RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT
© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner
Monday morning David was up bright and early, eager to go to the Library Club. He had told Trent about it, and his friend had signed up to go too, so Serenity was going to pick up Trent on the way and drop off both boys. Then Trent’s mom was going to bring David home. Serenity liked Elizabeth and Lucas, Trent’s parents. They were strong Christians and had become members of one of the other churches in town very shortly after moving to Hamsted. Serenity and Clint had met the family on the beach, and the Lord had just seemed to unite all their hearts together immediately. She was grateful that the Lord had provided David with a good friend who was being brought up to love Jesus and obey His Word.
When she got to the school, she was surprised at the number of kids that were attending. She wondered how Miss Parker could handle all of them herself, but maybe she had some help that Mr. Kelso hadn’t mentioned. Of course, he did say that she often used the middle school students as helpers, so that was probably enough. She went to the library door to see if there was anything else she should know before leaving the children, and she was surprised to see that several of the students were sitting quietly at tables already reading avidly. Wow, this program must really instill a desire to read, she thought.
When Miss Parker assured her that she needn’t be concerned about anything else except to have the boys picked up at 12:00, Serenity told David and Trent to have a good time and went back out to her car. She had decided to do the grocery shopping while in town anyway, so she headed for the store. As she was going down the cereal aisle, she came up behind Noah, standing there trying to decide between corn flakes and corn pops. She couldn’t resist surprising him by sneaking up close and getting as close to his ear as possible to say, “You might as well take one of each,” but before she had finished her statement, he had jumped and whirled around so fast that he almost knocked her over. Instinctively, he dropped both boxes of cereal, which conveniently landed in his cart, and reached out to grab Serenity with both hands.
The shock of the whole event had nearly taken Serenity’s breath away, and when Noah grabbed her around the waist to steady her, she gasped, using up what little breath she had left. He instinctively pulled her closer to him, until her hands rested on his chest, and since her eyes, wide with surprise, were intent on his own, he was momentarily lost in their depths, unable to say anything else. Finally, he roused himself to say, “I’m so sorry, Serenity. I didn’t mean to practically knock you down. I didn’t know you were there.”
“It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have sneaked up on you like that,” she said, finally able to laugh lightly at the whole episode. But she was still shaking inside, not from almost being knocked down, but from being held so close to Noah Bennett. She stepped backward a step and removed her hands from his chest, but he didn’t let go of her immediately, so she tried to take another step away from him.
With that move, he did release his hands, the look on his face indicating that he had actually forgotten that he was holding her. “So you’re not hurt?” he asked now.
“No,” she answered on another shaky laugh. “How about you?”
“No, I’m fine, but then I didn’t have some big brute of a man almost knock me off my feet like you did.”
Serenity glanced down at his cart. “Well, at least your cereal landed in your cart safely,” she said.
He looked at it then. “Yeah . . . and what was that you were telling me when I turned on you?”
“Oh . . . I just said you might as well go ahead and get both.”
“Why is that?”
“Because, if you’re having such a hard time deciding, it usually means you’d like to have both of them, and whichever one you take home, by tomorrow, you’ll be wishing you had a bowl of the other. This way, you can have whichever one you’re in the mood for when you get up each morning.”
“You know, I’ve never done it that way before, but you’re right; I have gotten home from the store and ended up wishing I’d made the opposite choice . . . a number of times.”
“Well, I’m glad I could be of help. I guess I’d better finish my shopping.”
“Are you in town on other business too — oh, I remember, David started his library thing today, didn’t he?”
“Right. I drove Dave and Trent to school, and Elizabeth will pick them up and bring David home.”
“That sounds fair enough. Well, listen, are you in a hurry to get home?”
“Well . . . not particularly I guess. Why?”
“Why don’t you have a cup of coffee with me. I skimped on breakfast this morning, and I’m starting to feel it now. I suppose you ate a healthy meal?”
“We had scrambled eggs this morning, but I guess I could drink another cup of coffee.”
“Good, and maybe I can talk you into eating a little something else too.”
“The only problem is that I have to get milk and yogurt, and I don’t want to leave them in the car.”
“Well, let’s get everything that isn’t perishable, and then when we’re through at the restaurant, we’ll come back and grab the one or two remaining items that need refrigeration. How’s that?”
“It’ll work, I guess.”
“Great. We can put the groceries in our cars, and walk to the café in the next block.”
“All right. I’ll get going on my list then, and I’ll meet you at the check out lane.”
