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Emotional Purity: An Affair of the Heart [MultiFormat]
eBook by Heather Arnel Paulsen

eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion/Family/Relationships
eBook Description: Emotional purity involves protecting your heart from becoming too intimate with someone of the opposite sex so you don't have to suffer through emotional damage over and over again.

eBook Publisher: Crossway Books, Published: 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: June 2009




chapter ONE

Tracy and Mike

SINCE TRACY'S MOVE A WEEK AGO, she had already attended a local Bible church and immediately made a new friend. She felt nervous as she waited for Emma to pick her up for Wednesday night fellowship.

As she curled her hair, picked out the right outfit, and fussed over her makeup, her heart said a thousand prayers. Tracy longed for a friend, and having had a great time at lunch on Sunday, she thought maybe Emma would fit the part. The doorbell rang. Six-thirty on the dot.

"Ready?" Emma asked.

Tracy grabbed her jacket. "Let's go!"

It didn't take long to reach the home where the gathering was taking place. Emma rang the bell, but before her finger released the button, the door opened to a tall guy with a welcoming smile. For a moment Tracy felt blown over by the very good-looking man in the doorway. She quickly regained her composure as she remembered that she was not there to meet "the one." He extended his hand toward them. "Hi. My name is Mike Hartman, and you?"

Emma confidently extended her hand. "Emma. Nice to meet you."

"Tracy Kass," Tracy said bashfully and slowly offered her hand to Mike.

Emma continued, "Are you new? I don't recall meeting you before."

"Ye--" Before Mike could finish his answer, a bubbly young girl embraced Emma and swept her into the living room, leaving Tracy alone with Mike.

"So how long have you been attending this group?" Mike motioned for Tracy to enter the house. Without giving her a chance to reply, he kept talking. "Your friend was right--I have never been here before. And can you believe they've got me answering the front door? I met some of these people Sunday at church, and they invited me to this fellowship night. It seemed like a good midweek pick-me-up." Mike stopped to catch his breath. "Sorry, I'm rattling on. What about you? Have you been here before?"

Tracy could not believe how totally comfortable Mike seemed. It made her feel more relaxed in this new environment. "No, this is also my first time attending one of these things. I just moved from Vermont, and I don't know anyone except Emma, and we just met on Sunday."

"Oh, this is cool. Someone new besides me. I just moved from Seattle. I got a job transfer and have only been here a week." He helped her take off her jacket as they walked into the living room together.

"Amazing, I've only been here a week as well." Tracy was surprised that she would meet someone with such a similar experience.

Throughout the evening they found themselves explaining over and over that they were not "together." By the end of the night it became a joke, and Tracy and Mike began acting as though they were together just to fool everyone.

Throughout the evening, Tracy and Mike talked about their moves and the new paths where God was leading each of them. Mike mentioned that he enjoyed tennis, and Tracy was excited to find someone else who liked the sport. Tracy had played on her college varsity team. Both eager to check out the local courts, they planned a tennis match for Saturday afternoon. Tracy could not believe how quickly the hours passed with singing, Bible study, and fellowship. At nearly eleven o'clock, Emma announced that she needed to leave.

Mike opened his arms for a warm hug from Tracy. "I prayed that God would allow me to meet a friend, and I think He answered my prayers."Tracy felt a bit startled by this frank comment, but she accepted his hug.

"See you Saturday," she answered sweetly.

On the way home Tracy beamed with excitement, unable to erase her smile. Emma could see that Tracy and Mike had hit it off. She began firing questions. "Well, what do you think of Mike? You spent the night getting to know him. Is he good-looking or what!"

Tracy hadn't realized the attraction was so obvious. "He is really a nice guy, and we have so much in common. We're going out on Saturday."

"A date already! You go, girl!" Emma said, stunned.

Tracy was a bit taken aback. "I don't think it's a 'date' date. It's just two people going to play tennis."

"Whatever. I could see the way he looked at you. There is definitely something there," Emma replied. "You'd better call me Saturday night and give me the details!"

