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When Stars Fall
By Kathy Wierenga Buchanan
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Focus on the Family
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFestinate: To hurry, to speed.
I festinate through dinner when I'm very hungry.
Lassitude: A state or feeling of being tired and listless; weariness, languor.
My attitude toward life is characterized by lassitude.
Pentadactyl: Having five fingers or toes on each hand or foot.
I'm very happy to be a pentadactyl creature.
Hannah put down her vocabulary sheet. She knew all the words. She'd studied them last night. Sometimes words had silly definitions, like the description was too fancy to really help you understand what the word really meant. But lassitude stuck with her. That's how she felt. She pulled out her journal.
I wonder if I'm doing enough. It kind of seems like a silly question to ask. I mean the Brio gang and I just went through this whole thing with Becca doing too much. She needed to slow down. But this is different. I have enough activities on my plate. Church orchestra, newspaper photographer, my running. But ... I feel like everything I'm doing is for me, even hanging out with my friends. I do it because I like it, not because it's a ministry of any kind. Shouldn't I always be involved in some sort of ministry, God? Isn't that why You made me? Aunt Dinah's leaving on a missions trip to Kenya next week. My parents are volunteering at the Pregnancy Center. Even Jacie and Tyler are helping out with leadership for The Edge. But me? I 'm not doing anything. At least ... nothing that makes a difference. Maybe that's what I should focus on this school year: finding where You're calling me to work, what You want me to do.
Hannah leaned back against her pillows and reread what she'd written, half hoping God's hand would come down from heaven and write personal directions on the bottom half of her journal entry. She closed her eyes.
What is it, God? What is it?
A tiny tickle touched her cheek.
Was that God?
No, just a drip from her still-wet hair wrapped in a towel turban-style. No answers yet. She should get ready for school.
"Hannah!" Mrs. Connor's voice traveled up to Hannah's attic bedroom. "Jacie's on the phone."
Hope she's not sick, Hannah thought as she flopped her journal closed and hurried down the stairs. Jacie always picked her up for school, so she'd call if she couldn't make it.
"Hi, Jacie. Are you okay?"
"I am, but Solana's not."
"I don't know, but she sounded like she was crying on the phone. She wants us to meet at Alyeria before school. Are you almost ready?"
"Sure." She'd throw on a sweater and a khaki skirt, pull her hair back into a ponytail, and be set.
"I'll be there in 10 minutes," Jacie said.
I'll need to hurry, thought Hannah as she raced back upstairs, or should I say, festinate.
Although a part of Hannah's heart felt concern for Solana, another part of her relished the thought that she really belonged to the Brio group. She'd come into their friendship circle as an outsider. Tyler, Solana, Becca, and Jacie had been friends since grade school. The core of the foursome's friendship lay in an aspen grove just inside the elementary school playground where they'd played as children. Now they met there when one of the group members really needed to talk. Alyeria they'd named it. It was a sacred spot, but a place where Hannah was now welcomed. I'm really a part of the group.
She caught sight of the journal. Maybe that's how God would use her this year. He might have introduced her to this group of friends so she could encourage them in their spiritual walks. They were all Christians with the exception of Solana. And maybe He would even use her to bring Solana into the kingdom. The idea excited her. She tugged a pink cable-knit sweater over her head. Wouldn't that be the perfect end to our senior year if Solana came to know the Lord? And Tyler, Becca, and Jacie all had strengthened faith because of my input? What a great purpose.
She forced a comb through her wet, blonde locks and examined herself in the tiny mirror that hung above her dresser. Cornflower blue eyes framed with thick, dark lashes stared back at her. God, help me to do this well, she prayed. Help me see the opportunities You give me to speak truth to my friends.
She stuck her vocab sheet in her backpack just as Jacie's horn beeped in the driveway. She had her own definition for the word that popped into her head.
Purpose: Knowing why God put you on earth.
* * *
The sun was still making its appearance while Jacie and Hannah drove to Copper Ridge Elementary School. Pink clouds piled in the sky like a fluff of cotton candy off its cardboard stick.
"What do you think it is?" Jacie asked.
It took Hannah a second to realize Jacie was referring to Solana's problem.
