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Monday, October 1, 2012

Chapter ten...and an important message...

 
Does anyone wish I would post during the weekend too? If you do, please let me know, and I'll see what I can do. Also, please don't forget to go to my link for the soyouthinkyoucanwrite contest. Voting starts October 2, 2012. Go on over and give it a 'like.' Thanks in advance.
 
 
 
 












Chapter Ten~


Lily moaned and tried to move, but searing pain shot through her head, and she had the distinct feeling she was being stared at. She blinked a couple times, opened her eyes, and was staring directly into the gaze of the new pastor, Wyatt Adams.

“What in the world?”

“Are you okay, Ms. Tompkins? You had a pretty nasty fall.”

“Huh?” She tried to sit up, but the steady hand of Dr. Carson Wilkes pushed her gently back to the cushion-covered pew.

“You tripped on your dress.” Nanny Masters gave her a huge grin, her ebony face shining under the fluorescent lights. “Are you okay? We were worried about you.”

“Try not to make any sudden moves. Are you nauseous?” Dr. Wilkes asked. His kind eyes stared down at her from behind the right shoulder of the pastor.

Lily was humiliated beyond anything she’d ever felt. She remembered coming from the ladies restroom, holding the tail of her long dress bunched in one hand. The pastor had glanced up from the podium, where he stood talking to his son, Percy. His cornflower blues eyes seemed to blaze into hers with the energy of a thousand suns. Her heart had begun beating so hard it sounded like bombs exploding inside her head. She’d felt the tip of her open-toed shoe catch on the corner of a pew. The horror of what was about to happen must’ve been etched on her face before she did a nosedive into the corner of a pew made from solid oak.

“I feel like I’m gonna throw-up.” She rose up, even against the insistent hands trying to hold her, and raced to the ladies room. Nanny was right on her heels; there to help restrain her mass of long, blond hair as she lost the remnants of breakfast.

When she was finished, Nanny guided her over to the sink and helped her wash-up. “That was a nasty fall.” She gestured to the huge goose-egg on Lily’s forehead.

“It sure was. I had the strangest dream…You were in it.”

“Did you notice the way the pastor was looking at you?” Nanny ignored her young friend and took the time to mention what she thought was important.

“He was looking at me the way pastors look at all their congregants. Now about that dream…”

Nanny interrupted a second time; “He’s so handsome, and there’s an air of sadness about him.”

“He lost his wife, Nanny. Would you stop trying to match-make for me? You’ve been at it for ten years and it’s never gotten you anywhere.” Exasperation colored her previously pale cheeks.

“That’s better sugar. He’ll surely notice a little color in those beautiful cheeks. Why don’t you slap some lipstick on those cupid’s bows while you’re at it. I just happen to have a brand new stick in my purse.” She dropped her gaze to the over-sized handbag hanging on her massive shoulder and began rummaging around in there like a bulldozer on a condemned building.

“Nanny, stop it!” She ordered loudly. “Ow! See what you did?” Gray eyes squeezed shut in pain for a full minute. She looked at her best friend in the whole world then, and said, “That’s enough Nathanielena Masters.”

“You did not.”

“Yes I did. I said that’s enough, and that’s what I meant.” She gave as devious a grin as she could manage with so much pain in her head.

“You’re lucky you’re my bestie, sugar.” Nanny pulled up to her full five foot two inch height, pulled her shoulders back, and marched out the door. As it shut on her, Lily heard, “I hope you can sing with such a knot for a head…I mean a knot on your head.”

Lily laughed. She was the only one who would ever get away with using Nanny’s full name. She only used it when she was in a tight spot, like now. Nanny had been pushing her for ten years to go out with some of the members of the church, but Lily was content being alone. It gave her more time to glorify God. She looked in the mirror, pinched her cheeks for added color, and walked out the door behind her friend. She was singing a special solo of ‘Amazing Grace’ today. She’d worn this crazy dress to make a good impression on the pastor. Falling was exactly what she deserved for harboring such feelings of vanity.

Dr. Wilkes was waiting on her when she came down the hallway. “Are you still going to sing? You probably need to go to the emergency room and get checked-out.”

“I’ll be all right, as long as I don’t make any sudden moves.”

“If you’re sure…Lily, will you go out with me?”

The invitation wasn’t unexpected. Carson asked her out, on average, three times a week; every time he saw her at church.

Regret filled her eyes. She absolutely hated letting the guy down. He was an awesome fellow, good-looking, and financially stable, too. Lots of the single women were trying to hook him on their poles of attraction, but she wasn’t interested. “You know I can’t, Carson. I don’t feel that way about you. We grew up neighbors, for crying out loud. It would be like dating my brother.”

