August 19
11:45 a.m.

Two days.

Two whole days, or four if you count the weekend, I’ve dreaded this meeting.

Walt had shadowed me in my office all that time. “I’m going to protect you from them. Bad ones.”

“Walt, that’s very sweet of you, but I can take care of myself.”

But Walt, true to his word, wouldn’t let Don and Darlene give me any of their work. “I’m Natalie’s helper today. I’m a very good secretary—have helped out at many charity organizations.”

He had a way of appearing when I needed him, and then he was gone. No wonder people liked Walter.

“Walt’s been your Guy Friday?” Martha was going to watch the telephones while I went into the meeting.

“Yes. He’s been such a help.”

“You should have called me. I don’t trust him.”

“Martha, that’s how I felt too. But now I don’t.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Fella has taken a shine to you. Too much shine.”

“Martha, not every guy in the world… Walter hi!”

“Natalie, I wasn’t born yesterday. Don’t teach your grandma to suck eggs.”

“Why did she say that?” Walter is following me out of my office, to the Fellowship Hall.

“Does anyone know why Martha says what she does? I just love the way she pulls out all these old sayings.”

“She doesn’t like me, you know.”

“No, Walt, she likes everyone.” Anyone who knows Martha knows that’s a big lie.

“Natalie, you called me Walt.”

“I did? Is that okay?”

“It is very special. Only those close to me call me that. You are very special to me.”

“Thanks Walt!” He’s smiling.

_________

12:00 p.m.

The elders who could make the emergency meeting were standing in a circle, praying.

“Amen. Let’s just make sure we have a quorum.” Allan started to count.

No quorum.

No meeting.

One, two, three, four, five…quorum met. There went my last hope.

“You all carry on to Mark’s office. I’ll be right in.”

Anything to delay my having to face Don and Darlene.

“Natalie, we’ll be waiting for you. Don’t run away.”

As if.

______

12:15 p.m.

I gave Martha a despairing look as I dragged myself towards Mark’s office.

“You’re such a drama queen. You’ll be okay.”

That made me giggle and gave me the confidence boost I needed. God bless Martha.

The moment I walked in, I sensed the tension and saw Don and Darlene looking like Mr. & Mrs. Grim Reaper.

I’m wondering if I could just close my eyes and blink myself away. Like in I Dream of Jeannie. Love those reruns.

One chair by the door. Pefect. Hopefully no one will notice my presence.

“In fact… Why is she here, in fact?” Darlene’s demanding. Of course she’d notice. What was I thinking?

“I asked her to join us.”

Thanks so very much, Allan. I was doing great in my office.

“Let us pray,” Don begins.

And he went into another of his long prayers. This time it was about God bringing down justice and his wrath on those who lie and cheat. There were lots of Yes, Jesuses from Don and Darlene…and the prayer went on and on.

_________

12:00 noon

I started to think confessing to all the stealing in the church would be much better than listening to this any longer. This thought began to occupy my mind and I began to wonder what I’d say?

Hmmm…maybe I could say…

“So what have you to say for yourself?”

It’s amazing how reality and fantasy can, in a moment of time, come together and scare the living daylights out of you.

“Me? Me?” I had my eyes sort of shut in fervent prayer so wasn’t expecting the question.

Now everyone’s eyes are on me again.

“What are you talking about?” Don’s staring at me.

Relief.

It isn’t about me. I must have drifted off and not been present for the end of the prayer.

“Sorry to interrupt.”

Don’s angry. I must have missed something. Why didn’t I pay attention?

“…the concerns of the church and the nursery school have been brought to my attention.” Allan’s saying.

“Why yours? Why not Derek’s? He’s the Finance chair.”

“I have spoken to Derek. He’s aware of the concerns. We’re hoping we can work this out without involving the police.”

“I’ll have you know that I have never ever, let me repeat, never ever had such accusations leveled at me. I’m deeply, deeply insulted by your actions.” Don’s belly trembled as he slammed his fist into his hand. “What do you think, Peter?”

Too much righteous indignation. I am mentally making my judgments.

Poor Peter. He’s a very sweet elder, but I like to call him Peter the Pooh—he reminds me so much of Winnie. I’m afraid he’s going to faint right there, pass out. He’s that white.

