Faith, Hope and Love


"I don't understand how she can be so bad!" I groaned in frustration when I couldn't take it any longer. "It's not a hard song to sing. I'm pretty sure that even I could do better."

"Now that I'd like to see." Still no smile, although Faith was getting closer. I'd decided to make it my mission tonight to make this girl smile. If I was really lucky, maybe even laugh. I had a feeling it wasn't going to be easy, but I could be stubborn when I wanted.

"You first." I glanced her way to see how she was taking my teasing. She seemed unfazed, but honestly, I lost my train of my thoughts when I saw that she was using an index finger to wipe some beer from the corner of her mouth and lips. I couldn't stop myself from staring as I followed the movement carefully. It was now officially a tossup on which feature interested me more, her eyes or her mouth.

"You couldn't handle it." She said it in such a matter of fact tone as her hand dropped back into her lap. That broke me from my trancelike state, but it still took me a couple of seconds to remember what we were talking about.

"You know, you might be right," I admitted with a self-depreciating snort. "I have a feeling you could not only sing it better, but also make it a hell of a lot sexier." She didn't bother disagreeing. In fact, something in her expression made me think she was momentarily tempted to show me, but it passed quickly which was too bad, really.

We fell silent as we watched the spectacle the singer was making with her Karaoke choice. Okay, Faith watched the girl. I mostly watched Faith. I couldn't help myself. She noticed, but didn't say anything.

"What are you thinking?" I found myself asking.

"I was wondering if you were finally ready to admit that the whole 'haven't we met before' thing was just a sad attempt at a very old line." Okay, this time I saw the smile. It was slight and didn't quite make it to her eyes, but it was there.

"Absolutely not."

"Am I supposed to believe you didn't come over here to hit on me?" Her disbelief was obvious.

"No, I definitely came over here to flirt with you." I waved the bartender over and ordered us another two beers. "But I have also seen you someplace before. Those eyes stay with a guy."

"Again, with the eyes?" she frowned. "I don't get it. Mine are nothing special. They're dull brown."

"Dull? No way! There's nothing dull about them or you." The look she gave me made it clear she wasn't buying what I was saying. I couldn't have that so I reached out and laid my hand on top of hers. That caught her off guard. Her eyes met mine. "They're soulful, at least that's what I'd call them." I paused and looked deeply into them for a few seconds. I was surprised that she let me. "Yep, definitely soulful."

She didn't look away immediately and I certainly had no intension of breaking eye contact. In fact, if it were up to me I could have spent the rest of the night sitting there like that, but the bartender placed our drinks in front of us interrupting the almost spell-like quality of the moment.

Faith immediately moved her hand out from under mine and looked away. For the first time, she actually seemed a little uncomfortable, embarrassed even. I wasn't excepting that. She didn't seem the type.

"You're a lot smoother than I originally thought." That made me laugh which seemed to annoy her. "You are."

"No one has ever called me that before," I said between laughs. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not bad with women, but smooth? I don't think so. In fact, if my friend Eli hadn't left before I came over he would have enjoyed sharing stories of just how not smooth I can be."

~~Hurry down the chimney tonight, Hurry tonight~~

The applause for the poor girl singing as she finished the song was sporadic at best. She was lucky people were in the holiday mood or she probably would have been booed off the stage.

"Alright, who's next?" The guy MCing the Karaoke machine looked a little desperate to move on. I looked at Faith when no one immediately answered. I figured I'd take another shot at getting her to sing. I had the feeling she'd be good. I was also pretty sure she'd enjoy herself.

"One more song like that and the place will start to empty out. How about you go up there and save the poor guy's job?"

"I'm not really in the holiday spirit." She took a sip from her new beer, but it looked like she was planning on taking her time with this one.

"I'm working on it." My comment seemed to amuse her. I saw her smile her first real smile of the night, but it was fleeting. Still, after staring into each other's eyes even she had to admit there was some sort of connection between us.

"I noticed."

