A long while ago I asked myself, what would it be like if the usual formula of ‘Christian Romance’ was flipped. The story of ‘this person who isn’t right with god, suddenly meets someone who they love, but that person is too Christian to love them back until they are a proper Christian.’ I’ve shared this story somewhere before I think, but while a short scene, I still find it interesting to look back at. I could see it the other way so easily, but this way would still be foreign/strange, and on TV, Beth would be the hero if it was the normal Christian story, but in this version she would be a villain.
A chill ran up his spine before she replied.
“You don’t really believe in that whole religion thing,” Beth said, “do you?”
Beth looked at Shawn with one eyebrow up, and her whole body tilted away from. If there was ever a more blatant sign that you were supposed to lie to someone’s face, Shawn hadn’t seen it.
His hands were out, cupped upwards in that ‘I just got done spilling my guts to you’ pose, and now he was stuck there. His mouth hung open, his eyes seeking someplace to look besides her patronizing stare.
“Well no,” Shawn began, “I don’t think so.”
He did, or had. Just saying otherwise made his stomach burn, and a nervous grin spread across his face.
“I was raised that way though,” He continued, “Is what I was getting at.”
Beth chuckled, and Shawn felt something he imagined was supposed to be relief. Instead, his stomach was still in a knot, and he was afraid she was going to hit him any moment. They came outside to get away from the little party inside, and now Shawn found himself looking back to see how the party was going.
“Who isn’t raised that way?” Beth said, kicking one of her long legs at the dirt in front of them, “We were Catholic for awhile, then my dad switched for some reason. Same bullshit though.”
She smiled at him, gave him a wink, and Shawn’s only coherent thought was how beautiful blasphemy sounded coming out of her lips.
“Which were you?” She asked.
Shawn sat up, hands going to grip the brick outcropping they were sitting on, “Presbyterian, you know, normal.”
She rolled her eyes, “Nothing normal about it.”
He looked at the ground. In all the time he had known Beth, he had never seen this side of her. She always seemed like such a nice girl, wore a cross to school every day, helped on campus and even volunteered. He was excited to talk to her, and to be honest, get a chance to kiss her. Beth was his dream girl, spunky, but in control of herself, right without being self-righteous.
“You okay?” She asked, her eyes looking him over.
It sent a chill through his spine, and he swallowed hard. He could feel himself leaning closer to her, his face reaching for hers, his lips pursing.
“Mmmhmm,” He mumbled.
She leaned away from him again, a look of confusion on her face as he floundered after his failed kiss. “You didn’t think I was a little church girl, did you?”
Shawn sat up, shook his head, “No, hell no. I mean, why would I?”
Beth dug into the front of her button up blouse, and pulled out a silver cross. She bat her eyes at him.
“Who doesn’t wear a cross,” He said, feeling his face getting hot, “Like, a majority of the country claims to be Christian.”
Her face went plain, and she stared him in the eyes. His heart thumped, and he didn’t know where to look. Was that her kiss face? Was that her angry face? He didn’t know,
“You do believe, don’t you?” She said, “Admit it.”
Shawn rolled his eyes, “I don’t know what you mean, you were just saying…”
Beth put a finger to his lips, and Shawn sucked in air through his nose.
“Should a good Christian boy be lying?”
He squeezed his lips shut, closed his eyes, “Shit.”
“I can’t believe you!” She yelled, “To think I was going to kiss you.”
“You were?” Shawn gasped, “Well what does this have to do with it?”
She bobbed her head, “Besides lying to my face?”
His mouth opened, but he had no defense for that part. That didn’t stop him from saying, “You were leading me.”
He tried to laugh, to lighten the mood, but she looked genuinely hurt. Her lips flattened, and her brow furrowed.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, “What is the big deal?”
“Are you on the prowl for a wife?” Beth asked.
There were a lot of questions you usually didn’t have to answer in highschool, that was one of them. A wife was the last thing on his mind. Sure, he thought Beth was nice enough that maybe he could take her home to his family, a girlfriend he would be proud to show to everyone. That didn’t mean he wanted a wife.
“No,” Shawn said while shaking his head, “Of course not.”
“Then what do you want from me?” She shrugged, “Some first fuck and a story to tell your inevitable grandkids?”
“Why would you even say that?” He said, “Now Christians can’t date?”
“No,” She snapped, “Christian boys don’t date, they search for servants.”
While Shawn was willing to put up with a lot, there was a limit. He turned and faced off toward the yard, trying to cap the boiling sensation he felt in his gut.
“Who even says that?” He replied, “Your parents were Christians, their parents before them.”
Beth laughed, “My mother never read more of the bible than she needed to prop up her high horse.”
“You’re calling your mother a servant?” Shawn asked.
“Have you seen my mom? She can’t take two steps without looking to my dad for approval on the second,” She began, “My mom wants me to find some nice boy, so he can help me settle down, so he can bring me closer to the lord. As if I want to be close to someone who requires a man for him to love me.”
Shawn shook his head, “That is,” He stopped himself, tried to figure out how to phrase what he was saying, “That isn’t the way most people see it. My parents are devout, and they love each other.”
She shrugged, looking out over the little back yard with its playground and fence, “I know Christians can love each other. I’ve seen it. I just don’t want that kind of love.”
“They just want to be right with the lord,” Shawn said, “You get right with god, love god first, and your relationship will be stronger than any other.”
Beth looked at Shawn, “My parents divorced 2 years ago.”
He took a deep breath, held it.
“Are you going to tell me now that they weren’t right with god? That all their praying and sundays spent at church was done to the wrong beat? Maybe you’ll say it was god’s plan? Fuck your fairytale, I would rather have someone who loves me first.”
Shawn dug his feet into the dirt. He wasn’t a pro at proselytizing, he knew enough scripture for his own relationship with god. He knew that it wasn’t his job to fix her parent’s relationship, but between him and Beth, that was something different.
“I like you,” Beth said, “I like you a lot. But if you want to get right with me, you have to get rid of your invisible boyfriend first.”
She stood up, and walked back into the party. Shawn sat in the cold, trying to figure out when high school got so complicated.