April 10
11:30 a.m.

So it’s Friday and the senior group of the church has their regular lunch and the special program that Walt had talked about. Anyway, Kate warned me that when they’re done, some of them would come over to the office and help us out.

Theoretically, this is a sound idea. In practical terms…it could turn out to be one big nightmare. Well, just depending on who shows up.

Kate warned me also about Martha. Your typical church lady. Most people run to the nearest exit, Kate said. But I don’t worry, I love church ladies. They don’t mince words and don’t mind interfering in your life. I remember Winnie at our last church. She would come into the manse and check to see if my mom had cleaned up like a pastor’s wife should.

Never bothered my mum. She just laughed it off and told Winnie where the cleaning stuff was.
So I decide I’m going to like Martha.

Five feet tall and plenty of attitude, she stomps into my office. I can hear the whole military marching band behind her. Perfectly dressed. Starched and ironed white blouse with crocheted lace trim on her collar, a neatly tied bow around her neck. I’m sure she crocheted the lace herself. Her pretty blue skirt with tiny white flowers reaches below her knees, and she’s wearing low-heeled taupe pumps. Friday hair, fresh from the salon and ready for Sunday, frames her face like a white halo. She has her pocketbook in one hand and her Bible in the other.

She has church lady written all over her.

“I’ve heard about you.” Martha wags her finger at me. Kate has seen her coming and sprinted back to her office.

“Was that Kate? Is she avoiding me again?”

“Probably. She heard you marching into the office,” I say, smiling at her.

“Now don’t think you’re going to get away with being cheeky with me. I know you’re a pastor’s daughter, but you’re not going to get away with anything with me.” The finger continues to wag.

“I bet I won’t.” I laugh. “I’m Natalie, by the way.”

“I know you’re Natalie. I wasn’t born yesterday,” she snorts.

“Nice to meet you.” I get up to shake her hand.

“Don’t get up. Sit down. I don’t like having people’s shadows hovering all over me.”

“You can’t scare me,” I say and give her a hug.

I’m wondering if anyone had ever given her a hug, because it shocked her into silence.

“Well—well—”

And she’s gone.

11:45 a.m.

“So…” Kate happily strolls back into my office.

“Chicken,” I said. “Scared of a little old lady. Martha is not happy with you. She wants to know if you’re avoiding her again.”

“You bet I am! How did you get her to leave so soon?”

“I gave her a hug.”

“You what?” Kate thinks it’s funny. She can’t stop laughing. “I can’t wait to hear what she thinks about that.”

“I got homesick for my church ladies and had to give her a hug.” The last thing I needed right now was to have the chief spokesperson of the senior group annoyed at me.

“Don’t look so glum,” Kate tries to cheer me up. “She probably has forgotten it already.”

“Does the pope forget his rosary beads?” I can only see a long road of misery ahead.

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s go eat lunch.”

Food sounded good. I wondered where she planned to go. She always found these fun hole-in-the-wall places.

“Are you ready to go join them?”

No answer.

“You forgot? We’re invited to go join the seniors.”

“Oh no!” Today? “Do I have to?”

“Who’s chicken now?” Kate teases.

Actually, I didn’t have much choice. The seniors found it helpful to meet all the new staff, and especially the office staff since we took a lot of their calls.

12:45 p.m.

Lunch was almost over by the time we got there. I scanned the room to avoid running into Martha. The buffet line was progressing nicely, so Kate and I took our place at the end of it.

“I highly recommend the lime Jello salad with mayo dressing,” a familiar voice whispered behind us.

“Tav! What are you doing here?” Kate seemed delighted to see him. I guess I was okayish with seeing him, too.

“He’s joining his age group. Couldn’t miss that jello salad!” I said.

“Did someone take her grumpy pills?” Tav asked, a twinkle in his eyes.

Ugh, why does he have to be so attractive?

“Don’t mind her,” Kate said, dismissing me with a wave of her hand. “She just met Martha.”

“Who’s Martha?”

“I’m Martha!” Yes, there was Martha. All five feet of feistiness.

“Martha, this is our new pastor. You were away when he arrived.” said Kate, looking rather proud to introduce him. “Pastor Tavish, this is Martha. She holds up the church with her two bare hands.”

Tav took her hands in his. “And very beautiful hands, I must say,” he remarked. “Very pleased to meet you, Martha.”

Martha smiled up at Tav. “Oh! Oh! You naughty boy! Don’t you think you’re going to pull the wool over my eyes.”

Eew. Martha liked Tav? Of course she would. Wasn’t the whole world just absolutely in love with Tav?

“I don’t intend to. Cross my heart.” Tav released her hands and Martha tittered, then announced, “I just met that secretary of yours.”

“Glad you did,” Tav said, while I wondered what was coming next. I stealthily helped myself to the chicken broccoli casserole. Sometimes potluck dinners at church should be registered as lethal weapons.

“You just have to watch out for that girl.”

“I promise I will.”

I decided to make my presence known. “Hi, Martha.”

“There she is!” she announced at my appearance. “I was just telling Pastor Tavish about you.”

“Oh really?” Like I hadn’t already heard.

“Yes. Now he’s going to have to watch out for you. He’s single, you’re single. We have to keep the church office pure from any gossip.”

Tav was thoroughly enjoying the whole exchange, while Kate was trying her best to keep a straight face.

“Yes, we must,” Tav agreed with her, very sincerely. “Thanks for thinking about that. It hadn’t crossed my mind.”

“Well, it’s about time it did. Natalie is an attractive girl and you’re a handsome man. You both have to be careful—both of you.” Martha nodded her silver head like those bobbing dolls you see in cars.

Tav nodded back sincerely.

“And especially since Natalie likes to hug people, you know. It could be misinterpreted.” Martha did her snort and was gone.

“Natalie likes to hug people?” Tav raised an eyebrow at me.

“Natalie greeted Martha with a hug. No one has ever done that before,” Kate explained.

“Natalie, you need to know…” Tav began, a serious note in his voice.

“What?”

“As your boss, if you feel the need to hug anyone, I’ll have to offer myself.”

“You guys are horrible! I’m going to eat.” But I just had to know. “What are you doing here, Tav? Didn’t think this would be your scene—none of your groupie women are here, you know.”

Kate is laughing.

“I’m the honorable guest speaker.”

“These poor people.”

“Ha ha! Very funny. You are so impressed with me!” Tav wasn’t put out at all by my remark. He just went to get a piece of pound cake and gather up his notes. Such is the confidence of the man.