Why I Can't Rule the World

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No. 18

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of your souls.” ~1 Peter 1:8-9

I spotted Alivia down the hall at her locker Monday morning and immediately felt my heart speed up.

I began picking my way through the crowd to get toward her. It felt like forever since I last saw her, even if it was only a couple days ago. All I wanted was to tell her the news. She put the books in her bag with a thoughtful look on her face. I wondered what she was thinking about.

When I told Pearl as much as I could remember about God and Jesus, she seemed doubtful. I felt my heart sink a little as she told me she found it a little hard to believe.

“Especially at a time like this Tin,” Pearl stated after I explained it to her. She got up, crossing her arms and walked to the other side of the room. “If there was a God, why would He allow us to live like this? In fear that the next time we come home our parents are going to be split up?”

I had swallowed and thought about what to say. I couldn’t find the words. Sure, I knew I was a skeptic when Sawyer told me about it for the first time. I questioned him and he answered. But for some reason, I couldn’t find the voice to tell her God was in control, even if I believed that.

“I--”

“It’s just a lot to take in,” she interrupted, turning back around to face me. She planted her feet and stared at me with the hopeless gaze I had grown accustomed to seeing on her face.

I nodded, wanting to explain it to her what it had done for me.

“Could I think about it? Alone?” she emphasized, biting her lip.

It took everything in me to actually leave her to herself. Whenever we talked the remainder of the weekend, it wasn’t about faith, and I didn’t push her on it. Maybe I should have.

Seeing Alivia that morning brought a new kind of peace to my mind. My regrets about what I should have said to Pearl disappeared.

“Hey!” I exclaimed when I reached her.

“Fletcher!” she said, sounding extremely happy. She turned to me and we embraced each other. I held her tight before we pulled away and she continued arranging her books in her bag.

“Is your dad doing well?” I asked, leaning against the lockers.

“He’s great! He’s coming home today. Oh Fletcher, I can’t tell you how relieved I am that he’s going to be feeling so much better,” she said, smiling ear-to-ear.

“That’s awesome.”

“So what did you want to tell me? How come you couldn’t tell me over the phone?” she asked, shutting her locker door.

“Tell you what?” Sawyer asked, walking up to join the conversation.

“I actually wanted to tell both of you, so this is great,” I said, hardly able to contain my excitement.

They both looked at me with wide eyes and expectant gazes. I took a deep breath.

“I want to be baptized,” I revealed, feeling a weight off my chest as soon as I said it.

“Are you serious?!” Alivia exclaimed at the same time as Sawyer said, “Really?”

I nodded enthusiastically, grinning. Alivia laughed and hugged me again.

“Tin, this is going to be the best decision of your life!” she gushed, never failing to stop smiling.

Sawyer was also smiling his big, genuine, classic Sawyer smile. He hugged me like guys do, slapping each other on the back and laughing.

“That’s fantastic!” he said, laying a hand on my shoulder.

“When? Where? I’ll be there, right?” Alivia asked.

“Of course you’ll be there,” I laughed, taking her hand.

“Want to do it tonight? We can in the pond, it isn’t too cold today,” Sawyer suggested.

“The pond?” Alivia said, crinkling her nose. I laughed and she winked at me.

“Why not? That’s where I was baptized.” Sawyer shrugged.

“I’ll go with the pond,” I gave in.

The three of us started walking up the hall to our classes. Alivia had her hand in mine and Sawyer was by her side, going on about details and who all would be there, if I wanted.

“Pan, you’re gonna make him nervous!” Alivia laughed.

“Sorry, I’m just excited,” he said, his eyes shining.

“Point is,” Alivia said, “is that this is going to be the best day of your life.”

She swung our hands between us as Sawyer agreed. I smiled at her. A voice inside me agreed.

This was going to be the best day of my life.

[] [] []

I nearly sped all the way home.

I told Sawyer and Alivia that I would be right over, but I wanted to pick up Grandma so she could be there. When I told her the news, she was just as excited and nearly jumped in the car with me. Then she remembered Asher and had to go back in the house and get him. Pearl had just dropped her stuff in her room when she came running down the stairs.

