The Literary Girlfriend: A Very Merry Literary Christmas
When Daniella said she’d visit my family with me on one condition, she really meant that she had several conditions. First, we had to fly up when she wanted. I had already bought departure tickets for the morning on the 23rd (mistake on my part), but she wanted to work the lunch shift that day and leave that evening. Then she wanted to choose the car rental (no big deal), and she wanted to come back the morning after Christmas. And then came the final condition. This one, I wasn’t so wild about, but it wasn’t like I had a choice.
Daniella was great at taking care of the details. She switched tickets (she even switched airlines) and got me legal drugs that would knock me out on the airplane without turning me into an asshole (I took a practice dose a few nights before the flight just to make sure). We drove her sports car to an exclusive covered parking spot near the airport
Daniella brought two hardcover books with her on the trip, a book jacket of Jane Eyre (which she slipped a trashy romance novel into so that it looked to others like she was reading Jane Eyre) and To Kill a Mockingbird, which Daniella really was reading. She had seen the movie and liked the book, even though she took it a little bit at a time. She was also proud that she was finishing a novel that had won a Pulitzer, though I’m not sure she knew what a Pulitzer was.
Our flight landed at nearly midnight, and I was still groggy from the (legal) drugs, but my directions were good enough to get us to my parents’ house safely at around 2:00 in the morning. They were already asleep, and I showed Daniella the guest bedroom, and I flopped down on a couch in the living room. I think I kissed her good night. I know I thanked her several times for coming with me.
This is how the holiday sleeping arrangements were set up. After all four of us Norman kids had left (or gotten kicked out), my parents moved to a smaller house in a different neighborhood. There were only three small bedrooms (one of which was an office), so anytime my brothers or sister came over, the visiting family had to get a hotel room. My parents loved the grandkids, but there were too many of them to let them stay overnight. To give my parents credit, they always paid for the hotel rooms, so my brothers and sister didn’t mind. Since Daniella and I didn’t have kids, we could stay at the house. Since we weren’t married, we had to stay in separate rooms.
Even though my parents tried to get me up around 8:00 the next morning (Christmas Eve day), it wasn’t until my brothers and their families showed up at around 10:00 that I finally dragged myself off the couch. I hugged a couple brothers, a couple wives, and a few kids, and I hoped my morning breath didn’t knock anybody out. I made a big breakfast while catching up with everybody. I stacked up a big plate and a thermos full of coffee for Daniella and delivered it to the guest bedroom. She was kind of surly (I knew she would be), but she took the tray and said she would come out soon.
And 30 minutes later, Daniella made her grand introduction, gliding into the living room wearing a sweatshirt and shorts. Daniella knew all the names ahead of time, so the introductions were easy (I won’t even include the names because there were two brothers, two wives, a bunch of kids, and most of them won’t show up later in the story, and all the adults have since been divorced, except for me, but as long as I’m married. I’m probably not out of the woods yet so I can’t really brag about that achievement). Since Daniella’s job required learning people’s (especially men’s) names quickly, she learned quickly who was who (or who was whom). My brothers were impressed, as I knew they would be. As the youngest, I had met a lot of my brothers’ girlfriends growing up, but the romantic gene had eluded me, so I always struggled with girls/women, and they had known it. Now I had just brought home a woman who was dazzling.
Seriously, Daniella dazzled them. My oldest brother followed her from room to room without even realizing it. I don’t think his wife even minded (they got divorced a couple years later, but I think there were other issues). When Daniella left her Jane Eyre on a coffee table, my brother picked it up, flipped through it, smiled at me, and put it down. Then he did the same with To Kill a Mockingbird. He nodded his approval.
My parents’ house was small, but the back yard was huge, so the boys (ages 6-13) could beat on each other outside between their video games inside, and since it hadn’t snowed in a while, they could run in and out without making too much of a mess. Parents could enjoy relative quiet, unless a kid was crying about something that had happened outside. The 6-year-old boy was high-pitched and whiny, and Daniella almost gave him some grape medicine, but I told her not to. I didn’t think she’d really do it, but with our history, I couldn’t take the chance.
While some of us were sitting casually in the dining room, my brother (the one who had flipped through Jane Eyre) decided to cause a little scene (which brothers will do with each other).
“Danielle,” he started. “What do you…?”
“It’s Daniella,” I said.
“Sorry,” he said. “Daniella, what do you think about Jane Eyre?”
I didn’t understand why Daniella wouldn’t correct other people when it came to her name. I had slipped a couple times and called her Danielle, but she never said anything about it when it happened. She was the type of woman to stand up for herself. She’d smashed a bottle on a guy’s head before. She’d set up another guy by getting punched in the head just to get him arrested. I knew (or was pretty sure) Daniella was really her name. Then I realized that my brother had asked her about Jane Eyre when she was reading a trashy romance underneath the Jane Eyre book cover.
“I didn’t think I’d like it,” Daniella said. “But it’s a lot like a trashy romance.”
Then she eyeballed my brother, daring him to say something else about it.
“I’ve… never heard anybody say anything like that about Jane Eyre before,” he said.
“Daniella has a lot of unique observations,” I said. “That’s one of the things I love about her.”
As soon as I said that, I regretted using the word “love” instead of “like,” but it was too late. I couldn’t just clear my throat and say, “I mean, ahem, one of the things I like about her.” It would have been twice as awkward and I would have looked like a prick, and at least I had used the word “love” in an ambiguous kind of way. Daniella gave me the cheese-eating grin. She knew what I had meant, but I could also see her milking this in front of the family. My mom’s eyes lit up. My brother raised an eyebrow.
Love? This was the wrong time and place to accidentally use the word “love.”
To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: Family Christmas Drama .
And to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning, start here.