The Power of Faith

Stephanie Praamsma World Literature May 9, 2012

“Are you ready, honey? We‟re almost there.” “Duh.” “You‟re really going to love them! I think this is the one.” “That‟s what you say every time.” Loria Wesemann, a social worker for Ohio State Social Services, let out a sigh and then smiled at the girl sitting next to her in the back of the taxi. The girl was fifteen and tall for her age. She probably would‟ve been very pretty if it wasn‟t for all her extreme makeup and peculiar clothes. She had deep brown eyes and gorgeous dark brown wavy hair that was very different from Loria‟s, whose hair was gray and wispy. Her name was Annabelle Lamont, she was an orphan stuck in the foster care system. The taxi stopped outside a home. It wasn‟t big, or extravagant, but it was one of those houses that made you smile and think, “what a cute little place.” “Wow! That‟s a pretty quaint house isn‟t it?” “It looks like the three bears and goldilocks should live in it,” Annabelle sneered, rolling her eyes as she stomped out of the car. “And that‟s a bad thing…?” Loria asked in bewilderment. She thanked the taxi driver and paid him, then walked around to the trunk to grab Annabelle‟s suitcase. Her high heels clicked on the sidewalk, she felt they made her taller and more in control, as she went up the steps and rang the doorbell. “Annabelle? Come on! Get on up here!” Annabelle didn‟t seem to be in as much as a hurry as Loria. She just stood at the beginning of the walk and observed her new house. „Not my house for long though. These supposedly “sweet” people will be kicking me out in less than a week.‟ She thought sourly; but sauntered up the walk anyway, just like she always did.

The door swung open and a woman with green eyes and short dirty blond hair appeared in the doorway. She smiled and seemed to be extremely excited. “Welcome to Chardon, Ohio! Loria! How are you? You are looking great, how‟s Carl doing? Oh my, this must be Annabelle? My name is Lauren.” She beamed at Annabelle and extended her hand. Annabelle looked at it skeptically. “Yeah, I know.” “Oh of course, Loria must have told you.” Lauren smiled good-naturedly, and pulled her hand back. “Come on in! You guys had quite a drive, you must be exhausted.” She took the suitcase from Loria and went into the house talking over her shoulder. “Annabelle, we‟ve been looking forward to you coming for so long! Christianna even renovated our guest room for you; we weren‟t sure what color you would like so we painted it blue, how can you go wrong with blue? I hope you like it…” Lauren talked on and on. Annabelle wasn‟t paying much attention; she was just taking in the house. She felt like she had stepped into a CountryHome magazine, it was all perfectly arranged, and clean. The last home she had been brought to had been a dilapidated trailer. “Hey Annabelle!” Annabelle twisted around and saw a pretty blond, probably around the same age as herself, descending the stairs. “My name is Christianna,” and before Annabelle knew what was happening Christianna was hugging her. Stepping back she smiled and said “but you can call me Christi. Come on, I‟ll show you your room!” She flew up the stairs leaving Annabelle a little shocked at the bottom. “Coming?” Annabelle nodded and strode up the wooden stairs. At the top of the steps she came into a hallway with four doors leading off of it. “That‟s my room,” Christi pointed to the first door on the left. “That‟s Ben‟s room, I‟m sure you heard about him, he‟s eleven and quite messy,” she pointed to the first door on the right. “That‟s the bathroom,” she indicated the last door on the left. “And this is your room,” Christi led Annabelle into the second door on the left, next to Ben‟s bedroom.

Her bedroom was fairly large, with light rain-washed blue walls. The bedspread was white; there were a bunch of cushiony pillows on the bed, all white except for two that were blue. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling and a soft fluffy white rug covered some of the shiny wooden floors. “You like?” Christi said with a mischievous smile. Annabelle looked at her new „sister‟. “I guess it‟s okay.” Christi‟s smile faltered. But she kept her composure. “I‟ll go get your suitcase,” and with that she skipped out of the room leaving Annabelle alone. „They are rich and stuck up. I don‟t belong here… I need a smoke,‟ Annabelle thought. She was confident that she could find someone here in this stupid little city that could get here some dope. She just had to get out of this house… she decided that she would wait until Loria left. She spied a book on the bedside table. It was a Bible. She glanced up and noticed a framed picture of Jesus on the wall, there was also a big metal cross hanging in the hallway. Annabelle groaned. “No wonder they‟re so conceited. They‟re Christians.” She spat in disgust.