“What’s going on?” she asked as Grandma hurriedly packed the diaper bag.

“I’m getting baptized!” I exclaimed happily, thankful my parents weren’t home at the moment.

“What?”

“It’s what you do when you decide to follow Christ,” Grandma said, smiling and rushing out the door. “Come on! The Olsons are expecting us.”

I was turning to go after her when Pearl grabbed my arm. I spun around and she had a worried look in her eye.

“Tin, are you sure about this?” she asked softly.

“Definitely. I want to follow God, Pearl. It’s like my faith has become a part of me, and I can’t give it up,” I said, laying my hands on her shoulders. She shrugged them off and took a step back.

“I don’t know Tin... Blindly putting faith in something you don’t believe in? And then proclaiming it or jumping in water or whatever to show everyone? Seems a little sketchy.”

“Pearl, I have to do this. I really want to. It’s okay if you don’t believe it, but at least come and see why I do,” I said gently.

“I-I think I’ll stay here. I’m sorry Tin, but I’m not ready. And I don’t think I should go,” she said, backing up the stairs.

I nodded, trying not to let the disappointment show on my face. She was my sister, I wanted her to believe too. I guess it took time, I would just have to be patient.

I told her goodbye then went to the car and drove off. Grandma seemed to understand.

As soon as we got to the Olsons, the excitement returned. Alivia practically ran out of the house, pulling me into another hug. Asher was instantly at Sawyer’s side, tugging at his hand. Sawyer quickly lifted him on his shoulders and we went to the back of the house where Mr. and Mrs. Olson sat. Mr. Olson was now in a wheelchair with a blanket draped over his lap.

“Come here Mr. Amble!” he exclaimed, motioning for me to come over to him. I did and he hugged me when I bent down.

“How are you sir?” I asked, grinning.

“Just fine. Even better since Alivia and Sawyer tell me you’re getting baptized today.” He was all smiles, though he wasn’t as energetic as he was the first time I saw him. That was okay, I was just glad he was there. He welcomed me into his home like I was his own son.

“Who all is coming?” I asked when we were all introduced and sitting down.

“I invited some of the kids from the youth group, but not too many. They should be here soon,” Sawyer explained.

“Are you ready?” Alivia asked.

“So ready,” I replied, causing her to grin.

And I was.

Before I knew it, all of us were gathered out by the pond. Sawyer wheeled Mr. Olson over the best he could. The setting sun made the trees reflect the water and the sun shone bright. A breeze blew, causing the chilled air to be cold.

Diego, the youth pastor, and a couple others I met that night of the bonfire had come out, all of them excited. As soon as Diego saw me, he practically tackled me when he gave me a hug. Soon after that, we all went out. We prayed and I went into the pond.

I was in an old t-shirt and shorts. The water made me shiver as the mud squished beneath my toes. Sawyer followed in after me and gave me a smile.

“Today, we’re all here to witness one of my good friends, Tin Amble, to get baptized,” he said, addressing them all. “Now I’m just gonna ask you a few questions before I baptize you, okay?”

I nodded eagerly.

“Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“And do you want to serve Him and be faithful to Him all the days of your life?”

“Absolutely,” I said.

“I will now baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” Sawyer said.

I went under, and came back up.

Though it was something so simple, it changed my life completely. I knew for a fact that God was never gong to leave me. He’d take care of me as He takes care of all of us. The joy of me being saved and forgiven filled my heart as a new church family embraced me when I got out of the water. They were all clapping and shouting. I could practically feel God’s love in my veins.

Alivia threw her arms around me as soon as I stepped out, catching me off guard a little and stopping me from shivering.

“I am so, so proud of you,” she whispered in my ear as she hugged me tighter. “Welcome to your new life.”

[] [] []

That night, I went back to my house with Grandma and Asher.

