Churched

CHAPTER I

Alicia.

John and I are getting married in ten days.

The tables will be ivory and turquoise, and I will have red roses. Mum thinks these will clash. I tell her I have no intention of blending in to the furniture. She is adamant that this isn’t impossible – that it is my wedding day and everyone will be looking at me regardless, so I should have gold or turquoise tulips. I told her that the red would match my lips and John’s handkerchief but nothing else because we are all that’s important. Besides, gold anything is tacky. I also remind her that while I had designed the bridesmaids’ ensemble so that they would blend in, I deliberately designed mine to have the opposite effect. I interrupt her when she begins garbling again by remarking that maybe I should paint the walls black so that when Janet is photographed it will only be possible to see her pathetic eyes. No teeth, she wouldn’t be smiling. That way I can just tell the photographer to edit her out because she shouldn’t be there anyway. My mum says in a quieted voice that there is no need to be petty. I tell her that the only petty thing is Janet, and since she spends so much time praying she should pray that God makes her prettier or she will end up alone and haggard like my mum is. My mum takes a gasp and turns her back to me. She is silent for a while then excuses herself from the kitchen. She has to walk past me as I am nearer to the door, so I see that there are tears in her eyes. I hear little sobs escaping from her downturned mouth as she heads for the upstairs bathroom.

I sigh at her weakness as I glide over to the linoleum bar table and pull up one of the new – and very expensive – metal bar stools. It makes that infuriating noise that makes your teeth stand on edge as I accidently scrape the floor when I move it nearer to the table. I grit my teeth as I sit down. The bar itself is unusual as it is right in front of the window, not in the middle of the kitchen as the Kitchen Dreams sales rep had suggested. We prefer it that way because then we don’t get the fumes from the stove in our faces whenever we want to relax the kitchen. It cost us our mission trip to the Philippines but it was worth it. Mum has left the colour chart for the reception on the table, so I pick it up to reinspect her choice, as well as one of the RSVP’d invitations. John had designed them himself. To the bottom right of the embossed wedding bell is the writing “John and Alicia, 26th Feb.” The design itself was very good; classy, if a little simple. On the inside of the 7×7 square card is a generic poem. We made 7, one poem for my Scartt family, and one for his Hensons; one for his friends’ and one for mine, two for male and female acquaintances and one for Janet. I wrote that one myself.

I was very particular about what I sent to Janet. She didn’t get an invitation with John’s design on it. About a month ago John had moved begun to move his boxes day by day to my house so we wouldn’t have to hire a moving van after the wedding. One day I had gotten curious as to what he found important enough to keep so I rummaged through some of them. I was a little taken aback to find he had kept the invitations he and Janet were supposed to use for their wedding, but instead of confronting him I took one and hid it in my draw. When we sent out our invitations I sent that one to her. I didn’t even need to change the date, I just crossed out her name and added mine.  Not many things have given me that much satisfaction.

When I first suggested we invite her, (a couple of days after the box incident) John marvelled that it was such a noble thing for me to do. He had always her to feel welcome and valued in our (his) life. He told me that he was astounded by my generosity, that I truly was the perfect woman. A gift from God. I smiled, a knowing smile. Perhaps I was naive, but I honestly expected never to hear from her again. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when a 4×6 wedding invitation with a ying-yang heart on the front was posted back to me. Even more so when I saw that she had RSVP’d yes. John was over the moon when I told him. I don’t know what game she’s playing. It doesn’t matter, I’ve won. It’s going to happen. “John and Alicia. Mr and Mrs Henson-Scartt.” 26th Feb.

A lot of people thought that it wouldn’t be us. For a long time it was going to be Mr John and Mrs Julia Henson (while John and I will take each other’s names Janet was happy to take his). I took a lot of crap to be with him. I didn’t break them up, she did. It didn’t matter, I was still the home wrecker, even in my mother’s eyes. It doesn’t even matter that we make more sense. John is white with blue eyes, and Janet is very very dark. It doesn’t look good. I’m mixed with hazel eyes, so obviously we look better. Our children will look perfect. Janet is too into religion, she doesn’t know how to be human. Plus, she could never have children, even after all that prayer. The sex would be pointless, there would never be that little hope of magic at the end of it. He’d tell her it was okay, but after some months her incessant crying and mournful prayers would drive him to helplessness. John is no good when he feels helpless. So he would look for someone to validate him, and I would make sure that he would find me; the younger, fertile, happier choice. And we’d be pregnant within months.

We haven’t had sex yet. He waited because pastors lead by example. I waited because I didn’t ever want him to question that I was the “wrong kind of proverbs woman”, as his mother always quotes accusingly. I didn’t even, you know, touch myself because I wanted to be as tight as possible. I didn’t want  John to just slide into me and then back out again. I wanted there to be a struggle, then for him get lost in me and never ever think of anyone else ever again. I waited for him for 5 years. I had to prove myself for 3. But now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my time.

I should call my mum back. We need to sort this out. I will need her to collect my roses.

Please don’t take my shoes.

People are born with irreplaceable things. For the sake of visualization, let’s imagine these things as items. Everyone is born with a hat and a scarf and a coat. And gloves. We are told to give our gloves away. We can live without them. When you find somebody to love, you give him or her your scarf when they are a little cold, and if they love you, they will wash it and dry it and give it back to you. But when they don’t, when they take your scarf to replace their own, or because they like to collect scarves, they leave your neck cold and exposed. But you put your hood up and you start life up without your scarf. Your hat is the next to go. Someone lost theirs, or they need to inspect yours to make sure that you aren’t hiding anything in that head of yours. Your hat keeps your head warm, and without it the breeze attacks your ears and your scalp, giving you aches and pains. The person you have given it to forgets that it isn’t theirs and walks off with it. They drop it on the floor and when you run after them wondering why they took it in the first place they deny all knowledge. They blame you for giving it to them and pity you for losing it. They pray that you find another one. This hurts more, you feel this one. But your coat has a hood, so you zip it up and keep on going. You hold it tighter, and you don’t walk as straight, desperate to shelter yourself from the dark, deep cold. Your steps are heavier and slower, but you stride instead of stroll, searching for a place to get warm again. You meet someone else. They are your warmth. They heal you and warm you and make you feel tingly thoughts again. You give your life to them. They give things to you. You give your heart. They give their honesty. You give your time. They give their mind. They let you borrow their hat. Then you realize that their coat is thin and ragged. You give them your coat even though you will be cold because they are your warmth now. They smile. And put your coat on top of theirs. They take back their hat. They take your shoes. They leave. You have nothing.