Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chapter 52 – Cornucopia


Nola had realized that the cornucopia she had always used for ritual had been destroyed by the flood waters that broke through the levees.  It was strange how after 3 years she could still reach for things that were no longer there.  It was also strange how sadness from after affects of Katrina could still wash over her.  In so many ways she was so very lucky. Her turn of the century home survived, probably in part because had been built with techniques that were now being touted as hurricane resistant by experts in universities from Florida to LSU Baton Rouge. But in so many ways her world had changed.  Family, that had been close and easy to visit and stay in touch with, were now all living across the lake. Whole sections the city where she had lived her life were simply not there any more, only skeletons remained. She acknowledged she was far from the only one affected and she was so much better off than many. 

 

Cornucopia was about considering what was good in her life.   There were many things that were good in her life.  The revitalization of the neighborhood where she lived was good. The friends she had made as a result of forming the neighborhood organization were good. The fact that the neighborhood felt more like an old New Orleans neighborhood since Katrina than it had before when they had all been so safe and locked up in their air conditioning and focused on finding the all American good life and ignoring the issues right in front of them.  She smiled and laughed out loud.  It was amazing how living with so little after Katrina had made so many so grateful for the blessings they still had. And even more likely to speak up if they thought that what they had left was threatened.  Yes, she was grateful for the lessons and the blessings that Katrina had left in her wake.  These things were good. These things were full. 

 

Her job had changed since Katrina as well.  She had escaped from underneath bad management and supervision and felt happy in her work and useful again.  She smiled as she thought about the landscaping she did with Owen. This too was good and aligned with the ways.  And then she thought about how grateful she was to have been taken to 3rd and how grateful she was to have Owen as a student… and friend. Owen was good and full and right, except that Owen made for too easy a contrast with what was bad and empty in her life and that was not good.  And she sighed, wondering if she was misconstruing the intent of Cornucopia but the exercise wasn’t just about determining what was good and full and bad and empty. It was also about figuring out why things were good or bad and, even if not stated, what you should do about it.  And she had no idea what to do about Owen. He was good; why should she weed him out? But he was taking over her life like mint in a garden.  She had to think about something else.

 

There was so much good in her life because of her daughter and there was much good left in what was left in her relationship with her daughter’s father, and this made it hard to impossible to think about eliminating this aspect of family from her life. Death had taken her father from her.  James was Jamie’s father.  They belonged to each other and she couldn’t think about taking James out of her daughter’s life.

 

James was trying, really wanting to go back to where their relationship had once been.  But she couldn’t seem to get there. She had been so much more hurt by his verbal assaults, disdain and cold emotional shoulder than she could ever be hurt by his minor infidelity. And what had made it so much worse was that for too long, years, after this schism he had behaved as if she didn’t have a right to be hurt, didn’t have a right to worry or wonder when it would happen again. It had seemed that as far as James was concerned it was her job to just get over it and forget.  Why didn’t she just let it go? She shook her head wondering how it was possible for such an intelligent man not to appreciate that she had been twice significantly burned by essentially the same set of actions. Then there were the smaller experiences following the same arc of events. Why shouldn’t she be cautious? Why wasn’t it logical for her to wonder when it would happen again or what new thing he was going to discover he didn’t like about her only to later determine that, oh well he didn’t feel that way any more.  She had been forced to learn how to protect herself from this pattern and as a result she seemed to have become numb to her feelings about James.  She did love him. She wanted the best for him. She supported him in his artistic endeavors with freedom to do what he wanted whenever he wanted or had the opportunity to do it.  She didn’t want to hurt him or punish him in anyway. But the numbness that had developed out of necessity seemed to prevent her from being in love with him. 

 

There were times when she had wondered if the reason James had stayed with her was because she put the roof over their heads, paid the bills, was the drive to keep the house clean, put so much of her energy into creating the world that made her family happy. All this appeared to be expected, assumed, taken for granted, which made it easier to wonder if she was ever seen or appreciated for who she felt she really was.  Did he stay because he liked being a dad and didn’t want to leave his daughter?  Did James stay simply because it was easier than the work he’d have to do if he were on his own? Did he stay because he loved her?  Or because inertia was such a huge force in his life? Some combination? She really wasn’t sure.

