In which Jakki takes Claire to lunch
Claire and Jakki pulled up in the parking lot at the same time. “I know it doesn’t look like much, right in the middle of a strip mall, but trust me when I say this is the best Italian food for miles.”
“I’m sure it’s great. Thanks for the introduction.”
Cinghiale was, in fact, a fabulous Italian restaurant. It was so named because of the stuffed wild boar –a cinghiale – in the front picture window and because the boar stew was one of their specialties. But the stew was a little heavy for lunch, so Claire ordered the caprese salad with a chicken breast. She made a mental note to bring Emma for dinner some day.
“So, Claire, how is it going? Ready to quit yet?”
Claire smiled. She knew that Jakki had served a few pastorates in the city, and some of them were pretty tough. It was rather remarkable the woman had kept her sunny (if a bit flowery) outlook on things.
“Well, I hit that wall a few weeks ago – you know, where you wonder why you left a perfectly good life to try something new with no guarantee it will work. But there have been bright spots along the way. There are some terrific, kind people at the church, and my kid is doing great. And our secretary, Trystene, is fantastic.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that. I just started an interim position at St. Mark’s, and the secretary there, Denise, used to be the secretary at St. Rahab’s. She said she got treated terribly there and finally quit. I think Dale’s slide into dementia was really hard on her, and she couldn’t stand the sexton. She thought he was sabotaging her work somehow. Anyway, I’ve been there all of two weeks and she seems great, so I don’t know what happened over at your place. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit, you know?”
If you only knew, Claire thought. “Well, I’m not saying there aren’t a few administrative hiccups that need to be ironed out, but I try to treat Trystene well, and really so far, she’s very very good. I’m glad that Denise landed in a better place. So tell me about St. Mark’s.”
Their lunch lasted two hours, filled with denominational gossip, a suggestion for a hairdresser, and getting to know each other a little bit. By the end of lunch Claire wasn’t sure that Jakki would ever become her best friend (as she thought she was in the market for a new one) but she knew she would be a solid and trusted colleague. Still, she couldn’t trust her entirely. Not yet, anyway.
When Claire returned to the office, Bill Carr knocked on the door. “Claire, do you have a moment?”
“Yes, Bill. Come in. And close the door, please.”
Bill sat down in the chair on the other side of her desk, the same chair he had sat in the night she walked in on him and Alice.
“I appreciate your not firing me – yet. I understand that you feel betrayed and deceived, and none of us ever wanted that to happen. But I also need you to know that you are the first pastor in a long time to know about us, and we’re not sure what to do with that.”
“Well, I most certainly hope you’re not planning to create a little accident.”
“Claire, that’s not what we do. We are about doing good in the world, not adding to its misery.”
“And what about the fact that you’re adding dishonesty to the world? What about that, Bill? What about the fact that you sabotage the work of other decent staff members here, and never take the blame? What about the fact that what you do costs people their jobs? Tell me, Mr. Moral Spy, how you reconcile that?”
“Claire, I really do want to talk with you about this but now is not the right time. I understand you’re meeting with Alice tomorrow. Could I join you two then?”
Claire thought about it for a minute. Might as well get this over with. “Yes, you can join us tomorrow. And you will have a job for another week – but if I come in on Sunday and the bulletins are wrong, you can just hand me your keys and I will gladly write you your last paycheck. Do you understand?”
“Yes. Thank you, Claire. Have a good rest of your day.”
Claire was still fuming when she got home. All the peace she felt after lunch with Jakki vanished. To make matters worse, Emma was in one of her moods.
“Hi, honey. How was your day?”
“Oh, fan-freaking-tastic. Let’s see where do I start? I had no clean underwear because evidently you forgot that that is one of your chores. Then I missed the bus and had to walk and I forgot my phone so I couldn’t call you to ask for a ride. Then I forgot that my English assignment was due and it’s a letter grade off for every day late. Then Marsala and I had a fight, and it was a crappy day and I just wish we hadn’t moved and I hate my life.”
“You know what? I had a crappy day too. I wish we hadn’t moved. I’m not loving my life a whole lot right now either.”
“Fine. Whatever. I’m going up to my room.”
That went well, Claire thought. “Come on, Rexie, let’s go for a walk. At least you still love us both.”
Claire and Emma were silent as they ate their grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, but when Emma brought out the toffee shortbread squares she made when she got home from school, Claire knew that all was forgiven.
“Honey, I’m sorry you had such a bad day. And I’m sorry I wasn’t very sympathetic earlier.”
“It’s okay. I wasn’t very nice to you either.”
“One good thing about today – another pastor took me to lunch at this fabulous Italian restaurant. I think we should go there for dinner on Friday. Deal?”
“Deal. Morag.” Emma kissed her mother on the cheek and went upstairs to finish her homework. Rex bounded up the stairs after her.
Claire smiled and had another shortbread.