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The Literary Girlfriend: Family Christmas Drama

December 14, 2013

Literary Jane

Things had started off so well.  Daniella and my family were getting along great on Christmas Eve day, as we (Daniella, my mom, one of my brothers, and I) were hanging around the dining room table with a bunch of kids running in and out, and then I had to use a sentence with “Daniella” and “love” in it.  I hadn’t meant to use the word “love” while referring to Daniella.  She had once said “Love ya!” to me, but that had been casual, and I had never mentioned it to her, and she had never said it again.

Now I had just said there was something that I “love” about Daniella, and my mom and my older brother got quiet and gave each other looks around the dining room table.  I hadn’t told them Daniella was my girlfriend because I paid all her bills.  That wasn’t something that a guy says to his family, and the relationship was more complicated than that.

“There is a lot to love about Daniella,” I said, figuring that I’d might as well go all-out.

Then Daniella gave me a dirty look, and I realized I had better rephrase that.  “There are a lot of things that I love about Daniella.

“She’s beautiful, but she doesn’t have a big ego about it,” I said.  “She gave a guy like me a chance when I probably didn’t deserve it.  She knows a lot about cars. And she watches football more than I do.”

“You like comic books?” my brother asked her.

“I know the difference between Marvel and DC,” Daniella said before I could answer for her.

What? I never talked about comics in front of Daniella.  I knew that one way to repulse a beautiful woman was to talk about comic books (it had happened a couple times earlier in my life).  Then again, she had found the cash I had hidden in my comic boxes, so maybe she’d read a few.

“And… what’s the difference?” my brother asked.

“DC sucks!” Daniella stated with authority.

“Really?” my brother was surprised.  Marvel had been his favorite, but this was the early 1990s, and the comic book industry was changing.

“Batman and Wonder Woman are okay, but Superman sucks.  Green Lantern sucks.  Everybody else sucks.”

I was stunned.  I had never had this conversation with her.  I didn’t know where this comic book stuff was coming from (except for the “sucks” part because she was opinionated about what sucked and what didn’t).  My brother and Daniella started arguing about which comic book company sucked more (I thought both sucked equally in the 1990s, but with my monotone voice, I would have been ignored).  I wondered if Daniella really knew what she was talking about or cared.  I could see her wanting to piss off my brother just because she thought he had it coming.  I’d told her some stories (and maybe exaggerated a few details to make him sound worse than he was).

Just when there was a lull in the comic book argument, one of the moms (my other brother’s wife) and her teenage daughter (my niece) started arguing in the hallway, and we were already quiet anyway and couldn’t help listening.   The mom told the daughter to go to the car right now and get the purse, and the daughter told the mom to get out of her face, and the mom told the daughter to get back to where she was, and a bedroom door slammed.  My dad started singing from the kitchen “Tis the season to be jolly…” and the mom realized we had overheard the argument, and I guess she decided that this wasn’t the best time to go nuclear on her daughter.

As my sister-in-law walked through the dining room (very red faced), my mom said, “In ten years, you two will be best friends.”

Daniella shot me a look, and I knew what it meant: “Or maybe not.”

My sister-in-law went into the living room and complained to my brother about what their daughter had done, but he was watching a movie (I think) and didn’t want to get involved.  He probably thought what I was thinking, that the mom was probably overreacting to some slight infraction and had provoked the daughter’s reaction, but it’s not always a good idea to tell the wife that when she’s about to go nuclear.

Daniella messed up my hair and said, “I’ll be right back.”

Then she walked to the bedroom door (it was the one she was staying in, so the daughter really had no business going in there, but I didn’t think that was why Daniella was over there), tapped lightly on it, and went inside.  I couldn’t remember ever seeing her knock so lightly.  Daniella was normally a door pounder.

“What do you think they’re talking about?” my brother asked.

“Probably not comic books… or Jane Eyre,” I said.

“I like Daniella,” my mom whispered to me.  “She’s pretty.  And she’s smart.  And she’s calm.”

Calm?  The “pretty” was her genes and working out.  The “smart” was her big glasses and classic literature she didn’t really read.  I understood that.  But calm?

“Is she going to church tonight?” my mom asked.

We Episcopalians preferred the 11:00 Christmas Eve service.  It made for a late night, but there was an excitement to it (for those who liked church and Christmas hymns), and it freed up Christmas Day.  But with Daniella here, I really didn’t want to go, and I was planning not to.

“She’s got an early morning,” I reminded her.  Our story was that Daniella had distant family a couple hours away, and that she was taking the rental to visit.  The truth was that she was going to drive through the hills all day, crank out loud non-Christmas music, and zone out.  Daniella didn’t want anything to do with Christmas.  That was her final condition to coming to meet my family.  I didn’t like the idea of Daniella spending Christmas Day by herself in a car driving around aimlessly, but that was the agreement.

“What about you?” my mom asked.

“I’d better stay here with her,” I said, then followed up quickly, “We’re not going to do anything!” Daniella wouldn’t have let me, even if I’d tried, not in my parent’s house.

When Daniella returned a couple minutes later, my mom asked, “Daniella, would you like to go to church tonight?”

I glared at my mom, but she ignored me, and Daniella smiled.

“I’m sorry.  I have to get up early.”  Then she rested a hand on my shoulder.  “Jimmy can still go.”

“You don’t mind?” my mom said, relieved.

“What?” I said, trying to hide my outrage.  This was betrayal.

“You need to go to church,” Daniella said.  And when I tried to stare her down, all I got in return was… cheese… eating… grin.

“Go to church,” she mouthed.

I almost cursed, but it would have been impolite, using profane language about having to go to church on Christmas Eve.

My brother slapped me on the back.  “Come to church with us.  We can sing off key together as a family.

Just then, the daughter came storming out of the bedroom and rushed out the back door to the garage.  We gave each other quizzical glances, but Daniella seemed assured.  Moments later, the daughter came back in with a purse and took it to her mom in the living room.

“See?” I said to Daniella.  “When she says her bag is in the car, the bag really is in the car.”

Nobody else but Daniella knew what that meant, so she acted like she hadn’t heard.

Christmas Eve day was pretty much how I had said it was going to be to Daniella.  There would be a lot of little spats, kids crying, stuff getting knocked off of tables, food getting eaten throughout the day, lots of boredom, and a little dread before the church service, and there was.  But nobody got drunk (a couple family members wanted to, but didn’t), and Daniella appreciated that.  But no matter how pleasant Christmas Eve day was, Daniella wouldn’t spend Christmas Day with us.

And that was going to cause a problem that I hadn’t anticipated.


To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: A Very Special Christmas Episode  .

And to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning, start here.

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  1. So is that the condition that was hinted at in the last one, that she isn’t going to be there for Christmas Day?

    • Yes, that’s the dramatic final condition. And thanks for reading all of these episodes! This serial is going a little longer than I originally intended, and I really appreciate you (and a few other people) that are sticking with it.

  2. First one I’ve seen. I am so intrigued. Thank you for posting this.

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