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When I turned around that Thursday May 14, I did not expect to see him. I had not seen him in six years, and we had not exactly left on speaking terms. He looked good, a little older and more mature in his twenty-four years. Yet I could still see the rambunctious boy he was in the light of his eyes and the spring of his step, though one would not have thought it for the perfectly tailored business suit he wore. He had obviously done good for himself in the years he had been gone from our little home town of Larkstown, Indiana. So what was he doing here, in the preschool section of the church?
"Mrs. Daysy?" Little Cindy May tugged on my skirt, begging for my attention to her crayon-colored bible scene. For a three-year-old, she showed amazing artistic talent, but this time, my eyes saw right through the picture.
"Very nice, Cindy. Sit down and color another, I'll be right back." I distractedly left the confused toddler at her chair, heading for the stranger who was not a stranger.
"Can I help you, sir?" I asked in my most polite voice, keeping the shock from my words. Apparently he did not recognize me. That was for the best.
"Yes...ah, yes, thank you. Could you tell me where the adult Sunday school class is held? I apologize for my tardiness, but, you see, this is where I grew up, but I never had the chance to come here, and it looks as if they made some renovations since I've been, ah, detained."
I lifted my eyebrow at his tone, perfectly leveled, except for the few uncharacteristic stutters. Wasn't able to come, or didn't? I wanted to ask, but instead my lips said, "Of course, it's a pleasure to welcome back a fellow brother. The class has been in session for about ten minutes, but I am sure they would not mind, Mr...?" I knew his name, but I needed to keep up the pretense of ambiguity; as far as he was concerned, I had never met him before.
"Jordan. Logan Jordan." The name stirred memories inside of me that I had not relived for six years, even more so coming from his lips in the same, bass, vibrating voice he had always had.
"Mr. Jordan. Come right this way," I indicated with my hand, leading him towards the adult Sunday school class in the other part of the church building. My steps were short but swift, so that I could get out of his presence and back to Cindy's drawings. I could not concentrate with him so close...even after all this time.
"Pardon me, miss, but, have I met you before? I always remember a face, and yous seems distinctly familiar."
I bit my lip. So he had recognized me, to a certain extent. I could not tell him....but I couldn't lie. Jesus help me deal with this, I silently prayed.
"Yes, I believe we may have gone to school together," I answered vaguely. "I seem to remember a Logan Jordan be my class's leader in all subjects."
"Yes...I was." He was obviously hoping for a name. I kept my mouth shut.
I opened the door, allowing Pastor John's deep voice to be heard. "I hope you enjoy the lesson," I murmured, ushering him through with my hand, then trying to shut the door before he remembered...
"Laura?" he whispered.
I shut the door. Leaning against it with shaking shoulders, I closed my eyes and lifted my head to keep the well of tears capped. He remembered. The closet of young memories kept locked since I was seventeen had been unlocked by a simple word from the one who had created the key in the first place. I let the images spill over me as I slid to the ground, curling myself into a ball, willing my mind to forget the ominous memory just beyond the door my back lay against...
"What happened?" I asked, shocked at Logan's torn tuxedo and unkempt hair soaked in red liquid which stank of alcohol. Just three hours before, he had shown up at my house the perfect picture of masculinity and gentlemanly poise. Now...
"She rejected me," he croaked, his voice raspy as if from yelling. "All this time, for how hard I've worked...and it all comes down to nothing."
I groaned. I knew this was going to happen, right from the start, when he asked my assistance in earning the affections of Lindsay Parkonson, the cheer leader captain, and the hottest and most popular girl in Larkstown High. I'd know she was nothing for him, that she'd only break his heart, but I could not bear to tell him so. I knew he wouldn't listen.
"I see," I replied, not voicing my opinion on the matter. "But what...happened?"
He swiped the lank dark hair from his eyes as he flopped down in the single comfortable chair in my living room. "I danced with her, all night. No one else who asked ever danced with her, because she told them she had me. Not even her date." My gut clenched, because I had originally been Logan's date to the prom, but that was part of the plan and beside the point, so I shushed my thoughts and listened. "After she was crowned, I took her out to the pavilion and we danced. Laura, she LOVED me, I know it. She had her arms around me, and when the music ended, she even kissed me and told me so. But then...when she asked me to her house..." My eyes widened, so appalled was I at her behavior. "...I said yes."
