Jordan - An Original Sinners Short Story
I promised on Twitter that if my readers could propel THE SIREN into the Top 100 at the US Amazon Kindle store, I would release an Original Sinners short story. Well, as you can see, you all delivered, so this is me keeping my promise.
Enjoy the story and thank you all again!
This story takes place during THE SAINT when Eleanor is sixteen years old
by Tiffany Reisz
When had it come to this? Once upon a time all Eleanor cared about at the end of a school day was going home to take a nap and eat and hide. But here she was counting the seconds until school was over, not so she could go home, but so that she could race to church and see Søren.
The final bell rang at last and Eleanor headed to her friend Jordan’s locker. She wanted to run some jokes by her that she planned on putting in her new Esther story she’d tentatively titled, “Esther and Xerxes Have Even More Sex.” She would, of course, including the incident with Haman and Esther’s Uncle Modecai. Wonder why that Haman guy hated the Jewish people so much? Maybe the reason Haman hated them was because one Jewish guy called him “Hymen” and he couldn’t get over it. Jordan would probably tell her not to make up dirty things about the Bible, which would force Eleanor to recite all the verses about seminal fluids and donkey genitals and poop. She had the one about poop memorized. Judges 3:22. Murder and poop. You couldn’t get any grosser than that.
Jordan came to her locker and Eleanor opened her notebook.
“Dude, I need your help. I have a list of seventeen hymen jokes and I need you to tell me which ones are the funniest. Ready?” Eleanor said as she flipped through the pages.
“I can’t.” Jordan started in on her combination lock.
“Can’t what? It’ll only take a few hours here. Joke #1. So a hymen walks into a bar. Guess that did the trick, it says.”
“Elle, I can’t.”
Eleanor looked up from her notebook and noticed Jordan looking unusually pale. She stared at her locker.
Jordan held the lock in her hand but seemed not to recognize it.
“I can’t get my locker open,” Jordan said.
“Are you okay?” Eleanor sat her backpack down on the floor. She noticed Jordan’s hands shaking. “You don’t look good. Are you sick?”
“Yeah. I think I’m sick.”
“Sit down on the bench. I’ll get your stuff.”
Jordan walked to the bench across the hall and sat down. She buried her face in her hands. Eleanor knew Jordan’s locker combination as well as her own. She opened it up and got Jordan’s backpack out and brought it to her.
“Are you on the bus today?” Eleanor asked as Jordan pulled herself off the bench as if it took immense effort.
“No. Mom’s picking me up.”
“I’ll wait with you.”
Jordan nodded. Eleanor had never seen her like this before. Jordan didn’t talk much to other people but she always talked to her. They might be an unlikely pair, but they’d been close since the first week of their freshman year when they sat side by side in homeroom. Eleanor had divorced parents, no money, and a bad reputation for mouthing off in class. Jordan was too sweet, too shy, too fragile to put herself out and make any other friends. They’d become close by default. No one else would have them.
When Jordan’s mom pulled up in her shiny Acura Eleanor walked her to the car, and made sure Jordan told her mom she wasn’t feeling well. Jordan didn’t like doctors, didn’t like attention, didn’t like people touching her or making her take medicine. Only her mom could talk her into seeing a doctor if she was sick.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Eleanor told her as she started to close the door.
Jordan’s dark eyes met hers for a split second and in that split second Eleanor saw terror. Abject terror. But of what? Of who?
The next day Jordan didn’t come to school. Eleanor called her from the church and Jordan’s mom answered.
“She’s still not feeling well, Dear,” Jordan’s mother said. Eleanor’s heart clenched. She wished her mother would say stuff like that. Dear sounded so classy. Jordan’s mom always sounded classy like that.
“Is she too sick to talk to me?”
“She wants to be left alone and sleep. Don’t worry about her. I’m sure she’ll be back at school tomorrow.”
“Hope so. Give her a hug for me.”
“I’ll do that, Sweetheart.”
