Log in

I eventually found a church with a Christmas Eve service. It was a small, white building that looked kind of like an old country church. From the looks of it, it couldn’t seat more than about a hundred people or so. The sanctuary had a high, arched ceiling and stained glass windows with different symbols of Christianity in them. There was a cascade of poinsettias on the alter steps and Christmas lights twinkled around the room. I took a candle someone handed me and I seated myself near the back. The church began to fill up with mostly older couples and families with children. I watched a family of three as they sat a few pews in front of me. They looked very happy and loving; they practically glowed with it. I suddenly became aware of a lump in my throat and stinging in my eyes. I felt alone and somewhat empty.

What’s the matter with me? I thought. I do things alone all the time. I’m used to being by myself – even during the holidays. Why do I suddenly feel like something is missing?

I considered sneaking out the back and skipping the service, but just before I could stand up, a voice next to me asked, “Is this seat taken?”

I looked up at the tall figure standing next to the pew. “Dylan!” I threw my arms around him and hugged him tightly.

“Wow,” he said, laughing softly. “You’ve never been much of a hugger before.”

“I’ve just discovered how lonely a Christmas Eve service can be,” I explained as we sat back in the seats. “You’re practically a hero to me at this moment.”

“Ah, your knight in shining straight coat.”

“Something like that. How did you know I was here?” I asked.

“I didn’t.”


“But I saw you when I came in. It pretty much made my night.”


“Why aren’t you spending Christmas Eve with your family?”

“We’re celebrating tomorrow. Why aren’t you?”

“We’re celebrating after this.”

The pianist began to play so I asked my next question in a whisper. “How long will you be in town?”

“I got in this morning,” he answered. “and I’m leaving the day after Christmas.”

I nodded sadly and leaned back in the pew as the service began. It was a lovely service. The preacher spoke of hope, peace, joy and love. At the end of the service, all of the candles were lit and we sang “Silent Night.” I watched the flame of my candle flicker and listened to the singing.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright

The candle blurred and before I could stop it, the tears rolled down my cheeks. I frantically dug through my coat pockets for a tissue. Dylan reached into his own pocket and handed me a handkerchief. I wiped the tears away and did my best to pretend I hadn’t just been crying. The service came to a close and people blew out their candles and filed out of the sanctuary.

“Are you ok?” Dylan asked. “I’ve known you for what, twelve years, and I’ve never seen you cry – you’re usually tough as nails.”

“I don’t know. I guess it’s just hard to be alone this time of year or something.”

“Beth said you were dating someone pretty seriously.”

“Well, just between you and me, that’s all just a big cover up.” I desperately wanted Dylan to know that I was not actually dating Clark and was, in fact, available.

His eyes flickered with understanding. “Is there anywhere we can go to get coffee or something at this hour on Christmas Eve?”

I wiped one final tear away with my hand and looked into Dylan’s deep blue gaze. “My apartment,” I answered.

I started the coffee machine and excused myself to the bathroom. My eyes were red and puffy, so I fixed my makeup as best I could to cover the offense. Butterflies were fluttering through my stomach and I hoped that I didn’t look as nervous as I felt.

I think I’m about to kiss Dylan Dillinger, I thought to myself as I looked in the mirror. And it only took twelve years.

Dylan was looking at my Christmas tree ornaments when I came into the room with two steaming mugs of coffee.

“What’s with the whale?” He pointed at the ornament.

“It’s supposed to be Moby Dick,” I explained. “My parents always give me an ornament that’s related to books.”

At the moment I was not nearly as concerned with the small white whale ornament as I was with the elephant in the room. I blew on my coffee to cool it down and hoped that Dylan would bring up the subject first.

“So,” he began, turning from the tree to face me. “You’ve got a fake boyfriend as a cover up?”

“Yeah,” I responded, feeling shy.

“I honestly can’t say I’m surprised. On some level, I always kind of suspected it but I never felt comfortable asking.”

I was confused. “Suspected what?”

“That you were like me. I figured that was why we were both chomping at the bit to get out of this town and trying desperately never to come back to it.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Come on, Mallory,” he said. “Don’t pretend like you don’t know how hard it is to be gay in a small town.”

I felt the color drain from my face. “Who’s gay?”

Now it was Dylan’s turn to be confused. “Well… I am. And I thought… I thought you were. I thought that’s why you needed a cover up relationship.”

There didn’t seem to be enough air in the room. “You’re gay?”


“I always thought you were in love with Beth, like everyone else!”

“I thought you were!”

I stood up and began to pace. The room seemed to be spinning. “You’re really gay?” I asked.

“I’m really gay.”

“Since when?”

“Since always, Mallory. That’s how it works.” He ran a hand through his hair. “You’re really not gay?”

“No! Why would you think that?”

“I don’t know! Everyone else our age from this town is married or engaged or has kids…”

“And the only explanation for me not being married is that I’m a lesbian?”

Dylan looked dumbstruck. I took a deep breath and sat back down on the couch. “Dylan, I was in love with you in high school. Or thought I was, at least. I was always convinced you were one of Beth’s many adorers. I fantasized about you ‘coming to your senses’ and realizing that I was perfect for you.”

“I’m sorry, Mallory,” he said. “I really had no idea.”

We sipped our coffee in silence for a few moments.

“You really thought the only explanation for my singleness was that I was gay?” I asked.

“Sort of. You’re beautiful and smart and confident – it just doesn’t make sense that you’re single.”

“That’s the weirdest compliment I’ve ever gotten.” I said. He looked up and our eyes met. Suddenly we burst into laughter. The whole situation seemed so ridiculous.

Dylan finished his coffee and stood to leave. “You don’t think less of me for being gay, do you?”

“Not at all,” I replied, “although I am disappointed for my own sake. You don’t think less of me for not being gay, do you?”

“Never. Thanks for the coffee. And Mallory?”


“Don’t get stuck in this town. You deserve better.” And with that, Dylan was gone.

A blog post from YourGalPalMal:
It’s Boxing Day in Canada, whatever that means. I had a decent time with the family on Christmas Day. Aunt Beatrice ran the show, taking pictures of anyone who would stand still long enough and even the rest who wouldn’t. I don’t think she ever does anything with the pictures she takes, she just likes the control of taking them. “Let me get your picture next to the tree, Mallory! Let me get a picture of you opening that present, Mallory! Let me get a picture of you holding your plate, Mallory! I want a picture of you in this Santa hat, Mallory! Stop hanging yourself for a minute, Mallory, I have to wait for the flash to charge!”

Christmas Eve was weird and I’m not going to go into details. I bid farewell to an old dream of mine, which is always a sad thing to do. And just to clear up ANY confusion that may exist out there – I AM NOT GAY.

ClarkNotKent commented:
Ooooh, I really want to hear about Christmas Eve!

YourGalPalMal commented:
No such luck. That memory goes with me to the grave.

Christmas - part 1


The week following Thanksgiving, Susan enlisted my help in decorating the library for Christmas. We strung Christmas lights, set up and decorated a tree, and I put together a display featuring Christmas-themed books and media. Dry Creek Public Library was swept up into the holiday spirit. Leslie practically skipped around the circulation desk, singing Christmas songs. Carol’s disapproving looks and shushes were less intense. Judith asked me to help with her story time puppet show without any snide remarks about my age and inexperience.

The courthouse square was decked out in lights and old wooden cut-outs that should have been tossed in the garbage ten years ago – the reindeer were peeling and one of the elves was missing a leg. He lost his leg when I was in high school; some of the boys decided to steal the lawn ornaments as a prank. They had loaded half of the decorations into Toby Blake’s truck. He pealed out and the elf on the top of the pile went flying and was run over by the police car. The boys were each charged a fine and for all I know, they are still grounded. The elf remained part of the courthouse garb as a reminder and deterrent for would-be pranksters.

In one corner of the lawn stood a small building that had probably once been a shed of some sort. It was now painted red and white and bore a sign that said “Santa’s Workshop.” At selected times throughout the season; parents could take their kids for pictures with Santa. Roy Taylor had been Santa for years since he already had a white beard and beer belly, but his attempts at jollity often came across as sarcastic. Additionally, he had an extremely lazy eye which gave the effect of looking at both the child on his knee and the parent standing by the door at the same time. Most children took one look at him and burst into tears. Dry Creek Christmas letters are infamous for containing pictures of terrified children.

I dug my small, artificial tree out of the closet and set it up on a table next to the couch. One strand of lights would have covered it but I always used two to make it brighter. I was just opening my box of ornaments when there was a knock on my door.

“Hey, Kiddo!” Dad said, as he and Mom stepped from the cold into my warm living room. “Mom said you were decorating your tree today, so we brought you something.” He handed me a small box wrapped with red and gold paper.

Every year since I was 13, my parents have given me a new Christmas ornament. It’s usually literary-themed in one way or another. My favorite was a set of characters from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that they had given over a period of six years. It included Scrooge, Marley’s ghost, the three spirits, and Bob Cratchit with Tiny Tim on his shoulder. The other ornament gifts over the years were Shakespeare, Anne of Green Gables, Frankenstein, Dracula, a sperm whale (which my mom had painted white and said it was supposed to be Moby Dick), and a small building labeled “library” that was part of a village collection.

I tore eagerly into the package. Inside the box was a little wooden bookshelf full of tiny books. I could tell it was a piece of dollhouse furniture that my mother had fixed to support an ornament hook.

