“Strange? Like what?” Amanda looked at Bella as she sipped on her coffee in the church lobby.
“Like… they… aren’t like other people. Like… maybe… they’re not from here.”
“Well, Pastor Toby and Jude have been here longer than I have so I can’t speak on where they might be from. But I do agree that they aren’t like other people.”
“They’re nicer. They’re good all the time. Everyone else I know have times when they’re selfish or maybe do something that hurts someone else. But Toby and Jude never do. They are always supportive, loving, and kind no matter what I say or what I do.”
“Sounds too good to be true,” muttered Bella.
“You would think so, but in the ten years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen them be anything but good.”
“Haven’t you wondered about their background? Where they came from?”
“Sure, sometimes, when I first joined this church. I asked a few people and got a few crazy answers, but mostly I was told they had always been here. And after talking with them, I came to believe that also.”
“What were some of the crazy answers you got?”
Amanda looked curiously at Bella. “Why do you ask?”
Bella thought about pretending it wasn’t so important, that she was just curious. But she decided to be upfront.
“They just seem out of this world. Like they’re not only not from here, but they aren’t from anywhere near here. Like they are from a whole other world.”
“Ah, yes. They do say things sometimes that is so opposite to what we hear all around us. And their values are very different. I can see how you might think that And maybe you’re right. Maybe they are from another world. But they’re here now, and that’s all that matters to me.”
“So, you’re saying they might be aliens?”
“Maybe, but they don’t have any accents or anything that would suggest which country.”
“No,” Bella said slowly. “Not another country. Another world. Another planet.”
Amanda stared at her and then burst out laughing. “Who put you up to this? Was it Robert? Robert is always kidding me about my love for sci fi.” She looked around, still laughing. “Robert! Where are you?”
Bella, feeling foolish and not wanting to involve anyone else in this, forced a laugh and said, “Um, no. I don’t even know Robert. It’s just me and my stupid sense of humor. Sorry.”
“Oh, no problem. I needed a good laugh.” Amanda stood up. “It was a pleasure meeting you. Let me know if you have any other… questions.” Still laughing, Amanda waved and headed to the kitchen.
Bella got up and thought about finding someone else to talk to when she heard a burst of laughter come from the kitchen. Amanda! She must have told everyone about their conversation. Humiliated, Bella looked around for the nearest exit door, then quickly joined the people who were headed that way.
“Hey, watch where you’re going!” growled a voice. She looked up just in time to avoid bumping into a man who was carrying a toddler.
“Sorry,” she said. She veered away from him and ran into a lady who was handing out bulletins. The bulletins went flying, causing the lady to yell out.
“Sorry,” Bella said again, embarrassed. As she bent over to help gather them back up, she heard a loud grunt as someone tripped over her and landed with a crash.
“What are you doing?” cried the lady with the bulletins. “Stand up. You’re in the way.”
“I was trying to help you pick up the papers.”
“I don’t need your help.” She frowned and pointed to the door. “I can handle this. You just go ahead and leave.”
As Bella, eyes filling with tears, hurried through the door, she heard a voice behind her. “Aw, don’t be so rough on her. She didn’t mean to trip me. It was my own fault for not watching where I was going.”
Bella slowed a bit and chanced a glance behind her. A man was speaking to the bulletin lady as he got back on his feet, but his eyes were on Bella.
“Wait up,” he called when they made eye contact.
She waited for him on the other side of the door. “Are you OK?,” she began as soon as he caught up. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to trip you.”
“I’m fine. I’m more worried about you. I didn’t want you to leave upset.” he said, taking her arm and directing her to the side of the large number of people streaming through the doors.
“Thanks, but I’m fine. Have a great day.” Relieved that he hadn’t gotten hurt, Amanda tried to leave. She felt humiliated and confused, and needed time to think which she always did best when alone. But the guy holding her arm wasn’t letting go.