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I give the stack a good glare back — two can play at that game. I will myself to feel gratitude with all of my being but my being revolts. Sister June's skirt rustles with every step, making the only sound besides the soft pat, pat, pat of my black ballet flats and the purposeful tread of her thick, rubber-soled nun shoes against the carpet, so worn it's impossible to tell what color it used to be when it was new. Everything about him seems to glow from within and soon I am aware that I am not the only person in the room who finds this visitor striking. Him, well, he looks younger in person than in the photos on his book jackets and when you see him on television, and maybe this is why all the women look at him with such admiration. "And he says, "Please, call me Mark."So I respond, "Okay, Father Mark," and look up at him, hopeful."I did go to meet the honorable mentions in person, too," Father Mark adds because he is charming and obviously a good, kind person. I wonder why everyone else doesn't act like Sister June does. Priests have been coming to our house since I was little for lunch, tea, Sundays after mass, making sure Mom was okay on her own taking care of us and one big now-empty-of-a-husband house. "In addition to getting your story published," he says, pausing, drawing the moment out, letting the strength of his connections sink in, "you will receive a ,000 scholarship to the college of your choice, and of course, a spot in my HMU summer fiction seminar.""My sister is a junior at Holy Mary University," I say, as if this matters and because I can't think of anything else, trying to stay calm, feet firm on the floor, resisting the urge to jump up and down because I want to appear older than my seventeen years and poised, like Ashley and Jada said I am."It was an easy decision."Easy, he says. Sunlight streams through the only window, its rays landing in the space between us, and I see him through the specs of dust that shine like glitter in the light."Your writing reveals a maturity beyond your years," he says, his eyes locking on mine for an instant, and then looks at his watch. Then, when he asks, because he will ask, I'll be able to answer truthfully, "Yes, I read it. Just about anything sounds more appealing than dealing with some God Damn demand fromhim. Before he leaves the room, before he goes, he turns and smiles and looks at me like I am a gift from God, and for a moment I feel like maybe I am. My cell pings with texts and I know it's Ash and Jada, but I am not quite ready to confirm what they suspect. ) SWAK, and then shove the phone back under my books.

I start to get up but still staring at me from the coffee table is this story I've got to read. Sister June and I walk down the hall with its long line of lockers on either side, their red paint so chipped that if I use only my peripheral vision they look like giant abstract paintings. I've never been this close to him before and I am struck by the tiny lines that web from his smiling eyes, the gleam from his perfect white teeth, his thick salt-and-pepper hair, the size of his hands, so large, the hands of a strong man. " and beaming like she has just won teacher of the year or maybe even a Pulitzer Prize. Everyone turns in our direction and for a moment there is silence."You must be Olivia," he says then. "So, honorable mention," I repeat after him, trying to focus."That's not why you're here, Father? Maybe this is a skill she learned as a nun, to be unmoved by handsome men, handsome priests. My dad's been out of the picture for more than a decade, but my older sister, Greenie, and I have had plenty of other dads over the years, it's just that everyone calls them Fathers instead of Dads and they are married to the Catholic Church. Brendan makes it official, his voice like velvet, and I want to reach out and smooth my hand across those words as they ripple the air. I feel like if I touch it I will go up in flames or the pages might bite. Isn't it just a matter of grabbing hold of the stack and moving it in front of my eyes so my eyes will begin to scan those black marks on the page which will magically arrange themselves into words that my brain will recognize and understand and voilà, I'm finished before I know it? If it's not dinner that saves me lately, it's sleep, and if it's not sleep it's, oh, I don't know, cleaning my room, scrubbing the toilet. I took the Lord's name in vain and it doesn't feel half bad. I wonder whether he means what he says, about being in touch again soon, but this question is answered almost immediately. Maybe only a minute passes before I can't help myself any longer and I give in, digging the cell out of my bag and texting them, Come 4 dinner 2nite, BIG News (!!!!!!!!

