Preparations, Part 5

“I see.” If Butch hadn’t already heard Miss Hayes say those words several times that evening, he would have heard icy.

She moved from the refrigerator to a shoulder-high cabinet, from which she retrieved a sleeve of paper cups, and handed them to Butch. The teen then took the cups and the juice cartons out to the large room, shoes (his reverend father did not permit him to wear tennies at any time at church) echoing on the tiled basement floor until he reached the long rectangular table, on which he placed the items he had carried.

He and Miss Hayes continued preparing the church basement social room for that evening’s Bible study group. They worked in silence, Butch at several times thinking of asking (as was his custom, his eagerness to hear adult opinion in proportion with the adult’s age) what she thought of his being on the fencing club. Yet he sensed that she was still contemplating a response, having obtained all the information she’d needed from him. And there was something about her manner that evening that made him believe that hearing her unfiltered opinion would be like handling a gun with a sensitive trigger.

Butch had completed assembling the coffee maker, flipping the switch with a sense of satisfaction, when he felt Miss Hayes suddenly at his elbow. He turned, and looked at her unsmiling face.

“You’ve always been such a sweet boy, Butch. And I’m — disappointed that you’ve decided to take up with such a dangerous group of people.”

Butch opened his mouth to speak, but his voice was cut short by the sound of footsteps from the stairway leading down from the first floor of the church. Miss Hayes walked swiftly to greet the first members to arrive for that evening’s Bible study.

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