Chapter 5: Awkward
Sunlight streams in through the window, illuminating the green canopy that hides Joan from the rest of that world. She slowly opens her eyes to a bronzed neck and collarbone. "Oh my god!" She leaps back in surprise, and, once she gathers herself, looks up into a pair of warm, brown eyes. "Oh," she sighs, "It's just you."
God looks at her steadily. "A 'good morning' would've been nice, too. You know, since you asked me to stay." He smiles and sits up. "I didn't mean to scare you, Joan."
"Well," she says, "You did a great job." God leans forward and brushes the hair from her eyes. "Sarcasm doesn't suit your pretty face." He bites back a laugh as Joan flushes beet red and looks the other way. "It's too early," she complains. "Flirt later." God laughs again. "I don't flirt, Joan," he says. "I tell the whole truth."
"In a flirtatious way," she counters.
"Your brain is creating 'feelings' where there are none."
"Oh, sure; is it my brain that's kissing my cheek right now," Joan asks matter-of-factly.
God pulls back. "No," he says calmly, "that's me. And no, it's not lust; it's love. Deal with it."
Joan is frazzled. It was too early to talk about this now. She has school in an hour, she…
She rolls her eyes and falls back into the mattress. "Because...because...I..." she stutters.
Joan turns away, blushing. "Because," she mumbles, "I think I love you." She turns her head away. God crosses his legs, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Continue," he says. "You need to talk, so talk."
How can I, she wonders. This is wrong. I love God. This is wrong. Or is it right? I'm confused!
"Nothing is confusing, Joan," she hears him say past the whirlwind of her thoughts. "You're just not sure how to explain what you're feeling, and you're afraid that what you feel is wrong. But it's not. I love you Joan, and I made you to love me." He reaches over and caresses her cheek, looking straight into her eyes. She raises her eyes to meet his. Slowly, very slowly, God leans closer and closer until his lips touch hers ever so lightly.
Joan feels a bolt of electricity run through her entire body, but she fights it and draws closer to him. A light smacks her behind her retinas, a light that she can see, feel, and taste all at once. She presses a bit harder against his mouth, wanting that light again. She's rewarded with a dull buzz behind her skull; pleasure.
It's calming and exciting and serious all at once. It runs through her veins like a current, each wave followed by another, shaking Joan to the core of her being. As they pull apart, she thinks she understands what it feels like to be taken off of oxygen: regular air was a counterfeit, like lust was a counterfeit of this real, pure, honest-to-God love that she'd just felt; it made no sense.
Joan pulls back, elated and tired all at once, reveling in the experience. "Will that happen every time," she asks breathless. He strokes her hair back from her damp cheeks and said, "Not every time; no. There's a limit to what you can experience, Joan."
"Oh...okay." She sits back. "Is this one of those 'do unto me' moments?"
God chuckles. "Not really...unless you want to make it one of those."
"I can...do that?"
He jumps off the bed. "Get dressed, we're leaving soon."
School that day goes by in a daze. Joan feels like she's wrapped tight in a fuzzy, warm blanket. He's… amazing. Two years ago she never would've thought she'd meet God, let alone have a relationship with him. Looking at this practically…well, it was highly impractical. Highly. But then, what about her life lately hadn't seemed highly impractical?
There's a skip in her step as she saunters to her locker. Maybe he'd be waiting there for her. They'd lock eyes and she'd take his hand, and they'd walk to AP Chemistry together…. Was that him standing at her locker? It shouldn't be. It couldn't be. Joan's stomach turns inside out.
Those eyes. They seem so soft, so sad… She swallows.
"My name is Joan, Adam," she says without returning his gaze. "Excuse me."
Adam stepped back while Joan noisily stuffs her locker. If God knew she was angry it didn't matter if anyone else knew.
I'm more than angry; I'm livid.
She slams her locker shut and walks in the opposite direction, looking over her shoulder every few seconds. "Adam, stop stalking me."
"I'm not stalking, Jane."
Oh, God; listen to him, trying to sound apologetic. "Then what are you doing," she seethes.
