One Young Voice

Tia froze in place as she saw the group of kids gathered in the High School parking lot. Normally she was happy to join any group of young people. An excellent student and athlete, as well as beautiful and friendly, she would normally be welcomed just about anywhere on campus.

But today was different. Today was the day of the story. She had heard the whispers, and the cut off conversations as she approached. The words “hypocrite” and “slut” had come through. She had no idea what had started it, but it was clear that somewhere between first period and lunch she had turned from everybody’s friend into a hypocrite. And she didn’t have any idea how it had happened. The one good thing was that it was the end of the day, and she was about to drive home. But now between her and her car there was this group of students, and she knew she wasn’t going to be able to escape.

The key figure in the group was Alex–Alexander Jerome Johnstone, be sure you get that “oh” sound in “stone.” How someone could be as stuck up as he was and yet as popular, she didn’t know. He was intelligent, got good grades without trying, and seemed to be able to join in any sport seemingly without effort. He also claimed a sort of gentle skepticism, and had occasionally ribbed her about her Christian faith.

She turned to try to avoid them, but Alex saw her and waved her over. It was the sort of wave you’d expect a king to use when he summoned a servant who one assumed would come. And Tia felt herself walking over to join the group.

“I don’t particularly like you,” he said, looking her right in the eye. “I think you think saying ‘I’m a Christian’ saves you the trouble of being a good person.”

Tia was quiet. Under the circumstances, she didn’t know what else to do. Alex had always been a little bit contemptuous of her faith, but never actively hostile. Why the sudden change?

“But I hate lies,” he continued, turning to the rest of the group. “So tell us what you saw, Phil.”

“Not here,” muttered Phil.

“Why not?” asked Alex. “You’ve said it enough times today. Say it again!”

Nobody argued with Alex. It just wasn’t done. Embarassing things happened to people who argued with Alex.

“She was, um, doing it with Boyd in the shed,” said Phil, looking at the ground. Everyone knew that “the shed” meant the toolshed that was behind the shop building. There were many famous stories about the shed, most of them either completely false, or exaggerated beyond recognition. Boyd, always called by his last name, was close to last on the popularity list. All of the “in” crowd were a bit disgusted by the thought of Boyd “doing it” with Tia.

“When was that?” he asked.

“Sixth period yesterday, when she should have been in English.” He seemed to feel the need for some sort of support. “I always knew she was a hypocrite. Terry saw her too.”

Alex knew instantly that the story had to be false. The idea that one could manage to hide out in “the shed” during school hours and do much of anything was pretty silly. But even more he knew where Tia had been during yesterday’s sixth period, and it was nowhere near the shed. What’s more, Terry had been there as well. But he knew that if he just spoke up for her, there would always be doubts. He really did hate lies, and this one needed to be thoroughly squashed. Fortunately, he’d thought of this.

And there, as he’d expected, came Terry. When Terry saw the group he hesitated, and looked like he might change course. But he finally decided on boldness, as Alex knew he would. He couldn’t stand the idea that anyone could run him out of a group. Terry had to be “in.”

“Shut up Phil,” said Alex casually. Phil muttered that he hadn’t said anything, but fell silent.

“When was it that you and Phil saw Tia in the shed with Boyd?” asked Alex, turning on Terry.

“It was right after lunch, before class,” said Terry.

The sound of muttering went around the group of students who were gathered there. They all recognized that the two accusers had been caught red handed, and they also knew that Alex had carefully set a trap. But the evidence was too strong to ignore.

Most of the group scattered without apologies. They couldn’t face Tia.

“I’m sorry I had to confront you the way I did,” said Alex, turning to Tia as the others left, “but I had to make certain they thought I hated you to keep them off guard. This sort of story is very hard to stop, and I can’t stand lies.”

“It’s OK,” said Tia, even though she thought she was going to start crying, or faint, or something equally embarassing. “I have treated you as though I was superior because I’m a Christian. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”

“I don’t do forgiveness,” said Alex. “But I’ll give you a new start. Friends?” He held out his hand.

As Tia left, she thought “He doesn’t do forgiveness, but he’ll give me a new start.” And laughing happily she finished the walk to her car.

Note: This is an addition to my series working with various transformations of the story of Susanna.

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