Inspired by a true story.
Gushing waterfalls provided a breath-taking backdrop to the much-awaited wedding of two of Cornerstone Church’s young leaders. A cool breeze carried the sweet scent of lavender, jasmine and rose, as some of the couple’s dear friends – skilled musicians – began to play an upbeat reggae tune. The guests were beginning to arrive. The chatter was getting louder. Laughter filled the air. Everyone was family. and the atmosphere was light. Friendly. Full of joy and anticipation.
“You and Jenna, huh?” Max Owens’ best friend, Jeremy Smith, had been out of the country for the past three years. He flew in just in time to be Max’s best man for the wedding. He still had a lot to know about how Max and Jenna’s relationship came to be.
Max shrugged. “When you know, you know.”
Jeremy chuckled. “I don’t remember you knowing back then.”
“She wasn’t the woman I was going to marry back then, and I wasn’t the man for her either. Now, she is… I am… We are.”
Max couldn’t remove the smile from his face. There was no doubt in his mind that Jenna was the girl for him. There was still so much he wanted to tell Jeremy, but the ceremony was about to begin.
Max took his place in the entourage, next to Jenna’s mother. He was overwhelmed by the flood of emotions coursing through him. The exchange of hugs with his father and mother did little to ease the strange mixture of heightened nervousness and excitement he was feeling.
Max was barely aware of marching across the aisle. He couldn’t wait to see her. His pace quickened as he stood at the end of the aisle with bated breath. Everyone seemed to just pass by in slow procession. Their dearest friends and loved ones, celebrating with them, all looked lovely, but he was anticipating only one – the loveliest of them all.
The drums mellowed to a rhythmic tribal beat, before the pianist played a more soulful rendition of her favorite love song. When the time came for her to reveal herself in her stunning white dress, Max could’ve never explained how he felt upon seeing his bride. She was everything he prayed for and more. His eyes began to brim with tears, and he let out a wry chuckle as he wiped them away. She was so beautiful. He used to dream of this day, but growing up, he never once imagined that it would be Jenna standing on the other end of the aisle.
He never thought he would end up marrying Crazy Jenna.
That’s what they used to call her when they were children, and they started calling her that because of Max.
If there was one distinct childhood memory Max had of Jenna, it was during Rachel Petersen’s eighth birthday. Rachel, being who she was, decided to throw a costume party, and she, of course, was the princess. All the kids in their Sunday School were invited.
Max and Jeremy, at twelve years old, were considered the big kids. Mrs. P, Rachel’s mother, tried to delegate responsibility to them and put them in charge of the younger boys. It didn’t really work out, because Max and Jeremy just managed to goof off and get the kids to be even rowdier. Truth was, they were bored out of their minds.
That was until Jenna arrived.
Dressed as a dinosaur.
Rachel was mortified.
“Jenna, why are you a dragon?!”
“I’m not a dragon.” Jenna frowned. “I’m a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Haven’t you seen Jurassic Park?”
“My parents don’t let me watch scary movies.”
Jenna’s face twisted in confusion. “What’s so scary about Jurassic Kingdom?”
“Don’t people get eaten by dinosaurs?”
Jenna stuck her tongue out at Rachel. “So are you.”
“You can’t say that to me! It’s my birthday!”
Jenna roared at Rachel, who shrieked, cried and ran to find her mommy to tell on Jenna.
Max and Jeremy stood nearby, doubling over at the scene that just unfolded before them. Mrs. P lightly reprimanded Jenna and told her not to roar at anybody, to which Jenna responded with a snarl.
“Kuh-razy kid…” Max muttered at Jeremy.
Jeremy was still trying to hold his laughter.
Jenna had always been one of the strange kids at their Sunday School. She could never really sit down and just listen to what their teacher was saying. She was always up and about, curious over something or someone or some place. She couldn’t sit still.