 

The real problem was that she didn’t trust her husband with her heart.  She couldn’t trust him to remember to take out the garbage or drop something at the post office. She had learned to wait weeks and months and sometimes even years for simple honey-do items.  She had always been able of taken care of herself and had gotten to a point where she rarely bothered to ask for help, because it would made her crazy when she risked asking and then her request was forgotten and she ended up doing it herself. Or worse, made James feel like he “wasn’t good enough” when he didn’t complete the task, whether she said something about it or not.  She had waited for James to be a real partner for years.  And what he had done instead too often was say it was her fault that he was unhappy and that it would be better for them to be apart or for him to be with someone else.  Maybe James had been right all along.  Maybe it would be better… … …

 

But there was Jamie and the fact that James had been a good father. He was a big kid himself but had been responsible and loving when caring for his daughter when she was small.  There were times she wished they could go back to those days, especially now when James and Jamie butted heads.  There were times when James wasn’t sure how to handle his very practical, observant, forthright and almost teenage daughter.  Jamie could see clearly how often her father coasted through his responsibilities and did exactly what he wanted.  And she didn’t like it one bit when he expected his daughter to practice things that she knew he was only preaching.  Nola shook her head again but managed to smile.  Sometimes it was like being in a house with 2 kids.  She could no longer count the number of times that she had told Jamie, “I’m responsible for raising you.  I did not raise your father, I only married him.” And because she had always kept her promises and because her daughter knew she could count on her mom for anything, Jamie would always smile and concede and take care of business. Jamie was good and full. 

 

She looked down at the new cornucopia she had picked up at Michael’s craft store. It was just big enough to fit a small squash, an apple, or maybe a pomegranate and some flowers. It would be fine as a symbol on the altar and it wouldn’t take up too much room.  She had also collected the additional supplies she had to replenish the Harry Potter box.  It seemed appropriate to do this on a harvest festival.  She sighed and decided to take Jamie with her to the grocery to get her some box sushi for lunch and pick up the things needed to fill the cornucopia. 

 

She had done her Cornucopia thinking.  She needed to finish up around the house and wanted to be gone before James came home from work.  This meant that she would be leaving home more than an hour before she had to be at Owen’s.  But it was more important for her thought processes to stay true to what she really felt than to have to put on the façade she so easily slipped on when James came home from work. 

 

Meana and Bellaria had made sure that Papa Eric watched with them as Nola went through the Cornucopia process of assessment. 

“How is it possible for her to carry all of that and still be so appreciative and grateful for the smallest things? When she is with Owen she is so much more carefree and happy.”

Bellaria answered him, “Owen is carefree and joyful soul. But Owen is also thoughtful and he communicates his thoughtfulness into words and actions. Owen remembers and keeps his promises.”

Meana added, “This is what allows Nola to feel safe. But she still holds Owen him at a distance. She does not trust him with her heart.”

Papa Eric said, “After almost 2 decades of what she just showed us, I understand why.”

Meana cautioned, “Do not judge James too harshly. He is has a good heart and intentions.  There is much potential in his soul and this is what Nola saw when she fell in love with him. He will need another lifetime to understand fully what it means to be a real partner, body, soul, mind, heart.  Nola, by her actions, has shown him everything she can in this lifetime.”

“Yes, but she deserves the same in return. James has not given it to her. My grandson wants to and can.”

“Yes, but she will have to trust him and she will have to want to go to him enough that she severs her ties and responsibilities to James.  In a previous lifetime, she choose to walk away from his cruelty and in doing this she died and so did her new born daughter. She is stronger this time.”

“She really has done this more than once with the same soul?”

“Yes.”

“Why?!”

“To allow her to finish the cycle, to allow her to grow stronger, to allow her to truly release her connection and commitment to the soul that is James.”

“Owen wants her this lifetime and has said he wants her in the next lifetime. Is that possible?”

“Yes. But they must learn how to connect their souls. They are close to this because of their ritual experiences. They must learn to each give themselves fully to the other. Owen is ready. Nola wants to believe it is possible but is frightened. He will have to be strong enough to help her cross from where she is to where she can be. If she chooses Owen, then they must create a pattern here on the earth and in the astral that will allow a pathway for them to reconnect in the next life.”

“What can we do to help?”

“We can only watch and gently guide.  They have to choose.”

 

Nola arrived at Owen’s at exactly 9PM.  He was waiting for her in the driveway. 

“Evening Nola.”

“Evening Big Man.” And she grabbed the cornucopia and 2 bags from the back of her truck.

“What is all that?”

“Replenishment supplies for the Harry Potter box, a cornucopia and some harvest bounty.”

“Let me help you.”

“Thanks that’s ok. I’m good. It’s not that heavy.”

Since she wouldn’t let him help he went ahead and opened the door for her.

“Thank you!”

He shook his head as she went in front of him. It was almost as if she rarely experienced this in her life and he couldn’t imagine how that was possible.

