Kathy loved hot tubs. But she couldn’t admit that to a living soul. She also loved chocolate chip mint ice cream, but she rarely indulged. And as for mystery novels…well, if there was a bit of romance thrown in, so much the better. But God forbid anyone ever caught her reading a trashy novel. No, she kept those squashed under a tower of historical biographies detailing the late-greats of the nineteenth century. So far…no one ever caught on.
It was a perfect spring day. The cherry and peach trees were in full bloom and if the sky glowed any bluer, she’d break into song…and that would never do. Lord have mercy. Kathy’s heart swooned, but her body stayed as ridged as a cliff facing turbulent ocean waves.
Elliot had no idea what he was doing to her insides. But then Elliot had better things to do than worry about his frazzled Catechism assistant. As a director of social services for the county, he had people with real problems to deal with. Unwed mothers, abused kids, out-of-work fathers, drug-addicted teens. The list was endless. People’s problems were endless. Yet Elliot always managed to smile at his hyperactive class of Catholic kids and act like he was having great fun just being with them.
Kathy’s heart melted at the mere memory of Elliot’s face. She pulled open the door to the Sacred Heart Community Center and stepped into the quiet interior. No one else had arrived yet. Good. That gave her time to arrange the material for today’s class and set the player on the right episode for tonight’s theme—Who Do You Say That I Am?
As she brushed by the front desk, she noticed a half-empty water bottle. Elliot’s? Probably. No one else used this classroom during the week. She picked it up and stared at it as if its previous owner would magically appear to take back his property. She jumped at the sound of a woman’s voice.
“Staring at it won’t bring it to life, honey.”
Kathy turned around and faced the matronly figure of the Pro-Life Director.
In her early fifties, with salt and pepper hair that she kept tied in a neat bun on the top of her head, Chika might look like a schoolmarm of old, except that she wore jeans, hiking boots, and an oversized plaid shirt, which would have fit a lumberjack.
A blush spread over Kathy’s cheeks.
Chika moved into the room like a ship’s captain taking the helm. “I’ll be delivering the main address today. Elliot asked me to come in and highlight some behavior issues he’s concerned about.”
Kathy bit her lip. “I thought we were doing Who Do You Say That I Am?”
“Well, we are…sort of. Just add in the consequences of unregulated lust and rampant promiscuity, and we’ll have tonight’s theme.”
Kathy thought her face might have caught on fire. “Oh?”
Chika grinned. “It’s a talk the kids need to hear…but, not you. In fact—” She wandered to the front of the room, pulled a key out of a deep pocket, and unlocked the cabinet. “I think you could do with a little more romance in your life…not less.”
Embarrassment combated with fury as Kathy stood before the chalkboard. Undiluted anger won. “Oh, really?” An edge sharpened her voice as it rose to a squeak.
Chika shook her head. “Come on. Be honest with yourself. You like Elliot. And I think he likes you…but you give that poor man not an ounce of encouragement. It’s time to step off the sidelines and make your move.”
“That’s hardly my place! I’m a modest woman and I—”
“What’s modesty got to do with it? Look in the Bible, honey, and get with the times. God made man and woman for a reason!”
“I’m perfectly well aware of that fact, but I’m hardly about to throw myself—”
Chika grinned. “No one suggesting anything radical. Would be amusing to see you get a little radical, I’ll admit. But—” She leaned in closer. “Since you’re the two shyest people on the planet when it comes to romance…I’ll just ask God to do His thing and give you two a little nudge.” She nodded to a foot-high statue of Jesus with His sacred heart glowing in his chest. She grinned. “Author of romance, don’t you know?”
Completely flummoxed by this unorthodox reasoning, Kathy snorted a tiny puff of dragon’s breath and retreated across the room.
The sound of pounding feet turned both women to the doorway.
His eyes wide with anxiety, Elliot rushed into the room. “Call 911 and get Jason’s mom. He’s having an asthma attack. I can’t calm him down.”
With flashbacks of her own childhood asthma trauma flooding her brain, Kathy rushed to the hallway and found Jason slumped against the wall. His face flushing bright red and his hands fluttering in a panic as he dragged a ragged breath from his chest.
Kathy dropped to her knees and braced his body upright. She stared into the boy’s face. “Look at me, Jason, and squeeze my arms. Breathe. Slow in…slow out…look at me…everything is going to be okay. I’m here. You’ll be fine. Relax. Let your breath come…one in…two out…”
His shoulders relaxing as he clasped Kathy’s arms, Jason closed his eyes and exhaled.
A bustling movement forced Kathy aside. She got out of Jason’s mother’s way. The harried woman handed an inhaler to the boy who gripped it in both hands and soon had it pressed to his mouth, his mother continuing to count out slow breaths.
Kathy stepped aside and stood alone as the blare of an ambulance sounded in the parking lot. Her heart pounded, but she sucked in a deep breath and then exhaled releasing the tension. A firm hand pressed her shoulder.
Elliott leaned in and whispered in her ear. “You’re amazing. Thank you.”
With only a slight turn of her head, Kathy met Elliot’s gaze. A blush warmed her cheeks. The smell of chocolate-chip mint ice cream filled her imagination. As she swallowed hard, a figure across the room caught her attention.
Chika raised her eyebrows, a knowing smile on her lips. She pointed to the figure of Christ. A rose lay at His feet. Kathy blinked…and then squinted. It was one of the plastic roses used to decorate the room. Well, okay, it was a romantic gesture…giving God a rose.
Elliot’s hand still rested on Kathy’s shoulder. It felt warm and comfortable there.
A shocking thought raced through Kathy’s mind, sending a shiver down her back. Does God have a romantic soul?
Perhaps He likes chocolate-chip mint ice cream too.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
“There are many excellent stories in this collection.” ~McEvoy
A delightful collection of short stories that draw you in, wanting more. ~Discovery, Gale Kaufman
“When I found out she had a new collection out, this volume, I grabbed it immediately and started reading it that day.” ~Steven