Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:34
Pearl wadded her tissue and threw it at her pink trash can. She missed. Balls of used tissue surrounded the trash can like snot filled snowballs. How did she let Chelsea talk her into this?
It was Friday evening and Pearl was tired, but Chelsea wanted to go out. The worst part that was that she’d already turned down going to the youth lock-in. If her youth pastor found out she went to a party instead, she’d feel horrible. That was the real reason she didn’t want to go to the party. She didn’t want to disappoint her youth pastor. Not that he’d have to find out.
Her head was throbbing. This cold had walloped her and as it turned out gave her the perfect excuse. She reached for her phone and texted:
Pearl: Too sick to go out. Sorry.
Almost immediately her phone dinged with a reply.
Chelsea: You’re coming. I know you’re just feeling guilty about missing your youth thing.
It was scary how well Chelsea knew her.
Pearl: No. I don’t care about that. I’m sick.
Why did she deny the truth? Chelsea was her best friend. She should’ve been honest. But too late now.
Chelsea: I’ll be there in ten. Be ready to go.
Pearl pushed herself out of bed and got dressed. She was in the middle of trying to bring some semblance to her mass of curls when Chelsea threw open Pearl’s bedroom door and pounced on the bed. Didn’t the girl ever knock?
“You think Ryan will be there?” Chelsea stared up at the ceiling fan.
“Probably.” Pearl grabbed her purse and headed toward the door. “C’mon. If you’re dragging me to a party then we’re going to get something to eat first.”
One hour later, Pearl’s stomach was satisfied and Chelsea was antsy.
“Can we go now?” Chelsea asked for the third time.
Pearl glanced around for their waitress. “I didn’t know it’d take that long. Besides, it’s not cool to be early to a party.”
“How would you know?” Chelsea fiddled with her cell phone then looked up at Pearl. “I set an alarm for 11:30. We’ll have back at my house before midnight or my parents will kill me.”
Pearl nodded. “Then they’d call my parents and they’d kill me.”
After paying for their food, Chelsea and Pearl were finally on their way. Riding in Chelsea’s car was a bit of gamble, it wasn’t exactly reliable. Chelsea’s ten-year-old Ford choked itself up to Alicia’s house. Alicia was a mutual friend from school, but this was the first time Pearl had been to Alicia’s house. And her house was out in the middle of know where. Good thing Chelsea allowed for half an hour to get back home.
Chelsea looked in the visor mirror and applied a layer of lip gloss. “If Ryan is there, you have to hang out with Bobby.”
Pearl turned to look at her best friend. Was she serious? “Why?”
“Because Bobby is Ryan’s best friend. It works.”
“Is there some rule that best friends must date best friends?”
Chelsea grinned. “Yes.”
Pearl rolled her eyes as she got out of the car. The cool April air hit her bare legs. Maybe she should have rethought the skirt.
Chelsea traipsed around the car and looped her arm through Pearl’s. “Don’t act like it’s such a hardship. Bobby’s cute.”
That he was, but Pearl didn’t want to be told who to date. Or distract. Or whatever she was supposed to be doing.
Pearl and Chelsea stepped into the small house and was immediately accosted with the smell of sweat and Dorito’s. Music blared and the living room was packed with fellow classmates, some were dancing but most were standing in circles talking. Alicia walked up to them and gave them both a quick hug.
“Glad you guys could come.” She yelled over the noise.
“Your parents okay with this?” Pearl asked.
Alicia shrugged. “Probably not, but they aren’t here.”
Pearl’s gut twitched, but she smiled.
Chelsea held Pearl’s wrist as she pulled her through the crowd, no doubt on the hunt for Ryan. Every few minutes they stopped to talk to friends, or in Pearl’s case, acquaintances. She wasn’t quite as popular as Chelsea.
It felt like forever before they made it to the dining room where Ryan and Bobby stood surrounded by more people that Pearl didn’t know.
