A story I wrote for Tai, but I didn't finish it in time, so I posted it here... hope you enjoy.
Oh and did you know…
It was Christmas Eve at 2 o’clock. The clouds that day were extremely gray - or at least it seemed to be that way for a certain young man who was walking down the street, head down into the wind, and hands shoved into his pockets.
Before this story continues I must describe to you this certain character and his back ground. So, picture if you will a young man who in fact was 16, but actually looked to be 20. He had dark brown hair that was somewhat long and scraggly but over all it still made him look rather handsome. He was probably 5ft 11in, over all very well built.
On the whole, he was a handsome young man. But what you noticed first were his eyes, they were almost haunting, they were a light color, so light they almost seemed clear; they had a certain mystery behind their clear gaze. And yet his name was the real mystery and to tell you the truth there was hardly anyone who knew him by it. Brandon Calvin Mitchell.
Brandon Calvin Mitchell grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, went to school, and grew up in a family that encouraged him to live a good life. In his family there was his father and mother two older brothers, Kyle and Trevor and a younger sister Jayce.
However, when he was 12 year old on an Atlanta Christmas eve he and his family were on their way back from a Christmas party when suddenly the car hit a patch of black ice and swerved out of control. That Christmas Eve Brandon’s father and older brother Trevor died.
From then on, for Brandon, everything was downhill. Jayce had Kyle, they were both close and Kyle had always been her protector. His mother had God there for her, but to Brandon that was a blind trust to be friends with God.
Soon Brandon was hanging with the wrong crowd and soon had the wrong friends. At age fourteen he ditched his home to be a full time gangster with his new gang right smack in the middle of Atlanta.
Like all gangs, sooner or later something happens and it falls apart. For Brandon or ‘Blaze’ as he was referred to, his gang ‘The flamin’ 5’s fell because his best friend and gang leader got caught sentenced and killed on the charges of murder. Flames or has his real name Cameron was like a father/brother/mentor figure to him. Brandon came to the solution that life wasn’t about anyone or anybody, just ‘yoself! That way only yoself will get hurt, nobody else and it’ll be yo own dang fault!’
There was only a few snowflakes falling and only a small coat of snow laid on the ground. Mostly it was ice, and that is what an Atlanta winter was. The wind is what would kill you, it cut right into and somehow instead of getting duller it got sharper. Brandon ignored it, he ignored everything, just tired to numb his mind so that the hurt that was inside would go away.
There was so much he shouldn’t have done, so much he should have done, but it all seemed stupid now. Everything he had ever done in his life seemed completely and utterly worthless.
Brandon kicked at a can on the sidewalk wishing to get the anger boiling up inside of him out somehow. Instead he ended up with a bruised toe…the can and the soda still in it was frozen solid.
Brandon cursed under his breath as his toe which had been numb before now ached. As he tried to collect his cool a couple of girls walked by, he recognized him from somewhere, probably just a party or something, they giggled as the whispered to each other. But it only made Brandon scowl more. Everyone was just stupid!
He kept walking what he though was nowhere, just putting one foot out in front of the other, but someone as guiding him, even if he didn’t know it. He soon found himself at a small coffee shop. It had to be new, he had never seen it before which was strange since this was part of ‘his’ section of Atlanta. Brandon had never been a coffee drinker, but he felt, well as if he was being urged inside. It was as if he had no choice, but in four seconds he found himself walking through the door into a small café. It was bright cozy and the smell of coffee and baked cookies cakes pies ect. it filled him to his toes. A few people looked up when he walked in, but for the most part the laughter and conversation continued.
“Can I get you anything sir?” A young lady’s voice rand in his ears. He turned to see the question had been directed towards him. Her uncanny smile unnerved him but he collected his wits and nodded as he fished for his wallet. His eyes darted toward menu on the wall as he walked up to the counter.
“Um yeah, can I just have some hot coca and a cinnamon bun?” The younger girl smiled and nodded as she turned around to get his order, but not before he read her name tag. Amber - pretty name. She was small really almost petite, but she looked like if you offended her she would or at least could, smack you right in the nose. When she turned back around with his hot cocoa she set it on the counter and pulled out some whipped cream and swirled a little onto the hot beverage.
As she got the cinnamon bun onto a plate she asked “would you like this heated up?” Brandon nodded.
“Yeah sure.” She quickly placed it in a microwave and set the timer. As soon as it was done she handed it to him with another smile.
“Is that all for today?” Brandon nodded and paid for the roll and beverage. After he tuned around he eyed a small unoccupied table rather close to the door. He sat down, got comfortable and slowly began to sip his cocoa.
He had finished his cinnamon roll and was almost done with his coca when a young couple walked in the door, a cold gust of wind followed them. When they walked to the counter and Amber saw them instead of asking what they needed she exclaimed.
