She stands in line at the funeral home in front of a boy—a man now—she used to make out with in high school. She turns a straight back towards him and listens to the quiet murmurings between him and the woman who must be his wife. Under her lashes, she recognizes this woman as the girl he would leave before coming to her on those late nights so many lifetimes ago. She saw them once, pulling out of the Hardee’s parking lot and the sight of him with someone else had stopped her seventeen year-old self cold. That was when she first realized what she was to him. All that heavy breathing and crowding close in the front seat of that tan-colored car of his. It didn’t matter that they didn’t go that far. It didn’t matter that she wanted to save herself. All that mattered was there he was with someone else and the pain in her chest made her think that maybe she was in love with him.
Later when she asked him if he had a girlfriend he wouldn’t answer. And it changed how she felt when he kissed her. She was good enough to press up against in the dark of night but not to be seen with in daylight. She blamed herself, only herself. When a girl stays out drinking all night and hanging around with boys this way, the truth of who she is changes.
One of the boys she dated after that told her that his mother said nice girls don’t stay out past midnight. She had looked into that kid’s eyes and believed him then. Until then, she always thought she was a nice girl. The truth was, there was no one waiting up for her at home—no one who cared enough to tell her what nice girls do.
The funeral line moves forward and she carefully avoids turning to face her past; but the snippets of conversation behind her lead her to a sudden conclusion. He was a church boy. This man—the boy she kissed so many times—he must have grown up in church.
All at once she is seventeen again and that old sense of shame washes over her. But then anger flares and she felt the urge to spin around and face him—ask him why he never talked to her about Jesus. How could he stand there behind her with his wife, talking about churchy things and wearing that tie?
But just as quickly as the anger, grace comes. Grace for that boy he used to be, grace for her seventeen year-old self. And she feels the freeing embrace of the Love that never left her through all those passing years. She knows there is one thing she can do. When she returns home she will talk to her own two boys. She will tell them again about respecting women and loving Jesus and how these are the same thing. Maybe this will make a difference. Maybe this will help some nice girl somewhere.
And when she leaves the funeral home she doesn’t even glance back.