“Me, too,” my son whispered.
“I sometimes forget what she sounded like,” Sarah said, her own voice small and sad.
“She’s been gone a long time and I’m lonely. I would like to start dating again.”
Both of the children went still and quiet.
“You mean dating other than the widows from church?”
I grinned and explained. “Yes, women my own age this time, or close to my age.”
“You mean you want to fall in love with someone else?” Mark asked.
That wasn’t the way I would have put it, but basically, yes. “I suppose so. No one will ever be able to replace your mother, but it would be nice to have a woman around here again, don’t you think?”
“Someone who can do a French braid,” Sarah inserted, “and a mom who knows how to bake cookies.”
“You like Shay,” Mark commented. “Do you think she’d want to date you?”
“I hope she does, but if I date her that doesn’t mean I’m going to marry her. I will probably date a few other women, too.”
“I vote for Shay,” Sarah insisted.
“Yes, I like her a lot, too, but it’s still early. The reason I mentioned it is because I wanted to be sure the two of you were okay with me meeting other women and dating again.”
Mark’s face folded into a frown.
“You have a problem with that, Mark?” I asked.
He took his time answering. “Will Sarah and I have a say in who’s going to be our new mom?”
“Not Mrs. Kowalski’s niece, okay?”
Evelyn Kowalski had practically tackled me one Sunday following church to introduce me to her niece. In my entire life I had never met anyone with a more dour look. “No problem,” I assured my son.
Heaven knew I was attracted to Shay, but there were several mitigating factors when it came to a relationship with her. She had shown me I was ready to look for a wife, and that excited me. What I’d said to the children about being lonely was true. I hadn’t realized how alone I’d felt until I’d met Shay. The way the children had taken to her was another factor, a sign that they were ready, too. That said, Shay was the only woman I was interested in dating at the moment. But I needed to be cautious and, as Joe suggested, go slow.
“Okay, we’re in agreement,” I said, kissing them each on top of their heads. “Time to get going on our day. Who wants to go grocery shopping with me?”
Sarah raised her hand. Mark didn’t.
“Okay, Mark, you get to vacuum. Sarah, once you get dressed, take the dishes out of the dishwasher. I’ll get the laundry going.”
“If we get a new mom, will she be doing the housework?”
“Probably not all of it, but some for sure,” I said. “I’m not going to choose a wife on how well she keeps the house clean or cooks.” The role of a pastor’s wife was complex and was far more involved than keeping up the home and raising children. My wife would need to be a partner to me in my work, welcoming and gracious and, most important, living a life of faith. Katie had done it all beautifully. I didn’t know if I could possibly be that fortunate twice.
The morning passed with chores. When Sarah and I returned from buying groceries, it was time for lunch. While I put together sandwiches and folded clean clothes, my mind was reviewing my sermon for Sunday. I was about to start a new series based on the gospel of Matthew. I’d written the first two weeks’ messages but felt they lacked something. I hoped to read over my notes again before Sunday morning and prayed for inspiration. My goal was to make my sermons relevant and provocative. I wanted to give my congregation something that would grab their interest and enthusiasm but I wasn’t convinced this new series did all that.
As soon as the lunch dishes were done, Sarah asked, “Can we please call Shay now?”
“Sure.” I had to admit Shay had been on my mind all morning. I was eager to see her again, probably more than I should be at this stage. I couldn’t stop thinking about the kisses we’d shared and immediately felt the desire to kiss her again. These feelings were foreign and yet ever so welcome. I couldn’t stop smiling. Couldn’t stop thinking about Shay.
I reached for my phone and realized she was still at work, dealing with the busy lunch crowd. Knowing she wouldn’t be able to answer, I sent her a text instead.
Any chance you could stop by the house after your shift? Mark and Sarah would like some time with you. I would, too.
I didn’t expect to get a response anytime soon and I was right. An hour passed before I heard from her. I kept my phone out on the kitchen counter, listening with half an ear.
Sure. Be there ASAP.
Just a few words, and after reading them one would think I held a winning lottery ticket.
“Shay’s coming by,” I announced to the children. Sarah let out a whoop of delight and Mark, being Mark, smiled and stuck up his thumb in the universal sign of “good job.” That was about as excited as my boy got these days, but it was enough for me to know he was pleased.
When Shay arrived, Sarah immediately hugged her waist with both arms as if she hadn’t seen her in weeks instead of only a few days. “I’m so glad you’re our friend again.”
“I’ll always be your friend,” Shay assured her, hugging her back. “I bet you want me to fix your hair.”
I stood back, hands tucked in my pockets, resisting the urge to hug Shay myself.
“Hey, Mark,” she said, looking toward my son. “I brought something for you. It’s my favorite movie and I thought we’d all watch it together.”
“What movie?” Mark asked.
My son had never taken a lot of interest in movies.
“The Incredible Hulk.”
Mark shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal, and to him it probably wasn’t.
“I’ll pop the popcorn,” I volunteered.
“Shay has to braid my hair first,” Sarah insisted.
“I can do it while we watch the movie,” she told my daughter.
While Sarah gathered her comb and other hair products, Mark lobbed pillows onto the living room carpet and got the DVD player ready for the rented movie. In a money-saving effort, I had the least expensive cable program and we didn’t have Netflix.
Shay pulled out the bowls while I started the popcorn. It was tempting to steal a kiss from her while the kids were preoccupied, but I resisted. Not that it was easy. I wanted to kiss her again to test if it would be as good as it had been the first time. That didn’t seem likely, though. I was only half listening to the conversation between Shay and Mark.
The Incredible Hulk? Had I heard her correctly?
“Is The Incredible Hulk really one of your favorite movies?” I asked.
“Sort of,” she admitted, helping me dish up the popcorn. “I thought Mark would enjoy it because of the message.”
Message? That was an interesting thought. “And what exactly would that be?”
“The Hulk has an issue with anger,” she explained, keeping her voice low. “I don’t know what happened with Mark the day he got his black eye. If he was in a fight or if those boys I saw were looking to cause trouble, he never told me. Did he tell you?”
“Not really.” I’d quizzed him, but Mark had remained stubbornly quiet. “I have the feeling he lost his cool and paid the price,” I said, keeping my voice low, not wanting Mark to hear me. Mark was like that. He held his anger inside until it exploded.
“Anger was certainly an issue with the Hulk, and look what it did to him,” Shay pointed out. “There’s a spiritual reference in the movie, too.”
“Oh?” That was a stimulating thought. Hollywood movies didn’t strike me as being anything even close to spiritual.
“Think about it, Drew. It’s not easy to let go of our anger. Without all those sessions with Lilly I probably would still be stewing over all the wrongs done to me. Lilly reminded me that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It takes time and patience not to give in to our anger. The thing is, if we choose to remain calm then eventually we’re able to walk away from fighting.”