Pages from a Diary – Chapter 1

  • Posted on June 4, 2018 at 10:41 am

by Rachael Yukey

October 11, 2006

I need to find a place to hide this notebook. I don’t know what I’m gonna write in it yet, but who wants their parents finding their diary?

Hmmm… what do you put in a diary? I’m not even sure why I decided to keep one! But you know what? I already think that I’m not just keeping it for me. That’s what I thought five minutes ago, but now I think that I’m writing it for people to read someday… maybe my grandkids or something. The reason I think so is that I feel like I have to introduce myself.

My name’s Mallory Kalvornek, and I’m ten years old. I just started the fifth grade. I live on a farm just a little ways outside of a tiny little town of 800 people in west central Minnesota. I’m an only child… it’s just my mom, dad, and me. Dad’s a grain farmer, and Mom spends most of her time doing volunteer stuff for the church. We’re Evangelical Christians. I kind of hate it… it’s really boring.

Wow… now I see why people do diaries! I’ve never even admitted that to myself before. Yeah, I hate it. Now that I’m letting myself think about it I feel guilty. It’s like we’re supposed to be having this great relationship with God or something and to me it’s just a bunch of sermons and rules and boring church socials.

Sometimes I’ll play with the other kids at Sunday School or the activities we go to, and that’s good because I don’t have any friends at school. I’m really shy and I’m not good at talking to people, but at church they kind of have to be nice to me.

Whoa… I’ve never really thought about that either. Are they only hanging around me at church because their parents would get mad if they didn’t? That doesn’t make me feel very good.

But that kinda brings me to what I wanna write about today. Maybe the whole reason I started this! I think I might have just gotten a start at making a friend. You know, a real one… not just someone who only hangs around me at church things.

Her name is Julie Hanson. She’s in my class at school. She moved to town with her dad Jason last year… I wanna say it was November. They bought this really old house right in the middle of town that needs a lot of work, and everybody thought it was really creepy… this guy comes in from the big city with his nine-year-old daughter and buys the cheapest house there is. But then we found out that he’s kind of a famous musician!

Maybe not really a star, but he’s played guitar for a bunch of people who are rock stars. You can go online and see videos of him doing concerts with people I’ve heard of.

After that you could hear the adults talking about them sometimes… you don’t get new people in town much in a place like this. From what I overheard, Jason has a lot of family close to here and decided to stop touring and move back closer to home when he split up with his wife so it would be easier to take care of Julie.

The rumors are that he gave his wife all of their money and stuff like that and she gave him custody of Julie… I hope that’s not true. Who trades their kid for money? But they say that’s why he had to come in and buy a cheap old house, because he gave her all their money.

Once people found out who he was they started to like Jason and Julie, mostly anyway. Jason’s really active… this summer when they had a benefit for this teenage girl with cancer he got some old friends of his from the city to come up and they did a concert on the football field to raise money. He had a real stage and lights and a big sound system and everything. It was really fun! He and Julie both do volunteer work, and he took an EMT class this summer so he could help out on the volunteer ambulance service. He’s teaching guitar lessons for money, but Julie told me today he gets something called royalties for some songs he wrote and that’s most of what they live on.

But he’s also made some people mad, too. Not long after they got here there was something about him and a married lady (I’m pretty sure from what I overheard, they were doing sex things). Then the same thing happened with a high school girl, and I guess he could have gotten in big trouble if she hadn’t been eighteen. Mom and Dad wouldn’t tell me why.

But he’s got a girlfriend that lives with them now, so it’s better. She’s a lot younger than he is but nobody minds as long as he’s not dating lots of girls. My parents don’t approve of living with someone you’re not married to like that, but they seem to feel like dating lots of people is worse. I’ll have to look and see if it’s in the Bible.

So I’ve known Julie for almost a year, but I don’t really KNOW her, you know? We haven’t ever talked much. She’s really bubbly and social and I’m pretty quiet and never know what to say. So she’s always got all these people she hangs out with, and I don’t really hang out with anybody at school. I think she’s really pretty. She’s the tallest girl in our class… even taller than almost all of the boys… and she has this long thick beautiful black hair. I’m really short for my age and blonde. Both of us are pretty skinny.

