After a quick prayer the music room began to clear. Elijah heaved his backpack onto his shoulder. He and Becca exchanged smiles and they started walking towards the door. Looking back over the empty chairs and instruments, the room now seemed uninviting. Becca’s smile was warm and Elijah knew that it meant she, too, was glad she came to the meeting. As they reached the door Jonathan caught up with them.
“Hey, our homerooms are close together. Mind if I walk with you?” he asked.
“Sure,” replied Elijah stepping far enough out into the hall so that both Becca and Jonathan could walk beside him.
To keep from disturbing the other classes the music room was located in a low traffic section of the school. That also kept the noise of the morning rush from disturbing the prayer group. The hallway was mostly empty now. Most of the other students had dashed to their homerooms once the bell had rung. The only signs that a mass influx of students had recently infiltrated the halls were a fresh assortment of loose papers on the floors and the sound of the usual morning commotion from the rooms.
As they approached the intersection at the end of the music wing, Becca slowed down. “Well, my room is down that way. I’ll see you after school. You heard Dad. Be careful!” She touched Elijah’s upper arm and gave an apprehensive smile. Elijah, embarrassed by his sister’s public display of affection, withdrew his arm.
“Don’t worry, big sister. I’ll be fine,” Elijah replied, rolling his eyes and giving a half smile back. “I’ll see you after school.” With that Becca turned and walked away. Elijah watched her for a moment feeling thankful that God had made her his sister.
“We’d better hurry,” said Jonathan earnestly. “There’s not much time before the final bell.”
As they moved quickly down the hall Jonathan brought up the prayer group. “I’m glad you said what you did this morning. I have wanted to expand the meeting for some time. I thought a lot about it over Christmas break. In history class we had talked about New Years resolutions and what we wanted to do differently for the New Year. My resolution was to become more like Christ, to try to act more like Him. Not just ask myself, ‘What would Jesus do’ in this situation, but to actually start doing what Jesus would do.
“One thing we learned about resolutions was that they are easier kept if shared with friends. I kept thinking about the prayer group. Dad always quotes Proverbs 27:17, ‘Iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.’ The first meeting after break, I told my goal to the group and they’ve been a big help. Now I want to start helping the group be more Christ-like. The more the signs of His coming are revealed, the more I want us to be ready for it. Dad says that even most Christians are not ready. So I figure adding a lesson or even a topic discussion would help.”
Elijah was elated. Feeling like things couldn’t be any more perfect he turned his head towards Jonathan and answered, “Well, you know I’m in!” They started to take the turn into the final hallway, but before he could turn his head back to the front, he walked into what seemed to be a brick wall. The next thing Elijah realized he was sitting on the ground, his backside hurting, looking up at Meatplow. Mark Roche and several members from his football team stood around, all scowling down at him.
Meatplow had not been paying attention to where he was going either and with a dumbfounded look he turned toward whoever dared to run into him. “Why don’t you watch where your ... Oh, its you!” he said with a laugh.
“What didn’t God send you a vision to warn you that someone was coming around the corner?” Mark said with a sneer.
Mark’s friends laughed and slapped him on the back. Elijah wasn’t sure what to do from his particular vantage point. Even standing on two feet Mark was considerably bigger than he was and with Meatplow standing beside him, fighting certainly was not a wise option. Tossing back insults didn’t seem very Christ-like either. He could feel his face flush red, not sure what was hurting more, his pride or his backside. Before he had time to react Jonathan knelt down and helped him up by the arm.
As they rose to their feet Jonathan stepped between them. “You shouldn’t mock the Lord!”
“Oh yeah, preacher boy? You think you know it all. What do you really know about the Lord?” Mark contorted his face and in a babyish voice leaned toward Jonathan. “I’m Jonathan and my daddy’s a preacher so I know everything there is to know about God.”
Jonathan’s face went pale and he clenched his fists. Mark friends continued to laugh and joined in making baby sounds. Mark and Jonathan postured, looking like two rams ready to charge headlong into each other. Elijah knew that he had to do something to defuse the situation, but what? Suddenly a hand reached between him and Jonathan. Startled, Elijah quickly turned to see Miss Freed. She gently touched Jonathan’s shoulder and all went quiet.
Looking at Mark and his friends, Miss Freed said sternly, “I see several young men here that are about to be late for class.” Without a word they turned and started quickly down the hall.
“Just a minute Mark. I’d like a word with you,” She called after them. Next she turned to Elijah, “Are you O.K.?”
“Yes ma’am,” he replied. Although his backside really hurt, he was too embarrassed to admit it.
“Well then, off to class with the two of you,” she ordered, turning her attention back to Mark and escorting him down the hall. To the principal’s office, Elijah supposed.
“Thanks, Jonathan,” he said as they continued to homeroom.
“It’s O.K.,” Jonathan replied. “We can’t let the unbelieving and hard-hearted get to us.”
But Elijah could see that Mark had gotten to him. Jonathan’s eyes were red and teary, his face still pale. They walked in silence the rest of the way. As they approached Elijah’s homeroom Jonathan managed a slight smile and said they should try to sit together at lunch. Elijah felt bad for Jonathan and wished there was something he could do to make him feel better. Without looking back Jonathan turned into his room, leaving Elijah alone in an empty hallway.
He stood outside the classroom door looking in. Under normal conditions entering homeroom was done without the slightest consideration, but nothing had been normal since the vision. Entering the music room for prayer group was an easy, thoughtless process. With Jonathan leading the way, he and Becca quickly followed him into the room and the meeting started. He knew the other students there were “believers” and shared a common purpose.
