Lupercus was fast approaching. Settrano and Meana were both very interested to see what would happen with Nola and Owen. Lupercus would have the energies that should allow them to release from the normal bonds of society. And Settrano was convinced that there was a large potential for growth here. Meana wanted Nola to be able to have fun with someone who would be there for her and protect her. Lupercus would take place a weekend before Mardi Gras. What was needed was some creativity in the execution of the ritual. So they enlisted Bellaria.
Nola had spent most of the evening working through questions Owen had tagged in the Manuals while she was away in Houston. Owen was jazzed with the new information. Nola was worn out from answering his questions in a way that was specific to him as student and his development. He had the fire going and she was staring into it because she loved a fire and was appreciating it because she knew, that even though it was only January, soon it would be too warm to light the fireplace. Owen watched as she stared. "What are you thinking about?"
"Oh nothing really, just resting between questions and appreciating the fire."
He looked at his watch and realized he had been questioning her for 3 hours. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea it was this late."
"Oh no, never be sorry. You can't learn if you don't ask. I always learn when I teach. The best way to determine a student's development is from their questions."
"Well, it seems you are going to get a break. That was the last marker I had in the manual."
She smiled at him. "So we can quit before midnight?! I won't know what to do with myself."
"Oh no. As you say, I am spoiled. I'm not letting you go until after 1AM."
She smiled at him and then asked. "How do you do it? Don't you have to be up early to check on your job sites?"
"Oh sure. But I'm the boss so sometimes I check up on them in the evenings. It keeps them on their toes. Plus it is always good to get a look at the job sites later on a Thursday and Friday. It helps me plan better for the next week."
"Are you adjusting schedules for the parades?"
"No, not really. Most of our work is outside of where the parade action is so we don't have to and the guys would rather work. Of course, I am giving them off the Monday and Wednesday bracketing Mardi Gras."
"You know I've been thinking about Lupercus and the fact that it is the weekend before Mardi Gras." She watched as he took a sip of his wine saw that he was waiting for her to continue. "I've always loved the fact that Lupercus and Mardi Gras have similar energies. There is a sense of wildness and fun and community in both."
"Community in Lupercus?"
"Oh yes. Howling is much more fun in a group. Have you ever seen wolves howl and listened to the rhythms they make?"
"No, not really."
"Well I've only heard wolves on radio and TV programs and CDs, but I've heard coyotes howl while hiking in the high mountains in Montana and it is fabulous. I love listening to the drumbeats from the marching groups. I think that New Orleans drumming is wonderful and fascinating. Sometimes I'd rather watch the bands gather and practice and warm up before the parade starts than watch the parade itself with all the yelling for stuff. Each band has a slightly different sound. And sometimes they will do a call and response that feels a lot like those coyotes howling." And she took a sip of wine and sat remembering. Then something just came to her. "Owen, I have an idea." And Bellaria smiled. "What if we were to do the Lupercus ritual and then go out into the Quarter and howl?"
"Howl? in the French Quarter? Really?"
"Well, I've never done it before. But Endymion is the 2nd and my family does not like this parade. Jamie will want to go to Muses and be exhausted by the evening. I was planning on getting James to take her or drop her at her friend's who has a house along the parade route. This way I'll be fresh when we do the Lupercus Ritual. I'm assuming you want to do the Lupercus ritual."
"Oh Yeah, you bet."
"Well how do you feel about doing the ritual and then heading out to the Quarter right afterward?"
He smiled and said, "I love the idea." and Settrano and Meana smiled thankfully at Bellaria.
She smiled. "It has been a long time since I've been off of the more sedate St. Charles Avenue route. What have you done for Mardi Gras in the past?"
"Well, I guess not so much. I've been to a few parades on St. Charles Avenue since Katrina. When I was here during my college days of course I spent time in the Quarter. Roger has been talking about Endymion returning to MidCity this year. He says there will be a big party at some friends of his along Orleans Avenue."
"Oh, yes, Endymion back on its MidCity route for the first time since Katrina is a big deal, a recovery moment. Were you planning on going?"
"I hadn't really decided. I actually put him off because it was Lupercus and I assumed we'd be doing ritual."
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather hang with your friends?"
"Yes, woman I am sure I would much rather do a primal ritual and howl with you in the Quarter than be with Roger on Orleans Avenue."
"Yes, Really. It's a plan. What time do we start?"
"Well how about if we start the ritual around 9PM and then head to the Quarter afterward. The parade won't get Canal Street until late and the Quarter will be wild all night. We should drop off one of our vehicles in the parking lot along the riverfront early in the day. I can I meet you around Noon on Saturday"
"I don't understand, the parade isn't until later."
"Mardi Gras is all about planning to party. How will you get there, where will you park, where will you watch the parade, where will you pee, how will you get home? I think it will be too crazy to get a cab back from the Quarter. So if we drop a vehicle in the Quarter we'll have a way out when we are ready to leave. I'm hoping that we'll be able to get a cab to the Quarter if we arrange for pickup earlier."
"Oh I get it, logistics. I have just the thing." And he smiled broadly as he said, "My scooter."
"You have a scooter?!"
"Yep I got it for when I have company. This way they can get around easily and I don't have to chauffeur them."
"Men and their toys. I love it! Perfect." She beamed. This was actually going to be fun.
He smiled back at her. She was like a kid at Christmas. "I would think that this would all be old hat for you."
"Well it is and it isn't. I've been a mom for awhile and that changes how you handle Mardi Gras. And James isn't much for parades not on St. Charles Avenue. We haven't been to the Quarter together since the late 80s. Wow! I'm old."
"No. We are going to be primal and timeless. This is going to be fun."
"As it should on Lupercus. As is should." And she held out her glass to him and he smiled and they toasted to Lupercus.
They had finished the bottle of wine. Owen was sitting contentedly stretched out in front of the fire. She leaned over to him and said, "It's after 1AM."
"Oh, no do you have to go?"
She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, "Owen you can be so pitiful. I will be back in less than a week. Don't get up I can find my way out."
"Oh no. I will walk you out like a proper gentleman."
And she shook her head at him, "You are too much."
He stood up and held out his hand to help her off of the pillows, and said "No, I think I am exactly what I need to be." Meana nodded in agreement. Owen wondered where that came from and Nola just smiled at his confidence and charm and hooked her arm in his and let him walk her to the door.
Before she got in her truck she kissed him once on each cheek and said, "Thank you kind sir. See you Saturday." and left him beaming in the driveway.