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Relates the experiences of Krystal Wayne and her friends at Eisenhower High as they struggle to understand the relationship between love and sex. Includes follow-up material on the biblical concept of love and how it applies to our daily lives.
Something Jason Withers said made Krystal laugh so hard she had to hold her hand over her mouth to contain the drink of soda she'd just taken.
Jason slurped a mouthful from his soda can, puffed his cheeks in imitation of Krystal, and pressed his nose almost against hers, his eyes wide in feigned panic.
Suddenly Krystal jumped up from her seat around the campfire and rushed to the trees. She returned a few moments later, red-faced, wiping her mouth and coughing.
"Thanks a lot, Jason," she complained. "It went up my nose and everything."
"What did I do?" he asked in an attitude of perfect innocence.
Krystal slapped his shoulder feebly and picked up her soda can from the ground beside her. She began to take a sip of soda, but, eyeing Jason suspiciously, set the can back on the ground instead.
"What's so funny?" asked Amber Lockwood, who sat on the other side of Krystal.
Krystal shook her head. "Nothing," she answered, rolling her eyes at Jason.
Krystal, Jason, and Amber sat around a blazing campfire at Gilligan's Lake with more than a dozen others from Westcastle Community Church's growing youth group. It was two weekends before school started, and Liz and Duane Cunningham, the leaders of the youth group, were hosting an overnight outing just like last year's. The day had been filled with swimming, boating, and water skiing; now they all sat around the campfire and took turns telling funny stories.
Amber sat next to her boyfriend, Will McConnell, who had started the stories by relating how he had lost his swim trunks while waterskiing last year. Next to Will were Darcelle Davis, Buster Todd, and Joy Akiyama, three seniors who had been among the leaders of the youth group in its transformation last year into the "Liberation Commandos," a group of Christian students committed to finding new ways of sharing their faith with friends at school.
The circle around the flickering fire included some faces that hadn't been part of the group at last year's outing: Hillary Putnam, who had come to the group through her friendship with Amber; Kim Holmes and Debi White, two members of the rally team; and Greg Hooper and Billy Maxwell, who had graduated last June and now sat next to Reggie Spencer, who had helped them trust Christ.
"How many here remember the time that Jimmy Hodges got sick in his birthday cake?" Joy Akiyama asked. "He started feeling kinda queasy toward the end of his party at that restaurant, so he just took what was left of that supermarket cake his mom bought for him and-"
Several in the circle had started giggling as Joy talked. Krystal, however, had stopped smiling at the mention of Jimmy's name. She remembered. In fact, Krystal reflected, the others around the circle had no idea how well she remembered. Only she knew the truth about Jimmy Hodges. No one else had been as close to him as she had.
Krystal had met Jimmy Hodges at a Halloween party in her eighth-grade year. She had worn a long, skintight black dress with full sleeves and a slit up the side. She'd dyed her hair black and parted it in the middle to look like Morticia Addams. Her mother almost didn't let her leave the house; Krystal knew she thought the costume was too "mature." But Krystal didn't feel mature after she arrived at the party, just a little silly: I'm not tall enough to be Morticia, she thought.
"Nice costume," Jimmy said. He'd just walked up to her from halfway across the high school gym. He wasn't in costume. His short brown hair was perfectly combed, and thick eyebrows shaded eyes that looked unblinkingly at her. The eyes combined with captivatingly full and colorful lips, almost too beautiful for a guy's face, to form an irresistible combination. "You from Westcastle?"
She nodded a response, followed with a soft "Uh-huh."
"I don't remember noticing you before." His eyes caressed her admiringly. "And I always notice girls like you."
"I'm, uh-" She didn't want to say it. She broke his gaze and looked aside. "I'm in eighth grade." She could feel herself blush. She stole a quick glance at his eyes, still fastened on her, then looked away again.
Behind him a handful of people were dancing. But most of the students were clinging to the walls or hovering around the refreshments.
Krystal's heart sank. She glanced at him and saw a flash of hesitation. It was gone in an instant, though, and he eyed her from head to toe and up again.
"I would never have guessed you were in eighth grade. You look really mature for your age."
She smiled and followed his gaze. He wasn't looking at her eyes.
"I'm Jim," he continued. "Jim Hodges. I'm a junior."