“It’s so cute!” I said, hugging each of my parents in turn. “Thank you!”

I placed it carefully on the tree, then moved boxes off the couch and motioned for my folks to sit down.

“How’s work been lately?” Dad asked.

“Busy. Everyone wants to check out Christmas movies this time of year, so as soon as someone checks one in, someone else is waiting to take it out. I don’t think ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ has even touched the cart since Thanksgiving. It’s the only black-and-white film that anyone in this town will watch! How’s the store? I feel like I haven’t been in there in forever.”

“Well, ‘tis the season…” said Dad. “I’m just living for January now.”

“So, sweetie,” Mom chimed in. “Is Clark going to come see you for Christmas?”

I had been as vague as possible with my parents in regards to Clark. The rumor had reached them the same way it reached nearly everybody else.

“No, he’s got family plans this year.” It was true – Clark would be spending nearly his entire Christmas break in Houston with his family.

“That’s too bad. We were hoping to see him again.”

My mother had adored Clark since she met him during my freshman year. No matter how much I assured her we were only friends, she always assumed there was more. Dad never said much about the subject. He often referred to Clark as “Clyde.” I’ve never been entirely sure whether it’s a mistake or a joke.

“How is the Rotary club doing, Mom?” I said, changing the subject.

Mom chatted away about all her doings in the local organizations for a while. Dad had long since learned just to smile and nod without attempting to get any words in edgewise. Occasionally we just exchanged knowing looks and winks.

After about an hour, they left me to my decorating. I put on a CD of Christmas classics and sang along with Bing, Julie, Frank and the others. I stood back to admire my tree when it was done and felt another big surge of Christmas cheer.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, Gilbert,” I said, but he was too busy playing with the empty boxes to care.

A blog post from YourGalPalMal:
Why is it that we tell children not to talk to strangers and not to take candy from strangers – but at Christmas, it’s not only okay to do both, but encouraged? And it’s not only a stranger, but a stranger in very bizarre clothes. Admit it, if you saw someone dressed like Santa Claus January through October, you wouldn’t let your kids anywhere near him.

In all seriousness though, I do love Christmas. My halls are decked and my Christmas tree stands in woodland beauty – or at least apartmentland beauty.

I think Judith smiled at me once this week but it’s hard to tell. Her smile still looks like a scowl. We’re doing Secret Santa at the library and I drew Susan’s name. Is there anything more intimidating than drawing your boss’s name for Secret Santa? Somehow Beth roped me into going shopping with her in Amarillo tomorrow afternoon, so maybe I can find something then.

It started snowing for a while this evening but never amounted to anything. I opened my blinds and watched it for a long time. Even though it doesn’t snow very much or very often here, it’s still more than Austin and that’s the only thing I missed. It’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit when you’re wearing a t-shirt and flip-flops.

I am trying to decide whether or not I should hang mistletoe. Does mistletoe say “this girl is single and is trying anything for a kiss” or “this girl is obviously in love with someone”? I’m still new at this whole fake relationship thing.

ClarkNotKent commented:
I think mistletoe says “hey look! Tree fungus!”

YourGalPalMal commented:
Clark, it doesn’t surprise me at all that you see fungus where others see romance.

“How did shopping go today?” Clark asked. It was Sunday night and time for our weekly phone call.

“I’m holding the phone to my right ear because the left one was talked off.” I joked.

Beth had chatted about her plans for her first Christmas with David, what she was getting for her in-laws, which traditions they were going to keep and which they were going to toss, how her house was decorated, every gift David had ever given her, and how dry her Thanksgiving turkey had turned out.

“I was determined to do Thanksgiving for David’s parents this year,” Beth had said. “I’ve been going to his house for Thanksgiving for years and I wanted to give back. Thank God the gravy turned out nice and helped to moisten the turkey a little. I was mortified, Mallory! Regina’s turkey is always so moist and tasty. But after the meal was over and we were in the kitchen, doing dishes, she put her arm around me and told me about the first time she cooked Thanksgiving for her family. I can’t even repeat the story because everything went wrong, at least from the way she tells it. It made me feel a lot better and she did say my pumpkin pie was delicious. I adore David, Mallory, but I’m so glad for this time away from him today. I’ve been just dying to ask you how your Thanksgiving with Clark went! Did he give you that necklace? It’s so pretty. He’s got great taste. You definitely need to hang on to him. Although the two of you have been so close for so long, you probably couldn’t chase him away if you tried. It’s so romantic. Every girl dreams of marrying her best friend, so she dates and dates and dates in an attempt to find a best friend – you found a best friend, and then started dating him! It’s like a fairy tale.”

“Actually,” I added, taking advantage of Beth’s pause for a dreamy sigh, “don’t most fairy tales involve strangers getting married after knowing absolutely nothing about each other?”

Beth ignored this and changed the subject. “I can’t decide what to get David for Christmas! Have you decided what to get Clark? Don’t get him something useful – get him something romantic. I asked David what he wants and he said, ‘you.’ I said, ‘that’s sweet but I’d suffocate in a box!’ Well, I’m not going to bore you with what we did next but I still don’t know what to get him for Christmas. Men are so hard to shop for!”

“Did you at least find something for Susan?” Clark asked, snapping me back to the present.

“I did. We went to a novelty store and I found – you’re going to love this – a librarian action figure!”

“A what?”

“Yes! She comes with a little stack of books and you can move her arm so that she looks like she’s shushing someone.”

“That’s clever.”

“We had a $25 limit for Secret Santa, so I also got her a really cute set of bookends.”

“Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like bookends.”

“Okay, Mr. Sarcasm, maybe not to you, but to a book geek, that’s a really nice gift.”

“Oh good, someone gave me a set last year and I’ve been trying to figure out who to re-gift them to. I was going to take them to a white elephant party, but I’ll just give them to you instead.”

“As always, the epitome of generosity,” I teased. “It’s been a long day. I’m going to bed.”

“Enjoy the cold weather for me. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, sw—Clark.”

I took the lie to a new level in the second week of December. I bought two tickets for the ballet online and had them mailed to me. I also had Clark send me a postcard with no return address or signature. It read: “Merry Christmas, Darling. I bought you two tickets to the Lone Star Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Tickets should come in the mail. Take a friend with you, but no guys! Wish I could go with you. Merry, merry Christmas!” Clark still had no idea that he was the subject of my lie, and no one in town suspected my relationship with Clark to be a lie.

It may be a crime to open someone else’s mail, but postcards tend to be a gray area, since there is no opening involved. By the time the postcard actually arrived at my apartment, I had already heard about it from two other people.

“Can you get a babysitter Friday night?” I asked Leslie.

“Probably,” she replied. “Why?”

“I’m going to see The Nutcracker in Amarillo and I’d like to take you with me.”

Leslie’s characteristic grin spread across her face. “Really? You wouldn’t rather go with Beth or someone?”

“No, I want to take you.” Leslie’s discomfort around me after the announcement of my relationship had dissipated within a few days and our friendship had continued to grow. There wasn’t anyone in Dry Creek I would rather have taken to the ballet.

“How formal is it? What should I wear?” Leslie asked.

“I’m wearing a dress,” I explained, “but the important thing is to be comfortable. Nowadays, they are just glad when people come and no one will get bent out of shape if you aren’t dressed fancy enough. There will be people there in jeans and there will be people there in formal dresses. Steer away from wearing a Playboy bunny costume, and you should be fine.”

“Damn. I just had that thing dry-cleaned.” Her eyes sparkled with mirth.

Ladies!” Carol chastised. Neither of us had noticed her coming up behind us. “Keep it library-appropriate, please!”

Making faces at her behind her back probably wasn’t “library-appropriate” but we did it anyway.

A blog post from YourGalPalMal:
I just got in from Amarillo and I am on a serious ballet high! I may not know much about music but I do know a thing or two about class and it felt great to do something sophisticated again. It was also fun to introduce someone to the ballet. Leslie said she had never before been to a concert that didn’t involve guitars or a stage production above high school level. I tried to drop a few hints about the importance of introducing her son to things like ballet and symphonies and classic literature as young as possible. God knows he’s not going to get any of it in school here.

After the ballet, we drove out to Bishop Hills to look at the Christmas lights – something I haven’t done in at least 6 years. It seemed like there weren’t as many houses decorated as there used to be in the past. I guess fewer people want to pay a high electric bill in this economy.

I need to find out which churches in town are doing a Christmas Eve service. I know my old church isn’t – they never do one. The last time I heard a reason was something about not wanting to make the janitors stay late on Christmas Eve to clean up. While this may hide under the guise of kindness towards the janitors, it’s really not. Someone suggested that if all the deacons stayed after the service to clean up, it would be done in about five minutes. The Deaconater slammed that down with some nonsense or other.

I really do want to go to a Christmas Eve service somewhere though.

ClarkNotKent commented:
Aren’t librarians the “gatekeepers of information” or something like that? Shouldn’t you have ready access to the information about Christmas Eve services?

YourGalPalMal commented:
First of all, it’s “custodians of information” and second of all…. Shut up.

The Lie and Thanksgiving

The Lie:

If I thought the rumors had spread quickly in regards to my singleness, it was nothing compared to how fast they spread about my new romance. Although this time, the rumors were primarily about Clark.

“Why didn’t you tell me about him, Mallory?” Aunt Beatrice asked, cornering me at work again.

“I thought it was best if I waited a while before announcing it. Anything can happen in the early stages of a relationship.”

