A TRAGEDY OF ERRORS,
Kelsey woke up disoriented not knowing where she was or why she was there. Her clothes were strewn on the floor, and she had no idea why, except her body was telling her something terrible had happened. She dressed quickly looking about the bedroom she found herself in. Her purse with her phone was missing. There were no clues. She felt nauseas and grabbed a small waste basket and held it until her stomach quit its retching. Holding her head in her hands while sitting on the edge of the messy bed, she tried to think, to remember why she was there.
It had been a graduation party in someone's home. Her girlfriend Tera had brought her. Now she remembered that she'd wanted to go home almost immediately as soon as they arrived. It wasn't the kind of party that she'd thought. Alcohol was freely offered. Tera refused to leave, to take her home. Finally, Jack sauntered over and offered her a soda. He promised to take her home in just a little while. That was the last thing she remembered. He must have put something in her drink.
She cautiously opened the door. The place reeked. People were passed out on couches and on the floor, one was even asleep on the kitchen counter laying on top of bags of chips and other food. She finally found her purse and went outside to make a call. First she tried Tera.
"Where are you?" Kelsey tried to hold back the seething anger.
"I'm home. You woke me up," her friend whined. "I didn't get home till early this morning."
"Why didn't you come find me last night?" Kelsey was shaking with fury.
"I couldn't find you. I heard Jack say he would give you a ride, so I figured you went home."
"I need you to come get me now, right now! I'm still here."
"What? Okay, okay. I have the worst headache though. I fell asleep in my clothes so I just have to find my keys."
"Hurry!" Kelsey was crying now as she sat out by the curb.
A couple of the guys from her class walked by to go to their cars and looked at her with smirks. They knew.
Once her girlfriend's car pulled up, she jumped in. "How could you!" she screamed.
"How could I what? I don't know what you are taking about?"
"Jack put something in my drink. I woke up and found myself, you know, in bed, and I know something happened."
"What!" Tera yelled. "I can't believe it! That's awful. I mean I wandered off with Tom, and you know, I let him kiss me, but that's all. Then I went home."
"I told you I wanted to go home as soon as they started drinking, and you refused. Now this happened! How could you have deserted me when I needed you? Some friend you are." Kelsey sobbed wiping the tears from her face with the bottom of her blouse. "I feel so betrayed, so dirty. I'm not that kind of girl. People know and word will get around. I'm ruined."
"It can't be that bad. Maybe Jack will keep his mouth shut," Tera reasoned.
"Yeah, well, who knows how many others," Kelsey felt nauseas again. "The last thing I remember was Jack handing me a soda in a cup."
"I'm really, really sorry, Kels. Maybe you ought to report it or something."
"I'm already eighteen, and I think he is only seventeen, so they might turn it back on me like I'm the perv. No thanks. I'm not going through all that dragging it out in public. They'll say I'm just like my mom anyway. That's why I'm living with my grandma to get away from all that drama."
"I'm really sorry, Kels. You don't deserve this. We all know you're a really, really good girl. Oh no. Do you think you could be pregnant?"
"Stop the car. NOW!"
Tera jerked the car over a little over zealously, then braked hard as they fishtailed. Kelsey got out leaned over and lost what little she had left in her stomach. She waited a few minutes to make sure nothing else was coming up then got back in and buckled up. She leaned back with her eyes closed.
"You can't have morning sickness already, can you?" Tera asked timidly.
"No, you idiot. I'm so upset that I'm sick to my stomach. Or maybe its the drug or something. I have no way to know if I am pregnant, so I'll cross that shaky bridge when I come to it. It's bad enough as it is."
"Sorry," Tera said. She kept glancing over. "You look really terrible. Your grandmother's going to want to know why."
"I'll just tell her that you had to bring me home early because I was feeling sick, which is true. I was supposed to spend the night at your house, if you remember," she gritted her teeth. If only...She groaned and put her hands over her eyes. "I can't believe this! Just when things were looking better than they had in a long, long time."
"You only have one more week of school, graduation, and then you won't have to see those faces again until classes start at the junior college in the fall."
