The Literary Girlfriend: Marriage Material
When Daniella told me that she wanted to get married, I almost crashed the car into a parked bus.
I was driving slowly through the mall parking lot when she said it. My mouth probably hung open. After all, it had been the last thing I expected. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had wanted to break up or if she had just wanted to curse at me some more. But get married? I stared at Daniella for a moment while the car was moving, and a mom pushing a baby carriage stepped in front of our car, and I swerved and almost sideswiped a charter bus of elderly shoppers.
The mom glared at me. My window was already down so I shouted a quick apology and kept my eyes on the lot in front of me as I cautiously moved on.
“You want me to drive?” Daniella said with her cheese-eating grin.
“You… want… but…” I stammered as I drove out of the parking lot onto a main thoroughfare. The Sunday afternoon traffic was starting to pick up, so I really needed to be careful.
“I didn’t mean get married… to you,” Daniella said. “I meant that I want to get married… sometime…. to somebody.”
“You did that on purpose,” I said.
“Maybe.” Daniella shrugged. “We couldn’t be married to each other. I want a rich guy, and you deserve a woman who luuuuvvvvs you.”
“And you don’t luuuuvvvv me.” I already knew that, but it was still tough for me to admit it aloud.
“No,” she stated. “I like you a lot because you luuuuvvvvv me. It’s a nice feeling. Everybody should have somebody who luuuuuuvvvvs them. You deserve that too.”
Even though I appreciated her sentiment, I still was annoyed about how she had set me up on the marriage idea.
“Wait! Why are we going home?” Daniella snapped. “I wasn’t done shopping!”
“You were the one who wanted to leave,” I said.
“I was pissed,” she said. “I’m not pissed anymore.”
Exasperated, I veered the car to the left lane. The street was two lanes on both sides with a thin island in between, but I’d made u-turns like this all the time. I could usually make it in my sleep. But as I started the U, another car pulled out of a parking lot ahead of us on the opposite side, making me nervous, so I accelerated on the turn, which I knew not to do, and I misjudged the space I had, and the car’s rear passenger tire hit the curb. Daniella’s head rocked a little bit.
“Now I’m pissed again,” she said, shaking her head and blinking her eyes at me.
The car that had made me nervous blasted past us. I almost flipped him off, but it was my fault for getting intimidated. I was the one in a fancy sports car with a hot girlfriend who wanted to get married (even though it was to an anonymous somebody else).
“Sorry about that,” I said.
A moment later I saw flashing lights behind me. A cop was pulling us over.
“I don’t think it’s illegal to hit a curb,” I muttered.
“And I’m not paying for your traffic ticket,” Daniella said, mimicking me from a couple months ago.
Normally, I would have laughed, but I wasn’t in the mood. I pulled into a fast food parking lot, turned off the engine, and put my hands on the steering wheel.
“You do this often?” Daniella said.
“I don’t want to get shot over this.” Back then, our police department (though most police officers did a great job and I respected them a lot) had a trigger-happy reputation.
“Cops don’t shoot guys like you,” Daniella said, but my hands remained on the steering wheel anyway.
The police officer seemed to be taking his time in his squad car.
“So… you want to elaborate about getting married?” I asked, hands still on the steering wheel.
Daniella made a fart sound with her lips. “Your friends buy it when I wear my glasses and talk about books. Can you believe that?”
I nodded. Daniella was a great conversationalist, even when she didn’t know what she was talking about.
“I’ve been thinking … you showed me that I CAN set my standards higher. I don’t have to settle for guys that I meet at Nero’s. With the right look and the right talk, I can get a man with real money.”
I knew where she was going with this.
“I’m going to find a really rich guy! I’m going to rock his world! And then… I’m going to take everything he has!” She nodded with pride at her aspirations.
I should have been mortified at her idea, but I was intrigued and relieved. The last few months started to make sense. Daniella wasn’t living in sin with me just for my money (that I no longer had); she was trying to move up in the world.
I wondered when she had come up with this idea. “So when you showed up on our first date with the glasses and hair pulled back,” I said, “you were… practicing.”
“So, I’m… your practice husband.”
“You don’t mind?” Daniella said.