“How old is he? I heard from Margaret Wallace that he’s some middle aged pervert you met online.”

I laughed. “He’s only a couple years older than me, Aunt Beatrice. We met in college.”

“Well, why didn’t you date him in college?”

“I wasn’t interested at the time. But he never gave up on me and finally told me how he felt and I, as you are always so quick to remind me, am not getting any younger.”

Aunt Beatrice considered that fact and switched from concern to support. “When are we going to get to meet him? Is he coming up for Thanksgiving? Christmas?”

“I’m going to see him for Thanksgiving,” I said, which was true. Clark and I had arranged a Thanksgiving visit months in advance. “But I’m not ready for him to spend holidays with my family yet.”

“That’s understandable. Just don’t wait too long,” she advised, “because we definitely want to meet him!” She smiled, patted my arm and left.

I felt dazed. “Leslie, was that my Aunt Beatrice?” I asked, returning to the desk.

“Unless she has a twin.” Confirmed Leslie.

“It’s hard to recognize her when she’s being nice to me.”

Leslie responded only with a half-hearted smile and I asked her what was wrong. She had been noticeably less chipper in the last few days.

“It’s nothing,” she began. “Well, nothing I’m proud of. It’s just that it was nice knowing that I wasn’t alone in my singleness. I liked knowing that someone else had to deal with the rumors, the gossip, and the chiding that follows a single woman in this town. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy for you! And I’ll get over this. I’ll just miss commiserating with you.”

I wanted desperately to admit to Leslie that I made up the whole thing, but there were people within earshot and I knew that if it only took one person to spread the information around town, it might take only one person to undo it all. I was enjoying the treatment I had been getting since the lie began and wasn’t ready to throw it all away just yet.

“I’m sorry, Leslie,” I said. “Please don’t feel like you’re alone. I’m still a sympathetic ear and you can always complain to me about the struggles of living in Dry Creek.”

“Thanks,” she replied with a smile. Even though she appeared to return to her normal self after getting that off her chest, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt. However, the lie was succeeding in making my life much easier and more bearable. If only one person was mildly hurt by it, it was still worth it – right?

A blog post from YourGalPalMal:
Remember how as children we are all taught not to lie? We are taught that lying is never okay. This becomes tricky as we grow up and realize that everyone lies – some even lie for a career: lawyers, politicians, and even novelists, depending on how you look at it. Sometimes lying is not only acceptable, but necessary. Ask any guy who has ever been asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?” Maybe instead of teaching children that they should never lie (which is, as previously discussed, a lie), we should teach them the art of the appropriate and timely lie.

Clearly there are instances when lying is beneficial. Since I told a little white lie, I have been treated with more respect and dignity. People are congratulatory and not condemning. If I had known the advantages of this particular lie, I would have told it as soon as I set foot in town in September.

ClarkNotKent commented:
Lie? What sort of lie have you been telling, young lady?

YourGalPalMal commented:
I am following your example – I made up a boyfriend.

ClarkNotKent commented:
Good for you! That little trick works wonders. Just be careful that it doesn’t get out of hand…

YourGalPalMal commented:
I don’t see that happening. I really think it’s the perfect lie and I have you to thank for it.


I drove from Dry Creek to Denton Wednesday afternoon, arriving at Clark’s apartment just after 9 pm. The next day, since Clark couldn’t cook and I didn’t want to, we ate our Thanksgiving dinner at the Golden Corral and spent the rest of the day watching Christmas movies. Friday found us at the most depraved, soul-sucking location known to mankind: the mall on Black Friday.

“Tell me again why you wanted to go shopping today of all days?” Clark complained as we elbowed our way through the mall.

“I need something to show for my weekend and I didn’t have time to shop on Wednesday. It’s now or never.”

“Can’t I wait for you in Barnes and Noble?”

“No. You’re taller than I am; I need you to see over the crowd. We need a jewelry store.”
Clark complained a little more and finally spotted a jewelry boutique ahead of us. We pushed through the throng of the main mall and joined the smaller crowd of the store. Clark nodded to another man who looked as uncomfortable to be there as he was.

“What is it that you’re looking for, exactly?”

I spotted what I wanted and reached around a portly woman to retrieve it. “Something… like… this!” I held up a simple, silver heart necklace.

“I’m still not getting it… you had to come to the mall, on Black Friday of all days, for a heart necklace, because….?”

I located the back of the line for the register. “It’s all for the sake of the lie,” I explained. “This is something I can show everyone and say, ‘look what my boyfriend gave me. Isn’t he sweet?’ and add credibility to my story.”

“Do they not believe you have a boyfriend?” Clark was standing in an awkward position to avoid getting shoved into the shelves by frantic shoppers.

“They believe me. It just seems like a good way to back it all up with some concrete evidence.” I handed the cashier my credit card. “I couldn’t buy anything in Dry Creek or everyone would know that it wasn’t from my boyfriend. And most importantly,” I signed the receipt and took the bag, “everyone knows that girls don’t buy heart-shaped jewelry for themselves.”

“So you’re hoping you won’t even have to say anything – people will just see it and assume.” He dodged a sticky-looking toddler.

“Exactly! And people say you’re not smart.” We squeezed back into the mass of the mall.

“Who says I’m not smart?”

“Oh, just me,” I said, grinning and winking.

“You’re on your own, kid,” Clark mimicked walking away from me.

I grabbed him by the elbow. “Come back here, mister! If I don’t have you to navigate through this crowd for me, they’ll be mopping me up off the floor tonight.”

“Alright,” consented Clark, “but only because I don’t want to be responsible for causing more work for the custodians.”

“One more semester and you’re done with your Master’s,” I commented to Clark. I was making him breakfast as a thank you for letting me spend the weekend with him. “Any leads on jobs after you graduate?”

“It’s still a little early to tell. I’d love to find a job as a head band director somewhere, but my chances of getting one are pretty slim. At least I’ve got my part time job teaching in the area. I can always take on more brass and percussion students to make do until I find a more permanent position. I’d love to stay in Texas but I’m not terribly picky about where.”

I had enjoyed my weekend with Clark but it had been oddly disconcerting in some ways. To everyone in Dry Creek, Clark was my boyfriend and probably my soul mate. Part of me almost felt like I was actually going to be spending the weekend with a significant other. On one occasion, I had nearly called Clark “sweetie.” I was no more attracted to him than I had ever been, but with so many people convinced that he was “The One,” I almost wanted it to be true.

“How long are you planning to stay in Mayberry?” Clark asked, snapping me back to reality.

“I don’t know,” I responded. “I’ve looked at job postings a time or two but nothing really grabs me. I feel like I should stay in Dry Creek for at least two years for the sake of my resume. I’m still hoping I can bring some semblance of culture to that backwards, redneck community, but it’s not looking very good. I’ve tried finding people to drink wine with me, but they either only want to drink beer, or think that consuming alcohol is the first step on the road to ruin. It does, after all, lead to sinful things like dancing, which might, in turn, lead to sex. We just can’t have any of that kind of nefarious behavior in our community. I want to start at least one book club, but the only interest I’ve generated involves people who want to read Dan Brown novels or ‘The Cat Who’ mysteries. I suggested reading ‘War and Peace’ to someone and he replied, ‘Warren who?’”

“You should write.” Clark said, his eyes twinkling.


“You should write books. So much of classic literature revolves around quirky communities full of folksy characters like you’re always describing. You should channel your frustrations into a book.”

“Yeah, right. Everyone would read it and try to figure out what character was based on which person. They would all come to me and say, ‘is this character me? I do NOT have a big nose!’ or some such nonsense.”

“The way you tell it, it sounds like no one in Dry Creek would even read it unless it made Oprah’s list.”

“Good point.”

“And I promise not to bug you about which character is me. I’ll just assume that any mention of a tall and handsome man is a fictional version of myself.” He winked.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Clark,” I teased. “I’d only ever write you in as the main character’s annoying older brother.”

“Annoyingly tall and handsome older brother?”

“No, just annoying. Eat your breakfast – it will give your mouth something to do besides pester me.”

A blog post from YourGalPalMal:
I’m back in Mayberry after a great trip to see my “boyfriend.” That’s the story I’m telling around here anyway. The heart necklace is working like a charm – no pun intended. Everyone thinks my “boyfriend” is sweet and has great taste in jewelry. They are all already asking if they get to meet him at Christmas and I just smile and say I don’t want to rush anything.

Look in the dictionary under the word “gullible.” You will find a cross reference to Dry Creek, Texas.
“You signed up for an internet dating site?” Clark jeered during our weekly phone time. “Any hits yet?”

“First of all, it wasn’t me who signed up for it. Leslie signed me up without my prior consent.”

“I’m not entirely convinced, but go on.”

“I have had one proposal from a guy in India, two men from Nigeria who think I seem like a beautiful and wonderful person, a 60-year-old from New Jersey who thinks we might hit it off, and a handful of ‘winks’ from guys scattered around the country.”

“Sounds like the fields are ripe for harvest.”

“Putting a scythe in my hands right now would not be advisable.”

“I live 6 hours away, you don’t scare me. Whatever happened to that other guy? Wasn’t there a guy at the wedding that you liked?”

“I e-mailed him a while back but never got a response. Besides, he lives in Boston.”


“And I don’t want to commute that far for a date. If I ever went up there for a visit, I’m pretty sure I’d stay and never come back.”