“So just sign there, and you‟ll be all set! But you‟ll need to get Mike‟s signature as well…” Loria was sitting at the Montaigne‟s kitchen table with Lauren, filling out the last of the tedious paperwork. “So… there are some things you should know about Annabelle.” Loria said grimly. “She has had… a difficult time.” “We read about her parents. Was her mother really shot by a gang? That‟s so terrible, people these days…” Lauren shook her head sadly. “And then her father…? I wasn‟t exactly sure what happened to him, it wasn‟t clear in the email.”

“Her father just left. He didn‟t want the responsibility of a child, I think he was involved with different gangs as well. He basically gave up his parental rights and brought her to OSS. I have no idea where he is.” “Does Annabelle know about this?” Loria grimaced and nodded. “She is the most unpredictable girl on this earth. The only thing that I ever know is that she is not going to be in one home for more than two months. Two months and seven days has been her record for staying in one home…. She just seems to hate everyone. No matter what I do she won‟t open up to me, even though I‟ve been her social worker for her whole life…” “Well, God willing, that‟s going to change.” Lauren determinately answered. “I certainly hope so, if anyone can help her, it‟s you guys…”

Two months later… “Hey Annabelle, I‟m going outside! To play football!” Ben shouted up the stairs. He twisted his athletic body around the railing and flopped his medium length blond hair around in the air with impatience. “Wanna come?” He tried to sound as excited as he could, but it wasn‟t very convincing. He hated playing sports with Annabelle; she never agreed to any one of the rules and cheated constantly. She yelled back, “Hell no.” “Moooomm… she doesn‟t want to. See? I told you.” Ben complained in a lower voice to his mom, who was watching from the green living room couch. “Why don‟t you try again, sweetie.” “Why don‟t you get Christi to try! She likes her much better than me.”

Lauren heaved a sigh and shook her head. It was true. Annabelle had only ever really talked to Christi, ignoring and disrespecting Lauren, her husband Mike, and Ben also. It had been two months since Annabelle had been in her home and Lauren felt like she had failed. First, Annabelle never was home. And when she was, she was with her new sketchy looking friends; the type of people that Lauren wasn‟t use to having at her house. They all were gothic looking with baggy pants and many chains adorning their bodies. Annabelle would bring them up to her room, turn on earsplitting music that would reverberate through the whole house, lock the doors and spend hours up there. Lauren and Mike weren‟t very happy about it, but they put up with it. She had to find her place in Chardon. But what happened next was unexpected. Annabelle had been arrested, charged with the illegal transportation of firearms. Mike and Lauren had been fined $500 dollars, and gained the knowledge that Annabelle had been involved in a gang. Disappointed, Mike and Lauren told her friends not to come back, and grounded Annabelle for a month. Annabelle shut herself in her room, refusing to talk to anyone. Anyone that is, except for Christianna. Christi was the only one Annabelle felt like she could talk to. They learned a lot from each other. Christi learning about what made Annabelle so secluded, and Annabelle learning why Christi always was so gracious and kind. So little by little, Annabelle was changing. She found that she could actually trust Christi, she wasn‟t ever going to leave her, or send her away. Before she had never allowed anyone to understand her, she never had told anyone what really was going on in her head. Sure people had „thought’ they knew, but Annabelle had never told anyone. Annabelle developed a faith in her foster sister that she had never had in anyone before. For the first time in her life she experienced genuine love. When it was time for her punishment to be lifted, the first thing Annabelle did was go with Christi to help out the church‟s youth group. “I‟m not going because it‟s a Christian activity.” She

clarified to Christi. “I‟m just going because you want me to.” Which was true, Christi had begged her to come to get to know the pastor, youth leaders, rest of the youth group, and to have fun. “I promise you that you‟ll have a blast. Today we are going to bringing sock puppets to the homeless shelter, and act out a story for the kids!” Christi grinned. “You can be the Grinch,” she said winking at Annabelle, “and I will be Rapunzel!” After Annabelle got back from the shelter, she realized she had actually had fun. Just as she was about to climb the stairs to go change in her bedroom she saw a small rag doll that a little girl had given Christi, laying on the table in the hall. A jolt of jealousy flitted into her mind. Christi had been amazing at the shelter, love seemed to be emanating from her. As she teased the little children, they had been attracted to her in a way that Annabelle had never seen before. Christi was special, and Annabelle wondered what made her so much different. „Oh yeah, God.’ Her instinct was to flinch away from that word. Any religious words like „God‟ and „church‟ and „youth group‟. The only reason she had ever participated in any of it was because of her love of Christi and the rest of the Montaigne family. But the longer she had lived with her new foster family, the more she had grown use to those words. And they actually brought pleasant images to her mind. Even though she had never been able to rely on anything or anybody before, now it seemed like everything was reliable and wonderful. So maybe, it was because they were Christians. Annabelle smiled as she thought about this. „I want to be just like Christi, I want what she has in her life.‟ Annabelle processed all this information in her mind for a while. Every time she thought about it she became surer of what she needed. The next week Annabelle walked up to Christi and told her what she had been considering. All Christi did was smile and nod. The next Sunday Annabelle and Christi met with the youth pastor and Annabelle became a Christian. A whole new Annabelle excited that church. She was forgiven and glowing with the love of her new father in heaven. It was as if her mind had finally

