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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 5 July 2007 - 11:34pm.

Chapter 4

As it always did, the morning light came right on schedule, though not too soon to please Jenna. She felt perfectly awful from lack of sleep, but was not the kind to load up on caffeine in a vain attempt to compensate. She'd seen the results of that. It simply burned off more adrenaline and melatonin, resulting in even less sleep and starting a downward spiral. She would just tough it out through the day and get to bed earlier tonight.

Tonight? Her date with Perry was tonight. Then she would just have to get a few catnaps during the day. Jenna rose from her bed with firm resolve that something must be decided today in the case of Tom. I still don't know his full name! This is pure insanity.

Jenna paced the floor a few more times before throwing her hands into the air in disgust. Maybe a brisk walk would do her good. She sluggishly threw on some casual clothes and left the house.

The sun was still low and the light subdued, but the outdoors air was comfortable and invigorating at once. Birds were singing and she could hear dogs barking in the distance. The voices of a few children wafted across the air to her, as well. A beautiful day, Jenna concluded. This would be good after all.

"Hello, Jenna," came the familiar voice of her ten years older female neighbor.

"Oh; hello, Mrs. Jameson. How are you this morning?"

"I'm doing fine, thank you, but I do wish you would call me Denise. You’ve been here long enough to do that, don’t you think? We’re both new in the neighborhood and we should be on equal terms."

"Alright, then—Denise it is."

“I’m don’t want to interrupt anything you may have planned, but would you like to come in for a cocoa? We could have a little time to get better acquainted. I feel that if neighbors know one another, they might care enough to watch out for one another, too.”

“Why, thank you. I would love to. You may be onto something there. I never got to know too many of my neighbors where I lived last, I regret to say. Life just gets too busy for us sometimes, doesn’t it?”

The two ladies got comfortable at the kitchen table and after a bit of simple chitchat, Denise felt moved to make a personal observation.

"Jenna, it's really none of my business, but you look to be either very tired or extremely preoccupied."

A long sigh escaped Jenna's lips and she stared at the table for a long moment before answering. "You have no idea how strange the last few days have been for me, Denise. My whole life has turned upside down and I’m so confused."

Denise laughed softly. "Jenna, you have no idea how sympathetic I can be. I assure you, I’ve been there, but before you get started, have you eaten breakfast?"

"Uh, no, but cocoa is plenty. I don't have much of an appetite right now."

"Hmmm, sounds serious. A man?"

"Two, actually; but mostly one."

"Two?! I'm impressed. Go on."

Jenna smiled outwardly, but her heart was not in it. "Don't be so impressed. My life has become so weird in so few days."

"As I said, I've been there. Remind me to tell you about it sometime. But this time is yours. So, start talking. It may be good therapy."

Jenna took a deep breath, blew it out slowly and began to relate to Denise the events of the party and the days since. It was indeed a strange story and not one easily believed or understood.

Denise stopped her at one point and asked, "So, he didn't belong there? He just pops in to get your phone number and he leaves?"

Jenna nodded with obvious confusion and some embarrassment.

"And you gave it to him just like that! For crying out the window, girl, why? What could he possibly have said to make you do that?" Denise was incredulous, waiting impatiently for an answer.

"You would have to have been there, Denise. It was like he held a power over me. He pushed his way through to me and whispered into my ear. He said something like, 'I don't have time to waste like the rest of these men, but I want to take you to dinner. Write your number here for me.' Then he gave me a pen and paper. I was so stunned that I did it without question. His eyes were so intense...but the way he smiled afterward and blew me a kiss...." She stared dreamily into space until Denise dragged her back forcibly.

"Jenna, you've got it bad, girl. Really bad. What do you know about him? He could be an axe murderer. Believe me, it could happen! I know!"

"He's not like that. Not at all."

"Oh, really? And you know this…how?" She raised her eyebrows, begging the answer that would calm her fears, but never expecting it to come.
"He saved my life and he gave me the most romantic gift—it must be very valuable."

"And you don't think this is moving just a bit too fast to be normal?"

"Of course I do, Denise, but don't you believe in love at first sight? Can't it happen?"

Denise opened her mouth, then paused and closed it again without speaking. "Okay, you've got me there. I know it can happen, because it happened to Ron and me. Finish your story, Jenna. I won't interrupt."

Jenna continued to recount several more details of their first meeting and the subsequent events, then again took a deep breath and exhaled in a long sigh. "Can you see my dilemma?"

"Yes, I do. The only question is this—how much mystery and excitement can you stand in your life? The choices you have are between boring, but safe or mysterious and unpredictable at best. And it's painfully obvious to see which way you are leaning right now, Jenna. You need to decide this matter soon."

"I know. I have a date with Perry tonight and I'll see what happens. I had one with Tom last night."

"How did it go, in your estimation?'

"Well, it was rather short. I left early and went to bed."

A long pause preceded Denise's next comment. "You left early; because you were upset, I take it. Upset enough to call off the rest of the evening. That simple fact alone should help you decide, Jenna."

"No, you don't understand." Jenna again related the stress of the evening and explained that she felt it had just overshadowed everything else, taking the wind out of her sails. "I was completely overwhelmed and just unprepared for it all, Denise."

"Alright, Jenna. He saved your life; but it could also be reasonably argued that he was the one who jeopardized it by upsetting you in the first place. You don't know his full name, his background, what he does for a living and a million other things about him."

"Did you know all those things about your husband before you married him?"

Denise squirmed noticeably, but had no ready response.

"Besides. I know more about Perry, but I don't feel the same attraction for him. Isn't there something to be said for that, too?" Jenna waited expectantly for an answer.

Denise smiled uncomfortably and briefly, "You're not making this any easier on me, you know that, don’t you?"

Jenna couldn't help but laugh. "I'm the one with the problem. Aren't you supposed to be counseling me?"

"I'm trying. Believe me, I'm trying." Denise laughed aloud. Relaxing more in brief defeat, she added, "So, what now?"

"Well, I have no classes today at the University, so I have all day to thrash it out, I'm afraid."

"Listen, Jenna, sometimes decisions can decide themselves when we’re relaxed enough to let it happen. Put this on the back burner for now and let's go do some window shopping, shall we?"

"I just knew you'd come up with a wonderful idea." They both laughed again.

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