Two best friends experience different lives.
What are we doing here? This question seems to bounce around in my head constantly, buzzing like angry bees in my skull, screaming at me from deep within me.
I sneak an glance at Jasmine but she seems to be listening. Either that or she's fallen asleep with her eyes open.
That would be a talent! Sleeping with your eyes open. Think of all the boring things you could avoid, all the while gaining much needed rest.
I wonder if I can learn how to do that? I glance at my watch. We've only been here forty-five minutes and if I hadn't made Jasmine sit through that self-help seminar, I would have walked out of here forty minutes ago.
I cross my arms and try to make myself comfortable in the uncomfortable chairs. We had racked our brains and each of us had come up with a couple of ideas about what was missing in our lives. We had, therefore, tried a woman's retreat weekend at a spa where Jasmine got hives from the mud wrap, a day at a self-help seminar, which I fell asleep in and didn't bother to hide my boredom, and a day at a nude beach. My ideas were crashing and burning and even I had to agree with Jasmine that the nude beach was a flop, though I did see one hunky guy that I managed to get a phone number from.
Oh, man! I'm drifting. If I keep this up, I'll fall asleep just like I did at the seminar. Needless to say, I dreamt of naked guy but that wouldn't be appropriate here.
I smile softly. No, naked guy is definitely not appropriate here considering the fact that we're in a church.
And what a church! No gaudy stuff here. Everything is cut and dry, with three or four singers in the front, one piano player and no pews. At least if there were pews, I could fall asleep lying down. No, they have straightback chairs that are covered with fabric that looks like carpeting. There are huge curtains behind the pulpit, I can't believe I know the name of that thing!
I glance at Jasmine again but am still unable to get her attention. What a waste of a Wednesday night! I could be doing...something. Anything, in fact, but what I am doing.
They opened up with singing some songs that were projected onto a screen and the people clapped and sang horribly out of tune. I attempted to make light of it but Jasmine was singing along. I have to admit that she does have a lovely singing voice. I never noticed that before.
Then the time came for offering. Can you believe the audacity of these people? I thought offering was a joke about t.v. preachers and their greed for money. I see that that greed has filtered down to the 'little people' here.
The man asking for the money had the nerve to quote scripture at us. Like it mattered to me that the Bible said this or that. Of course their Bible was going to say that we should give money. I rolled my eyes and refused to touch the bucket when it came by me. Jasmine had to reach past me to get it.
And then, of all things, I saw her put a twenty in! Twenty! That was dinner. I grumbled something inappropriate for church and focused on the man who now stood before us.
And the minute the man began preaching about not crossing the lines God draws, I thought about work, boys, money, and books, anything to get my mind off his droning words.
And here I sit, next to my best friend, in a church service drifting in whatever distraction my mind can conjure.
"Can I have every head bowed and every eye closed in this place?" came the simple question.
Gladly! Maybe I can catch some sleep now. I had heard about this from a friend of mine. This is what they call 'altar call' or something like that. They extend and invitation for salvation. Sounds like a slogan for some stupid, unwanted product.
"Yes, I see that hand," and I feel a deep pang within me. Was it my imagination or had Jasmine moved slightly? She didn't raise her hand? No! She couldn't have!
"If you raised your hand, could you look at me? Did you mean that young lady?" a soft rustle from beside me. "I believe you did. Come on up and someone will pray with you."
And to my unending shame and everlasting horror, I feel Jasmine stand. I watch her feet walk away from me. I can't believe this! My friend has answered an 'altar call'!
Rebecca hasn't said one word to me since we left the church. Truthfully, I feel wonderful, truly reborn. Of course, I could tell that Rebecca wasn't the least bit interested in the service but I was glad she stayed with me.
To tell the truth, at first I was as shocked and indifferent as Rebecca. I was thinking about how foolish I felt trying to sing the songs that the other people obviously knew by heart. But, about half way through the singing, I felt as if a great weight was lifted off me and I could just sing. Good or bad, in time or not, I could open my mouth and sing and nothing bad would happen.
So, I did just that.
Everything seemed like a dream after that. They took an offering and I didn't feel as though one twenty out of my wallet would hurt me terribly. I saw Rebecca's reaction as I did it but it didn't bother me.
The sermon was very good. The pastor seemed to know what he was talking about and I enjoyed the straightforwardness of his preaching. By the end of the service I knew, without a doubt, what was missing in my life.
I felt loved and compelled to respond when he asked for someone to accept Jesus into their heart. That someone, I knew, was me.
"What is up with you?" Rebecca asks suddenly and I look over at her. We're sitting in her car at a red light and she looks completely angry.