Noah nodded. “See you there,” he said, and took off for the next aisle.
Over at the school, Miss Parker was well into her day’s work with the students. She had welcomed them and given each one a name tag so that they could get to know each other more easily. Then she began with the younger students, and any middle school students who weren’t familiar with libraries, and she showed them how to make use of the various parts of the library itself. She assured them that they would go through all of these points again and again during the month, and that they would each have ample opportunities to practice what they learned until they could use everything in the library that they might need, including the two computer terminals.
By that time, it was time for their snack, and right after that, she began to give out reading assignments. She began with the youngest and when they were started, with an older student to help them, she progressed through each group. She had chosen Lacey Dillard to be the helper for David and Trent’s group, and their reading for this week was to be from one of the Sally Stone books, Sally and the Shaman’s Secret.
Lacey introduced the book as one she had read twice herself, and she told them that the school library had three copies if they wanted to check a copy out when they got ready to go home. Then she began the story, reading with enthusiasm and even changing her voice to portray each character realistically. Most of the children sat enthralled. Some of them had read the book, and most of them had seen the movie, but they still sat quietly and attentively, as if they couldn’t wait to hear what happened next.
David understood most of what she read, but he knew that all of the stuff about becoming a witch and the descriptions of what the witches did was not something he was supposed to read. He put up his hand to tell Lacey so, but she didn’t pay any attention, so he leaned over to Trent and whispered, “This stuff is bad stuff. We’re not supposed to read about this,” he said, and at that point, Lacey did pay attention to him.
“You have to be quiet while I’m reading,” she said. But she didn’t have a chance to read another word before David answered her. “We’re not supposed to read that stuff. It’s bad, and God says not to be a witch and do all those bad things that witches do.”
“All witches aren’t bad. In these books the good witches almost always win in the battles with the bad witches and wizards,” Lacey answered him.
“But there’s no such thing as good witches.”
“Unhuh!” two of the other students spoke up, nodding their heads, and one of them added. “Yeah, in this story Zota is a really good witch. She only puts spells on people who are mean . . . well, and sometimes people who make her mad . . . but she teaches all the new wizards how to fight the most evil witch there is.”
“That’s right,” Lacey added. “Now just be quiet, and you’ll see.” So she continued to read, and David became more and more uncomfortable. She had just finished the part about how the shaman changed himself into the shape of his animal spirit – the spirit that gave him his power – when Miss Parker rejoined their group. She sat quietly with the group until Lacey came to the end of that chapter, and then she told the children that it was time for their first project.
“The modeling clay I had each of you bring is for you to use to create the kind of animal that you believe would be your animal spirit, like the shaman had in the book. I want all of you to get a package of clay and sit at one of the low tables, and then I want you to close you eyes and get really quiet. There’s to be absolutely no talking. While your eyes are closed, I want you to think about what kind of animal you would like to get extra power from . . . you know . . . try to imagine what kind of animal would be most likely to make you able to do some of the things you find it hard to do, or maybe things you secretly want to do. Then I want you each to create that animal out of your clay.”
So the children got up from the floor where they had been sitting, on a colorful rug, listening to the story, and they each took their package of clay to a table toward the back of the room. David closed his eyes, but he couldn’t concentrate. This was the silliest thing he had ever heard. Nobody got power from a dumb animal. People only got power from God . . . or sometimes the devil. But he didn’t want to cause trouble, so he sat there with his eyes closed for quite a while, but that was all he did.
When Miss Parker came around again, she noticed that David and Trent hadn’t made anything out of their clay. She stooped down to talk to them, since they were sitting side by side, and asked, “What’s the trouble, boys?”
“I don’t understand what we’re supposed to do,” Trent said. He was dealing with the same feelings that David had, but he didn’t know quite how to put them into words. David didn’t seem to have that trouble.
“People don’t get power from animals. They get power from God or the devil, but they don’t get it from animals.”
“Well, it’s true, many people can’t, David, but special people can, and I’d like for all of you students to have a chance to find out this summer if you are some of those special people.”
“That’s stupid!” David said, feeling uncomfortable enough that he forgot momentarily that he’d been trained to never raise his voice to grownups. Miss Parker was experienced enough to understand that she was dealing with a problem that resulted from David’s obviously extensive religious training . . . something she personally thought had far too much influence in the lives of some young people these days. But she was also wise enough to know that a serious confrontation at this point would only stifle the development of the other children who didn’t seem to have the same reservations as David and Trent. So she spoke placatingly. “Well, I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you two just create the kind of animal that is your favorite . . . maybe your own pet, or an animal that you’d like to own as a pet. How’s that?”
