At twenty minutes to five Friday afternoon Rachel’s mom pulled up to the house for the retreat. She climbed out of her car and adjusted the winter white pantsuit she was wearing. Rachel looked down at her nice jeans, camisole and jacket. Maybe she should change before she went.
“Ready to go?” Her mom scanned Rachel’s outfit quickly as soon as she came in the house.
“Yes, but, well I’ve been thinking that…”
“You’re still going aren’t you Rachel?”
“Of course, I have my suitcase. I thought I’d come back tomorrow morning. I don’t know if I want to be there for that whole thing.”
“Saturday’s so much fun. We have a nice breakfast and there are quite a few speakers. You should stay.”
“Mom, I’m really only going to hear Carol Adnaw speak.”
“She’s giving a talk just before lunch on Saturday too.”
“I thought she was talking tonight.”
“She is. She’s speakin’ both days. She couldn’t fit everything in she wanted to share on Friday so we rearranged things to give her about forty-five minutes on Saturday morning too.”
She’d have to sit through two hours of church talk to hear Carol Adnaw Saturday morning “Let’s take two cars and I’ll decide when I get there if I want to come back Saturday morning or if I’ll stay to the end.”“
That’ll work out just fine.” Her mom reached for the suitcase. Rachel grabbed her other bag. “What’s going on with Adam?”
Her mom’s face soured. “I’m not sure. I know he’s spent a good deal of time with Yvonne on the TDD but he ain’t tellin’ me bout what they’re sayin’.”
“So is he going back to California?”
“Now I just told you, don’t know. What you gonna go asking me for again.” Her mom walked out the back door with Rachel’s suitcase. She’d have to talk to Adam directly, when mom wasn’t there to watch what they were talking about.
“I can’t wait to hear Carol Adnaw speak. Do you think she’ll take time after to talk to people. I’d really love to spend some time learning from her.” How her mom’s church had managed to snag such a well-known speaker still surprised Rachel.
“Oh I hear she is wonderful.” Her mom left the suitcase next to Rachel’s car.
“Mom, I’m going back in to check the house.”
Mom waved her away. Rachel rechecked the front door and windows. “I’ve got the lights down here on a timer.” She scanned the room. “Feels like I’m forgetting something.” She stood a few moments. Then since she couldn’t think of anything she locked the back door and then stopped by her mother’s car, peering in the window. “So, how do I get to this place?”
“Let me look.” Her mom reached in the passenger door. She scanned a light blue piece of paper with a photocopied map and scribbled handwriting on it. It should be okay.
Rachel got into her car, and watched as her mother backed out. She started her motor and eased into the street. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect at a women’s retreat. She had images of either older women with casserole dishes eating or swapping recipes. Or she could see a roomful of women who got as wound up as her mom sometimes hanging from the chandeliers.
Despite some jitters, given her past experience with religion, she was really starting to look forward to the weekend with the ladies. The Fratboy wasn’t going to find her this weekend. That was one incentive to be at the retreat. There she was going to be surrounded by other women nestled back in a woods down a hard to find street at the back of a park.
It was a place you only knew how to find if you were there. Even though Carol Adnaw was the invited speaker and even though she was a very famous business woman her mom’s church had only done word of mouth advertising. Her mom said it was to keep it focused on God and finding him rather than personalities.
Traffic wasn’t bad at all for a Friday afternoon. Most of it was cleared up or heading out of town rather than toward it. There was a bit more traffic as they approached Triangle park. Must have been little league that night. Rachel always thought it was called Triangle park because of the many baseball fields. Her dad had laughed when she told him.
“They’re ball diamonds, not triangles.” He’d said as he laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes. When he had finally been able to stop laughing he’d told her the park got its name from the two rivers on either side of the park making it look like a triangle.
Most of the downtown area of Woodhaven was run down. People were moving to the edge of town or to the homes near the university. The park had been the exception. It was a remarkably well-kept park being so close to the downtown. The park drew both city-dwellers and suburbanites for the walking trails and ball games.
She turned to follow the jog in the road that led the last stretch to the lodge they were staying in. Her stomach tightened when she saw a sign that pointed to the lodge. It would be fine. There’s no reason to be nervous. She was here to learn from a top executive woman. Church really couldn’t get much easier than that.
Nate had started with a retreat in college. A men’s retreat as she recalled. In fact, he went there a few weeks after their engagement. They had just moved in together and Rachel was living the dream.