That night Tracy couldn't sleep for thinking about the friendly people she had met and how awesome the fellowship had been. Her thoughts kept going back to her new friend Mike. Her mind was set--she did not want to be hurt again.

Saturday Tennis

Tracy spent Thursday and Friday evenings on the tennis court, brushing up on her serve. With job hunting and the move she felt out of shape, and she did not want to make a fool of herself on Saturday. Her heart felt warm each time she remembered Mike's engaging embrace.

A good game of tennis was just what Tracy needed after a week at her new job. She felt surprised at how good Mike was. He gave her a run for her money. Afterward they decided to grab a bite to eat.

Tracy felt very relaxed around Mike and wanted to know more about his walk with the Lord. While they munched on burgers and fries she asked, "When did you come to know Christ?"

"Well, I guess I have always known about Him. My parents were awesome examples of Christ, and when I was four I asked Him into my heart. During high school, guys from my Bible study and I started a weekly prayer meeting at school. It's still strong and has seen over two hundred kids come to know Jesus. Another growing experience I had was when I gave up a Thanksgiving at home with my parents to go on a mission trip to Africa." Once started on the subject, Mike seemed eager to keep talking.

"My love for the Lord grew even more in college. My freshman year, I plugged into a Bible study with four other guys. We started a Christian fraternity at my mostly heathen college campus, and it became one of the most respected fraternities. We were referred to on campus as the 'God Squad.'"

Tracy chuckled. Mike went on, "Those buddies have become my closest friends, and we always joke that when we get married our wives will also have to be best friends with each other. Tracy, you'd really like these guys. Okay, enough about me, what about you?"

Tracy saw his depth of character as he shared his deep love for his Savior. Was that comment about his buddies a suggestion that she develop a friendship with his pals? She brought her thoughts back to the conversation and shifted in her seat. "Well, my testimony is not as ... well, let's just say I have more baggage than you. For starters," Tracy began, "I was not brought up in a Christian environment. We always went to church, but it never meant anything. My folks did the best they could, but in high school I began to rebel against everything and everybody. I ... well, I walked on the wrong side of the road. As I look back, all I know is that I was trying to fill my heart with something, but God would not allow anything to satisfy me but Him.

"During my junior year of high school I was in a car accident with my boyfriend. We had been drinking, and we hit a tree. Neither of us was injured, but the accident brought me back to the Lord. We broke up, and I started going to church. This time when I went, I was seeking to find the truth, not just going because it was the thing to do. One Sunday the preacher talked about Christ being a part of your every moment, and that is what I wanted. That afternoon my new boyfriend and I accepted Christ. We tried to have a godly relationship, and we were planning to go to the same college, a small Christian college about three hours from my home, but I got accepted and he didn't. We decided that if God wanted us together, then being at different colleges wouldn't matter. But as the summer went on, we felt ourselves being drawn in separate ways. We broke up right before school started.

"At college I had awesome roommates. The three of us prayed together all the time. They showed me what it means to be forgiven and to forgive myself. I dated a guy in college, and he was another key in my learning to build a deeper relationship with God. We were planning on getting married, but you know how life goes.

"I see God's perfect plan in bringing me out here, so far away from my guy friend. I think I needed to be away from the whole situation. See, he's getting married next spring, and the girl he's marrying is--or should I say was--a good friend of mine. I know that God has my husband picked out for me--I just need to wait on His wonderful timing."

Tracy amazed herself as she released her deepest feelings--and to a man! She went on, "God has used many different people and situations to draw me to Him, and I am thankful that He's a big part of my life."

Tracy glanced down at her watch. "Wow! It's four o'clock." Where have the hours gone? she asked herself. She could not believe how much they had shared. She squirmed in her seat and felt it was time to go.

Happy to be home, Tracy swung open the door to her modest apartment. Before the door closed behind her she noticed the red light flashing on her answering machine. She hit the play button before she removed her sweater or dropped her tennis equipment.

"Hi, Tracy. This is Emma. I can hardly wait to hear what happened with you and Mike. It's late in the afternoon--are you still out with him? Give me a call when you get in. I want to hear all the juicy details of your day. I'm so happy for you!"

