It’s back to school time here in my sleepy little town. Teachers have dutifully hung apples on every surface they can find. The stores are crammed with back to school clothes which all consist of jeans, sweaters, long sleeved shirts and suede boots. Meanwhile temperatures have hung around 102 all week. Summer, it seems, is not giving in without a fight.
While we are stuck in class the weather teases us. While we are listening to our teacher lecture on and on about transitive property and distributive property, the blue sky outside whispers summer! How are we supposed to concentrate? The pools are all closed of course. All of the life guards have returned to where ever they came from and we are all left with this perfect sunbathing weather and nowhere to go.
This is how I came up with my perfect plan. On the bus ride home I was lamenting our fate to Lauren when it suddenly occurred to me where a perfect spot to catch the last of summers glorious rays would be. We needed a flat surface. We needed a spot with no trees. We needed a spot where we could be relatively uninterrupted for at least an hour.
We needed the roof of Graceful Falls Baptist Church.
Lauren was unsure of this plan. “Won’t someone see us?”
“Of course not” I told her. “It’s Thursday. No one is at the church on Thursday.”
Reluctantly she agreed to my plan. When the bus dropped us off at the far end of Wine Spring road, we followed the street up the hill that lead to the church. We passed the Winespring apartments where we first met Ms. Euphinia York. She was sitting out on a chair in front of her door reading some paperback. She was in her night dress even though it was only 4 in the afternoon. She waved and we waved back. Thankfully she didn’t decide to talk to us. We were wasting daylight as it was. When we got to the church the parking lot was empty. Just as I expected, no one was there on a Thursday afternoon. Sunday the parking lot would be full of cars from worship, Monday was when the Deacons met, Tuesday was the LOL (Ladies of the Lord) meeting, but Thursday was clear.
We walked around to the back of the church where the playground was. From the climbing structure you can easily reach a branch from a huge live oak tree that can be scooted along until you are directly over the roof of the fellowship hall. This part of the roof is flat. The roof that covered the offices directly to the left of the fellowship hall is pitched. Lauren and I chose a spot on the flat part of the roof. We placed our backpacks down to use as pillows and I took of my shirt and laid it out under me so I wouldn’t be lying directly on the hot roof. Lauren stared at me and gulped.
“What?” I asked.
“I…I just need a little color on my legs,” she said.
“Oh, no you don’t. If we are going to do this we are going to do this right!” I demanded. “Now, take it off.”
Lauren is always wussing out on me when I come up with a brilliant idea. She just doesn’t have the guts to hang sometimes.
Reluctantly Lauren pulled off her top and laid it out as I had done. We both lay down on the roof and let the warm summer air drag all of the stress of the day away. At first we were quiet, but after a while we began laughing and joking. We had fun at the expense of almost everyone in the school. We make fun of how Amanda Atkins would spend every free moment talking about her hair and whether or not it looked better with a headband. We made fun of Joshua Branch who always had huge parties and never invited us. After about a half hour we had concocted a genius plan to sneak out and water balloon bomb the entire party. We were laughing so hard at the idea of all the gross stuff we could fill water balloons with instead of water that we didn’t hear the car drive up and park right by the big oak tree. We did hear the sound of the car door slamming though and the voice of Cliff Shelby calling to his grandson Charlie. Cliff Shelby is the Chair of the Building and Grounds Committee. It is his job to keep the church up and running. Charlie Shelby is a grade above me and Lauren at school. He is the only foot ball player who talks to us because we go to the same church. He is adorable
Lauren began freaking out! She started to sit up so she could grab her t-shirt out from under her, but I pulled her back down. If she raised her head they would see us for sure. I heard Cliff say something about unloading tables for the meeting tonight. What meeting? I had planned this out perfectly!
Lauren started to cry. I swear to God I could have smacked her! I put a hand over her mouth but it was too late. Cliff Shelby had heard something.
“Get the ladder, Charlie” I heard him say. Oh crap, what now. I began to think fast. I eyed my surroundings and determined that the only way we could escape would be to climb up the pitched side of the roof and down the other side where they wouldn’t see us. Once over there we would be trapped and clearly visible to any one on that side of the church, but if we left no evidence of ourselves on the fellowship hall side, then maybe Cliff Shelby would think he had imagined the whole thing and leave in time for us to climb back over and get down. It wasn’t the best plan, but it was the only plan we had. I quickly whispered it to a silently weeping Lauren who just nodded her head in a dejected sort of way. She was the image of a girl who had given up, but I needed her to hold it together for just a little while longer.
I heard the clanging sound of Charlie coming back with the ladder. This was our last chance. While they were busying themselves with the ladder, we would make our break for it. I looked at Lauren and silently mouthed the words “1-2-3” then “Go!”
We grabbed our things and scurried up and over the steeply pitched roof. Once on the other side we lowered ourselves back down so we couldn’t be seen from the other side. The black shingles of the roof which had been baking all day in the sun burned our skin now that our t-shirts weren’t underneath us. I scrambled to quietly arrange mine back under me and Lauren went to do the same then suddenly gave me a look of horror. She had left her shirt on the other side of the roof, right where Mr. Shelby was about to climb up on that ladder and see. I could have wrung her neck.
Just then we heard Clifton Shelby call out, “Who’s up here?”
We didn’t answer.
“Whoever you are, you need to get down now. You can’t be up here!” I heard the gravel of the shingles crunch under him as he stepped carefully across the roof. I could hear him mumble as he found Lauren’s t-shirt lying on the ground. “Whoever you are, you forgot your shirt.”
Suddenly Charlie became interested. “Who is it Gramps? Do you want me to come up and help you look for them?”
That is when Lauren cried out, “NO!”
I could have pulled her hair out!
She had completely messed up everything. But I was going to have to fix it or else we would still be up on that rooftop helplessly waiting the entire church to see us in our bras and shorts. I poked my head up over the top of the roof.
“Sara Foster. I should have known.” Said Cliff Shelby.
“It’s Sara!?” Charlie’s voice called out.
“Never you mind!” Cliff called back over his shoulder.
“Is Lauren with her?” Charlie asked.
“I said never mind! Just hold that ladder and stay put!”
He turned back to us, “What, in the name of everything holy, are you two doing up here with your clothes off?”
Charlie called up again, “Do you want me to come up, Gramps?”
Cliff ignored him.
“We were sun bathing,” I answered.
“On the roof of the church!?”
“Yes sir” I said in as meek a voice as I knew how to make.
Cliff looked as though he were debating what to do. Finally he threw Laurens shirt over the roof toward us and said. “Get your clothes on and get the hell off the roof. I’m going inside to call your mothers!”
“NO!” Lauren cried out again.
“Yes sir” I said.
And with that Cliff Shelby turned to climb back down the ladder. Lauren and I pulled our t-shirts back on and scrambled back over the roof and toward the tree branch we had used to climb up. We were hot, sweaty and sunburned. The rood had left stripes of tar that stuck to our skin and clothes. Lauren was still crying as we began our walk home, knowing what would be waiting for us when we got there. She seemed to think this was all MY fault like she wasn’t the one who ruined everything. I was too busy trying to figure out how to get out of this mess to argue with her. We didn’t talk the whole way home. When we got to the street where Lauren had to turn off to go to her house she walked off without saying good bye. This might take a few days to work itself out. I watched her walk out of sight then turned to head home. Maybe mom won’t pick up her phone. Maybe it will be a couple of days before she checks her messages. Maybe the church office has the wrong phone number listed and they won’t be able to get a hold of her. I said a silent prayer and then wondered if God cared to answer the prayers of topless sunbathers.
…to be continued