The girls headed back to their respective dorms. They had an hour before lights out to read, study, and get ready for bed. They were all exhausted after the day's events but a little socializing seemed in order. After all, there were 59 more days to go before they would be traveling to their various destinations. Party at Conley's was definitely the right call.
The rules of an LDS missionary are clear: the only time a sister or elder is alone is in the bathroom, the shower or in their dreams. Other than that, it's all companion, all the time. It's always hard when three are "paired" especially for the one who might not agree. In this case, it was unanimous. They would change into their comfy wear and head out. Kitchen, Smith and Rosenberg Shimai went down the hall to their first of many parties in the other sister's room. At least tonight, they didn't know enough Japanese to hinder their conversation.
The girls sat around talking and getting to know one another. They learned more about each other's backgrounds and interests. Again, the group seemed to naturally pair together, Conley and Colson seemed to share similar family backgrounds as did Kitchen and Smith. Colson and Conley discussed their church callings prior to coming to Provo. Kitchen and Smith talked about how cute Elder Jones was as well as their boyfriends back home. Colson and Conley both had worked before coming on their missions and the other two had attended different universities in Utah.
Willow tried to keep up with their conversations, but found she had little interest or connection with the lives of the four others. She felt like she was watching a heated ping-pong match instead of enjoying and participating in fellowship. She started feeling alone. Although she was genuinely amused by the number of times everyone seemed to say "what" whenever Conley spoke. She was currently at fifteen.
She was aware of the silent blonde beside her and had more than once caught her smirking as well. She looked over the Maclay sitting to her right. Maclay smiled shyly and quietly said, "How many did you get so far?"
Willow looked at her in amazement. She wasn't sure if she was really referring to her current "what" count, but it was worth the risk she decided. One word might not be hard to explain if she was off base. "Fifteen?"
Maclay giggled, "I was counting too. I think I m-missed one." She dropped her head a little hiding behind her hair again. "I'm sorry; I guess I'm just not feeling all Chatty Cathy today."
It was Willow's turn to laugh. She uses that term too.
"That's ok; I'm not Miss Chatty Cathy either. In fact, I much prefer watching people in public places than being the life of the party. I'm more comfortable in a library or bookstore than at dances. I'd rather sit out under the stars than go to the beach, and I'm from California. Hello, not everyone goes to the beach every day. I mean, I just look out a window on a sunny day and my freckles get freckles. Oh, I'm exaggerating a little. But do you get it at all?"
Maclay looked intently at her. "Yes. I really do. Hey, you might be able to help me. It seems like you're kind of a scripture geek, oh, um, n-no offence."
"Oh no, I can totally help you, what do you need?" Willow instantly sprang into research mode. This was her favorite pastime. It had been an all-consuming passion after joining The Church. She felt that she had something to prove, mostly to herself. She had studied night and day to keep up with the kids who had grown up doing scripture chases and memorizing passages. There were contests for the seminary students - every day before school when the kids got to high school they attended classes. She'd missed all of that training being a recent addition to the rolls of The Church.
"Well I've been thinking about that parable, the one where there's the l-lights. I-I wanted to read through it, but I can't seem to find the one I was looking for."
Willow thought for a moment, "You mean the one where we are the lights? There are several of those."
Maclay got up, reverently grabbed her scriptures, and brought them over from her desk. She carefully handed them to Willow and looked at her with expectation. Willow began scanning over the pristine pages looking for the passage she thought the blonde wanted. After a few moments, she started feeling frustrated. Come on, come on, I'm good at this. She took a breath.
"What's wrong? Maclay asked quietly.
"I know what I'm looking for but I can't find it in yours. In mine, I have this color coding system to keep things straight when I read them, you know, so I can find them again."
Maclay raised her eyebrow at her new friend. "That's, um, interesting." She trailed off.
Willow felt a little defensive, but she knew her system worked for her. Too many times just like this one, she would be looking for something in another set of scriptures and just couldn't find her way. "Okay, well I bet I can find what you're looking for in just a few minutes if I had mine."
"That's a bet I'll take then. What do I win if you can't?"
"Oh, you're so brave; you know we don't gamble so you've got nothing to lose." Willow retorted back.
"Nice try." Maclay was in full throttle now. "It's not gambling if there's no risk and there's no money involved. And this is just for personal satisfaction so it doesn't count. But if you want to race, then that would be ok with me. I'll even let you win if you want."
"Oh yeah, right. Like, you're probably just tricking me to get me alone in my room. No, that's not what I meant. You probably already know where it is and you're checking me out. No, that didn't come out right either." (Huge cleansing breath) "Oh, let's just go get my books and we'll look together, ok?" I just have to talk don't I? How far into that hole was she gonna let me get. I think she actually knew I'd babble at her. And oh, with the "alone in my room" and checking me out," like she'd do that. Uh oh, she's smiling at me again.
