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Harbor Hopes (Romancing America: Maine)

By Lynn A. Coleman

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Photo Op
Lynn A. Coleman

Chapter one

Dena glanced into the rear view mirror and touched up her lipstick. Grabbing her fully loaded cameras and backpack from the passenger seat, she ran into the church.
“Hey Mom, didn’t think you were going to make it.” Jason wiped his hands on a semi-white apron. “Get in late last night?” He kissed her cheek.
Dena returned the affection and stepped back. “Yeah, I was busy developing some pictures and lost track of time.” She glanced at her wristwatch. “I’m not that late.”
“No problem. Your booth is outside. The teens set up a few lobster pots and buoys. I think they did a real good job. But you’ll probably want to rearrange things.”
“Probably.” Dena chuckled.
Jason knew her all to well. Since she had been professional photographer since he was a teen, he had seen her work many photo shoots. Asking her to donate a full day of work wasn’t too unusual. She’d do anything for her son. Plus, the money raised would help support the youth ministries at Jason’s newest pastorate.
Billy and Susie ran into the church kitchen. “Grandma!”
Dena’s joy spread from her heart to her open arms. She knelt to meet them. Billy, eight, thrust his arms around her. Five year old, Susie followed with equal enthusiasm, and Dena reached down to catch herself from landing on her backside. “How are grandma’s little ones this morning?”
“Okay.” Billy kissed her on the cheek. “There’s so many booths, Grandma. And lots of food.” Any more enthusiasm and I’d need to wear earplugs, she mused.
Dena stood up, straddling Susie on her hip. “And what about you, pumpkin?”
“I so ‘cited. Daddy got a cotton candy machine.” Susie’s toothless grin widened. A natural blond with curly hair, the features reminded her of Jason when he was little. But thankfully, Susie had more feminine features, too–like her mother’s nose and chin.
Susie wiggled down and ran off with her brother.
“Don’t eat too much and get a tummy ache,” Dena warned.
“We won’t,” the children said in unison.
“You’re going to have your hands full tonight.” She winked at Jason.
“Loaded up on the antacids yesterday. The kids don’t know it, but there are corn dogs and French fries, along with the traditional Maine lobster and clam dinner this evening.”
“I think I brought enough film.” Dena tapped her large camera case. “Plus. I have my digital.”
“Great. If you don’t mind, could you get some candid digital shots just for the church? Maybe the webpage? How’s the new SLR digital camera you bought yourself for Christmas?”
Dena grinned. “The learning curve is taken a bit longer than I hoped but I’m getting the hang of it. I’ll use the F2 for the professional shots.” She pulled her old Nikon F2 SLR 35 mm camera from out of the camera bag and placed it around her neck. In another month she hoped to be comfortable with digital. There were definite advantages to film. When out in the wilds, she didn’t have to charge batteries or bring a laptop computer. What her son didn’t know is that she now had two digital SLR’s and a half a dozen automatic lenses to go with them. She held up old faithful. “I can control the shots more with this one.”
“Whatever, Mom. You’re the pro.”
Dena noticed the pies lined on the counter. “Need a hand bringing these out?”
“Sure.” Jason balanced six pies on a large tray.
Dena scooped up two, one in each hand. “Lead on.”
He pushed through the swinging doors with his back and stepped into the fellowship hall. Dena caught the door with her foot and kicked it open again, wiggling through the doorway, deftly holding the cream covered pies.
They crossed the fellowship hall, weaving past tables, workers and a few children running around. It smelled of wood, floor wax and a slight musty odor. The pie table stood in close proximity to the front door. “Ah,” Dena said, “getting them as they’re leaving after tempting them when they walk in, huh?”
Jason’s crooked grin hiked up his face. “Something like that.” He placed his tray on the corner of an already full table and began making room for his six pies. Dena examined the area and decided to put the pies on the other end.
“I think we brought too many out,” Jason offered.
“Do you have any crates we could stick under the table to place these pies on?” “Jason, what are you doing?” Marie, Jason’s wife, placed her hands on her hips. “Those are the pies for the pie eating contest, not to sell. Didn’t you notice the extra whipped cream on them?”
“Ahh, no. Sorry.” He began placing the pies he’d put on the table back on his tray. “Guess you might as well bring those back to the kitchen, Mom.”
“Sure.” She chuckled. Some things never changed. Jason had been in the ministry for six years and this was his second church. He was great at preaching, teaching and caring for the members of his congregation. But little things, like where this went or that, always seemed to elude him. Thankfully, the Lord had blessed him with a wife who was gifted in the areas he was lacking.
Dena turned sideways and pushed the door open with her shoulder, swinging her body forward as the doors opened. A little one ran under her arms. Dena lifted the pies, keeping them safe. “Kids,” she muttered.
She turned toward the child. “Better slow down, sport.”
The door banged into her arm and knocked it backwards.
Shocked, she stood paralyzed as whipped cream and chocolate pudding slowly oozed down her face.
I’m so sorry.” A handsome man with rugged shoulders and sandy blond hair holding a wire bushel basket full of lobsters stood in front of her. “Can I help you?”
“No,” she stammered.
“Mom, are you all right?” Marie came running up to her side.
“Grab the camera. Unhook the strap. Get it off of me before the cream and pudding can work their way down on top of it.”
“Sure.” Marie fumbled with the strap and removed the camera.
“I’m sorry,” the stranger apologized again.
Dena wiped the cream from her eyes. The one-man demolition crew placed his bushel basket of lobsters on the floor. “Let me give you a hand.”
“No thanks, I’ll just go to the parsonage and wash up.” She turned and faced her daughter-in-law. “Marie, can you lend me a blouse?”
“Sure, Mom. Let’s get some of the mess off of you first.” Dena followed Marie the rest of the way into the kitchen.
The stranger stood there, helpless. He might be a klutz but he sure is a handsome one. Dena stopped in mid-stride. Since when did she notice the opposite sex? Having been a widow for the past twenty years, dating men had been something she’d given up on long ago. At first she’d been emotionally raw from losing Bill. After that, she was too busy providing for herself and the children. She didn’t hadn’t had time.
“Here, use this.” Marie offered a handful of paper towels.
“Now I’m really running late.”
“Don’t worry about it, Mom. The booth for the photos is only open when you’re there.”
Dena scooped mounds of whipped cream and chocolate off her white cotton blouse. “Do you have any spot remover at home? I’d like to get some on this blouse before the chocolate sets.”
“Of course. With Billy and Susie, I’d be crazy not to have some on hand.”
“Or with me.” Dena chuckled. “I can’t believe I didn’t look.”
“Well there aren’t any windows in those doors, so even if you had, you wouldn’t have seen Wayne coming.”
She never pictured a “Wayne” as being a rugged outdoors type of a man, but the name agreed with him. Of course, John Wayne fit that bill, but that was his last name. Actually, she recalled it wasn’t even his real name. “I take it he was bringing in the lobsters for tonight’s dinner.”
“Yeah.” Marie led the way to the back alley that would bring them to the rear door of the parsonage. The church and parsonage sat kitty-corner to each other, with a parking lot in the rear of the two buildings.
The parsonage was an old Victorian style home with a large front porch. Inside, the hardwood floors showed years of use but, with a little tender loving care, Dena was certain they could be restored. Many things needed fixing in the old place, and slowly Jason and Marie were getting them done. The congregation could afford it, but the previous pastor hadn’t expressed concern about the condition of the house. The church members had remodeled the kitchen with all new appliances before Jason and his family arrived.
They stepped into the master bedroom Marie pointed to the bathroom and then walked over to the closet.
“What about this one?” Marie pulled out a drop collar white blouse with tiny teardrop roses in a pale pink.
“That’ll be fine, thanks. Do you mind if I take a shower first? I feel kinda sticky.”
“No problem.” Marie pulled some clean towels from the closet and handed them to Dena. “Here ya go. Unless you need something else, I’m going to go back. There’s no telling what that son of yours will mix up next.”
“Sorry, he’s your husband now.” Dena waved off her daughter-in-law. “I can’t take responsibility for his shortcomings any more.”
“Thanks a bunch.” Marie chuckled and excited.

