Owen woke up early; partly because, despite the fact that he had essentially been outside of time last night, he had gone to bed relatively early and partly because he had not pulled the room darkening curtains closed. He lay in the bed looking at the ceiling and came fully awake as he warmly remembered the night before. And then he closed his eyes and was miserable. He had never wanted a woman to stay with him the way he wanted Nola to stay. The sex had been amazing and he closed his eyes remembering again. The he heard Papa Eric say, “But it’s about more than the sex.”
“Yes” he said out loud. And he thought, I don’t want her to have to leave. I want her right here in my bed. I want to see her wake up and smile at me. I want to make love to her right here."
And Papa Eric, in that enigmatic voice Owen remembered him using when the answer was right in front of his face but he couldn’t see it, said. “I know.”
Owen threw of the covers in frustration and marched to the bathroom and let the shower beat on him. As he came down the stairs he saw the altar was still set up. He sighed and turned into the kitchen thinking, Coffee first. Then I’ll have to pick that up before Latasha sees it and either calls me a crazy white man or runs screaming from the house or both.
He poured the coffee into the cup added a hit of cream and went into the living room. After he packed up the altar trappings he was left with the 2 pouches on their cords.
Bellaria whispered, “Remember the lesson.” He looked at them. 2 pouches. One with soil. One with seeds. They belonged together.
And without thinking he opened both pouches and mixed the seed with the soil in one and the soil to the seeds in the other and retied them.
Papa Eric asked, “What do you want?”
And still looking at the pouches, Owen said out loud, “I don’t want her to have to leave. I want her right here in my bed where I can make love to her. I want to see her wake up and smile at me.” And then he stood up with the pouches in his hand and walked to the mantle and said to Papa Eric, “I don’t want her to have to leave. I want her right here in my bed where I can make love to her. I want to see her wake up and smile at me.” Owen looked down at the pouches thinking. Where can I put these without their being seen and questioned? And then he walked through the kitchen out the back door got a shovel from the garage and walked to the new redbud garden on the side of the house, found the tree closest to each of his bedroom windows and hung one pouch in the branches of one and buried the other pouch in the ground next to the other. And he said one more time to the Universe, “I don’t want her to have to leave. I want her right there in my bed where I can make love to her. I want to see her wake up and smile at me.”
Tago, Bellaria, Settrano and Meana had no doubt the universe would respond to his magic.
It was Thursday morning. Owen was on the back deck of the Lakefront job site with Roger. Things were going well there but Roger could tell that Owen was anxious.
“What’s wrong man? It looks like you are trying to figure something out.” And Owen thought, I am. I’m trying to figure out how, after last week, that woman could just disappear and assume that waiting until this Thursday wasn’t going to make me insane! If Meana hadn’t kept him calm he would have probably done something rash. Settrano had not been allowed near Owen all week, for fear his natural energy and exuberance would tip the balance in the wrong direction. Papa Eric had been allowed only to calm Owen in his sleep by repeating nightly “Every thing will work out.”
And Roger waved his hand back to the house, “Do you see something here I don’t see?” All the while thinking that probably wasn’t it because Owen had had a less severe but very similar look on his face all week.
“No. Everything here is fine.”
“Ok….. then, one of the other job sites bothering you?”
“Jezz Owen, then what the hell is the matter with you?! You are freaking the guys out. They think you’re worried about something, that business is down, that there aren’t anymore jobs, that something’s not right. Hell I’m beginning to think that something is up too.”
And Owen looked at him and laughed, “There is nothing wrong with the business. We picked up 2 new jobs on Tuesday. I’m scoping them out and drawing up the plans now. There’s plenty of work in the pipeline.”
“Then as your friend I ask again, What the hell is wrong with you!” Then he paused and said knowingly. “Oh……, Nola.” And he saw his friend’s shoulders slump and knew that look from personal experience. “Damn man, I’m sorry.”
Owen looked up, “It’s not what you think.”
And Roger said in a knowing definitive voice, “She broke up with you. You’re miserable.”
“No, I’m seeing her again tonight.” And mentally added, I think. Because she hasn’t contacted me and I haven’t contacted her. But she better pull into the driveway tonight no later than 8PM.
