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Good Vibrations
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-438-1
Genre: Mainstream/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 96 Pages
Published: January 2020

From inside the flap

Don’t let ‘em fool you. Christians don’t have all the answers.

A good friend at just the right time can make all the difference in a life struggling to find purpose. PJ’s inquisitive mind is always searching out the mysteries of the universe. The one thing science has been unable to explain, though, is why Nova Sutton has been such a good friend to her. Is it possible that the most powerful force in heaven and on earth is a simple act of kindness?

Spend a fun weekend with Nova and her unique band of teens as they share their best lives with PJ James. See how just one song has the ability to ignite a spark of hope that has unexpected and eternal consequences for all of them.

“Music is magical in the way it connects us at an emotional level. The world needs more of that these days.” Claudia Jones, singer

This story is based on real events the author has witnessed while attending services at Smithsburg Valley Church in Smithsburg Maryland.

One (Excerpt)

Chapter 1

The town of Eden Forge was a great place to grow up. There was clean air and water, and serene pasturelands for miles. In the downtown district there was commerce and industry, while the surrounding area had woodlands and farmlands. All four seasons were enjoyed: winter for skiing, summer for swimming, spring for fishing, fall for hunting. The word neighbor meant exactly what you'd want it to mean. After all, they'd had nearly 400 years to get it right - through wars, natural disasters, and cultural progress. It was, in fact, the kind of place that came to mind when someone said the word 'home'.

Fifteen-year-old PJ James was new to the area and did not feel lucky to be here. Not that there was anything wrong with the place. But her parents had been going through a tough separation for a few months. And even though PJ's ancestry went back to the founding of Eden Forge, this did not feel like her home. Hopefully her mom and dad would soon come to their sense and they'd be on their way back to North Carolina. In the meantime she made the best of this painful limbo.

They arrived at Eden Forge Baptist Church at dusk. Her mother, Treasure Jordan James, drove up to the sidewalk that led to the front door of the church. As she came to a stop she looked over at her daughter in the passenger seat of the green Subaru. PJ was as nervous as her mother. Treasure had barely been inside a church since her wedding day 20 years ago, but that's not what gave her pause just now. It was anticipating spending the whole weekend without her teenager for the first time since they moved back north this winter.

"Got your bag?" Treasure asked. PJ held up both hands, the strap of her purse in one, the strap of her gym bag in the other. "Okay. You have fun now."

"I'm not here to have fun. I'm here to babysit."

"I know, I know. Do you see your friend?"

They both scanned the parking lot. Cars were pulling up and parking, people were unloading musical instruments from a van and carrying them up the sidewalk. A slender, spiky-haired boy in black skinny jeans wheeled a large amplifier past them. Someone opened the door from the inside.

"I think that's her car over there." PJ gestured to a white, compact car on the farthest edge of the lot. "She must be inside already."

"Okay. Remember to call if you need me."

PJ's blue eyes stared into the blue eyes of her mother. Anyone looking at them couldn't help but notice that they were a reflection of each other: shoulder-length blond hair parted on the left-hand side, wisp of bangs fringing the parasol of eyebrows over the blueberry colored eyes. Even the expressions on their faces were a duplicate of each other's - worry, masked by a desire to bring ease to the other's misgivings.

"I've got my weekend all planned out, Mom. You just go and enjoy yourself for once. I'll call you on Sunday when I need picked up."

PJ was trying to convince herself that her mom was going to be okay without her. Treasure was fake smiling, but that was her natural state. Even when PJ's father was breaking Treasure's heart her mother managed to smile through it. It was a sad smile just the same. Thomas James had declared that he was moving out for a while to give them some space to work things out. If it wasn't the stupidest thing PJ had ever heard, it came close.

After days of whispered disagreements, it was decided that it would be too disruptive for Thomas to leave his job. Treasure suggested she take PJ with her and stay with Nana and Pop for a week or two. Not even time to enroll in school. It would be a short visit.

They had barely left North Carolina when the call came. Thomas needed Treasure to sign some papers so he could sell the condo. He could just email them to her if that was convenient. No, nothing about this was convenient. It was a punch in the gut. A feeling of betrayal swept over PJ when her mother told her about it. Trooper that she was, though, Treasure kept moving forward, attempting to keep PJ's world as normal as possible.

PJ took one more look into her mother's eyes. All things being equal, at least Mom would have a break from keeping up appearances for her daughter's sake. Maybe that stiff upper lip could relax for once.

