knock knock knock. "Karina, are you ready?" grandma called from outside of my door.
"I'll be out, gimme 2 minutes!" I rushed to find a pair of black spanks and a bolero. I found the red one, perfect! It matched the heart on my skirt.
knock knock knock. "Vamanos, nena, we're gonna be late!"
"Alright! I’m coming!!" I hopped into my boots and kissed my cat on the head, then ran out the door and down the stairs, grandma was honking at me. I hopped into the car and buckled up.
"Good morning, Karina! How has God blessed you lately?" said Pastor Carl, "you look nice today!"
"Thanks, I got a new skirt." I smiled. "I guess you could say having a good weekend is a blessing, mine was fun."
"That's good to hear, I hope things keep getting better for you." he patted me on the back and went to greet some of the other people coming in. it's just like it sounds, I’m at church. It’s not really something I’m into, but I have to go. Part of the agreement of my moving into the apartment. My mom said that I have to work part time at the building, pay my own rent, get to school every day and on time, and go to church every week. I fought to get away from church, but she said I absolutely have to. She says I "need the Lord." I already have the Lord... I just don't need all the people around me in this church.
I skipped Sunday school; there was no use in going there. I made sure I put my phone on silent and I went quietly up to the balcony. It’s got the coolest view. Everyone says don't look down, but what you didn't want to do is look up. The ceiling is like a kaleidoscope of oak wood, and it’s so high up that you get dizzy when you look in the center where all of the rods meet. I always have dreams when I was a kid that Jesus was going to appear right beneath the center point and float down to the church stage and preach to us what really happened. I told my Sunday school teacher once and he laughed at me, that's the incident that had me starting to skip Sunday school, I was only 10. I don't skip every time, just some times, depending on who's there.
I sat up in the balcony by myself; I wasn't called to the board today. I was just trying to listen to the service minding my own. After I got bored, I finally put my headphones in. there's this thing about me, I just can't help. I have to listen to only Christian bands during church...I’m not religious, I don't even life church. I’m nowhere near a model "Christian" or anything like that, but I do believe in God and there's historical evidence that Jesus was in fact a real person, so I believe in him too, but there are a lot of things I will always question. The main thing how was dying for our sins a sacrifice if you can come back from the dead? every time someone would try to argue the reasoning, it just didn't make any sense, then they shunned me and said I thought I was "greater than God." if I thought I was greater than God, wouldn't have I already known the answer? Or the rude remark from my mother, "ask him yourself." I did, and I got no answer. Why on earth do you think I’m asking everyone else for?
I felt something hit my head, I decided to ignore it. I could hear faint snickering behind the low volume of the music in my headphones; it was who it always was. I refer to them as The Clergy Girls. For being the daughters of some of the most important people here, they're more like witches to me than angels. It’s like they follow me. When I sat in the pews, they always tugged at my hair, my family sat so far back that no one noticed, nor would anyone believe me that they were doing this to me. "That was no way for a daughter of the clergy to act, they know better." they always called me a liar, they always got me in trouble and for no reason at all, they never liked me.
We were all friends when we were little, or at least 2 of them were. Alyssa and Alyson. They were sisters and daughters of one of the deacons, as kids, we did a lot together. We sang in the choir, we took dance lessons, played in the playground, and sat at the same table at potlucks. After we started to get older, they started to sort of drift away from me, but I didn't know why. About the time where we had been in the middle of our fifth grade year, more kids had been coming to our church; more families. We elected new deacons and there were more younger couples rather than old men with grown children, these guys had children our age. In my class and grade level, I was one of the very few people that weren't clergy kids, I didn't think it mattered, because they were my friends, but they formed a clique. I felt really left out, and thinking there was nothing wrong with it, I would still go up to Alyssa and Alyson's table to sit during potluck, first they'd ignore me, and then they'd move. During church picnics, they'd make sure to pack the table so that there was no place for me. I didn't think it was on purpose at first, until they started picking on me, that is...