“Good point. Maybe I should call him. But Leslie’s right – I need to get a boyfriend soon, or I’m just going to keep racking up stalkers at the library. You’d be surprised how many creepy old men have nothing better to do than sit in the library all day and watch me. Some of them don’t even have the dignity to pretend to read a magazine while they stare.”

Clark laughed. “I feel your pain. You never realized how many stalkers I had in college. Girls love a guy with trumpet skills.”

“You had stalkers in college?”

“Just because you have never been attracted to me doesn’t mean that no one else has been. I finally just told them all that I had a girlfriend and they left me alone – for the most part.”

“Wait – you mean you just told them you had one? You didn’t have to actually find one so they would believe you?”

“Nope. A little lie goes a long way.”


“How is the church hunting going?” Clark asked, changing the subject.

“It’s not,” I sighed. “I’ve visited a few in the last few weeks, but nothing really seemed to fit. Last Sunday, I just slept in. Unfortunately, the rumors surrounding my church hunting experiences are growing. According to some, I’m just looking for the church with the cutest boys. At this point, I think I’d prefer a church with no male members.”

Clark chuckled.

“Oh, and you should see the way the women look at me in the churches I’ve visited! They slip their arms through their husbands’ as if the presence of a single woman in the midst is going to make every man chunk his ring in the garbage and come running after me. I may be many things, but I’m not a home wrecker.” Clark had been my biggest confidant for the last six years, so I took the opportunity to voice my frustrations to him. “I just don’t understand it! There are single guys in town and nobody says anything about how they need to get married – just the girls. I’m sure it has to do with the whole biological clock argument and how we only have so many child bearing years, but isn’t that kind of an outdated mindset? Is producing offspring the only reason to get married? And even if the only reason to get married is to raise children, then what’s wrong with adopting at an older age? There are children all over the world who need a good home. Why is it so important to everybody that I get married as soon as possible? I’m so thankful for Leslie. She’s really becoming a good friend. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this.”

“For what it’s worth,” Clark said, “I really do think you’re a catch. You’re smart, you’re pretty, you’re fun… any guy who passes on the chance to marry you is missing out. But you’re going to be so much better off waiting for someone who truly appreciates everything you are than rushing out to marry the next guy you see just because a bunch of old gossips think you need to.”

“Thanks, Clark,” I said, feeling a little better. “Sometimes I wish either one of us found the other even remotely dateable.”

“Well, if you weren’t completely tone deaf…”

“You know what, Clark? I have half a mind to come down to Denton and sing outside your window just for that comment.”

“No! No! Anything but that!”

“Don’t tempt me.”

“I suppose I should go before I rack up any more reasons for you to torture me.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” I replied, pretending to be mad. “The more you upset me, the louder I’ll sing.”

“Yikes. Goodnight, Mal. Don’t let the biddies get you down.”


One of my duties at Dry Creek Public Library was to organize special events. I found a company that rented old reel-to-reel movies and decided to have movie nights at the library. I decided to show “The Fly” on the Thursday evening preceding Halloween. I set up the film projector in the basement while Leslie lined up chairs. We couldn’t charge for the movie, but we had a popcorn machine and bottled water for sale.

The crowd was paltry at best – a few old couples, a handful of families with kids, two of my stalkers, and Beth and David, still in post-honeymoon bliss. Before the movie started, I had to break up a popcorn fight between the kids sitting in the front.

“Where are you sitting?” Mustache Man asked me.

“I’m sorry?”

“I thought I would sit next to you. That way I can protect you if you get scared.”

I shuddered. That thought is scarier than anything that is going to be on screen tonight. “I have to run the projector,” I said. “I won’t be sitting.”

“Do you want me to stand back here with you?”

“No, I want you to sit down and enjoy the movie.”

I exchanged a knowing look with Leslie. She had brought Sammy to the movie and luckily for her, none of her stalkers had shown up.

The movie started with a dramatic score. I saw David put his arm around Beth and kiss her forehead as she snuggled close. I felt a twinge of jealousy. That is, until I saw Mr. Mustache sneaking a glance at me. I did my best to look very busy with the projector.

Intermission came right after Andre Delambre made the cat disappear. As the lights came up, I saw Beth make a pouty face at David and say, “poor kitty.” Several of the children complained to their parents that the movie was boring.

“I thought this movie had Jeff Goldblum in it,” Mustachio said, sneaking up beside me.

“This is the original,” I explained, trying not to sound as exasperated as I felt. “It’s a classic.”

“I like the Jeff Goldblum one,” he continued. “Have you seen it? We could rent it sometime.”

Before I could get out a firm “hell, no,” Beth wrapped me in a big hug.

“Mallory, I’m SO sorry we haven’t gotten together with you since we got back. I feel like every spare minute has been dedicated to writing thank you notes and getting everything situated in our new place. How have you been, dear? How is the job going?” Her eyes darted between ‘Stache and myself, as if expecting an introduction.

“I’ve been good and the job is going well,” I said, hoping that if I ignored the stalker, he would just go away. “I got the new website up and running and we’re hoping to make library movie night a monthly event.”

In one of the most disgusting moments of my life, Mustache Man put his arm around me and said, “She’s a great little librarian!”

I’m not sure why I did it – it must have been panic. At the time, everything seemed to happen so fast but looking back on it, it seems to go in slow motion. I shrugged the hand off my shoulder and said, “And I have a boyfriend now!”

I saw Beth’s eyes drift back to the man beside me and her hand begin to extend for a handshake. I blurted out, “Not him! It’s, uh… it’s someone who doesn’t live here.”

Beth looked at me for a moment, taking in my air of discomfort. I was also aware of Mr. Mustache looking taken aback.

“Oh my god,” Beth said. “It’s Clark, isn’t it?”

It was either a moment of extreme clarity or utter insanity. In my mind, it was the perfect lie. I had pictures of him and pictures of us together. If I was going to have a fake boyfriend, Clark would be the most believable. Best of all, he lived 6 hours away and would never have to know.

“Yes,” I lied. “It’s Clark.”

Beth bounced and squealed and pulled me into another hug. “I knew it! I knew there was something there! How did it happen?”

“Well,” I began, “it’s kind of a funny story.” To my great relief, I saw The Mustache slinking off back to his seat. The lie had apparently worked. I checked my watch. “It’s time to start the movie back up,” I said.

“I want to hear ALL about it,” Beth pleaded, as she returned to her seat. “You have to tell me everything!”

Okay, Mal, I thought to myself as the reels whirred back to life. You’ve got the rest of the film to think up your great love story. It’s time to get creative!

After the movie, I went with Beth and David to the only place that was still open – McDonald’s. We ordered sodas and a medium fries to share. We settled into a booth near the back and I started in on the story I had been rehearsing for the last hour and a half.

“It’s pretty embarrassing, but I signed up on an online dating site. It went about like you might expect – a few messages from guys in India, a few messages from guys my dad’s age, et cetera. There was, however, one guy who sent me a ‘wink’ that stood out. He didn’t have a picture but everything sounded great. We exchanged a few messages and I could tell he was very well educated and we had similar interests. Finally, I asked to see a picture. He asked if we could talk on the phone first. It seemed a little suspicious but I decided just to go with it because he seemed so nice. I gave him my number and he promised to call at 9 p.m., which was about an hour away. At 10 to 9, my phone rang but it was Clark. He asked what I was doing and I told him that I was waiting for a phone call. After a bit of pestering, he got me to tell him who I was waiting for a call from and I told him. He asked if I was really interested in this guy and if I would still like him even if he wasn’t attractive. I said yes and we hung up. Then at 9 on the dot, Clark called again and said, ‘Surprise!’ At first I didn’t understand, but then he explained that he’s been in love with me since freshman year. He knew I wasn’t interested in him and he didn’t want to ruin our friendship, but when I admitted that I’d be interested in this guy no matter what he looked like, he decided to finally admit everything and see what happened. We’ve been together for about three weeks now.”

Beth erupted in “awww’s” and clapped her hands together. “That’s so cute!”

“That sounds a little like the ending to ‘You’ve Got Mail.’” David said. I hoped he wasn’t on to me.

“It does!” Beth agreed, making it sound like more of a compliment. “It’s just like a movie, Mallory. It’s so romantic. Do you think he’s really ‘The One’?”

“I don’t know, it’s only been three weeks.”

“But it’s CLARK! You’ve known him FOREVER!” She said, with emphasis.

“I just want to see where things go. I don’t want to rush anything.”

“I’m so excited! Oh, I hope you marry him. Marriage is so wonderful, you’ll just love it!”

“You’ve barely been married a month,” I said.

“And it’s been wonderful!” She wrapped her arms around David and planted a kiss on his cheek.

I let Beth gush over my new “relationship” for a while longer before excusing myself and returning to my apartment.

“Well, Gilbert,” I said, as he rubbed against my leg. “I have a fake boyfriend and apparently we’re meant for each other.”

“Meow,” Said Gilbert.

“I know. I’m not sure how to take it either.”

I crawled into bed and drifted off to sleep, never suspecting how my little white lie was going to take on a life of its own.

The Library - part 2

The rest of my first week at work passed in a blur. There were new faces and familiar faces. I think a large percentage of the familiar faces were just there to look at me and see how I’ve changed since high school. Consensus was not reached on the subject.

“Mallory, you look so grown up.”

“Wow! You haven’t changed at all, Mallory.”

“Looks like you’ve filled out a little.”

“You still cut your hair the same way?”

“Did you get a little taller?”

