Are y’all ready? Has anyone been waiting for this post? I know I have been! My brother and I talked…and talked…and talked about the winner. We criticized how the story flowed, how fast paced, how much thinking/talking was in it. And finally, we chose a winner.
Ladies and Gents, put your hands together for……..
I am the oldest of eight (soon-to-be nine!) siblings. I live with my family in Wyoming, Pennsylvania. I enjoy reading, writing, playing the piano, and I hope to become an author one day, Lord willing.
Congrats, Carolyn! I’ll be emailing you, and we’ll figure out what your favorite hot drink and sweet meat is! I’ll also let you know when my book is published.
Thanks to everyone who joined! It was a lot of fun, and everyone’s story was enjoyed. Now, for Carolyn’s story.
By Carolyn B.
Meredith Brooks choked back the tears in an effort to wave goodbye to her friend. She always thought they would grow up and conquer the world together. But now that Rachel was leaving, how could they accomplish such a mission?
“Bye, Meredith!” Rachel Gibbons called, her blue eyes shining. The wind blew her curly, blonde hair across her face, as she sat by the window of her family’s van.
Meredith lifted her hand and couldn’t speak. Her lips trembled and she heaved a quivering breath. Why did it hurt?
“Are you okay, Merrie?” Dad asked, laying a hand on her shoulder. The tenderness of the gesture was too much. Meredith buried her face in his jacket and wept.
“Why did she have to go?” she asked, lifting her tear-strewn face to look at her father.
Dad knelt and brushed her tears with his hand. “Because her father got a new job, honey. It’s a job that’s far away so they need to move closer.”
Meredith sniffed and turned to see her siblings watching. She straightened and wiped the tears with the tissue her father handed her.
“You going to be alright, Meredith?” Her brother, Randy Brooks, asked. For being 18 months younger, he had a protective instinct to watch out for his sisters.
“I’ll be fine.” she assured him, smiling through her tears. I think.
Randy turned to go inside with their sister, leaving Mom and Dad with Meredith. Mom reached for Meredith’s hand. “You’ll be fine.”
“Before you know it, you’ll be running around with new friends.” Dad smiled, a twinkle in his forest-green eyes.
“And with your siblings,” Mom added. “Don’t forget about Gloria. She is your sister, sweetie. She ought to be closer to you than anyone.”
“Even Rachel?” Meredith’s heart beat painfully. She was suppose to be a friend to her younger sister?
Mom nodded, strands of blonde hair falling from her bun. “Even Rachel.”
“Now,” Dad said. “Let’s go in and get ready for that picnic we’re having.”
Meredith followed them into their two-story home. They were just around the corner from Ellwood City, on a narrow street near the river.
This is where Meredith had grown up. And the year Rachel’s family moved onto the street, it became the best time of her childhood. Rachel and Meredith had done everything together. They had sleepovers in a tent in the backyard, camp fires, scavenger hunts, they rode bikes up and down the sidewalk, sat on the Brooks’ front porch eating popsicles. . . There were so many memories.
How are we going to make more if she’s living far away?
Meredith’s shoulders drooped as she climbed the stairs to the room she shared with Gloria. She spotted her younger sister sitting near the window, gazing out.
“Rachel’s gone?” Gloria turned, brown eyes intent on Meredith.
Meredith nodded and sighed. “Yep, she’s gone.”
“For good?” Gloria’s eyes grew wide.
“No, Ria.” Meredith frowned and sat on the bed. “She’ll come visit. And we can visit her, too.”
“Can I be your friend, Meredith?” Gloria asked innocently, dropping her gaze. Two bright spots appeared on her cheeks.
“You already are my friend,” Meredith answered uneasily. What did her sister mean?
“Seems like Rachel’s your sister.”
Meredith gasped. Is that what it looked like? Was that what Mom earlier? “But she’s not. You are.”
Gloria forced a smile and stood. “I should set up for the picnic.” She hurried out of the room.
A few minutes later, someone tapped on the door. Grandma peeked in. “May I come in?”
Meredith looked up. “Yes.”
Grandma lowered herself to sit beside Meredith. “I heard Rachel and her family moved.”
