Yes, there is a story to this massive title.
(I’m not blaming God for what happened in this story, I just thought it would make a perfect title. 😉)
Wednesday, February 21, 2019
“What time is your choir practice?”
I was sitting on the couch with my little seven-year-old friend on my lap when Mom asked the question.
I had almost forgotten there was choir practice. Watching movies somehow warps your brain, even when you are watching a kids show.
“Six o’clock,” I replied, shifting Ben’s weight to prevent my leg from going numb.
Mom stared at me. “Six o’clock? You need to get going!”
I tore my gaze away from the movie and looked at her nonchalantly. “Why, what time is it?”
“A little after six!”
Ah, no wonder.
I groaned and jumped up, Ben sliding off my lap. “Sorry, buddy. I gotta go.”
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“I’m going to choir tonight,” I said over my shoulder as I rushed to the entryway. There would be no time for supper tonight.
Mom made sure Ben was ready to go for a short ride and then we hurried out the door.
The choir practice was at the public school that I had attended in grade two.
As Mom drove, I anxiously tapped my finger on the door armrest. How had I completely lost track of time? It started at six o’clock sharp, and there I was on my way at ten after six. They would be singing all their scales gracefully and then I would rush in, out of breath with a beet red face. How elegant.
We pulled into the school’s driveway and slowed to a stop.
“Thanks, Mom. Have a good night.” I clicked open the car door and stepped out.
“What time do you want me to pick you up?”
I hesitated, resting my arm on the door. “Um, probably around nine…”
She nodded and I said goodbye again before shutting the door.
I turned and hurried up through the snowy playground and into the school. It was tempting to run, but it was no good to show up that desperate.
When I stepped through the front door I was bombarded by the memories of second grade. I ignored them and chucked off my boots at the door. Then I strode through the hallway and passed the gym, through a door, and to the entrance where the choir met – the old breakfast club. That held a lot of memories as well. I remembered being served pancakes in the early morning before class started. There were some happy memories, but I was still glad to be homeschooled.
I reached out and turned the doorknob. The door didn’t open. I frowned and tried it again. The knob was stubborn.
Why would the door be locked? They wouldn’t lock it if they were in there practicing.
I hesitated before softly knocking on the door.
Somebody had to be there, though, because the lights were on. The choir group? But that didn’t make any sense. They would let me in. Wouldn’t they?
I knocked a little louder this time. “Hello?”
Still no response.
I sighed and took a tiny step backwards. I guess no choir tonight. How did I miss that memo? Whatever. No use focusing on that question until I solved how to get home. I really should start carrying a phone with me.
I turned and walked the few steps to the door I had entered and went to open it. The knob didn’t turn.
I twisted it harder.
It still didn’t budge. Wait. I just walked through here. Why won’t it open?
Panic flickered in my chest.
It didn’t make any sense. The door had locked behind me? But how?
I could feel my breathing picking up speed as I pulled on the door handle. It had to open!
But it didn’t.
Was this a nightmare?
I raised my fist and banged on the door as hard as I could. “Hello!” My voice was breaking as I struggled to keep my tears back. “Anyone? Hello!” My fist was getting pounded black and blue.
I stepped backwards, my face frozen in fear. Thoughts raced around my head.
No choir. I’m stuck. Locked.
No. I had to think rationally. But how could I when I could hear my heart beating 100 miles per hour?
I’m locked in between the doors, and Mom went home. I have no phone. Nobody to hear me.
What choice did I have but to stay there until Mom came to pick me up in three hours? Three hours of torture.
But, look at the bright side. I wasn’t going to die. At least not from being trapped in there. Unless there was a low supply of oxygen. In that case, I might die.
All these thoughts whirled around my brain. My hands shook like a leaf on a windy day.
But, hold on. Was that a door?
How could I forget? This is an entryway that leads to the hallway and to breakfast club.
In my panic, I had overlooked the fact that I was in an entryway, and if I took that way out, it would lead outside. Outside to freedom.
What was I waiting for? I could start walking home. It was the only thing I could do.
Then I remembered leaving my boots at the front entrance. Past the locked door.
I would run out there with my stocking feet, go through the front door, snag my boots and make my way home if it came to that.
But why couldn’t I shake off the feeling that someone was there?
Maybe I hadn’t completely given up the idea that choir was cancelled.
But if someone was there, they could help me sort out what was going on.
I raised my voice and yelled as loud as I could without screaming. “Is anybody here?” I went back to the door to try again. Maybe it had jammed a little. Surely it wasn’t locked.
But I still couldn’t get it. I ended up shouting and punching it in attempts to catch someone’s attention. Lights were on. Someone was here.
But there was no reason to keep trying. Nobody was going to open that door.
And so I knew what I had to do. Thankfully, I was wearing socks.
But it was so dark and cold outside. Keep the tears back, keep the tears back.
I braced myself, flew open the door, and ran.
I raced through the snow, my socks feeling wet and cold already. Was my heart pumping from the run, the nerves, or both?
