Chapter One: “Does this skirt make me look like a Mennonite?”

Iggy Brooker was late. It wasn’t that surprising; she was often late. That particular morning, however, she was late for the baptism of her friend Melly’s firstborn, which definitely wasn’t great. Iggy was late for nearly every social event she ever attended and it pissed off Melly to no end. Melly claimed it was a reflection on how little Iggy valued their friendship. That wasn’t really the case. Mostly it was just because Iggy overvalued sleep. Normally Melly brushed it off with an annoyed huff and some heavy glaring for roughly twenty minutes. She’d gotten seriously upset over it a couple of times though, like when Iggy turned up late to her twenty-third birthday party. Iggy assumed that was at least slightly more forgivable than being late for a baptism. She was not looking forward to the fallout.

Iggy was late because Melly’s daughter Madison was being baptized on the first of November in a church that was on the opposite end of town to Iggy’s apartment building, where she lived with two of the weirdest people in the entire world. Iggy maintained that it was inconsiderate for Melly to have her baby baptized the day after Halloween, not that she would under any circumstances ever be saying that to Melly. Melly had a tendency toward violence when angered. Iggy still had a mark on her shin from the time Melly had smacked her with the shelf from an Ikea bookshelf while moving Melly into her new townhouse. Iggy had been late to that as well.

That morning, Iggy was late for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, she had wanted to sleep for as long as possible, which had resulted in her pressing the snooze button on her alarm a total of seven times for an extra thirty-five minutes of sleep. That had in turn resulted in her using the remaining twenty minutes she had before she absolutely needed to leave her apartment to get dressed, do her hair, brush her teeth, and organize something for breakfast. She had sprinted to the bus stop, narrowly avoiding missing the damn thing entirely, at which point she ate the sleeve of stale rice cakes and fistful of Halloween candy she’d brought with her. By that point, she was praying for communion, because that little cube of bread would not go amiss.

The larger reason Iggy was late was because she was hungover beyond all point of reason. Her sprint to the bus stop and the harrowing trip that followed did little to stymie the nausea. She’d woken up feeling like her eyelids were made of sandpaper, a feeling which hadn’t really subsided since. She still had lipstick on from the previous night, despite her best efforts to scrub it off, and there was glitter on her face from the sparkly false eyelashes she’d put on to complete her costume. She’d gone as a ladybug in a felt cape her mother had sewn for her when she was five. She was wearing the tights she’d had on the night before as well and they smelled like the beer someone had spilled on her. Truth be told, she hadn’t taken them off at all. On top of being angry that Iggy was late, Melly was going to be angry that she was cloaked in the remnants of the night before.

Iggy full-on sprinted from the bus stop to the church, taking the front steps two at a time, paused for ten seconds outside the sanctuary to compose herself, and then slipped inside to find a seat. She had a text message from her friend Tallulah that stated she had saved her a seat. Of course, Tallulah was sitting in the third row behind Melly’s entire family and her in-laws with the rest of their friends. It would be impossible for Iggy to make it up there unseen. Her only hope was that most of the elderly congregation had already nodded off, thereby lessening the number of people who would be able to witness her shame. Of course, Melly would see for sure and there was nothing to prevent God from seeing.

She braced herself, head held high, and marched up to the empty space in the pew next to Tallulah. She sat down, pointedly avoiding looking at Melly, who was glaring at the side of her face. She could feel it. Tallulah barely looked at her. Upon closer inspection, that was because she was doodling on the church bulletin she’d clearly been given by someone. There was a group of stick figures already printed on the bottom corner with their hands in the air, praising the Lord. Tallulah was drawing a stick figure in front of them, holding them at gun point. Iggy rolled her eyes.

“I’m going to get shit for being late, but nobody will say anything about this artistic masterpiece you’ve created here,” she whispered to Tallulah somewhat bitterly.

“That’s because you smell like wine and I took a shower,” Tallulah retorted, matching Iggy’s hushed voice. She looked over to flash her a grin before turning back to her drawing. Now there was another member of the prayerful, only he was laying on the ground with blood pooling around his head because apparently he’d been shot in the face. It was remarkably gruesome.

“That seems a touch dark for church,” Iggy noted.

“Have you actually ever read any of the Bible?” Tallulah asked in return. “The entire Old Testament is like a series of genocides and catastrophic natural disasters.”

Iggy ignored her. It didn’t seem like an argument she was going to win. Instead, she sat back and waited for it to be over. She’d developed a headache somewhere between sprinting to the bus and sprinting from the bus. It felt like she was being stabbed repeated in one eye with a very, very thin blade or a particularly vengeful person with a toothpick. She kept closing her right eye to block out the pain, which meant that she was involuntarily winking at a man in the choir. He was roughly seventy-five years old and he had very obvious veneers. By the end of the sermon, he was smiling back at her, which was unnerving to say the least and Iggy kind of wanted to slip under the pew in front of her and take a nap safe from the faintly lecherous eyes of senior citizens.

