After Matt left, Charlotte made me a sandwich for lunch. She insisted on sitting at the table with me and watching me eat it. I guess my 'grief' made her fearful for my appetite.
“Of course, he really shouldn't have said anything to either of us,” Charlotte said as I chewed the last bite. “He just worries about you. We all do.”
I swallowed. “What are you talking about?”
“Matt telling you about Belinda's death.”
“Oh. Oh right.”
Charlotte took my plate. She brushed the crumbs off the table and held the plate near the edge to catch them. Such a neat freak. “Will you go to the funeral? Matt will know the details, I'm sure.”
Funerals. Religious services, churches...not good, I thought. “I'll go to the viewing or the wake or whatever, just to say a few words to her parents,” I decided. Charlotte nodded.
“So, how's your day going?” I asked.
She smiled at me. “You're having a bad day, and you're asking how I'm doing? Sometimes you are really thoughtful, Maryanne. Thank you.”
“Who says I'm having a bad day?”
“You never come home for lunch,” Charlotte pointed out. “And even when you got here, you sat in the car talking business on the phone. And you just found out about the death of a friend.”
“Good points, all.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“No.” I picked up the open can of Dr. Pepper in front of me and took a noisy gulp.
Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Fine. To answer your question, I've had a surprisingly busy day. I've been rehearsing all morning.”
She couldn't be in a new play. It was summer. “Rehearsing for what?”
“The guest artist for church this week canceled, and I've been asked to sing the anthem for all three services,” Charlotte informed me.
“That's nice.” I took another gulp of soda.
“Will you come?”
I stared at her over the rim of the can. I set it down slowly. “Too church?”
“Yes, Maryanne. That's where church is held...in the church.”
“I'll think about it,” I lied.
“You haven't been to church since you moved back.”
“You don't know that.”
“I do know it, and so do your parents.”
And apparently they've discussed it with my best friend / roommate. Crap. “I'm exploring my spirituality. It's a very private thing.”
“Do you mean since when has it been private?”
“No. Since when have you questioned your religion?”
I could feel the blood pulsing around the sfi slave brand in my skin. Around, but not in. Like a part of me was dead and despised the rest for living. “A lot happened in law school,” I explained. “I went through it without having time to process much of it. I moved to the big city right after graduation and started a job at a high-powered firm; more of the same. Always in action, without any time for reflection. Now I'm home. The pace is slower here. Lots of wide open spaces.” I gestured to the vast fields outside the front door. “I've finally got time and space to think.”
“What does any of this have to do with going to church on Sunday?” Charlotte asked.
I frowned. “Can't you understand that I'm not sure which church is right? Just because our parents dragged us to one church when we were kids doesn't make it the only religion.
“All through law school I had people stuffing information down my throat, telling me what to believe. The law firm in the city did the same thing. I need to decide on my own what I believe. And that includes religion,” I finished.
It was the most elaborate lie I had ever told. To my ears it sounded pretty good. Thank you, law school and vampires, for making me such a perfect liar. And damn you all for putting me in a position where I would lie to my best friend.
“I didn't realize,” Charlotte said quietly. “I'm sorry, Maryanne.”
I hate myself, I thought.
“So you'll come to church this Sunday?” Charlotte asked brightly.
Huh? “No, I won't. I thought we just settled this.”
“I'm asking you to come hear me sing. That's not the same thing as asking you to church. This is something I want you to do for me. Please, Maryanne.”
Charlotte Hawthorne gets her own way, always. Sometimes its because she's too dang pretty for her own good, and people like to do things for pretty people. The rest of the time its because she wears her opposition down, bit by bit. I could either agree right then and on my own terms, or find myself dragged later.
“Fine. I'll be there. But I won't sit in that pew all the way up front,” I added quickly. “If I sit up there the pastor will see me and I'll get lectured after the service about my poor attendance.”
“Tell him that you're looking for yourself spiritually.”
“Yeah, that'll go over great,” I said sarcastically. “I'll sit in the balcony.”
“Okay. And after church we can all go out to lunch together.”
“Who is we?” I asked suspiciously.
“You, me, your parents, and my brother Matt.”
“Your brother is going to be there?”
“Yes. Because unlike some people, Matt goes to church on Sunday,” Charlotte said significantly. “And would it kill you to have a little social contact with a member of the opposite sex?”
I thought about Bradley, the pseudo-date we were supposed to go on, and Joe's warnings. “I've already had enough of that this week,” I muttered.
Charlotte leaned forward. “What?”
“You said something.”
“No, I didn't.”
“Well, you muttered something.”
I sighed. “I've been..asked...to go on a sort-of-date.”
Charlotte squealed and clapped her hands. “This is fantastic! You haven't been on a date in forever. When is it? Friday? I'll pick out something for you to wear.” She ran into my bedroom and started tearing through my closet.
Okay, now I'm having a bad day.
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