Maybe moving to the city would be terrible, but I preferred to think of it as a chance to start over. A chance to get away from the small town where I’d grown up. Where everything had fallen apart.
The first thing I noticed as my family entered the city was the enormous red bridge we crossed. My brother closed his eyes. At age ten, I thought he was too old to be afraid of heights, but there was no way to convince him of this fact.
Once we pulled up to our new apartment, my enthusiasm began to wane.
This place was small and dingy, nothing like our old home in the country. Our neighbors, so to speak, were a hardware store and an empty lot filled with trash.
Nevertheless, I reminded myself that anything would be better than the place where my father had died.
We entered the dingy little living room, with its faded shag carpeting and uncurtained windows, and began to unpack our boxes and bags. I found my piccolo and held it up triumphantly; my mother gave me a strange, sad look.
“Anne…I should have told you sooner,” she murmured. “I didn’t want to worry you.”
I stared at her, unnerved. She was usually straightforward, direct. If she had put off saying something, it couldn’t be good. “What is it?” I asked.
She sighed and averted her eyes. “I talked to the principal of your new school,” she told me. “They don’t have a music program.” Looking at my brother, she added, “Or any art classes.”
I sat down hard on an empty carton. Music was my life, and my brother was constantly drawing or painting. “That’s—that’s okay,” I realized after a moment. “We don’t need fancy classes to be creative.”
She shook her head. “The other residents of this apartment wouldn’t appreciate your practicing, and we don’t have room for any art projects.”
My brother cried and argued, but I just sat there. I was horrified, of course, but I didn’t want to cause my mother any more stress, after what had happened over the last few months.
The first day at my new school dawned a week later. I boarded the city bus— there was no transportation specifically for students—at seven o’clock in the morning. Glancing around, I kept expecting to be mugged, or at least leered at. But everyone seemed too drained and sad to notice me at all.
I got off the bus half an hour later. The school was made of red bricks. This would have been charming if not for the cement yard around it, and the glazed eyes of everyone going in. As it was, the building itself seemed to sag in defeat.
“Be positive,” I whispered to myself. Then, I started up the dull grey steps.
When I got my schedule from the main office, a man I assumed to be the principal was talking loudly on the phone: “Yes…no…of course we don’t have a pest problem!”
At that moment, a cockroach scurried across the floor. I shuddered.
My day was otherwise uneventful. I made no friends and no enemies. The classes were dreary. Finally, the last bell rang. Freedom!
As I got used to the city over the next few weeks, my mother began to trust me more, letting me go shopping once a week as long as I kept our budget in mind. One day, I decided to go to the secondhand store on Main Street, a rustic place that was, to my surprise, neater and more welcoming than the rest of the city.
What to buy? I glanced at the musical instruments, but turned away quickly.
A dainty ceramic statue of a ballerina caught my eye, but I knew that my rambunctious brother would end up breaking it.
With no other options, I wandered towards the book section. Trashy romance novels, cheesy sci-fi from the fifties, a cookbook titled 1000 Recipes for Jell-O…in short, nothing interesting.
I turned to leave, but something held me back. I needed to look one more time.
An old, thick book with a black cover lay to the side of the pile. I turned it over to read the gold writing.
My father had been Christian, but now that he was gone, we’d stopped going to church. This Bible was an uncomfortable reminder of that.
I shrugged. There was nothing better to read, I decided as I bought the book.
Between homework and chores, I didn’t have time to read until late Sunday afternoon. As I took the Bible off my shelf, I felt inexplicably excited. Like my life was going to change—for the better.
Of course, that had also been my thought when we moved, and look where it got me.
I opened to the first page and began to read. At first, the language was nearly incomprehensible, but eventually I began to read faster and faster. And then I came to the New Testament.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light.
Verse upon verse that I never really cared about before—they all meant something extraordinary. Tears filled my eyes.
I stayed up until three in the morning, until I had finished the whole Bible.
I wanted to be part of God’s Kingdom, and I told Him so. I whispered that I repented of my sins, and that I believed in Jesus’s sacrifice.
Peace washed over me. All would be well.
The next few days passed in a blur. I was reeling from my decision. This didn’t change my family’s circumstances, but when I found myself becoming bitter, I now knew I could pray about it.
I went back to the thrift store one day and found a collection of hymns— church songs. An idea hit me like a ton of bricks, and on impulse, I bought the songbook, ran home, grabbed my piccolo from the top shelf, and headed towards the bridge.
Could I do this? I was good at reading music, but I didn’t know a single one of the songs—and there was safety to worry about, as well.
