The Literary Girlfriend: Name Calling
Taking Daniella to church just so she could find a rich husband was probably a bad idea. For one thing, she was my girlfriend, and men don’t normally try to find rich husbands for their hot chick girlfriends. But I was out of money, and Daniella was going to break up with me soon anyway (she just wouldn’t admit it), and so I figured if she needed me to help her find a rich potential husband, she’d have a reason to stick around longer. When you’re living in sin with a hot chick, you try to live with her as long as you can.
Despite the possibilities ahead of her, Daniella had been reluctant to get moving that morning. I’d had to force her out of bed and coax her every step of the way to get her to church. It should have been the other way around. I wasn’t eager to get her married off, but it must have seemed like it. Daniella really wanted somebody to pay her bills (even though she made a ton of money dancing), but she wasn’t enthusiastic about church. Then again, if Daniella really hadn’t wanted to come to church that morning, she could have already sabotaged it in a bunch of different ways, and she’d chosen not to. She had just needed a little push.
As soon as Daniella noticed all the luxury sedans surrounding us in the St. Luke’s parking lot, she perked up a little bit. She didn’t say anything, but I knew she was calculating the value of each car. She saw families dressed up, men in suits, even little boys in suits more expensive than mine. When we approached the chapel, we could see the church and the St. Luke’s Community Center sprawled behind it. Most of the complex seemed to have been built in the last ten years.
“This church has some serious money,” Daniella whispered.
I extended my free hand upward. “Marry an Episcopalian, and all this shall be yours,” I said.
She watched a row of dark luxury sedans pull in and fill the parking gaps. I thought of my dull economy-sized sedan that I had parked in the back of the lot. I really hadn’t wanted to be noticed.
“You could afford a car like that,” Daniella said as a family of five stepped out of a shiny black sedan.”
“I used to be able to afford a car like that,” I said.
Daniella laughed once and squeezed my hand.
Our plan was to sit through a few services before introducing ourselves. Then after the church community had accepted us, we’d break up and Daniella would remain at the church, where a bunch of wealthy suitors would be ready to console her. The challenge was getting Daniella to endure an entire church service without fake sneezing or sighing loudly or stealing money from the offering plates. If she could resist, then she had a chance. Part of me thought we were aiming too high by attending St. Luke’s first. The wealthiest of Episcopalians were members here. A Secretary of Something in Washington D.C. was a regular attendee, and several prominent local politicians were members. Since I was Daniella’s practice husband (kind of), I thought maybe we would be better off using a smaller church before we tried the big time. But Daniella was in a hurry. I wasn’t paying all of her bills anymore, so time was money.
Daniella clutched my hand as we entered the church. There were three greeters, one for each set of doors, and we chose the middle. The greeter smiled and handed each of us a program.
“Good morning,” the greeter said.
I responded with a hearty “Good morning!”
Daniella brushed up closer to me and looked down. When we entered, Daniella veered straight for a back pew, but I gently tugged her hand. Church wasn’t high school, I had told her earlier; she wasn’t going to get called on. I guided us to a pew about two-thirds of the way to the front. When everybody filled in, we would blend right in. The church was still half-empty, so we slid our way to the center of the pew without having to move anybody or put our butts in a bunch of faces.
Once we sat down, I knelt for a moment, and Daniella grabbed a Bible. Then she glanced through the Prayer Book and the Hymnal. She spent most of the time on the Hymnal. She occasionally looked up to inspect the stain glass windows or the sculptured rafters, but she didn’t want to seem like a tourist or a newcomer. As the church started to fill up, I noticed middle aged couples and families. Parents kissed/hugged their kids as they ran off to a side hallway for Sunday school. I didn’t see any jeans or t-shirts. Even though we were dressed appropriately, several people looked at us, maybe because we were strangers, maybe because of Daniella. Even with her thick black glasses and conservative attire, she attracted stares.
When the organist started up, Daniella grabbed the Bible again and flipped through it. “I had a boyfriend named Malachi once,” she whispered. “He was a dick.”
Nobody had heard her, probably because of the overpowering organ music, and Daniella continued as she paged through the Bible. “Matthew was a dick. James was a…” Then she grinned at me. “I haven’t decided about you yet. Why don’t you go by James? You act more like a James then a Jimmy.”
This was coming from a Daniella who let herself be called Danielle for a long time even though she looked more like a Daniella.
“You can look like a name?” I said, even though I knew what she meant.
“You’re too serious and polite to be a Jimmy,” she said with hushed voice. “A James dresses up nice for church. A Jimmy wears his cap on backwards on a sunny day. You never wear your cap backward.”
Backwards caps were for kids, I thought, but I didn’t say anything.
“Jimmy, not James,” Daniella said. She was teasing me. “Jimmy, not James. Why Jimmy?”
There was a reason I was Jimmy instead of James, and it had nothing to do with the Bible, but the church was filling up, the organist was getting intense, and the choir and the acolytes and the lay readers and the priest were all gathering in the back. It was almost show time.
When the procession began, Daniella and I shared a hymnal. For me, the worst part of church was always the hymns. I couldn’t sing, and when I tried to sing, people around me had to stop. I’d even get dirty looks from other church goers when I tried to sing, so I had resorted to mouthing words. I was pretty good at looking like I was singing. I could fake sing with lots of emotion. During the first verse, Daniella was quiet too. We hadn’t discussed singing. I had forgotten that I didn’t sing. Maybe she was following my lead. Her lips didn’t move. She stared at the book. At least I pretended.
As the choir marched past us, the second verse began, and Daniella opened her mouth. I could hear her. She was really singing. Her voice was soft and on key, and… she actually sounded good. I stopped pretending and kind of watched her for a while. She read the words, hit the notes, and held them just as long as the choir did.
I couldn’t believe it! Daniella could sing! I hadn’t known Daniella could sing. And after I thought about it for a moment, I realized that everything would change. Our relationship (whatever it was) was going to end a lot sooner than I had previously thought it would.
To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: Bad Behavior at Church .
If you want to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning (it’s gotten kind of long), start here.