Tuning in late? Since Friday, July 6th I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the beginning of One Mountain Away here at my blog. Today the excerpts conclude because the novel is now at your favorite bookstore and you can read the entire novel. Hurray! You can still see prior excerpts by clicking on Goddess Anonymous under Categories at the right. Start reading from the bottom. The sequence is clear from each blog title.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek, just as I hope you’ll enjoy the entire novel.
Chapter Two, Final Excerpt:
There was nothing particularly ministerial about Analiese. Her nearly-black hair was shoulder-length, and she rarely pinned it up so she would look older or plainer. Her regular features added up to something beyond striking. While no one insisted a minister be attractive, her first career had been in television news, where physical beauty had served her well.
She opened her eyes and continued to breathe deeply, staring at the building just beyond her parking place.
The first time she had been driven to this spot by a member of the ministerial search committee, she had sat just this way, gazing at her future. With its arrowhead arches and multi-spired north tower–not to mention imposing blocks of North Carolina granite and stained glass from the famous Lamb Studios of Greenwich Village–she’d been certain that Asheville’s Church of the Covenant would withstand Armageddon and hang around for the second coming.
In any architectural textbook, the city’s most influential Protestant church was just a yawn on the way to more impressive renderings of Gothic Revival glory. The church paled in significance beside the ornate Roman Catholic Basilica of St. Lawrence downtown, or the Cathedral of All Souls in nearby Biltmore Village, the seat of the region’s Episcopal bishop. But Analiese had never quite gotten over that first punch-in-the-gut impression of the church to which she had later been called. Now, as then, she felt unworthy to be its spiritual leader.
One last deep breath propelled her to the parking lot. Before she locked the car she reached into the back seat for the colorful needlepoint tote bag her oldest sister had made as an ordination gift. With the bag slung over her shoulder, she hurried toward the church, avoiding the parish house and she hoped, the silver Audi’s owner, as well.
At the door, she saw Felipe had arrived first. For a moment she was glad she didn’t have to wrestle with the cast iron lock, which on a good day took the better part of a minute. Then as she was about to slip inside, she wondered if Felipe had unlocked the door, or if someone else had borrowed the key and was waiting for her inside.
Someone she wasn’t anxious to see.
Her brief burst of good humor disappeared.
She was happiest when the sanctuary was filled with people, and music echoed from the walls. Today the pews were empty, but that wasn’t necessarily the end of the story. Cautiously Analiese found her way along slippery polished tile floors to the transept, following it to the cozier side-chapel that had been added early in the twentieth century by an industrialist friend of the Vanderbilts.
Historically the chapel had been a place for quiet contemplation, but most often these days it was used for children’s worship services. Felt banners made by one of the Sunday School classes hung between two narrow stained-glass windows of contemporary design. Stylistically wrought jewel-tone doves and olive branches vied with wrinkled renditions of the Star of David, the Taoist yin yang, and multiple Buddhas, both smiling and glum.
The woman sitting on the front row staring at the banners was neither, but then Charlotte Hale was not a woman who often showed emotion. In the ten years of her ministry here, Analiese had learned that the Charlottes in a congregation were the members an alert minister should most fear.
She debated what to do. She couldn’t believe Charlotte had come for Minnie’s memorial service. Beyond that, the service didn’t start for almost an hour, so mourners could attend after work.
Analiese almost turned away, but something told her not to. Maybe it was the way Charlotte was sitting. Maybe it was the stillness in the chapel and the sanctuary beyond, plus the fact that Charlotte had entered this quiet place alone.
She walked through the doorway, making enough noise to alert the other woman. Charlotte was not dressed for a memorial service. She wore a casual lightweight turtleneck with three-quarter sleeves and a skirt of the same mulberry. Her auburn hair was windblown, and she hadn’t bothered with jewelry except tiny gold studs in her earlobes. She looked as if she’d run out for milk and bread and forgotten her way home.
Charlotte turned to look at her. Her expression was blank, her cheeks pale, and she looked exhausted, which was unusual. “Reverend Ana.” She nodded, but she didn’t smile.
“I’m not sure what to do,” Analiese said. “Offer comfort or silence. You look like you might need both.”
Chapter Two continues at your favorite bookstore.