Carbon

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Chapter 11

I leaned into my driver’s seat as I unintentionally found myself enraptured by Devin Sebold as she seemed to glide across the parking lot, no intention of paying attention to anyone but herself. She knelt down and clapped her hands together. A white cloud of fur maneuvered between the bodies and tackled her to the ground. She pushed the dog off of her gently with a smile ripping across her face as she fought to her feet. Holden sat down and obediently waited for her to brush off the dust and begin to glide again. As she walked, she gripped a handful of hair and pulled it tautly behind the nape of her neck into a ponytail. She glanced at her watch and then began to saunter through the parking lot with the alabaster fur ball prancing beside her.

My hand grazed the horn on my steering wheel, and I wondered if I should catch her attention just as she had riveted mine. I winced at the possibility I should ignore my urge to befriend this creature because there was something twinging inside of me, and I perhaps pondered that a friendship would be tumultuous with this person. I ignored all forewarnings and slammed on the boisterous horn.

Devin’s head whipped around as soon as the horn blew. Her icy blues caught my emerald, and she gave me a timid wave. I pointed to my passenger seat, signaling her to come bother me. She glanced around and then pointed at her chest incredulously, and I agreed with a nod. She strolled over to the passenger side window and stopped. I rolled down the window quickly, my eyes still locked onto her as she leaned inside the vehicle, her eyes alight with curiosity. “What’s up, Mr. Mortis?”

“Where are you headed?”

“None ya.”

“What?”

“None ya business.”

I rolled my eyes and turned back to the front of the vehicle. I desired for her to come visit, but I had not prepared a proper conversation content besides what she was doing now. I had to abort that conversation immediately due to her curt response, but I had no time to present a new topic. My mind wandered curiously until I realized it was Wednesday. I blurted, “You still go to your dad’s church?”

Her eyebrows raised, and she pulled her head from the car, rocking back on her heels. Her lids lowered as she slanted her eyes skeptically. She stared at me intensely and then noted, “Nope.”

“Where do you go?”

She leaned back into the vehicle, and she scowled venomously. She hissed, “I don’t.”

“You want to come to mine?”

She retreated back to the outside of the car and signaled Holden to begin walking again. The grimace carved into her face fiercely as she marched away from the car. I shoved my keys into the ignition and turned impatiently. I crawled back to her side as she turned onto a sidewalk next to a little road. I flicked on my hazard lights and leaned across the car. “Hey, hey!”

Devin ignored me and patted Holden on the head twice.

“Devin!”

She whipped her gaze around, annoyed. “What?!”

“Why did you just walk away?”

“Because everyone’s the same in the freaking Bible Belt. You don’t go to church? Holy crap, sacrilegious. Can’t ever be friends with a nonbeliever and stuff like that. I’m saving you the time of having to break off a friendship.”

“Whoa, whoa, I never said anything like that.”

“But your eyes did,” she hissed. She turned back away and stomped toward her destination. Her knuckles dragged across Holden’s head lazily as she continued to rifle through his strands. Her fingers laced through his fur before directing her full attention to the front of her path.

“I never thought that.”

She halted, and I pulled up next to her. She glanced at me through her periphery furtively and inquired, “What did you think?”

“I wanted to help you be saved.”

She scoffed and continued on her path.

“What now?”

She pivoted on her heels and began to slowly tread backwards, her gaze locked on me. She nonchalantly shrugged and confided, “You don’t think everyone is ‘saved’?”

I braked the car. “No, you have to be a Christian who has accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior.”

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why should that matter?”

“I don’t know, it just does.”

“Here’s my thing: if someone has dedicated their entire life to developing and aiding in all of these rightful charities and events in the world, but they aren’t Christian. They are supposedly not saved.”

“Yeah, and?”

“But a man who beats his kids can be saved because he believes in Jesus Christ?”

I silenced.

“If you dedicate your life to something bigger than yourself to help better the world, I’m sorry, I don’t want to be part of a group that disallows them entry into Heaven just because they didn’t focus on Jesus Christ.”

I slowly blinked, expecting her to continue. I never thought words like those would stem from a preacher kid’s mouth. Let alone, a Baptist preacher kid in the heart of the Bible belt with churches on nearly every other corner. I shrugged and tried to comment or say something, but she came to her next thought first.