“Oh.” Roger was surprised and a little confused because he was pretty sure his friend was hooked. He could always tell when Owen had seen Nola because Owen seemed happier and more content with everything. “You’re not… breaking up with her?”
“OK…..” And he paused before he asked, “Do I want to know?”
“It’s complicated man. But” and he looked up at the sky and said, “things will work out.”
Roger laughed and said, “Women.” and clapped Owen on the back. “Stay strong man.”
And Owen laughed back and lightened up. “OK, I need to get home to finish up those plans. I’m meeting with the new clients tomorrow to review them.” He waved to the work crew as he walked back through the house and said, “Great job guys. Have a good weekend.”
The guys closest to the back deck had been in listening in on the conversation and the other guys were leaning in not quite able to hear and they had just been able to resume work-like positions as Owen had walked through. But even if they hadn’t Owen wouldn’t have noticed.
Roger stayed on the back deck until he heard Owen’s engine start. Then he walked into the kitchen where the guys had assembled. “You heard that right?” From the back Louis said, “Not all of us. Not everything.”
“There’s no problem with work flowing in. Owen’s got woman trouble.”
Joe said, “What he do to get in trouble with Nola?”
Roger said, “I don’t think he did anything to get in trouble. I just think our buddy Owen has it bad and can’t figure out what to do next.”
Maurice chuckled and said, “I told you she was exactly Owen’s type.”
And the guys laughed and the tension broke and they went back to work.
Nola was driving to Owen’s. She had intentionally not contacted him because she felt the intensity of the ritual should wear off a little. But, thinking they might need a little extra time for tonight’s lesson, she had told James that she had to work late and would be going straight to Owen’s from work and not to wait dinner. It was right at 6PM when she pulled into Owen’s driveway.
Owen had been in his office working, then pacing, then working, all day.
Meana was working overtime to keep him calm. He was in his office and didn’t hear the driveway gate. Nola sat in the driveway a minute and breathed deeply before she opened the door, waited a second and then closed her eyes, breathed again, opened them and rang the bell. There was no putting this off. She had to see how he was doing. Owen heard the bell and looked at the clock on the window sill. He shot up and strode to the door and pulled it open and there she was. Now what?
He stood there and she stood there.
Nola finally said, “Should I come in or go?”
And he took her hand as he said, “Get in here woman.” and turned to walk with her back to the kitchen. He started to get wine glasses down and Nola said, “Could I have some San Pellegrino water instead of wine?” Owen shook his head yes and Nola sat on the barstool knowing the energy level was high and tense.
He took a beer from the fridge and poured it into a glass and then got her water ready. He handed her the glass and grabbed the barstool rolled it around to her until her barstool was between him and the counter and sat down. Then he said, “You want to explain to me why you just walked out? and why I haven’t heard a peep from you until you are standing on my doorstep?”
And she answered honestly, “I thought it was best.”
And he nodded and then shook his head in exasperation, “YOU thought it was best.”
And she said quietly, “Yes.”
“Why? Why was it best?”
“I thought it best to let the ritual link between us dissipate a bit before I came back.”
He looked as if that wasn’t a bad answer but that he was still so much less than satisfied.
So she continued with, “Rituals open us up to the universe and sometimes we need time to absorb the lessons the universe gives back to us.”
“So, have you absorbed your lessons?” he said not quite sharply.
And she answered honestly again, “I think… I’m still processing them, actually.”
That wasn’t what he was expecting to hear so he said, “Really?” and she felt the energy level in the room lighten just a bit. And she said calmly and truthfully, “Yes, really.”
What he said was, “Good. Keep processing them.” And then he kissed her.
And Nola felt the link and didn’t think it had dissipated at all. And while part of her enjoyed the kiss another part of her was thinking, Oh my, what do I do now?
When they stopped kissing Nola put her hand on his chest and tried to get up off of the barstool. As she did Owen pulled her closer and said, “No.” and kissed her again before he said, “you aren’t getting up until you tell me where you’re going.”
She sighed and said, “I thought that it might be better if we moved to the library.”
At that he relaxed a little and said, “Ok.” And they made their way to the library. Nola first. Owen following. Nola walked to the French doors and Owen sat on the sofa. Now that she was here Owen’s intensity was dissipating. Tago was worried that Nola’s anxiety was increasing proportionally. He nodded to Bellaria. Then Nola said as she looked out the window to the garden, “I brought the seeds we blessed last week. I’ve planted some in my garden. I’d like to plant the rest here at your house. Is that OK?”
