A Maze of Lies – Part Three

The last part in the story of lies, deception, and wrong choices. Click for Part One and Part Two. I’d love feedback! 😀

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.”

A Maze of Lies – Part Two

Continuing the story of lies, deception, and wrong choices. Click for Part One. I’d love feedback! 😀

Hailey yawned. She could feel the heat of the sun on the side of her face. She finally mustered enough strength… to open her eyes. The sun was shining brightly through the window. She sleepily sat up and glanced at the clock. It was already well past noon. Melanie and Kaitlyn were still sleeping soundly in their sleeping bags. Hailey automatically reached for a pillow.

“Oof!” Melanie grunted groggily. She pushed the pillow off her face. She looked over at Hailey, who was trying her best to fend off laughter and look innocent. Melanie rolled her eyes. “That wasn’t very nice,” she stated.

Hailey gazed at her solemnly. “You’re going to use the pillow to wake up Kaitlyn, right?”

“Of course.” Melanie snorted. “Do you think I would pass up an opportunity like this?” Hailey grinned at her.

Five minutes of pillow-pounding later, a very grumpy Kaitlyn was sitting up in her sleeping bag. “What time is it?” she grumbled.

“Almost two,” Hailey informed her.

“What time did we fall asleep?” Kaitlyn asked.

“Well, I remember popping the seventh bag of popcorn around five, and we never did finish it.” Melanie nodded to the half-empty bowl. “So, I think it was around six.”

Kaitlyn rolled her eyes. “No wonder,” she muttered. “We’d better get dressed and eat something. My mom’s coming to pick me up in half an hour.”

~~~

“Hi, Hailey, Melanie!” Brenna called, winding her way to the other girls through the post-class traffic. She finally reached them. “How was the sleepover?” she asked. “I wish I hadn’t missed it.”

“It was great,” Melanie told Brenna, mentioning all of the best parts. Of course, she left out the part about Finding Nemo.

Kaitlyn walked over to them. “Hey, guys. I was actually able to make it through today. Apparently the kid that the guys are usually messing with isn’t here today.”

Hailey didn’t say anything, but looked up, relieved, although she did wonder where Jason was. The girls left the school together and split up, heading their separate ways.

Once at home, Hailey couldn’t focus on her homework. She kept wondering why Jason hadn’t been at school. Finally she picked up the phone.

“Hello, Craywell residence.” The voice didn’t sound like Jason’s.

“Hi, can I talk to Jason?” she asked hesitantly, feeling awkward. She and Jason hadn’t really talked lately, after all.

“This is he. Who is this?” Hailey still didn’t think it sounded like him.

“It’s Hailey.”

“Hi, Hailey!” A smile leapt into his voice. “What’s up?”

“Not much. I was just wondering why you weren’t at school today.” Hailey fiddled with her pencil.

“Oh, Kelly got a cold and passed it on to me. I’ll probably be back tomorrow, though. Thanks for thinking of me! I missed church on Sunday, too.” He sounded genuinely happy to hear from her.

“Do you need any of the assignments?” Hailey asked quickly, changing the subject.

“Sure!” Jason replied eagerly.

Hailey found the assignments for the classes they were in together and listed them. As she waited for him to write them down, an idea hit her. Jason was always asking her to go to church with him. She had always refused, coming up with various excuses. This was her chance to get him off her back once and for all.

“Thanks, Hailey. I guess I have something to do tonight.” They laughed. A short silence followed. Hailey twirled her hair around her finger nervously as she tried to think of something to say. Finally Jason broke the silence.

“So, do you want to, uh, come to church with me on Wednesday?” he asked somewhat awkwardly.

This was the question Hailey had been waiting for. “Nah,” she replied after a moment. “I didn’t really enjoy it much when I went on Sunday. I had wondered where you were—”

“You went yesterday?” Jason interrupted excitedly. “Aw, you should have called me. I wish I could’ve been there! Did you like it?”

“Not really,” Hailey replied hesitantly. Jason’s enthusiasm was starting to make her regret her lie.

“Oh.” Jason said thoughtfully. There was a short pause. “I’ve got to go, Hailey, my dad’s calling me. Feel free to call me later.”

“All right, ‘bye,” Hailey replied. She hung up the phone with the guilt weighing down heavily on her shoulders. She tried to concentrate on her schoolwork, but she couldn’t keep her mind on it. She couldn’t help hoping that this would be the last of all of the church invitations.