“Jayce, Kyle! I thought you guys were out of town, what are you doing here?” The two names pierced Brandon right through his heart, but it really didn’t seem possible so he just watched.
The young girl, Jayce shook her head. “No, mom had another bought of that really bad cold so we decided to post pone the trip.” She was smiling but her eyes showed her disappointment.
“Oh, well I’ll keep praying for her, I do really hope she gets better, but really I am glad you guys will be at the Christmas production tonight. They chatted for a bit all the while Brandon grew more and more certain of who they were. Suddenly Amber asked.
“So, no word from Brandon huh?” Kyle shook his head forlornly while Jayce sighed. “Hey, cheer up guys, it’s Christmas Eve and you both don’t need to be depressed.” Kyle gave a lopsided smile.
“Sorry Amber, how bout we get two vanilla lattes then we’ll wait around for half an hour so we can give you a ride after you’re done?” Amber’s laugh filled the room.
“Deal.” She said shaking Kyle’s hand. “Take a seat and I’ll bring it to you.” Kyle turned around looking for a table. Seeing one unoccupied his eyes turned to Brandon’s table, it had enough room for three.
Brandon’s heart leapt with fright as he saw his big brother coming towards him. He kept his eyes down as he focused on the table clothe.
“Hey buddy, would you mind sharing your table?” He asked. Kyle had always been bold. Brandon nodded but he still kept his head down. “Thanks man.” Kyle said as he and Jayce sat down. “My name’s Kyle.” He put out his hand. Brandon looked up for the first time and smiled slightly to himself as Kyle showed no sins of recognition
“People call me Blaze.” He said shaking Kyle’s hand firmly noticing that he was perhaps slightly taken aback.
“Well, this is my sister Jayce.” Jayce smiled and held out her hand. This time seeing no sings of recognition hurt, but the just smiled and quickly shook her hand.
“So, what part of town do you two come from?” Brandon asked after a few seconds of silence.
“We live on Jackson street about 4 blocks from here.” Brandon looked surprised and blurted out without thinking.
“When did you guys move?” He quickly added “I haven’t seen you ‘round here.”
“A few months ago, it was tough but we felt that’s what God wanted.” Jayce explained taking a sip of her latte which Amber had just served.
“Heard your mom was sick…how is she?” Bandon’s voice cracked a little when he mentioned mom. Jus then he realized how much he missed her. Kyle shrugged off the surprise and answered.
“She’s doing okay but she’s…” Kyle stopped but continued after collecting himself. “She’s still grieving about someone who she never got to say good bye to.” Brandon nodded, understanding more then the y thought.
They all sipped at their beverages soaking in the comfort and warmth it brought. Brandon was just about to say something about having to go when Jayce started another conversation.
“So, um…Blaze, are you doing anything tonight?” Brandon slowly shook his head as a sick feeling filled his stomach as he thought of all the other people who had asked the same question before. “Well can I give you an invitation to a small Christmas eve service at our church we’re having this evening?” Jayce gracefully handed him a small card like note. Carefully Brandon tool it and quickly breezed through it, taking interest in it which was a little surprising since he had never like anything to do with church.
“Yeah, I might be busy tonight.” Brandon said knowing full well that there was nothing going on. “But if I’m free I might stop in.” Jayce smiled.
“We’ve got free food and drinks… non alcoholic.” She added with a laugh. This girl knew how to persuade someone. Brandon just nodded his head and stood up.
“Well thanks for yo company, it was… nice.”
“See yo around…Blaze.” Kyle said holding out his hand. This time Brandon looked right into his eyes and firmly shook his hand. There was a faint glimmer in Kyle’s eyes but before anything else happened Brandon walked out the door, back into the cold.
Two hours later Brandon was still shook up about the meeting with his siblings. It almost shook him more then when Flames had died. He hadn’t seen them for four years…Jayce had grown so much, probably 15 now. Kyle was 20, probably in college.
The wind picked up but Brandon didn’t feel it, he was numb, inside and out. He just kept walking eyes on the ground. There wasn’t a lot of people outside so he didn’t worry to much about running into anyone. He wandered aimlessly down one street up the next. Another hour slowly slipped by unnoticed by him. The sound of traffic and people were zoned out of Brandon’s mind as he though. Didn’t really think of anything specifically but mostly just about this life.
Before long he shoved his hands in his pickets to keep them warm. He felt around a piece of paper and pulled it out trying to remember what it was. He instantly recognized it as the invitation from Jayce. The front had a picture of a manger with an extremely digitized cross. He flipped it over to read the back. It simply invited you and gave directions. It was about 20 minutes away from where he stood; depending on the traffic detours and the driver. For some unknown reason a feeling inside him washed over him. He had to go.