I ignored everyone else and focused on her. "Are you really only passing through?" I was curious about Faith. I wanted to know what put her into a bad mood and see if I could help her get past it. I was also hoping she be around for at least a little while.

"Yes and no," she began slowly, offering me more than I expected. "I've been away for a long time and it's time to go home, only there's no longer anyone to go home to." I can't say I was surprised by her words. It explained the sadness.

"Your parents are gone?"

"My mother a long time ago. My father just before I left home."

"That must have been rough," I offered, letting her see I meant it. She looked at me and frowned briefly before shaking her head.

"You know, I haven't talked about dad's passing to anyone, but for some reason I'm almost tempted to with you," she said, sounding surprised. "I can't even blame the alcohol. I'm nowhere near drunk." She paused and shook her head. "It must be the whole coming home thing. Or maybe it's the holiday. Daddy always loved Christmas."

"Or maybe it's time," I said gently. "Maybe you've mourned long enough and it's time to share your pain so that you can let it go. The worst of it anyway." I think my words surprised me even more than they did her, but I meant them.

"And I'm supposed to do that with some random guy I met at a bar?" Faith asked in disbelief. I wasn't sure if it was a rhetorical question or not.

"Weird, right?" I laughed gently. "But you obviously need to talk to someone and I promise you, I'm a good listener." She gave me another odd look.

"And I'm supposed to trust you because?"

This time I was pretty sure her question wasn't rhetorical, but instead of answering I sat silently waiting, meeting her gaze and letting her see the truth in my eyes. She shook her head after a short while and looked away, but I knew I'd gotten through to her. I was proven right a moment later when she started talking.

"I drove my poor father crazy with my antics growing up," she began slowly. "I was motherless and pissed off about it. I had some good friends that tried to help me stay on the straight and narrow, but I also hung out with a wild crowd at times. They were the only ones who seemed to understand my anger." She paused, lost in thought. My own thoughts wandered a bit as well.

The first time I met Eli it was in eighth grade about a month after I moved into town. We ended up getting in a fight. I can't even remember what it was about, but he had a reputation as a trouble maker at the time so the trip to the office started out worse for him. It was obvious that the principal had it out for Eli. I wasn't completely blameless and refused to let him take the full brunt of the guy's anger. I'm not even sure why. It just felt wrong.

Eli seemed surprised when I stepped forward and took my part of the blame. We got to talking two days later while sharing our in-school suspension. I'm not sure how it happened, but we became fast friends that day despite our differences.

A lot of my other friends at the time didn't understand why I started hanging out with him. I mean, despite the fight, I was a good student and not generally a troublemaker so my connection with Eli didn't really make sense to them. I couldn't explain it at the time, but I think what it came down to was the same thing Faith had said about hanging out with the 'wild crowd'. Eli got my anger, and being forced to move away from my home and friends meant I had plenty of that.

Of course, as the years went by our friendship grew for a lot more reasons than that, but it was my anger and his ability to accept and understand it that started it all. Maybe it wasn't the same thing as what Faith faced, but it was similar enough to help me understand what she was trying to say.

"I get that." Faith looked at me and saw that I really meant it. I think that gave her the resolve to continue.

"You have to understand. My wild streak was very difficult for my father. You see, dad was a minister." She smiled at my reaction. I couldn't hide my shock. I mean, come on! A nose ring and purple hair doesn't typically bring to mind a minister's daughter. On the other hand, the Christian band tee-shirt was a bit of a clue.

"Yes, that's right. I'm a minister's daughter." For once, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut.

"Needless to say, my little pranks growing up that typically ended up with me in trouble didn't go over well with dad or our community for that matter. It's all funny now, but back then, not so much."

"I can imagine."

I waited for her to continue, but she sat staring off into space for a while. There was no doubt she had more to say, but my interrupting her thoughts right now wouldn't help. Faith had already shown that she wasn't the type to share what was going on in her head haphazardly. I guess I was hoping the connection we felt for each other might help her continue to open up to me.