“Didn’t you used to be taller?”

By Wednesday evening, my cheeks were hurting from forcing my lips to maintain a smile and not devolve into a grimace. By Friday morning, I was sick of everyone I had ever met. On Saturday, I found a gray hair. There is reason to believe it had been there for a while, but I’m still blaming the patrons of Dry Creek Public Library.

In addition to Susan, Carol, Judith and Leslie, the library also employed two high school workers. Hailey worked Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Alma worked Wednesday and Friday afternoons and most of the day Saturday. Neither of them seemed to care one way or another about me, which was a welcome relief. I don’t understand why some people retire to a small town looking for peace and quiet. This is not the place to live if you just want to be left alone.

I knew exactly who I could turn to for some sympathy. I started writing an e-mail Saturday night.

Dear Dylan,
Greetings from hell. As the only person I know who was intelligent enough to escape the grasp of this community at a relatively young age, you

I erased that and started over.

Dear Dylan,
How did you manage to escape the clutches of this antediluvian community? I haven’t even been here for two weeks yet and I’m already about to kill

With a sigh, I started over again.

Dear Dylan,
It was great to see you at the wedding. It’s been much too long since we spent any time together. Hopefully, it won’t be so long again.

Drop me a line some time, or give me a call. I could really use a friend who might sympathize about being an intelligent fish in a dim-witted pond.

Your friend,

“You look tired, Mallory,” aunt Beatrice bemoaned. “Are you getting enough sleep? You really can’t live like a college student anymore. Dark circles don’t do your face any favors.”

She had cornered me at the library as I was rearranging a display of new books. “I’m fine, Aunt Beatrice. I get plenty of rest.”

“What’s keeping you up late, dear?” she continued, ignoring my previous comment. “I know you haven’t been going on any dates.”

I gritted my teeth. I had successfully managed to avoid Aunt Beatrice in the last few weeks since discovering her public announcement of my relationship status, and for that reason, she had managed to keep her head attached to her shoulders. “I’ve been working on the website.”

“I thought the library already had a website.”

“It did, but it needed a better one.”

“If you say so. I doubt anyone would have noticed if there was anything wrong with the old one.”

“Can I help you with something, Aunt Beatrice?”

“I just came to see you and see how you are doing. I haven’t seen you in a while.”


“I met a young man the other day, Mallory. I think you should meet him.” I ignored her but she continued. “He works at the JCPenney’s. He’s about your age and clean cut. He helped me find a nice new pair of dress shoes.”
“That’s nice, but I’m not really looking for anyone.”

“You might really like him, Mallory.”

“What do we have in common?”

“Well…” She thought, “he’s about your age. And he’s single.”

“That’s hardly a conversation starter, Aunt Beatrice.”

“Mallory, you can’t afford to be picky anymore.”

“What if I took out a loan?”

Aunt Beatrice didn’t get the joke. “What do you need a loan for? Just go to Penney’s and shop for new shoes. Start up a conversation and ask him to dinner.”

“Ask him to dinner? When I was 14, you said any girl who asks a guy out is a cheap, wild hussy that no man of character and morality would ever waste his time with.”

Aunt Beatrice blinked a couple times, as if surprised by hearing her own words. “Well,” she said, finally, “that’s true for 14 year olds. But since the men obviously aren’t approaching you, you’ve got to do something.”

I wanted to throw a book at her as she walked out the door, but I didn’t want to damage the book.

“That was brutal,” Leslie said, when Aunt Beatrice was gone. She was working on the computer behind the front desk. It was a pretty slow day.

“I wish I could say that was unusual, but it’s actually about par for the course with her.”

“Bummer. Hey, when is your birthday?”

“March 2nd, why?”


“Yes, why?”

“Just curious. The book display looks nice.”

I thanked her and went back to my desk. Leslie and I were becoming better acquainted and I was almost to the point of considering her a friend. If anyone else in this town understood the stigma of being a young, single woman, it was her. She even had the added element of having a child.

Over the past few weeks, I had learned a lot about Leslie. She grew up in Missouri and during college, met and fell in love with a man named Chad. They married after college and Chad enlisted in the military. He was killed during his second tour in Iraq, leaving Leslie with a broken heart and a baby boy.

Chad’s parents had moved to Dry Creek where his father was an engineer at the natural gas plant. Leslie had moved to be closer to her late husband’s parents so they could hang on to the memory of their son by building a relationship with their grandchild. Sammy was now six years old and in first grade. Leslie had worked a variety of jobs during her time in Dry Creek, but the library was the first job that let her work around her son’s school schedule. She was able to pick him up from school every day and he spent Saturdays with his grandparents, while Leslie worked.

Leslie’s love life was as non-existent as my own. She had tried dating a few times. Some of the men scared off when they found out about Sammy. Sometimes Leslie had felt awkward asking Chad’s parents to babysit while she went out with someone. They had assured her that they had no problem with it, but Leslie saw the pain in their eyes and decided dating would have to wait. It had been nearly 2 years since her last date.

I looked up from my desk and saw through the glass that Leslie was motioning for me to join her.

“Do you need help with—“ My sentence trailed off as my eyes drifted to the computer screen. My own face was staring back at me – a picture that had obviously run in the Dry Creek paper as an announcement of my Master’s graduation. Next to the picture, it said:

Name: Mallory
Age: 25
Height: 5’5
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Brown
Ethnicity: White
Interests: Books, reading, web design

There was more but I stopped reading. I scrolled up to see the top of the page, which confirmed what I had just realized.

“Leslie, did you just sign me up for an online dating website?”

“Yes,” she replied, grinning from ear to ear.

“Why – WHY – would you do such a thing?”

“Because you will either meet someone interesting you could stand to go out with on at least a couple dates, or you can show your aunt that you’re at least trying and thereby get her to ease up a bit.”

I considered the concept. “This is either brilliant, or incredibly stupid,” I said.

“Your username is Mallory84 and your password is ‘library’. Happy hunting!”

We both laughed and Carol gave us a disapproving look as she returned from her lunch break.


Pictures of the librarians of Dry Creek Public Library.

Susan Newly:

Judith McKinley:

Carol Dutton:

Leslie Watson:

The Library - part 1

The Library:

Dry Creek Public Library is a boxy little brick building next to the Post Office. It was built sometime in the 60s when the library finally got enough funding to move out of the courthouse. The library consisted of the ground floor level, which housed all of the books, media and offices, and the basement which contained the children’s story time area and a large meeting room used for ESL classes and the annual library book sale. Occasionally other civic groups would rent the space for their events. The ground floor level was mostly a big, open room. The main office was in a glass-enclosed room behind the circulation desk and the director’s office was in the hallway that led to the media room and staff break room. I headed for the director’s office and knocked on the door, which was slightly open.

Susan Newly, the library director, opened the door. She was in her mid-sixties and had blonde hair that was streaked with white in a few places. She was still very attractive with a warm smile and twinkling gray eyes. Susan was the assistant director when I was in high school and had been promoted to the director position when old Nancy Smith retired four years ago.

She smiled and gently squeezed my shoulder. “Hello, Mallory! I’m so glad you’re here! I’m sure you know your way around here as well as I do, but let me show you around and introduce you.”

I followed her out to the circulation desk where a short, chunky woman was checking out a small stack of books to a patron. Susan introduced her as Carol Dutton. Since she was busy, Susan led me to the children’s area where Judith McKinley sat at her desk. Judith was the children’s librarian more out of tradition than skill. She was there when I was a child and I thought she was old then. She was going gray when I was young but in the last 15 years had started dying her hair. It was now a mousy color between brown and gray. Judith was a fairly pleasant person but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. If old wives tales are to be believed, she scowled once when she was younger and it stuck.

“Well, you’re back.” She said.

I managed to keep myself from saying, “well, you’re still here.” I just forced a smile instead. It was common knowledge that Judith had wanted the director position when Nancy left. She resented Susan for getting the promotion. She resented the previous assistant director for being second in command. I could only assume she resented me for not only being the new second in command, but also for being so young.

“I’m so excited to have Mallory here,” Susan told Judith. “We need someone from the younger generation to help us update – especially the website!”

“I don’t think anyone really uses the website,” Judith thumbed through a few books on her desk.

“They will when it’s a decent website,” I said. “The older generations may not rely much on the internet, but the younger ones use it as their primary resource for everything.”

Judith looked like she had more to say about the subject but was interrupted by a cheery voice calling from across the room, “good morning, everybody!”

I turned to see a very pretty young woman coming in through the doors. “Shh!” Carol shushed her.

“Oops!” the young woman grimaced. “Sorry!” She spotted Susan and I on the other side of the room and came towards us in long, energetic strides. “You must be Mallory! I’m Leslie – Leslie Watson.”

I shook her hand, hoping I didn’t look as awkward as I felt. Leslie was the sort of person who always intimidated me, for reasons I couldn’t explain. She was tall and lean, which made me very aware of my average stature and complete lack of figure. Her smile was full of perfect teeth. I wondered if she was one of the lucky ones who had never endured braces or had a cavity. Leslie was not as stunning as Beth, but she oozed confidence out of every pore.

“I’m SO glad you’re here,” she said, vigorously shaking my hand. “Now I’m not the youngest anymore.”

“Oh,” I said, unable to come up with anything wittier.

“I’m the rookie – I’ve only been here for a year and a half. Maybe I can move up on the totem pole a little now.”