It was all too good to be true. I could hardly contain the joy I was feeling and I never wanted it to stop. I wanted to tell everybody Who I belonged to and what He had done for them. I wanted Pearl to know, Ace to know, Asher.

We walked into the house to only Pearl being home. It was late too, almost eight. After having another excited conversation with Grandma, I took Asher upstairs and started putting him to bed.

“Cool,” he said to me, grinning. “Cool cool cool.”

“Wasn’t that cool?” I asked, laughing a little as I tugged his pajama shirt over his head.

“Was it cold?” he questioned as I ruffled his hair.

“A little.” I picked him up to start reading books to him. “But Squirt, it was worth it.”

I was about to grab the standard, two-year-old book, when I decided to do something different. A story flew into my mind and I thought it would be toddler appropriate .

“One time, there was a man named Jesus,” I started, rocking him in the chair. He gazed up at me with wide eyes, captivated. “And He was teaching one day, and eventually all the people got hungry.”

“How many people?” Asher whispered.

“A lot,” I whispered back, grinning. I had forgotten exactly how many, but it was still a cool story. “So Jesus had some fish and some bread and He fed all the people.”

“All of them?”

“All of them.”

That night, I told Asher a Bible story for the first time. It wasn’t much, considering I was reciting it from the little memory I had about Bible stories, but it felt like I was doing something. I went to bed feeling like the happiest person in the world.

[] [] []

“We’re still on for our date tonight, right?”

I looked up from the drawing I was trying to create into Alivia’s hopeful eyes. I grinned and nodded.

“Of course. Seven, right?” I confirmed.

“That’ll work,” she said, reaching across the table to grab my hand hand. I took it and held her’s for a moment.

After the baptism Monday, Grandma continued to let the celebration go on whenever we had a few minutes alone. As far as I knew, neither Dad nor Mom knew about it, and for some reason that bothered me. Usually I didn’t mind keeping things from my parents-- I had basically done it my whole life. But my faith felt different. There was just the feeling that I needed to share with them as well as the rest of the world.

Pearl actually seemed to be avoiding me more since our conversation. It was really unsettling to me, I just wanted her to know she was loved. Things were slowly gong back to the way they were before and I hated it. She was becoming one of my best friends, and I needed her. I didn’t want my faith to be between us, but I certainly wasn’t going to give it up.

That night, as I was leaving for my date with Alivia, worry consumed me. I was concerned about Pearl, and I definitely wanted this date to go well. I told Grandma I was leaving as she was getting Asher ready for bed. Pearl was at the counter doing her homework when I came down the stairs. Her eyes widened at the sight of me and she smirked.

“You’re getting all dressed up, aren’t you?” she commented.

“I want to look nice for her. She deserves that,” I said, smiling as I looked down at myself. Button up shirt, tie, and dress pants. Along with dress shoes I found in my closet somewhere. I made a reservation for this really nice restaurant downtown. Sawyer actually helped me with which one to go to, and I hope she liked it.

Pearl nodded and watched me straighten my tie. No coat, that’s a little too formal, I suppose. I just want it to be casual, as well as nice.

“You deserve her,” Pearl said softly, coming over to help me.

I grinned a little. I knew I didn’t deserve someone as great and compassionate as Alivia, but I wanted to be with her. I wanted her to want to be with me to. It didn’t hit me how much I really liked her until then. I wanted to be there for her; to comfort her and laugh with her. Get through life together, good and bad.

“So you’re a Christian now?” she asked quietly, patting down my tie. My sister’s eyes had gone hard and I swallowed.

“I am,” I answered confidently. She just nodded, seeming a little conflicted. She looked to the ground and started wringing her hands together. “What are you thinking about?” I asked.

“I just wonder if you made the right decision,” she stated.

“I did, Pearl, believe me. I did,” I assured her, making eye contact with her. “You... You know I’m doing okay, right? Christ has let me see things in a whole new perspective of love. It’s really peaceful.”

“But if Mom and Dad don’t support it, should I?” she countered, now whispering.

