Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chapter 4, part 2: Unwelcome Advice

"How was the prom?” Mom called from the kitchen when I came downstairs the next morning. “Want to tell me about it over breakfast? I’m making my famous buckwheat pancakes.”
“It was really fun.”
She started loading up my plate.
“Only one for me. Quan’s picking me up for brunch in an hour,” I said.
Just then Kirsten came downstairs, wearing a bikini top under an unbuttoned bowling shirt and baggy men’s pants, a beach bag slung over her shoulder. She had changed a lot in the past few weeks.  While Mom and Daddy were on their cruise, Kirsten chopped off her long strawberry blonde hair to a rough pixie style and dyed it a ghoulish purply-black.  Then she went to local thrift stores and came home with a new wardrobe consisting of men’s work pants and an odd assortment of t-shirts with random slogans and “ironic” polyester blouses from the eighties. 
Mom made an exaggerated gasp. “Kirsten, you’re not wearing that are you? You look like a boy from behind.”
For all Mom’s efforts to be more positive, she was struggling with Kirsten’s changed appearance. It seemed she couldn’t let a day pass by without making some arch comment to let Kirsten know how unflattering the look was. 
Kirsten either chose to ignore or hadn’t heard Mom’s comment.
“Pancakes! Yum! I’ll have to eat fast though,” she said. “Heidi and I are taking the bus down to Newport for the day. I may not have my license yet, but I can still get around.”
Kirsten had taken and failed her driving test two times already.
She turned to me. “How was the prom? Wait, I just heard he’s taking you to brunch, so it must have gone pretty well.” She giggled. “So does that mean you two are an item now?”
I blushed. “Too soon to tell. Probably not though.”
I recounted the terrible tale of the lamentable first kiss while Kirsten wolfed down a stack of pancakes and laughed at Quan’s expense.
Mom sat at the table with us. “Kirsten, Giselle, don’t be unkind. I feel sorry for the poor guy. He was probably so nervous,” she said. “Though I think you’re very wise to put off getting into a relationship now, Giselle.”
“But you know what they say: practice makes perfect!” Kirsten said, poking me in the ribs and making kissy faces.
“Cut it out, Kirsten. I’m not so sure I want to ‘practice’ with Quan. He came on a little too strong.”
Kirsten cleared her plate and slung the beach bag over her shoulder again. “I say give him another chance. It will be good for you to date a little,” she said as she headed to the door. “I’ve been dating Charlie since forever. You’re a senior. Don’t you think it is about time you got a boyfriend?”
Mom got up and stopped her at the door. “Kirsten, that was not kind. Try again.”
Kirsten rolled her eyes. “Give me a break with all the try again stuff.”
Mom glared and kept her hand on the door handle.
“OK, OK, just pretend I said give him another chance and forget all that other stuff.” She lowered her voice to a stage whisper, “Even though it’s true.” In her normal voice she continued, “Though I’d love to stay and give you more much needed advice, I’ve got to go or I’ll miss the bus.”
Before Mom could stop her again, she was out the door.
“I worry about that girl,” Mom said as she returned to the kitchen. “She’s always been so headstrong and disrespectful. When she was little I thought that meant I had to crack down harder on her, but it only pushed her further away. With all I’m learning I finally see the damage I was doing to our relationship. I pray it’s not too late. At least God in his grace seems to have protected you from the bad effects of my old ways. But when I see Kirsten dressing like that I get scared of what she might be getting into. Why else would she choose to look so unattractive?”

I let Mom go on worrying aloud about Kirsten as I gave more serious thought to how things might develop with Quan.

***
I was in the middle of a daydream about how Quan’s kisses might improve with practice when Mom finished her monologue and interrupted me.
"So we’ve talked about your love life. How is your spiritual life?" Mom asked with that fake-casual tone of hers.
I tried not to roll my eyes at her. Whenever she asked that question, I felt like the state of my soul was on trial. What could I say to make sure I passed this little test?
Oh, it's great! I get up at the crack of dawn just to pray for three hours and then read three chapters from the Old Testament, at least one Psalm and then just for fun I'm also working on translating one of Paul's letters from the original Greek. And did I mention how humble I am?
Yeah, right. Between working for Pastor Jim and rehearsals for the school production of Grease and just surviving the living soap opera that is high school while prepping for AP exams, when would I have time for all that? I loved God and all, but to be honest, most days He was lucky to get a quick "Help!" or "Thanks!" from me.
And while I had been doing pretty good on keeping my purity vow, if I had a sexy dream like the one last night, well, then, I figure that He wouldn't want to hear from me at all for a few days. I already felt guilty enough, why did she have to ask this now?
"Honey, I only ask as a gentle reminder. You’ve seemed so stressed lately. You can always talk to me, but God wants to hear about it too. You know this stuff. ‘Don't worry about anything but with prayer and petition ...’ "
Is it bad that I tuned the rest out? I mean, I'd heard it all before. Okay, so maybe I was a tiny bit stressed out. Maybe she would say I’d be perfectly calm if I DID pray three hours a day and all that. In other words, if I was stressed, it was my fault for not praying enough. Nothing I did was ever good enough.
Mom got my attention by mentioning Oma. "Just an example, it’s great that your grandmother so generously offered to pay your way to a school in Ohio, but are you sure it’s God’s will? Have you been in prayer about it?"
I was trying to nod and smile and just let her finish, but I couldn't take it anymore. "Okay, okay! I get it, I need to be a better Christian. Could you lose the guilt trip?"
"Aw, Giselle, sweetie, I didn't mean it that way ..." She reached out to squeeze my shoulder.
"Whatever. I’m going to go outside to wait for Quan." I sidestepped her touch and slunk away before she could start up again.
***
Quan pulled up to the curb in his grey Honda Civic, got out and opened the passenger side door for me.

“Good morning, milady,” he said in a put-on announcer voice after he slipped into the driver seat. “Last night was magical. Thank you for joining me this morning so the fairy tale can continue.”

I giggled uncomfortably. “Quan, you goof. You don’t have to try so hard, you know.”

“Oh, no? How else am I supposed to win the hand of the fair maiden?”

“That’s the thing. You already have. Let’s just relax and enjoy being a couple OK?”

“As you wish, milady,” he said in an even more ridiculous voice, flourishing waving his right hand in a with a mock little bow above the steering wheel. The twinkle in his eye dared me to do something about it.

“If you want me to stay your lady, you’ll cut it out,” I chuckled, trying to knock his hand out of the air. He let me pull it down to the console between the bucket seats. I left my hand in his the rest of the trip, enjoying the warm tingles up my arm as he stroked my palm.

Kirsten was right. It was high time that I had a boyfriend.