First One through the Gate
Bouncing on the trampoline Connie could see right over into Lizzie’s back garden two houses down. They were there again, mellowing in the afternoon sun, taking it easy. Coffee and cake between them on the small garden table. Another bounce revealed a closeness, heads bent together.
“She’s old enough to be his grandmother”, Connie whispered to Maggie, shrugging against her too tight denim jacket, pasta coloured curls bobbing, as they browsed the grocery store later.
“Well maybe she is”, Maggie responded smugly, secretly disappointed that he’d been living in the small close knit community for months yet still retained his anonymity.
“Then why isn’t he staying with Lizzie instead of renting one of the chalet bungalows down on the Beach Road?” Maggie retorted ungraciously.
Connie suddenly spotted the subject of their conversation walking leisurely towards the store. Absently picking up milk from the chilled cabinet she edged closer to the window. Harry’s mid-length brown hair shifted slightly in the cool breeze and he lifted one arm to lazily push it out of his eyes. She studied his features. Carved granite, pale face, grey eyes. His walk was relaxed and casual, in line with his everyday jeans and trainers. It crossed Connie’s mind that he might be simply taking a break from a high powered job, wallowing in the calm of a small backwater town by the sea. Or maybe a celebrity needing a little anonymity to release the tension of public scrutiny. A flicker of guilt assaulted her mind reminding her of last weeks service, the sermon focusing on all manner of sin. She wondered how gossiping and speculation could be likened to murder and made a mental note to challenge it at the next Bible Study. The new young Pastor of their little church was certainly preaching an unfamiliar message.
Lounging comfortably in his seat at the back of the church Harry casually studied the glorious stained glass windows lining the stone walls on either side. A fiery summer sun streamed through, creating dazzling rainbows on the polished wooden pews. He caught a fleeting glimpse of Lizzie’s upturned rapturous face as she listened intently to the young Pastor’s every word. In the few short months he had known his grandmother’s oldest friend his love and respect for her had grown. His spirit lifted and inwardly rejoiced at Jesus’ words, ‘You must be born again’. The young Pastor finished his sermon and the choir rose stiffly from blue padded seats at the front. A well worn chorus battled for supremacy beneath the resounding thump of an old organ and the congregation added a cacophony of unstinting volume, as the young Pastor made his way to the door.
The aroma of traditional Sunday roast permeated the air as Harry and Lizzie sauntered arm in arm up the hill to Lizzie’s home. A gentle breeze fluffed around Lizzie’s long loose skirt, outlining her narrow elderly frame. When she spoke it was with a touch of longing and nostalgia.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve sat under the ministry of such a man of God“. Harry sighed his agreement and added, “Me too”.
Connie bounced higher on the trampoline, mobile ‘phone clasped precariously to one ear. It was late afternoon and the morning’s sermon was still firmly lodged in her mind. The Holy spirit was as unfamiliar to her as loving your enemies.
“They’re all laid back and relaxing. Looks like they’re sleeping off Sunday lunch. No, wait a minute.” She bounced higher before breathlessly adding,
“They’re actually praying out in the garden. Lizzie, Harry and the pastor.”
A wayward cloud momentarily hid the sun, before it burst out again, its dazzling splendour piercing her heart and bringing her to a sudden standstill on the trampoline.
“Got to go Maggie. The kids are clamouring.”
Connie’s eyes had unexpectedly filled with unshed tears as the enormity of Jesus’ words hit her on the blind side. ‘You must be born again.’
The young Pastor casually rose from the comfort of the lounger, anxiety released, tension mellowed. He bent to plant a kiss on Lizzie’s upturned cheek and warmly clasped Harry’s outstretched hand.
With the help of their faithful prayers the light was slowly dawning amongst the little flock God had entrusted into his care. As he turned to close the gate he came face to face with Connie, brown eyes abandoned to unchecked tears. Taking her hand he slowly led her back into Lizzie’s garden.
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