All right, so our main character’s name is Marcy. It’s short for Marcella, but not a whole lot of people know that. It’s kind of a special thing that only her parents call her when they are talking really seriously about something.
Her parent’s names are John and Helen.
John is a pastor, and at the time I start this story, he just left for some kind of conference. I’m not sure if he’s speaking or attending, all I know is that he meets someone there. But I’m not going to tell you about that yet.
Helen runs a small business from home, making jewelry and selling it online. She loves her work but claims to be a little swamped right now. That’s why she invited Marcy back home for the weekend: to help her catch up on some orders.
When Marcy got there, though, Helen had a super devious look on her face. She showed her daughter two tickets to a singing competition that was being hosted in their city. Marcy protested, saying that the only end product of such an event would be a headache. Helen won out, though, as she knew she would, and made Marcy change into a cute outfit before they left.
This particular day was the second round of the competition. This was to Marcy’s advantage, as it meant that all the really bad singers were already weeded out. Oh, and I forgot to tell you that this was an all male competition. Helen had specifically chosen this one because she wants her daughter to get married already.
That’s an interesting thing about Marcy that I should probably tell you too. She has no aversion to marriage, in fact she really wants a family of her own, but she’s just never loved anyone before. Whether or not that’s true at the end of the story I’ll let you find out.
The singers were pretty good. Helen and Marcy whispered almost the whole time, but I am happy to say that they did so quietly and did not disturb the people around them.
Here comes one of my favourite parts of the story. All the lights were shut off except for one at the back of the stage. When the contestant walked out, he was only visible in silhouette. Seriously, even if I was making this up, I could not have made it cooler.
He started off his song in a whisper. It sounded gentle and soft, and Marcy wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Christian lyrics were promising, but to be whispered?
Then the song built, and his voice built with it. It sounded amazing. If you listen to the Shane and Shane version, it sounded kind of like that.
When he the second verse, the lights gradually brightened. Murmuring began as his features were illumined: one eye and ear were higher than the other, his nose was twisted to the side, but his mouth was perfect. He got to the climax of the verse, but it didn’t hold as much power as the first time.
Then he started in on the chorus. The audience didn’t even know what hit them. His face, even though the better viewers didn’t mean to judge, was forgotten in his passionate tones.
The music faded away at the end of the song, leaving only the raw power of voice giving the final benediction of “Hallelujah”.
Marcy stood to her feet and clapped. The rest of the audience joined her, applauding in raucous approval. Even if they had not been able to appreciate the lyrics like a Christian could, they understood one thing: this guy could sing.
He was pretty modest, just bowed and walked away from his standing ovation. I felt kinda bad for the next guy, who looked shallow and artificial as a runner up. To be honest, though, he wasn’t that good. Instead of amazing vocals, he had a fire display while he belted out the lyrics to some overdramatic love song. He burst through a sheet of flames every time he repeated the lines “I’d be a phoenix, I’d walk through fire for you”. It was just one verse and a chorus, sliced up and reorganized, then repeated.
Another thing you should know about Marcy: her parents gave her a ring when she turned thirteen, in exchange for a promise of purity. She has kept that promise. As far as I know, she hasn’t even kissed anyone. But that’s beside the point. The ring never leaves her hand unless she’s admiring her name engraved on the inside. She twists it around her finger whenever she’s nervous, or bored, or distracted.
She was twisting it now, thinking about the guy with the deformed face. She couldn’t remember the words, but they had been amazing, she knew that much.
Anyways, the phoenix sang a new note: a really high, impressive note. It startled Marcy, and the ring slipped from her hand. She bent over to pick it up, but the lady who had been sitting next to her was now standing, and she bumped into Marcy, shoving her forwards.
Marcy protested and balanced herself back on her hands and knees. I saw the ring roll behind the leg of the chair in front of her, but she didn’t know that, and I couldn’t exactly tell her. Stupid narrator restrictions. Anyways, the lady shoved her again, yelling something.
Helen grabbed Marcy’s arm and pulled her up. She had seen what her daughter had not: a jet of flame streaking up the red curtain. I caught a glimpse of the “phoenix” running in terror. So much for his promises.
