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The Literary Girlfriend: Bad Behavior at Church

February 23, 2014

Emma and Literary Girlfriend

Even though we’d been living in sin for about three months, I didn’t know Daniella could sing.  I’d never heard her sing before, not in the shower, not in the kitchen, not in the car with the stereo blasted up.  I don’t think I’d ever heard her even hum.  I’d known she could dance.  I’d seen her dance crazy, and she was one of the few women who could look good while dancing crazy.  But I hadn’t known she could sing, until she started doing it at church.

The St. Luke’s choir had just passed us during the processional hymn when Daniella started, somewhere in the second verse.  I’d been surprised because she hadn’t even moved her lips during the first verse.  I was a church lip-syncer because my out-of-tune, off-key crooning could throw off a whole section of the congregation.   For the rest of the opening hymn, I didn’t even bother moving my lips.  I just listened to Daniella.  She didn’t sing in an overpowering way; she just had a quietly sweet voice and hit all the notes.

When the procession was over, I whispered to her,” I didn’t know you could….”

“SShhhh!” she said.

I stopped.  What I wanted to say could wait until later.   Maybe Daniella didn’t realize the implications, but her singing ability changed everything.

The choir was filled with a bunch of middle agers and a lot folk with white hair.  They would welcome an attractive (extremely hot) young female who could carry a tune.  If anything, Daniella might stand out too much, but if there was one thing that choir needed, it was youth.  A soon as word got out that this newcomer could sing, she was going to get recruited.  They wouldn’t even care she wasn’t Episcopalian yet.   At least, some people wouldn’t care.

I thought about all of this as we knelt, stood, and sat throughout the service.  Even during the sermon, which lasted only 12 minutes, all I could think was, Daniella can sing.  How did I never notice that?  I wracked my brain, trying to think of a time when I’d heard Daniella sing.  Maybe she had sung and I had never noticed.  It could have happened.  I wasn’t the most observant guy, and Daniella had a lot of other noticeable traits (but it was tacky to think of those traits while at church).

Even though I wanted to ask Daniella about her singing, she had been right to shush me.  I was glad she cared about my behavior.  Earlier, I had been worried that Daniella might cough loud or fake sneeze or eat corn chips loudly (like she had done once in the public library), but so far her behavior had been impeccable.  I was proud of her.  If she could sing and behave well, we (or she) might become accepted into the church.

I was still lost in thought while we were all standing when I heard the priest say, “The peace of the Lord always be with you!”

And the congregation chanted, “And also with you!”

Oh no, I thought.  I hadn’t prepared Daniella for what was about to happen.

The congregation got loud, and in a panic, I turned to Daniella, grabbed her hand, and said “Peace be with you!” really loudly.  Then I leaned in and said, “Just say ‘And also with you.’”

“What?” Daniella said.  All around us, people hugged and talked loudly and shook hands and said “Peace be with you,” and “Peace,” and “And also with you.”  It was a grand moment of chaos in an otherwise solemn service.

“Just smile,” I said loudly.  That, she could do.

An old couple in the pew in front of us turned and shook hands with us.  A middle aged woman sitting next to Daniella hugged her and reached for my hand.  I pivoted and caught some hands behind me.  Daniella’s head swiveled back and forth, fake smile planted on her face, hand out to the right, quick turn to the left.  I think I uttered “And also with you” three times, and once I could only get out a “Peace!” before turning to another church-goer.  And then it was over, and silence once again reigned supreme.

“What was that about?” Daniella said low with tight lips.

“Something I forgot to mention.” My lips didn’t move either.

I tried to think of something later on that might surprise her.  The service continued, and she still knelt and stood whenever we were supposed to, without any sighing or muttering.  When the offertory plate was passed down our row, she didn’t snatch the twenty I had tossed inside.  During the post-offertory hymn, Daniella even began to sing more loudly.  She was getting confident, even cocky.

Something came over me.  Maybe it was reflex.  As we began the second verse, I pointed to the lyrics of the fourth verse in the hymnal, and Daniella sang the wrong words, belting out maybe four or five syllables before realizing the mistake.  She halted, and several other people around us stopped and listened to the choir to see who was right.  When Daniella gave me a dirty look, I mouthed a fake apology.  My older brother used to point to the wrong verse in church 15 years earlier, to throw me off when I had still been at least attempting to sing.  He’d be glad to know the old trick still worked.  Daniella rolled her eyes, and I thought that would be the end of it.