“They left this afternoon.” Meredith replied, biting her lip. She wouldn’t cry. Not in front of Grandma.
“It’s hard when a friend moves away. One you love very much.” Grandma said softly, patting Meredith’s hand. “But you have your siblings. They can be your friends while she’s gone.”
Meredith shrugged. “It won’t be the same.”
“Of course not. Things in life change, Meredith. And whether we like it or not, it’s according to God’s plan.” Grandma smiled, her blue-green eyes shining. “Now, why don’t we go have a picnic?”
“Okay.” Meredith smiled and followed Grandma downstairs and out the back door.
On the deck, a checkered blanket was spread laden with food. Baked beans, rolls with butter, potato chips, and fresh veggies were just some of it. Out on the driveway, Dad stood grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. Meredith waved and dropped down next to Gloria on the blanket. Randy helped Mom bring out a plate of corn and a dish of macaroni and cheese. Their aromas made her mouth water.
“Are we ready?” Dad grinned, bringing the plate of cooked hamburgers and hot dogs.
“Yes.” Mom folded her hands.
Dad came up the deck steps and stood by the door. Grandma moved to stand next to Mom and everyone bowed their heads.
“Dear Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for this day. We thank Thee for the food we are about to eat. Please bless it to our bodies. Help it to nourish us. And bless our fellowship. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” Dad prayed.
Meredith opened her eyes and gazed at the ones gathered around. Gloria, Randy, Mom, Dad, and Grandma. They all loved her. They were here for her.
She smiled. Suddenly the future seemed a little brighter.
The week passed quickly. Meredith waited patiently for a letter in the mail but when none came she decided to write her own. Rachel’s probably busy unpacking after moving to a new house.
Taking some stationary and a clipboard to write on, Meredith went out on the porch and sat on the swing. It was another sunny day and flowers were blooming all over the street lawn. The breeze stirred by, scenting the air with summer. Meredith moved the swing with her bare feet and began. Dear Rachel. . .
Hmm. . . What can I tell her? She paused to ponder about what had happened since her friend left. Nothing much. Life seemed boring without her.
Meredith continued her letter.
I hope you are well. I miss you! Not much has happened since you left. My family and I had a picnic on our deck, but I could hardly eat, remembering all the memories we made in the yard. Remember the time we laid on the trampoline at night? That was fun!
“Meredith,” Mom came out. “I’m going to the store. Can you watch Gloria?”
Meredith sighed. “Okay.” She reluctantly went in, setting her writing materials on the coffee table in the living room.
Gloria sat on the couch, coloring a picture. “Can we watch something?”
“Not now, maybe later.” Meredith slumped on the couch. If only Rachel hadn’t moved. We could be having fun right now! It’s not fair.
“Want to color? You can copy a page out of my book,” Gloria said, her blonde hair falling over her shoulder.
Gloria jumped up and ran to the office with her coloring book. Meredith watched as she printed out a picture and came sprinting back. “Here, I have a new box of crayons, too. We can share.” Her brown eyes searched Meredith’s.
Meredith nodded and took the picture. It was of two girls in dresses, having a picnic on the grass. She grabbed a crayon and began filling in the trees and background.
“We’re going to Grandma’s for dinner next week,” Gloria broke in.
The mention of Grandma’s house brought a stream of memories to Meredith’s mind.
There was the pathway that she and Rachel had named, “The Narrow Way” after reading Matthew 7:13-14. It wound all the way up to a hill where they could see Uncle Joe’s home in the distance, then went down and around until they were in Uncle Joe’s backyard.
Meredith smiled at the thought of laying in the grass along the path, with the breeze rushing over her and the sun on her face. There was something peaceful about the path. Like God was there, drawing near and whispering to her through the breeze.
“Are you going to walk on the path?” Gloria interrupted her thoughts.
“I think I will,” Meredith replied, reaching for a different crayon.
The two continued coloring.
“Maybe we’ll see the cows.” Gloria laughed.
Meredith grinned. She could almost hear the heavy hoof beats as the herd of cows hurried across the pasture to see them and hear their bells clanging. “They’re funny.” She said, laughing.