The judge tried preaching everybody into orderly lines, but no one was listening. His voice over the speakers, calmly assuring them there was no real danger, was drowned out by the frantic noise of a terrified crowd trying to get out of the auditorium all at once. Not helping the volume matter (or the traffic issue, for that matter) was Marcy, who was pulling back and shouting that she needed to get her ring. It didn’t work, of course, and only caused more hassle. Helen lost her grip on Marcy’s arm, but the surge of bodies pushed them both in the same direction.
Everyone ended up safely outside. At least a dozen people called the fire department. Marcy hid against the wall, breathing heavily after fighting her way out of the mad rush.
She looked back at the building. Fewer and fewer people were coming out of the doors now. There was no smoke coming from the windows, no fire to be seen. She pinched her finger, which felt naked without the ring. And yes, you’re pleading with her to be smarter, but you as a reader are stuck with the same rules I am as narrator. The character gets to make her own stupid decisions without our wise advice.
Marcy ducked back into the door. The fire alarms were all screaming. The ceiling sprinklers drenched her hair while she ran down the empty hallway. As it turned out, though, the floor was not even, which meant it created puddles, which naturally meant she slipped in a puddle. She grunted as her rear came in contact with the tiles. She needed to walk slower. It wasn’t like the fire was chasing her.
The door into the auditorium was closed. A cloud of smoke billowed out to greet her when she pushed on it. Maybe the fire had gotten bigger than she thought. She let the door close. Should she turn back? No. Her seat was only a couple rows in, and she had come this far. She pulled off her cardigan and tied it around the lower half of her face. She entered again.
The smoke made it difficult to see, and within a few breaths, it penetrated her makeshift mask. Her lungs rebelled and she coughed. She tried to take shallow breaths. Her eyes watered. Where was row forty-two? They had sat on the left side, oh, there was a chair. Her big toe smarted from the impact. She leaned down to peer at the number on the lean. Tears spilled down her cheeks, and she was able to see the number forty-seven. Five more rows. She felt her way along, then in between the chairs until she reached seat sixteen.
Marcy got down on her hands and knees. Breathing was a little easier here, but her gut wanted her to vomit. She swallowed the sour bile and continued feeling around on the floor. Where was that ring? She had been right here, it had to be here, she had come this far, she couldn’t stop now. She clenched her eyes shut. She shoved away the chairs that banged against her shoulders, frantically patting around. I watched as she pushed the chair that hid the ring. It bounced away from her, but she had no idea. Her only thought was that she couldn’t give up. Not now. In just a second she was sure she would feel it.
Then she pitched forwards and smacked her head.
I know, I know, you’re gonna be like, “And? What happened?” Well, that’s as much as I’m going to tell you!
Nope. I’m not quite that malicious. Is it just me, or is that word reminiscent of delicious?
Anyways. Marcy woke up in the hospital, yada yada ya, she had to have tubes up her nose and down her throat from smoke inhalation, but she got to go home in a couple days. The weird thing was, though, that the fire fighters had found her outside the building. And the weirder thing: she was wearing her ring.
Had she not actually dropped it? You and I know that she had, but she wasn’t quite so sure.
In the meantime, her dad came home from his conference. He laughed with Marcy (or rather for Marcy, since her throat was sore and laughing hurt) over Helen’s deviousness. Of course, they scolded her and told her that they would have gotten her a new ring. She could best plead temporary insanity, but if you know parents in general like I do, that plea doesn’t work too well. Marcy just had to repeat herself and say over and over that she didn’t know what she was thinking.
Recovering is long and painful, so I won’t tell you about the whole stretch. Our story continues one day when John and Helen invited Marcy over for supper.
It was to be a family supper, so they invited their son and his wife too. When Marcy got there, though, everyone was grinning at her. She demanded to know why. As it turned out, John was adopting Helen’s match making skills. He had invited a new friend to supper.
Marcy protested, but her father insisted that he was a godly young man and he deserved a chance. She grudgingly accepted the idea. After all, who knew what could happen?
The doorbell rang, and John went to receive his guest. He walked him back into the room and announced his name: Samuel.
Marcy at least tried to shut her mouth. Helen didn’t bother. It was guy with the deformed face who had blown everyone away with his song.
“You were in the singing competition!”
Aah. I love using dialogue, but I can’t use too much; this story is already getting too long.
Samuel ducked his head, smiled, and admitted it. John was astonished, and the competition was an excellent icebreaker during the supper. Marcy stayed quiet and embarrassed while her mom related her crazy trip back into the burning building.
