Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chapter 48 – 2nd Degree Hedonist

Nola drove into the gate and pulled all the way forward under the grape arbor. Owen met her at the back gate to the pool, with a towel wrapped around him.  He had said in a phone call to her earlier in the week that since it was July they should have lessons in the pool.  When she made a comment about packing her suit, he had teased that suits were optional, just come straight from work, they could skinny dip.

“Evening Big Man.

And as she walked through the gate he said, “Evening Ma’am. Come here, take your clothes off and swim in my pool.”

“Now how does any woman resist such an invitation?”

“They don’t.”

So she dropped her purse on the chair and pulled the light dress she had on over her head and walked naked to the pool.

“You… You… You drove here with nothing on?!”

“I had a dress on.” And she stepped into the pool until the water lapped her breasts and gasped, “Why is it always colder than I think it should be?” And she turned around to get out of the pool and into the Jacuzzi. Owen dropped the towel and met her on the stairs and slid them both deeper into the pool.

He held on to her and said, “Just when I think that I know you, you surprise me with something else.”

“It’s very important for good teachers to keep their students guessing.” And she smiled thinking he didn’t have to know that she had stopped around the corner to remove her underwear. Driving braless on New Orleans streets would be for her an act of torture and insanity.

He held her buoyant with his left hand, her bottom leaning against his raised right thigh and ran his right hand over her breast because she was cold and her nipples were erect.  “You know it’s 80 something degrees out here.”

“Not in the water. I’ll give you 80 something air temperature but it’s 70 something in the water. Maybe even 60. That afternoon thundershower cooled things off.”


“About the cold? Guilty.”  She leaned into his left hand and relaxed more fully into the water. He rubbed his hand over her other breast and nipple, and she said, “hmmmmm,”

“I heard somewhere that all acts of love and pleasure are acts of worship.”

“I heard that too. Thank you for reminding me.”

“You really are a hedonist.”

“Shhhh, not too loud you’ll ruin my reputation.” And she floated off and moving leisurely through the water on her back. “I’ve been thinking.”

“About what?”

“About taking you to 2nd degree.”

He stood up and walked toward her, “Really?”

“Well, yes, Really.  I know you haven’t been around the wheel yet but there is nothing more I need to know about your capacity that hasn’t already been tested.” And she laughed mischievously.

“Ok what do I have to do?”

“You don’t have to do anything.  I have to do all the work.”

“I like this already. When?”

“Soon… and she stopped floating and stood up, "maybe in July.”

And he slid up to her put his hands around her waist so they were face to face and chest to chest and pulled her to him and gave her a slippery hug as he spun her around in the water.

"Ok," she laughed.  "Glad you're on board with the idea. Now I would like very much to get out of this cold water and into your Jacuzzi."

"Wimp. But I figured as much and it's all heated up for you."

She smiled at him and made her way up the steps and into the Jacuzzi. He had been swimming laps for the past 30 minutes so a soak sounded like a good idea and he followed.

As she settled on the bench seat that allowed the water to come up to her chin she said, "Ah, warmth." And smiled.

"A wimp hedonist."

"You know if pool designers were more strategic in their placement of the jets, we woman might be able to live totally without you men."

"Damn, but you are saucy tonight. And there is no way you could live without me."

"You are a significant commitment of my very limited time, student.  Do you want to go to 2nd or not?"

"Saucy and Sassy."

"Guilty. I'm in a particularly good mood today."


"I need a reason?"

"Well I guess not."

She had closed her eyes to enjoy the Jacuzzi, "Maybe it's because I feel like I've worked out a plan for the rest of your training."

"Really, what?"

"Well I think that I can take you to 2nd in July and then 3rd sometime in November after you've done all the rituals on the wheel and then you're done."

"I'm done?" And Owen got a cold hard feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Bellaria looked at Meana who, confused, looked at Tago, who shook his head and nodded that Settrano had better get in there and change the energy. Nola was being stubborn again.


She had been thinking about this a lot.  His training was going really well and she loved having someone to do the rituals with but she figured one of the ways to stop having him mess with her head and confuse her thinking was to complete his basic training and then ease off on the lessons and let him find a new toy.  And she heard Meana say loudly, "Nola that is cold and wrong headed and you know it!" And she sighed and mentally transmitted back, "This is too hard."  And Meana thought back, "And you are resisting the lessons we know you need." But Nola had blocked her out.