"Be a blessing, not a burden," Mom said. This smile looked genuine.

PJ elbowed open the car door and settled the bag straps across her shoulders like bandoliers. She shut the door and waved good-bye to her mom, who watched her walk the length of the sidewalk, until she ducked behind the double doors and was gone from sight. Treasure put the car in gear and fought back the feeling that she had just left her child in a perilous situation.

PJ was taken aback by the swirl of activity going on in the foyer. Her friend had told her this was some kind of worship service. But most of the people were her age and the whole tone was being backstage at a rock concert. To her left was a hallway. Some guy was putting out clipboards on a small table. She didn't feel like signing up for anything, so she looked to the right.

A tallish boy brushed past her carrying an electric guitar case. He looked her up and down, and nodded 'what's up'. She nodded back, and wondered if she should follow him. Another guy, shorter and more muscular, strode by talking on a cell phone. He glanced at her, but kept moving. He was wearing olive drab cargo shorts and flip-flops, even though it was early April and not nearly warm enough for that. He had barely reached the handle to the double doors of the auditorium, when he made a U-turn.

"Hi," he said, stretching his hand out to her. "I'm Eddie Angel. I don't think I know you." She shook her head. "You seem a little lost. Maybe I can help."

"I'm PJ. I'm looking for my friend. Nova?"

"Oh, sweet. You're helping us out tonight. Come on, she's probably getting in some practice in the sanctuary."

PJ was still trying to figure out how Eddie had picked her out of the crowd while she was behind him. And now she couldn't stop staring at him. His hair was some weird yellowish color. Not like blond or some other color found in nature. It had an orange tinge to it like a road sign saying pedestrian crossing or ramp speed 25 mph. That mess wasn't even the most intriguing part of his look. Covering the bottom of his face was some kind of growth that might be a beard or it might just be a few days' whiskers. But his smile…that was for sure genuine. In addition, there was something clipped to the waistband of his shorts. It looked like a holster, but that couldn't be right. Maybe it was a case for his cell phone.

"Uh, Eddie," she said, lowering her voice. "That's not a gun is it?" His smile was enigmatic. "I mean…" The hair on her neck prickled her skin. "You don't plan to shoot someone, do you? We're told if we see something we should say something."

"Not gonna shoot anyone…unless they shoot first."

"Seriously? It is a gun?"

"Just a small one, a snake slayer. I don't know if you've heard, but the Church is under attack." He nodded to a hallway bulletin board, where there were posters and news articles about the persecution of Christians. "If trouble shows up, I'm not going to stand by and take it. I will defend my brothers and sisters, whatever it takes. I'm trained and licensed." He smiled and jutted his head forward. "Don't worry, I'll protect you, too. You're safe here."

Eddie led PJ into a large, open space. She had expected the sanctuary to be darkly paneled, have statues, and a large crucifix with an anguished savior suffering for all mankind. The only cross was one small wooden one affixed to the far wall. The altar was carpeted in some teal, textured fabric and had microphone stands, amplifiers, conga drums, and a drum kit behind a Plexiglas divider. Nova was sitting on a tall stool holding a guitar across her lap.

"Hey, Sutton!" Eddie called. He jerked his thumb in PJ's direction. "You left something out in the foyer!"

Nova Sutton waved to them. PJ's attention was on the tallish boy from the hall. He had gotten his guitar out of the case and was plucking a series of chords. Nova was bobbing her head. PJ waved to Nova and followed Eddie to the front of the room. He stepped up on a stage about 20 inches high, and then turned back.

"Excuse me, but I've got to get these jokers jacked in. They're helpless without me."

"Hey, Nova," PJ said, raising her voice. "Where do you need me?"

"I'll go back with you," Nova replied. "Just give me a minute to tune up."

PJ was happy to have time to gather herself. She dropped her bags at her feet and sat on a chair in the front row. The pews were a row of upholstered chairs the same bluish-teal as the carpet.

Sitting by herself made her feel lonely. It was impossible to know when these episodes would overwhelm her. Out of nowhere she'd remember how much she'd lost this year, and a feeling would grow inside her until it was a bad taste in her mouth. It would sit at the bottom of her throat, and she couldn't decide if she wanted to cry or vomit.

PJ crossed her arms over her stomach and felt her elbows with her fingers. She rubbed them like she was trying to make a genie to appear. She'd make a wish to wake up back home, her mom and dad would be together, and she'd be smack dab in the middle of the life she'd left behind. As if.

