Authors: Krista McGee
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Religious, #Christian, #General
“No, I couldn’t. You go. You are her mother.” The maid set Addy down.
Addy began to cry and cling to her mother’s legs. “Mommy, hold me. I’m scared.”
“I can’t go.” Mommy lifted Addy and held her tightly to her chest. “They know who I am, what I look like. If I tried to escape with Addy, they’d come after me and kill us both. Please take her so she can live.”
Between sobs, Mommy told the maid where Miss Stacy lived in Mitú. “Don’t you dare stop running until you get there.”
Mommy kissed Addy on both cheeks, tears streaming down her face. “I love you, sweetheart. Daddy loves you too. So much.” Mommy held Addy again. She took a ragged breath and continued. “But God loves you more. He will always be with you. And no matter what happens, he is good. He has great plans for you. Never forget that.”
Then Mommy handed Addy to the maid and walked out of the hut. Addy saw, through a gap in the wood planks of the wall, her mother thrown beside her father on the hard ground in front of their hut.
The maid snuck out the side opening of the hut, hiding behind a large barrel until she was sure no one was watching, then she ran into the jungle.
Addy heard more shouting. Then gunshots. Then silence.
She closed her eyes, the memory overwhelming.
Addy couldn’t speak any longer. She was that scared little girl clinging to her maid’s leathered shoulder again, silenced by a hand that shook with sobs of her own.
Kara’s arm wrapped around Addy in a protective hug. She was crying too.
“They were good people, Addy,” she murmured.
Emotionally drained, Addy could only nod in agreement.
ddy slept from that afternoon until the next morning. But no one was exempt from “Boot Camp with Lacy,” not even an orphan exhausted from telling her horrifying life story to a sympathetic roommate. So she reluctantly woke up at 5:50, threw on shorts and tennis shoes, and joined the other girls for the workout.
The exercise really wasn’t all that difficult. Having been raised by an avid outdoorsman, she found running laps was not a big deal, nor were the aerobics that followed. Some of the other girls struggled to keep up, though. Addy looked back to see them stooped over, with hands on their knees. Jessica, however, was right beside Lacy, barely even out of breath.
The exercise might not be a problem. But listening to Lacy’s incredibly annoying voice is brutal. No way I’d be right up there beside her
Addy tried to tune out Lacy as she thought about what had happened the day before. She had never told anyone that story. She didn’t need to tell Uncle Mike. He had lived it. He was in Colombia within twenty-four hours of getting the phone call from the mission board. “She’s in the bedroom,” Miss Stacy told Uncle Mike. “She’s been in there since they arrived. I’ve tried to get her to eat, but—”
Uncle Mike burst into the room and lifted Addy into his arms. He held her so tightly, she could barely breathe. He was shaking. Addy felt hot tears on her cheek and realized he was crying. Rocking her back and forth, he repeated, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Addy felt numb. She couldn’t cry. She couldn’t remember walking through the jungle. She kept hearing the gunshots in her mind. She knew her parents weren’t coming, that the men from the other village had shot them. But she couldn’t feel anything. She just wanted to sleep.
But Uncle Mike kept crying and rocking. He refused to leave her side. He forced her to drink some juice and, later, to eat beans and rice. He didn’t ask her to talk. Not that day, not a few days later when they got onto the airplane.
Addy looked out the airplane window as everything she knew began to fade away, and then she cried. She unbuckled her seat belt and ran for the exit.
“I want to go home. I want Mommy and Daddy.” Addy didn’t care that the people on the plane were all looking at her. All she knew was that the plane was rolling away from everything she knew, and she wouldn’t allow it. “Take me home. Take me home.”
Mike grabbed Addy in his arms and cradled her like he would a tiny baby. He carried her back to her seat. Addy kicked and cried.
“No!” The tears were coming so fast she couldn’t even see. “Let me go. Take me home. I want my mommy!”
Flight attendants rushed over and demanded that Mike and Addy buckle up. The plane was taking off. Mike refused to let go of Addy. He sat in his seat, Addy still in his arms. She finally grew tired of fighting. The next thing she knew she was waking up, still in Mike’s lap, her face dry and sticky from her tears.