"WHAT?" I gasped. How completely bull-headed could you get? She was playing him the whole time, obviously, could he not see that?
"No, no, it's not what you think," he countered, staring up at me like a wounded puppy, "When we got there, she started to...act, um, strangely. I knew what she wanted, but...I couldn't do it." He shook his head, as if it were a bad thing. "I was too scared and...I just couldn't. I told her so, that maybe we should wait. She'd taken a bottle of wine from the freezer when we'd got there and had been drinking--well, we'd been drinking. She started...attacking me, screaming and scratching, hitting me with the wine. I told her I was sorry, but she just continued to scream. She said 'If you can't get over your cowardice and become a true man, then you don't deserve a true woman!' I left."
I stared at Logan, the disheveled mess of sorrow and pity. Where was the strong boy who was my best friend? Where was his strong shoulders and unconditional laugh? I did not want to be, but I was downright disgusted, both of him and of prissy little Lindsey.
"And you came here?" I said, barely containing my anger.
"Well, yeah," he said with the apparent "duh" in his voice. "I thought...well, since you've helped me this far, you might tell me what to do. You would tell me to fess up and not be a coward like she said. You would tell me she was right...tell me to go back and--"
"That is the LAST thing I want to do!" I shouted, finally unable to keep it in. He stared up at me, only vague surprise showing on his perfectly formed features. "Why come here when it's apparent you can never have her unless you let yourself be controlled by her every beck and call? Can't you see she KNEW you liked her, maybe a little too much for your own good, but a fair amount for hers? I can't stand it anymore, so I'm NOT gonna stand by and let you ruin your heart again. I'm telling you to GET OVER IT. It was your fault, but partly mine for not telling you in the first place. Not telling you that I didn't want to help you, first because I knew who and what she was, second because I loved you too--" I chocked back my yell, coving my mouth with my hands, shocked at my audacity.
He just stared at me, a strange, pensive look on his face. He wasn't surprised at all. What...?
He stood, coming toward me, dark and huge in the low light. I shrank back, wishing I'd grabbed my robe to coving my pajamas, or kept my prom gown on. I felt so small compared to him.
"So you LOVED me, eh?" he asked in a completely different tone than before. This was more the Logan I'd known, but there was a darker side to it. "I had suspected as much, but I figured you wouldn't help me gain the affections of someone else while you..."
"You were my best friend," I whispered, "I didn't want to make you unhappy. Now I see I was wrong, I should have kept you from Lindsey Parkonson from the very start. Not because of my feelings, but because of your own manhood. She's turned you from a perfect gentlemen to a crawling manservant." I stopped again, once more mortified by my words.
And again, he stared at me with the same, calm, comprehensive expression. "Why? Why put yourself through that? Surely you don't love me that much?" He swayed on his feet, and I realized what the problem was. But before I could tell him what it was, I found myself wrapped in his strong, quarterback-muscled arms, caught up like some romance. Only right now, he was no Prince Charming. "Maybe you have other uses than helping me get Lindsey," he grated into my ear, his hot breath stirring my shower-damp hair, causing waves of heat to run the length of my body; causing me to shake.
My mind was reeling. What was happening?? Just three hours ago, everything was going as planned, and I thought I had at last made my best friend--my only love--happy in the way I thought he could be. I stared into his glazed eyes, frightened of what I saw there. Lord, get me out of this, somehow, please, I prayed fervently. Please, Lord, help him see...
My prayers fled, almost forgotten, as his lips came down hard on mine, moving swiftly as if for some unknown purpose. His arms, once rock hard against my back and shoulders, softened and his hands ran gently up to my neck and around my waist, gathering myself to him. I stood frozen in his embrace for a moment before giving in, though my senses told me to break away and run, run. But I couldn't run, not with him holding me, not with my hands in his hair and on his face, feeling and tracing the lines I had longed to touch since I'd realized I loved him. I was drowning in a sea of ecstasy, and like the drug, happiness stole into my being, causing me to fit myself against him closer and closer, till we were like one being, locked in love's hold. I couldn't break free...wouldn't break free...