“I hate staying alone in our new house. Can’t you go to the retreat next year after our wedding.” She spun the half-carat solitaire back and forth on her finger. “I’ll be lonely without you.”
Nate folded a shirt and placed it in his overnight bag. “I’ll be home tomorrow night, Rachel.” He pulled her close to him. “You deserve the best husband.” He paused to kiss her. “These men, they are going to show me how to do that.”
“But when did you start going to those meetings?” They had attended her parents’ church from time to time but neither of them considered themselves religious. Then he was approached in the student union by a classmate and three other men. They promised him they could show him fulfillment the world couldn’t offer. She never stayed the living room when they came over, which had now become nearly every night.
Now they were taking Nate with them.
“Rachel, don’t worry. It is one night. We have our whole lives to live together.” He zipped his suitcase and kissed her. “I’ll make it up to you tomorrow night.”
He lifted his keys off the hook and put his bag down. Rachel followed him to the front door. “I love you, Rachel.”
“I love you too Nate.”
He kissed her and walked out the door. She walked to the window and watched him get in the car with the other three men. She waved down at Nate. He smiled, waved back then climbed in the back seat. A man climbed in on either side of him in the backseat.
She sat down to look at her bridal magazines. They were only twenty and the wedding couldn’t be extravagant but she’d love Nate since they met in high school. For three years they were best friends and the first time she…well it was with Nate.
She fell asleep that night on the couch. The next morning she woke to pounding on her front door. The clock said it was six-thirty. She stumbled to the door. The men were standing there.
“Nate has joined the community.”
“What?” She said, still groggy.
“We have come to pick up a few of Nate’s things.”
“He’ll be back tonight.”
“No.” The larger of the three said, the one she disliked the most. “He has joined the community. He is no longer connected to this world or the lusts of the flesh.”
“We’re getting married.” She looked between the three of them. Their faces like stone.
“No, Nate is married to the church now. He is a part of the community and he’s committed his life and worldly possessions to the creator.”
Bad memories. Rachel snapped back and followed her mom in to the parking lot adjacent to the lodge. She pulled her car in next to her mom and climbed out.
“Should I bring everything in now or come back for it.”
“Go ahead and bring it. I’m getting mine.” She hoisted her bag on her shoulder. Rachel nodded and pulled her suitcase out of the trunk of her car and followed her mom up the walk. A woman, likely in her mid-fifties, met them on the sidewalk. Her hair was shoulder length blond and she was dressed more like Rachel in jeans and a nice top. It made Rachel feel a bit less self-conscious about her outfit choices. “Lisa, so good to see you.” They hugged. “You are awful dressed up for this aren’t you?” The woman leaned to Rachel. “Wouldn’t you say so.”
“Yep. I think jeans are the way to go.” Rachel nodded as she answered.
“No matter. Your mom’s always overdressing for these events.”
“Well, what else I got to dress up for?”
The two of them began chatting about what Lisa needed to do to help set up. Rachel followed her mom up the sidewalk to the lodge. Inside the front door a young woman who looked to be around Rachel’s age sat at a rectangular folding table. There was a white plastic tablecloth on top with sheets of names taped to it. Voices echoed from every direction with people smiling and nodding in various conversations.
Her mom walked around the woman to the table while Rachel tried to figure out where to sign up. “Janice, this is my daughter Rachel.”
“So this is your daughter Rachel.” The woman turned to face her. “I’ve heard so much about you. You run a business don’t you?”
“Yes, a marketing company.” Rachel smiled and shifted her bags to her left hand and shook the woman’s hand.
“You coming to see our guest speaker?”
“Carol Adnaw? Absolutely. She’s top of her game. There’s a lot of women who could learn from her example.”
The woman smiled warmly. “I’m sure there is. I hope you get a lot out of her talk.” Rachel returned the smile. Rachel looked back at her name tag to remind herself of the woman’s name. She had been distracted by everything but should have paid better attention.
Next a woman with a clipboard appeared from behind them. “Oh good Lisa. You’re here. We’ve go the two of you in the room down this hall.” The woman took Rachel’s mom by the arm and led her past a couple of plain doors and in to an equally plain room.
The woman with the clipboard crinkled her nose. “Sorry they’re pretty bland. Everything in here is beige but the place offered us a great deal, and everything is clean, so we took it.” She smiled and lowered her voice a touch. “I think next year we’ll do it at the hotel we talked about. I was so embarrassed when we came in to set up this morning.” Then raising her voice again “The common areas are quite nice.”