"I have to take one more final, then I'm playing hooky all the rest of the week. I'm so done with high school." Then she remembered, Joe Evans, the guy she'd had a crush on since she was twelve, the one who finally looked her in the eye and smiled at her for the very first time last week. He'd been there at the party, but she noticed he left right away, like she'd tried to do. But the guys he'd played sports with all through school were there and stayed proudly drinking out of their brown bottles. They would talk. He would know. She wanted to die!
Tera pulled up in her grandmother's driveway. "Do you need me to, um, walk you in or something? Tell your grandma that you're sick?""
"No, you aren't looking too good yourself since you slept in your clothes, what with a couple hours sleep? Thanks for the ride."
She let herself out. Her body felt like it was filled with cement. She hurt everywhere, but in some ways she'd never felt before. Kelsey schooled her face to get past her grandma and make it to her room.
At least one thing was going her way. The sweet woman was hanging the clothes on the line in the backyard though she had a perfectly good dryer in the laundry room. Kelsey wouldn't have to answer to her yet. She snuck to her room and shut the door, got into her pajamas and went to bed. She pulled the covers over her head and wished she'd never wake up from this nightmare.
A couple months later, Tera came bopping in, "You called and said it was urgent. What's up?"
It was the end of July. Kelsey still refused to go anywhere, not even to church. She pulled Tera into her room and locked the door. Kelsey brought out a paper bag from its hiding place in her closet and showed her friend. Tera gasped and fell hard to sit on the bed.
"I need you to help me. I'll go take the test, but I want you to look at it and tell me what it says."
"You mean you haven't, you know your cycle?"
"Nope." Tears pooled in her eyes.
"Okay, okay, we can do this. Go take the test, then bring it back in here. Leave me the box though so I can read the directions."
"Alright." Kelsey looked out into the hallway and made a dash for the bathroom. Her hand was shaking so badly that she was afraid she'd drop the stupid thing. It was a cheap one. She'd borrowed her grandma's car to supposedly go to the library. Instead, she drove to the next little town and bought the pregnancy kit. She didn't want anyone to know.
"Here," she thrust it at her friend.
"Just tell me when you find something out." With that, Kelsey lay back on her bed with her arm over her face. "Oh, God..." was all she could silently pray.
When her friend took a sharp intake of breath, Kelsey knew. She was pregnant. She didn't even know for sure who the father was. This was going to devastate her grandma, a deja vu of her own mother when she got pregnant with her.
"I have to leave town. I can't let my grandma know. It will break her heart."
"You will break her heart if you disappear."
"I'll tell her I've decided to go to school somewhere else, make it sound like I'm going with friends to stay with their relatives or something. Then, I can find a shelter somewhere until I get a job, and my own place."
"You'd do that? That sounds scary."
"This is scary!" Kelsey pointed to her stomach. "But you have to promise to keep my secret. You can't ever tell." Kelsey sat up and demanded, "Pinky-swear." The childish practice seemed silly in the light of things, but it was a long-held tradition in their friendship over the years.
"You could take care of that problem if you weren't so religious, you know," Tera whispered.
"No, I can't do that. No matter what. Even if I give the baby up for adoption, I could never consider killing a...my baby."
Tera backed up with her hands in front of her like a pair of stop signs. "I was just saying..."
"I know what you were saying, and it ain't happening. It's not the baby's fault I'm in this predicament."
"A lot of even good Christians think that in cases of rape it's okay," her friend ventured softly.
"It's not your fault either that you are having to deal with this, you know."
"A lot of Christians aren't me."
"Okay. Are you sure you won't go with me to the mall? I'm meeting, well, never mind, I'd just hang out with you if you'd go."
"Thanks, but no thanks."
Her friend hugged her an extra long time. She didn't come by nearly as often as she used to. Kelsey guessed she hadn't been good company lately, and sighed. But she had plans to make. She got on her laptop and looked up college towns, ones with women's shelters. She'd wait until the middle of August, then make her move. There were only three people she'd really miss, her grandmother, Tera, and Joe, but only two would miss her. Looking for his smiling face at school and at church had always been the highlight of her day. No more.
The night before she was leaving, Tera came over to help out. She was going to drive her to supposedly meet up with her "friends," but really it was to take her to the Greyhound bus depot. Kelsey had saved every dime from her little cleaning jobs in the summer for her grandma's friends. It wasn't much, but it got her a bus ticket out of town and money for a few meals until she could find work. Fortunately, she felt pretty well and only felt sick at the thought of deceiving her sweet grandmother.
