The bell on the porch of the parsonage began clanging. A beefy, white-haired man in a long-sleeved shirt with a string tie announced that The Official Home Coming Grounds Tour was about to begin. The Spring, the Grove, the Chapel, then the Barn and ending up back here at the house for food. Angela wasn’t particularly interested: Adam had already shown her around, but there wasn’t anything else to do.
“Why are they so interested in our relationship? They were getting way too personal!”
“My mom was a single mom and around here—back then—it was big news. They want to know how bad I’ve turned out, to prove their point.”
“There’s more.” He paused, embarrassed. “Mom never told me who my father was.”
“Did she know?”
“She did. She told me she couldn’t let that secret out, took it to her grave. She wouldn’t talk about him beyond saying he was a good man. She said ‘We made a mistake, he and I, and we paid for that mistake. After that, you came along, a gift from God to me, a sign that He still loved me.’
“And thirty years later they still haven’t forgiven YOU for her ‘mistake’?”
“Nope. Around here, it’s a life sentence.”
“That’s why I moved away. Let’s go see if they have anything to add to my tour!”
At the Spring, the tour guides—two older women with clipboards—droned on. Angela broke away from the crowd, walked up to where the pipe fed the spring, and looked down into the clear water.
“Anybody there?” Adam had walked up beside her.
“No. Not now, anyway.”
* * *
Just before they were all herded into the Chapel, a woman approached.
“Adam? Adam Brown?”
Adam held out a hand to shake. “Ma’am?”
“You don’t know me, but,” she looked over at Angela, “I’m Marydell Piersol. I was Adam’s Mom’s best friend.”
She looked back and saw the puzzled look on Adam’s face.
“You probably don’t remember me. I left town after high school, soon after you were born. I never came back until today.” She smiled nervously, now looking back and forth between the two of them.
“Well, you’re right, I don’t recall meeting you,” Adam smiled.
“I went by just plain Mary, back then.”
“Oh yeah. Ok. Mom talked about you. Good things,” he added.
“Nice to meet you, Mary…” Angela fumbled with her name.
“Marydell. You can call me Mary if you want. And your name is…?”
“Excuse me for not introducing you two,” Adam jumped in. “Marydell, this is my fiancée, Angela Williams.”
“Come along, stragglers! It would be a real shame to miss this!” The second tour guide stuck her head out of the chapel door and spotted them. Her too-cheery voice implied Divine Disfavor on anyone who missed even one word of the narrative.
“We need to talk, Adam. Later, though. And not here. Your mother and I… talked a lot about you.” As they walked in, Angela raised one eyebrow as Adam and Angela traded glances.
The notes on the clipboard were the very complete history of the chapel, the pastors, the absolute necessity of Baptist teaching and traditions, and more. The two tour guides took turns reading it, frequently stumbling over technical terms and correcting the other person’s pronunciation. A half hour later, after scattered applause, there was a rush for the door. Adam, Angela and Marydell stayed seated. The barn was only thing remaining on the tour and they weren’t interested.
“Come on, dearies! We’re running late! You’ll miss the Barn tour!” The one tour guide was impatiently waiting at the Chapel door.
“Sorry, I’m allergic!” Angela almost shouted.
“Well… I need to shut the door here!”
The three of them stood to oblige her. The tour guide held the door from the outside as Adam and Mary stepped into the late morning sunshine. Just before she stepped out, Angela heard a noise. She stopped and looked one more time around the Chapel.
There in the back corner a puddle of water lay on the floor. A girl with long blonde hair stood in the middle of it. She was silently crying, her dress and hair were dripping wet. With one hand she was holding her stomach and with the other, reached out to Angela.
“Adam! Mary! Oh my God! Come quick!”