September 24, 2017

Peplum Diary: The Gentleman Bastard

mirror room

“Let’s pray,” says the pastor. Everyone bows their head. She turns her head slightly to look at him and catches him looking at her…knees. He smiles his slight smile and looks away.

If she could blush she would but she comes as close to it as she can.

“Our Father…

The prayer is brief, she knows it is. She’s been saying it since she was some feet off the ground and hadn’t begun maturing into the lovely lady she was today. And for some reason today it seems to drag on.

“…Amen.”

The pastor picks a hymn book and looks over his glasses at the order of service. “Let’s turn to hymn 320, Take me Lord, to Thy comfort. Let us stand.” The congregation obeys without hesitation. The piano boy lays his fingers on the keys and plays the first line or two. Then the faithful join in, singing in their characteristic lazy but soulful way.

He opens the hymn book and leans closer to her. Not by much, but just enough so she can smell his cologne and see the bulge in his arm as he holds the book out in front of them. And she can tell he is oblivious of his movements and their effect on her because he stares right at the words on the book. And his voice, strong and confident. Not so high that it hurts the ears but deep, rumbling and firm yet clear. She’s never heard him singing before, not from this close anyway but she immediately likes it.

She leans closer to him, pretends she cannot see the words clearly. Then she leans too close and slightly bumps into him.

“Sorry”

He says nothing but brings the book closer. Even then he doesn’t skip a beat, he continues singing. Even points at the line they are all singing now so she can join in. She’s almost blushing again but this time from embarrassment. She looks up to meet his reassuring smile…or she thinks he’s smiling behind all that singing. It would be rude not to.

She joins in, quietly. With her voice the only place she should sing confidently is in the shower or at the end of a movie. The hymn ends, mercifully and they all sit down. The preacher for the day is at the elevated pulpit. He prays and begins his sermon.

The sermon drags on; something about money, and being evil or the other. She drifts off when he gets to the ‘Young people of nowadays…’ mark. It is as though being young is a certificate for evil. Then her mind begins to drift into more mundane things.

Like lunch. Would she be cooking today or just have fries and chicken?

It was at this moment that her body decides to betray her. In comes the large breath and out comes a yawn.

A yawn! From the second pew in church in the middle of the sermon?! She is suddenly aware of herself and her surroundings. Wide eyed, she looks straight at the preacher who is looking right at her. He’s paused, seeing demons in her that need removing. She looks innocently at him and he relents and carries on with his sermon.

As soon as his eyes have come off her she buries her head in her palms. She dares not look to her right or she is certain she will die of shame. She spends the rest of the service with her eyes glued to the floor and fighting the urge to yawn again, a battle she loses repeatedly.

The service comes to an end and she cannot leave the church hall faster. She walks briskly to the catering tent and pours herself a cup of tea and finds a warm scone. She’s only begun sipping the tea when he joins her.

“I knew I’d find you here”

She almost chokes on the scone.

“Easy. Let me help you with that”

He takes the cup from her and puts it on a nearby table. Then he removes a white handkerchief from his breast pocket and offers it to her. She stares at him, confused.

“You spilled some on your…,” he gestures politely at her lapel.

“Oh. Thanks.” She takes the handkerchief and unfolds it. It’s really clean, she’s impressed. She dabs at the spots on her dress tenderly until they are barely visible and hands the handkerchief back.

“You got some on your…face”

“Oh my! Where?”

“May I?”

“Please”

He takes the handkerchief from her and gently wipes off the edges of her mouth. She stands still, but can hear her pulse in her ears, her chest rising and falling with every breath. Him? Oblivious as a stone in a pond. Gentlemen can be bastards sometimes.

“Perfect,” he says as he steps back. ‘Did he just say perfect?’ she thinks, almost blushing. He says something that she barely hears and she nods in response. He steps aside and ushers her forward.

“After you”

“Thank you”

She has no idea where they are going but she walks beside him, quietly, afraid if she says something she will ruin the moment.

“I thought you weren’t coming today”

“Oh, no. Something came up in the morning”

He pauses, almost hesitantly. Then he looks dead ahead and asks, “Was it your boyfriend?”

‘Boyfriend?’ she thinks ‘is he crazy? He knows I don’t… He knows I don’t have a boyfriend! What’s he doing? Is he asking whether I’m single or not?’ She smiles and pushes him away slightly, playfully even. “I don’t have a boyfriend,” she confesses with a sly smile. Will he take the baited hook?

One of the singers in the praise team cat-walks her way to where they stand.

“The meeting is starting now, are you joining us?”

Her words form a request but her delivery sounds like a command. He smiles that sweet slight smile of his.

“Give me a minute, I’ll be right there”

“No, now”

The singer looks at her in her red dress, eyes that call her the devil, a look dripping with venom. She looks back, unbowed. He realizes daggers are being drawn and gives in.

“Ok, let’s go”

“Fine, after you”

He gives her a light peck on the cheek and whispers in her ear, “I’ll be back just now.” Then he walks away. The singer lingers, staring poison.

‘It’s on,’ those eyes seem to say.

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