Andrew Covick shifted on the undersized chair of the coffee house, crossed his leg and tapped his thumb on the small table.
A young man, his hand on the empty chair across from Andrew, asked, “May I take this?”
“No, I’m expecting someone.” Andrew glanced at his watch. Two more minutes and I’m gone, he thought.
The call had been unexpected: the Reverend Theo Augustine O’Rourke wanted to meet for coffee. The two had parted ways over fifteen years ago and, until now, there had been no attempt on either side to connect. Theo, so he said, was passing through on business and “thought he would look up an old friend.” But Chicago was not where they parted company nor were they ever friends.
Traffic noise and a blast of cold air indicated the arrival of more customers. Before Andrew saw his face, he knew Theo had arrived. Black trench coat, the collar lifted up to protect from the wind. Andrew watched as Theo smoothed his thinning hair and scanned the room. A big man always, Theo had filled out even more in a decade and a half, but his face was unmistakable even with his widened and sagging jowls.
Theo caught Andrew’s eyes and made his way through the cramped tables and chairs, unbuttoning his coat as he came.
“I would have recognized you anywhere!” said Theo as he shook Andrew’s hand and clapped him on the shoulder. “I see you’ve already ordered. Would you like a refill?
Something to eat?”
Andrew declined both and Theo went to the counter to place his order.
Andrew sipped his coffee and continued to observe Theo. Black shirt with a cardigan? No, not Theo. He wore high-clerical garb: a black, tailored suit with a stiff white collar encircling his neck; crisp, white cuffs extending from his jacket sleeves just far enough to reveal his silver cuff-links; and a starched, black vest that lusted for a pectoral cross.
Theo returned, sipped some coffee and bit into a scone.
“How did you find me?” asked Andrew.
“So you’re just passing through Chicago?” Andrew picked up his mug and leaned back in his chair.
“I’m here on business. I’ve been appointed to the Vatican committee for the International Festival of Young Adults.”
“So there’s a Vatican committee now.”
“Yes, for a while now. We provide expertise to the local Church organizing the festival and oversight as well.” Then, as if justifying his position, “Really, why should every host country have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when we have a solid template?”
“Unless the wheel itself needs innovation. You know, the original wheel was a pottery wheel.”
Theo shot a glance at Andrew, but let the comment drop. He chomped down a few more bites of his scone, took a sip of coffee and popped the rest of the pastry into his mouth. “I just made a deal with Secure Star Insurance and discovered it’s the company you work for.”
Andrew’s back tensed and a long-latent twitch jolted his shoulder.
Theo sipped his coffee and smiled. “When I checked out the website for Secure Star and saw your name as HR director, I couldn’t believe it! Out of touch for so many years and, once again, the IFYA has brought us back together.” Theo laughed. “Those were the days . . . I-F-Y-A . . .” he sang off-key to the tune of YMCA.
Andrew did not share such pleasant memories of the I-F-Y-A, neither the adapted lyrics sung at the festival nor the source of the acronym: the International Festival for Young Adults. He wondered if Theo set up this meeting to flaunt the perpetuation of the IFYA or his rise within the hierarchical circles of the Church. Or was Theo completely obtuse to the seriousness of their disagreement years ago? Whatever the case, Andrew had already reached his threshold of civility for Reverend O’Rourke.
“I’d better be going,” said Andrew. “I have a meeting in twenty minutes.” He rose and picked up his parka.
“Always hard at work,” said Theo as he stood. “Who knows, with Secure Star’s involvement in the IFYA, we may meet again!” He shook hands with Andrew and put on his coat.
The men exited the coffee shop and walked off in opposite directions.
“You’re home early.”
Andrew, hunched over the table, nursed a cup of tea and stared blankly at the wall. “I took the afternoon off,” he said, not turning to greet her. His shoulder twitched.
Rebecca rarely saw this side of Andrew. He was easy-going, slow to react, and tended toward the longer view, but was never a brooder.
“Are you feeling okay?” Rebecca walked over and began to massage his shoulder.
Andrew closed his eyes and lowered his head.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Hell just walked back into my life,” said Andrew.
“The Reverend Theo Augustine O’Rourke.”
Rebecca continued to massage Andrew’s shoulders. Over the years she had learned to wait. Andrew’s story trickled out like a slow, spring thaw. With each retelling of past events, new details were added. As their lives merged, the framework of his life took form and she began to understand the empathetic man who had reached out to her years before. However, Theo O’Rourke?
“O’Rourke? I don’t remember you talking about a Reverend Theo Augustine O’Rourke,” said Rebecca, mimicking Andrew when she repeated the name.
Andrew smiled at her imitation. “It’s more what he represents. I met him at college.”
Rebecca pulled a couple of wine glasses from a cupboard. “Well, you must have made an impression on him, otherwise, why would he have bothered to look you up?”
“To gloat? I don’t know.”
Rebecca uncorked a bottle of wine while Andrew recounted their brief conversation at the coffee shop. “I’ve decided to pay a visit to Secure Star’s upper
management and see what’s up,” said Andrew, shaking his head.
“It may be a lot of hot air.”
“I doubt it. Theo was rather pleased with himself.” Rebecca sat next to Andrew with the glasses of wine and put her arm around his shoulder. “I thought I’d put the IFYA behind me years ago and now to be even remotely entangled in it is depressing.”
“Was Theo part of that Proclaimers of Christ group?”
“Not directly. It all began at college . . . ”
About the Author
Linda Smith lives near Calgary, Alberta, enjoying the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. For 30 years, she was a member of a community of religious sisters. She currently works in an organization that is dedicated to assisting and advocating for traumatized and neglected children. You can follow Linda’s work here.