"Come on, put your hands together and praise the one and only God!" The yell on the microphone sounded more like a plea than an encouragement. The first two rows of teenagers in the front of the youth service were actually standing and clapping along to the music. The band seemed to be lagging a bit, but the lead singer was determined to get these teens to do something.
The dark room had purple and green light beams flashing about, somewhat over dramatic for the inhabitants of the space. Third row and back was a mixture of people standing awkwardly and those who didn't even take the effort to appear as though they were trying to participate.
A girl in the forth row yawned a little too loudly to be remotely courteous. She had long, straightened brown hair and straight bangs across her forehead. She grinned at her friends next to her, two other girls who were leaning toward her to see her phone. Within moments, a ripple of giggles erupted from the group.
One of the back up singers on stage with blond, loosely curled hair glared from her place behind the lead singer. Though she could hardly see the young congregation past the bright stage lights, she knew full well that the constant giggling was coming from Scarlett Benson and her flock of 'popular' girls. She gritted her teeth. While service was going, they could at least try to pay attention.
The song ended quickly. Some very loud comments about the songs being boring met Abigail Harmon's ears. She narrowed her green-blue eyes at the group in general, but caught herself. She was supposed to be pleasant. She pulled some of her blond hair over her shoulder in an attempt to distract herself as she left the stage and was seated on the front row.
"Alright, everyone, just some opening announcements. Pastor Harmon would like to remind you all that although this is a youth group, we need to practice modesty and respect. That means enough with the short shorts." A few people giggled, another few nodded in earnest. Some people still expected to come to a church event and see people fully clothed, Abigail amongst them.
However, a currently-short-shorts-wearing Scarlett Benson moaned loudly from her place in the back. The girls beside her whined as well. "Why does that old fart have to stifle our creative expressionism?" Scarlett said, loudly enough for the whole room to hear. Her hazel eyes sparkled behind her unamused expression. Her arms rested across the chairs to her side, one leg crossed over the other. Somehow, she looked reminiscent to a gangster. She sent a challenging gaze toward the speaker, who was now rambling quickly through the rules. He'd learned long ago to just keep going.
"Hey, Miss Pastor's Kid, why don't you tell your dad to cram it?" The girl to Scarlett's left called up to Abigail. Scarlett frowned slightly in displeasure, but took out her phone and began to scroll through her Instagram pictures.
"Everyone needs to practice respect." The speaker stopped to re-emphasize, sending the sandy-blond haired girl next to Scarlett a meaningful stare.
However most of the room was focused on Abigail, who had yet to react to the words thrown at her from behind. She took a breath, closed her eyes, and then... nothing. She did nothing.
Those looking for a cat fight were left sorely disappointed. They would be mistaken, however, if they thought that nothing was going on inside Abigail Harmon. She could only remind herself about how she should act. How to not stoop down to Scarlett and her friends' levels.
But most of all, these things that occurred on the inside lasted the entire service time. She tuned in enough to say "Amen", nod, and lift her hand at the right times. They went through games and illustrations but she ran on autopilot, her face frozen – expressionless.
She hated being here. She absolutely hated it.
This place was the absolute worst place in her opinion. A bunch of rowdy people acting like fools. They looked at her like she should be just like her father, but egged her on to be like them. So she just existed.
At least it wasn't Sunday. Sunday morning she had to actually smile at people. The adults' complaints would infuriate her dad. She'd walk through, clutching her Bible and small hand bag. Slowly, she'd progress to the front row with her mother, who was equally as quiet. Recently, her mother had stopped smiling for people. She just sat there, on the pew. She'd stare down at her hands. People wouldn't really bother her, saying she was praying.
Abigail kept face for the two of them. She'd smile, say how do you do, have blessed morning. She'd apologize for her mother's lack of social activity and explain she was spending time with the Lord. Anything to make them nod their heads in approval. Once she made it to the pew, most people left her alone.
Youth group was a place where she sang the songs and clapped along, then sat through the service, usually ignoring the other teenagers' comments. They weren't that rare, and unfortunately for her, she had good ears. Only people like Scarlett and some of her friends would make it an entire classroom ordeal, but she didn't really care.
She never cared anymore. Sometimes, on stage, she'd feel like her mouth was moving, but the actual sound of her voice was void and gone. Sometimes she wondered if someone was going to ask her why she was just mouthing the words. But in reality, she was really singing. It just never felt like it anymore.
