Woohoo! It’s Monday again 🙂 Seems like just yesterday we had kicked off last week with our “How We Wear Vintage” blog series. Brigid and I were so thrilled with the responses we got from our posts on the retro eras, but it’s not over yet! Brigid and I have a few other posts up our sleeves to continue this series over the next weeks/months; AND! Our How We Wear Vintage Contest is still open to entries! There are $120 worth of prizes to snag, so go and enter before it’s to late 🙂
The next part of Zach McMahan’s excellent short story is below. If you have not yet viewed the 1st part, then head on over here to read that and get the scoop on how this captivating tale got here on the ol’ blog!
“You must be Kyle!” a sweet sounding voice interrupted my reflection.
I slowly straightened from my hunched position on the bench. My eyes panned from the marble floor to petite shoes and on up to a white dress that had simple, country stitching on it. Continuing, I glanced up to a black sweater with sleeves that extended just past the young lady’s elbows. Each element of her clothing showed her modesty and humility. Finally, I reached her face. The joy in her heart overflowed through her appearance. Her brown hair bounced in curls on her shoulders. A small white bow attached to the side. Her green eyes sparkled confidently. Friendliness shouted as she smiled. I quickly stood to my feet wondering if I was still in a dream.
“Yes, I…I am.” I fumbled.
“Hi!” she chuckled, “My name’s Rachel.”
She stared into my eyes while making her introduction. Her eyes reminded me of my mother’s; that is, ready to listen to my problem and ready to help if necessary. I stood four inches above Rachel as she continued.
“My daddy is out of town on a business trip today so he thought I could show you around instead.” she stated, “Follow me.”
I followed her to the elevators. Even her way of walking seemed graceful; it was composed yet authentic, professional yet caring.
“So how was your flight?” she asked cordially while we walked.
“Way too early for me!” I answered, rather obnoxiously.
Rachel smirked and straightened.
“So tell me about this show we’re interviewing on.” I requested as she reached to press the up arrow to retrieve the elevator.
“Well,” she started, stepping back and clasping her hands, “the show is called Diamond in the Rough and is the most watched television show on the National Biblical Broadcasting network. The show targets young women by addressing some of their most relevant issues. Our viewers call it ‘entertaining edification’.”
A red light illuminated above the elevator. The doors opened and we stepped in.
“Today’s episode is all about the brother/sister relationship.” she continued, “Hopefully, the program will give young ladies encouragement and practical advice when it comes to loving their brothers. My dad told me all about your family’s ministry and I am so glad you agreed to help me,” she finished.
I smiled and nodded hoping to mask my real feeling about being here. Through each sentence of Rachel’s summary, I shuttered on the inside. I couldn’t seem to remove the dysfunctional, struggling relationship with my sisters from my mind. Standing beside her in the elevator, I thought how unprepared I was, how tired I was, and how fake my appearance was. There she stood, quietly contented with life it seemed.
Why not tell her the truth? She seems nice enough. I reasoned.
“To be honest,” I began just as we reached the fourth floor, “I haven’t had a lot of time to prepare for this interview.”
“Awhh, don’t worry about it!” she assured, “Just answer the questions naturally and share whatever the Lord has laid on your heart.”
She started off the elevator. My mind panicked.
Thanks a lot! What is that even supposed to mean? What God lays on your heart! Is that even Biblical!? What are you gonna do, Kyle!? If you make something up, it will be discovered and back fire on your reputation. What if you shared stories from the past when your sisters were different and cared for you? If only they would make an effort to improve, then you wouldn’t be in this situation. If only their friends respected the family principles, then they might be better siblings.
I snapped out of it. With a sigh, I calmed myself.
You’re not the only one who struggles with your siblings and you do better than most. I assured myself.
I closely followed Rachel off the elevator. The slight hum grew into call center chatter. She led me through a maze of dull, gray cubicles. Every now and again someone we passed would say hi to her. Each time she paused and introduced them to me. Her smooth composure and friendly attitude impressed me. Strolling along, we came to the back of the room near a coffee station and I could nearly taste the aroma of roasting coffee beans. Coming to a long, narrow hallway, things began to get quiet again.
“So how long have you worked here, Rachel?” I asked just for an excuse to use her name.
“I have been working for two years now, directly under daddy.” she told me.
“Is it just you or do you have siblings who work for your father too?” I pried seeking to learn more about her family life.
“My older brother works here too, but he is with dad on that business trip I told you about.” she replied.