Tera came over to hang out with her. As Kelsey packed, her thoughts kept going back to Joe. She would miss him. He'd been a leader in their youth group, a solid Christian guy. The guy would probably go away to some Christian college and never move back home after that. Kelsey was lost in dreams of what never could be and hadn't been listening to her friend.
"What did you ask me?"
"I said, so, who are you thinking? Which guy?"
Kelsey shrugged and said, "Joe."
"No way! I can't believe it!" Tera slumped down on her bed.
"I thought you knew, he was the one." Kelsey looked up puzzled. She was sure her friend knew that he'd been the only one who had ever made her heart beat out of her chest just thinking about him.
Tera had such a funny look on her face, that Kelsey didn't know what to make of, but her grandmother came in just then with a few more of her clean clothes.
"Hi, Tera. I didn't hear you come in. I must have been in the laundry room. You know, Kelsey, I don't like it one bit, you running off like this when a perfectly good junior college is right there two miles away. But you are eighteen, and I can't fault you for wanting to strike out on your own. So be it. You just call me as soon as you get there and give me their address when you find out what it is. You know how I'll worry since I've never met these girls before."
"Thanks, Grandma. I'll miss you too." Kelsey gave her a hug fighting back the tears. This most certainly was not the way she'd envisioned her life. But she'd do anything to keep from hurting her grandmother. Her mom had already done that job quite well.
The next morning at the Greyhound Bus Station, Kelsey took a deep breath but only sucked up diesel fuel fumes as she waved goodbye to her best friend. She'd always hoped to lead Tera to God, but now God would have to do it without her. At least she'd continue to pray for her.
Kelsey had only been able to pick up night classes here and there, but had worked herself into a good enough job as a helper in a daycare. She had benefits and made enough to pay for her studio apartment. Even though she'd been immensely relieved to find out that the pregnancy test was wrong, she still had no desire to go back and live in a town where she'd been fodder for the worst kind of gossip, the kind based in a partial truth. Things had happened at that party. So, even though she missed her grandmother, Kelsey had moved on to a self-supporting life of her own. She called her grandmother often, but seldom made visits.
However, when the phone rang that Sunday afternoon, it about killed her. Her grandmother's friend's shaky voice saying, "Dear, I'm so sorry to tell you. We found your grandmother in her bed this afternoon. We were worried when she didn't show up to church or answer her phone. I guess she just went to sleep and never woke up. She's in heaven now."
After the funeral service, her grandmother's lawyer came up to talk to her when the crowd at the church fellowship hall dwindled. He said, "I don't know if you were aware or not, but your grandmother had put the house in your name a few months ago. It's all paid for. Just thought you needed to know before you left, in case you might want to come home again." He gave her a side hug having been a dear friend of her grandmother's for years.
Kelsey was shocked. Her grandmother had never said a word. Tera came up just then. "Are you okay, sweetie?" Her friend was married now and pregnant. Kelsey rejoiced that Tera finally found the Lord and was married to a nice Christian guy.
"I don't know. Clarence just told me that Grandma left me her house. It's free and clear. No probate to clear or anything."
Her friend squealed, which caused a few to glare at her inappropriate happy sound. "Does this mean you're moving back?"
"I don't know what to think. I'll have to pray about it." Kelsey had not lived there for five years. Surely, the cloud on her reputation would have dissipated by now.
Tera had hardly left her side as she planned her grandmother's funeral with the pastor's help. She had no way of knowing where her mother was or if she was still alive. No one had heard from her in years, not since she had dropped her off at her grandmother's when Kelsey was in second grade. Kelsey wouldn't have wanted her mother there anyway, wanting to savor the good memories of her grandmother and leave the other ones tainted by that woman behind. Instead, there was a halo of the white haired ladies surrounding her who had been her grandmother's friends hovering like angels.
It was so good to be back in her home church. Kelsey had never found one she'd been as fond of after she'd moved, especially when she'd dated a few guys in the church who were less than shining examples of Christianity. That's when she'd decide to move on and try a different church each time. She was running out of churches to try.
