In the car Sunday morning Jules held her Bible in her lap. She thumbed distractedly through its pages. She sighed.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, not really. I'm just-I haven't seen anyone here for nearly three years, and I'm such and awkward person."
Duncan chuckled. "Dear, you've seen Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy. And Martin, too. I'm sure you'll be just fine."
She pulled her curly hair away from her face and pinned it securely. "But there will be so many new members. I've never been good at meeting new people."
Duncan reached over and patted her hand after pulling into the church parking lot. "This is the Lord's house, and the Lord's people. Remember how you used to tell me that you love everybody in the world because they are all image-bearers? Don't lose the big heart my little Jules has always had. Now go in there and love everybody by stepping out of your comfort zone. Focus on keeping them in theirs."
"Okay, Grandad," Jules smiled. "You're right, as always."
She stepped out of the car and straightened her pink tulle skirt. Her blouse was white, and her pumps matched. They made their way to the church building together.
"Greta! Oh, Greta it's so good to see you!"
The two girls hugged each other excitedly. "I didn't know you'd be here so soon! Are you already moved in?"
"Yes! We are. It's so good to be back. And I'm so glad you're still here. I've been terrible at keeping in touch."
Greta laughed. "Well it takes two, and I haven't been very good at writing to you, either. So I'd say we're even. Come. You and Mr. Keith can sit with me."
Jules and Duncan followed Greta inside to one of the rows of seats towards the back of the room. They waved and nodded at old acquaintances on the way. They had just settled into their seats when the pastor stood up to open the service.
As soon as the service was over, Jules felt a light tap on her shoulder. She turned around and beamed at the sweet lady standing there. "Mrs. Ortiz, it's so good to see you!"
She hugged her tight. "And you, dear! I was overjoyed when my Martin told me you had come back home. It has been too long. Too long."
"It has been too long, but that makes it doubly sweet to be back home. I'm glad we live near each other now, Mrs. Ortiz. Hello again, Martin."
"Hello, Jules. I'm glad you're here."
"I'm glad to be here. I missed my church family."
"And we missed you." Martin ran a hand through his hair. "Say, Jules, would you and Mr. Keith like to come over for dinner tonight? Mama and I would love to catch up with you both."
Jules smiled. "I'd love that. Let me ask Grandad."
She walked over to where Duncan stood talking to two men. Jules had never seen them before. "Excuse me," she put her hand on his arm. "Grandad, the Ortiz' would like to have us over for dinner tonight."
"That sounds good. Tell them we'll come. Jules, this is Angus Stanley and his son, Miles."
"It's nice to meet you both." She shook each of their hands before excusing herself to walk back over to where Martin stood. "Grandad said yes. What time would y'all like for us to come over?"
"How does half past six sound? And here, I wrote down our address and my phone number in case y'all get lost." His eyes twinkled. "After all, Hamilton is such a big town."
Jules laughed. "Yes, yes it is. I'm surprised we didn't get lost on the way here this morning."
Martin chuckled. "True. Greta! There you are. It's nice to have the gang all together again. Well, half of the gang. Did you know James and Linda were in town, Jules?"
"Yes! I ate dinner with them last night. Did you get to hold little James, Greta? Isn't he adorable?"
"Oh, yes. He has the sweetest little toes ever, and the cutest smile."
Martin laughed. "You girls. What's up with y'all and baby toes?"
Greta and Jules gave him a look.
"Have you ever even seen baby toes, Martin?"
"I guess I haven't ever looked that closely at them, no." He laughed. "I suppose when I have my own children some day I'll learn to fully appreciate their toes."
Greta shook her finger at him playfully. "You'd better." They chatted on for several more minutes.
"I'm ready to head back for my Sunday nap."
"Alright Grandad. I'll see you at six-thirty, Martin. Goodbye."
"Bye Greta! I'll see you soon."
"Talk to you later."
And they were out the door. "Do you want me to drive, Grandad?"
"If you want to. I liked that young man."
"Who, Martin?" Jules glanced in the rear view mirror before carefully pushing it down a fraction of an inch.
"Oh, okay. Hmm that's nice. Is he new here?" She scooted her seat forward a little bit more before starting the engine.
"Seatbelt. Not exactly. He and his dad moved here about two years ago, so they've been here almost as long as we've been gone. He's a political journalist."
"Who, his dad?"
"No, Miles. He seems very nice. I like them both."
"I'm glad you made some new friends, Grandad. Martin said six-thirty for tonight."
"Did he give you their address?"
"Yes, and his phone number."
"Good. It'll be nice to catch up with them. Watch out for that deer."
"Yes, Grandad. Oh, there it goes over the fence. Do you want me to make you some lunch before you take a nap?" Jules pulled into their driveway, putting the car in park.
"Please put the seat back so I can get in next time." Duncan chuckled while Jules moved the seat back several inches. "No, I'll just make myself a sandwich."
"Okay. I'm going to eat that leftover macaroni and cheese from yesterday."
Duncan laughed. "You'd live on that stuff if I'd let you."
"Of course I would." Jules set her Bible down on the kitchen counter and walked over to the refrigerator. "Hey, Grandad, there's still some chocolate cake in here from the other night."
"Ooh, get me out a piece, will ya?"
"Sure thing. Can I have a bite of yours?"
"Get your own piece!"
"But I don't want a whole piece; just one little bite."
"You can have my icing."
