East Side Academy

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Chapter 14 - Hymn for the Weekend

“Oh, angel sent from up above / You know you make my world light up / When I was down, when I was hurt / You came to lift me up / Life is a drink and love’s a drug / Oh, now I think I must be miles up / When / I was a river dried up / You came to rain a flood” – Hymn for the Weekend, Coldplay ft. Beyonce


He parks the car and shuts off the engine. “Are you coming?” James says to me.

“You thought bringing me to church was a good idea for our first date?” I ask him.

“It’s not what you think,” James assures me, “Just come with me.”

“So, you’re not trying to convert me to this Protestant church?” I ask.

James laughs. “I promise I am not trying to convert you. Just trust me.”

And with those last three words, I feel safe. “Okay,” I say, and unbuckle my seatbelt. We step out of the car and head into the back of the church. I follow James, and he leads me downstairs and we walk into an open hallway. There is a kitchen to the right where people are beginning to put together food, and I can see ahead there is a large open hall where people are starting to set up tables and chairs.

“So good to see you James!” an older woman with a clipboard says as she sees us walk in. “And this must be your friend.” She says to me kindly.

“It’s great to see you as well, Margery.” James says, “This Arya, she’s going to help out with the dinner tonight.”

“Well, the girls need some extra hands in the kitchen.” Margery says, “And the men would appreciate a young man to help with moving everything in the hall for setting up.”

“Sounds good.” James says, “Can you please help Arya with getting started?”

“Of course,” Margery says as if it’s no trouble at all.

James turns to me, “Once a month, our church hosts a dinner that is open to the entire community. I thought you would like to be a part of it. Everyone here is great and I wouldn’t leave you in that kitchen if I didn’t trust that you would be fine.”

“It’s perfect, James,” I say, placing a hand on this arm to assure him.

“Stop scaring her and go help the men out, James,” Margery says.

“I will see you soon,” James says to me and heads out.

“Let me introduce you to all the girls in the kitchen.” Margery says, “Here’s an apron so you don’t get your clothes messed up.”

I take the apron and put it on, tying up my hair in a ponytail. I move slowly because I’m a bit nervous. James has taken me to a place I’ve never been and has left me alone, but he told me to trust him, so I will.

“Ladies, please meet Arya,” Margery says, “She’s going to help us out with the dinner this evening.”

They all smile at me, there are about six women, all in the range of forty to sixty years of age approximately. There is a kindness in this room, a warmth, and I can feel it radiating off them.

“She can help me with the potatoes!” A woman calls out at the end of the center island.

I look to the raised hand and follow towards the woman. “Hi, my name is Christine.” She says.

“Arya,” I say.

“So, we’re making scalloped potatoes today, and you know how much people love potatoes, so we’ve got to make a lot to feed everyone,” Christine says.

“I’ll be honest that I have never made scalloped potatoes, but I’m a pretty quick learner,” I say and Christine just smiles at me.

“I was about to start slicing the potatoes, but now that you are here, I’ll show you how to how to cut them, and then I can make the sauce,” Christine says.

And that’s how it all began, Christine and the other ladies were all lovely to me the entire time we were preparing and cooking together. It was a lot of fun; the camaraderie makes the work fun and easier. These women are hilarious as well, telling all their stories and making fun of one another. Of course, they do ask me about James though.

“We go to the same high school.” I say, “He thought that bringing me here was a nice idea for a date.”

“He’s making you cook on a date?” one the of older ladies, Gloria, says. “Where in the right mind did that young man think that bringing a girl here for a date was a good idea?”

“In my day, we would go out to the movie theater and then for ice cream.” Another woman says.

“The theater was cheap; any guy could afford to take a girl there.” Gloria says, “You want a guy to take you out for a meal, a girl has got to eat and I’m not paying for fancy meals on my dime.”

We all laugh, and just then is when James walks into the kitchen. He comes right up to me, “How are you?” he asks, and he places his hand on the small of my back.

“Good, thanks.” I smile at him.

“James Bartholomew Fox,” Gloria starts as she walks up to him, “Am I right in hearing that you think you can bring a girl here on a date?”

“Gloria,” James starts, but before he can get another word out, she slaps him on the arm with a tea towel, “Gloria!” he calls out, taking a step back from her, surprised at her attack on him.

“I know your mother taught you better than that.” Gloria says, “Be grateful it was a tea towel and not a wooden spoon in my hand.”