~~~

“Hey, Timothy!” Jason called as he slipped into the nearly-empty youth room that Wednesday.

The kid sitting at one of the small tables looked up, brushing his short brown hair out of his eyes and adjusted his glasses. He slipped a bookmark into his book and grinned. “Hey, Jason, I’ve got an open seat over here that has your name on it!”

Jason grinned and slid into one of the open chairs. “How’s it going, Timothy?”

“Pretty good,” the boy replied. “We missed you here on Sunday.”

Jason made a face. “Yeah. I was at home, sick. You’re still working on Moby Dick, huh?” Timothy nodded. “Oh,” Jason began, remembering. “A friend of mine came on Sunday. Did you get to meet her? Her name’s Hailey, she’s got red hair. She’s not very easy to miss.”

Timothy thought for a little while, unconsciously chewing on the eraser on his pencil. Finally he shook his head. “No, I didn’t see her. There were only a few people here on Sunday, and they were all regulars.”

Jason frowned. “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Timothy nodded.

That’s weird, Jason thought. I guess I’ll ask Hailey about it tomorrow after school.

~~~

All week long Hailey’s friends had dragged her over to watch Jason getting bullied. She was finally tired of it. She was barely able to escape through one of the side entrances. She had plenty of time to get home since she had made it out of school early, so she strolled leisurely down the sidewalk.

Hailey had almost made it to her house when she heard running footsteps behind her. She turned around and saw Jason running towards her.

“Hi, Hailey!” he called, catching up to her.

“Oh, hi, Jason,” she replied somewhat nervously. She felt a twinge of guilt as she thought about the phone call.

“Hi,” Jason gasped as he finally reached her. “How’re you doing?”

“Pretty good,” Hailey replied. “What about you?”

“I’m fine,” he replied, still trying to catch his breath. “Oh, last night at church I asked a friend of mine if he’d met you, and he said he hadn’t seen you in youth.”

It only took a split second for Hailey to realize how bad this could be for her, and another one for her to come up with a reply. “Oh, I stayed in the main sanctuary, you know, with the adults. That’s probably why he didn’t see me.”

Jason laughed. “That makes sense. It also explains why you disliked it, too. Youth’s a lot of fun, while the adult service… not so much.” Hailey mentally groaned. She knew what was coming up next.

“So, do you want to come again on Sunday? You can try out the youth group. It’s a lot better than the sermons in the sanctuary,” Jason suggested eagerly.

“No, I don’t think so. I’ve got a big project due on Monday since it’s the week before spring break.” Hailey lied again. “We’re going shopping on Saturday, so I won’t have much time the rest of the weekend.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jason nodded understandingly. “Those teachers always dump extra homework on us right before spring break.”

Hailey laughed, relaxing. “Yeah. Well, I’ve gotta get home. I’ll talk to you later.”

Jason nodded. “Okay. See ya tomorrow!” he called over his shoulder as he jogged back towards his house. Hailey continued down to her house, breathing in the scent of the flowers blooming in the flowerbeds. She was really glad to have dodged two more tough spots, but she wondered how many more would follow.

A Maze of Lies – Part One

Love this short-story-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-novel. 😉 Let me know what you think of this part. More parts coming soon!

Hailey Baker slammed the door on her locker, pulling her hands through her strawberry-blond hair. Her light brown eyes focused on a group of kids laughing farther down the high school hallway. She groaned inwardly, realizing immediately what was going on.

One of her fellow softball players and close friends, Melanie Brandt, looked up too. Pushing her short brown hair behind her ear, she took in the scene unfolding down the hall. She rolled her brown eyes. “Great,” she complained. “Haven’t those guys got anything better to do? They do this every single day after the classes are over.” Her loud voice carried to most of the people around them.

Brenna Cooper, another volleyball teammate, looked up from pulling her books out of her locker. She shrugged, flipping her blond hair over her shoulder. “We might as well watch the action.”

Brenna and Melanie immediately moved down the hall towards the commotion. Hailey followed reluctantly. Finally they were able to find a good vantage point to watch “the action”, as Brenna called it.

In the middle of all the commotion, a blond sophomore named Jason Craywell was standing next to some lockers, clutching a stack of books to his chest. Two of the other sophomores were teasing him and pushing him around. His green eyes blazed, and Hailey could see him gritting his teeth. The kids at school often teased him about his beliefs, but he continued to stand strong. He made eye contact with Hailey, and she quickly looked away. She knew he was disappointed that she was simply watching and not intervening, but she didn’t know what else to do.

Hailey and Jason had known each other since they were in second grade in the same class. They didn’t truly become close until one day close to the end of their second grade year. It was Jason’s first day back at school after his mom’s death. During recess, Hailey found him crying behind one of the school buildings. They had eventually become best friends, and this friendship continued throughout elementary school and their first year of middle school. Not long into middle school, though, Hailey had become popular, and they began to grow further apart, especially when Jason became a Christian and began to become unpopular. Now that they were in high school, the two of them didn’t hang out very much at all, although they did talk occasionally, outside of school.

Hailey’s attention returned to the scene before her. The noisy laughter must have finally caught the attention of the teachers in the nearest classrooms. A few of the teachers came out to restore order, and the kids began scattering. Jason, looking slightly relieved, turned and walked out of the building.

“Guess the fun’s over,” Brenna sighed, faking disappointment.

Melanie ignored her, turning to Hailey. “Will you be able to sleep over Saturday night?”

“Yeah,” Hailey replied. “I’ll be there at six.” She looked distractedly at her phone. “I’ve got to go now, though. I have a babysitting job I need to get to.”

“Okay, see you tomorrow!” Melanie called to her as she wove her way to the front doors. Hailey turned back and waved, and then continued pushing forward through the crowd of teenagers.

