Thursday, December 14, 2017

🎄 The Nativity Mystery

December 22, 2016 by  
Filed under 2016 Christmas, Monthly Articles

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The Nativity Mystery
by Julie Arduini

The cackles echoed throughout the second floor of the dorm. Faith Davis moved to the hall’s right as the sorority girls knocked into each other and stumbled toward the stairs. One of the girls, her floor mate, Ainsley Walker, pointed in Faith’s direction.

“That girl’s a dis-a-dis-app, she’s a loser.” Ainsley’s words slurred, but her accusation was aimed straight at Syd. The girls passed her, Ainsley’s elbow jabbing Faith as the sorority girls laughed.

Faith looked down at the scuffed-up floor as she forced herself to keep moving back to her room, passing a cart of cleaning supplies as she wiped away a tear.

Disappointment?

Faith knew the word well.

***

The next morning, Faith woke early to start studying for finals. Once dressed, she grabbed her backpack and pushed the suite door to the lounge. In the middle of the room was a table covered with a ratty blanket. On top was a wooden stable that looked like it came from a nativity scene.

Faith stared at it, comforted by something that reminded her of her home church and their simple decorations. “That’s odd. That wasn’t here yesterday.”

She decided to study on the couch until everyone woke from their hangovers. Hopefully miss the whispers and sneers about how they were hoping the transfer student would pledge a sorority, but were insulted when she chose to study. Without the full academic ride to Canton University, Faith wouldn’t have even been able to afford the bus to visit the college. As Ainsley pointed out every time she had a couple drinks in her, Faith was a lost cause.

It was prime party time when Faith returned from the library. The only person she passed was the cleaning woman and her cart.

The woman stopped dusting. “Good evening, Miss Davis.”

Faith smiled. “Hi.”

“You ready for finals?”

Faith nodded. “As much as I can be. I will be here over break, though. I bet it gets very quiet.”

The plump woman with tight, curly hair smiled, a small gap in her teeth. “It’s heavenly. Enjoy your night.”

Faith waved and walked up the stairs to her floor. The table remained, but animal figurines filled the blanket. She was drawn to the scene, and slowly made her way over to pick up a lamb. Before she could inspect it, her suite door opened with a thud, and her floor mates crashed through.

Riley Carpenter’s nose turned up as she rolled her eyes. “Did you put that there? It’s embarrassing. That set is ancient. And that blanket…”

Faith shook her head. “It’s not mine, but I think it’s beautiful.”

Ainsley gestured for the rest to move along. “Of course you would. It’s a sad display. Like you.”

The group giggled and left, leaving Faith as she stood still, inspecting the animals. The pieces were plastic, the colors fading, but still, looking at the mysterious manger set-up was far brighter for her spirits than the neon garland flung across the suite doors.

***

After a week, the underclassmen ventured each day into the lounge to peek at the nativity display. Girls like Ainsley complained about the pieces being ugly. Faith disagreed. After months of being the new girl and the outcast, it was a gift to see something, anything, that reminded her she was at Canton U for a reason. God had provided. And with one final left, she’d have the dorms pretty much to herself as everyone else returned home.

As Faith headed out her suite and into the lounge area for her last exam, the cleaning woman was vacuuming, a red headband brightening her otherwise bland work clothes.

“Good morning, Miss Davis. You look like you’re ready to conquer the world.”

Faith pushed a stray mouse-brown hair behind her ear. “I’m not sure about the world, but I’m ready for Chemistry.”

The woman chuckled. “I don’t mean to overstep boundaries, but you mentioned not going home for Christmas.”

Faith bit her lip before answering. “Even with the snide comments, things are still calmer here than home. There are friends from church who offered to let me stay with them, but I figured by the time I go home, I’d just have to turn around and take the bus back. It’s easier this way.”

“Sounds like you have it figured out. If you need anything, my schedule is shorter over break, but I’m here. You ace that exam, now.”

***

Faith pressed the Velcro on her boot and pushed her suite door open. Her suitemates were gone and her exams finished. She felt lighter as she prepared to walk to the little church in town for Christmas Eve service. As she entered the lounge, she walked by the manger. The set was complete, Baby Jesus now between his Earthly parents.

Faith stood with her jaw lowered. “How…”

A friendly voice answered her from behind. “How did that set get there?”

Faith turned and found the cleaning woman smiling, dressed in a red sweater and black pants. “Was it you? Why?”

The woman sat on the couch and gestured Faith to sit. “I wasn’t seeing a lot of Christian behavior on this floor. It’s an old set, but I cherish it. I felt there might be a girl who could relate to a newcomer who didn’t meet the world’s expectations.”

Tears fell to the floor. “It’s been hard.”

“I know. But you’ll do well here. Give it time. I’m heading to Christmas Eve service, would you like to join my sister and me?”

Faith picked up the baby piece and held it to her heart. “I’d love that. I’m sorry, all these months and I never learned your name.”

“It’s okay, most girls think I blend in with the walls. You always looked up and spoke to me. My name is Elizabeth. Elizabeth King.”

Faith looked at the tiny Savior in her hand, and then to her friend. “Merry Christmas, Miss King.”

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