I stood alone in the entry, melting snow dripping from my parka and boots. Bishop Payne after shaking my hand left to find Christine. It looked like she found me first.
“I'm supposed to help you with math,” I said.
“But I have plans.”
Bishop Payne walked in. “Rick, take off that coat and you two can get started.”
“Dad, Jake's going to be here soon and we're going skating,” Christine said.
“With your grades? Why would you think you get to go anywhere with your friends?”
“Jake's my boyfriend, Dad!”
Bishop Payne looked at her calmly, fatherly, like I'd have expected a bishop to look at a young girl in his ward. “Jacob is not your boyfriend, Chris. First of all you're not sixteen and you know that Mormon girls don't get to date until they're sixteen. Second, he's not of the faith and you don't think I'd allow you to date someone outside the fold do you? Now you have some homework to do and I've asked Rick to help you with it.”
She turned and stalked into her house. The bishop put his hand on my shoulder. “You're a good, upstanding young man. Maybe Chris can learn from your example.”
“Thank you, sir,” I said.
Christine was breaking pencils at the kitchen table. She'd grip the number two in her small hands and bend until it snapped. Then she took another from the box.
“I'm sorry,” I said. SNAP
“I didn't know. I mean I thought you wanted some help.” SNAP
“Hey let me show you something.” I figured that as long as we were snapping pencils, I might as well do one too. I placed it on the back of my fingers with only my middle finger over the top and then I slapped my hand on the table and the pencil broke. SNAP
“How'd you do that?”
“Like this.” I showed her how I held it and she took another pencil and did the same thing. “Be careful,” I warned. Her fingers weren't much thicker than the pencil itself.
She slapped her hand on the table and then screamed, “Ow!” The pencil was unharmed. “That fucking hurt,” she said.
I must have made a shocked O with my mouth because she quickly realized what she'd said. “Sorry. I have a potty mouth sometimes.”
“Is everything okay in there?” her dad called from the family room.
“Everything's fine,” she called back.
“Do you want me to help you with math?” I asked.
“Kind of. I want you to show me how to do the homework from last week,” she said.
So I did each problem and she copied it in her careful swirly writing. She learned nothing, copied everything and smiled at me a couple times. That made it worth the time.
As I was getting ready to leave her sister, Lisa, came walking in.
“So Dad is pushing Rick at you this week. What a joke.”
I left quietly.