“Should we feed them when we go?”
“We probably shouldn’t, they might tear down the fence!” Meredith exclaimed, bursting into a fit of laughter. Gloria laughed with her.
“What are you two laughing about?” Mom asked, smiling.
Meredith and Gloria turned in surprise. “Mom!”
“I’m back.” She disappeared into the kitchen.
Meredith looked at the clock. That was fast! She turned to Gloria and smiled. “Thanks for letting me color.”
Gloria beamed, her brown eyes lighting. “It was fun.”
Mom returned to the living room. “What were you two laughing about when I came?”
“We were talking about the cows at Grandma’s.” Gloria laughed. The sound made Meredith’s heart swell. Her littler sister had the sweetest laugh.
“Well now, they are funny.” Mom smiled. “Thanks for watching her, Meredith.”
“You’re welcome.” Meredith stood and grabbed the letter to Rachel as she returned to the porch.
The sun was in hiding behind stray clouds, making it cooler than before. Meredith shivered and went back in for a sweater. On the swing again, she rocked back and forth, writing and listening to the chirping birds.
We’re planning to go to Grandma’s next week. I always enjoy going to the farm and seeing God’s beautiful creation. Makes me wonder¾do you have any farms out your way?
She was tempted to write about the cows but decided against it. The memory with her younger sister seemed too dear to recount to a friend. Even if she was a close one. Besides, what would Rachel think when she read about the cows? She never liked them when she visited the farm.
She would wrinkle her nose and probably wonder why we even cared to see them. The thought surprised Meredith. It made her realize that Rachel didn’t feel the same way about things. At least where fun was concerned. . . She did have a thing for getting into trouble.
Why didn’t I notice before?
After dinner Thursday, Meredith walked up the path with Randy and Gloria. Nearing the top, they stopped and spread a blanket over the grass.
Meredith laid back and gazed at the sky, letting the silence take over. The stillness reminded her of a verse in Psalms. Be still and know that I am God. . .
“It’s quiet up here,” Gloria said.
“Yeah,” Randy agreed, from where he stood near them. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he glanced at Gloria. “Want to see the cows, Ria?”
“Yes!” Gloria jumped up and ran after her brother, disappearing down the path.
Meredith remained in the meadow, gazing over the horizon. Even in the quiet, her thoughts were far from silent. Why isn’t Rachel writing? It never bothered her before.
It had been a few days since she sent the letter. By now, Rachel should’ve received it, and surely she would write back.
“Do you miss Rachel?”
Meredith jumped at the sound of Gloria’s voice. The question brought sudden tears to her eyes. “Yes, I miss her a lot.”
“I would feel the same if you went away,” Gloria said.
The declaration sent more tears crowding into her eyes and spilling out. Her little sister’s words touched her in more ways than one.
I’m her best friend. . . Meredith realized, wiping the tears away.
Stones crunched on the path and Meredith turned to find Randy returning. One look at her face and he reached in his pocket for a tissue. “Missing Rachel?”
Meredith nodded and wiped the tears.
“We’re here for you, Edie,” Randy said softly.
“Thanks, Randy.” She looked up. “It means a lot.”
Gloria came over and wrapped her arms around her sister. “We love you, Edie.”
“I love you both.” Meredith murmured, hugging her sister tight.
When Gloria pulled away, her face brightened. “Want to go see the cows?”
Meredith laughed. “Sure.”
Gloria grabbed her hand and led her down the path, stopping by the fence that divided them from the pasture. Sure enough, the herd of cows hurried over and stared at them curiously.
Meredith laughed. “Hey, cows.” She grinned.
“Want some food?” Gloria waved a banana peel towards them.
The cows reached for it with their mouths and Gloria dropped it over the fence. Meredith and Gloria watched the cows crowd around the peel, eating it right up.
“Have a good dinner, cows,” Gloria said.
Meredith laughed and ran back up the path to help Randy fold the blanket they’d brought along.
Still no letter.
Meredith couldn’t understand it. Isn’t Rachel eager to tell what’s been happening there? Fear crept in her heart. What did the silence on Rachel’s part mean?
Did she get hurt? Did she get into an accident?
