Okay, I now have a great respect and admiration for my dad’s church secretary. Actually, all church secretaries everywhere. In fact, for all church secretaries everywhere in the world. I had no idea what they had to go through—this is purgatory.
This is slavery.
I’m overcome by another thought. What if the airlines go out of business? I’m almost having a panic attack thinking about that horrific possibility.
Deep breaths. Okay. Think calmly…
Two months and I’m going to find something else. Enough time to fix those administrative skills and be really good. Just in case. Especially by the time Frankie gets here… I’m still holding on to my Frankie dream. Just in case, too.
But…back to bargaining with God. I’ll be the best secretary ever for two months if you promise to get me out of here. Amen.
“Don’t delete any messages.” I repeated this to myself as a reminder. Especially not Tav’s messages. Kate tells me that ever since Tav joined the staff at the church, the office is constantly getting telephone calls and visitors—female visitors that is, between the ages of 18 and 85 who want to stay long and have cozy chats about Tav. I asked her why they didn’t go for Brad? She didn’t answer as my mind conjured up images of the goatee and the general John the Baptist in the wilderness look.
Today, once again, the office is feeling like Grand Central Station. And the phone won’t quit!
“Hello? Natalie? Hi…what is Pastor Tav’s favorite Bible verse? I’d like to include it in this week’s service.”
“Jessica, I really don’t know.”
“Could you please ask him? Or I’ll be happy to stop by the church office.”
Threat or promise? Definitely threat. I wonder what happened to her warnings of dire consequences to Tav and me.
Another telephone call.
“Natalie, you wouldn’t happen to know when Pastor Tav’s birthday is, would you? I think we should dedicate a floral arrangement on the Sunday morning closest to his birthday…”
“Natalie, do you think Tav would like to stop by Billy’s softball game? He really looks up to Tav…”
And Jessica again.
This has to stop.
“Hi Natalie. It’s Jessica. I just wanted to ask…you’ve been out for staff lunches. So what do the staff like to eat?”
“Depends on the restaurant.”
Silence. Humming and hawing. Why can’t women just be direct?
“Well…actually…I was wondering what restaurant does Pastor Tavish like? You know, his favorite food. That kind of stuff.”
Should I? Shouldn’t I? I shouldn’t. It’s not Christlike or kind, but it’s just too delicious to let it pass.
“You know, Jessica. That is so sweet of you to ask. Confidentially, he absolutely loves steak tartare. Horse, preferably.”
“Horse? Interesting…” And now she’s off looking for horse steak tartare. Which Tav hates. Did I mention that? He hates tartare.
Serves Tav right. I hope she buys it and fixes it for him.
I am so in trouble.
“Hi! I’m late.”
I tell this to Pete almost every morning and he grunts.
“Lose your way again?”
That’s Pete’s daily joke with me because of my second day of work when I had lost my way to church. Siri let me down. Truth be told, I am always late.
He glowered at me, and then chuckled. “You need to put your shoes on.” He winks and nods toward my feet.
“Huh?” I looked down at the tightly clasped shoes in my left hand. I’d forgotten I’d taken them off to sprint into the office. The nursery mothers had taken all the parking spots and I had to park across the street. That’s the penalty for being late. I think I should have a designated parking spot.
“Oh. I…never mind. Long story.”
Let me just say it.
The bulletin is the bane of my existence.
So is the PowerPoint. And the church website and social media.
I was just talking to Sally from the church down the street. I couldn’t believe what her pastor did.
“Are you joking, Sally?”
“He sends you the info for the PowerPoint on Saturday morning.”
“Why didn’t you tell him you couldn’t do it?”
“It would just make things more difficult at work. He’s a nice guy otherwise.”
I’m lucky. Mark usually has the information to me on time. Usually. Tav way ahead of time. He’s so organized.
But the main delay is always the organist Lou. Lou is very particular about the exact wording of the piece he is playing, but he has never grasped the bulletin deadline concept. He always sends his information in on Thursday or Friday, but I’ve already printed the bulletin by then.
It really makes staff meetings tense when he does show up. It’s a cause of bitter complaint. He’ll glare at Kate and me as though we’re responsible for making his life miserable. Kate will catch my eye and we’ll go off into giggles, and the more everyone wants to know what we’re laughing about, the more we can’t stop.
I still think we should do away with the bulletin to save trees. Or for some other noble reason, and then I won’t have to do the bulletin again.
I must have spent half an hour staring at the spinning wheel on my computer. This computer was probably one of the first ever built and someone donated it to the church. It should be in the Smithsonian or something.
I try shaking the mouse to speed up the process.
“You are in so much trouble!” Tav is leaning on the wall near my desk—dark jeans, white shirt, rolled up sleeves.
I have a weakness for men in crisp white shirts.
“This computer is going to be in trouble if it doesn’t stop acting up.”
“The computer isn’t going to be in as much trouble as you are.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“You know what you did.”
“Seriously, I really don’t…!”
“One word: Jessica.”
“Yes. Jessica brought a very nice picnic lunch to my office.”
“Did she join you?”
“No way. I told her I wasn’t having lunch today so to donate it to the food kitchen.”
“Yes. Steak tartare.”
“Oh no. I’m so sorry. I was joking! She was bugging me and I was in a hurry so…” The whole situation was too deliciously humorous. I hadn’t laughed so much in a long time.
“You’ll still pay for it!” he said, but with this wonderful, gorgeous light in his eyes and his wonderful, gorgeous accent. I mean, whatever. Not that he’s my type. I mean he isn’t not my type either, but, you know. No.
Must fight harder to resist boss’s European charms.
Friday afternoon. I’m running around trying to finish the bulletin, when in comes Miley with her “babies” as she likes to refer to them.
“Natalie, my babies are going to stay in your office while I meet with Pastor Mark.” Translation: Miley wants me to babysit her kids. Again.
“Miley, I really don’t…”
“They’re really no bother. My babies are so good and they love you sooooo much.”
Two lies. One, they’re known to be unruly and rude, and two, they don’t like me. They like to terrorize me.
“Aw…thanks. I would love to, but I have to run up to the Sanctuary.”
“I’ll only be five minutes.”
“I have to go drop off the bulletins upstairs. I don’t want to leave them unattended.”
“Just tell Pastor Mark I’m here.”
That’s it. My work and time are not important. I don’t exist. I’m a robot.
Church secretary? What species is that anyway?
“Why don’t you run upstairs?” says another voice. “I’ll watch them while you’re gone.”
“You?” I can’t believe it. Tav has already cornered both tyrants. “What are you doing here?”
“I work here.”
“I have never been happier to see anyone.”
“Me too.” Tav smiles.
Just saw Tav and Faith in the parking lot. Guess they’re going out together. Guess that’s also why Tav was here past his usual office hours. I’m not quite sure why I should feel betrayed. It’s not like Tav is anything to me. But Faith? He really could have said he was meeting Faith. It’s not like we don’t talk about anything. We are both very important, grown-up, self-sufficient adults and colleagues and can talk about normal things like whom we’re dating.
Now Frankie. I really miss Frankie.
Do I though? Do I miss Frankie or do I miss familiarity? And not feeling uncomfortable? Obviously things with Frankie are far from perfect but at least I know what I’m into. With Tav…I don’t know. Must stay away.
But I should talk to Frankie.
And my mom.