Forever Changed
Abby, Age 16, Peachtree City, GA

A cool breeze blew; a leaf fluttered gently to the ground; a squirrel ran into its nest with cheeks full of nuts. It was a beautiful fall morning in the New England village. Churchgoers with their shawls and thick coats made their way to the village church, eager to mingle with one another on this crisp Sunday. Among this crowd walked twenty-year-old Wilson Ford, placid and oblivious to the fact that his world would change that very day.

The service would not be an unusual one. The choir would lead the singing, his aunt, Candace Whitcomb, would belt out the solo, and the pastor would preach his typical lofty, rambling and altogether uninteresting sermon. Wilson expected nothing unusual.

The service began. He situated himself in his pew, picked up his hymnal, and began to sing with the congregation. Suddenly, he heard a voice behind him that would rival an angel's. Turning around to spot this songbird, he saw for the very first time a young lady whose appearance could as well be called angelic. Her deep blue eyes locked with his for a brief moment that felt like a lifetime, and then he turned back around.

He sat in a daze for the rest of the service. It would not have mattered if his aunt sang "Abide With Me" to the tune of "Amazing Grace", or if the pastor declared that Hell was located on the North Pole. All Wilson could think of was the angel in the back row.

Meanwhile, eighteen-year-old Alma Way sat down quickly, cheeks red, heart fluttering wildly. Had that dazzlingly handsome man really just looked at her in that way? No, her imagination was running wild. Yet before she knew it, he glanced back, and their eyes met again. She quickly looked down in a desperate attempt to avoid any form of embarrassing reaction.

When the service ended, Alma found herself entirely unsure of what to do. She did not call this village her home; rather, she was from the next village over called East Derby. She had attended on this day only because her friend had asked her to stay the night while her family was traveling. Complaining of a headache, however, the friend stayed home from church. Alma wanted to speak to this young man, but of course that would be entirely improper. With a small sigh she walked out the back door and back towards her friend's house.

Wilson looked back. To his great dismay, there were no young ladies resembling an angel to be found. Pacing back and forth, he blindly walked to the aisle where the girl had sat. His eyes then fell on a small Bible. It was placed exactly where this girl had sat! He picked it up gently, as though it might turn to dust in his hands. Inside it read, "If found please return to Alma Way, East Derby". Wilson sighed in despair. This girl lived in East Derby; he would not be seeing her again.

Alma Way. The name stuck like glue to his mind. All day he walked around, whispering "Alma Way. Alma Way. Her appearance of pure perfection held him captive like nothing else.

Alma could not remove the image of those eyes staring at her for the rest of the afternoon. They haunted her in the loveliest way. She felt as if this man had practically captured her soul. The split second any thought like that entered her head, however, she quickly brushed it off. She knew perfectly well she would never see him again.

Having said her goodbyes, she walked outside to make her way home. It was a beautiful fall night in New England. The stars shone as though God had just given them a cleaning, and the moon had the appearance of smiling.

No more than a mile down the road, Alma spotted a man coming her way. As she got closer and closer, he began to look familiar. Suddenly, her heart started beating wildly. It was the man from church that morning.

Wilson stopped still in his tracks. On his way home from the general store, he looked up, and there she was. Twenty steps in front of him was the beautiful songbird. Without thinking, he called out, "Alma Way!"

Warily, she approached him. "How do you know my name?" she inquired.

He stammered out a reply in a manner very unlike himself. "Your left it...the pew...I had it...your name in it."

She smiled sweetly. "And, pray tell, what is your name?"

"Wilson Ford," he blurted out. He paused, and then asked, "May I walk you home?"

Looking into his eyes, she simply replied, "Yes."

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