“Are you doing anything tonight?” Curt blurted out.
She raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
“Do you want to hang out?”
Hannah sucked in a cheek. “I don’t think I can. I’m not allowed to date.” Especially an atheist, she thought.
Curt shrugged. “It’s not a date. It would just be hanging out.”
“Well, you’re a boy, and my father would consider any hanging out with a boy to be a date.”
“But you hung out with me last week,” Curt said, a confused expression on his face.
“Yeah, but my father didn’t know about that,” Hannah said in a low voice, her cheeks reddening.
“Oh. Well, maybe he doesn’t need to know about this,” he whispered, a glint of mischief in his eyes.
“Sorry. I can’t.”
Sneaking out in the middle of the night when her father wouldn’t even notice her absence was one thing. But trying to avoid him in the early evening, when she’d have to lie in order to conceal her activity was another thing completely.
Curt bowed his head slightly. “Okay. No problem. See you around.”
He walked three steps before Hannah called him back. “Do you want to come to youth group with me?”
Jane happened to appear at this exact moment. She must have heard Hannah’s invitation because her mouth dropped open.
“As in like your church stuff?” he asked.
“Yeah.” Hannah’s cheeks burned even hotter. “We play games. Hang out. Talk about God…”
She waited as Curt did the mental calculations. What was he thinking now? Obviously, he knew she was religious. And Hannah normally didn’t struggle to identify herself as Christian. She was proud of her faith, proud of the way it had shaped her life. Even still, every second he remained silent increased her unrest.
Finally, he nodded. “Okay.”
She hadn’t expected him to say ‘yes’. What had she even wanted him to say?
“Yeah, sure. When and where is it?”
Hannah provided Curt with the start time and address as Jane looked on dumbfounded. She waited until he walked off to broach the subject with Hannah.
“Why did you invite him?” she asked in a terse whisper, even though by that time Curt was long gone.
“Because we’re supposed to invite non-believers to church, right?” Hannah asked, as if this was a normal thing.
“Yeah, but still, him? He’ll make fun of us. That’s the only reason he’d come. Unless he wants to score points with you so he can sleep with you or something.”
Hannah scoffed at the accusation. “I don’t think he’ll do any of that.”
She explicitly meant Curt wouldn’t mock them. The other possibility Jane had posited seemed too unrealistic to acknowledge.
“Are you sure? He’s friends with Greg and Tom. You remember the stuff they put us through earlier in the year, right?”
Greg and Tom, whom Hannah had witnessed make numerous disparaging remarks toward Christians in the past, did indeed often accompany Curt. That plus the fact that her first encounter with Curt involved him yelling at her made Jane’s suggestion extremely plausible. For a moment, Hannah imagined all the atheists in school barging into their youth group meeting and commandeering the stage. She shook off the possibility.
“It’ll be fine,” she assured both Jane and herself.
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