Jingle Bell Romance: Chapter 9
It’s time for some actual conflict, so Nick needs to enter the room his parents are staying in to get a spare computer battery.
He tries to actually be light-hearted and it fails spectacularly: he tells Pastor Dad to ease up on the fire and brimstone in his next sermon. Pastor Dad snaps at him like a child, Nick fires back, and it all culminates with this:
“A shame none of [my platitudes] got through that thick skull of yours. No matter what I’ve said, or how I’ve phrased it, you choose to ignore every lesson I’ve tried to teach you.”
“I’m sorry you’re so disappointed in me, Dad. After Ian died I tried to take his place, but I don’t have what it takes to compete with a ghost.”
Mic drop. I admit, I am completely on Nick’s side in this.
Nick storms out of the house to go sulk in his car, and Julia immediately follows him, which seems more than a little presumptuous. I would assume he needed some alone time. Let’s not forget that at this point, eight people and one obnoxious bird are currently crammed into a “humble” abode that usually houses only four.
She kinda screws things up immediately, too: like 20 seconds into the conversation, she says he is “sadly out of touch with your emotions.”
Dude, he’s been dealing for 16 years with his father blaming him for his brother’s death. Cut him some slack.
(I can’t believe I’m defending Nick, the bullying jerk.)
Out of nowhere, they briefly vaguely debate about taking risks in life, and Nick says his life is fine the way it is, and they part ways.
Julia heads back into the house, and turns out she was somehow eavesdropping on the private conversation between Nick and Pastor Dad, and heard the whole “compete with a ghost” thing. She sees Mom and Pastor Dad on the sofa, where she’s trying to talk to him and he’s staring away from her like an asshole. So Julia “saves” him by asking him to come into the kitchen to advise her on Christian stuff. As usual with Julia, she does not mean what she says: she has decided it’s time to “broker peace” between Nick and Pastor Dad. Yanno, who better to do that than someone who’s known Nick for two weeks, and when better to try than right after an argument, in an overcrowded house, where things are as tense as they could possibly be!
In the kitchen, Julia uses a SUPER obvious ploy, and asks for an explanation of the Prodigal Son story. Pastor Dad is not QUITE as stupid as he looks, and gets what’s going on pretty quickly. So Julia just moves in for the kill, and asks if Pastor Dad has ever tried forgiving Nick for leaving, just like the Prodigal Son’s dad forgave him.
No answer from Pastor Dad—what a mature guy! Julia presses on:
“Nick blames himself for Ian’s death. Do you feel the same way?”
“It tried not to,” he confessed quietly. “But I’m ashamed to say it was a struggle for me.”
Damn. That sounds pretty bad. Let’s remember, Nick was TWELVE when this happened. The two boys were fucking around in a boat, the older one drowned, and the younger one, a CHILD, didn’t dive in right away because the older one had a long history of…fucking around in a boat.
And not for nothing, but maybe this wouldn’t have happened in the first place if somebody…maybe an authority figure…perhaps a parent…had taught his kids that YOU DO NOT FUCK AROUND IN BOATS.
Yeah, this minister, this man of God, has the absolute nerve to blame his CHILD for a tragic accident. Hell, if we are assigning blame for an accident, I, for one, would do so as follows:
Pastor Dad and Mom: 70%, for failing to instill safety lessons in their children
Ian: 25%, for being the older kid and fucking around in a boat, and previously faking his own drowning
Nick: 5%, for going along with the fucking around
Anyway, back to the story: Pastor Dad whines about Nick leaving Holiday Harbor: “Nick couldn’t wait to get away from it. From us.”
Gee, it’s almost like he wanted to escape a world where he’s been blamed every day for a tragic accident that took place when he was TWELVE.
Julia says that Nick is “ready to put the past behind him” (where is she getting THAT?) and just at that moment, Nick storms in, and gets pissed at Julia for “stressing [Pastor Dad] out” and “trying to give him a heart attack.”
This family has a problem with random blame assignments, just sayin’.
It’s all pretty rude and awful, and they snap at each other, and Nick storms off yet again. This is really less a Christmas romance than it is the story of several stupid and assholish people just making each other miserable. Oh, and by the way, Pastor Dad just peaced out when Nick started sniping. Great job at your JOB, Pastor, diffusing arguments and bringing people together.
Nick stays outside for hours, shoveling snow, and when he gets in, everyone is chilling and Lainie hasn’t left out food for him. He correctly interprets this as a slight, and this is confirmed when BIL chats with him and has this to say:
“This is your family’s business, and it’s not my place to step into this mess.”
Um, he IS a member of the family. Unlike, say…JULIA.
With this confusing exchange, Nick heads up for bed…in Lainie and BIL’s bedroom???
Yeah, he just goes into their bedroom and gets into their bed and sleeps the sleep of the just until morning. What a prince.
So, Nick commandeered the master bedroom all for himself, Pastor Dad and Mom are in the spare room, and the kids are presumably in their bedroom. So where the hell do Lainie, BIL, and Julia sleep? And just who the hell does Nick think he is, taking his sister’s bed, especially when he has just offended her by arguing with both her father and her friend?
I guess nobody cares but me, since Nick wakes up in the morning and re-re-remakes his plan to leave town, but then also gets an email notification that Julia’s dollhouse will be here soon.
Then right out of nowhere, Nick has a revelation: that the problem is not that he isn’t Ian, but that he isn’t Pastor Dad. That the issue is that they are two much alike in personality but have different goals, so they “grated on each other’s nerves.”
The problem is that a grown-ass man, a father, a pastor, blamed a child for a tragic accident.
Might be that, too.
Honestly, this seems like such a trite and too-neat solution. Like, this is simply a personality conflict. I mean, my dad and I have similar personalities, too, where we get along great 99.8% of the time, and the rest of the time, it’s hell breaking loose.
But, and I feel this is a point that just be emphasized…there isn’t a tragic accident involved for which my father has blamed me since I was twelve years old.
But Nick, energized by this revelation, heads right downstairs to reveal the revelation to Pastor Dad.
Pastor Dad is just delighted to hear this.
“I never thought of it that way, but you’re right.”
“Yeah, I never thought personality might have anything to do with familial conflict. I’m a great pastor!”
Pastor Dad also says he never wanted Nick to be a pastor, just a RTC. Which I guess is nice, but not really Nick’s complaint. Nick’s idea has basically been that Ian was the perfect son who wanted to be a pastor, so, in essence, the wrong kid died, and Pastor Dad resents that.
Oh, but I guess he doesn’t now!
“Julia told me you still blame yourself for Ian’s death. You’ll have to make your own peace with that…”
“Yeah, how could I possibly help with that? I’m just a pastor and your father!”
“…but in my mind, it was nothing more than a tragic accident.”
For those of you keeping count, this is now that third time in nine chapters that Christians have told lies, right to people’s faces.
And yep, this is how deep and painful family disagreements and estrangements of a decade are dealt with: in a five-minute breakfast conversation. It’s just that easy!
Oh, and finally, they hug it out: Pastor Dad “opened his arms in a welcoming gesture no one with a heart could resist.”
I could. This guy makes my skin crawl. Who knows, maybe that does make me not have a heart, but I just can’t forgive someone so easily for blaming a child for a tragic accident.
Also, he’s kinda the worst pastor on the planet.