Authors: Robin Jones Gunn
“When I lived here,” Christy explained, leaning in and feeling a little funny talking about this with Matthew Kingsley, of all people, and in Dairy Queen, of all places, “you know how our families all went to the same church?”
“Well, after meeting some friends in California who were really open about being committed to the Lord, I realized that being a Christian was a lot more than just going to church. I wanted a deeper commitment too. I wanted God to be the center of my life and not just off to the side.”
Matthew smiled. “I know what you’re saying. I went to a church camp with my cousins last summer, and I made a commitment to Christ too.”
“You did?” Christy smiled. “That’s great, Matthew!”
“It is, but it’s kind of hard because not very many people our age around here are really into God and studying the Bible and everything. A few of us started a Christian club at school this year, but we were definitely a small group.”
“The group I hang out with is small too,” Christy said. “My friend Doug calls us the ‘God Lovers.’ ”
“I know. I heard about the group from Paula.”
As soon as he mentioned Paula’s name, Christy knew she had to ask. “Do you see Paula much? Is she around this summer?”
“No, she went to Chicago. She has a friend who lives there. I think she found a job and is taking some classes in summer school.”
Christy felt relieved. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see Paula, but the last time they had tried to spend time together, it hadn’t gone so well. That was two summers ago, when Paula had come to California to visit Christy for a few weeks. They had ended up traveling to Maui with Christy’s wealthy aunt Marti. By the end of the trip, they were still friends, but the two weeks had been full of misunderstandings and disagreements.
“You and Paula used to be together all the time,” Matthew said. “I remember that one year for the harvest party you dressed like identical twins and everyone kept asking if the two of you knew you had on the same outfit.”
The memory brought a smile to Christy’s lips. “Everyone thought we hadn’t checked with each other ahead of time, and we had ended up in the same outfit by accident.”
Christy pushed aside the last few bites of her ice cream cup and folded her arms on the table.
Should I tell Matthew what I’m really feeling?
She decided she didn’t have much to lose. She had known Matthew practically her whole life. They had both grown up with Paula. Matthew had just told Christy about his decision to turn his life over to Christ. Maybe she should trust him and open up the way she used to open up to Todd.
“Paula and I haven’t kept in touch much these past few years,” Christy said. “We seem to have gone down two different paths.”
Matthew nodded. “Paula was pretty upset when you moved to California. She said you didn’t need any of us anymore because you had found God and a surfer boyfriend.”
Why does Matthew know all this? Did Paula go around talking about me all the time? What else did she tell Matthew and the rest of the school?
Christy squirmed uncomfortably. She had thought about Matthew maybe half a dozen times in the past few years, yet he had a full rundown on her life.
“What’s your boyfriend’s name? Todd?”
With a tightness in her throat, Christy answered, “Yes, Todd. But we’re not together anymore.”
Matthew looked surprised. “According to Paula, you should be engaged by now. Or maybe it was Melissa who said you were probably going to get married as soon as you graduated from high school.”
Christy shook her head. “Todd had an opportunity to go on a long-term missions assignment, which is something he had wanted to do for a long time. He’s overseas somewhere.”
“You don’t know where he is?”
“No. When we broke up, I knew he needed to be able to go without any strings attached. If you had ever met Todd, you would understand. He needed to just go and not look back or feel connected to me or to anything else at home.”
“Wow,” Matthew said, leaning back in the booth and resting his arm across the top. “That must have been pretty hard to do.”
“It was,” Christy said in a low voice, looking down. She picked up the spoon in her cup and stirred the melted vanilla ice cream. After a moment, Christy looked up and forced a smile. “So if you see Paula before I do, you can give her the update for me. Or you can tell Melissa, and she can tell Paula.”
Matthew looked over the top of Christy’s head and waved at someone who apparently had just walked in the door. “Why don’t you tell her yourself?” he said. “Melissa just walked in.”
thought that was your truck. What are you doing here?” Melissa asked Matthew.
“Entertaining company,” Matthew said.
Slowly, Christy turned to face Melissa and smiled at the girl who had taken her place as Paula’s best friend after Christy had moved. “Hi,” Christy said.
Melissa stared at Christy with her mouth open. “Christy Miller? What are you doing here?” Melissa had on a Dairy Queen uniform and wore her dark hair pulled up in a clip. She was short and thin. Christy noticed the row of earrings Melissa wore in each ear and the three silver necklaces around her neck.
“My family flew in this afternoon for my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary party. It’s tomorrow night. We’re going home Sunday.”
