Jingle Bell Romance: Chapter 4, Part 2 and Chapter 5
A few days later, some local color stops by Julia’s shop to waste a few pages with pointless banter. I’ll bring it up only if it becomes important later.
Apparently, Nick has been “trailing after her for days,” so Julia thinks she’ll miss him (in an oh-so-romantic sense), but that it’s best to keep him non-romantic, due to her “carefully orchestrated plan.”
I feel like Julia is giving herself a LOT of credit here.
Nick wakes up Sunday morning to find that the whole family has let him sleep in (until 10! Damn, wish I could do that!) while they all go to church. Nick sees an email from his IT Director, telling him to look at the subscription numbers, which have “zoomed upward” in the (presumably) day or two since publishing the first installment of Julia’s story.
…people were coming back for more on the elusive ambassador’s daughter.
Really? Sorry, I just don’t think she’s as fascinating as all that. Person who comes from wealth leads semi-normal life, with money from parents? Not what would tempt me to buy a whole subscription, but whatevs, I guess.
Nick reflects that he LIKE likes Julia, which is not a good thing because he never lets relationships (yanno, with all those dancers and models) get too serious, so he lies around thinking about how to get out of this.
Tuesday, Nick finally deigns to head to Julia’s shop, where he rather distantly interviews her about her childhood. Though on the other hand, he stays ALL DAY, until she closes and heads out to volunteer at the Christmas pageant. Hilariously, given her “carefully orchestrated plan,” she has “no clue” what to do next in this “plan,” but she does spontaneously invite Nick to come to pageant rehearsal with her. He acquiesces, mostly to support Hannah, who is “lead angel this year.” This seems a hefty responsibility for a four-year-old, and I’m sure has NOTHING to do with the fact that her grandfather is the pastor.
Nick helps Julia on with her coat and they almost-kiss, then, sin averted, head to the church, where a whole lot of nothing happens. Though at one point, we’re reminded of Nick’s high school bullying days. He sees a group of “moms” talking, and they glare at him, and like an asshole, he waves, then is amused when they “flounced their shoulders and pointedly turned away.”
So apparently Lucy wasn’t the only girl Nick bullied in high school. What a catch he is!
Nick then finds an old friend, Ben, who was an all-star athlete in school and thus worthy for Nick to hang out with. As they’re chatting, Pastor Dad shows up, nastily greeting his only son with a, “What are you doing here?”
Like a tween, Ben tries to cover for him (lying in the House of God by doing so, the second person to do that in this book), but Nick tells the truth and says he’s there to support Hannah. This is, apparently, is “the only answer that would prevent a very public display of McHenry temper.”
So hot damn, would the pastor have brawled with his son, right there in church, for the crime of…being there?
Good thing that was averted, and Pastor Dad starts “dictating” to Ben some random shit about the manger, and Nick congratulates himself for making it through “an encounter with the dictator himself.” Yeah, Pastor Dad sure does seem like the kindliest of small-town ministers, doesn’t he? No wonder Julia loves his church so.
Nick’s mom, however, is awesome, and just adores him. As they’re bonding, she gets a call from their pianist, that she has pneumonia and can’t be there. And it doesn’t take much arm-twisting to get Nick to play during rehearsal. He actually does it for a sweet and pure reason: because he loves his mom and wants to make her happy by helping out.
After, he takes Julia home, and she asks him up for cocoa, but he says “the biddies’ll never let you hear the end of it.” Wow, small towns are great, eh?
They make it into the shop, and Nick kisses her. It’s actually kinda sweet if I forget what an asshole bully Nick is.
THEN THIS HAPPENS:
…a sharp rapping on the front door made [Julia] jump. Framed in the glass was Dániel McHenry, looking like a furious thundercloud. Pointing at Nick, he motioned for his son to join him out on the sidewalk.
So, holy crap, the minister just followed his son and his son’s friend to her home/place of business, interrupting their private conversation.
Nick is (understandably, for once) pissed, and Julia actually does the…ambassadorial (?) thing and, instead of letting nick out so they can scream at each other in the snow and cold in the middle of the night, invites Pastor Dad in.