Eleanor hung up and started in on her own homework. But something wasn’t right. Jordan wasn’t sick, Eleanor knew that for certain.
After two hours of not getting anything accomplished, Eleanor marched to Søren’s office. Luckily he was working on his dissertation again which meant he wanted to be interrupted as much as possible. Last week she’d stood outside his office and they’d talked about why Jesuits had a reputation for being the liberal wing of the Catholic Church. Basically it boiled down to the fact that most Jesuits didn’t think homosexuality or birth control were inherently sinful. Some of them would even allow for abortion in some circumstances. She’d asked Søren what he thought were the appropriate circumstances under which someone could have an abortion. He said, “Never on an empty stomach” and she threw a cup at him. Luckily for her and him both the cup had been Styrofoam.
Now she wanted to have a serious talk with him. So she opened her remarks by standing in his doorway and announcing…
“I want to have a serious talk with you.”
Søren looked up from his reading and raised his hand.
“You don’t have any liquid-filled containers with you, do you?”
“Something’s wrong with Jordan and she won’t tell me what.”
“Your friend Jordan?”
“Her. Yesterday after school she was acting weird. She said she couldn’t open her locker.”
“Was she sick?”
“She said she was, but only after I asked her if she was.”
“Did she look ill?”
Eleanor shook her head.
“No. She looked scared.”
“Terrified. Not of me. She was scared when she got there, scared when she got in her mom’s car. And she wasn’t at school today.”
“Then she’s scared of something at school. Do you know if anyone bothered her? Said something to her?”
“No, she won’t talk to me. I tried to call and her mom said she wanted to be left alone. I think she’s mad at me.”
“I’m sure she isn’t.”
“Then why won’t she talk to me?”
“Eleanor, not wanting to talk to you is not a sign she’s angry at you. Sometimes people can’t talk to other people for reasons entirely unrelated to how they feel about them. I’m a priest. I can’t tell you what someone says in the Confessional even if that someone confessed to me he wanted to murder you.”
“Someone wants to murder me?”
Søren narrowed his eyes at her.
“That was merely a hypothetical example.”
“Your hypothetical example was about someone murdering me?”
“I can’t imagine why.”
“Fine. Murder me then. But it’ll have to wait until we figure out what’s wrong with Jordan.”
“Make her tell you.”
“Make her?” Eleanor repeated. “I can’t make her do anything. I can’t make anyone do anything.”
“That might have been the most outlandish thing you’ve ever said in your life, Young Lady. You were sitting in a police station facing prison time and you twisted my arm until I made an unholy bargain with you to get you out of that disaster.”
“It was a pickle.”
“Eleanor…” Søren walked over to her. He stayed on his side of the threshold. She stayed on hers. Only a few inches separated them but it felt like miles. “She’s your friend. If something’s wrong she needs to talk to someone. She could be in some sort of trouble.”
The word “trouble” hit Eleanor like a baseball bat to the face.
“Oh fuck, you think she’s pregnant?”
“It’s possible. That would explain illness and fear.”
“No way. She’s a virgin. She’s not like that.”
“You know, she’s not the sex-having type.”
“Everyone is the sex-having type. We’re human beings. People are driven by the three basic Ss of life—shelter, sustenance, and-”
“That word didn’t start with S, Little One.”
She ignored his rebuke, even ignored his Little One. She couldn't stop thinking about Jordan being pregnant.
“Søren...I know her," She looked up and met his eyes, steely with worry. "She would tell me something like that. Wouldn’t she?”
“Not necessarily. People keep these sorts of secrets all the time. She’s a teenage girl. She’ll be scared of her parents, worried of her reputation, terrified of what people may think of her, what will happen to her. You know all that better than I do. You told me you and Jordan barely saw each other all summer.”
“Yeah, because I was here,” she reminded him. “Scrubbing floors and licking envelopes.”
“Yes, but where was she?”