gotten rid of the barrier around it, and was ready to let people in. Lauren and Mike noticed the change immediately, and Ben felt like he could start a new, a better, relationship with the Annabelle. Annabelle, felt that she had finally found her place; it was among the Montaigne‟s and the church, next to Mike, Lauren and Ben. And especially Christi. She knew that Christi had saved her, she had brought her to her new best friend, Jesus. Annabelle was home, after fifteen years.

Four Months Later “Better is one day in his court, better is one day in his house! Better is one day in his court than a thousand elsewhere!” Christi and Annabelle chanted along with the radio on the way to school. “Change the station!” Ben groaned. Annabelle and Christi exchanged glances and stifled their giggles. “You guys are an embarrassment.” “Oh you know you love our singing, you just don‟t want to admit it,” Annabelle smiled. The blue Honda minivan pulled into Chardon High School‟s parking lot. The exhaust from the other cars floated into the crisp February air obscuring Annabelle‟s vision as she stepped onto the asphalt. “Oh, I hate Mondays….” Christi followed her into the school waving to a couple of junior guys. “My, isn‟t that Spencer just adorable?” she winked at Annabelle. “And I think he‟s got an eye for youuu!” Annabelle blushed and looked down at her feet, “nahhh…” “Yeah he does! I think he‟s looking at you right now… Anyways, I need to get some breakfast in the cafeteria, want to come along?”

“I can‟t, Mr. Praamsma needs to talk to me about my essay, I think he wants to use it in the school newspaper or something, sorry.” She frowned and waved goodbye to Christianna. As she passed the group of juniors, she heard someone call out her name. She glanced around but couldn‟t find who had called her, until Spencer was suddenly standing right in front of her. “Hey Bella…” he smiled with his cute little dimples. Annabelle felt her face heating up and she bit her bottom lip. “Hi Spencer, how are you?” “Awesome! Yesterday me and Tyler went mudding, and my truck got covered. I should take you with me some time…” He tilted his head a little to the side and stared at Annabelle, making her even more nervous. Annabelle laughed uneasily, so maybe he did have a crush on her. “Yeah I‟d love tha-” But before she could finish her sentence she heard a gun shots. Then screaming. Then Spencer was grabbing her by her hand and pulling her into the nearest classroom. The world was a blur as Annabelle was tugged under a lab table, and huddled close to Spencer. There was more screaming, and an alarm went off. She could see people texting, and calling parents. She reached into her back pocket and with difficulty, pulled her iPhone out. She immediately texted Christi, her fingers skating across the keypad as quickly as she could. Whats going on? Im scared, im under a table with Spencer in 200. Are you okay? Where are you? She pressed send and held her breath anxiously. Then she sent a text to Lauren, Mike and Ben. Christi was usually very good at texting right back, but no reply came. Lauren replied two minutes later. Annabelle! Thank God you’re okay, have you seen Christi? She isn’t texting back, there was a student with a gun in your school. That’s all I know, just stay where you are and the police will be there soon.

Your school is surrounded by SWAT and helicopters, I think this is serious. I’m so worried but I’m praying for you guys. SWAT? A guy with a gun? Annabelle shook with fear. Where was Christi? What had happened? Did the student shoot anyone? Who was the student? Questions banged around her head and she reached over and grabbed Spencer‟s hand. He squeezed Annabelle‟s hand gently, and she smiled. Then unexpectedly the door banged open, Annabelle screamed. A senior stood there, holding a .22 caliber pistol, his mouth open, shouting loudly over the din of the sirens and screaming. Annabelle knew him, or at least use to. His name was Darren, and he had been the leader of her old gang. They hadn‟t spoken in months, ever since she had told him that she didn‟t want anything to do with the gang anymore. He stood there resolute; sweeping his cold eyes around the room, over every trembling boy and girl that was anxiously anticipating his next move. When his eyes rested on Annabelle she could see the fire raging and flaming. Darren raised the pistol, aiming straight at Annabelle and pulled the trigger. The shot rang out and Annabelle braced herself for whatever was coming, but nothing happened, and she sighed in relief. It didn‟t fire, she thought. Then she heard a groan of agony behind her, Darren swore and darted out the door, and she felt herself slide into unconsciousness.

