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Sold Outa novel
By Melody Carlson
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2003 Melody Carlson
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Chapter OneFriday, April 11
Six months ago (to this very day!) I gave my life to God. And right now I feel like a complete failure. I can just see God shaking His head at me, thinking, "Get it together, girl!" Or maybe not-God is more mature than that, more gracious, more kind.
Yet who would've guessed that a day that started so well would go so crooked? Just goes to show you we don't have as much control over things as we'd like to believe. And even when we think we're doing everything right, it can still go wrong. Anyway, I got up early, spent some time with God, printed out copies of my latest song (for Allie and Laura to look over), and even rode my bike to school-part of my new "get fit" regime. I was feeling pretty good.
But now it seems I can't even do the simplest of things! I mean, how many times have I read Jesus' words-where He tells us to love, not just our friends, but everyone, even our enemies? How many times? And okay, I'll admit I still have a hard time loving my enemies. Take Tiffany Knight for instance. She's a pretty tough chick to love. Still, I ask for God 's help on a regular basis, and I haven't done anything too lame lately. At least not to Tiffany.
Unfortunately, I blew it with one of my very best friends today, and I can't really blame her for being mad at me right now. Actually, I'm still pretty ticked at her too, but I know I was wrong, selfish, stupid even. Worst of all, I feel like crud to have been so incredibly immature in front of a bunch of our friends. How moronic is that? I'm not blind. I know that people watch me, Allie, and Laura to see how we act, how we treat others.
Ever since our band, Redemption, has been getting better known, it's as if we've suddenly turned into God's poster kids-like no mistake will go unnoticed. It probably sounds as if I'm becoming a bit paranoid, but I don't think so. I think they ARE watching, and waiting ... for days just like today. And really, I'm not complaining about that so much, because it's what I wanted. I do want my friends to see my life for what it is-up close and personal-but hopefully so they can see God in me. Not me acting like a total jerk. That's why I'm infuriated at myself right now. I feel as though I made God look bad, and I hate when that happens.
It all started out in the cafeteria. Laura and Allie and I were eating together like we often do, although not always. Laura's friends LaDonna and Mercedes were sitting with us too, along with a few others, and we were all having a pretty good time until Laura pulled out a copy of my latest song, the one I'd given her just this morning. I'd hoped we could pull it together to perform next month at the All God's Children festival. And this is especially important to me because the money we make there will go to such a great cause.
But anyway, it became quite obvious that Laura didn't like my song. And now that I think about it, she seemed to be in a fairly obnoxious mood today. She'd already yipped at LaDonna about something or other and had been complaining about lunch (although that's understandable).
"This stanza is so cliché." Her voice seemed to take on that somewhat superior tone that she uses occasionally. But then I sort of understand how she's like that sometimes. I think it's her way of saying, "Hey, I'm important too."
"Cliché?" I leaned over to see which line she was referring to, at the same time telling myself to just chill, don't take offense. I mean, Laura has every right to her opinion.
"Yeah, it's just kind of boring."
"Boring?" Now that seemed a pretty strong opinion to me.
"Aw, it's not that bad," injected Allie before taking a bite of pizza.
Laura pressed her lips together. "Well, maybe 'boring' is the wrong word. But I guess the words fall kind of flat on me."
"Flat?" I'm sure my voice sounded a little flat at this point. I was starting to think it might've been nice if Laura had saved her criticism until later-a more private time when not so many ears were tuned in. I suppose this means I still have a problem with my pride. I glanced around the group and pretended not to care what they or anyone else thought, but I could see they were pretty amused by our little conflict. I shrugged. "Well, if you really don't like it-"
"It's not that I don't like the whole song. But this verse right here feels so cliché."
"Yeah, you mentioned that." It's possible I snapped those words out.
"You don't have to get so offended, Chloe."
"I'm not." I folded my arms across my chest and desperately tried to act nonchalant. "But you don't have to be so critical, either."
"Sorry." I could hear the irritation intensifying her voice. "I didn't know you had such thin skin."
"Well, think about it, Laura. No writer likes being told she's 'cliché.'"
"Fine. I guess I should've just told you that I'm sure I've heard this line in about a dozen other songs."
