Chapter 38

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"So how do you know Lizzie Garcia?" asks Ted as we walk down the quiet, flood-lit streets.

"We ... have friendly connections. You?"

"I know a bunch of girls who go to her school. Actually ... you remember Belle, right?"

I feel my heart start to pound as I look up into Ted's watery eyes. "Yeah. I do."

"She was kind of close to Lizzie. She actually came to our youth group a couple of times."

"Does Lizzie believe in God?"

Ted shrugs. "I think so. I'm not sure what kind of influence her family has on her but Lizzie is a really nice girl. I don't know how close she is with God but I definitely think she agrees with his principles."

I nod, digging my hands into the pockets of my jacket. "Listen ... I heard about Belle. I'm really sorry."

"Yeah," he says. "It was pretty horrible. They found her on the alter. I guess whoever did it felt guilty and tried to be respectful. We all know that Belle is in a better place now, away from all the sin and violence of the world. She's with God."

It doesn't really help to know that – I'd give anything to bring Belle back to make things right. "Do the police know who did it?"

Ted shrugs. "I don't know much about it. Pastor Daniel spoke the following week and he was fuzzy on the details."

"What did he say?"

"Just that ... he doesn't want us to lose faith. Belle didn't deserve to die like that."

You're telling me, I think and wipe the corner of my eye. It should have been me instead.

"So why did God let it happen? Why does he let these things happen to people who don't deserve it?"

Ted breathes a laugh. "You have no idea how many people ask me that. It's only human for us to blame God for all the earthquakes and world hunger that we suffer through, because we can't control it. But when people who don't believe in God blame him for that stuff, it makes me wonder whether they really do believe. Otherwise they wouldn't be blaming him."

"I guess that makes sense. It still doesn't answer the question though."

Ted nods. "I think ... God never intended the world to be this way. When Adam and Eve sinned, they invited evil into the world. God didn't want to take it away because that would be taking away our free will. If he took away the earthquakes and the tsunamis, there would still be war. And who created war?"

"Us," I answer.

"Exactly. And when something bad happens and you need help, what do you usually do?"

I want to say kick someone's ass but I feel that's a little inappropriate right now. "I dunno ... I guess I go and get help."

"Most people pray. Even when they don't believe. Because when we don't understand what is going on or why things happen, our natural instinct is to turn our eyes to the stars–" He points to the sky and we both look up at the black space littered with beautiful twinkling lights, "–Because we were created by God. We're designed to turn to him and ask for help, or blame him, or seek him. When things are out of human control, we look to God."

I think of that night in the church when I blamed Connor and the bikers for Belle's death and then I blamed myself for getting her caught and then I turned around and blamed God because there was no one else to blame. It stopped there.

"Why did God take Belle?" I murmur.

"So that people like you and me will ask that question. The fact that you believe it was God's fault means that you believe in him."

I turn and look at Ted, confused and yet hopeful at the same time. I want more of my questions answered but we've already reached the station and my bus leaves in five minutes.

"Listen," he says, "I don't know if you were kind of shocked by what happened the night you came to St. James, but ... if you're still up for it, you should come back this Friday. I'm happy to meet with you and introduce you to more friends. It'll just be a quiet service."

I stare into his innocent face. He hasn't even made a move on me yet. It makes me feel more at ease than I ever have been with a guy, except for Nick. And I'm not attracted to Ted. I'm attracted to his light, just like I was with Belle.

"I think maybe I will."

"Cool," he smiles. "Well, I hope to see you there."

He backs away and waves, and I wave back as if in a daze, his words echoing in mymind. And then, almost against my will, I look up at the starry sky and smile.Was it Ted that said those words to me or was it God? Because it was exactly what I needed to hear. And even if God's not okay with assassination, I know that after this mess has been cleared up, I can go back to him. And it's safe and it's clean and it's hopeful there.

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