“Allan, don’t you think you should have talked to Don first? Rich and I think that Don should have been consulted first. After all, he is the pastor of the church.” Rich and Peter were two of the new elders. Both accepted when no one else would agree to being elders. So typical of churches. You always make someone an elder because they’re nice…or because they said yes. And why Rod was an elder, I couldn’t figure out. He didn’t know anything about the Bible, theology…and had no common sense.

Just my opinion.

“No one’s accusing anybody yet. We’re just here to discuss the situation. Also, for the record, Don isn’t the pastor of the church. Mark is. Don is only the exchange…read temporary…pastor.”

“I think Allan should be excused.” Don’s really huffing and puffing like the little engine that absolutely can’t. “He’s too close to Pastor Mark to be objective and is being controlled by him. I suggest that Allan be released from his duties until further notice.”

The other elders shifted uncomfortably in their chairs letting Allan take the heat. What a bunch of cowards.

“As I was telling the elders on the phone last evening…” Don stops abruptly. “I think we should stop for a moment of private prayer and reflection to decide what God would want us to do.”

________

12:55 p.m.

That was it.

Don’s still praying and my thoughts are roaming, more running wild-like.

Don did a telephone campaign. Now it made complete sense as to why the wimpiest of the elders were present to be a quorum!

Darlene’s making low moaning and groaning sounds…like she’s being slain in the Spirit. Gross. It just doesn’t sound good. At all. Lord, please make this prayer thingy be over very soon…and by some miracle that only you can do…make them go away. Immediately, that is. Amen.

“I’m not going to waste my time playing games with you. I’m going to recommend to our Board that your services be terminated immediately. We’ll pay you a month’s salary.”

I guess the private prayer moment had given Allan God’s answer to him…and to my prayer. Maybe I should do the “Immediately…that is” Prayer more often. Never thought it would really work.

“You don’t think I’m just going to walk away, not after you have accused me of stealing. You seem to be overly protective of the church secretary. She’s…”

“In fact, she’s not spiritual enough, in fact. If you’re looking for your thief…”

The whole scene had taken on a surreal quality. I’m the center of attention. Some of the elders are giving me sad looks. I’m frozen to my chair. These elders actually think… Suddenly, the pastor’s office doors swung widely open, and slammed into the filing cabinet behind it.

I screamed.

I mean I was right by those cabinets. I felt very justified in screaming.

Startled, everyone looked at the newcomer.

Seriously? You must be kidding!

Score—a perfect ten for grand entrance! Black polo neck sweater, black jeans, aviators—James Bond couldn’t have done better.

“Hi, I’m sorry I’m late. I tried to get over as soon as I could.”

“Tav…” Allan is breathing a huge sigh of relief. “I’m so glad you could make it. Really sorry to bother you to cut short your vacation. We’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“I hope I didn’t miss anything.” Tav’s grinning.

Oh Lord, he looks so delicious. In a very generic, objective way.

Now he’s smiling. Oh that smile. I can’t take my eyes off of him…only because I haven’t seen him in a while. I’m watching him glance around the room. Wonder if he saw me or not?

I never thought I would be so glad to see him.

Don’s still on a roll. “I’m sorry, I don’t care who you are, but we’re in the middle of a very private matter.”

“The case of the missing money?” Tav asks, one eyebrow raised (I love the way he does that), voice decibel range registering dangerously low.

“I’ve just told Don I’m recommending that the Board terminate his position here. I’m sure Mark would be in agreement.”

“Pastor Don…” Don’s still trying to regain control of his fast unraveling authority. And, in fact, Darlene is speechless. Score 100% for Tav.

“Sounds a good idea to me.”

That’s when Don came completely unglued.

Screaming.

Yelling.

“You think you can push me around! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?! I will have you REMOVED!!! You all seem… SMITTEN…”

Don couldn’t stop yelling. It was so awful. I tuned him out, fascinated by the tightening of Tav’s jaws.

“…PROTECTIVE of…the SCHEMING…Faith TOLD us….”

I’m not sure exactly what happened or what Don said, but one moment he was standing, yelling, waving his hands…the next moment Tav was punching him on the jaw…Don went sprawling on the couch.

If I could have filmed the expressions on everyone’s faces, I would be a millionaire. The things that no one believes that happens behind closed church doors…

Especially Darlene’s. I got this vague feeling that she enjoyed seeing her husband get punched almost as much as I did.

“One day I may be sorry—although, I very much doubt it.” Tav’s even quieter now. “Have all your things out of the office immediately. If not, I’ll inform the police, and we’ll press charges. For your information, the preschool has video security.”