Uncle Mike had helped her as she adjusted to life in the United States, so different from life in her village in Colombia. He took her to a counselor so she could work through all she had experienced. He took her to a tutor so she could improve her English. Mike gave up his longtime career in the army to work as a policeman in Tampa so he could be near Addy more. A confirmed bachelor in his forties, Mike became father and mother in one tragic day.
Emotions she had thought were long-gone resurfaced: abandonment, anger, fear. But Kara’s words kept coming back to her.
“They were good people, Addy
They were. As Addy ran, she saw her parents’ death through the eyes of a stranger. They were good people doing good things. They died a horrible but noble death. They died for what they believed in. For the people they loved. They died doing what God asked them to do. She was too scared to admit that to Kara. Not yet. But she needed to.
I need to stop thinking so much about myself. I’m acting like a whiny little toddler not getting her way. Why do I do that? All the time? Why can’t I just automatically do what’s right and think what’s right?
Addy pictured her uncle’s face and knew what he would say. She was here because God put her here, because he had a plan. For now, this was her village; these people were her tribe. Would she be like her parents, doing what was right no matter what, honoring God regardless of the consequences? She didn’t know why God would choose
of all people, nor did she know what she could do for him. But one thing she did know: God had her here, in this place, for such a time as this.
h, sweetie. You know I love you. I’m your biggest fan and all that. You know that, right?” Kara stalled, pacing from Addy’s bed to her own. Addy already knew what she was going to say.
stink.” Addy laughed. “I know. But you know what? I don’t care. This is the talent portion of the competition, and this is my talent.”
“But a kazoo?” Kara asked, her dark eyes wide.
“You heard me sing; you saw me try to act. Dancing is most
out of the question. What other options do I have left? It
original. None of the other girls will be out there with a kazoo.”
“Yes, and I do appreciate the new, more positive outlook. But, Addy, you’re going to get ripped apart when you do this. Hank might come up on the stage and strangle you himself.”
Kara imitated Hank’s swagger and tried to impersonate his “angry brother” voice: “
. Is this a joke to you? A
? Do you know how lucky you are to have gotten this far? How much money has been spent housing you and feeding you and making sure you are well cared for? You ungrateful, stupid
beep-beep beep-beep beep-beep
.” Kara winked. “Since this is a ‘squeaky clean’ show, I censored all the curse words.”
“Thanks,” Addy said, laughing.
“Seriously. Is this how you want to go out?” Kara sat on her bed.
“I’m not going to try to be something I’m not. This is who I am.”
“You are a kazoo player?” Kara crossed her arms.
“You know what I mean. I know what I can and cannot do. And one thing I cannot do is seriously compete with people as talented as you and the others here. It’s ridiculous to even try.”
Addy leaned forward, a huge grin splitting her face. “It’s a nice one, by the way, the kazoo. Not the dollar-store plastic kind. Metal. Shiny. See?” Addy held out her kazoo so Kara could admire it. “No, no. Don’t touch. I just tuned it.”
Kara rolled her eyes and sighed. “At least tell me you’re going to dress up.”
“I will. I have my appointment with the wardrobe people at one thirty, thank you very much.”
“Good for you. So what are you thinking? Shiny to match your kazoo, or white to show it off?”
“Like I’d tell
.” Addy laughed. “You, Kara McKormick, are the competition. I couldn’t trust you with something as important as that. My dress is
secret.” Addy managed to stick out her tongue right as Kara hurled a pillow at her face.
The rest of the week went by quickly. Boot camp in the morning followed by breakfast, schoolwork, photo shoots, and rehearsals. In between all that was “camera time” and one-on-one talks with Jonathon, though Addy hadn’t had her turn with the latter just yet. In some ways, she was dreading it. She had felt a load lift from her shoulders once she told Kara about her past. But that didn’t change the fact that she owed Jonathon an apology.
Oh, God, haven’t I learned enough lessons? Couldn’t I just send Jonathon a note? On my way to the airport?
But she would have to face Jonathon. And an audience. Ironically, both ended up happening on the same day. She was the last girl to sit down with Jonathon. She was sure Hank orchestrated that. Probably hoping they wouldn’t have enough time and she’d be bumped. Unfortunately for Hank, the morning went by smoothly and Addy sat in the staged meeting room inside The Mansion promptly at 10:00 a.m.
