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       The Saint, p.3

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  “Nothing,” Eleanor said. “Except St. Teresa’s having an orgasm.”

  “Excuse me?” Sister Margaret sounded scandalized.

  “Oh, come on. She’s got her head back and her eyes are closed and her mouth’s all open. And the angel is thrusting the arrow into her and she’s all on fire. Seriously, penetrated to the entrails? Sign me up for that. I wanna be a saint if I can get some of that action.”

  The entire class burst into uproarious laughter. Only Sister Margaret didn’t seem amused.

  “Eleanor,” Sister Margaret said and nothing more.

  “I know. I know.” Elle gathered up her books and headed to the vice principal’s office.

  Again.

  Luckily V.P. Wells didn’t have time for a theological argument today. He told her to stop talking about orgasms in her Catholic studies class and she promised to keep her commentary to herself from now on. He only threatened her life once before sending her out. After gathering her books from her locker, Elle left school and headed home.

  As she turned a corner at Elm Street, Elle sensed something behind her. She glanced back and saw a car in her peripheral vision. Ignoring it, she started walking again. The car followed, going slow enough to stay behind her.

  Finally the driver pulled up next to her and rolled down the window.

  “I lost my new puppy,” the man in the car said. “Will you come help me find him?”

  “Oh, hell, no,” she said, glaring into the car at the almost-handsome man sitting behind the wheel. “I saw that very special episode of Diff’rent Strokes.”

  “Then will you come help me drive this Porsche into the ground?”

  “Oh, hell, yes!”

  Elle raced around to the passenger side, threw herself in the car and launched herself into the driver’s arms.

  “Dad, what are you doing here?” She clung to him tightly and pressed a kiss onto his cheek.

  “I haven’t seen my little girl in weeks. I thought you’d want to come on a test drive with me.”

  She slammed the door behind her.

  “Then let’s drive.”

  Her father put the car in gear and tore down the street. With her father at the wheel, the Porsche slunk through the narrow city streets with the lissome speed of a cheetah. Elle put on her seat belt without being told. Once they hit the highway her dad would rev the engine and swerve in and out of lanes. He knew where all the speed traps were and always had a radar detector with him.

  “I love it.” Elle rubbed her hands over the dash.

  “That’s real leather.”

  “Where’d you get it?”

  “Borrowed it from a friend.”

  “Can I drive it?”

  “You have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance?”

  Elle glared at him.

  “Dad.”

  “Fine.”

  He took the exit ramp and they changed seats in a gas station parking lot.

  “Now go easy,” he warned her as she put the car in gear. “It’s got a featherlight touch. The space shuttle doesn’t accelerate this fast.”

  “That’s because the space shuttle doesn’t have its engine up its ass.”

  Elle put her foot on the accelerator and gunned it. Gravity introduced itself to her body, but she and her stomach ignored the pressure and didn’t back off. Her dad was a good driver. She was better. He handled a car like a NASCAR driver. All power and speed. She drove like a Formula One driver—pure feminine finesse. Porsches required finesse. The engine sat in the back, not the front, and many a new Porsche owner had wrecked their baby on the way home from the car lot because they didn’t know how to handle a rear engine.

  She took the exit and soon they were careening down a scenic two-lane highway at eighty miles an hour.

  Her dad sat back, looking utterly relaxed even as the trees raced by them in nothing but a brown blur.

  “Keep it steady. Don’t pump the accelerator.”

  “I’m not pumping. I’m pushing. I love this car.”

  “I’m not keeping you from something, am I?” her dad asked.

  “Nah. Just a hot date with an extremely religious, much older guy.”

  “Anybody I need to kill?”

  “Already been killed. I have to write a paper on Jesus.”

  “Okay, you can date Jesus. But nobody else.”

  “He’s about the only guy I know of who doesn’t piss me off constantly,” she said.

  “You’re never going to get a boyfriend with an attitude like that so … keep that attitude.”

  “I don’t want a boyfriend. Every guy at school is an asshole.”

  “I’m happy to hear I don’t have to get the shotgun out yet. I kind of like the thought of you not having a boyfriend. Ever.”

  “Don’t worry. No boys for me.”

  “Girls?” He gave her a steady, “is there something you need to tell me” stare.

  She shook her head.

  “No girls, either.”

  “Thank God.”

  “I want a man.”

  “Where’s my shotgun?”

  “Right here.”

  Elle gunned the engine.

  “Mom said I’m not allowed to date. Ever, I think. She didn’t give me an age.”

  “You know your mother. She doesn’t want you getting in trouble like she did.”

  “You mean knocked up at seventeen? And whose fault is that?”

  “Elle, shut up and drive.”

  “Sorry, Dad.”

  Elle shut her mouth and concentrated on the curves ahead. They could come out of nowhere on these back roads, but that was what made the drive so much fun. Whipping around curves, facing the unknown, looking death in the face. It was exactly like high school, except for the part about it being fun.

  As they drove deeper into nowhere, Elle noticed her father studying her.

  “What?” she asked. “Something wrong?”

