Janessa sat stiffly on the metal chair, mentally reminding herself to sit like a lady. The white cotton dress she wore was beautiful but extremely uncomfortable. Give me a t-shirt and basketball shorts any day. But, despite her discomfort, Janessa felt her heart flutter with excitement as she listened to Sister Morton talk about the importance of her upcoming baptism.
As the sister missionary finished speaking and motioned for Janessa to come forward, Janessa gave the back of the room one last quick glance. Where is she? She promised she'd be here. Then Sister Morton escorted her to the entry of the baptismal font and Janessa found herself entering the warm, clear water. She moved hesitantly down the steps to stand beside Elder Innman who helped her position her hands for the ordinance.
The elder's voice was as comforting as the water. Janessa listened to him utter the baptismal prayer and then held her breath as he gently pushed her below the surface and pulled her back up. She smiled as she brushed the water from her face; her entire body tingled with goosebumps, but she wasn't cold. Sister Morton beckoned to her from the stairs, holding a fluffy white towel.
"Come along Janessa. Sister Pedersen will keep everyone occupied while you dry off and get dressed."
Janessa pressed the towel to her face. "I've never felt so good in my life. I want this feeling to last forever." She hurried to the dressing room where she changed into a pleated pale green skirt and a white blouse. Only a small improvement from the dress. She squeezed her head-full of small braids as dry as she could get them and then returned to her seat. Although she was greeted with smiles, disappointment tugged at her heart when she glanced at the back of the room. Iris, where are you? You've never gone back on a promise before.
The program ended by singing Janessa's favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art" and Elder Carver offered the benediction. Janessa's new Young Women's leader greeted her with a hug and handed her a bag of goodies.
"Be sure to bring the bag to class tomorrow. We always give a prize when the girls remember their bags."
Everyone in the room congratulated her and she was pulled into more embraces than she could count. As soon as she arrived home, Janessa yanked off her clothes and dressed in something more comfortable. She didn't bother calling Iris; she knew where to find her. Grabbing her basketball, Janessa jogged down to the park where she found Iris and their other friends already on the court, their clothes wet with exertion.
"Iris! Iris!" Janessa called.
Iris snapped a pass to another girl, and watched as the other girl dribbled up to the net and took her shot. Only after the ball soared through the net did she turn to face Janessa.
to be continued...