She made a half-turn and took in the contours of the room. Some kind of booth was at the back of room and there were two guys and a girl bustling in and out of it. Everyone was focused on what they were doing. PJ had worried she'd be the center of attention, but nobody even marked her presence. Except gun-toting Eddie Angel, who was yelling numbers to someone in the booth.

"No. Jonas is number 8." Jonas was the spiky-haired boy tuning his guitar. Eddie squatted on the floor with wires in his hands. He plugged them into openings in the floor designed for that purpose. "Make it hot for your brother! Number 8, Jansen."

"Didn't you say number 4?" Jansen yelled back. He looked nothing like his spiky-haired brother. His hair was a soft buzz-cut, he was shorter, and he had a pretty face. "Say again!"

"I said number 4. Nova is 4, Jonas is 8."

"Got it. Try it now."

"Every week it's the same thing," Eddie grumbled, shaking his head. "Nova 4, Jonas 8. Always the same, and Jansen gets it wrong every time. How can he be wrong 100 percent of the time?"

PJ offered, "Maybe you should write it down for him."

Eddie grinned. "If you go back and look at the mix-board you'll see it right there on a piece of masking tape." He sighed, and put his hands on his hips. "Oh, well. Praise God, I get to practice forgiveness every week - whether I want to or not."

Nova slung her guitar strap over her head. She leaned back and rested the instrument on her abdomen. Her fingers slapped the strings and the deep resonance brought about a communal response from her band mates. Other musicians were drawn to the stage and joined in to complete the melody. Eddie was first.

"Oh, yeah," he said, and got behind the conga drums.

The tune sounded vaguely familiar, but PJ couldn't place it. Soon Nova was satisfied and put down the bass guitar on a stand, and someone else came along and picked it up. PJ recognized him as Nova's older brother.

Bode was every bit the surfer dude - skateboarding, snowboarding - anything that kept him in motion. His hair was sun-scorched blond and fashioned in a bowl-cut. It wasn't curly like his sister's, but was shaggy around the edges especially near his eyelids. On occasion he would be riding in the backseat when Nova picked her up to go to soccer practice. He tended to sit quietly plugged into his ear-buds. Although he was a good-looking guy, he didn't seem to take notice of the way girls were drawn to him. When he sang along he demonstrated a very pleasant voice. In other circumstances PJ might have been attracted to him, but because of her association with Nova she felt a sibling vibe - brother/sister once removed. And the envy in other girl's eyes when they saw the three of them together didn't hurt at all.

Nova and Bode had as many differences as they had in common. They both were tall, brown-eyed, athletic, and musical. But Nova was outgoing, while Bode was introverted. Where Nova played team sports like soccer, Bode was about dirt bikes and skiing. Where Nova took charge of most rooms, Bode was content to hang in the corner.

"Come on," Nova said, jumping down from the stage. "Thanks for waiting." PJ picked up her bags and followed her down the hallway to the left. The clipboard gentleman was still there. "Hey, Josh, this is my friend PJ."

"Nice to meet ya. You're really helping us out here. Really appreciate it."

"I'm happy to do it."

"Hah, talk to me after the evening is over," Josh said, and rolled his eyes.

They made their way to the last room on the right: a baby nursery. Nova had explained that the woman who watched the infants was going to be giving her testimony tonight, so PJ was there to fill in for her. They probably wouldn't have more than a couple babies to watch and maybe a couple crawlers. After they got things set up PJ sat in the rocking chair and Nova sat cross-legged on the floor.

"What was that song you were playing?" PJ asked.

Nova looked up from the picture book she had spread open on her knees. PJ wasn't one to put anybody on a pedestal, but Nova had won her admiration in a dozen ways since they'd met at soccer sign-up in February. There was this statuesque girl with a mane of golden ringlets standing in line in front of her. She looked at PJ with soft brown eyes and made some small talk. Within seconds she had grasped that PJ was new in town, and shepherded her around explaining things.

"Your mom grew up around here?" Nova had asked.

"Yeah, they seem to own a lot of farmland. Or did, I don't know. The Jordan family practically settled Eden Forge."

"Oh, sure, everyone knows the Jordan farm. Mennonites, right?"

"Yeah. What's with those little hats anyway?" PJ scrunched her nose.

"Don't you know? They're your people."