Nobody said a word.

“By the way, I’m Tavish MacGregor—the Associate Pastor of the church.”

“Elders, do you agree with my decision?”

They all nodded in unison.

The cowards.

“Good, that’s settled then,” Tav’s all smiles. “I’ll see you at our Board meeting. We can finish this matter then.”

_____

2:05 p.m.

I bolted out of Mark’s office. “Everything okay? You look beat.” Martha’s fussing over me.

“Yes, all is good.”

“It is. Tav’s back. He’s very handsome. All the old ladies like to watch him while he preaches.”

“Really? I never noticed his looks.”

“Where’s Walt?”

“I told him to leave.”

“Martha, you didn’t?”

Of course she did.

______

2:15 p.m.

Back at my desk, I thankfully sink into my chair, lean back, and shut my eyes. I still can’t believe what happened in there. It had been quite a meeting—an exhausting meeting, but Tav had saved the day. For some weird reason, “My Boyfriend’s Back” keeps ringing in my mind. He’s definitely caused a lot of trouble.

Not that I’m thinking of Tav as my boyfriend, it’s just that song seemed to fit the occasion.

“Couldn’t live without me so you asked Allan to beg me to cut short my vacation?”

Startled, I open my eyes to see Tav standing across my desk, grinning down at me.

He looked so good.

Ugh.

“Strange…Allan told me that you had begged him to let you come back and punch Don.”

He’s laughing. I love it when he laughs like that.

“Not my finest moment.”

“No, dear, gentle Tav. It was actually one of your finest. I wish I could have punched him too,” I add, dreaming about the possibilities. “He was pretty nasty to Allan.”

“That’s not why I punched him.” Tav’s got that jaw-clenching thing going on again.

“No?”

“No. It was because of what he said about you.” Allan’s slapping Tav hard on the back. “Thanks, Brother.”

“Me?” I’m shocked. Intrigued. Curious. “What did he say?”

“He’ll never say it again.”

“Oh.”

I couldn’t wait to ask Allan what Don had said.

“You can visit me in jail,” Tav’s joking.

“You’re not serious?”

“No. I don’t think Don will say anything, neither will the elders.”

“Really?” I could imagine Don getting hundreds of bucks for what he would claim as “assault.”

“When I called Tav over the pond…”

OVER THE POND? So that’s where he was? Why?

“…sorry to ruin your vacation…”

“No worries. We were done by then.”

We? Who is the we?

“Anyway, Tav made some calls. Apparently, Don and Darlene seem to be on the run. They’ve been going from church to church and doing the same thing. I’m guessing their reputation is beginning to catch up with them.”

“Probably why they jumped at the chance of the exchange,” Tav explained.

“Does Mark know?

“Tav thought it would be better to let Mark enjoy his vacation exchange.”

“Will Ken cite Tav or something?”

“They’ll probably send me off for anger management counseling.” Tav’s totally cool about the whole situation.

“And you had a good time on your vacation.”

“Yes, very.

“What was the most fun thing you did?”

“Lots. Good restaurants. See you tomorrow. A bit jet-lagged right now. Natalie, take the next two days off.” He’s putting his aviators on. How can anyone with jet lag look sooooo good?

He’s gone. I want to know all the details.

With whom?

Why??

Where???

My stomach is beginning to burn. I want to get out before Don and Darlene come out of Mark’s office.

And God had answered my “Immediately” prayer.

_______

11:45 p.m.

“And that’s about it.” I’m telling Gwen and Mitch the whole story. I would like to tell that story to every single person in the whole world. Of course, I didn’t tell them how gorgeous Tav looked.

“I’d like to see Tav again,” Mitch is saying.

“We can have him over for dinner.”

“Not a good idea…you know…work and play.”

“Mitch, you can call him and invite him over.”

“He’s very busy. Just came back. Jet-lagged.” Hello, I’m talking. Can you hear me?

“Mitch, fix a time when he’s free.”

And so my boss will be coming over to dinner at some future date, against my wishes…

So boring.

_______

12:15 a.m.

Thanks to my boss, I can sleep in late and have a nice long weekend.

All’s well that ends well. Now to listen to my song of the day…

I’m giggling as I watch this. Love it.

Life. Is. So. Very. Good.

Wah-ooo, wah-ooo!