I wondered if she struggled with her brother like I struggled with my sisters. We continued down the endless hall. Seeking a way to ask her to share her family dynamics with me, I pulled my portfolio out of my bag.
“So Miss Brown,” getting her attention, “how would you say your brother best shows love to you?” I read from my interview questions jovially.
“Good question.” she responded raising an eyebrow to think.
Exactly! These questions are way too hard. Be glad; you’re not the only one who can’t think of an answer. My mind comforted me.
“There are so many options!” she continued, “I guess, if I had to pick one, it would be how protected I feel when I’m around him. He always watches out for me.”
What?! So many options?! Who would ever think a protective brother is a good thing? First, she holds herself well and now, she has no family problems! My brain raced in shock from her answer.
“How about you?” she turned to ask, “You have two sisters right?”
My teeth slammed together as I contemplated telling her the truth. When I shared how unprepared I was in the elevator, she handled it well; but, I still wasn’t completely comfortable opening up to her.
“Well, come to think of it…” I hesitated, “I can’t remember the last time my sisters showed me love.”
Saying that felt good but I would have rephrased the sentence if I had to say it again. She halted mid-stride and I almost ran into her. Revealing a distraught expression on her face, she turned and looked straight at me.
“There must be something!” for the first time her voice came across sharp, even unpleasant, “I don’t think you’re looking hard enough.” she finished and turned to continue walking.
I hurried to get beside her. I wasn’t sure what she meant but I would soon find out.
“No, you don’t understand. My relationship with my sisters is on the decline.”
“What are you doing to help the situation?” she questioned without turning, “You know…seventy percent of conflicts continue because of improper responses to smaller issues.”
Finally, she turned to enter a door on our right, but after hearing her accusation, I stood outside…stunned.
It’s not your fault! She has no clue who you are and shouldn’t be taking sides! How could she know how you respond to my sisters?! She is so judgmental and self-righteous it should sicken you! Besides, at least half of the ‘conflict’ is because of your sister’s bad influences! Surely she hides things to protect her reputation, but as soon as you show the slightest hint of human depravity, she slams you for it! My mind ranted with burning anger.
I shoved through the door only to see another door a couple of feet away; however, above the second door hung a sign in the shape of a box. While I read the white lettering on the red-tinted plastic, the first door closed behind me making the short entry way silent. It said, “RECORDING” on it. I gently pulled on the second door escaping the stillness. The studio I stepped into had been set up like a living room. In the middle, lay a large rug and comfy-looking couches surrounded it. The earthy colors sang around the distressed, rustic coffee table sitting atop the rug. At least a dozen bright stage lights focused on the homey set-up, all pointed at slightly different angles. All of the cameras were directed towards the middle and people dressed in all black hurried to finish last minute tasks. I made my way to where Rachel stood in awe of my surroundings.
“Sit here.” Rachel demanded pointing to a director’s chair sitting two feet from hers. “This is Natalie. She’ll be putting on your make-up to assure you look ok with all these lights.”
“Hi Natalie…” I greeted, “good luck!” I said sarcastically as I climbed into my seat.
Natalie smiled and lifted a small, foam circle to my cheek. I sat in silence as the world moved about around me. Rachel sat beside me, but I made sure to ignore her. I tried hard to restrain my comeback. She broke the quietness.
“I’m surprised.” she told me, “I thought your family was different.”
Rachel’s tone had changed. She sounded sincerely interested in my dilemma, pushing me to share more with her. Her misconception of my family was no surprise to me. I considered responding but why would I? The last time I opened up to her she was shocked at my confession! She had no right to make those assumptions and now, she has no right to pry for more information. Against my better reasoning, her curious eyes and slanted eyebrows convinced me to answer.
“Not many people know because I try to protect my family’s reputation.” I began with a sigh, “I had always been taught to live in a way that was ‘above reproach’. I never wanted to cause anyone to ‘stumble’ so when people assume I have close-knit relationships with my siblings I just…chose not to correct them. I thought maybe you could relate to my struggle but I shouldn’t have burdened you with my personal problems.” I admitted.
“I know how you feel…” she stated with a saddened tone, “there are things that I refrain from in order to help preserve my dad’s image too.”
“Like what?” I questioned, hoping this wasn’t some insensitive, melodramatic, goody-to-shoes ploy.
