The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places…—Isaiah 58:11a
Fitz sat at his desk at home putting the finishing touches on his sermon. It was Saturday night, a little under 12 hours before his first real Sunday at Maranatha. This Sunday would be his day to take the helm, preaching all three services. He experienced the normal excitement and anxiety that accompanied any new endeavor, but it paled in comparison to the caldron of emotions that were building inside him for Olivia. It had only been three days since the parsonage encounter and he was beside himself with what he had termed a major case of cognitive dissonance. He reasoned that he had an inkling of the feeling an addict had when they needed a fix. He felt like an addict and his drug of choice was a woman he couldn’t have.
Mellie, Karen, and Gerry were out having dinner with Mellie’s sister. The house was quiet accept for the strains of Beethoven on the radio compliments of NPR. The crescendos of the musical pieces beautifully matched the machinations of his psyche, dramatic ups and downs. The strains of Für Elise floated from the radio. The music couldn’t quiet his own thoughts that had one common theme and main character, Olivia Pope.
It had been three days since they’d met at the parsonage. Increasingly, he began to divide time that way, BP: before parsonage and AP: after parsonage. He knew they had both been delusional to think they could deny what had transpired between them. They had tried though. Politeness and professionalism defined all their subsequent encounters at the church. Fitz propped his head on his fist and chuckled at how they managed to migrate to each other whenever they were in the same room. The magnetism was frustrating for him since he couldn’t act on it once they were in close proximity. Right now he wanted to call her, but he decided against it for the tenth time tonight. These internal conversations were becoming very familiar, as his mind would invent ways, excuses, elaborate plans to see her or talk to her. Fitz had rarely acted on them in the three days hence. Life happened every day so the many calls on his time and attention kept him from being idle with his thoughts and plans. He had done his share of praying too. He’d been brutally honest about his feelings for her and asked for guidance from God. No amount of praying lessened his desire, but he knew there were no quick fixes. He was mature enough to know that this situation was his to navigate. All the answers, the right and the wrong of it, had been played and replayed. He revisited the biblical stories of David for solace. Fitz wondered if he needed to speak with his mentor, Reverend Beene. He made a mental note to call him next week.
At that moment, his cell phone rang out from the other room. He instantly knew it was her. He walked with measured steps to answer it. They hadn’t spoken by phone since the night of the parsonage encounter. His suspicions were confirmed when he saw her name, simply Olivia, not Reverend Pope, or Ms. Pope flash on his phone. Every one of his professional colleagues names were listed with a title.
“Good evening, Reverend Pope,” he answered.
“And good evening to you, Dr. Grant,” she answered in an exaggerated formal tone.
He couldn’t help but contain the broad smile that covered his face. He sat down at his desk and propped his sock covered feet atop the papers resting there.
“Are you making fun of me?” he guessed.
“No. I wouldn’t dare do that. You are my boss. I want to keep my job. Truthfully, I am making fun of both of us. We can’t quite decide how we’re going to address each other, formally or informally. It’s…um…interesting how we continue to turn the tables. When we first met, I insisted on the formal. You insisted on the informal. Now the opposite is true. I insist on you calling me, Olivia.”
He rose from the chair and took up residence on the sofa, loosening the buttons on his white shirt. He was still smiling.
“Okay, Olivia…since you insist,” he conceded in a husky tone which came off more intimate than he intended or so he thought. “What are you doing?”
Olivia sat on the vanity stool in her bathroom, naked accept for a robe. She balanced the phone between her cheek and shoulder. Her foot was propped on the stool as she polished her toenails.
“Nothing really,” she said. “Just getting ready for show time at Maranatha tomorrow. A certain new pastor requested two specific songs that Brother Martin is practically forcing me to sing.”
“You have a beautiful voice, Olivia. You should use it more often.”
“Did you request the songs in isolation or did you request that I sing the songs?” she inquired suspiciously.
“Why does it matter?”
“How did you even know I could sing, Fitz?”
“I think I’ve already explained…” he ventured, hoping he wouldn’t have to mention where he explained it since they were acting as if the parsonage encounter hadn’t occurred.