After several more days, Meredith brought her concerns to Mom and Mom phoned the Gibbons’. Thankfully, Mrs. Gibbons answered but explained that Rachel wasn’t home to talk.
Meredith sighed with relief and went to her room. Sitting on her bed, she started writing in her diary.
Rachel hasn’t been writing. Not that she said she would. But I wrote her and I thought she would be eager to tell more about her move. Mom called Mrs. Gibbons today and she answered! At least they didn’t get into an accident.
“Everything alright, Merrie?” Dad poked his head in.
Meredith looked up. “Mom called Mrs. Gibbons.”
“So I heard.”
“Why hasn’t she written to me?” The words came out before she could stop them.
Dad came to stand by her. “Did she say she would write?”
“I said we could be pen pals,” Meredith replied.
“But did Rachel agree?”
Meredith shrugged. “She didn’t seem interested.”
“Meredith, sweetie, have you been spending time with your siblings?” Dad changed the subject, much to Meredith’s disappointment.
“Why don’t you jump on the trampoline with Gloria?” He squeezed her shoulder.
“Dad, what’s wrong with Rachel and me?” Meredith asked, searching his face. She had to know.
He grew solemn. “From the looks of it, it seems your friendship is one-sided. You’re the one reaching out to her as a friend¾to do things for her. But she isn’t doing anything for you.”
“She likes me, Dad.”
“I know that. But what has she done for you?”
Meredith glanced up. “Lots of things. Like she. . . took. . . me. .”
Dad squatted next to the bed. “See?”
“But I love her, Dad.” Meredith’s lips trembled.
“I know. Keep loving her and maybe she’ll come around,” Dad cringed.
It hurts Dad to know Rachel doesn’t care about me. . .
Meredith nodded. “I’ll go jump with Gloria now.”
Dad’s theory proved to be true. After several calls to the Gibbons’ and finding Rachel was not there to talk, Meredith couldn’t help but realize Dad was right.
She used me. . .
The favors Meredith did for her and the gifts she bought Rachel¾it was all to get what she wanted instead of forming a friendship.
How did I become blind to her manipulating? Meredith thought, laying in bed late Friday morning. But she already knew the answer. She loved Rachel so much that she chose to ignore the errors she made.
God didn’t want me to do that, she realized, heart sinking. She had gone so low as to shut out the faults in her friend, even when she knew they were wrong.
Meredith dropped to her knees beside the bed and sobbed. “Dear Lord. . . I thank Thee for showing me my errors. Ple-please for-forgive me-e,” she murmured.
Wiping her tears, Meredith went to the window. The sound of laughter directed her attention to the sidewalk below where she glimpsed Gloria and Randy on their hands and knees, drawing with chalk.
She sniffled. They’re having fun. . . without me.
Mom tapped on the door. “Honey, do you want to come out with us? It’s a nice day.”
“Okay.” Meredith replied. She turned and hurried downstairs, closing the bedroom door behind her¾shutting away the painful truth becoming more evident.
Truth be told, Rachel wasn’t a Christian. Her parents never went to church or prayed before meals. Meredith’s family took Rachel to church occasionally, but not every week. Meredith had prayed she would get something out of it.
I guess it went in one ear and out the other. Meredith shook the thought away as she went out.
“Can I draw?” She asked.
Gloria squealed. “Yeah! Come draw with us!”
Randy exchanged glances with Meredith and smiled. “Let’s have some fun. Why don’t we have a contest?”
“A coloring contest on the sidewalk? How?” Meredith asked.
Randy laughed. “See who can draw the best picture of our family having fun.”
“A ton of fun,” Gloria added, smiling.
Meredith grabbed a piece of chalk paused, contemplating her picture. Walking up the path at Grandma’s. Perfect! She smiled and started the outline of her picture.
“Maybe later we can get ice cream,” Mom said from her seat on the porch swing.
“Yeah!” Meredith, Randy, and Gloria said in unison.
As Meredith filled in the details of her picture, she thought of what they would be doing if Rachel were here. Perhaps they would be walking to the park, where they would swing up to the tree branches or walk on the nature trail.
