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Of Virgins and Angels

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Hal and Fran had lived together for three years. The IUD she relied on led both to think their sex would be immaculate. But when Fran said, “I’m pregnant,” Hal after only a 10-second pause replied, “I love you. Let’s get married.” Fran sniffled, smiled, and nodded.

A week later their pastor pronounced them husband and wife. No time to register or even coyly solicit presents, so their friends pooled cash and procured an elaborate gag gift: a Virgin Islands honeymoon for two 30-year-olds who were anything but.

On the flight to St. Thomas, Hal asked, once, “Doing OK?” Fran smiled, “No morning sickness. Everything’s fine.” At the hotel they read a brochure describing the famously beautiful Lindquist Beach. Their sex that night was fine but nothing special.

The next morning Hal counted six cruise ships docked and ready to spit out passengers. “Herds,” he grumbled. They hailed a cab. The driver said, “Lindquist will be packed. How about trying Emerald Beach? Not crowded. Beautiful. Six dollars each.” Hal replied, “Sounds fine. What about it, babe?”

As Fran hesitated, the driver said, “I take you there. You take a look. You don’t like it, I drop you off elsewhere.” When they arrived in the parking lot of a Best Western hotel, Hal jumped out, rounded a corner, and peered at the beach. Sand. Water. Only a few people. “Looks fine to me,” Hal reported back. “OK, Fran?”

She gave a thin smile and joined him on the lot. He handed a $20 bill to the driver and asked for change. The cabbie said he didn’t have any but would come back to pick them up: “I give you my word. Just tell me when.” Hal said, “Ninety minutes. Right, Fran?” She nodded. They walked onto the beach. Fran said, “The sand’s kinda dirty. There’s almost no one here.”

Hal smiled, “That’s the point. The water’s really clear. Put your bag down over there and let’s get in.” Fran did as Hal told her. They walked in until the water was chin-high. Cool but not cold. Then two teenage boys appeared on the beach. “I wonder if our stuff is safe,” Fran said. They watched. The teens finally left. Fran said, “I’m shriveled,” and walked out.

Hal stayed in for a few more minutes, then joined her. “We don’t have chairs,” Fran said. “The sand’s dirty.” She picked up her bag, walked toward the parking lot, and sat on a wall. “I’ll just wait here.” Hal replied, “That’s silly. Let’s walk some more.” Fran said, “No. Let’s go back to the hotel. Now.”

Hal countered, “The driver said he’d pick us up soon. We’ll wait.” Ten minutes later an elderly cabbie pulled up: “Hotel district?” Hal replied, “A driver said he’d come back for us.” The old cabbie laughed: “Suit yourself. The Valentine’s Day parade is starting. Lots of virgin lovers over there. Good fares. No way your driver comes back.”

Hal said, “Let’s wait.” They waited. They finally jumped into another taxi, which soon was stuck in traffic as the parade took over Main Street. “We can get there faster by walking,” Fran said: “Pay the man.” She was already out of the car. Hal threw a $10 bill onto the seat and followed her.

A Navy band marched past, playing “Anchors Aweigh.” Fran bumped elbows down the sidewalk while the song faded. Hal finally caught her by the arm and swung her around. She was crying. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“It’s all wrong,” Fran replied. “We wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t pregnant. We wouldn’t…” Hal couldn’t catch her last few words because a straggling trio at the parade’s tail—a tuba, a trombone, and a girl holding a Salvation Army banner—was tooting out a vaguely familiar tune: Da-da-da-dada-da-da. But what were the lyrics?

Hal and Fran stood, gripping each other. As if he could read Hal’s mind, a man behind them with a powerful voice said, “I love that hymn. ‘What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.’”

Fran turned to the man, wanting to hear more, but he had disappeared. 

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