Joellen has unexpected feelings.
“Let’s see, what do we have here?” The associate pastor was back surveying the rest of the boxes.
“They’re just some clothes the children have outgrown. And some old books and, you know, household things,” Joellen blushed again and this time she turned away. The feeling below her belly button had returned, stronger now, and she had the feeling that she wanted to smile at him and move closer to him.
“Oh,” he said, “I was talking about the boxes. I think if you’ll stack them in my arms I can do the rest in just one more trip.”
Joellen felt stupid for misunderstanding him.
He pulled one carton out of the car. Resting it on his lower arms, he leaned forward.
“If you just put a couple more on top of this one … ”
Joellen picked up a box and placed it atop the one he was holding. He bent down toward her to make it easier for her to lift it to his height. As she placed it, their faces were close to each other and for an instant they made eye contact. He was smiling at her, his eyes clear blue. She could feel the warmth of his breath as he said, “That’s fine. I think that last small one could still fit. That is if you can lift it this high.”
Joellen picked up the smallest box and stood on tiptoe, placing it at the top of the stack in his arms. He stood up and walked away again, balancing the boxes, and disappeared into the side door where she couldn’t see him. She wondered if he was coming back or if she should leave now that the boxes were all inside.
She waited a few seconds and then went over to the driver side door and was getting in when she noticed him hurrying down the path again.
“Mrs. Vickers,” he called out, “wait.”
He came around to the side of the car where she was standing, about to get in.
“I’ll need to make out a slip for you. For your taxes. If you have time we can do it now.”
“Yes. Yes, I have a little time,” Joellen was pleased and at the same time she felt guilty for feeling happy that she wasn’t going to leave yet.
“Let’s go into the offices then. I have the official letterhead in there at the desk.”
Joellen shut the car door. The feeling of excitement had returned. She was worried that it showed somehow, although she didn’t know how it might. The feeling passed as she walked swiftly after him. Then he stopped to let her catch up.
“I’m sorry,” he laughed a little, “I walk so fast without even thinking about it. My wife used to tell me I walked as if I was in a race. She was a whole foot shorter than I am.”
“Your wife?” Joellen repeated and then felt foolish. Why had she said it? She didn’t even know this man. And here he was talking about his wife in the past. They must be divorced. But that would be unusual for a pastor. This thought intrigued Joellen.
“Yes.” He didn’t say anything else, and then they were at the door to the offices.
There was nothing out of the ordinary. She signed the paper. He gave her a copy. She turned to walk back out the door. He thanked her for being generous with her time, thanked her on behalf of the church and then he asked, “Will you be at the rummage sale?”
“Oh,” she stammered a bit. “I, well, I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“The reason I ask is,” he said, “Pastor Immerhaupt was saying that we needed a few more hands. So I just thought I’d ask.”
“Sure,” Joellen had turned back from the door by now. “I could help out.” She pictured a dozen women she knew from the church, standing at tables, making change, chattering to each other.
“That would be wonderful. I’ll let Pastor Immerhaupt know.”
“Of course, tell him I’d be glad to.”
“Then we’ll be seeing you on Saturday?” He had walked over to where she stood at the doorway.
Now she did take a step outside. And then something got into her head. Some nagging sense that she must know more. She didn’t think about it before blurting out, “Are you and your wife divorced?”
“No,” he said rather more solemnly than he had sounded before. Then he smiled, a little crooked smile. “The Lord took her eight months ago, now. She had cancer. It went very quickly.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Joellen was mortified now. She had intruded, overstepped her bounds. It was not like her. She was usually so circumspect socially. And now she had blundered. She could never face him again. She felt herself blushing so hard her face felt like it would melt. She turned away.
But he took her arm and led her a little way down the path and said, “I don’t mind at all that you asked. People are so careful not to mention her to me. But it’s a relief to be able to talk about her to someone. So, thank you for asking.”
Joellen turned and looked up at him. He was smiling. So sincere, so generous of spirit. She smiled, too. The blush evaporated. She felt fine now. Just fine.