Tracy didn't lose her smile as she dialed her new friend's number. "Hi, Emma. It's Tracy," she said with a light bounce in her voice.

"Hi, Tracy. I've been waiting for your call. So what happened with your tennis date?"

Not wanting to embellish the day or indulge her friend too much, Tracy simply responded, "It was nice. We did a great deal of talking. He's a great guy, and who knows what will happen?"

Emma fired questions at Tracy: How did he do this? What did he say about that? Tracy wanted to think about the day quietly, so she sweetly said good-bye and headed for the shower. Thinking about Mike brought on a mixture of emotions she had thought were buried after her last breakup. But maybe, Tracy thought, God had brought Mike into her life for a reason.

Friendship Building

One week ran into the next, and before long Mike and Tracy's friendship developed a pattern. Sunday mornings brought them together at worship, followed by an afternoon of lunch and fun with the singles group. Neither missed the weekly Singles Fellowship Night, and then there was the standing date for tennis and lunch on Saturday. Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday. Church, singles fun, tennis. Sunday spiritual bonding, Wednesday social bonding, Saturday fitness bonding.

One night as Tracy wrote in her journal, her thoughts poured out.Father, You know my innermost thoughts and how much I do not want to have these feelings for Mike, but they are here. He loves You so much, and that quality attracts me to him. He strives to serve You and longs to love You more each day. What should I do with these feelings? She was thankful that Mike never overstepped physical boundaries; she knew this kept them pure. They were very close, and the closeness was what she valued most in their friendship. As weeks turned into months, Tracy's mind often wondered if this could be the pure relationship she had only dared to dream about secretly.

Friday nights had become one of her few free nights. Tracy used them to tackle life's menial chores. She'd fallen into the habit of picking up her dry cleaning, stopping at the mall or grocery store, then going home to make her weekly call to her family and finally clean up her tiny apartment that she had neglected most of the week. But this particular Friday night her apartment would just have to understand her lack of attention.

On Wednesday night at Singles Fellowship, Emma had made Tracy promise to have a girls' night out. "It's been way too long since we've gotten together," she said. "I feel like we haven't talked in ages." Tracy agreed, and they arranged to meet for dinner and a movie.

Seated in a secluded booth, the pair had just ordered pizza when Emma blurted out, "So tell me, what's going on with you and Mike?"Tracy had felt twinges of eagerness to indulge someone with the happy details of her friendship with Mike. Emma would be a perfect friend to affirm her feelings. Tracy began to talk as the waiter deposited their Cokes, and as they finished the last slices of pizza she was telling Emma of her growing feelings toward Mike.

"Oh, that's normal, Tracy. You two spend so much time together, and he's a nice guy."

"But Mike has never told me his intentions. What if he doesn't like me in that way? I mean, what if he just thinks of me as a good friend?" Tracy asked, hoping for reassurance.

"Tracy, doesn't he text message you a few times a day?"

"Practically."

"Does he hug you hello and good-bye every time you see each other?"

"Yes."

"Does he treat any other girl in the singles group like you?"

"No."

"Doesn't he always give you that playful nudge when you are talking about your tennis matches?"

"Yes."

"Didn't he take you to his coworker's birthday party?"

"Yes--Brice, the guy he led to Christ."

"Didn't he give you a nickname--Squeak or something?"

"Yes, Squeak, like the noise of my shoes when we play tennis."

"Well then, he must like you! All the signs are there."

Tracy's heart skipped. "You think so?"

"Yup." Emma replied.

That was what Tracy wanted to hear. She felt that God was confirming Mike's feelings toward her through their conversation.

The following Saturday's tennis match was a real workout for Tracy. She couldn't keep her mind on the game and ended up chasing balls all around the court. Exhausted and ready for a relaxing lunch, she fell into the cushioned booth and asked Mike to order "anything refreshing" for her. As she sipped on a large iced tea, Tracy began to share with Mike a conversation she'd had with Brice, Mike's coworker, during the week.