But anyway, this year we’re both in something called Advanced Learning… mostly it’s just called A.L. Every Wednesday we get on a bus and they take us to a bigger town about 45 minutes away from here. We have to get up really early for it, and we get home later than on other days. My mom has to drop me off and pick me up at the school so I can go to it. The idea is that they give kids who have what they call “exceptional potential” (I think it just means smart kids) and take us someplace where we can learn stuff they can’t teach us at our school.

The school in our town is pretty small and has all the grades in it; they call it a k-12. The town we go to for A.L. has like 13,000 people and has elementary, middle, and high schools.

A.L. goes from fifth grade and up, with only a few kids from each grade. There are only three from mine; me, Julie, and a boy who’s really weird. So the bus is usually not very full, and everybody is in their own seat. But today they were bringing a bunch of high school kids along for some other activity, so the bus was pretty full.

As usual my Mom was running behind dropping me off at the school, and I was pretty nervous because I knew the bus was going to be packed and I was probably going to have to sit with somebody. I don’t mind if somebody sits with me when I’m there first, but I feel really awkward coming up and sitting with somebody who’s already there!

As I said goodbye to my mom and slid out of our green Explorer, I looked up at the bus and felt very afraid. From what I could see, every seat had at least one person in it.

It was rainy and cold this morning, so the bus driver had the door closed. He opened it when I got close, and as I climbed the steps he smiled at me.

“Morning, Mallory,” he said. I looked away and mumbled “Hi,” stopping for a moment as I reached the top step. I was right… there were no empty seats. I quickly looked around until I saw Julie, alone in a seat next to the window just a few rows behind the driver, leaning back in the corner and reading a book. Her thick black hair hung down, almost covering her face and her glasses with the purple rims. I thought it was the best I was going to get… at least she’s a girl and she’s in my class. I shuffled back that way, and stopped next to the seat she was in. I never know what to do at times like these… do I just sit down, or do I ask if it’s okay?

Julie solved the problem for me. She looked up, gave me a big smile, and said “Hi! Wanna sit with me?”

I was so relieved! I smiled back and sat down. Julie smiled at me again, then found her place in the book she was reading. I dug in my backpack and found my own novel, the fourth book in the Sapphire Towers fantasy series. It’s supposed to be for girls a few years older than me, but books for kids my own age are really pretty boring. I found my place and settled in. The bus pulled out of the lot, and a few minutes later, just as we were turning onto the highway, Julie spoke up.

“Hey, look!” She said. “You’re reading the same thing I am!”

It wasn’t exactly the same thing; the book in her hand was the fifth book in the series. But between my nerves and the awkwardness I hadn’t even noticed what it was.

“Wow!’ I said. “That’s pretty cool. I didn’t think anybody else our age was reading these.”

“Well,” said Julie with an adorable little smirk, “I think books for our age group are pretty lame, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “The characters in these books at least kind of act like real people… you know?”

That was it… we spent the rest of the bus ride not reading our books but talking about them, about the situations and the characters and everything we hoped might happen. Julie was about half a book ahead of me and was really careful not to say anything that would spoil it for me.

 

Our A.L. group is us and a bunch of other kids our age from other schools. It’s not as structured as regular school and nobody cares where we sit, so Julie and I sat together for the first half of the day, and partnered up for the group logic problems they had us do. We ate lunch together, chattering on about our books at first, but then more about ourselves and our families.

During the second half the group splits up and we go to more specific classes where we get to study things that interest us, so we were separate for part of it. We do creative writing together, but then I do art and Julie… I don’t even know what she does then, now that I think of it. I’ll have to ask.

On the bus ride home, Julie read to me. We agreed that it was lots of fun to have someone to share our books with, and she wanted me to catch up so that we could talk about all of it as we went. Of course we didn’t finish, but she’s going to wait for me to catch up. Which I just did, right before I started writing this! Tomorrow when I see her at school we’ll be in the same place.