“I’ve accidentally attracted the eye of that extremely toothy man in the choir,” Iggy announced to Tallulah and their friend Jemima at the end of the service. Melly was carting her baby around to various family members, inching closer with each passing aunt.

“The man with the veneers and the outrageous comb-over?” Jemima asked , glancing toward where the choir was filing out of the sanctuary in their red robes. “Lucky you.”

“Maybe he’s rich,” was Tallulah’s very helpful response.

“Does this skirt make me look like a Mennonite?” Jemima asked apropos of nothing a moment later. Iggy and Tallulah both turned to look at her lower body where she was wearing a navy blue, mid-calf length, A-line skirt.

“Yes,” Tallulah answered. “But, like, not in a bad way.”

“I asked the salesgirl when I bought it yesterday,” Jemima began to explain. “But she seemed confused, like she didn’t know what a Mennonite is. She probably didn’t. She’s probably too young to have ever encountered Mennonites before.”

“Okay, but how young was she really?” Iggy asked. “Because right now I’m picturing a toddler trying to sell people khaki capris pants.”

“You’re not far off,” Jemima returned.

“I don’t believe you for one second,” was Iggy’s response.

There was a reception being held at the church following the baptism. Melly’s entire family was there to support her, as well as all of her friends and her husband David’s family. David had made enormous vats of chilli for everybody, which wasn’t at all surprising because he made chilli for literally every special occasion; holidays, birthdays, apparently even baptisms. No one was allowed to eat until Melly and her daughter Madison made it around to see every single person who’d attended the baptism. Eventually, Iggy had had to sit back down from sheer exhaustion. Tallulah had doodled over most of the entire bulletin and Jemima had buggered off somewhere else to sneak a cigarette. She was the worst smoker ever. She only ever remembered that she smoked when she had tonnes of down time and nothing to do.

“How much time am I expected to spend at this thing?” Iggy asked Tallulah after a long while. Melly had made it to the fifth of her eight aunts and it didn’t look like there was any chance of things speeding up.

“Losing interest?” Tallulah returned, not looking up from her drawing. It had become incredibly elaborate. Some of the praising stick figures were running away, clearly making desperate bids for freedom. Unfortunately, the gun-toting stick figure had been joined by several other gun-toting stick people and those that were attempting to flee were being mowed down ruthlessly.

“I’m so hungry,” Iggy said in explanation. “I’m so hungry that that woman in the purple pantsuit is beginning to look like bacon.”

Tallulah looked up and over to where Iggy was discreetly pointing.

“Huh,” she said. “She looks more like a ham to me.”

Fifteen minutes later, they were still sitting in the same pew waiting for Melly to come over so that they could see the baby and then have lunch. Iggy was almost certain her stomach had begun to ingest itself. Besides, her nausea hadn’t really gone and her headache had spread from her right eye to the rest of her head. She could feel her fingertips and even those hurt. It was unenjoyable.

At some point, she and Tallulah had been joined by their friend Jacklyn. Jacklyn had been at the same Halloween party as Iggy the night before, but she looked approximately a thousand times better. She’d clearly showered for one. On top of that, she didn’t smell like leftover alcohol and she’d done her hair. She looked very, very nice, but she always looked very, very nice. She was a very put together woman. Iggy felt bad about herself nearly every time she was with Jacklyn.

“You came to a christening hungover?” Jacklyn asked Iggy. She almost sounded impressed. Iggy was really hoping that Jacklyn could only tell that she was hungover because she had witnessed the copious and astounding quantity of alcohol she had consumed the night before and not because it was obvious in her current state. Melly would skin her alive for being late and hungover for her daughter’s baptism; one was already bad enough.

“It wasn’t a great decision,” Iggy admitted. “But I couldn’t not come.”

“Oh no, Melly would’ve killed you,” Tallulah cut in immediately. “Dead. She would’ve killed you dead.”

She gestured to her gruesome bloodbath doodle as if Iggy was unaware what death was.

“If they make me hold the baby, there’s a very real possibility that I’ll throw up on it,” Iggy continued, grimacing.

“A different kind of christening,” Tallulah remarked.

“A much worse christening,” Jacklyn added.

In the end, Iggy did not in fact vomit on Melly’s firstborn. She did get the stink eye from her though. Iggy tried to pretend she didn’t know why Melly was so upset and instead focussed on the baby and then eating enormous quantities of chilli. David was ecstatic. He offered to send some home with her, an offer which she reluctantly took him up on because she couldn’t think of a viable reason not to. She got a ride home to her apartment with Jacklyn, Tallulah, and Jemima, which was just as well because she didn’t think she’d make it through another bus ride. With her luck, she’d  end up vomiting chilli on top of her leftover chilli. As was the nature with chilli, she likely wouldn’t be able to tell the new chilli from the uneaten chilli and that was not something Iggy was eager to experience.

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