In the middle of the quad area adjacent to the locker halls, Nick sat on a bench facing the endless rows of student lockers. The time was 7:56 in the morning, and school would not commence for another twenty-five minutes. With the passing of each minute new students arrived, and the school populace increased in size with every bus unloading. In the locker area directly in front of the bench where Nick sat, several students would pass at random, some of them pausing at a locker to obtain their textbook for first period.
The eyes of Nick were fixed on one locker in particular, and his attention had been attached to it since he first sat down. Inside this locker was a folded sheet of paper, one that he had placed there by sliding it through a narrow crevice on one side of the locker door. It was not his own locker, and he did not know the combination for the lock.
By now, he had been sitting for nearly ten minutes, never shifting from his seat. He searched the moving crowd of students with his eyes, and at last saw someone approaching the locker. Upon reaching the locker, the girl placed her backpack on the ground, and then proceeded to open the locker. When she had done so, she exhibited an expression of minor surprise when she saw a mysterious paper lying on her textbook. Nick could not observe her face, for her back was turned to him. She lifted the paper, unfolded it, and took a few seconds to read its contents. Just thereafter, she raised the palm of her hand to her mouth, released a light gasp, and smiled.
From behind, Nick saw she had read the note, and consequently he got up from his seat and walked toward her. As he came closer from behind, the girl was looking around her, obviously anticipating the writer of that paper to emerge from the crowd of students.
The person who emerged was Nick. She turned around and presently saw him. He had his arms spread, and inquired, “So, do you like the poem?”
“Oh, Nick, its beautiful,” the girl declared. Nick smiled wide, and came to her, where they then hugged–just at the ringing of the bell.
The advent of spring was a delight to the community and to the school, where the flower beds hosted a profusion of colorful, full-grown flowers. Even an unspectacular high school campus was beautified by the illuminating presence of spring vegetation. The scenery burst with blossoming flowers, just as the affection between Nick and Lauren blossomed after their official declaration as boyfriend and girlfriend.
It all began when the school play hosted auditions. Both Nick and Lauren successfully auditioned for the play and obtained roles in the cast. Not only this, but they were cast as the spouses in the play. It was in the play that Nick met Lauren–it was there that the friendship began developing steadily. It ultimately resulted in Nick writing a poem for her.
A couple of times, they had gone out on a date for dinner, and had even seen a couple of movies in the theater. One would even go to the other’s house to assist with homework and a few other things. Indeed, both of them felt immersed in happiness with their newfound friendship.
They had plans to do other things. One day, while eating out on the grass lawn, Lauren had thought of a suggestion for something the both of them could do.
“I know what we can do this weekend, at least on Sunday,” Lauren began. “Would you like to go to church with me? We haven’t done that yet.”
Just as Nick received this suggestion, he suddenly felt odd inside. Although it had not been an issue at all, Nick was a nonbeliever, and Lauren a Christian. It was not an issue partly because Nick had never revealed that he was nonreligious to Lauren. He had deliberately kept it secret to preserve their newfound relationship. He feared that Lauren would sourly receive knowledge of his disbelief. Lauren’s religiousness was apparent to him when he saw a religious sticker on her car. But he didn’t care. All he cared was that he liked her. Religion was irrelevant.
One thing was for sure: he did not want to risk displeasure between them. After she asked him about church, he replied, “Yes, Ill go with you.” She smiled upon hearing this. Nick felt odd about going to church. It felt odd to go to a place where everyone around him would be involved in religious worship and related activity. He had a few times before been to a church, where he felt uncomfortable. Everyone around him would sing and raise their hands in worship, and he felt pressured to do the same. Not doing so would make him stand out and thus he would be embarrassed.
“What church do you go to, anyway?” she soon asked.
Nick felt worse. He wasn’t going to lie to her, yet he had no confidence in a truthful answer.
“Well, I'” he thought for a second. “I don’t really attend church.”
“You don’t?” she responded, with some amazement. “Are you religious?”
“No, not really,” he stated. The conversation was painful to him, as he was unsure of what damage this revelation would have on their steady friendship. However, he refused to lie.
“Oh. I see,” she said softly. Nick quickly studied her expression. He perceived her as feeling not angry, but perhaps a little surprised, perhaps a bit shocked.
“Why aren’t you religious?” she asked additionally. “You don’t believe in God?”
