Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30, 2011 Chapters 20 and 21

Happy Memorial Day - It is a great day to remember my Dad's service in World War II. He was a young radioman on an LST ship. I'm not sure what that stands for, but he always said it was a long, slow target. He patrolled the East Coast, but never saw combat. But he was one of the thousands who did, and are doing their duty to keep us free...many giving the ultimate sacrifice. Let's fly our flags proudly as we honor them all. 

Chapter 20
   Scheduled for the last Saturday in May, the craft session for Vacation Bible School instructors was planned with the precision of a military invasion. General Maggie, Sharon called  me. I dutifully arrived at 7 a.m. to set up the work stations in the musty old church fellowship hall. Beginning at 8 a.m., starting with the preschool teachers, each of the five groups of volunteer instructors would come for an hour-and-a-half session, learning how to make the different craft projects for each day of the week, five in all. If all went well, and with a half-hour in between each of the sessions reserved for cleanup and the next set up, I would be crafting nonstop until dinnertime. Where was Carol when I needed her!? Oh, yeah. Half way across the country. She had helped with some ideas, albeit long distance. 
  As the first group of teachers was coming in and finding seats at the tables, two elderly women approached me, one tentatively, the other one confidently, sort of pulling the other along. The confident lady was dressed simply in jeans and cotton checked blouse, with short gray hair, a weathered face and intelligent eyes. She looked to be in her mid- to late-70s, and smiled as she introduced herself.

   “I’m Fern,” she said offering me a hand. The strength in her handshake was surprising. “And this is Jenny Bodecker, Mrs. Grant.”
   Uh-oh, I thought. The popsicle-stick queen. She too, was mid-to-late 70s, but with rinsed hair in sort of a soft blue hue, shirtwaist dress, and bright pink lipstick. I hoped surprise wasn’t showing on my face, and turned to offer Mrs. Bodecker my hand. But Jenny Bodecker stood stoically, arms crossed over her ample bosom. She nodded slightly, but wouldn’t look at anything but the wall behind me. 
   Fern put her arm around her and said firmly, “Now, Jenny. We’ll have none of that. You shake hands with Mrs. Grant here and give her a proper Christian welcome or I’ll tell Father Fitzpatrick on you.”

Jenny Bodecker’s eyes widened. Scowling at her friend, she reluctantly took my still offered hand for a quick shake. She quickly returned to her seat and crossed her arms again, still frowning.

   “Sorry about that,” Fern said in a soft West Texas accent. “She’ll come ’round, I reckon. Just take some time. I’m glad you’re here, though, and you can count on me to help in any way. Oh, look at the time. You’d better get a move on, Sweetie. I’ll bet you’ve got a full schedule today!”

    Greeting my class warmly, I decided the direct approach might be the best. Immediately after I introduced myself, I said cheerfully, “I’ve heard such wonderful things about the crafts of years past.” Mrs. Bodecker unfolded her arms and sat up a little straighter, surprised but still frowning as all eyes turned toward her. “And I understand we owe it all to Mrs. Bodecker, who is here with us this morning.” I looked at her and smiled broadly.
   “Monsignor Fitzpatrick tells me she has been a tireless and unselfish volunteer, so much so that when another pre-school instructor was needed this year, she was willing to move into that role as soon as he asked. Thank you so much, Mrs. Bodecker.  Shall we give her a round of applause to thank her for her work?”
  And with a happy, flattered popsicle-stick-queen, I dived into the teaching.

   After the third group ended early, thrilled with the new project ideas and supplies, my stomach growled for the second time, reminding me I’d skipped lunch as well as breakfast. Other volunteers were working in the building preparing the classrooms for VBS on Monday, and rumor had it pizza might have been brought in. Sniffing the air, trying to detect telltale aromas, I only caught the stale odor typical of older buildings. Since I had about 20 minutes until group number four arrived, I went in search of quick sustenance.

   Asking the first person I saw in the hallway, a college-age Hispanic volunteer moving furniture, he replied, “Yes, ma’am. I think there’s some left in the kitchen, down around the corner to the right. Father Murphy was looking for some, too.” As he moved down the hall, he called back over his shoulder, “There wasn’t much left, though.”

Dodging three more volunteers with heavy burdens, I made my way down the long classroom hallway and peeked around the corner. Spotting the kitchen door, I crossed the hall quickly to avoid the constant movement of people on a mission. Just as I stepped inside, I was flattened against the doorframe. Startled, my attacker dropped the pizza slice in his hand and turned to grab me by the arms, holding me up as I gasped for air. He looked down regretfully at his victim. I was still tight against the door.