“Although, I guess you’re not really a rookie, since you grew up here – but I’ll take what I can get!”

“Shh!” Carol shushed again.

“Let me show you to your desk, Mallory,” Susan said, “then we can go over some of the details.”

As Susan led me away, Leslie leaned over and whispered, “Carol is here to keep the stereotype of librarians alive and kicking.” She patted me on the shoulder. “Glad you’re here!”

I smiled to myself as I followed Susan to the office space.

My mom picked me up to take me to lunch that day. “How’s your first day going so far?” she asked.

“Pretty well,” I answered. “Susan’s made a lot of improvements to the library since I was in high school. I think she’ll be really great to work with.”

“And the other librarians?”

“I haven’t had much interaction with Carol or Leslie yet and Judith seems to be about like she’s always been.”

Mom took me to a small tea room one of her friends owned. We ordered sandwiches and salads and she caught me up to speed on all of her activities. She was in Lion’s Club, Rotary, Red Hat Society, and Kiwanis, as well as volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

“Wow, Mom. How do you even have time for any work at the store?”

“I just take off whenever I have a meeting or activity. That’s just one of the advantages of sleeping with the

There are about 7 billion people in the world, and I could listen to 6,999,999,998 of them talk about sex with getting uncomfortable. The other two are my parents, and when either of them brings up the subject, I find myself wondering how much it would cost for me to get that image surgically removed from my brain.

“Mom!” I chastised, turning a deep shade of red and hoping no one else had heard. My mother just smiled and squeezed a lemon into her tea. I think she likes to see me squirm.

We chit-chatted over our sandwiches after the embarrassment had faded and she dropped me back off at the library at 1:30.

Leslie was at the circulation desk, checking books in and placing them on the cart to be shelved. “Someone was
looking for you earlier,” she said.


“He didn’t leave his name. He just hovered in the stacks for a while until I asked him if I could help him with anything and he said, ‘is that new librarian here?’ I told him you were out to lunch.”

“What did he look like?”

“Shaggy graying hair and an unkempt mustache.”

“Oh god…”

“Someone you know?”

“No, but he’d like to be.”

“Ohhhh,” she said, understanding. “First day on the job and you’ve already got a stalker! It took me about three weeks to get my first stalker here.”

“First out of how many?”

“I lost count. Most of them left me alone after they found out that I have a kid.”

“And the rest?”

“A few still come around but I’m not too worried about that now.”

“Why not?”

She placed a stack of books on the cart. “Because you’re here. I can just pass them on to you.” She winked at me.

“Your generosity is overwhelming,” I responded with sarcasm.

“Well, I heard you were looking for a guy, so I figured I could help you out in that capacity.”

I groaned. “I hope to God that you’re kidding. Who said I was looking for a guy?”

“Come on, Mallory,” she continued. “Your parents own the larger of the only two grocery stores in town and your mother’s is in every civic organization. In Dry Creek, you might as well be Chelsea Clinton or one of the Bush twins.”

I rested my arms on the front desk and hid my face in my hands. “How long have you been hearing rumors about me?”

“When did Susan officially hire you?” Leslie asked.

I thought back. “A month ago.”

“Since then.”

“Susan spread rumors about me?”

“No, I’ve heard them from people all over town. The library is a resource for information, and gossip is a form of information, isn’t it?”

“How did the word get around?”

Leslie reached into a drawer in the desk, pulled out a small newspaper clipping and read it aloud. “Mallory Dowell, the daughter of Bruce and Naomi Dowell, has been hired as the assistant librarian at Dry Creek Public Library. She is set to begin on September 14th, 2009. Mallory’s family is thrilled to have her back in town and hope that she will start a family here and call Dry Creek home for many wonderful years.

I snatched the article out of her hand and read it for myself. “What the hell? This isn’t even news, it’s just…” my eyes drifted to the top of the article where I read the author’s name. “My Aunt Beatrice wrote this article. That makes it much less surprising – but it still doesn’t explain how the rumors travelled. No one reads the paper in Dry Creek. It’s a terrible paper.” I waved handed the article back to Leslie. “Case in point – that ‘article.’”

“It was also announced on the radio. Susan does a weekly program and she announced it when you were hired. She didn’t announce that you were single, but the interviewer did ask if you were bringing any family with you.”

“Let me guess. The interviewer was…” I pointed to the drawer she had just placed the article in. She nodded.

“I’m going to kill my aunt,” I said. “I’ll be in the office. If anyone needs me, give them Chelsea Clinton’s number.”

A blog post from YourGalPalMal:
Well, the mystery of everyone’s fascination with my singleness is somewhat solved. I still don’t understand what’s so interesting about it, but at least now I know why everyone feels involved. The bad news is that this means it was not in any way associated with Beth’s wedding and the pressure, gossip, and endless questioning probably isn’t going to let up.

Why – WHY – did I come back to Dry Creek? What in the world made me think it was a good idea? Oh yeah, I remember. It meant getting an Assistant Librarian position much quicker than I thought I could. It meant moving up from just checking books in and out to the kind of work that actually relates to my degree. The plan is to work here only long enough to beef up my resume and then move on the bigger and better and
smarter things.

So now the question stands: how do I get everyone to leave me the hell alone about my love life?

ClarkNotKent commented:
Easy. Get a boyfriend ASAP – or kill everyone.

YourGalPalMal commented:
Well… getting a boyfriend would be the less messy option… but killing everyone sounds easier. What would my serial killer alias be?

ClarkNotKent commented:
Alias: The Librarian. Method: Shushing to death.

The First Week - part 4 (Sunday)


All week I had wrestled with whether or not I should go to church that first Sunday back in town. After the events of Friday and Saturday, I decided I would be better off taking advantage of my last chance to sleep in before work started on Monday. Before I went to bed Saturday night, I double-checked that my alarm was off. Alarms, however, are often unnecessary when you have a cat. Gilbert woke me up in more than enough time to shower and get ready for church, and my attempt to go back to sleep was unsuccessful.

As I approached the doors, I realized that I had no idea where to go. I had arrived at church in time for Sunday school, but the last time I attended Sunday school at this church, I had been part of the youth group. Not only did I have no desire to go to the high school Sunday school class, I was also fairly sure they wouldn’t want me there either.

An elderly deacon stood at the door to greet members and guide visitors to the appropriate classroom. He had guarded that particular door every Sunday for as long as I could remember. The first time I met him, I was four. I was crying because my mother had not allowed me to bring my favorite stuffed animal to church. The deacon made a pouty face and fake whimpered at me and I was terrified of him from then until I was about 16. That was when I began to refer to him as “The Deaconator” and suddenly he appeared more comical than horrific.

“Well, well, well,” he croaked in his usual gravelly voice, “it’s Miss Dowell.”

“Hello, Mr. Wynn,” I responded, wondering if this was really the best foot the church could put forward. “I was wondering if—"

“Yer jest gettin’ purtier all the time,” he interrupted.

“Oh. Thank you. Look, I was wondering—“

“I reckon it’s a full time job to keep those boys away.” He wheezed out a laugh that sounded like air being slowly let out of a balloon. I offered only a half smile in response. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an information board that had been put up at some point in my absence. It looked like it displayed general information about the church, including a map and description of classes.

“It was great to see you!” I said, and made my way over to the board. Thankfully, someone was coming in the door behind me and The Deaconator had a distraction. I surveyed the information before me. The children and youth Sunday school classes were listed according to age on the left and adult classes listed on the right.

The Kingdom Class (adults aged 65+)
The Mary and Martha Class (adult women)
Victory Seekers (adults aged 40-65)
New Beginnings (young couples)
B.Y.O.B. – Bring Your Own Bible (new Christians)
Unplugged (college and career, ages 18 to 25)
Crossroads Class (adult singles aged 21 to 101)

I suppressed a groan and wondered why I had thought coming to church would be a good idea. I knew the Mary and Martha Class was mostly middle aged and senior women and the college and career class catered mainly to the college students who came home on the weekends and the few of the same age group who had opted not to go to college. That left only one class – Crossroads.

I’m already here, I told myself, so I might as well just go. Otherwise, I’ll just have to find a way to kill time until the service starts in an hour.

The church had been expanded and built on to at least five separate times, resulting in a maze of hallways, staircases and classrooms. The Crossroads classroom was located near the back of the church. I made my way through the labyrinth and finally arrived in a wood-paneled hallway that was dimly lit and smelled dusty. The classroom itself was illuminated by a single, flickering bulb. A handful of people were milling about next to a card table holding coffee and donuts, while others were seated in the semi-circle of folding chairs, waiting for class to begin. The soft murmur of voices died away as every eye in the room turned to the intruder in the doorway – me. I thought about going straight to a seat in the corner to do my best to blend in with the wall, but my stomach gave a low growl and I decided to head for the donuts instead. The others returned their conversations as I selected a cherry glazed donut and took my seat. As I nibbled on my breakfast, I studied the people in the room. There were eight people besides myself and half of them looked to be well past 45. Everyone seemed to be an odd assortment of shapes, sizes, and appearances.

They should have called this class The Leftovers, I mused. The class for people who just don’t fit anywhere else.

A thin man with shaggy, graying hair and donut crumbs in his mustache sat next to me and introduced himself.

“New in town?” he asked.

“Not entirely – I grew up here and I just moved back.” I could tell he was disappointed that he had no reason to supply an offer to show me around town. The teacher sat in the chair at the front of the room and announced that class was starting before Mustache Crumbs could come up with a Plan B.

