Owen was soaking in the hot tub. He had worked out in his weight room and then had swum laps for 30 minutes. He was trying to keep himself busy and wear himself out. It wasn’t working. Nola should be here. But she had called on Wednesday to apologize because she would not be at his house this week. She had just found out that Thursday was Jamie’s last performance of the school year. His mind kept jumping from one Nola thought to another. He knew that she was a good mom and that her daughter had to come first. But this felt worse than when she had gone to Houston for a week. It would still be only a total of 10 days. He had just seen her on Monday. But she had come, done the initiation and then left immediately afterward. Damn the woman. Her visit pre-initiation had been short. The initiation ritual had been short and intense and no visit this week. He was missing her even more.
“Why do you think that is son?”
“I don’t know, because I know her better now?”
“Why would that matter?”
“I don’t know, because I have more to miss? Her flirting with me like she did before dinner at Galatoire's. How totally absorbed she is when she is planning or planting a garden. How thoughtfully and honestly she answers questions. How she makes me think and teaches things, like learning how to be still and listen to you. How she is pleased with the smallest things: wine, a fire in the fireplace, moonlight on the pool, trees in pots waiting to be planted, the koi. How she smiles when she dances. How she says thank you with kisses. And the sex. Oh god, I miss the sex.”
“Well that is quite a list son. You could get sex from other women.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Why wouldn’t you want to do that?”
Owen hesitated. “Fair question. Why wouldn’t I want to do that? …. What is it about women that does this to us?”
“Does what son?”
“Makes us… makes us…. Makes us like I am right now?”
“And exactly what are you right now?”
“I don’t know happy, anxious? I feel like I’m on the brink of something new. I don’t know how to describe it.”
“Because I’ve never felt like this before.”
“You don’t say.”
"Why is she so.... so close and yet so distant?"
"She answered that question once before, the same day we talked her into dinner with Jack and Abby."
"Oh. But that was a complicated answer."
"Well son, maybe it is more complicated for her. She is the main provider for her family. They depend on her. She is a mom. She is a wife. She doesn't strike me as someone who takes any of her commitments or responsibilities lightly."
"No, she doesn't.
"Not even the one she's made to teach you."
"You're right. She's is fully committed to that."
"Think about the commitment she made to work with you on the landscaping business. She cares about and now feels she has responsibilities to Joe and Louis and Maurice and your business reputation. You toss her in the truck. You drag her out to a job site with no warning at all. And she immediately understands how important the work could be for your crews and why they would want this as well and she's all in and committed."
"It was pretty damn impressive."
"Now think about the commitment she made to her husband."
"Yeah, Oh. You've never been in love. She has been in love."
"Been in love? Past tense?"
"Maybe Owen. Maybe. I'm not sure she's ready to decide whether she can be in love with her husband, or anyone else, ever again."
"I remember her saying, 'I am only so strong'."
"Right. You have to give her time to figure it out. She doesn't want to see this issue as one she has to deal with. She is a problem solver by nature. You can see that right?"
"Right, that's what she does when she landscapes, that's what she did when she taught me how to listen to you."
"This is a problem she's refusing to see. Give her time to see it. Only then can she solve it."
And Owen got up out of the Jacuzzi wrapped a towel around him and spent the next 20 minutes letting the shower beat on him and then he tried to read himself to sleep. It wasn’t working so he shut off the light and leaned into the pillows and imagined himself in at the trailhead to the ridgeline. He worked his way up the trail and found the flat rock and opened his mind …
He was sitting on the flat rock talking to Papa Eric.
“A friend of mine has something she wants to say about you and Nola.”
And a voice that wasn’t his grandfather’s said, “You are good for Nola. Very good for her. She is good for you. She is serious about her commitment to teach the ways. You have been an exceptional student. We are glad that you were able to find each other. This does not always happen in your short physical lives. There is much that you can teach each other. Right now Nola is resisting the lessons she needs to learn. You are helping her confront her issues and drag them out into the open so she is forced to deal with them. But these lessons will be painful for her. She will try to run from them and from you if you are not gentle with her.”
“What are these lessons?”
“She has to determine where her responsibilities to care for others stops and her responsibility to care for herself starts. She has to learn that her heart can be safe. She has to learn to let another care for her. Do not rush her. She is committed to teaching you for one year. She will not leave you before the year is up unless you change your mind and choose not to walk this path. But in addition to all the lessons you are learning as a stregone, there is one other thing you too must grasp in this lifetime and Nola can help you there as well. You must be still and listen. Listen with your heart.” And it felt like a warm kitten had curled up in his hands and Owen fell deeply asleep.
As Meana sent Owen off to sleep, Bellaria looked at Papa Eric. He said, “The signs are clear. I’ve seen this in his father and uncles and brothers. I’ve experienced it myself. If I were corporeal I would be drawn to Nola like a moth to a flame. You can see he is. He can tell he is. He just hasn’t named it yet. He is an easy going boy. He loves his pleasures. Nola is exactly right to leave him to his own devices. Even though when she does she is running from her heart. Only when he misses her does he begin to realize how much he needs her. And Tago nodded. Patience. He is not the only one who needs time.
Owen woke refreshed. He had plans to complete for new jobs and meetings with the owners next week Monday and Tuesday so he would be busy enough today. He grabbed some coffee and settled into his office to work. He had been at it for about 2 hours when he stretched and looked out of the window and noticed the redbud trees. And thought about hanging and planting the pouches. And the conversation with Papa Eric recrystallized in head. Nola needs to figure out whether she can ever be in love with her husband… or anyone else… ever again! And Tago gave Settrano a very intense 'Pipe Down!' look. And Papa Eric stepped in with "And you need to figure out what being in love really means before you interfere, son."
