Thursday, March 30, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 7

"Talk to me. What's got you so spooked?"

"Daddy and I were in Manhattan when the Twin Towers were hit. We'd gone for my tenth birthday. We were a few blocks away when we heard the explosion, saw—everything! It was horrible! I was just a kid, I thought it was a thunderstorm. My father was a medic in the Army, so when he found out what had happened, he ran to help."

"Leaving you alone?"

"We were with friends. Mom was in the hospital, she'd just had my sister, Emily."

"So you stayed with friends, while your dad helped rescue people?"

"Yes. They made us leave, so I didn't know where he was, forever. I thought he'd die. All the noise, confusion, screaming. It was—horrible!"

"Oh, Wynter. Did you ever talk to anyone about this?"

"Mama put me in therapy."

"Did you talk about it?"

She nodded jerkily. "But now, thunderstorms.... They make me remember."

"I'm so sorry. Do you want to go home? Or do you want to go upstairs?"

"I want my mama!"

"Of course. Let's get you up there." He got another nurse's attention. "Maxi, we're going back to her mom's room. Could you have Karen drop by room 420?"

"Of course, honey. Is she okay?" She nodded at Wynter.

He shrugged. This was beyond his ability to cope, but his friend Karen was a social worker, experienced in dealing with PTSD. If ever there was a clear cut case, this was it. She arrived shortly after they got back to Wanda's room. Wynter went in to talk to her mother. Obi kept Karen outside for a moment, explaining the problem.

"This isn't something I felt competent to address," he admitted quietly.

"Understood. This is your – girlfriend?"

"No. I just met her a few hours ago. Long story. No." He glanced at her, his face softening. "No."

"But you'd like her to be?" Karen said, in that penetrating way she had.

"I just broke up with Cieran."

"Oh, honey. I'm so sorry. I told you that witch wasn't good enough for you."

He chuckled, nodding. "You did. On more than one occasion. Let's deal with her meltdown. Mine can wait."

"If you say so." She strode confidently into the room, holding out her hand. "Hello there. I'm Karen, a social worker here. Obi thought you might want to talk—"

Wynter bridled, recoiling for Karen's outstretched hand. "You called your ex-girlfriend here?" she gasped.

"No! No. I promise. This is Karen. My ex is Cieran." He spelled both for her. "Karen and I have known one another for years. Her older brother is a good friend."

"I apologize for the confusion," Karen said, her hand still out.

"It's my ears," Wynter said, shaking her hand.

"Being afraid can do that. Would you like to talk here, or come to my office?"

"Why don't you go talk in her office, honey? That way, it's private. Obi will keep an eye on me, and make sure I'm a good girl."

Wynter gave her mother a hug and went out with Karen.

"That was close," Wanda said. "You're telling the truth? She's a friend?"

"Yeah. Cieran isn't a kind person."

"What does she do for a living?"

"You know those annoying car dealership commercials—the one with the butt ugly dog?"

"Yes. I hate them. That brassy blonde—she's all fake tan and big— Wait. That's Cieran?"

"Yep. In the flesh."

"What did you want with a bimbo like that?"

He laughed loudly. "She can be very seductive, when she tries. And I could only say no for so long."

"You didn't pursue her?"

"Not really."

"But why a priest?"

"No idea. I could be conceited, and say it was my good looks and innate charm, but I'd be lying."

"Don't sell yourself short. You're a handsome man. And kind. Any woman would be lucky to have a man like you."

"Thank you."

"Why did you stay with a woman like that?"

"Because meeting new women is difficult. Most of them are interested in a lifestyle I can't provide, and don't want. I'm happy helping people, giving of myself. Cieran never understood that."

"A woman like that, wouldn't."

"Do you know her?" he frowned, focusing on her face.

"We've met a time or two," she didn't sound impressed.

Nodding, he ducked his head, clasping his hands. "Not an atypical reaction. My parents will be glad to find out that we're not together."

"You haven't told them?"

"It only happened last night. They aren't local."

"I see. You should call your mother."

