Vehicles of every make and model were parked in Beulah’s parking lot when Lily returned. She pulled her Honda into a space, grabbed her iPhone, and exited her car. Donald stood outside Beulah’s white doors, smiling at her. He wore black Florsheim shoes with a silver buckle on top, gray slacks, gray shirt, and black blazer. When Lily reached him and went to shake his hand, she caught the scent of Jergens. “Welcome back,” he said, and hugged her.
“Thank you, Donald. I’ll explain later.”
“The congregation is still singing. Come on in. You can sit with us if you like.”
“I’ve caused you enough worry this morning. I’m okay, Donald. I’ll find some folks from Covenant to sit with. Okay?” Donald smiled an avuncular gentle smile, and nodded his head.
Lily walked across the foyer and peered into the sanctuary. She saw Mrs. Ellen Aims. She thought of sitting near her but changed her mind. She looked for Nathanael. Finally she spotted him. He sat near Tim, the Sunday school teacher. Beth Aims and Desiree Dramal sat on the other side of Tim.
The congregation appeared to be between songs, and was now seated. The pastor shared announcements with the church body. Donald walked towards his wife, and Lily moved towards Nathanael.
“May I?” Lily asked. Nathanael looked up and stood.
Lily moved in and took her place. Nathanael, unlike his aunt, eschewed public drama. Lily sat next to Nathanael, until the music leader asked the congregation to stand again to greet one another, and then sing again. As everyone stood, Lily felt eyes upon her. Nathanael turned to shake hands with Beulah’s members and guests, then shook Lily’s hand again.
“I’m glad you’re back,” Nathanael said.
“As am I,” she said. “Thank you for …”
As Nathanael was about to speak, Beth Aims’ voice jangled.
“Miss Rood, you’re back,” Beth said.
“It seems so.”
“Some of us thought you’d run off,” said Beth smiling maliciously.
“No, I only forgot something,” Lily said. “But I’m back now.”
Beth’s smiled disappeared. Her lips closed over white daggers. She turned to Desiree, whispered something, and they both turned their faces away as if to sing.
(To be continued)