Authors: Jessica Brown
The Romantic Misadventures of a Modern Woman
By: Jessica Brown
Nita was heartbroken. She just lost what she thought was the love of her life. Her friend, Hannah, helps her out of her depression by giving her opportunities to talk about her problems and meet new friends. They begin reading and discussing a book on Christian dating that helps them begin to see how valuable they are. They are inspired to require others to value them more highly. Together, they try some of the modern methods people use, in the 21st century, to find romance, and meet some very interesting characters along the way. They find some wise and often eye-opening advice from each other, a concerned neighbor and a caring church community
Set in the town of Karberry, a community that could be situated on the outskirts of any American city, the women in "The Romantic Misadventures of a Modern Woman", struggle with the limits that their faith leads them to place on themselves when it comes to dating and relationships. They discover how to enjoy spending time with men without compromising their convictions.
Halligan is 22 years old. She's beautiful and talented, a superb mezzosoprano who just graduated from Oberlin as one of the stars from the program.
But...she doesn't have a job, which means she has to move home to tiny McCord, Mississippi, where she has to live with her widowed father, a domineering pastor who did his best to turn her childhood into a living hell. All seems lost, until she meets the new guest choir director at her father's church, James Cavanaugh, who's about to change her life forever in ways she never dreamed.
“You’re ridiculous!” Nita shouted, giggling. “I am sure I would notice if any man approached me with a line like that! But, seriously, we have been on the phone almost two hours and I have got to go… Stop laughing at me before I hang up on you. Yeah, right, we’ll talk about that later. OK, “Hannah Solo”, love
ya girl. Bye.”
Hannah Solis was a good friend. Her edgy sense of humor used get her into trouble, but she'd proved to be a devoted BFF to Nita time and again. And that is exactly what she needed. After a devastating break-up last year, without Hannah, Nita could have fallen into a much deeper depression and likely would be there still. Her "Star Wars" inspired nickname came from their mutual love of the franchise. Although Nita never chose a nickname for herself based on one of her favorite characters, Hannah's handle was a no-brainer.
Nita was in a much better place compared to a year ago. Hannah began inviting her to for lunch every Wednesday, and they would go out for smoothies at least once a month, after church. Even on days when Nita did not go to church, she would still meet Hannah. Both women now looked forward to their time together.
Over taco salad and flan, Hannah announced, "I think you're ready" and handed her a paperback.
"What's this?" Nita asked, surprised.
"It's a book!" Hannah said, with a mischievous smirk. "You know, the one the singles group read at church over the summer: 'Introduction to the Christian Single Life' by Dr. Challis Horkern."
"Oh, and I'm ready...?"
"Yeah, seems like you're almost back to normal after all the
drama. You're happy again." Hannah stirred the last bits of ic'e in her glass with her straw as if urging them to hurry up and melt already.
"It's time for you to get back out there. I thought we'd read and discuss each chapter. It'll be like having our own private book club on the telephone.
Wanna' do it?"
"Sure, I guess." Nita nodded, unsure that her friend had correctly assessed her current emotional state.
"Let's take it one chapter at a time; we'll go at our own pace so it doesn't become too much."
"OK" Nita tucked her present carefully into her purse with a muted excitement about their new reading project.
"Ready?" Nita thought. "Am I ready?" Her mind went back to the break-up. Henry Gladstone Funderman seemed almost perfect. Living up to his names, he was generally up-beat, and always a lot of fun. He worked hard and had a plan for his life. He came from a upstanding family with loving parents, who raised him to be a decent, productive citizen. Even her own parents liked him, and they were divorced. Henry treated Nita very well... until suddenly, it all stopped.
Nita and Henry had been dating for almost two years and everyone who saw them together knew they were in love. All the signs were there. She even took her favorite parts of his name and made them into a pet name: "Glad-Fun". She would use it whenever they were alone together. He was attentive and considerate and made her feel like a princess. He looked at her as if she was his favorite dessert.
They had begun to daydream out loud together, imagining their future life. Everything was going so well, Nita started daydreaming about an engagement ring and a proposal in her not-too-distant future. It just seemed the logical next step. She had no idea what was coming.
After returning to her home from a date, they said their good-byes at the front door of Nita's building. She walked upstairs to her apartment and Henry went back to his car. Another car pulled up and double-parked next to him and a well-dressed woman got out and confronted him. They began to argue.
In her dark apartment, Nita heard the commotion and rushed to her window. Her apartment was lit only by the street lamp that shown down, like a spotlight on the space where Henry's car was parked. Just enough autumn leaves had fallen to allow her a clear line of sight on that unseasonably warm November night. She knew he couldn't see her, but he clearly wasn't interested in looking her way.
Confused, but concerned for Henry's safety, Nita found herself paralyzed behind the sheer curtains, unable to move. She had never heard Henry raise his voice in anger before, but the two were starting to make a scene in the middle of her street. Her window was open enough for her to hear them, but she couldn't make out exactly what they were saying.
Henry grabbed the pretty stranger by her shoulders and spoke to her forcefully, his eyes were locked onto hers. Still sobbing, she seemed to calm down as she looked up at him. She nodded her head and became still as he continued to speak to her, holding her in his grasp. It was as if Henry had forgotten he was standing in front of his girlfriend's building.
Nita was in shock as she watched what was unfolding before her eyes. She had never seen this woman before. She asked herself, “Could this be a coworker or a neighbor? Why was she following us?” Henry had never spoken of any other close female friends, especially none he knew so well that he would argue so passionately with them. Her spinning thoughts were interrupted by the sight of the two kissing as if they had just been pronounced man and wife.
Nita collapsed onto her floor.