“Wait one minute.” Eric fixed the angle on a huge light so Addy was totally, not just partially, blinded. “Okay. Just go ahead and talk. Pretend we’re not here.”
Addy moaned. “I definitely have a greater respect for actors now. I don’t know how it’s possible to ‘act naturally’ when surrounded by a room full of people.”
Jonathon laughed, nodding. Their conversation was a little awkward, though not unpleasant. She was not about to apologize to him in front of the whole crew, but she was determined not to add to her list of offenses.
When their allotted time was over, Addy asked if she could speak with Jonathon privately. Because it was the last interview of the day, he said he had a few free minutes. So as the crew packed up their supplies, Jonathon led Addy to the kitchen and leaned against the counter.
“What would you like to talk about, Addy?”
She hadn’t noticed before how pleasing his voice was. When they were being taped, she was focused on answering the questions without saying “um” too many times. But now, without all the distractions, she really heard him. His voice was deeper than most boys’, and so proper.
“I need to apologize to you for my behavior.”
He stood up straight. “No, don’t. Actually . . .”
to do this.” Addy tried not to lose focus as she looked into his eyes. “I’ve been rude to you and you’ve done nothing to deserve it. I’m sure it’s no secret that I didn’t want to be on this show. But I shouldn’t have taken out my frustration on you. I shouldn’t have taken it out on anyone. I was acting like a child, and I am sorry for that.”
He shook his head and smiled. She felt her toes tingle. “Thank you, Addy. I accept your apology.” He folded his arms. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” Addy looked into Jonathon’s eyes and felt her heart race.
“Why did you come, if you didn’t want to be on the show?”
“Because . . .” Addy took a deep breath.
Because God wants me to be here? No way. I am
saying that. I can’t
Jonathon’s eyes softened. “That’s okay. You don’t have to tell me.”
“No, it’s just . . . I’m not used to attention. I don’t really want it. But my principal wanted me to come. I told him to pick someone else. I knew I would make a fool of myself here.”
He touched her arm and she felt an electric shock. “I think he made a great choice. You’re real. I like that. And you’re not making a fool out of yourself.”
Addy’s face felt like it was on fire. “Let’s see if you still think that after tonight.”
Good morning, Anna.
Actually, it’s Anna Grace.
Oh, excuse me, Anna Grace.
I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I was named after my grandma and she passed away just last month (dabbing her eyes with a tissue). That name is special.
I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. Would you like to postpone the interview?
(Straightening up) Oh no. No. It’s just that I get sad when I think about her. But I know Grammy is up in heaven, looking down on me and smiling. I know she’s proud of me for being in this competition. And if there are TVs in heaven, she’s got everyone gathered ’round one, watching me right now.
Okay. Well . . . tell us how you were chosen to be part of the show.
I was sitting in my homeroom class taking roll. I’m the class representative, so it’s my job to take roll and help the teachers however I can. As I was taking roll, the assistant principal, Mr. O’Neal, buzzed in and asked that I come to the office. I was a little nervous but I went. And as I was walking, I noticed several other girls going that way too—our class secretary, the head cheerleader, the president of the drama club. We were all talking on our way over, and we just couldn’t imagine what Mr. O’Neal could want from us. But then he sat us all down and told us about the show. Our little ol’ Alabama high school was chosen to participate in a reality TV show. We couldn’t believe it. Well, we were all so excited. I couldn’t believe I was even being considered. It was truly an honor. Well, Mr. O’Neal said he’d be talking to our parents and our teachers, trying to find out which one of us would be the best choice for the show. He told us it was a new kind of show, so it wasn’t just about being pretty or charming. The girl he chose would also have to be talented, smart, an all-around great girl. That’s what he said y’all were looking for. Well, I would never say I was all those things. But I guess the others thought I was because they chose me. And here I am.
Yes, here you are. That was quite an answer . . . Why don’t we just skip to the last question: Describe “The Perfect Boy.”
The perfect boy? Well, he’s about six feet tall, has light brown hair, brown eyes, his father is a prominent politician, and he is currently looking for a prom date.
That was certainly specific. And do you think you are
Well now, I don’t know about that. But I certainly hope I’ll get the chance to let him find out.
And there you have it, folks, Miss Anna Grace Austen. Thank you very much.