* * *

“I’m so sorry, Reverend. I didn’t mean to bang into your mother. That was your mother, right?”
A low rumble escaped Pastor Russell’s lips. “Yeah, that was my Mom.”
“It was kinda hard to tell. Not that I’ve ever seen her before. But I heard she was coming to town, and Mrs. Russell called her Mom, so I just kinda put two and two together.” He was rambling. He felt like a fool. The poor woman was literally creamed by those pies. Wayne fought to keep a smirk from surfacing as he pictured the cream sliding down her face and hanging from her chin.
“She’ll be fine, Wayne.” The pastor leaned over the basket of lobsters. “They all safe?”
Wayne looked down at the thick blue elastics used to keep the powerful claws of the lobster shut. “Yup. Wouldn’t want someone losing a finger while putting them on the grill or in the pot.”
Jason pulled his hand out of the basket.
Wayne snickered. “Landlubber.”
“Hey, I’m learning. At least I don’t expect to see live ones red anymore.”
Wayne rolled his eyes. “Good. Look, Pastor Russell. I can’t stay. I’m glad to lend a hand in anyway I can, but I’m afraid I have a job I must complete today.”
“That’s fine, Wayne. Bringing the lobsters and donating them is a tremendous gift.”
“Wish I could have gotten more, but that’s all I was able to pull out of my pots this week.”
“It’s a fine catch, thank you.” Wayne took the pastor’s extended hand. For a landlubber, he was all right. Pastor Jason’s first year with the church had gone very well. People were excited about their church and challenging themselves and their walk with the Lord. The small community of Squabbin Bay seemed just the right fit for Pastor Russell and his family. Wayne noticed he’d been more careful to give God His due in prayer, praises, money and just plain old acknowledgement of who God is.
“I’ll try and come back as soon as possible,” Wayne offered.
“If you can’t make it. I’ll understand. Lord’s blessings on your day, Wayne.”
“Thanks, Pastor. Same to you.”
He thought of mentioning that Jess was coming in today so they could have their picture taken, but now didn’t seem like the right time to bring it up. Leaving the church, he slipped into the cab of his old pickup truck. He turned the key and the engine purred to life. The truck didn’t look like much but it ran well. A man didn’t need a whole lot more.
As he pulled out of the parking lot the image of the cream covered woman played on his controlled responses. Wayne laughed so hard tears edged his eyelids. The killer was when she wiped the cream off her eyes. He knew she was fighting giving him a piece of her mind. Her hands showed she was older than the rest of her appeared. Of course, she had to be older than him to be the mother of Pastor Russell. He tried to imagine her with Jason’s face. Wayne shuddered. Nope, won’t go there. He pulled up to the house where he was building some new cabinets, grabbed his toolbox from the bed of the truck, and proceeded inside. He pulled up to the house where he was building some new cabinets, grabbed his toolbox from the bed of the truck, and proceeded inside.
Henry Drake was in his eighties and liked work done well. He’d watch over Wayne’s shoulder all the time. At first Wayne found it quite annoying. But when he learned that Henry was a combination of lonely and curious, he soon appreciated him hanging around.
“Morning, Henry. Sorry I’m late.”
“Heard you creamed the pastor’s mother?”
Wayne groaned.

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