Olivia knew that he’d explained about their encounter two years ago, but she wanted him to say it, more specifically to mention the parsonage. The last three days for her had been indescribable. She actually thought spending more time with Edison before he left out on his next tour would cure her of the mind trip she had when she was within a 50 foot radius of Fitz or when she closed her eyes and thought about him. The day after the parsonage encounter she and Edison had been having a heated discussion about politics. In addition to being mismatched sexually, their house was divided politically. Olivia was a staunch Democrat and Edison was a black Republican. Every chance she got, she would add the descriptor “black” to that designation since being black and Republican were antithetical in her mind. During this particular argument when she was giving him a long diatribe about the GOP’s all out assault on the president, she’d called him, “Fitz.” He’d looked at her with a puzzled expression and she’d quickly covered with, “I’m sorry for saying, “shit.” The moment had been awkward and disjointed. She’d quickly asked him who he thought the Republican frontrunner would be in 2016. She let out a thankful breath when he’d launched into a long explanation of who he thought his party should nominate. Olivia’s heart had slowed down from its frantic beating.
Now that Edison was gone and she was all alone at home, she wanted him to mention the parsonage. She wanted to talk about it.
“I don’t remember you explaining how you knew I could sing, Fitz,” she challenged.
There was quiet between them. He let his head fall back, and he closed his eyes. He saw her at the parsonage, writhing on the floor under him and then the expression on her face when she’d come. He went painfully hard. She wants me to go there. I won’t, he thought. After a few more seconds, he responded.
“You sang after your sermon at Corinth where I first saw you two years ago,” he dodged.
“Oh right,” she conceded, somewhat disappointed that he avoided taking their conversation where she wanted it to go.
“Do you want to know the text of my sermon for tomorrow?”
She changed legs to paint the other foot. “Sure. What passage of the good book will you use to illuminate us?”
“The scripture is Isaiah 58:9-12. My title is “Get out Way. Let Go and Let God Repair the Breach in your Life.”
She didn’t immediately respond.
“So what do you think, Olivia?”
“Well, in my humble opinion, your title doesn’t match your biblical passage. That particular text is directed at a group of people, the people of Israel, calling them to act corporately as a body. Your title is more personal, relating to our personal or individual lives. I guess I don’t like it when sermons take such politically powerful texts and reduce them to someone’s personal relationship with God. But that’s just me,” she retorted, still a little perturbed by his dodge of the parsonage conversation.
“Wow. You got all that from the scripture and a title? I hope my crowd tomorrow isn’t as hard on me as you are,” he laughed. “Thankfully, I have a pretty thick skin.”
“No, I wasn’t…I’m sorry…I,” she waffled.
“It’s okay. You’ll just have to see tomorrow, Livy.”
When Olivia heard what he’d called her, she dropped her fingernail polish. She watched as the purple liquid spilled on the white area rug.
“Oh no,” she gasped, rushing to pick up the overturned bottle. The damage had already been done. The purple liquid had made a nice stain. She’d added to it when she jerked the bottle causing it to splatter more.
“Oh I dropped my nail polish and made a big mess,” she fretted. “I won’t ever get this purple out of this white rug. I guess I’ll have to trash it.”
“So you’re painting your nails…purple?”
“Just my toes. It’s going to sound strange, but it’s my ritual. I always paint my toes purple when I serve at church. It’s something my friend Felecia and I started in seminary. We were total nerds. In Exodus 19:6, it reads, ‘you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and holy nation.’ For some reason in seminary this was our mantra whenever we needed encouragement. We’d tell each other to cheer up because we were apart of that priestly kingdom and holy nation. Then we started wearing purple polish whenever we went to church. I know it sounds a little crazy. Neither one of us were Greek in college so we sort of invented our own secret society of the nerdy variety.”
“Sororities and fraternities?”
“Oh, yes. I should know that since I am,” he mentioned.
“Delta Kappa Epsilon.”
“I’m impressed. DKE has produced many presidents and other big name folks.”
“You’ll have to let me see,” he recommended.
“See what?” she asked, confused.
“Your purple toes…”
A bolt of arousal shot through her when he said that. She couldn’t respond.
I guess I said that out loud, he thought.
“I forgot about my coffee. I had just put on a fresh pot when you called,” he recalled, walking into the kitchen.
“Coffee? Are you trying to stay up? I thought you were finished with your sermon?”
“I just had a taste for some. I would give my left arm for a square of gingerbread dusted with powdered sugar,” he daydreamed.
“You have a sweet tooth?” she inquired.
“Not really. Gingerbread is comfort food for me. My mom and dad did missionary work in Bermuda when I was a kid. Bermudians love their gingerbread. It became a staple dessert for me. I don’t get it as much as I’d like. I just had a taste for a piece,” he explained.
“Bermuda. I’ve never been there,” she said.
“It is a beautiful island. You should visit one day,” he suggested.
