“The key to a happy life is to accept that you are never in control.” ~Owner of the Park; “Jurassic World”
When I walked out of the house, the first thing I spotted was indeed her.
She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, but I didn’t mind at all. There was so much more about her that went beyond her physical appearance and I adored all of her. The more time I spent with her, the faster I let myself fall. Sometimes I wondered if I even knew what I was doing -- I was only seventeen after all.
Then I would have another conversation, another look into those dancing eyes, another hand on her’s. Every worry would fade, every thought would slow.
Which is why I almost tripped over my own feet when I was walking toward her.
“I’m okay!” I declared as I stumbled.
She giggled and I noticed she was holding two bikes with her. Quickly, I walked over and she handed me one of the handlebars.
“I hope you like riding bikes. I just thought it would be something fun for us to do,” she said, climbing on her’s.
“Anything’s fun with you,” I replied, getting on my own blue bike, holding my foot down on the gravel so I wouldn’t roll down the small incline of a driveway.
“Even getting paint on your face?” She winked at me and I felt my cheeks heat up.
“Especially getting paint on my face.”
She laughed effortlessly and started to pedal down the hill. Grinning, I went after her, quickly catching up and pedaling by her side. The air swept up my arms and caused goosebumps. My cheeks stung slightly from the cooler atmosphere, but I didn’t care. Leaves fell from the trees and rose up after we sped past them.
The setting sun danced in the trees as we continued on the dirt road and around a bend.
“Don’t worry!” she called over the wind in my ears. “We don’t have many neighbors, so there shouldn’t be a lot of traffic!”
“Sounds good!” I said, smiling over at her.
Joy danced behind her eyes as the breeze lifted her hair off her neck and shoulders. I noticed I was falling behind and hurried to catch up to her. It felt good to ride a bike again, I realized I hadn’t ridden one in a while. It was nice to just go along for the ride, let the events that happened recently roll off my shoulders.
We didn’t talk much as we rode. For one, she was going pretty fast, and two, the trees swaying in the wind along with the crunching of leaves provided quite a bit of background noise. Eventually, we travel up a pretty steep hill and had to get off to push the bikes up.
When we made it to the top, I took in the view.
Down below, I saw their house through the patchy tree branches and I concluded that we must’ve made a loop. When I turned back to what was in front of me, I was awestruck. A huge barn sat in the front of the large, cleared place of land. In the back corner, I noticed cows roaming in the fence and a large garden out of their reach. Another shed was next to the garden.
While it was all ordinary, I was left in shock. The setting was beautiful. Instantly, I reached for my camera and quickly got a shot of the setting sun over the landscape.
“You coming?!” Alivia called excitedly, already a ways ahead of me. She had dropped her bike in the gravel and carried a blanket in her arms across the flat.
“Yeah!” I answered, running to catch up. When I reached her, she stopped for a moment and I grabbed her hand. I felt it shake the smallest bit and held it a little tighter.
Without a second thought, we began walking to the middle of the the clearing under a single, massive tree. I helped her spread out the blanket and we sat down next to each other. It was like the scene on the roof, except completely different. Now I was more sure about things. I knew I wanted to change and I knew I liked her.
“I’m just going to say it,” I started. “I really like being with you.”
“I like being with you too,” she said, smiling at me. I held her gaze and grinned.
She sat with her legs crossed, holding our hands between us. She started to play with my fingers and smiled as she spread out her hand beside mine.
“I worry about you sometimes, Tin,” she stated quietly, her voice growing quiet.
Her words surprised me. Of course, I worried about her too, but that was because I didn’t want to see her get hurt. Why would she worry about me?
“Why?” I asked, concerned.
“Just because-- Oh, I don’t know. I want you to come to church, and I want you to learn that God is here and loves you. Sometimes I don’t know how to tell you that,” she explained, not looking into my eyes.
“I’m okay, Alivia,” I informed her, wiggling my fingers on the blanket. “Sawyer’s been helping me with knowing about that. And I would love to come to church with you... But it’s difficult.”
“Difficult?” she repeated.
“Well, you see..,” I began. I hesitated.