And Owen acknowledged that he might have been just a bit too short with her so he got up and walked to her and said calmly, “I’d like that.” She smiled at him and they walked back to the kitchen to get the seeds from her purse and then out the back door. Owen watched as Nola untied each of the 4 bags. Handing him 3 and taking the other she walked to the large open empty side garden and spread the first batch of seeds right on top of the mulch. Then she switched bags and spread some more in front of those and switched bags again working her way to the front edge and switched on last time. Owen looked at the labels and read them but really didn’t know what the flowers would look like, except for the Black Eyed Susans. She was brushing her hands off and walking to the front yard.
“What? That’s it? The seeds are planted?”
She smiled at him and said, “Well, sown really, not planted. But yes, that’s it. All the hard work was done weeks ago.” She grabbed the bag of Yellow Cosmos seeds and sprinkled them on the right side of the driveway and then handed him that bag and took the bag of Black Eyed Susan seeds and sprinkled closer to the edge on the right side of the driveway. She switched bags with him again this time taking the Chinese Forget me not bag and sprinkling those seeds in the garden nearest the doorway and in front of each of the citrus trees on both sides of the walkway. They had reached the area where the fountain would be and she asked, “When does the fountain go in?”
“Next week. The parts to make it drip down the wall and the pumps for the basins are supposed to be delivered tomorrow.” She smiled at him and grabbed the bag of Black Eyed Susans and moved into the garden and sprinkled those seeds between the house and the pathway. They were back at the driveway and she switched bags with him again this time taking the Zinna bag and she sprinkled those down into the garden closest to the street as she walked back toward the fountain. She switched back to the Cosmos and put some between each Satsuma tree and the gardenias and they were back at the driveway and she was brushing off her hands.
“That’s it? You just planted a flower garden and that’s it?”
She smiled and said, “That’s it. Nature will have to take care of the rest. And I think that Nature has every reason to be on our side” and she leaned into him gave him a sweet simple kiss on the cheek as she took the bags from his hands and, “Don’t you?”
“Hmmmm,” He said thoughtfully, “I guess so.”
She walked toward the front door with the bags in her arms and he opened it and they walked back to the kitchen. Nola tied up what seeds were left in the bags and grabbed her water and said, “Back to the library?”
Owen nodded and waved his hand for her to go first. This time she sat on the sofa and Owen sat next to her. As he did she put her water glass down on the long narrow table he had behind the sofa and leaned into him, “Owen I’m sorry.” And his arm went around her and he put his glass down so he could use both arms.
Well that was unexpected. “You’re sorry? For what exactly?”
“For rushing you. Perhaps we weren’t ready to take such a big step.”
And Owen thought, Wrong. But said, “Oh no, we were ready.”
“Yes but I felt the energy level when I first got here. I know it was an intense experience for me and I’m pretty sure that it was an intense experience for you.”
“I’d say that’s fair.”
“So, I’m sorry, if it was unsettling.”
And he thought, unsettling. Maybe, it was but... “Nola, do you think we did anything wrong?”
She thought about that. She had actually thought about that a lot. And she answered truthfully as she relaxed into his arms “No. I don’t.”
“Then don’t apologize. We did exactly what we’ve been studying to do. And I’d say we did it pretty well.” And at that they both laughed.
And Tago nodded that Settrano could return.
They sat quietly on the sofa, Owen content to hold her and Nola realizing that she was more relaxed than she’d been all week. Then she wondered. “Owen when you cleaned up the altar, what did you do with the pouches?”
Bellaria brushed his mind, “Just the facts.”
“I hung one on a one of the new redbud trees in the side garden and buried the other under another redbud.”
And still leaning contently against him she said, “Hmmmm, Perfect.”
And Owen smiled. And so did Papa Eric.
“I’m hungry. Did you eat yet?”
“No, to be honest I was too nervous about coming here tonight to think about eating.”
“Let’s go out to eat.”
She looked at him and couldn’t think of a good reason to say no. So she said, “OK.”
