May 15
8:30 a.m.

I just want to point out that it’s Friday, this is my office, and Faith is looking ridiculous in pigtails, capris, and something that looks like an apron. On the teenage girls who are walking into my office it looks cute, on her, it conjures up images of someone’s grandmother’s leftover cloth sewn into an apron.

“It’s Tav’s first big graduation outing with the youth. I was praying and God told me to offer myself as his help. He might need someone to show him the ropes.” Faith has somehow managed to wangle herself into being a coordinator for the event. Where Tav is, Faith wants to be, too.

“I didn’t know Tav was into that kind of thing.”

“What do you mean? Are you inferring something disgusting about Tav?” Squinty eyes, peering in my direction always makes me uncomfortable.

It’s not inferring, it’s implying. Implying. Very different.

“Someone’s saying something disgusting about me?” Why does Tav always show up when I don’t want him to.

“No.”

“Yes. Your secretary has a potty mind.”

Potty mind? What are we two years old? Okay, I shouldn’t have really said that but it was her fault for pulling that “God told me” card. I hate that.

Jessica arrives looking happy and very sporty. Never thought I’d be happy to see her.

“What are you doing here?” One happiness bubble bursts with a bang. I feel privileged to be sitting ringside in this new boxing arena called my office. Yes, I am leaning forward, elbows on my desk to enjoy the plays, blow by blow.

“I thought you had left the church so I decided to volunteer.” Faith is completely put out, but she’s trying not to show it.

I’m guessing Jessica was thinking “private party” with Tav. In fact, both were probably visualizing quiet moments with him. This is fun. Who thought I’d be having so much fun on a Friday? This was Catweight Fight Friday! Maybe I should tweet about it.

“You wish I had left the church.”

“I wouldn’t wish that on you. You really need the Lord in your life.”

Ouch. Spiritual zinger. Jessica turns red. Score 1 to Faith on Religious Rout Round One.

“At least I’m desperate for the Lord in my life. I throw myself at his feet. Not needy like, you know, and…desperately at the feet of some pastor.”

Faith has turned white. She’s reeling. She’s bleeding. Boom! Boom! A bolo punch, and then a low blow. And she’s out.

Tav was asking me a question. He’s standing by my desk and I’m fixated on the scene in front of me.

“Natalie, I need…?” I hear him, way off in the distance.

“Huh?”

“You’re not here are you?”

“What?”

“What were you thinking?”

I’m thinking this man hasn’t even noticed that these two women are fighting over him. So. Typical.

“Nothing. Really.”

“Now I think—”

But Faith’s arrival took care of any further conversation. I would have liked to know what Tav was going to say.

“Pastor Tavish, the kids are ready to go.” Faith is Ms. In Charge.

“And me!” Jessica is the glowing victor.

A loud sniff from Faith. “I just need to make sure you’ve got all the permission slips.”

“I was just going to ask Natalie for them,” Tav began.

“Here they are.” I pulled a folder from under a pile of papers and handed it to them. Faith grabbed it before Jessica could take them from me.

And then Brad walks in, stops dead in his tracks. “Jessica?”

“Yes.”

Silence.

“Okay. You can ride with us in the green van.” Brad’s out the door.

Jessica, head down, walks away. The victory was short, and, apparently, not that sweet. She knows Faith is going to be riding with Tav.

Now Faith is all smiles at Tav. “Oh Pastor Tavish, I’m so excited that you’re going to experience the wonderful fellowship of our youth. I hope it’s okay that we’re riding together.”

I think if she had stopped at “I’m so excited that you’re going…” it would have been more truthful.

“Well, you both have a wonderful time together, and don’t lose the kids or run out of gas.” I couldn’t resist.

“Oh, she’s so naughty.” Faith, happy at my remark, was probably dreaming about their kids of the future, and she followed Tav to the Youth Lounge.

I’m not sure why I’m feeling really irritated right now.

_____

9:15 a.m.