David thought for a few seconds and then nodded his head. “Okay, we can do that.” He looked at his best friend. “Can’t we, Trent?”
“Sure, I can do that,” he agreed.
“Great,” Miss Parker said and moved on to check on the work of the other children at the table.
A little before noon, she came around again and checked one last time on the work, and found that David had created a large white horse, and Trent had created a brown and white dog. “Well, you like horses, I see,” she said to David.
“Yeah, this is Moondancer. He’s Noah’s horse, and he lets me ride him.”
“Well, you’ve done a good job. And you’ve done well with your little dog, Trent.” She looked around the room then. “Each of you may take your project home if you like, or you may leave them here for the rest of this week.” She then had all the children clean up their work area and begin to collect their possessions and line up to be dismissed. At 12:00 sharp she walked them all out to the front door of the school, and saw that they were being met by someone they knew. When they were all gone, she breathed a deep sigh of relief.
She wasn’t sure how she was going to handle David Hartford. She certainly couldn’t come right out and say that his religious training would hinder the whole project. This little community wouldn’t be able to handle anything quite so progressive yet. But it was coming along. The positive reception of all of the Sally Stone books and movies had gone a long way in opening up the thinking of the people in Hamsted, but as a firm believer in new age humanism, Miss Parker was zealous to push them along as quickly as possible to even higher levels of revelation.
When David arrived home, Serenity was just fixing lunch, and as she put a tuna salad sandwich and some pickles and chips on the table for Gramps, David, and herself, she asked him about the morning.
“Some of it was fun. We learned a lot about using the library. I’ll be able to find a lot of books there to read,” he said excitedly.
“Wasn’t all of it fun?” she asked.
He took time to swallow a mouthful of food and then stick a couple more chips in for good measure before he answered, shaking his head. “Some of it was stupid.”
He nodded. “They read to us from some dumb book about witches. I tried to tell them that we aren’t supposed to read about that stuff, but they didn’t listen to me. Me and Trent were the only ones in our group that even knew there isn’t any such thing as good witches! Can you believe that?”
“What was the name of the book?” Serenity asked, her concern growing stronger with each point David made.
David shrugged as he took a drink of his juice. “Oh, I don’t know . . . Sally something . . . and some kind of secret.” He shook his head again. “It was stupid.”
“Well, I’m proud of you for trying to tell the other kids the truth. What else did you do? I see you brought home a white horse. Did you make that?”
“Yeah!” David said, jumping up and going over to the chair where he had deposited his things when he came in. He brought the horse back to the table. “This is supposed to be Moondancer. She said to make my favorite animal, so I knew I had to make Moondancer.” He looked up as if he had just remembered something. “Oh, yeah, that was another thing that was stupid. This weird guy in the story thought he got power from an animal . . . its spirit or something . . . and Miss Parker wanted us to imagine what kind of animal we could get power from and make that. But I told her that people don’t get power from animals, and she said I could just make whatever was my favorite. And Trent too. He made a little dog with great big ears,” he said giggling now.
Serenity looked at her grandfather briefly, seeing that he was a little concerned too, but she didn’t say anything else until after David had finished eating and gone outside to play. “I’m concerned, Gramps,” she said now. “What he was telling us sounds a lot like new age teaching to me. And I know these witchcraft books are really popular now, but I wouldn’t have thought that the school would promote them.”
“Maybe you should talk with Miss Parker on Wednesday when you take David.”
“Well, this is his first experience with the other kids he’ll be going to school with all next year. I hate to make a fuss or cause a problem right at the beginning. It could turn out to be embarrassing for Dave. I’m not sure what to do.”
“Well, pray about it. And I don’t think waiting one more time or two will hurt. He certainly seems to have known how to handle himself . . . and the ‘stupid’ material,” he said, grinning at her.
“That’s true. All the Godly things Tom and Patience taught him from his earliest years have really taken root in him.”
“And you can add to that everything he’s learned virtually at your knees this past year, Serenity.”
She nodded. “And all the Bible stories his Gramps tells him evidently haven’t gone amiss either,” she answered, finally able to grin about it all herself. “I think I’ll give it a little time and pray and see how things go the next time or two.”
“I think that’s wise. Now, I’m off to George’s cottage to help him paint his boat.”
