Sam is running down a long hallway. Her heart races as she flees from the shouting. All she ever hears is shouts and screams. There is nowhere to go and the thing she fears the most is coming closer and closer, pressing down on her and weighing her down. "HELP ME!!!!" she tries to scream, but no sounds escapes. Then as if by some unspoken prayer being answered she sees someone standing at the end of the hallway. His face is in the shadows. Her head fears the worst is near but for some odd reason this person, this face in the shadows, gives comfort to her heart. She runs towards him thanking heaven above for the arms that embrace her and hold her close as she buries her face in his warmth.

BEEEP BEEP

Her alarm clock wakes her from the most mind-splitting dream Samantha York has ever had. She rolls over and turns the blasted noise off.

She has had this dream before but nothing like this. There was never a person at the end of the hall. In fact, there was never an end to the hall, she'd always be running and running and never stopping. Why? What is the point of this dream that torments me, God? I don't understand, I'm so confused…I'm so lost. Sam lays and dwells in a pool of thoughts for a while. The telephone rings. Sam's dog, Kip, put his big German Shepherd paws up on her bed and whined loudly, nudging her arm. Must be for me then, she decided.

"I'm up, I'm up, gosh…hello?"

"Sam you need to get up."

It was Torrance Roland, one of Sam's best friends since kindergarten year. "What makes you think I wasn't up hours ago getting ready?" Sam said with a sarcastic grin on her face as she reached over and turned on her bedside light. Blinded, she lay there letting her eyes focus.

Tory laughed, "Because I know you too well, sister. Get your butt out of bed and start getting ready. You don't want to be late on the first day. This year is going to be so much fun…"

Sam had tuned her out as she looked in her closet for something to wear. It was her junior year in high school. She got dressed almost mechanically, her mind on the dream. What does all of it mean? Who was the guy? Was it God? Yes, it had to be God. God was the only "he" ever to make her feel safe and comfortable. Besides Kip, of course, she thinks as she scratches behind his ears.

"Hello-o-o! Are you even listening to me?"

Tory's words snapped her back to the present. "Oh sorry, what were you saying?" Sam went into the bathroom to finish getting ready.

"I was saying that Miss Popularity got a new car this summer. I saw her at the mall the other day and she was driving this new Mustang. It was slammin'!! She had the radio up super loud so you couldn't help but notice, ya know?"

"Mmhmm."

"What's wrong? What's on your mind?"

"Nothing, I'm fine," she lied.

"Did you have another dream?"

Samantha sighed, Why am I so readable? No matter how she tried to hide it, all her girl friends seemed to be able to read her mind. "Yes, except this one was different. You know how I'm running right, down a never ending hallway?"

"Yeah."

"Well, this time, it ends. At the end of the hall I run and I see a guy. That part of the dream just doesn't make sense to me."

"Oh, maybe he's your date for the prom." Torrance laughed.

"Oh come on, be serious for once. I am not going to the prom."

"Girl you remember that bet we had that we would find each other dates. You just know that I've got your back. Besides, you are going to look gorgeous. You'll be there, even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming."

"Yeah, ok, sure you will." NOT! Sam hated that bet. She just knew she would never find a date. She knew she was pretty but all the guys she would date were her friends that she didn't want to date. Besides, Tory already had her date. The guy didn't know it, but Sam could feel it for sure, this year would be different.

"All I know is that whenever I ran to him I felt safe. I don't know, I don't think it's my date for prom. Maybe it's God. Maybe He's trying to tell me to stay close. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking."

"Yeah, maybe you're right. All right girl my cars about warm so I'll let you go. See you at school."

"Bye."

Click.


"Jennifer!! Are you up yet?"

Why does she even bother? thought Jennifer as she ignored her stepmother and continued to parade through her closet. She has to pick out the perfect outfit to accent her birthday present. One good thing about her, she thought, is that now daddy gives me anything I want. Jennifer was so proud of the '03 black Mustang in the garage. She smiled and she looked at herself in the full-length mirror. As she looked herself over from head to toe her smile faded when she came to her stomach. What was and could have been flashed in her mind. The thought escaped her as quickly as it reared its ugly head. Jennifer shuddered and waved off the fear she felt; the fear she always felt. "I need to lose weight," she said.

There was a knock at the door. "Hey, Jen? Did you hear Susan?"

Jennifer heard her brother's voice and felt relieved. Somehow he was always there to lift her from the depths of her thoughts. Most siblings were squabbling over something or another but that never seemed to happened as often with her and Ryan. Even when Jennifer was falling apart he had this sense of calm about him.

"Yes Ryan, I heard her."

"Ok well, she made a big breakfast for our first day, I just thought…"

"Yeah, well, I won't be staying for breakfast," she cut him off. "I'm starting a diet. Besides, I don't want to start off this year by getting sick do I?"