She brought her glass to her lips again, but I'm not sure she actually drank anything this time. I think she was using the motion as a distraction while she decided how much she wanted to share with me. I didn't quite hold my breath. Faith gave me a long look before coming to a decision. She focused on her glass as she began to speak again.

"Dad and I fought all the time up until the end of my junior year of high school." She paused again, but this time I had the feeling that it wasn't because she wasn't sure she wanted to continue. I thought it was more of her trying to work up the courage to say something that was clearly difficult for her. I was proven right a moment later.

"That's when his cancer was discovered and I suddenly realized he wouldn't be around forever." Faith fell silent and I reached out, squeezing her hand once more without thought. "I'd been pushing away the only parent I had left and if I wasn't careful he'd be gone before I got a chance to know him any better than I knew my mother." She was briefly lost in thought again. I understood.

"Things changed after that," she eventually continued. "We became closer and used to spend a lot of time together, talking and really getting to know each other. I even stopped hanging out with the wrong crowd." She snorted and then added more to herself, "To be honest, I pretty much stopped hanging out with everyone."

"You focused on taking care of him."

"He was my father," she shrugged as if that explained it. It did too, but it's not every teenager who would have been able to do what Faith had. "The sad part was that he never got truly better. He went into remission once, but before his body fully recovered the cancer came back."

"He was sick for a long time and it still amazes me when I think about how long he fought. I'm pretty sure he did it because he didn't want me to be alone." Talking about her father was obviously very hard for her. I couldn't stay quiet as the silence lingered. It was too painful.

"I'm sorry you went through that." It was the best I could offer. Faith nodded, but didn't say anything. "So, where have you been since he passed?" The question wasn't so much of a change of subject as it was a way of giving her an out if she wanted.

"Dad always wanted me to go overseas and volunteer in one of the third world countries for a couple of years like mom and him did when they were my age so when he was gone that's what I did."

"He believed in giving back and always swore that spending two years in Africa was one of the best things he'd ever done. Some of it might have had to do with the fact that that's where he and mom met. They were both volunteers and I think he hoped I'd find someone special the same way, but there was more to it than that." This time the drink she took was real, but it was only a single swallow. "Dad was a man of strong faith. He never lost it. Not when mom died and not even when his cancer was at its worst. I think he hoped that going overseas would help me with mine. He worried about me."

"He was your father."

She nodded sadly in agreement. I waited, but this time it looked like she wasn't going to continue without some additional prompting. "Was he correct? Did volunteering help?" She actually smiled, although somewhat ironically before answering.

"I still have my moments and I don't follow Him in a way that my father's old congregation would understand, but in the end, I like to think that God and I came to an understanding." Her smile faded as she added, "It's not like I really had a choice. The way my father faced death showed me the way and that lesson was driven home when I went overseas saw what people in the third world had to deal with on a daily basis."

"I guess that means that your dad did get what he wanted for you in the end." Faith smiled as I think she realized that I was right. Her eyes brimming with tears briefly, but they didn't fall. Instead, she blinked once or twice and pulled her hand out from under mine again.

"Well, I never did meet the guy of my dreams." She was joking, trying to lighten the mood which was more than understandable considering we were sitting in a bar and crying probably wouldn't have gone over well.

"Don't worry about that," I said with a grin, trying to help to her regain control. "The night's still young and I'll grow on you." It was a little over the top, but I thought it would amuse her. The weird part was that I was only half kidding.

Faith didn't bother replying, but she did shake her head at my obvious flirting. I also noticed that she was smiling again with more than a little satisfaction. Talking about her dad had helped like I hoped. Faith seemed to be in a much better place now. I wanted to keep her there so I figured it was time to change the subject.

"You never did tell me why you were here?"

She gave me an odd smile at first, which confused me until she explained. "In other words, what's a girl like me doing in a place like this?"

"Oh no!" I laughed. "No putting words into my mouth. I've thrown out enough bad pickup lines tonight myself without you adding to them."

"Fair point," she replied, her smile growing a little wider before she answered my question. "I have some friends in the area I'm going to visit tomorrow. I didn't want to be alone for the holidays."