Eleanor didn’t have an answer for that. Did Jordan have a boyfriend over the summer and not tell her? They could have gotten together and broken up in a week. It happened all the time to girls who weren’t too in love with their priests to notice other people existed.
“If she is, what do we do?”
“That would be Jordan’s decision. But before you start planning her future, please make her talk to you. Swear secrecy if you have to. It works for priests. Whatever she is going through, she’s going through it alone.”
“You’re right. I’ll talk to her at school tomorrow. I’ll make her tell me.”
“I know you will. If you need my help you know where to find me.”
“Are you being nice or are you just trying to get out of working on your dissertation?”
“Why can’t it be both?”
“You’re being pathetic, you know that, right?”
“You would be too if you had to write a dissertation.”
“You’re pouting. No one likes a pouty priest.”
“I am not pouting.” He rested his head against the doorframe and frowned at her. She burst into laughter.
“Do your homework,” she ordered, trying to sound stern but failing miserably.
“Do I have to?” he asked, the frown gone and an amused twinkle in his eyes. She knew he was only trying to cheer her up, make her smile, make her laugh. Did he not realize that he made her feel better by just existing? She wouldn’t tell him that though. His head was big enough as it was already.
“Do I have to do my homework?” she countered.
“Fine. I will do my homework. But I’m not going to like it.”
Eleanor rolled her eyes and started back to the Fellowship Hall.
She turned back around. The amused twinkle and the faux-pout were both gone. Now he looked like her stern and serious priest again.
“If your friend is in trouble, then she needs to talk to me, not another priest. Trust me on this.”
Eleanor smiled at him and nodded.
“I trust you on everything.”
The next day at school Eleanor waited by Jordan’s locker. When she arrived Jordan could barely look at her.
“Are you pregnant?” Eleanor asked her.
“What? No, I’m not pregnant. Who told you that?”
“No one. Just guessing why you’re acting so weird.”
“I told you I was sick.”
“You weren’t sick, you were scared shitless. Tell me what’s going on.”
“Nothing’s going on.”
“Nothing? You look like hell, no offense. Your uniform’s wrinkled, your hair is barely brushed, you aren’t wearing any make-up and you look like a fucking raccoon. Something’s going on.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I don’t care. You’re going to tell me.”
Jordan glanced at her and Eleanor saw the fear again.
“I can’t talk about it,” she whispered.
“Okay, this is ridiculous. Come on.”
Eleanor slammed Jordan’s locker door shut and dragged her by the arm down the hall to the out-of-order girls’ bathroom. She pushed Jordan into a stall and locked the door behind them.
“What the fuck is going on? Tell me right now, Jordan, or I swear to God I’m going to give you a swirly.”
Jordan laughed a little and Eleanor nearly fainted from the relief of seeing a sign of life.
“I’m not kidding around here. Your head. That toilet. Decide right now.”
“Elle…I’ll tell you but you have to promise you won’t tell anyone. Anyone,” she repeated.
“I promise. I won’t tell anyone, not even God.”
Jordan didn’t say anything at first. Eleanor pointed at the toilet full of dingy water.
“Okay, okay. Two days ago, Coach Cox gave back our papers. I got a C- on it.”
“This is all about a bad grade? Jesus, Jordan-”
“It’s not the grade. He wrote a note on my paper that said I had to stay after class. I did and he told me that he knew I was struggling with my homework, and he wanted to help me.”
“Did you tell him about the thing?”
The thing was Jordan’s mild learning disability. The girl was a human calculator and could calculate tip and tax in her head in seconds, but give her something longer than three paragraphs to read and her brain shut down on her.
“I told him about the thing,” Jordan said. “He said that’s why he wanted to talk to me. He said it wasn’t fair that I had a learning issue that was keeping my grades low. He said he could help me if I wanted help.”
“What kind of help?”
Jordan’s eyes filled with tears and she stared down at the floor.
“Elle, he kissed me and put his hand under my shirt.”
