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Drop Dead Gorgeous
Author: Rachel Gibson




Glorious Way Evangelical is the center of my momma’s life. She looks forward to church worship like an alcoholic looks forward to happy hour at Woody’s Watering Hole.

Sundays are the Lord’s day, and I’ve spent most of mine praising God and singing in the Glorious Way choir, listening to Reverend Johnny J. Jackson, and wishing my behind wasn’t getting numb.

If I was any good at figuring sums in my head, I’d add up how much of my life has been spent sitting on hard pews. I mostly rely on the calculator on my phone, but if I had to take a guess at the number… there’s four Sundays in a month, multiplied by twelve months in a year, times twenty-five years… subtract the times I faked a head cold or period cramps, and that equals… a whole heck of a lot.

The phone in my dress pocket lights up and I slide it out far enough to see who’s texting. I glance up at Johnny J. preaching his usual fire and brimstone, then open the text from HotGuyNate. I bite my lower lip to keep from grinning like a cat full of canary. I type Yes and hit send. I’ve never driven more than twenty miles for a hookup or a coffee date, but Nate is the kind of guy worth driving two hundred miles to meet. “Brittany Lynn!” Momma says under her breath. “Jesus is watchin’ you.”

I try not to roll my eyes as I slide the phone back into my pocket. If that’s true, Jesus is interfering in my love life. Don’t get me wrong: I love Jesus—but I’ve spent so much time in devotion, I reckon I’ve earned bonus points that I can use here on earth or in heaven.

“Evil demons whisper temptations into the ears of man. These demons are liars! Do not listen or you will burn in hell when our Lord returns!” Johnny J. is yelling about Satan and scaring the sinners clear in the back row. “Lord, deliver us from wickedness!”

“Lord, deliver us from wickedness,” Momma repeats, clutching a Bible to her big breasts. When it comes to the good book, I don’t know anyone who knows more than Momma. You could say she’s an expert on the rapture, and she dreams of the day that she floats to heaven on a fluffy cloud and gets to wave goodbye to the sinners left behind. In particular, Daddy and his second wife, “Floozy Face.”

I’ve never liked Floozy, and she’s never liked me. She thinks constructive criticism is her way of being helpful. I think constructive criticism is her way of being a bitch. She says I need to grow up. I say, “You need Jesus.” She tells Daddy I’m immature for my age. I tell her she’s vertically challenged. It goes without saying that we’re never in the same place for long.

I was ten when Daddy moved out of our house and in with Floozy Face, aka Mona Lisa Calhoun, and Momma has hardly spoken to him since. At my high school graduation Momma refused to be in the same picture with Daddy and me no matter how much I begged.

After all these years she’s still as bitter as ever. I tell her that good Christians don’t dream of riding off on a big, fluffy cloud, hooting and hollering and acting holier-than-thou. I tell her to get bigger dreams for herself, but Momma never listens to one thing that she doesn’t want to hear. I inherited that from her, I’m told.

I glance at my phone twice more, and by the time Johnny J. is done sermonizing, my behind is so numb that I have a hard time standing up. Momma has a harder time than me, but she walks with me out to our old minivan. Momma is staying for Bible study, and someone in the group will give her a ride home afterward. She has plans to quote scripture, and I have plans of my own.

“Why are you drivin’ all the way to Alpine to see Lida Haynes?”

Lida has been my best friend since second grade at Marfa Elementary, but I quit speaking to her last week when she said some very hurtful things. “Alpine is only twenty-six miles from here,” I tell Momma, even though she knows this. “See you later. I’ll call if I’m spendin’ the night.” I give her a hug, then hop in the van and head out of the church parking lot. I sing along with Jason Aldean on the radio and stick my arm out of the window to wave goodbye. Singing has always played a part in my life. When I was young, I dreamed of being a country-and-western singer. Momma used to drive me to competitions when we could afford it. I even won first place a time or two.

I drive past the turn to Alpine and head in the opposite direction toward El Paso, two hundred miles northwest of Marfa. Momma used to make my outfits. The best was a leopard-print coat made so I could look like Shania Twain at the Texas Shooting Stars singing competition. I was nine and belted out “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” Momma still has the video. The next year I became obsessed with Hannah Montana and changed my stage name to Wittany so that when I got famous I could switch back to Brittany and not get mobbed by fans. When I was seventeen I tried out for American Idol in Austin. I thought for sure the panel would love “Wittany,” but Simon said I should come back after I lost weight. Paula agreed—and she was supposed to be the nice one. Wittany died that day, and the only singing I do these days is at church.

Even though I’ve given up on that dream, I do write lyrics. My most creative time is when I’m in bed at night. I have notebooks full of songs and my latest is called “Big Dreams in a Small Town.” I keep the notebooks under my mattress and I’ve never shown them to anyone.

I pull my phone out of my pocket and slide it into the holder next to Momma’s dashboard Jesus. I have a text message from my Visa but nothing from HotGuyNate since he texted me in church.

I met Nate on Tinder this past Thursday. He’s driving from somewhere in New Mexico and we’re meeting at the Kitty Cat Lounge. If we like each other and things are looking good, I plan to pounce on him like he’s a bag of catnip.

Nate isn’t my first Tinder date. I’ve been on the site for a few years. I’m also on Match.com, OkCupid, and Plenty of Fish. I want to fall in love and get married, but the closest I’ve ever come to it was a six-month relationship with Ricky Nunez when I was twenty-two. Ricky had a snaggletooth and acne and lived in a beat-down double-wide.

He broke my heart.

Nate is a lot better looking than Ricky, and that’s an understatement. He’s the kind of good-looking that I’ve always dreamed of finding. He has dark hair and blue eyes and a flashy white smile, and he swiped right when he saw me. I’ve been walking around for days feeling sassy and filled with glow. Lida is the only person I told about Nate, but she wasn’t supportive at all. Instead she reminded me of Pete Parras, a superhot guy who used to hook up with me until he found a superhot girlfriend. Lida said she could tell by Nate’s bio and photos that he was a user like Pete and she couldn’t be happy for me. I had to remind her that she moved to Alpine for smooth-talking Bubba Crum and lived with him for a year before she found out that he had a wife in Van Horn and a baby momma in Fort Davis. She said she learned from Bubba how to spot a liar but that I didn’t learn anything from Pete. I got aggravated with Lida and said some things I shouldn’t have. She got aggravated with me and said things she shouldn’t have, and we haven’t spoken since. We’ve never gone this long without talking, and I don’t know if we can ever get back to the way things were before we got ugly with each other.

An hour outside El Paso, I pull into a truck stop for gas, grab my suitcase from the back seat, and head for the bathroom. I change out of my church clothes and into a pair of jeans and a “Don’t Mess with a Texas Girl” T-shirt with rhinestone embellishments, of course.

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