"I was shocked when he asked me out. I mean, I hardly know him. We'd just met at his birthday party, but I guess he felt comfortable asking me out. Well, he really isn't my type. I know you just recently led him to the Lord, and I praise God for that, but the last thing I need to deal with is a guy who is new in Christ. I need someone who is solid in the Lord," Tracy said with a nervous laugh as she wondered whether Mike was going to pick up the clue that she needed a man like him.

Only then did Tracy realize that she'd been twirling a bit of salad around for several minutes while she chatted. She waited for a look of fear or disappointment in Mike's face at the thought of her dating someone else.

"His question really threw me off guard," Mike said as he dabbed his mouth with a napkin. "Brice asked me if he could ask you out. Now, why would he do that?"

Tracy's head bobbed up from her plate. "He asked you?"

"Yeah, isn't that crazy?" he responded with a partial laugh.

Tracy's mind whirled with uncertainty. Did they discuss me over a coffee break? Did Mike mention any feelings he has for me to Brice? Mike must have told him it was okay to ask me! What's going on? She unruffled her thoughts enough to counter, "Yeah, crazy."

"Hey, let's get a movie and go back to my place!" Mike said abruptly as he stood up, grabbed the bill, and paid.

At his home, Mike popped in the DVD and sat down next to Tracy on the couch. At first she was nervous, but then Mike put his arm around her. "Just think, Squeak, if you had gone out with Brice tonight we wouldn't have had such a terrific time."

"This is true," Tracy said as she snuggled effortlessly into his arm. She felt very secure there and briefly reflected that she was thankful Mike was being so cautious with her in regard to physical purity. Tracy couldn't remember a time in many months when she'd had such a complete feeling of protection.

Confusion

Tracy felt homesick and confused. When time allowed, her thoughts would wander back to the stunning fall colors back east. She could only imagine the spectacular show in her parents' well-manicured yard in New England. Envisioning these colors only intensified Tracy's loneliness. Thanksgiving away from her family--their traditional time of baking, taking a gift basket to a needy family, and then the afternoon of feasting and football--threatened to be difficult for her.

Tracy was rather amazed that another little part of her was energized by thoughts of beginning new traditions. During one of those reflective moments, Tracy shared her homesickness with Mike by e-mail. She knew he would understand because at one time during high school he had been in Africa over the holidays.

On Saturday Mike asked Tracy what she planned to do for Thanksgiving.

"Nothing, silly. I told you that in my e-mail." Tracy wondered where this conversation was headed.

"Well, I called my folks, and you know what? We have an extra chair at our Thanksgiving table. Would you like to fill it?" Mike asked.

Tracy's heart soared at the thought of meeting Mike's family. At the same time her mind rapid-fired question after question. Could this mean something? What will I wear? Is there time to lose a few pounds? Will they like me? Will I meet his whole family? Does he want me to meet the folks before he takes our relationship to the next level? He must like me. Are his feelings for me developing?

The awkward pause of silence forced Tracy back to reality. She blurted out, "Yes, I would love to go!"

Thanksgiving

They made plans to leave a couple days before Thanksgiving because Mike was asked to speak on Wednesday evening for his old high school youth group. The next few days were one big blur for Tracy. Finally the time arrived--the event that had dominated her thoughts for way too long.

As Mike pulled up and quickly placed Tracy's bags in the flatbed of his truck, he gave a brief prayer for safe travel and a holiday to remember. Then off they went.

The next few hours were filled with emotional and spiritual highs. They belted out praise song after praise song, from "Shout to the Lord" to "How Great Is Our God." Tracy felt their spiritual bond grow stronger in those wonderful moments of worship.

Mike gave Tracy the lowdown on his parents and siblings after they discussed Mike's topic for the youth group the next evening. Tracy didn't even notice the remarkable scenery zooming past her window as Mike painted a vivid picture of his family's Christmas. Her full attention was riveted on him as his story led to their mutual promise to exchange Christmas gifts in one month. Tracy's whole world seemed to be contained in the little Toyota truck as they traveled down the road, each hour blending with the last.