“You risked your life… for a ring?”
“Well, I didn’t mean to risk my life. I thought it was just a little fire. It was stupid, I know.”
It would be polite to disagree, but the opposite—that it had been a smart idea—was not true, so he just laughed. The conversation turned to his song. It was called “Before the Throne of God Above”. They all decided it was a beautiful song.
“Did you write it?” Marcy asked. “I’d never heard it before.”
Samuel said that though he scribbled around some, he hadn’t written this particular one.
After the dishes were taken care of, the group moved to the living room. Samuel gave due deference to the grand piano that took up one end and asked who played. Helen explained that she had taught her daughter how to play, but now Marcy was way better than she could ever hope to be. Samuel, as a good guest, pleaded that this point be proved, and Marcy, abashed, sat down at the bench and played a number she had learned for a wedding.
Sorry, yes, I know I’m using a lot of run-on sentences. I was born in the wrong century.
Marcy did a good job with her piece. She said afterwards that she preferred accompaniment rather than solo in both playing and singing. Samuel, of course, then insisted that she sing. She refused.
“I meant what I said. I’m not a good soprano, but I can sing a good alto or tenor.”
Helen stated the obvious. “Samuel, you can sing, and Marcy, you can play piano and sing whatever you want.”
They both agreed; a little hesitantly, but only from shyness. Really, they both wanted to see what it would sound like. A hymn they both knew well was decided upon. They sang.
Everyone was astounded, even themselves. They discussed little things they could tweak and tried it again. Both were sporting wide smiles as they reached the end of the song the second time.
Now, if you know a little music, you’re thinking that this is super unrealistic and it doesn’t work like that. If this hit the nail on the head, then you don’t know it well enough. Or you don’t know hymns.
Marcy’s brother and his wife left early in the evening. She had recently found out that she was pregnant, and the sacred duty was tiring her out. John and Helen stayed in the room for a bit longer, then left the pair to themselves.
It was past nine o’clock when Marcy and Samuel realized they were alone. They found out by asking, “How was that?” and not getting a response. It was an awkward moment, and Marcy blushed. She knew what her parents were up to. She peeked up at Samuel, who didn’t seem to know quite where to look.
“Um, did you want some dessert? Mom must have forgotten about it.”
“No, it’s all right. I should be heading home. I’ve got work tomorrow.”
“Oh? Where do you work?”
And you know how conversations with new lovers go. They can talk for hours; especially when both are mature adults: they each know that something is happening, caution sets in, but they tentatively step forward anyway into this new world.
When they realized again that more time had passed, she got up from the piano stool and seen him to the door.
“Please, thank your dad for inviting me. I had a good time tonight.”
“I will, and I did too.”
They stood still for a bit. Samuel didn’t want to leave, and Marcy didn’t want him to go. Finally he broke the moment and started walking towards his car.
“See you later, Marcella.”
Yes, you heard that right.
“Wait—Samuel—how do you know my name?”
“Oh. I—I didn’t mean to—oh.” He turned back to her, massaging around his lower eye. “How do I explain this.”
“My dad usually refers to me as Marcy.”
“Then how do you know my name?”
“I—I saw your ring.”
“You—” She clicked. “You got me out of the building. After I passed out.”
He nodded, a little deflated. She thanked him profusely, but he seemed to get colder and edged towards his car. Finally she stopped.
“What’s the matter?”
He stared her straight in the eyes. “I don’t want a whole Quasimodo-Esmerelda complex.”
“At least there’s no Captain Phoebus in this retelling. Or any Claude Frollo, that I know of anyway.”
Her attempt at play didn’t work.
“I didn’t want you to know. I didn’t mean to say your name until I learned it elsewhere. I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry? I don’t get it.”
“I don’t want you to feel indebted to me!”
“Yeah. Sorry for messing up the evening.”
“If it’s any consolation, I think I started to like you before you said that.”
Yes, Marcy did just say that. She also couldn’t believe her own ears, but somehow it felt right, so she rolled with it.
“Well, I didn’t like you very much when you were breathing smoke, but I think I started to like you tonight.”
She smiled, and he smiled back.
“Perhaps we could sing together again, Samuel?”
“I would like that. Until then, adieu, Marcella.”
Yeah... I know, romantic goosebumps all around! By the way, I'm sorry if I was a little overkill; I just really like being a narrator.