In less then ten minutes he found a taxi and quickly gave him the directions and the correct amount of cash. In was warm in and toasty in the small cab and he found himself nodding to sleep. When he awoke he found that the taxi driver had stopped and parked the car. Brandon mumbled his thanks and quickly flung himself out into the cold. It was just 6:30 pm and in another five minutes the production was supposed to start. Five minutes was probably how long it would take for him to get to the church. Brandon looked at the invitation once more to make sure was headed in the right way then set off.
It actually took him ten minutes instead of five, but when he stepped a few steps onto a small lift and looked inside there were still people talking and laughing, he could hear them even from outside. A couple walked in the building as a young man from inside held open the door and gave them a bulletin. The door shut behind them leaving the cold air outside where it belonged.
After a few more seconds of contemplating whether or not he should really go inside he finally stepped up to one of the doors to walk in. This time a girl was there to greet him.
“Good evening and welcome to our Christmas eve production my name is Lauren.” Her smile was true and authentic as she handed him a bulletin. Brandon nodded.
“My name’s… uh, Brandon.” She didn’t seem to notice his stuttering but instead told him where he could find some food if he wanted or the auditorium was right in the door across from them. Brandon being a guy (plus a teenager) he immediately went to the refreshments. There were mostly cookies, but also candy and some chips and salsas. He piled his plate high and went to stand in a place where there weren’t so many people.
Everybody who saw him smiled and some came up and introduced themselves but there seemed to be so many people that it was hard to keep track. Suddenly there was a loud voice coming from the auditorium.
“If everyone could come and take there seats we’ll be starting in a minute.” There was a murmur of enthusiasm as everyone began making there way to the auditorium. Brandon threw away his plate and walked with the flow. The auditorium sloped down just a little bit and there was a stage at the end that lifted up.
Brandon began looking for an open seat that was somewhat by itself, but to no avail. He saw a group of teens, probably his age sitting in the third row back. There were a couple of seats empty next to them so Brandon down to where they were laughing and chatting. When Brandon approached a young man who was sitting on the end looked up.
“Hey, do you need a seat?” Brandon nodded surprised at the young man’s friendliness. “My name’s Zac what’s yours?” He said standing up and shaking Brandon’s hand.
“Coolness, take a seat man.” He said ushering him to sit next to him and another person. “Alright guys, this is Brandon, Brandon this right here is Rebecca, or ‘becca’ as we tend to call her.” He said pointing to the girl I was sitting next to. I smiled and nodded, she did the same with a little ‘hi’.
“This is Jeff, then Cameron then on the end is Sara who we call ‘tears’ which is kind of stupid because when she was little she would cry easy, so someone kept calling her ‘tears’ and it kind of stuck around.
“Hey Tears.” Brandon said looking over at her seeing how much she had changed since he had nick named her ‘tears’.
“Hey Brandon.” No sign of recognition … the pain inside shot through him. They had been best friends when they had been neighbors and other then the few arguments about religion had gotten along great! This is what happens when a kid runs away from home and comes back four years later. The five of them talked randomly about random things. Brandon found himself looking around at all the different people that surrounded him. He had never been a fan of crowds…mostly because he didn’t know all of them well enough to trust any of them. But in this crowd he was actually looking for someone. Mom. He didn’t find her or Kyle and Jayce.
Brandon turned to Becca who wasn’t in the conversation right at the moment. “Hey Becca.” Immediately he got her attention. Girls you’ve just met seem to like it when you call them by their name. “Do you know a girl named Jayce?” She laughed.
“Everyone knows Jayce. Why do you ask?”
“Well, it was her that invited me to come tonight. I was hoping that I would see her and her brother…” He was going to say something about mom but he didn’t.
“Oh well Jayce is behind stage because she’s singing tonight and Kyle’s running the sound board up there.” She pointed behind them, but he didn’t catch any signs of Kyle.
“Oh ok, I was hoping they didn’t have to stay home because their mom was sicker or something.” Becca smiled again.
“Well their mom is here too.” Brandon glanced side ways at her then turned to look at her.
“I thought…I thought she was sick.” Brandon stated trying to look calm. “I assumed she wasn’t coming.
“On no, she’s here,” Becca pointed up and behind them a little bit to the left. “Do you see the lady with the brown somewhat curly hair; she’s got a blanket around her.” Brandon saw her, she was so frail it almost made him want to go up there and take her in his arms and just let her know that he would take care of her. But he stayed right where he was sitting and pushed down all the raging emotions inside of him.
“We’re about to start you two, be quite!” Zac said teasingly to Becca and Brandon.
