Seventy Times Seven
MacKenzie Sky

 

Sixteen-year-old Adeline Batter shaded her beautiful light-blue eyes from the blinding light of the sun, “Penelope! Anastasia! Freddy!” she called, her lilting voice carrying over the sandy dunes of Long Beach, California. “Come here, children; Mother wants you!” Their house sat on the outskirts of the Long Beach, hidden by the pale green palm trees which swayed back and forth rhythmically around it. Adeline loved her visits home, since her schedule mostly kept her at school or at the diner in Seal Beach. Adeline usually stayed at school Monday thru Friday, since it was three hours away, and worked at the diner Tuesday and Thursday nights, where she was training to become an assistant dessert chef. She was home because school was out for the summer and she’d gotten a month off from work since she was competing in a Junior Miss America pageant soon and she needed to get ready for it. The only consolation of normally being away from home was that she could escape the teasing and name calling of her little brother Freddy. Freddy was small in comparison to Adeline, but that didn’t matter to her; his words still cut her to the heart whenever he called her a mean name or simply ignored her! She could only think of one reason why he started calling her these hurtful names and that reason didn’t seem like it could be right! One time when Freddy was six he asked her for her precious teddy bear. She refused to give it to him, of course, and he cried and cried. He refused to talk to her for two days and then he appeared to forget he even asked her for it - that’s why she didn’t think it would be the right reason for his name calling. At any rate, it really bugged her that he still, months later, kept calling her names, in front of her friends, too, even after she’d asked him to stop! Their mother had been extremely busy, looking after their house, paying the bills and taking the kids to various places, after their dad died 4 years ago, that she never noticed Freddy’s name calling. Adeline didn’t want to be a tattle tale on Freddy, but if Freddy kept it up much longer she would tell. She thought about all this as she stood outside their brick house. She decided to be nice to her brother in hopes he would be nice - for once - back to her. Twelve-year-old Penelope came running in from the back of the house. Close at her heels ran Anastasia and Freddy was last in line, following a little bit slower. Adeline smiled down at them, “Mother wants us to clean up around the house while she cooks lunch, ok?” Penelope and Anastasia quickly nodded and disappeared into the house, but Freddy stood and sullenly stared at her. “Come on, Freddy,” she encouraged, “Mom wants us to clean up the toys you and Anastasia left out!” she held out her hand to him, but he just stomped right into the house all huffy. “Well!” Adeline thought angrily, her good intensions lost, “he could at least acknowledge my presence!” She glared after him. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ The next day Adeline was up fairly early, getting ready to spend the day with her friends. She rushed out of her room to find her mother cooking pancakes, “Hi, Mom!” she greeted, “Those pancakes sure smell good!” “Hey, honey,” her mother responded cheerfully. Anastasia stumbled sleepily into the kitchen, “Good morning!” she mumbled in the middle of a yawn. “How did my nine-year-old sleep this morning?” her mother asked. “Good, thank you!” Anastasia grinned, shaking her head vigorously as if to shake away her sleepiness, “I’m sort of tired, that’s all, but I’ll get over that in a minute.” Mrs. Batter smiled and turned back to her cooking. Freddy was the next to wake up. “Good morning, Mom!” he greeted. “Good morning, Stasia!” Both replied cheerfully, but Adeline frowned at him, “Why don’t you ever talk to me, Freddy?” she asked. He acted as if he hadn’t heard, so she repeated her question. “Huh? What? Oh, did you say something?” he inquired. She repeated her words once again and he gave a mean answer, “Why should I talk to a dufus like her? Their mom gasped in amazement. Adeline’s mouth hung open as she stared at her brother, and sensed the hatred oozing out of his eyes. She was just about to yell at him and shake him by the shoulders, but then she remembered something her pastor had preached about the Sunday before. “Jesus told us to forgive our enemies, he had said, Not just seven times, but seventy times seven times. That is 490 times!” she remembered. She took a deep breath and pondered forgiving him. “No,” she decided, “I don’t want to. Not right now, anyway.” She straightened up and headed back to her room to grab her backpack to stick by the door so it would be ready for her. As she was walking out she heard her mother speaking. “Freddy, I don’t ever want to hear you call anyone another name again!” She heard Freddy give a fake gasp and exclaim, “I won’t, Mom, honest!” Adeline shook her head in hopeless despair. ”I don’t think he’ll keep his word!” She was right! Just before she headed out the door, while her mom was busy doing the laundry, Freddy called her an even worse name then before! _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Adeline first headed to her friend Katie’s house. From there, they picked up a couple other friends: Carter, Ann, James, his younger sister by 2 years, Jaime, and last, but not least, J.B. They walked along the road, heading toward the mall. Adeline walked next to seventeen-year-old Carter and fifteen-year-old J.B., while the others walked behind them. “So,” Jaime called to Adeline, “how is everything at home? Has your brother started respecting you yet?” Adeline blew her breath out, “No, he still goes about calling