July 4
3:30 p.m.

Long weekend! I am so in need of this. I am not going to do anything. Gwen and Mitch wanted to BBQ. Told them I just wanted to die for three days so to please go and watch the fireworks by the Bay.

Now they’re worried about me.

“Is it Frankie?”

“Frankie? Gwen, I haven’t really had time to think about him.”

“Have you heard from him?”

“Yes. Sort of. He texted me something.”

“And?”

“And, nothing. I wrote back and he just disappeared again.”

“You’re not upset about him?”

“Not more than usual.”

“Hmmm….” And that’s exactly how I feel too.

My sister did have a point. I was doing my usual denial thing again. Frankie had mentioned that he wanted to spend the Fourth with me…and here I am and there’s no Frankie.

And more than that, there’s also no Tav. But I figured it was better not to mention that to her.

__________

7:30 p.m.

“Nat, you changed your mind!” I have decided to put aside my pity party and go join the fun by the water—I mean there’s a Beach Boys tribute, some guy making animals out of balloons (always weird, always fascinating), and tons of food—even an ice cream man.

“Yes. I’m so sorry that I’ve been such a downer.”

“You haven’t been, has she, Mitch?” Of course my sweet brother-in-law is going to lie. He smiles and gives me a hug. Even I know I’ve been a downer. I blame it on the two Ds—Don and Darlene, affectionately known as Death and Destruction.

“Nat, you know some of the crowd from church.” Not really, but they all seem eager to welcome me.

“Thanks for letting me gate crash.”

“No, we sooooo love Gwen, and sooooo want to get to know you better.” That would be Lizzy.

“Thanks. You all are very nice.”

“Nat, works at First Church. She’s their Admin.”

“Wow! Really. Is that the church who has this gorgeoussss pastor?” Lizzy again. “He’s foreign.”

She knows about Tav?

“Gorgeous?”

“Yes. I heard he’s dreamy.”

“Dreamy?”

“Jessica said he’s dreamy.”

“Jessica?”

“Yes. Natalie, you don’t talk much do you. You seem soooo shy.”

“Thanks.”

“Awww…Gwen, you’re little sister is soooo cute. I don’t know why Jessica said…”

“Said what?”

“Nothing…”

One can never get away from church and church news.

“One can never get away…”

I whirl around and am nose to nose with…

“Hi. I’m Marc.”

“Hi. Do you always listen in to conversations?”

“I try not to, but it’s difficult when you live in the same house.”

I’m so confused. Is this Lizzy’s husband?

“Lizzy is my sister.”

“Ah.”

“Nat, you’ve met Marc. Good. Marc, take care of my sister.” Gwen’s beaming at me one of those smiles sisters beam at each other when they’re matchmaking.

“I can…”

“Don’t disappoint your sister.” Marc’s laughing. The party suddenly got more fun. I like a guy with a sense of humor…although, he didn’t look that old. Now I’m determined to find out how old he is. I’m very awkward when a guy is younger than me…even three days. Gwen’s always on my case about that. “You’re weird. If you’re not going to marry the guy, why does it even matter?” “I don’t know. It just does, it makes me feel weird.” Gwen’s like, “If he’s okay with it, why should it bother you?”

“You’re here on a visit?”

“Uh-huh.”

“College?”

“Let’s drive to where we can get a better view from…” He’s dragging me with him…and I still don’t know how old he is.

“Marc, Gwen will be looking for me.”

“I’m not going to murder you.”

“Oh well, if you are, just do a good job of it. I don’t want to go back to work.”

“You are funny.”

“Just don’t tell anyone.”

“I promise! Now let’s make a run for it before we get caught into a camp-sing of Kumbaya!”

“Marc, I’m sorry. I just can’t go with you.”

“What?”

“I can’t leave until they sing ‘They’ll Know We Are Christians…'”

“You are terrible. Definitely hell-bound.”

Marc has definitely been a God-send. I feel so much better to be in the company of someone who is so uncomplicated and relaxed.

___________

12:30 a.m.

One of the best July 4ths ever! Marc turned out to be the most fun guy ever. And completely disregarded all traffic rules. I’m still laughing thinking about him doing a U-turn in the middle of heavy traffic on Main Street…

“Thanks. Best July 4th ever.” Marc has just texted. God knows just when to send someone into your life to completely distract you from all your problems.

Thank you, God.

_____

July 7
9:00 a.m.

UGH!

Tuesday already.

“Hi Natalie! Have a good weekend?”

“Allan, good to see you!” So glad to see Allan.

“The wife sends her love and greetings. The boys want you to come over and have another picnic with them.”

“Anytime!”

Allan and Addie’s babysitter had forgotten to show up one evening, and I’d offered to take her place. The adorable seven year-old twins and I had a fun evening together. Now every time they need a babysitter, they beg their parents to have me take care of them.

“What brings you in so early?”

“Don wanted to see me.”

“Oh.”

“Is he ready for me?”

“I think so. Are you ready for him?”

“I’ll let him know you’re here,” I added quickly.

Don must have known that Allan was in the office as…there he was already booming, “Allan! Let’s go into my office and ask the Lord to bless our time together. I can already feel his pleasure on our meeting.”

_______

9:15 a.m.

I’m trying to get my work done and Darlene keeps interrupting.

“Natalie! I need the church’s constitution and personnel policy book. I tried to locate them, but you must have hidden them pretty well.”

“What particularly are you looking for—maybe I can help?” She obviously hadn’t looked at the counter behind my desk, because both books were in plain sight in-between the Bible and the Hymnbook.

“I just need the books.”

I‘m not sure if I was overreaching my secretary boundaries, but I just didn’t feel comfortable about her having them. I wish Kate was here.

“I’m sorry, I can’t give them to you.”

“You can’t, or you won’t?” Darlene snapped.

“I can’t.”

“We’ll see about that.” She storms back to Mark’s office.

I’m hoping I can get work done.

________

9:30 a.m.

I’m starting to weigh my options. The situation seems to be getting out of hand. I’m not sure how far an exchange pastor’s authority extends, but Don and Darlene’s wanting to have total control over the church doesn’t seem right. Well, at least that’s the way it seems to me. They would be like Interims. And Interims aren’t supposed to change the constitution and all that. Just my thoughts.

“Good question, Natalie,” Allan just remarked as he walked through my office.

“What question?”

“I definitely wasn’t ready for him…them.”

“What happened?”

“We’ll…” He stopped, as he heard the pastor’s office door open. “We’ll talk soon. Don’t worry,” he said quietly, as he made a quick exit from the room.

Now my curiosity is getting the better of me. I’m just as human as the next honest person, I think more so, and I really want to know what went on in the pastor’s office. Sometimes I wish I could wrap myself in an invisible cloak and go, “Voila!” (Never mind. That sounds pretty creepy, even to me.)

Maybe I’ll get my wish after all. At least, that’s how I’m trying to look on the bright side of the situation. But this is not how I wanted it to quit this job.

I can’t wait to kiss this workday goodbye.