Eleanor could only stare at Jordan. Her hands went numb. Her heart plummeted.
“I’m going to kill that fucker. I’m going to kill him right now.” Eleanor reached for the door lock and Jordan grabbed her hand.
“No, Elle, no. You can’t. He’s everybody’s favorite teacher.”
“I don’t care if he’s the fucking pope, he’s a dead man.”
“You said you wouldn’t tell.”
“I’m not going to tell. I’m going to kill.”
Jordan grabbed her and pushed her into the wall. Eleanor had never seen Jordan look so scared or so serious.
“You are on probation,” Jordan said slowly, emphasizing each word. “You do anything to get in trouble, and that’s it and you know it. You’ll go to prison.”
She did know it. Vice-Principal Wells had already warned her that one more strike and she’d not only be expelled from school, she’d be back in front of the judge.
“Fuck.” Eleanor banged her head back against the stall door.
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Jordan, you got felt up by a teacher. You don’t have to be sorry. He has to be sorry.”
“I can’t go back to class. I’m not smart enough to move up to a different class.”
“Jesus, Jordan, you’re smarter than any other girl at school.”
“Not in English.”
Jordan sounded hopeless, helpless. She stared down into the toilet bowl as if seeing her future. Eleanor couldn’t blame her. The school adored Coach Cox. The basketball team was number one in the state right now. Only forty-something, the man was still very handsome and most of the girls harbored crushes on him. Eleanor thought he looked like a jackass strutting around his khakis and polos with his gold cross around his neck like some kind of pimp. He had a wife and kids, one of them who went to school here. His son Max was just as popular as his father. If Jordan got Coach Cox in trouble, she’d be tortured by the entire school.
“You remember what happened to Cindy Garren, Elle? They’ll do that to me too.”
She did remember Cindy. Their freshman year, Cindy Garren, a senior, had accused one of the football players of rape. She lasted two weeks at school after going public, two weeks of having “slut,” “whore,” and “liar” painted on her locker and yelled at her in the hallways until she quit school. She didn’t even transfer. She took her GED and disappeared. Eleanor remembered Cindy well. Someone had knocked Eleanor’s books out her hands in the cafeteria the first week at St. Xavier. The usual freshman hazing. Without a word Cindy had left her friends at her table and helped her pick them up.
“I don’t know what to do,” Jordan whispered. “I can’t go back to class. I ran out last time. What if he flunks me? What if he does it again?”
Eleanor knew what to do. “Skip class today. I’ll skip my last period, and we’ll go to church.”
“I’ve already prayed about it. I’ve been doing nothing but praying about it for two days.”
“You can talk to my priest about it. He won’t tell anyone either. You can trust him. I tell him everything.”
“But he’s not my priest. I don’t even-”
“Doesn’t matter. He’ll help us, okay? He kept me from going to juvie. He can help you.”
“No one can help me.”
“You only say that because you haven’t met him yet. Listen to me—I know him. I know him in a way…I can’t explain it.” Eleanor shook her head. “But he’s good, and he’s strong, and he’s on our side. And even better…”
“He is one scary fucker when he wants to be.”
Jordan laughed and nodded. “Okay. I’ll talk to him.”
Eleanor could barely concentrate on anything that day as the hours crawled past on their hands and knees. A thousand scenarios of bloody violence consumed her thoughts. She wanted to beat Coach Cox with her bare hands, whip him, hit him with boards, castrate him and make him eat his own testicles. What sort of man would do that to Jordan of all people? The girl had never even kissed anybody. She was scared of her own shadow. She had been planning her big Catholic wedding since she was thirteen years old. She had lists already of what she’d name all her babies—Biblical names, of course. If Coach Cox had tried something like this with her, Eleanor would have kicked him in the balls, punched him in the face, and screamed insults at him all the way to jail. Jordan only ran for it and blamed herself.
