It’s their last night and everyone is too keyed up after the party to sleep. They have church in the morning, and will get on the road right after. Denise remarks that she thinks Claire has changed. She would normally have used Jane to save herself, instead, she protected her friend.
“Maybe we can give it another chance,” Maddie said. “Maybe she’s really a nice girl after all.”
Denise wrinkled her nose. “No offense, Mads, but she still hates you. Well, hate isn’t the right word. She’s jealous of you. Not only do you have Clayton, who is totally adorable, you could have had Gabe. That’s something she will always regret.”
“I regret that a little too, but I’m so happy with Clayton, I know that won’t last long.”
“Funny how we all ended up with dreamy guys,” Beverly said. She wore Brad’s ring around her neck on a chain.
“Yeah, who knew that Richard wasn’t a dork?” Denise said, giggling. “Wow, can that guy kiss!”
They laughed and talked some more, until Polly came in. Caroline and Les were also at Dr. Santos’ clinic for the night. He was still feeling the effects of the stress filled stay.
“Time for lights out,” Polly said. “We’ve got an early day tomorrow.”
Reluctantly, the girls settled in their sleeping bags and one by one they fell asleep.
The next morning, they headed to the fellowship hall around 8:00. Breakfast had been cereal and pop-tarts. With their cook out of commission, they had to fend for themselves. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best.
Jose greeted them at the door, along with Ted. The ushers led them to the front rows of seats, which had been roped off for them. They were treated like dignitaries. Many of the church members came up to speak to them. They had made a lot of friends in the congregation.
The choir walked down the aisle with Jose at the head. The choir director played the piano and they sang a song that everyone knew. There were no hymnbooks, but donations were already coming in from all over the country. It wouldn’t be long before they were fully stocked and had the money to build a new church.
Jose took his place at the lectern. He greeted his congregation, with a special greeting for the Nebraska youth. “I’m deviating from my usual format today, so I can recognize a few special people. You’ve all seen the students from our sister church. Some of you even know them by name. I want to bring them all up here so we can thank them properly for everything they’ve done. When I call your names, come up and stand in front of the congregation.”
Smiling, they stood and waited for their names to be called. One by one, Jose introduced them. The people applauded enthusiastically for each. When he finally got to Clayton and Maddie, the congregation gave them a standing ovation. Blushing, Maddie smiled at them. Even Gabe was there, smiling and clapping. He stood next to Luis, who started whistling. Eventually, the applause quieted and the congregation sat.
“I invited you up here because we have something very special to give you,” Jose told them.