Hannah answered the door after Nita's 2nd time ringing her doorbell. "Come on in, girl. You're the first one here. What'd you bring?"
Nita put her pot-luck contribution on the kitchen table and handed her friend her iPod. "I picked three songs".
"OK, are there any fast, up-tempo, happy songs on your playlist?" Hannah asked.
"You'll see" Nita replied.
Hannah had funky ideas about hospitality and entertaining. She couldn't just have a regular party, if she had friends over, the event was always "Hannah-
fied" with her own personal twist. On this day, Hannah transferred the food everyone brought onto Star Wars themed serving plates. She'd re-purpose unconventional items in unexpected ways and her guests couldn't resist talking about them. Nita always admired her natural creativity and obvious gift for hospitality.
Hannah planned these evenings to spend quality time with her friends. After everyone arrived, they would eat, then the women would pour wine and bond while sitting on Hannah's carpet. They'd chat and listen to music each had brought on their smartphones or iPods that she would plug into her sound system. From previous pot-lucks, Hannah found her guests' playlists were as diverse as the women who created them, usually reflecting what was going on in their lives. The music fueled the conversation, then faded into the background as the talk continued.
It was Nita's first time attending one of, what she called, "Hannah's sit-down-shut-up-eat-listen-and-talk" evenings, but Hannah had invited her many times before. In the months since she saw Henry with the woman stranger, Nita had stayed to herself. She rarely went out, except for errands and work. She flatly refused when invited to spend time with anyone whom she considered a friend. Hannah saw it as a major sign of progress that Nita, finally, accepted her invitation.
Elle and Gina Baggins arrived together. They were cousins who were also best friends. A clique of two, they were raised together, almost like sisters, after Elle's father left them; Gina's mom took them in. People admired them for having such a close relationship. If one cousin liked you, the other would likely accept you, too. But, if one had a problem with you, the other would never befriend you, even if she didn't treat you with contempt. Seeing them made Nita wish she had a sister. The Baggins' considered themselves friends with Hannah. As for Nita, maybe they didn't know her well enough yet.
When it was time for dinner, the cousins were the first to sit down at one side of the table. Hannah and Nita brought the last items from the kitchen for their meal. They were somehow able to keep their own private conversation going no matter what else was going on in the room. With Hannah at the head of the table, Nita sat opposite the cousins on her left.
Hannah invaded the cousins' conversation: "What y'all talkin' 'bout?"
Gina seemed embarrassed at the invitation to share what she had been discussing with her cousin, or maybe she was just annoyed at the prospect of finally participating with the whole group.
Elle offered, "Oh, one of Gina's old room-mates is going through a tough time".
Gina interrupted, "I don't want to talk about it, Elle!"
Elle countered, "But, it made the local news when the case went to court. Everybody knows".
"Let's shut it down ladies. We can't do much about what's happening in anyone's life, but our own, so why not let's talk about whatever issues and events where we
make a difference."
Hannah had little tolerance for gossip, but she wasn't a maniac about it. Sometimes she would hear someone sharing questionable news and just walk away without saying anything. Other times she would steer the conversation to another topic. Her policy was, if someone has news, it's their business who they want to tell; don't change their choices of who they wanna know about their business".
When the dinner ended, the women cleared the table and moved to the living room floor. Hannah's carpet was very comfortable and she didn't mind if any of her friends needed to pull a cushion from the sofa. Extra blankets were folded over the back of a chair waiting for a chilly friend to wrap it around her shoulders. Candles flickered next to the wine glasses and dessert tray.
Nita wedged herself into a corner of the sectional and pulled a large pillow down onto her lap. She had been fairly quiet during the meal. She knew her split with Henry was common knowledge in this room, but she was still not yet ready to talk about it. The conversation kept finding its way back to relationships. She began to use the pillow as her shield against anyone asking her to talk about herself.
The strawberry cheesecake cupcakes were so good, everyone wanted seconds, and Hannah was ready. Smiles were no bigger, that night, than when Hannah brought out the bonus treats. By then, everyone had warmed up and, at least, gotten a little more comfortable in present company. While they happily scarfed down the last morsels of their doubled desserts, Nita caught Elle looking in her direction. This was the first time either of the cousins paid her any attention all evening.
"You have such a pretty smile." Elle conceded.
"I guess I haven't smiled much in a long time." Nita confessed. "Thanks."
Hannah added "It has been a while since I have seen you smile... good to see it again!"
After dumping the emptied cupcake wrappers in the trashcan, Hannah placed a crystal candy dish on the coffee table. It was filled with colorful pieces of paper.
"OK, one at a time, each of us will pick a piece of paper and read it. We'll answer around the room, starting with the person to your left. Nita, will you pick first?"
Nita unfolded a bright green slip of paper and started to read,
"Describe the perfect man for you."
Elle was seated to Nita's left, so she answered first. Her response sounded like the one she thought the people at church wanted to hear: "He has to be a Christian and love God". Gina was more interested in height, weight, muscles, money and status. She said she wanted a man who could work-out and attend health-foodie cooking classes with her, someone with whom she could support their mutual commitment to fitness and who treats her like a princess. Nita thought description seemed a bit over-the-top. Hannah joked, "Frankly, I'd like to have some of that!"
"May I skip this question?" Nita begged.
Although, they had not officially started their telephone book club, it was clear Hannah had started reading ahead in the book she had given her. Nita knew this because she had been reading it too, and that question came straight out of the book. The author insisted
"If you don't aim for what you want, you'll end up with 'whatever'."
As the women read the questions and shared their answers, they learned more about one another and began to feel more comfortable in their presence. The evening ended with the possibility of new friendships beginning. Although Nita appreciated Hannah's hospitality and Elle's compliment, she was still cautious.