A junior! Krystal opened her mouth. A junior! He's practically in college, she thought. Finally she let a weak "Oh" escape her mouth. He's a junior and he said I look really mature for my age. And it doesn't bother him that I'm only in eighth grade!
Krystal had flirted with boys; she'd even had "boyfriends" before. Last year, her mom said she could go to a movie with Justin Mitchell as long as she went with them. Krystal had begged her mom to drop them off and let them go alone. No go. Mom did, however, agree to sit at least six rows away in the theater. But Justin had clung to Mrs. Wayne like glue, and when they settled into their seats for the film, Krystal's mom somehow sat between them. Krystal forced Justin to promise never to talk about their "date" at school.
She gazed at the party going on behind Jimmy Hodges. It seemed that everywhere she looked she saw pretty girls standing alone, older and taller girls, girls who looked like high school sophomores and juniors. But Jimmy wasn't talking to those other girls, not even to the blonde that Krystal recognized as a rally girl. She drank it all in and let it warm her like a sip of hot chocolate on a snowy day.
He was still looking at her, in the eyes now, and she waited for him to say something. But he acted like he was waiting for something.
My name! Oh yeah, I haven't told him my name.
"Krystal," she blurted, and knew at once that it was too sudden and too loud. Softer, stupid. Get a grip, she told herself. "Krystal Wayne."
"Krystal." He smiled.
"With a K," she added, wondering immediately if she should have said it.
"Krystal with a K," he echoed. "So, Krystal-with-a-K, do you want to go for a walk?"
She half-shrugged, half-nodded her answer, and Jimmy slid his hand lightly around her shoulders, then placed it in the middle of her back as they walked together to the exit.
They walked slowly around the parking lot. The music and other sounds of the party still carried clearly beyond the walls of the school. Jimmy talked and asked Krystal questions, which she answered shyly. He draped his arm over her shoulders, then gripped her tightly around the waist, then rubbed circles in the small of her back with the flat of his hand.
They came to a stop between a tiny pickup and a dark two-seater sports car. Jimmy turned Krystal to face him with her back against the car. He leaned in close and shot an intense look into her eyes before closing them to kiss her.
The kiss lasted only a moment. They parted. She shivered and crossed her arms in front of her.
"It's chilly," she said. Her voice quavered. "I forgot my coat."
He kissed her again, lightly, quickly.
"Why don't we go for a drive?" he whispered.
She nodded, afraid that if she tried to speak again, he might notice in her voice the strong emotions his kiss had stirred in her.
He reached around her and opened the door.
"No," she said. "Wait."
He held the door open.
"My parents are supposed to pick me up," she explained, thinking as she said it how childish it sounded.
He looked at his watch. "What time?"
"Uh, well, eleven o'clock."
"Great," he said, as if there were no problem. "We'll come back before then. We've got plenty of time."
Krystal hesitated, but his smile convinced her. She slid into the low seat of the car and gathered her long skirt in her hands while Jimmy closed the door.
He sped recklessly to Brackett's Ledge, overlooking Rising Sun Park. The car slid to a stop and Jimmy cut the engine.
The lights of Westcastle glittered below, and the stars above, as if the sky were the surface of a silent lake, reflecting the white and yellow lights of the city. They sat for a few moments in silence, until Jimmy stretched his arm around Krystal's shoulders and she leaned into his embrace.
They talked softly and kissed often, each kiss becoming longer and more passionate and their sentences becoming shorter and less frequent.
Finally, Krystal broke off a long kiss with a start.
"What time is it?" she asked, knowing even as she asked it that the news would not be good. They'd been sitting there a long time.
Jimmy looked at his watch in the dark, then shifted in his seat and reached for the control panel. He switched the light on and examined his watch again.
"Uh-oh. It's after midnight," he said, reaching for the key.
Krystal's mom, dad, and sister Kathy faced her as she closed the door behind her.
"Where have you been, young lady?" her mother greeted her. "Do you know what time it is?"
Her dad stomped over to the large picture window and pulled the curtain aside, but Jimmy's car had already pulled away. "Who was that?" he demanded.
Oh great, Krystal moaned inside herself. Tag team.
"Kathy was there at eleven o'clock to pick you up," her mom continued, "but there was no sign of you. Where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing?"