Papa Eric had been given a glimpse of Nola’s life and was able to whisper to his grandson, “Owen, most of the time she is taking care of everything alone. She’s learned not to need people.”

Nola was talking so he didn’t get a chance to do anything other than tuck that away. She still had the bags on her shoulder, “Do you mind if I take this stuff up and refresh the Harry Potter Box and set the cornucopia on the altar?”

“Ok, the altar is upstairs where it belongs.”

She nodded and thought; really the bedroom is where your altar belongs? And you say I’m strange.

 

He let her lead the way up the stairs.  She put the bags down in front of the box and looked over at the altar. And he watched as she smiled at the fact that the altar was already set and she began to replenish the supplies in the box: incense, votives, tapers and a new bottle of Everclear.  She took the cornucopia out of the bag and knelt down to set it and then filled it with a small Arkansas Black apple and a small squash, a small ear of Indian corn and tucked some chrysanthemum flowers to fill in the gaps.  When she was finished she asked, “What do you think?”

He said “Perfect.” 

 

She left a small spray of flowers under the altar that she would use as her offering, got up and said, “Thank you for setting the altar.” And she tucked the cloth bag she had used for the supplies inside the other bag and said, “Is there anything else we need to do before we start?”

“We need to get your overnight things from your truck.”

She looked at him lifted the bag and her purse and said, “I have everything I need right here. I travel light.”

He looked dubious and then said, “Ok. Your cord is in the master bathroom. We just need to get changed and we can start.” And he left her standing in the bedroom and went into the other upstairs bathroom to get undressed.

 

Nola took very little time getting undressed and ready. But when she opened the door she was priestess and centered.  Owen was waiting. 

She managed to smile confidently at him and he said, “I’ll cast.”

She nodded and followed with the alignment poses for the Grigori and felt their presence.

 

She read the address, “We gather on this appointed day in anticipation of plenty.” And she paused as she heard Settrano whisper playfully, “Plenty.” and wondered what he was up to but continued with the address.

 

She and Owen did the Rite of Union and this settled her.

 

She read the offering address and placed her offering in the south after Owen placed his.  Owen went to the fireplace which was in the south and lit a small fire in the cauldron.  He then placed his request in the flame and he smiled as he thought of Settrano and his alignment with fire.  Nola had hers ready as well.  She had separated the small scroll from her offering. She had written it in the hour she’d spent at the coffee shop before arriving.  She had struggled with her mind and her heart and she felt they were both telling her what she didn’t want to hear. So she had settled for asking for peace and closure in the most generic of terms. She knew this didn’t make for the best magic. But Bellaria and Meana’s presence had been strong and this is what she had been left with when it was time to go.  She watched the flame take her scroll. And she tossed some lavender flowers saved from her garden on the small flame and hoped that the incense would take her confused request to the Old Ones and that they would work it out.

 

Owen read “I call out to You, O Uni and Tagni and pray that you receive our wishes and desires as they rise up to you on the smoke of our incense. We ask that You grant our requests and bring them to their fullness, even as You bring forth the fruit from the seed.”

And she smiled at her student’s timing and at how far he had come. And was grateful as she said, “So be it done.” to the flames.

 

She returned to the altar and read, “Now hear the words of Aradia, know that ever action brings forth another, and that these actions are linked together through their natures. Therefore, whatsoever you send forth, so shall you receive. A farmer can harvest for himself no more than he plants. Therefore let us consider what is good in our lives and what is full. Let us also consider what is bad and what is empty. And let us meditate on the reasons for all these things.”

 

But Nola had done her meditating and after only a small pause kneeled and lifted the chalice so Owen the new priest could bless it.  Then he did the same with the cakes. And they sipped the wine and each ate a cookie like it was communion.

 

And as Nola said, “Blessed be the Plow, the Seed and the Furrow.” Owen said it with her. 

 

Nola ran the palms her hands up the center of Owen’s chest and closed her eyes and ran her palms across his shoulders and down his arms, saying, “Blessed by your strength.”

 

Owen waited and then lightly brushed his palm across her womb, saying, “Blessed be your mysteries.”

 

Nola reached down and ran her hand over his penis, saying, “Blessed be the plow.

Owen stroked her lightly with his fingers, saying, “Blessed be the furrow.”

Nola ran the back of her hand between his testicles, saying, “Blessed by thy ripened grain.”

Owen gently caressed her breasts and said, “Blessed be thy place of nurture.”  And then he pulled her close to him and said, “Blessed be the Plow, the Seed, and the Furrow.” And she managed to say it with him before he lifted her and took her to his bed.