She meant to joke, but Ryan wasn't laughing. He sighed as his footsteps descended the stairs. Jeez, what's it take to pass for humor in this house? she thought as she laughed and got dressed. As she walked down the stairs she heard everyone in the kitchen laughing. Walking in and smiling she said, "What's going on?" Everyone stopped dead. Susan looked down at her feet nervously and Jake, Jen's father, went back to reading his paper. Ryan, taking the silence like he always does, walks behind Jennifer, takes her by the shoulders leads her to the kitchen bar and sits her down on a stool. Jennifer, confused, gave him a quizzical look. I know you, Ryan, what's the catch? Jennifer looked in his eyes. Jen and Ryan were always very close in their childhood and Jen knew that what she wanted to know would always be in his eyes. Right now his eyes were pleading civility.

"Susan made this special breakfast for all of us Jen, I thought maybe you were hungry."

You've got to be kidding. But when she looked at Ryan she knew he was far from kidding. Jen sighed. "Sure why not," and with a little effort, "thank you Susan." She looked at Ryan who was smiling from ear to ear, that boyish grin that made you want to hug him and smack him at the same time. Susan was so stunned it took her a few minutes to realize what her stepdaughter had just said.

Jen couldn't take it anymore, "Well, come on I don't want to be late!!"

Back into the scheme of reality Susan dished Jennifer up with some pancakes smothered with butter and syrup, a glass of whole milk, and a hopeful smile. Jennifer rolled her eyes. Eating two or three bites she gave Ryan an I-hope-your-happy look, pushed back her plate, and headed toward the door. This was her junior year and she was not going to start off with a tardy and an increased waistline. Time to start that diet, she thought.

"Well everyone, I've got to run." She kissed her father on the cheek, "Goodbye daddy, thanks for the car, love you. Hurry up Ryan you don't want to be late either." And with that she was out the door, eyes burning and head swimming. Why does everyone go quiet whenever I enter the room? she thought. I mean, it's not like I'm the wicked witch of the east or…or the gossip at the local church. "Ugh!" she huffed as she put her car in reverse, screeching tires as tears streamed down her face.

Susan looked at Ryan with confusion written on her face. Ryan winced at the sound of squealing tires. Jennifer was upset. Lord keep her safe, he prayed. Though Ryan and Jennifer were close, her moods were a mystery to him. He didn't know what to do but pray and try to fix the damage she had inflicted.

"The breakfast was very thoughtful Susan, thank you." Susan smiled and began to clean up. Ryan gave Susan a hug, a hug only a mother and son share. He hadn't always been this loving with Susan. Ever since his mother died he had been distant from even his father. But God had slowly shown him what family really meant. No one could replace his mother, and no one would, but Ryan's friendship with Susan, once it bloomed, never stopped growing. He just wished Jen could see the same. He was constantly stuck in the middle between Jen and Susan. Susan was so quiet and kind that Jen never even gave her a chance. If anyone could fix her, You can, Lord. Please heal her heart and take the remorse from her. Ryan was at continuous prayer over Jennifer. He saw that she hurt, somehow, but she would never give God a second thought. "For I know the plan I have for you, a plan to prosper you and not to harm you." The familiar scripture spoke to his soul.

"I better run I'm starting the devotion at school." Ryan gave Susan another hug, his father a pat on the shoulder and walked out to the garage. This is my last year in high school, he thought. Unbelievable. But he couldn't help but think of that person, that person that was always in the back of his mind. He didn't know who she was but he knew that God knew. Will this be the year? Would he finally find her? Or will I have to wait, yet another year. He couldn't help but think selfish when it came to her, whoever she was.

He thought of her all through his ride to school. She was at the back of his mind as he led in devotions. He was so preoccupied by the thoughts he knew he shouldn't be having that he was rudely brought down to earth as he ran head on by someone. It was a very weird sensation. As he played happily in his mind he saw himself running into her. It didn't really register though until it punched him in the gut.

Her books fell to the ground. She looked up at him startled. Her beautiful brown eyes kept him in place, mesmerized. Her long brown hair was cut in layers and tipped with black. Her shapely figure was complimented with her mid-thigh skirt and tight blouse. He stood there in his captivated haze until he realized that she had dropped her books.

"I am so sorry, I didn't even see where I was going I…"

"That's ok I wasn't paying much attention either."

He bent down to pick up her books and handed them to her. She smiled at him. Such a smile! It took his breath away. "I'm sorry, I'm Ryan, Ryan Thompson."

"Nicole Cortez. My friends call me Nikki though."

She gave him another big smile with perfect teeth. He smiled sheepishly.

"Well I got to go. I guess I'll be seeing you around then…Nikki."

"Yeah, I guess so, bye"

And with that she walked away and he watched as she went. Ryan didn't know it, but from that moment on his world would turn upside down. Gods perfect plan was slowly unfolding.