And Owen thought 7 more days. That woman!
Then he got an idea. He tried calling her at work but she didn't answer and he knew better than to leave her a message. He tried calling her on her cell phone but she had said her cell didn't work all that well in the refinery and that she wasn't good at having it with her or if it was with her it wasn't always charged. He finally decided to send her an eMail saying that he had worked up the plan options for the owners on 2 of their recent landscaping proposals and he'd like her to come and take a look if she had some time. He really wasn't meeting with the owners for 2 weeks. But he had drawn up her suggestions as soon as they'd finished the site assessment and if it got her back sooner maybe this ridiculous feeling of withdrawal like anxiety would go away. Tago nodded to Settrano indicating that was better and Bellaria did her best to provide clear, clean energy so Owen could focus on his work.
He checked his eMail the rest of the day on Friday. Nothing.
He checked his eMail Saturday. Nothing. Until 6PM:
I can swing by either on Sunday morning (earlier is better) or Monday after work. Let me know which works best for your schedule."
And Owen thought "Both." But wrote: "Sunday anytime you want."
At 8PM Nola posted back: "See you 8:30AM tomorrow. I need to be home by Noon to make sure my daughter doesn't sleep all day."
And Owen relaxed more completely than he had in almost a week.
And he heard Papa Eric chuckle.
"That woman is like a drug to you, son. You can only go so long before you need a fix."
Owen had been up since 7AM. He'd done 30 minutes weight work, then showered and was dressed and waiting on the front porch with a cup of coffee when Nola pulled into his driveway. He met her at the truck door and swept her into a hug. "I hate it when I don't get to see you every week."
She laughed. "Owen you really need to find more toys to play with. I can't be the only one. I did see you last week."
"Yes, on Monday and then only for the initiation ritual and then you left."
"Well, I thought it..."
"Yeah, I know you thought it was best. Why is it that you think it best to leave me alone for extended periods of time?"
"Because I can show you the path Owen, but YOU have to walk it."
He shook his head and managed a smile, "Yes, Yoda."
And she smiled at him.
Owen made her a cup of coffee while she looked over the plans.
When he handed her the cup she said, "These are good representations of the options we talked about when I visited the site with you. But the design can only be finalized after we talk to the owners. We need to know what they think they want, other than a no lawnmower yard. Do they have kids? Do they want an outdoor entertainment area? Are they planning a pool?"
He smiled and said. "I'm working on getting that kind of information."
"It's great that you've laid out areas for Maurice's pathways and where we can get the trees and larger bushes in right away. But we need to work with their budget on how they use seeds as in fill or whether they can afford the vision all at once. I don't even know what kind of fruit trees they like."
"Well these are just the first pass." And he was still grinning.
"You know, maybe I should work up a questionnaire for you to give perspective landscape clients and then these preliminary plans would be closer to something they would like without so much rework." And she paused to take a sip of her coffee and said, "Owen what are you grinning about?"
"I have a confession."
And she looked at him and waited.
"I really didn't need you to look at the plans. It is too soon and I'm hoping you can meet with them next weekend to get the answers to your questions. I just didn't want to wait until Thursday to see you."
And she was surprised but managed to joke with him, "We really do need to get you another toy."
"You woman are not a toy. Let's go to breakfast at Elizabeth's."
"But I just got here."
"Yes and there isn't a damn thing you can do with those plans right now and I'm hungry."
And she sighed and smiled and thought for a few seconds before she said. "OK, I really don't have anything else I have to do."
They had returned from breakfast and she insisted that she had to get home to Jamie. Owen gave her a hug before she climbed into the truck and drove off. He wandered back into the house and picked up the plans and organized his thoughts and his paperwork for next week's work. A number of jobs were midway to completion. He had 4 new jobs he was lining up behind them so things were looking good. He decided to go get groceries. He had gone out to breakfast because there was too little in the fridge. It was now early afternoon and he didn't have a think to do. So he was soaking in the hot tub when something Nola said popped in his head. It wasn't the first time that she had referred to herself as his toy and indicated that he needed more toys, things to keep him occupied. Was she teasing or did she really feel like he treated her as a toy?
"Well think about it, son. Don't you just a little bit?"
"No? You decide you want her to come here. You actually trick her into coming here. For what? Because it made you happy. Right?"
"Well, yes... but it's because I like spending time with her. She makes me happy. She's interesting. She's fun to be around."
"Like a toy. You needed something to play with and you thought of Nola. "
"Now that's not fair."
"You know I care about Nola."
"I know you aren't a cad. I know that you have a kind heart. I think you care about Nola when Nola is making you happy. But do you care about Nola as Nola?"
"I know it will come to you if you just open you mind. Think about it."
Think about what? I like her. I’m not the only one. The crew likes her too. They would probably do anything she suggested just because she suggested it. What’s not to like? She’s one of the lowest maintenance women I’ve ever known. It doesn’t seem like she expects much, she works like one of the guys and she is pleased with the smallest things. She’s independent and capable of taking care of herself and providing for her family. Why wouldn’t I want to be around someone like that? She’s not a toy she’s my friend. And he smiled thinking, she is my girl friend in practice and as far as the guys and my family are concerned. His ridge experience from last night came back to him in a hazy memory and he cupped his hands in the shape used to call Meana and thought about a kitten. And then a question formed in his head. What in the world could he possibly teach Nola?
And the phone rang. It was Roger asking if him to come to a crawfish boil. He said sure and spent the rest of the day hanging with guys who were his crew and his friends.