Jesus Freaks: The Prodigal (Jesus Freaks #2)
Author:Andrea Randall

Mom meets me at the door, her hand over mine as it rests on the handle. “We’ll figure this out later,” she says in a rare moment of composure. “Don’t bring it up now. We’ve got all kinds of other… shit … going on out there.”


“Yeah,” I whisper, my attention refocused, “like what the … what is Matt’s dad doing here? That is his dad, right? And, how do you know him?”


She smiles, opening the door. “See what I mean? All kinds of shit.”


“Your mouth.” I roll my eyes.


She rolls hers back.


“I’m serious,” I insist. “Please.”


Mom’s face falls slightly. “Sorry,” she whispers.


“Hope you took time off from work,” I mumble as we exit the side room. She playfully pinches my elbow as we reenter the increasingly awkward atmosphere of the green room.


Jonah stands, followed by the rest of my friends. “We gotta head back to campus and get some studying done. See you around soon, right?”


Instinctively, my eyes flash to Mom, Roland, and then Jahara. “Yes,” I lift my chin and answer. “I’ll be in class tomorrow.”


Jahara steps forward. “Excuse me,” she interrupts as politely as possible, “but you’ve got the Today show tomorrow morning. The eight-AM slot.”


“Cool,” I reply with a thousand pound block muscling its way through my throat. “I have class at nine so I’ll be fine.”


I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. Please let me be fine.


She clears her throat. “They also want to talk about doing a longer interview that they can air during an evening slot.”


“We can schedule that for Thanksgiving break, then. I need to study and get through the next week. And, if they want me in New York for that, it’s not a far drive from my house.”


Jahara starts to reply, but I cut her off. “If they want the in-depth interview, Jahara, they’ll take it when I can give it. We aren’t the ones asking them for this exposé. They’ll do it when I’m ready.”


Eden and Bridgette’s eyes widen and Silas and Jonah shift uncomfortably as their hands search for their pockets. It occurs to me that they’ve likely rarely spoken to an adult the way I just spoke to Jahara. During Parents’ Weekend I heard little more than “Yes Sir” or “Yes Ma’am” as Jonah addressed his own parents.


“Sorry,” I soften my tone toward Roland’s assistant. “Sorry,” I repeat with a deep breath, shaking my head. “Just … during Thanksgiving break, please.”


Jonah approaches me with eyes so full of compassion I think I might break apart. When he places his hand on my shoulder, I think I do break. Just a little. “Hang in there. This is just a thing.”


I huff with a grin. “Just a thing.” I nod and hug Bridgette and Eden before they exit the room.


Silas hangs back for a second and my breath catches when he leans forward to whisper in my ear. “It’s like you’ve come home. That’s how they’re all going to see it. Keep your wits about you in that interview tomorrow.”


The goose bumps on my neck remain long after he and the rest of my friends disappear down the hallway. I don’t need any further explanation. He’s right. All of the people my dad calls “church” think I’ve come back. What I do question, though, is Silas’ use of the word “they.” Isn’t he part of them? Perhaps he was just using pronouns for the sake of conversational ease, but I make a note in the back of my head to tease apart his semantics when I have a moment to myself. Whenever that will be.


“If you ladies will excuse me,” Jahara says to me and Mom—who I forgot was standing right behind me, “I’ve got some PR work to do in my office. I’ll be over at Roland’s house at six o’clock in the morning to go over things for the Today Show. Please be ready by then, Kennedy.”


“Of course,” I answer politely, not wanting to overstep my bounds with her more than I already have.


Once Jahara moves through the doorway, Matt, Roland, and the semi-mystery man join Mom and me in the center of the otherwise empty room.


“Kennedy,” Matt says my name with a depressing amount of formality. I want the adults to all go away. “This is my father, Joseph Wells.”


I take the sweaty palm of the super-sized Matt and smile. “It’s nice to meet you. Your son has been incredibly kind to me.”


Wistfully, Joseph looks at his son. “He’s growing to be a good man.”


When my eyes shift to Matt, I find nothing accepting of this compliment. Another reason I’m wishing the adults away—I want to know what is going on between those two.


“Buck,” Mom’s voice dials up an octave as she pulls him into a hug. An affection I’ve yet to see her share with Roland. “It’s so good to see you.”


“Wendy,” he replies as if she’s a sight for sore eyes, “you too. You too.”


I look at Matt again who’s face is scrunched in the same confusion mine is.


“All right,” I interrupt, waving my hands. “What is all of this? Mom knows Buck, Buck knows dad, and Matt and I just can’t connect the dots.”


“We went to college together.” Mom waves her hand as though this is the most obvious thing in the world.