"What are you talking about?" I ask.
"You went up to the front, left me sitting there alone with all those religious freaks coming up and talking to me! And then, when I would tell them, no, I don't want Jesus, they would look at me with intense pity like I was the idiot!" Rebecca fumes.
"Uh, sorry..." I say for lack of a better reply. "You know, you could have joined me."
"Yeah, right. Could you see me on my knees in front of a whole bunch of strangers? I'm wearing a mini-skirt with a thong, for crying out loud!"
I look at her flabbergasted. "What?"
"You heard me!" she says and the light changes. She punches the gas hard and we fly through the intersection.
"You knew we were going to a church tonight," I say.
"Yeah, well, that's the end of your brilliant imput as to what is missing in our lives. It definitely isn't Jesus. What were you thinking?"
I just stare out the window and think of Jesus. He loves me! That, in itself, makes me able to sit through her tirade and the long drive to the all night diner where we're eating.
Okay, so I feel a little guilty for yelling at her. But I can't believe she was gullible enough to buy into the Jesus fad. I order a double cheeseburger, vanilla milkshake and extra fries.
Jasmine smiles at me and orders the same, her hazel eyes flashing mysteriously. It is like she has some great secret that I can't even guess at. I sit back against the vinyl booth.
"Sorry..." I say and her smile broadens.
"Hey, no problem!" her eyes are full of acceptance of my apology and I feel suspicious.
"What's going on?"
"What do you mean?"
"This!" I say and I throw my hands at her general direction. "This...happiness!"
"Never mind," I say and I slouch in my seat, glaring about the diner in irritation. My Wednesday night has not panned out according to my intentions. I expected us to go to this 'church service' and end up laughing our asses off over what was said in this very diner with the very same meals we had ordered.
"Food's coming!" Jasmine says in that cheery tone and I roll my eyes.
My gaze falls on the most handsome man I have seen in, well, a week or so. He has blond hair, blue eyes and a toned body. At least, from what I can tell under the form fitting black shirt he's wearing. I look back at Jasmine who is thanking the waitress for us. Food? Who can think about food now?
"Hey," I hiss and she looks at me. "Check him out!"
Jasmine sighs and glances over at the guy I nodded toward and blushes suddenly. She looks away and meets my gaze with one of horror.
"He saw me looking at him!" she cries.
"He...smiled." Jasmine hazards another glance then emits a little sound like a startled animal and swallows hard. "He's coming!"
I fluff my hair. Of course he is, Jasmine darling. Look at who you're sitting with.
As I think this, I see realization dawn in her eyes and the blush immediately leaves her face. I feel another pang of guilt and I try to smile reassuringly at her.
"Hello," comes a deep voice above us. I look up and bat my eyes but he's looking at Jasmine!
I twist my napkin in my hands nervously. His voice was positively, well, deep. Okay, so I'm no poet, but he's standing at our table asking out my best friend. So familiar...
"My name is Brian," he says and I allow my eyes to lift to look at him. He is looking at me!
"Hi," I say.
"And you are?" he says.
"Jasmine," I say and I feel a tremor rush through me. He's talking to me!
"I'm Rebecca," my friend interjects loudly.
"Hey," he says with a genuine smile in her direction. All is lost, I mourn. But then, to my surprise, his blue eyed gaze looks my way once more. "I saw you in service tonight."
I see Rebecca make the face that says, that explains everything, and pour ketchup on her burger.
"Oh, yes," I say. "Would you care to join us?"
"I would but I'm meeting my friends," he smiles again. "But, I'll see you at the church again, right?"
I hesitate. Am I going back?
Of course I am. My life had something missing and this night I found out what. Jesus.
"Yes, sure," I say.
"Great," he looks at Rebecca and then at me. "See you Sunday at ten."
Brian smiles and walks away, looking over his shoulder at me before he sits down again.
"You know that they do that on purpose, right?" I ask Jasmine over the phone.
"They know that you look like some lost little puppy and so they send a cute guy to 'flirt' with you to get you to go back. It's the oldest trick in the book."
"You sound distracted," I say as I look at myself in the mirror. I had poured myself a scotch right when I got in and then I called Jasmine. I wanted to make sure she wasn't intending on returning to that place.
"I'm tired," she pauses. "Do you want to come with me Sunday?"
"Okay," I hear the smile in her voice. "Can I call you tomorrow?"
"You can call me whenever, just not too early." I snap.
"Okay, talk to you then."
I stare at the phone in mute anger. She's changing already. I'd heard that cults do that to people. It's my job to save my best friend from those money grubbing zealots. I'm her only hope!