The next week passed quickly. Spring break also flew past, and it seemed like there hadn’t been a spare minute to breathe for Hailey. On Saturday night, she headed over to Melanie’s house for an end-of-spring-break sleepover.
“Hey, Hailey, I’m in the kitchen!” Melanie called when Hailey came in. Hailey slipped into the kitchen.
“You’re the first one here,” Melanie told her, grinning.
“Well, that’s a first!” Hailey joked. She reached over her friend’s shoulder and grabbed a kettle chip out of the bowl on the counter. “Who all is coming?” she asked, crunching.
“Kaitlyn’s out of town, so she’s not going to be here, but Brenna is going to be able to make it this time.” Melanie grabbed her own chip out of the bowl and popped it in her mouth. And then grabbed a few more.
Hailey picked up the bowl to take it into the living room. “Too bad Kaitlyn can’t come. We had a lot of fun last time. When is she getting back?”
“Monday, but she’ll be back at school on Tuesday.” Melanie picked up a bowl of popcorn. “Maybe we’ll actually pull an all-nighter tonight.”
Hailey laughed. “Knowing Brenna, we will.”
Hailey strolled home slowly on Monday afternoon. She hadn’t been able to avoid the daily bullying scene. Jason had been on vacation until the night before, and he had got back late, so she had hoped that he wouldn’t be there. Unfortunately he had.
“Hailey, wait up!” She heard a voice call from behind her. She turned and looked. It was Jason.
“Hi, Jason,” she said when he caught up.
“Hi.” He grinned, shoving his blond hair back from his forehead. “How come I’m always running to catch up with you?”
Hailey laughed. “I guess I’m just a lot faster than you.”
He smiled. “So, did you go to church on Sunday?”
“Yeah.” The words popped out of Hailey’s mouth before she could even think. “I went to the youth group meeting thing.” Hailey couldn’t believe what she’d just said.
“That’s awesome!” Jason exclaimed enthusiastically. “So, did you like it?”
“Not really,” Hailey replied reluctantly. She couldn’t think of anything else to say. What had she done?
Jason’s face fell. “Oh,” he said resignedly. He suddenly looked at his watch. “I’ve got to get home. Let’s talk more later, okay?”
“Sure,” Hailey replied reluctantly. He turned away, his shoulders somewhat slumped. Hailey was overcome by a desire to run after him, to grab his arm, to tell him the truth about everything. She wanted to stop lying to him.
But she didn’t. She didn’t want to lose her popularity and her other friends. She didn’t want to lose Jason’s trust. And she didn’t want to lose him as a friend.
Hailey slammed her locker door shut angrily after her classes on Tuesday. Every time she had seen Jason, she had felt a pang from her conscience. She was completely tired of it all. She spotted Jason at his locker a few feet away and debated whether or not to talk to him.
“Hi, guys!” Kaitlyn called, waving to Hailey and Melanie. She expertly wove through the crowd of teenagers. She finally reached them, breathless.
“Hi, Kaitlyn! Did you have a good trip?” Melanie asked, hugging her friend.
“It was great!” Kaitlyn exclaimed, her voice loud and clear like Melanie’s, as usual. “How was the sleepover on Saturday?”
“It was awesome, right, Hailey?” Melanie replied.
“Yeah, it was,” Hailey agreed distractedly. She knew that Jason couldn’t help but hear everything, and she knew that this was going to ruin everything.
“It was great!” Melanie confirmed. “We ended up pulling an all-nighter. We totally slept until four. Hailey was the one to wake us all up.” Hailey gave a half-hearted grin.
“You slept later than the one two weeks ago, then?” Kaitlyn asked. “We only slept until two.”
“Yeah.” Melanie smiled and continued chattering. Jason’s eyes met Hailey’s. He immediately read the guilt on her face. Astonishment swept over his face and was immediately replaced by hurt and anger, and then sadness. He turned and walked towards a side door, probably so he could escape the daily bullying scene. Hailey felt sick as she realized the pain she had caused Jason. Ignoring the chatter of her friends, she gathered her things and took off after Jason. She had to make things right.
“Jason, wait up!” Hailey called after Jason when she spotted him walking down the street ahead of her. Either he didn’t hear her, or he was ignoring her, because he kept walking. Hailey finally caught up to him and grabbed his arm.
“Please, Jason,” she pleaded desperately. “We need to talk. I-I’m sorry.” She finished in a whisper.
Jason turned around to face her, pain and sadness filling his green eyes. Hailey gulped, knowing that this would be hard. “I’m sorry. I just— couldn’t stop. I wanted you to stop asking me to go to church with you. I didn’t want to lose all of my other friends because of going to church, so I just kept lying and making up excuses. It was like everything kept getting more and more tangled up, and I-I just couldn’t stop. It was like being stuck in a maze.” The tears started flowing down her cheeks.
Jason hugged her gently and gave a weak smile. “It’s okay, Hailey. I’m hurt, and I’m upset that you lied to me, but… I’ve already decided to forgive you.”
“But how?” Hailey asked, confused. “I mean, I lied to you so many times! How can you just – forgive me?”
Jason smiled again. “I can’t do it on my own. God gives me the power to forgive. He’s the only One who can help me to let go of the hurt.”
“Thanks,” Hailey said softly. “And maybe I can come to church with you sometime?”
Jason’s grin broadened. “That would be awesome. Jesus is the best way out of the maze of lies.”