The Preacher's Wife

by R.G. Larsen

She was the preacher's wife, and she ministered to the needy, giving to each that which he required and taking from each that which he was able to give. This often was only a thank you or a humble nod, but more often than not, it was delivered as service. Despite the meager support the church gained from its parishioners, the lawns were always cut, the flowers tended, and the many custodial duties occasioned by the parish's outreach activities were accomplished.

Kathleen Tate-McGinnis was too young to be a preacher's wife went the back fence gossip and much too pretty. She avoided the gossip, the tea circles, and most of the women's prayer groups, instead throwing herself into the daily operations of the church. This parish was but one of five that needed tending. The remaining four were spread over one hundred fifty miles, all small, rural, and slightly more prosperous than this one. Her husband spent most of his time moving between parishes while she managed the home front. His traveling itinerary had started as a temporary measure by the diocese but soon became a permanent placement due to marginal offerings and a shrinking pool of available ministers. Not many would take on a rural parish where fundraising became a necessary part of securing one's income.

She became acquainted with Jim at a summer, church camp activity and she thought Reverand McGinnis clever and dashing. He certainly was a change from the young men she had so far met. She and Jim were wed the next year. Three years later, she wasn't so sure she had chosen well. The few evenings they spent together opened and closed with prayer, and there were long periods of dull silence between. Moreover, there were times when Jim's extreme discretion seemed more like a lack of energy, times when his resolve, when it appeared, was more like stubbornness. What worried her more was his tendency toward stodginess. He insisted that she address him as James not Jim even when they were alone, and she was alone much too much. She waited and prayed for change, until she grew tired of waiting and set about finding answers. God helps those who help themselves, she told herself.

It was a Sunday morning between services when she spotted the young stranger. She made him out to be about twenty-two or twenty-three with nice features and a wiry build. He was her height or less and some vulnerability was evident in his brown eyes. Kate had taken a position near the coffee and donuts line between the door and a deaconess selling tickets to support a coming church youth activity. Men were coming by regularly for handouts now that some of the mills closed. Cattle prices were also down and that brought more drifters, young and old but all with a hunger in their bellies and tiredness in their eyes. She guessed, correctly, that the young man was passing through. The young man surveyed the room from the safety of a wide-brimmed hat and moved closer to the ticket table. Kate spotted him as he entered, read his eyes, and now moved closer to him.

"Would you care for a cup of coffee?" she asked. "There's no charge." The offer evidently caught the young man by surprise, but he accepted tentatively, looking around, knowing he was out of place. "It will certainly be a better choice than taking the ticket money and running out the door. Isn't that was what you were thinking?" Anger coursed through him, and he stiffened. She saw the fire flare in his eyes.

"I doubt that old tight-lipped preacher's wife watching the till would let me get away with that," he countered, but the lie showed in his halting rejoinder and in his eyes that now looked away toward the fifteen or sixteen dollars in the plate. She had him cold. That was exactly what he was thinking, grab the cash and hit the door fast. How could she know?

"Well, you'll have to excuse us. We're mostly Presbyterians here and don't smile a lot." Then she laughed and smiled at him saying, "Now can I interest you in a cup of coffee?" Her voice was a soft contralto, rich and inviting without any edginess.

"Yes." He said, "That would be nice, Ma'm, thank you." He was unsure of himself in many ways but very sure that he liked the easy warmth of this beautiful brown-haired woman.

She served him a cup in the kitchen along with a number of donuts, suggesting that he'd be more at ease there and stayed with him to ensure that he would be. "You made a mistake back there," she ventured.

"What do you mean?" he answered, not ready to admit she had read his intentions accurately.

"Well, old Mrs.Dumfree would have given you the money you required if you had asked, and you wouldn't have to ask twice. However, that's not the mistake. She's not the preacher's wife, I am."

The young man's mouth sagged open. "I'm sorry. I didn't intend any offense. I really put my foot in it didn't I?"

