WARNING: THE CONTENT MAY CONTAIN TRIGGERS FOR SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND/OR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
DISCLAIMER: THE THEOLOGY AND DOCTRINE OF THE CHARACTERS ARE NOT PRECISELY ALIGNED WITH THE AUTHOR AND THERE IS NO INTENT TO CLAIM THE “CHRISTIANITY” OF THE CHARACTERS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF FAITH.
2 Timothy 1:7
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”
Makayla Nicole Isley, 20
“Happy Birthday!” Lauren says as a prelude, then she sings me happy birthday quickly and slightly off-tempo.
I tell her, “Thanks…”
“I’m a horrible friend,” She states.
“Why?” I ask.
“I didn’t send you anything… not even a card,” She confesses.
“You remembered my birthday. Listen, that means SO much… Especially with everything you’re going through. That prick should have gotten the full 45 years! AND I’m the WORST friend… I totally spaced your birthday last week!”
“No it’s not… It’s huge. It’s your last year as a teenager. Your last year to use the ‘I’m just a teenager’ excuse,” I explain.
She stays silent. She takes a deep breath and her exhale causes the phone to get staticky. “I’m getting married, Makayla.”
“So you’re keeping the baby?” I ask, just to clarify. She changes her mind so often I’m amazed she still believes in Jesus. She hums a firm yep. “So when is Drew T moving out there, or are you going to transfer back here?”
“I’m not marrying Drew T. I’m marrying Matthew.”
“The dude you’re in love with? When—how—wait…I’m so confused.”
Lauren explains she broke up with Drew T after the trial and gave him back the ring. She told him in the courthouse she wasn’t in love with him. That her heart has long belonged to another, Matthew LaHaye.
“Matthew loves you back? When did you find that out?” I miss too many details being a whole state away from Lauren.
“The night before the verdict came in…”
“Mary and John must be crushed. You did tell them you changed your mind, right?”
“It’s okay. Like, it’s a long story but… Mary will be Josh’s grandma instead of his mom.”
“Mary is Dmitry’s mom?”
“No… God no…” Lauren goes on to explain the child that Mary gave up for adoption was Matthew.
“Why are you marrying him and not just dating to see how it goes first?”
Lauren sighs. I can nearly feel her eyes rolling on my end of the line.
“My dad won’t pay for my education if I don’t place Josh into adoption. I have no job. I have no savings. I have no car. I have no place to live. I can’t raise a baby on the streets.”
What rock is Lauren Rae Tyler hiding under? Where is the great girl of faith I know? Last summer, Lauren was extremely pissed off about not studying abroad, but she said she just had to trust God, and that He would honor her for choosing to respect the wishes of her parents. Now, she isn’t even thinking of a way to compromise with her parents? I guess this situation is way different. Like, she is about to become a parent. Isn’t there some sort of alternative?
“When are you getting married?”
Lauren hesitates to answer. I already sense I’m not going to approve of her choice.
“Next Tuesday, at City Hall. Mary and John are going to be our witnesses. Mom is packing up my room and Matthew and John are gonna go pick everything up. I was kind of hoping you could stop by the house and help my mom. More so, to be there for her since I can’t be.”
“Hold on a second,” I say, twisting my hair. I’m suddenly super nervous. “Why the rush? You’re already pregnant!”
“That’s mainly why! I want to be able to take him home, where he feels welcomed and loved. And where he has his own room. And I need to figure out how to be his mom, you know, and I need somewhere I can do that. I want him to have a last name that isn’t rotten for either one of us. I was never really a DiBacco, I’m done being a Tyler, and as the LaHayes I think we have a real shot at happiness.”
My Bible, lying open on my nightstand, catches my eye. If Lauren could really hear herself, I know she wouldn’t be making this decision. Then I think about that prayer session she had with Mel, when the Lord instructed her ‘to not jump the gun’. What if getting married to Matthew so soon is ‘jumping the gun’? Though I’m super uncomfortable to confront her about it, I do. I brace myself for her to attack me in defense, but she sighs, knowing I’m right.
“Even John and Mary thought our rush to get married was crass. They actually offered to let me live with them rent-free. John wants to hire me at his ad agency as a secretary for one of his advertising execs. Mary regrets never becoming a doctor, so she and John want to help me pay for my education. I just feel really bad for accepting their generosity when I’m keeping the one thing they really want… and I don’t want to overextend my welcome. Realistically, even if dating Matthew goes really well, I’ll be in their house for five years… at least.”
I can’t believe she doesn’t see how perfect that is.
“Mary will get over her baby fever by staying up late with her grandkid and you can focus on your education worry-free!”
Lauren huffs in a way that signals there’s more she’s not telling me, and perhaps them too. Clearing her throat, she confesses, “I don’t want to be a doctor. I love acting. I want to be an actress. I think… I know I want to switch my major from pre-med to theatre and film.”
That is only a slight problem… I can see she worries they may retract their offer to help pay for her college education… Fine Arts Majors just become spouses, or teachers, or both. Meryl Streep is like the only famous actress I can think of that went to Yale to study acting and still works as an actress… Then come to think of it, she is like the greatest actress of our era… is it because she went to Yale, or because she is that good?
“I think God has you covered, but you don’t want to stand before God one day and have Him ask you why you became a doctor instead of an actress. You were called to spread the gospel to millions through your acting gift and as a doctor you will only have saved a few hundred… thousand or something… How can He say, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant,” if you’re not faithful and good to do as He called you to do? Bottom line, have you prayed about marrying Matthew?”
Another disgruntled sigh causes the phone to make more static noise. She breathes deeply once more and acknowledges the truth. “I feel like if I do pray about it, I’m not going to like the answer… But I feel like I need to pray… This is a huge choice.”
The phone line beeps, and I check my screen. I don’t have an incoming call.