After Duncan had settled in his room for a nap Jules wandered into the library. She pulled The Holy Wars off the shelf and curled up in her favorite armchair. After she opened up to her embroidered bookmark, she lost herself in the pages of her book. Once a few hours and several chapters had gone by she was jerked back to reality.
"We'd probably better leave if you want to get there by six-thirty."
"Oh! Oh, yes. I'm coming."
Duncan chuckled. "You can always read in the car."
Jules smiled sheepishly while putting her bookmark between the pages. "I'll finish it after I get in bed tonight." She slipped back into her shoes before grabbing her purse. "I'm ready now, Grandad."
"Are you nervous now?"
"No," Jules smiled. "The Ortiz make me feel perfectly at ease. It helps that Martin and I were friends when we were little. He, James McCarthy, Greta, Anne and I are all the same age, so we often played together."
"Where is Anne?"
"I don't know... I need to ask Martin if he's heard from her. She and I lost touch soon after she moved away four years ago. The last time I tried to write to her my letter came back."
"Do you think she sent it back?"
Jules tilted her head thoughtfully. "No, I think she moved again. This is the street, Grandad."
"You said third house on the left? Yes. I don't think she'd return my mail."
"That's right. And I'm certain she wouldn't. Here we are!"
"Welcome, Mr. Kieth. Jules. It's nice to see you both again."
"Hello, Martin." Duncan shook his hand.
"Come on in. Mama is just finishing up in the kitchen. You know her enchiladas are best while they're fresh."
"Mm, I remember her enchiladas. Hello Mrs. Ortiz!"
"Please, call me Margaret. Welcome, Duncan."
Jules smiled. "If you're sure."
"Of course. Now, you sit next to me, and Duncan, you sit there next to Martin. Martin, would you say grace, please?"
"Yes, Mama." They all joined hands. "Dear Lord above, please bless this meal we are about to eat. We thank You for Your provision, and for this time together which You have granted us. In Jesus' name, Amen."
"Amen. Martin, would you please pass the guacamole?"
Martin's eyes teased her. "You said that like an American."
Jules laughed. "That's because I am an American. Say, Martin, do you know where Anne is?"
Martin wrinkled his forehead in deep thought. "Hmm...no, come to think of it, I haven't heard from her since she moved away. Did you ask Greta?"
"No, it slipped my mind at church."
"Linda moved here a year before Anne left, and that's when I lost my best friend."
"James wasn't that distracted, at least, not until she'd been here several months." They both laughed. "Ah, those were the good times."
Duncan chuckled, looking back and forth between the two of them. "You children speak as if a hundred years have passed since then."
"Yes, think how old I must feel as your Mama, Martin."
Duncan burst out laughing. "And I as your Grandfather, Jules. I'm the oldest one here."
"Well you could have fooled me, Grandad."
After dinner, they all moved into the cozy living room to visit a little while longer. Jules settled into one end of the couch, tucking her bare feet under her. "Thank you so much for dinner, Mrs. Ortiz-"
"Eh." She gave her that look.
Jules laughed. "I mean, thank you, Margaret, for dinner. It was absolutely delicious."
"You're very welcome, dear. We will have to do this often."
Duncan leaned back in his armchair. "So tell me, Martin, what keeps you busy these days?"
"I am currently the manager at Lowe's, and in my free time I am finishing up some college courses online."
"What are you studying?"
"I am studying to be an architect, sir."
"That fits you, Martin. You've always had a good eye for detail."
Martin smiled. "Thank you, Jules."
Duncan got up from his chair. "Well folks, it's been lovely, but I'd better get these tires old bones to bed. Thank you again for your hospitality, Margaret."
"Come again soon, Duncan. Goodbye. Goodbye, Jules."
"Goodbye! See you later Martin."
Once they were on the road, Duncan spoke up. "So an architect, eh?"
"Mhm. I think that's a good job for him."
"Yup. Good money, too."
"Mm. Hey Grandad, is it okay if I see if Greta can meet for coffee on Thursday?"
"I don't see why not. I don't need the car that day.""
"Awesome. I wanna try out that new coffee shop on the square, plus it'll be nice to have some one-on-one with Greta. I'll call her tomorrow and see if she'll be free."
Duncan pulled into their driveway. "Sounds good. Oh, and I'll need the car tomorrow for my doctors appointment."
"Okay. I'll be home all day. I need to finish unpacking the library, plus the kitchen needs some cleanup." She closed her car door, and Duncan started patting his pockets for the house key.
"Jules, do you-?"
"I have the keys right here, Grandad."
"Oh good. I remembered that had left them sitting on the kitchen counter."
Jules laughed, and walked through the front door. "I saw you leave them there, and picked them up on the way out. You're quite a handful, you know." Her eyes twinkled.
"I love you, girl."
"I love you more." She kissed Duncan on the cheek. "Goodnight, Grandad."
She stopped in the family room before heading upstairs and grabbed The Holy Wars off of the coffee table. She smiled to herself as she walked into her room. After crawling into bed she turned on her bedside lamp and opened her book, setting her bookmark to the side.
"And that is the end of my book. What should I read next? I think I'll see how I like In His Steps."
And she fell asleep to dream of baby toes and new coffee shops.
I've never really written conversations between more than two people at once, so I was really nervous about writing this chapter. Please let me know if there are any sloppy parts where it's hard to tell who's talking. :)