"Yes. I should. I will. When are you going to tell Wynter?"

"Perhaps not right now. But soon."

"I know she's emotional right now, Wanda. But it won't get any easier. She may get angry, if you put it off."

"How do you say a thing like that?"

"No idea. I've never had to, though I've been with family members in similar circumstances. You need to tell her right away, and schedule your appointments and treatments."

"I hate it, but you're right."

Someone tapped at the door.

"Come in," Wanda said.

"Hi. I didn't want to interrupt, but it's time to take vitals," the nurse said with a shy smile.

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 6

"It was a tumor. When they opened me, they found that I'm riddled with cancer. It's too far along to treat, without extreme measures. Honestly, I don't have it in me to fight it."

"Are you going to tell your daughter?"

"Yes. Everything in her life is such a mess. I hate to add to it. I had to talk to someone, to get a fresh perspective."

"I can't make that decision for you, Wanda. But you're not an old woman. You're otherwise healthy. I think you owe it to yourself – and your daughter – to pursue treatment."

"It's just such a long haul. Chemo and more surgeries, along with radiation treatments. I just can't do it alone."

"You aren't alone. You have your daughter here. For better or worse, she's in the perfect position to help you. You won't be alone. You'll have Wynter. And God." He took her hand. "And me. I know that Father Charlie is your parish priest, but if you ever need someone else to talk to, you can call on me."

"Thank you, Obi. You've always been such a comfort."

"Do you want me here when you tell her?"

"Please. She's going to need you, too."

"I'd be happy to help her, even if she's a member of St. Blase, she's still my sister in Christ."

"I don't mean like that. I mean like a man."


She held up a hand, stopping his protests. "I get it. You barely know her. But I read people well, I always have. And I see two young people who need one another. Even if you're just friends – for now. It could grow into more, you just have to give it a chance."

"Why are you trying to fix me up?"

"Because I see your pain. I don't know what's happened in your life, but you need one another. I feel it." Thunder rumbled and the sky darkened. Wanda's expression turned to worry. "I'd better call Wynter. She doesn't need to be out in that. She's terrified of storms."

"Call her. I'll go look."

Before he left, she gave him Wynter's phone number. Racing to the elevator, he tapped his foot when it didn't appear. It lingered four floors up. Unwilling to wait, he hit the door to the stairway. Down he trotted, hoping that Wynter was all right. He wasn't a fan of thunderstorms, if he was outside. Inside, he didn't mind—too much. Hitting the bottom of the staircase, he took the door outside, heading to the Zen garden. He didn't see Wynter, but he heard a phone ringing. Knowing it wasn't his, he followed the sound. It stopped, then started again. It was coming from the gazebo which was built on stilts, overlooking a pond.

"Wynter!" he called. "Wynter? It's Obi, can you hear me?"

He heard a sob to his left. She was hiding under the bench, huddled in a terrified heap. Her phone rang again, so he answered it.

"It's Obi. I found her. She's okay, but scared. We'll be in shortly." Hanging up, he handed the phone to Wynter. "Let's get inside before the rain starts."

It took some doing to get her to crawl out. The space was far too small for both of them, and he wasn't a fan of staying outside in bad weather. Helping her up, he guided her back to the door, only to find it uncharacteristically locked. Big drops of rain started falling. Though there was an overhang, it was twelve stories up, and didn't provide much protection. He wasn't sure where an open door would be, so he guided Wynter to the nearest entrance he knew, the emergency room.

By the time they got there, they were soaked. The charge nurse approached quickly, from behind her desk.

"Are you folks okay?"

"It's all right, Celia. We're just wet, and a little nervous."

"Oh, my goodness, Obi? What are you doing outside in all this?"

"Can we get a couple blankets. I'll explain when we get Wynter warmed up."

"Sure. One second." She brought towels, as well as blankets from a nearby warmer, wrapping one around Wynter's shoulders.

Obi had to fend for himself, but he didn't mind. An orderly brought more towels, and another nurse brought coffee. By this time, the charge nurse had done an assessment, and realized that Wynter was fine.

