Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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38. Bible Study

38. Bible Study

The next evening, Elly had already taken the empty soup bowls into the kitchen while waiting for Maia who savored the delicious mushroom bisque. Elly set the plates at the table, setting Maia’s dinner plate on her right.

“So Ruby, are you going to see the Claude Bruneau Modern Dance Troupe? They will be in New York next week,” asked joey.

“Yes, I have tickets for opening night.”

Maia finally set the soup bowl aside and put her plate in front of her. She cut a piece off the pork chop and nibbled on it, sitting back in her chair and savoring the flavor. Maia had never had food this tasty. Even restaurants didn’t make pork chops this tender and flavorful. She guessed that living with vegetarians and vegans her whole life meant that she didn’t get exposed to meat dishes like other people. This was a whole new way of life, just in eating. She swirled the melted butter into the mashed potatoes and dipped the peas in them before eating the bite.

Paul watched her eat with great interest. He sipped his wine and asked Joey about his day. He had been called in to cover for another nurse and was glad to escape the house for the slopes, making Paul completely envious of him. Joey told them all the gossip that he had to catch up on since before the tour ended, and who had left and stayed for the season.

“Nothing major happened today, just bumps and scrapes, which shocked me for as bad as the ice is upon Catamount. We hope this next snow will cover more. They had a bit of a thaw and then it froze over the other day, making it worse.”

“We’re only supposed to get four to six inches of snow tonight,” said Paul. “Tuesday we are getting around ten, so it’s good that Ruby is flying out tomorrow afternoon before that front moves in.”

“Do you ski all day, Joey?”

“Not always, I’m usually in the med shed as we call it. I only go out in emergencies for life flights or to stabilize someone to be sledded down to the med shed. Sometimes, I go out if we have an extra medic if they need me to patrol.”

Out of the blue, Maia asked Paul, “How did you get three names?”

“That was totally random,” he said with a laugh, setting down his wine glass. “I’m Catholic. We get an extra one when we are confirmed.”

“Huh? What does that mean? To be confirmed?”

“That’s when you decide to be an adult Catholic,” said Joey. “You will do that too.”

“Whoa, so if I decide to become a real Catholic then I will get a third name?”

“Yes, you will.”

“What else do Catholic kids get?” asked Maia with greater interest.

“Penance and parochial school,” replied Paul, cutting another piece of his pork chop. Maia ate slowly, picking through it as usual, and they practiced not hassling her about how slowly she ate and feeding into the negative attention. The three adults were chatting while Maia finished her supper slower than the rest.

“I’ve seen you wolf down a cheeseburger in five bites and a Big Mac in eight. Here you eat so slowly. Why?” asked Paul, as Elly picked up the empty plates.

“It’s the best food I have ever tasted. I just want to enjoy it.”

Elly kissed the crown of Maia’s head.

“I think when you endure food security like Maia, it’s understandable,” said Ruby.

“Cat was a terrible cook. She could steam vegetables and use a rice cooker. I used to get McDonald’s a lot. There was one on the corner, so I knew everyone who worked there. Mrs. Nussbaum used to send home food with me for sweeping up the deli and washing the tables for her.”

“How well do Jimmy and Jonny cook?” asked Joey.

“Jonny is a great cook, but Jimmy burns water. If it can go in a microwave, he can make it work.”

“When they were gone, what did you do?”

“I’d get some money from Cat for ramen and chicken nuggets, McDonald’s, and I worked at Nussbaum’s Deli for the rest and to pay for my college books.”

“I still don’t understand how you, a thirteen-year-old started college.”

“I told you, I tested out of junior high school. My math skills are second year Calculus, and they didn’t have a teacher or class to challenge me at the high school. I’ve done organic chemistry and physics, which I loved. I had to take Biology and Illinois state History at the high school, so I took the bus to the high school then had to take a subway to UC. I was going to college to finish my last year of high school credits, and I got college credits while I qualified as a high school student. I could have my bachelor’s degree before I graduated high school, and I didn’t have to pay for it.”