When we got off the bus my mom was waiting for me in the Explorer. Julie just lives a few blocks from the school and usually walks or rides her bike, but it was rainy so her dad was there to drive her home. He drives a blue Ford pickup, the kind with the long cab and back seat. Julie and I got off together, and before we parted she put her arms around me and pulled me into a hug that made me feel all fluttery inside. My parents aren’t very touchy or snuggly people, and I just LOVE getting hugs! When she pulled back her hands stayed on my upper arms for a moment and she looked straight into my eyes.

“Today was really fun,” she told me. “We like a lot of the same things, and you’re really cool. I hope we can be friends.”

Then she was gone. But she said I was cool! Nobody’s ever said that about me before. And she wants to be my friend! I don’t really have any. I hope she still wants to hang out with me tomorrow, and please God, don’t let me mess it all up by being awkward and weird.

 

October 12, 2006

My mom doesn’t cook breakfast anymore. School breakfast is her friend! She just shakes me awake, leaves the room, and watches TV while I get ready for school. She spends A LOT of time doing volunteer stuff for the church, but when she’s home she mostly just watches TV. She does keep the place clean and cook dinner, but not much else. Dad isn’t even awake yet when I get up in the morning unless he’s got stuff to do on the farm, which at this time of year isn’t much. There’s still some corn that needs combined, but it’s too wet right now. And when he is in the house, he mostly just watches TV same as Mom.

They don’t really pay a whole lot of attention to what I do. I have a lot of rules, but I don’t think they’d notice if I started breaking them like crazy (hmmm… I haven’t given that much thought before).

Mom and Dad don’t talk much unless they’re badmouthing somebody or fighting about money, which happens a lot lately. They think I can’t hear, but after I go to bed I can hear everything anybody says in the living room or kitchen. Dad’s profit margins are doing nothing but going down, and Mom resents having to cut back on spending. So they fight. We’re like the only farm family I know where the mom doesn’t have a job in town, but Mom and Dad are dead set that a good Christian woman stays home and minds the kids and house. Except Mom doesn’t do that; she spends all day doing volunteer stuff for the church! I don’t see how that’s any better than getting a job that might help with the bills.

I don’t let it bother me. I was in a really good mood this morning because I was so excited about hanging out with Julie at school. I was smiling and humming to myself while I brushed my hair and teeth. I wanted to sing out loud, but I knew it would irritate my mom. I was ready fifteen minutes before the bus and the sun was out, so I decided to wait outside. I said goodbye to my mom and she didn’t even look up… just kind of waved. It was pretty chilly outside, but the sun was shining and that was good enough for me. I sang at the top of my lungs until I saw the bus coming.

I was hoping that Julie would be at breakfast, but she wasn’t. She eats school breakfast maybe half the time. So I ate alone as usual, but she was waiting for me outside the cafeteria. She hugged me right away, and I froze for a second then hugged her back. It just feels so good to be in someone’s arms!

“Hey!” she said as she let me go, “how far did you get in the book?”

“Oh, I caught up to where you are last night,” I told her.

“Sweet!” she replied. “So should we agree on how far to go each night, so we can talk about it the next day?”

She tugged on my hand, and we set off down the hall towards our classroom side by side.

“Sounds great,” I said. “But it can’t always be the same amount. Tuesdays I have piano lessons, and then there church things and stuff. And chores.”

“Yeah, same here. My dad is teaching me to play guitar and I try to get in some good practice every day. And I have chores at home too. But I’ll bet not as many as you do living on a farm.”

“Not so much,” I said. “I do house chores, but I don’t really do farm things. We don’t have any animals to feed so it’s all stuff with tractors and chemicals and other stuff I’m not allowed to mess with. So it’s probably not much more than you.”

By this time we’d arrived at our classroom, and it was time to get in our seats. They don’t give you much time for school breakfast if you’re riding the bus!

“Hey,” said Julie before we headed for our desks, “do you eat school breakfast every morning?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“I kind of pick and choose,” she said. “My dad will make me breakfast if I want it, so I eat at home unless there’s something extra tasty on the menu at school. Maybe I should do school breakfast more often, and then we can talk about the series right away!”