After sixth period, Eleanor met Jordan at her locker. They walked straight from school to Sacred Heart. Søren wasn’t in his office so Eleanor asked Diane, his secretary, where they could find him.
“He’s working from home today. Is it an emergency?” Diane asked.
“Let’s go, Elle,” Jordan whispered. “He’s not here.”
“Big emergency,” Eleanor told Diane, ignoring Jordan. “Can you call him?”
Diane nodded and picked up the phone.
“We shouldn’t bother your priest,” Jordan said, wringing her hands. “He’s busy. He’s not even here.”
“He’s at home, Jordan. He’s not at the freaking Vatican. His house is next door. You can walk there in twenty-seven seconds.” She knew this because she’d counted one day when Søren was at a meeting. Twenty-seven seconds between the side door of the church and his front door. Maybe three more seconds from his front door to the bedroom. But who was counting? Other than her.
“Is he going to be mad we bothered him?”
“Elle, I don’t-”
“Eleanor?” She turned around and saw Søren striding down the hall toward her. He had a concerned look in his face.
“Hey, sorry to bug you,” she said, a little disappointed to see him in his clerics. She’d half-hoped he’d race over to the church in secular clothes. She’d never seen him in anything but his clerics. Apparently her fantasies about him writing his homilies in his bathtub were just that—fantasies.
“This is Jordan. I told you about her.”
“You did. Very pleased to meet you,” he said and held out his hand. Jordan glanced at Eleanor first before taking his hand to shake it. “Let’s go in my office, shall we? Eleanor, if you’ll wait out here, please.”
Jordan entered his office and Søren closed the door behind them. Father Stearns’s rules forbade anyone under the age of sixteen from setting foot inside his office. She was sixteen now, but Søren still wouldn’t let her past the threshold. She hadn’t decided if that was a compliment or an insult. When she asked him why he’d answered only “Self-preservation.” Whatever that meant.
Eleanor paced outside his office for what felt like a year but was more accurately about fifteen minutes.
The door finally opened and Jordan emerged with a blank look on her face. Eleanor peeked in the office and saw Søren putting his black jacket on he wore when riding his motorcycle. He had his helmet in his hand as well.
“What’s going on?” Eleanor asked, taking Jordan’s hand.
“Eleanor, Diane is going to drive Jordan home. I’d like you to go with her. Consider that your community service for the afternoon.”
“Where are you going?” she asked as he left his office and shut the door behind him.
“What are you going to do?”
“Whatever I have to.”
He left the church without another word.
Once alone in Jordan’s bedroom, Eleanor sat her down with a glass of milk and a bag of Oreos.
“What did Father S say?”
“He asked me what happened and I told him.”
Jordan nodded. “Mostly. He said it wasn’t my fault, and I shouldn’t feel any guilt or shame about what happened. He said there is a special circle of Hell reserved for men who abuse their power.”
Eleanor smiled. “The eighth circle. It’s in Dante’s Inferno.”
“We never read that.”
“What else did he say?”
“That’s it. Elle, I swear that’s all that happened. He didn’t even ask me to tell the story twice.”
“Of course not. He believed you the first time.”
“What do you think he’s doing? Getting Coach Cox’s side of the story?”
“What then?” Jordan picked up her glass of milk and sat it back down again without drinking it.
“If I know Father S, he’s showing Coach Cox a fate worse than Hell.”
“No wonder you like your priest so much.” Jordan picked up a cookie and ate it whole.
“Like him? Jordan, I swear to God, I’d marry him.”
Eleanor spent all weekend with Jordan. Søren told her she could take a weekend off her community service to help her friend.
That Sunday Eleanor went to mass with Jordan at her church, but she still went by Sacred Heart to water her stick as ordered. She hadn’t missed a single day in almost four months. Two more months and she’d finally have the answers she wanted from him. And God, she wanted answers from him. Søren was a mystery, the most maddening mystery. A maze. A labyrinth. A puzzle box she had to open. Yet when with him, she felt safe, safer than she felt at home, safer than she felt anywhere. She had to know him, to understand him, to know why he treated her the way he did—ordering her around, acting like he owned her, but also acting like she owned him. What did it all mean? At Thanksgiving she would know.