“I just might do that,” she accepted.
“So is your husband back at the job flying the friendly skies?”
She chuckled. “I like that. Yes, he is working.”
“When will he be back?” he queried, trying to have a pure motivation for asking.
“That’s a long time. Does he usually leave for 7 days?”
“No. It’s usually 3-4 days. This was a volunteered trip. He agreed to do it for a friend.”
“You aren’t uneasy or lonely at home for such a long time?”
“Not really,” she fibbed. “I’m at Maranatha most nights with some meeting or gathering anyway.”
“Where’s your wife and kids now?” she asked.
“They are having dinner with Mellie’s family,” he said.
Olivia made a mental calculation of how long it would take her to get to him or him to get to her. She took a deep breath, finally knowing it was time to end the conversation.
“Fitz, I think I’ve kept you long enough. I’ll see you bright and early. The crowd at the 8 o’clock service is rowdy if you can believe that. Be ready.” she giggled.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“Good night,” she said.
Neither of them disconnected.
“I know it happened, Livy. Despite what we agreed on, the parsonage did happen.”
“I know, Fitz. I know.”
The next morning Fitz arrived at church alone. Mellie, Karen and Gerry would be coming later for the last service. He unlocked his office door while looking at the program, balancing his coffee in the same hand. After he read the last word, mentally making notes, he noticed a medium sized white box in the center of his desk. He picked it up and released the purple ribbon that was tied in a bow. Inside was a brown piece of pastry. It was square shaped with a dusting of white powder. From the smell, he knew it was gingerbread. He sniffed inside the box.
He rubbed the purple ribbon and took a seat in his chair. Reaching into the box, he pulled out gingerbread and sank his teeth into its spongy goodness. He ate every bit of it including the crumbs. His coffee sat there but he refused to drink it, wanting to savor the taste instead of washing it down. He laid his head on his desk. This gesture of hers made his heart even heavier than it already was.
The room was filled with excitement. In fact, excitement flowed around the grounds at Maranatha. It was Sunday and the crowds were converging on the church. The place was abuzz with movement from the parking ministry directing traffic and parking to the ministers now gathered in the room stage left of the grand rostrum. This was the third and last service of the day. With each subsequent service, the spirit rose higher and higher. Each minister gathered, Fitz, Olivia, Harrison, Abby, was adorned in their clerical robes. They all bounced to the song the Praise Team was leading the congregation in:
Glory to glory to glory to glory
To glory to glory to God
To the only (God)
Our Savior (Savior)
Be majesty dominion and power
Forever and ever and ever
Let the people praise Him
Rejoice in all his goodness
And be thankful for all he has done
Tell the generations
From the mountains to the valley
By His spirit the victory is won
For the Lord is worthy to be praised
His hand of salvation redeems us this hour
so Lord beyond the balance of our days
Be glory and honor
Dominion and power
Glory to glory to glory to glory
To Glory to glory to God
Toward the end of the song the ministers walked out on the rostrum and joined in with the praise team. The service had begun.
“What is a breach?” asked Fitz, now fully engaged in his sermon. “You really have to understand this word, fundamentally, to fully comprehend what had happened between God and his people. A breach is an act of breaking or failing to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct. We’ve all heard of breach of contract. Well the people of Israel had forgotten, whether willfully or not, how to worship God. God had been very specific about what they should or shouldn’t do. They had priests dedicated to delineating this, but somehow they moved away from the true worship of God. And…and that forgetting caused them to forget who they where and most importantly whose they were…do you all here me?”
“My Lord!” hollered out Sister Jackson who always had an encouraging word for the preacher.
Fitz gained strength from her response.
“So our text today shows us what God was asking them to do to repair the breach…repeat after me, repair the breach.”
“Repair the breach!” the congregation repeated.
“He told them to remove that yoke of judgment against others and speaking evil against their fellow man or woman. Most importantly he wanted them to work on behalf of the oppressed, to clothed the naked, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the widows and the orphans. Recognize, my friends, that these were more “do” than “don’t” statements. If they did what he asked, as a body, he promised to guide them and continually satisfy their needs in parched places and then to finally repair the breach between them and God.”
“Help us Lord!” shouted Brother Stephens.