"I just want to talk to you…"
Be reasonable. She knows God isn't really saying that; it's just her thoughts sounding like him because she knows if he says it, she'll do it.
Hear him out.
She's so focused on ignoring her conscience that she forgets to move; for several long seconds she stands in the hallway, absolutely motionless. Adam probably thinks I'm snubbing him; she turns around just as he leaves. She speaks in a very thin voice. "What do you want to say?"
He'd prepared for this a week ago. Over and over he'd rehearsed the scene in his mind: how she'd act, what he would say, how she'd respond. If things go well, they'll be together again before the day's end. But judging by the lump in his throat, and the way Joan has her arms crossed in defiance, Adam can tell this won't go as smoothly as planned.
"I'm waiting," she says, trying to keep the edge out of her voice. It's not like she's angry at Adam - she should be and she had been, but she isn't any more thanks to God's company. But still, she feels a little aggravated at him. Is it really that hard for him to leave her alone? I guess I'll just let him talk.
"Jane," he says, trying to control the sudden tremor in his voice, "I want to apologize."
"Adam, if this is about what you did with Bonnie, I really don't want to…"
"It is and it isn't." He looks down at his feet for a few seconds before continuing. "I want you to know that…. even though Bonnie and I were - you know - I didn't want you to find out. I didn't want to hurt you. I was attracted to her but I didn't love her like I love you, Jane. So when you found out at mock trial and attacked me - which I deserved - I broke down. I've never felt so guilty before in my life. And trust me, if I had known the Bonnie was pregnant then, I would've told you. But you know, she eventually did tell me and I…. I couldn't bring myself to give you more bad news. I asked her not to tell you, but that girl… when she gets jealous she can be vicious. I guess I pushed her buttons the wrong way."
"Yea," Joan says, "You seem to be doing that a lot lately"
"So in spite of what I asked her to do she went and told you, and…. I'm sorry, Jane. I'm so sorry." His voice cracks. "I tried to make things right but they just fell apart and now… you're hurt and it's all my fault."
Joan brushes a lone tear from her eye. "Adam," she says, "I never even considered your feelings about all of this. I kept seeing you as the bad guy. But in your own - twisted - way… you've been protecting me. So I guess… I should say 'Thanks'."
Minutes pass by without a word from either of them. Adam hesitates before saying…
"Jane… will you give me another chance?"
"Adam," Joan sighs, "Even though you've explained everything and apologized, I just…. I can't do that."
"Because of Greg," Adam says. "But you just met him."
Joan just shrugs and smiles. "He's a good guy. Kind of snippy, but an overall nice guy to know." She kicks the pavement. "Adam, I'm not sorry that I can't take you back, but I will forgive you."
Adam stares at the clouds as they drift by. "You love the guy," he says to Joan, distraught. Joan hugs herself as a the wind blows past, chilling her skin. "Yea, well, he got to me first. He cares about you, too," she says, placing a hand on Adam's shoulder before leaving.
Classes have ended and the entire student body breathes a sigh of relief. God joins Joan at her locker; she is acutely aware of the glances thrown their way as they share a hug before walking off together. As they leave the grounds, she finds herself brushing against his shoulder, or letting the back of her hand touch his for a few moments. When she did this he would smile knowingly, a twinkle in his eye, and she knew she'd made him happy.
"Good job," he says as they step into the other world. "Adam really needed to hear that from you."
Joan sighs inwardly. "It's not like I enjoyed doing it," she says, "But I felt that I had to. He's not misinterpreting what I said…is he?"
"You said what you meant, Joan; Adam knows by now when you're serious." He gives her a look when she grunts. "He's hurting right now, Joan. He's confused. Your forgiving him has helped in his healing process." He stops and places a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"Thanks, for nothing," she sighs loudly. "Now I get to have the same kind of fun with Bonnie the sleaze."
"The rude comment aside, I'm looking forward to that. I'm proud of your progress, Joan."
"I thought you didn't play favorites," she says, trying to veer off subject.
