Kim could feel her face turning red and the tears pushing. Biting her lip hard, she forbade the tears to come.
“Practices,” Sister Tibler was saying to Corrie, “will begin next Saturday at nine o’clock. See you there!”
“Wow!” Corrie exclaimed as the Laurel adviser left. “This sounds so fun. Imagine me the lead in the stake play.”
“That’s neat!” Kim managed to say, but felt as if she would choke on the words.
“I’ve never been in a …” Corrie chattered on and on as they walked home, completely oblivious to Kim’s feelings. Kim nodded, agreed, smiled, but inside the hurt surged and grew until she could barely hold it in. It was the best performance she’d ever given—and the most painful. Finally they reached Corrie’s house.
“Want to come in?” Corrie asked.
“No, I’d better get home and help Mom with dinner.”
“Hurry home to help? You’re nuts. Stay here till it’s ready and then go. I’ve got a great new record we can listen to.”
“No. I’d better go,” Kim answered.
“See you tomorrow then,” Corrie called as she disappeared inside. “But don’t forget, I offered you a way out of work!”
Kim hurried up the street. The rest of the family would already be home, but maybe she could slip in with no one noticing. Quietly she opened the door, tiptoed into the family room, and headed for the stairs.
“Hey, Kim,” her sister, Janice, called. “Did Sister Tibler give you that part you wanted in the stake play?”
“No,” Kim answered, the word swelling in her throat. “She gave it to Corrie.”
“Figures.” Janice said. “Maybe if you went inactive for a while they’d let you do something fun.” Janice laughed, but the words broke Kim’s hold on the tears. Running down the stairs, she felt her way to her room, threw herself on the bed, and let the tears fall.
“I needed that part!” Kim whispered. “And I could do a better job.” Her sobs exploded in her throat. “Corrie doesn’t need it! It couldn’t mean as much to her. Why? Why? Why? It isn’t fair.”
“Kim?” her mother called softly through the door. “Can I come in?”
Kim sat up, grabbed a tissue, and tried to wipe away the evidence, but she knew even without looking that her eyes were too red to fool anyone.
“I guess so,” Kim answered.
The door opened and Mrs. Harper, a small lively woman, entered. “Janice said something was wrong.”
Kim kept her head turned away from her mother. “Just thinking.”
“Janice also told me what happened.”
“Janice talks too much.”
“Can I help?”
Suddenly the pain and bafflement came, pouring out in words. “Oh, Mom. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but sometimes I just don’t understand. I’ve gone to church all my life. I try to be good. I do everything I’m asked to do, which is always the yuck and the work; call all the Laurels, wash a thousand stacks of slimy dishes at the high priests banquet, tend Mrs. Smith’s bratty, messy kids because she’s sick. But no one ever notices me. Every week I’m in my meetings. No one says a word. Corrie comes once a year and there’re trumpets and red carpet and hugs and kisses and,” Kim raised her voice in mock imitation, “Oh, we’re so very, very, very, very, very glad and happy and overjoyed and delighted to have you here, Corrie!”
Kim wiped once more at her eyes. The pressure had eased and the tears had slowed. “I know I shouldn’t feel like this. I know they’re just trying to help Corrie become active, but Mom, no one ever tells me they’re glad to see me. There’s never red carpet or trumpets for me. And now …” The tears started again despite all her efforts to hold them in. “Now they’ve given her the lead in the stake play. I needed that part. You know how Mr. Thornley told us that if I could just be in a couple more plays he thought I’d be able to get that drama scholarship.”
Mrs. Harper sat next to Kim and hugged her close. “I don’t know what to say. I know how you feel.”
“Oh, Mom, I even feel bad that I feel bad!” Kim tried to laugh. “I feel guilty. I should be happy that Corrie is beginning to come out to church.”
“And maybe that’s your answer,” Mrs. Harper said.
“Not every girl your age would even feel guilty. That shows a great deal of maturity. Maybe the blessings of doing what’s right—washing dishes and tending kids and being active—aren’t material blessings, aren’t parts in plays. Think about it awhile.” She hugged her daughter again. “I don’t mean to diminish your pain. It’s there. I know it, but you’ve kept it private and you didn’t hurt Corrie. I’m proud of you.”
“Come on now, let’s get dinner and then if you want, we can talk about it more later.”
Kim wiped at her eyes one more time and put on a smile. It was one of the best stage faces she’d ever created.
“That’s better,” Mrs. Harper said. “Now let’s get dinner.”
The pressurized feeling was gone, but all afternoon the thoughts and emotions jostled inside her. It really wasn’t fair. No amount of reasoning or logic could bring her to any other conclusion. But what had her mother meant? What other blessings were there?
Dinner was eaten, cleaned away, the home evening lesson was over, and Kim was writing in her journal when the telephone rang.
“Kim,” Mrs. Harper called, “Sister Tibler’s on the phone for you.”
Kim wished she could ask her Mom to say she wasn’t there, but it would be easier to get her to sprout wings and fly.
“I’m coming,” she called back.
Kim took the phone but her mother didn’t leave.
“What is it?” she asked as Kim hung up. “She sounded upset.”
