“Hi, Chrissy, I’m Scott.” A cute guy with a friendly smile lowered himself into the camp chair beside her and held out his hand. The light from the campfire revealed half his face and flickered in his dark eyes. “I’m Phil’s roommate.”
Chrissy reached out to shake his hand but shook her head. “I’m sorry, who’s Phil?”
“Phil Chapel, he’s been writing to you for three weeks.” Scott grabbed a marshmallow from the bag but didn’t bother sticking it on the end of a poker; he just popped it in his mouth.
Chrissy’s breath caught in her throat. Finally, a clue to her secret admirer. “He’s never signed his name, just P.C.” Chrissy chuckled. “That’s funny that his last name’s Chapel, because my roommate and I have been calling him the Phantom of the Chapel.”
“Phantom is a good way to describe him.” Scott twisted in his chair to face Chrissy and looked into the darkness behind her. “He ghosts around here as if he’s still on a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan.”
“Is he in the service?” A log settled in the fire, and sparks flew into the air. One of the other guys around the circle used a long stick to move the log back into place, and the flames settled into a comfortable glow. Chrissy waited for Scott to respond.
“He was in Special Forces.” Scott’s eyebrows briefly lowered, and he pushed a smile back onto his face. “Anyway, he wants to talk to you, so he wants you to pretend you’re talking to me. So, turn toward me, but don’t look behind your chair. Phil doesn’t want anyone to notice him.”
“Hello, Christina.” A velvet voice spoke quietly from behind her.
“Phil?” Chrissy fought the urge to peek behind her chair. The darkness shrouded the edge of the clearing where her friends were gathered around the fire pit. “Why are you hiding back there?”
“I’m good at hiding. If your face looked like mine, you’d hide too.”
“Are you that scary?” Chrissy chuckled.
Scott cleared his throat, and Phil didn’t respond.
“Guys, I was joking.”
“He’s not as scary as he thinks he is, and he’s being ridiculous,” Scott said.
“Hey, if people looked at you the way they look at me, you’d understand.” Phil’s voice wrapped hurt and frustration between the lines, confusing Chrissy.
“Dude don’t get all defensive and quit being a crybaby. I told you I’d help you with this. Now talk to your dream girl while you’ve got her sitting here… finally.”
“Dream girl?” Chrissy scoffed and shook her head. “I’m no one’s dream girl. What is it you guys are trying to do?”
“I want you to get to know me before making an opinion about me based on my appearance. Either you like me, or you don’t, and then we can move forward. If you like me, I’ll let you see what I look like.”
“I guess that sounds fair,” Chrissy said. “How can I know you don’t just like me for my appearance?”
“I heard you speak in sacrament meeting the week after you got home from your mission,” Phil responded. “Your voice is beautiful, but I’ve never actually seen you up close either.”
“How do you propose we get to know each other if we don’t spend any time together?” Chrissy asked.
“You’re proposing already?” Scott laughed. “You guys are fast.”
“Very funny, Scott,” Phil said. “I suggest we talk on the phone and send texts to one another for a while. How do you feel about that, Christina? Or do you prefer Chrissy?”
“How did you know my name is Christina?” Chrissy avoided answering his question. She’d always liked being called Chrissy, but the way his voice caressed her full name was endearing.
“I could tell you all the clandestine ways I gather intel, but then I’d have to kill you. Trust me; you don’t want me to do that.” Phil chuckled.
“Gee, have you killed many people?” Chrissy decided to make light of his teasing, but she didn’t find his statement that funny. She ran her hands up and down her arms, wishing she’d brought a thicker sweatshirt. Phil didn’t respond.
“He doesn’t talk much about that time in his life.” Scott pursed his lips and shuffled his foot in the sand.
“Uh, okay, well… no one calls me Christina except my mother. Until now.” Chrissy rotated almost completely around in her seat, not caring if anyone saw her talking to the back of her chair. “I like the way you say my name, and I look forward to hearing you say it every time you call me.”
“Would it be too bold of me to request your phone number right now, Christina?”
“Only if it’s not too bold for me to request you call me later tonight, Phil.”
“I hope you don’t need to wake up too early tomorrow morning because we have a lot to talk about.”
“I’m impressed you’re going through with this.” Scott spent a few more seconds in front of the mirror in the shared bathroom of their little apartment. His boy-next-door good looks had remained well into his twenties and he could easily have a date every night. Scott was the epitome of contrast to Phil. “You’re stepping way out of your comfort zone.”
