A Personal Drama of Shattered Dreams and Second Chances
Until the day she sees Brandy Philip running across the community college campus, easily outpacing security. Sabrina immediately recognizes world-class speed, and it’s all the more painful that it belongs to a teenage graffiti artist. When a chance encounter brings the two young women together, Sabrina becomes Brandy’s best hope for staying out of juvenile hall. Soon, Sabrina begins to feel an uncomfortable nudge that her new life is just about to be toppled…that God may be calling her to minister to this talented but troubled girl.
Author Kathryn Cushman
She is the author of five novels, including Leaving Yesterday and A Promise to Remember, which were both finalists for the Carol Award in Women’s Fiction.
She is also the co-author of Angel Song with Sheila Walsh.
Kathryn and her family currently live in Santa Barbara, California.
Websites & Links: Website
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A dozen men in ugly white outfits and weird haircuts ran barefoot along the ocean’s edge, moving faster, faster, faster, as the music swelled until it filled the entire theater. Sabrina Rice leaned forward in her seat, clutching her bag of popcorn tight to her chest. Her feet tapped against the sticky concrete floor, twitching with the urge to run alongside those men. And then she saw him. The man with his head thrown back, arms churning at his sides, and a strange sense of joy shining in his eyes. In that moment, her life made sense. In that moment, she found her hero.
It made no difference to her that this movie was over twenty years old, or that the revival theater was mostly empty, or that it would have been far more convenient to rent Chariots of Fire at the local video rental store and watch it at home—as only a few hours ago she had complained bitterly to her mother—or that she’d really wanted to go bowling with her friends today. For the next two hours, nothing existed but Sabrina and the runners on the screen, particularly Eric Liddell. And watching him, face toward the sky, drinking in God’s pleasure as he ran, that’s when she knew. With absolute certainty she knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. As she walked from the theater, she turned to her mother. “I am going to be an Olympic runner and I’m going to tell people about God, just like Eric Liddell. Maybe not China, though. I don’t think they allow that anymore.”
Mom threw back her head and laughed. It wasn’t one of those grown-up kinds of laughs that let a kid know how stupid they were. No, this was one of those “I’m so completely happy I can’t hold it in” kind of things. She reached down and scooped Sabrina into her arms and spun around in a circle. “Sounds terrific.”
Sabrina was so happy with her newfound purpose that she wasn’t really too embarrassed by her mother’s public display of affection—thankfully none of the kids from school were anywhere near this old movie theater. “Can we start training now? You want to go for a run when we get home?”
“I think that’s a grand idea.” And just like that, they became running partners.
Much to Mom’s credit, she never balked when Sabrina insisted that they go for a run every single morning, rain or shine. It didn’t seem to matter that Sabrina was only twelve years old and according to most grown-ups, “couldn’t possibly be serious about what she’s going to do with her life.” Even long after the point that Mom had to ride a bike to keep up, she was always there and ready.
Every single day.
At five in the morning.
Rain or shine.
For the next six years.
He seemed to find this amusing, because he grinned, then finally leaned back against his chair. “How’d you do on that psychology exam?” He had a dimple in his left cheek.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it.” She took a sip of her decaf Earl Grey. “How about you?”
“Well, let’s just say—” he unleashed another grin—“I think I could use a study buddy for the next one. You know anyone who might be willing to help me?”
“I . . . uh . . . think I might.”
He held her gaze and continued to smile. “I was hoping you’d say that, too. You’re just full of the answers I want to hear today.”
“Thanks,” she sort of squeaked, “I do my best to be helpful.” It was impossible not to smile when she looked at him.
“Well, if that’s the case, then what if I—” He turned his head slightly toward the window just over Sabrina’s shoulder. “Wow, what the . . . ?”
Sabrina turned to see what had caught his interest. A girl was racing through the middle of the campus, her legs pumping at an impressive rate. Her shoulder-length hair was bleached white in the front and dyed jet black in the back, and it whipped up and then back with each stride. She jumped down a set of four steps, landed cleanly, and picked the pace right back up, hardly missing a beat. In her left hand she held what looked to be an aerosol can.
A campus security guard rounded the building behind her. Behind her and losing ground fast. In spite of the fact that he was young and appeared to be in decent shape, by the time he reached the steps the girl had jumped over, it was more than obvious his chase was a lost cause. He stopped, doubled over with hands on knees, gasping for air and shaking his head.