She was the same during that birthday party. Not that she cared, but the girls avoided her, perhaps because of princesses’ aversion to dragons. Jenna didn’t seem to even notice, because she seemed to be more preoccupied with collecting bugs than caring enough to join in on all the princessy stuff Mrs. P had planned.
Max and Jeremy found their hands full with helping Mrs. P, so none of them noticed what Jenna was up to until it began to rain. All of them ran inside the house for cover, where Mrs. P did a headcount of all the kids. Jenna was missing. There was a momentary scramble to see where the dragon was, until Rachel pointed outside the window towards the backyard.
Everyone ran toward the window to see where she was pointing. Right in the middle of the yard, Jenna stood in her dragon costume, a huge smile on her face as the rain poured. She was dancing.
Jeremy guffawed, while Max watched in fascination, before he shook his head and said, “Crazy Jenna.”
One of the kids overheard him say it, and exclaimed, “Crazy Jenna!”
The name caught on, and ever since then, Jenna Marquez became known to all the kids as Crazy Jenna, the dinosaur-slash-dragon, who danced in the rain, during Rachel Petersen’s grand princess party.
It wasn’t long after Rachel’s party when Max and Jeremy were moved to the youth group instead of still being part of the children’s ministry. Max paid little attention to Jenna after that. To him, she was just that strange kid who went to Sunday School.
Their paths never really crossed. That was until he visited Jeremy’s house one time and found Jenna sitting on the front stairs. He was already in his senior year. She was just about to become a freshman.
“Hey…” he smiled at her.
She looked up at him, and didn’t respond.
“What’s going on?”
“None of your business.”
“Okay.” Max raised his hands as if to ward her off. “Sorry I asked.”
Jeremy appeared at the door and gestured for Max to come in.
“What’s Crazy Jenna doing in your house?”
“Her parents came to talk with my parents. Apparently, her father cheated on her mother and they’re getting a divorce. Jenna’s mother is planning to move her out of the city.”
Max cringed. “How do you know about all this?”
“You hear things when you’re the pastor’s kid. Besides, all the ladies at church are gossiping about the whole thing. They then say that they need to pray about it, but then they gossip even more right after they pray.”
Max rolled his eyes. Hypocrisy, all of it. He took a look at Jenna sitting outside, seemingly angry at the entire world, and he wanted to help, but he didn’t know how to. So he just moved on with his life. There were cigarettes to smoke, beer to drink and a party to go to that day.
By the end of the day, Max had totally forgotten about Jenna. The next thing he heard about her was that the divorce pushed through, and that Jenna’s mother got full custody. She and Jenna moved to the city, leaving Mr. Marquez alone in their huge house in the country.
Max didn’t really care. He didn’t care about their church anymore. He and Jeremy had already agreed that all of the people there were self-righteous, holier-than-thou hypocrites, and they would rather have fun than be tied up with all their church’s rules.
Max didn’t think that he would ever see Jenna again. Especially since he had no plans of ever going to church after he turns eighteen.
The further away he was from all these no-fun hypocrites, the better.
Four years later…
Jenna stared at her reflection in the mirror. She liked what she saw. She was by no means the prettiest person in the world, but she didn’t look half-bad either. Still, despite the image she saw in front of her, she felt something inexplicable gnawing at her.
She kept telling herself that she was going to be okay, that it would pass, that she just needed time, but the ache on her chest persisted. She missed Jon. They’d been together for two years. Everyone in their school thought that they were going to last forever, but they didn’t. Jon and Jenna. Their class’s power couple. Over. With just one cowardly text.
She was heart-broken, but at some point, she knew she had to get herself together and move on. It wasn’t like she had a choice either. Her dad drove all the way to the city just to pick her up and drive her to her college dorm. He wasn’t going to let her sulk her year away. Nope. No kid of Paolo Marquez was going to drown herself in self-pity.
So there she was. Bags packed. Ready to leave for her first day at college. She wasn’t really looking forward to the four-hour drive with her father, but he insisted on it, and she figured she could bear it, because he promised her a car as a graduation gift if she let him.