Without warning they arrived. As they pulled into the driveway, Tracy glanced at the clock and was stunned. My how time flies, she thought.

They left the luggage in the truck as Mike led the way to the house. Any nervousness she felt as the door swung open on this new world immediately melted as she soaked in the warmth of his parents' greetings and hugs.

"We always enjoy getting to know Mike's friends" and "We are so glad you could be with us for Thanksgiving," Audrey and Jack blurted out simultaneously. Tracy was overwhelmed with a sense of kindness and sincerity. Mike and his dad disappeared outside to unload the truck.

Mike's mom gently put her arm around Tracy and led her into the kitchen. Only then did Tracy detect a great aroma. "I hope you like what's for dinner tonight," said Audrey. "I'm glad we have a few minutes to get acquainted before Sara arrives from work and Tommy gets home from school." Tracy smiled, feeling thankful that they'd arrived early enough to allow for some family time that evening.

"Smells great. I can't wait to meet your family," Tracy beamed. "What can I do to help?" Tracy instantly bonded with Mike's mom.

The smell of coffee awoke Tracy the next morning. The house remained silent, so she quietly showered and dressed for the day. Scooping up her Bible, she headed downstairs and anticipated a few quiet moments in the overstuffed corduroy chair she had nestled in the night before. As her foot hit the last step, she spotted Audrey sitting in that very chair. Tracy stopped in her tracks when she noticed a Bible in Audrey's lap, her head bowed. The praying woman's head gently turned as she realized her houseguest was present. She invited Tracy to join her, and that was the beginning of a nearly perfect day. An intimate breakfast with Audrey led to a day of running to the grocery store and then preparing side dishes for Thanksgiving with the women of the family. Dinner was full of pleasant conversation and stories of hilarious, embarrassing family moments.

As Mike and Tracy drove to his youth group engagement, she realized they hadn't been alone since the previous day. Mike was deep in thought, rehearsing his talk. This freed Tracy to enjoy the ride in silence with her own personal reflections. She loved that she could feel so connected to him without speaking a word.

The kids mobbed Mike before entering the church. He looked at Tracy through the crowd and seemed to be saying, "I'm so sorry to leave you stranded alone in a strange place, but..." Tracy actually enjoyed hanging out in the background, studying Mike's ease at relating to teens.

After an opening prayer with a round of praise songs, Mike stood before the gym full of adolescents on the verge of adulthood. As Tracy watched him connect with the group of restless teens, she realized that she was falling in love with him. A passion for Christ was all she wanted in a husband, and Mike filled the bill. Tracy tried to focus, but her mind refused to grasp one word of Mike's talk that evening. It chose rather to dwell on a possible future with this man.

The ride home was completely opposite to the ride there. Mike talked about how amazing the night had gone. Tracy sat quietly, allowing Mike to fully unload all of his excitement.

Thanksgiving Day activities intensified Tracy's feelings for Audrey, Jack, Sara, Tommy, and, of course, Mike. She was so engaged in Hartman family activity that she nearly forgot to phone her own family with wishes for a happy Thanksgiving! During the day Tracy occasionally glanced Mike's way with an enormous smile and sparkling eyes. She wanted him to know that this Thanksgiving was more than she could have hoped for.

As Tracy rolled over and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, she jolted into the reality that it was Sunday morning. Only a few more hours until she'd be back in her little apartment. As she lay there in a dreamy state reflecting on the last few days, Tracy realized she was not ready to say good-bye to this family with whom she'd so quickly cultivated a genuine love. She pondered the gentleness of Mike's mom and the carefree attitude of Tommy, who lightheartedly joined his brother in calling her Squeak. Each moment of the holiday held a certain level of importance in her heart. Not wanting to waste one minute of enjoyment with her new friends, Tracy bounded from the covers.

The whole family ate together and lingered over breakfast before heading off to church. Afterward when Mike decided that he and Tracy should get an earlier start back than they had planned, Audrey offered to prepare a sack lunch of turkey sandwiches as the pair packed. As Tracy trudged down the stairs, she felt she was leaving a place she had grown to love.