During communion, Daniella remained in the pew while I walked to the altar and knelt.  I watched her as I returned to the pew.  She saw me, cracked a quick smile, and then returned to serious face.  After communion was done, the organ got loud again, side doors flew open, and a bunch of kids came running in from Sunday school to rejoin their families.  The kids were loud and high-pitched.  They ran.  One girl in a dress slid down our pew, jumped on a tiny empty space next to Daniella, and leaped to her family sitting behind us.  The acrobat was so quick that it startled Daniella.

“What the hell?” Daniella exclaimed before she could catch herself.

I laughed out loud, and so did a few people around us.  Daniella looked down.  I gauged the expressions of people surrounding us, and  the disapproval was aimed more at the kid, not at Daniella.  I knew I shouldn’t laugh, but Daniella seemed so mortified that I couldn’t help but react.  The church was quieting down, and I shook, trying to keep from making any noise, which is tough, when I know I’m not supposed to laugh, but something mildly humorous snowballs into an uncontrolled fit.  I could feel my face turn red.  Maybe my ears were purple.  Daniella had gotten so close, she had almost made it through the service.  Of course, it was a little kid that had broken her.

“Shut up,” she whispered, even though I wasn’t making any noise.

Daniella’s admonishment only made it worse, and I was losing my breath, and as I sucked in air, I committed the unforgiveable sin.

I snorted.

The church got quiet, and I froze.  Even the raucous children had suddenly settled down.  I pretended I hadn’t done anything.  I couldn’t believe that I had just snorted.  I never snorted!  I could feel others looking around, wondering where the snort had come from.  I forced a serious expression and turned my head in several directions.  Daniella scooted a couple inches away from me.  I remained stoic for the next ten minutes of the service and didn’t even mouth words.  During the recessional hymn, Daniella held her own book and sang.

When the service was over, and people started heading toward the exit, Daniella turned toward me again.  “You snorted at me… in church!”

I mumbled an apology.

Daniella stared me in the eye, and then her grin started to form.  I’d seen that look.  I knew I wasn’t going to like what was about to happen.  Daniella held my hand as we exited the pew (not a bad start).  The side aisle was congested with people shuffling shoulder-to-shoulder, but we squeezed our way through.  A robed lay-reader stood at the side exit, shaking hands as the congregation exited.

“Where’s the priest?” Daniella asked.

I pointed to the center exit where most attendees were leaving.  Daniella pulled me through an emptied row of seats to the center aisle.  Puzzled, I followed her.  She was taking the lead, which she hadn’t done at church.  She was intentionally heading for the priest, a jolly looking bald guy with white patches of hair along his ears.  This wasn’t good, but I couldn’t resist her.  I couldn’t tug back at her arm and argue with her about this, not in public.  I didn’t like arguing with her in public.  If she was doing what I thought she was doing, Daniella was violating our plan.  Our agreement had been to go in and get out for the first few weeks and keep a low profile.  Now Daniella was taking cruel advantage of my character flaw (my inability to argue in public) and breaking the plan.

As we stepped closer to the exit, I attempted to move in front of her, but she smoothly stepped into my path.

The priest’s eyes lit up when he saw Daniella (that happened with just about every guy, so why should a priest be any different?).  He held out his hand and before he could say anything, Daniella grabbed it, and said:

“My name is Daniella.  I really enjoyed your sermon,” And then she turned to me.  “And this is my boyfriend, Jimmy.”

I smiled, but inwardly, I was thinking, “No!  No!  No!”

I hated it when Daniella deviated from my plans.


To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: The Lingerer .

If you want to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning (it’s gotten kind of long), start here.

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  1. 06cedmuho permalink

    Reblogged this on 06cedmuho.

  2. I love reading The Literary Girlfriend. Are you going to publish the whole thing g someday?

    • Thank you! I’m glad you (and others) enjoy it. My plan is for the blog version to be the rough draft, and then after I’m finally finished (it’s a lot longer than I originally thought it would be), I’ll take a few months (probably longer) to “deblogify” and “deserialize” it and then self-publish it. Hey, I think I just made up two new words.

  3. You should really publish it. That’s a good plan for the blog to be a rough draft. Its certainly well written.

    • Thank you. It’s been fun writing it, and I appreciate the feedback I’ve been getting. A few people have even left constructive criticism, which has also been helpful.

  4. I enjoyed the part about laughing uncontrollably in church. I’ve done this before, and it’s amazing that when you’re in a place where laughter might be inappropriate, that it makes you want to laugh that much harder.

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