Chelsea pushed Pearl toward Bobby, then she sidled up beside Ryan.
Pearl smiled at Bobby. “Good party, huh?” That came out much more lame sounding than she intended.
He really was cute with his brown eyes and dark hair. Why did he have to look like a Greek god?
Bobby placed his hand on her elbow and guided her into the kitchen. “Maybe we can actually hear each other better in here.”
The music was still pretty loud, but at least it was muffled a bit in the achingly, bright yellow kitchen.
Pearl leaned against the counter and glanced at the microwave clock, it read 10:30. Good only an hour longer. Bobby was cute and all, but Pearl wasn’t used to this whole party scene. She supposed it had something to do with being named after a necklace that only old people wore. People acted like their names and sometimes Pearl felt like an old lady.
Bobby grinned. “I didn’t expect to see you at one of Alicia’s party’s.”
“Well, aren’t you one of those Christian goody-goody’s?”
A nervous laugh escaped Pearl’s mouth. “Me? Please, I love parties. I’m definitely not one of those…” What was she doing? She was most definitely one of those. Why couldn’t she just admit it? Denial number two of the evening. Good grief she was on a roll.
Bobby nodded. “Nothing wrong with it. I mean I get it. I used to go to church.”
“Used to?” Pearl searched the kitchen for something to drink other than what everyone was drinking in the red solo cups. Rarely did anything good come from those. She walked to the fridge and opened it. Yes. Redemption. She spied a Coke.
“Yeah, back when my parents were still together we went. But when my dad left we stopped going.”
Pearl looked at Bobby. “Sorry.” She turned her attention back to her can of Coke and popped the tab. She relished her first sip of carbonated goodness.
Bobby laughed. “Thirsty?”
After a few minutes of awkward small talk and laughing at people trying to dance, Bobby’s eyes got wide. “I have an idea. Let’s grab Ryan and Chelsea and play a game of monopoly.”
Really? Monopoly? “Sounds good.” Pearl was new to Alicia’s parties, but she was pretty sure monopoly wasn’t a regular occurrence. “I’m game.” She pointed her index finger at Bobby and made a clicking sound with her tongue. What did she just do? Stop the madness.
Bobby laughed. “Okay. I’ll find them.”
Bobby left the kitchen and came back with Chelsea and Ryan following. “Let’s go to the basement. Alicia has monopoly down there.”
Was going down in a basement with two guys such a good idea?
Pearl’s stomach did a flip, but she smiled and nodded.
Bobby opened a door in the kitchen that must’ve led to the basement. A wave of chatter and laughter met them. Oh good. Others were down there. This would be fine.
Chelsea and Pearl followed them down the stairs and waited for Bobby to set up the monopoly board on a table in the corner of the long basement. The basement had a pool table and a wide screen TV. Alicia was playing pool with a few guys that Pearl recognized as football players.
This wouldn’t be too bad. Monopoly was innocent enough.
Ryan leaned forward and looked at Bobby. “I have an idea. Let’s make this game more interesting.” He rubbed his hands together. “I found a little something in the liquor cabinet.”
Bobby shook his head. “I don’t think that’s—”
“You’ve been hanging out with Miss. Goody-Goody too long.” Ryan gestured toward Pearl.
Chelsea glared at Ryan. “She is not a goody-goody. Are you, Pearl?”
Pearl bit her lower lip. “I’m no goody-goody. Show us what you found.” Denial number three. Geesh. What was her problem? Her heart hammered. If by being a goody-goody, he meant a Christian then yes, she was a goody-goody. Why was she ashamed of who she was?
Just then the sound of a rooster crowing came from Chelsea’s direction. She grabbed her phone from her back pocket and swiped at her phone. “It’s normally just an annoying beeping sound. Didn’t mean to set the rooster alarm.” She laughed.
Time to go. Thank goodness. Not a moment too soon.
Saved by the rooster.