“Wait, you were doing high school in college?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Why?”

Maia rolled her eyes. “Regular teachers don’t want me in their classes.”

Joey laughed. “This I have to hear.”

“I correct them.”

“Ohmygod, I knew it,” said Joey.

“When I’m bored, I would do homework or read novels and still answer the questions when no one else got it right. The math teachers, when they were out sick, left instructions with substitutes to let me teach and help anyone who wanted it. I also used to grade their tests and mark where on the equations the students went wrong.”

“How did you get through school without being bullied?” asked Paul.

“I got bullied. It’s not like I had friends or anything. I’m a tiny and brilliant tomboy. It’s why I got moved to the technological high school. I did robotics, advanced maths, and my sciences there as a sixth grader. Jonny was frustrated. The teachers there said that they would not be able to challenge me beyond last year. I would be bored after that year. I had the ability to go to UC, Jonny just had to fight for it.”

“What was it like going to college with adults?” asked Ruby, reaching for her wineglass.

“It was cool they liked me better than the high school kids did.”

Elly served them fresh ricotta cake with strawberries and coffee while they talked.

“Is that why you got mad about my insisting you attend St. Nick’s?” asked Paul.

“Precisely. That and you wouldn’t hear me out about it.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but it would be nice if my kid graduated from the school I donate to every year.”

Maia was shocked by his referral to her as ‘my kid.’ She didn’t reply at first, but stabbed her cake. Jonny had the right to call her his kid, her brother did not, but she would humor him this time. She didn’t have the strength for an ongoing battle when her goal was to play nice. She’d wait until he pissed her off and she was able to return to Chicago before she told him whose kid she was. “Paulie, to please you, I will do the work and walk for graduation, but don’t count on me being there for long.”

“Why don’t you table this discussion until you can bring Father Tim into it?” asked Ruby, noticing Maia’s demeanor had shifted.

“She still needs to graduate high school,” said Paul. Maia’s eyes met Joey’s who sighed and reached for his coffee. He was her ally, but his loyalty would always be to Paul first.

“But what can they teach me?” she asked, stabbing a strawberry after running it through the Italian buttercream lemon frosting.

“Like Father Tim explained, Maia, St. Nick’s has both International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement coursework. You can get college credit for the courses. It’s more challenging than typical high school, so that might work out better for you after all.”

“I really do not want to wear uniforms.”

“Plaid skirts, knee socks and cardigans will not kill you,” said Paul with a smirk.

Maia sighed. “I don’t wear skirts.”

They all laughed as Maia blushed.

“I’m sorry, Maia, but your attending public high school or a community college is out of the question when St. Nick’s is down the street and a Blue Ribbon School with top IB honors for the state of Pennsylvania. This is non-negotiable, Maia,” said Paul.

“So, it will make you happy to bore the hell out of me? Just to graduate at one school you donate to only to go to the other school you donate to?”

“Basically. Glad you see it my way.”

“Ugh, fine. Give me one week, and I guarantee that your priest will be sending me to apply for some Penn State program for advanced learners.”

“Oh Maia,” sighed Ruby.

“I will make a deal with your priest. He can give me the finals for all of the classes from eighth grade on up, and If I score better than an eighty-nine, then I skip the class. He can go from grade to grade until he finds what I can’t do then I will start with those classes. The regular tests. AP and IB are graded off site so those won’t count.”

Paul smirked. “So why didn’t you do IB or AP?”

“The tuition alone for a school that offered IB was more than what Cat and Jonny could afford and they didn’t give merit scholarships. I did AP coursework already through high school. I have a bunch of credits saved up, should save us a couple years of college, and my scholarships from medals will help out as well.”

“Wait, what scholarships?” asked Joey.

“I have $35K in scholarship money from the last five All-States.”