me names and then appears to forget me entirely.” “Why should you care what he calls you?” J.B. asked. “I mean, 8-year-olds are usually dumb, anyway!” “Freddy is 7!” Adeline corrected, “And for your information, J.B., I wasn’t dumb when I was eight, or seven, for that matter!” She thought for a moment, as J.B. guffawed at her riled up temper. “I think your speaking about your personal experience of at one time being a seven-year-old.” she teased. J.B.’s mouth dropped open in mock amazement, “I wasn’t dumb when I was little, Adeline, and I never will be!” he paused and rolled his eyes. “Adeline, you goose, I said usually. I didn’t mean you or ME, I meant your little brother Freddy!” “Well then, Joshua Bradley Wickington, I don’t ever want to hear you say that my brother is dumb, either!” Adeline said, in her best you-listen-to-me-or-else voice. “No matter how mean he is to me, I will not have mean things said about him!” “But I was just, I didn’t mean, I, umm…” J.B. stammered, “I just thought…” “No but’s about it!” Adeline said firmly. “All right… I’m sorry,” J.B. repented, “And I’ll never say another mean thing about your brother!” “You can’t help it!” Carter chortled, “No matter how much you act sorry you’ll still say mean stuff about Freddy.” “Hey! That’s mean!” J.B. protested. “True, nevertheless,” came the smug reply. “And,” Adeline finished for him, “You’re reaping what you sowed; you said mean stuff about Freddy and now Carter is saying mean stuff about you!” “I think,” advised Katie, who had been listening to the whole argument, “that you should be nice to Freddy, Adeline. Maybe he’ll be nice back to you.” “I tried that!” Adeline said sadly. “He just ignored me! Oh, do pray for him, guys!” “I don’t see what reason your brother has to be mean,” Jaime mused thoughtfully. “My three-year-old brother, Jonathan, is a dear!” “Everyone in your family is wonderful!” Adeline claimed. “You’re all so sweet and kind and thoughtful, I don’t see how any of you could be mean, even if you wanted to!” “That’s right, Adeline,” James said, his dimples showing as he grinned at her, “Our family is absolutely wonderful! I know of one certain person in the Johnson family that is especially nice, eh?” he gave her ear a friendly tweak. “Yes, of course!” Adeline exclaimed, smothering a grin, “Jaime is a darling!” Her friends erupted with laughter as the seventeen-year-olds mouth curved slightly downward, and he spoke again, “I didn’t mean her, Adeline, but I guess Jaime is a pretty nice,” he paused, glancing mischievously at Carter, “or a pretty and nice girl.” Everyone burst into another gale of laughter as he nudged Carter and Jaime blushed, “All right, Adeline, I give.” He brushed his brown-streaked hair out of his eyes, “You got the better of me, but I hope you don’t get it again!” Adeline grinned broadly, “I hope I do.” “Do something awfully nice for Freddy,” Katie went on, going back to the latter subject, “Like clean up his room, which I’m sure is messy, or do his chores for him.” “Your always trying to be a peacemaker, Darling Sixteen,” Adeline laughed, using her special nickname for Katie, “But I don’t think that would work either. He’d just be glad it was done and never say a word about it!” “Why don’t we change the subject?” Ann, the quiet fourteen-year-old, suggested. “Something that will make us all feel happy and include us all, since you and J.B. were doing most of the talking.” Her friends agreed and the conversation veered onto other topics. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Honk, honk. A horn sounded outside the window. Adeline peered out and saw James’ car in front of the house. “I’ll be right out!” she called. She hurriedly wrapped a scarf around her neck, took one last look in the mirror, and rushed out to the waiting car. A chorus of “hey’s” met her ears as she pulled open the door of the car. She sat down on the front seat, and they were off. “Hi, James. Hi Jaime, and hello to you too, Jonathan,” Adeline greeted James’ and Jaime’s three-year-old brother. “So,” James asked, “Are you excited about tonight?” “Ohmygosh. YES!” breathed Adeline. “I am excited, but I’m also very nervous. What will my family think of me if I don’t win, and I’m not crowned the Junior Miss America?” James glanced over at her, taking in her red hair twisted into a bun on her head, her pale blue dress highlighting her blue eyes and fitting her slender body just perfect. “You’ll do fine,” he encouraged. “I’m sure you’ll win!” “Yeah,” piped up little Jonathan from the back seat, “you will do fine, Addy!” Adeline grinned at them, “Thanks, I hope I will!” “So,” broke in Jaime, “Your mom is coming to watch you, right Adeline? This is a very big event in your life, you know!” “Yes,” Adeline nodded, “she said she wouldn’t miss it for anything. It’s just she had to do a couple things before she could come, and I needed to be there early, seeing I’m a contestant and all. In fact, I think she’s bringing your mom and dad with her to watch.” Jaime looked puzzled, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” “I’m much obliged for you guys taking me early,” Adeline continued. “No problem at all!” James smiled. “Anything to help.” Adeline leaned back in her seat and silently stared out the window. Lord, she prayed, help me to do well, so my family will be proud of me! God’s presence suddenly surrounded her, and she felt peace about the whole night. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ They arrived at the old opera house, which the town was using for the special Junior Miss America pageant, ten minutes later. “Good luck!” called James as Adeline was hustled inside to start practicing for the song she would sing in the pageant. “She deserves to win, seeing all the hard work she put in on her song, and all,” Jaime commented. James silently agreed. “Addy can win! She is nice!” Jonathan laughed, in his adorable baby voice. “Addy, she can do it!” Jaime giggled, “Yes, she can, Jonathan, you adorable baby!” “I am not a baby. I am three!” corrected Jonathan, with a shake of his blonde head. He held up three fingers proudly, indicating how old he was. “Oh, yes, I’m sorry, I forgot you are rather tender on that subject,” Jaime apologized with a smile. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Later that night, after the judges reviewed their notes, one last time, and, after whispering one last time, the announcer stood up and walked to the microphone. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he announced, “We have a winner!” he paused and his eyes scanned the crowd of people, “And the winner is...... Miss Adeline Batter!” Adeline gasped in amazement. The crowd clapped and cheered. “I can’t believe it!” she whispered, “It must be a dream; I couldn’t have won!” She pinched herself to see if she could feel it. “Congratulations, Adeline,” the announcer smiled, beckoning her to the microphone. Adeline left her chair on the back of the stage and walked toward him. A stately, old lady walked onto the stage bearing a crown. She stopped in front of Adeline and announced, “I crown thee, Miss Adeline Batter, the new Junior Miss America 2004!” Adeline felt the cool crown slip onto her head. She squealed with delight, “Thank you, oh, THANK YOU!” she exclaimed with dazed delight. The crowd had quieted down and Adeline stood there, a huge smile on her face, as cameras flashed. Then it came. A clear voice somewhere near the front of the stage yelled, “Adeline is DUMB; she doesn’t deserve to win, that stinky-headed dunce of a girl!” The crowd gasped and all the happiness of Adeline’s day broke, right then and there. She knew it was Freddy, and he had insulted her in front of the whole audience. Her eyes watered as she searched the room, looking for her brother. She spotted him getting dragged out of the room, held by the collar, by their mother. “Oh, that stupid Freddy!” she whispered, “How DARE he say that!” _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Once the announcer was finished with Adeline on stage, she made her way backstage to get her picture taken, inwardly seething all the while. She faked a smile for each picture, and once the pictures were done, and most of the crowd gone, she walked off the stage and over to where James and Jaime were waiting to bring her home. “Congratulations, Adeline!” They greeted together. “I’m sorry about Freddy!” Jaime added with a compassionate look. Adeline broke down and her eyes grew moist, “I can’t believe he said about me!” She wiped a tear away. “I was so embarrassed!” Jaime’s eyes softened, “It’s okay, dear. No one knew it was your brother.” “Except you, James, the rest of your family, my family, and all the other people who know me and my problem with my brother,” sniffed Adeline. James put his arm around her, “Forgive and forget,” he whispered soothingly. “I can’t!” Adeline sobbed, “I can’t do forgive him! It’s to hard for me! Don’t ask me to, James!” she buried her head in his shoulder, “Oh, this is the worst night of my whole entire life!” James’ eyes met Jaime’s. She shrugged, “Maybe later,” she mouthed. James nodded his head once. “Come on, Adeline” he added out loud, “I’ll drive you home.” “I don’t want to go home!” Adeline cried bitterly, “not if Freddy’s there!” Jaime raised an eyebrow at James. He took the cue, “Then we’ll take you back to our house until you feel better.” Adeline sniffed one last time and lifted her head, “Allllrighhhhht...” she agreed slowly, wiping her nose with her hand. Jaime gently placed a tissue in her hands and Adeline blew her nose. Then with Jaime on one side of her and James on the other, they walked out to the car. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Adeline gently leaned back in the Johnson’s recliner. Coming into the living room, Mrs. Johnson handed her a cup of tea, “You were wonderful tonight, Adeline! We’re so proud of you!” she said lovingly. “We knew you could win!” With a gentle squeeze to Adeline’s shoulder she turned around and headed for the door, “Call me if you need anything,” she offered. Adeline sighed and glanced over at Jaime. Jaime’s brown eyes were focused on her, and a friendly smile lit up her face, “Are you still sure that you don’t want to forgive Freddy?” she asked. Adeline pondered this again, “No, I don’t want to,” she admitted slowly. Then, angrily, she burst out, “What he said hurt me excruciatingly.” “When the Pharisees persecuted the disciples it hurt them excruciatingly, too, but they still forgave them. The disciples were an example to us as was Jesus, so you also should forgive Freddy,” James pointed out. “Wellllll,” Adeline turned it over in her brain, “Now that you put it that way....” “God puts these trials in our lives to see if we will still follow him and do what he says,” he added. “And you know, Adeline, that God says to forgive your enemy seventy times seven!” “I... I want to do what God wants me to do,” Adeline admitted, “So I guess I will tell Freddy that I forgive him.” She folded her hands and closed her eyes briefly. When she opened them she smiled faintly at James, “Thank you for reminding me,” she whispered. A slight blush crept up James’ face as he looked down at the floor, “I didn’t do much...” “Yes, you did,” Adeline insisted. “You reminded me about what God says, and what he says is one of the most important things in the world.”

 

 

Copyright © 2006 MacKenzie Sky
Published on the World Wide Web by "www.storymania.com"