I give the stack a good glare back — two can play at that game. I will myself to feel gratitude with all of my being but my being revolts. Sister June's skirt rustles with every step, making the only sound besides the soft pat, pat, pat of my black ballet flats and the purposeful tread of her thick, rubber-soled nun shoes against the carpet, so worn it's impossible to tell what color it used to be when it was new. Everything about him seems to glow from within and soon I am aware that I am not the only person in the room who finds this visitor striking. Him, well, he looks younger in person than in the photos on his book jackets and when you see him on television, and maybe this is why all the women look at him with such admiration. "And he says, "Please, call me Mark."So I respond, "Okay, Father Mark," and look up at him, hopeful."I did go to meet the honorable mentions in person, too," Father Mark adds because he is charming and obviously a good, kind person. I wonder why everyone else doesn't act like Sister June does. Priests have been coming to our house since I was little for lunch, tea, Sundays after mass, making sure Mom was okay on her own taking care of us and one big now-empty-of-a-husband house. "In addition to getting your story published," he says, pausing, drawing the moment out, letting the strength of his connections sink in, "you will receive a ,000 scholarship to the college of your choice, and of course, a spot in my HMU summer fiction seminar.""My sister is a junior at Holy Mary University," I say, as if this matters and because I can't think of anything else, trying to stay calm, feet firm on the floor, resisting the urge to jump up and down because I want to appear older than my seventeen years and poised, like Ashley and Jada said I am."It was an easy decision."Easy, he says. Sunlight streams through the only window, its rays landing in the space between us, and I see him through the specs of dust that shine like glitter in the light."Your writing reveals a maturity beyond your years," he says, his eyes locking on mine for an instant, and then looks at his watch. Then, when he asks, because he will ask, I'll be able to answer truthfully, "Yes, I read it. Just about anything sounds more appealing than dealing with some God Damn demand fromhim. Before he leaves the room, before he goes, he turns and smiles and looks at me like I am a gift from God, and for a moment I feel like maybe I am. My cell pings with texts and I know it's Ash and Jada, but I am not quite ready to confirm what they suspect. ) SWAK, and then shove the phone back under my books. CHAPTER 1ON GRATITUDEI KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I SHOULD BE GRATEFUL.

I start to get up but still staring at me from the coffee table is this story I've got to read. Sister June and I walk down the hall with its long line of lockers on either side, their red paint so chipped that if I use only my peripheral vision they look like giant abstract paintings. I've never been this close to him before and I am struck by the tiny lines that web from his smiling eyes, the gleam from his perfect white teeth, his thick salt-and-pepper hair, the size of his hands, so large, the hands of a strong man. " and beaming like she has just won teacher of the year or maybe even a Pulitzer Prize. Everyone turns in our direction and for a moment there is silence."You must be Olivia," he says then. "So, honorable mention," I repeat after him, trying to focus."That's not why you're here, Father? Maybe this is a skill she learned as a nun, to be unmoved by handsome men, handsome priests. My dad's been out of the picture for more than a decade, but my older sister, Greenie, and I have had plenty of other dads over the years, it's just that everyone calls them Fathers instead of Dads and they are married to the Catholic Church. Brendan makes it official, his voice like velvet, and I want to reach out and smooth my hand across those words as they ripple the air. I feel like if I touch it I will go up in flames or the pages might bite. Isn't it just a matter of grabbing hold of the stack and moving it in front of my eyes so my eyes will begin to scan those black marks on the page which will magically arrange themselves into words that my brain will recognize and understand and voilà, I'm finished before I know it? If it's not dinner that saves me lately, it's sleep, and if it's not sleep it's, oh, I don't know, cleaning my room, scrubbing the toilet. I took the Lord's name in vain and it doesn't feel half bad. I wonder whether he means what he says, about being in touch again soon, but this question is answered almost immediately. Maybe only a minute passes before I can't help myself any longer and I give in, digging the cell out of my bag and texting them, Come 4 dinner 2nite, BIG News (!!!!!!!! Pink petals fall from the blossoms above when they are shaken by the breeze and make a scattered springtime carpet across the grass. (Continues...) Excerpted from This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Exactly what game is Father Mark playing, and how on earth can she get out of it? Then, when he asks, because he will ask, I'll be able to answer truthfully, "Yes, I read it. Just about anything sounds more appealing than dealing with some God Damn demand fromhim. Before he leaves the room, before he goes, he turns and smiles and looks at me like I am a gift from God, and for a moment I feel like maybe I am. My cell pings with texts and I know it's Ash and Jada, but I am not quite ready to confirm what they suspect. ) SWAK, and then shove the phone back under my books. CHAPTER 1ON GRATITUDEI KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I SHOULD BE GRATEFUL.

This remarkable novel about overcoming the isolation that stems from victimization is powerful, luminous, and impossible to put down. I'm special and it's his responsibility to take me under his wing, to make sure I don't waste my talent. It would be a sin for me not to take his offer of help. I did," and he will smile and I'll be Good Olivia again. CHAPTER 3ON JOYWARM AIR TICKLES THE SKIN ON MY ARMS AND LEGS AS I walk home from school and I laugh out loud because I am happy. At a stoplight I take a moment to breathe deep, inhaling the scent of flowering trees, leaning forward off the curb and fidgeting as if these small pushes and movements can will the signal to change from red to green and the blinking sign to Walk, like magic. For now I want to keep the news to myself, let it sink deep into the center of my thirsty soul like water in a garden. I look both ways then cross the street, heading along another block of town houses anchored by riotous springtime blooms packed into tiny city flower beds. No, you are grateful, Olivia, I tell myself as if I am my self's imaginary friend, sitting across the table, giving advice.