"We?" Her dad jumped in. "Who's 'we'?"
"Will you let me talk? I mean, I'm hardly even in the door and you all gang up on me." Krystal hadn't moved from her position in front of the door.
"Who were you with, Krystal?" Her mother took a turn. Krystal imagined Mom and Dad in a big-time wrestling ring, one slapping the other's hand for a fresh shot at their opponent.
"I went with Jimmy-"
"Jimmy?" her mom asked.
"Jimmy Hodges? Who's this Jimmy Hodges? Where do you know him from?"
"Just some boy. I met him at the party, okay? All we did was-"
"You mean you didn't know him before tonight? Where's he from? Where's he live?"
"Was that him driving the car?" Her dad pointed toward the window. "How old is he?"
Krystal strode between her parents and sister and stopped in the center of the living room. She whirled to face them.
"I don't know where he lives." Krystal was surprised at her own answer. "I just met him."
Krystal twisted her shoulders and shook Kathy's hand off. "Nothing happened, okay? I met Jimmy, we walked around the parking lot for a while, and then we went for a ride." She had their attention now. No one interrupted her. "We just talked, okay?" She paused a moment. "We didn't realize how late it was. He brought me straight home when we saw that it was after midnight. That's all."
"That's all?" Her mother's voice pierced Krystal like fingernails on a chalkboard. "Krystal Marie, when we take you somewhere like a Halloween party, we don't expect you to go driving off with a boy. We trusted you to stay at the party."
"Look, I'm sorry, okay?" She was nearly screaming now. "You act like I did something really terrible. All I did was go for a ride and you-"
"You watch your tone of voice with me, young lady!" Her mother matched her volume. "You can't talk to your mother like that!"
"You're right, Mom! I can't. That's the whole problem. I can't talk to my mother, I can't talk to my father, I can't talk to anyone, because all you want to do is yell at me and I'm sick of being yelled at!" Krystal wheeled around and ran up the stairs to her room. She flung the door closed behind her, sat on the edge of her bed, and yanked a tissue from the fuzzy box on her bedside table.
When Krystal heard her bedroom door click open, she knew it was her sister. She dabbed her tearful eyes and blew her nose without looking up. She felt the bed sink as Kathy sat beside her.
Kathy waited a few moments before speaking. "They'll cool down, Krystal. They just worry about you."
Krystal eyed her sister. "Why do you always take their side? Why can't you just once be on my side?"
Jimmy called her the next day, Sunday, and Krystal told him the story of the night before.
"They told me this morning," she said, forcing the words out. "I'm grounded for a month." Her stomach tightened as she said it. She feared that this would ruin everything. She had the idea that if they couldn't see each other for a whole month, it would all fall apart and she would lose him.
"That's rough," he said. They talked a while longer, but Krystal hung up feeling that Jimmy would find someone else, some girl who wasn't grounded. Someone prettier-and older, probably.
Krystal drooped all the next day at school, thinking constantly of Jimmy. I should have known, she told herself. There's just no way he could really like me. He probably thinks I'm a little kid, especially from the way my parents treat me. Why would he want to go out with me when there are all those girls at the high school who are older-and more "experienced"-than me?
She thought she recognized his car parked by the flagpole when school let out that afternoon, but the driver's seat was empty. Then she noticed him, walking toward her. His thin frame made him seem taller than he was.
He greeted her with a kiss and a strong arm around her waist. "How long's your lunch period?"
The kiss and the question surprised her. "Uh, 11:30 to 12:15," she answered.
"Good. I'll pick you up tomorrow. Right here."
He met her every day that week and the next. Krystal would slide discreetly out the side door of the cafeteria, through the doors at the end of the hall, and into Jimmy's waiting car. Sometimes they would sit in a parking lot or walk together in a park; other times they would find a secluded spot where no one would disturb them.
On Friday of the second week of her grounding, her parents came into her room. Krystal knew immediately by the serious looks on their faces that they had found out what had been going on with her and Jimmy. They had also discovered that he was almost seventeen and a junior in high school. After another shouting match, Krystal's father counted off his decrees on his fingers.
"One, you will not see this Jimmy Hodges again. Two, your grounding is extended for another month.
Excerpted from The Love Killer by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler Copyright © 1993 by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.