"Who just said that," Elijah's shocked brain thought. Surely an arrogant, self-centered jerk like John Mark Roche didn't just apologize to him. Maybe this was some kinda psych game? A joke? Totally confused, he prepared for what was sure to be the punch line.
"I've been a jerk and I see that now."
Elijah stared at Mark with his jaw dropped. "Where's the cruel joke, the meanness? How am I supposed to tell him off if he's apologizing?" The rush of adrenaline that had so quickly built up was suddenly gone.
"Uhh, it's O.K.," Elijah heard someone, whom he could only assume was himself, say.
"But wait a minute," Elijah thought. Was it O.K.? What was happening? What made this bully, who had been giving him such a hard time, suddenly say he's sorry?
"Yesterday after Miss Freed broke us up she took me back to her class," Mark told him. "She knows my family from church and I thought for sure she was calling my mom. Instead she stopped outside in the hallway and just looked at me for a minute. You know, the silent treatment. Then she finally said, 'Mark, I know your family is strong in the church, how about you?'"
"'I guess so', I answered. I had to run it through in my mind real quick. I've mostly gone to church because my family went, but no one had ever really challenged me about it before then. Just that quick it hit me. 'Yes' I told her. It just felt right saying it. For the first time in my life, I said it and really believed it inside."
"She asked if I saw myself being active in the church ten years from now. Again I had to say, 'Yes!'"
Mark looked at himself in the mirror over Elijah's shoulder. "Then she blind sided me. 'Ten years from now, when you tell your kids about the time when the Lord first sent the visions, how are you going to look back at the way you've been acting?'
"It was like getting tackled from behind. I was so caught up with being Mark Roche, Mr. Popular, that I wasn't even thinking about what was going on." Mark looked back to Elijah. "Miss Freed told me I needed to change my attitude, that you needed all the help you could get to bring people to Christ, and if I truly believed, maybe Heavenly Father could use me, too. I was off my game all day, couldn't focus on anything. I wanted to say something to you at lunch, but after the way I'd acted I didn't know what to say."
"When I got home I went straight to my room. I needed to apologize to you and even more I needed to apologize to Heavenly Father. For the first time in years, I knelt down and started to pray. Praying helped, but I felt like I needed something more. My scriptures were beside my bed. I picked them up and thought I'd just read the first thing that fell opened.
"It was second Timothy 4:11. I'd highlighted it at some point so my eyes fell straight to it. It says, 'Take Mark and bring him with thee; for he is profitable to me for the ministry.' My dad wanted each of us kids to have a name from someone that had an "uplifting" role in the scriptures. Turns out that the scripture is about John Mark, the guy I was named after."
Mark recalled the story, "John Mark was a missionary with Paul and Barnabas. While they were out spreading the news about Jesus, John Mark decided he didn't want to be preachin' and bailed on them. Later Barnabas wanted to take him out on another mission, but Paul said no way. They got into a big argument about it and split up. But John Mark stuck it out this time and the scripture in Timothy was when Paul forgave him. That scripture was God's way of tellin' me that it doesn't matter what I've done in the past, just where I'm heading now. That it's not too late to be forgiven. What d'ya say, can you forgive me?"
Elijah could see the look on Mark's face longed for forgiveness. All of the rage he had just felt towards the boy in front of him was forgotten. In just a few words, years of hurt were gone; they were friends again. "Of course."
They both smiled for a moment. Not being one to let a pause in a conversation turn awkward Mark tilted his head slightly and asked, "What are you doing back here, hiding out in the catacomb boy's room?"
"Uh, that's kind of a long story," Elijah reflected. "Ah shoot, I gotta get back to the principal's office and let my gram know I still need to get picked up."
Mark looked at his watch. "There's only a couple minutes of class left. I'm parked right out back, if you want a ride?"
"That'd be great," Elijah said thankfully.
"I'll grab my stuff and we can take off as soon as the bell rings. But first, Heavenly Father may have inspired me to come to the boy's room to run into you, but I'm still really inspired." Mark grinned and entered a stall.
"I'll just wait out by the exit," Elijah said, picked up his book bag, and headed for the door.
