September 1
9:45 a.m.

September, already?

And…yeah!! Kate is back in the office!

“It’s so good to see you!” I almost burst into tears.

“I’m sooooo sorry I missed being with you during this awful time! But, as much as I love you, Sweetie, Hawaii is a long way to travel back.”

“I know. I was dying to call you, but decided you needed a break from all the church stuff.”

“Allan filled Mark and me in on all the details. Poor Mark is pretty devastated at what you had to go through. He blames himself.”

“He should.” I was going to demand extra time off. “Maybe Paris?”

Life is good again. Kate’s in my office. Mark will be back soon. And I’ll move forward without Frankie…

“You okay?”

“Yes…” I don’t want to lie, but I don’t want to heap Kate’s first day back with my sorrow-filled love life.

“Okay, time to talk.” So Kate drags me into her office, pulls out a chair for me, and starts to ask questions and demands to know answers. One doesn’t say no to Kate.

“So…that’s about it with Frankie. It’s over.”

“Frankie? Frankie? Oh, Thank God. I mean I’m really sorry you’re hurting over Frankie, but, Sweetie, you’re going to get over it. I know I sound callous and uncaring, but I really am very sorry about it all. God has someone very wonderful for you.”

“Thanks. My mom said the same thing. Gwen too.”

“For one minute there, I was so worried. I thought that you were going to say it was…”

And Kate stops, and she’s staring at me.

“It was what?”

She’s just shaking her head.

“Kaaaaaate. Tell me.”

“Stop whining. God will reveal all things to you.” Kate is pretending to be a Swami on the mountain top. She’s so funny!

It’s good to laugh.

It’s good to be alive.

It’s…

“What are you both laughing about?” Mark and Tav are back from their pastors’ prayer breakfast.

“Nothing.” And we laugh more.

“Natalie, I am deeply sorry about what happened.”

“Oh, it’s okay…”

“She’s a big girl.” Tav’s standing tall above my chair, smiling down at me…there’s this look in his eyes…and suddenly, I’m feeling somewhat flustered. So dumb. Kate and Mark are smiling at us, and I’m worried they’re thinking that I like Tav…which is so far from the truth…because I’m so hurt about Frankie…I’m not going to get involved with anyone.

Not that there’s a chance. I wonder…

“Tav-Tav, you called and I’m here.” Faith’s filling up Kate’s office with her exuberance, and she’s back to looking like she stepped off a glamour magazine page. She’s giving Tav this long hug and whispering something in his ear, and they’ve left for his office.

Okay. No chance. Not that I was interested.

Kate and Mark exchange looks. Maybe Tav was in Hawaii or somewhere with Faith. I just don’t want to know. This heart’s not for hire.

And yet, I’m remembering the way he smiled down at me. So weird. There’s no way I’m getting involved with anyone ever again. Ever. EVER.

So done with that.

_____

1:45 p.m.

“I heard Kate’s back. I brought her these flowers.” Walt’s watery eyes behind his large spectacles, are staring unwaveringly at me. I wish he wouldn’t stare at me.

“Walt! Stop staring, and yes, Kate’s back! Isn’t that great? I’ve really missed her.”

“She’s very nice. She would never think I would do anything wrong, would she?”

What kind of question is that?

“Walter! So good to see you!” Kate’s giving Walt a big hug.

“These are for you.”

Walt holds out his wilted bouquet of flowers to Kate. I’m wondering which grave he’d picked them up from.

What a horrible thought.

“Walt, that is very nice of you.” She gives him another big hug. “How are you doing?”

“I was just at Vera Davis’ funeral.” Walt’s fighting back the tears.

That’s where the graveyard flowers came from, eh! He doesn’t have money and so wants to please…

“I’m so sorry about Vera.” Kate obviously knew who this Vera was.

“I did my best.” Walt couldn’t hold back the tears. I know men cry, but it still makes me feel very awkward to watch it happening right in front of my eyes—specially when Walt sobs and sounds like a…God forgive me…donkey. Poor Walt. I’m a PK. I should be used to his.

“Walt just lost one of his favorite people. He used to look after her. They were very close. The Seniors just love Walter.” Kate is holding him as he sobs on her shoulder

“I’m so sorry, Walt. If I can help in any way?” I’m a complete heel. God’s going to send me to some extra purgatory place to sanctify me or whatever else super religious people want you to do to get to heaven.

Walt’s just an overly sensitive man.

“Natalie, could I have a hug from you too?”

No.

“Yes…Walt.”

So Kate’s hugging Walt, and then, I give him a hug.

Tav walks in and observes this little scene…and raises one eyebrow at us. “Walter’s telling us about Vera,” Kate explains.

“Walter, I’m sorry to hear your news. Vera was so fond of you.”

“Yes. She was very special.”

“Let us know if we can help in any way.”

“Thanks, Pastor Tav. That is mighty sweet of you.” Walt’s words sounded sincere enough, but I couldn’t help thinking that he wasn’t too happy to see Tav.

Why?

“Because he likes you and Tav likes you too,” Kate’s explaining to me later.

“That’s all such total garbage. It’s like…never mind. In any case, I’m done with men. Totally done.”

“Famous last words…” Kate leaves humming. Hate it when people say that.

Scary thought. She couldn’t mean Walt? Could she??? Oh my gosh I would die.