"Why were you outside?" she asked again.

"Her mom is here. She'd asked to see a priest, so I came over. Wanda had a few things to talk about, so Wynter went outside."

"And thunder!" Wynter whispered, grasping her coffee in both hands. She shook so, Obi was worried she'd spill it, so he took it from her. She didn't seem to notice. "I hate thunder," she whimpered.

"I'm not a big fan either," the nurse, Jan, said. "But you're all right now, sweetheart. Do you want to go back up to see your mom?"

"Yes, please," Wynter said quietly. "I'm so cold!"

They brought another blanket, wrapping it around her. The same orderly brought them clean scrubs to change into. Obi went in the bathroom, but the nurse helped Wynter change in one of the curtained treatment areas. When he came back out, with his wet clothing in a bag, Wynter was seated in a wheelchair.

"She's okay, but I was a little worried about her. She's not diabetic, or anything, is she?"

"I don't know, Jan. I just met her a little while ago. We just ate, so it's probably not her blood sugar. Let me talk to her."

"Okay, hon. You holler if you need me."

"I will. Thanks."

She gave him a hug and kiss on the cheek. They'd been friends for a long time. She was a student nurse, when he worked there. They'd tried dating for a short time, but it hadn't worked out, though they'd remained friends. Now, she was married with two girls, and he was alone.

"Hey there," he said, squatting by the chair.

Wynter hardly focused on him. He took her hands, they were cold, despite the warm blankets.

©Dellani Oakes 2023

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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 5

"This is Ms. Whitley. Her mother's a parishioner at St. Blase. I'm filling in for Father Charlie today."

"Yeah, I heard he was puking his guts out. He's a guest here, as well. Hiya, Miss Whitley. What's wrong with your mom?"

When they were settled, he took off at a spirited pace.

"She had an emergency appendectomy last night."

"No kidding? She's okay, though."

"Yes. Just fine. She hates the food." She held up the bags.

Wrinkling his nose, Josiah nodded. "You can build a bigger hospital, but you can't make the food better. Go figure." He shrugged. "Hope your mom feels better real soon," he said as they stopped at the front door.

"Thank you. And thanks for the ride."

"You're welcome. I'll add her to my prayers. I say 'em while I drive." Saluting, he took off down the hill.

"He seems nice," Wynter commented as they walked in the front door.

"He is. Josiah's been a member of the parish way longer than I've been its priest. I grew up at St. Pete's. My folks raised money for the original building."

"Wow! Mama moved here about ten years ago. I stayed in New York. I wanted to be a professional dancer from the time I could walk."

"What type of dancing?"

"Jazz and modern. I can do ballet, but those girls have to starve themselves, to keep dance weight. I like my pasta."

"A woman looks better with a little contour," he said as they approached the information desk. "We have to check in to get you a name tag," he explained to Wynter, who was ready to walk by. "Just give him your license, and he'll check you in."

"Okay. Thanks." Grabbing her driver's license, she handed it to the security officer at the desk.

"Thank you, Ms. Whitley. New York, huh? What brings you here?"

"My mother is sick. She's in room 420. We brought lunch."

"Good idea. The food here ain't for sh—" He stopped suddenly, apparently remembering that Obi was a minister. "Isn't good," he amended.

Obi snorted. "Yeah. Something like that." He put a lanyard around his neck, which had his photo ID on it. It was blue, with CLERGY printed in white letters.

"You're all set," the guard said with a smile. He handed Wynter a stick-on name tag.

"Do I have to check out after I visit my mom?"

"No. It scans as you pass the desk. Please leave it on until you get to the doorway. There's a trash can inside each one, where you can drop it."

"Thank you. Where am I going?"

"I know my way," Obi interjected.

"You should. You're here enough," the guard said with a grin.

"Doing my job," Obi said. "Thanks!"

Obi knew his way around the innards of the hospital well. "When I was a teenager, my first job was orderly. I worked here before most of this existed. I know back ways and hideyholes all over the place."

