A blue morning dawned as Wren’s new reality loomed on the horizon. Outside the haze of cough syrup and pseudoephedrine, the fifty-kilometre span of flaxen grass fields somehow lost all romance. On the other side of her two-hour drive, the small township of Brite waited, unassuming as a speck of dust on the edge of the world. And yet as the sun rose warming her surroundings with its golden touch, the white steeple of the old church caught the light. It was the same light that now danced across Wren’s hands as she loosened her grip on the steering wheel and peered up at the quaint house of worship.
It wasn’t nearly as intimidating as its title. Though Wren couldn’t help but sense it staring back at her, trying to be imposing from its grand hilltop.
Wren crawled the car up Main Street – the only street really – and was surprised to see the townspeople about so early on a Saturday morning. Without fail, each of them peered through the windshield at her as though she were an exotic animal in captivity. She subtly urged the accelerator before turning up the dirt road leading to Harenburg Hill.
Her eyes felt the weight of her lingering cold combined with the four a.m. wake up. Donning her black sunglasses and the three-inch heels she’d left strewn on the passenger seat, Wren stumbled out of the car, determined to look every part the short-awaited Reverend Wren Finley. All she lacked was a dog-collar.
‘Good morning,’ a pristine lady beckoned from the sage double-doors. Anyone would think it was Sunday with her mother-of-the-bride navy suit, opaque pantyhose, and kitten heels. At six a.m. in the morning, no less. Not to mention her perfectly coiffed perm.
Wren swiftly ran her fingers through her own strawberry-blonde waves, hoping none of them would snag a knot. Then she reached out her hand. ‘Morning! I’m—’
‘Oh, I know exactly who you are,’ the lady replied, taking both of Wren’s hands into her own and nursing them fondly. ‘You must be Mrs Finley. I’m Mrs Margery Jones, the secretary here at Harenburg Hill.’ Margery peered over Wren’s shoulder. ‘And, pray tell, where is the reverend?’
Pray tell? Wren swallowed the lump rising in her throat and opened her mouth to remedy the situation.
‘Or did you come up early?’ Margery went on. ‘Perhaps to tend to the Manse? Add a few homely touches before your husband arrives?’
Once more, Wren opened her mouth to speak but found herself curiously distracted by the odd way in which Margery Jones fondled her left hand. She watched Margery’s expression of fondness melt as she found Wren’s ring finger ashamedly empty.
‘There must have been a miscommunication,’ Wren said at last. ‘I’m Reverend Finley. But please, just call me Wren. Or Pastor Wren, if you prefer. Doesn’t sound quite as formal, does it?’
Margery Jones dropped her hands at once. She stood cold and stiff, her mouth flattening into a cool line of steel. Her eyes seemed the only part of her that remained alive, burning with what Wren could only translate as contempt.
‘You must be tired,’ she said solemnly, not forgetting her country manners. ‘The Manse is a little way down the lane. No doubt the elders will summon you momentarily.’
The Battle for Harenburg Hill by Elizabeth Calder
Wren Finley would have been perfect... had she been a man. Through miscommunication and mistaken identity, Wren assumes the pastoral role at Harenburg Hill only to discover she's not what the rural township of Brite ordered. Now she must fight not only for her place but for her safety and that of the congregation. Wren calls on the only two men she can trust - Jesus, and the one she left behind with a broken heart.
Elizabeth is the founder of Daughters of Love & Light. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and young son and she is currently studying a Master of Divinity. She's an avid tea drinker, Jane Austen reader, and novice historian. Her upcoming novel The Watson Women will be released 20 August 2021. She also blogs about her historical adventures at www.reformationfascination.wordpress.com