Shay impressed me with her insights into the movie and into my son. “Do you do this often?” I asked. “Do you see deeper meanings in popular movies?”

“All the time. It’s a sort of game I play with myself. I love movies, especially the classics. Modern ones, too, of course.”

The popcorn started to pop and I removed it from the stove and set it into a large bowl before adding the salt. Shay had the smaller bowls ready.

“Give me another example,” I said.

Over the course of the afternoon, Shay and I discussed several other movies and the spiritual lessons she’d found in each one. I was fascinated by her ability to draw parallels between story and spiritual truth. We discussed Jurassic Park, The Princess Bride, the entire Rocky series, and my personal favorite, Casablanca. Her insights sent me reeling.

Shay stayed for dinner. We ordered pizza, which was a treat for the kids.

Because she had to work the following morning, I drove her home, my mind whirling with ideas. I would have kissed her, but Sarah had insisted on coming along with us. I walked Shay to the front door, all the while aware of Sarah watching our every move.

Holding Shay’s hand, I gave it a squeeze. “Will I see you soon?” I asked.

“I’m off on Wednesday.”

I didn’t need to look at my appointment calendar to know I had meetings and appointments set up for most of the day. “What about lunch?” I asked. I’d do whatever was necessary to spend time with her.


Unable to resist, I hugged her. “Thank you for today, for the attention and love you give my children, and especially for giving me a great idea.”

She laughed softly. “And what would that be?”

Pressing my forehead against hers, I said, “I’ll tell you later. Thanks to you, I’m likely to be up most of the night rewriting my sermon.”

By the time I made it to bed it was almost two in the morning. Even then I couldn’t sleep for the excitement I felt. I had Shay to thank for the inspiration.

Sunday morning, I stood at the pulpit and looked out over those gathered to worship. “I’m starting a new series of messages this week,” I announced. “We’re going to be discussing movies most of us have seen and loved through the years. Movies that you will easily recognize.

“A friend and I had an enlightening conversation yesterday afternoon. Some of you may know her. Shay Benson. She’s opened my eyes to look at movies from a spiritual standpoint, and that’s what we are going to be discussing. This morning I’d like to start with The Incredible Hulk.”

I reached for the coffeepot and refilled Devon’s cup. Devon, one of our regulars, worked as a truck driver for a company that made a small part for the 737 Boeing airplane. He generally stopped in two or three times a week for breakfast.

“When are you going to let me take you to dinner?” he asked, not for the first time.

Ever since I’d served him, Devon had let me know he wanted to date me. I had never accepted because I didn’t feel I was ready to have a man in my life. Drew, on the other hand, had felt safe, and we were more like friends than in a relationship. Until recently, that is. Suddenly matters between Drew and me had become more promising. I wasn’t taking anything for granted, though. Not a single thing. We’d kissed but that was it. Oh, and we sent innocent text messages back and forth a few times a day.

When it came to choosing men to invite into my life, my record wasn’t exactly stellar. I was leaving my options open and I knew Drew was, too. We weren’t serious. We liked each other and were comfortable together, but that was it. I didn’t feel I knew enough about Devon to take him seriously. A lot of the guys joked around about wanting to date me. That kind of teasing was common at the café, especially with the morning regulars.

“You should go,” Sadie said as she scooted behind me to collect an order that was up from the kitchen.

“Yeah, what’s stopping you?” Frankie called out from the kitchen as he set one of my orders out.

I groaned and glanced over my shoulder, hoping Devon wasn’t paying attention.

“Sadie. Frankie. Please,” I muttered.

Devon must have heard their comments because he quickly said, “They’re right, you know. I’m an upstanding guy. A lot of women would give their eye teeth for the opportunity to have dinner with me.”

I laughed and put the ticket for his meal on the counter. “I’ll think about it.”

“Don’t think too hard. I’m a hot commodity. A prize,” he said as he scooted off the stool and paid, leaving me a generous tip. He waggled his eyebrows at me before he left.

Once the breakfast crowd had started to thin out, Sadie approached me. “Devon’s been coming in for breakfast at the café for years. He’s a good guy. Never heard him ask any of the other servers out before now. Seems like you’ve caught his eye.”

“I…I don’t know.”

“You’ve dated that pastor guy a few times, haven’t you?” Sadie knew how I felt about Drew, especially after that one week when I’d been depressed because I thought he was dating someone else and using me as his babysitter.

While Sadie was right—I had seen a lot of Drew—they weren’t dates. “I wouldn’t call it dating as such.” It was hard to explain. “We’ve had dinner, but that was with his children, and a few other things, but that’s it. He did ask me to have lunch with him this Wednesday, just the two of us.”

Sadie frowned. “Not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, girl. Devon has his eye on you. The least you can do is give him a chance.”

“I’ll think about it,” I told her, and I would. Still, I wasn’t inclined to toss my ring into the game with a guy I didn’t know all that well. It was definitely something to think about, though. My one drawback was the attraction I felt for Drew. Since we’d cleared the air, my feelings for him had grown stronger. When it came to him, more and more I found my thoughts drifting down avenues that were emotionally hazardous. My one comfort was knowing he had genuine feelings for me.

Wednesday, right at noon, I met Drew at a downtown restaurant. It made sense for us to meet there rather than have him pick me up at the house. He could only afford an hour away from the church office and it would be a waste of precious minutes if he spent half that time battling the Seattle traffic, taking me to and from.

Lilly Palmer helped me choose what to wear. I wore a floor-length navy-blue-and-green plaid skirt, black boots, and a black sweater. Lilly looked me over and gave me her seal of approval.

“You look mah-va-lous, darling,” she droned, giving a passable impression of Billy Crystal. “Now go knock Drew’s socks off.”

Expelling a pent-up breath, I reached for my coat and purse and headed out the door. My morning had been spent at the center. First with Kevin, and then later with Lilly. I was eager to see Drew and share my news.

When I arrived at the restaurant, Drew already had a table. Ever the gentleman, he stood as I approached and held out my chair for me. “Wow, you look great.”

I blushed at his compliment, pleased and unable to keep from smiling. “Thanks.”

“Missed you.”

“Me, too,” I admitted.

“I talked to Kevin this morning,” I said, unable to hold it in a second longer.

“Kevin—you mean Kevin Forester at Hope Center?”

“Yes.” I’d assumed Drew would automatically know who I meant. “He told me the bookkeeper for the center is retiring in a few months and wondered if I’d be interested in applying for the job.” This was everything I had hoped for, everything I wanted.

When I’d been arrested for stealing the cash from the bank it was more than the loss of my freedom that had been taken away from me. No one was going to hire me for a position of trust after they learned of my record.

Although I continued with the accounting classes, I suspected they were a waste of time. Nevertheless, it was what I’d been drawn to. With encouragement from Lilly, who clearly knew about the bookkeeper’s retirement plans, I’d signed up for the course and had done exceedingly well.

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