John arrived on time. He was that way! Being on time was a life point of view for him. He felt it was polite and that was important.
(He had a friend once who told him that 'punctuality was the politeness of princes', and he liked that. He made it a point to be punctual!)
But in this case, he liked to have a few moments with his random thoughts before the service began. He'd been a member of this Episcopal Church even since he moved to town about 15 years earlier. He was comfortable here; he liked the music, the organist was very good and he also enjoyed the preaching of the senior pastor, Father Ed Raines. Going to church at St James Episcopal was a part of his routine and he always tried to keep to his routines. They kept his life in balance.
But as he approached the pew where he invariably sat, there was only one space left in the row. Of course, he was flexible enough to not let that bother him very much. There was, after all, room there for him at the end of the pew.
Sitting in the pew also already was a young 'Afto-American' woman and a little girl. The little girl was pretty, and, he noticed, quite well behaved. John's in-board computer assessed that the girl must be about 7 or 8 years old. She had pig tails, and, when he sat down, she gave him a 24 carat smile. He smiled back at her.
He also noticed, and pushed this thought away fairly quickly, that her Mother -- he supposed that it was her mother -- was absolutely lovely. He had a kind of feeling in the back of his mind also that he knew the woman, or at least should know her. There was something about her that was familiar, kind of.
His thoughts, just then before sitting down, were that she had lovely coffee colored skin, between a rich cream latte color and a slightly darker color. He couldn't see the rest of her just then and simply pushed the thoughts from his mind. But he did take time to smile broadly at the little girl.
He took some quiet time with his own thoughts, but his mind strayed to his new 'pew-mates' now and then. He was happy, when the first hymn began. It helped to straighten out his thoughts.
When he began to sing, the little girl turned to look up at him, they were standing, and she just broke into a big grin. He returned it!
When the hymn was over and the first part of the service, they sat for the reading of the lessons. The little girl leaned over toward him and said: "You have a lovely voice!"
"Thank you!" he replied.
At that point the mother nodded to him, and he acknowledged it, noting, in the back of his mind, that she looked really good from where he was sitting. He was more sure of it then also, that he knew her. In the back of his mind, he was thinking that she worked for him. He knew that he wouldn't have forgotten someone as lovely as that.
His inner voice then chimed in: "Alden! You're in church here!" It made him back his thoughts off.
The next small step forward for John Alden came during that part of the service reserved for 'sharing the peace'. The little girl, after hugging her mother, turned to John and wrapped her arms around him!
('She was apparently a hugger!' he thought and realized that he liked that, and wondered if her Momma was also. But from the lovely woman it was just a hand shake and a greeting, only partially meeting his eye.)
(The thing that John Alden didn't know was that, while he thought he knew her and was struggling with that thought, Sissily Benton already knew who he was, though she thought that he didn't recognize her -- nor did he then, not quite! He was John Alden the owner and boss of Alden Electronics, where she had just begun to work. Sissily thought that he was very good looking but suppressed those thoughts, though her Amanda seemed to be taken with him right from the start.)
The service continued and, once it was over, John did introduce himself, and found out that she was Sissily Benton and the little beauty was Amanda, her daughter. That confirmed for him his impression that she indeed worked for him at the company. They exchanged pleasantries, and then John found himself uncharacteristically tongue tied and with a wish for a 'nice day' began to find his way out of the church, greeting friends here and there and speaking briefly with Father Ed on the way out.
FATES STEPS IN:
John took his normal way home, where for him it would be a late brunch on his patio with Karl, his Labrador retriever. It was a Sunday item that was among his favorites, though now and then he'd treat himself out to the local Bob Evans for his brunch.
As he was driving along the traffic-way leading to his part of the city, he noticed a car by the side of the road. He could tell, as he approached, that the car had had some trouble, hood up and all. The thing that startled him was that he saw little Amanda Benton standing by the side of the road, back off a bit, looking at her Momma, who looked positively upset at that point.
He pulled over to the side of the road, and went to them.
"It just died!" Sissily said.
"Hmmm," was his response.
