Emily's fingers flew over her phone's keypad: "Call when you get home from school." She clicked "Send" to text Megan, shifted her backpack more comfortably, and headed for home.
As soon as she opened the front door at home she saw Nick, her older brother's friend, sitting in the living room. "Hey, Nick!"
"Hi, yourself!" Nick grinned. "How's school?"
"Good." Emily shoved her backpack into the hall closet and looked around. "So where's my big college bro, An-drew?" She teasingly held the last syllable, lengthening it.
"He's in ―"
"― the kitchen, of course. Where else?" Emily stepped around the corner and gave her brother a sisterly shove. "What's up, Andy? How's college?"
"Tough. I sure wish I'd planned ahead a bit. I'm swamped with classes I could have taken online during my high school summer breaks."
"Nick seems cool with college."
"Yeah." Andy poured milk in two glasses and grabbed the package of cookies. "He's going to help me study for my next English exam."
"You need all the help you can get with English," she said.
Andy nodded and headed for the living room. "It's never been my favorite subject."
Emily poured her own milk and followed him. "You should've paid more attention to English in high school," she said, waiting for Nick and Andy to pass the cookies.
"Yeah, I know that now." Andy heaved a big sigh. "How's English for you?"
"Not my favorite subject, either. Meagan's phoning in a bit," she said, changing the subject, "and I want to talk to her about getting ready for college. Any suggestions, oh you college men?" She grinned derisively.
"Yeah." Nick brushed cookie crumbs off his jeans and nodded. "You mean other than make English a priority?"
Andy first threw Nick a disgusted glance, but the then he nodded thoughtfully.
"Then take a speech class." Nick sat forward and reached for the cookies again.
Emily sipped milk and almost choked on it. "Speech class? Standing up in front of people scares me to death― even when I'm able to think of something intelligent to say."
"That's just it, isn't it?" Nick winked at her. "Practice makes perfect in speaking just like in music lessons, riding a bike―" he waved his cookie, "―and baking cookies. Don't they offer a speech class in high school?"
"Yeah," Emily said, "but since it isn't required to graduate, I'm avoiding it at all costs. I don't want to sound like a fool in front of my friends."
"I'm sure you wouldn't," Nick said. "Don't let fear keep you from a great learning experience that will help you all your life."
"No maybe about it. How about joining a Toastmasters club for the summer? Having practice at giving short speeches would better prepare you for a high school speech class in the fall." Nick swigged milk. "Speaking up in class or in your church group helps, too. You can't completely blow it in one short comment. The more you speak up, the more confident you'll feel."
"I'm not sure about that," Emily said. "You need self-confidence for starters don't you―to stand in front of friends and tell them something you think they need to know?"
Nick leaned forward, elbows on thighs. "More important than self-confidence is having confidence in God. College opens up an adult world, and sometimes it's not as terrific as we thought it would be. Knowing Christ deeply and personally helps you do your best in college.
"In college, your spiritual commitment will be tested again and again. Failing spiritually will have lasting consequences and affect your success as an adult." Nick sat back looking sober. "I've seen kids completely fall apart once they started college. My friend, Mark, got in with the wrong crowd and he's into drugs and serious partying now. Make sure that doesn't happen to you, Emily."
"Thanks, Nick. You're a great friend."
Emily's cell phone rang. She scrambled for it in her jeans' pocket and lounged back on the sofa. "Hey Megan!" she said, reaching for another cookie. "We've got lots to talk about!" Not feeling one, she sat straight up and stared at the cookie bag. The package was empty!