He heard and saw her sigh and asked again, "What does that mean, I'm done?"

"It means that I will have provided you with your basic training. It means that now it will be up to you to work the ways into how you live. It means that you will have more time to live your life." And she didn't add without me because she didn't want to say it. But, damn it, the line they kept walking was making her crazy.


"Damn it Nola open your eyes and talk to me."

She opened her eyes, "I am talking to you."

"You told me when we first met that you had been working with your teacher for 13 years!  Why would I 'be done'?"

"How do you remember that?!"

"13 is a very witchy number; it's not hard. Why would I be done?"

"Well... it took me a long time to get to 3rd degree. I trained via email and rare personal visits. My initiations took place in 3 different states over a decade.  You've had the luxury of one on one teaching practically every week and your progress has been, to say the very least, accelerated."

"So? Why would I be done?"

And she sighed. And Bellaria said to Meana, "No way is she getting out of this one. You had better help her find her heart."

"Don't you have a response to that, woman?"

She didn't. So she said honestly, "No."


"No, I don't have a response to that." And she stood up and got out of the Jacuzzi and dove into the pool.


Owen thought to himself this is ridiculous. I've never seen her behave this way. And he got up and dove into the pool and met her as she was coming up out of the water on the far side.

He took her by the arm and turned her to him and said, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

And Meana pushed her over the edge. 

"You. You are wrong with me. You are a joy as a student. You are great as a friend. You are fabulous as a ritual partner. I try to keep it light and playful with you but we are always so close to the edge. You need to spend your time with someone other than me. You need a real girlfriend, another toy to play with. I am married. I have responsibilities. My daughter and husband need me to provide for them.  The intensity level between us is making me crazy."

And Owen completely relaxed and said, "Finally."

"Finally?  Finally? What the hell does that mean?"

And he thought what does that mean? What he said was, "I think I've been waiting for this." What he realized was that he was glad that she seemed a little frazzled by their relationship.  She had always seemed to manage to keep an emotional distance.

"What?  Waiting…? What are you talking about?"

He put his other arm around her, bent his knees and pulled her with him into the deeper water. She put her hand on his chest to create some distance. "Owen, please. Let me go."

"No. No woman I am not letting you go. I am happy with things exactly as they are."

"You... You..." and she sighed and then said sharply, "Well good for you." And she tried to wiggle out of his arms with no success.

"It's no good."

"That is exactly what I have been trying to say. It's no good. This whole situation is untenable."

"Untenable. Now I never expected that."

"I know I used the word correctly.  We can't defend or maintain this situation."

"Why not?"

"Did you not hear me say that the intensity level between us is making me crazy?"

"Yes." He said


"And what?"

And she sighed and became liquid with exasperation and he loosened his grip and smiled, more than a little pleased with himself. She took the opportunity to get to the stairs on the far side and climb out.

He waited watched her before he pushed across to the other side. She was slipping her dress over her head as he walked up the pool steps. She was headed for the gate when he stepped in front of her.

"Owen I'm embarrassing myself. I think it best for me to leave now."


"This is ridiculous." And she turned her back to him and looked to the heavens. But there was no help for her there.

"See, now there we agree. This is ridiculous." And he wrapped the towel around himself.

"Sit down and tell me what exactly you think is wrong with this situation."

"Owen I don't know where to start."

"Ok, start by telling me why you think I need a ‘real’ girlfriend.”

And she breathed deeply in and out. "Well... I understand that the truth is crazier than the fiction we’ve created.  But I guess that I feel that if you had a girlfriend then.... then... then I wouldn't end up masquerading as your girlfriend and I could just be your friend who happens to be female."

"Hmmm, Is it so bad when people think we are a couple?"

And she didn't answer right away.

"Well, is it?"

"Owen, I'm married. Do you understand that? Married?  I have a husband. People know I'm married. Eventually, and especially in this town, someone who knows someone who knows someone is going to put the pieces together and my husband is going to ask me why so-and-so thinks that I am your girlfriend."

"I see. So it's not that being with me or even having people think we're a couple bothers you. It's that you don't want your husband, to be what? Embarrassed… upset?"