I thought about it for a moment. My parents haven’t been around for me a whole lot. I knew Dad didn’t approve of me being a Christian, and I had no clue how Mom felt. I didn’t really consider it. However, the feeling of God tugging on my heart was too big to just shut down. I needed God if I was ever going to make it though this life. If my parents couldn’t see that, I would pray that they would.

I guess even if the majority supports a different choice, doesn’t mean it makes the choice any less wrong or right. I believed what I was doing was right, that God was right and real. Despite my home life, I wasn’t going to let that stop me from believing.

“Depends on what you think,” I replied.

Pearl just stared at me with mixed emotions playing across her face. I patted her on the shoulders then turned to leave.

“I should be home by twelve or something. We’re going to dinner and seeing a movie! Love you!” I said, walking out the door.

She didn’t say a word as I left, only stared after me in confusion.

I thought about our conversation all the way to Alivia’s house. As soon as I stepped out of the car though, my worries subsided and I smiled at the thought of being alone with her for a few hours. Confidently, I walked up to the door, growing more excited by the minute, hardly able to contain my enthusiasm.

I knocked. I think that was the first time I even knocked on the Olsons door, when I picked up up Alivia for our date for the first time. Quickly, it opened and Sawyer was grinning. The thoughtful smile on his face only widened at the sight of me.

“You’re such a gentleman, knocking on the door like that,” he joked, leading me in.

“Alivia! Tin is here!” Mrs. Olson called as she entered the kitchen. She walked over and I hugged her before she stepped back. “How are you honey?” she asked

“Great! Thank you for letting me take her on a date,” I said, smiling a little sheepishly.

Alivia was walking into the kitchen the next moment. She paused when she saw me and we took each other in. My eyes widened at her shy expression that suited her so well, the curls framing her face, the light in her eyes. Her dress was a light blue, which complimented her eye color, and sandals on her feet. She looked absolutely beautiful.

“Oh my goodness,” she said under her breath, grinning up at me. Sawyer did his best not to laugh at her and she blushed. I walked over and took her hand.

“Ready?”

“Absolutely,” she said, intertwining her fingers with mine.

We bid goodbye to Mrs. Olson and Sawyer then jumped in the car and drove out as the night sky was starting to settle in. She had her hands folded in her lap, continuing to steal glances at me until I finally let out a little laugh.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“You’re just so cute,” I blurted, setting a hand on her knee. “You keep looking at me then acting like you’re not.”

“Oh, yeah, well...,” she mumbled, clearly embarrassed I pointed that out.

“I like it, your curiosity is a good feature,” I said, trying to make her feel better.

“You’re just-- Well, you know, you look so handsome,” she managed to get out, laying her hand on mine.

I grinning and felt my cheeks heat up.

“Why thank you madam,” I said in a joking British accent.

“You are very welcome, kind sir,” she replied, playing along. “Where are we going to tea at on this fine evening?”

“Someplace that will be mighty memorable indeed, Miss Alivia.”

[] [] []

I found a parking spot and we walked in together, hand in hand. I made her close her eyes so she could be surprised as we drew closer to the restaurant.

“Can I look now?” she giggled as I kept leading her closer and closer.

“Nope! Almost,” I said, walking in front of her now.

“What about now?” she teased.

I positioned her with here shoulders facing the entrance and stood by her side.

“Okay, open,” I announced.

Her eyes flew open and a surprised look crossed her features.

“Oh Fletcher!” she exclaims, throwing her arms around me.

I hugged her back and laughed.

“Do you like it?” I asked as I held her by the shoulders.

“Yes! I’ve always wanted to go here!” she squealed.

An older couple was walking out of the place with grins on their faces as they watched us. Alivia gazed up at the sign in awe, like she couldn’t believe she was standing there in front of it.

“C’mon!” I laughed, grabbing both of her hands and leading her to the door.

I pushed open the door with my shoulder and the elderly man made eye contact with me as I was going in. He gave me a smile and a thumbs up. I returned it and he laughed lightheartedly.