"I don't," God says, going along with it. He shrugs. "I'm just fond of you, Joan Girardi."
"And…every other human in the world. Right?"
"Yes," he says, nodding slowly, "I'm fond of you all. You each pull on my heart in very unique ways. I don't have to have a favorite, because there's no competition."
Joan chews her bottom lip in thought. "I never saw it like that," she says.
"Every father feels that way about their children. And," he says, resuming his gait, "Being the Great Father-"
"They get that ability from you."
"Exactly. You learn fast."
Joan shrugs. "I have a good teacher," she says lightly before skipping ahead. God waits until she's a good distance away, then starts to run after her. Several minutes later they're circling the front lawn, laughter spilling from their mouths like water gurgling in a fountain. Joan rolls onto her back; God onto his stomach beside her, watching placidly as she calms.
As they lay there in the soft light of the sun, a quiet descends - a simple stillness that wraps around them. Joan takes a deep breath, savoring the sweet scent in the air. "Is it always like this here," she asks in a whisper. God rolls to his right side, looking at her eye-to-eye. "Would you like to stay here, Joan," he asks after a pause.
"Per…permanently," Joan asks, the word effortlessly falling from her mouth. "Permanently," she says again, hoping against hope that he'll reply. Instead, he looks at her for a few seconds before rolling onto his back. He stays that way for a long time. Wind blows through the treetops, mockingbirds are singing their haunting welcome to evening, and Joan waits for something, for him to say anything at all. Impatient, she stands and brushes grass and dirt from the seat of her pants.
She looks down at him. His eyes are shut; his hands are behind his head, cushioning it from the hard turf. Fading sunlight bounces off the lip ring he's wearing. Joan wonders what it would be like to play with it…
Get a hold of yourself, Joan. Remember who he is - the divine "it".
"Yea," she asks, suddenly shuffling her feet.
"I asked you if you want to stay."
"…Yea. I heard you."
"Do you want to know why?" He opens his eyes and looks at her. For once, Joan doesn't want the answer to her question.
"I… I want some ice cream, do you want any?"
God waves towards the house dismissively. "There's mint chocolate chip in the fridge, but it's pretty hard."
She's gone before he finishes his sentence.
"Oh well…" he sighs, and returns to his original position, doing everything God does.
"Stupid spoon…" Joan tries in vain to break through the gallon mass of solidified ice cream. Her right hand, restored to full use earlier in the day, is tired from the strain it's undergone. Defeated, she drops her right arm. She starts to whine, then stops; she's not a kindergartner. God walks in, seeing her pout. He gives her an "I tried to tell you," look. Joan just hangs her head and sighs.
"Don't say anything; I should have listened." She slides to the floor, expecting him to join her, which he doesn't. Instead, he stands there with his arms crossed, an eyebrow raised ever so slightly, reminding Joan of her own father.
"This….isn't about my hand, is it?"
"You should be taking better care of it. But no, it's not." He looks at her, waiting.
"It's about the choices I make with free will. Whenever you tell me to do something, most of the time -all of the time, really- it's for my benefit. Like if I hadn't ran away like a scared little kid I wouldn't be sitting here feeling…guilty." She says the last word with a disgusted look on her face.
God nods. "Keep going."
"The same thing goes for your suggestions. If I would just listen to you about every single one of them, there would be more good ripples…"
"Endless godly occurrences that would point people to me. Choosing to obey is the key to everything that happens in life, Joan. Never forget that."
She sighs. "I won't."
"Good." She watches as God walks away. She knows the real reason she rushed in here, and it wasn't because of ice cream. How could she have ran from him like that? It's not like he'd asked her to do something life threatening; he'd just asked her to stay. That…scares her. On the one hand, if she stays, who's to say she'll get to go home again, or see her family? On the other hand, she enjoys spending time with him more than anyone. But her family and friends rank a very close second in her life. She can't just abandon them.
Joan eyes the carton again, takes up the spoon and attacks it with a determined ferocity. Triumphant, she shoves the spoonful in her mouth. "Hah! Stupid ice cream…."