“Did you see that? That girl was fast!” Koen’s voice grew louder with admiration. “I’m thinking she must have been part gazelle or something. Can you believe that?”
Sabrina looked down at the table. “No, I don’t think I can.” She started gathering her things. “I’ve got to go.”
Sabrina turned toward the television just in time to see the flash of orange jersey, as the center reached higher than his opponent and knocked the ball toward his teammate. In a flash, the men in orange worked their way down the court, passing it a few times, before the ball whipped to number 33 just outside the three-point line. He rose up for a shot and nailed it. Everyone cheered and instantly the TV went to replay, this time zooming in on the shooter as he released.
They had shared a couple of classes freshman year. Although friends might be too strong of a word, they had studied together and run in a similar circle of friends. The sight of him now, wearing the colors that were so familiar . . .
Sabrina turned her attention to the window, its metal casing even grimier than the glass, and began to concentrate on her breathing. This was the one thing that had remained useful past her running years. Breath control could get you through seemingly unendurable pain.
The room erupted into cheers. “Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.”
Sabrina didn’t look back to the TV; it wasn’t necessary. She looked at some birds perched on the electrical wire just outside the window and started counting them. One, two, three, four, one flew away but another two landed, five, six, seven, eight, but wait, had she already counted that one?
“Oh man, did you see that?” Koen leaned toward the TV. “I can’t believe that, can you?”
Sabrina looked at him. “Huh? Oh, no, I sure can’t.”
“Miss Rice, are you daydreaming out the window? In the middle of the game?” Koen grinned at her, and it took every bit of her inner strength to smile back.
“Uh, guilty, I guess.”
“You better play closer attention, because there’ll be a quiz at halftime.” He put his arm on the couch behind her and turned his attention back to the game.
Somehow she managed to stare blankly at the TV, send her thoughts elsewhere, and mostly ignore what was happening in the game. She focused her attention on Koen sitting this close, on how right it felt to have him near. This worked pretty well until the band started playing “Rocky Top.” The sound of the fight song that was so much a part of her past broke through the last of her strength. She jumped up from the couch, mumbled something about coming right back, and bolted from the room to the backyard.
“Samson Academy? That’s where all the rich parents send their kids, so they’ll be on the top sports team and get scholarships.”
Coach Thompson nodded. “I think there’s some truth to that.”
“Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, if only rich kids can afford to go there, why do they need scholarships for college in the first place? Why not leave them for the kids who can’t afford college on their own? It’s one more way they’ve got it all rigged in their favor. There’s nothing left for someone like me.”
“Well, I’m offering you a chance to change all that. You come to practice tomorrow and Thursday, and the meeting on Friday, and then we’ll talk more about it.”
A skeletal memory dug itself free from deep within the graveyard where Brandy had long ago buried such thoughts. It was track-and-field day for Mrs. Tooley’s kindergarten class, and Mom was there watching. She was wearing her prettiest pink blouse, and her hair was brushed straight, shining like black silk in the sun. She held open her arms, and Brandy ran to her. She could feel the intensity of her mother’s hug. Then she pulled back, eyes shining and so remarkably clear and focused that day. “I’m so proud of my girl, winning all three races.” She pulled Brandy close again. “We’re going to be all right, the two of us. You keep on running fast like that and the two of us, well, we’ll go places, you wait and see.”
Just as suddenly as the memory appeared, it evaporated into the darkness and smoke and stupor that covered all her childhood memories. And then Brandy was back in the present, looking at Coach Thompson, still trying to figure out why he was willing to do this, and even more so, why she suddenly wanted to. “Yeah, maybe I’ll be there.”
Without consciously making the decision to do so, Brandy began to jog, then run, then all-out sprint toward home. She concentrated on taking long, sweeping strides, pushing her legs to move faster and faster, long past the point that her burning leg muscles cried out for relief. She refused to give in to the pain, not allowing herself to slow until she reached the sidewalk in front of her grandmother’s house. There, she slowed to a walk, gasping for air, trying to make sense of it all. She couldn’t. But as she paced back and forth, waiting for her breathing to slow, her mind seemed to work with renewed clarity, and that’s when she knew for certain who had made the recommendation. She just didn’t know why.
2 Replies to “Showcase | Chasing Hope”
Interesting. I love the cover.
(not an entry)