Faith, Hope and Love

byJoeDreamer©

The song ended and I was startled by the applause that burst from the crowd. I hadn't realized that I wasn't the only one pulled in by Faith's voice and the song she chose to sing, but based on the reaction of the crowd it was obviously true. I mean, not everyone had mist filled eyes like me, but then again, I wasn't the only one.

"Wow!" the MC said, shaking his head before covering the mike and saying something to Faith. It looked like he was trying to convince Faith to sing another song, but she refused. "And with that, we're going to take a ten-minute break." He was a smart man. Who the hell would want to follow Faith on stage?

"So, were you impressed?" Faith's flippant tone as she rejoined me made me smile despite what I was feeling. I was too stunned by the emotions her song brought out to reply in kind.

"You have no idea." I think my raw reaction both pleased and embarrassed her.

"It is an amazing song." She put the guitar in its case and leaned it back against the bar before sitting and reaching for her beer.

"Yes, it is, but so is the singer. Thank you for reminding me of what Christmas is really about." Her eyes focused on mine and I let her see how much her song meant to me. Faith put down her beer and surprised me yet again by leaning toward me.

I might not view myself as smooth, but I wasn't stupid either. I knew what she offering me and there was nothing I wanted more. I leaned in and kissed Faith. It was amazing, chapped lips and all. The sad part was that it couldn't last. Faith pulled back far too quickly for my liking.

"It's your turn," she said, changing the subject. "What do you plan on singing?" I was disappointed, but part of me understood. Our emotions were running on overdrive and she didn't want to do anything she'd regret later. It made sense, but I didn't have to like it.

"Not going to happen. I don't sing. Ever." I guess my disappointment was obvious because she took my hand in hers and smiled tentatively.

"It's just Karaoke. How bad can you be?" I realized between her actions and teasing that Faith was letting me know in her own way that she wasn't totally distancing herself from me. It helped. It helped a lot.

"I'm hungry. How about some food?" My offer distracted her.

"I am in the mood for a good burger," she finally relented. "I haven't had one of those in a long time."

"Then you're in the right place. The burgers here are great. Let's get a table."

She nodded in agreement and we stood, still holding hands. I grabbed her duffle with my free hand and she took her guitar case. It wasn't long before we were seated at a booth. Her things took up one side and we sat together on the other.

I released her hand momentarily to situate the duffle and guitar, but when we sat together our hands fell together again like it was the most natural thing in the world. We looked at each other and I think we might have kissed again if the waiter didn't arrive. He offered us menus, but we declined and both ordered burgers and another beer.

"You have a beautiful voice," I said after he left the table. "Is that what you plan on doing for a living now that you're back in the states?"

"No. I enjoying singing, but my main love is teaching. The arts mostly, but at this point I could also teach English as a second language."

"No surprise there," I smiled, remembering where she spent the last couple of years. "What language did you speak while you were away?"

"Swahili." I could tell from her expression that she was remembering something that amused her. She saw my curiosity and shared her thoughts with me. "I had three years of high school Spanish and another two at college, but I can barely remember some of the basic words. On the other hand, I can argue prices at the local fruit market in Swahili with the best of them."

"It must have been something." I liked to travel and see different places, but what Faith had done was so much more than that. She'd dedicated two years of her life to helping others. That said a lot about Faith, her values and how she was brought up.

"You have no idea." I could see the beginning of dozens of stories she could share in her soulful eyes, but instead she said, "I'm tired of talking about me. Why don't you tell me something about yourself?"

"Well, let's see. Most days I can barely handle English much less speak another language. I can't sing like an angel. Oh, and I haven't spent the last two years helping the underprivileged in a third world country."

"I'm not interested in what you can't or haven't done." Faith looked momentarily amused, but then her expression grew serious. "I wasn't expecting this tonight." She held up our clasped hands for a moment to let me know she meant us. "I'm not even sure what this is." She looked away briefly, deep in thought, but it wasn't long before she refocused her incredible eyes back on me.

