The Saint(10)By: Tiffany Reisz
“We’re getting a new priest in the meantime,” her mother said, entirely without enthusiasm.
“That’s good, right?”
“No, it’s not good.”
“The new priest is …”
“He’s a Jesuit.”
“A Jesuit,” her mother repeated. “They’re an order of priests. They founded your high school, although I don’t think any Jesuits teach there anymore.”
“Are they bad priests?”
“They’re scholars,” she said. “Scientists. And very, very liberal.”
“That’s a bad thing?”
“Jesuits are … They can be … It might be fine. I would have preferred a loving shepherd to a scholar, though.”
“Well,” Elle said, taking a bite of her cereal, “maybe you’ll get lucky. Maybe this new priest will really love sheep.”
Her mother glared at her.
“I know. I know,” she said for the second time today. She gathered her food and her books and went to her room. Did no one like having her around?
She finished up her cereal in her room and stared at her pile of homework. But how could she even think about doing homework with so much shit going on? Her dad wasn’t getting her a car for her birthday like he promised. Her mom was having a nervous breakdown over the new priest. And she was turning sixteen in a couple of weeks and had no boyfriend, no money, no car forthcoming and no hope that things were going to get better, now or ever. Her stomach felt like someone had punched it. Her head ached and her throat itched. She didn’t know if she wanted to scream or cry or both at the same time.
Instead she walked into the bathroom and locked the door behind her.
She turned on her curling iron and sat on the toilet while waiting for it to heat up.
Five minutes later she stood in front of the counter and rolled her left sleeve up. She picked up the curling iron and took a breath.
Easy. You can do this. She started the countdown.
On the one Elle pushed the burning metal barrel against her left wrist. She whimpered as pain scalded her right to her soul. She lifted the curling iron off her arm, then pressed it back down again. After one full second she pulled it off and dropped the curling iron back onto the counter.
She panted through the pain, not fighting it, but accepting it, relishing it, letting it remind her she was alive and could feel everything she wanted to feel. There were boys at school who would have cried like little bitches if they’d gotten burned like that.
She rolled her sleeve down over the burns and turned off her curling iron. She went back to her room and sat on her bed, her hands still slightly shaking. She opened her math book and got out a pencil.
She felt much better now.
SUNDAY MORNING, ELLE DECIDED SHE WOULD NEVER go back to church again. She’d thought about this decision ever since she’d found her mother crying in the living room. All her life, her mother wanted to be a nun. She dreamed of the day she’d take her vows and put on her habit the way other girls dreamed about their wedding days. But at seventeen she’d fallen in love with a handsome charmer named Will and a few months later, she was married and pregnant, and not in that order.
And here her mother was, sixteen years later—divorced, working two jobs and going to church five days a week because it was the only thing that gave any meaning to her life. Well, it didn’t give any meaning to Elle’s life. She doubted God actually existed. She thought the Catholic Church was stupid to ban birth control and then tell priests they couldn’t get married. Make up your damn mind. Either people should be fruitful and multiply or they should be celibate and childless. The church didn’t get to have it both ways. The hypocrisy disgusted her. The Catholic Church was one big business and they all worked for it.
So she was quitting. Now how to tell her mother this?
Elle flinched as he mother banged on her door.
“What?” she yelled as she grabbed a pillow and slammed it down on her face.
“Eleanor Louise Schreiber! Get out of bed this instant.”
Here we go. Now or never. She steeled herself and called out with more confidence than she felt …
“I’m not going.”
Elle lifted the pillow up.
“I’m not going to Mass this morning.” She enunciated every word. “I’m a Buddhist!”
“Eleanor, get out of bed this instant and get ready for Mass.”
“I’m an atheist. I’ll incinerate the second I walk into church. It’s for everyone’s good I stay away from that place.”