 

He brushed he hands over her breast and kissed her gently; moving down her neck and waiting for this to make her nipples harden.  She closed her eyes and arched her back and reached for him so she didn’t see him smile. 

 

Owen had made them both insane with his gentleness. And Nola fought with herself. The ritual called for this. And she tried to separate woman from priestess. It should be easy. It had been easier. Sex was something she understood. It was physical. Different men responded to different things but it could be boiled down to simple physical call and response. Unfortunately Owen called to the part of her that was not priestess.  And Bellaria smiled to Meana.

 

Nola told herself that she had to stop thinking.  She moved her hand down his stomach and then turned it so the back of her hand slid between his thigh and his sacks.  She moved her hand slowly under and then between his sacks and he wondered again what made that so damn erotic.  And then he stopped wondering as she moved her palm over the tip of his penis and caught it between her 2 palms.  But he didn’t want her hands he wanted her. He kissed his way down to her furrow and licked and tested and knew she was ready. So he entered her and made love to her slowly in the flickering candlelight.  And she wanted him so badly her heart actually hurt. 

 

And Meana looked to Tago for support and reassurance. And he gave it.  Papa Eric was concerned. Why did Meana look worried about Nola? It certainly didn’t look like his grandson was doing anything wrong. Bellaria whispered to Papa Eric. “He needs to be as careful with her heart.” And then Papa Eric understood.

 

Owen had carefully moved over so as not to crush her.  He was handling her so delicately that she giggled.  He pulled her to him and said, “What are you laughing at woman?”

“You.  I won’t break.”

“Well Papa Eric is always telling me that I need to be careful with my toys.”  And he heard his grandfather groan.

She swallowed.  “Oh. Well I suppose that’s smart but I still won’t break.” And she sounded almost defiant instead light and happy.  She moved to get out of the bed on the side farthest away from him.  “I think that it’s best to take down the circle now.  It’s probably best for you to take it down; since you know exactly where it went up.”  And she managed to think, Thank you. Thank you. I needed that to pull me back to the real world. He was just doing what she asked as he got up out of the bed on the side closest to the altar. She waited for him to head to the altar before she followed.  He found his blade. She knelt in front of the altar and put just enough spirit fuel in the bowl for him to take it down and he took down the circle but it didn’t feel like the Grigori departed.  Nola felt it too.  And strangely it helped her feel a little better.  And she slipped into his bathroom because she needed a minute.

 

“Gott Dammit Son!”

“What??  What is wrong?”  He wasn’t sure if he’d ever heard his grandfather sound like that when he was alive. 

“I thought you said that Nola wasn’t a toy?!”

“Well she isn’t but you are always saying that I treat her like one and she was laughing about me not breaking her and….” And his grandfather swore in something that didn’t sound like English and Owen had an oh shit moment.

“I hurt her feelings.”

“Yes…” and Meana looked at him and so he said… “Well not exactly. You made her wary.  She had relaxed and opened up to you and you closed her down again.”

 

Nola took her time. She untied her cord and rinsed off in the shower and brushed her teeth and changed into the nightgown she had brought with her. She wished she were sleepy but she wasn’t. She was wide awake and felt like she could run all the way home.  Why had she said she would stay?

 

She opened the door and saw by the light coming from the bathroom that Owen was still standing there with his cord on.  And he looked confused and concerned.  Or did he look like he had just been scolded. And she assumed that he has been speaking with his grandfather.  So she started to pick up the ritual trappings.  He realized that he was standing there naked talking to his grandfather, again. And said, “I’ll be right back.” And untied his cord and dropped it in the box.

 

He slipped on a pair of light pants and went back to his bedroom.  Nola was finishing packing up the box. 

“How do you do that so quickly?”

“Practice. Years of practice.” And she stood up holding the cornucopia.

And he looked at her. How was it possible for clothing to be sexier than naked?  The gown was sheer around her shoulders so that it made it look like she was wearing a bustier.  She liked it because of the support it provided. It was a simple paneled gown that fell from its fitted top into a gently flared skirt that ended at mid calf.  It had a slit on one side of the skirt, which she liked because it made it easier to move in it.  He was appreciating how it hinted at what was underneath. She appreciated it because it was both practical and pretty and she loved the dark green. It was one of the few things she had that was truly feminine.

 

She had the cornucopia in her hands and said, “I thought that I could put this on the mantle downstairs. Do you think your grandfather would mind?”

“Tell her he approves.”

Owen was able to respond with “He approves.”