"Did you run off with handy nurses, to catch a few moments of on-call room bliss?" she teased, nudging his arm.

"Now, Ms. Whitley, is that an appropriate question?" he chuckled.

"Probably not, but we started with blatant honesty, why stop now?"

"From time to time. Mostly, we were all too busy. Shows like Grey's Anatomy make it look like a common thing. Most of the staff uses those rooms to sleep."

"Good to know."

They arrived at her mother's room without incident. Wanda Whitley was all smiles when they entered.

"Father Randolph, how good to see you again!"

"You didn't tell me you knew each other," Wynter said as she unloaded the bags of food.

"Didn't come up."

"True. How are you feeling, Mama?"

"Much better, now that pesky appendix is gone."

"I'm so glad it didn't rupture," Obi said with a smile. "I have an uncle whose appendix ruptured. He was lucky that it didn't kill him."

They chatted as they ate. Since they knew many of the same people, Mrs. Whitley brought him up to date on all the parish gossip. After their meal, he and Wynter cleaned up.

"Did you have something in particular you needed to speak to me about? Wynter said you requested a priest?"

"I have a few things to discuss. If you wouldn't mind giving us some privacy?" Wanda appealed to her daughter.

"Sure. Call me when you're done. I'll see if I can find my way outside."

"Take elevator D to the third floor, then take the back stairs. That takes you to a nice park, with a Zen garden," Obi said with a smile. "When I call, I'll talk you back in."

"Thank you." She gave her mother a kiss on the cheek. "See you soon, Mama."

"Bye, darling."

They waited in silence until she was gone. Obi heard the elevator ding, and the door shut.

"I'm dying," Wanda said without preamble. "I'm all she has left, since her father passed. We were divorced fifteen years ago. Wynter decided to stay in New York, with her dad, when I moved here. She had her career to think about, and that's one of the best places to be." She shrugged, obviously upset about her daughter's decision.

"May I ask what's wrong?"

"It wasn't my appendix," she admitted quietly. "I had a serious obstruction of the bowel, and it caused necrosis."

Obi sat up straighter. "That sounds serious."

"It is. Very."

"What caused the obstruction?"

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 4

"Says it all. He wanted all my attention, wanted to smother me with his fake affection, and was determined we were going to have sex."

"And you disagreed."

"Yeah! When did it become a sin to abstain?"

Obi chuckled. "I think you'll find that's pretty much the polar opposite of a sin. Says so in the Bible."

"As I thought. But you'd think Bardo was going to die, if he didn't get some nooky!"

She was starting to get rather shrill. The few customers and workers nearby, stared. Blushing, she ducked her head.

"Way to make a spectacle of myself."

"Most men would side with him."

"And where do you fall in that spectrum?" she bridled somewhat, crossing her arms defensively.

"Not really your business, is it?"

"Just curious."

"I'm a single, thirty-two year old man. I think you can pretty well do the math on that."

Their food arrived. Grabbing the bags, he headed toward the door, with Wynter in his wake.

"I'm being intrusive," she said as they settled in the car once more. "I can't seem to just make conversation, I have to know every detail. No, it's not my business. Just—with this being such a bone of contention with Bardo...."

"You wondered where a religious man, such as myself, sided."


Fastening his belt, he thought about that for a moment. "Cieran and I were—" he tried to think of a nice way to say it. "Intimate. Happy now?"

"You didn't have to tell me. But thank you."

"Are you a virgin?"

"Excuse me?" she bridled at his intrusive question.

"I thought we were being blatantly honest. Did I read it wrong? Or is it just my sex life that's called to question?" He couldn't keep the annoyance from his voice.

"No. Not a virgin. I had a few years, in college, where I was a party girl Then I got mono, and realized I had to turn my life around. I stopped the destructive behavior and put my life in order. One thing that made it possible, was to become a Born Again Virgin."