After the Clergy Clique formed, the majority of people my age had parents in the clergy, and they were all friends. One of the new girls made fun of me when I was sitting with them. I remember it really clear because it really caught me off guard. First, as we walked through the line, she had something to say about everything I picked up. She would say where all the fat was going or say how many carbs were in everything I ate. I didn't really care, its food. I got root beer to drink and she said "only poor girls like root beer." I just sort of shrugged it off, because Alysson and Alyssa aren't poor and they like root beer, but they were laughing at her joke...I thought it was odd, then they both poured ice tea just like she did. Although, I know they both hate tea. While we were eating, the new girl, Ashley, continued to be the life of the party, telling all about her life as a middle-schooler and they all thought she was so cool. I had older friends, so none of it was really new news to me, plus everything she said made her sound so snobby, and she had this mean fake sounding laugh. My younger sister stopped by my table and offered me the rest of her mashed potatoes and pasta because she felt bad to waste the food; I gladly took it and started to eat. "Are you sure you want to eat all that?" she asked me and I said of course, why wouldn't I? Its food, I was still hungry and I didn't want her to waste it either. Alysson told her that i'd probably just go to the bathroom afterwards, which what harm could that say. I always went to pee after I eat. She laughed and said "oh, so she's one of those girls. I’d expect it." I had no clue what she meant by that. She whispered to me: "it's okay little one, i'd puke if my ass was that big too." and everyone laughed at me. My jaw dropped, partially because she just whisper-cussed in church. Bulimic? Me? I couldn't believe my ears. And my own friends laughed at me. That’s not a laughing matter, and it wasn't even true. And now for the past 4 years it's been a recurring joke. Obviously, that was the last time I sat with them at any functions.
They left me alone for about a month, then they started sitting behind me and my family at church. They’d pull my hair and stab me with the little pencils you get in the pew for writing on the Offering envelopes. One of those times, Ashley cut me on the neck with an offering envelope and I yelped in church. Everyone looked at me and the pastor asked if there was something wrong from the microphone, I simply shook my head. I touched my neck and I was bleeding a little and it stung. I asked her why she would do that to me and that it was embarrassing. She said "go cry about it emo girl." and they snickered behind me. I told my grandma and she didn't believe me, I wish her hearing wasn't so bad or she would've heard it for herself. No one I told would believe me.
I found refuge in joining the Tech Crew. I got to sit in the balcony, where the Clergy Girls never were. I got to learn how to use a sound mixer, make slideshows on a computer and a lighting board. I was really excited because it was partially helping me to learn something I dreamed of, being a Techie for big time concerts. It worked for a while, until they found out where I was.
On special days, like the Christmas Cantata or special presentations, there are things that the sound guy has to do that I can't yet, so he says I don't have to. He said I can still sit up here during the days I’m not doing the board, so I sit in the pews beside the sound area. The Clergy Girls didn't notice until they were singing in choir one day in the upper row, and one of them noticed me.
I felt the little tap on me again, and another. They were throwing communion bread at me. I know better than to throw it back. Partially because I don't want to, and partially because I know they'll put all the blame on me and play the victim. "Can you please stop" I whispered to them. "If one of those pieces goes over the edge and land on somebody you'll get in trouble."
"We’ll just say you did it then." Ashley said in a mocking voice.
"And that you're a messy eater." Alysson teased, pointing at all of the bread on the ground they'd thrown.
"That’s not my mess...you guys are the ones throwing it at me."
"Now, do I look like the type of girl to throw the body of Christ all over the ground?" they giggled quietly.
"Well you did say that Jesus was probably hot..." Alyssa winked at her.
"Oh shush, you." they snickered together. I rolled my eyes and went back to minding my own business... "Aren’t you going to clean up your mess, little Karina?"
"It isn't mine, it's yours...you're throwing it everywhere." I felt the warm splash on my face and my eyes started to burn. It smelled like grape juice, makes sense with communion. It really hurt and I was trying to get it out of my eyes. I got up to go to the bathroom.
"Eat it." I gasped as Ashley pulled me down to the ground. "Eat the body of Christ."
"No... That’s not how it works... get off of me." I tried my hardest to be quiet; I wouldn't want anyone to notice.
"But you need Jesus, Karina. Eat it. Now."
"No." I started to quietly get up but she grabbed my hair, I kept my mouth shut.
"I don't think you understood what I was saying, I guess you're still not used to hearing things out of your native language." she grabbed my hair and started quietly pushing my face into the pile of bread on the floor. In communion you eat unleavened bread. We use matzo, which is basically a cracker. It hurt. "You need Jesus, you little Mexican whore."