“Why can’t somebody who treats everyone kindly and works to better the community—why are they sentenced to Hell? What a load of bullshit.”

“So you think everyone gets saved?”

She froze, and for the first time, I think she was speechless that afternoon. She shoved her hands in her pockets defensively and shrugged her shoulders aimlessly. “I think there has to be good in everyone.”

“Even the rapists and serial killers?”

“God put them here for a reason, isn’t that what you believe?”

I furrowed my brow and admitted, “God does work in mysterious ways.”

“Then that’s a reason to not believe.”

“Are you an atheist, then?”

“I didn’t say that.” She smirked and continued walking, pulling out a pair of cleats and headphones from her backpack. She shoved the buds into her ears, muting out the world and denying me anymore epiphanies and ideas to burst forth like worms from the soil.

I yelled over her music, “I guess you’re not going to church with me!”

She didn’t answer as she swayed her hips to the beat of the music. Holden, antsy and excited to see her this way, began to pounce on her with his front paws, and she gently shoved him back upon the ground.

“I’ll pray for you!”

She didn’t answer as she disappeared in the horizon.

“Let us bow our heads and pray.”

Everyone in the congregation bowed their heads simultaneously, abiding by the preacher’s commands. I clenched my eyes shut and folded my hands in my lap, barely listening to the words of the morose preacher as he droned and droned. “Dear Lord, let us be gracious in your presence and seek to present you to others as you would have us. Use our hearts as you see fit and aid us in our imperfections as we journey to be more like you and your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

The crowd repeated in a dull lull, “Amen.”

The congregation then stood and immediately began to sing a hymn. I remained in my seat, enraptured still in the words of my own prayer. I found myself confessing all of the wrongs and sins I had committed since the Sunday service, and then I begged God to give Devin some grace. Give her the grace and understanding to know even when she abandons God, He doesn’t abandon her.

“Ned.” My eyes opened as Lex pinched my upper arm. Lex motioned to stand up, and I obediently stood next to my minute sister. I place my hand on her shoulder as I read over her the hymnal.

Prayers and hymns were sung traditionally and endlessly until the service ended. I hate to admit it, but I always hated church during the service but enjoyed it afterwards. I always felt judged by the elder members as I walked in—as if they knew everything I had ever done in my life and what I would do with the rest of it. This one particular gray women with glassy eyes always made eye-contact with me until one Sunday afternoon several years later I noticed she was no longer there—gone. My family bounded from our seats and made the slow descent down the aisles, greeting every church member we vaguely recognized and pretended to know beyond a first-name basis. We shuffled to an elderly couple my parents knew, and Lex and I continued to walk through the crowd to the parking lot.

And I wondered, if maybe what Devin had said was true. What if we were wasting our precious time away in a church when all God really wanted us to do was serve others? What if worshipping God took too much time away from serving Him? I shook the thoughts away and reminded myself of her religion—or lack thereof.

As we wandered into the car, more thoughts bombarded me as I began to question my own religious decisions and such. Just because of one girl I barely knew.

“Ned!”

I glanced over my shoulder in the passenger seat as Lily trotted her way up to the window. She leaned over the open window and planted a kiss on my cheek, furtively as to assuage any people from the church. She gave a cheeky shrug and then asked, “Why didn’t you wait for me after the service?”

My gaze shifted to the wooden fence before me, shielding away a yard of forbidden fruits and knowledge, and then returned to my spritely paramour. “I was just thinking. Sorry.”

She squinted her eyes and mentioned, “You’ve been doing that a lot lately.”

“And so I have.”

“Don’t think your little brain too hard. It’s not used to all this work.” She rustled my hair before skipping off to go visit her parents, playing the virginal charades she always did to please them.

“Did she just call you dumb?” Lex asked.

I smirked and leaned over the chair to take a glance at my sister. I nonchalantly shrugged, “I’ve been the dumbest I’ve ever been in my life.”

“How can that be? You’re getting older, so that should make you wiser,” my sister noted.

I turned back to the front of the car and almost answered her question. I stifled my remark as soon as I realized how awful it sounded probably coming from my mouth. How can that be? How can it be that one person can make you question every detail in your life with one word, one remark? That was just how Devin Sebold worked.

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