Mina and Callie sat at the wooden table in the dining area at Callie’s house, savoring a sausage egg breakfast casserole and Cara’s cinnamon rolls as the early morning sun started to fill the kitchen. The previous day they had spent unpacking and waiting for Mina’s furniture to arrive. Today Mina started her job at the law office and Callie planned to go talk to Pastor Austin and Melissa Dancer. Time to start filling out her dance card!
They had both marveled at Anne’s expertise in finding – or creating – bargains and knowing just where to go to find exactly what they needed. “We have to make her our shopping mentor,” Mina said seriously, and Callie happily agreed.
“What are you doing for lunch?” Callie asked as she reached for her glass of orange juice.
“Don’t know – maybe brown bag it with some of that food we have in the fridge. What do you have in mind?”
“I thought we might start going to Sally’s Café here in town,” Callie proposed. “That’s where everyone goes to find out what’s going on, and I figure we could get to know people and get ourselves into the Ware Information Network. Plus it has the best food in town – I practically lived there during high school.”
“Sounds good,” Mina agreed. “I need to learn more about my new home.”
“I’m still amazed you moved all the way out here,” marveled Callie. “It took you less than a day to decide!”
Mina took a bite of cinnamon roll, closing her eyes as the buttery brown sugar cinnamon flavors touched her tongue. “Oh my gosh,” Mina sighed happily. “Okay, to your question: the only people I was close to in Charleston were you and the people at church. I had a job with a crappy boss. My best friend loves this place and wants to move here. I got a job within hours of hitting town, with I might add a far far better boss. The people in this town have taken me in like a long-lost daughter. Really, the question should be, ‘What took you so long, Mina?’”
Callie laughed. “I hear you. It does seem kind of meant, doesn’t it?”
“Like someone’s looking out for us?” Mina nodded. “Definitely. Everything has fallen together way too neatly to be chance.” Mina studied her a moment. “Am I wrong in thinking you’re moving a little closer to the being a churchy kind of person?”
“No,” Callie said slowly, chasing a sausage crumble with her fork. “I think I am … maybe with microsteps.”
“I like it,” Mina told her. “And regardless, I think it’s awesome that you want to coordinate the VBS! That’s a perfect fit for you.”
“I wouldn’t go that far –“
“But I would. Oh c’mon, Callie, don’t you think so too? You know your best talents.”
“I will take that as a yes,” Mina laughed. “Okay, look, I gotta go, I thought I’d try walking to work today. I have to do something if I keep eating those cinnamon rolls!”
Callie laughed. “I know what you mean! I’ll text you about lunch. Sally’s is just down the street from Daniel’s office.”
“Perfect.” Mina stood up, taking her plate and glass to the sink. “I’ll see you later!”
“Bye!” Callie watched her go, then stood up to clear the table and do the dishes. Time to get her own day started.
She parked at the church and found Pastor Austin in his office. He stood up with a big grin and waved her inside. “Callie, I am delighted to see you!”
“Thanks for taking the time, Pastor,” she responded as she came in and sat across the desk from him.
“Are you kidding? I should be thanking you!” He leaned forward and went on earnestly, “We’ve had a terrible time finding a replacement for Mrs. Sandusky. Not only that, but I asked around – sounds like with your background you’d be perfect for this job.”
Hank, she thought with an inner smile. Outwardly, she tried to look professional. “I graduated with a business management degree from KU, then got a job in Charleston with a recruiting company. When I left, I was handling recruitments for several clients, giving presentations for new clients, and taking the lead in a project to expand our services beyond recruiting. My idea was to start contracting to provide a variety of personnel services beyond recruiting to our clients. That involved developing the idea, obtaining corporate buy-in, researching financial and other considerations, assessing interest among our clients, and putting together an operational program.”
The pastor was impressed. “Sounds like you could manage our VBS with one hand tied behind your back.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” she laughed. “But I love working with people, and that seems to be the heart of the position.”
“Perceptive too,” the pastor grinned. “Well, I’m sold – the job is yours if you want it.”
Callie wasn’t really sure she did, but some inner nudge made her smile and say sincerely, “I do.”
“Great!” He reached for a stack of papers and binders. “I have a lot of information for you. Mrs. Sandusky kept excellent records – you’ll find documentation there of what she did during last year’s VBS. She also left a guide for this year’s coordinator.”
“Very organized!” Callie was impressed.
“She was, and we hated to lose her. But she has grandchildren in Florida, and too much ice and snow up here, so … “ he shrugged and then passed a colorful flat box toward her. “This is the curriculum for the VBS. Look it over and tell me what else you want to order – posters, teacher guides, that sort of thing.”
She put the papers and binders on top of the box. “Thanks, Pastor, I will.”
When she stood up, he came around the desk and picked up the box and papers. “Here, let me get that for you. You’re parked outside?”
“Yes, thanks,” she smiled.
“Oh thank you!” he said emphatically. “You are the answer to a prayer.”
That gave her something to think about.
She took everything back to the house. Placing it all on the wooden table, she looked thoughtfully past the kitchen to the living room. She needed office space for all these papers and her computer. Mina would too, if she brought anything home or had to work remotely for some reason. She slipped her smartphone out of her pocket.
Anne’s voice was warm and welcoming. “Callie! How wonderful to hear from you!”
“Hi, Anne, I hope you don't mind my callng - I need your help. I want to set up an office at the house for me and Mina.”
“You took the VBS job!” Anne exclaimed.
Callie almost laughed. The Ware Information Network hard at work! “Yes, I did.”
“Wonderful! Can we spring Mina from her job at the law office?”
“We were supposed to meet for lunch…”
“Perfect. Leave it to me.”