“Annabelle, wake up, please please wake up…” Annabelle groaned. Her back ached terribly and her head felt like it had been hit with a baseball bat. She blinked her eyes and realized she was staring up at the ceiling of the school. “Do you think that you‟ll need a stretcher?” Annabelle recognized the voice of her Biology teacher Mr. Steeler. “No.” She sat up slowly and looked around, the whole classroom was empty. “I‟ll be okay. What happened?”

“Daemon Kinsley was shot, he was under the table with you and Spencer. Spencer‟s fine, the top of his ear was grazed by the bullet but nothing more serious than that. Daemon was taken to the hospital…” “I need to find my mom.” Dragging herself up, Annabelle walked with Mr. Steeler out of the empty school into the parking lot. It was chaos. The whole school was out there, along with many of their family members, crying and embracing. Police were everywhere, and there were two helicopters flying overhead contributing to the commotion. “Bella!” Annabelle turned and saw Lauren, Mike and Ben running toward her. She didn‟t move, tears springing to her eyes as worries pelted her mind like rocks. “Lauren. Where is Christi.” Lauren pulled Annabelle in to hug her, but she resisted, pushing her away. “Tell me what happened.” Her foster mother just stood there shaking her head, tears coursing down her face. “Lauren.” “She…” Lauren sniffed and wiped her face with the back of her hand. Mike put an arm around her shoulders and Ben grabbed Mike‟s arm. “She was taken to the hospital.” Annabelle‟s heart skipped a beat. “She was… she was shot.” Annabelle sank to the ground and it took all her willpower not too faint again. She felt tears rise hot to her eyes, and she covered her face in her hands. “She‟s going to be okay though.” Annabelle said. If she said it, maybe it would come true. “We don‟t know sweetie.” Mike spoke in a choked whisper. “We‟re gonna go to the hospital now…” He held out his hand for Annabelle and she took it. He led his family through all the disorder of the parking lot and they drove off. All of them praying, and hoping with all their hearts that Christianna was going to be alright.

Annabelle rested her forehead on the cold window of the Honda. Her breath fogged the glass as she exhaled; she focused her mind on that one small task: breathing. She felt Lauren‟s hand softly on her shoulder. “Honey… Don‟t you think we should…?” „Go inside?‟ Annabelle thought. She nodded her head and heaved the door open. It was weird, it felt heavier than normal to her. She dropped her Converses onto the asphalt of the hospital parking lot, and began to stumble towards the revolving doors. She still was in a daze, Mike and Ben had already rushed in but she had stayed, paralyzed, in the car. Images of Darren standing there, pointing the gun at her were speeding through her mind making her sick. Other pictures, ones of Christi, were also being created in her imagination. Christi in the cafeteria, holding her tray with an assortment of breakfast food. Then Darren walking in, pulling out the gun, and shooting her. Christi lying on the floor, in a puddle of blood. Trying as hard as she could, Annabelle shut those images. She needed to be strong for Ben. And Lauren and Mike. After the smelly hospital air hit her nose during the long silent walk down the hallway and the stuffy elevator ride, Annabelle was already sweating. She sweat when she was nervous, and her underarms felt clammy. The emergency room was on the bottom level, they had been told to go to a waiting room on the second floor. It was even hotter in the waiting room; it smelled like antiseptic, and there were nondescript pictures of wild flowers hanging on the hideous maroon walls. Annabelle sat down on one of the stiff, clashing seats and stuffed her hands under her thighs. Her foster mom sat down next to her, letting out a tiny sigh. Tears stained both of their cheeks. Annabelle‟s nose was red and raw from crying. The door opened a few minutes later, a nurse with raven black hair and pale skin walked in. She looked tired, and her eyes looked puffy under all her makeup. Behind her, Ben and Mike filed in. When they saw each

