Nathan felt like he was living in a whirlwind over the next few days. Since it wasn’t landscaping season yet, Garrett had used his friendship with the local Toys-R-Us manager to get Nathan a night job there restocking shelves. They also went car shopping and found an affordable little blue Hyundai for him. Garrett made the first payment, but Nathan would take it from there.
Then suddenly it was Sunday morning and Nathan found himself sitting on the stand in the chapel getting ready to give his homecoming talk. He’d greeted many old friends before the meeting and it was great to be back in his old ward again. He’d been thrilled when Garrett, Vanessa, and Denise had surprised him the night before by saying they’d be at the meeting, and it was wonderful to see his dad receiving a warm welcome from several older members who had known him before the divorce.
As the opening song began, Nathan’s heart jumped as he saw Marie and her parents enter the chapel and take a pew toward the front. As they settled in, Marie caught his eye and flashed him a big smile. He felt his face get red, and after a quick smile back, he concentrated on the words of the hymn.
As the Sacrament was passed to the congregation, Nathan kept his head down, praying that his talk would go well. His prayer was answered, and he gave a fine report that had the congregation captivated as he told of his experience in stopping the bomber. He concluded his talk by thanking the ward for helping his mother during her final days of suffering.
“It was hard to not come home for the funeral,” Nathan said. “That was a rough day for me, but I knew it was where I was supposed to be. Staying on my mission is what Mom would have wanted me to do.” He paused to wipe away a tear before adding, “I felt her presence with me that day, and many times afterward. She’s been watching over me.”
After the meeting ended, Nathan was greeted by friends and family at the front of the chapel. Nathan saw Marie approaching and extended his hand toward her. She’d always been pretty in high school, but he couldn’t help noticing she was now more attractive than he remembered.
“Marie! I’m so happy you came.”
She took his hand. “Great talk, Nathan. I was impressed.”
“Thank you. Who would’ve thought Minnesota could be so exciting?”
Marie laughed. “It sounds like you had more fun than I’ve had. It’s pretty much been college classes for me ever since we last saw each other. I should graduate in December.”
“Wow, now it’s my turn to be impressed,” Nathan said. “College looks like a long uphill trek for me right now.”
Marie took a quick look around and saw several people still waiting to talk to Nathan.
“I better let you greet your other fans,” she said with a wink. “My parents wanted to talk with you, but they team-teach the Gospel Doctrine class and had to go set things up. Would you like to come by our house tonight at about six for some pie and ice cream?”
“That sounds great,” Nathan said. “Should I bring anything?”
“Nope! Just bring your cute smile.”
Marie gave a quick wave, then slipped back into the crowd. Nathan felt a warm shiver travel down his spine. Had she actually been flirting with him?