Elijah and Mark were the first ones out of the school when the bell rang. From the back entrance several press vans could be seen sitting out front. They both ducked down and made their way to Mark's car, an older, bright red Mustang with two white racing stripes running over the center. They climbed in and Mark started the engine. Elijah looked at him still wondering if it was he that had tipped off the press. It didn't matter to him now though, Mark had changed.
Mark looked at the vans through the rear view mirror then over at Elijah. "Sorry about all the press tip-offs."
"I kinda figured it was you," Elijah sighed.
"Actually, it's not me. It's Meatplow. I've tried to get him to knock it off," Mark exclaimed. "He's actually a pretty good guy once you get to know him. He just tries too hard to look cool."
Elijah was surprised and a little ashamed of himself. That was the second time he'd misjudged Mark. He wondered if he had misjudged Meatplow as well. Elijah jumped slightly as his phone went off in his back pocket. Phone ringers were to be turned off in school and he had forgotten to change it back from vibrate. He said he thought he had sat on a bee and they both laughed. Opening the phone he saw it was Gram's number.
"I'm sorry, dear, but can you stay with Ben a little while?" Gram asked. "That old jalopy of a car flooded on me. I'm still at the grocery store and it'll need to sit for a good ten or fifteen minutes."
"No problem, Gram. Mark Roche is giving me a ride home and I've got my key," Elijah assured her.
"What?" Gram's voice boomed through the receiver and Elijah hoped Mark hadn't heard.
"I'll see ya at the house," Elijah said quickly and clicked the phone shut.
"Everything O.K.?" Mark asked.
"Gram's just having some car trouble, again. She'll be a little late," Elijah replied.
"Does she need us to pick her up? I don't mind," Mark offered.
"Nah! She's over town at the grocery store. By the time we got there and moved all the groceries, her car would be ready to go again," Elijah said.
"It's not that same old car from when we were kids, is it?" Mark asked, letting out half a laugh.
"Same old dinosaur," Elijah sighed. "She's been driving it long before we were born."
"It's been a long time, hasn't it?" Mark reflected. "Since we used to play together."
"Yeah, seems like ages ago now."
"Since I'm repenting anyway, that's another thing I should apologize about," Mark confessed. "You know why I stopped playing with you all those years ago? My older brothers. They used to make fun of me after you left. You were so much shorter than me that they used to say stuff like 'how was playing with your little doll?' and 'It's not a doll, its an action figure'."
Elijah scrunched his eyebrows together and frowned.
"They were always bigger, smarter, and cooler than me and I wanted to be like them. They were jerks to me and I was a jerk to you. I felt like they'd leave me alone if I were cooler. I was big for my age and pretty good at football, so I joined the team and started acting like it made me cool."
"Well, they're out of the house now, its just Mom, Dad and me. Speaking of home, Mom's making spaghetti for dinner. Why don't you come over? I've never actually heard you tell the vision and Mom and Dad would love to hear it too."
"Sure," Elijah replied. "I never turn down a chance to tell the vision and I never turn down spaghetti."
Soon the two boys pulled into Mark's driveway. Elijah had called and let Gram know where he was. Her reply was still a resounding "what?" Mark's house was still as Elijah remembered it. Funny how he remembered it as being a lot bigger back then. But then he was only five last time he was here.
They walked in the doorway. Most of the interior had changed. The color of the walls and the furniture were different now. There was a new-looking large flat panel T.V. on the far end of the room. "Some day," Elijah thought staring at it. One thing that hadn't changed was the mass of pictures that lined the stairway to the upstairs. The pictures were newer now as the kids had grown, but they were still in the same place. Growing up with just him and Becca, the Roche's family seemed huge.
There were pictures of Mark and both of his brothers, Paul and Tim ascending the stairway. There were also pictures of Mark's sisters, but they were much older than the boys, so Elijah didn't know much about them. A large family picture hung at the bottom step, as did a picture of Jesus praying. Suddenly a picture caught Elijah's eye and made his jaw drop and his pulse race. "That's him!"
"That's who?" Mark questioned, turning around.
"I knew I'd seen him before. Your picture's where I knew him from," Elijah said in awe. He moved his face right up to the picture. "That's the boy from the vision."
Mark replied, "You mean the prophet Joseph Smith?"
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