"I mean, I get some of what I'm feeling. You're the first good looking guy I've met in a long time who seems interested in more than just getting laid." Her bluntness surprised me, but not in a bad way. Faith wasn't like the rest of the girls I'd dated and I found her direct honesty refreshing. "More to the point, your willingness to listen and ability to make me smile were a kindness when I needed both desperately."

"I'm glad I could help."

"Me too," she half joked, squeezing my hand and smiling briefly as the waiter dropped off our beers. She waited for him to leave before continuing. "And I guess that with all that, it's no surprise that I want you." My heart picked up its pace considerably. Faith was definitely different. "But there's more to what I'm feeling than that and frankly, it has me confused considering how little I know you. That's why I want you to tell me more about yourself and your life."

Faith was still staring into my eyes and hers told me that mixed in with her desire and confusion was something more. Maybe a couple of somethings more. There was a warmth there that promised things I'd only dreamed about if I was careful, and I had to be careful because I also saw fear there. The latter was understandable considering how quickly we were falling for each other.

I couldn't figure out why I wasn't feeling a little scared myself, but I wasn't. Not sitting here next to Faith, staring into her eyes and holding her hand. I was too full of other emotions to let fear in.

Now all I had to do was convince her to trust what we were both feeling. To trust that I wouldn't hurt her. No wonder she was desperate to know more about me. "Okay, but I have the feeling that seeing my life through your eyes will make me seem selfish and not particularly adventurous."

"I doubt that." Her confidence in her statement made me nervous. I wasn't a bad guy and I'd done well for myself in the six years since I'd graduated college, but I could have done more and given back some.

"The most adventurous thing I've ever done in my life was take an eight-week geology trip out west during the summer of my sophomore year of college and Eli had to talk me into it. He's the geologist. The only reason why I went in the end was because I screwed up my first semester and needed to make up the credits."

"Eight weeks seeing the country? That sound interesting." I guess she wasn't going to let me off the hook. By the same token, it was gratifying to see that she wasn't put off by what I said about my reason for going.

"It was," I admitted. "We saw some amazing things that I'll never forget."

"Like what?" She sounded honestly curious. I paused for a couple seconds gathering my thoughts.

"Well, any one of a dozen things in Yellowstone Park. The Badlands and the Devil's Tower also come to mind." I took a pull from my beer as I warmed to the subject. "Oh! And the Grand Tetons. We didn't actually go there, but I remember seeing the snow-covered mountains in the distance and being pretty damn amazed. It was the only time I've seen that in real life. Well, not including the local ski slopes, but that's not the same."

"What was your favorite part?"

"That's easy," I said with a slow smile. "The people. It was interesting as hell meeting people from different parts of the country." One memory came to mind and I laughed.

"What?" There was no way she was faking the interest I saw in her deep brown eyes.

"You have to understand we were in the middle of nowhere most of the time," I began in explanation. "We traveled in six vans with about thirty or forty others who were taking the same class. We slept in tents and bathing was infrequent."

"I was in a third world country for the last two years, remember? I get it, probably more than I'd like to admit."

"Yeah, right." I nodded before returning to my story. "Well, we knew before we left that we weren't going to be able to shower every day, but I don't think even Eli expected that we'd have to use outhouses. Worse, when we arrived at one site we had to clean out the pit of the outhouse first. Eli drew the short straw."

"That must have been interesting." Her eyes sparkled in amusement.

"You have no idea," I laughed. "Eli's one of those people who you have to judge by what they do, not what they say. He's always bitching and moaning, but ninety-nine times out of a hundred he does the right thing despite that."

"I'll remember that if I ever meet him."

"Oh, you will." My confident tone made her shake her head, but she didn't disagree. "In either case, so there we were, me with my cell phone ready to take pictures and Eli tying a bandana around his nose and mouth as they tilted the outhouse over. One of the TA's handed him a shovel with a wide grin and Eli jumped in the pit. He was already bitching and moaning before he landed. It didn't help that half the camp was standing over him watching and laughing."

"Was it bad?" Faith looked honestly curious.

"Not really. The place hadn't been used since the year before and the stuff in the pit was dry, but then again, shoveling shit is still shoveling shit no matter how you look at it."