"Well, yes in part.  Look I know what it felt like when he left me emotionally and was seeing and having sex with another woman. I know what it felt like when one or two of our friends knew. It was no fun for me. It was humiliating.  I don't want to hurt him. In point of fact I am having sex with you. Granted ritual sex but never the less it's sex."

"Right. And he knows that you are a 3rd degree priestess and he shook my hand and he knows that I am your student."

And she sat back because she hadn't thought about it quite like that before. And Bellaria smiled. Very good Owen. Back her solidly into that corner.

And she rubbed her temples, "Owen do you remember when I said that you always had to be honest with me?"


"Be honest with me. Don't you think our relationship is a little strange? We are closer than I imagined being with a ritual partner. It's confusing to me. Isn't it confusing to you?"


"No. Just no? Can you please elaborate beyond, just no?"

And he heard Papa Eric say, "Say exactly how you really feel."

"Nola, I am happy, really content and happy for the first time in my life and I have you to thank for that. This path we're walking is good for me. It feels right.  Being with you makes me happy. Having people think we are a couple makes me happy. Working with you on landscaping projects and other business ideas makes me happy. Hugging you and kissing you makes me happy. I don't care that you are married. This relationship is a blessing for me. I'm doing just fine."

And she sighed because she couldn't think of a response.

He continued.  "Here's what I know. You love your husband. You care about your husband. You feel you need to provide for him and your daughter. But I don't think that you've been in love with your husband for a long time and I think that is the problem. I think that is why being with me is making you crazy."

And she couldn’t stop the tears from silently running down her face. What could she say to that? Except...finally... "You're right. That is the problem and it makes me crazy and it makes me sad. Every time I am with you or we pretend to be a couple I want to know why I can't have, haven’t had in a long time, maybe not ever, that same ease and happiness with the man I married." And she wiped her cheek and she stood up and grabbed her purse and walked silently to the gate.

He tried to stop her and she resisted. He put his hand on the gate and there was no way that she could open it with him leaning against it. She turned to go the other way and he physically scooped her up and took her through the kitchen door. She couldn't see for her tears. She was beside herself with hurt, confusion and embarrassment. She had solidly hit the wall and she crumpled against it.  Meana looked at Tago and shook her head. They knew it would be hard.  They had to wait and see just how hard.


He took her into the library, sat her down on the sofa and wrapped her up in a blanket knowing she had next to nothing on and a wet head.  He sat holding her, but she was blank and numb with tears running down her face. Nola was overcome with the exhaustion of holding that truth from herself. She was exhausted by the release of the truth. She was exhausted from pushing Owen away. She had rolled onto to her side and was facing away from him.

Owen wanted to hold her and take care of her but he knew that sitting next to her in just a towel was a bad idea at this point. He said softly, “Nola I’m going to get some clothes on and get you something to drink.”

Nola did what she had always done whenever the world overwhelmed her.  She rolled herself up in the blanket and collapsed into sleep.


Owen went into the downstairs bathroom to pull his clothes back on, all the while thinking very loudly to Papa Eric. Now what?

“I hear you son.”

Well, now what?

“I don’t know, son.”

Meana said, “Tell him not to push her any further. She needs time.

“Don’t push her son. Just be there for her and let her figure out what to do next.”

Owen pulled on his jeans and a Tshirt.  He fixed himself a beer and some San Pellegrino for Nola. He took a deep breath and went back to the library, half expecting her to be gone. What he found surprised him more.  She was curled up in a fetal position on the sofa, wrapped up in the blanket and looked like she was asleep.


He whispered very lightly “Nola?...    Nola?”

And she didn’t move but, looking carefully, he could see that she was breathing.  He sat down in the other corner of the large sectional nearest the French doors and turned on a reading lamp, picked up the Diana at Aricia book and started to read.  And hour, a beer and 2 chapters later she stirred, pushed her hair out of her face and looked at him. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“And she turned her back to him and said almost under her breath. “Damn it, Owen do you have to be so nice?”

“I am naturally charming.”

And he saw her laugh. At least he hoped she was laughing. She turned around to face him again and she was smiling as she got up.  He took that as a good sign, but needed to make sure. “Where are you going?”

