THE MEETING IN THE CHURCHYARD
Over the next few days, Phoebe developed the strange idea that the toy store courtyard was her ‘lucky spot’. During every free moment she found an excuse to spend time there, hoping for good fortune from the people around her. She credited her lucky spot with the inspiration to follow Reverend Tuck when she caught a glimpse of him walking by on the sidewalk. In a moment, she came up beside him and asked, “Do you have a free minute or two for me, Reverend Tuck?”
“Of course!” He led the way to a path of flagstones through the very large churchyard. “Why don’t we sit here?” he said, motioning to a wooden bench. It was a secluded spot, oddly wild with branches and last year’s leaves still on the ground.
“It’s a bit of a delicate subject,” said Phoebe quietly.
“You know me. I’ll do the best I can to bring good into the world.”
“It’s about Abby Chapman,” she said.
“Ah! A delicate subject. I would like to help. What can I do?”
“Abby’s looking for a safe place to live, and she mentioned the church.”
He whistled softly. “Is she safe now?”
“She says so. I saw a letter, but I don’t know where she is. She wants to be a normal girl with friends here in town.”
“Well! Isn’t that a coincidence! And yet… very awkward.” Tuck shifted uneasily on the bench. “Our Leadership Committee was just discussing our neglected churchyard. I suggested that we let a gardener live rent free in the cottage as of old, in exchange for certain responsibilities.” He motioned to something by the far wall that looked more like a run-down shed for gardening tools, but Phoebe realized it might be bigger than it looked.
“That will do just fine!” she broke in. “Abby will be thrilled.”
“But it’s not that easy,” said Tuck. “We’ll have to look at resumes, interview candidates, and finally reach a decision by majority vote. I know Abby has unusual skills as a gardener, but her reputation is… full of strange rumors.”
“What if it’s an emergency? People are looking for her. She’s afraid.”
“Some on our committee,” warned Tuck, “will want to refer the matter to the police.”
“Can I talk to her and get back to you?”
Phoebe hesitated, unable to speak. She desperately wanted to mention her visit with the old man and her dreamstone vision, but she couldn’t find a way to begin.
“I love my job,” said Reverend Tuck. “Don’t be afraid.”
“I have to get back to work,” she blurted out. “But I need to tell you, the old man advised me to speak to you. I looked into… I saw… Her.”
Tuck’s eyes widened, and he glanced about. “You’ve been to the forest,” he said quietly. "Can you come back after work?”
“Oh!” exclaimed Phoebe in relief. “Yes, I’ll be here.” And she rose and raced back to the store.