Marli Quintela’s perfect serve flew across the net. All eyes followed the volleyball and cheered as the visiting team let the ball hit the floor. Pandemonium erupted as the Panthers won the Regionals. The team met at the Dairy Shed afterwards to celebrate.
“Hey, Marli, can I borrow your car to take Alicia home? I’ll be right back.” Beth Carington swung her arm around Marli’s neck. Marli pressed the keys into her teammate’s hand.
“I can’t believe you’d let that girl go off with your car.” Karen’s mouth screwed up like prunes and sour pickles. Her jealousy of Beth over Zach Lawson kept the gossips busy as bees.
“That girl? You mean our friend since Kindergarten, one of the Three Musketeers? Girl Scouts, Youth group, mission trips - the three of us together all the time. I wish you two would get over your feud. It’s ruining our Senior year and I’m tired of refereeing between the two of you. Besides, you know Alicia gets in trouble if she’s not home by ten o’clock. If she’s late, her folks won’t let her play. We need everybody at practice for State.” Marli’s mention of ‘State’ sent the whole place into cheers again. Karen rolled her eyes and left the Dairy Barn.
The school hummed with excitement over their Regional win the next day. Marli’s Algebra swooned around her head in a blur. They could win State! Her daydreaming pulled to the surface at the muffled, crackling loudspeaker.
“Marli Quintela, please come to the office.”
Her heart dropped to her stomach when she saw both her parents and two policemen discussing something in the office.
“What’s going on? Mom, is everything all right?” Marli’s voice trembled.
Officer Melrose stepped toward her.
“Marli Quintela, you are under arrest for damaging private property. You have the right...” Melrose continued with Miranda rights. He cuffed her and led her outside to his police car.
“What? I don’t know what you mean. What property, what...”
“Karen Kelly’s car was keyed pretty badly last night. Beth Carington admitted to it, but claimed that you gave her they keys. You are an alleged accessory because you handed her the tool.”
“I only loaned her my car, I didn’t know she was going to use the keys to damage Karen’s car.” She was pushed into the back seat of the police vehicle, but not before she saw the shocked faces of her classmates. Her heart pounded with crushing embarrassment and the sickening knowledge that Beth betrayed her.
Marli spent the day in jail, sitting on a bench next to Beth, who finally broke the silence.
“I did walk by Karen’s car last night and accidentally scratched it with your keys. But I didn’t do that awful damage that Officer Melrose showed me this morning. I don’t know how that happened. I should have said something to Karen immediately last night, but I didn’t think it was that bad. Besides, she is always mad at me because of Zach.” Beth’s hot tears ran down her face.
Marli reached over and held her hand. “I believe you.”
The girls were in court together the next week. They were fined $800 dollars each. The conviction meant that they would not be returning to the volleyball team either.
The Panthers might have lost State anyway, even with Marli and Beth on the team, but the scorned glances they got the day after the defeat felt like blame.
On Graduation Day, both Marli and Beth received a note from Karen.
“Please meet me in the parking lot after the ceremony.”
The three friends stood staring at one another, still donned in their Panther Blue robes.
“I keyed my own car. I was so jealous, I wanted to hurt you Beth because of Zach, and you, Marli because you wouldn’t be on my side. I didn’t intend for you to get into so much trouble, or ruin our Senior year. I’m so sorry.” Karen's brimming tears spilled over.
“We knew all along. How are we going to get over this?” Beth put her arm around Karen.
“We’ll find a way. We all know Jesus, and He will help us find our way back to each other, to Him.” Marli pulled her two friends to her in a group hug.
Three heads bowed together. They watched their collective tears drip to the concrete below and their mutual Friend began the healing above.
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