Pastor Dad is surprised by Julia inviting him in, and initially refuses.
“This isn’t the place for us to discuss family business.”
Really? Then why did you stalk two people to this very place, asshat?
But he nonetheless enters and Julia kinda stands around because she feels too awkward to leave, which makes sense.
“I want to talk to you about accompanying the choir for the Christmas pageant.”
“And you don’t want Mom to hear what you have to say. That must mean you know it’d make her mad.”
“It would, and I’d prefer to avoid that.”
“Not, mind you, that I will avoid it by keeping my big mouth shut, but I’m going to avoid it by going behind her back. It’s the Christian thing to do!”
Basically, Pastor Dad forbids Nick from playing piano for pageant rehearsals, because he has “allowed your relationship with God to dwindle away to nothing.”
Julia points out that without Nick, they wouldn’t have had any music tonight, and Pastor Dad says that “this is between Nick and me,” which is big talk coming from the man who just stalked her to her home and placed of business and banged on her door in the middle of the night.
Nick points out, very sensibly, that the pianist has frikkin’ pneumonia and will not exactly be ready to roll anytime soon. To this actual LOGIC, Pastor Dad only says,
“We’ll find someone else.”
“Anyone but me, right, Dad?”
Nick is right, so Pastor Dad simply flounces out like a formerly-bullied Mom. Or tries to—he clutches his chest and nearly collapses, but Nick catches him.
Okay, a few things:
I am a heartless atheist, I know, but my first thought when Pastor Dad clutched his chest was, “faker!” I should have known better, since this is a Christian romance, but I knew someone once who was not above using health scares to manipulate people.
And can we just talk about what a horrible asshole Pastor Dad is? Let’s just count the disrespect:
Obviously, he’s horrible to Nick. Nick was actually doing something completely pure and selfless, and Dad’s first and ONLY response is to shit all over it. I hate to make excuses for bad behavior, but if this has been life with Pastor Dad, it’s kinda no wonder that Nick doesn’t trust anyone, and skipped town as soon as he could.
It is just SO weird and creepy that Pastor Dad stalked Nick and Julia back to her place, then peered in to peep on them kissing. So INCREDIBLY disrespectful to Julia. What, he couldn’t have waited ONE DAY to take this up with Nick?
And what about his wife? She asked, almost begged Nick to do this, and instead of talking to her about this or (here’s an idea!) letting her have this small thing (which, hey, might just help Nick find his way back to the church!), he goes behind her back, stalking and berating her son. What a great husband!
Oh, and let’s not forget his whole congregation, including his daughter and granddaughter, since he’d rather they have no musical accompaniment at all in the pageant than let his son do it.
Seriously, I don’t think we’ve really had a villain like this in a Christmas romance before!
Oh yeah, health scare: they get Pastor Dad to the hospital, and Nick stands in the hallway, literally thinking that he has singlehandedly killed his own father by arguing with him for ten seconds and thus inducing a heart attack. But after what seems like a VERY long time to let a person think this, he is informed that his dad has angina, and has had it for some time, and…
“Every once in awhile it flares up. Each time, the doctor runs tests, declares him fit to leave and sends him home with orders to take his medicine and slow down a little.”
Yeah, you know the thrill-a-minute life of a small-town pastor!
“For a while he does, then it’s back to his old ways.”
I see. So the man knows he has a medical condition, doesn’t take his medication, and scared the shit out of his son and the rest of his family. What a great example he sets for his flock!
Lainie finally invites him into Pastor Dad’s hospital room, and Pastor Dad actually has enough decency to say, “Thanks for catching me, son,” Though Nick reflects that he hasn’t been called that in many years.
Then Pastor Dad and Mom engage in a “silent battle” of stares, and Pastor Dad apologizes for berating Nick and says he can play piano. He even says, “I had no right to interfere with [your mother’s] choice of accompanist.”
That’s actually pretty decent if him, or it would be, if his wife hadn’t forced him into it. So now we know that Nick’s parents have that kind of marriage: where the husband does whatever the hell he likes, but if his wife finds out, it’s forced-apology time. So healthy!
Nick’s a gigantic jerk, but I’m kinda seeing why.