other Mike ran to Lauren and seized her in his big arms. Lauren finally broke down sobbing. Ben stood there uncomfortably next to the nurse looking confused and Annabelle didn‟t move. “Just pray…” Mike whispered over and over as he stroked Laurens hair. “That‟s all we can do.” The raven haired nurse cleared her throat. “We‟ll let you know as soon as her operation is over.” Her voice came out in a croak, causing Annabelle to cringe. She left the room with a swish of her hair. Ben came and slumped into a chair and stared at a dent on the wall in a stupor. Mike and Lauren sat down and Mike turned to Annabelle. “Bella, sweetie. How are you doing?” Annabelle turned and returned Mikes imploring eyes with a glare. “Wait… you‟re asking me how I‟m doing? Christi was just shot by Darren. What do you think?” She sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. “Just don‟t talk to me.” She didn‟t know why, but suddenly she was angry. Furious. This was stupid, why couldn‟t they see Christi now? She was in this building, so why did they have to wait in this stuffy room? Mike sadly pursed his lips. “Everyone‟s going to be fine Bella, I promise.” At that moment the door to the waiting room opened, a man in a white lab coat and the raven haired nurse came in. “Mr. and Mrs. Montaigne.” The man nodded at them. “Who the hell are you?”‟ Annabelle retorted.

“I am Dr. Ellery.” The doctor looked a little surprised at Annabelle‟s boldness. And he gave a meaningful look at Mike and Lauren who were looking at Annabelle with disappointment. “I know you are upset…” Annabelle simply blinked at him without showing any shame. Mike considered the doctor and then said, “How is she?” Ellery stepped closer to Mike and chewed on his lip. He delicately folded his hands in front of him and paused. Then, “We did everything we could, I‟m very sorry. Christianna was a strong girl…” Lauren‟s eyes widened and her hand clutched her throat. Her sobs were choked and she bent forward and fell on her knees. Mike opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out. He followed Lauren to the floor and wrapped his arms around her. Ben didn‟t cry, he just sat there hyperventilating, his panicked breathing becoming faster and faster. Annabelle didn‟t move a muscle. She had learned not to show emotions- that made her weak, and exposed. Ever since she had become a Christian Christi had helped her try to talk about what she was feeling. But where was Christi now? She was dead, shot, lying cold on some metal table. Lifeless. All the terrible images came back in a flood. But this time Christi was completely dead. Annabelle felt like her heart was being torn out. She looked at the silent image of the people she loved, in total anguish. Why was this happening? Did God really want this? How could he? And then something happened to Annabelle that hadn‟t happened in a very long time. Anger consumed her. It was a raging ocean, cold and frothing in her body. He. He had shot her. He was a loser. He had felt that he didn’t have a reason to live so he had to hurt others. He had taken out his anger on her sister, her best friend, the one who had understood her when no one else could, the one that Annabelle loved more than life itself. He. Darren Stoddard.

Annabelle didn‟t know what she was going to do, but she had to do something. She was like a wild animal, unable to be contained. Nothing was going to stop her from her revenge.

When the Honda crunched into the Montaigne‟s driveway, a silent assembly straggled out. The only one who had anything besides God and Christi on their minds was Annabelle. She was planning, and was seething with revenge. As soon as she got into her room she climbed out the window and down the sugar maple in their backyard. The moment her feet hit the lawn they were running. She had to find someone from her old gang, and she knew exactly where to go. Chardon was a very nice town, but it had its rougher places. On the west side of town there was a broken down bridge, that hadn‟t been used in years. This place was known as the Knockturn. The gangs used it to hide drugs and meet when no houses were available. Today the gang was supposed to meet because they met every Monday, so Annabelle went straight there, ignoring the cold. All she needed was one small little favor that she was sure that they could provide.

One Day Later Annabelle stood there; sweat pouring down her face, in the squished wardrobe. Her trembling fingers held the gun tightly, and she ran her finger up and down the trigger. Everything had gone according to plan, at Knockturn she had gotten one of her old friends to sneak her a gun(the gang had a large supply of them). Then he had filled Annabelle in on Darren and when he was going to have a hearing. She had been told that Darren had been held in the town‟s jail for the night, visitors were not allowed. After she got home, Annabelle refused to talk to any of her foster family and focused on making her plan flawless. She was avenging Christianna, and it was going to be done right.