The two of us waited in line as other people were getting seated. Alivia was gawking at the place; high ceilings, red carpet, polished, flawless wood. Her eyes flicked around as she examined every little detail. I gazed at her more than anything. She was worth more than anything set in front of me, and I wanted to cherish her for it.

“Next!” the waitress called, sounding impatient.

I stepped up and smiled at her, only getting a raised eyebrow. Alivia and I exchanged glances.

“Uh, Amble for two?” I said.

The lady with pursed, ruby-red lips traced her finger down the list of names and shook her head.

“I don’t see you on here,” she said, looking at me with an annoyed expression.

“Are you sure?” I asked urgently. I leaned in and whispered, “It’s our first date, and I kinda wanted it to be special.”

She sighed, calling another employee over to check “the system” for our names. I held my breath as I waited and Alivia placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. I put my own over top of her, rubbing the surface of her knuckles. After many nervous minutes of us waiting, they finally came back.

“Nothing, sorry,” the original lady said. “Unless this is you. I believe you made the reservation to the wrong place...”

“I-I...,” I protested, trying not to sound as panicked as I actually was.

“Sorry kid, you gotta go. There’s other people waiting who actually made their’s,” she huffed, showing no signs of sympathy.

I swallowed and sighed. That was a terrific way to start out. I took Alivia’s hand, leading her out and back to the parking lot. At one point, I let go and kept walking. I couldn’t meet her eyes. I knew she was disappointed, but I was so upset with myself that I couldn’t make it work out. We got all dressed up, waited until seven to eat, and now we don’t have any food.

“Fletcher,” she said from behind me.

I turned around and she caught up with me. I was about to start walking again when she grabbed my arm, spinning me around.

There was a light in her eyes that caught me off guard. She almost seemed pleased, or at least, not upset about it. She smiled at me gently as I faced her.

“It’s okay,” she said, grinning.

“I just wanted it to be special. And to impress you. Because you deserve that,” I said.

“Oh Fletcher,” she whispered, smiling. “Anything we do together is special to me. Memories don’t cost money.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I mumbled, feeling a tad better.

“Hey, it’s fine! Let’s just get some cheeseburgers and fries and make a party out of it,” she exclaimed, swinging our hands between us as we began walking again.

“Alright,” I chuckled, a bit amused. “Where to?”

“McDonald’s of course!”

I laughed and we walked across the street to McDonald’s-- of all places. We went inside and quickly ordered, then sat down in a booth by the window.

“This is nice,” Alivia said after a moment of silence.

I felt my eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Nice” was the last word I would us to describe the eating portion of the date.

“You think?” I asked, swallowing a fry.

“Yeah, it’s nice,” she said, not elaborating very much on the topic. The contentment in her eyes told me all I needed to know, and I didn’t ask any further.

“Hey, want some ice cream?” I asked after throwing our trash away.

“Sure!” she replied, getting up to come with me to retrieve it.

“No no no,” I said playfully. “I’ll get it for you.”

“If you need help, I can help you,” she offered, amused.

“Nope, I got this. See my muscle? Enough for some milkshakes and whatnot,” I joked, flexing my biceps.

I quickly dropped my arms to my sides, since my muscles weren’t that big, and grinned when she started laughing. I went to the counter and ordered a chocolate milkshake for myself and a vanilla ice cream cone for her. The employee gave me a strange look as he handed it to me, probably noticing that I was a little too dressed up to be in a McDonald’s. I just smiled brightly and turned away.

Only to slam right into Alivia.

I ended up dropping the ice cream all over her. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I dropped the shake too and it busted all over the floor. Both of us had it all over our shoes and legs. For a moment, we both stared at the other, trying to hold in grins. I felt my cheeks burning with embarrassment.

Then we both bursted out laughing.

We laughed until we had tears in our eyes and couldn’t breath. She laid a hand on my shoulder, both of us trying to regain our composure, before she started laughing again.

“I am so sorry!” we both exclaimed at the same time, which only made us more amused.