Before I got to the front door, I passed a window with the lights on inside. I thought nobody was here? Why wouldn’t they answer me? I came to an abrupt stop and peered in the window. Nobody was inside the room. This is so weird.
I kept running until I got to the front door and yanked on the handle.
The door did not open.
No, no, no….
This was a joke, right? I mean, I just went through that door. This door couldn’t have locked behind me like the other one had.
That meant someone had locked it after I went through. Which meant someone had to be there.
The utter bewilderment on my face had to have been the first thing the cleaning guy noticed when he heard someone pulling on the door. Either the look on my face or the fact that I was not wearing boots.
But whichever he saw first, he rushed to the door, with his broom tucked in the crook of his arm, and scrambled to unlock it. Then he pulled the door open and gave me an awkward smile.
Finally a door that opens.
I was so relieved to see him I could have hugged the guy. But judging by the look on his face that probably wouldn’t have gone well.
My eyes were brimming with tears. “Is the — is the choir here?” I practically choked on the words.
He spoke slowly. “I heard it doesn’t start until seven.”
Yep. Ok. Wasn’t that just my luck. There I thought I was ten minutes late and it turned out I was an hour early.
I let out a shaky laugh. “Oh, that would explain it.” It was a battle not to collapse from exhaustion. I was still standing outside and he was holding open the door for me. “Could I use a phone, please?” My voice was so wobbly, it was driving me nuts. But considering the past three minutes, I figured I had a good enough reason.
“Yeah, for sure.” He opened the door wider and I stepped inside, my cheeks flushed. My insistent tears were pushing their way through, but I couldn’t let that happen. Not yet, anyway.
The cleaning man directed me to the phone before walking to the other side of the room. I knew he was curious but wouldn’t ask any questions. He was young – probably only in his twenties. He had a little stubble on his chin and piercing eyes.
I was dying from embarrassment.
I quickly punched in Mom’s number and put the phone to my ear. It rang for a couple seconds before I heard her answering machine. I dialed again. She had to come get me. I was in no state to be singing, ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ until I had cleaned myself up, steadied my breathing, and calmed my heart back to its normal rhythm.
Finally Mom picked up. “Hello?”
I eyed the cleaning guy as he began sweeping the floor. Keep my voice calm and light. “Mom, can you come get me? Choir doesn’t start till seven.”
“Are you serious?” I could hear her sigh on the other end. “Why don’t you just wait around with a book until it starts? Just wait in the lobby or something.”
“I don’t want to. Please, please pick me up.” I couldn’t stay here like this! I needed her.
“Alabama, I am not picking you up. I just got back from dropping you off. Dad is working late down the road. You can hang out there and then walk over when choir starts.”
I was on the edge of hysterics. “Mommy, please.”
Something in my voice must’ve triggered some mommy sense in her because she knew something was up.
Another sigh. “Alright. I’ll be there in a couple minutes.”
She hung up and I hurried to find my boots. At least they were still there.
How much worse could this situation get? I was lucky she agreed to pick me up.
But I wasn’t gonna stick around this spooky place and wait. I would start walking. I had to get out of here.
I slipped on my boots, ignoring the feel of wet socks, and went outside. Then I started briskly walking along the sidewalk.
Please come soon. What if she passed me without noticing? It wouldn’t surprise me. I picked up my pace.
She took long enough to get there that by the time she came into sight I had already been fretting about what could happen. I sighed with relief.
Then she drove right past me.
My heart almost stopped beating. This couldn’t be happening.
The van continued on down the road, then slowed and pulled over. I turned and ran over, relief flooding through my toes all the way to my fingertips.
I opened the car door and collapsed into the front seat.
Mom didn’t look impressed at my decision not to wait till seven. “Why didn’t you just walk down to see Dad?”
“Please, Mom, I just…” My voice broke.
I spelled out the story to her and finished with, “Then I was locked outside until the cleaning guy came. I was so scared.” By then I was sobbing.
“I’m sorry.” She took my hand and squeezed it firmly.
I had picked the absolute worst day to wear mascara. I pictured it streaming down my face in fat, black tears.
Mom took me to the house where Dad was working and patted my hand before getting out. I wiped my eyes with my hands carefully, trying to avoid smearing my makeup. The one day I wear mascara!
Then I followed Mom into the house where Dad was laying flooring. I shouldn’t have been embarrassed to cry, but I was.
Dad was understanding, and he didn’t mind me staying with him until it started, so Mom went back home. As the hour passed, my tears dried and my heart rate went back to normal. Dad had succeeded in calming me down.
A little before seven I started walking back to the evil school.
When I got there, I had a nagging fear that something would go wrong. As long as the choir was there I’d be good. Just please don’t make me wait there alone.
I stepped inside. Thankfully the door opened.
It was one of the first.
The cleaning guy was still in the lobby. He looked up when I walked in and I smiled politely.
He grinned mischievously. “They’re here now.”
And that is the end of my little adventure! Yes, it is a true story. Yes, I survived. No, I’m not over the fear of that school.