“Would you like to introduce yourself?” the teacher asked, looking at me. I pondered the ramifications of saying no.

“I’m Mallory. I grew up here and just moved back. I’m the new assistant librarian.”

“Glad to have you joining us, Valerie,” the teacher said, fighting back a yawn. “Alright, everybody, let’s continue from last week. We’re still talking about Proverbs 31 – a Godly woman.”

I opened my Bible and proceeded to zone out. After the passage was read, the discussion turned to application of the verses to the modern Christian life. I found my mind wandering and couldn’t focus on the conversation.

This is church, I thought. This is where I should be accepted and loved unconditionally. But here I am, hidden away in a back room – swept under the proverbial rug – because I don’t fit nicely into a prepackaged category. “First Baptist Church, where everyone is welcome – if they have a family!”

“When I was 17,” the teacher was saying, “I told myself to wait until I found a Proverbs 31 woman. When I met my wife in college, I knew she was ‘the one’ because she embodied this passage.”

I looked at his left hand and noticed the ring. Great… a married man trying to tell all of us what our purpose is during our ‘time of singleness.’ Judging by his appearance, I’d say he’s getting close to fifty. That means if he married his wife around the time he finished college, he hasn’t been single in 28 years!

“It’s so important that you use this time,” he continued, “to find the person who can live up to this description. That goes for you ladies too – use this period of singleness to find a Godly man. And most importantly, use this time to really fashion yourself into a Proverbs 31 woman.”

I hoped no one saw me roll my eyes. Somewhere in the hallway, a bell rang, signifying the end of Sunday school time. I sprinted out of the room before Crumbstache could try his next pick-up line on me. I found the experience of Sunday school so discouraging, I decided to slip out and skip the worship.

“Whar you goin’, girl?” The Deaconator asked, as I exited the building.

“I’ve got a headache,” I lied, not stopping to chat.

Back at my apartment, I removed my shoes and dress, put on my pajamas, and reclined on the sofa. Gilbert curled into a fat, fluffy ball by my shoulder and purred. I leaned my head against his soft body. “For what it’s worth, Gil,” I said with a sigh, “I think you’re a Proverbs 31 kind of cat.”

A blog post from YourGalPalMal:
A Rant:
When I was thirteen, the church offered a program on abstinence. We had special Bible studies throughout January and the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, we signed pledge cards and stood in front of the church to receive certificates stating that we would remain sexually pure until marriage. I never thought about it at the time, but the whole approach assumes a lot. Not only does it assume that you will eventually get married – it assumes that you will (and should) probably do so at a fairly young age.

I’m not, at this time, going to make any sort of statement about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the abstinence approach to sex education. The topic that has me worked up at the moment is the Christian emphasis on marriage.

Everyone is so careful these days to avoid discrimination based on race and age, and even though the Church is often well behind the curve of political correctness, they do a decent job of avoiding discrimination in these areas. They have, however, added their own particular kind of discrimination – that based on marital status.

In the world of church-going adults, there are those who
are married, those who were married, and those who are about to get married. Singles should be doing everything they can to get themselves into either the first or third category. If someone is single without prospects, then it’s either because they haven’t found a Godly mate yet, or are not yet at a high enough caliber of righteousness themselves to be deemed marriable by that Godly mate.

Just for the record, if I wanted to be married by now, I could be. I have had the opportunity – I just lacked the desire. That is, I lacked the desire to marry the person who was in line for the task. I do have an interest in marriage, just not with him.

I think I’m going to find a different church to attend. I want to find one that is too small to divide up into so many buzzword categories – somewhere I can just be another face in the congregation and not something to be filed away in the records according to my marital status.

Does anything like that exist in Dry Creek?

Ever since Clark left Austin to pursue his Master’s at the University of North Texas, we had a standing arrangement to talk on the phone every Sunday night unless an unavoidable conflict arose. This Sunday I was looking forward to visiting with him more than ever.

“How’s life in the sticks?” he asked.

“The sticks stink.”

“Nice alliteration. Seriously, how bad is it?”

“Other than being pestered at every turn on account of my singleness, it’s mediocre.”

Clark laughed. “That good?”

“By my count, I’ve endured no less than 27 comments regarding my love life. Of course, at least a third of those were from my Aunt Beatrice.”

“Aunt Beatrice?”


“You literally have an Aunt Bee?” Clark’s voice was full of mirthful teasing.

“Another case of life mirroring art. Enough about Mayberry – how were your classes this week?”

Clark launched into descriptions of his graduate classes. His depictions of academic life always reduced me to giggles. The frustrations of the morning melted away as Clark talked.

“Are you looking forward to starting work tomorrow?” he asked after finishing a story about one of his professors.

“I am. I’ve got a lot of good ideas and I’m ready to get to work at implanting them. My first big task, I think, will be to fix the website.”

“How bad is it?”

“See for yourself,” I told him and gave him the address. I heard him typing and then burst into guffaws. The library website was beyond outdated. The front page was cluttered with mismatching GIFs of vaguely literary images and the font was a bright green against a maroon background.

“It looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you,” Clark said, still snickering.

“I think the best plan of attack at this point is the scrap it completely and start over from scratch.”

“Will they let you?”

“Let me? I think the main reason Susan hired me was because of my experience in web design.”

“And it probably doesn’t hurt that your mother donated a substantial chunk of her inheritance to the library…”

“Okay, A). that was four years ago. When you say it like that, it sounds like my mother bought me this job and that is not the case. And B). I’m pretty sure it was my qualifications and obvious brilliance that earned me the job and I’m not sure I approve of you doubting my undeniable prowess.”

“Shame on me. I should know better than to question someone who is so clearly awesome.”

“And don’t you forget it!”

Clark chuckled. “I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I’ve got to get some sleep. Good talking to you though.”

“You too,” I said. “Miss you, pal.”

“Miss you too – and just remember: if people continue to give you grief about being single, the obvious solution is just to start dating the most eligible bachelor in town: Barney Fife.”

“Suddenly I don’t miss you anymore.”

“Yes you do. Goodnight!”

I hung up the phone and got into bed. When the morning rolled around, I was most thankful for my alarm clock waking me up from a dream about Barney Fife with a crumb-filled mustache.

The First Week - part 3 (Saturday)


I spent the first part of Saturday in bed, trying to sleep off my hangover of tequila and regret. “Go away, Gilbert,” I said to my cat, who was tapping my forehead with his paw. “Your morning treat will have to be an afternoon treat.” I pulled the covers over my head and dozed off in the darkness.

When I woke again, I rolled over to look at my clock. 12:52 PM. I sat bolt upright in my bed and immediately remembered why no one with a hangover should ever sit bolt upright in bed. Dragging myself into the bathroom, I took some Ibuprofen and got into the shower. The wedding was at 2 and I was going to have to hurry to be ready in time.

After my shower, I ran around the apartment, trying to do several things at once. I nearly swallowed my toothbrush as I brushed my teeth at the same time I was combing my hair. I slapped some makeup on my face and put on my pink sundress and white knit sweater jacket. I twisted my hair and clipped it up. I stepped out the door and realized I was barefoot. After pulling on my white ballet flats, I walked outside again and discovered I didn’t have my keys. I ran back in, saw my purse on the dining room table, grabbed it and my keys and was finally on my way to the church.

The parking lot was already filling up when I arrived. I parked in the first free spot I found, near the back of the parking lot, and made my way into the crowded foyer. As my eyes adjusted to the indoor lighting, I spotted Dylan Dillinger standing by one of the doors, visiting with the usher. He caught my eye, smiled and started towards me.

“Mallory, there you are!” A shrill voice called out over the murmur of conversation. Aunt Beatrice came up beside me and grabbed my arm. “Your parents and I already got seats, come and sit! We almost thought you weren't coming!” She was dragging me into the sanctuary. I gave Dylan an apologetic look as Aunt Beatrice pulled me behind her.

The wedding really was quite a lovely service. The five bridesmaids wore light blue dresses and carried bouquets of daisies. The groomsmen wore the same color of blue cummerbunds with their tuxes. David beamed with pride and looked as happy as a child at Christmas. When the doors were opened to reveal Beth and her father, a soft gasp went through the crowd. Beth had always been a pretty girl, but standing there in her wedding gown, she looked like an angel. Her blonde hair fell in soft waves over her shoulders and her eyes sparkled like stars. She practically glowed. I felt a lump rise in my throat and my eyes stung. I couldn’t help but think about how many times we had dreamed about this day in our younger years. We always referred to her mysterious future husband as “Jake” and I used to tease her about keeping a record of all the silly things she said that I was going to read to “Jake” before the wedding, so he would know what he was getting himself into. I wished I could remember something – anything – from that list.

“Beth told me,” the minister said, “that she used to refer to her future husband as ‘Jake.’ ‘I’m waiting for Jake,’ she would say. ‘I don’t know what he looks like, or what his real name is, but I’ll know him when I find him.’ Beth says that when she and David had been dating for a month or two, he gave her a box set of her favorite book series, and that’s when she knew he was her Jake.”

The minister continued and the happy couple exchanged their vows, rings, and their first kiss as husband and wife. The crowd applauded and then laughed as the recessional music began to play. It was the theme music from “Peanuts.” David, Beth, and the rest of the wedding party did goofy little dances down the aisle, just like the kids in “Charlie Brown Christmas.”