"I’m not a whore and I’m not even Mexican. Get off me, I don't want to do this." she rubbed my face in it and giggled. "Please just stop it." my voice was muffled by the carpet.
The music started, which meant it was time for them to walk down to the choir loft to sing. "You’ve been saved by the Grace of God. Be thankful." she rubbed my face down against the carpet and walked off, a couple of the girls purposely stepped on my hand. I sat up and brushed myself off and went back to listening to music. As soon as the music was done, I crept off to the back lot of the church and sat on the swings in the playground.
I heard the chains rattle and I jumped. "Hey, Kari."
"Doorstep?" my eyebrows twisted in confusion "hey... I-I honestly never imagined you to step foot anywhere near a church."
"A lot of people say that, but I actually go to the church up the street."
"Really? So you're Baptist...obviously, so am I." we laughed. "Why aren't you there now?"
"I only go to Sunday school. Our tech guy records the sermons and put them online as downloadable podcasts, so listen to them at night."
"That sounds pretty cool. I normally do the tech board at this church, I’m learning how."
"Sweet, most people have to go to college for stuff like that. And I know you wanna work at concerts one day."
"Ha-ha yeah, it's good preparation I think."
"Whoa, what happened to your face?"
I guess i'd turned my head not realizing I had a mixture of rug burn and cracker-cuts all over. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you." I shook my head and starting pushing myself on the swing.
"Well I don't believe you would lie to me."
"I don't know... none of our friends know. I’ve been too scared to tell because they're so protective of me, especially Scott...”
"Pinky promise, I won’t tell anyone." he held out his pinky to me and I looked at it skeptically.
"Isn’t that little kid stuff?" I giggled.
"Hey, I take the pinky promise seriously."
"Uhm..." he held it closer to me.” Fine." I linked pinkies with him. "The daughters of the clergy pick on me. Like, hardcore pick on me."
"What do they do? It looks like they were trying to sacrifice your head."
"They were throwing communion bread at me, which is like, hard crackers and they were in a pile. They splashed grape juice in my eyes and pushed my head into the pile telling me to eat it because 'I need Jesus.' it's ridiculous...and it just keeps getting worse."
"Nobody noticed? How did no one see that happen?"
"I was sitting in the balcony, they were whispering and I didn't yell for help or anything, so I guess no one heard anything."
"And you can't tell anybody about it."
"No, I can, and I have; it's just that no one believes me."
"You can come to my church if you want. You don't deserve that sh—crap from people like that." he cleared his throat. “My bad."
"I don't care if you cuss...never bothered me."
"I just don't feel right cussing on church grounds."
"I know what you mean; I only listen to Christian music on Sundays."
"Sweet, I don't know a lot of good Christian bands, so I just listen to my normal stuff."
"If you want I can email you a list of some of my favorites, I know we like a lot of the same music."
"Sounds good." he smiled, realizing our pinkies were still linked and awkwardly let go slowly. I smiled back. "You should ask your grandma though, if you can visit my church."
"I will, I hope she lets me. I’m sick of the way they treat me."
"Well the agreement was that you just had to go, right? Well it’s up the street; you can see it from here. She wont have to drive anywhere crazy and I can meet you here to walk with you and show you around."
I smiled "that sounds awesome. I think I’ll ask her tonight." the church bells started to ring. "Church is about over now..."
"Do you have to go?"
"Not necessarily...I walk home from church because I don't like going out to eat."
"You don't? You’re the only person I know that doesn't like going out to eat."
"Well it's not like I hate it hate it, I just don't like the places my family chooses to go...plus I like to cook."
"Oh, ha ha. I know what you mean. I don't really like my parent's choice of food either." he looked down at the ground and pulled his lips in. "but hey, do you want to go somewhere that you'll actually like?"
"I don't have any money with me... but thank you."
"It’s cool princess, I can pay for you."
"Ah stop calling me that!" I shut my eyes tight.
"Sorry, Kari, it's a habit." he laughed. "Well do you want to?"
"I...I don't know."
He shook his head. "Come on."