On Monday morning, she and Jordan went to school together. By the end of first period everyone at school had heard the news. Coach Cox had quit without explanation or notice. Even his son Max wasn’t at St. Xavier that day.
Students speculated he’d been fired for some secret reason. Or that Max had knocked up a girl and the Coach quit because he wanted to take Max out of school. The conspiracy theories got wilder and wilder. By the end of the day every possible reason had been floated including but not limited to Coach Cox being gay and/or being abducted by aliens.
Jordan’s name wasn’t mentioned once.
They said nothing to each other when they met in the hallway. Eleanor could see Jordan trying not to smile and cry at the same time.
“Are you going to church today?” Jordan asked leanor.
Jordan glanced away and swiped a tear from her eye.
In the smallest voice possible she said, “Tell him I said thank you.”
And that was all they said about it, and all they had to say.
Eleanor nearly ran all the way from school to Sacred Heart. She arrived panting and coughing and vowing never to run again unless someone was chasing her and probably not even then.
When she entered through the front doors she found Søren by the altar to the Virgin Mary, head bowed in prayer.
She pulled the sleeves of her hoodie down over her hands to hide their shaking and stood beside him.
“Jordan says ‘thank you,’” she whispered to Søren. He smiled but kept his eyes closed.
“Tell Jordan she has no need to thank me,” he whispered back.
“He’s gone. Coach Cox is just gone. They said he didn’t give any notice, didn’t give any reason. He took his son out of school too. Poof. Gone.”
“You scared him off. That’s amazing.”
“I can be quite persuasive under the right circumstances.”
“I can believe it.”
Søren opened his eyes and looked at her.
“How are you taking this, Eleanor? This must have been difficult for you.”
She shrugged. She really hadn’t given her own feelings that much thought.
“I’m pissed,” she admitted. “Jordan didn’t deserve to be treated like that. She’s a virgin. She’s sweet. She’s nice. She’s too nice.”
“Eleanor, even if Jordan were sexually active and rude, she still wouldn’t have deserved that.”
“True. I just wish it had been me and not-”
“Eleanor, if had been you, Coach Cox wouldn’t have quit his job. He would have quit breathing.”
Eleanor only stared at the candle while Søren’s words sunk into her. Since their very first conversation when he’d told her his real name, Eleanor felt some sort of deep connection with him. He monitored her community service, he served as her pastor and priest, but none of that mattered. Even more than Jordan, Søren had become her best friend. She trusted no one in the world more than him. Not even her parents. Especially not her parents. For Jordan, a girl he didn’t know from Eve, he’d terrified the most popular teacher at their school into quitting his job. But if it had been her…
“Was that hard for you?” she finally asked. “Telling Coach Cox off?”
Søren picked up a match, struck it, and lit a candle.
“Hard? No. Actually I rather enjoyed it. Possibly too much. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know. I thought it might have been hard for you. Or at least maybe awkward,” she said, not knowing what she meant. Except she did know what she meant so she said what she meant since Søren would expect that of her. “I mean, since you’re in love with me.”
Søren looked at her with genuine shock in his eyes. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever seen that look on his face before. She kind of liked it.
“Eleanor, there are suicide bombers on the Gaza Strip who are less dangerous than you are.”
Shaking his head he walked away from the Virgin Mary and headed to his office. She jogged behind him in an effort to keep up with his annoyingly long strides.
“That’s a yes, right?” she asked as they reached his office. He stood in the doorway and faced her.
“I’ve long been fond of the Cistercian monks. The Trappist order observes the rule of silence, you know. I think I will go join them.”
And he shut the door in her face.
“I’m taking that as a ‘yes,’” she yelled at the door.
She smiled for the next two weeks.