July 10
5:45 p.m.

How much longer can I take this? I’m on my way home after another tedious, long day.

“Nat, dinner.” Even the smell of roasted garlic bread and the sight of my favorite lasagne and Caesar’s salad isn’t cheering me up.

“Thanks, Gwen. This looks wonderful. My favorites!” I try to sound enthused. I know my sister is trying to cheer me up. I can tell by the looks she’s darting in Mitch’s direction that she thinks I need help.

Which I do.

Like finding another job. I mean I have just one life to live and this is not the one I want.

“How’s it going?”

“Meh. I wonder if I can go to sleep like Rip Van Winkle and when I wake up Death and Destruction will be gone.”

“No such luck,” Gwen laughs. “It’s the church. You get rid of those types, and Satan has a steady supply to replace them.”

“Nat, do you want me to talk to them?” My sweet, protective brother-in-law.

“Thanks Mitch. I’m a big girl. I really want to stand up to them. I figure if I can do that…I can take on anyone else.”

“We’re here if you need us.”

Friday night and all I’m looking forward to is a good night’s sleep.

_________

July 13
6:45 a.m.

I roll over on my back and reach for my alarm.

Morning already? It couldn’t be. I feel ill.

Maybe I am ill.

Maybe I am going to die and then I won’t have to ever see Don and Darlene ever again. I’m thinking, How could God create two such obnoxious, spiritually superior people? He must have had a bad day.

A very bad day.

So I’m whining.

And I’m talking to myself…motivating myself actually. “You can do it.”

Hearing sounds of so-called life coming from my room, Gwen enters all cheery. “Good morning, sunshine!” She’s singing and thrusting a cup of tea in my hands.

“I think I’m ill.”

“No, you’re not. You have to go and beat death and destruction.”

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I’m back to whining again, as I gratefully sip the tea she brought me. Gwen somehow knows when I need that extra loving care. “I think I’m going to call the ‘rents today.”

“Good idea,” she agrees. Probably figures Mom will tell me to have my pity party, get over it, and go take on life. “Now don’t be late or Darling Darlene will take your job.”

That was enough to get me going. I didn’t need to give Don a reason to fire me.

Darlene is always waiting.

And waiting.

Like the Grim Reaper.

In fact, she is the Grim Reaper. Now I’m in giggles as I’m mentally imitating Darlene. I think Faith would be highly offended if she knew I was being so disrespectful of the anointed.

Bah.

_______________

8:20 am.

Thankfully, other than Pete, I’m the first one in the office today.

“Hi Pete!” I call out happily, thrilled that “they” weren’t in the office as yet.

Pete gives me one of his surly looks as he follows me into my office.

“Now what?”

“Those two. Who the hell do they think they are?”

I didn’t need to ask, “Which two?”

“Let’s talk,” I’m early and coffee with Pete actually sounds good. “I’ve got plenty time before my day begins officially!”

Grabbing cups of coffee, we move to the Fellowship Hall and sit around the round table that Pete had set up for the youth meeting this evening. I wonder how Brad’s doing. Haven’t seen him around much since “they” arrived.

“They’re getting after me about the cleaning. Do this, pick up that. I didn’t sign up to be bossed by them!” Pete slams his fist down on the table. My coffee cup jumps, and spills over onto the table.

“Sorry about that.”

“No worries.” I’m wiping up the mess and wondering how many others are upset at what’s happening in the church.

“Anyway, Darlene goes poking around my room. I don’t know what she’s looking for. And she took a call for me…you know what I mean.”

“Hmmm…” If they figure that out about Pete, he was definitely going to be fired.

Where is Tav? I’m his secretary, so I should know where he is. Not that I care about him as a…a him, but if feels like ages since he’s been here and it’s just irresponsible to leave without anyone knowing where you are. Or whom you’re with, if anyone. And he should have left some clue on his whereabouts. Somebody should have told me, anyway. Just for professional reasons. I’m just saying.

“They’re trouble. And they’re looking to cause me trouble.”

“They can’t fire you,” I said, with more conviction than I felt.

“No?” Pete sounds relieved.

“No,” I’m hoping to sound more convincing.

“Thanks. You’re a good ‘un!”

High praise from Pete. I felt happier than I’d felt since first meeting them. Pete and I have now joined forces against them and what they could do.

_______

8:33 a.m.

My new re-found joy is short-lived. They’re both in my office.

So early.

Why does Darlene always have to wear taupe?

“Where have you been, in fact?”

I ignore her question. I mean it really isn’t any of her business. Besides, I don’t like rude people “Good morning!”

“The telephone has been ringing off the hook.” Liar. I would have heard it ring on the extension in Fellowship Hall.

“Natalie…” starts Don. I can hardly wait to hear what he’s going to say.

Not.

“I’m a fair-minded man. I just want you to know that I expect you to be here right at 8:30 a.m., ready to help anyone who calls or comes through that door.”

“Technically, office hours are from 9:00 to 5:00.”

Silence.

“Wellll, Natalie…I am the pastor and if I say 8:30, 8:30 it is. Just so there’s no misunderstanding.”

Darlene sniffs. “In fact, praise Jesus. In fact…”

I am going to hear this again at staff meeting.

_____

9:45 a.m.

So I’m going to begin a mantra for the day. That’s what the yoga instructor keeps saying. Something positive. Something energizing.

And if these two stay around any longer, they’ll convince me to change my religion.

Kidding. (Mostly.)

I’m not going to let you get to me, I’m not going to let you get to me, I repeat as I scrunch up a few papers on my desk wad them up into a ball and throw it in the general direction of Don and Darlene’s departing figures.

Of course, this is only after I have carefully made sure that they have left my battleground (that’s what I’m beginning to call my office) and can’t see what I was doing!

And back to…I’m not going to let you get to me, I’m not going to let you get to me…

I’m letting you get to me… I’m letting you get to me…

I need chocolate. I need chocolate. I need chocolate… This mantra thingy really works. I feel good.

Now for that chocolate.

I’m going to go look for my secret stash in the church refrigerator. Let’s just hope, for Darlene’s sake, she hasn’t disturbed it in any way…