Chapter 7 (Part 1)

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The Crayon community hall was not as big as the main sanctuary. However, it was quite spacious. Where the walls of the great church were painted a light brown, a soft yellow grazed its walls and instead of the dark wooden pews that filled the former room, singular seats occupied this space with the occasional triangle table standing out from among their masses. The windows however, remained huge and wide but they were not stained and where an altar had graced the front of the main sanctuary, this one had a podium that was completely bare except for a little pulpit that was stashed away on one of its corners.

Apart from that, this room was filled with people, young people that is. They were scattered all over the room as they chatted away with their friends, sipping away at their cups of tea, while the rest of them congregated near the back where a tea table had been set up. All in all, the crowd was made up of about fifty persons including Ryan and Mrs Beufont who were now standing by its doorway.

"What do you think?" Mrs Beufont asked him. Her eyes swept through the room as a smile continued to play on her painted lips.

"Okay, I'll stay and observe." he answered, now more curious about this group that Mrs B had been going on about.

"That's good. I think you'll love it here. As you can see, we all differ in ages, but it is home nonetheless and here, no one will judge you. After all, every one of these people that you see here as their own story to tell. Of course, you can't tell that from they way that they are laughing, but they have learnt to confront their demons and have now found peace because of it."

"Truly?" he marveled as his eyes followed a familiar pair as they made their way from the back of the room to the front of the hall where the podium was. "But they are so young?" he remarked.

"Janice and Bernice?" Mrs Beufont laughed as her eyes continued to follow his gaze. "They are sisters and orphans and have the almost amazing set of vocals you will ever find here in Crayon City."

"Truly?" he turned back to smile at her skeptically.

"Truly."

"It is quite the artistic group that you have here Mrs Beufont." he said his gaze trailing to the other groups that were huddled together.

"Yea... Most of them were actually my students, hence the artistic inclination as you like to call it, but that is not why we meet here." Ryan turned a questioning glance at her as she continued to explain. "Music or art in general is a great way to escape, especially for the artist with a great deal of pain and hurt in his past. However, the therapy that art provides is not as permanent as I myself came to find out. However, through this our meeting here, we have all found ways to find peace and keep it beyond the boundaries and limitations that our art could not. "

Ryan's brows furrowed but this time not out of skeptism. He was curious. More than curious so to speak, about the answers to his past, to all his questions and to all the hurt that had been plaguing him for years passed. For this reasons, Ryan found that he was beyond skeptism. For anything that could work where his art or booze had failed him, he felt was worth a try and hence the step that he took forward and the next, even as he walked on after Mrs Beufont who continued to lead the way all the way to the front of the hall where she ushered him to his seat.

Leaving him settled, the woman took to the podium. Slowly, as she tapped the microphone to catch their attention, the room grew quiet as they stopped whatever it was that they had been doing just to listen to her .

'' Okay, everybody. Are we ready to start now ?''

'' Mostly!'' a voice quipped from the very behind and the rest of the room burst out into boisterous laughter. Somehow, Ryan also found himself smiling.

'' Okay Samuel...  Three seconds to swallow and you can lead us in a word of prayer. "

"Oh men..." A loud groan answered her and the room split into another round of laughter and this time, Ryan joined in. It was impossible not to, as with laughter, their happiness was quite infectious. Nonetheless, the same guy led them in a word of prayer and in that moment, Ryan realised that this group, despite being a jolly lot, really respected Mrs Beufont and everything that she stood for. For who wouldn't when her heart was always open, always ready, always loving even with strangers like him who had no place and no one else in this sad sad world.

'So as always we shall begin with our devotion,' Mrs Beufont said as she ushered the two girls from before to the top of the podium, "and again, as always, Janice and Bernice will lead us."  she smiled as the eldest of the two girls received the microphone.

Now Ryan was not a religious person, neither could he ever call himself spiritual, but as the chorus continued to flow, the words of the song resonated in his heart and rang in his mind. Somehow he also found that his frayed feelings were being soothed and for the first time in a very long time, Ryan relaxed as he was finally able to experience some semblance of inner peace.

As the words of the song continued to resonate through out the hall, Ryan found himself thinking, meditating even on the words that spoke of a story that he had heard of so many times before but had never quite given much thought to. This words, the words that told the story of a man who was more broken than he was, yet more righteous than most was quite touching. For how could one who was so pure, so undeserving of such treatment suffer like so. It was the way of the world, Ryan had to agree.  Yet, this man, this man that had suffered so much could still be capable of love, of forgiveness and compassion to the very same people who had tortured him? It was unheard of, yet his heart witnessed to his soul that it was true and so Ryan believed it. All that for him as Mrs Beufont had told him and as his mind registered the suffering that this man had to endure for the sake of his friends, for their freedom, his freedom - for he was now convinced that it was also for him - Ryan broke down and wept. It was not out of bitterness or pain, but the realisation that he actually mattered. That in everything that he had gone through, thinking that he had been all alone, he was not and that assurance convicted him of so many things, so many truths that he had never thought of before.

A hand patted his back, and the more it moved in even circles, a gesture that was meant to be comforting the more his tears flowed.

Ryan continued to open up his heart and the pain that he had once buried inside came to surface. All the anger, the disappointments and the bitterness that he had once succumbed to became unearthed as his wounds got tended to. Then slowly, the pain began to ebb and like a distant memory that no longer had any control over him, it all disippated. He now felt new, renewed even and as Mrs Beufont took over the podium again, Ryan could not help the smile. For he was feeling new albeit the pink nose, the puffy eyes and the scratchy throat that made him look and sound like a clown.
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