"True," she laughed briefly. "But what does this have to do with meeting new people?"

"Well, I guess Eli's complaining was a little over the top because suddenly this guy name Brock, who had to be six four and easily weighed two hundred and twenty-five pounds, took pity on him. He grabbed a second shovel and jumped into the pit. He then proceeded to go at it like there was no tomorrow. Only, instead of complaining he actually started singing old television show themes."

"He didn't?" Faith was clearly having problems believing my story. I didn't blame her.

"Apparently, Brock grew up on his grandparents' farm and his grandfather made him watch old television shows at night. You know, Gilligan's Island, F-Troop, Happy Days and Love Boat. Somewhere along the line Brock took to singing the themes to distract himself when he was stuck doing chores he hated."

"Like cleaning out an outhouse pit. That must have been a sight to see."

"Oh, it gets better," I laughed. "Eli starts singing along with him and pretty soon their shoveling in unison. That's when everyone else starts joining in. You should have seen the look in the eyes of the guy who was running the class when he came to see what was going on."

"I can imagine." We shared a laugh before Faith asked her next question. "Did you meet any locals while you were on this trip?"

"Plenty, but some were far more interesting than others," I answered, remembering some of the more colorful ones. "About half way through the trip Eli heard about a lake ten miles away from where we were camping. It was supposed to be beautiful and we were starting to get a little stir crazy so we decided to go on one of our off days."

"A few people were interested in joining us, but when the guy in charge refused to let us use a van for our little excursion and Eli insisted that we were going to hitchhike instead they pretty much disappeared, which was a good thing because you can't hitchhike with ten people."

"What happened?"

"Well, we were lucky on the way there because a couple of friendly girls around our age picked us up. It struck me as odd as hell considering we were two strangers who looked worse for the wear, but they didn't seem worried."

"How friendly are we talking?" Faith teased.

"Not as friendly as we hoped," I joked back. "They were cute blonds, but they both had boyfriends they were meeting at the lake. We spent the time in the car with them swapping stories about the differences in where we were brought up. It was quite the eye opener, but not nearly as much as the trip home."

"Did you find a ride?"

"Yes, from two guys in a pickup." I smiled once more at the memory. "There were two big dogs in the back. There wasn't room inside the cab for both of us so I figured we'd get stuck with the dogs. Thankfully, one of the guys stopped us before we could jump in. Turns out the dogs weren't the friendly kind. He made us step back while he led both dogs into the cab of the truck."

"We climbed into the bed and settled in. The first thing we noticed were two rifles hanging in the rack along the back window on the inside. I guess they'd spent the day out hunting. It explained the dogs' not so friendly demeanor. It was a heck of an eye opened to Eli and me. I know that in some parts of the country hunting dogs and a gun rack aren't that big of a deal, but to us city boys it was a bit of a shock."

"I can imagine," Faith laughed.

"That wouldn't have been half bad if the two guys hadn't started passing a fifth of something back and forth over the dogs. Eli almost lost it as that point. He spent the rest of the trip in a non-stop rant that was pretty damn funny."

"What did you do?" I shrugged at her question.

"Not much. We'd stayed at the lake longer than we should have and the road was pretty empty when we started making our way back to the campsite. I was tired from swimming all day so it was either accept these guys' hospitality or walk."

"We weren't really traveling that fast and there was nothing for miles around. Even if the pickup veered off the road it wasn't going to hit anything except maybe some brush. Besides, the passenger was doing the bulk of the drinking. I spent most of the trip nodded on and off, ignoring Eli and his ranting."

"And that's not an adventure?" Faith was smiling and I took a moment to enjoy it. She really was beautiful in a way all her own.

"I meant a worthwhile one. I've got plenty of stupid ones." She rolled her eyes, but I was gratified to see that she looked amused.

I continued to share stories about my life until our burgers arrived. We finally let go of each other's hands and fell silent for a few minutes while we ate. Despite saying she was hungry she only finished half her burger and a few fries before she pushed her plate back.