  “You look like your mother.”

  “You want me to let you out right here?” She pointed at the expanse of nothingness around them.

  “Your mother is a very beautiful woman.”

  “She is a very crazy woman who is driving me crazy. Did I mention the crazy?”

  “What’s she doing that’s so crazy these days?”

  “Our priest, Father Greg, is sick. Mom worshipped him so she’s real upset.”

  “Did you worship him?”

  “He called me Ellen.”

  Elle turned around in a driveway.

  “I have homework,” she said. “I should get home.”

  “No problem. Glad I got to see my baby girl.”

  “Ugh. Don’t call me that.”

  Her father laughed and ruffled her hair. Maybe she could crash the car in such a way it would only hit his side….

  “Sorry, kid. You’re growing up too fast.”

  “You know I’ll be sixteen in less than three weeks.”

  “God, you make me feel old.” He exhaled heavily. Her dad wasn’t old at all. Only thirty-five. And he would have looked thirty-five if he didn’t live so hard. He drank too much, did things he shouldn’t, hung out with bad, scary people. But still, he didn’t make her go to church or do her homework, so between him and her mom, she knew which parent she preferred to hang out with.

  “I can’t wait to get older. Trust me, I’m counting the minutes until my birthday. Driver’s license, here I come.”

  Elle grinned at the prospect of finally being able to drive to school, drive to the city, drive anywhere she wanted, especially away from her mom and her house and her life.

  “Elle?”

  “What?”

  “You know I can’t buy you a car, right? And neither can your mom.”

  Her stomach knotted up.

  “Dad, you promised me two years ago—”

  “I had a lot more money two years ago than I do now.”

  “What happened?”

  “Life’s expensive. Business isn’t great.”
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  “Business isn’t great,” she repeated. “You mean the car-stealing, chop-shop business? Did that get hit by the recession, too?”

  “You have a smart mouth,” her father said, all affection gone from his voice.

  “If you weren’t going to buy me a car, you shouldn’t have promised me one.”

  “You want to keep this one?”

  “You’re the car thief in the family, not me.”

  “Can you back off me for five fucking seconds, please?”

  Elle pulled over a block from her house, where there would be no chance of her mom seeing her with her father.

  She turned off the car and sat in silence.

  “Elle … baby … I’m sorry. I wish I could buy you anything you wanted, but I can’t right now. I owe some money. I have to pay it back.”

  “Whatever.”

  “Don’t be like that. You know I love you, and I’d do anything for you.”

  “I know,” she said, although she wasn’t certain that she did. “I gotta go.”

  Her father grabbed her forearm, pulled her over and gave her a gruff kiss on the cheek.

  “Don’t be mad at your dad. He’s doing the best he can.”

  “Tell my dad I’m not mad.” Her shoulders sagged. Her heart sagged. Her hopes sagged. “I just wish things were different.”

  “Yeah, well … you and me both, kid.”

  She gave him a faint smile and got out of the car.

  She shut the door behind her and said under her breath, “Don’t call me kid.”

  As she walked the final block to her house she choked back tears of disappointment. Two years ago, on her fourteenth birthday, he’d promised her with all his heart and all his soul he would get her a car for her sixteenth birthday. And she’d believed him even though deep down she knew better. He made promises all the time and never kept them. I promise I’ll see you at Christmas. I promise I’ll make the school play. I promise I’ll get a new job so you won’t have to worry about me. Promises made, never kept. One day she’d learn.

  Maybe it was her fault. Maybe nobody could be trusted to do what they said they’d do. Once in her life she’d love to have someone who gave enough of a shit about her to make her a promise and keep it. For once she wanted someone to treat her like she mattered.

  Nice pipe dream there. That happening was about as likely as her getting banged by an angel like St. Teresa.

  Eleanor unlocked the back door and walked into the kitchen. The car was in the driveway, but where was her mom? Her mom worked the night shift as a motel manager and did bookkeeping part-time for a small construction company. If she wasn’t at work, she was either asleep or at the kitchen table with her ledgers and adding machine. Eleanor made herself dinner—a bowl of cereal—and went into the living room to eat.

  She found her mom in her shabby bathrobe curled up on the frayed paisley couch, wiping her eyes.

  “What’s wrong?” Elle asked her mother. Her mom swiped at her face with a tissue. “Did Father Greg die?”

  “No,” her mother said, pushing a hank of black hair over her ear. “But he’s probably not coming back. Not anytime soon.”

  “I’m sorry,” Elle said, sitting cross-legged on the floor. Her mom never let her eat on the furniture, which made no sense. The furniture was old and threadbare and stained. Like a little cereal on the couch was going to make things any worse than they already were. “What’s going to happen?”

  “We’re getting a new priest in the meantime,” her mother said, entirely without enthusiasm.

  “That’s good, right?”

  “No, it’s not good.”

  “Why not?”

  “The new priest is …”

  “What?”

  “He’s a Jesuit.”

  “A what?”

  “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.

  Three.

  Two.

  One.

  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.

 
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