Penance in Pike County

Jenna slept late.  She couldn’t take another day of traipsing through the woods while mosquitos snacked on her, so she made it clear last night that Mary and Tristan should go hiking without her.

As she stood on the back porch overlooking the lake, she watched ominously dark clouds roll in.  Her sister owed her big time, begging that she spend Spring Break in Pike County, Pennsylvania.  She preferred vacationing in warm sunny climates, not places where she had to wear heavy sweaters.

At least Tristan’s cousin was arriving later, so she would no longer be the third wheel.

Mary and Tristan had sung Paul’s praises.  He graduated top of his class from Yale, competed in the Olympics, and spent summers building orphanages for kids.  She got the impression Mary wanted to set them up.

She zoned out, watching the gently rocking tiny rowboat tied at the end of the wooden dock.  Did lakes have a tide or was it just the wind?

The early spring weather could be unpredictable, and she was getting cold. Just as she was about to turn toward the door, movement in the water caught her eye. She squinted.  It looked like someone was struggling to swim to shore.

Rushing down the stairs, she kicked off the flip flops she wore around the cabin, and raced to untie the boat.  Silently cursing whoever had secured it, she wasted precious time untying the knots.  Once undone, she stepped into the boat a little less cautiously then she should have and slipped, hitting her elbow.

At least she had managed not to fall into the cold water.

Grabbing the oars, she pushed away from the dock and headed toward the swimmer.  She had never rowed a boat before, but how hard could it be?  She was working on her doctorate in physics and rowing was all about motion.

She glanced at the figure in the water, who seemed to be staring at her while treading water. She assured herself that she could do this and started rowing.

It was rough going at first.  Her coordination was off, but she got into a rhythm and was making progress.  Or so she thought.  She looked at the figure, who she could now see was a man.  He was swimming towards her.  She had managed to row halfway across the lake.  Unfortunately, it was in the wrong direction.

“Stop rowing!”  He called out.  “I’ll be right there!”

She pulled the oars out of the water, and waited for him to get to her.  She was supposed to be rescuing him.

When he finally reached her, he adroitly hoisted himself into the boat.  Usually Jenna would object to a grown man in a speedo, but this one had the body for it.  He was very attractive, and very angry.  “What were you thinking?  The lake isn’t the place for an inexperienced rower to be out alone.”

“The same applies to a lone swimmer.”  As if to emphasis her point, lightning flashed followed by the rumble of thunder.  “I saw you struggling and was rescuing you.”


She nodded causing her pony tail to bounce

He laughed, breaking the tension.  “I was wondering why you were racing out of my cabin.  I expected someone to be chasing you.”

“You’re Paul!  You arrived early.”  Had she known who he was, she wouldn’t have rushed to the lake to make a fool out of herself.  He had been on the Olympic swim team and won a medal.  “I’m Jenna.”

“Mary’s sister.”  He smiled, causing two dimples to appear and reminding her of a clean-shaven Tom Selleck.  She wondered if there were laws about dating your sister’s soon to be cousin-in-law.  “Let me row.”

She gratefully handed over the oars – her arms were already sore.

He made rowing look easy.  She tried not to stare as his muscles flexed with each stroke.

“So how are the lovebirds?”

“Making goo-goo eyes at each other, and forcing me on marches through the forest.  I swear they intend to sacrifice me if we encounter a bear.”

He laughed again, making her wish she had fixed her hair and put on some make-up.  “You’re no longer alone.  I prefer sleeping late, card games, reading on my porch, and watching movies.”

“Salvation at last!”

The chatted amicably as he rowed and Jenna realized she felt more comfortable with him than she had with a man in a very long time.  There was something about their camaraderie that felt right.  And it didn’t hurt that he was easy on the eye.  She wanted to get to know him better.  “Paul, would you like to go out with me tonight?”

He stopped rowing, his cheeks turning red.  “You’re asking me out?”

She wasn’t in the habit of asking men out, but was sure most men didn’t panic when a woman took the initiative.  “Are you seeing someone?  Mary said you were single.”  Perhaps he wasn’t attracted to her?  She blushed, certain she was making a fool of herself.

“Jenna I’m officiating Mary and Tristan’s wedding.  I’m a Catholic priest.”

Her mouth fell open.  The first thing she thought was, what a waste.  The second was I’m going to kill my sister.

“Don’t kill Mary.  You penance is going to be bad enough for lusting after a priest.”  He winked at her and started rowing.

Had she spoken out loud?

  12 comments for “Penance in Pike County

  1. June 8, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    Beautifully written. Amazing story.

    • June 9, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Thank you for reading it!

  2. June 9, 2017 at 4:51 am

    It’s such a bummer that he’s such a looker of a priest! Great description, as always. I could feel her disappointment from here!

    • June 9, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Thank you! I appreciate your feedback!

  3. June 9, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    LOL…great twist! I thought we were taking a turn toward romance, and *swoosh* you threw me out of the car. 🙂

    • June 9, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Lol! Thank you for reading! I’m glad it worked out (for me, not for Jenna)!

  4. June 11, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Poor Jenna for being attracted to unavailable men. Story of my life.
    Great read. Is this your 300 word story submission?

    • June 14, 2017 at 9:31 am

      Thank you! This is 800 words and it was for Writer’s Weekly’s Spring 24-hour short story concert.

  5. June 13, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    As always, economic and engagingly written.

    I had a thing for Tom Selleck when I was younger. It wasn’t so much as Jesse Stone or Magnum as his romantic comedies and TV movies 😍

    • June 14, 2017 at 8:52 am

      I don’t find men with moustaches attractive (my dad had one, so it puts them in a whole asexual, nurturing category), but I make the exception for Tom. I’m even willing to overlook the age difference and admit that, even in his 70s, ,he is a good looking man.

      • June 14, 2017 at 9:38 am

        IKR! Same here. Mustaches make me dunno… Unless it’s with a full beard or something, in which case I don’t really see it as mustache but the whole package. But Tom Selleck? Hubba-Hubba Strapping Stud-Muffin! 😍 I was running around in my little girl frocks when he was already playing leads and I still managed to notice him with girly-awe, lol.

  6. June 14, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Lol! Same here. Did you ever watch the TV show Friends? I never understood how Monica chose Chandler over Richard (Tom).

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