“Matthew’s calling me. I’ll call you back later. Okay?”
“Love you. Bye,” Lauren says. Then she hangs up the line.
I toss my cell to the edge of the bed and look down in between the space of my bow-tied legs. Blankly, I stare at the fabric that rests underneath me. The Navajo Style woven blanket makes me think of my dad. Since January, he’s been in rehab. He called the other day and he wants me to come visit him. He has a birthday gift for me.
I thought I had forgiven him, but every time after I get done talking to Lauren, or I think about the situation Lauren is in… having a baby… I keep thinking about the one I chose not to have.
Yeah, everyone at church knows my father got me pregnant almost seven years ago now, because I finally shared my testimony last month… It was during a worship service and there were a lot of new faces, but one guest was a Navajo girl that lives down the street from my Grandma Nizhoni’s house. Pastor Paul asked if anyone felt led to share their testimony. He felt God was waiting for someone to do so. Somehow, I just knew God was waiting on me. Pastor held the mic for me as I bared my naked heart in front of everyone. I was afraid they’d think I was lying to seek attention, to win the “Biggest Victim Card” of the church or to upstage Lauren in the midst of her victory in progress. But many women of the congregation began to weep with me. Mel rushed to stand by my side and comfort me. All these years we’d been friends and I never told her.
After the whole service was over, the Navajo girl came up to me and shared that her father has been molesting her since she was 12. Earlier that day, she was thinking of killing herself that night, but she saw me leaving my grandma’s house that day and remembered me inviting her to church all the time three years ago. She always declined my offer. Not sure why, but today she followed me to church. And my testimony confirmed to her that the Christian God her mom’s side of the family talks about all the time is real. She accepted Christ that night as her Lord and Savior. That girl’s name is Shawna. I was amazed that listening to God when He was leading me to visit my grandma, because I was in the area, accomplished God’s plan to manifest in someone else’s journey with Him. I praised Him for taking the horror of my story and using it to show how mighty, gracious, and perfect He is… That when I had every reason to give up and quit on life, the revelation of God knowing me was enough. God calling me by name and giving my life purpose is enough. That God’s grace is enough for me, therefore, no matter what I go through, I always have someone by my side who will make everything better in the end.
All of that was great… is great… But when I walked with her out to the parking lot, a car I dread to see was parked next to hers. It’s a 1984 black Camaro with a white racing stripe down the middle, from the hood to the trunk. A man I loathe to this day got out from the driver’s side and crossed his arms on the hood as he looked our way. A toothpick tucked in the corner of his lip and his face frozen with a mean glare, which was only an act to appear tough. His head was close shaven as opposed to the full head of pitch-black, wavy hair he had when we dated.
“Long time no see,” Daniel says in his machismo, slightly Hispanic accent. His mother is full-blooded Navajo, but his father is Navajo, Apache, and Mexican. Out of all his diverse culture, he clings to being Mexican… Mainly because he looks very Mexican. No one knows he’s Native until he shows his tribal ID.
Shawna asked something like, “You know him?”, tucking her long, silky hair behind her ear.
“Unfortunately, yes…” I sighed.
“Let’s go, cuz!” Daniel hounded, walking around his car, heading toward us cautiously.
“Didn’t you drive here, Shawna?”
“I did. I was supposed to go with Daniel to take care of something, but then I followed you. He texted me in service asking me where I was and I told him I was at this church.”
Whatever that something-to-do was, it was probably illegal. The last time Daniel and I hooked up, he admitted getting into the grand-theft-auto game, and brewing and selling moonshine. He was also hanging out with one of the biggest gang leaders on the Westside of the Res, Dominic Roanhorse-Reyes.
“Dom’s gonna have my throat if we don’t get this done by midnight, chica.”
“Relax, tell him I held us up.” She snapped at Daniel. “Sorry, I gotta go.” She whispered to me. She hurried to her beat up, red pick-up truck as she dug in her purse for her keys.
Daniel appeared two inches in front of me, and suddenly, I could hardly breathe. I thought about all the late nights we had. All the times I said I loved him and he said he loved me back. The warm relief of being held in a strong man’s arms and the sense of security such a moment brought, made temptation rise within me.
If he says he’ll drive by your mom’s house later, say you’ll leave the window open. Suggests a thought.
I knew I couldn’t do that!
“I, uh, sort of miss hanging out with you… I was thinking that maybe after I’m done…”
I couldn’t allow him to bring it up, I wasn’t strong enough…
“Well, I don’t miss hanging out with you. If you drive by my place, I’ll call the cops and say you’re stalking me.”
Daniel smirked, causing the toothpick in his mouth to flip up. He nodded his head as he backed away, still staring at me. “I knew you missed me too. I’ll be seeing you, mamacita!”
Since that night, I’ve been thinking about when Daniel and I dated… And lately, I cannot stop thinking about the abortion we both agreed I had to get.
After I got saved, we hooked up a few times. It was before I understood sex outside of marriage was a huge no-no in the Kingdom of God. He was totally the father because my dad was doing some time for getting in a bar fight. That was my second pregnancy. He wasn’t ready to be a father, nor did he want to be one, and I was so freaked out about what everyone at church would have thought of me. The last thing I wanted them to do was kick me out for screwing up Christianity 101 for singles, purity.
It doesn’t matter how much I lay all the facts out there… When I think about how there is a couple out there like Mary and John who want a baby and can’t have one, I realize that abortion wasn’t my only option… that baby could have gone to a good, loving home.
I thought I had left my loose lifestyle in the past after committing my life to Christ, but seeing Daniel again the other day has dragged me right back to where I didn’t want to be, and now it is so hard to resist his embrace. I said I loathed him, but it was for that decision he talked me into making. I still love him.
*Edited by Aly Fry