Chapter Nineteen – Into the Woods
Beth has been invited to meet Xavier’s family, and spends a few paragraphs worrying that they won’t like her, that they’ll think she’s not good enough for Xavier, that she’ll come across badly. Xavier tells her that she has nothing to worry about and that his family have wanted to meet her for ages. Bethany’s still fretting, though, that they’ll compare her to the Dead Girlfriend of Tragedy.
“[…] My mom didn’t like Emily.”
“She was too impulsive.”
“Impulsive how?” I asked, puzzled.”
“She had some issues,” Xavier said. “Her parents were divorced, she didn’t see her dad, and sometimes she did things without thinking them through. I was always there to keep her safe, thank God, but it didn’t make her too popular with my family.”
Well, then they surely will love Bethany, who doesn’t do anything without oversight. Or anything at all, really.
They meet Xavier’s mother Bernadette first, in the kitchen, and Bethany offers to help her set up the table for dinner. Next, Xavier’s father makes a brief appearance, followed by two of his sisters, who are arguing. The younger one, Nicola, is the typical bratty teenager, introduced yelling at her elder sister, Claire.
“Nice to meet you,” she said grudgingly. “I don’t know what you’d want to date him for anyway,” she added, jerking her head in Xavier’s direction. “He’s a total loser and his jokes suck.”
I like her.
Claire then comes over to say hello and say how pretty Bethany is. She is the one who is getting married, and Bethany talks to her about the wedding arrangements.
Next, the three youngest siblings arrive, and we get a reference to Bethany’s love of children that has been mentioned perhaps once before. They, of course, take instantly to her, and want her to play with them.
But first, dinner! Bethany sees that they’re serving a lot of meat and gets worried about it, because angels can’t digest meat properly. Xavier tells his family that she’s vegetarian. The Woods family are quite religious; they say grace before the meal, which pleases Bethany.
The conversation turns to boyfriends and girlfriends. They make fun of Nicola, who has just broken up with her boyfriend, although apparently they’re on-off all the time. And it’s her fault, apparently, because she lost her temper with him when he told her her dress was too short. Because you should learn to take those kinds of things with a smile!
Then Claire’s boyfriend (the one she’s engaged to) rings to say he’s coming over, and she clashes with her mother since he isn’t allowed to stay the night. We find out that Xavier’s mother is very opposed to the idea of sex before marriage, and that goes for all her children. Now, I know that some people do hold this belief, and it’s a perfectly valid one, but here I’m catching just a whiff of authorial soapboxing.
Anyway, they sit around chatting, and Bethany begins to realise that she really likes being around a big family.
Gabriel, Ivy and I shared a bond of trust, but we didn’t really know one another in the same way. Most of our reflections were internal and never expressed. Perhaps it was because we weren’t required to have personalities that were distinctly our own; so we never spent time developing them. […] Having achieved oneness with the universe meant that we had no need for personal connections. The only love we were supposed to experience was a generic one, which encompassed all living things.
That does explain some things. Honestly, this could be really interesting. I’m reading this as saying that the angels are supposed to be almost a hive-mind. Taking that and then exploring how one breaks away and how she deals with developing her own personality and separate motivations could be fascinating. Your mileage may vary on how well Halo has managed to do this.
This leads to her wondering that she has started to identify more with humans than her own kind. But she’s still happy when she gets back home.
Next chapter, shopping!