I thought it sounded too good to be true… she really wants to spend time with me! I just smiled and nodded, and we both rushed to our seats.

During lunch we chatted about the part of the book I had just caught up on, and then Julie blew me out of the water.

“Um, Mallory?” she said.

“Yeah?”

“Do you think your parents would let you have a sleepover at my house tomorrow night? I asked my dad if I can invite you, and it’s okay with him if it’s okay with your folks. You could come over after school tomorrow, and then hang out with us Saturday.”

Nobody has ever, ever invited me to a sleepover before! I was so happy I thought I was going to cry. I got myself under control.

“I’ll ask them!” I told her.

The rest of the school day was a blur. Julie hugged me again before I got on the bus, and that warm, tingly feeling came over me again. I squeezed her tight and she squeezed back. There’s something weird about hugging Julie… I love to get hugs from anybody, but with her it’s not like hugging my grandma. Does that make sense? I can’t put my finger on it. We let each other go, and she trotted over to the bike rack, pulled her cruiser out, and pedalled away.

I was a little jealous; the only place I can ride my bike is on our driveway and on the dirt trails Dad drives his tractors on. It’s not very easy going and I can’t really GO anywhere. The kids that live in town have all these nice paved streets to ride on. But it’s starting to get pretty cold, and in another week or two nobody will be riding bikes anywhere until spring.

Mom was there when I got home. Actually at my age there HAS to be an adult there or they won’t let us off the bus. The law says I’m old enough to be home alone, but the school doesn’t think so. She stuck her head out the door so the driver could see that she was there, then went back in. I burst through the door.

“Mom!” I blurted. “My friend Julie Hanson invited me to sleep over at her house tomorrow and spend Saturday there. Can I, Mom, please?”

My mom just stared at me for a moment like she’d never seen me before, then waved her hand at a package of store-bought cookies. I helped myself to one and waited.

“That’s Jason Hanson’s daughter? Is that right?” she inquired.

I nodded. My breath was sticking in my throat. I know my parents don’t approve of Jason Hanson.

“It will probably be okay,” she said. “But we should check with your father first.”

Talk about what I DIDN’T want to hear!

Dad came in just in time for dinner. We all sat down, bowed our heads, and Dad led the family prayer for what felt like an hour. I’m starting to realize that I’m a really terrible Christian, and that maybe it’s something I need to work on. I didn’t wanna communicate with God… I wanted to get permission to sleep over at Julie’s house!

Finally it was over. I was trying to find the nerve to ask, and Mom beat me to it.

“Jason Hanson’s daughter invited Mallory to a sleepover tomorrow night,” she said. “What do you think, Dan?”

Dad rubbed his eyes. He always looks exhausted lately. He’s only 35, but he looks like he’s in his forties.

“Did Mr. Hanson say it’s all right?” he asked, looking at me.

“Yep,” I replied. “Julie asked him before she talked to me.”

“That’s the respectful way to do it,” said Dad, nodding with approval. “Mallory… how much do you know about the Hanson family?”

“I know they moved here last November,” I said, “and that Mr. Hanson used to play guitar for money. I know they lived in a way bigger city before. And that Julie’s mom doesn’t live with them. Annnd…”

I shrugged.

“I dunno. I’ve only just started being friends with Julie.”

“Do you know they don’t go to church? Not just our church, but any church?”

“I guess I hadn’t thought about it,” I said, helplessly.

It had felt for a minute like it was going my way, but things didn’t look so great now!

“Also, do you know that he’s living in sin with a woman that’s not his wife, and that he had affairs with a few other women before then? Even married ones?”

“I kind of knew that,” I said slowly. “But I’m not sure I understand what living in sin really means, or having an affair.”

“It means… an adult kind of relationship between men and women,” said Dad. He rubbed his eyes again. “The kind of relationship our heavenly Father reserves only for marriage.”

“You mean…” I almost didn’t say it, because I was afraid of getting in trouble. “You mean like, a sex relationship?”

Dad stared at me really hard for the longest time.

“Yes, Mallory,” he said, “Like that.”

“So… are you saying you don’t want me to go there?” I was almost crying.