From the side view mirror, I noticed that the police officer had begun his slow stroll to our car. He was tall, broad, and not the type to eat a bunch of doughnuts. This guy looked like a cop who could bust heads without a stick or a gun. He had cool sunglasses too. I made a mental note to compliment him on the glasses. Then I wondered if I’d look like an asskisser if I tried to compliment him. I wasn’t good at schmoozing. I’d be better off taking the polite, respectful approach. Maybe Daniella could schmooze him. She reached into her glove compartment and pulled out some papers.
“License and registration, please,” the officer said, seemingly without emotion.
“I’m… removing… my hands… from… the steering wheel… to get…. the… required documents…,” I said to the police officer. I really didn’t want to get shot. I had the feeling he rolled his eyes behind those sunglasses. Daniella handed me the papers, and I relayed them to the officer.
“Jimmy,” he said. Then he leaned into my window and peered in. “This is your new boyfriend, huh.”
What? It took me a moment to realize he was speaking to Daniella.
“Randy?” Daniella said. “Shit!” It wasn’t the good “Shit!” reaction.
The cop seemed to inspect me through his shades. “He doesn’t look like your type.”
“You weren’t my type,” Daniella said. She wasn’t even trying to mask her contempt. “Jimmy’s my type now.”
Officer Randy chuckled. “You make a lot of money, Jimmy?”
“Don’t talk to him,” Daniella said to me. Then she leaned on my shoulder and stuck her finger at Officer Randy. “And don’t cross-examine my boyfriend!”
“That smart mouth of yours always causes problems,” Officer Randy said.
“Daniella,” I said to her. “You don’t need to do that.”
“Why do you always…?” Then she stopped herself and rubbed her temple. “Okay. I’ll be po-lite to the po-leese.” She leaned against the passenger door and crossed her arms.
“Danielle-a,” Officer Randy said slowly.
“Yeah, that’s… her real name,” I said with resignation.
Officer Randy nodded. “Nice car,” he said. I could tell he was talking to Daniella, not me. “Why’d you switch?”
Daniella stared out the passenger side and breathed heavily, her lips in a pout.
“If you’re going to be like that…” He kept writing on his clip board.
I mentally pleaded with Daniella to say something nice to Officer Randy, but silence probably was the best I could hope for. The quiet was awkward. Whatever conflict that existed between Officer Randy and Daniella, I couldn’t use my diplomatic strategies to smooth things over. I couldn’t do anything about it except eat the ticket.
A few minutes later, Officer Randy gave me the clip board and pointed out where to sign the form. “She’s a handful.”
“You’re not making it any easier.”
“Maybe, but I’m the least of your problems.” Then he ripped out a ticket and handed it to me along with the other papers and cards. “Have a nice day.”
I sat and watched through the side-view mirror as Officer Randy returned to his squad car.
“He never figured out my real name,” Daniella said. “He’ll make a great detective.”
“Have you ever had a friendly break up?” I asked.
Daniella snatched the ticket from me and frowned. “Speeding?” she said. “Reckless driving? He’s just making shit up. Why didn’t you argue this?”
I thought about the money this ticket would cost me, and it hurt that it was my fault. I shouldn’t have smacked into the curb. I was a better driver than that.
“He wouldn’t have given you this if I wasn’t in the car,” Daniella said. “We’ll take this to court. I’ll put on my glasses and go to the judge with you and speak softly and hold up a Jane Austen book and say Randy has been stalking me, and I’ll cry. Randy hasn’t seen me as library girl. He doesn’t know what I can do now. I’ll get his ass fired.”
Despite everything, I laughed. In the last hour Daniella had assaulted a photographer, cursed me out in the mall, almost gotten me beat up in a parking lot, and her ex-boyfriend had just written me a traffic ticket. When we got home, I was going to hide that badass leather jacket of hers someplace where she’d never find it. But we had a common enemy. And maybe a common goal.
“It’s not funny,” Daniella said.
“I’m not laughing at you.”
“Stop it,” she said.
“Are you serious about wanting to marry a really rich guy?” I asked.
“Yes!” she proclaimed with no hesitation.
I drove on past the mall, a sense of calm taking hold over me. For the first time in months, I understood my role in everything. My life, my relationship with Daniella, all made sense, and my mind was clear. I knew what I wanted to do.
“You really want to marry a rich guy,” I said with an enthusiasm that surprised me. “Then I think I’m going to help.”
To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: Revenge of the Public Library .
If you want to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning (it’s getting kind of long), start here.