“To rinse the salt water out of my hair and to put on the rest of my clothes."


She didn’t take long in the shower and came out with a towel wrapped around her head like a turban.  She sat down next to him and he thought ‘Uh Oh’.

“I’m sorry for crashing like that on you.  I’m kind of like a possum when I get really upset. I shut myself off as a self defense mechanism.”

“Interesting. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone do that before.”

“Well, I usually manage to hold it together until I get home. But you wouldn’t let me go home. So….”

“I see.”

“I also want to thank you.”

“You’re welcome. For what?”

“For being the only one I have that I have been able to be truthful with regarding how I feel about my husband. I’ve been carrying it around all by myself for years and it is feels better to be able to say it out loud to someone else. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Come here woman. You need a hug.”

And she melted into his arms and felt safe. And Meana smiled and said, “Nicely done Owen. Very nicely done.”


He finally said, “I think that this is a teaching movie night.”

She smiled at him. “Ok”.

“Which one?”

“Under the Tuscan Sun. It’s not too challenging. I use it because it's set in Italy and because I think it shows the value of non-traditional family and initiates are non-traditional family.”

“Under the Tuscan Sun it is.”

“Let me get this towel off my head.”

He smiled and went into the kitchen to get another beer and while he was at it refreshed her San Pellegrino water.  He had the movie ready when she returned. And without being asked she snuggled under his arm and Owen smiled 'thank you' to the universe.


And Papa Eric said, “Small steps.” 

And Meana said, “For the both of them.”


The movie ended and Nola moved.  “There is something about that movie that always makes me feel better. I think I like the way the difficulties are worked through rather than worked out.  I know I like the idea of friends as family.” and she got up and held her hand out to Owen. “I have to leave now.”

He looked up at her and wished again that she didn’t have to leave. 

“Don’t look at me like that; it makes it hard to go.”

He smiled, “Then don’t.”

And she managed to laugh “Didn’t you hear what I said before I collapsed on your sofa? I like spending time with you. It is a gift from the Gods as far as I can see. I am glad that I have you in my life. But I need to maintain the boundary between friend and teacher and …. and… well more than that. My family needs me to go home.  I need to go home to maintain my grip on my life. It can’t all blur together.”

“Why not?”

“Why not?” and she thought about that and then answered as honestly as she could, “because I’m not strong enough, because the world I have to live in wouldn’t understand. Because…  because… while it works for you today, it won’t one day. One day you are going to want more for your life, a wife, a family. Whatever you think we have in addition to being ritual partners won’t be enough.  One day you won’t be satisfied with a pretend girlfriend. One day you will want the real thing. So I have to leave.” And she felt her throat constrict as she said it.   Phases in her life always ended. But unlike moon phases they didn’t repeat with any consistency. She had to flow with the passage of time and that would mean that she would end up somewhere else.

And he realized that she was right. Part of him already wanted more. But as he watched her face he realized that she was thinking about something else, “What are you thinking about?”

“Phases… how we all pass through phases in our lives…”

“And you think this is just a phase?”

“I know it is just a phase.  I know from personal experience that things will change. I can’t see exactly how, but Nature assures me that things will grow and change and decay and … change.” And she shook off her melancholy, breathed deeply and said, “Thank you again.  I’ll just make my way out.”

But he got up and took her by the hand and walked her to her truck. He gave her a hug and kissed her because he couldn't help himself.

She just let him because it was easier than struggling and damn it she did like it. “I will see you next week. Night Owen.”

“Night Nola.  Let’s try lessons in the pool next week. Ok?”

She smiled, “Ok.”


As he watched her open the gate and leave his driveway the questions his grandfather had asked him floated back into his head: So what are you going to do about changing the situation?  What next? These thoughts combined with Nola’s pronouncement that one day he would not be satisfied with how his life worked.  What she didn’t realize is that there had always been a part of him that had not been satisfied. Maybe that wasn’t the right word, maybe it was content. He had been satisfied with his life, but he had never felt, and he remembered what he said in the pool, content and happy.  He was content and satisfied and happy. Hadn't his grandfather said that Nola was part of the answer? He didn’t care or need to care what the rest of the world thought. What he wanted was for Nola to be happy.  That was what he wanted next.


And his grandfather smiled to Meana.

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