"What songs?" I realized my voice was increasing in volume now, but it seemed as if she was taking this whole thing way too far.
"Oh, lots of songs. I think it might've even been in an old Beatles song-"
"So you're saying the Beatles are cliché?"
She rolled her eyes at me. "No, I think you are cliché."
"Well, thanks a lot!" I snatched the paper from her hands and stood.
"Don't get mad, Chloe." This came from Allie. And no defense of my lyrics either; she seemed to assume this was just my problem.
"I'm not mad." I picked up my tray. "I think I need a change of scenery is all." And then I walked over to where Allie and I used to always eat, but now only eat sometimes. Today Jake, Cesar, Spencer, and a new girl named Marissa were sitting there.
"Hey, Chloe," called Cesar. "I thought maybe you'd ditched us for good."
I set down my tray. "Nah. It's just that we've been using lunchtime to work on some things for the next concert." Okay, that was partially true, but not completely. And I guess they saw through me.
Especially Jake. He looked unconvinced. "Aw, don't give us that bull, Chloe. We all know that Laura thinks she's too good for us. I used to think she was kinda cool, but now I think she's just like the rest of them." He glanced back to the table I'd just abandoned. "Even now she's looking over here like we're some nasty, trashy influence on you." He made a face imitating her.
I had to laugh. "No, that's not it. The reason she's scowling like that is because we just had a little spat."
"What about?" asked Marissa with obvious curiosity. "I thought you Christian kids always got along with each other."
Now I wished I'd kept my mouth shut. "Oh, it was nothing. She just didn't like a song I'd written."
Spencer laughed. "Oh yeah, I get it. Can't take the criticism, can you? Sure, it's fun when everyone's clapping and thinking you're great-"
"Man, are you in the wrong biz if you can't take the heat," added Cesar. "You ever read music reviews? Those critics can be pretty cruel, you know."
"I know and I would expect that kind of crud from a music critic. But it seems like your own band should be a little more understanding and supportive."
Marissa patted my shoulder in what seemed a somewhat demeaning way. "You're absolutely right, Chloe. And if I was in your band, I'd never pick on you."
I rolled my eyes. "Thanks, I feel so much better now."
"Yeah, too bad Marissa can't carry a tune," added Cesar. "You could throw Laura out and sign her up."
"Thanks, Julius." Marissa tossed him a look. She liked to call him "Julius" to aggravate him-like for Julius Caesar (pronounced see-sir, when Cesar's name is actually pronounced say-zar).
Anyway, hoping to change the subject, I turned my attention to Marissa. "So, are you feeling better about your move now?" I asked. The last time she and I had spoken, she was still feeling depressed about changing schools in the middle of the year.
"I guess." She glanced around the table and smiled halfheartedly. "These guys are treating me pretty good."
Spencer stood. "Yeah, but she still won't go out with any of us." He nodded to Jake. "Wanna get some fresh air?"
I shook my head. "Man, you really need a new line, Spencer. That one's getting pretty frazzled, you know."
"Yeah," Marissa chimed in with a twinkle in her eye. "Why don't you just admit that you're going out behind the school to puff on some weed?"
Spencer glared at her, then let loose with some profanity before he scuffled away, trying, I'm sure, to act cool. I have to admit that his language bothers me more than it used to, but I also remind myself that it's just where he's at right now. And I believe Jesus wants me to accept him-as he is.
I turned my attention back to Marissa. Now I need to point out that she's a really interesting looking girl-quite pretty actually, although I suspect she doesn't have a clue. She has this gorgeous long dark hair and startling green eyes that she outlines heavily in black. Today she had on a short denim skirt and tall boots. "So how come you won't go out with any of these guys?" I asked.
She glanced at Cesar. "Just not with the ones who've asked."
So then I realized, with a slight jolt, that she's after him. But what's that to me? I'd already made it perfectly clear I wasn't interested in getting involved with Cesar right now anyway. Yet I did experience a teeny twinge of jealousy just then. Naturally I tried to conceal this with another question. "So what do you do for fun then?"
She shrugged. "Not much."
"You want to do something with Allie Curtis and me this weekend?"