Abigail stood, the preaching having come to a close. She lifted her hands slightly, just about even with her shoulders. She wasn't even sure she heard much of the prayer before she heard 'Amen'. She dropped her hands and looked up. The music they always played before and after service began, and the flashing light beams reappeared. A soft smile reached her lips. Perhaps she would be able to go home soon.
"I don't get why this guy is blabbing to us about having sex. It's not like God made us not to have it." The same sandy-blond-haired girl from before said, passing by Abigail with Scarlett in tow.
Sluts. Abigail glared at them as they left, then picked up her things and hugged them to herself. Appearances be darned, she was going home early today.
Scarlett noticed the pastor's kid leave with a haughty huff after they passed by her. She rolled her eyes. That girl always acted like she was better than everyone else. Of course, Scarlett's parents would occasionally go into rants about how she should be more like the nice Harmon girl at church. Whatever. She wasn't going to be a stone statue and never talk to anyone.
"Did you see the youth pastor's face when we took those selfies during his yacking? Priceless. I wish I could've posted his face on Instagram." Scarlett grinned at her friend, Marie. She was always a little more in-your-face than everyone else, but it didn't bother Scarlett in the least.
Scarlett felt something warm snake around her shoulders. Her head snapped up in a moment of surprise until her eyes met with her boyfriend's. "Hey girl. Whatcha say we learn some more about that 'sexual immorality' we was talkin' bout in class?" He whispered in her ear. She giggled, but smacked him playfully.
"You probably shouldn't talk about that right after church." Marie raised an eyebrow.
"What? Is God going to strike us down for being young?" Scarlett smiled weakly. Sometimes their comments went beyond what she felt. Looking down at her supposedly banned short-shorts, she returned a grin.
"I don't think so. I'm still breathing." Scarlett's boyfriend, Aaron, let his hand wander down her back.
"You'll be breath-" Scarlett shoved him a little more aggressively this time, cutting his stupid sentence off before he could finish. The half-smile on her face reassured him that she meant nothing by it. His blue eyes sparkled with mischief as he took a break from his flirting to get a piece of pizza.
"Ugh, I'm so glad I'm not old. Look, they're still in service over there." Marie pointed to the building across from them. Since it was dark outside and bright inside, they could see the pastor preaching at the pulpit through the windows.
"Yeah, I could hardly manage our service." Scarlett muttered, watching the lone figure of Abigail Harmon make her way to her silver Honda civic. Some part of her wondered if the girl was a robot or something. Another wondered if her parents were okay with her just leaving before they even got out of service.
"Oh my gosh! Look at this picture of Max!" A shirtless photo of said teen in the bathroom mirror was thrust into her face. "I swear, he has got to ask me out. I've liked every single one of his hot pictures." Scarlett made a face.
"And stalker activity is going to make him want to ask you out?" Marie shrugged, then went back to her phone.
"Oh my gosh, and you know Liam? Well he totally dumped Sarah like, twenty minutes ago." Scarlett sat down in one of the plushy chairs near the window. Although they were the most comfortable, a lot of the teens didn't sit in them simply because they were far from the snack bar and xbox 360 gaming centers. Scarlett casually looked around, trying to see if Sarah was there tonight. Bingo. Girl crying in the corner surrounded by other girls. That had to suck. "And he just messaged me!"
Marie exploded with a few squeals while Scarlett sent silent messages to Aaron as he was abnormally slow with walking over with pizza and drinks. No sane person would be hurrying over to a screaming fangirl. Frowning at his nonsupporting actions, she pulled her phone out again.
"Huh. Looks like you're not the only one." Marie froze mid-squeal and then snapped to her brown-haired friend's side, breathing over her shoulder to see the message.
"What the heck? Did he seriously copy and paste that? Ugh. Disgusting." Scarlett laughed.
"Dumping his girlfriend and immediately coming after you wasn't a red flag at all?" Marie huffed and crossed her arms.
"No, she was whiny anyway." Scarlett cast another glance over at the girl sobbing in the corner.
"Maybe..." She trailed off, finally seeing Aaron in front of her, holding out a piece of pepperoni pizza on a paper plate. She smiled and took it.
"Thanks, babe." He winked at her.
"You coming over tonight?" She shrugged absently, shoving the pizza in her mouth. Marie grinned, finally taking a seat – on the floor.