As everyone poured out of the sanctuary and headed to the fellowship hall for the reception, Aunt Beatrice patted my arm and said, “This will happen for you soon enough, dear.”

She walked ahead of me and didn’t see me make a gun gesture against my head.

The fellowship hall was an explosion of blue. The table clothes were the same shade as the bridesmaid dresses and even the walls were draped in blue fabric. I hovered near a table in a corner to observe the scene before me.

It felt like equal parts high school reunion, family gathering, and one of those dreams that involves everyone you have ever met. A few of my old classmates passed by and we exchanged the obligatory “how have you been’s” and “nice to see you’s.”

I saw Aunt Beatrice scanning the room and I knew she was looking for me. I made my way through the crowd in the opposite direction of where she was looking. As I looked over my shoulder to make sure I had successfully avoided her gaze, I ran into someone.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I wasn’t paying att---“ I cut the sentence short when I realized I had once again collided with Dylan Dillinger.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” he said, with a twinkle in his beautiful eyes. I let out an awkward giggle. I wanted desperately to say something clever but my wit seemed to have left me.

“Do you want to sit down?” Dylan asked, gesturing at a nearby table. “I was hoping we might have a chance to catch up for a bit.” I nodded and took a seat.

“I hate these things,” he said, taking the seat next to me.


“No. Well, not exactly. Just any sort of event where I have to see all the people I left town to get away from after graduation.”

“Now you’re speaking my language,” I said, finally starting to feel more at ease. “At least you’re just visiting.”

Dylan shook his head. “I have to say, I never thought that you of all people would ever move back to Dry Creek.”

“That makes two of us. How does that song go? ‘Happiness is Dry Creek, Texas in the rearview mirror?’”

“Something like that,” Dylan said with a soft chuckle. “What’s your plan for survival.”

“Well,” I replied, “The first step is to bring culture to the town through the cunning use of library programs. Second, educate my fellow citizens on the outside world and the finer things in life, and then, once this town is a bustling metropolis of civilization, I’ll slap all of that on a resume and, as they say, get the heck out of dodge.”

The room erupted in applause. No, not for the synopsis of my plan – Beth and David were entering the room and being introduced, for the first time, as husband and wife. David was holding tightly to Beth’s hand and Beth’s smile seemed to take up the whole doorway.

The happy couple proceeded through the typical reception routine of cutting the cake, drinking the champagne (which in this case was really sparkling cider), and greeting everyone in the room. I excused myself from the table and made my way over to Beth. As I approached her, she caught my eye and smiled. She started towards me but was intercepted by a middle aged woman with a huge orb of hair.

“Elizabeth, sweetheart!” she said, taking Beth’s cheeks in her hands. “You are the most beautiful bride I have ever seen! I told Barry, I said to him, 'isn’t she just the most beautiful bride you’ve ever seen?'” She jerked her head towards a small, bald man next to her that I had not noticed before.

“Thank you, Mrs. Turner,” Beth said, “I’m so glad you could make it.” She tried to free herself from Mrs. Turner’s be-ringed hands, to no avail.

“You wouldn’t think it to look at me now,” she continued, “but I was quite a lovely bride in my day. Barry here cried like a baby at the wedding, didn’t you, Barry?” Barry was eyeing the chocolate groom’s cake on the other side of the room.

“Mmhmm,” he half-heartedly agreed.

I would have cried too, I thought. Beth smiled and attempted once again to get free. The Turner-monster simply tightened her grip and kept talking.

“My mother said it was bad luck for a groom to cry at a wedding but we’ve been together for 40 years now. Of course, my mother never liked Barry. She thought it was below me to marry a school bus driver, but I was young and in love and told her I didn’t care about money. Isn’t that right, Barry? Of course, after five children, the money would have been nice.”

I couldn’t see her face, but could tell from the pause that she was lamenting her lack of finances. Just as Beth was about to speak, the woman started up again. “But you, sweetie,” she gave Beth’s cheeks a few enthusiastic pats, “you don’t have to worry. Marrying a doctor! And so handsome!”

Beth’s face communicated to me her sense of panic that she might be a prisoner of Mrs. Turner’s talons forever. Help me! Her eyes screamed.

I glanced around the room and spotted David not too far away. Within a moment, I was next to him, taking hold of his arm.

“We haven’t been formerly introduced yet but there’s no time for that – this is an emergency!” I said. “Beth’s in the clutches of—“

“I’m on it!” David interrupted, seeing the situation for himself. He went bounding towards the photographer and whispered something in her ear.

“Time for the bouquet toss!” the photographer said, pulling Beth away from the clutches of Mrs. Turner, who was still talking.

“Thank you!” Beth mouthed to me, as she was guided to the front of the fellowship hall.

“All the single ladies, gather round!” Someone shouted. I felt the color drain from my cheeks. I turned to exit the room and found myself face to face with Aunt Beatrice who shoved me towards the small group of girls gathering near Beth.

I’m not entirely sure how it happened because I wasn’t really watching. I was still trying to tell Aunt Beatrice that I didn’t want to participate in the inane ritual. The next thing I knew, something hit me in the chest and I instinctively grabbed at it without looking. Aunt Beatrice smiled and clasped her hands to her heart, beaming at me. I turned around and saw that I was holding the bouquet. The crowd was applauding and Beth winked at me.

As the attention of the wedding guests turned to David and the garter toss, I ducked out of the fellowship hall. In the foyer, I heard a voice behind me.

“Congratulations. Who’s the lucky guy?” I turned to find a bemused Dylan, grinning at me.

I started three different sentences before turning the question back on him. “There’s not… I don’t… I didn’t want… well, why aren’t you in there, trying to catch the garter?”

“I learned from your plight,” he responded. “I got out of there before anyone could push me towards a fate worse than death.” I wasn’t sure if he meant the embarrassment of catching the garter or marriage in general.
“You know what this means, don’t you?” He said gesturing to the daises in my hand.

“Yeah, I know,” I said, “that I’m the next to get married.”

“And considering there’s no one currently on the waiting list,” he explained, “you’ll have to marry someone here. It means,” he took a small piece of paper from his wallet, “that you’re going to get stuck here. Here’s my card,” he handed me the paper. “Just make sure I get an invitation.”

I stuck the card in the pocket of my jacket. “You know what?” I said, with a feeling of stubborn determination, “I’m not taking any chances.” I dropped the bouquet in a small garbage can.

Dylan smiled, then looked at his watch. “I had better get myself to the airport. I’ve got a flight to catch. It was great to see you again, Mal.”

“Can I hide in your luggage and go to Boston with you?” I asked, only partially kidding.

He gave me a hug, with three pats on the back that I knew I was going to analyze for days. “I would if I could,” he said, and with that, he walked out the door.

I’m NOT going to get stuck here, I thought, watching him go. I turned towards the door, then hesitated, walked back to the trash can and plucked a single daisy from the discarded bouquet. If the bouquet means marriage, I thought, maybe a single flower can get me a date.

“Not that I want one,” I said aloud to the empty foyer. “But just in case…”

A blog post from YourGalPalMal:

What is the point of the bouquet toss? Are we really still practicing that tradition? What is the point of gathering a few flowers together and launching it into a gathering of girls like some kind of marriage grenade?

In other news, I did not “catch” the bouquet so much as get smacked in the chest by it and keep it from falling to the floor with my cat-like reflexes. Beth tossed it to me and I tossed it in the garbage, so logically, the garbage is the next one to get married.

I didn’t get a chance to apologize to Beth, and I still haven’t been officially introduced to David, but he seems like a great guy and a perfect match for Beth. If I didn’t know any better, I might say I was a bit jealous – but that is ridiculous. I’m nowhere near ready to get married, and certainly not to anyone from out here in the middle of nowhere. The last thing I need is someone tying me down to this place!

Speaking of singleness and marriage and various other wedding-related adjectives, I hope that having the wedding over and done with will put a rest to everyone’s overbearing concern for my relationship status. I don’t know why they are all so surprised – according to the movies, all librarians are supposed to be old maids. Marian from
The Music Man, Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life in the alternate reality… I can’t think of any other film librarians, but they are probably “old maids” too.

Before I sound like a complete cynic, let me at least say that it was a beautiful wedding and Beth has never shone like she did today. We talked so much about this day when we were in high school. Now her dream of finding her “Jake” has come true and my dream of being a professional librarian will be true on Monday. I do have other dreams, of course, some of them are even matrimonial in nature.

So what is my “Jake” like?

He’s an intellectual. He likes to read and discuss classical literature and movies. He’s clever and witty. He likes me for my looks and loves me for my brains. He’s from a big cultural center like Chicago or New York or Boston and enjoys tasting different wines and cheeses.

On a completely unrelated note, how long should you wait after getting someone’s e-mail address to write them?

ClarkNotKent commented:
If you mean “like” as in appreciate and “love” in a completely platonic sense, then you just described me. Tell you what – if neither of us is married by the time we’re forty, then we’ll… have a wine and cheese party. What’d you think I was going to say?

Are we still on for our weekly phone call tomorrow?

YourGalPalMal commented:
Thanks, Clark. I can always count on you to dash my optimism on the rocks. Yes, we’re still on for tomorrow.

ClarkNotKent commented:
Optimism? What optimism?


For fun, here are pictures for some of my characters.

Mallory Dowell:

Beth Sanders Williams (imagine this as a wedding photo):

Dylan Dillinger:

Clark Adams (this one looks weird because of the program I used to make it. Sorry!):