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The Literary Girlfriend: Penultimate Episode

April 29, 2014

Pride and Literacy

Daniella had pulled a knife on me. As I rolled around sleepless in the hotel room that night, that was all I could think about. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised. After all, she had once smashed a bottle on an ex-boyfriend’s head. She had stolen furniture from another dancer who owed her money. She almost got me beat up by three big guys in a parking lot when she had been pissed off at me. I had seen her start several loud arguments in public. She had even gotten herself punched out in a restaurant just to get an old nemesis arrested. In high school, she and her friends had jumped a homeless guy. And that was just the stuff I knew about.

I reviewed the argument and the knife-pulling. I tried to remember who said what to whom and in what order. I tried to imagine Daniella being counseled by Father Murdock and then pieced together how he had kissed her. Despite Daniella’s history of lying, I believed her about that. I also believed that she had set him up to do it and that if she had set him up to behave a certain way, she shouldn’t sue him for behaving the way she had set him up to behave. But she had a shady lawyer involved (I don’t really believe that “shady lawyer” is redundant), so that reinforced my belief that Daniella had set the poor guy up.

I wasn’t sure what I’d be greeted with when I returned to the apartment the next morning. I had to go back. I didn’t want to call first. Phoning ahead would seem wimpy, almost like I was asking permission to return to my own apartment. I half-expected my sliced up clothes to be strewn across the apartment complex lot. Maybe she had already changed the locks. Instead, the complex was serene in a typical Sunday morning calm, but when I walked up the steps outside my apartment, a brute of a guy stood at the door blocking my entry. He was curly haired and muscular with a gray shirt and jeans. His eyes remained set on me while I slowly, almost reluctantly, walked up the steps. I reminded myself that I really needed to get a carry permit.

“Good morning,” I said, trying to be casual and polite. “This is… uh… my apartment.”

“Hey!” the brute called into the apartment. “Some skinny guy says he lives here.”

I heard Daniella’s voice, and the brute stepped aside with a quizzical expression. I’d seen that look before. Daniella and I were a physical mismatch.

“What the hell?” I said as I walked in.

The apartment was empty, except for my old bookshelf in the living room and some boxes lying around. Daniella, in a tight red t-shirt and spandex shorts, came out of the hallway. I put everything together, the stud brute, the empty apartment, and Daniella in a skimpy outfit. I felt sapped. My shoulders slumped. I stared at the brute for a moment and then muttered to Daniella, “That didn’t take long, even for you.”

“I’m paying him to move my furniture out of here,” she said, and nudged me hard with her shoulder. “Dumbass.”

Okay, that made more sense, I thought. “Sorry,” I said.

Then a second brute in a matching gray shirt lumbered into the hallway. I knew that Daniella would never spend the night with two brutes in matching mover’s outfits. That would have been tacky.

“Six months, Jimmy,” Daniella said. “We live together for six months, and this is what you think of me.”

“I’m… still… processing,” I said.

“You were my boyfriend, Jimmy. You were supposed to back me up, no matter what.”

“The priest,” I asked slowly. “Did you lead him on?”

Daniella rolled her eyes. “Of course, I led him on. But he’s a priest, who’s engaged. And he still kissed me. He deserves whatever happens to him.”

I whistled out in exasperation. I didn’t know what to say. Father Murdock shouldn’t have done what he did, but I still felt sorry for him.

“You didn’t even hesitate when I told you yesterday,” Daniella said. “Six months together, Jimmy, and you didn’t even start to believe me. That tells me what you think of me.”

“But I don’t really think of you like that,” I said. “That’s why you shouldn’t be suing the church, or trying to marry a rich guy. I think of you as better than that.”

“You’re full of shit,” she said. Then she nodded to the two brutes. “Take the rest of the boxes to the van and wait for me there.”

The brutes marched into the bedroom and came out with stacks of boxes. Daniella watched them as they left the apartment and went down the stairs. Then she turned to me, looking me in the eye.

“Can I have those?” she asked, pointing to the books she had pretended to read, the Jane Austen novels, the Bronte novels, and some miscellaneous poetry.

“Sure,” I said. I figured she would still carry a novel with her and wear a beret and her thick, black glasses. When she dressed up as library girl, she was irresistible to educated guys with money. Evidently, she was irresistible to young priests as well.

“Can I have those too?” She pointed to my boxed set of Little House on the Prairie books. I couldn’t remember why I had those in the first place, so I nodded.

