Fiction, Maranatha (novel excerpts)

Maranatha: Chapter 7.

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– Chapter 7 –

Maranatha decided extracurriculars were pointless in middle school, when she tried out for gymnastics. Another team hopeful told everyone there she was gay and none of the girls would volunteer to spot her. But now that she was a senior with a tepid GPA, she needed all the help she could get. College application deadlines were looming and for the opportunity to skip town, possibly for good, she was willing to make sacrifices.

Three weeks into the school year, she began noticing new flyers plastering bulletin boards, hallway corridors, and empty lockers. The blue ones announced the revival of the school paper; there hadn’t been one in years, ever since the alleged “budget cuts” of five years ago, the ones that just happened to coincide with the “renovation” of the nurse’s suite and the installation of surveillance cameras in the classrooms and halls.

The other flyers, gold ones, announced the launch of Holy Pentecost’s first literary magazine, The Manna Quarterly. Maranatha made a mental note of the date for the combined informational meeting.

But as she approached the cafeteria after school that Friday and heard far more voices than she’d anticipated, she considered bailing. Sweat pulsed into her palms. Her teeth began to chatter like she was cold, even though the hall was stuffy and unseasonably warm.

It’d be easy to just head home. Maybe should manage a few undisturbed hours while her mother prayed and studied for upcoming speaking engagements before her stepfather got home. She thought of her CD collection, of the journal tucked under her bed, of the Oreos she’d bought at the grocery store two days ago. But home’s creature comforts paled as she imagined a faraway dorm room and a major that didn’t require her to memorize psalms.

She steeled herself, creeping up to the massive, closed double doors. Through the window in one of them, she saw that of the twenty-eight round tables in the cafeteria, ten were filled. The size of the crowd confused and intimidated her. Jake Rich was there with his wide-eyed freshman girlfriend. Cammi Shaw was sitting a table surrounded by her usual coven. Cosi whispered something to Demetria that made them both turn and grin idiotically at Ben Waldron, the best artist in school. And there were clusters of underclassmen she didn’t know, milling around their own social whirls.

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