I stormed into St. Joe’s at the height of the Noon Ash Wednesday Mass. Still dressed in my scrubs, I blew through those massive chapel doors like a gust of bitter February wind. I’d just seen Jamie’s pretentious car parked in front of the church, and I figured he’d come to this penitential mass hoping for absolution. He sat in the third row, head bowed, his gloriously tousled mass of golden hair gleamed like a beacon of innocence next to the shining helmeted updo of his repressed, miraculously blonde mother.
I bypassed the ushers, ignoring the hello from Mrs. Banks, my seventh grade math teacher and the folded program she tried to place in my hand. Failing to genuflect or splash myself with holy water—it would have sizzled on contact—I marched straight down the center aisle. My red rubber Crocs squeaked my progress through the hushed, echoing chamber of the sanctuary. Heads turned as I passed, no doubt wondering who dared to clop down the tasteful Moravian tile in the midst of this somber service. It was officially the kickoff to Lent, and the house was packed with the well-dressed, good citizens of Smithfield.
Faces I’d known my entire life surrounded me, but I blocked them out. I’m sure that even Christ’s eye was on me. The priest, Father David, droned the glum litany and looked my way for half a second, before dismissing me, as if he was the voice of reason and I, little Markie Meehan, needed to sit my ass down and get with the program.
I found a place in the pew behind Jamie and slid in. Glaring at the back of his head, I struggled with an overwhelming violence. Never in my life had I felt that kind of rage. I wanted to destroy him, not engage in some hissed conversation and exchange of keys. Fuck that. I was beyond civility. And Jamie DuPree wasn’t stepping one Gucci-clad toe in to my apartment. Ever again. The prick.
As I clenched the book rack, my fingers brushed against the Bible proudly displayed there. Eyeing the curls that hugged Jamie’s rough jaw, I slid the Good Book from its safe haven. The cracked leather felt worn, but the bulk was reassuring. Encouraging, even. So fueled by a boiling rage, I hauled back and gobsmacked that bastard as hard as I could in front of God and everyone.
The Bible hit the back of Jamie’s head with a resounding thwack! and Jamie pitched forward. His beautiful face collided with the pew in front of us with a sick smack. He hit the wooden lip hard, the sound like a puck getting whacked by the high-priced stick he valued far too much, and he dissolved onto the tile.
My follow-through sent me into an awkward nosedive over the back of the pew and onto the maroon cushion. Legs kicking, ass high, my face came perilously close to landing in Mrs. Dupree’s lap. I clambered to my feet, spewing outrage and fury and maybe a little filth.
“In our bed, you fucking bastard!” The words rang through the congregation as the entire community froze.
At least I assumed they were frozen. I wasn’t paying attention to anyone except Jamie and his stiff mother. I had nearly landed on top of her when the cushion shifted under her skinny ass and she rose to her perfectly clad feet and clutched her pearls. Her sour-lemon lips pursed, and she stared me down with—and perhaps I imagined this—the glowing eyes of demonic satisfaction. “How dare you?”
What did she think? That her words mattered here? Conversation with Jamie was definitely not happening now. I didn’t spare her another glance.
Liberated of my usual control, I felt free. Or just out of my fucking mind, so I cuffed him again with the Bible. He went down a second time.
The folks around me came to their senses and latched their rough hands onto my arms in some mockery of Christian brotherhood. “Mark. Calm down.”
“You need to leave.”
No, it wasn’t, but they dragged me from the pew, ripped the Bible from my hand and drove me up the center aisle like a heretic. I looked into faces I’d known my entire life, and I knew I should have been shamed, but I had nothing to be ashamed of. Not yet, anyway.
Panting and blowing and utterly disheveled, I glanced over my shoulder just as Jamie, limp in his rumpled banker suit and tie, was assisted into his seat with caring hands. He looked stunned, and a little gray—well, except for the blood, which at this point steamed down his proud nose.
And then I found myself ostracized. My good neighbors tossed me right through the arched doors and back into the gasping chill of the February midday. Sweat froze to my skin. Alone, exposed, shunned on the front lawn, I was still royally pissed. I clenched my fists and marched back to the car, the bitter wind whipping my field coat wide as gritty sand and road salt blasted my face. My eyes watered, and my nose began to run. I hit the door lock on the Jeep and climbed inside.
Time to go home and pick up the pieces.
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