June 19
11:10 a.m.

“So how has everyone’s week been.” We’re having an extra break today. Mark has been so busy he wants to just relax and catch up with the staff. Even Brad has shown up for it.

“It’s been a pretty life-changing week for me.” Tav volunteers.

“Want to elaborate?” Mark’s asking. I want to know. Not because I care. I don’t really.

“Yes, sounds like God’s working powerfully in your life.” Even Kate seems to know something.

“Still working out things.” What does that even mean? Is he getting married? Leaving? Married and leaving? Is it Faith? Why even make a statement if you’re not going to elaborate?

If Kate knew, surely she’d have told me.

“Your mighty quiet today, Natalie.”

“Me? No. Just thinking…”

“About what?” Kate, can you please stop asking questions?!

“She’s seemed quiet all week.” Really, Tav? Well, if you really want to know, I feel like Tav’s been avoiding me all week and so, yes, there you have it.

“You guys. I’m fine. It’s just been a hugely busy week.”

“She’s probably tired from all the running around at the concert.” Brad’s smirking at me. What now? He thinks he’s being so funny. He’s actually without earphones and his iPhone and is engaging us in conversation—the one time I wish he wouldn’t.

“Yes, she really loved the concert. Spent all her time dancing. She didn’t realize it was a rock concert.” Kate’s laughing and telling Mark all about it.

“She was dancing…and running…”

“And, she wishes you would just SHUT up.” I text Brad.

Brad reads the text, looks at me, and bursts out laughing.

“You both have something to tell us?” Tav has his famous eyebrow raised in Brad’s direction.

“She’s just such a spitfire sometimes.” Brad’s pretending to be scared and shaking his entire body like he’s trembling in fear.

“Tell us about it… Runs this place like a dictator. I’ve even seen Kate terrified of her.” They’re all teasing me. I love this staff.

Except Brad. He’s had it.

“Well, Natalie, think you can handle the office by yourself?” What does Mark mean?

“Yes, she’ll be fine.” Kate is reassuring him, but I still don’t know what’s going on.

“Brad will be here to help.” Tav’s pointing in Brad’s direction.

“What are you talking about?”

“We’re all going away for the summer.” Mark looks a bit alarmed. “If you’re not comfortable, we can line up some of the elders to…”

“Oh, that. No worries. I’ll be fine.” Except very depressed because I’m going to be working while everyone is having fun… I feel a pity-party coming on. There is going to be a huge chocolate buy-out this weekend. I have to stock up for when everyone is gone.

_________________________

3:40 p.m.

Friday afternoon, once more. It’s more crazy than ever. Extra bulletins for Sunday’s recognition of graduates, choir’s last Sunday before the summer break, and I’m feeling lonely thinking about Kate, Mark, and Tav being gone for a while.

“Don’t forget anyone’s name,” Martha reminds me. “You’ll hear about it for the next year. And even beyond.”

“Tell me about it.”

“The only one occasion in the church that my daughter will remember with great pride, and her name wasn’t in the bulletin.” Martha’s pretending to be a hurt parent. She knows church members so well. Generally, members will pick on that one slip-up, rather than thank you for the thousands things you do in a week to make Sunday’s worship service meaningful for them.

“Martha, you do it so well.”

“Honey, I was in charge of the youth group and Sunday school when this church first started. I can tell you lots of stories.”

“People don’t change much.”

“Not one bit, sometimes. I’m not going to talk your head off today. You got enough on your plate.”

I love Martha.

________________

4:55 p.m.

The senior crowd gone, bulletins stacked, and calm reigns once more.

“Five minutes to quitting time!” I’m now talking to the blinking numbers of cell.

“Hi Natalie!”

“Walt!” Oh please, please. Don’t ask me to do anything. I’m done. It’s Friday. I want my weekend.

“Not going to keep you. Just wanted you to know that I’m back.” He had been gone? Better not to ask.

“Thanks Walt!”

“You’re very special.”

“Thanks Walt!”

Maybe Walt and I are now finally becoming friends.

________________

6:45 p.m.

Gwen and Mitch are going to be out for dinner so I’m at Macy’s checking out the new Dior palette, the new perfumes for summer, fall and winter collection—always feel like they’re cheating me out of my summer. Clothes in the store should only reflect the season we’re in. Except for swimsuits. They should carry those all year long. You never know when you need one. But why are they charging $100+ for an item that uses 1/10 yard of material and child labor? Such a rip-off.

I don’t think men go shopping to while away time and just enjoy a few hours not really buying anything at all. They think it’s a waste of time. I call it cheap therapy. It saves spending hundreds of dollars on therapist visits. Anyway, here I am going through all the party dresses. I can’t think of one that I would even wear—many look like bridesmaid dresses. After being to many weddings, I’m convinced there’s an unwritten code that the bridesmaids have to wear ugly dresses. This way the bride makes sure that she looks better than them.

“Natalie! Is that you?”

I whirl around. “Andrea?” Yes, that’s Andrea.

“Yes. Good to see you.”

“You too.”

“How’s church?”

“Great.”

“Who’s doing the music now?”

“Faith.”

“Faith? Faaaaith?” Andrea looks like she’s watching a B-grade horror movie. I’m already liking her more. Even she gets how scary that is.

I nod my head. There’s this unspoken conversation going on between us. We go back to amicable flicking through the dress rack.

“How do you like this?” Andrea’s holding up a midnight-blue dress, with tiny silver sequins.

“Looks perfect for a grand affair.” The moment the word left my mouth, I wanted to shoot myself. I meant social affair…not like the affair-affair. Doesn’t anyone speak English anymore? “I meant for like a big ball event…”

Oh Lord! That just sounded even worse. Why don’t I just shut up? Or die? I’m beginning to feel like Job. Kill me now, Lorrrrrd. I’m sooooo mortified.

Andrea bursts out laughing. She’s in hysterics. She can’t stop. I’m afraid that I’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“Your face…” She’s wiping tears down her face. “The look on your face…”

Now I’m laughing too. “I’m so sorry. It never even crossed my mind until I said…”

“Thank you. I know. I’ve felt so awful about the whole affair… People treat you like… Natalie, would you like to grab a cup of coffee sometime?”

“Yes, absolutely.”

“See you soon.”

“Okay.”

Why couldn’t she still be at church and Faith gone?

____________

June 21
11:30 a.m.

“Happy Father’s Day, Dad!”

“Princess!”

And I start to cry. I haven’t felt like a princess in such a long time.

“Dad, I love you…thank you for being the best dad ever.”

“Princess, are you alright?”

“Yes…”

No, I’m not. And my dad knows that and he tells me how amazing I am, how strong, beautiful—inside and out, that God has this wonderful plan for my life, and to not let anyone discourage me or steal my joy.

I’m healed. Renewed.

Best. Dad. Ever.