"If you're not going over, I totally will." Scarlett wondered about her sometimes. The grin on Aaron's face made Scarlett feel a bit ill, though. She kicked Marie's arm lightly, and after swallowing, responded to Aaron.
"I'm coming over, chill out."
The slamming of a car door echoed through the quiet neighborhood. Abigail cringed. Her parents were home. She closed her math book, glad that she'd finished before they arrived. She began to calmly pack her books away into her backpack as she heard the keys began to work at unlocking the door. After a successful click and withdrawal, the door swung open ominously.
Abigail swallowed, the silence causing her heartbeat to sound louder than usual.
"Abigail Brielle Harmon." It wasn't even that loud. But somehow it hurt. She swallowed again, then slowly shuffled out of her room. Her mother was closing the front door and her father stood facing the doorway he knew she would appear from. His Bible and notebook were on the table in front of him. He stood tall, a disapproving frown on his face. She didn't speak, and stood where she was visible, but not close. Her mother silently moved past both of them and to the master bedroom.
"Why, when service ended, did I find that my daughter had long since been gone? Do you not know that the youth have to wait until service is over, regardless of whether or not youth ends early?" Abigail kept her eyes on his leather-covered Bible, not willing to keep eye contact. The less she felt, the better.
"I had schoolwork." She muttered softly, knowing that no matter what she said, it would make him go into a rage. She jumped slightly as his large fist hit the table. The Bible shifted slightly from the force, too.
"Church comes before school. I don't want to be embarrassed like that ever again." It hardly mattered what it was. She knew he hated feeling embarrassed. Even if it wasn't an embarrassing situation, he took it that way.
"Yes sir." Abigail said quietly. A bug outside began flying into the window glass. The clinking noise made her father's silence slightly more bearable. She knew not to move until he did. He grumbled something incomprehensible and grabbed his notebook, his Bible sliding off into one of the chairs.
"Turn off that stupid light." He muttered as he brushed past her. She waited a second, her eyes on the Bible laying forgotten on the chair, half the pages bending in an awkward manner. After a soft sigh, she flicked the light off.
"You're grounded for a week." Her father's voice bounced off the walls. It was dark. Nothing but the dim light of the moon reaching into the house. In that darkened hallway, she let a tear slip down her face. Her hand balled into a fist. She heard the door at the end of the hallway click shut.
"Not like I have anything to be grounded from." She whispered her retort under her breath, careful lest he somehow hear her. Slowly she sunk to the floor, pressed against the wall. It was suffocating, living like this.
Her family had been so much more different before. Her mom used to smile all the time. She would get up early and make breakfast before school for her. Now she stayed in her bed. Every time that her father was gone, her mother was in bed. She used to go out with her all the time, but now it was like she wasn't even allowed to talk to her. Her father used to love God. Like, love Him. But now, it was like... it was just different. It seemed like it was about the people and what they thought. How they saw him.
They used to have Holy Ghost breakouts. At least, she thought that's what it was called. The last time she saw it in their church was almost eight years ago. When she was eight years old. Just a child. Now everything was about how they looked, spoke, and acted.
Abigail pressed her forehead harder against the wall. Now the only thing that made her feel like she was alive was...
She closed her eyes, a few more tears spilling over. She knew she shouldn't. But that didn't really matter, did it? She wasn't supposed to do a lot of things, like be alive, apparently. Slowly, she pushed herself off the wall and stood. Abigail made her footsteps light and quietly went into her room. After closing the door, she opened her drawer, pulling out her sinus medicine.
Her hands nimbly twisted open the cap, and after shaking a few caplets into her hand, gently replaced the cap. At least if they questioned her, she could say she was having sinus pressure. Abigail hesitated, looking at the distorted light in the gel capsules. She pressed her eyes shut, trying to push another wave of emotion away. The teen then violently grabbed the cup of water she had already prepared, some of it sloshing over the side and onto her hand. She paid it no mind as one by one, she began downing the pills.
After finishing them, she wiped her hand off on her jeans and sighed. Although she would feel dizzy and kind of loopy, in the end it served to give her a deep sleep at night. That was fair, right? Abigail's pale white hands picked up her headphones and placed them on her head, fitting them over her ears. She connected them to her iPod and turned it up. Loud. Sometimes when she took a little too much medicine and listened to music, she felt picked up in the whirlwind of sound. It was like being in a totally different world. One that didn't expect her to have all the answers.