“No. Its just’its just that I don’t believe it,” he said. “I sorry.”
“No, its all right,” she replied quickly. “I still like you,” she said with a smile.
Nick smiled in return, and was happy that her reaction was soft-hearted rather than scornful, as some other theists had been in the past.
“So, what are you doing Saturday night?” he asked, intentionally changing the subject. As they continued with this new discussion, they resumed their eating.
On the evening of the same day, Lauren was on her bed, lying on her belly, with an English class textbook opened up below her face. Her assignment for the night was to answer questions after reading a short story contained in the textbook. She had turned another page, whereupon she heard her mother call her to come to the dinner table and eat.
After saving her spot in the book and washing her hands, she descended down the stairs from the second floor to where the dining room was located. She sat at her seat, with her mother across from her, while her father sat at the end of the table to her side.
“So, how was school today, honey?” her father asked.
“It was good,” she stated simply, and enjoyed a bite of the noodles.
“Did you ask your boyfriend if he would come to church with us?” her mother then asked.
“Yes, I did. He said he would go. But I found out something interesting. He’s an atheist.”
“Really?” her father said curiously. Her mother was just as surprised.
“An atheist?” her mother said. “Wow, I cant believe how you managed to become girlfriend to him.”
“And he said he would go to church with you, even though?” her father interposed. “That doesn’t make much sense.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Lauren said. “Hell go because he will be with me. That’s all that should matter.”
“Yes, but honey, are you sure it will work out?” he responded. “Him not believing in God is a characteristic that really stands out. Its great that you guys are happy together, but its not something you guys can really reconcile. I’ve never seen it work out where a couple is split over religion.”
“I’m not so sure you should be his girlfriend, and him your boyfriend,” her mother added. “I don’t want an atheist brainwashing you. It’s not good that he does not follow the same moral code, the same spiritual life, that you do. It just doesn’t fit.”
“Its not like he’s tried to convert me,” Lauren said. “My faith plays a big part in my life, you know that.”
“But it plays no part in his,” her mother replied. “That will not work out. I’m not very trustworthy of a person who does not recognize a being higher than himself.”
“I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with it,” Lauren declared. “I told him it was all right, but I don’t know if I feel good knowing it.”
“It is a big difference between you,” her father stated. “You will have to decide if it should be appropriate for you two to be together with this circumstance.”
The three people were finishing their meal. Lauren sat up, carried her plate to the sink, and then returned to her bedroom to finish her homework. As she resumed her work, she pondered whether or not she and Nick should remain together. Her parents were right, it was a major difference that she was a Christian and he was not.
The next day at school, Lauren was walking down the locker halls before school. She had already obtained her needed books from her locker. She was now directing herself to where Nick’s locker was located. As she approached, she saw that he was at his locker. He pulled out a binder from his backpack and placed it in his open locker.
“Oh, hello!” he said when she saw her come to him.
“Nick’I’m sorry, but I don’t think we should really be together.”
Nick was taken aback from this unexpected statement from her. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“It just doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem right that we hold different beliefs.”
“Why not?” he responded. “All that matters is that we like each other. It does not disturb me that you are a Christian. You are still a nice girl. That has always been the case.”
“Are you going to believe in God?” she asked.
Nick felt torn between reason and emotion. For a long time, he had been an explicit atheist, having clearly formulated reasons for rejecting gods and religion. Now, this rejection seemed to get in the way of his new relationship with Lauren. “No’I do not believe in God. But why should that matter?”
She paused before speaking. “I’m sorry’but it is a big difference between us, whether you realize it or not. I just don’t feel comfortable with us being so different with our beliefs. I think it would be better if we were just friends.”
“No,” Nick said. “That’s not necessary! You can still attend church and do all that. It didn’t matter until yesterday, why should it matter now?”
“It just doesn’t feel right. We are spiritual opposites,” she stated somberly. “I want to go now. Ill see you later.”
She put her hand back on her backpack strap and proceeded beyond him. Nick felt a mix of surprise and sadness. Oh, how he liked her, right from when they first met in the school play! Oh, how he had poured his feelings onto a sheet of paper in the form of a poem to make her happy! Oh, how he wished this difference never existed, nor that it should ever matter!
Nick placed another folder in his locker, shut it, then sunk his head up to the locker, his left arm above his head.