Whatever we’d be doing it would be fun. A feeling of sadness came over her and Meredith struggled to push back tears. Why? She asked for the millionth time. “Alright. Are we almost done?” Randy asked.
Meredith glanced at her unfinished picture and tears welled up in her eyes. She stood and ran up the porch stairs into the house. She wasn’t in the mood to draw anymore.
Not even a walk to the local ice-cream parlor could cheer her. Meredith licked her chocolate cone in silence, forcing smiles and talking when addressed. Mom and Dad exchanged worried glances now and then.
I miss Rachel. That’s all.
“I have an idea.” Dad scooted next to her at the picnic table on the parlor’s outdoor patio. “Why don’t you call Rachel tonight? She has a cell phone.”
Meredith brightened. “Yeah, I should call her.”
“When we go home you can.” Dad smiled.
“Thanks, Dad.” She leaned her head on his shoulder, then finished the remainder of her ice cream cone.
“Someone loves their ice cream.” Mom winked at Meredith.
The exchange made Meredith’s heart warm. I love them so much! All of them. Her gaze rested on her two, younger siblings.
As soon as they stepped in the door, Meredith bounded up the stairs with the cordless phone and dialed Rachel’s number.
“Hello?” Rachel answered.
“Rachel! Hi! It’s Meredith.” Meredith gushed.
“Oh, hey, Meredith. How’s everything?”
Meredith smiled. “It’s great to hear your voice, Rachel. Things have been good but I really miss you.”
Rachel laughed. “I’m only 5 hours away. Not in Africa.”
Is that what she thinks? Does she miss me? Meredith wondered, contemplating her next words. “We did grow up together.”
“Whatever.” Rachel laughed, the sound irritating Meredith. Did she care at all?
“Why haven’t you been writing?” Meredith asked gently.
“I’ve been busy moving to a new house and a new school. Oh, and I met the cutest boy. He lives next door.”
Rach. . .a boy? Is that who’s taking up your time?
“Seriously? You’re only 16.”
Rachel snorted. “You sound like my Mom.”
“But a boy?”
“You know what, I don’t have time to talk. I need to go. Bye, Meredith. Don’t bother calling me anymore,” Rachel said.
“Rachel. . .” Meredith gasped. The only sound she heard was the buzzing of the unfinished call.
Days of gloom followed. Meredith spent most of her time crying over the lost friendship or missing the memories she’d made with Rachel. Again and again her mind would go over that final phone call¾the call that proved Rachel didn’t care anymore.
Why the change? Meredith lamented.
Gloria and Randy attempted to cheer her up but Meredith turned them away and remained in bed. To make matters worse, she caught a cold and had a high fever for several days.
Mom came and served her hot soup. Then Meredith would lay back down and sleep, dreaming of her days with Rachel. She couldn’t escape her broken friendship.
Dear Lord, I thank Thee for being my comfort these days. Please heal me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. Meredith prayed silently one dreary Wednesday.
Dad came up later that afternoon. “Come on, honey. Get up.”
“Why?” She groaned.
“We’re going somewhere.” Dad pulled the blanket off her.
Meredith stood and went to change out of her pajamas. Brushing her hair, she glanced in the mirror. She was still pale from her sickness and a bit weak, but the excitement of going somewhere brought faint color to her cheeks.
Dad led her to the car and they started out. Meredith observed the different roads they were taking and realized where they were going.
“We’re going to Grandma’s?” She asked.
“Yes, you need fresh air and there’s no better place to get it,” Dad replied, eyes intent on the road.
Meredith gazed out at the passing scenery and her excitement grew as they neared the farm.
Grandma was waiting for them when they arrived. “Meredith, how are you feeling?”
Meredith walked up the sidewalk, leaning on Dad’s arm. “I’m feeling a little better.”
“Good.” Grandma beamed and motioned for them to come inside. “I have some cookies.” Her blue-green eyes sparkled.
Meredith smiled and sat at the kitchen table. Dad went to the living room to fix something Grandma had mentioned, leaving Meredith alone with her grandmother.
“How are things since Rachel left?” Grandma watched her.
Meredith blushed. “Not so well.”