Owen decided he wanted to go to Luizza’s. It was a good, low key choice for dinner so Nola just smiled and nodded. He grabbed his keys assuming he would drive and started to lock up. Nola said, “Should I drive, since I have to move my truck anyway, or wouId it be better if we go in separate vehicles and then I can head home after dinner?” Owen stopped in his tracks took her keys out of her hand and said, “No, woman. We’re going together in my truck. I’m taking you to dinner and then I’m bringing you home here. And he kissed her firmly. And Nola said, “Well, Oh…Ok.”
Roger, who had just been seated himself, spotted Owen as he walked with Nola into Luizza’s. He had to agree with Maurice. Roger smiled and waved to him assuming that this meant Owen had worked things out. His long time girlfriend Debi was turning in her chair to see who Roger was waving to asked “Who’s that?” and Roger replied, “Owen and it looks like he’s worked things out with Nola. Owen saw Roger as he said “yes, 2” to the waitress’ question. She looked around and waved them to 2 seats against the window near the entrance to the bar. Another couple had just left and another waitress was clearing the table. Owen said, “Thanks we’ll be right there we just need to say hello to that friend of mine over there.” The waitress just smiled. New Orleans was such a small big city and everyone practically new everyone else. Owen put his hand in the small of Nola’s back and leaned into whisper in her ear. “Come on, let me introduce you to Roger, my friend and business partner.” Nola nodded.
“Hey Roger, Debi.”
“Hey man, This must be Nola.” And put out his hand to her. Nola smiled shook his hand and said, “Hi, glad to meet you.”
Roger said, “Debi, this is Owen’s new landscape specialist.” and he winked at Owen. Nola nodded “Hi, Debi.”
Debi said, “Landscape specialist?”
Nola said, “Well, it’s really just a hobby.”
Roger said to Debi, “Hobby, hah! Not to hear the guys talk. She knows what she’s doing and she’s all business. When’s the next job?”
Owen said, “Well actually next weekend. The trees for the pool should be delivered and I was hoping that some of the guys would like to work some overtime.”
“Yeah, sure.” and Owen smiled at Nola, who just smiled back, going with the flow.
“I know a few who’ll want to be there. I might come myself.”
“Ok man, enjoy your dinner.”
Roger just smiled and nodded as they walked away.
Owen pulled out Nola’s chair, which disoriented her a little because no one had pulled out her chair in years. Then he sat down smiling. The waitress handed them menus. And Owen quickly decided on a large serving of Lasagna and a cold beer. Nola settled on a small fried oyster plate and unsweet ice tea. Nola had her back to Roger and Owen could barely see his friend’s head around the other customers. As the waitress brought their drinks, Nola said, “Landscape specialist.”
“Yeah, Roger’s heard about you from the guys who worked on the garden.” Nola nodded… “and the wink?”
“You saw that huh?
She nodded again.
“Well, Roger thinks…. Roger thinks that.. you’re my landscape specialist… girlfriend.”
And Nola just closed her eyes and shook her head and wondered what the hell she was thought she was doing in a town where everyone was essentially one degree of separation from everyone else.
Owen looked at her and smiled, “I told him it wasn’t what he thought and when you think about it at least landscape specialist girl friend” and he carefully separated the words girl and friend, “is better than some of the other options. All things considered.” And he winked at her.
And she laughed at him and at the situation, thinking that explaining what was really going on would be next to impossible. Then she said, “Ok. Landscape specialist it is.” And held up her glass and they toasted her new moniker.
They were in the driveway and Nola was trying to get into her truck and Owen was trying to talk her into coming back inside. They had ended up going out for drinks after dinner with Roger and Debi. She had discovered that Owen could dance. And that there was no question that Roger thought she was Owen’s girlfriend. When she tried to explain that they had only known each other for a few months all Roger had said was, “Sorry babe. I know my friend.” as he swept Debi to the dance floor. And even with this misunderstanding floating in the air, she had to admit that she’d had really good time.
He was holding her and she leaned in and kissed him gently to avoid being taken for a more robust kiss and said, “Thank you for dinner. And thank you so much for dancing. I haven’t danced in forever. But it’s late I have to go to work tomorrow. I will see you next week.” And Owen hugged her and, knowing there was nothing he could do to change her mind, kissed her again and let her get in the truck.
One week. One whole miserable week. Then he remembered the pool landscaping and realized that next week he would get her back her on Thursday and again on Saturday to work the pool landscaping. One week.