High school senior Mandy Thorpe has two great hopes: to nudge her friendship with Erik Andersen into romance, and to step up her singing dreams by winning the lead in a musical.
She has other dreams, too. Since childhood, Mandy's prophetic dreams have called her to action. When those dreams become nightmares about Erik that grow ever more terrifying, Mandy is determined to do something about it.
With God's help, she must find the courage to make a difference in Erik's life before her nightmares become reality.
It’s funny how life-changing events can start with something so small. Something as insignificant as a doodle in the margin of a calculus notebook.
My stomach was already swirling at the thought of the after-school Cinderella audition when I reached third-hour Calc. Erik had gotten there first and sprawled at the desk behind mine, drawing in his spiral notebook. The dark curls on his forehead and the unguarded look on his face combined to make my insides churn like a blender switched to High.
After a cleansing breath and some mental coaching—Calm down, Mandy!—I made it to my desk.
Erik folded his long legs so I could get into my seat. “Today is it, right? The big audition?” He did a pencil drum roll. “Riverwood’s very own high school musical.”
Even with my queasy stomach, I couldn’t help laughing. I twisted to face him. “Yeah, it’s my dramatic moment. Will she or won’t she win a lead senior year? Tune in on Tuesday.” My shoulders relaxed. He was so good at breaking up tension. One of the many likeable things about him.
His open notebook caught my attention. I always enjoyed checking out the aliens or birds or trees he drew in the margins.
This sketch was different—disturbing. A fine line at the bottom fractured a peaceful country scene, then got darker and wider with branching cracks as it moved up, ending as a chasm with boulders crumbling in from separate cliffs. An earthquake. Weird. Here in northern Indiana we didn’t worry much about them. I leaned in to see it closer.
Erik closed the notebook.
I’m not always smart about keeping my mouth shut when I’m concerned, so I tugged my hair a second then said, “That’s dark. Are you illustrating for Stephen King?”
Anger sparked in his blue eyes, but behind that, I sensed…sadness. “Just doodling,” he said. It didn’t take psychic skill to know that meant Mind your own business. He continued. “I heard about that earthquake in Mexico and was thinking about fault lines and fissures.”
“You should get together with my dad. He can lecture on that stuff for hours.” Some brash part of me urged, Say it, Mandy. Ask him to dinner to talk geology with your dad. The rest of me answered, Right. As if I have the guts to do that. Besides, he’s mad at me for snooping at his notebook. And he’s not shy. If he was interested, he’d have made a move by now. Hope I haven’t been friend zoned.
I was too busy obsessing about dating him to stop and wonder what was bothering him.
The bell rang. Mr. Wilson pushed up his half-lens glasses and raised his bushy white eyebrows to start lecturing on derivatives.
Class was low-key enough that my stomach settled, mostly. Sensing Erik behind me kept a small quiver going.
He tapped my shoulder as the class wrote equations, and I turned around.
“Excuse me,” Erik said, with a lopsided smile. He nodded toward my hair, which was spread over the pages of his notebook, kind of like auburn seaweed. He gently gathered the strands and handed them to me.
“Sorry.” I tucked them around the front of my neck, feeling a quiet thrill that he’d touched my hair, along with relief that he wasn’t ticked at me anymore. Minutes passed before I could concentrate on calculus.
When class ended, Erik rapped my desk in passing. “Break a leg this afternoon.”
“Thanks!” His support meant more than he knew. When I left for school this morning Dad was packing for a research trip to Wyoming while my brother Ryan bugged him for cash, and Mom was struggling to get my toddler sister, Tabitha, dressed. Neither Mom nor Dad mentioned my audition. I know, I know, they were busy. But it was special that Erik remembered.
After class I met my best friend, Shelby, in the lunchroom, one of the few times I can catch her during marching band season.
“How’s the Whitacre piece coming?” I asked, after we arranged our trays and sat in our usual corner. She was first chair oboe and had a solo in the next month’s fall concert.
“Making progress.” She crunched into her taco. “Some of the high notes are still pretty screechy. ‘October’ has a sweet melody, though, so that helps.” She gulped her milk and then waved the glass toward my plate. “Not hungry on tryout day, huh?”
She caught me building a green log cabin from celery sticks. I nodded, and was starting to tell her about Erik’s encouragement, when Cait blew through the door beside us, panicking. Uh-oh. Cait had an angelic voice, but she got even more wired than I did for performances. Her nervousness crackled like a sparkler.
“Hay fever!” she shrieked. “How can I audition like this?” She blew her nose. “I took my meds but they aren’t doing anything.”
I pointed to an open seat. “Here, Cait. Sit down a minute.” I pictured sending turquoise waves of calm her way. We’d been in choir together since freshman year, and she’d reacted like this for every solo or audition, making everyone else jumpy, too. “Let me get you some water. ‘Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!’ That’s what Mrs. Gilman says when I have sinus-y stuff.”