Maclay seemed to sense her panic once more. "It's okay. I think I know what you meant. Yes, let's take a break from the Chatty Cathys and I can see how well you do the research thing. And we can discuss the little flamey candle passage."
"We'll be back in a few okay guys?" Maclay announced. The other girls just nodded at them.
Willow handed Maclay's scriptures back to her. "Well they probably won't even miss us."
A few minutes later the girls were sitting facing each other on the extra bunk with their books set between them. Willow had easily found four references referring to the "light" that Maclay was interested in.
"You know it's interesting. Maclay started after a moment. "Everything that we believe in is based on what we know from these books. Now we're going to another country to explain in a different language all the things we believe in. I can barely do that in English sometimes.
"Some of the words that we know and use every day to describe things don't even exist there. We don't have shared experiences to draw upon. We don't listen to the same music or watch the same TV shows. We can't draw analogies or use references that are uniquely ours as Americans. It's just kind of weird you know if you think about it.
"It's like trying to describe a duck to someone who's never even seen a bird. We depend on language so much and now we won't even have that. Our basic religious attitudes are very different from theirs too.
"I was just sitting there thinking about all of us. We are so diverse. I was watching the six of us and we were not able to communicate that well even with English in common. Colson's accent is easier to get than Conley's speed speak."
"Ha. That's what I called it too. Well, in my head, not to her face, ‘cause that would be rude, but yeah." Wow I really like this girl. She continued, "But what does the light passage have to do with that - because I'm starting to get that you think much deeper and made some connection there?"
"Yeah, actually," Maclay laughed a little. "I was."
Okay, don't interrupt her, let her lead the way. And for goodness sake don't babble. Willow focused her positive energies toward the girl.
Willow looked deep into her eyes willing her to say what was in her heart.
"I was thinking about you." Maclay blushed. She took a cleansing breath.
"I was thinking that you and I seemed like a better match and I wondered why we weren't put together for our time here. I felt like I knew you the minute I saw you, like we were supposed to meet here and be together."
There was a long pause as both the girls took in the statement.
"I feel like you and I have some kind of connection, like together we're brighter." Maclay let the words sink in before she continued. "I sense that we share some other things too, and maybe that's why we're not companions."
Willow's jaw dropped. She closed her mouth, but it fell open again. What is she saying to me? She tried to decipher each word Maclay had just said to her. Is she saying it would not be "safe" for us to be together, that we wouldn't be good study-buddies, that we are being punished - no that's not it.
"I..." Willow was interrupted as the door swung open. Kitchen and Smith returned from their night out. They were laughing.
Naturally, Smith spoke. "Okay ladies, time for bed. Let's get Maclay Shimai home to her companions and get to bed. Six o'clock is going to roll around here really quick and we have to be in gym. What time to you want us to pick you up?" She said now looking directly at Maclay. "Conley and Colsen Shimai said they were gonna sleep in so it's just the four of us."
Noooo! I want to sleep in too. Willow yelled in her head. I want to talk to Maclay. I'm not even tired now; my brain is all awake. I need to figure this out - what did she mean we share some things, what things? I really need to talk to Maclay.
On the way back to Maclay's dorm room, Kitchen and Smith retold what they had missed. They said the party had to break up after Conley starting whistling church songs through her nose. They were still laughing as the returned without the blonde.
As Willow prepared for bed, she went through the remaining items on her internal checklist.
Okay. Make it through today, check.
Say my prayers, check.
Gotta do that before I go to sleep. Okay, good stuff for my kids to read, nothing with doubts, fears, negativity - that means no chatty Cathy, no Frumpy, no thoughts about a certain blonde that is driving me to distraction. She's so cool. I really think she gets me. She's not all pretentious. Kitchen Shimai is very genuine but Smith, it seems like there's something off about her. Maybe it's me. She hasn't really done anything worthy of me not liking her; I just get all eeeh ahhh about her. Her voice just kind of grates me wrong I guess. I can't write that, got to make sure that when I look back at this it's all "of the good."
Conley seems super nice - although I don't really get her, but she seems nice. I mean, how can you get someone when you don't understand half of what she says, for example. Colsen, nothing really noteworthy there. And the Elders - okay, it's not all about the people right.
Mom says there are three kinds of people: those who talk about people, those who talk about things, and those who talk about ideas. I want to be idea gal. I want to be all with the ideas, all deep thinking and everything. Okay, I'm finally getting tired. I have five minutes before I won't be able to keep my eyes open. Better get to the record keeping now. So why am I procrastinating now? Stop it. Write already.
Okay, that seems pretty tame, nothing about the warm ticklies I got from Maclay and how irritated I was at first with Sister Smith. Tomorrow is a new day and Gym class waits.