lucas exhaled with relief. "Good. I can come pick you up at five, if you'd like."
"Sure," Joanie nodded.
Lucas took a deep breath then and walked away, as smiles widened across both of their faces.
Later that evening as Lucas walked Joanie to the door of her aunt's house after their evening with his parents, he remarked, "You know what? I'm going to have to thank Nicholas when I see him at next year's conference."
"Why?" Joanie asked curiously.
"Because if he hadn't asked you on a date, then I wouldn't have either." Joanie smiled. "But then again," Lucas added, "Although this may be to presumptuous of me to say yet…" Joanie raised her eyebrows cautiously. "…I may not be single at this time next year."
Joanie's smile widened as she agreed knowingly, "No; no, you might not."
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