Rae stopped in the middle of the crowd and stood still, letting everyone press in around her. She loved the swirling mass of people; she always felt alive in the midst of so many faces. It was kingdom celebration, and in her mind the best way to celebrate was with people. She closed her eyes and inhaled the excitement… until someone bumped her from behind, nearly knocking her to the ground.
“Rae, what are you doing? You can’t just stop moving in the middle of a crowd like this. You’ll be trampled.”
Rae just laughed at her buddy Derek as he pulled at her to follow the flow of the street traffic. “Really? Because of all these people, the only one who has tried to run me over is you.”
“Hey, my point still stands,” Derek argued. “And I am not about to get in trouble with your aunt and uncle because you weren’t looking where you were going.” He feigned an authoritative tone, but she could see the smile he was trying to hide. She knew she’d won out again.
Derek was not the crowd-lover she was, but she knew he wasn’t about to bail on her in the middle of their trip to the capital either. Her relatives had encouraged her zeal for life and activity in many ways, but they recognized that she needed a steady and responsible counterweight to her occasionally flighty mindset. Derek had proven himself to her aunt and uncle as a trustworthy young man — and somehow she was friends with him anyway.
“How about we stand under that ledge over there?” Derek steered her toward the space under a small clearing. “That way you can still try to join the procession without getting arrest — which I know you want to do, so don’t bother pretending it hasn’t already crossed your mind.”
Rae stopped under the overhang, a few feet and several people back from the anticipated procession line.
“This is about you not getting trampled again, isn’t it?”
“You bet it is.” Derek folded his arms and gave her the best disapproving-father look he could muster. His “stern” teenage face looked so ridiculous that soon she was bent over in a bubbling fit of giggles. She barely heard the sharp squeal and loud thump over her laughter. When she glanced back at Derek he was flat on the ground, crushed by the body of a girl who seemed to have appeared out of thin air.
“What the –” wheezed Derek, trying to get a breath as the girl struggled to get out of his space.
“Derek! Are you okay?” Rae reached for him, then stopped as the girl scooted back and looked up at her. Shock reverberated through Rae’s body, stunning her into silence. Derek scrambled to his feet, pulling Rae back a few steps as they stared at the girl. The girl also stood as another boy climbed down the ledge from which she must have fallen. Rae could not believe what she was seeing.
Finally the girl spoke, voicing exactly what Rae was thinking: “My face. She has my face.”