Eileen Cook Author, Writing Consultant, Editor

What Would Emma Do? Chapter One

What Would Emma Do? Chapter One

God, I’ve been thinking about our relationship. The way I see it most people look at you as either a) A Santa Claus figure who they pray to only when they want something, their wishes granted depending on if they are on the naughty or nice list, or b) a bearded vengeance seeker who gets his immortal jollies from smiting those who annoy him. It occurs to me I’ve been talking to you my whole life and I don’t really know who you are. In fairness, I’ve always relied on formal prayers, which really haven’t given you a chance to get to know me either. I’m thinking we need a bit more honesty in our relationship- you strike me as the kind to support honesty- so from here on I’m just going to tell you what’s on my mind.

We spend a lot of time at Trinity Evangelical Secondary discussing “What would Jesus do?” You have to wonder how the Son of God finds himself in so many ethically questionable situations. I’m guessing he hangs out with a bad crowd.

We’ve covered how Jesus feels about:

  • low rise jeans (negative);
  • underage drinking (although this is the same man who brought us wine transformed from water we’ve decided he’s the kind who would just say no); and
  • gossip (to be avoided- which goes to show he would never make it in Wheaton where gossip has been perfected to near Olympic levels.)

All in all, the Son of God is coming across as a very no-fun kind of guy. I prefer to see him as not so uptight. This puts me in the minority here where the motto for our church could be “Trinity Evangelical- Sitting in Judgment on others since 1849.”

At the moment we were supposed to be discussing in great detail, as if this is an issue the President of the United States might need to consult us on, what Jesus would do if he accidentally came across the answers to the math test before the exam. Everyone stared off into space pondering how our savoir might handle this tricky situation.

I left the issue of exam ethics to my capable classmates and went back to trying to get my best friend Joann’s attention. I risked a look over my shoulder at her. Mr. Reilly, our religion teacher has been known to hurl erasers at the heads of students he felt weren’t paying attention, so being subtle was key. Joann was either ignoring me or in a catatonic state. I gave a fake cough to draw her attention. Nothing. I coughed again, this time drawing it out as if I might be in the final stages of TB, but not even a glance.

Darci Evers raised one perfectly manicured hand in the air. Darci looks like she jumped out of a spread in Teen People and the teachers always talk about how she makes a great role model, but don’t be fooled. She’s the kind of person who laughs if you trip in the cafeteria. If your mom forces you to wear the sweater your nearly blind grandmother knit for you, she gives a brittle thin smile and says “nice sweater.” Then her posse of friends giggle. In elementary school she dotted the i in her name with bubbles and hearts.

“If Jesus saw the test before the exam he would tell the teacher and ask for a new test, one where he didn’t know the answers,” Darci said. She paused, her head cocked to the side as if she was getting direct communication from heaven. “Our Lord doesn’t like cheaters.”

I fought the urge to roll my eyes. The rest of the class all nodded, seemingly relieved to have this conundrum solved and Christ no longer at risk for blowing the hell out of the bell curve. Mr. Reilly smiled. He adores Darci Evers.

“Excellent answer.”

I raised my hand. Mr. Reilly’s smile withered.

“God is all knowing, right?” I asked.

“Yes Emma. He knows everything, what you’ve done, and even what you will do.” Mr. Reilly took this moment to look out over the classroom in case anyone had evil or impure thoughts in their hearts.

I looked over to see if Joann was following my line of intellectual debate. Joann has never been a huge Darci fan and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to remind her that we had this in common.

“So if God knows everything, won’t he know what questions the teacher is going have on the new test too?”

Mr. Reilly’s head started to turn red and I could see the vein in his forehead bulge. For a guy so close to Jesus, he has a lot of repressed rage issues.

“Are you trying to be smart?” Mr. Reilly said.

I hate questions like this. There is no right answer. If you say you are trying to be smart, you get in trouble for being a wise ass and if you say you’re not, you’re admitting to being stupid. It’s what they call a lose-lose situation. What would Jesus do if faced with this question? I’m guessing he would go for honesty, but Jesus didn’t have to worry about getting lower than a C in class and losing his track eligibility as a result.

“No sir,” I answered.

Mr. Reilly gave a snort and turned back to the board. Darci shot me a look of annoyance and raised her hand again. Joann still wasn’t paying any attention to me.

“Mr. Reilly, do you mind if I make an announcement. It’s related to student council business,” Darci said.

Darci never misses an opportunity to make an announcement. She found excuses in nearly every class to take center stage. I suspect if it were up to her as senior class president she would get to wear a small crown or sash to denote her overall superiority.  I’m shocked she doesn’t demand rest of us scatter palm fronds on the floor in front of her as she walks through the halls.