Now he hesitated outside the door. He had shared this room for months with these kids. He knew each one by name. He knew who they hung out with and what ‘cliques’ they were in. But being out of class since the vision, he didn’t know what they had heard or how they felt about it. He took a deep breath in and thought to himself, “Well, I can’t stand out here all day!” Leaving the deep breath out he entered the room just as the final bell rang.
The voices and commotion that was heard from the hall abruptly stopped as Elijah entered the room. He paused for a moment as the silence and stares hit him. He flashed a quick and uncomfortable smile. The sudden silence caused Mr. Buckley, the homeroom teacher, to look up from his desk. He was a quiet man who taught mathematics. Every morning he sat at his desk, preoccupied with preparations for the day’s lessons that he would teach.
“Ah, Elijah! Welcome back. Please take your seat,” Mr. Buckley stated, gesturing towards Elijah’s assigned desk.
The morning announcements began to ooze out of the antiquated speaker hanging above the blackboard behind Mr. Buckley. The announcements never seemed to change. They were the same old sporting events or upcoming dances, read by a student that usually sounded half awake. Elijah had learned to zone them out over the years. For a moment it was like nothing had ever happened. Like no time had passed at all.
Autumn Abbey turned around from the desk in front of him. He couldn’t remember a homeroom where he hadn’t sat behind her. Their last names, Abbey and Abbot, had ensured that any time alphabetical order was used to seat students, they would be side by side. Funny that he didn’t know her any better. Most of the time he only saw the back of her head. When they did talk it was usually about homework assignments or tests, which seemed to be the only thing they had in common.
“Hey Elijah! I didn’t think you’d be back so soon,” she said in more of a questioning tone than a statement. “Everyone figured you’d be out for a while.”
“Interesting,” thought Elijah. Apparently his return wasn’t widely publicized. Not that he had expected cheers or a ticker tape parade, but he had at least hoped Ben would have tracked him down before class. He looked for Ben to be on instant messenger last night to let him know he was coming back, but his account was offline.
“Well, I guess my dad had it out with the principal,” Elijah replied.
“Everyone’s heard about you, of course. So, what was it like?” Autumn continued as the rest of the class began to edge closer to Elijah.
“Unbelievable,” affirmed Elijah. “I wish I could put it in words. One thing’s for sure, God lives and ...”
Before Elijah could finish Mr. Buckley interrupted. “If I could have everyone’s attention please, the school has made it very clear that with Mr. Abbot’s return, classes are not to turn into religious forums. That being said, it is also clear that these visions have certainly given us all much to think about. As for myself, my schooling has always taught me that we cannot believe there is a God because there is no proof, but my heart has always told me to believe. Now that you’re in high school, it is up to each of you to decide for yourselves. If you want to know more, I suggest talking to your parents. There is also a prayer group before school every morning at 7:45 for anyone who would like to attend.”
As Mr. Buckley finished the first period bell rang and everyone started off in his or her own directions. Faith versus proof. That always seemed to be the key. To Elijah, he now had proof, but he knew that there were still many that questioned the visions. Was it up to Elijah to prove God existed? Even with the visions was it possible to prove? And if so, did God want to be proven?
The rest of the day went fairly smooth. Lots of students and teachers welcomed him back. He even had a chance to have lunch with Jonathan and several of the kids from prayer group. Jonathan seemed to be in much better spirits, too. It seems that rumors of the big fight with Mark and how he had stood up for Elijah against the ‘whole’ football team had made him quite the hero. Jonathan and Elijah actually had a good laugh over it. David, one of the guys from the prayer group, said that he had seen Mark in the hall and was surprised that he hadn’t been sent home or at least given detention.
“Only Miss Freed could be Christ-like enough to show that arrogant jerk a little compassion. She must have let him off with a warning,” David guessed.
By the end of the day Elijah was ready for the final class bell to ring. The day had started earlier than he was used to and he just wanted to get home and relax. Anticipating a quick exit out of school, he had stopped by his locker between the last two periods and gathered his things. He didn’t mind taking the bus home, but Gram insisted on picking he and Becca up. “We just can’t tell how many reporters and classmates will swamp you,” she had warned.
His last class was a study hall and the principal had asked Mr. Silva, the study hall teacher, to let him out a few minutes early. He also hoped to avoid having hordes of students stopping Elijah in the hall and missing their buses. Becca had been let out early too and they met as they reached the main entrance. She looked at him funny at first, then her expression turned to relief.
“What’s ailing you?” Elijah asked curiously.
“Don’t play dumb. It’s like all over school about you and Jonathan getting into a fight with Mark and his thugs this morning,” Becca exclaimed.
“Fight? I wouldn’t call it a fight.”
“Oh, then what would you call it?”
“Well, if you call me and Meatplow walking head long into each other while rounding a corner and me falling on my butt a fight, then I guess you could say we had a real knock-down drag-out,” Elijah smiled and gave Becca a glance from the side of his eyes.
“You’re telling me that’s all that happened?” questioned Becca in disbelief.
“More or less. Anyways it’s nothing to talk about. Please don’t even mention it to Gram or Dad. It will just make them worry.”
“Alright, if that’s ALL that happened, I won’t say anything,” agreed Becca. There were a few steps in silence and then Becca asked, “So, how’s your butt?” To which Elijah reached over and gave her a slight push to the side. They laughed.
As they exited the building to meet Gram, Elijah felt good about how smooth school had gone. Other than his run in with Mark, the events of the day left him encouraged about getting some normalcy back into his life. Little did he realize that the next twenty-four hours would bring more changes and more direction.
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