“When am I ever going to have this chance again?” Phil pulled his black hooded sweatshirt up over his head, shrouding his face in shadow.
“Oh, let me think about that?” Scott lifted his hand to his chin as if contemplating. “You could just walk next door to her building, climb one flight of stairs, and knock on her door.”
“Thus, eliminating ever having a chance at a real relationship with her,” Phil said. “We invited Christine to the bonfire, now the ball is in her court. If she comes, I’ll know she’s at least curious about me rather than creeped out.”
“I’d be creeped out,” Scott said, grabbing his green and white MSU hoodie and pulling it over his head. He straightened the bottom so that it rested against his well faded blue jeans and Phil sighed impatiently.
“Are you done primping now? Can we get going?” Phil tugged at his own sweatshirt which was paired with black jeans and black shoes. He hoped to blend into the darkness and become camouflaged by the night, just as during patrols while staking out behind enemy lines. He’d been trained to disappear. Who knew he’d use these skills to pick up a hot girl.
Christine was more than just a girl. She was the girl. The way she had spoken that first day in sacrament meeting about the poverty she’d seen in Ghana while serving as a missionary. The way her voice caught with emotion and love for the people she served. The way her testimony of the Gospel reached into his heart, pulling Phil from the dark abys in which he lived.
God had sent Christine here to East Lansing, Michigan with the sole purpose of saving him. He owed her his life and devotion.
If he didn’t scare the heck out of her in the process.
Phil and Scott fell into companionable silence walking out the back door of their apartment and down the path cutting through the small grove of trees, toward the clearing where the young single adult group was having a bonfire.
“You know what she looks like, right?” Phil asked for the hundredth time.
“Of course, I know what she looks like,” Scott said. “I’ve been delivering love notes to her for weeks. I feel like a carrier pigeon.”
“What if she doesn’t show up?”
“You sound desperate. Relax.”
“Do you know the plan?” Phil was letting his nerves stir paranoia in his mind.
“I find a way to talk to her alone, you sneak up behind her and scare the bejeebeez out of her, and then we can go home to our apartment and play Fortnite until we’re too tired to work the controllers.”
They were approaching the clearing and light from the bonfire lit the path ahead. Phil instinctively left the path and disappeared into the trees, still close enough to communicate. Scott kept walking as if he’d been alone the whole time.
Before stepping into the clearing, Scott paused and looked around the fire circle. He pointed to a girl in a camp chair near the perimeter of the clearing. There just happened to be an empty chair beside her as if she were waiting for a friend.
She’s waiting for me. Warmth flooded Phil’s chest and his anxiety shifted to anticipation.
“Go do whatever it is you do to get into position,” Scott whispered. “I’ll watch for your signal.”
“Two minutes,” Phil whispered, then snuck away from his roommate as quietly as a ghost.
“Another note.” Chrissy picked up the folded parchment from off the music stand to show her friend Maggie. “That’s the third Sunday in a row.”
“That’s what happens when you perform live in a talent show,” Maggie said, sitting down at the organ. “You get fan mail.” She opened the hymnbook to the chosen hymn.
“No, the notes started before the talent show.” Chrissy carefully opened the delicate paper with an excited flutter in her stomach. “This guy must have liked me before he heard me sing.”
“That’s really cool unless he’s a stalker.” Maggie tested the sound of the keys, ready to play the prelude music. “What’s it say?” She didn’t wait for Chrissy to answer, just quietly began the first hymn.
Chrissy lowered herself into a chair. It would be a little while before the church meeting started and she would need to lead the music. She used the reprieve to read the graceful yet masculine words flowing across the page.
Christina, I hope you had a nice week. I wish I was brave enough to introduce myself to you. I look forward to the day when we finally look into one another’s eyes and you see the man behind my mask. I’m sorry to be so cryptic. You’ll understand… in time. Are you going to the bonfire tomorrow evening? Maybe I’ll see you there. —P.C.
Chrissy tucked the note into her purse with a soft smile and was tempted to gaze around the gathering congregation to see if any guys were watching her. She thought she knew all the people in the student ward at Michigan State University and the attached living center. She racked her brain, trying to think of anyone in the apartment complex who would have the initials P.C.
Who would have a crush on me anyway? Chrissy had been a wallflower at school and church until she recently performed a solo at the ward talent show and caught everyone’s attention.
Other than her beautiful voice, there wasn’t much else that stood out. She was a simple girl with no distinguishing outward features, like fabulous flowing hair or captivating eyes. She’d just returned from serving as a missionary in Ghana for eighteen months and kept herself focused on school.
