When Friday night came, I put on my best skirt and brushed and curled my hair. Mum then dropped me off at the hall where the youth group was held and kissed me goodbye as I hopped out of the car.
‘Have fun, Molly. I will pick you up at eight,’ she called behind me. I waved my hand without turning around as I walked toward the old brick building that stood next to the chapel of the church. When I saw a group of kids sitting around the front steps of the hall I suddenly felt really nervous and started to wish I hadn’t dressed so differently from everyone else. I didn’t know any of them and they just stared at me as I walked toward the group.
‘Hi, I was looking for Debbie Long,’ I said, trying to sound brave and confident but hearing the shaky softness of my own voice and wishing I was stronger.
‘She’s inside.’ One of the kids pointed inside the doorway, so I said ‘thanks’ and walked between them to go inside.
The hall was a rectangle with wooden floorboards and a stage at one end. There was a picture of the queen on one wall and the other wall was covered in posters that some of the kids must have made. There was a group of about a dozen teenagers sitting around in a circle and holding hands. Their heads were bowed and one of them was saying a prayer. I stood there awkwardly and waited for them to finish.
Debbie noticed me when she lifted her head and came bounding over to take my hand.
‘Come and meet the gang,’ she said brightly. I followed her nervously, feeling out of place and wishing I had never come. ‘This is Molly everyone, she’s coming to join us. She sings and writes poetry.’ I felt myself blushing from embarrassment. I should have expected something like that from Debbie but I thought she might be gentler for my first time.
‘Molly, I want you to meet everyone. You know Rose, of course, and this is Bruce, and Anne…’
Debbie went around the group and introduced me to everyone. Each one of them stood up and said ‘hello’ until there was only one guy left sitting on the ground. I hadn’t noticed him at first because I was so nervous, but now I saw that he had short sandy hair and looked a little shy. ‘… and this is Andrew. Andrew, this is the Molly I have been telling you about.’
Andrew stood up and I realised he was much taller than I had thought. He made me feel even shorter than usual as he reached out his hand. As our fingers met, I half expected him to kiss my hand like David had done, but instead he shook it gently but firmly. His skin was cool against my hot fingers, and I looked up into the most dazzling blue eyes I had ever seen. They were so hypnotic that I found myself staring into them for longer than I should have. Suddenly Andrew smiled and my heart started racing. ‘I’m really pleased to meet you, Molly. Debbie has told me so much about you, and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy being part of our group.’ I gave a little smile back, but I was too flustered to say anything. His voice was as gentle and smooth as his hand, and I realised that he wasn’t shy at all, just… I searched for the right word, confident? Controlled? Or something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He let go of my hand and I stood there awkwardly, realising everyone had been watching us.
Debbie suddenly put her arm around me. ‘Come and sit, we were just about to do some singing.’
I sat on the floor between Debbie and Rose. The rest of the group spread around us in a circle. Andrew was sitting directly opposite me and he picked up a guitar and started strumming for a few moments. Then he lifted his head and looked straight at me as he sang. All the others joined in after the first verse, but I didn’t know the song so I just sat there with my eyes hypnotised by Andrew’s gaze.
When the song finished, Andrew held the guitar up. ‘Who else knows how to play the guitar?’
‘Molly can,’ Debbie leapt in straight away.
I felt so embarrassed that my face was burning as I tried to explain how I didn’t really know how to play properly, but Andrew stood up and brought the guitar over to me.
‘Whatever you do, it will be beautiful,’ he said.
I sat with my legs crossed and placed the guitar on my lap. I tried to remember how Shawn’s song went and I tentatively strummed a chord. It sounded okay, so I strummed a few more times and tried to find the rhythm. I was too embarrassed to look up, so I kept my head down and looked at the guitar and tried to pretend that I knew what I was doing. Then the words came to me and I opened my mouth to sing, ‘Can you imagine anything…’
My voice sounded hollow and thin in my ears and my fingers stumbled a few times, but I managed to get through the song and then looked up. Everyone in the group was staring at me. Some had their mouths open and I wished the ground would open up and swallow me. I could feel the tears coming and I was suddenly upset because I hadn’t been sad in ages and now Debbie had embarrassed me in front of all her friends. I was about to put the guitar down and run out of the hall, when Andrew leant over to take it from my hands.
‘That was so beautiful,’ he said kindly. Suddenly everyone started clapping and talking all at once and I couldn’t believe that they had actually enjoyed what they’d heard. I thought they were just being nice, but they made it believable and I started to smile as the tears went away.