I shrugged off these concerns as I stood away from the traffic. Opening the book to a random page, I studied the notes for a moment, and then began to play a song called Amazing Grace.
A blue Toyota pulled up, slowed, and stopped. A twinge of apprehension gripped me, but I kept playing.
God, protect me, I thought.
A man got out of the car. His shoulders were stooped, and he moved slowly to the edge of the bridge.
I played louder, hoping to scare him off. Instead, he straightened slightly and turned to me.
What was he going to do? The song ended. He was right in front of me now.
I was prepared to fight—but I quickly noticed that there were tears in the man’s eyes as he said five words: “Thank you. And thank God.”
Finding my voice, I asked, “What do you mean, sir?”
He wiped his face. “I was going to jump off this bridge,” he said. “Join my wife, so to speak. But your song reminded me of—of Who made me. I don’t think He’s ready to see me just yet. Tell me, what’s your phone number? I need to talk to your parents about what a Godly daughter they have.”
I hesitated, and said a quick prayer in my mind. No alarms went off, so I told the man, who thanked me again. We went our separate ways, and I had nearly forgotten about it until I got home.
My mother was on the phone. “We’re not Christians,” she said. “You have the wrong number. Goodbye.”
She hung up and rounded on me. I had to endure an hour-long lecture on two subjects: stranger danger and the so-called foolishness of religion. This ended with me being grounded. By the time my mother had finished, I was boiling with rage.
“I understand that you were afraid for me,” I said in a carefully controlled tone. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you where I was. But God is real, and if you’re going to punish me for knowing that, then you’re the fool.” I snapped my mouth shut.
What had I done? I knew I’d crossed the line there, no matter how wrong her beliefs
were. Without a word, I left the house. My hands were shaking and my face was red.
I wandered the streets for half an hour, my heart breaking. I’d had to choose between my earthly home and my eternal one. I knew that ‘only a fool said there was no God’…but the Bible also said to ‘obey your parents’.
I sat down on a stoop and put my head in my hands.
“Excuse me, miss?”
I looked up to see the sad man from earlier, now clean-shaven and standing a bit straighter. “You helped me, remember? Is there anything I can do to return the favor?’
The whole story came pouring out of me in a rush. When I finally stopped talking, he muttered something that sounded like a Bible verse. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a word with your mother,” he told me. I nodded and led the way to our apartment.
He rang the doorbell. My mother opened the door, looking haggard. I felt a twinge of guilt. She’d said some bad things, but I hadn’t meant to worry her like this.
“I’m the man whom your daughter—and God—saved from suicide,” the man said bluntly. “She told me that you’ve given up on the Lord.”
A flash of anger crossed her face. “If there was a God, he wouldn’t have taken my husband,” she hissed. “I suggest you leave before I call the police.”
He smiled. “First off, I’m not technically inside your house,” he said, gesturing to the doorstep under his feet. “Second, I felt the same way, after I lost my wife. God can fix things. I used to be a pastor; I can tell you about God, if you want me to.”
She hesitated, looking at me. Do it, I mouthed. Almost imperceptibly, she nodded before stepping aside, allowing the man into the building.
I stayed out of the way as the two adults talked. After what I’d said and done, I knew my mother would react better if I were to lay low.
At eleven PM, she called me into the kitchen. “I accepted God,” she said, looking meaningfully at my brother. I hadn’t even noticed he was there.
“So did I,” he said.
I rushed over and hugged them both. “Lay off,” my brother muttered, but I could tell he was happy.
After a week, we found a church with a Biblical basis on the outskirts of the city. We settled into our new life. Then, things changed again.
The man, whose name turned out to be James Callahan, had been visiting us a lot. I could guess what was coming when he and my mother entered the apartment together with identical giddy grins on their faces.
“We’re getting married,” she said, while James nodded in the background.
I can’t say I was unhappy—James was a Godly, wonderful man, and my mother deserved love. But…what about Dad?
“I know I won’t be able to replace your father,” James said gently. “I do, however, want to give you a nice place to live. A place where you can sing, and play music, and paint.” Seeing our surprised looks, he said, “Your mother told me about your problems with this place. Once the wedding is over, in a couple months, we’ll be moving to my house in the country.”
It’s been a year. I still miss Dad, and it was awkward at first, having a new stepfather. But, with God’s help, we got through it. That’s all I could ever ask for.
A bridge. A ballad. A Bible. Anne thinks her life is over when she and what's left of her family have to move from their spacious country home to a cramped apartment in the city. The neighbors don't like her to play music; the local school is infested with cockroaches; and worst of all, her father is gone forever. Only the Lord can help the family now, but they've drifted far from Him. Then a find in an old thrift shop changes everything...