"I can understand that." Listening to her was making me appreciate my family more, warts and all. Sure, some of them were way out there, but I knew they'd be there for me if I needed them. "Okay, so now I know why you're in the area, but what made you pick this bar?"

"Dumb luck. My friends are out of town until tomorrow and there's a cheap hotel down the block. The bus from the airport dropped me off on the corner. I saw this place and decided I could use a drink after being on three different planes for more hours than I care to remember."

"I guess that makes me lucky too."

"Not that lucky." She was giving me a playful look I couldn't resist.

"A guy can dream, can't he?" I joked back, and then it happened. She actually laughed. I don't know if it lit up the room, but it certainly did things to me. "Wow, it was so worth the wait."

"What?" Her confusion was obvious.

"Your laugh," I answered honestly. "I'm going to remember this moment for a long time." She blushed and looked away, toward the karaoke stage once more. I followed her eyes and saw a girl finishing up her attempt at 'Rockin Around the Christmas Tree'.

~~Everyone was dancing merrily, in the new old fashioned way!~~

"She's not bad," I offered. The singer's voice broke on the last note. "Of course, she's not particularly good either."

"You're a tough crowd." I noticed that despite her words she didn't disagree.

"Is that why you don't want to go up and sing? Afraid I won't be impressed?" I left the challenge out there. Faith looked at me and shook her head, but she also took one last swallow from her beer before standing and making her way to the stage.

I enjoyed watching her move. Eli was crazy to call her chubby earlier. Frankly, if anything, she was on the thin side despite her curves. Faith's jeans fit nicely on her butt and hips, but were loose around the waist. She was definitely not shaped like a little boy and watching her move got to me.

Faith spoke with the MC. She clearly wanted to sing a particular song, but it was also obvious that he didn't have it. It looked like the guy was trying to convince her to sing something else, but she wasn't having it. I felt bad for the guy. Faith didn't seem the type to take no for an answer. They argued for a few moments before she turned and came back toward me.

"Chicken out?" I teased.

"Not hardly," she retorted as she stopped and grabbed her guitar out of its case. "But they don't have the song I want and it took a bit to convince him to let me play it instead." There was something in her tone that let me know the song was important to her.

"It must be special." She smiled sadly at me comment.

"It was my father's favorite. I'm not sure how this crowd will deal with it because it's religious, but it's what I feel like singing." I reached out and squeezed her hand in understanding. She looked at me and suddenly her eyes grew a little glassy with unshed tears. I thought she was going to lose it, but instead she shook her head once to get control of her emotions before stepping away.

The bar was packed and although some people took notice of her as she settled onto a stool, most were so busy in their own conversations that they didn't pay much attention until she started playing. I have to admit, I was surprised and impressed when her fingers flew across the guitar strings almost effortlessly. Faith was a very talented musician, but that was quickly overshadowed when she started singing.

~~Mary, did you know? That your baby boy would one day walk on water~~

I never heard the song before, but the moment Faith started singing it drew me in. She was right. It wasn't really the right type of song for this place, but that didn't matter. Her voice was amazing. It was full bodied, just like the rest of her. It was also a little raspy, but I think that might have been caused by the obvious emotions she felt while she sang it. The rest of the place disappeared into the background as I listened.

I don't view myself as overtly religious, but my parents did their best when I was a kid to make sure I knew the importance of Christmas. It wasn't only about the Holiday season for my family. Sure, there was Santa and presents, but the main focus was on the story of Jesus's birth and what that meant for the world. The words of this song reminded me of that, hitting me in a completely unexpected way.

Faith's emotional delivery only made my reaction more powerful. The connection I'd felt almost from the first moment I laid eyes on her morphed into something far stronger than I was prepared for. I was stunned when I realized that a tear was actually falling down my cheek. I wiped it in embarrassment, but continued to listen in unabashed admiration of the song and the young woman singing it.

~~Did you know that your baby boy is Heaven's perfect lamb? This sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM...~~

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byJoeDreamer© 95 comments/ 168022 views/ 499 favorites

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