“It was just a kiss!” Teri fumed, stalking down the flower-lined walkway. “It’s not fair-I’m grounded because the hottest guy in school decided to kiss me.” She scowled at a garden statue. “I didn’t even kiss him!”
“You’re talking yourself in circles.”
Teri froze in mid-step, whirling fiercely toward the speaker. She blinked. A round rosebush. “I didn’t ask for your opinion.” She told it.
The rosebush shook with laughter, beginning to stretch upwards speaking at the same time. “You’re not asking for it but you’ve stormed through this entire garden in search of me for it.”
Teri wrinkled her nose. “If I was searching for you-” She began, only to be interrupted.
“Step back a bit-I don’t want to prickle you. Even if you do deserve it-tell me again why you’ve been scuffing up these lovely garden stones?” The rising rosebush was nearly six feet high when the vines, thorns and rosebuds molded into a womanly figure. A gentle breeze blew the greenery aside to show the smiling face of Nia, Garden counselor in human form. “You’re hurting more than last time.”
“It’s more complicated than last.” Teri’s shoulders lowered. “I didn’t even-well, you already know-why do you make me repeat myself?”
Nia stretched one hand toward her, extending the vines sprouting from both hand and body, wrapping them gently around the young teen. “Relax.”
“Easy for you to say.” Teri mumbled.
When they were seated at her favorite spot by the reflection pool, her story came tumbling out. “-he smiled and next thing I know he’s kissing me and mom comes around the corner!” Teri gestured wildly in the air with her hands.
“What about your purity promise?” Nia asked.
Teri nudged a pebble into the pool, staring at the ripples. “What about it, Nia? It came to mind-it’s all I’ve thought about!”
Nia’s head bobbed up and down like a leaf in the wind. “Good. You need to. I was afraid for a time that your common sense was frozen in ice and numbed.” Sprouting a white rose just above her left ear, she plucked it gently, offering it to Teri. “Be careful of the thorns.”
Gingerly suspending the flower between two fingers, Teri leaned forward to sniff it. Nia was quicker, blowing softly on the snowy petals, they were tainted pink. Teri blinked. “First kiss.” Nia murmured. “Jared.” The rose grew pinker. “Nicholas.” The pink deepened. “Micah.”
Teri flinched, letting go of the rose to find that her fingers were stuck to the thorns and suddenly immobile. The rose was now nearly red. “Stop it, Nia! You’re supposed to counsel me-not lecture-what are you doing?!”
Nia’s reply was to pry the rose from her fingertips, leaving the thorns still embedded. Holding it beneath her chin, sea-green tears quivered down her cheeks, splashing onto the petals.
Teri gasped as the teardrops splashed white on the crimson rose. “You can’t out-sin God’s forgiveness, Teri.” Nia said quietly. “You can’t push away His love forever.”
“You’re not supposed to preach.” Teri’s voice wobbled. “If all that’s true-then why do I still feel so guilty all the time? I ask him to forgive me and he never does!”
“You don’t really want his forgiveness.” Nia said calmly, touching Teri’s arm and silently counting as the thorns removed themselves, dropping into the pool at their feet.
Shock and disbelief showed plainly on Teri’s face. “What do you mean by that? Of course I want his forgiveness!”
Nia shook her head lightly. “True forgiveness is a repentant heart. Not-I’ll get forgiven today and after my next crush and I run into a roadblock I’ll get forgiven again. That’s puppy love. It hurts. Only God can fill that space you’re trying to get rid of.” Nia threw the rose into the pool; Teri watched as the petals detached and then formed a large heart.
She smiled through her tears. “You’ve been telling me this forever.” Nia hugged her gently, vines wrapping snugly about her. “I think maybe today I understand.”
“Teri? Teri! This is the last time I am calling you, young lady!” Teri winced, stepping back.
“Later Nia!” She whispered, reaching up with one hand, she pressed something by her forehead. Visions of the garden and Nia danced before her eyes before the words scrolled across the LED screen. Program “Gardenia” Closing. “Coming, mom!” Teri scrambled off her bed, leaving the virtual visor on the pillow. She’d take Nia’s advice. Forgiveness. Truth. Love. Teri smiled.
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