Obi was familiar with the practice. Many churches preached celibacy, offering those who had fallen away, to declare themselves Born Again. They practiced a sex-free lifestyle, abstaining from intercourse. He'd never gotten behind the idea, because he knew that, men in particular, had difficulty with abstinence. He thought it was far more important to inform young people of the dangers of underage, unprotected sex, than to make them strive for an unattainable goal.

"That's admirable," his voice lacked conviction.

"But you think it's stupid."

"I didn't say that."

"Your tone did."

Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly as he turned into the hospital parking lot. "It's been a bad twenty-four hours," he said as calmly as he could muster. "For me, it's not a viable option."

"Why not?" her tone was defensive.

"Are you determined to lay all my secrets bare? Is that your intention?" he wasn't quite yelling, but it was close.

Wynter's lip trembled. Tears spilled from her eyes.

Feeling horrible, Obi put his hand on her shoulder. Shaking his head, he fought his own tears. Cieran had said awful things to him, flaying his soul, baring his indiscretions and insecurities. She was no better than he, but she had a way of making him feel he was unworthy.

Scrabbling at the handle, Wynter tried to get out of the car. Sobbing loudly, she gave up, burying her face in her hands.

Feeling horrible, Obi parked the car. Leaving the engine running, he pressed his lips together.

"We met on our worst days," he murmured. "I'm not usually this big a jerk, and I apologize. If I'm honest, I'm hungover. And I'm recoiling from everything Cieran said to me last night. She was—" He didn't have words. She had eviscerated him, cutting deep. Everything from incompetence in his job, to inadequacies in his sexual performance, had been fuel for her diatribe. "Let's start over." He held out his hand to her. "Hello, I'm Father Obadiah Randolph. I'm very pleased to meet you, Ms. Whitley."

Laughing a little, she shook his hand. "I'm very pleased to meet you, Father Randolph."

"Let's go see your mother," he suggested.

"With a stop at the restroom, so I can put my face back together. If I come in looking like the Wrath of God, Mama will fuss."

Obi burst out laughing. "If you truly looked like the Wrath of God, I think I'd be cowering in fear. You're a bit pink, and decidedly damp, but still beautiful." He hadn't meant to say that, but it was true. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever met. "Grab the bags, I'll come get the door."

"Thank you." Doing as he suggested, she waited until he opened her door and helped her out.

The hospital sat on a rise, overlooking the massive parking lot. What had started as a small, Catholic hospital in the Sixties, St. Mary's – Metro Hospital was the second largest in the city. It was now a Class 4, in one of the busiest parts of town. Only minutes from the interstate, and the roughest part of the hood, their emergency department was generally crowded. It wasn't unusual to have accident victims being treated side by side with gang bangers caught in drive bys. They had the best trauma surgeons in the state, top in the nation, who were also world renowned.

They were fairly far from the door, so Obi waved down the driver with the golf cart. Josiah was a man Obi knew well. A long time parishioner, he also hung out at Obi's favorite pub – owned by another parishioner.

"Hey there, Father. Good to see ya! Who's your friend?"

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Thursday, March 16, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 3

       "What does Bardo do?"

"Sucks off whatever woman he's hooked up with."

"Sounds like a bum. You're better off without him."

"Yes, true. But you get stuck in something, don't really see the flaws."

"Not until it's crashed and burned right in front of you. I mean, she knew I was a priest before we started dating!" Seeing her surprised expression, he snapped his lips shut. "Bit of a sore spot."

"I can see that. Bardo didn't like my convictions."

"Specifically what?" He pulled into the parking lot of the Thai restaurant, stopping in a carryout spot.

"No sex until we're married."

"Yeah, that wouldn't make many men happy."

"You aren't like that, are you? I mean, you're a priest!"

"Unlike Catholic priests, Episcopalians are allowed to marry."

"But premarital sex? Doesn't the Church frown on that?"

"I've had my bad boy moments." He hopped out of the SUV, walking around to open hers.

"I'm sorry, I've offended you. I don't always shut up when I should."

"I'm afraid you laid my soul rather bare, with that question." He he opened the door to the restaurant and headed to the carryout order area a few feet to their left.