“As everyone knows the big spring dance is coming up in just a few weeks and we still need volunteers to help with the decorations. This year we’ve selected the theme “Undersea Adventure.” Please show your school spirit by giving back some of your time helping to make this a great event. Even if you haven’t been asked to the dance you could still decorate. We’ll be accepting nominations for King and Queen for the next two weeks and then the three couples that get the most votes will be announced as a the court. The queen and king will be announced at the dance.”

“I nominate you,” Kimberly said so quickly she must have bumped her nose on the way to kissing Darci’s ass.

Darci placed a hand on her heart as if she were overcome by the honor.

“Why Kimberly, thank you so much! I feel a bit funny about putting myself down on the list, but if you insist.”  She pulled out her pink gel pen out to inscribe her name before she forgot it.

“Why do we even have a King and Queen?” I asked.

“We’ve always had a King and Queen of the spring dance. It’s tradition,” Darci shot back.

“Maybe it’s time for a new tradition.” As the challenge shot out of mouth I couldn’t tell who was more surprised, Darci or me. It felt like the air was sucked out of the room for a second people held their breath waiting for Darci to whack me back down to size. At least I had Joann’s attention now.

“You can’t have a new tradition, then it’s not tradition, it’s the opposite, it’s new,” Darci said, giving me a look as if shocked someone of my low intelligence was even allowed in school.

I slunk down in my seat.

“What would Jesus do?” Todd asked.

The entire class turned around to face him. Todd Seaver was the guy in our class who never said anything. There were rumors he was an elective mute. Todd had the dubious honor of being from “away,” a non-Wheaton native.

“What are you talking about?” Darci asked.

“Would Jesus approve of people setting themselves above others? Sounds like false gods.”

“It’s not like that at all. Besides, you’re Jewish, how would you even know what Jesus would do?”

There was a gasp. It was an un-written rule that we didn’t bring up Todd’s Jewishnes. In a town that was all born again, his religion was like a deformity, one of those things everyone was painfully aware of and tried to act like they didn’t notice.

“He was one of the tribe when he started out, you know,” Todd said. “ I’m thinking he would think the whole king and queen thing was a bunch of false idols, golden calves.” He gave Darci a lazy half smile and then looked over at me.

I slunk further down in my seat not meeting his eyes. If I went any lower I would slide completely out of the chair and onto the floor. Part of me was glad someone else was sticking up to Darci, I just wish the person I was aligned with wasn’t the class pariah.

“Interesting point,” Mr. Reilly said, tapping his thin fingers on his Bible. He adored Darci, but stamping out fun was his favorite thing in the world.

“It’s tradition,” Darci said, her voice cracking.

“I think we need to discuss the dance at the next advisory board meeting,” Mr. Reilly said as the bell rang.

Darci’s mouth opened and shut silently like a fish flopping on a dock. A fish with pink bubble-gum scented lip loss. Everyone got up and moved towards the door. I stood up and grabbed my bag.

Darci bumped into my back. “Way to go, Emma,” she hissed, shoving past me.

“Yeah, way to go,” Kimberly parroted, following two steps behind her.

Joann walked up next to me and I gave her a smile.

“My mom already bought me a dress for the dance,” she said, crossing her arms. “Why can’t you leave some things alone?”  She walked away without another word.

Recent events, combined with years of religious study have clarified for me that at the ripe age of 17, I am pretty much already damned to hell. Let’s recap:

The Seven Deadly Sins

  • Gluttony: I have, on more than one occasion, eaten the entire gut buster ice cream sundae that they have at the Dairy Hut that you get for free if you can finish it. What can I say? I run a lot, I get hungry.
  • Greed: I have a passion that many reserve for members of an all hot boy band, for my running shoe collection. It’s not just fashion; it’s also about function.
  • Sloth: Every time my mom sees the state of my room she is compelled to say: “If you’re waiting for the maid to come along, you’ve got a long wait ahead of you.” Then she sighs deeply like being my mother is her burden in life.
  • Wrath: I detest Darci Evers and if I had the opportunity it is quite likely I would replace her shampoo with Nair.
  • Envy: I would give just about anything, including possibly my soul, to run like Sherone Simpson (ranked number one in the world for the 100m ).
  • Pride: I won the state championship last year for hurdles and plan to repeat this year. I’ve been accepted to Northwestern and if I can nail down a track scholarship then I’ve even got a way to pay for it and a way out of town.
  • Lust: I kissed my best friend’s boyfriend over the Christmas break.

Yep, it’s pretty much the last one that’s going to do me in.

What Would Emma Do? is now available from booksellers everywhere.

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