"Oh, help us!" Amanda said, and then: "You were with us in church! I know you!"
"Yes," he said, and Sissily said: "Wasn't it John Alden!"
"Yes," he answered, "Like the pilgrim!"
"Momma?" Amanda said, not understanding.
"Tell you later, love," Sissily said, "It's from a story called 'the Courtship of Miles Standish'."
"Impressive!" John said.
"Used to teach!" Sissily answered, smiling.
"Must have been good at it!" he said, "But let's get your situation taken care of."
He made a phone call to his 'man about everything, Lance' and asked him to get someone to rescue Sissily's car.
When he hung up, he said: "Lance will be right here and will take care of this. I told him where it is and all. It'll be fine."
Lance was indeed there within fifteen minutes with a mechanic friend, who said that it would have to be towed and worked on. Sissily was upset.
John turned to her and said: "Now don't get upset about this; we have it well in hand; it's taken care of. There's a favorite Bob Evans right here. Why don't we all go to brunch?"
"Oh..." Sissily began and faltered but Amanda piped up with: "Momma says that we don't have enough money just now for those kinds of things."
"Amanda!" Sissily said with some exasperation, which led Amanda to a: "Sorry, Momma!"
John just smiled and said: "The brunch is on me, and then we'll take care of your car problem, unless you'd rather not."
Sissily smiled and said: "Mr Alden, that would be very nice! We appreciate it!"
"Good for us!" was his response and, after talking briefly with Lance, he led Sissily and Amanda to his light blue Jaguar -- one of his small ways of treating or spoiling himself -- and they were off.
The brunch was a treat. They got to know each other better, though it was once again Amanda who supplied the information that they'd moved to the city from Mississippi, after Sissily's husband left her for another woman, and they'd divorced.
At that particular time, Amanda went off to the ladies.
"Sorry that she's unloading all our troubles on you," Sissily said. "Her father wanted, wants nothing to do with her -- or me for that matter." She gave a rueful chuckle with that.
"Neither brains, nor taste!" John said and Sissily blushed and said a 'thank you.'
"You know, you do look a little familiar!" John answered.
Sissily smiled at him then and said: "I work at Alden Electronics!"
He laughed and said: "That's it! I suspected that in the back of my mind. I work there too!" They both laughed at that.
Sissily was pleased with how genuine John Alden seemed to be to her. By then Amanda was back and their brunch went on.
When they were almost finished, John said: "Here's what we're going to do. I will drive home to my place and then I'm going to give you the Jag to use. Your car will take some fixing, and I don't want you to be stranded in the city."
Sissily got tears in her eyes just then, and Amanda, realizing it said: "Momma?"
"It's okay, love," Sissily said, "He's just being so nice to us!"
Amanda turned to John, who was smiling, and just listening to the two of them interact and said: "John Alden, I like you!"
He grinned at her and leaned over to kiss her cheek.
"Are we ready for the next part of our adventure?" he asked.
"Yes," Sissily said, "And thank you for the brunch."
Amanda walked ahead of them and Sissily said softly: "We're not destitute, just getting settled is all, and I've only begun to work at Alden and haven't had my first paycheck yet."
"Watch out for those bandits!" John said grinning and Sissily giggled behind her hand.
"You're so pretty!" John said, and then added: "Excuse me for being inappropriate here!"
"Being told that a woman is pretty is never inappropriate!" she said and touched his arm.
John drove them to his house, a large house in a country setting. When they got there, his first statement was: "I have to get Karl; he'll be disconsolate if he doesn't meet you!"
"Karl?" Sissily said but by then John was at the door and a wiggly lab came bounding out of the house, first to John but then to Sissily and Amanda, who fell in love with the dog almost automatically.
John took the time, while Karl and Amanda were in the process of becoming best of friends, to talk to Sissily about his plan:
"I want you to take the Jag," he said, "It'll be fine. We can talk about your car, once we have more information from Lance and his friend. But in the meantime, you need transportation."
"But your car!" she protested mildly.
.... There is more of this story ...