  “So sorry, I wasn’t looking! Are you alright?” he said.
   I starred up into the most amazing green eyes and my knees buckled. He gently held me as I involuntarily slid down on the floor. He knelt down worriedly beside me. “Really, are you hurt?” he said quickly. “I wasn’t paying attention. I’m so sorry ... seriously, are you OK?”
  Dark mid-length hair framed a handsome, athletic face. His tattered and faded Notre Dame Football T-shirt was probably authentic — he was certainly big enough to have played, although it had to have been thirty years ago, at least. His strong large hands continued to grip my arms, and I had considerable trouble catching my breath and replying. I’d been right: Father Murphy was just as good-looking up close.
   Finally assessing nothing was broken, I sputtered, “Yes, I’m alright ... I think. Just let me get up.” He helped me up. I continued to lean against the door and he continued to hold me. The top of my head came to the middle of his chest, so I had to crane my neck to meet him eye-to-eye. The depths of those eyes was mesmerizing. “I ... I was looking for some pizza ...” I think I said weakly.
  “Uh, oh,” he said as he released me and looked around on the floor, spotting and picking up the slice he’d dropped. Thankfully, it had landed right side up. He blew on the bottom of it. “Afraid I took the last piece. Want a bite?” He held it close to my mouth.
  “Uh, no thanks.” I wrinkled my nose and put my hand up in protest. Unconsciously, my other hand had gone up into my hair and was twisting it through my fingers. At least I think it did. “I really have to get back anyway.”

“Yeah, me too. Again,” he said as he took a bite for himself, “Really sorry to have run into you. You sure you’re OK?”
  “Fine, just fine.”
   He continued to eat, staring at me, leaning closer in with his arm over my head. Too close. I was caught up again in his emerald eyes. With knees threatening to buckle once more, I forced myself to lock them in place to keep my balance. He took another bite of pizza, barely an inch from my mouth, seeming to enjoy the effect he had on me. 
  “Thank you, Father,” I said quickly as I ducked under his arm and hurried out the door.
  “Colin!” he called out after me.

   “Father Colin,” I whispered. My stomach pains had vanished but another hunger had taken its place.

Chapter 21  
“I am telling you, Sharon, I am going to Hell,” I said decidedly to my friend as I took another long sip of wine. The craft day finished, I had declared it a success in that I’d given away all the supplies and ideas and was confident the volunteers would do a decent job. I’d handed out my business cards, though, just in case the volunteer teachers needed some help during the week. I also planned on checking on them in person each day during my lunch hour just to be sure.
   Having feasted on Doug’s leftover ratatouille while he attended a summer student recital that evening, Sharon and I were comfortably seated on the back patio next to the shimmering swimming pool, half-empty glasses in hand. That was another amazing perk to living in Lubbock. Even in the summer, the evenings cooled off so pleasantly it was hard to believe you were in Texas. Most nights, even in late August, air conditioning was turned off and windows were opened to let in the fresh breezes.

   “Don’t be ridiculous,” Sharon said. “Just because the priest is gorgeous and turns you on? That happens all the time. Don’t you remember that handsome blond priest Carol used to talk about in college? What’d the girls call him? Father What’s-his-name...?” 
   “Father What-a-waste,” I remembered.
   “Yeah! Father What-a-waste! That was it. Seems a shame the Catholic church insists on celibacy. But quit worrying. So he turned you on? At least it’s good to know you’re still alive on that front.”
  I gave her a hard look and then turned away, surprised at my flush of emotion.

  Sharon put down her glass and moved over to hug me. “Oh, Maggie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ... But it has been more than a year ... oh, I’m so sorry.”
  “It’s OK, really. I’m just tired from today, I guess, and more than a little surprised to have been, as you say, ‘turned on’ by a priest, of all men! But you’re right, I guess it’s nice to know I can still at least get bothered by the opposite sex. I’m just not sure I ever wanted to get bothered again.”
  “You’re still young, Maggie — well, relatively speaking. And sex is healthy! What about finding someone from work to just casually sleep with?”
   “You’re joking, right?”

“Yeah, for you, nothing is casual about sex, I guess.” She got up to get more wine for us both.
  I was silent for a few moments, thinking. Then I said softly, “It’s not that I wouldn’t want it, but I don’t believe sex outside marriage is right for me. My faith ... well, you know. And since I don’t ever plan on marrying again ...”
  “I know, and I understand that’s the way you feel, but I just don’t happen to agree, obviously. In fact, I’d like for you to show me where it says in the Bible sex is only for marriage.”

I looked at her with surprise. “I, well, I don’t know offhand, but I’m sure it is. You know, wedding vows and all, ‘Keeping thee only unto thyself’ — no, wait, that’s not right.”
   Sharon giggled. “No, that sounds like you should only pleasure yourself. Say, why don’t you ask Father Murphy?” Sharon teased and then deftly dodged the cracker I threw her way. “Then how about Bennett Boyle for sex? I hear he’s available!”
  I shivered as I grimaced and laughed.  “Celibacy for eternity has to be better than Boyle!”
  “At least you’re laughing again. Let’s go in and watch an old movie, say, Thornbirds?” 
   I threw a second cracker, scoring a direct hit on Sharon’s nose. Then I put my arm lovingly around my diminutive friend’s neck as we walked inside. 
“No!” I said. “But I’ll take Going My Way and a lot more wine.”

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