“Here, try it.”
Lauren took a sip. The blend of strawberry, banana, and real sugar produced a taste she had not prepared herself for.
“That is so good!” she said.
I told you,” Janet said, helping herself to another taste of her smoothie. “I bet you wish you ordered one now.”
“You know I do,” Lauren said.
“I’ve never understood that about you.”
“Your fear of trying out things you’ve never tried before.”
“I don’t get what’s so confusing about it.”
“You do know that there was a time in your life where you hadn’t yet tried everything you’ve tried before. You had to take a leap somewhere.”
“I was a kid then. I just did what my parents said.”
“Most of the time,” Janet smirked.
“Yes,” Lauren smirked back. “Most of the time.”
“Like I do!” Michael said, just barely tall enough to sit out on the patio with his parents without needing to share a seat. He had already eaten most of his mac and cheese and was now pre-occupied with an elephant-shaped balloon Lauren had bought from the shop across the street.
“That’s right, because you’re a big boy!” Lauren said, running her hand through his hair.
“He just keeps getting cuter,” Janet said.
“And he looks just like you.”
“I don’t know. He has his father’s grin.”
“That he does. But everything else, all you.”
Lauren smiled. “How much time do we have?”
Janet glanced at her phone. Her lunch break was halfway over.
“We have plenty of time,” she said.
“Tell me about your case.”
“Why, do you work for opposing counsel now?”
“Well I am looking for work.”
“I’m keeping my eye on you,” Janet said, sliding her smoothie back over to Lauren so that she could have another sip. “Divorce cases don’t differ from one another all that much. At the end of the day, I’m always left holding someone’s hand as they try not to cry.”
“Yes, but it’s not everyday that hand is a pastor’s wife.”
“Christians get divorced just like every one else.”
“So this case doesn’t feel any different?”
“It is, actually.”
“Give me back my smoothie first.”
Lauren couldn’t hide her grin as she dragged out her last sip.
“Can I try it, Mommy?” Michael asked.
“You two,” Janet said, shaking her head. “Sure, Michael.”
Michael let go of his balloon as he reached for the cup. Lauren leaned over to grab it, but she missed. Already it had hovered away from her side of the table.
Janet made an attempt to grab the string, but the wind caused the balloon to swirl, and she ended up gripping the elephant by the nose instead. The balloon didn’t pop, but she could hear its helium leaking out as she brought it down to the table. Her ring had punctured it.
“I’m sorry,” Janet said.
“I’ll take it,” Lauren said, reaching across the table for the balloon.
Michael folded his arms and furrowed his eyebrows, but he didn’t say anything and returned to eating his mac and cheese. It was his fault the balloon had slipped away.
“I’m really sorry,” Janet said again.
“Don’t worry about it,” Lauren insisted. “So what did the pastor do?”
Janet looked away. “I feel for him, you know?”
“He hasn’t done anything wrong here.”
“Then why is she divorcing him?”
“Their oldest daughter has been dating this Hispanic guy for two years now. The mother made her opinion of the relationship very clear from the beginning, but all this time he has refused to stand by her. They’ve met the guy, they know his parents, and the pastor feels like he’s a good kid.”
“She’s divorcing him over something like that?”
“Two years is a long time to put up with people talking about your family behind your back and whispering about it in front of you. This stuff means something to her. It doesn’t to him.”
“Wow, he actually sounds like a good man.”
“You sound surprised.”
“He’s a pastor.”
“Churches hold just as many good people as any other building.”
“I don’t know.”
Janet stared blankly for a while. “He is a good man,” she finally said. “I hate representing his wife.”
“She doesn’t have a case. How could anyone rule in her favor?”
“The judge is over sixty, and if you discount the time he spent away at school, he’s lived here his entire life. Let’s just say he may be sympathetic to her point of view.”
Lauren shook her head for a while, then, detecting how low Janet’s spirits were sinking, reached out for her hand. “You’re still a good person, Janet. Even if you’re representing a witch.”
Janet, caught completely off guard by this, cackled. “Thanks.”
“I have to say, this whole situation gives me hope.”
“The pastor. I don’t know. I’m just surprised to see him stick to his convictions here. Gosh, I’m surprised these are his convictions.”
“Almost makes you want to go to church, doesn’t it?”
“His church, yeah.”
“After this case, whichever way it goes, you and I can check it out together.”
“Me, too?” Michael asked.
The two women looked at each other with neither knowing what to say.
“Sure,” Lauren said. “You, too.”
“Hopefully his experience will be better than ours was,” Janet said.
“I hope so.”
Janet looked down at her phone again. “Well, I have to run now. Do you need me to pick up anything on the way home from work later?”
“Nah, we’re just having spaghetti. We have everything we need already.”
“Alright,” Janet said, letting go of Lauren’s hand and reaching for her purse.
“I can’t believe we’re going back to church,” she said as she stood up.
“Me either,” Lauren replied, her voice striking the same tone.
“Maybe we’ll get to stay this time.”
“I hope so.”
“Do you really feel that way.”
Lauren pondered for a moment.
“Yeah,” she eventually said. “I do.”
“Pushed Astray” by Bertel King, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.