The problem wasn’t that I was extremely uncomfortable going. I did feel a little out of place there, but I think if I stuck with Sawyer and Alivia, I would be alright. A deep desire in me wanted to learn more about who God was and why we were here. The thing was, my family. Dad wouldn’t let me go and I couldn’t just leave Pearl and Asher at the house alone, especially now that I knew how Pearl felt about it.
“Alivia, I’m going to tell you something that no one has really heard before,” I said, looking at her face again. She nodded and smiled encouragingly at me.
“I won’t tell anyone.”
“Thanks. Remember when I told you I’d tell you everything? When I just randomly showed up at your house that night and we talked out on the roof.”
“Vividly, yes,” she answered.
“Well, I never told you anything. The reason I was at your house was because I was at a party and I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t go home...”
I then continued to tell her everything: about my parents having trouble, the party, Shelly, the movies -- everything. All of my doubts of my friends and my feelings for her came tumbling out, and there was no way to stop it. The whole time, she sat and listening quietly, nodding to confirm she understood and grinning whenever I told her that I thought she was beautiful.
“Wow,” she said after I was done. “That’s crazy. I’m so sorry, Tin.”
“Please don’t call me that,” I mumbled under my breath.
“That’s not actually my name,” I interrupted. I didn’t meet her eyes as I concentrated on picking at a loose thread in the blanket. A breeze picked up and tossed the leaves from the trees, bringing the sweet smell of seasons changing.
I felt her hand on my arm and I looked up, heart heavy. The weight of the world was on my shoulders, and it felt like everything was my fault.
“It’s Fletcher,” I said tentatively.
“Fletcher,” she tried, smiling a bit as she said it.
“I know it sounds bad--”
“No, I like it,” she said.
My heart thudded inside my chest with her soft gaze. I realized how relieved I felt now that I told her everything. Only her and Sawyer knew about my family life, but they were probably the closest people to me. After all these years of keeping my family life a secret, it was nice to get it all out at once.
My eyes traveled around her face, memorizing every perfect detail. The freckles dotted across her nose and cheeks; how her hair perfectly laid around her face; the ease of the compassion in her eyes.
“I’m sorry if this sound really cheesy and stupid but I’ve never really done this before..,” I said, getting lost in her emotions and overall goodness about her.
“That’s okay,” she laughed, a sweet melody that made my heart jolt.
“Would you like to go on a date with me sometime this week?” I asked, squeezing her hands.
Her face broke into a smile and she blushed, even if I was the only one to see it.
“Absolutely,” she answered, tilting her head a little to the right.
“Yes really! I really like spending time with you Tin-- I mean, Fletcher,” she stated, scooting over to sit beside me.
“You’re just so great and everything. I honestly can’t even believe we’re talking right now. I was such a jerk to you,” I told her as she sat against the tree.
“That’s okay,” she said. “I’ve forgiven you. God forgives you, too.”
“And He loves me... Right?”
“Definitely. He wouldn’t send Jesus here for us if He didn’t. He made us in His image, and I believe He has taken care of us always.”
“Even with what happened with your dad?”
“Even that. It wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t His plan,” she said softly.
I leaned back against the tree, slipping my fingers in her’s. If God was involved with everything, then that means He was involved in my parents’ marriage and Pearl yelling at the ref. Asher not growing up with the best home life and me having to sneak around so I could just study about Him.
“But God’s in charge of the good things too, right?” I asked.
“Of course. The good, the bad, and everything else. Life isn’t a coincidence.”
I smiled to myself. Alivia and I weren’t a coincidence. God at least gave me a way to learn about Him. My eyes were opened to Pearl being alone. A new calm settled over me when I realized Someone was controlling my life. I could see things with a new perspective.
“That’s actually really relieving,” I sighed.
The two of us sat there in a comfortable silence. My thoughts were consumed by everything that had just happened. God’s in control. I’m going on a date with Alivia.
How was I going to go on a date with her? I couldn’t screw this up, she just needed something amazing. I’ve never really taken someone out on a date before, but I knew that McDonald’s probably wasn’t a good idea if I wanted to impress her a little. I had money to take her somewhere nice. The only question was where.