Tracy hugged each member of the family good-bye. She hugged Audrey tightly, not wanting to let go. Audrey whispered in her ear, "Tracy, you're always welcome here. You're a lovely daughter in Christ, and I know that the Lord has great plans for you." The words brought tears to Tracy's eyes; she could not remember ever hearing such sweet sentiments.

It seemed as if they'd just pulled into the now-familiar driveway and now they were driving away, windows wide-open as they waved until the family was out of sight. Tracy settled into her seat, overcome with a touch of melancholy. As they hit the freeway, Mike verbally began to review the past few days. Tracy's gloom slowly lifted as they laughed at Tommy's fumbled play in the family football game, and the disaster that had ended in rolling-on-the-floor laughter when Sara attempted to play beautician on Tracy's long hair. Mike suggested they break out the lunch as they settled in for the journey.

"You know, Squeak," Mike said, "I don't normally tell people this, but around the holidays I start thinking about having my own family and starting new family traditions. Do you ever desire to start a family and your own traditions?"

"Sure, I do. I can't wait to have my own family," she responded, wondering if he was thinking about establishing those family traditions with her. Their conversation remained on the topic of future goals and the dreams they each harbored. She was comforted by how much they had in common.

As they pulled up to Tracy's place, she said, "This was the first Thanksgiving that the main focus was family and not football. Your family took me in and treated me as a family member. I'm so thankful to you for inviting me."

"I'm glad you were able to come, Squeak. Many times over the weekend I could see the joy that my family brought to you." Mike bent down and gave her a soft peck on the cheek. Their hug lasted a bit longer than usual.

Christmas

For Christmas, Mike gave Tracy a beautiful teal Bible with her initials, T.O.K., engraved in gold on the cover. Their telephone chats, which began as taking only a few minutes to confirm a time and place to meet, evolved into lengthy, soul-searching, late-into-the-night discussions. E-mails traveled back and forth frequently and routinely.

Tracy went home for Christmas. Time away from Mike seemed like eternity. No matter how hard she tried to focus on her family and the gift of God's Son, her mind continually wandered back west and to the previous holiday's memories. Tracy loved to share with her sisters how important her relationship with Mike had become, but this only intensified her feelings of being away from him and made her miss him even more.

After New Year's Tracy had a difficult time containing her emotions and wondered if she could hold them in any longer. Her feelings for Mike had developed vigorously, and she felt reasonably secure that he felt the same. Both agreed to forgo the customary tennis game for just this week to catch up on the sleep they had lost over the holidays, but they planned to meet for a bite to eat and catch up on each other's Christmas news.

Meeting at Tracy's favorite restaurant, she was thankful for the familiar atmosphere. "I'll have the usual," she muttered as she shifted uncontrollably in her seat.

"Do you have something on your mind, Squeak?" he asked. She was struck by his ability to read her like a book.

"Oh no, I'm just tired after the long holiday season," she said. That was not totally truthful, but she was using all her strength not to yell, "I love you!"

Trying to take the focus off her anxiety, Tracy strained to shift the conversation to how she had been able to share Christ's love with her family and how nice it was to be at home. As Mike related stories of his family's Christmas, Tracy's mind and heart raced frequently to the conversation she'd been planning in her mind since Thanksgiving. Lunch ended, and Mike again paid the bill. They parted with a hug, and the long-intended words didn't pass Tracy's lips.

That night she called Emma to relieve some of her frustration. "Hi, this is Emma. I am not home right now, so please leave a message after the beep," the machine intoned. Tracy sighed, then drawled into the phone, "Emma, please call when you get home. I can't hold it in anymore. I'll be up late, so call whenever, okay?"

That week Tracy felt nervous each time she saw Mike. Her heart ached to tell him how she felt, but Emma constantly reassured her that he needed to initiate taking the relationship to the next level.

Change

The following Saturday Tracy ran errands and arrived early at the tennis court, allowing a few moments to sit in the car and collect her thoughts. This was their first tennis match of the new year. She was ready to work off some of the pent-up frustration, growing larger every day, that was keeping her from verbalizing her true feelings to Mike.