Cait perched on the edge of the seat while I hurried to the drink counter and brought back a glass. Water sloshed as she took it out of my hand. “I can’t mess up this chance. I’ve got to get a lead, or I won’t have a shot at a music scholarship.” She patted her hand with a napkin and sipped.
“What part are you hoping for?” Shelby asked.
“Of course I’d love to get Cinderella, but we know Bates’ll give that to Lyndsey.” Another sip.
I smirked. “Just because she was Eliza in My Fair Lady and Laurey in Oklahoma?”
Cait shook her head. Mr. Bates’ favoritism was a standard beef among choir members. “Well, the fairy godmother has a good song, but the stepsisters are funny.” She drained the glass.
I nibbled a celery stick. “Really, since the stepsisters are comical, having a scratchy voice might not matter. You could ham it up, make it your own.”
“Great idea!” Cait rose so fast her chair teetered. “I’m going to practice ‘The Stepsisters’ Lament.’” And she flew off as fast as she’d arrived.
“Don’t look yet,” Shelby instructed in a stage whisper, “but you’re being watched. I’d say he approves.”
Erik was a couple tables over. Our eyes met for a second before he turned away. His had a softness I’d never seen before. I set the half-eaten celery stick back on my plate.
Shelby wrinkled her nose. “Hey, weren’t you trying out for one of the stepsisters? And don’t you need a big part for music school applications, too? Why’re you helping the competition?”
“Sheesh, she was even more nerve-fried than I am. Had to calm her down before she started twitching.” I scooted my chair back. “Besides, there are two stepsisters, as well as the godmother. Might be a win-win for us both.”
We cleared our trash and returned our trays, and I went to my afternoon classes—wasted effort since my brain was absent.
Keywords: friend zoned, musicals, vocal music, suicide prevention, depression, prophetic dreams, singing, first love
Question 1: How does hiking by the river help Mandy when she is angry or sad? Do you have a place in nature where you go to calm down?
Answer 1: Seeing the beauty in nature helps her get out of her own head and put things in perspective. Time alone sets her free from the distraction of other people’s demands. The rhythm of walking helps calm her physically and emotionally.
Question 2: Why is Mandy uncomfortable with her prophetic gift? Can it be a blessing?
Answer 2: It’s hard for her to judge which dreams are true prophecies and which aren’t. She can be embarrassed when she acts on a dream mistakenly. Her parents don’t understand this gift and don’t support her when she mentions it. It’s a blessing when it warns her of danger in time to prevent the tragedy.
Question 3: How does Mandy’s belief in God strengthen her during frightening times?
Answer 3: Instead of worrying uselessly or panicking and freezing, she prays, freeing herself enough from her emotions to take helpful action. Remembering that God is with her gives her comfort and power.
Question 4: How does Mandy become part of the answer to her own prayer for Erik’s protection? Have you ever been part of the answer to a prayer for someone else?
Answer 4: She becomes sensitive to God’s nudges that Erik needs help and listens when the time to act is urgent. She puts her loving concern for Erik above her fear of looking foolish and tells his mother he needs help right away.
Question 5: Is Mandy wise to keep caring about Erik when his emotional distance hurts her?
Answer 5: This can be difficult to judge. In the story, Erik heals and grows, coming back from the isolation and withdrawal of suicidal feelings. In time their love brings them joy, so in this case the answer is “yes.”
Question 6: Advice columnist Ann Landers used to ask, “Are you better off with him or without him?” How is Mandy better off with Erik? How is she better off without him?
Answer 6: Mandy is better off with him because he pays attention to her dreams and finds ways to encourage her. They laugh at the same things and understand each other. They share the spark of love. She might be better off without him if she found someone who was less wounded and more open to love, who didn’t push her away and damage her confidence.
Question 7: Does Mandy’s singing talent help others? In what way? What talents do you have that help others?
Answer 7: Music connects people in emotionally deep ways, so when she sings in the musical her voice touches audience members, her solo at church inspires the congregation, and her nursing home concerts brighten the lives of the residents.
Question 8: What parts of going away to college are joyful for Mandy? Which parts are painful?
Answer 8: She is anticipating the fun of focusing on her passion, voice, free of all the high school required courses. She’s looking forward to making her own daily choices, without her parents’ supervision. She is grieving about how much little Tabitha will miss her, and vice versa. Even if she doesn’t want to admit it, she will miss her parents and Ryan. And it will be hard having Erik two hours away at Purdue.
Question 9: If Mandy and Erik grow apart later, and marry other people, is their love for each other still valuable? Why or why not?
Answer 9 They learn much from caring for each other. He learns that it can be safe to trust someone enough to let them in, and that there is joy in sharing love. She learns that it can be worth fighting through barriers to reach a tender, loving soul.
Question 10: What, in addition to praying, could a friend or relative do to help someone who is feeling isolated and withdrawing into suicidal thoughts?
Answer 10: Listen to them and talk openly about if they are considering suicide. Involve an adult they trust. If they need immediate help, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255, reach the Crisis Text Line 24/7 by texting “START” to 741-741, or call your local police. For more information, some places to start are: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org and http://www.sptsusa.org/