“I hear you found out things about your friendship that aren’t so good.” Grandma smiled sadly and squeezed her shoulder. “I’m sorry she hurt you.”
Tears filled Meredith’s eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She brushed them away with her sleeve. “I still love her, though.”
Grandma nodded and brought over a plate of cookies. “Maybe this will help.”
She headed to the stove where a kettle was boiling. Meredith munched on a cookie and watched Grandma pour a cup of tea for herself and two cups of cocoa for Meredith and her father.
Grandma set the hot drinks on the table and took a seat across from Meredith. “Have you been reading the Bible?”
“Mostly the Psalms.”
“They are comforting.” Grandma smiled.
Meredith sipped her hot cocoa cautiously and dipped a cookie in it.
“Let me tell you something, Meredith.”
She looked up.
“We’ve all been wronged in this life; we’ve all been hurt. But whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional pain we don’t have to dwell on it,” Grandma said.
We don’t have to live like we’ve been hurt? Flashes of the past week crossed her mind and she sank back. She’d been living like she was in pain.
“You’ll get through this, Meredith. The pain will eventually lessen as the years go by and you make other friends.”
Meredith nodded. “But how?”
“Start by reading the Bible more. I’ll give you verses to look up at home to get you started,” Grandma stated. “There’s nothing more comforting or uplifting than realizing you have a friend in Jesus.”
Meredith pondered the words. Jesus is my Friend?
“God sent His Son so that we can conquer pain. Live a life that models that.” Grandma finished. “Live to conquer the pain with God’s strength.”
Meredith smiled, a flicker of hope in her heart. Is there a way to conquer the pain? Can I really live with joy again?
Things changed for Meredith. When she returned from Grandma’s later that Wednesday, she reached for her Bible and read through the verses listed on the sheet of paper.
“ ‘Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.’” Meredith quoted, underlining the verses from 2 Corinthians 12.
Glancing further down the page, she noted verse 9. My grace is sufficient for thee. What does ‘sufficient’ mean?
Meredith jotted down the reference for later research and continued down the list. I need to conquer the pain. Conquer. . . She turned the pages of her Bible quickly, coming to the verse.
Letting her eyes and heart take in the message, she felt a tremendous peace settle over her. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
“We are more than conquerors through Christ,” Meredith murmured, a smile lighting her face.
She lifted her eyes to the sky outside the window. “Dear Lord, I thank Thee that we can be more than conquerors through Thy Son. Please help me to conquer the pain and live with joy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
The days that followed brought hope flooding to her heart and soul. She began spending more time in the Bible, as well as her siblings. She and Gloria often colored together and laughed about the cows. The two of them joined Randy as they paraded down the sidewalk on their bikes, tooting air horns and throwing imaginary candy to their audience. Mom and Dad were thrilled.
One particular afternoon at Uncle Joe’s place, Meredith sat on the front porch and gazed over the expanse of grass and wheat, blooming in the sunlight. With a journal in hand, she began writing.
Grandma was right. I needed to focus less on the pain and more on the joy that I have with my siblings. And the pain is getting less now, compared to when Rachel first moved.
Meredith smiled as Gloria scooted a chair up next to hers.
“What are you writing?” Gloria inquired.
“I’m writing about how I don’t hurt so much any more.”
Gloria broke into a bright smile. “That’s good!”
“I know,” Meredith murmured.
“You know what? If Rachel didn’t move away, we wouldn’t have become close friends,” Gloria said.
Meredith paused at her sister’s words. Out of all this, something good did turn up! “You are so right, Ria!” She reached over and squeezed her sister.
“I love you, Edie!” Gloria smiled.
Meredith hugged her sister. “I love you, Ria. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“What about me?”
The two girls froze and Meredith looked up. “You’re the best ‘boy friend’ I’ve ever had, Randy. Don’t worry about that!”
Randy laughed and joined the group hug. “I love you guys.”
“We love you!” Gloria grinned.
“And I love you both.” Meredith hugged them close. I thank Thee for my siblings, Lord.
That night the entry in her journal went something like this: While Rachel meant evil in our friendship, God used her moving away to bring my siblings and I closer. I couldn’t ask for better friends!