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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Two Straws or One

My mirror told me I was a pretty girl, in spite of my painful braces and pair of glasses. I had long, brunette hair that served me well as a hairstyling hobby. As a freshman at Clearwater Christian College, I was eager for new friends to bond with . . . maybe even a boyfriend.

As Darren strutted into the campus cafe, the first words out of his mouth were, “Sharon Rose Edgerton!” And he sat down on a stool next to me at the counter.

Darren had the darkest eyes you’ve ever seen, and a skin tone that had always been tan.  He didn’t have dimples, but when he smiled, I felt like he was giving me a gift.

Now, young men who could speak English were scarce where I came from, so I was glowing with his attention.

I remember Darren asking me, “Can you speak Japanese?”

“Yes, I’m good enough at it,” I told him.

He asked, “ Can you carry on a conversation, like we’re having right now?”

“Yes,” I said. Then I mentioned my best friend Mary.  “She’s a missionary kid, too,” I said.

“You must miss her,” Darren stated. I noticed how good he looked in that bright blue dress shirt. Bright blue might be my next favorite color. Hmm.

“Yes,” I replied, “But our parents are really good about getting us together whenever possible.”

Then it was my turn to ask questions. “How about you?  Do you speak any foreign languages?”

Darren frowned and looked away from me.

“Have you been to any other countries?” I persisted.

“When I was little, I went to Mexico with my dad,” he said.

“Ever go on missions trips?”

He responed with more frowns, and then turned to the cafe worker and asked, “Can I get a cookies n cream milkshake?”

“Sure.”  The guy mixed up a milkshake, put the lid on the cup, and said in a low voice, “Do you want two straws with that?”

“Not this early in the relationship,” replied Darren, in a stage whisper. “But you could pour it into two cups. Can’t get through the day without chocolate!  So I thanked him and devoured my share of the shake.

On Friday, I stopped in at my friend’s dorm room.  “Hi, Sharon Rose!” said Jess Lynn. “Come on in. We have some spare time before our next class.”

I brought up the person who was on my mind. “Do you know Darren Everest?” I asked. “He talked with me the other night in the cafe.”

“Yeah, I went to high school with Darren, up in Pennsylvania,” said Jess Lynn.


“Yeah.  His parents are missionaries to Ukraine.”
“Wait. Are you sure he’s a missionary kid?”
“Yes. He went to my school for tenth grade, spent eleventh grade in Ukraine, and came back and graduated with my class,” said Jess Lynn.

At first, I was delighted.  No wonder we had hit it off so well.  Darren could understand me because he had faced similar experiences!  But at the same time, I was mystified.

“I specifically asked him, ‘Have you been to any other countries?’ And he wouldn’t answer!”

Jess Lynn offered no explanation. “I guess you’ll have to ask him about it.”

Later, on our ride home, I told my mom what I had learned. “He was downright deceitful, Mom!  He knew I was an MK, but he wouldn’t tell me that he was.  Why would he keep that a secret?”

“I don’t know, honey.”

 “How am I going to tell Darren that I found out?”

“I don’t know, Sharon Rose,” Mom repeated. “I’m sorry he didn’t tell you he had been to Ukraine.  You looked so cute when I came into the cafe and saw you with Darren.  You had your head propped on your hands, turned his direction, with your ponytail over your shoulder.  I can’t figure Darrenout,” Mom concluded.

She and I were awake most of the night, puzzling about Darren Everest, and we finally decided to go for an early-morning walk. 
We stopped in at a restaurant for breakfast.  As soon as we were seated, Mom put her head in her hands and said, “Sharon Rose, these boys are taking forever to grow up!  You’ve been a teenager for so many years now . . . and I’m so tired of waiting!”

A waitress hurried up and said, “I’m sorry, I got here as fast as I could.”

I did let Darren know I knew. I wrote him a letter, which he acknowledged, and he no longer hid his MK status from me. Now at least, I knew for sure.

Many things happened as the days moved on. Acting in The Sound of Music was what I loved best about my first semester in college.  I had done a lot of acting in Japan, learning my lines in Japanese.  This play seemed to connect me with my past.

I knew that Darren didn’t want me around, but I shamelessly chased him. After all, I was only 18, and immature in many ways.  To me, Darren Everest was mysterious and fascinating. 

All this time, I had been confiding in Jess Lynn. “He’s got a big ego,” she told me.

I wanted to know why she said that.

“In high school, he was always talking about Ukraine and what he had done there, and kids made fun of him because of that.”

So Darren used to be an MK who bragged.  Then, attempting to balance out, he had gone to the other extreme, refusing to talk about Ukraine at all.  Didn’t that prove that he was trying not to have a big ego?  I wasn’t sure.

My parents took my problems to my Bible professor, and he summoned Darren to his office.  I waited outside.

When our professor called me in, I got an apology from Darren for “coming on” to me.  We also talked about my loneliness, and how I needed to pray and wait for friendships. Darren looked gorgeous, even while wearing orange – a color I normally hate.

My jaw dropped and my eyebrows shot up when Darren gave me another peek into his MK experience. He described his emotions during the time he left his home in the Ukraine for Pennsylvania. “I used to cry every night,” he said. “I missed my home and my friends, and I got picked on in high school for talking about the Ukraine. That’s why I don’t like to talk about it anymore. I’d rather keep my mouth shut and fit in.”

“You used to cry every night?” I repeated, in shock. “I cried every morning, because I didn’t want to wake up in Pennsylvania, instead of in Japan. And I’m still crying now!”

But I was comforted.  The Bible professor insisted that I promise not to send Darren any more letters or give him any telephone calls.  We were to be casual friends only.  So I agreed.

“Okay,” I said. “I understand better now. Thank you for your kindness, Darren – truly.” 

The best thing about my friendship with Darren may have been this poem I wrote about him – or rather, about an exaggerated version of him! These are new words to the song the nuns sing about Maria in The Sound of the Music.
When I’m with him, I feel stressed.
He’s my focus; I’m obsessed.
He can send me into dithers of delight.
With an ego that’s so huge,
He’s a guy I’d hate to lose.
He’s a cute one, he’s a hot one, hold him tight!
He’ll politely tell you lies.
You’ll get lost in his dark eyes.
He’s a heartthrob!  He’s addictive!  He’s a man!

How do you solve a problem like Darren?
How do you grab his shirt and pin him down?
How do you find a word describing Darren?
A player, a flirt, a king (of hearts).
Many a thing you’d love to hear him tell you
Many a thing you try to understand.
But how do you catch his eye?
Without him you know you’ll cry!
How can one guy be so much in demand?
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Darren?
How do you let him know you think he’s grand?

The following year, guess who I saw in the office hallway when I went to pay my tuition? Darren Everest – in a lime green shirt. He greeted me, saying, “You look different now, Sharon Rose, with your braces and glasses gone.”

I glanced away, then met Darren’s deep brown eyes head-on. I paused, and replied sincerely, “I hope I am different.”


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