“Remember, Joey, we found the one, in the Chopin book.”

“What if they don’t have Italian for a foreign language?” asked Joey.

“French is cool, I tested out before, and I took two years of Spanish before I went to UC.” Maia polished off the cake in no time and drank her milk.

“And then there’s the Bible classes.”

“Give me a Bible with the Apocrypha, and we will see about that.”

“Wait, Miss Smarty Pants has never read the Bible before?”

“Well yeah, but I read the juicy stuff twice.”

“Juicy stuff?” asked Ruby incredulous.

“The Bible is like the best soap opera ever.”

Joey and Ruby laughed. “Give me an example,” said Paul.

“Okay, okay,” she said swallowing a bite of cake. “Get this. There’s this guy in Genesis. His name is Judah, right? He gets his eldest son a wife. Her name is Tamar. Before the number one son gets her pregos, he dies. So, Judah forces his bro, we will call him number two, to marry her, but she’s not his type. He marries her begrudgingly, and masturbates so he doesn’t have to have sex with her. He keeled over dead for a handjob.”

“Maia Catrina,” barked Paul.

“What? That’s what happened.”

“Watch your mouth. There are ladies present.”

“I apologize, geez Paulie.”

“Go on, Miss Maia,” said Ruby. “So number two died. Then what?”

“Right, so Judah’s got one more kid, number three, but he’s a little kid and can’t marry her right away.”

“Hold up,” said Paul. “I’m still hung up on the death penalty for masturbation.”

“Apparently, he died for spilling his seed which was wrong, because he was supposed to procreate and give Tamar a child. She needed a son to take care of her because women could only be wives, maids, and prostitutes back then,” said Ruby.

“Ohmygod, Maia,” sighed Paul. “Just how did you stumble on such an obscure story?”

“I asked about why Christians say masturbation is bad.”

“Who did you ask?”

“One of the guys on the street with the little comic book tracts.”

Joey laughed and shook his head. “Go on with your story, Maia,” said Joey, as Elly came in to refill the coffee mugs. “Just be more cautious with your words.”

“Sheesh, you guys, come on,” she said with a sigh. “You’re taking all the fun out of this.”

“Go on, Maia, ease up, Paulie, she’s not doing us any harm, right Elly?” asked Ruby.

“Nothing I hadn’t heard before from either you boys. Go on, Maia,” said Elly, refilling her milk cup.

“So you got to understand, now that the first two sons are dead, Tamar will waste her best years to reproduce waiting for this kid to get old enough to get a boner, let alone know how to use it.”

“Maia!” admonished Joey, as Elly left the dining room with a few empty plates and the empty coffee pot. Ruby and Paul had a hard time laughing and Maia was enjoying the distress she was causing them.

“I heard that,” said Elly. “Finish the story.”

Maia laughed, enjoying their feigned discomfort. “So, Tamar decided to trick her father- in-law into making her pregnant.”

“For real, this is in the Bible?” asked Paul.

“Genesis, chapter 38. I’ll tell you about Hagar too. Now that’s a massive soap opera. Where was I?”

“Tamar getting knocked up by her father-in-law,” said Paul.

“Right, so Tamar disguises herself and dresses up like a pross. She goes out to where old man Judah cruises and hooks up with him, but he has no money to pay her. Likely story, a john that doesn’t pay a sex worker.”

“What do you know about that?” asked Elly.

“I lived on the streets of Chicago for three months and was constantly being propositioned by pimps to join their crew. That’s why they got pimps you know, so johns have to pay up.”

“Among other not so chivalrous things,” said Paul. “Continue, Maia. So she hooks up with Judah, then what?”

“So he has no money, so she takes his signet ring and cord as collateral and tells him she’s holding onto those until he pays her.”

Paul laughed. “Then what?”

“True to his form, paying her slipped his mind, so Tamar is starting to show, and it’s evident that she’s prego and a massive disgrace to Judah, because he thought that she was fucking around on the family.”