Now, my daughter, this is not right, a still, small voice in my head whispered through the tumult of passion.
And just like that, my nose became aware of the stench of alcohol, and I could taste it on his lips, like a poison in a forbidden fruit. I remembered the stoned look in his eyes as he came towards me, and the experience he had just come from. I remembered his words...
I ripped myself from his grasp, wiping my mouth furiously to get the taste from my tongue. As soon as our bodies detached, I felt cold and my skin longed for him again, but my mind knew better this time.
"Logan," I murmured, allowing my fear, disgust, and pity spill into it channeled, "exactly HOW much did you drink?"
He stared at me, breathing hard, but with no expression. He looked at his arms, which stood open where they had let me go, as if he could not believe what he had done. Then he looked at me, confused, as if something had gone wrong.
"You should go," I said, turning away from him, hugging my stomach, squeezing like I was squeezing my eyes to keep from crying as I heard him stumble out and shut the front door, and his Mustang slowly crawl away in short jerks.
Thank you Lord...
I opened my eyes suddenly and looked at the clock. I had been dosing for almost forty-five minutes. Class would be over by now. I scrambled to my feet just as the door opened and Pastor John came out, leading his class.
"Ah, Ms. Daysy," he said, as if he were expecting me to be there. "Would you please escort our guest to the sanctuary while I go to the office to retrieve my sermon notes? Thank you."
I could not say anything as he turned and, followed by the rest of the adult class, headed towards the main part of the church. The children were already filing out, each holding proudly their Sunday school picture, and I felt a pang of regret for not being with Cindy as she colored. I turned towards the inevitable, standing large as life behind me.
He stood with his hands clasped before him, holding a well-worn bible, appraising me with an unreadable look. As I had noticed before, he was everything I had remembered him to be, and more. He had filled out, and grown an inch or two, adding to his six feet five. His hair was cut so that it lay loosely on his forehead, giving him a young, boyish look, an ironic contrast to the completely mature countenance in his eyes and shoulders.
"So it is you," he finally said, once the hall was clear of any eavesdroppers.
"Yes, and it is you," I replied, keeping my feelings suppressed in a veil of propriety. "Is it?"
"No," he replied, shaking his head slowly. "It is not me, the Logan Jordan you knew. I have changed, as I hope you will see."
I raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "Is that so?"
He nodded, a smile touching his lips. But it was not a happy one, nor a sad one. I had seen that smile many times before, when he could not find the right words to say.
"Laura, there has not been one day in the past six years I have not relived that night. I have punished myself time and time again for treating you that way, and I have given my life to Jesus so that he can help me deal with the pain of what I caused you to do against your better judgement. It is through Him that I can ask you now to please, please forgive me. I will understand if you do not, but I have prayed that you might..."
His words were another shock. Throughout all the years I had known him and ministered to him, he had not once shown any interest in God. To see him now, after so long, and to hear what he was saying...was an answer to prayer.
"I..." My lips would not form the words. It was as if all of the past had been wiped away by what he was saying. Everything I had regretted, everything I had gone through, was to make him happy the best way I could without him believing in God. God is the only way anyone can be happy, and when I could not get Logan to believe, I had done the worst thing possible; allowed him to live his own life believing it was alright and helping him do things God would not be pleased of at all.
"Will you forgive me, Laura?"
I took a breath. "Yes, Logan." I let it out.
I smiled a calm, reassuring smile, and held out his hand.
I looked at his hand, at his smile, and my mind's eye played an image from that night again, of him sitting broken and pathetic in my living room, and God's voice slipped through my mind...
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come..."
I took his hand, forever sealing the ugly images and memories from our past. My heart burst with joy at what I had never thought would happen, defining colors of God's amazing love and his perfect plan in colors as bright as Cindy's crayons, and just as ageless. All along, God had planned for this moment, I knew now. Now, with Logan standing before me as a new creation in Christ, my scarred past could be healed, as it seemed his had been.
Thank you Lord, I whispered silently as me and Logan stepped into the sanctuary, arm in arm, filled with the infinite love of Jesus, and the matchless forgiveness of God.