I’d rather be just about anywhere else, but Jake wanted to come this morning, and I’m sick of arguing with him. Don’t have the energy to fight. I hardly do these days. It’s a blessing, I’m sure, or else I would have said some nasty things by now. Not the kind of things you apologize for in the morning when you wake up and your mascara’s caked onto your face and your eye sockets are so puffy and black you’d frighten a raccoon. I’m talking about the really bad things. The things that destroy couples, even ones who haven’t gone through half of what we have.
Four hundred and fifteen points. I added it up once. I found this quiz online, and it’s supposed to tell how much stress you’ve gone through in the past twelve months. Getting married, that’s a hundred points right there. Pregnancy racks up another sixty, which is half of what you get when you add a roommate, and in the past year I went from living by myself to sharing a trailer with two adults and a newborn. Fifty points for moving? Yeah, does living in a hospital room count?
There was even a category for serious illness in the family, which added on another eighty tallies. As if getting married is more stressful. Of course, serious illness could mean anything from measles to cancer. Whatever psychologist or clickbait-hungry web designer invented the quiz, what would they know?
But at least one of the categories made me laugh. Problems with the in-laws. Yup, I earned each and every one of those twenty-five points, thank you very much. Maybe I shouldn’t complain. Jake’s mom is with Natalie right now, or else there’s no way he and I would be out anywhere. I didn’t want to come here, but at least now I don’t have to deal with Patricia. She’s the kind of mother-in-law who would intimidate the bride of Frankenstein. She means well. Have you ever noticed how many horrible people there are in this world who go around meaning well? And she’s a nurse, or at least she used to be, so Natalie’s safe. Physically, I mean. Still, nice as it is to get a break from Jake’s mom, I’ll feel guilty and jittery until we head back.
I still don’t know why Jake dragged us here. Neither of us thought to dress up or anything. That’s the first thing I noticed. Small country church in Orchard Grove Middle-of-Nowhere, Washington, and I’m sitting here in maternity pants. Jake’s not looking much better in that old Seahawks jersey. I look around and count two other men without ties on.
Oh, well. If people want to stare, that’s their problem. I can only imagine what they’re thinking about us, like that pinched-nose woman in the front row sitting straight as a rail. Reminds me of one of my foster moms, a single woman in her sixties, never married. Which was a good thing, at least. There wasn’t a single ounce of kindness in those sharp-as-tack bones of hers. Out of all my foster moms, I seem to recall liking the plump ones best. Not the really fat ones like that Trudy lady or whatever her name was who sat on the couch stuffing her face with junk food all day. Man, I hated those soaps she used to watch. I was so glad to be out of that house. Was she the one right before Sandy, or was that earlier? I couldn’t keep them all straight even if I wanted to.
I wonder why I’m thinking of them now, these foster families that creep into my memory like a squid with all those disgusting, grasping tentacles. Sandy’s the only one I still talk to. The only one who was ever like a mom to me. She’d be all puppy-dog excited to know that Jake forced us both to church today. She’s like that. So preachy all the time. No, preachy’s not the right word for it. Preachers like that Bishop Cameron Hopewell or whatever his name is on TV who bangs his fist on platforms and shouts about hell, money, and sex, most often in that order. Men like him always wear toupees, too. Did you ever notice that? Like Donald Trump all gung-ho for the Lord.
Sandy’s not like them. She’s a Jesus freak, for sure. She’ll get preaching on the resurrection or salvation or the Holy Ghost like nothing else. But there’s something kind about the way she does it. Like she doesn’t want your money and isn’t about to hand you an immediate ticket to hell if you sneak a boy through the upstairs window and mess around a little bit because he says Don’t you want to? so many times you have to give in every once in a while or else he’ll find it somewhere else. Sandy was upset when it happened, but not in the angry way like those TV guys would have been. I didn’t get the sense she was mad, more like she felt sorry for me.
I hate it when people feel sorry for me. Maybe that’s why these past few months have been my own personal Hades. It’s like walking into what you think is an empty apartment only to find everyone you know has shown up for a surprise pity party, and you’re the star attraction.
I hear it all the time online. I can’t believe you’re going through this. You must be so strong. Hugs and kisses, XOXO, all that junk online that nobody really means. I hate it, but the funny thing is that if enough time goes by and I don’t get at least a message or a comment asking how I’m doing, I start to wonder if everyone in cyberland’s forgotten about me, and I throw up a picture of Natalie in all her medical gear because I know that’s bound to get a response.
The incubator picture from the first day, it went totally viral. Got something like a hundred and fifty shares. Now, the most I can hope for is maybe five or ten likes. I guess after four months of the same type of sick-baby photos, you get a little bored. God knows I would.
Jake is squirming next to me, and I feel somewhat smug since he was the one who made such a big deal about us coming to church in the first place. I think he’s trying to make a deal with God, which sounds funny when you think about it, but we do it all the time.
God, if you make him notice me, I’ll tell the world how grateful I am. Hashtag blessed.
God, if you get that anesthesiologist to give me my epidural before the next contraction, I swear I’ll never use your name in vain again.
God, if you keep my baby girl from dying, I’ll be a better person, invite you into my heart a dozen times over, just name your price.
Yeah, I know all about making bargains with heaven. And I know Jake feels guilty. We both do. Like maybe if we hadn’t hooked up, if we’d kept ourselves pure like those youth pastors and TV folks told us to, God wouldn’t be punishing us right now. That’s what some idiot said to me online at least. It wasn’t the first day, but pretty shortly after that, not even the end of the first week. Can you believe it? He’s not someone I know well. Went to Sandy’s church out in Boston. Man, I’m so glad to be away from the East Coast, away from people like Tom McMahon.
So picture this. Natalie was on a ventilator, and my foster mom posted a picture asking everybody to pray, and “Elder Tom” shoved in. He’s not an elder anymore, by the way. Doesn’t even go to St. Margaret’s. He and Sandy’s husband got into a major fight a few years back and parted ways. Last I heard, “Elder Tom” has started up a new church of his own. God only knows what sadist would go there. I mean, what kind of human being, let alone a pastor, would make a reference to David and Bathsheba under a picture of a dying baby with tubes shoved down her throat?
Sandy deleted the comment right away, probably hopes I never saw it in the first place, but I did. I’ll never tell her, because she’s done so much for me, like coming up to sit with me during Natalie’s surgery, but I wish she had told Elder Tom to take his smug, judgmental attitude and rot in the underworld. I mean, deleting that post is one thing, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of the issue. Which is that Tom McMahon thinks my baby deserves to die.
That’s what the David and Bathsheba reference meant. I had to look it up. I don’t have all those Bible stories memorized anymore, but all it took was a quick Google search. David committed adultery. Nobody says if Bathsheba was willing or not, because let’s face it, all those men who wrote the Bible wouldn’t have thought to ask about a little detail like that, would they? Anyway, the goodie-two-shoes king sinned, and God punished him by killing their child.
For God so loved the world, right?
Can I get an amen?
Want more? Read Beauty from Ashes today.
Categories: Christian Fiction Friday