“Maia, language,” admonished Joey under his breath as Paul’s brow furrowed.

“I apologize, I got carried away.”

Paul shook his head and snorted, nodding at her to continue her story.

“Okay, so Judah goes to accuse her in public at a trial, wanting the council to have her put to death, and she challenges him. He grilled her, wanting to know exactly who the father of her child was and Tamar hands him his signet ring—”

“Oh snap—" said Paul, “so then what?”

“She’s pregnant with his twins, and they are in the genealogy of Christ.”

“Wait no way!” exclaimed Joey. Ruby, amused by Maia’s storytelling, winked at her.

“Bring me a Bible I will prove it,” said Maia, sure of herself.

Joey got up and fetched a Bible from the study bookshelf and brought it back to her.

“How many times have you read the Bible?” asked Paul.

“All the way through? It’s been a while.”

“Wait, hold up, you read the Bible all the way through?”

“Yeah, it was Jonny’s idea so I could understand Christian imagery in literature. They are Buddhists, so it wasn’t like I went to Sunday School.” Joey handed Maia the Bible he got from the study. She looked at the version.

“NRSV, cool, Jonny said it was the most accurate of the translations. Do you know they remove the story of Tamar from Children’s Bibles?” asked Maia, paging through the last chapters of Genesis.

“I cannot imagine why,” said Paul, watching her flip through it.

“See, Judah named the babies Perez and Zerah,” said Maia, showing Paul as Joey looked over her shoulder. Ruby put on her reading glasses and Paul handed the Bible to her and pointed it out. She handed the Bible back to Maia who paged towards the back of the Bible. “Their childbirth story is a mess too, but screw that. They came out. Perez was the important one, not Zerah, just like Jacob and Esau.”

“I was expecting you to know nothing of scripture,” said Paul. “You have really shocked me tonight.”

“Oh, me too,” said Elly. “I’ve not heard such a colorful rendition of a biblical story in all my life.”

“Watch out for the nuns,” said Joey. “You will land yourself a plate of penance if they hear you talk that way.”

“When we get on your case about language, we are only trying to help you out and keep you out of Father Tim’s office.”

“I will remember that,” she said paging through the Bible into the New Testament. “Judah is from Joseph’s lineage, which means it’s the Matthew genealogy,” she said, turning to it. “Isn’t that strange? God is his real father, but they give his dad’s genealogy?”

“You will have to ask Father Tim about that. This is way beyond my learning.” Paul watched her flip through the Old Testament Prophets until She got to the New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew. She drew her finger down the column and then she pointed to their names.

“Too smart for her britches,” said Elly, putting on her reading glasses and peering over Maia’s shoulder before she handed the book to Paul, who then handed the book to Joey and Ruby.

Maia stood up and wrapped her arms about Paul’s neck. “Gold star?” she asked, making him chuckle.

“I should demerit gold stars for language,” said Paul, tapping her wrist to release him. He pushed his chair out for her and let her sit on his lap.

“Better than a bar of soap. What other Bible classes do I have to take?”

“Saints,” he said as Maia rolled her eyes, glad Paul couldn’t see her, forgetting that Joey was there watching her. He raised his eyebrow to her, and she smirked.

“You mean Christian mythology,” she said.

“Don’t even go there,” he said to her. “The saints are very important.”

“I don’t believe the half of it.”

“Okay, I’m afraid to ask. Who don’t you believe should be a saint?”

“St. Margaret and the demon dragon baby of childbirth,” she said, “Would you like a couple more?”

“Who teaches the Saints class?” asked Joey of Elly.

“Sister Ambrose.”

“God bless her. I think we’ve had enough Bible lessons for one evening,” said Joey.

“I’m sure I will get my share of dogma classes too,” she said.

“Catechism, yes,” replied Paul.

Maia groaned and turned to look at Paul. “Dogma and skirts. The things I do for you, Paulie.”

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