"You still haven't told me what you do for a living." Faith was sitting with her back to the side of booth so she could watch me.

"Oh, nothing special. It's a typical boring office job. Although, it can be interesting at times."

I briefly described what I did between bites as I finished my burger, but then moved on to stories about my family and my plans for the future. Afterward, we nursed our beers and eventually ordered dessert.

I was sharing more with Faith about my life and goals than I ever remember telling anyone else, including Eli and he was my best friend. I could tell she appreciated my openness because she took my hand in both of hers and rested them on her lap. She also started sharing more about herself.

"...and I'm pretty sure I have a job waiting for me back home at my old grammar school, but I'm not sure I want to take it. With dad gone I have no real reason to stay there."

"What about friends?"

"I've been away for two years and even before then, I didn't stay close to many people after high school because I was busy taking care of dad and studying. Honestly, the few people I did keep in touch with moved away not long after graduating college."

"Are you here visiting one of them?"

"No," she replied. "I'm meeting up with a couple I made friends with while overseas. They worked with me and showed me the ropes. They finished their two years six months ago. We promised to get together once I was back in the states. I called them when I knew for sure I was coming home this week and they invited me over for the holiday."

"They sound like good friends," I offered.

"They are. In fact, they're already hinting that I should look for a job out here. They insist that there are plenty of schools in the area that could use a good teacher."

"There are, and I like the idea of you settling here." Faith looked at me and smiled warmly, lighting up places deep inside of me.

"Definitely smooth." I like the fact that she looked relaxed despite the teasing accusation. Hell, who was I kidding? I liked pretty much everything about Faith, even the stuff that made her different, or maybe especially that stuff.

"It's too bad you're going to have to get rid of the nose stud and dye your hair back to one color. I really like them." Eli wasn't wrong earlier when he said that Faith wasn't my type, but I guess types can change, especially when love was involved.

'Love? Whoa boy! Slow down. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.' My thoughts were a jumble, but deep down I knew it was already too late. I was hooked on Faith. Just sitting next to her made me feel better.

"Why would I have to get rid of the stud and dye my hair?" It took me a moment to refocus on the conversation.

"You really think you'll be able to find a job as a teacher with them?"

"At the right school," she replied with a shrug. "I may choose to get rid of them one day, but right now they're as much a part of me as my tattoos."

"Tattoos? As in plural?" I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was, again.

"I told you I was a wild child growing up." She smiled at my reaction, but then her expression turned a little melancholy as she let go on my hand. "Although most of them I got later, after I calmed down."

"Any I can see?" My curiosity was definitely getting the better of me.

"This one I got after dad died." She lifted her top enough for me to see her ribs on the left side. There was a saying with two small stylized crosses on either side. It said, 'Always on my mind, forever in my heart'. I don't know why, but I reached out and touched it. Faith didn't stop me, although I did see goosebumps form.

"It's beautiful," I said as I pulled my hand back and she dropped her top. She nodded, but still looked a little sad so I added, "What about the others?"

"Well, there's this one." She surprised me by pulling her long hair up and away from the right side of her head. I shifted and moved closer. Faith tilted her head and moved her ear. I saw what was tattooed behind it. There was an anchor there. It was small and hidden by her ear and hair. You couldn't see it normally.

"Very nice." I hadn't realized how close I'd gotten until I saw the goosebumps my breath caused. "How about behind the other ear? Anything there?"

"What do you think?" she teased, shifting her head and hair so that I could see behind her left ear. This time I reached out and moved her ear. Even touching her there felt electric. I moved closer to get a good look at the tattoo. It was a heart. I couldn't stop myself from brushing my lips against it when I saw. Faith shivered and pulled back. Her dark eyes were smoky as she looked at me. "Get it?"

I frowned at her question. Frankly, I was having problems even focusing on it because there was nothing I wanted to do more than kiss behind her ear again and see where that led, but this wasn't the time or place.

"Faith," she said in explanation, pointing to herself and then she directed my attention from one ear to the other adding, "Hope and love."

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byJoeDreamer© 64 comments/ 90414 views/ 283 favorites

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