By JD Rockel
It had been a week since Rosa met John. Rosa texted him a couple of times and was getting to know him a bit more. The time she spent with him after mini golf was wonderful. Eating at the burger and pizza place, Rosa sat next to John in a booth with Ella and Jerry on the other side. Ella focused on Jerry most of the time so that Rosa and John could talk freely without hassle.
It was Thursday night and Rosa’s phone rang. It was John. “Hi, John. How has your week been? Other than those brief times in the hall, we haven’t been able to talk.”
“It’s been good, Rosa. I’m working on an English paper that’s taking more time than I would like.”
“I’m sorry about that. My week’s been rather normal. I was wondering, could we go for a little walk and talk? Maybe on Saturday morning?”
“Saturday morning is perfect for me, Rosa. And, I have some exciting news. This week I will have completed the first nine months on my probationary driver’s license. That means I can drive us places.”
“I’m surprised it took this long. I thought you would have been driving on your own by now.”
“It’s a long story, but I started my driver’s training a little late.”
“Well, it’s wonderful that you can drive us around now. It’s certainly nicer than relying on our parents to get us places.”
“That’s for sure. How does breakfast first sound, Rosa?”
“Ooh, are you trying to butter me up for something?”
“Not intentionally, but I enjoy a casual breakfast from time to time.”
“Really? And who have you been casually having breakfast with? I thought I was your first girl.”
“What? No! I mean you are my first. And only one, by the way. My dad takes us out sometimes just for fun.”
“Oh, right. That was insensitive and stupid for me to say. I would love to have a casual breakfast with you, John.”
“I’ll pick the breakfast spot and you can decide where we should go for a walk.”
“Great. Should I call you Friday night for a time?”
“Let’s set it right now. Is 8:00 OK?”
“That’s fine. Thanks, John. I look forward to being with you on Saturday.”
“Mom, I’m having breakfast with John and then we are going to Homestead Hollow Park. I have my cell phone.”
“OK, Rosa. Please be home in time for supper at six.”
“No problem, Mom. Thanks. I love you.”
“Love you too, dear.”
John arrived at 7:45. Rosa was glad she was ready early. She left the house and waved to John as she walked to the car. Rosa got into the car and fastened her seat belt.
“Thanks, John. I’m excited to be with you today. Talking on the phone is fine but it’s so much better face-to-face.”
“I’m glad your sister forced us to meet.”
“It was a bit of a force, wasn’t it? She can be very determined. Getting in her way can result in a lot of damage. Has Jerry commented about Ella since last Saturday?”
“I did talk with him a bit about Ella. He seems to be head over heels for her. She didn’t force him into this relationship, did she?”
“No, not that I can tell. It sounds like he approached her, and she fell for him at the dance. Well actually, she fell for him first at school when Jerry ran her over.”
“What? I didn’t hear that story.”
“First day of school. Ella blindly stepped out into the hallway just as Jerry was coming through. Knocked her flat on her back. No damage though.”
“That’s good. I can see why she didn’t say anything. As for them being an item, I just want to be sure neither of them does something stupid. We all need to watch out for that.”
They drove to a popular 24-hour restaurant. After parking and turning off the engine, John jumped out and ran around to Rosa’s door. She had a small issue unbuckling and when she finally reached for the door handle, John was already opening the door. I didn’t expect this. How nice.
They walked into the restaurant and found an open booth.
“Do you mind if we sit on the same side of the booth, John? Is that weird?”
“Not weird at all. I like you next to me.”
It was easy to order too much to eat at these breakfast places. Rosa looked at the menu and mindfully anticipated the upcoming walk. A waitress came over to the table.
“What can I get you two this morning?”
John motioned for Rosa to go first. “I would like an egg and cheese scramble with toast, please. Also, a small OJ and water.”
“And for you sir?”
“Coffee, two eggs over medium, hash browns, and white toast.”
“Sounds good. I’ll be right back with your drinks.”
Rosa continued the conversation from in the car. “It’s interesting what you said about looking out for Jerry. I had a similar conversation with Ella. I wanted to be sure she wasn’t going too far too fast.”
“So, who’s gonna look out for us? Are you concerned we might go too far too fast?”
“Yes I am, and I hope you are too.”
“I am, Rosa. I hope we can talk openly about what our expectations and concerns are.”
The conversation turned to lighter things as they ate breakfast. It was a very relaxing and pleasant time. When they were done and John had paid for their meals, he escorted her out to the car. On the way, he asked, “Where would you like to go walking?”
“Homestead Hollow please.”
“No problem. Let’s go.”
Homestead Hollow was a quiet park with several trails and a small pond. Rosa and Ella would go there in the winter to ice skate on the frozen pond. The light conversation continued all the way there.
John opened Rosa’s door again. “So, do you have a favorite trail or place to walk to?”
“No, let’s just wander.”
Rosa reached over to take John’s hand. He looked at her and smiled. They headed towards the pond first.
“I want you to understand what my personal beliefs are, John. I’m not implying that we are going to be an item or anything, but if we do keep seeing each other, and I would like that, then I want you to understand my religious and moral beliefs.” Rosa knew she was babbling. She was nervous.
“Rosa, I would like very much to hear what you believe.”
“Thanks, John. You can probably tell that I’m nervous.”
“Neither of us has been in a conversation like this before. Please breathe easy. I won’t judge you in any way.”
