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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 6 July 2007 - 12:46pm.

Chapter 1

It was in many respects a party like any other that she had previously attended—posh neighborhood, nice home, large rooms to accommodate the entertaining of guests and many of the same faces that had frequented other parties that she had been to. Again Jenna was surrounded by the typical suitors who had vied for her attention in the past. She was a stunningly beautiful woman and she had an attractive power that drew men of all ages to stare at her in rapturous delight. Many were moved to silence or became babbling fools in her presence. She both loved and hated this attention. She loved it for the most obvious of reasons—every woman wants to feel beautiful, attractive and be appreciated by men. Every woman wants to be to be popular, to be the center of attention now and then. She hated this attention for perfectly legitimate reasons, also. Other women alienated and resented her for her loveliness because they found it so difficult to compete with her. Jealousy from others came all too easy around her. Developing friendships with other women was a difficult task at best. It also made friendship with men difficult. Few wanted to be just friends. They all became so enamored of her that mere friendship was the furthest thing from their minds. At times Jenna Smith wished she were plainer in features—she wished she were just an ordinary looking woman.

So, here she was in what had become a very common situation for her, with the majority of the men surrounding her and the majority of the women gravitating to the edges of the room where they could quietly and secretly hate her, either in groups or in private. Even within the few legitimate couples that might remain standing together, the men often shot furtive glances at Jenna that female counterparts may or may not let on that they had noticed.

Jenna was just a breath away from excusing herself and leaving the party with a firm vow to never attend one again. In fact, she told herself, she could easily be on the verge of becoming a recluse. Then it happened. One man stood beyond the circle that surrounded her. He stood slightly apart from the others, as though with the intent to make himself more visible. His face reflected a slightly amused look, rather like the Mona Lisa in effect. His intense blue eyes caught her attention and held her firmly. A connection had been made and a rapport seemed to be promised. At least he did not have either the ravenous hunger in his eyes or the mindless awe written on his countenance that many of these others did.

As Jenna admired this blond Adonis, so well dressed and self-assured, he silently nodded his head in the direction of a quieter and more private place, signifying that she should follow, then began to walk toward the door of a small parlor area of their host's home.

Jenna took the cue, knowing this was her perfect opportunity to break away from all the attention that now burdened her. Sweetly and politely, she asked, "Would you gentlemen please excuse me for a short time? I should be back...."

Her words were interrupted when through the crowd pushed a man with dark hair like her own, though slightly unkempt. He looked out of place, not dressed for a party of this sort. He was not unpleasantly attired, just not appropriately so, being clothed in denim jeans and a T-shirt. He said not a word as he nudged and shouldered the others aside, keeping his eyes on her and her alone. His whole gaze bespoke a man with an important message to deliver—a message of grave importance. And suddenly, there he was, directly in front of her. Without so much as a brief hesitation or even the slightest of introductions, he quickly leaned toward her and whispered into her ear for a few seconds before again standing straight. His breath could be felt on her neck and it caused her to tingle with unexpected excitement. She had almost expected an uninvited kiss when he had leaned in so close and her heart was pounding from the surprise—both that she had expected it and that he had not delivered. Though he now stood fully erect in front of her, he took not so much as one step back from what would be commonly understood as her personal space. Instead, he handed her a pen and paper and waited silently, never taking his eyes from hers. She stared back for several seconds, transfixed and stunned with the intensity of his dark eyes and resolute demeanor. She gasped softly, realizing that in the depths of the moment she had involuntarily held her breath. Now regaining her composure somewhat, she closed her opened mouth and began to write on the paper. Still looking slightly disoriented, she then handed back the paper and pen to this mysterious man as soon as she had finished with them. He smiled warmly, winked at her and silently departed as smoothly as he had entered, the questioning crowd moving aside as he left. She followed him with her eyes until he was nearly gone from her view. He hesitated only long enough to shoot a glance directly at her and then vanish from sight.

Now for a second time Jenna excused herself, but this time it was she that was pushing through the gathering in a desperate attempt to follow the mysterious man who had so recently exited the room. Hurrying through the assemblage and rushing through the doorway, Jenna came to a complete stop and scanned the new room, then quickly continued through the next doorway and into the front yard. Again, she halted and searched in all directions. Her eyes stopped as she saw her denim-clad messenger sliding swiftly over and disappearing behind the wall of stone that surrounded and contained the yard. Her heart raced as she stood staring foolishly at the wall, as though expecting him to again pop over the top and answer her numerous questions. She chuckled softly to herself at the thought when, lo and behold, he did indeed peer over the wall and grinning widely, blew her a kiss and again dropped out of sight. Jenna's heart jumped again, pounding so hard she thought it would be readily heard by anyone who should stand near enough to her. Her hands instinctively went to her chest and she privately grinned at her behavior, so out of character and unexpected. 'I'm twenty-five years old and acting like a high school girl with a crush', she told herself. 'I don't even know his name, for pity's sake'.

It suddenly occurred to her that she had neglected to write her own name on the paper before handing it back. Though he now had her phone number, he still did not have her name. What a strange turn of events, she thought, still staring fondly at the spot where he had vanished. Her silent reverie was suddenly interrupted by a male voice from behind her.

"Having second thoughts, are we?"
Startled, Jenna jumped visibly and turned quickly to face this new voice. It was the gorgeous blond who had caught her eye earlier. Inelegantly, she answered, "Huh? Sorry, about what?"

"Well, I had thought we might be alone for awhile, but I went one way and you went another, so I thought perhaps you were having reservations and had decided it to be more prudent to escape." The good-natured humor was still apparent on his face.

"Oh, that," she mused. Her hand came up and she nervously waved a quick dismissal to his comment. "No, just a temporary distraction, that's all." She found herself looking again toward the stone wall. It was as though her attention was involuntarily drawn by a magnet.

The new suitor also followed her gaze, a more serious look now replacing the previous humor. "No problem, I hope."

"Oh, no! No, none at all." She swung swiftly back to face him and smiled passively.

Returning the smile and offering his hand, he replied, "My name is Perry."

"Jenna. Jenna...." She stopped suddenly short of giving her last name, not certain that she felt thoroughly comfortable in doing so.

"I assure you, Jenna-Jenna, that I do not bite." He made a joke out of it to alleviate her discomfort, emphasizing the last three words good-naturedly.

She laughed softly and responded, "I'm sorry. Is it that obvious?"

"You positively radiate nervousness," he replied with a warm smile.

She relaxed a bit and starting again said, "Jenna. Jenna Smith," now extending her own hand in return. The raised eyebrow of suspicion he gave made her laugh again. "And I assure you that Smith is my real name, okay?"

"If you insist. Shall we?" He motioned toward the house, suggesting they return to the party and offered his arm to her.

Though she took it, her first urge was to run for the wall and bolt over it herself, no matter how unlady-like it might appear to do so. She contemplated the feeling, thinking it strange that she would regret one unknown man not knowing her name, yet hesitate to give it to another, having had virtually equal exposure to both of them, socially-speaking. And especially, when she knew literally nothing about either of them, that she should be having such feelings at all was quite extraordinary. This party had taken a sudden turn from predictability to adventure in a mere moment and Jenna wondered silently what strange events might happen next.

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