Talitha had not ever really met Emma and when Theo announced that he thought they should go and visit her she felt it rather odd. She had seen her at work a couple of times but she hadn’t exactly had that much contact with Theo since she had returned and Emma seemed a recent addition to both work and his friends.
It wasn’t that she felt threatened by her as a rival potential girlfriend for Theo, it was more that he seemed to be getting sucked into her church. She knew he had rejected his roots, but then his parents were a lot stricter than hers. But to switch from being a rebellious Jew to becoming a happy clappy Christian seemed too far fetched to comprehend. It was because of this suspicion, and the desire to stay around him and not let their hesitant relationship formation take too slow a course, that she had agreed to come along to the church with him. After their dinner Talitha could not decide whether he was playing hard to get, whether he had gone cool on her, or if he was just exhibiting typical guy weirdness at the thought of too intimate an emotional reaction.
Theo wondered if there would be any theatrics like last time, Emma had joked that it was the gift of prophecy in action, the pastor had seen in his mind that he was a thief and called him out on his actions. He was conversant with the prophets of the Torah, and some of them were pretty intimidating figures, but the pastor at Emma’s church didn’t really fit the bill, and he that was the that most worried him about setting foot in church. Difference is one thing, but weirdness is just a step too far. Far more likely he decided that the Pastor had caught him in the act, watched him reach into the basket and take the money, he also decided that Emma probably thought the same but was likely to be teasing him rather than expecting that he bought the line about prophets.
After the boat party he never expected to come to church, Theo had decided outright that he would rebuff Emma’s evangelistic efforts and limit their interaction to social situations, and if that was a purely recreational church function then that was okay with him. Ingrid had teased him that next time it would be cucumber sandwiches with the edges trimmed and tepid quiche in the vicarage.
It was slightly accidental that he had ended up in the church service. Theo was at the time, and as he thought back realised he still was, looking for guidance about Talitha, and the person who seemed best placed to give it, even though she didn’t know her was Emma. Theo had found that she understood his concerns he found her an easy person to talk with who uttered such profound wisdom and helped him along. In hindsight Theo reckoned he would have been better making the first move, but then he was not sure he would have yet done that, so unsure was he of his feelings. It was after work one Sunday when their conversation extended out of work and down the street and Theo kept following Emma, it was only when she walked straight past the tube that he queried their destination, “Oh, I’m going to church, it’s a Sunday evening, I always do after work.” Which perhaps had seemed pretty obvious to her but to Theo this suddenly left him with an intentional decision to walk away and end their conversation or enjoy her insights but feel obliged to stay for the service. Why else after all, as he recollected his thoughts, would he have walked all the way with her then to turn away and head home.
“Okay, I’ll come along.” It was not intended to be the beginning of anything and when he left he resolved to be more careful not to let himself slip into any such difficult diplomatic situations in the future. His disdain for religion did not end at his parents’ faith. Any sort of belief was to be avoided.
It was his colleagues at work who had prompted this return visit, they’d wanted to know how Emma was getting on, when he had heard of her traumatic experience he had wanted to head straight around and see how she was. Emma had suggested that he came over on Sunday afternoon after she had been to church, even in the middle of this tortuous situation she managed to quip that not working had some upsides, it meant she could get to church in the morning. “You seemed to enjoy it last time you came, why not come this Sunday and then we can get some lunch together, it’s a bit more normal in the morning if it freaked you out last time.” Theo starred at his computer screen that mediated their conversation as he contemplated his response. In the end he decided why not, it hadn’t been that bad after all.
It was the awkward conversation with Talitha that had led to her inclusion in the outing. Theo walked into church and wondered what she would think to it all. The previous evening they had been around her house and he casually retold Talitha of Emma’s ordeal, and mentioned that he was going to see her, and joining her at church. And Theo was stumped when she volunteered to join him. He thought about saying no, but that would have aroused the deepest of suspicions. Instead he let her come along.
Theo decided that today was the day that he was going to decide whether there was any future with Emma, or let it slide and commit properly to Talitha, he knew that the time had long since passed when he had to make the choice, but currently he was managing to go along with Talitha while also hedging his bets by staying close to Emma. It had been over a week since their tense dinner date, and also since Emma had been so brutally attacked. Apparently in a week or two Emma would be able to return to work, Theo smiled at the prospect of not needing to concoct reasons to see her or spurious important issues to discuss when he got in touch.
As Talitha walked into the church she thought that this all looked normal enough, it was an old stone building with a small steeple. Nothing wacky there. It was the drum kit that first suggested that this was not quite the quaint congregation that she had sung in when she was in the school choir. The coffee and doughnuts were a nice touch she decided as she took one and tried to avoid the strategically positioned mannequins in bright blue t-shirts with welcome blazoned across the back. What was it that led so many attractive young people into church she thought, bemused in fact that a repressive religion would appeal to so many seemingly worldly wise with their clothes slightly more suited to a nightclub than a church. A thought struck her as she veered away from an incoming ‘welcomer’ towards a free pair of seats for her and Theo. Was this one of these strange cults she thought, was it really a depraved outfit that entrapped and entranced all these people, their smiles certainly seemed fake. Talitha was suddenly tempted to go up to one of them and start swearing and punching her to see if her response was anything but meaningless polite platitudes and directions to the refreshments.
Emma was pleased that Sam had agreed to come with her, his responsibilities were mainly at the evening service so he could help her to the service and also to move back into her flat later that day. Kathy had returned from her training full of excitement and slightly disappointed to be greeted by an empty flat. Emma was also grateful that they would both be with her at church because not only was Theo coming along again but he was bringing Talitha with him. Emma had heard plenty about her as Theo poured out his emotional dilemmas to her at regular intervals. It would be interesting to meet her, and see them together she thought.
As she saw them already seated in the church Emma also couldn’t shake this uncertainty about whether they might have been anything between them. However, she pushed that back out of mind, they were together now, or at least her last conversation with Theo had suggested that they were slowly exploring things, which to Emma sounded rather like the neo-trendy Christian practise of courting rather than dating.
Theo had not seen Emma as she approached, and while it appeared that Talitha probably had, they had only seen each other once before when she came into Leon to meet Theo after work, Talitha opted not to betray her recognition. But it also seemed that Talitha was not looking at Emma but at Sam beside her.
“Sam? What are you doing here,” Talitha burst out forgetting her decision to restrain herself from unnecessary interpersonal interaction.