“She was. Lara’s father had a heart attack this afternoon. He died about an hour ago.”
“Oh, no,” Mrs. Harper whispered.
“They don’t have any relatives around, and Lara’s mom is taking it pretty hard.”
“And Lara’s an only child, isn’t she?”
“Yes. That’s why Sister Tibler thought we ought to go over and keep her company. See if we can help.”
“I’ve got some chocolate chip cookies in the freezer. Take those over and see if there’s anything I can do to …”
Kim smiled, then chuckled.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. Harper asked.
Kim hugged her mom. “Nothing. It’s just you.”
“I only wanted to …”
“I know,” Kim interrupted. “I didn’t mean it in a bad way. As a matter of fact you’re pretty special. Will you get the cookies while I put on my shoes? Sister Tibler said she’d be right over.”
Kim barely had her shoes on when Sister Tibler honked. She opened the door to find it was dusk and raining. “Give Lara these,” Mrs. Harper said, handing Kim the cookies. “But most of all give her yourself.”
Kim pulled her coat up over her head and ran to the car. As she settled into the seat she became acutely aware of the ping ping of rain on the roof and the apprehension rolling and swelling in her stomach. Everything had happened so fast she hadn’t had time to think before now. What should she say? What should she do? Self-consciousness and helplessness settled heavily on her thoughts.
“Before we go,” Sister Tibler suggested, “I think maybe we ought to say a word of prayer. If you don’t mind, I’ll say it.”
They bowed their heads and Kim tried hard to listen, but the dripping rain and the barrage of feelings kept distracting her.
“Help us know how to convey our love and how to comfort … ,” Sister Tibler was saying.
Ping. Splash. Ping. The rhythm accelerated and with it Kim’s heartbeat.
“Amen,” Kim whispered.
Exchanging only a few comments, they drove, parked, got out of the car, and ran through the rain to the house. Lara answered the door.
“Hi, Lara,” Sister Tibler said, her voice such a contrast to the cold rainy night. “We heard what happened.”
Quietly, without words, Lara stepped back to let them in, her eyes red and swollen. Self-consciously Kim handed her the cookies and opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came. If I only had a script, she thought, as her own eyes began to swim. Then she did the only thing she could do. She hugged Lara tight. After that the words came.
Lara’s mom was still at the hospital and the bishop was with her, but Lara was alone. She needed them. She talked about her feelings and fears and reminisced while Kim and Sister Tibler listened. They talked about the gospel and the comfort it was. They even laughed a little and talked some more until Lara’s mother finally came home.
“We’ll be going now,” Sister Tibler said.
“Thanks for coming.” Lara squeezed Kim’s hand. “I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been here.”
Outside the dusk had turned to darkness and the rain had stopped falling, leaving the earth soggy and the air misty. Kim felt a strange sensation of cold trying to penetrate her skin while warmth pushed and pulsed from her heart. Silently Kim and Sister Tibler drove through the wet streets, neither one wishing to interrupt the special feeling with words.
“Thanks for going with me,” Sister Tibler finally said, as they drove in Kim’s driveway. “I called all of the other girls to see if any of them wanted to go, but they all had some excuse. Maybe it was for the best. They wouldn’t have been able to comfort Lara like you did.”
“It was a good experience. Thanks.” Kim jumped from the car before Sister Tibler could say more. Dodging the puddles she ran to the house. Mrs. Harper was waiting in the family room.
“How did it go?” she asked.
“Really good. I was surprised. At first—riding over—I was so scared. But when we got there, we just started to talk about what Lara was feeling and about the promises of the gospel. It was so special. I didn’t do anything. Lara just needed a listening ear.”
Mrs. Harper hugged her daughter. “You gave her yourself.”
“I just listened.”
“That’s what I mean. You gave her your love.” Mrs. Harper hesitated.
“Come on, Mom,” Kim laughed. “After 17 years I know when a sermon is coming. Lay it on me!”
“I don’t mean to sermonize. I wanted to give it time so you could discover it on your own. It’s what I was talking about this afternoon.”
“Don’t keep me waiting,” Kim responded, putting her hand to her head melodramatically and swooning. “The suspense will kill me.”
“All right, Ophelia, you asked for it.” Mrs. Harper suddenly grew serious. “Remember this afternoon when I told you that plays and such aren’t the blessings of doing what’s right?”
“Well, the blessings are things we often don’t even recognize—things like faith, maturity, love, compassion, wisdom, and understanding. They may not get you a scholarship, but they last a lot longer.”
A warm feeling of affirmation and assurance spread through Kim. Then the glimmer returned to her eyes. “Hey, Mom, you ought to write to the Prodigal Son’s brother. He needs tonight’s sermon.”
“You nut!” Mrs. Harper pinched playfully at Kim’s cheek. “If you’re going to make fun of me you’d better get to bed.”
“Oh, I’m not making fun. In heaven I asked for a mother who was also a preacher,” Kim laughed. Inside she felt the joy of a new understanding. There would be other plays and other parts, maybe a drama scholarship and maybe not. But there was only one life and a person had to gain from it as much as possible, even if that meant tending Sister Smith’s kids.