"Were you and your girlfriend—" she made vague gestures with her hands, all of which were mildly obscene.

Obi pushed her hands down, before she did something really crude. "Not really your business, is it?"

"It's just—you're very handsome—for a priest."

"Oh, so not handsome for some guy on the street?" he couldn't keep the irritation from his voice He hadn't meant to snap, but he was tired of apologizing.

"That isn't what I meant, and you know it," she barked.

Glaring at each other, they paused. He wasn't angry with her, nor she with him. They just happened to be thrown together on one of the worst days possible.

"You make me nervous," she said, after a lengthy interval.

"How?" he wasn't quite ready to lose his irritation. He was doing her a favor, and she seemed determined to annoy him. No, that wasn't it. He was in a terrible emotional state.

"You're a priest! And you're—hot."

He chuckled. "You must watch Fleabag."

"Never heard of it. What is it?"

They took a step closer to the window, as a person ahead of them headed for the door.

"It's this weird show on Amazon. There's a character on there that's referred to as the Hot Priest."

"Is he hot?" She smirked at him.

"No idea. He's not deformed, or anything. I'd be far more interested a hot priestess."

"Gotcha. I didn't mean it that way," she said, stopping him with a hand on his arm. "You're very handsome, and that's what makes me nervous."

"Whatever for?"

He glanced at his reflection in the front window of the restaurant. What he saw made him hesitate. His dark brown hair was messy, standing up in weird spikes as if he'd forgotten to brush it. Perhaps he had. He couldn't remember. His blue eyes, rimmed with dark lashes, showed his emotional pain. He hadn't shaved that morning. Considering that he'd been drinking heavily the night before, he looked rather like an unmade bed. Combing his hair with his fingers, he tried to tame it, but only succeeded in messing it up more.

"Can I take your order?" the girl at the register asked.

"Yes, sure. What would your mother like?"

Grabbing the list again, Wynter read off her mother's choices.

"Did you get something for yourself?" he asked.

"Yes. Mama won't eat all that, so I'll have what she doesn't eat."

"Add a Number 7, extra hot," he said, reaching for his wallet.

Wynter was ahead of him. Her wallet out, she insisted on paying. "It's the least I can do for my own personal Sir Galahad." Grinning, she stuffed some bills into the tip box on the counter.

"It will be about fifteen minutes," the woman at the register said. "You should call in, you pick right up."

"Sorry, didn't think about it," Obi said, forcing a smile.

There were benches nearby, with red vinyl cushions. He invited Wynter to sit. He sat a few feet away. She scooted closer, rubbing her bare arms.

"Wow, is it always this cold here?"

He leaned closer, a little chilly himself. "Yes. I think they do it so folks won't linger. We beat lunch rush. Usually, it's packed, but has a fast turnover. It's geared more to carryout."

"Is the food good?"

"Yes, if you like Thai."

"Do you?"

"Jury's still out." His turn to smirk. "What do you do, when not filling in as church secretary?"

"I'm a dancer."

"No kidding! Where?"

"I was with a professional company in New York. But since my ex-man child was the choreographer, I lost my job when we broke up."

"Yikes! Pardon my saying, he sounds like a real jerk."

"He is."

"What prompted the breakup?"

"You caught the man child reference?"

"Oh, yeah," he sincerely hoped that his ex didn't refer to him that same way. Since she'd called him far worse to his face, he was pretty sure she didn't.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 2

They hung up. Rubbing his brow, he wondered why he'd said yes. He hated going to the hospital, but had to do it fairly often. He wasn't a big fan of Thai food, either, but he couldn't make himself say no. Her request wasn't unreasonable, nor was he particularly busy. It wasn't her fault, or her mother's, that he was having a bad day. That was more the universe slapping him upside the head—a cosmic sick joke.

"I'm heading to St. Mary's to see a patient," he called to Mrs. Bannister.

"Okay! When will you be back?"

"Not sure. Call if you need me."

"Will do! Drive safe!"

"Will do!"