~~~

“Where’s the popcorn?” Kaitlyn Monroe called from the kitchen. Melanie looked up from searching through the DVDs.

“There are some bags in the top part of the cabinet, far right,” she replied. She turned to Hailey, who was arranging the sleeping bags. “Do you think we should watch VeggieTales: The Penniless Princess?”

Hailey laughed. “No, I think it’s too scary for Kaitlyn,” she joked.

“I heard that!” Kaitlyn yelled from the kitchen. The other two girls laughed. They soon heard the popcorn popping in the microwave.

Hailey grinned slyly at Melanie. “I brought jalapeno kettle chips,” she confided.

Melanie licked her lips. “My favorite.”

“So, where’s Brenna?” Hailey asked. “I thought you invited her, too, and she never misses a party if she can help it.”

Melanie laughed. “Well, this time she couldn’t help it. They have family visiting this weekend. She begged her parents to let her come, but it didn’t work.”

“I’ve got popcorn!” Kaitlyn announced, slipping into the room, balancing a bowl of popcorn with one hand.

“Don’t drop it!” Hailey and Melanie chorused, laughing.

Kaitlyn frowned jokingly. “You doubt my abilities?” she asked incredulously. The bowl wobbled as she stepped towards the table.

“Yes,” Hailey stated, “and for a good reason.” Melanie laughed and took the popcorn from Kaitlyn. Hailey moved to the stack of DVDs that Melanie had been looking through. The other two girls joined her.

“Oh, here it is!” Melanie held up a DVD.

Hailey raised her eyebrows. “Finding Nemo?”

“Yes, I love that movie!” Kaitlyn settled down into a mountain of pillows that she had brought with her.

“You guys are so weird!” Hailey said, laughing. She had to admit that she wouldn’t mind watching the movie, though. She settled down on her sleeping bag.

Melanie put the disc in. “This is going to be one fun night.”