Kathy sat upright in her chair, waiting for the basket to come her way, she had dutifully leant forward and spoken the couple in front and glanced around to check that her neighbours were not needed her attention and now just wanted the collection basket to have passed by so she could relax and fade once again into anonymity.
This was a difficult Sunday, usually she preferred to enjoy church shut off from the rest of the world, relaxed in the knowledge that no one was watching her, no one cared if she was there or not, paying attention or drifting to sleep. But today she had to be on her best behaviour as to the left was Emma, and to her left was Theo. They had met a couple of times, but today was the first time he’d stepped foot in a church in years, he said since he walked out of his parents’ temple ten year before.
Kathy’s suspicious side assumed it was all a ploy because he was interested in Emma, their connection seemed abundantly obvious but Emma repeatedly refused point blank that there was any trace of romance between the pair. Which led Kathy to assume that Theo was gay but she had denied that too. The two of them were frequently thick as thieves, she’d find them walking home together, speaking quietly on the phone, as though waiting for the moment when they could truly be alone. Theo did not seem as interested as Emma, and Kathy worried for her friend. She worried that Emma had bought the line that Theo was not interested, and on the surface accepted it. But deeper down she enjoyed his company and at the moment was prepared to go along with the friendship angle if it ensured that they got to spend more time together. It also Kathy, supposed, made the dilemma of whether to go out with a non-Christian a moot point for the interim.
Emma shifted uncomfortably in her seat as she waited for the conversation Theo had struck up with his neighbour to come to a close. She had intently avoided embarking on a fresh line of enquiring with Kathy so she could ensure that she was alert to what he was saying and reading to respond if the situation became unsustainable. Who ever thought bringing friends to church was to tough, she thought, Emma was paralysed with worry that either Theo would say something out of place, or the person who had in such a well meaning manner been so polite to talk during the regulation two minute break might stumble upon the truth that he wasn’t a Christian and somehow undo all the good work she had invested over the past month.
As she listened she realised that Kathy was sat still beside her, not talking, or interacting, or even making a show of being involved in another conversation with someone close by. Nor had she taken the usual step of slipping out to the toilet to avoid the obligatory conversation with a neighbour. Emma had not quite got to the bottom of last night’s activity. She’d heard from both Samuel and Kathy, and it was possible that both their descriptions were accurate, in which case she was furious with them both. But she suspected that neither were being fulsome in their disclosure, because it struck her that something was missing.
Emma could not imagine Sam casually hitting on a girl he’d met just moments before, after all she’d received a barrage of texts asking where Kathy was. And Kathy can’t have been that late. Sam still didn’t know what Kathy had seen but he’d made no attempt to deny that he’d met another girl and they’d had dinner, which would have been odd had he been trying to hide anything. Kathy having seen them through the glass doors assumed the worst and refused to be talked down when Emma relayed Sam’s version of events.
In fact, Kathy thought that it was slightly preposterous, the idea that you walk into a restaurant and stumble upon someone else who has also been stood up and strike up an immediately platonic friendship. Yet Kathy was also confused because everything that she had heard from Emma about Sam did not line up with the sort of player she had supposed she saw through the doors. And an innocent friendship was a lot more amenable if there was ever to be anything between them which she now severely doubted. Kathy had decided as the basket passed her by and the minister began to resume the service that she would now be going out of her way to avoid his presence.
Theo was glad that the unconventional interval was coming to a close. He was not a fan of small talk, especially with someone he assumed he would never meet again. Suddenly, as he looked up to the stage to wait for the minister to begin the sermon, instead of turning to speak to the entire congregation his finger struck down the centre of the aisle.
“You may have come for our wallets, but God has come for your soul!” The Reverend William ‘call me Will’ Sutton, bellowed towards the solitary individual lurking suspiciously beside the collection baskets gathered at the rear of the hall. He shirked, and turned away, making a quick get out before the police were called. “You might think you can escape the police’s pursuit, but God will never stop pursuing you.”
Maurice did not expect to receive a lecture in return for pocketing a couple of notes out of the baskets. A quick bundling to the ground, a few screams, maybe a call to the police, or an over eager parishioner chasing him out the door perhaps. But a sermon directed straight at him from the pulpit left him utterly bemused. He slipped the notes out of his pocket, and out onto the floor, before a final glance at his accuser as he fled the scene.