“I didn’t say that, either,” he said. My heart jumped!

“Listen, Mallory,” he said, “Jason Hanson has done a lot of good things here, too. Remember that benefit for Lizzy Severson? He spent his own money putting on that concert, didn’t keep a dime of the proceeds, and raised more money than everything else we did put together. He also just joined the ambulance squad last month, and he paid for his own training. I think deep down he’s a good man but he’s just… you know… lost. You could help.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said, but that was a lie. I knew exactly what he had in mind.

“It’s your time to be a witness, Mallory,” he said. “Show Julie Hanson the effect of God’s good works through you. Show how much your special relationship with God through the blood of his son Jesus Christ enriches your life and multiplies your happiness ten thousandfold, and how she can enjoy the same thing. Once you’ve shown her salvation, the two of you working together can show her father the way. You can save two souls from Hell.”

“So I can go?”

“Definitely. I’ll call Mr. Hanson after dinner and see to any details. Now go ahead and eat.”

I was floating on a cloud! I hardly tasted my food. I was hoping to listen in on his conversation with Jason Hanson, but he made the call in his office. I hovered in the living room and watched TV with my mom. When he came out he waited for a commercial before he said anything.

“I just talked to Mr. Hanson,” he said. “He wanted to know if you had a bike you could bring because according to the forecast Saturday is supposed to be pretty warm and Julie wants to go biking with you. You’ve never ridden on streets before, so you’ll need to remember to watch for cars. I’ll throw your bike in the pickup tomorrow morning and leave it at the bike racks for you at school. You’ll just go with Julie to her house after school. Mr. Hanson wanted to know if there was any food you were allergic to and I told him no, but you remember to be polite even if they make something you don’t like, understand?”

“I’ll remember,” I promised.

“Mr. Hanson also said that he doesn’t care how late you stick around on Saturday, but you do have church the next day. Your mom or I will pick you up before dinner.”

I pumped my fist in the air and squealed with delight.

“Mallory!” my mom snapped. “Indoor voices!”

“Sorry, Mom! I’m gonna go pack now!”

I raced up to my room and packed a change of clothes, pajamas, my hair brush, and the travel toothbrushing kit my grandma got me for when I stay at her house. I did my piano practice, and then I sat down to write in my diary.

It’s late now, and I’m not quite as excited as I was. I’m super-excited about spending Friday night and most of Saturday at Julie’s house, but that other thing that Dad talked about is floating around in my brain. You know, witnessing. Spreading God’s word. That’s supposed to be a Christian’s most important job, right? Turning other people into Christians? The Bible says so, in lots of places. But I don’t think I’m a very good Christian. Dad said I should show Julie my special relationship with God, but I don’t feel like I HAVE one… you know? When everybody at church is talking about feeling the presence of the Lord, I don’t feel anything. I’ve never seen anything that looked like a miracle to me. When I pray every night, I feel like I’m just talking to the ceiling.

He also said something about showing her it increases my happiness, but it DOESN’T! I hate church. Sunday School is better because we do fun stuff, and I like Vacation Bible School in the summer. But most of the church events are boring, the services are worse, and the songs are dumb. And you know what? My parents are all about being Christians, and I don’t think they’re happy at all! I don’t know if Jason Hanson is a Christian or not but he doesn’t go to church and every time I’ve met him he’s seemed like a really cheerful guy. Julie’s really bouncy and fun, too. She’s probably happier than I am, so how am I supposed to show her that being a Christian will make her happy?

Of course, there’s the Hell thing. If you’re not a Christian, you go to Hell. For some reason that’s not bothering me so much. And it should, right?

I mean, if Julie doesn’t get saved we don’t get to spend eternity together in Heaven, and she has to be punished in Hell. That should be terrifying to me, but it’s not. Maybe… I don’t know.

I’m having a hard time even thinking about Heaven and Hell as real places all of a sudden. Like, when I picture them in my head it’s like something off Cartoon Network.

I need to stop thinking about this. This is taking me someplace really scary, and I don’t like it. I’m going to sleep now, and tomorrow I’m just going to go to Julie’s house and have fun with my new friend. If I see a chance to talk about God and the Bible maybe I’ll try it, but I’m not going to stress if it doesn’t happen.