Callie knew what that meant – Anne was on a mission. Having seen her in action yesterday, Callie quickly got out of the way.
Three texts and an hour later, the three of them were seated in Sally’s ordering lunch. Anne laid out some catalogs that had flags on some of the pages. “I brought these to give you an idea of the styles that might work for you.”
Mina started looking through one of the catalogs. “Oh, I like this chair.”
The door opened and a young man dressed in jeans and a Chiefs t-shirt came in. Anne waved him over. “Hi, Andy, I have a question.”
“Sure, Mrs. McDonald,” he said politely as he walked over. “What can I help with?”
“This is Callie, Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, and her friend Mina. They just moved to Ware and we need to set up a home office for them. I don’t think they have a wifi network yet –“ Callie and Mina shook their heads – “so we need your advice on what is needed for that.”
“Sure,” Andy nodded. He gestured at a chair. “May I?”
Andy sat between Callie and Mina and asked for paper and a pen, which Anne extracted from her large purse. He had them sketch an outline of the first floor of the house and had them mark in the sketch where they wanted to put their office. A few more questions and he was jotting down a list of what they needed. “You may not have to get all this,” he noted, “it depends on where you get your internet from. Our choices for that in Ware are limited, but I’ve listed who our providers are. I put a star by the one with the fastest internet.”
Sally brought their food and Andy gave her his order, to go. After she left, he gave them additional advice and Callie was really impressed. She asked if he was still in school – he seemed so young! – and he said yes, he was a junior at the high school. When he graduated, he was going to go work with his dad on construction projects. Computers were just a hobby for him, something he had fun with, but he did think his knowledge of networks might come in handy when constructing houses and office buildings.
Finally he handed the pen back to Anne and said, “Well, that should do it. Do you need anything else?”
Anne beamed at him. “This was perfect, thank you!” She looked up and waved to Sally. “Put his lunch on our bill,” she called over, “plus anything else he wants.”
Andy was embarrassed. “You don’t need to do that, Mrs. McDonald.”
“Don’t argue with your elders,” Anne said sternly. “I know that and I’m doing it anyway.”
Andy grinned and said thanks before going to get his lunch.
Anne smiled fondly. “That is the nicest boy.”
“He was amazing – and so were you, Mrs. M!” Mina added.
Anne laughed. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Eat up, girls, I thought we’d drive over to Topeka to go shopping.”
Mina look scandalized. “I can’t, I have to go back to work!”
“No, you don’t,” Anne said calmly, putting her napkin in her lap. “I called Daniel and he said take as long as you want.”
Mina’s mouth dropped open. “I am in the presence of greatness,” she said, awed.
By the end of the day, the empty living room had been transformed into a cozy office space with two glass and chrome workstations each with their own small file cabinet, comfortable wheeled desk chairs, bookcases with the wifi equipment (Anne had persuaded the internet provider to install it that afternoon), two color printers, and some large green plants.
Callie looked around the room, astounded. “Anne, you have outdone yourself.”
“Oh, it wasn’t that big a thing,” Anne replied dismissively.
“Well, it sure is to us,” Mina assured her. “I wish you’d let us pay for all this! It’s not right - I feel like I’m mooching off you.”
Anne looked at her thoughtfully. “I think you and I are a lot alike, Mina. You see an easy fix to a problem and you want to fix it. That’s all I was doing.”
“It was more than –“
“Don’t argue with your elders,” Anne interrupted, with a slight smile.
Mina got the point. “Yes, ma’am,” she responded obediently, “thank you, ma’am.”
“That’s better,” Anne laughed. “Well, girls, I’d best get along. Oh, can you two come over for Sunday dinner after church?”
Callie didn’t even bother to consult Mina. “Oh yes, please!” She was overcome with gratitude and without thinking gave Anne a big hug. “Thank you so much!”
“Oh my dear girl,” Anne smiled, hugging her back. “It is my pleasure.”
Callie dashed at the tears gathering in her eyes as Anne waved goodbye and left. I am so blessed, she thought, still overwhelmed. I am so blessed.…
It was getting late, and Callie was tired but not sleepy. She’d been poring over the VBS information that she had taken down to the basement, and she saw that this was just the thing she was good at. Hank was right.
She hadn’t heard from him all day. That was probably a good thing, she thought, though she allowed herself one long yearning moment of wishing she could talk with him before she sternly reminded herself he had his own life and she shouldn’t bother him.
Her phone chimed. She looked down and smiled.
Hank: Good day?
She typed back, The best. I’m the new VBS Coordinator
Hank: You’ll do great
Callie: I really think I will, it’s all stuff I love to do How was your day?
Hank: Excellent, thanks.
Callie: BTW, your mom is amazing
Hank: No surprise to me, I’ve known that all my life
Callie: Hahaha! But I should let you go.
There was a long pause, then his answer appeared on her phone: I want to hear what Mom did, can I phone?
Callie: yes please
A moment later, her phone rang. They talked for the next hour about his mom setting up office space for her and Mina, and Callie’s interview with the pastor. Hank told her about a gazebo he was building for Stacey Carpenter and going fishing in the afternoon with his grandfather. She started to get drowsy and finally, barely able to keep her eyes open, she was forced to say good night. She put her phone on the coffee table in front of the sofa and stretched out on the sofa cushions, asleep seconds later.
Seventeen miles away, Hank flopped back on his bed, his phone falling beside him. I’m sorry, Lord, he sighed. I know I shouldn’t have done it. But I needed to … I needed … oh Lord, I just needed her. Forgive me, I’ll try not to let my own desires get in the way again of what You want.
A warm feeling of love washed through him, and he closed his eyes and slept.