Chapter 16

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” Proverbs 27:6

Elijah sat between Ben and Jonathan in the waiting area outside the principal’s office. Mr. Jackson was in his office on a conference call and would see them as soon as he was finished. His booming voice matched his large stature and could be heard through the heavy wooden door. They sat silently waiting. Elijah stared through the wire-reinforced glass into the hallway as students began to change classes.

The day had been going so well, he thought to himself. Funny how quickly things can change. Mrs. Simmons, the administration office secretary, had seemed surprised to see them come in. She told them to take a seat while she called into Mr. Jackson’s office. She had a voice that everyone in the school knew from hearing her make occasional announcements, but few ever actually got to talk to her directly. Elijah had gone most of the school year without stepping foot in this room, now this was his second time in less than a week.

“Oh great!” Elijah groaned, “Just when things couldn’t get worse.” Passing by the window were Mark and Meatplow. They had almost made it completely across when Meatplow noticed them. He pulled Mark back and said something to him that Elijah couldn’t make out. Mark said something in return and Meatplow sped off, Mark right behind him.

Elijah was certain that Mark was off to call the press. “Local prophet in trouble again” the headlines would say. The time is going to come when I’m going to tell that jerk what a real ...

The door to the principal’s office opened abruptly, shaking the three boys from their thoughts, and Mr. Jackson asked them to enter. His office was fairly void of furniture, outside of the desk and several chairs. The walls were lined with framed degrees and several trophies sitting on a shelf. Elijah didn’t need to see the small golden figures striking the Heisman pose to know the trophies were for football. Mr. Jackson was clearly built for one sport and one position, football lineman.

Elijah had thought several times about going out for the football team at the beginning of the year. His only reason was that he knew he would sit the bench, but being on the team and wearing the jersey meant girls might actually notice him. There was never any real intent, so he never went to a try-out. The thought of spending all that time around Mark and his cronies had never appealed to him before the vision either. Most of the players were probably good enough guys, but getting bossed around by Mr. ‘Captain of the team’ Roche and his friends made Elijah believe that there had to be better ways to meet girls.

Mr. Jackson sat down on the big maroon chair behind his desk and rolled it forward. He moved the phone from off his desk calendar and shuffled a few papers. He motioned to the chairs in front of his desk and each boy took a seat.

“I just finished talking to Mr. Herkimer about why the three of you are here. Although I do not disagree with his decision to send you to my office, perhaps emotions got the best of everyone. Mr. Herkimer has agreed that you are to return to science class on your next scheduled period and, as evolution was already covered earlier this year, he will not cover it again. There is not to be, and I believe I have been clear on this in the past” Mr. Jackson said looking straight at Elijah, “any discussions about religion or the visions in the classrooms.

“Now, being that you’ve already missed most of your last class for the day, and anticipating the inevitable arrival of the press, I’ve contacted your parents to come and pick you up now. Ben, you live close enough that your mother said she would meet you at the back entrance of the school so you’d better get a move on. Jonathan, your father is on his way and will meet you out front. Elijah, we have as of yet been unable to reach your grandmother, so you are to stay here in the waiting room until Mrs. Simmons can reach her.”

********

“I’m trying your house again now Elijah,” the secretary said as they entered the waiting area again.

“You can come to my house,” Jonathan suggested.

“Or mine,” added Ben.

“It’s O.K. I’ll get Gram on her cell phone. I don’t mind waiting for her,” Elijah assured them. “It will give me some time to get some homework done.”

“Oh sure,” Ben grimaced. “Get me sent to the principal’s office and then disrespect me!” He let out a laugh and gave Elijah a punch on the shoulder. “Well, I’m telling mom it was all your fault for once.”

Elijah smiled back, “I’m surprised Herky could say anything at all from shock. That’s the first thing you’ve said in science class all year.”

With that Ben let out another laugh and turned to leave.

“I’ll message ya later. And thanks,” Elijah called after him.

“You owe me one,” Ben called back without turning around.

“Herky?” Jonathan questioned.

“Yeah, Ichystein makes a good mix of Ichabod and Einstein, but Herky has a better flow to it.”

“Are you sure I can’t convince you to come with me?” Jonathan asked again.

“Nah, Gram keeps her cell with her at all times since the vision. I’ll be fine,” replied Elijah. “And I wanted to thank you, too. That’s twice you stood up for me this week.”

“That’s what friends are for. A friend sharpens a friend,” said Jonathan, sounding like his father more than ever.

“Still, I hate to see you and Ben in trouble over me. I still can’t believe that Ben said something. The other day I wasn’t sure he even wanted to hang out with me any more. Just hope his mom isn’t too ticked off.”

“I wouldn’t worry. ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend,’ and Ben seems like a true friend. Maybe he’ll start coming to prayer group? We could always use more friends like him. Well, I’d better get going. See ya bright and early tomorrow morning. Just try to be on time.” And with those words, Jonathan went to meet his father.

As Jonathan left Elijah broke out his cell phone. After several rings Gram finally answered.

“What could possibly have gone wrong today?” her frustrated voice rang through the phone.

