As usual, my mind wanders as our pastor gives the homily. It doesn’t help that I’d seen Henry and his family in the pews when we’d first arrived at church, so I can’t stop thinking about what Pearl said on Friday.
If Pearl says he gay, then I guess he is. It seems weird to me that I didn’t know, but I guess no one does. It still doesn’t explain why he gave Pearl his number and told her to text him, though. Unless they’re best friends now or something.
I wish I could ask Pearl, but her family doesn’t come to Saint Paul’s on Sundays. They live a half-hour drive away, so they go to some other church instead.
Before long, the service is over and I’ve spent all of it scrutinizing Henry Foley. Granted, I don’t usually pay attention during services anyway.
. . .
At school on Monday, Mr. Gleason assigns a project about the laws of motion, and my religion class is put in charge of planning a school-wide church service, and Mrs. Vena gives us another essay to write.
I’m too busy to think about Henry or Pearl.
And then Thursday rolls around, and I’m spending my lunch period with John and Maggie because we haven’t even started our slideshow on Isaac Newton yet. Well, they haven’t started but I actually already made my slides, and some of theirs too because I thought we were going to run out of time. And we still might, because it’s due on Friday.
Luckily we’re not presenting until Tuesday, so I have time to practice. I really hate presentations.
“Can you help, please, John?” Maggie sighs. She’s typing away on her laptop, and I wonder from across the table if she’s even working on our project.
He shrugs from behind his phone. “I already know what I’m going to say. Just put some pictures on my slides or something.”
Maggie meets my eye and frowns, and I mirror her expression, for her sake. I’m not actually upset at John because he always gets really good grades and I believe that he actually does know what he’s going to say.
“Oh, you know what, Trin,” Maggie begins, and my fingers pause on my keyboard. “Sorry, you prefer Trinity, don’t you?” I don’t say anything, so Maggie continues. “I was going to ask you about Pearl.”
I blink. “Yeah, what about her?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see John pause his texting.
“Mary Kate saw her and Henry talking the other day. Are they, like, a thing?”
I let out a little laugh. “Oh, no, I don’t think so.”
Maggie leans back in her seat. “Oh. I thought you would know, since you and Pearl have known each other for so long.”
That was a weird statement. Pearl and I have known each other for six years, which is exactly how long I’ve known both Maggie and John. Pearl and I started at Saint Paul’s in third grade, the only two new third-graders that year. Consequently, we became best friends with each other. But that was partially because everyone else already had friends.
“I meant no,” I amend after a moment. “She told me they’re not together.”
“I think they’d be cute,” Maggie says, then turns her attention back to her computer. “Anyway, does this slide look ok?”
. . .
After school Friday, I’m still at my locker when Pearl finds me. “Hey, Trinity!” She’s swinging her backpack at her side instead of wearing it on her back, and I’m wondering if it even has any books in it.
I stuff another textbook into my own backpack, then point at hers. “Are you bringing anything home?”
She just grins. “I got most of it done already. Come on, let’s go ‘study’.” She makes air quotes with her fingers and begins walking down the hall without me.
I double check my locker to make sure I have everything, then weave through a couple of students to catch up with her. We chat idly about school as we walk to the park.
It’s warm today, but not as warm as last week because of a strong, cool breeze. As a result, Pearl’s outfit change today consists of pushed-down socks, shorts, and a soft orange sweater.
She’s pulling it over her uniform blouse as I sit down at our picnic table. “By the way,” I say as a thought pops into my head, “I signed you up to do a reading at the school-wide service next week. Sister Anne will probably tell you again on Monday.”
Pearl doesn’t even have her arms through the sweater’s armholes yet, and she pauses to crinkle her eyebrows together. “You what?”
I shrug. “You’re always presenting school things, and I was in charge of assigning readers. No one wanted to do it, so I put your name down.” I start to frown as I see her expression. “Do you not want to do it?”
She stuffs her hands out the ends of her sweater sleeves. “I’d rather not.”
“Oh.” Suddenly I feel like I’ve done something wrong, but I haven’t, have I? “But why?”
Pearl tugs at her blonde braid, draping it over her shoulder. “I don’t usually participate in… church-related activities.”
“I know that, but just because you don’t believe in God doesn’t mean you can’t do the reading.” I laugh a little and add, “You pretend all the time.”
She tilts her head as she looks at me. “I pretend because I have to,” she says evenly.
I hold back my hair as a gust of wind blows it into my face. “You don’t have to pretend, you know. We all lose faith sometimes, but--”
“But what? You think that’s what this is, that I just ‘lost faith’ and that if I look hard enough, I’ll find it again?” Pearl’s voice isn’t loud, but her tone makes me flinch.
She scoots closer to me on the bench when I don’t say anything. “Sorry. I just… Can you find someone else to do it? I don’t want to.”
I want to tip my head back and sigh, but I don’t. “How am I supposed to explain that to Sister Anne?” I’m running through scenarios in my head, and none of them sound good. (“Sister Anne, Pearl doesn’t want to help.” “Sister Anne, Pearl hates reading.” “Sister Anne, Pearl hates reading and the church, and by extension, probably nuns.”)
Pearl crosses her arms and looks at me like it’s obvious. “Tell her you found someone else that wants to do it.”
“Who?” I ask, aware that my voice is slightly shrill.
“Literally anyone. You could do it,” Pearl says with a wave of her hand in my direction.
I choke out a laugh. “No way. You should just do it. You know I clam up in front of people. You’re great at giving talks and things!” I can’t imagine it being me, not a chance.
Pearl stares at me with her wide eyes, her mouth a line. “When it’s not a service.”
“What, do you hate God that much?” I don’t mean to snap at Pearl, but I do. The wind blows loudly in my ears.
She flings out her arms, and for a moment I think she’s going to storm away and never speak to me again. Instead, she snaps back. “I don’t hate God, I don’t even know if I believe in a God! That’s not what matters. I just don’t like the church.”
Oh. “The people?” I ask quietly.
Her orange sleeves billow in the wind as she lowers her arms, and her voice is steady. “The hypocrisy. So, yes, a lot of the people.” She lets out a laugh, but it’s bitter.
I don’t really understand, but I don’t want to fight with Pearl. “Yeah. Ok. I’ll find someone else to do the reading.”
A small part of me thinks she should just do it anyway, but I squash that feeling. If Pearl doesn’t want to do the reading, then I would track down someone else. Or, if I really had to, I guess I’d do it myself.
(first part: https://theprose.com/post/432343/trinity)
(previous part: https://theprose.com/post/432613/trinity-2)
(next part: https://theprose.com/post/433350/trinity-4)