Rachel and her mom set their things down on the beds. “I’m going to go look around.” Rachel called back.
“Fine honey. We’ll run into each other I’m sure.”
Rachel walked back out to the table with the long list of names.
“Hi my name is Rachel.” She scanned down the page and pointed herself out.
“Wonderful. You’re in group one.” The woman traced over Rachel’s name with a yellow highlighting pen. “Here is your nametag and folder. We’re starting at seven-thirty in that room right over there.” The woman pointed to the large living room a few feet away.
Rachel watched the women. Nearly all of them knew the other. She smiled and nodded at the few who managed to make eye contact.
“I see you’re in group one too.” Rachel spun around again and was face to face with Carol Adnaw.
“Yes, I am.” This time she had a genuine smile. “My name’s Rachel.”
They shook hands.
“I’m so happy to finally meet you.” Rachel resisted the urge to gush about everything she’d ever read by or about her.
“Well thank you. God has blessed me.”
God. For a moment Rachel had forgotten she was at a church thing. Carol Adnaw was there but this was about church and God stuff too.
Carol continued. “You’re the only person I’ve seen from group one so far besides me. Would you like to sit down with a cup of coffee?”
“Of course. That would be really nice. Wait here and I’ll be right back.”
Rachel wove back and forth between people and finally found her mom.
“Mom, I’ve found Carol Adnaw and she wants to have coffee. We’ll be right over there.” She pointed to the back of the common area.
“Great. I’ll find you in just a bit.” She turned back to the woman she was talking to then stopped. “Rachel, you’re going to need your bag.” She slid a canvas bag off of her arm and handed it to Rachel. Inside there was a folder, pen and what looked to be a few cosmetic samples.
A large group of women were milling around the registration table when Rachel got back.
“Was I gone that long?” She motioned to the group.
“No, there were two vans that unloaded and they all walked in together. Do you want to go over to the other room?” Carol motioned. There’s a fireplace in there.
Rachel nodded and led the way through a sea of round white tables full of women catching up and swapping stories. Her mom should be able to find her back here. They sat at an empty table.
“Carol, would you like some coffee?”
“Yes, please. Two sugars.”
She got the coffees and sat down across form Carol. “How is it you came to be the featured speaker at a church event?”
“My passion is helping women. There are some women who have no financial sense. For those women I love to share financial strategies that will help them be self-sufficient if they ever need to be. Some women need to remember that there is more to this life. That is what women retreats are for. It’s when women can reconnect.”
“Do you do many of them?”
“I try to do one about every month or every other month.”
“Do they pay well?” Rachel looked around at the room of a couple hundred women. What would cause a woman who filled conference halls to speak to such a small group?
“I think they do.” She smiled and blew on her coffee.
Obviously she wasn’t going to tell how well they paid. Rachel looked around and quickly added the number of women then multiplied it by the twenty dollar conference fee. At the most they’d collected about two thousand dollars. Hardly enough to pay a nationally recognized speaker.
Carol scooted forward in her chair then leaned her arms on the table. “How long have you gone to this church?”
“Oh, I’ve gone off and on for a few years now. My mom is pretty active and she told me about it.” It wasn’t a complete lie. She’d been to the church about three or four times a year since her mom and dad started there.
“You’re lucky to have the pastor you do. I’ve followed his ministry for a while.” Carol paused to blow on her coffee and sip slowly at it. “He’s a strong man in the Lord.”
“Yes he is.” It was all Rachel could think to say back. He was an okay preacher when she’d attended recently and had told Shannon as much.
“Excuse me, Carol?” A frail older woman broke into their conversation.
“Yes?” Carol smiled at the woman as if thrilled to see her.
“They wanted to have you come back to the green room with the other speakers for tonight.”
“Thank you. I’ll be right there.” The old woman walked away and Carol turned to Rachel.“Guess I’m on. If you’d be willing after the presentation tonight I’d love to continue our conversation.”“I’d like that. Thank you.”
“We’ll meet back here.” Carol picked up her Styrofoam cup of coffee and walked briskly to join up with the older woman. The two chattered away until they turned a corner and Rachel could no longer see them.
You are reading A Face in the Shadow by Tiffany Colter.
Tiffany is a writer, speaker and writing career coach. She is a frequent contributor to print and online publications in addition to her regular marketing blog at http://www.writingcareercoach.com/
Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.
This story is copyright Tiffany Colter. 2007. It may not be copied, distributed, sold or included in any larger work without the expressed written permission of Tiffany Colter.
Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.