“It’s a long story. I’ll fill you in at home,” Elijah sighed. “Can you come pick me up?”

“Unless there’s blood or broken bones, I’m at the grocery store and you’ll have to wait for me to check out. With your sister over at Martha’s house tonight I figured I’d make chow mien in a can. Becca doesn’t like it so I figured it would be something different,” Gram said.

“That’s right. I forgot Becca was sleeping over at Marty’s tonight,” Elijah remembered.

He thought for a minute and suddenly felt inspired. “Actually Gram, Ben just left the office a minute ago and he said I could hang out at his house for awhile. If that’s O.K?”

“That’s fine,” said Gram. “It’ll give me a chance to drop the perishables off at the house first.”

“Call me when you’re ready. Thanks, Gram!”

“Ah-hem!” Mrs. Simmons was hovering behind Elijah. “If you’re planning on leaving, I’ll need parent or guardian’s permission.”

Elijah gave a timid smile and handed the secretary his phone. She spoke briefly to Gram and handed it back to him. He clicked his phone shut and put it in his pocket. He wasn’t sure why, but he really felt like he should catch up to Ben quickly.

The hallway was empty now. The rooms were full of students anxious to get the last period over. Ben would be almost to the back entrance by now. Elijah started to jog down the hall.

He couldn’t help but notice that the hallway became increasingly less decorated the closer he got to the back of the school. Most likely because there wasn’t as much traffic down here. The students called it the catacombs. There were fewer classrooms at the rear of the school, mainly larger rooms for things like Woodshop and Music. There were also several rooms for maintenance and janitorial equipment.

It took several seconds for Elijah’s eyes to adjust to the sunlight as he exited the back of the school. There was no trace of Ben on the trail that led passed the soccer field and into the trees that separated the school grounds and the houses that bordered it. “He couldn’t have made it that far already,” he thought.

The sound of a car pulling away from the school caught Elijah’s attention. He turned to see the back of Ben’s mom’s car driving up the side street adjacent to the school. Apparently, Ben was not going straight home. As the “MY CHILD IS AN HONOR STUDENT AT STANDING STONE ELEMENTARY” bumper sticker quickly faded over the hill, he sighed and walked back inside. He laughed to himself as he reflected on the bumper sticker. Clearly it was for Ben’s little sister, both for age and grades.

It was bad enough trying to adjust to the outside sunlight, but reentering the dimly lit building was worse. Best to follow the sounds from the wood shop down the hall, Elijah figured. He slowed his pace and tried to think of a good place to hide out. There was still a good 20 minutes of class left and he didn’t feel like waiting on display in the principal’s waiting room any longer than he had to.

“Gram’s probably still be at the grocery store at this point,” He thought as he attempted to make his eyes adjust to the indoors. “Now what am I going to do?”

As he rounded the corner his eyes had adjusted enough to make out the door for a boy’s bathroom. “Well I don’t have to go, but as long as it doesn’t smell like a porta-potty in there, I can kill a few minutes.”

Elijah entered and cautiously took a whiff of air. “Whew, at least no one’s dropped any ten ton torpedoes in here lately.”

Walking over to the mirror he straightened his hair and cleared his throat, listening for signs that anyone else might be in there. Fairly confident he was alone he paced several times past the stalls. Thinking about how he got there made him laugh to himself, “Last period I was arguing with a teacher, now I’m hiding out in a bathroom. Things really do change quickly.”

“Still, I don’t think I was wrong. Jonathan and Mr. Herkimer only wanted to prove themselves right, but God wants us to have faith. I’ll have to do some web surfing for more info on faith when I get home. Speaking of which,” Elijah thought glancing at his watch, “five minutes down, fifteen to go.”

Suddenly, Elijah heard footsteps right outside the door. Not wanting to look like he was hiding out he stepped over to the mirror again, turned on the faucet, and pretended to wash his hands. The footsteps paused just inside the door. As the creaking door came to a halt, Elijah realized that the footsteps had continued to stay still. He glanced up at the reflection in the mirror. Staring back at him was John Mark Roche.

As Elijah’s brain processed who it was staring back at him it quickly started altering the rest of his body. Chemicals began being released to prepare his body for a flight or fight reaction. His face flushed and his stomach felt like it was being tied into knots.

Then his brain started flashing through recent memories of Mark. His making fun of him when he tripped getting on the bus, mocking him on the wall outside of school, and his T.V. interview. It all culminated up to their run-in before school the day before.

Elijah had had enough and was ready to let Mark know just how he felt. “Tell him off!” his brain challenged him. “He’s got it coming! No holding back!” Whipping around from the mirror they stood face to face. Although he had no intentions of fighting, his brain unconsciously caused his hands to clench into fists. This was it! He was finally going to tell Mark exactly what he thought of him. No one else was around to hear.

Even so, his heart told him that it would be wrong to say anything too bad. He hesitated. But this was his chance! He couldn’t lose it! O.K. He wouldn’t swear or anything, but his anger would make him explode if he kept it in any longer. He looked at Mark, standing there just staring back at him, probably thinking of something mean to say. This was it; Elijah opened his mouth to speak...

“Elijah, I just want to say I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating ya.”

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