“Whew! Hearing you say that helps me feel better. Our family goes to church at Orchard Hill Church. My relationship with Jesus is very important to me. I want Him to always be first in my life. Obeying Him means obeying the Bible. It’s from there that I get the road map for my life.”
John stopped and turned to look at Rosa. A smile spread across his face. “I am so happy to hear that, Rosa. I gave my life to Jesus just before I started high school. I went to a teen rally and heard the truth about Salvation. I hope you can help teach me things from the Bible. I know very little.”
Rosa was stunned and very happy. “John, that is such wonderful news. Do you and your family go to church somewhere?”
They started walking again.
“Believe it or not, I’ve been to Orchard Hill a few times. Neither Jerry nor my dad is interested. They say I should do what, just don’t bother them with it. Last year after I accepted Christ I tried a couple of churches. But it was hard being there alone as a teenager. This year I have been going to Orchard Hill fairly often. The people there have been very accepting of me.”
“I’m sorry you had such a hard time at first. I agree many churches are not much more than social clubs with many cliques inside. Orchard Hill is so different that way. There are two foundations at Orchard Hill, I mean besides Jesus and the gospel. The church is a place of grace, and the focus is on ‘next steps’ toward Jesus. You probably heard that in some of the messages.”
“I did. As I understand it, being a place of grace means we accept each other’s failings and struggles, past and present.”
“And future as we all continue to sin. Becoming like Jesus is a lifelong journey. His perfection is so far above our feeble attempts we know we will fail.”
“But, if I heard pastor Andrew right, our attempts to live like Jesus can be successful if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us.”
“You know plenty already, John. The ‘next steps’ are each of those attempts. It doesn’t matter if that next step is tiny as long as it is in the right direction.”
“I think that is what made Orchard Hill so easy to feel comfortable in, Rosa. The people all seem to have the same attitude. It is so encouraging to think my failed attempts are understood by others.”
“And even if someone follows the Bible’s instruction to point out a sin they see, it’s not to condemn but to help the other person change and grow. I haven’t talked to Ella about asking Jerry to join us at church. I don’t even know if she has mentioned church.”
“Jerry hasn’t said anything to me about her going to church.”
“I expect my mom and dad would be glad for you to ride along with us. If Ella sees you coming along, she may ask, or even insist that Jerry come along.”
“I know we can’t force anyone to believe, but Jerry would have the chance to hear the truth from someone other than me.”
“To be honest, I wonder if Ella is a genuine believer sometimes. She has a devious side to her.”
John chuckled. “Don’t we all?”
Rosa chuckled too. “True enough, John. I won’t deny it.”
They arrived at the pond and Rosa guided John to sit down on the bench.
“I don’t know anything about your dad except that my dad knows him. And if I heard correctly, your mom died of cancer?”
“You’re right about my mom. She died in 2018 which means I was 9 at the time. I was a bit young to completely understand what was happening but old enough to know she wasn’t coming back. Jerry had a harder time with her death. I think he mirrored our dad emotionally. Dad was an emotional wreck for over a year.
“Mom took us to church when we were very young, so I had some idea of heaven and life after death. I expected to see Mom again somehow. Being a year younger, I don’t think Jerry had the same expectations. Dad has never been religious that I can remember. I think he blamed God for letting Mom die. I need to understand pain, suffering, and death better, but I believe that God’s love helps us to survive.”
“I’m so sorry you had to live through that terrible time. I don’t have any special insight about pain and suffering for you. But I agree with you that God is our only true strength and hope. What else can you tell me about your dad?”
“Well, he has been a great father. He has helped Jerry and me through lots of stuff over the years. I wish I knew better how he handles his problems. But even during that first year after Mom’s death, he kept working and meeting our needs.”
“That says a lot for him, John. I’m glad he has been that kind of example to you and Jerry.”
“Yes, but he has his issues of course. One of them is drinking. I don’t think he’s an alcoholic, but he does drink a lot at times. Jerry and I have both tried the alcohol he keeps around the house. We both find the effects more harmful than good. I’m sure that is reinforced by seeing the way Dad is when he drinks too much. He never gets angry or violent, but he is not in control of himself at all.”
“I’m so sorry, John. I know there isn’t much I can do for you except pray and support you when you need it.”
“Now that I have met you, just having you next to me is reassuring.” John put his arm around Rosa and pulled her next to him. She responded by reaching around with both arms to hold him tight.
“Talking with you helps a lot, Rosa. Let’s plan to spend some time together on a regular basis?”
“Yes, indeed. Let’s compare schedules and make a plan. Oh, by the way, Ella is already working on our next double date. So don’t be surprised when that comes up.”
John and Rosa made some tentative plans for staying connected. This was so new and exciting for them both. It was tempting to just ignore other responsibilities and spend time together. They both knew that would lead to problems.
Arriving back at the car, John escorted Rosa to her door. Before he unlocked it, he turned her to face him.
“Now that the novelty of a first kiss is passed. Can we maybe enjoy some more kisses?”
Rosa looked deeply into his beautiful dark eyes. She felt she was seeing into his very soul.
John obliged and kissed her for what seemed like an eternity. The tingle of the first kiss returned. Would this happen every time he kissed her? When he did gently pull away he said, “I think we better get you home. I don’t want your parents to keep me from seeing you again soon.”
“Amen to that.”