If she was going to stay, Kelsey decided that she needed to get godly advice from her pastor here. She'd told Tera that she had to go with her though as support and a witness to her troubles on that terrible night. The pastor encouraged her to get everything off her chest that was holding her back.
It wasn't till the part where she named names that Tera gasped.
"You mean it wasn't Joe?"
"Of course not. He would never do that. He left the party right after he got there, like I wanted to do," Kelsey said.
"But you told me before you left, when I asked who, you said his name," Tera said defensively.
"I remember telling you that he was the only one I'd ever thought of, you know, as someone special."
Tera groaned and covered her face. "I did something really stupid. I know I promised not to tell, but you know Tom, my old boyfriend at that time kept asking me questions about you until I let it slip that I thought Joe had got you pregnant. I know, I know, that is terrible, the worst thing I could have done. I wasn't a Christian then and didn't have good judgment, but it's no excuse."
Kelsey was horrified. "Did Tom spread the rumor? Of course he did. I'm sure it got back to Joe. Does everyone think I got an abortion since you told him I was pregnant then disappeared? There's no way I can move back here then. I can never live this down since Joe thinks I've told a horrendous lie."
The pastor said, "Wait a minute, ladies. I'll be right back." The man got up and left the room. The two friends who were very upset with each another didn't speak a word. A clock ticked somewhere.
When he came back in, he brought somebody else with him. The tall young man entered with a smile that dropped instantly as he nearly yelled, "What's she doing here?" He tried to leave, but was stopped with the pastor's hand on his arm. Kelsey was white as a sheet and suddenly felt sick to her stomach. It was Joe. In the flesh, a very handsome flesh, but it was shocking to see him, to say the least.
"You remember Joe Evans. He is our youth pastor here now. I heard his side of the story years ago, now yours. I think it's time to have the past cleared up once and for all."
Kelsey had dropped her eyes. She could not look at him where he was glaring. Tera fidgeted in her seat crossing and uncrossing her legs.
"Pastor, since I was the one who accidently spread the rumor, rather, the slander, I think I need to confess first," Tera said. She did, but stopped short of reveling all that had happened that fateful night.
Joe sat stonily with his arms crossed when Kelsey dared to look up then glance away.
"Kelsey, do you feel like you can share what you went through so that all parties concerned can have a better understanding?" The pastor spoke gently, but he evidently felt it was needful to have it all said out in the open. It was something she could not do.
She stood. "You and Tera may tell him everything, but I can't be in here when you do. I'll wait in the car, Tera." Then she left.
Finally Tera came out and got her. "The pastor wants you to come back in, sweetie. Please?"
Kelsey wiped away the tears she'd been crying. How could something that had happened several years ago come back and hit her like a ton of bricks to crush her again? "How can I face him, Tera?"
"Pastor says it's time. You have to face it and get it behind you."
"There is no way to get it behind me. It happened. I can never undo it."
"Just come. Let him explain it, please Kels," Tera begged.
If her friend wasn't holding her hand over her pregnant belly so protectively it would have been easier to deny her. But she couldn't. "Okay, okay, but I don't have to like it. In fact, I hate this!"
When she went back into the pastor's study, she tried to only look at the minister, but when she sat back down, she glanced over to see Joe sitting with his head down, elbows on his legs and his hands tightly white knuckled clasped.
"Thank you, Kelsey for coming back in. I know this is terribly hard for you. But I also recognize that it has been a heavy thing for you to bear all by yourself all this time. I hope by addressing it now, that with God's help, some of the burden of it can be lifted," the man said. He went on. "I just read in a devotional some words by Anne Graham Lotz that I thought were appropriate to this situation. It comes from Jesus' words in Luke 23:34 (NIV) "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." He read on...
It just felt so good to be talking about something else, that Kelsey couldn't help but smile.
This story was inspired by a popular girl who came to the "illegal" Christian club I started in high school. She told me her testimony about how she'd gone to a party and gotten drunk--all the parties had alcohol and drugs at them at our small high school. She went to bed with one guy, but woke up with a total stranger. It shook her up enough for her to seek God with the support of her Christian brother. Whether it's alcohol or a date rape drug, bad things can happen especially in certain settings. This is a little more somber than my usual short stories, and I wasn't sure I was going to publish it, but it happened accidently anyway. So there you have it, a cautionary tale.