“It’s like this ....”
“Now, this is how it is done ....”
No matter what the question was Gloria had an answer. She was bright; she was bonny; she was bouncy – and she knew everything. She was also very kind, and her courtesy was overwhelming, but then so was everything else about Gloria. So began a game of dodge-Gloria. I sometimes wondered if she noticed the wolf whistles when no wolves were present; the bird calls in the absence of birds.
In time I began to feel a bit of a heel. Most of the time now Gloria walked alone where once she had been one of a group of chattering girls, an energetic member of the church youth group and an aspiring medical student.
The dodge-Gloria game had a further effect: it broke up the fellowship shared by those of us from the church engaged in various studies at the university. We no longer played together or prayed together – we were too busy dodging Gloria, and it was no longer a game. Furthermore, Gloria herself became one of the players: if she saw one or other of us she disappeared smartly.
Of course the Pastor noticed, and being a member of the Pastor’s family, a member of the Uni coterie, and a sort-of kingpin in the Youth Group, I came in for some serious interrogation. And that made me take note of my part in the whole, and as I say that made me feel a bit of a heel.
I bumped into Gloria in the Uni library. I was after some information for an assignment and when I saw this mop of curls behind a small tower of books I headed for the same table. She was probably working on the same assignment, in which case she would have the books I was after. Besides, I wanted to speak to her. I dumped my notepad and pens beside her.
“Hi, Glor.” My greeting was tentative with apprehension.
Her surprised “Oh, hello Olly,” was hardly welcoming. She turned away and started to pack her pens into a briefcase.
I put out my hand. “Please don’t go, Gloria. I want to talk to you.”
“We’re not supposed to talk in here – people are studying.” It was a brush-off. She continued packing her notepads away.
I hesitated. “Sure, I know.” But I was getting desperate. “Why don’t we get a coffee in the caff?” I had to do something: Mom had joined Dad in getting on my back, and her demands were heavy.
Gloria snapped her briefcase shut. Her voice snapped too. “What’s up? I thought my name was Anathema, no-one wanted to know me anymore. So why now?”
I saw the librarian coming over. No time to waste. I grabbed my notepad and pens and Gloria’s briefcase and headed for the door, trailed by the two women. Made it by a shoe length ahead of the librarian who shut the door with a bang. But Gloria caught up as we passed the portal – just as well, she might have been kayoed by the door otherwise.
“Oliver!” She grabbed at the briefcase but I hung on, heading for the cafeteria. I parked her briefcase on the chair and sat on it. Gloria could pack a lot of venom into a look and her “Well?” said it all. But she sat.
Not sure where to start I floundered a bit. “Well – er – um – well, the Big Brass want to know what is going on and I tried to explain to them....”
Gloria interrupted me. “I want to know too. How about telling me?”
I shuffled my feet but that didn’t help either.
“Yes, well, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was ... well, it was because you were so bossy and we only wanted you to realise that you didn’t know more than all of us, so we thought ... Oh, what does it matter what we thought, we were wrong. We need to put things right and Dad says it’s up to me. And Mom says I am the worst example of Christ-like-ness it has been her misfortune to come across.”
I thought Gloria was going to explode. Instead she leaned over and put her hand on my arm.
“We have to do it together, Olly. I’m sorry, I didn’t realise I was being bossy. I’ll try to begin afresh. Will you take me to Youth Group tonight, please?”
Now that I call a pretty good example of Christ-like-ness.
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