Eventually, we calmed down enough to apologize to the guy waiting for us to move so he could clean up our mess. Without another word, Alivia pulled me out into the night air, and started giggling about it all over again.

“You should’ve seen your face!” she exclaimed.

“My face? What about you?!” I replied. “You looked so shocked!”

“You looked like you were about to pee your pants,” she stated as we stopped at the crosswalk.

“I thought you did with the way you were laughing so hard,” I emphasized, causing us to break out in laughter again.

“And the guy who had to clean it up! He was so upset,” she remarked, grabbing my hand as we walked across the street.

“He really was,” I agreed, linking my fingers with hers.

Finally, we reached the car. It seemed like the only place that accepted us troublemakers. The two of us collapsed in the front seats and just breathed for a moment, taking in everything that had just happened. I rolled my head to the side, looking at her as I leaned against the headrest.

“Wanna see a movie?” I asked quietly. She nodded eagerly and I started the car.

Or at least, tried to start the car.

The engine sputtered a few times before giving out. I tried it again, but it still wouldn’t work. I sighed. This could not be happening. I closed my eyes. Just one thing, I just needed one win tonight. I suppose I already had one. I was with Alivia, after all.

“Uh, Fletcher?”

“Yes Alivia?” I mumbled, lost in thought about how I was, once again, so blessed to have her.

“Well,” she replied. “Your engine is smoking.”

I shot up into a better sitting position. Sure enough, black smoke filled the air in front of the car. Quickly, we exchanged looks, then leapt out of the car. I flung open the hood and propped it up, waving my arm in the air to try to get it to clear. We coughed and stepped back from the vehicle.

“This stinks,” I muttered, running a hand through my hair.

“Literally,” she commented.

“Literally,” I repeated in agreement.

For a couple moments, we just stood there, watching the smoke die out, and wondered what to do. Nothing like McDonald’s and a broken down car on the first date with Alivia.

I bit my lip, convinced that it couldn’t get any worse.

[] [] []

“Okay. Thanks,” I said into my phone.

I hung up and sighed to myself. The mechanic couldn’t get here until tomorrow morning, which was a little inconvenient at the moment, considering we still had to get home somehow.

Turning, I walked back to Alivia where she sat on a bench patiently. I held out my arm to her as she stood up, grinned, and took it. We both began walking back to the car.

“Here’s the thing,” I started, “this thing isn’t gonna go anywhere until tomorrow morning, but I bet we could walk to the movie theater, if you wanted. It’s only eight-thirty.”

“I’m up for a movie if you are,” she replied, squeezing my arm. “Man, you really do have muscles, don’t you?”

I just laughed.

At first, I just felt like the world’s biggest failure. Alivia was a great girl. I bet none of her and Tanner’s dates went like this. He was a pretty smooth guy as it was. Thinking about him just made me want to be with Alivia more. He dumped her when she was least expecting it, which was a bit rude. At least she wasn’t with him now.

And yet, our date has gone totally wrong, but she didn’t seem to mind.

As we walked into the theater, I gained some of my confidence back about this going as planned. There was hardly a crowd. We went right up to the front desk, inhaling the buttery goodness of popcorn.

However, when I requested the movie tickets--

“I’m sorry, we have no more seats for that one available,” the guy said. The smirk on his face showed just how much he was enjoying making me scramble.

“What about the other movies? Are there any other theaters with that one?” I asked.

“I’m afraid not,” he sighed, standing up straighter and crossing his arms. “I can sell you some popcorn though, for you and your chick.”

Alivia and I glanced at each other with weird expressions. Who says “chick” anymore?

“That’s okay, thanks anyway,” I said, nodding at him.

“Anytime, bud,” he called after me as we exited.

I stepped out into the night air. Last time I was here, it was almost a month ago, when I got ditched by Marcus and Jimmy. I couldn’t have imagined that the next time I would be here, it would be on a date. All at once it hit me how far I’ve come. A month ago I wouldn’t even give God a second thought, but now I’m seeing how much sense the decision made.

