A TRAGEDY OF ERRORS,
Not a Comedy!
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...
"If Jesus forgave those who nailed Him to the cross,
and if God forgives you and me,
how can you withhold forgiveness from yourself?
If God says, 'I forgive you,' who are you to say,
'Thank you, God, but I can't forgive myself'?
If God says, 'I forgive you,'
then the only appropriate response is to say,
'God, thank You. I don't deserve it,
but I accept it. And to express my gratitude
I, in turn, forgive that person
who has sinned against me.'
We forgive others, not because they deserve it,
but because He deserves it!
The only reason we have to forgive is that He commands us to,
and our obedience gives us an opportunity to say to Him,
'Thank You for forgiving me.
I love You.'
Our forgiveness of others then becomes
an act of worship that we would not enter into
except for Who He is
and the overwhelming debt of love
"So, I think it is appropriate for all concerned, that forgiveness is offered, even when you were innocent of wrong doing. It is to free yourself from the chains of unforgiveness." The pastor went on, "Tera has asked Joe's forgiveness for the slander she was responsible for. Now, I think it is time for Joe to offer the forgiveness for the anger he has held towards you, though you were innocent of..."
"What?" Joe stood quickly to his feet. "I don't know about this, Pastor."
"Have you or have you not felt a great deal of anger towards Kelsey these past five years?"
"Is she responsible for the crime that was committed against her or the false rumor that was spread about you?"
Joe sat back down in his seat and began rubbing his forehead. "This is all hard to process after five years of holding her responsible. Now I know in my head that what happened to her is so much worse than I can imagine, but still it affected me adversely as well. Losing one's reputation, my Christian witness was hard to take."
"God worked it for your good by nudging you to leave for college where you were able to get your ministry degree," the pastor gently reminded him.
No one said anything else. The minutes ticked by. Finally Joe let out a big sigh and raised his head to look Kelsey in the eyes. "I'm truly sorry about what happened. I saw you there that night looking so uncomfortable and should have offered you a ride home. Now I feel partly responsible for not rescuing you from the unthinkable. I can't get over those guys doing that to anyone, especially not to the sweetest, well, the nicest girl in our class. I'm sorry, Kelsey for thinking the worst about you. I'm sorry for only thinking of myself and my hurt and blaming you all this time. It was wrong. I was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness."
Kelsey could only whisper hoarsely, "I forgive you." Her heart was beating out of her chest.
"Now Kelsey, do you forgive your friend Tera for the rumors she began concerning you when you both thought you were pregnant?"
Kelsey looked at her best friend and wanted desperately to have that cleared up between them. "Yes."
"Now there are the next two hardest to deal with. First, there is the forgiveness against the perpetrators of the assault. Can you ask God to help you forgive them? It doesn't mean you can forget what happened, or that the devil won't continue to try to accuse you, but with God's help, can you forgive them? It is for your benefit by not holding them hostage to the anger in your soul. Let them go, Kelsey, through forgiveness."
She could only nod and took the box of Kleenex that Tera held out to her.
"Now the last thing is perhaps the most difficult. Can you, Kelsey, forgive yourself. You are innocent, but the devil has had the chance to lie to you for the past five years, to convince you that you are dirty, undesirable, and are just like your mother. Am I right?"
Kelsey nodded again.
"Let me remind you that you are the bride of Christ. He has given you a gown without spot or wrinkle. So don't cling to filthy rags. Let go, and let God love you as He sees you, pure and clean through His blood. I want to pray for you, Kelsey. Let's join hands."
Tera found herself holding onto Tera on one side and Joe on the other. She could hardly think as he grasped her hand firmly in his. Then after the pastor prayed, Joe also prayed beautifully for her as well.
"Are all hearts clear now?" her pastor asked.
Joe gave her a side hug, then Tera grabbed her to hold on tightly until she could stop her flow of tears. She felt an anvil of condemnation had lifted off her soul. Joe gave her a crooked smile then went out the door. Kelsey thanked the pastor and left with Tera holding onto her arm.
"I can't believe that just happened," Tera said.
"Me neither. But you never told me that Joe was here, was the youth pastor," Kelsey said. "I about died when he walked in."
"I thought you'd seen him, but I forgot that he was gone on a missions trip with the teens last Sunday when you were here. Did all that help you like it did me? I've been avoiding Joe all this time feeling guilty," Tera confessed.
