by Abigail Duman
Evening shadows fell as a white van pulled close to the curb. Teens who had been selling Christian books door-to-door began to file inside.
Amy glanced at the familiar group, then turned and shouldered her backpack. “Shall we stop at one more house before we finish for today, Melissa?”
Her selling buddy grinned. “Let’s.”
Picking up the pace, Amy watched as Melissa studied a crinkled map in her hands. “The last house on our route is down this side road here.”
Out of sight from the waiting white van, the girls approached a faded house.
“This place needs fresh paint and a weed-eater,” Melissa remarked.
“It almost looks like a jail with all of this high iron fencing scattered everywhere…” Amy mused.
Pausing at the back doorstep to knock, they noticed two scruffy young men sauntering around the corner of the house. Shirtless and self-assured, they approached the girls.
“Hi, my name is Amy, and this is my friend Melissa…” Amy began her memorized pitch.
The men listened complacently. “Sure, I’ll give you a donation to help with your project,” one of them pulled two one-dollar bills from his pocket. “Don’t need your books though.”
Amy shifted uneasily to notice a strange gleam in his eye. Glancing at Melissa, she hoped for a mutual unspoken agreement that it was time to vacate the property.
Melissa, however, had already launched into a conversation about the beauty of nature, smiling and laughing in a friendly way.
Why do I feel so nervous about these two men? Amy took a deep breath and collected her thoughts. The evening shadows lengthened as her friend continued to chat. We have got to get out of here—the van is waiting for us.
Just as she opened her mouth to speak, Melissa reached up to softly touch a flower resting in her hair. “Oh yes,” she continued. “It is beautiful. This sweet, elderly lady gave it to me earlier today.”
The more talkative of the two men spoke smoothly. “Why, if you like flowers, why don’t we take you inside? We have beautiful ones planted at the front door and you can pick as many as you want.”
“Oh Amy,” Melissa clutched her arm, “would you like to? We could pick a bouquet for our leader’s wife. I know she would love it!”
Amy didn’t pause to remind her of their policy to avoid walking into houses. “No Melissa, we need to get back to the main street where our friends are waiting for us.” She shook her head firmly, resisting the inclination to run.
Melissa heaved a sigh. “Oh, that’s right.” Turning to the men in front of them, she smiled. “Thank you very much for your offer though.”
Turning their backs on the strangers, Amy reached for her friend’s arm. “Let’s jog back.”
“Well, alright,” her mouth twisted into good-natured grimace. “Though my feet sure are tired from all of the walking we’ve done today.”
Amy felt eyes watching them from that front yard as the two quickly disappeared around a bend in the street.
As soon as they were in sight of the van, Amy exhaled in relief. Quickly settling into their seats among the other young people, the driver, Darius, glanced into the rearview mirror at the girls.
“Was that a successful last house experience?”
“We were wondering,” another piped up. “And waiting.” he added with a laugh.
Melissa spoke up. “We didn’t sell any books there, but there were two young men who seemed pretty nice. They offered to take us around back to their flower garden, but of course, we didn’t have time for that.”
Amy leaned back in her seat, feeling relieved that they were safe in the van and away from the two strangers, for a reason that she could not quite pinpoint. They seemed polite enough, and I don’t have enough proof to doubt that their motives weren’t thoughtful and genuine. She gazed to the streets outside of her window as Darius began to pull away from the curb. But something about their manner makes me doubt . . .
“Darius,” she suddenly leaned forwards. “Would you please drive over to the last house that Melissa and I canvassed? There is another street that passes in front of it where she can see the front yard.
“Well,” he began.
“It would mean so much to me, Darius,” Amy spoke earnestly.
“Sure thing,” he replied with good humor.
“Yes, I’d be curious to see the flowers they have planted too,” Melissa smiled.
The van slowly pulled onto the lane just as the last glimmer of sun’s rays bathed the house fronts with gold.
“It’s the next house coming up,” Amy craned to look out the front window ahead.
“This one?” Darius pointed.
Slowly they drove by the front lawn, enclosed in a chain-link fence. A strange hush settled over the occupants of the van as many eyes scanned the enclosed yard for the wonderful gardens so confidently promised.
Beyond a locked gate stood a few tangled shrubs and gnarled trees arching above overgrown grass that extended to the front door. There were no flowers.
“But, but, the flowers,” Amy’s friend breathed in amazement. “All I see are weeds.”
“This could have been a dangerous situation today if you had listened to those two men,” Darius said seriously.
Amy involuntarily shivered. “We can praise God that we did not listen to the men and never stepped foot in that house.”
“I would have listened,” Melissa corrected, “I just trusted that what they said was true.”
“You know, the devil has his lies out there too,” Amy reflected. “He tells us that he can lead us to beautiful things if we just leave God’s rules of safety behind.”
“But all the devil has for me is lies,” Melissa pulled the posy back down from her hair and gazed into its petals earnestly. “Although at first, I may have felt happiness to think that I would be picking flowers, in the end I would have been fooled and disappointed.”
“God always keeps His promises,” Darius said from the front seat.
“I for one prefer to follow the path God has for me, because His rules are for my safety,” Amy spoke with new resolve.
“Me too,” Melissa remarked. “There are no flowers in Satan’s garden.”
USED WITH PERMISSION BY GUIDE MAGAZINE