The sun was beginning its descent but my body hummed with energy; a stark contrast to the scathing cries of protest that had plagued it when I first began farming. My soft figure had hardened, my hands now sported calluses, and my tan was no longer the result of vanity.
I wiped the sweat from my brow as I stood, taking in the garden in front of me. It too had changed greatly in the last month. Where it was once brown and brittle it was now lush and green, small buds beginning to weigh down limbs, flowers providing pops of color here and there. It was hard to believe I had accomplished so much on my own.
Well, mostly on my own.
Christopher stopped by a few times a week to lend a hand, and Christina often brought me lunch when I lost track of time out in the field. They were both constants in a whirlwind of change, and I clung to them like a raft in the middle of a riptide.
I made my way towards the country porch that encompassed my home in search of my cell phone. The device was vibrating against the old wood planks with Christina’s name displayed in bright green letters. There was only one word in her text message.
We had developed many signals over the course of friendship, and this one meant code red. My reply was hurried, and I found myself fiddling with the brim of my hat as I waited for directions.
Another vibration and I hurried down the stairs, skipping the final step in my haste. After crashing on Jay’s couch that night, I had been sleeping in Christopher’s old room, so the walk to the Levitt’s had become second nature again. This was different though; I didn’t wave to the neighbors or stop when engaged with small talk. Instead, Mr. Dale received a forced smile as I pretended I didn’t hear my name being called.
“Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Levitt.” I greeted them in an attempt to seem normal.
This was thwarted as I headed up the staircase without offering to help with dinner, as I normally did. I caught them exchanging worried glances before they disappeared behind the banister.
Christina’s room was the first door on the left, and the muffled sound of weeping could be heard from the hallway. I knocked, but when I didn’t receive a coherent response I peeked into the room. Christina blonde hair was thrown up into a bun, her hands furiously wiping at her red, puffy eyes. I had had my share of hysterics recently, but while my cries were silent, Christina’s wails wrenched my heart with the same intensity that they pierced my eardrums.
“Oh no,” I kneeled down in front of her, trying to catch her eye, “Christina. What happened?”
“A-a-Aiden.” The name was choked out through several deep breaths, the rest of her sentence drowned out by her sorrow.
Aiden was Christina’s boyfriend. I had only met him twice, and both times had been brief, but he seemed to be a kind soul. He ran an animal rescue, volunteered at a soup kitchen and, according to Christina, didn’t have a mean bone in his body. They had only been dating a few months, but if he had hurt her I would make sure he regretted it.
“What did he do?” I pulled Christina’s hands away from her face as she began hyperventilating, “Deep breaths, Christina.” I led by example, watching as her eyes focused on me, lashes coated in tears.
A minute passed, and Christina’s breathing slowed, “He didn’t do anything.”
“Is he okay?” My voice hitched, but I forced the words out as my mind raced to the worse case scenario. The kind of scenario that had brought me back home.
Christina slowly slid off the bed, snuggling up beside me as we leaned against her twin mattress, “He’s fine, Willow. It’s me.” She stressed the last word as if it revealed all the wonders of the world to me.
“I’m sorry, I don’t follow.”
Her head rested against my shoulder as she let out a long sigh, “It’s me. I broke up with him.”
“Are you a virgin?”
The sudden turn in the conversation did nothing to ease my confusion, and my brows furrowed, “Yes, but what does that have to do with anything?”
“Have you- Have you ever been… tempted?” The last word was barely a whisper as she peered up at me sheepishly, face crimson.
“Of course I have, Christina. It’s natural, but what does that have to do with Aiden?”
“We were. We were watching a stupid romantic comedy last night and I – we – I wanted to…”
That was all it took for the pieces to click into place, “Christina… that’s normal. It’s okay to be sexually attracted to him, healthy even.”
“No! I mean, I know.” Christina withdrew from my shoulder, determination shining through her bright blues, “I made a promise to the Maker, Willow. A promise I was so close to breaking last night. I can’t be with him. If I’m with him, I’ll…”
I nodded along as she spoke, understanding her dilemma. I had also made a vow of chastity at 16, and knew the conflicts sexual arousal brought. The guilt, the shame, feeling like you were committing a sin even though you hadn’t done anything yet. “It’s okay, Christina. I promise you this will work itself out.”
I held her as she cried a little more until I realized that we were missing two essential ingredients for any self-loathing girl time, “You pick out a movie – preferably one with Ryan Gosling in it – and I’ll go grab us ice cream.”
I knew it wasn’t right, but as I headed down into the kitchen I couldn’t help but feel relief that I was the one doing the comforting for once.
Author’s Note: Religion plays a big part in most small towns, and Willow’s Creek is no different. I don’t want to offend anyone by naming a specific god in my story, so I am using Maker to reference this religion’s god. Since this is the first time it has influenced a character’s actions, I thought I should bring it up now. :]