“Sorry.” Becca replied smiling a little bit. A man who was probably in his late thirties or early forties took the stage, Brandon assumed it was the pastor.
“Hey everyone glad to see all of you here tonight! Well, I’m not going to do a whole lot of talking since you’ve already used up 10 minutes of my announcing time talking to each other.” A ripple of laughter stirred in the crowd. “So, for all you visitors my name is Jason Benedict and I am the pastor of this church and I would just like you to know how excited we are to see you and if this is your first time visiting our church would you please just raise your hand, not to embarrass you but to welcome you. Also we would like to give you a small packet and inside there is a small card and if you could fill that out and give it to the ushers at the end of the service or you can give it to a friend they’ll take care of it. Can all the first time visitors raise their hand.
Brandon reluctantly put up one hand to signify that he was a first time visitor. There was about a dozen others bu5t all were decently spread out.
“Let’s give our guests around of applause.” Mr. Benedict said just as one of the ushers handed Brandon a packet. Brandon ignored the clapping and quickly drew the car of information and looked over it. As his name he simply put ‘Brandon’ and for address he put a line through. When he was finished he handed it to Zac who smiled and nodded knowingly. Brandon directed his gaze back to the stage. Over the next hour there were several songs done by kids between the ages of 11-17. Either they were instrumental duo’s or by someone playing an instrument and the other singing.
Then there was a small play done by the kids who were 5-11. It was a play on the birth of Christ. Brandon looked in his bulletin to see what kids were playing what parts. He didn’t know any of them except one. The kid who was playing as Joseph - Nick Dawson, he had been a little kid last time he had seen him. Brandon chuckled under his breath; he’d always been a good actor. The play ended with a song ‘Adoration.’ As the kids exited Mr. Benedict came back onto the stage.
“Thank God for His love to send his only son. We cannot comprehend it.” There was a nod of agreement among most people. Brandon was stone. “Now to end the service Jayce is going to sing a song that was written for this particular service. Please let’s welcome Jayce.” There was a huge applause as Jayce took the stage. Her brown hair was down in ringlets; her blue/green eyes glowed. Her looks came from her mom. Jayce smiled and nodded, music immediately flooded the auditorium. Jayce lifted he mic. To her mouth as she began to sing in a clear sweet soft voice.
“Oh and did you know
That so many years ago
There was a star in the sky
To show the way to the baby
Who for our sins would one day die?
Oh so long ago
The story is now old
But again it will be told
Of how the king to whom I sing
Died for you and me
Oh and did you know
That so long ago
He came to die for us
To take away our sin
So in Him I will trust
Oh so long ago
The story is now old
But again it will be told
Of how the King to whom I sing
Died for you… and me.”
She ended the song looking right at Bandon, she smiled slightly and Brandon thought it looked like she nodded. Brandon had not cried since the Christmas Eve his father and Trevor died. He gritted his teeth and grasped the arm rest with all his strength.
The music silently played in the background as Jayce once again brought the mic. to her mouth. “Four years ago to this day, I lost my father and one of my older brothers. We were in a car accident. I never forgot the look on my older brother Brandon’s face. Two year later Brandon left – ran away from home, no one has heard from him since. I’m telling you this story because I know what it’s like to be hurt. But what I also know is that God is always there because he was born lived died and came back to life. This song was written by my other brother Kyle and I, we know what it’s like to be hurt, but we also know that God loves us and in ways we cannot imagine.” She stopped as she scanned the crowd, her eyes rested on Brandon. “He loves you.” She said softly tears brimming in her eyes. She exited the stage gracefully as applause followed her.
The music continues as Mr. Benedict took the stage, again he took the mic. “Thank you all for coming. If you have any questions please either come to me or another here, they would be more then happy to answer your questions.
Well we have refreshments in the lobby please stick around and fellowship. Merry Christmas.”
Brandon leaned back in his seat utterly shaken by what had happened. When he looked up he saw Jayce coming down off the stage, Kyle was approaching her. Brandon jumped up and made his way to the two of them.
When hew was two steps from them Jayce looked up her smile was wide as she saw him. Without thinking Brandon enclosed her in a hug. He bit his lip to stop it from quavering. When he pulled away he had his hand on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes.
“Jayce, I’m so sorry for not… for running away.” Jayce suddenly looked at him differently.
“Brandon?” She asked incredulously. Brandon nodded, tears streaming down his face.
“Yeah…” He looked at Kyle but what he noticed was a woman next to him. Mom. Tears were streaming down her face. Her hand reached out and brushed way his tear, ignoring her own.
“Brandon…” Brandon embraced her in a huge hug, one he hadn’t had for over four years. He held her fragile body close to his own regretting everything that had kept him away from her.
“I love you mom.”
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