"I still can't believe it either, but I'm thankful Pastor helped me face it, as hard as it was to see Joe again to realizing that he knows all about it," Kelsey said.
"At least he finally knows the truth about it instead of all the lies he'd been told," Tera said. "You do know that he got in an altercation with Jack right after we graduated, don't you? I think it was over Jack calling you a, well, I won't say what, but you know what I mean. Joe broke Jack's nose with a punch before the other guys broke it up."
Kelsey looked astounded. "You never told me that."
"I didn't think you'd want to know since at that time I misunderstood thinking that he was to blame. I had seen him at the party and didn't realize that he'd left so early. I'm so sorry for everything, Kels."
Tera was on the verge of crying again, so Kelsey put her hand on her arm. "Let's forget it and put it behind us now like the pastor said. But thanks for telling me. It makes me feel better knowing that he'd stood up for me, even if it was right before he thought the worst of me."
Changing the subject, Tera asked, "Are you going to the Giants game? The church got a block of tickets, you know."
"I was thinking about it. It sounds like fun."
"Good. I'll let them know you want one when I call to reserve ours. My husband is a HUGE Giants fan."
It just felt so good to be talking about something else, that Kelsey couldn't help but smile.
It just felt so good to be talking about something else, that Kelsey couldn't help but smile.
When the day came, Kelsey rode with her friends. Being at the stadium was so exciting. She had not done something for fun in forever! Walking down to her seat, she carefully read the numbers on the rows. She found her seat was next to...Joe's? Tera and her husband were sitting in the seats directly behind her. A bunch of the teens from the church surrounded them. When she pointed it out to Tera she just shrugged with a grin. "You have to sit in the seat that's on your ticket." Big help she was.
"Excuse me," Kelsey said as she squeezed past his long legs.
Joe looked up at her with a surprised look when she sat down to his left, and managed to say. "Oh, hi."
They spent half the game trying to ignore each other though their arms kept brushing. Kelsey tried to concentrate on the game and enjoy the antics of the crazy teens around them who Joe joked with constantly.
He left for awhile and came back with a cardboard tray of hotdogs and soda and a big bucket of popcorn balanced on top. "I hope you're hungry," was all he said when he offered the food she'd not asked for. She was starving. Kelsey tried to ignore the nudge from Tera sitting behind her.
"Is she your girlfriend, Joe," one teenage girl teasingly asked.
"No...no, just friends," he stammered as Kelsey blushed.
"Well, she should be. You look good together," said the teen boldly with a wink.
"Sorry about that," Joe said. "It comes with the territory of being a youth minister. They don't think I deserve a private life."
"That's okay," she said without looking at him, but she noticed that girl whispering and pointing them out to her friends. Pretty soon, most of the teens had glanced suspiciously back at them.
Even Tera bent down to whisper, "I see the rumors have started about you two." Then her friend laughed. How dare she?
It was the seventh inning when the Kiss Cam zeroed in on them, not that she noticed until the teens all chanted, "Kiss her! Kiss her!" Kelsey found Joe looking sheepishly down at her.
"Well?" he said. "I don't think they'll stop until I do."
In answer Kelsey leaned slightly in and lifted her face up to his. When he kissed her, she found herself putting her hand up to his neck and returning the kiss that had begun only as a suggestion. The cheers and clapping broke them apart as they both flushed. The Kiss Cam caught it all.
The electricity between them was enough to make all of San Francisco light up. She didn't dare look at him until he finally nudged her.
"Hey, Kelsey," he said quietly bumping her shoulder, "we could go for it, make it true." He slipped his fingers through hers. "Would you be my girlfriend, Kelsey?" He looked down with an unmistakable intensity in his big chocolate eyes that melted her. "I was trying to get my nerve up all those years ago in high school, you know, to ask you out before the end of our senior year. I'm just a little slow, five years slow, in fact."
Kelsey looked up lost in his gaze but tightened her grip in his hands. "Honestly, I've had a crush on you all this time, Joe Evans. That was my first kiss, ever, by the way."
"Well, it certainly was a most excellent one," he grinned. "I'll take that as a yes."
"Yes and amen!"
"All the promises of God in him are (yes) and...Amen."
I Corinthians 1:20
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.