She could hear faint voices and the shuffling of feet. Darren should be coming into the courthouse foyer any minute now. His trial was soon, this would be the first time that Annabelle could get a good clear shot at him after he had murdered Christi… The smell of mothballs reached her nose and suddenly she was reminded of a time a few months ago. The church that the Montaigne family brought her to on her first day had smelled like mothballs also. Christi had brought her along, reluctantly, to help with the children‟s Sunday school. They sang a song that Annabelle had remembered, mostly because she thought it was pretty racist: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world! Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight! Jesus love the little children of the world!” Later Christianna had told Annabelle about how Jesus really did love her, and everyone, no matter how much they disobeyed him. “He died for everyone. Every single person who lives right now, has lived, and will live. Even though most people don‟t even believe in him, even though most people hate him, he still loves them. He loves you. He wants you to believe in him and love him back to.” The door opened and a pounding started in Annabelle‟s ears. She peeked out of the crack in the door and saw Darren walk in, with his hands cuffed together. His body was trembling. He looked so… vulnerable. Nothing like Annabelle had imagined him looking like at this moment. She had imagined him angry and defiant. Sneering at Annabelle with his cold dark eyes… But now, as she looked into his eyes, they looked soft, and very scared. He looked like an innocent trapped animal. “Jesus love the little children…” Annabelle put a hand on the cold wood of the wardrobe door. “… all the children of the world.” A little sigh came out of her mouth, and she pushed the door slowly open. It creaked stubbornly.

“Red and yellow black and white…” Annabelle shifted her grip on the butt of the gun and got ready to spring, all her instincts were taking over, the ones she had learned and perfected in the gangs she had been in. “… they are precious in his sight... Jesus love the little children of the world… He loves everyone, even Darren.” Annabelle paused. She had just heard Christi‟s voice in her head. „Would she want me to be doing this right now? How is this going to help Christi?‟ Then Annabelle recalled something else she had been taught: hate the sin, not the sinner. Christi always had told her this and repeated it to herself whenever she found herself getting angry at someone. Darren had done a terrible thing, but was sinking to his level going to do anything, besides getting herself in a lot of trouble? Then Annabelle heard a clunk. The gun had fallen from her sweaty fingers. She retreated back into the wardrobe unseen. „Darren is God‟s child to, and he loves him just as much as he loves me.‟ Annabelle waited until the noise had faded away from the foyer, and then she darted out the door and ran from the gun, away from Darren and away from her anger.

Annabelle sprinted up the creaky front porch stairs and burst into the house. Her whole body shook and sweat mingled with the tears that coated her face. “Bella! What is wrong?! Mike come here quick!” Lauren was in her apron, cookie batter covered her fingers and there were streaks of flour in her hair. Annabelle felt comforted by the familiar look of her foster mom and the smell of freshly baked cookies. But it seemed to surreal to her, shouldn‟t her mom be yelling at her? Or angry? Even if she was bawling still over Christianna‟s death the whole situation would

have made more sense to her. Annabelle felt like she should be getting rebuked and smacked for what she had almost done. Shuddering, Annabelle remembered. She had almost killed someone. “Mom…” This was the first time that Annabelle had called Lauren „mom‟, and from the look on her face she seemed very touched, but concerned. “I need to tell you something, something that I did.” And Annabelle told her everything, from what she had experienced in the foster care, to being a part of the Montaigne family, to the courthouse right before Darren‟s trial. It was the second time she had ever told anyone her feelings and what she had been through. She couldn‟t believe it, but after everything she had been through, now she knew how to trust and put her faith in someone. She knew how to let someone in and help her carry her burden of thoughts and emotions. “Annabelle, I love you so so much.” Was all Lauren could say. Her eyelashes were wet with tears, as she bent and kissed Annabelle on her cheek and gave her a tight hug. “Never forget that. Even though you almost made a very bad decision, Annabelle, violence is never the solution for anything. But I know what you are feeling, I lost my daughter. I wasn‟t exactly feeling all warm and fuzzy toward Darren either. But together we are going to help each other along, and get through this hard time. Don‟t ever feel like you can‟t talk to us or you can‟t tell us what you are feeling. We are always here for you.” Annabelle smiled sadly. “I‟m going to make Christi proud. And someday, I‟ll get to see her again.” A hope glimmered into Annabelle‟s cloudy mind and she felt the sun coming out and clearing away all the fog. She couldn‟t wait to see Christi again. “Hey, um…mom?” The word felt a little weird coming out of her mouth. “I really would like to talk to Darren. Do you think I‟ll be able to?” She wanted to talk to him about what happened to her, and how she had been saved by Jesus. Annabelle knew what it felt like to be all alone, and feel like no one was on your side.

“I don‟t know honey, but I‟m sure I could ask.” Lauren smiled at her new daughter. She had grown into be quite a Christian in just a few weeks. Lauren was so proud of her. She leaned forward and Annabelle hugged her again, the same thing going through each of their heads. We are going to be okay.