Trotting out to his car, he planned his drive. St. Blase wasn't far away. In fact, it was the sister parish to his, St. Peter the Fisherman Episcopalian Church, lovingly called St. Pete's by his congregation. Seated in his SUV, he made sure the air conditioner was on full and the music was loud.

It would probably have shocked his congregation to know that their spiritual leader was a metal head, and Metallica was his favorite band. In fact, before college and seminary took him in the polar opposite direction, he'd dreamed of being a rock star. Tapping the steering wheel along with Lars, he did a little head banging at the stop light. Growling out the lyrics to For Whom the Bell Tolls, he wended his way through traffic, grateful that it wasn't quite lunchtime, and the traffic was light.

He rolled up to St. Blase's in good time. A pretty blonde paced the sidewalk in front of the white stucco edifice. Seeing his SUV, she stopped walking. He parked, hopping out. Walking around the front, hand extended, he held out his driver's license for her to see. Squinting at it, she compared his face to the one in his wallet. Smiling, she held out her hand, taking his.

"Father Randolph?" Big brown eyes fixed on his blue ones.

"Yes. You can call me Obi."

"Wynter. What's Obi short for?"

"Obadiah." Opening the door, he helped her in.

"The name on your license isn't Obadiah."

"I go by my middle name. First name is Prescott." He showed her the license again.

"Oooh. I don't use my middle name. Coincidentally, it also begins with an O."


"No. Trust me, you won't guess it in a million years."

"That bad?" he frowned slightly as they buckled up.

"Terrible." She paused, tipping her head toward the speakers. "The Day That Never Comes?" She grinned. "Bold choice for clergy."

Snapping the music off, he blushed. "Can't always listen to church music."


"What does your mom like, in terms of Thai food? Traditional, or more Americanized?"

"Honestly, I have no idea. She gave me a list of foods." She dug in her pocket, handing him a crumpled, scribbled list.

Obi looked it over, nodding as he handed it back. "Got it. That's more American Thai. Not a problem. I know just the spot. It's on the way to the hospital."

"Thank you." Her voice faltered again. "I don't know what I'd have done...." Blinking hard, she turned her head, trembling hand to her lips. "I'm not usually this big a wreck."

They weren't out of the parking lot yet, so Obi stopped, putting the car in park. Leaning across her, he grabbed a packet of tissues from the glove compartment. Handing them to her, he smiled.

"It's all right. You're allowed to fall apart. Your mom is sick."

"That's not the only reason." Wiping her eyes, she blew her nose.


"Well, what?" her blue eyes were full of tears, her lips trembling.

"What else is wrong?"

"Oh, you don't want to hear about my troubles."

Obi laughed loudly, pointing to his priest's collar. "If you haven't noticed, that's kind of my job. Spill. What's wrong?"

"Life?" she exhaled sharply. "Lost my job, my boyfriend, and my home all in one fell swoop."

"I'm so sorry to hear that. How can I help?"

"Got a job you need filled?"

"No. But I have a large parish, with lots of business people. I'm sure one of them has an opening. If not, I know a lot of the St. Blase parishioners. I was assistant pastor for five years, before moving to St. Pete's. Give me a copy of your resume, I can make a few calls, help you set up interviews. Next problem?"

"Well, I've moved in with Mama, so housing is covered. That leaves boyfriend."

The statement lingered between them. Even in her distressed state, she was beautiful. Blushing slightly, he turned away.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah...yes. Shall we go?"

"I didn't mean to imply that you should be my boyfriend."

"It's all right. My life blew up last night. I have my home and job, but my girlfriend.... Pfff!" he made an explosive gesture with his hands.

"Sounds like both our lives are kinda crap."

He chuckled, putting the SUV in gear. "Yep. But I'll make you a deal. I won't wallow, if you won't."


He'd stopped for a sign at the driveway. Holding out her hand, she waited for him to shake it. Grinning, he did.

"What was her name?"

He was distracted checking traffic. "Who?"

"The woman."


"Mine was Bardo."

"Stupid name."


©Dellani Oakes 2023

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