She laughed again, a sweet lovely laugh, not at him but enjoying the situation. "That's quite alright. Everything is fine, no offense taken." As she turned to get the coffee pot, he noticed the smooth way she moved and liked what he saw. She returned in seconds and poured him another cup. He tried to estimate her age and judged her to be about his own. She sat opposite him for a while not speaking but without averting her stare. Her clear blue eyes were focused intently on him. He found himself looking back into them, unable to turn away. A slight wrinkle appeared under her eyes as a smile returned to her face. "Look, I know you can probably use a handout, but I also can see you have a lot of pride. I can use some help later this afternoon through early evening. I'm short-handed and have to put on a meal to honor all the people who have done outreach activities this year. I can't ask them to help because they are the ones being honored. If you want to make twenty bucks you can show up about 4:30 this afternoon at the back door and stay through to help with the dishes, pots, and pans." There was no immediate response on his part. "You can eat when they eat, and I'll pack a lunch you can take with you afterward. You can take it or leave it, but I've got to know now."

He studied the woman across from him and found her incredibly appealing. He hadn't been with many women. His came fully awake as he watched her lips, her eyes, and her hands. There was a strength and softness there and a beauty he hadn't experienced. He wanted to do anything to please her and he wasn't even sure why he felt this way. "Yes, I'll be here," he answered.

"You understand this is strictly business, no work no pay. I need a commitment. I have to be able to count on you to do your part."

"Of course, I'm as good as my word."

"What's your name? I guess I better know that much about you."

"They call me Frank."

"Oh, I like that a lot. Yes, it fits you well, Frank. I will look forward to seeing you right here (she pointed to the back door) at 4:30 p.m. By the way, my name is Katherine but call me Kate." She took his hand to seal the bargain. The warmth from her touch seemed to last for a long time. He turned and looked as the door closed behind him, but she had gone to attend to her congregation. My God, he thought, I'm falling for the preacher's wife. He ambled down to the rail yards and found a grassy place beneath a water tower. Sleep came eventually, with a blue-eyed woman floating in and out of his consciousness saying, "Oh, I like that a lot, Frank" She was naked next to him. "You can take it or leave it, Frank, but I've got to know now," she whispered.

Frank was at the church's back entrance at 4:15 p.m. He had washed himself in the overflow from the water tank, dried himself off, and combed his chestnut hair with half an Ace comb he carried in his wallet. He had put on a clean shirt that still showed the wrinkles where it was folded and stuffed into his pack. The shirt like his jeans had number of holes and one leg was tattered by the cuff. He had brushed his teeth several times and inspected himself in the railway station window before leaving. He stood straightly and knocked at the back door. He was about to knock for the third time when the door suddenly popped outward.

"Well, well, look at you, Frank, a regenerated man if ever I saw one." Kate smiled and invited him in. She had managed to go home and lie down for about an hour, then address all of the letters for next months Pastor's Convocation. Afterwards, she checked on dessert that she was preparing for this evening's event. She thought of the Last Supper and wished this were her last group supper. She knew it wouldn't be. She showered and changed into some practical work clothes, called several of the Elders to see if this evening's program was ready, and asked if they would emcee while she took care of serving and cooking. They would. Then there was a call to the Youth Group's leader, Bob. Yes, there would be ten teenagers to serve food and bus tables. She shuffled through James's closet for a couple of minutes and, finding what she needed, and loaded the desserts into James' old pickup truck. She stopped by the postbox to mail the convocation invitations on her way to the church, arriving fifteen minutes early to sit quietly in darkened kitchen, collect her thoughts, and plan her evening.

She let Frank in at his third knock. "I guess we'd better get started, Frank, here's the plan." She explained as he listened. He seemed quick to pick up on things and needed little help once everything was underway. Frank had worked almost non-stop for almost an hour and a half, except for the times he had watched Kate as she bent to get a pot or reached for something over the stove. My god she was lovely. She had put on a one-piece cotton shift over what he guessed was cotton underwear. When she bent then straightened, her dress would hang up. As she moved away, each little movement of her buttocks caused the dress to slip a little until it finally straightened out. He could hardly stand it. Occasionally she would look his way and give him a pleasant smile. As she worked in the hot kitchen, she began to soak her light cotton shift with perspiration. He could see the outline of her back and ribs, the crease between her cheeks, and a small damp area that showed through her apron under her breasts. Still she worked. At about 6:15 p.m. the Elder leading the evening activity entered the kitchen and whispered something to her. She turned and quickly rushed back to the little room that held the sinks and racks for dishes, the room where Frank was currently engaged with a large pot that seemed to be defying his every effort to scrub it clean. He didn't hear her coming above the noise of the kitchen appliances and running water. She moved close to him and softly said, "Frank." He jumped and was embarrassed that he hadn't noticed her.

