Start writing here…The first time he saw her was on a Thursday. Her hair was the color of warm chestnut beneath the midday sun, pulled back into a ponytail that slid over her shoulder as she turned to greet an elderly woman with a soft smile. As she handed the woman a dose of medications to help with whatever ailments she was suffering from, her eyes lifted and met his. It was only a few seconds, a brief flash of green that caught him by surprise but it felt longer.
Isaac blinked as soon as she turned back to her tasks and watched her ponytail swish over the back of her neck. For just a fraction of a second, he was dangerously close to dropping his gaze to the rest of her body but managed to tear his eyes away before he could give in to the temptation to see more. Clearing his throat to try to clear the sight of her from his head, he decided to go back inside the parish and let the team of nurses do their job.
The church had organized a clinic to help those in the community that couldn’t afford medical care. He had been surprised by how quickly the local hospital had responded, eager to help the cause. They had sent over a team of volunteer nurses and a tent to set up on the lawn outside the church every Thursday from eight in the morning to the afternoon. And she had been the head of the team. For the first hour that they had set up, Isaac couldn’t help watching from the windows of his office. More specifically, he couldn’t help watching her.
He could tell she was in charge from the moment she arrived, instructing the other nurses where to go and how to help the enormous crowd that had shown up. Sometimes she would smile and the gesture changed her entire face, lighting it up from within and other times that Isaac glanced her way, he found her with a somber look on her face--one that made him wonder what could cause it.
At lunch, the sisters of the parish had brought the nurses a sack lunch and set up a table to serve those still in line to get their medicine. It was during this brief time that the girl Isaac couldn’t seem to stop glancing at came over to sit on the front steps of the church. He had been standing in the vestibule, the front doors open wide to let in the sun, saying goodbye to one of the visiting parishioners when he noticed her on the steps. She had her sandwich on her lap, though it didn’t look like she had even taken a bite of it, with her cellphone in her hand.
He watched her smile up to the woman leaving, shaking the stray hair out of her face before she caught sight of him lurking in the doorway behind her. She shifted on the step she was sitting on and blinked in surprise, letting out a breath as she laughed softly. “You scared me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” He took a step into the light and glanced out at the tent where she had been working all morning. The line of people had lessened but judging by how many cars still remained in the parking lot, the nurses would be here for a while.
Good, a voice in the back of his mind said, making him frown and push it away. “We’ve had a bigger turnout than I expected.”
The girl sighed and looked toward the crowd, nodding solemnly. “Yeah,” she said, dusting the breadcrumbs from her fingers. “It’s sad that there are so many people in need. I didn’t think it would be anything like this when I volunteered.”
“There will always be people in need. I’m thankful that there are people like you who care enough to help.” For some reason, he felt a bit of color tinge his cheeks and he shifted on his feet. He noticed her peering up at him from the corner of his eye and the temptation to look down at her was too much.
“Well,” she said, looking up at him with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “I’m happy to help. Are you the priest?”
“I am,” Isaac said with a nod, clasping his hands behind his back.
The girl sighed and stuffed her uneaten sandwich back into the bag before standing to her feet. From two steps down, she had to crane her neck to look up at him and she put a hand to her forehead to shield her eyes from the sun overhead.
“I haven’t been to service since I was a teenager.” He watched her jade eyes shift from his face to the building stretching high above them. “I used to love listening to the church bells.”
“You’re welcome back anytime.”
With her head still leaned back, he couldn’t help notice her throat and how it tightened as she swallowed. She lowered her gaze back to him and nodded, holding her hand out for him to shake. He glanced down at her fingers and for just a brief moment, he wasn’t sure he should touch her. It almost felt wrong. Before she could realize his hesitation, he forced his hand out and took hers with a firm but gentle grip.
“I’m Lilah. The sisters told me you’re Father Sharpe?” He nodded, unable to do much else with her palm still pressed against his. “It was nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, as well.”
“I should probably get back to work.”
Their hands separated and she gave him a final smile before turning to return to the tent. Just as she strolled halfway back to the tent, he watched her turn and smile at him from over her shoulder, her ponytail swinging with each step. She lifted a hand and gave him a friendly wave--just a quick flutter of her fingers--and Isaac didn’t understand why the gesture made his stomach twitch.
Either way, he swallowed tightly and turned to make his way back into the shadows of the vestibule.