The drive was strained. Her Dad tried to make conversation, but Jenna’s responses were curt and disinterested. It was the longest time she spent with him since she and her mother left for the city.
He often visited the city to see her, but only for a quick meal, a walk in the park – never activities that took more than an hour or two, never ones that forced them to actually connect, talk about issues, get to know each other.
By the time they reached the dorm, Jenna was sure that both of them were relieved to finally arrive and eventually separate ways. Being around each other felt awkward, even more so when he hugged her and told her he loved her.
“Yeah. Thanks, Dad,” she said, feeling uncomfortable in his embrace.
He gave her the keys to her new car. “It’s in the parking lot,” he said. A bittersweet smile was on his face. He seemed to want to stay to see her reaction.
“I’ll take a look at it later.” She forced a smile. “I’m just tired, and I really want to get settled into my room.”
His face fell. “Yes. Of course. Do you need any help?”
“No. I can manage. You still have a long drive ahead of you.”
“Yes. I would like to get back home before dark.” He traced a finger over her cheekbone and sighed. “I’m proud of you, Jenna. You’re strong, and so compassionate.” He kissed her on the forehead.
She shuffled on her feet as he stepped away. She didn’t know what to say other than, “Thank you, Dad.”
She hated to admit it, but at that point, she cared more about the new car than him. His gestures of affection just made her feel uncomfortable, but whether she admitted it or not, he was getting to her. When he was gone, she immediately ran to the parking lot to take a peek. She was ecstatic, and quite surprised that he knew the exact brand of car that she wanted, in the exact color she liked.
Maybe he knows me better than I thought.
A pang of guilt hit her over how cold she was towards him, but he was gone, and there was nothing she could do about it anymore. She was just going to have to give him a call eventually. To thank him. To let him know how much she loved the gift.
Still thrilled about her new car, Jenna had a skip in her step as she made her way to her dorm – a skip that quickly disappeared when she found out who her new roommate was.
“Jenna? Jenna Marquez?” The familiar face looked surprised, even pleased, to see her.
Like a blast from the past, bringing back unwanted memories, standing in her dorm room was the princess herself.
Her new roommate was Rachel Petersen.
Two years later…
The night hours were rolling closer and closer to midnight, as a soft evening breeze swept across the campus grounds. Max was nervous, but he tried not to show it. He walked alongside Rachel, who was chattering nonstop. He didn’t really know what to say, not that he could even get a word in edgewise.
Rachel was excited about what happened that night at the youth gathering of the campus church she’d been attending. He was their guest speaker, and everything turned out really well. After the event, all the leaders gathered and talked about future plans, getting as much advice from Max as they possibly could.
Max was thankful to God for everything that happened. It was beyond what he expected, and he was thankful that Rachel was there to open up an opportunity to minister. The youth program at their church back home had been doing really well ever since he became the youth pastor, so when Rachel’s campus church were discussing who could be the speaker for their next youth event, Rachel suggested Max.
The entire time he was there, he’d been growing more and more enamored by the lovely blonde that was Rachel Petersen. He was drawn to her love for God and her passion for God’s people, but he also found himself intimidated by her. After all, Rachel had already turned down several guys from their church. Jeremy included. Why on earth would she see him differently?
Come on, Max, he inwardly chastised himself. How hard can it be? Just tell her you like her, and that you’re praying for her. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Should I even tell her? It’s not like I’ve heard anything from God yet.
“Hey… You okay? You’ve been awfully quiet.”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He was about to blurt out how much he liked her when she turned toward one of the houses.
“This is where I live. You sure you don’t want to…” Her words trailed off. “Oh no…”
Sprawled on Rachel’s front lawn was a young woman Max hadn’t seen in years.
As he and Rachel rushed toward the girl, the question just slid out of Max’s mouth. “Is that Crazy Jenna?”
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