Something Like Faith, Chapter 6

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Guinevere and I are eating breakfast with her parents.  Normally, they eat about seven, but she asked them to wait until I arrived.  Dad told me to drive our car.  I’m five minutes early.  I don’t think I slept last night.

I’m wired.

Guin made waffles and Gretchen made homemade blackberry syrup, but not syrup.  Compote, she called it.  Way too thick for syrup.  Noel Kinton must exercise hard to stay in shape the way they eat, though being six-twelve probably helps.  He’s got a lot more territory to spread it out.

“Have you read Chaim Potok, Paxton?  The Chosen and My Name Is Asher Lev are two of his best and most widely read, though Gretchen favors Davita’s Harp.”  Noel Kinton has decided that he and I can talk literature.  I know few of the authors he suggests, but I’ve gone to the library for every book he’s recommended.

“No, I haven’t.  Did they make a movie of The Chosen?”

“I would not be surprised, though I haven’t seen it, personally.  I tend to find theatrical adaptations of books disappointing.  Do you enjoy them?”

I’m chewing waffle and compote, trying to frame an adequate answer to another question that sounds like a test, when Guin says, “Paxton and I wanted to talk to you both.  Didn’t we, Paxton.”  A cue, not a question.

I take a large swallow of milk, taking care not to choke (which is harder than you’d guess, when you’re consciously trying) and nod my head several times.  She’s waiting for me to continue.  Her father, who does not like being interrupted, is also waiting for me.

“Um, Guinevere and I had hoped to talk to you because, we, uh…well, we’ve been talking, and we decided we think it’s time to—I mean, we feel ready to talk about…” come on, one more word, “marriage.”

Pathetic, but I did it.

“You want to talk about our marriage?” Gretchen asks, half-joking, but she’s not laughing.

“No.  We want to get married.  I would like to marry your daughter.”  So much better.

In the silence, Noel Kinton cuts another bite and puts it in his mouth.  Trying not to avoid their stares, I count his chews.

“You’re pregnant?”  Gretchen asks, but it comes out a statement.  She wants confirmation.

I start to shake my head, but Guinevere says, “Hardly.  We’re not even close to having sex.” Continue reading

Something Like Faith, Chapter 5

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Guinevere got accepted to Stanford. Awesome. I’m really happy that I took three-and-a-half years to grow the cojones to ask Guin out so that we could date five months before she moves away. Of course, I should be happy for her that she got in, because she should go and she’ll do great there, etcetera, etcetera. The crazy thing is, I do feel that way. I want her to get out of here almost as badly as I want to. But we didn’t apply to any of the same colleges (it wasn’t exactly an issue then).

Here’s the truth: I thought about applying only where she did. But even I have my limits to how ridiculous I act, and since I was paying for my own application fees, I decided to go for schools that offered big scholarships that I might have had at least a snowball’s chance in Hades of getting. I’m not going to play basketball at Stanford, but Princeton had a scholarship for writing the best essay, period. It wouldn’t matter who my parents were, what they make, or where they went to school; if I could write a better literary analysis than any other high school senior, the “Promising Scholars” grant would have covered tuition my first year. Northwestern offered three full rides for in-state residents who “showed the most promise in the literary arts.”  UCLA gave me that summer program scholarship, so I thought I might have had my foot in the door there…plus, I’ve always dreamed of going off to school in California. That just feels like the right way to leave it all behind and start a new life. There’s something absolute about leaving the Midwest for California, like a modern version of the ’49ers—with better odds of success. Continue reading