“What about those?” she asked, motioning to a hardcover collection of the Frank Baum Wizard of Oz books.

I shook my head. “Those have been in the family a while.”

She bent down and scooped the paperbacks into a box, and I watched her bend down. I felt kind of guilty, like I had the first time I’d run into her in the laundry room. After six months, I was back to sneaking cheap glances at a hot chick in a skimpy outfit.

“All your stuff is still in the second room, if you want to check,” she said, looking down at my shoes. “I didn’t cut anything.”

“I know,” I said, even though I didn’t.

“Go check anyway,” she said.

I peeked into the second bedroom where I stored most of my books and comics. Everything seemed in order. Even though my heart wasn’t in it, I flipped open a few comic boxes and inspected the condition of some of the more valuable issues. I wandered through the empty main bedroom into the walk-in closet and made sure my wardrobe hadn’t been slashed. Everything on my side of the closet was fine. Everything on her side was gone.

When I returned to the living room, Daniella had the book box stacked on top of another slightly larger box.

“Would you please carry those for me?” she asked softly.

I leaned down to pick up the boxes, and Daniella said, “Bend your knees, or you’re going to hurt your back.”

“I’m fine,” I said, cradling the boxes securely. The bottom box was heavier than I had expected.

Daniella saw me struggling and said, “That’s why you should use your legs.”

Or you could carry one of these yourself, I thought, or have one of your brutes do it.

She walked in front of me and led me down the stairs, reminding me a couple times to step carefully. When we reached the sidewalk, she again hogged the center, forcing me to either walk behind her or walk on the grass. I chose the grass, so she veered to the side so that our arms brushed together. Even after breaking up, she went for the arm brush.

“Six months, Jimmy,” Daniella said, and then sighed.

“It was a good six months,” I said. Much of it had felt surreal, but I’d remember most of it fondly, I knew.

“It didn’t have to end,” Daniella said.

“You put a knife to my throat.”

“I wasn’t going to use it. I was just making a point.” Then she groaned. “I didn’t mean to say that.”

When we reached her car, she opened the door and flipped the front seat up so that I could stuff her boxes into the back. There were already piles of stuff on the floor and the seat, so I balanced the boxes and pushed the seat back into place. When I turned around, Daniella was facing me just inches away. I had no place to move without nudging her aside. I could feel her presence, even though we weren’t touching.

“I’d never cut you,” she said. I could barely hear her. “I’d never hurt you. I just… felt betrayed.”

“You’ve got a lot of stuff in the back,” I said. “You might scrape bottom.” I pointed to the parking lot exit where low riding cars sometimes scraped.

“Oh, you’re talking about my car,” she said, fluttering her eye lashes.

I thought for a moment before I spoke. “I can’t believe we’re ending like this.”

“This is it,” Daniella murmured. I thought she was going for a hug, but instead she stood her ground. Her hands were on her hips, she stuck her chest out, and she glanced at the moving van on the far left side of the lot, and then the opposite way to the street, and then at the apartments behind me. She peered up at the sky, sighed, and then stared past me at her car.

“Goddammit, Jimmy,” Daniella said, startling me with her harsh tone. Finally, she looked directly at me and said:

“Aren’t you going to ask me to stay?”

*****

To be continued one last time in… The Literary Girlfriend: The Shocking Conclusion .

If you want to start all over again 58 episodes away, click here.

11 Comments
  1. dreamfarming permalink

    I don’t want it to end. I haven’t the faintest idea where it could go realistically, but I still don’t want it to end.

    • Thank you! I’ve had (or am having) a blast writing it, but I think I’ve taken this story as far as it can go in the blog serial format. There are, however, other possible formats in the future…

  2. annabelmcquade permalink

    (snerk) Why am I not surprised by her last comment?
    Also, yegads, are we really reaching the end?

  3. Just one more.

    Always bittersweet.

    Been a fun ride. I’ll look forward to the final chapter, sir.

  4. Dang, you know I sit at my PC waiting for the next episode of Literary Girlfriend….what am I going to do?

  5. Veronica permalink

    Don’t ask her to stay! As much as I love the story… don’t ask her to stay!

  6. I knew it! No happy ending. Although I have been mad enough at men to hold knife to them with no intention of using it.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Reading An Abridged Book Is Cheating? | Dysfunctional Literacy

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