“Honey, you could worship a shoe for all I care. And I’d still love you.”
“I know,” Trinity said. “And that’s what makes this so hard.”
Matt’s dog jumped between them onto the couch, spun around twice, then put his head on her thigh. It was late winter. A cold rain was falling outside and a warm fire was crackling inside.
“Hitch loves you, too,” Matt said, as he put an arm around Trinity’s tense body, and a hand on her left shoulder.
“Who was it that you named Hitch after?” Trinity asked, as she began running her pink nails through the long, black hair on the old dog’s back, leaving subtle trenches.
“Christopher Hitchens,” he said, with a sigh. And then Hitch sighed, too, as if in support.
“And what was Hitchens most famous for, Matt?”
“About what?” she said, slowly shaking her head.
“Lots of things. But I see what you are driving at. He was an atheist.”
“An atheist who wrote that yellow book on the shelf in your bedroom, which started this whole conversation. What is it called?”
“You know what it is called, Tree.”
“Please tell me,” she said, turning her head and casting her dark-brown eyes upon him. She saw that he was close to tears, but she was certain and did not waver.
“god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”
“And that, Matt,” she said sharply, “is why we are going to have to break up. I can’t risk being with a man who feels that way. Are you going to deny that you feel that way?”
The only sounds were the fire crackling, rain drops, and Hitch snoring.
Finally, Matt said: “No. I can’t deny that. But it doesn’t make me love you any less. This isn’t new, I’ve been up front about my beliefs, or lack of them, since our very first date a year ago.”
“Yes,” she said. “But back then you were just a guy I was hanging out with. Who was cute. And who knew how to play the sitar. Who was a great kisser, and who made me laugh. But now we have to decide if things should get serious. And I don’t think that they should.”
“What is it about me being an agnostic, who accepts that you are a Christian and respects you for it, that you can’t accept?”
“That you’ll be going to Hell, mostly.”
Matt took his arm from around her and put his hands together, over his nose.
“Why didn’t you mention anything about that before?”
“Well. I figured it was God’s plan for you to become a Christian. For us to marry, have children, and raise them in the ways of the Lord. But now it’s clear that’s not going to happen.”
Matt stood up, walked over to the window, and looked out. Tiny bits of hail were accumulating. Out of habit, he almost grabbed his sitar, which was on a stand in the corner of the room. He plucked it whenever he was feeling down, but he couldn’t bring himself to play in front of her.
“Hitch, come here,” Matt said. “Please.”
Hitch raised his head for a moment and then put it heavily back on Trinity’s thigh. Matt sat down, with his back against the wall and his arms around his knees. Trinity slid from under the head of Hitch and walked across the room toward Matt. With his eyes down, Matt watched her legs and knee-length gray skirt approach him. He felt her right hand gently brush the whiskers beneath his chin and lift his head up toward her. And then he felt tears running toward his ears as he looked up at her. She kissed his forehead.
When she closed the door, Hitch sat up on the couch, put back his fool head, and began to howl. And then, so did Matt.
Matt was playing Norwegian Wood, with Hitch on vocals doing his best John Lennon impression, when the phone rang.
“Hello?” he said, his hand shaking.
“It’s so good to hear from you, Tree! I can’t believe that it’s been two weeks. Are you there?”
“Yes, I’m here,” she said. “It’s just. I have something important to tell you.”
Smiling, Matt waited for her to say that she was sorry. That she loved him too and that she shouldn’t have listened to her crazy father.
“Do you have the fire going?”
“Yes, why?” he said.
“Throw that Hitchens book in it.”
“What? No way.”
“I’m pregnant,” she said, like an atom bomb.
“Oh, my God.”
“And you’re going to need to get your act together. Do you think that you can do that?”
“You need to get an abortion.”
Matt could almost hear her scream, but she was silent.
“I’m coming over,” she said, and hung up.
When she arrived, Trinity was wearing a bright red dress and dark red lipstick. She dove into his arms and he breathed in the deep, bewitching aroma of her hair.
“Well,” she said, looking up at him, “I guess that I was right to begin with. We are going to get married. And then we are going to have kids. It’s God’s plan.”
From the kitchen, Hitch excitedly ran and jumped on her.
“Get down, Hitch!” she screamed fiercely. He slinked over to his bed in the corner and laid down, looking up while his snout was pointing down.
“It sounds like you’ve made up your mind,” Matt said.
“There was never any question. I’m having this baby. And you are going to get your act together.”
Then, she kissed and hugged him like he had sorely missed.
“You know I love you,” he said.
“I know you do.”
“Daddy, do you believe in God?”
“Well, son, that’s a difficult question.”
“I don’t think so, either, Chris,” Trinity said, pointedly.
They were on a pontoon boat, after church, exploring Lake Cumberland for the first time. Matt was driving, with his wife and son seated behind him. They had to speak loudly to be heard, over the engine and the wind. The sky was big and blue, with a few fluffy clouds interspersed above the green water.
“I believe in love," Matt replied. "And the pastor said today that God is Love, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” Trinity said. “That’s right.”
“Well, by the transitive property,” Matt said, “I suppose that I do believe in God.”
“And what about you, Mommy.”
“I believe in God. His love is all I need.”
“And I think His is all you have, honey,” Matt yelled, as he sped toward the dam.