The first folded note had appeared on the music stand the week after she was called to the position of chorister for sacrament meetings. It had been simple and quick.
Christina, I’m glad you were called to be the chorister because I’ll get to hear your beautiful voice come through the microphone every Sunday. —P.C.
The note confused her, but she was running late. She tucked the paper into her purse and conducted the music without really thinking about it again. The following Friday, she performed in the talent show and dozens of people complimented her. Then the second note showed up on the music stand on Sunday.
Christina, that was so lovely. You’re very talented. That, or you have been well-trained. I’d like to think it’s a combination. I hope to meet you in person someday. Maybe I’ll gather enough courage to introduce myself. For now, I’ll continue to watch you shine, sweet angel of music. —P.C.
It was after the second note that Chrissy and Maggie began referring to him as the Phantom of the Chapel in reference to the popular musical The Phantom of the Opera. Chrissy hoped her admirer wasn’t some crazed fan wearing a mask like the guy in the story.
Naming Chrissy’s secret admirer the Phantom of the Chapel was a funny joke at the time. Now it was getting a little creepy. A shiver raced down Chrissy’s spine as she tucked the third note into her purse and stood to prepare for the meeting. Click here to read Chapter Two of Phantom of the Chapel.
This is the expansion of a short story that was originally published in the Love Undefined anthology from LDS Beta Readers. I will be turning the story into a novella, or maybe a novel.
It is currently told only from Christine’s perspective, but Phil’s story is actually far more interesting, and I’ll be telling a lot more of his side of the story.
I’d really like your feedback on this one, so I’ll be asking you, my readers, for your opinions on things. Please help me out. Your opinion matters.
I haven’t even written a back cover for this story, so I’ll just tell you a little bit about it.
Phil Chapel is a military veteran who was burned severely when his patrol ran over a roadside bomb. His face is unrecognizable from the handsome man he used to be. He feels ugly, frustrated, judged, lost, has PTSD, trust issues, the works.
This story is a combination Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast type of story. I’ll make sure it follows a romance story structure that ends with a happily-ever-after and will also closely follow a Hero’s Journey story structure to show Phil’s transition to accepting himself, getting the treatment he needs to work through his issues and be the man Christine needs.
Christine is a recently returned missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will not shy away from her religious beliefs and how she loves Phil for the man God wants him to be and not for how he looks on the outside. They both believe in Jesus Christ, the power of forgiveness and healing through the Gospel, and the love the Savior brings the world through His ultimate sacrifice.
Christine also has a beautiful singing voice and speaking voice and her voice is what originally draws Phil to her. She doesn’t see his face until well into the story and he barely sees hers, definitely not up close. They are truly falling in love with each other for who they are on the inside and not outward appearances.
Phil hides in the periphery of life, leaving her notes on the music stand in the chapel where Christine is the music leader each Sunday and sending messages through his roommate. For that reason, Christine and her roommate start jokingly calling Phil the Phantom of the Chapel. Little do they know that P.C. is actually his initials, but it fits.
I hope you love this story and will embrace it. Thank you for your patience as we work through this story, developing it little by little. I have no idea how long it will be. We may pop back and forth within the story so the chapters may be posted out of order, but we’ll work through it together. I think this is going to be a lot of fun and I thank you for joining me on this journey. Most sincerely, Julie L. Spencer
Great news! Pass Me the Ball is now available on Amazon and FREE in Kindle Unlimited! -Julie
Greetings SuperFans, today I drove two hours (okay my husband drove while I wrote!) to the location where Pass Me the Ball is set, Grand Haven, Michigan!
I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I should have, but here are a couple of them. I was able to do some ground truthing and see what the town looks like, visit the high school there, walk the pier, see the beach.
Over the next couple of days you’ll read some chapters that take place earlier in the story that I wrote after writing most of the rest of the book.
There are a few more chapters to go and then I’ll get this baby published! I’ll be going through each chapter, editing them, adding in bits and pieces to add depth to the setting, characters, personalities, etc. I want the reader to know what Jonnie and Skyler are thinking, hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, feeling.
Now’s your chance. What do you think should be in the story that’s not yet there? What more do you want to know? How could I enhance this story to make it perfect in your eyes? Thank you for all your support and encouragement. Your feedback is invaluable to me.
Thank you for being one of my favorite readers! -Julie L. Spencer
Here are some interesting older videos from my book, Running to You!