“My desire is to become a mother and a homemaker. I believe that is the most Biblical job for a woman, but Christian girls don’t always share my conviction. Since I’m far too outspoken on the subject, I restrain myself to keep the viewers unified. My dad doesn’t notice but I want to make sure his reputation is protected from his over-zealous daughter.” Rachel admitted openly.
I closed my gaping mouth, praying she didn’t notice my obvious amazement. Her openness and honesty captivated me. Selfless love, temperance, and faithfulness to her family poured from the young lady’s words. I suddenly regretted my beliefs about her motives and in this instant, determined how truly internally attractive she really was.
“Hey Mr. Hawkins, my name’s Thomas. It’s good to meet you,” interrupted a sharply dressed man who had recently emerged from the shadows, “Here is your microphone and I’ll show you to our green room,” continued Thomas quickly and in monotone.
I stood, causally thanked Natalie and followed the man to the green room. Thomas was a bigger guy with a baby face and seemed to know exactly what he was doing. His black, bulky headset and his confident stride gave him an authoritative demeanor.
“Here you are. Go ‘head, put that headset on and relax. I’ll be back in about ten minutes to get you for the interview.” he said, pointing me to a cozy, little room with a couch and a side table.
I shut the door and sidestepped to a mirror that hung on the wall. My eyes widened. Natalie did such a good job I no longer recognized myself! I went to put on my microphone and hit my briefcase that suspended from my shoulder. Shaking my head at my clumsiness, I slid the bag from my weary body and tossed it onto the couch. The wire and receiver resisted my efforts to place them down my shirt. When I final won the battle, I fell onto the couch exhausted both physically and mentally. No matter how well Natalie removed the crescents from beneath my eyes, she couldn’t take away the fatigue that penetrated both my body and mind. In that moment, I drowned in emptiness. Feeling sick, my mind raged.
What are you going to say? If you told the truth, you’d risk your family’s reputation, but you can’t lie! Rachel must regret her selection of you for this interview. Such a dignified woman deserves better than you for a guest!
I scrambled to get my portfolio and a pen. My hand shook uncontrollably as if I were having a seizure. Nothing, just a blank page; my mind screamed for a way out of the mess.
Maybe Rachel is right, maybe you’re not looking hard enough. There must be answers to the questions that lay before you! What are you missing?! You want to improve your bond with your sisters, but if only they…
I paused. Realizing the problem, I shook my head. My selfishness disgusted me. I decided to take my mind captive and control its thoughts.
How could you have been so foolish?! All this time your focus had been on their performance as sisters and you’ve neglected your actions. Rachel revealed the problem when she asked you what you were doing to improve the situation. You’ve done nothing positive to influence the circumstances! You must commit yourself to being a better brother to your sisters. Instead of rewarding their good behavior with your love, show them a love that transcends their mishaps. Regardless of how they treat you, lay down your pride and give them your affection. And those bad influences in their lives are irrelevant. If you can give your sisters a good example of acceptance, they won’t care to seek the approval of their friends. They may even see your example and do what is right when they are under negative peer pressure. Why are you pushing for a better connection with your sisters when you should be exclusively concerned about what
you can do to influence their long-term growth?! You can’t just will the end and chose not to will the means. Although, you’re not responsible for their outcome, you are accountable for your actions of influence or lack of them.
As I purposed to renew my paradigm, I started pacing around the small room. My hands had stopped shaking and the newfound vigor helped me to test and approve my brain’s contemplations.
There is no doubt about it; you must tell the truth on this live interview. You must not embarrass your sisters but instead, uplift them with your words. Any failure you might admit to must be accredited to your account, not to your family’s. Own up to your weakness, for I will work through your weaknesses.
Subconsciously, my contemplation turned to an earnest prayer.
“God, how do You want me to answer these questions? I know You work for the good of those who love You. You can take my greatest thorns and transform them into a manifestation of Your great sovereignty, Your great power. Use me! God, give me the words to say, for without You, I am empty handed; In Jesus’ Name, amen.” I finished.
Just then, I remembered the sacrifice Rachel had been making for her father. Her selfless actions and attitudes displayed such a good example to me. Suddenly, I had an idea. I lunged across the room and ripped out the interview questions from my portfolio. Hovering over the papers, I quickly scribbled notes under each question. The pen moved so fast, you could see it mimic a humming bird’s wings.
“Thank You God!” I whispered to myself.
Finishing my scribbles, I heard a knock at the door.
Thanks Zach! Be sure to check back next Monday for the third installment of this four-part series.