Disappointment filled his eyes, even though he’d heard the same thing at least a hundred times over the last twenty years, ever since she’d turned sixteen. She’d ceased to be the stick-thin, annoying little sister of his best friend, Jeremy, and turned into a drop-dead gorgeous diva with long legs and a set of pipes even Etta James would’ve envied. “You know if you ever change your mind, I’ll be here. I’m going to set in the first row while you’re singing, so if you start feeling dizzy or anything, I’ll be right there.”

“Thanks Carson, I appreciate it.”

“I know you do.” He gave her a long look, but she wasn’t paying attention. Pastor Adams had met them half down the hallway. “Are you okay, Ms. Tompkins?”

Lily nodded her head. She felt the lingering effects of the weird dream surrounding her like a cocoon. Most of the people she knew had played some part in it, and it had seemed so real. “I’m fine, thank you. I’m going to sing my solo now, if that’s okay?”

“If you’re sure you’re okay, I see no reason not to.” He accompanied Lily and Carson inside the sanctuary, stopping with the other man at the doors as Lily continued up the stairs to the stage.
                                                     

                                                                            ***


“How old is Ms. Tompkins?”

“Why, do you like her?” Carson asked in a catty tone.

“I was just curious. She seems a little old to be single.”

“She’s twenty-eight, and every single guy in this church agrees with that statement, including me.”

“Oh, is she dating you?”

“No, she won’t give me the time of day. She says we’re like brother and sister because we grew up together.”

“I’m sorry.”

“So am I, pastor. So am I.” Carson walked up to the front row and sat down in the middle of the long pew. Nanny Masters, who was the choir director, was up on stage with Lily and several other choir members, getting ready to begin church.

Music began to play and the congregation came to life. Several people swooped down the aisles to find their regular seats, and visitors came in more slowly, shyly looking for seats not already taken.

Pastor Adams walked up to the front row and took a seat beside his son, Percy, who was staring up at Lily Tompkins like a love struck puppy. “She’s too old for you, Percy.” He put his arm along the back of the seat and hugged his son to him. Although he was eighteen, he was a little slow and the pastor wanted to make sure he knew he was loved.

“I know, dad, but she’s perfect for you.”

He looked at his son in stunned silence. Percy had never given an indication he would accept someone in his mother’s place. He turned and looked at him questioningly, “Son, are you saying you want me to date?”

“I don’t think pastors should date, but they should be married, especially when they’re as young and good-looking as you.” He grinned, his freckles standing out more prominently on his pale face.

“I didn’t know you felt that way, buddy.”

“I didn’t, either, until just now when I was looking up at Ms. Tompkins and thinking I’d like her for a mother.”

‘What innocence comes from the mouths of babes?’ Wyatt thought as Lily stood in front of the microphone. There was a huge purple knot on her head, but she was beautiful. Her long, silvery, blonde hair hung to her waist in wavy curls. She wore a floor-length dress made of some shimmery gray material that matched her eyes. Pink bows splattered across the skirt and graced the lace around her neckline. It was old-fashioned, but suited her. He found himself waiting in anticipation, hoping she could sing.

“Hello, I’m glad you all could come. I’m going to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ this morning. I appreciate this opportunity to sing to the Lord, and hope He likes hearing me. Hopefully He won’t rush for the earplugs. It comes from the heart.” Several people in the congregation laughed humorously, until she began to sing. Those laughs turned to gasps as the rich, honey-smoothness of her voice filled the little church in Pembroke Acres, Utah. All over the church, hands went up in worship of the Lord.

Pastor Wyatt Adams knew this woman was singing to the Lord, and it made him feel closer to the God he loved. Every word she sang came from the heart, from her desire to let God know who much she loved Him, and appreciated His sacrifice for her. Tears sprang to his light-blue eyes and he wasn’t the least ashamed of the emotion rumbling through him. She was exactly who needed to be up there. She wasn’t putting on a concert, like so many did today, she was singing of a true love and appreciation for the God who’d saved her.

When Lily finished singing she moved away from the podium and down the steps to the front row. Many people had tissues out, wiping their eyes.

Pastor Adams walked up onto the stage and stood in front of the podium. “I want to thank Lily Tompkins for that wonderful song. It always moves me when someone shows their love for the Lord. It’s even more special considering what happened just a little bit ago. Lily, I hope you’re okay.” She nodded, and he continued. “I don’t really have a sermon planned for this morning. I was asked to take over as pastor here on short notice. My son and I arrived in town last night. We were so late we didn’t have time to cook dinner, so we went down to the ‘Cook for me CafĂ©.’ Quanita is a wonderful cook. Thank you for the meal.” He smiled and gave a small wave to the thin Mexican woman sitting in the back row. “I want to thank Johnson Williams for the lumber to fix my front porch, too. Everyone has been really nice to me. I want to say how sorry I am your pastor was called to the Lord so quickly. He’s in a better place, but we must go on.”