“My question to you today is this. Is there is a breach in your life? Are their parched places in your life that need to be satisfied? If your answer is yes, the prescription is here. Be about the business of building up the kingdom and God will repair your breach. We are just broken cisterns needing to be filled. A wise person warned me that I shouldn’t take this scripture out of context or trivialize it to the personal. But I must tell you that we as the people of God are made up of individuals who are hurting, individually, because of our own personal struggles. We need both a personal and a corporate word from God…”
Olivia was trying to stay calm because she had to sing, Order my Steps, after the sermon, but she felt like he was preaching to her. If anyone has some parched places and a breach between her and God, she knew it was her. Her heart was heavy. The next thing she knew she was up singing:
I want to walk worthy,
My calling to fulfill.
Please order my steps lord,
And I’ll do your blessed will.
The world is ever changing,
But you are still the same;
If you order my steps, I’ll praise your name.
Fitz began calling people to the altar for prayer as she reached the end of the song. Olivia let her own tears flow freely as she let the song minister to her.
Olivia was hiding in her office. It was 6 in the evening and Sunday service had long since ended.
She was weary. After the service, the long receiving line of parishioners wanting to greet the pastor snaked through the sanctuary. Olivia had been flanked at Fitz’s left. She’d wilted when his wife had come through the line. Mellie was genuinely nice to her, having no reason not to be. The problem was that Olivia hadn’t like it when she’d hugged Fitz and given him a peck on the cheek. She’d looked away and pumped the hands of the next person in line, hating herself for her thought. Then there was the dinner in the dining hall. Sitting at his table with his wife and kids had not been pleasant, but the arrangements had been predetermined by someone who didn’t understand how difficult it was for her to sit next to the man who’d given her an orgasm with her clothes on. His wife was sitting next to him being just that, his doting wife. She seemed more affectionate than she had been at the dinner a couple of days ago. But Olivia couldn’t trust her first impression of the dinner since she had been preoccupied with whether or not Fitz would make eye contact.
Olivia was hiding in her office because she didn’t want anyone to comment on how anointed his sermon had been or how moving her songs had been. She just wanted to go home and sit in a hot bath. Mr. 7 wasn’t on the menu. She had no desire for Mr. 7 these days.
She walked to the window and looked down at the parking lot. People were milling out so she figured she could make a get away.
A gasp escaped from her lips when she turned around. Fitz was standing in the door.
Wasn’t that door closed and locked? she thought.
Her question was answered when he closed the door and placed the shiny keys in his pocket.
“What are you doing up here all alone?”
He stepped closer and she stepped back.
Olivia couldn’t bring herself to construct some flippant answer. Her face spoke volumes. Fitz touched her cheek, rubbing her bottom lip with his thumb.
“Today was really something, Livy. Don’t you think?”
She nodded and smiled at him.
“Thank you for singing.”
She nodded again.
“Are you okay?” he asked now concerned that she wasn’t saying anything.
“I’m fine, Fitz. Today was a blessing. I should get going,” she responded in the brightest voice she could muster. “Please lock up for me.”
Olivia walked to the door. Fitz caught her hand.
“Would you go for a drive with me?”
She turned around, hand still in his.
“Go for a drive with me. I want to show you something. I found it yesterday morning. I know you’ll like it,” he explained.
”Do you think that is a good idea?” she mused.
“After the parsonage, I’m all out of good ideas. What I have to show you is…let’s just say we won’t be able to get into any compromising positions. Please say you’ll come with me,” he pleaded.
“Okay. I’ll come because you’ve peaked my interest,” she conceded.
“I’ll follow you home so we can take my car.”
A little later Olivia walked down her driveway and to Fitz’s car, the Mercedes she had imagined riding in not too long ago. He hopped out the car and opened the door for her. She watched him walk around the front.
“Ready?” he asked.
”Yes,” she answered.
“Before we leave I have to see…”
”See what?” she asked.
“Your purple toes.”
She giggled, totally caught off guard by that. She pulled off her sling black and raised her left leg until her foot was visible. Her black stocking prevented the full effect, but the purple was still visible.
“Nice,” he replied.
Thanks for your patience. Where to start? What to do? How to feel? I don’t know. It’s like I want to pull them aside and say, “Babies, open you eyes. You in danger!” Why did she get him gingerbread? Why did he ask to see her purple toes? Adding delicious insult to juicy injury. Reverend Cyrus Beene, what fun? I hope to hear from you…
Until the cursor stops blinking and words appear…Sleepily,~~ButterflyPages~~
The above is what I posted about 1:47 am on Sunday, November 3, 2013. A reader contacted me to say that they couldn’t read the story. I will start posting my updates to Tumblr in full now. Errg! Please holla’ at me some way! I really do need reviews. They give me life.