"The only thing I can think of I hope desperately that it's not."
"I'm afraid she slept with Ramón again."
Jacie's hands tightened on the steering wheel. "I can't imagine she'd do that, though. I mean, Solana is disciplined, if anything. And when she makes a decision, she sticks with it. After last time, she knew she didn't want to-"
"But hasn't Ramón broken all of Solana's rules?"
It was true. Solana had given up dating entirely before Ramón walked-or, rather, rode his horse-into her life. It was the one time Hannah had seen Solana vulnerable and emotional and completely smitten. She'd walked on air. And then she crashed after they'd had sex. The two had decided to call off the relationship to try to reverse the damage they'd done to themselves. But the chemistry pervaded, and they still wanted to be together. So they'd gone back to dating. Anyone within a mile could tell the sparks were flying. Solana still held out hope that she and Ramón would someday be together.
Hannah hated that Solana didn't think there would be any future consequences over her having had sex outside of marriage. Solana felt bad about her choices and didn't want to go there again, but she thought a person would just get over it and then have a perfectly healthy and happy relationship. Didn't she know how untrue this was? What if she had made the same mistake? Hannah would stand by Solana, of course. They all would.
Jacie tapped her fingers along the steering wheel, while a commercial citing the benefits of Ben-Gay over other muscle creams played on the radio.
Hannah's mind went to work. She'd comfort Solana, remind her that she was created in the image of God whether she believed it or not. She'd tell her there could be another way. If Solana would just listen ...
"Do you think she regrets it?" Hannah asked.
"From the way she sounded on the phone, whatever she's going to tell us isn't good news." Jacie pulled into the dirt alongside the road. The grove was just down the slope. She pulled the keys from the ignition, silencing the weatherman. "Hannah, please don't say anything-" she paused, "anything rash."
"Rash?" Hannah repeated. "You know I love Solana." Her heart beat a little faster. Was she being judgmental again?
"I know you do. But sometimes you can get 'preachy.'" Jacie rushed on as though to cover the sting of the word. "I know you mean well, and you just want to help. And like the rest of us you want to be a good witness to Solana." She took a deep breath. "But I think sometimes it's more hurtful than it is helpful."
"I don't mean for it to be." This wasn't the first time one of the Brio friends had expressed to Hannah that she could be more lecturing than understanding. She tried-she really did-to not overdo it, but sometimes it was hard. After all, didn't Christ call us to speak truth? What was the balance of showing love and telling people the "right" way? She was learning, but she still had a long way to go.
* * *
The news wasn't at all what Hannah-or anyone-had expected.
"Ramón and I aren't going to see each other anymore. He's moving," Solana said, sitting on a fallen tree, her legs outstretched.
Becca, Jacie, Tyler, and Hannah sat circled around her.
"What? Where?" Becca asked.
Solana explained the story. Ramón had received a job at MIT-the school he'd been planning to attend next year, after a second year of junior college. He hadn't thought he could afford to go this soon, but with a new research fellowship, he'd be able to go to school for free and get great experience working in the laboratory. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
"So when we talked last night, he told me he didn't think we should continue officially dating. He said he didn't want to tie me down. Long-distance relationships are too hard. All the stuff I know," Solana sniffed, "but nothing that I wanted to apply to us."
"Did you tell him that?" asked Jacie.
"Sort of. I mean, I don't want to beg him to stay with me. I'd just hoped he'd want to. But what he says makes sense. I can't fault him for that. He says if we're meant to be together it will all come back around." Solana kicked a stone, sending it skidding across the grove. "Maybe he's right, but I wish he didn't have to leave."
The rest of the gang nodded sympathetically. They all knew how much Ramón meant to Solana.
"When is he leaving?" asked Tyler.
"Tomorrow. The school even got him a plane ticket. Apparently someone backed out at the last minute and they need him there right away."
Hannah knew Solana was on the verge of tears, but she'd control it. She always did.
Solana continued. "He's spending time with his family tonight. He said I could come over and say good-bye, but he didn't want me to stay long. He said it would be too hard. I don't even know if I should go." Solana thumped her foot against the white trunk of an aspen tree, shimmying its yellow leaves and causing some to break loose.