Continue on to Chapter 2

15 Comments on Pages from a Diary – Chapter 1

  1. Tim says:

    Good intro.
    Looking forward to part 2.

  2. z says:

    Interesting start. I do like the twist of god being put in there. I was brought up Catholic, but my mom had a best friend that she walked out on once and he, unfortunately, committed suicide because his family disowned him as well and since then my mom has looked at how she views people and knows the consequences of her actions and opinions. She has a friend who was in a relationship with a man for years and even has a cute daughter, but she now come out to us and we all support her. It took her 15 years to admit it to herself before she could to anyone else. That’s why I don’t have a bible by my bed, but I do read it from time to time because the churches I’ve gone to and some of the churches down south have very conservative and close-minded people who say you’re a sinner if you even think about having an “affair” if you’re not married. Some take it even to a more extreme when they say “being gay is a sin”. You know how I react to those people when they say something like that nowadays after one of my closest friends came out to me? I always say, “okay, that’s your opinion and that’s fine, but god put people here for a reason and that includes the LGBTQ+ community.” they just don’t care and keep on preaching false things. In my eyes, I believe God gave us all a soul and a meaning to live; whether we’re gay, lesbian, or straight it shouldn’t matter because we all start life out the same and life ends the same for us all, some die young, while others die of being old, some are killed, some die from car accidents. It annoys me when a person who believes every word of the bible and then takes some things out of context like the one quote supposedly talking about gays being “an abomination” really? That could’ve been said about anyone or anything. Why does that have to be directed about gays, plus back during Jesus’s times and even after his death when the bible was first written there weren’t any known facts on homosexuality, or what a homosexual was, although I bet it was more common than bible thumpers believe. I say let’s just try to get along and love one another because we’re all going to be gone soon enough. Homosexuals are people too. Sorry to sound a little preachy it just aggravates me when people out south think every little thing is a “sin” in gods eyes, well there is no such thing as someone wanting to be homosexual just like many, like me, can’t help being straight. Come on, it’s 2018. Get with the rest of society.

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      I hear you… we are at an awkward stage in history. Non-hetero sexual practices are becoming accepted and open, yet a huge percentage of the population is still hung up the abrahamic religions which tend to be pretty rigid on the subject of sex. Now to be fair I can’t fault a religious person for adhering to the tenets of their holy books; if you don’t do that then what’s the point? We live in a society that is still largely christian, and the christian bible has some very explicit things to say about homosexuality. No getting around it, and so long as the abrahamic religions predominate in western culture, this conflict is going to persist.

      • Lily says:

        Catholic here. As Fancis said recently to a gay man, “God made you like this. God loves you like this. The Pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry what people say.”

  3. kim says:

    I like Mallory. Great beginning and looking forward to the next chapter. Good real feel to it.

  4. Tim says:

    Is there a chapter 2? I couldn’t find it, even though there are said to be 6 chapters

  5. sam says:

    Great story, I love the little charatisations that go with the narrative. The child like understanding of adult concepts. Really well written I enjoyed reading the whole chapter and imagining the potential of the sleep over. Looking forward to the next chapter. As usual well edited.

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      Glad you enjoyed it; the aspect you mentioned has been the toughest part! I wanted it to read as if it could come from the pen of a precocious and intelligent ten year old, but I did not want it to sound childishly written. It’s a tough balance.

  6. Moses says:

    Love the careful character development! A burgeoning relationship against the backdrop of churchies. Great job and looking forward to reading more of your work.

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      Thanks! I was worried that I was overdoing the character development, and people would find it boring. Glad to hear that it’s appreciated.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Don’t apologize, Rachael. This is a wonderful effort. I, too, am enjoying the time you spend developing the characters and the situations. I’m sure everything will play a part in the narrative at the proper time. You definitely have the voice of the various characters down. Excellent!

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      Glad you’re enjoying it, Cheryl. I’ve enjoyed reading your stories, so your good opinion means a lot to me. Thanks!

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