Driven to Distraction.

Pastor Carter was having a good day. He'd sat up until late last night finishing his sermon and it was one of his best, perfect, even though he did say so himself. The Seven Deadly sins and the Seven Virtues, a rousing, thought provoking piece on the frailty of man, yes, he prided himself on having a clear insight into the traps that could be set for the unworldly. Today he was to chair the meeting of a local charity group and today was one of the days that Popuri came to help him in the chapel. As usual he went to offer up prayers to the Goddess. It gave peace to his soul to kneel quietly before her and sometimes, he was sure, he could feel the grace of her spirit answer him deep inside.

Yes, it was a good day and he busied himself re-arranging the assortment of tributes left at the foot of the small goddess icon. The tiered ledge below her niche held small bundles of wild flowers, interesting pebbles and delicately perfumes candles. As he worked steadily at his task he was aware of Popuri moving quietly around the body of the chapel, cleaning and arranging. She sang in a low, melodious voice making the normally silent room bright with her presence. A secret love for the young girl bubbled in his heart and, even tough there was thirty years difference in their age it made no difference. The ancient icon smiled down at him as he dreamed, watching him watching Popuri. He was sure she must know how he felt and every smile she gave him warmed his heart.

Yes, it was a good day. The heat of the summer was alleviated by the thick stone walls and the stained glass windows brought bright bands of coloured sunlight to adorn the normally austere chapel but even they were as nothing compared with the beauty of this young woman. Carter moved over to the tables where the refreshments had been made ready for later in the day. Their paths crossed as she made her way back to the organ to rearrange the sheet music. She had become so precious to him that Carter counted every minute they were alone together. She had every virtue that womanhood could offer, gentle, kind and pious. Her low, husky voice haunted his dreams. "Pastor," Popuri's voice startled him,

"Is there anything else I can fetch for the meeting?" .

" No..yes..er, you could fetch some more plates from the vestry," he stammered, quickly hiding the cake he'd just taken a bite out of behind his back. That was another thing; she was a wonderful cook. Those little lemon sponge cakes were so tasty. The little buns were so light and fluffy, the lemon frosting sharp and sweet and as deep as a tooth. Popuri gave him a dazzling smile as she disappeared through the vestry door. Carter crammed the remains of the bun into his mouth and automatically reached for another ripped of the fluted case and hid the guilty paper in his pocket

Just as Popuri came back into the room the large wooden entrance door burst open and Popuri's brother, Rick came in, obviously looking for his sister.

" Poppy," he called across the aisle, completely ignoring the Pastor." Mum asked me to tell you she needs you home early, we've got visitors."

"When?" Popuri put down the pile of plates she was carrying and past Carter to her brother.

"About three," he answered, pushing his large round glasses back up onto his nose. "O.K.?"

"Sure," she answered him, giving him a quick hug.

"See you later." He kissed her on the cheek and left without even acknowledging the silent Carter.

How could he! Carter fumed inwardly, it was hateful of Rick to break into the small amount of time he shared with Popuri. Rick could see her anytime he wanted and yet he still had to disturb the few hours that were his alone. How envious he was of Rick, to live under the same roof as Popuri, to see her every day, it just wasn't fair.

"I'm so sorry, Pastor," Popuri, said as she joined him by the trestle table, "but family…you know how things are?"

"That's understandable,"he muttered, trying not to sound offended.

"Now, is everything ready for tonight," she whispered to herself, checking the contents of the table. "Where's the lemon buns? I could have sworn I brought a dozen and a half." Popuri looked puzzled as she checked the plates. Quickly Carter diverted her attention.

"No…perhaps they're still in the basket?" and as she bent to look he scooped the three remaining buns into his pocket and hid the empty plate under a plate of sandwiches. In his hurry he knocked a bowl of olives to the floor. Popuri leapt back as oil and pottery shards sprayed across the stone floor.

"Oh, I' so sorry." Carter flustered.

"Don't worry, Popuri assured him. "I'll just fetch a mop and bucket. Carter knew he should offer to go himself but, well, she had it in hand didn't she? So he just waited for her to come back. He could hear her filling the heavy bucket from the garden tap and he continued to watch as she struggled, two handedly, shuffling back into the chapel. Water slopped from the bucket and soaked her skirts, plastering them to her legs. As she knelt down, Carter finally moved to help her, ashamed of his tardiness.

"Careful Popuri!" he warned, bending down to pick up broken pieces of china. As he did so his came level with her chest and to his shock he became aware of the shadowy valley of her cleavage, sprinkled with tiny beads of sweat. She was just inches from his face and as she turned her high, rounded bosom brushed against his cheek. Closing his eyes, Carter took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet, warm scent of her hair. Flashing through his mind he had a sudden vision of himself tearing open her bodice as she kissed him passionately. He could almost feel the heat of her hands pushing aside his clothes and her angelic body welcoming his, here on the cool stones of the chapel floor. God!! The wave of heat that flushed through his body was beyond anything he'd ever felt before and he had to turn quickly away before he betrayed himself. One day she would be his, she had to be his, this was the only way it should be.

The bang as the entrance door opened again snapped him back to the present and they both looked up to see Kai, the gypsy trader, lolling in the church doorway. He said nothing, just leaned there nonchalantly, so cool and confident. Popuri gave a shout of joy and leapt to her feet.

Kai," she called out, running down the aisle to him.

"Popuri, sweetheart," he smiled down at her as she flung herself into his arms. "What are you doing in here on such a great day?"

"I'm helping the pastor," Popuri explained, snuggling in closer to Kai's embrace. She looked back at Carter as Kai continued.

"Come on my little dreamboat, come for a sail with me, I know the best beach where we can be alone. You don't mind do you, Carter, old fella, " Kai went on flippantly. " Young love and all that."

" No," Carter muttered practically inaudibly.

"Thanks," Popuri smiled back sweetly as Kai led her away. "See you tonight." She called out as Kai closed the door behind them.

"ARGHHH!!!" Carter screamed, throwing a plate at the huge oak door. That Kai! How could he, he could kill him. How dare he grease his way in here and just expect Popuri to go with him. Couldn't he see that she just went with him out of sympathy? Every summer it was the same Kai swanned in stole Popuri from him. Carter hated Kai so much, a red mist descended every time his name was mentioned. He dropped the prayer book he'd been tearing to shreds on the chapel floor. Couldn't she see that Kai wasn't to be trusted; he wasn't the right man for her. No, she needed someone greater than that, someone with maturity, someone with intelligence, dependable, someone who could care for her like no other, someone like him. He was the perfect partner for a woman as wonderful as Popuri. If only he had more money he'd show that stupid Kai. Yes, if he had more money he could build her the house she deserved, then she'd love him. The church owed him that much at least. Popuri would then see how perfect he was. He just had to have these things. Crossing over to the statue of the goddess he fell to his knees before her, his mind racing. That was when he felt it, there deep inside his heart and he knew.

"Well, well, Carter, my friend, all seven sins and in under twenty minutes. Now that has to be a record."