“Should we call someone to come and get us?” I asked, feeling a bit defeated.

“Sure,” she said. “Sawyer?”

“Why not?”

So we called Sawyer from the stoop on the movie theater front. Of course, he asked why. I just told him I’d explain later. Outside of the theater, we could hear the music playing from the speakers of the small awning. Neither of us spoke for the longest time.

Then I looked over at her. She had her head tilted back, gazing at the silhouettes of clouds in the night sky, absolutely captivated. Suddenly, I felt myself going back to the moment after the cross country meet, when she talked to me about leaves. How far both of us have come since then, how fast I fell for her without realizing. How fast I was pulled into God’s embrace without realizing.

My life wasn’t a mistake. Her’s wasn’t either. We were worth so much to Jesus that He died for us, even if He didn’t sin. He took all of that. I’ve made a lot bigger mistakes than I made that night. Seeing Alivia there, just staring up at the beauty of the sky God created, brought everything back into perspective. These moments were a blessing.

I stood and held out my hand to her. She looked up at me, a little confused.

“May I have this dance?” I asked quietly as a slow song came on.

A slow grin spread across her face and she nodded.

She took my hand. We stared at each other for a brief moment until her hands rested on my shoulders and mine in her waist. Not too close, it was only our first date. I didn’t even ask her to be my girlfriend yet. She smiled as she gazed into my eyes, and I searched her’s.

While I was captivated by her beauty, I saw so many more emotions. Compassion, forgiveness, and gentleness. I wondered what I would do if I didn’t have her or Sawyer. Sawyer really reached out to me and helped me when I had no one. In that family I saw God. I saw the Christians I wanted to be like and be with. I wanted to be with Alivia.

I believed wholeheartedly that God lead me to Sawyer so I could be lead to Jesus so I could be lead to her.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked softly as we turned in a circle.

“How gracious God is,” I answered. “How beautiful His love is. How blessed we are that it lives in us.”

“Isn’t the greatest thing you’ve ever experienced? Being loved by the One who created the universe?”

“I can hardly grasp it,” I answered.

“That’s okay. I feel the same way.”

“I mean, God loves a sinner like me. How crazy is that?”

“Amazingly so.”

“Hey, could I ask you something?” I said.

“Of course.”

“Could you pray for Pearl? And Asher? I’ve been wanting to teach them, and since Asher is so young I thought I could,” I said, grinning.

“Absolutely.”

Again, we were engaged in a comfortable silence.

“Hey Alivia?”

“Yeah?” she laughed quietly.

“Would you be my girlfriend?” I blurted.

She smiled, her cheeks going red.

“Yes, Fletcher Amble,” she answered.

The words hardly came out of her mouth before it started to rain. Not just a sprinkle, a real downpour. The pair of us froze, looking up to the sky, letting the rain pour down our faces.

“I guess we should’ve been expecting this!” I said over the pounding of rain.

“I suppose so!” she replied. “But you know what they say, learn to expect the unexpected!”

“They also say to learn to dance in the rain!” I teased.

She gave me a thoughtful gaze, her hands still on my shoulders. Cocking her head, I watched a curious smile cross her expression.

“Why not?” she laughed.

I shrugged and we continued to turn in our circle, soaking wet. We danced in the rain.

[] [] []

By the time Sawyer pulled up, they rain hadn’t lightened any. It just rained and rained and rained while we stood out there, making the best of it by dancing and laughing together. That’s when I realized that it didn’t matter what happened -- whether it be a paint war or a rain dance -- I would always enjoy spending time with her.

When the truck came near to us, we broke apart and ran to the car. I was shivering, soaked to the bone from the cold downpour. Alivia threw open the door and jumped in beside her brother and I went in after her, hurriedly slamming it behind me.

Sawyer just stared, looking at us like we were insane. The only sound was our breathing, the only movement the blinking of our eyes as he gawked at us. Then he bursted out laughing as he started driving away. He couldn’t control himself, I was surprised we didn’t crash when we pulled out.