As I was thinking about this, something caught my eye from across the lawn. It was hidden behind the shed, but one came out and then another and then another. Soon, the area around the shed was surrounded by plump, feathery, white--
“Uh, Alivia?” I asked, nudging her with my shoulder.
“Yeah?” Her voice sounded hopeful, another way she captivated me.
“What is that?”
I pointed to the creatures by the shed and she sat up, peering over. When she recognized what they were, she laughed loudly and sprung up.
“Chickens!” she exclaimed with an amused expression.
“Are you serious?!” I laughed, getting up also.
“Yes sir!” she declared. “They must’ve gotten out. Want to catch them?”
“Catch them?” I restated in shock.
“I’ll teach you, it’s easy!”
She lead me out from under the shade tree. When she let go of my hand, she started running to the animals, absolutely tickled by the fact that they had escaped the coop.
“Come here you little chickens!” she shouted, not able to control her laughter as she bounded toward the nearest one.
I grinned and watch her chase the chicken as it ran. Its head bobbed forward and backward as it ran from her. Laughter escaped me as she dove for it, but missed and ended up landing on her hands and knees in a heap of optimism.
She rolled over and stared up at the sky, laughing her guts out. I went over to stand beside her, but was held up by the chickens flocking around me.
“Hey dude,” I said to the chicken at my feet, feeling weird that I was actually talking to an animal. It walked around in front of me and I felt my hands twitch. I was suppose to be catching it. For Alivia and so the Olsons wouldn’t have to do anymore work. It would be a nice thing for me to do, catch a chicken so life would be a bit less hectic.
On the other hand, how in the world do I catch a chicken?
“Get it Tin!” Alivia cried in amusement.
I gave her a how-am-I-suppose-to-catch-this-thing? look. When she saw it, she just laughed once more, hardly able to control herself.
“How?!” I asked, approaching it slowly.
“Just grab it! You won’t hurt him,” she assured me, getting to her feet.
I nodded. Sounded simple enough. If I couldn’t catch a bird, what kind of man did that make me?
Hesitantly, I made a grab for it, but the bird just ran. Naturally, I chased after it, surprised by how fast it could run. However, I was a cross country runner and could totally outrun this thing. My confidence lead me to running in front of the chicken, spinning around while shouting a dramatic, “Ah ha!”
While the thing just squawked and ran the other way.
Alivia was laughing again and I let myself chuckle from my lack of willingness to just grab the thing.
Soon, all the birds were gathered around me again, walking around in the mowed grass and clucking like there was no tomorrow. Alivia came over, trying to hold in her enjoyment of the fact that I couldn’t do this.
“I’ll show you,” she offered, grinning.
“I’m ready, taking notes,” I joked, watching her.
“First you pick one.”
She nodded to the one closest to her.
“Then you reach out and grab it around the middle, like this,” she stated, picking up the bird. At first it scrambled, but eventually settled into her grasp as she held it.
“That’s it?” I asked skeptically.
“That’s it,” she replied, shrugging and raising an eyebrow at me. “Try it!”
I stared down the chicken to my left and smiled at it. It looked just like the rest, but oh well. Then I reached out and grabbed the thing as it started flapping around. It was still in my grasp when it started clucking and trying to escape.
“Whoa! Calm down man!” I exclaimed to the chicken.
“You’re doing great! Just hold it now,” she giggled.
So I held the chicken and it stopped squirming. I smiled triumphantly.
“Look, I’m holding my first chicken!” I announced.
“Yes, go Fletcher!” Alivia cheered. “Now we can just put them back in the coop.”
“Awesome. I’m gonna be a pro by the time--”
But when I looked up, Alivia was walking away with the animals running around her. I felt my jaw drop. If she knew the chickens would follow her then why did she have me chase them?
When she gave me an innocent smile and laughed, I shook my head in amusement. Then she started running with the chickens, causing me to laugh at all of them following her. The chicken in my arms just stayed put as I looked down at it.
“It was nice meeting you buddy,” I told it. “But I think we both have to admit, she’s something else.”