Chapter 26: Forward Motion

Mark placed his acoustic guitar in the back seat of Maria’s car and got in with Susan right behind him. They were going to go to the video store with Andy and Maria to help pick out movies for the “Thanksgiving all nighter” at Connor’s place.

Maria and Andy quibbled lightly about who should drive as they climbed into the front seat.

“You drive way to fast, Andy. Besides, it’s my car,” was Maria’s final answer.

“Humph…” Andy was a bit put out by Maria’s lack of confidence in his driving skills. “Well, if ya won’t let me drive at least take us through Dawn’s Coffee Shop for some extra large espressos after the video store.”

“Alright.” Maria pulled out onto the highway in the direction of the video store.

Andy reached over and took Maria’s hand in his as he watched cars outside his window whoosh by. With a slightly sarcastic tone he mumbled, “This IS the highway, Maria. It’s okay to go over 20 mph.”

“I’m go ‘in the speed limit. I can’t help it that no one else is.”

Andy suddenly leaned forward and pointed through the windshield excitedly. “Speed up, you can make it through that light… speed up, speed up!”

“When the light turns yellow, you’re supposed to slow down not speed up. Stop telling me how to drive.” She rolled to a stop at the light and smiled at the way Andy impatiently banged his head backwards against his head rest. “You’re gonna live.” Maria giggled.

“Yea, I’ll live and then I’ll die right here at this light,” he mumbled. The light changed to green, and Maria resumed driving.

“Finally,” he huffed quietly.

Maria shook her head silently.

In the back seat, Mark rolled his eyes at his sister’s driving habits. “Good thing I brought my music. This trip to the video store is gonna take forever.” He pulled out an iPod from his jacket pocket and began listening to a new song that his worship leader had instructed him to practice.

Andy laughed, “Wish I had brought my iPod.”

“Would you two shut up!” Maria growled.

Both boys laughed at Maria’s irritation but said no more.

“What are you listening to?” Susan asked curiously.

Mark passed one of his ear pieces to her.

As she listened she commented, “Oh, I haven’t heard this song before. Is it new?”

“Yea, it’s a new one. The guitar sounds pretty cool, huh?” Mark leaned back gently against the seat putting his head close to hers so that the wire wouldn’t pull out of his ear.

“Yea, cool, the words are nice too. Is it a Christian band?” she asked.

“Mm-hum, the worship team is thinking about playing this song in church. If you come to worship practice with me again I think they’ll let you sing. You have a pretty good voice. Why don’t you come with me and be a backup singer?” Mark suggested hopefully.

“Really? Sure, I’d love to come.” Susan shut her eyes and focused on the lyrics.

When they arrived at the video store, Andy and Maria went in one direction, Mark and Susan went in another. The couples strolled around discussing the good and the bad movies that they had seen in the past and what they might like to see on this night.

Mark followed Susan down the romance section of the store and she showed him her favorite movie.

“Have you seen this one?” Susan asked quietly. “I really like it,” she said as she looked down at the cover.

Mark examined the back of the case for a minute. “I’ve seen the commercials for it but I haven’t ever watched it. I don’t usually go for romances. Maria likes romances. She and Andy take forever picking out movies because he likes action and she likes romance.” Mark started laughing. “Look at them over there.” He pointed to the place that Maria and Andy were debating over the movies. “They’ll never pick the same movie. They will leave with two movies, just watch and see what I mean.” Mark laughed again and looked back down at the movie Susan had picked. “If you like this one then I’m game. This can be our choice.” Mark smiled an amazingly warm smile and Susan’s heart melted.

“Why are you so nice to me? It’s not like I really deserve it or anything,” Susan asked in a bewildered tone. No one had ever taken such a sincere interest in her before. She wasn’t all together sure why Mark, or even Maria for that matter, had done so now.

“I like you. You just need a little direction, that’s all.” Mark tilted his head a bit to get a good view of her eyes. “I see a lot of really cool things in you. I hate seeing you struggle. God never meant for your life to be such a struggle. I don’t know everything, but I know a few things that can help you.”

“I’m glad I met you,” Susan said with a new found humility. Episodes of cranky outbursts and rude comments she’d made flashed through her mind and stabbed at her heart.

Mark smiled his amazing smile again. “Yea, me too. Let’s get this movie and go back to the car to listen to my music. Andy and Maria might be a while.” He threw his arm casually around her neck. They walked to the counter and paid for their movie choice.

While they were at the counter Andy hollered out to them, “Hey! Have you guys picked out your movie already? We might be awhile over here.”

“We’ll wait for you in the car, no problem,” Mark hollered back as he walked Susan to the exit.

Mark opened the car door and they slid into the back seat. He found the song he wanted on his iPod and passed Susan an ear piece again. He shut his eyes so he could focus on the song.

After a moment Susan ventured a question, “How long have Andy and Maria been together as a couple?”

“Since ninth grade, but they knew each other even before that. They’ve been best friends since forever it seems like,” Mark answered as he hummed along to the iPod tune attempting to memorize it.

“How about Daisy and Connor, have they been together that long too?” Susan continued.

“Yea, they have always been together. Although Connor didn’t really start liking her as a girlfriend until this year. Now we can’t tease her because Connor gets so super pissed off about it.” Mark shook his head and sighed. “It used to be so much fun tease ’in Velcro-Head.”

“Velcro-Head?” Susan couldn’t help but grin at the name, but she didn’t understand its meaning. “Where’d that come from?”