Her thoughts rolled into a prayer. God, please help me today. I need Your strength more every day. You have brought Mike into my life, and it would be an honor to serve You with him. Let Your will be done, and please help me accept it in Your time--which I'd really like to be soon, but I know Your time will be right. Just help me, Lord. I feel so mixed-up. Her mind whirled out of control. She grabbed her bag and headed inside to exercise away a bit of her anxiety.

She was picking up the key to the indoor court when she heard Mike's familiar voice behind her. "Hey, Squeak, did you get court number 1?" Hearing Mike's voice put a smile on her face. As she answered, she turned to face him. "Yes, I got..." Tracy's smile faded fast as she choked and raised her hand to cover her gasping mouth. What she saw did not register in her brain. She felt her face turn pale, and she wanted to run.

Mike stood there holding hands with another woman. Tracy choked again, which helped conceal the tears she felt welling up uncontrollably.

"Squeak, are you all right?" Mike asked as he gently patted her back.

"Yes ... yes, I'll be fine," she muttered, wishing her Nikes would carry her far, far away--away from this new girl who appeared to be in Mike's life.

"Tracy, I want you to meet my new girlfriend, Chrissy," Mike stated matter-of-factly. "Chrissy, this is Tracy, my great friend, the one I told you so much about. She's been like a sister to me since I moved here," he added as he curled his arm around Tracy's drooped shoulder.

Good friend? Tracy thought. That's all I am to you? Like a sister? O God, help me! Tracy looked for a swift way out of this situation.

"Nice to meet you," Tracy stammered, using all the strength she had to be polite.

"Me too. Mike has told me so much about you. I feel like I've known you as long as he has," Chrissy said.

"I thought you two could rotate each round," Mike suggested. "Got the key? Let's go!"

Tracy gracefully excused herself, making her way back to the locker room under the pretense of forgetting her hair scrunchy. "You two get started. I'll be right there." Inside the locker room Tracy found the bench farthest from the door, sat down, and began to weep as shock turned into reality.

What am I going to do? I can't stay in here and cry all day. He doesn't care for me like I do for him. What have I gotten myself into! She splashed her face with cold water. Lord, help. I need You now more than ever. Head held high but with lead in the pit of her stomach, Tracy headed for the court with the navy-blue scrunchy around her wrist.

"Hey, Squeak, it's your turn," Mike called as she trotted onto the court. Each swing of the racket represented a blow to her heart. Chrissy sat on the sidelines and watched. Tracy had no competitive spirit. Mike swiftly won each match, which answered Tracy's prayer for a quick end to the pain. Her head pounded with a headache that intensified with each high-five between the flirting pair. She just wanted to be home in her safe apartment, far away from this scene.

Tracy fought back tears while driving and was happy to get home. Falling into her chair, she let the tears overflow, then picked up the phone and called Emma for some comfort.

"Emma, he brought his girlfriend today!"

"What? Wait--who? Mike brought his girlfriend to play tennis? You have got to be kidding!" Emma sounded stunned.

"They were walking hand in hand. He rotated us each round. What was I thinking? He never liked me. See, he started this Bible study at work, and she started coming, and last week she accepted Christ as her Savior. And to top it off he introduced me to her as his 'good friend--like a sister.' I was so humiliated." Tracy became more irritated with each sentence.

Emma tried to help. "Tracy, he led you on! He treated you so different than anyone else in the group. He's such a jerk! You have every right to be mad at him. What are you going to do?"

Tracy thought. "I don't know. I'm sure we won't spend so much time together now that he has a girlfriend--who, by the way, is very perky and cute. I thought I wasn't going to let this happen to me again. We weren't physical at all, and we had such a solid base of friendship. I am just so confused. We were great friends." Tracy pulled the last tissue from the box.

"Let's do lunch tomorrow. Maybe that will help?" Emma suggested.

"I don't think so. I need some time alone. Thanks anyway. You've been a great friend." Tracy hung up the phone and sobbed.


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