"Will you stay in touch with him?" asked Becca.
"Yeah, I hope. But I know what's going to happen. He'll meet all these girls in his classes. Girls that have the same interests and passions he does-like I do, but they'll be closer. And they'll swarm around him like gnats. He'll forget about me in a nanosecond."
"You know that's not true," Jacie said. "Ramón cares about you a lot."
"Distance does weird things, though," Solana said. Hannah watched Jacie's head drop. She knew what Solana said was true. Jacie's dad lived in California and, as much as he cared for Jacie, it was no secret Bennett Crosse lacked the understanding and emotional closeness of a parent who lived close by. Even Hannah could relate to what Solana said. She'd left her friends in Michigan, and rarely thought of them now.
Tyler wrapped his arm around Solana's shoulders. "This stinks, Sol. I'm really sorry."
"It feels like someone died, like I lost the one person in my life who understood me. I mean," she corrected herself, "you guys know me, but with Ramón it was ... different."
Hannah knew what Solana wasn't saying. Ramón was the only one who understood why Solana didn't want to become a Christian. The rest of the Brio group had committed their lives to Christ and chosen to live out their faith. Solana was as much a part of the group as anyone else, but her beliefs were very different. And Ramón had understood that part of her while the others couldn't. More than that, their minds and insatiable desire to understand science were so equally matched. Hannah had to admit that aside from their wrong physical involvement, they had a relationship a lot of people never achieve.
Solana wiped the wetness from her eyes with the edge of her jacket. "This is silly. I'm not going to be crying over some guy who doesn't want me."
"It's okay to feel sad," Tyler said.
Hannah had always been impressed with Tyler's sensitivity. With his sun-streaked blond hair and athletic build, he'd been labeled quite the catch at school, but thankfully, his heart still outgrew his head. Or, perhaps it was as Solana said-he'd had too many surfboard blows while riding the waves in California to notice the girls at school who fawned over him.
Solana looked up at the quaking branches dancing in the wind. She paused for a moment. "I have to be logical about it, though. Ramón's reasons make sense. And it won't do me any good to cry about it."
Hannah sat back on a log and played with the long strands of grass. So like Solana, she thought. Determined and logical and strong. Maybe that's why she can't see the need of knowing Christ. She can't stand the thought of handing the reins of her life to someone else. Whereas most girls would be devastated that the man they'd lost their virginity to had abandoned them, Solana would attempt to treat it as just another occurrence in life that she could choose to move past.
Hannah twisted her fingers into little knots on her lap. She didn't know what to say. Given the worries she'd had about Solana and Ramón on the way here, wasn't this almost good news? Maybe this was God's way of getting rid of someone who would keep Solana from becoming a Christian. Didn't God do everything for a purpose? Solana wouldn't understand that, but maybe, in time, Hannah could show her this was all for the best. She watched silently as her other friends mulled over their own confusion and "what do we do now?" thoughts. Were they thinking the same thing she was?
Jacie stroked Solana's back, while Becca awkwardly patted her knee.
Tyler glanced at his watch. "It's 10 'til. We better get going."
* * *
"What's that poking out of your locker, Hannah?" Jacie asked.
Hannah squinted through the crowd of people pushing their way down the halls at Stony Brook High. Sure enough, a lavender piece of paper seemed to be stuffed through the locker vents. Hannah's heart did an involuntary leap. Another note? She fumbled through her combination. "I don't know. Maybe an assignment fell out of my history book."
"Yeah," smirked Solana. "Mrs. Porter always gives assignments on lavender stationery."
"Maybe it's a lo-ove note," said Becca. She swooned over-dramatically. "From your secret admirer."
Hannah's heart skipped a beat. Her secret admirer had come into the picture last spring, occasionally leaving notes or surprising Hannah with flowers. The group hadn't a clue who the mysterious devotee could be, but they never tired of teasing Hannah about him. After all, how ironic that the girl who'd determined to not have love interests at this stage in her life would be the one being chased after with romantic intent.
"It could be hate mail, too," mused Solana. "Maybe a death threat.
Excerpted from When Stars Fall by Kathy Wierenga Buchanan Copyright © 2005 by Focus on the Family. Excerpted by permission.
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