Much of her writing, teaching, and lecturing centers around struggles of belonging and alienation with regard to faith, particularly among young adults and especially with regard to young women. CHAPTER 1ON GRATITUDEI KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I SHOULD BE GRATEFUL.

A regular contributor to The Washington Post/Newsweek’s online panel “On Faith,” the religion webzine Beliefnet, and Publishers Weekly, she has also written for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Christian Century, and School Library Journal, and she has appeared as a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered. in philosophy and Spanish from Georgetown University and her Ph. She is currently splitting her time between Barcelona and New York and writing full time.

Her books also include Becoming a Goddess of Inner Poise: Spirituality for the Bridget Jones in All of Us and Save the Date: A Spirituality of Dating, Love, Dinner&the Divine. Donna describes herself as an ardent feminist, a Catholic despite it all, an intense intellectual, and a fashion devotee all rolled into one.

Today’s episode features Steve Okey’s conversation with Jason King of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA!

Jason and Steve caught up at the CTS conference this past summer in Newport, RI.

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says the second, courtesy of Ash ..beautiful ..brilliant. I am too nervous to smile so instead I stare at the dark blue folds of Sister June's habit and try to squelch the feeling of hope bubbling up in me because surely it will be dashed to bits when I get to her office and she tells me something anticlimactic like —"We are so pleased you've never missed a day of school in all your years at Sacred Heart! begins."It isn't because you won honorable mention, either." He smiles, looking down at me because he is at least a head taller. I just never expected ..." I say, because I've always loved writing but I didn't really think it would amount to anything. But as soon as my eyes hit the title page I feel regret because seeing it makes something in my stomach go queasy. I grab the stack and slam it facedown as if I can make it all go away. That's how it starts: with a pervasive sense of this cannot be happening and thinking that no one is going to believe me when I tell them because I don't even believe it myself. Sister June's eyes are on me and suddenly I can't remember anything about the slope of the tangent."I need Olivia Peters in the office right away," Sister June says with unmistakable joy and I am already shutting my notebook and textbook and shoving them into my bag because a girl can hope — sometimes a girl can't help but hope, you know? Every few feet Sister June glances my way and I detect the trace of a smile on her pursed lips and my heart quickens until it is beating so fast I imagine it is racing the fifty-yard dash and has left my body at the starting line. Sister June stops short because we are at the office entrance and I am so startled I almost knock her over. With one hand on my back she guides me or maybe encourages me or even ensures that I don't run away because this is my big moment, and we enter the reception area as a united front and just like that it happens, the same way I've been imagining and daydreaming all these months ever since the contest was announced in October and Ms. The reception staff surrounds him like he is a movie star or some other kind of celebrity or maybe even God come down from heaven to ask, Hello how is everybody doing? "But that's not why I am here, Olivia."The way he says my name, it sounds like music, beautiful music that I listen to at the symphony, and I wish he would keep saying "Olivia ... Olivia" with his emphasis on the O as in Oh-liv-ee-aah and not a-livia the way most people pronounce it with a short a, as if my name begins with an article and I am this object named "Livia," like liver or just live. Greenie and I, we took to these stand-in dads like kids to candy. I already know who it is and I already know I don't want to talk. He holds up an arm sheathed in the black shirt of a priest, the white collar around his neck providing the only contrast against this dark, sacred uniform. I'm special and it's his responsibility to take me under his wing, to make sure I don't waste my talent. It would be a sin for me not to take his offer of help. I did," and he will smile and I'll be Good Olivia again. CHAPTER 3ON JOYWARM AIR TICKLES THE SKIN ON MY ARMS AND LEGS AS I walk home from school and I laugh out loud because I am happy. At a stoplight I take a moment to breathe deep, inhaling the scent of flowering trees, leaning forward off the curb and fidgeting as if these small pushes and movements can will the signal to change from red to green and the blinking sign to Walk, like magic. For now I want to keep the news to myself, let it sink deep into the center of my thirsty soul like water in a garden. I look both ways then cross the street, heading along another block of town houses anchored by riotous springtime blooms packed into tiny city flower beds. No, you are grateful, Olivia, I tell myself as if I am my self's imaginary friend, sitting across the table, giving advice.

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