Her eyes lit up. "Sure."
"Let me see what's up with Allie and then give you a call."
The bell started to ring and I picked up my tray. "Later," I said as I headed out. At the tray drop-off I saw Laura, and she had on a scowl that looked to be carved right into her forehead. "You didn't have to get into a huff like that, Chloe, just because you didn't like my opinion."
I shrugged as I dumped my tray. I suppose I still felt hurt, or maybe just sorry for myself. I know I wanted her to apologize to me first. And I'm sure if she'd shown the slightest degree of sympathy, the whole thing would've blown over right then and there. And I'd have apologized to her too. For sure. So why didn't we just resolve the whole stupid thing right then and there? Why go to the trouble to bear grudges when it only makes you feel horrible?
She nodded over to where Marissa and Cesar were just leaving the table. "Chloe, do you really think you should be hanging with those guys?"
"Those guys?" Okay, maybe I was just mad, but something about her tone ignited something in me. I suppose it was indignation. And I narrowed my eyes at her. "What exactly do you mean by that?"
"I just happen to think it's wrong, is all."
Well, this is when I lost it. I mean, it's not the first time Laura has pulled this, and today it just got to me. "What is with you, Laura?" I asked loudly (stupidly drawing even more attention). "Why are you so down on absolutely everyone and everything? What kind of Christian are you supposed to be anyway?"
Her eyes flashed at me, but she said nothing, just turned away.
"Fine!" I shouted after her. "Be that way!"
"Time to lighten up," said Allie quietly, coming up from behind and lacing her hand on my shoulder. "Chill."
"Why?" I demanded. "Why do I need to chill when Laura goes around acting like she's God's special appointee to judge everyone?"
"I think she's having a bad day."
And so Laura and I didn't speak to each other again for the remainder of the day. And now I feel rotten about it. I don't know why I couldn't just keep my big mouth shut. But part of what I said is true. I don't know why she has to act so judgmental and critical sometimes. And in her defense she's not always like that. But I also realize her church is fairly conservative and that has to affect her somewhat. But, honestly, sometimes I just wish she would lighten up.
God, what do You think
when we make a stink?
should people go 'round
always putting down
look down their noses
as another mind closes?
God, why can't we be
more open and free?
hey, didn't You teach
how it is we'll reach
other ones for You
if we can be true
to the way You live
and how You forgive
with a perfect love
poured from above?
please, help me, I pray
show me Your way
Chapter TwoSaturday, April 12
Laura didn't come to practice today. It's the first time she's ever missed. She left a message with my mom saying she was busy. That's all. Just busy. Allie and I tried to practice without her, and it wasn't too terrible, but something was definitely missing. And it didn't help much that Allie was more hyper than usual. I realize now how Laura really helps to calm that girl down some.
"What exactly is going on with you two anyway?" asked Allie as she crammed her drumsticks back into her pack.
"I'm not sure." I unplugged my guitar and leaned it against the stand.
"I know how Laura can get on her high horse sometimes, but she usually apologizes later." Suddenly Allie grew thoughtful. "One time she told me that she does that whole judgmental thing out of habit."
"Seems like a bad habit."
"Well, you know how her church can be sometimes. I've only visited twice, but the way that preacher can go on and on kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies. It's like they're all worried about everyone blowing it, especially kids. The preacher is constantly warning everyone not to do this or that, not to make mistakes or get into trouble. It's pretty negative if you ask me."
"Yeah, I know. The only time I ever went there I felt sort of guilty for not going up to the altar when we were all supposed to 'repent.' But it just didn't feel right to me at the time. I felt like I was being manipulated. Because I honestly felt as if everything was pretty much okay between God and me that particular day. And I really didn't feel like God was asking me to go down there. The truth is, as stupid as I felt sitting in the pew all by myself and probably looking like some unrepentant sinner, I'd have felt like a hypocrite to have gone forward."
Allie pulled on her sweatshirt. "But Laura really gets drawn into all that stuff-and her parents and brother too. It's as if she's afraid to make one single mistake.
Excerpted from Sold Out by Melody Carlson Copyright © 2003 by Melody Carlson
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.