Even though the Youth Lounge is upstairs, the excitement of the day is penetrating through the walls, and we can also hear exuberant shouts in the parking lot.

Kate strolls into my office to watch the youth running up and down the stairs, and all around the parking lot.

“I sure hope we don’t have any cars speeding in.”

“No worries. Tav and Brad have a strong hand. The kids will fall in line pretty soon.”

“I wonder if Faith and Jessica will too. What do you think?”

“I bet they will.”

One look at Tav strolling out onto the parking lot, and the youth calm down.

“The parents seem more excited than the kids.”

I am watching Faith following Tav around like his lamb. She would. It’s a huge group. Maybe she’s gotten her heart’s desire to ride with Tav.

“Do you think…?”

“Nope. Tav has her assigned to the lead van. I saw the list.”

Faith is not going to ride with Tav after all. Jessica is going to be in heaven.

“But I thought…”

“What are you both talking about?” Walt materialized out of thin air.

When had he come in?

“Just girl talk. Nothing that would interest you.” I had never heard Kate sound…harsh…I guess for her it would be.

He left quickly.

_____

9:45 a.m.

With everyone gone, it’s quiet and dull. I’m trying not to think about it, but I couldn’t help keep thinking about it.

Tav and Faith. Maybe he was riding in a separate car so there wouldn’t be any gossip. Where did that thought come from?

Brad did know everything, didn’t he? I could text him and find out.

_____

4:00 p.m.

I couldn’t wait. I gazed out of my prison cell—they should be back any time now.

Walt stopped by to keep me from being alone. Or that’s what he said.

Even Walt was welcome company.

_____

4:17 p.m.

Laughter. Noise. The youth are back.

“It was a blast,” Tony yelled. “Pastor Tavish is the man!”

“What happened?”

“We had the most fun…ever,” Noah said, flopping down on the floor in my office.

Josh and Jason confirmed that Tav had pulled some wild stunts to get their group to win the Scavenger Hunt.

“He just went into the restaurant, and picked up the spoon and glass from the table and walked out,” Noah says, admiringly.

“I did, but I promised to return it.” Tav is a bit sheepish.

Noticing that he’s in the room, the four descend on him and follow him to his office.

I’m watching Brad and a throng of his adoring teenage girls pass through my office.

“Where are Faith and Jessica?” I search the crowd.

“Jessica had an emergency and couldn’t go with us.” Guess Jessica didn’t know that Faith and Tav weren’t travelling companions after all.

An eyebrow raised in Brad’s direction. “Faith…Too many kids. She needed some alone time, she said,” he answered.

Alone time with…?

“Wasn’t getting enough Tav time,” Brad grins at me, before he’s propelled forward to his office.

_____

4:45 p.m.

I check the clock again. It’s getting late. I want to go home.

“Hi, Mrs. Welch. Natalie here. Tommy and Samantha are waiting in my office.”

“Oh Natalie. I’m so sorry. I must have lost track of the time. Could you be a pet and just watch them for me? I’ll be right over.”

I put the telephone down. The church secretary’s baby sitter service had begun. What is there about “pick up your children at 4:00 p.m. SHARP” that parents don’t understand?

I wish parents would read the flyers, slips, reminders, tweets, and text reminders too.

Tav and Brad saunter into my office. “Great times, Nat! We had two ER visits, three cuts, one fight…”

They’d been going over the youth event and counting the number of bruises—no youth event is considered a success without stitches and a hospital visit.

“You still here?” Tav seemed surprised to see me.

“They didn’t show up again!” Brad knows all too well how the youth parents work. “Natalie, why don’t you carry on and I’ll wait for the parents.”

I offered to wait but Brad said he didn’t have anything else to do. And added, “You probably have a whole line of hot dates waiting for you,” as I grabbed my purse and keys.

Brad is a sweetheart. “Thanks! Bye!”

“What do you mean a line of hot dates?” I heard Tav ask Brad.

“Oh, you know…” Brad begins, but I don’t hear any more.