Too soon the dance ended, but as he walked, hand-in-hand with her back to their seats, he turned to Geoff to give him a ‘thumbs up.’ Geoff returned the gesture with a wink.
When the evening drew to a close, the couple walked together towards Geoff’s car. George was helping Geoff to place the last of his equipment into his boot. Steve and Cathy looked into each other’s eyes and agreed that it had been a marvellous evening. They were both relieved that their ‘more than friendship’ was out in the open and hoped that there would be no more fuel for gossip. He passed her an envelope from his coat pocket.
“A birthday card for Emily, it’s tomorrow isn’t it?” he said.
“Oh,” she said, surprised, “Well remembered. Thank you.”
I’ve not bought a present – but only because I don’t want Barbara thinking that I’m trying to buy her approval.”
“Probably sensible, “ she said, “I’ll give it to her tomorrow.”
“I’m going to phone Peter tomorrow too – to try to make peace.”
“Yes,” she said, “I’ll be doing the same with Barbara but face-to-face.”
His hands were around her waist. She moved closer to him and placed her hands around his neck. They hugged, heads side by side. She kissed him on the cheek as they agreed a meeting for the next weekend, regretting that work- related stuff would keep them apart until then.
“Get a room you two,” Geoff called.
They parted and she got into his car.
Steve waved her off as she turned in the back seat of Geoff’s car to wave back. He then walked slowly back into the Hall to ‘face the music’ with Beryl and George.
Beryl was the first to speak.
“Look, Steve, you know that we wish the best for you. All of us do, but can you be honest with us? I heard what you said earlier, but it still feels too much like a coincidence. How much did your wish to please Cathy influence your decision to step down from what you do in Church?”
“Beryl,” he answered, “and George, I can be totally truthful about this – though I can see why you might doubt otherwise – the two events were absolutely unconnected. For months before your dinner party I’d been mulling over what I could attest to believing: about what I could preach about things like prayer, the Trinity, Judgment and eternal life. I couldn’t honestly reconcile the remnants of what I had come to believe with my roles. I was wrestling with such doubts the entire day before church that day. I’d decided that I needed to tell you and Sheila. I worried about how you would feel; that I had let you down.”
“At the dinner party,” he continued, “when Cathy challenged me about inconsistencies in what churchgoers believe, I didn’t know what to say. What Cathy had argued was below the belt – posing binary options of God or Satan – but all I felt that I could argue was a suggestion about blood pressure. It confirmed me in my decision to approach you, and thankfully, Geoff poured oil on the troubled water.
It was the following Tuesday, at the dance that Cathy apologised, and we agreed the need to talk. All this was before I spoke to you or the Vicar. But it was the Tuesday after I spoke to you that Cathy and I agreed a time and venue for a meeting – the following Saturday. That went well and we agreed a further meeting.
I wasn’t at the dance the week after that so last Saturday, the day of the Social Dance, was when we had our second meeting. It’s only since then that our lives have been turned upside down. We haven’t even spoken to our children yet to let them know what the position is. When Stephen left me, quite angry on Sunday, he had threatened to tell Marjorie what he suspected – ahead of our meeting next Sunday.
I suspect, by the way, that she deliberately chose Sunday morning as the only available time she could make it for me to apologise. She wanted me to miss Morning Service as a sign of my commitment to the apology. Anyway, that’s all I can tell you – that’s all there is to tell.”
“Thank you for your explanation Steve,” George said, “It puts my mind at rest. I’m sure that you two will find enough common ground – and enough love for each other – to make the next steps work, whatever they may be.”
Beryl agreed and gave Steve a hug. “Good luck,” she said, “I mean it.”
They all walked back together, across the road to their homes on Vicarage Crescent.
The opening photo today is of the rear car park of “St Philip’s” church hall, in keeping with the location of the action in the post. I’ve taken the liberty of using another scene from dancing -rather than repeat previous shots of Steve’s house. The scene is rendered in black and white to indicate evening and the dance floor is almost deserted as most of the dancers have gone home. On elderly dancer looks as if he’s headed home too.
EXIF data were: Fujifilm X-T4 26 MP cropped sensor mirrorless camera and Fujinon XF 16-55 mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens. 1/1000 secs @ f/2.8 and 18.2 mm. The ISO was 6400.