Mark put his hands out around his head in an effort to display poufy hair, “Her hair man, her hair. Whenever she runs near bushes or under trees, her hair catches leaves. We used to be able to call her Velcro-Head but not anymore, man. Connor goes absolutely ballistic.” He sighed and shook his head in mock sadness.

“Have you ever had a girlfriend, Mark?” Susan asked curiously.

“Who? Me? Well no, not me,” Mark sort of stumbled over his words quietly. Then he looked up into Susan’s face when it dawned on him where she was going with this conversation. He held her gaze for a while. “We haven’t really been, ya know, hanging out for that long, Susan.”

Susan looked down at her hands quickly. “Oh… of course, I mean… well, I was just asking, that’s all. I wasn’t really meaning anything by it.”

Mark continued to study her face. He brushed her hair back behind her ear so he could have a better look. “Susan, I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that we haven’t been hanging out long enough to be as tight as they are. That’s what I meant. But, we’re sorta work ’in on it. Aren’t we?” He smiled his smile again and her heart did secret flips inside her chest.

“Are we?” she managed to whisper.

“I was sorta hope ‘in so. Why do you think I keep inviting you to all the places I go?”

“How the heck should I know? You talk about God so much. I thought maybe you felt obligated to help me because of Jesus. I didn’t even know you were ‘allowed’ to like someone like me.” Susan shrugged her shoulders slightly confused by the question.

He laughed lightly at the funny way she’d answered him. “Of course I’m allowed to like someone like you!” He laughed some more, then continued,  “In the beginning I suppose I was worried about you. You are kind of a danger magnet sometimes.” He laughed a little more and Susan joined him. “Umm, do you want to be my girlfriend?”

“Hell yea! Oh crap, I mean…” Susan shut her eyes and dropped her head into her hands embarrassed by her vocabulary slip-up. “I mean, uh, after all the rude things I’ve said and done?” she mumbled into her hands.

“I sorta like a little ‘hell yea’ every now and then.”

“Ya do?” She lifted her head from her hands giggling.

“Hell yea! Besides, since you’ve decided to be a Christian, doesn’t that sorta put us on the same page, ‘hell yea’ and all?”

“I guess it does. I never thought of it that way.”

“It won’t just be me helping you anymore. Now, you can help me back.”

“Okay.” She smiled not just because of what he was saying but because she felt free to move forward. Forward motion felt pretty darn good after being stuck in the “failure mode” for so long.

“ Okay then. Now that we have that taken care of, let’s get back to learning this song.” Mark pushed the front seat all the way to the dashboard. This gave him more leg room in the back seat. Then he pulled his guitar onto his lap.

Susan messed with the iPod briefly, looking for the new song that the worship director had instructed them to learn.

“Follow this.” Mark plucked out several notes on his guitar, then paused. Susan followed the brief melody with her voice perfectly.

Mark smiled. “Yea, you definitely can help me.”

Susan smiled back, happy that she’d found something that she could do well.

Together they focused on the new song. They sang what words they could as Mark attempted to pluck out the new melody. They played the song over and over again, memorizing its every detail as they waited for Andy and Maria to return.

Eventually, Maria and Andy picked what they wanted to watch and returned to the car.

Mark chuckled at the bag full of movies Andy placed on the floor board as he climbed back into the car. “I told you they wouldn’t be able to agree on just one movie. They must have ten movies in that bag,” Mark whispered to Susan.

“We’re planning to stay up all night anyway. It’ll be good to have a large selection,” Susan whispered back.

Maria looked at the clock on the dash of her car. “Geez, look at the time Andy! It’s after midnight! I bet Daisy and Connor are asleep by now! We better hurry!” Maria cranked up the car quickly.

“They’re not asleep. They’re either making out or watching the Turkey bowl with the family. They’re not missing us at all.” Andy shook his head in disbelief. “But just for the fun of it, let’s see how fast this little putt-putt car of yours can go! I got my stop watch right here. It’s ten after twelve right now. How fast do you think you can get to Connor’s place?” Andy grinned hugely at the thought of a speeding golf cart on the highway.

“Yea,” Maria rolled her eyes, “Then we’ll have all the cops in the city following us to Connor’s for turkey sandwiches! Like I’m really gonna do that Andy! You’re crazy!” Maria scolded.

“Oh my God Maria, you’re a bigger baby than Daisy is!” Susan laughed at her overly cautious friend.

“Being a baby has nothing to do with it. It has to do with being responsible for the safety of others around you,” Maria declared righteously to the car full of deaf ears.

“You sound just like a stupid commercial, Maria. Shut up and drive!” Mark shouted, as he laughed and kicked the back of her seat like the annoying younger brother that he occasionally was.

Maria glared into the rear view mirror at her brother in the back seat. “I do not!”

“Relax everybody. We don’t have to do it if Care Bears doesn’t want to. I just thought it’d be fun. If she prefers to drive this golf cart at a snail’s pace she can go right ahead. I can take a nap.” Andy smiled a teasing smile and yawned dramatically.

Maria shook her head at Andy’s fake sleepiness as she backed out of the parking lot and headed for Connor’s place. She knew that he wasn’t the least bit tired.

“Maria, don’t forget Dawn’s Coffee Shop. The way you drive, we’re gonna be needing that coffee.” Mark punched the back of her chair again playfully.

“Quit banging my chair,” Maria growled.

Andy cranked up the car stereo and rolled down the windows. Between blaring music, Dawn’s coffee and the November wind everyone was ready for Zumba and movies by the time they got to Connor’s house.


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