We walked a couple of miles talking about random things together and kicking an old soda can across the ground. Leave it to me to accidentally kick it out in the street. Our toy was gone. We both frowned and replaced it with a rock. Sorry Mr. Sodacan...we'll never forget you.
i stopped abruptly when i noticed he'd stopped. "Here it is." he said. i looked up at the sign which read WASHOKU HOUSE.
"Japanese Cuisine House?"
"Is that what it means? i don't know jack-crap about that language besides how to say thank you to Mr.Roboto...if that is his real name."
i tried not to but i started laughing really hard. "Doorstep, You're retarded."
"Yes, yes i am." he smiled at me and we walked in together. "do you like sushi?"
"Yea, i've only had it a couple of times though."
"It's 5 bucks for all you can eat sushi here, 8 for the full buffet with a habachi chef...you wanna?"
"yeah i wanna!"
"alright." he smiled and went up to the desk to pay, then came back with reciept and two pairs of chopsticks.
"wow, it's like heaven here." i said as we walked through the rows of food. "there's so many kinds of chicken..."
"dude, i know right? that's the first thing i said when i found this place!" he put a big scoop of teriyaki chicken onto his plate.
"Gosh, i'm like, trippin right now, man. how did you even find this place?"
"it was by accident, really. i was riding the bus home from cincinati and i got dropped off up the street from here, one day i decided to stop in, and i don't remember the last time i'd ate so good."
"sweet, we should get the whole crew up here one day and feast!" i exclaimed through a moutful of stuffed mushrooms.
"haha that would be pretty gnar, hopefully scott'll be up to it."
"why wouldn't he be? scott loves to eat."
"because scotty-boy hates japanese and chinese food. dude's completely grossed out by sushi and sh-stuff."
i giggled at his attempts not to cuss. "i didn't know that actually. it's so funny because big bad scott is so fearless, i never thought something would 'gross' him out." i laughed.
"he'll probably come up here, he'll just eat the wierd chinese pizza and garlic bread and get ice cream."
"all the americany food? aw, that's no fun."
"well, that's scott for ya."
"i wonder why he never told me that..."
"dunno. he's probably embarrassed."
"around me? why?" i laughed. "he's practically a brother to me!"
"you might be blind."
"i guess i'll just say, insest is illegal. but because you two aren't blood. and...yeah." he suspicially sipped his tea and looked away from me.
i spit out my rootbeer in surprise. after looking at him a couple of seconds i just bursted into hysteric laughter. "scott does NOT like me!" i laughed.
he wiped the soda off of his face. "i'm not lying to ya, i think we all know...it seems like you're the only one who hasn't noticed."
"scott's had girlfriends, there's even a girl he likes now. and don't you think he would have told me? i just can't believe it. there's no way on earth."
"did he tell you who he liked by name?"
"yeah, he likes Renay Spalding at our school, they walk together in the halls and she's a junior."
"i guess...but our whole group knows that you're the one he's always had his eye on."
"i mean, i know Scott really cares about me, but i always thought it was more like a brother...he doesn't try to flirt with me or do wierd stuff like that, and if i talk about someone i have a crush on, he gives me advice and doesn't act jealous or anything like that."
"i think he knows you don't feel the same way, and he's not trying to date you because he knows you'd either say no or think it's all a joke."
"well yeah.. i would...like, thats' just crazy talk. it would just be so wierd...we're not supposed to be together."
"that's how it ended with my last girlfriend" he sighed.
"i never knew you even had one, D."
"i did, for about 4 months, about 2 months ago. she was expecting me to be like every other guy and i wasn't, and she left."
"but...isn't that the opposite? i thought every girl wanted a guy who wasn't like all the rest?"
"you'd think so... i thought so... but she wanted, "things" that i didn't want. i guess." he finished his tea.
"oh.. i really did think every guy wanted that after a while.."
"i probably will when i'm older...but i'm not gonna want stuff like that with just anyone. right now, i'm not interested in it at all."
"i know how you feel...i've never really been interested in that stuff." i gulped and mumbled. "i've never even kissed anybody."
"me either." he held out his pinky to me. "your secret's safe with me, princess."
we linked pinkies before he walked with me home, then i let him borrow my bike to get to his house. he said he'd bring it back tomorrow.