"I'm really sorry, I didn't know you were here; it's so noisy."

"I know. I need you to hold things together while I change. They want me to go out and take a bow when dessert is served. I can't go like this. I'm a mess." Frank thought otherwise but wisely said nothing. "I'm going to do a quick change in that room where keep the supplies. Just make sure no one comes in there, okay?"

"Sure," he said. She leaned over the sink a bit as she spoke to him. He could smell the perfume of her skin and a faint pleasing scent of lilac, and he could see the fullness of her breasts under the cotton dress. She spoke in a gentler voice than that with which she had commanded everyone else during the last two hours.

"I appreciate all your hard work, Frank. Now watch that door for me; it doesn't have a lock." Shivers ran through Frank, but they were nothing compared to what he felt when the door to the supply room reopened. The doorway framed her body. She had dressed in a pink chiffon dress, put on heels, and brushed her hair up into a roll, putting on a floppy brimmed hat to cover what she couldn't neatly comb. Best of all, thought Frank, she was backlit. The strong 150-watt bare bulb from the storeroom shone through the dress so he could see her lovely shape.

"Well, what do you think?"

"I think you are just perfect." He felt heat rising to his face and knew he was blushing. She turned to go out of the kitchen. He made a quick decision. He knew he could never change his station or his life fast enough to make any difference, but he also thought that one way or the other he would have to tell her how he felt about her. That decision made, he began to attack the pots with new purpose. He heard a round of applause before Kate returned. When he observed her return to the kitchen, he put down his pots, wiped his hands dry, and approached her. They were alone with only the sound of coffee perking in the background and the low hum of a refrigerator. He reached out and took her hand. "How did it go?" he asked. She neither responded nor pulled away. There was no hint of what she was thinking or feeling as she looked steadily at him.

"Frank," she began. He immediately thought he'd gone too far. "I wonder if you would like to sit and have a bite to eat with me after I change?"

"Ah, yes, that would be great," he said. She left quickly, stopping to get her shift and shoes from the storage room. In fifteen minutes, she returned totally changed. She now wore sandals and the plainest denim smock one could imagine. Her hair was drawn back into a simple ponytail. She looked clean and scrubbed, fresh but more matronly. There was little hint of any curves under the shapeless dress. He noticed that she had removed her lipstick. The smell of lilac was gone. She served up two portions of everything they had served the guests that evening and ate mostly in silence. Occasionally there were interruptions by the gang bussing tables or checking out after cleaning up. Eventually they were alone. She spoke first.

"How is everything, Frank?"

"Just fine, everything's just fine."

"You seemed a bit nervous a while back. I thought perhaps I had made you uneasy or said something I shouldn't. I get a little bossy sometimes. I get too much into that role."

"No," he responded, "you were great, not bossy at all," he lied.

"Frank, I am bossy. I like to be in charge. It's not flattering I know and some of the folks around here resent it, but someone has to keep things running. My husband, James, is away most of the time. I do the best I can. It often is hard for me. I think about my responsibilities seriously, you understand? My vows?

"Yes, I can understand that." He had inched closer to her but now backed away with talk of her husband and vows. Well, he guessed that was it for tonight. Force the issue and he's be locked in a small town jail until he was eighty, unless he was hanged on the spot. They finished eating and talked of things that neither of them would remember in the morning. "I guess I'll just finish up these last few pots," he said, letting out some breath he'd been holding for too long.

"That would be just great, I'll clean these dishes up while you do that. I've got to check to make sure the kids closed the doors on their way out." She was soon gone about her errands while he hung some wet towels to dry and took off a plastic apron he had worn to keep dry. Kate returned just as he finished. "Frank, will you come with me for a minute?" This invitation was accompanied by a pleasant smile.

"Where are we going?"