“I am grateful!” James says, and I can see that he’s on alert for another attack from her.

“Now this beautiful girl deserves to get all dressed up and be taken out to a nice dinner, not serving up ham and potatoes on a Saturday night,” Gloria says accusingly.

I want to help defend James, but what I am witnessing is too funny, so I decide to just let it play out and see if he can climb his way out of this one. “Gloria, please, hear me out.” James begins, “Arya deserves much more than I could ever possibly give her, but one thing I do know is that I want her to be with me. I want her to get to know me, the things I do, and be with the people I care about. I consider you like family and I wanted Arya to be a part of it. That’s why I brought her here.”

“Nice save, young man,” Gloria says, waving her tea towel at him, “But make sure you feed her well after all this.”

“Oh, I intend to,” James says and then winks at me. What James said about me has me slightly awestruck. The fact that he wants me to be a part of his world means so much more than any fancy dinner could.

“Okay, time to bring out all the food!” Margery calls from outside the kitchen. “James you can be in charge of the ham and Arya the potatoes, two pieces of ham, and a scoop of scalloped potatoes for every person!”

“Let’s get this all out there,” James says as he’s about to lift the giant tray of ham.

“James, you need an apron!” Gloria yells at him and then throws and an apron on his head.

“Thank you, Gloria,” James says beneath the apron and I just laugh.

“Put it on! People are starting to arrive!” Gloria says as she walks out of the kitchen carrying two giant salad bowls.

James puts the apron on, “What do you think?” he asks me.

“I think pink is a nice colour on you,” I say, containing the laughter inside of me.

“She always saves this one for me.” James says, “I’d feel weird wearing a different colour and not having people stare at me.” Apart of me wants to tell him that a man wearing an apron is very attractive, but I’ll keep that thought to myself. James grabs the tray of ham, “Let’s get out there.”

James walks out to the hall and I follow behind him with one of the five giant trays of scalloped potatoes that we have prepared. James and I are at the first table next to the plates. After the people are greeted, we are the first people that everyone sees when they walk in and grab a plate to be served. James continually cuts pieces of ham, placing them on people’s plates and then they come to me and I give them a big serving of potatoes. Everyone is kind and gracious and so many people have come out to this, and before I know it, I’m on my last tray of scalloped potatoes. James and I barely have time to talk to each other because we are just continuously serving an endless line of people, but it’s okay. Having him close to me is enough, hearing his voice talking to all the people walking in is enough and the fact that he felt comfortable enough to bring me here means everything to me. That he wants me to be a part of this. The endless line does come to an end at some point with ten helpings left of potatoes and five pieces of ham. “I’m going to tell Margery that a couple of lucky people can come back up for seconds,” James says and leaves my side to find her.

Within minutes, a handful of men are lined up at the table, and James and I both serve the remaining food until the trays are empty.

“Now for the fun part,” James says looking at me with a big grin.

“Somehow I don’t think it’s going to be fun,” I say.

“Grab the trays and bring them to the kitchen,” James says as he lifts the tray that once held a giant ham.

James puts the tray in the giant industrialized sink, and I realize what the ‘fun part’ is. “You must really like doing dishes,” I say.

“And you don’t?” James smiles.

James washes all the dishes from the night in that giant sink and I dry them all, putting them away in their respective cabinets with the help of James. The dinner is still going on in the hall and from the noise, it’s sounding like everyone is having a good time. Margery comes into the kitchen and sees that all the dishes have been cleaned and put away. “Thank you so much for your help today, both of you.” Margery says, “Thank you for coming out, Arya. We hope to see more of you.”

I smile at her, “I hope so as well.”

“Well, it looks like everything is taken care of.” Margery says, “I think you two can head out now and enjoy the rest of your evening.”

“Thank you, Margery.” James says, “We’ll see you soon.” And then Margery leaves us to join the dinner in the hall.

“Okay time to take this thing off,” James says as he pulls off the pink apron and hangs it up. I take mine off and he hangs it up too.

“You know,” I say, as we start heading out the door to James’ car, “I think I preferred you with the apron.”

“Oh really?” James says, “Does it turn you on?”

“I admit that a man in an apron is very attractive,” I say, “Shows that he can be a good house husband.”

“Is that what you’re looking for in a guy?” James asks with a smile on his face.

“It doesn’t hurt,” I say as we both step into James’ car.

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