“I don’t know if everyone here knows what expository preaching is, but that’s what I do. I take it one or two verses at a time and teach it the way the Bible says it.”

Most people in the congregation shook their heads. He smiled and continued, “Next week I’d like to start with the book of Matthew on Sunday morning, and the book of Genesis Sunday night.”

 “Wednesdays will be reserved for praying and giving thanks to the Lord. That doesn’t mean it’s a free night to come to church and gossip about every person you know. I know it’s an easy habit to get into, but I’d like to curtail it. I’d also like to curtail a lot of the whining that goes on in prayer meetings. I’m not saying we can’t pray about our sicknesses, because of course we need to. What I’m saying is let’s not spend the whole two hours ‘praying over Jimmy Jo’s hurt back’ when Frieda Maria has problems, too. We need to get specific, so don’t think I’m knocking that, either. You know the people I’m talking about. Every congregation has that one person who you dread to ask the question, ‘how are you today?’ because you’re afraid he or she may actually answer you.” Some of the people laughed, and some just shook their heads affirmatively. “God is there to heal us, but at the same time, let’s not use Him as some sound board for our complaints. Let’s worship and glorify Him too.”

After the pastor got done talking, he dismissed church with a prayer and announced a dinner planned by Nanny Masters to introduce him and his son to the church members. “This will be the perfect time to ask me any question you can think of, as long as it’s appropriate.”

“The dinner was a good idea, Nanny.” Johnson Williams said as he joined them by the back doors. “Where are you having it?”

“It’ll be over at my house in an hour. That should give the ladies plenty of time to set it up.” The pastor smiled disarmingly. Lily had a hard time seeing him this way after imagining him totally different in her dream. The hard, manly soldier who held secrets in his eyes was still very much alive in her imagination.

Lily’s brother, Jeremy, joined them. “Hey sis, that was an awful splat you took. You gonna make it, you think?”

“I think I’ll survive. Thanks for being so worried about my welfare.”

“Of course, you know I care about you.”

Lily turned her head and stuck her tongue out at Jeremy childishly. “Have you talked to mom and dad today?”

“No, I don’t want to either. They’ll just ask me when I plan on moving back in, and it’ll just make them angry when I tell them I’m not.”

“You have every right to move out of the house if that’s what you want. You’re thirty-two years old. I wish I had the guts to confront them like that, but I don’t.”

“Shush, they’re coming.”

Lily looked further into the church, and sure enough, they were almost there. She had about two seconds to wonder why her family hadn’t been in her dream. It worried her that her mind worked the way it did. What did it mean? Did dreams always have to mean something?

“Lily that was a wonderful rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ you sang. You have a beautiful voice, dear. I wish you would use it more.” Anita Tompkins said as she bent over and kissed her daughter on the cheek. The words were flat and empty, lacking any real emotion. The reason for her parents’ absence in the dream was clear now. They weren’t really in the reality, so why be in the dream? She felt guilt for her thoughts, no matter how true she believed they were.

“Thanks mom, you know your opinion means a lot. Daddy, are you guys going to the dinner?” She couldn’t conceal the small amount of hope in her words.

“I don’t think so, pumpkin. I’ve got a Dodge pick-up torn apart in the garage, and I need to get it put back together so I can do a Chevy Malibu in the morning.”

“That’s too bad, daddy. You know Nanny and Quanita are both great cooks.”

“Maybe we’ll catch it next time.” Arthur Tompkins shook the pastor’s hand and headed out the door with a bunch of other congregants anxious to get away without being forced into a ‘guilt’ acceptance. Lily watched her mom and dad wistfully. It would be so nice to have caring parents…

Lily, did you hear the pastor?” Nanny asked with a grin.

“No, did you say something?” She looked at him.

“I was just inquiring whether you would be going to the dinner tonight.”

“Yes, I’ll be attending.” He smiled at her and her heart tripped in her chest. It was reminiscent of the smile she remembered from her dream.

One of the deacons, Aaron Bates, came up and shook the pastor’s hand, and then her brother’s. “Nanny, are you going to the pastor’s for dinner?”

Nanny blushed, and it was Lily’s turn to smile. “Why, yes she is, Mr. Bates.”

“Awesome, I’ll see you there. Did you make any of that fabulous Apple Pie?”

“I surely did, Mr. Bates.” He smiled and walked down the sidewalk.

Next it was Hannibal Jones’ turn to shake the pastor’s hand. He was one of Jeremy’s new friends, but Lily wasn’t sure about him. He gave her the creeps. Sort of like the way her mind had made up characters in her dream. They were all people that she knew, but didn’t know, except Nanny. She had stayed pretty much the same. What did it all mean?