"Oh, you'll see," she laughed and took him by the hand. They walked through the empty church. It had grown dark out and only streetlights shone through the stained glass windows as they went through the sanctuary and up onto the dais that held the altar. He felt the warmth from her hand. It felt good. He was afraid she'd let go. He didn't want the hand holding to end, vows or no vows. "I come here often at night, when the church is quiet and everyone has gone home. Isn't it beautiful?" She had turned to face him now, and he took her in his arms and kissed her. He felt her respond as he kissed her neck and shoulders. He reached toward her hips as she embraced him. She pushed his hand away, saying, "No, Frank, please, no." He reached again and managed a caress before she again moved his hand away. The third time she didn't resist but began undoing the buttons on the front of her smock as he continued his advances. As the dress fell from her shoulders, she kicked the dress away. "Hurry, Frank, please."

In a moment they were locked together on the altar in a naked embrace. He hadn't noticed in his passion that she had hooked her right leg behind his left knee and her right arm around over and around his left arm. Suddenly she rolled and thrust quickly, grabbing his free hand by the wrist, flipping him on his back. She pinned his hand with all her might to the floor and began to rock up and down on him. She moved her left hand up to pin his other wrist. He was surprised by the move and by her strength. When he went to move he found it difficult and yielded to her passion and to her resolve. She rose up, locking her elbows, still rocking with a gentle rhythm and her breasts were in his face. "Frank, don't stop." Then she began to buck harder and harder, taking him places he had never been. When she was ready and sensed she couldn't wait any longer, she thrust up and down with increased force until they finished. She held that position while she kissed his neck and face and lips repeatedly.

Just as suddenly as their tryst began, it ended. Kate rose and grabbed her smock. "You stay here and wait for me. I'll be right back," she smiled.

"Where are you going with my clothes?" he asked.

"Just don't move. Lie there; I'll be right back. Oh, if the light in the vestibule comes on it's the night janitor. He never comes in here, but don't make a sound to alert him. I'll send him home tonight, and I'll be right back with your things. Trust me Frank. I'm not going to forget about you. You were wonderful."

She disappeared and Frank lay quietly down on the altar, naked, thinking about all that had happened. He thought it was the most wonderful night of his life. He began to grow uneasy when she didn't come back after five minutes. After ten minutes, he began to worry. At fifteen the light came on in the vestibule so he flattened himself on the floor, spread-eagled behind the pulpit, and silently waited. Finally, the door to the sanctuary opened and Kate reappeared carrying his things.

"Where have you been," he demanded, "I was beginning to think you left?"

"Silly you," she laughed. "Your old clothes were tattered. These are your size and clean. You can keep them. I made you a nice lunch to take with you. Here's your wallet that was in the pocket, and here's the twenty I promised you." He reached for her but she stopped him. "I'm a married woman, Frank, just take these and go, please. Use that side door. It will lock behind you"


"Just go or you'll miss the train that comes through. It's a northbound, comes through about eleven-fifteen." She gave his hand a friendly squeeze then hurriedly left the sanctuary.

Kate fussed with items in the church office for a while afterward, warmed by her effort and pleased with the relaxation that settled over her. She made a note to herself to have the custodian bring the unused mats from the kindergarten class up into the small room in the church attic for next week. Before she closed up and headed home to shower, she paused, wondering what it was that got to him. Was it her blue shift or the way that it clung to her body? Perhaps it was the Chiffon see-through with the light behind her? Maybe just her stare? She thought a bit then decided that it might have been when she dabbed a little lilac on and leaned over to tell Frank to watch that door. "Who knows?" She thought to herself. The best part she thought was when she left him on the altar stark naked. She had gone up the stairway from the hallway to the choir loft and watched him for a long time. When he got restless, she had flicked on the light in the vestibule. That had kept him in his place. She liked the sex and she liked being in control. She even liked Frank. She took his shirt and trousers with the tattered trouser leg (she could still smell his scent on them) and hung them on a hanger in a little closet under the staircase next to eight other pairs, also not her husband's. On one wall of the office was a framed quote: "The Lord Answers Prayer." On the opposite wall rested another: "God Helps Those Who help Themselves." Well, sometimes both, she thought. Tomorrow there would be a crew of roofers in for a week to redo the entire south wing, and she was already making plans for them.


R. G. Larsen was born in San Francisco. He received his BA from S.F. State and MA from U.S.F. He currently lives in Santa Rosa, California and writes short stories and novels.

The Preacher's Wife
© 2005 by R. G. Larsen
All rights reserved.





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