“Oh,” Melissa said, still scrutinizing Christy. She looked at Matthew and then back at Christy. “What are you guys doing?”
Christy could tell that Melissa liked Matthew. Christy couldn’t explain how she knew, she just knew. Obviously, Melissa felt Christy was invading her space. Maybe Melissa thought Christy was trying to take Matthew away from her.
“Matthew was just taking me around town,” Christy said.
“Matthew?” Melissa repeated with a mocking tone. “You call him Matthew?”
Christy realized she always had thought of him as Matthew Kingsley, as if they were back in grade school and they had to make the distinction between Matthew Kingsley and Matt Flandenberg.
“Everybody calls me Matt now. Flandenberg moved a couple of years ago.” Matt was smiling at Christy. He didn’t seem to be paying much attention to Melissa.
“I get off here at nine thirty,” Melissa said. “Do you want to do something afterward?”
Christy didn’t think Melissa was asking her, but Matt acted as if the invitation had been extended to both of them. “Can’t,” Matt said. “We both have to be home by ten. Ten thirty at the latest.”
“What about tomorrow?” Melissa said. She looked back and forth from Matt to Christy. Christy couldn’t tell if Melissa really was trying to make plans with Matt, or if she was more interested in finding out what plans Matt had with Christy.
“I work tomorrow,” Matt said.
“I know you do. But what about tomorrow night?”
“I’m helping at the church,” he said, smiling at Christy again. “I told my mom I’d help clean up after the anniversary party for Christy’s grandparents.”
“Okay,” Melissa said. “Whatever.”
For some reason, Christy felt as if she needed to apologize. “Sorry, Melissa. I’m not trying to take all of Matt’s free time.”
Melissa gave her a strange look. “Don’t worry about it, Christy. It’s a free country.” The tone in her voice sounded exactly like Paula’s
when she was really mad. “You can do whatever you want. I hope you and
have a great weekend together.”
With that, Melissa turned and took her place behind the food counter, leaving Matt and Christy alone. Matt didn’t say anything at first, so Christy stepped in. “Are you guys going out?”
“Melissa and me?”
“Yes, Melissa and you.” Christy wondered if she had been too bold.
Matt hesitated a moment, then he rose and motioned for Christy to get her backpack. “Come on. Let’s go for a drive.”
Once they were in the truck and out of the parking lot, Matt asked, “How much do you want to know?”
“How much do you want to tell me?” Then Christy added, “It seems you’ve kept up with my love life pretty well these past few years. I think it’s only fair that you bring me up to the present with yours.”
“Oh, you do, do you?” Matt seemed humored by her comment.
Christy rolled down the window and stuck out her arm. She liked this feeling of driving around with Matt and having him be the one on the spot. It was nice not always being the embarrassed one, like she was earlier today with the Todd look-alike at the airport.
As soon as she thought that, Christy felt compassion for Matt. It wasn’t fun being the one on the spot. It wasn’t fun being embarrassed, either.
“I take that all back,” Christy said. She reached over and gave Matt a comforting pat on the shoulder.
Oh no! I hope I’m not patting Matt the way my grandmother pats my grandfather!
“You don’t have to tell me anything,” Christy said, pulling back her hand. “I hope I didn’t make you feel uncomfortable.”
“It’s okay,” Matt said. He kept quiet as he drove.
Christy had a nervous feeling that she had squelched the budding relationship Matt had initiated by coming over to see her. She decided that quick and snappy comments didn’t fit her personality.
Matt kept quiet another block. Then he pulled up in front of George Washington Elementary School. He parked the truck and turned to Christy with a hopeful grin.
Looking out the window at the familiar brick building, Christy asked, “What are we doing here?”
“I thought you might like to take a walk through your past. You know, remember where you came from.”
Christy gave him a puzzled look.
Matt reached for his baseball cap on the seat and put it on as he opened the door. “When I heard you were coming, I tried to think of what I’d want to do if I were you and I’d been gone so long. This is the best I could come up with.”
Christy smiled broadly and joined Matt as they walked up to the front of the school, now closed for the summer. “This is so sweet of you, Matt. Thank you.”
“Tell my mom that, will you? She said I was being sappy.”
“I’ll tell her I like sappy. I like being here.” Then, before Christy could think about what she was saying, she added, “I like seeing you again.”
att didn’t seem to take Christy’s comment as anything more than friendly encouragement. At least he didn’t act as if she had just opened some previously closed door in their relationship.