“Okay, see you at the next meal,” she said, laughing. “I think I’m going to chain myself to my computer until I get the next three chapters of my book done.”
“I’m anxious to read them,” he said walking to the hat rack by the door and taking up his cap. He placed it on his gray head and winked at his granddaughter. “I’ll see you about 5:00.”
“Have a good time, and both of you try to get more paint on the boat than on your clothes.”
At that, he walked back over to her and pinched her nose the way he had when she was a tiny girl. “Girl, I’ve been painting more years than you’ve been alive, so I’ll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head.” They both laughed, and he turned and headed out the door.
Noah had told Serenity that he had some business to take care of in Barclay in the afternoon, and he wouldn’t be back home until early evening, but he insisted that David could still get in his ride on Moondancer. He had promised to call when he got home and arrange for her to send David down to his cottage. So about 6:30 that evening, with the sun still plenty high enough for a long ride, David took off for Noah’s place, and, by 7:30, Noah was on the phone again saying that David wanted to stay over at his cabin for the night.
Serenity didn’t mind David staying, but she didn’t want him to be a nuisance either, and she told Noah so.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Dave and I are pals. We enjoy each other’s company,” he replied and then spoke away from the phone to the boy. “Isn’t that right, Dave?”
“Right!” he yelled loud enough for his aunt to hear him.
“And this cabin has the extra bedroom with the twin bed, remember?”
“Well, okay, but doesn’t he need some pajamas?”
“We’ll ride down on Moondancer pretty soon and get them.”
“Well, that’s fine with me if it is with you and David. But promise me that you’ll call if he turns out to be more than you bargained for.”
“I promise. And you can take advantage of an evening to pamper yourself without a little boy running around.”
“What I’ll probably do is take the extra time to write. I’m finally getting toward the climax of this novel, and I could use two or three more hours of uninterrupted concentration.”
“Personally, I think you work hard enough as it is. I still vote for the pampering, myself,” he said with just a hint of a chuckle.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think I know how to pamper myself. I guess I’ll just have to wait until there’s someone else around who knows how to do it,” she replied, entering into his bantering tone.
“Well, lady . . . you’re talking to a man who knows how,” he answered now, his voice taking on a serious, almost intimate tone. “Maybe it’s time I showed you.”
“Uh . . . well . . . I . . . I wasn’t hinting, Noah.”
He chuckled again then. “I know you weren’t, Serenity. But I was. However, since I have company this evening, I’ll get back to you on it.”
“Well, you two enjoy your evening.”
“Oh, we will! We’re going into town and get a good video and then we’re going to build a fire on the beach and roast marshmallows before we settle down to watch it.”
“Wow, I think I’m jealous.”
“Sorry, this is boys’ night. Can’t invite you. Besides . . . what I have in mind for you calls for some place a lot more romantic than these four walls.”
Serenity cleared her throat. Her heart had picked up its beat when he started talking to her about pampering her, and every added comment just quickened it that much more. But she didn’t want to be reading something into this relationship that wasn’t there. She needed to be careful.
“Well, I’ll say goodnight then,” was all she could think of to say.
“Goodnight, Serie. Sweet dreams.” Noah hung up the phone and sat for a few moments thinking how glad he felt to be able to give Serenity a whole evening just for herself.
Later, as he and David sat roasting their marshmallows and watching the sun splash its last orange streaks across the horizon, Noah picked up the clay horse that David had brought down with him in order to show it to Noah. “You really did a great job with this, Dave,” he said now. “What else did you do today?”
But when David answered him, telling him pretty much the same things he had told Serenity, Noah felt his chest tighten and his heart start to pound. By the time David had finished, Noah was wishing with everything in him that he hadn’t asked the question. The strain he was feeling must have registered on his face momentarily because David asked suddenly, “Are you okay, Noah?”
At those words, Noah forced himself to take a deep breath and smile at the boy. “Sure, I’m fine. I’m just thinking about something. So . . . uh . . . what did your aunt say about what happened today?”
“She said she was proud of me for saying what I did, and then I heard her talking to Gramps about maybe talking to Miss Parker about what we learn at the Library Club.”
“Well, that’s probably a good idea.”
“I heard her say she would pray about it and wait until I went another time before she decided.”
“I see,” Noah answered, and then was quiet for several minutes. “Well . . . what do you say we douse this fire and go watch our movie?”
“Yeah,” David said, jumping up, ready to do his part in putting out the fire the way Noah had taught him.
Find Chapter Seven here tomorrow.