An excerpt from Baby Blue Christmas, my novella in the upcoming Author's of Main Street Christmas box set. It's scenes like this that make me write...
The next morning, Sophie and Jamison sat beside Liz and Teddy on the front pew of St. Jude’s Church. Pastor Carl Mitchells, Liz’s husband, sat on the stand while Debra Jenks played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on the organ. Sophie hadn’t ever attended church regularly, but ever since her sister’s death she’d found comfort and a sense of community in the small stone chapel where her best friend’s husband led the congregation.
She’d first started attending because Liz had told her how hard it was to make Teddy sit through the sermons and how important it was to Carl that she and Teddy be there. So in the beginning, Sophie had gone to support Liz and help her with Teddy. She couldn’t pinpoint when that had changed—when, exactly, her Sunday mornings had become more about finding peace and grace than helping her friend shore up her marriage. But Sophie had grown to love and treasure the hour of reflection the service provided.
The calm she generally found in church shattered the moment Luke walked in and took his place beside her on the pew moments before the opening hymn.
He gave her a dazzling smile and took Jamison from her without even asking. Jamison, who was normally hesitant around strangers, sat on Luke’s knee and gazed at him with happy curiosity. The traitor.
Sophie’s lap felt cold without the baby on it and without Jamison, she wasn’t quite sure what to do with her hands.
“Good morning,” Luke said, bumping her with his shoulder.
Sophie didn’t know what to say, but fortunately, Mrs. Lawrence stood to lead the hymn, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
Luke sang with a loud, clear bass voice she found almost hypnotic. She could barely hear her own squeaky words beside him. He chuckled as soon as the song ended.
“What’s so funny?” she whispered, hoping he wasn’t laughing at her singing.
“That song always reminds me of an episode of The Brady Bunch,” he whispered back.
The Brady Bunch? He hadn’t seemed like a Brady Bunch-watching sort of kid. She would have pegged him as an action hero watcher.
“My sister loved them,” he whispered, answering her unasked question.
“Shh!” Liz whispered good naturedly as her husband took the stand to begin the sermon.
Sophie’s gaze wandered to Teddy who sat beside his mother scribbling in a coloring book. She wondered what sort of child Luke had been. She hadn’t met him until Chloe and Matt had started dating. Back then, when she was a freshman and he a senior, he’d seemed so much older. But once, he must have been a child just like Teddy, and even a baby like Jamison.
Jamison deserved a father.
“Did you know that the Santa in that Brady Bunch episode also played Otis, the town drunk, in The Andy Griffith Show?” Luke whispered.
“Did you watch a lot of TV as a kid?” Sophie didn’t want Jamison to grow up to be one of those kids glued to a TV screen.
“Not so much as a kid,” he whispered back.
Liz reached over Sophie to slap Luke’s knee. “Excuse me, my husband is pontificating!” she whispered.
“Sorry,” Luke mouthed the word and turned his attention to the podium.
Sophie gazed at his strong jaw. There was something he wasn’t telling her. Something important. Something she should know. He was Jamison’s only uncle and, at the moment, the only male role model in Jamison’s life. Of course, that would all change if she married. Not that she saw that happening any time soon. She had been picky about who she dated before she gained custody of Jamison, but now that she had him to consider, her pickiness had ratcheted up to a whole new level.
She chastised herself for thinking about marriage when she should be focused on the sermon. She sent Liz an apologetic smile and tried to dial in to Carl’s message.
Unfortunately, Carl spoke in monotones. “Jesus, through Mary, his natural born mother and Joseph, his adoptive father, was of royal blood and would have been king if Israel hadn’t been under Roman rule. Let’s turn to Matthew 1:17 in our Bibles.”
Sophie reached down for her Bible which was in her bag by her feet, but her hand knocked against Luke’s and then she forgot about her scriptures as tingles shot up her arm.
He didn’t even react to her touch. This bothered her. Why was he sitting so close? She edged away, clutched her Bible, and tried to refocus.
“We read in Isaiah, chapter sixty-one, ‘To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified…”
Interesting. But not nearly as interesting as the man beside her. She wanted to touch him again to see if the tingles were a one-off sort of thing or if his touch had that power over her.
She reached over to take Jamison from him, intentionally brushing her hand against his.
He leaned over as if to say something, but she shushed him. “I’m listening,” she said, nodding at the podium. But she wasn’t. And then she began to worry that there might be a special level in hell for those who lied in church. On the Sabbath.