Alivia and I exchanged looks, mine surely embarrassed and her why-did-we-call-my-brother-of-all-people expression. Eventually, once we were going on the highway, Alivia slapped him lightly on the arm.

“Stop,” she groaned with a hint of playfulness in her voice.

“I can’t believe this, I just can’t!” he gasped, sitting up straighter and breaking his amusement down to only a grin.

“It’s a pretty believable story,” I said logically.

“Tell it to me!” he exclaimed.

“We got rejecting at a restaurant, spilled ice cream all over ourselves in McDonald’s, my car broke down, the movies were full, and we were dancing but it rained,” I explained.

I shook my head rapidly and let the water droplets fly from damp hair. Alivia laughed, pushing me a little in the shoulder.

“And now what? You’ve decided to become a wet dog?” Sawyer teased.

“I’m just demonstrating my point. We’re wet.”

“I can see that,” he chuckled, turning off the highway. “See what happens when the sister falls for the best friend?”

“It was quite the adventure,” Alivia added.

“I’d say. You’re lucky I came to get you, your night could’ve gotten a little bit more hectic,” Sawyer said.

“Ma made you come get us, didn’t she?” Alivia asked.

“She said that she would make me cookies if I did!” he protested.

“That’s real sweet of you,” Alivia sighed, rolling her eyes a little in the light of the dashboard. She winked at me, causing my heart to skip a beat.

“Get it? Because cookies are sweet and I’m sweet, so it’s just getting sweeter,” he joked.

“Oh my goodness,” she mumbled.

“Let’s listen to some tunes!” Sawyer nearly shouted.

He slapped the button for the Bluetooth to kick in so it would play music from his phone. Then, it was turned up so loud that it rattled my bone and made my ears throb. I didn’t recognize any of the lyrics, but they talked about Christ and such. Not that I’d think the Olsons would listen to junk. He started singing the songs, clearly trying to be as obnoxious as possible. The only reason I could think of was because he was still tickled that he had to pick us up on our first date. He was just adding to our adventure.

“C’mon Livvy! Sing with me!” he shouted as another song began to play.

She sighed and gave me an exhausted look.

I’m sorry,′ she mouthed so Sawyer couldn’t see. I just smiled, shrugged, and gave her a thumbs up. I didn’t mind Sawyer being there, it took away some of my nerves. Plus, we were drying out a little.

It wasn’t long until Alivia began singing and I began catching onto the song. I learned that singing wasn’t her greatest talent, but it wasn’t mine either. The three of us let go and had fun as we drove back to their house. I throughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Then we were there in front of her house. The night had ended. Maybe not very successfully, but it was fun. As I jumped down from the truck, I realized that I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way. I helped Alivia down, whose hair was still drenched and dress soaked. However, her eyes shone brighter than ever, and I loved it.

“You can borrow some dry clothes if you need them. Need a ride back home?” Sawyer asked.

“If you wouldn’t mind,” I answered.

My last moment seeing Alivia that night was after we explained the story of it to her parents and she went upstairs. Her parents thought it was pretty funny, and Mr. Olson had a hard time containing his laughter, like Sawyer. Mrs. Olson did make cookies and let me have some, which was very much so appreciated. While we were still in our wet clothes, I hugged Alivia goodbye.

“I’ll be looking forward to the next one,” she joked.

“Me too,” I replied, holding her blue-eyed gaze.

She went bounding up the stairs for the night as I changed my clothes and went back into the rain. Sawyer drove me home, pressing me for details about my date with his sister. At first I was reluctant, but then I ended up pouring out everything. He found most of it really funny, mainly because I was such a dork, but listened patiently.

By the time we reached my house, he concluded that he was “chaperoning” the next date.

“See ya tomorrow Sawyer,” I said as I shut the door to his truck. He waved and drove off.

I stood in my driveway, feeling rather content with myself. It was only ten-- turns out disaster dates don’t last that long. I think we both enjoyed ourselves though.

As I was walking up to my house, I couldn’t have fathomed what was about to happen.

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