Head in the clouds. Feet on the ground. Heart in the story. Christa Kinde is a cheerful homebody whose imagination takes her new places with every passing day. Making her home between misty mornings and brimming bookshelves in Southern California, she’s been writing for more than a decade, but the Threshold Series is her first foray into fiction. Learn about Christa’s books, Bible studies, short stories, weekdaily serials, and more at ChristaKinde.com.
Part Two: New Kid
You can find Part 1 HERE
“Say it again.”
Aleff’s arms tightened. “Fear not.”
Marcus sighed and shook his head. “Again.”
With a soft snort, the Caretaker said, “Cast aside your qualms and bid a fond farewell to your Uncle Al. Otherwise, there can be no parting gifts.”
Which is probably why this is so stinking hard. What if I blow it somehow, and he’s not there to bail me out? Aleff eased back without losing contact, and a warm weight dropped around Marcus’s shoulders. Checking to see what the Caretaker had done, he blinked. “Your jacket?”
“Not as snazzy as, ‘Lo, I am with you always,’ but it has pockets.”
“But isn’t this your favorite?”
“I’m not allowed to play favorites. But the fact remains that I’ve been breaking it in for you.”
“Since when?” Marcus challenged.
“All along, though I wasn’t aware of it until earlier today.” With a small shrug, Aleff said, “Surprise!”
Slipping his arms into sleeves that dangled past his wrists, Marcus managed a crooked smile. “Thanks, Uncle Al.”
“Don’t mention in. And I mean that.” In conspiratorial tones, the Caretaker said, “I gave the lining as much oomph as I could without drawing attention. It’ll do in a pinch.”
Aleff held a finger to his lips and whispered, “Just like.”
The physical and emotional reinforcement couldn’t have come at a better time. Unsure how to express his gratitude without getting soppy, Marcus managed a soft, “Wow.”
His lifelong companion stepped back and looked him up and down. “It needs growing into. Which reminds me.” Aleff gently poked Marcus’s chest.
Power pulsed through his body, warm and worrisome. Rubbing at the spot, Marcus asked, “What did you do?”
“Loosened my hold a little. You’ve been twelve long enough. It’s time to grow up.”
“Huh?” To Marcus’s amazement, his voice broke.
“Welcome to adolescence, young man.” Aleff’s eyes sparkled with laughter. “You just turned thirteen.”
The hushed school hallway put Marcus at ease. His sneakers squeaked against terrazzo floors. Narrow windows set into wide doors offered glimpses of classrooms standing empty for the summer. Been in a dozen others just like it. Nothing changes except the people.
“Here we are.” The teacher who’d be proctoring today’s placement test opened the door to a classroom with maps and portraits of historical figures on the walls. His voice held a forced cheerfulness as he said, “Choose a seat. We’ll begin at the top of the hour.”
Marcus checked the clock and nodded. “Got it. Thanks.”
“If you’ll excuse me.”
As the man retreated, Marcus heaved a sigh. Already getting the wary eye. Which wasn’t new, either. Back in the office, Marcus’s new foster father had spoken in glowing terms about his courtesy and consideration, but this guy hadn’t heard a word of it. He hadn’t waited for test scores before making up his mind about Marcus’s potential. He has a problem with my hair, and that makes me a problem.
Marcus slouched in the seat of the desk that always baffled his teachers and classmates alike—smack-dab in the middle. It was his silent declaration that no matter what anyone else might think, he was right where he was supposed to be. Hidden in plain sight.
People would say stuff. That’s how people were. Rumors came and went. But Marcus couldn’t have cared less. He remembered the moment the Maker called him by name and carried him among the stars. With one hand on top of Marcus’s head, He’d brushed the hair until it was burnished like gold. Just like the real color of his eyes and the furled wings that etched across his skin. Reminders that’ll always mean more than mean people.
“Here we are.” The teacher strolled back through the door, leading another test taker.
This boy seemed about the same age Marcus was meant to be. He talked with the exaggerated politeness kids reserved for authority figures. A solid tactic. The teacher was eating it up. Without so much as a glance in Marcus’s direction, the man tapped a desk in the front row. “Have a seat. We’ll be starting soon.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Marcus waited to see if the new kid would take a hint and sit as far away from him as possible. But as soon as the teacher was gone, he sauntered up the aisle. Grabbing the desk in front of Marcus’s, he turned it with a screech of metal on waxed tiles. He dropped into the seat and leaned forward on his elbows, giving Marcus the once-over.
Hair got a passing look. Eyes a longer scrutiny. Then he offered his hand and said, “Hey. I’m Ransom. Are you new, too?”
“Have you lived here long?”
Since Ransom still had his hand out, Marcus clasped it. “Nope.”
“When did you get here?”
“Hey, same here!” Ransom exclaimed. “I’m guessing you’re not from around here.”
“Me neither. Say, do you know how to live in the middle of nowhere? Because this is nothing like what I’m used to.” Ransom rattled on about the shape his days had taken since moving to West Edinton, cheerfully unaffected by the differences that usually kept other kids at bay.
When the teacher came back, he made Ransom turn the desk back around. But at the first chance, he leaned back, propping an elbow on Marcus’s desk. “You’re shy, aren’t you?”
“You won’t tell me your name!”
Marcus smirked. “Couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”
“If you’ve got something to say, butt in. So . . . name?”
Ransom grinned. “Got it.”
And that was that. The teacher distributed the tests, and there was no more time for talk. But the whole exchange weighed Marcus down. Him, too. Nice guy. Good attitude. He smiles and laughs and reaches out to others. But he’s living without a glimmer of faith in his soul. The hardest part of being a Graft had always been being around to people who lived without hope.
A few days later, Marcus trudged along the narrow sidewalk leading up to the Turnquists’ back door. Theirs was an ordinary house with an ordinary yard in an ordinary neighborhood. Small. Clean. Conventional. His new foster mother was the no-nonsense type who liked things just-so, which meant learning lots of household rules. Basic stuff like latching the gate and taking off your shoes at the door. Nothing he couldn’t handle.
By just about any definition, this was a good place to grow up—clean, neat, and nourishing—but Marcus wasn’t sure how long he could survive. It’s so lonely. Always before, he’d been close to at least one Christian. Until now, he hadn’t realized how much that had meant. A sense of kinship. Someone to trust. But Mike and Susanna presided over a household of nonbelievers, which often left Marcus feeling stifled and stranded. At least I’ve got evensong to look forward to.
He dropped his shoes next to Flopsy’s pink sandals and Landon’s superhero sneakers then frowned. The pair of battered loafers closest to the door weren’t familiar. A guest? Letting himself into the kitchen, he called, “I’m back.”
“There he is now!” Mr. Turnquist beckoned from the table. “Come on over here, Marcus. Don’t be shy!”
He’d walked in on a cozy domestic scene. His foster parents were sitting at the dinky Formica table Mrs. Turnquist referred to as her breakfast nook, chatting over coffee. Their guest was an old man with a shock of gray hair and sun-freckled hands. He wore plain work pants and a faded flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up, but Marcus could have wept for joy. Whoever he was, this guy was a Christian.
Next Month: Angel Unaware, Part Three: “Paper Boy”