She smiled at him and said, “It seems I interrupted you two again. I’m sorry. I’ll give you two time to finish up.”  And she started down the stairs.

 

“Papa Eric. She seems ok.”

“She’s not ok.  She’s just stronger and more independent than the average woman.  You just ripped her out of the safe warm world you had created and back into what she calls the real world.”

And he could almost feel his grandfather shaking his head. Then he thought, the real world. “Shit. She’s not going to leave?”  and he started to make his way to the stairs.

“No, son. She promised.  She’ll stay. If she was going to leave she would have gotten dressed in something other than that slip of a thing she had on.”

“Damn. Help me. What do I have to do now?”

“You have to go downstairs and be nice and charming and figure out how to get her back to where she was just minutes ago when she was in that bed with you.”  And Papa Eric looked at the Grigori in exasperation as Owen started down the stairs.

 

He was thinking about what he needed to say. And kicking himself and not paying attention to what he was doing. And he missed the step on the stairs and bounced down a couple of steps and ended up landing with his feet splayed, still half holding on the banister 4 steps from the bottom.

 

Nola was in the library when she heard the crash “Owen?! ….”

and then “Owwww….”

“Owen!? ….” And when he didn’t answer she picked up the poker from the fireplace and made her way cautiously to where the sound had come from. She stood still but didn’t hear anything else. So she said cautiously “Owen?”

And she heard him say, “Dammit.”

And she went to him at the bottom of the stairs. And blanched but he couldn’t tell in the dim light. But he heard something odd in her voice. “Oh god. Oh please tell me you are you alright. Can you move?”

“Yes, woman. I’m alright.  I am an idiot but I’m alright.” And he got up rubbing his bum and she put her arm around him and did her best to let him lean on her.  He stood up and walked carefully to the kitchen completely embarrassed.  And Papa Eric raised his eyebrow as Settrano giggled and Tago smiled.

 

Owen flipped the light on before he sat down on the barstool. Then he looked at Nola and his brow wrinkled. “What the hell are you doing with the poker?”

And she looked at the poker in her hand and said, “Well… I… I wasn’t sure what had happened and I… I just…  I…”

“Instinctively decided to grab the most dangerous object in the house to wield in my defense?”

“Well, yes. I guess.  Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Yes.” And he got up and walked to the refrigerator.

“Let me go and put this back where it belongs. I’ll be right back.”

 

And Owen put his hand on the refrigerator door and laughed and he heard his Papa Eric laugh with him.  “Some woman huh, son?”

She returned quickly and saw him hanging on the door of the frig. “Owen are you sure you’re ok?”

He was still chuckling but managed to say, “Yes woman I’m fine.”

And she ran her hands over his back where it was slightly red “It’s red where you must have hit the stairs.  Does this hurt?” and she pressed gently where it was red.  “No woman. Well only slightly. I’m fine.”

“Please let me look at you back” and she started to push his pants over his buttocks.

“You mean my backside.”

And she giggled. “Yes, your backside. I’ve seen it before.” And she ran her hands over his backside but it looked ok.  More than ok actually and she smiled as she pulled the pants back up. And Meana smiled at Settrano and Papa Eric.  Then Nola said, “Breathe for me Owen. Big deep breaths and tell me if it feels harder than normal to breathe.”

“Nola…” and he turned to her.

“Please Owen, just breathe.” And she put her hands over his rib cage. “Deeply and slowly.”

And he did as she asked.

“Does it hurt to breathe?”

“No.”

“Don’t be all manly on me. Broken ribs are nothing to play with.  Breathe again.” And she still had her hands on his ribs. When she looked up at him and said, “Please, Owen.” He took another deep breath.

And then said wrapped her up in a hug and said, “I’m fine woman.  No broken ribs. No broken bones, just a bruised backside and ego.”

And he felt her sigh and relax a little and then gently hug him back.  Had she been that worried about him? 

“Surviving falling down the stairs called for a drink. Don’t you think?”

And this time when she blanched he saw it.  “Nola what’s wrong?”

She looked at him and then said slowly, “Stairs scare me a little.”

And he held on to her and waited. “I know this sounds silly but I think that, in a past life, I died falling down some stairs.  Long, wide, hard stone stairs, no banister.” And she shook her head and then sighed.  “Sorry if I over reacted.  I’m glad that you are ok. Please be careful on your stairs.”

And he thought about that “Well then your concern over me bringing the table down the stairs by myself… or carrying you up them… or the stairs without a banister at your house makes a bit more sense.”

And she smiled.  “It seems I should worry about you just walking down the stairs.  What happened anyway?”

 

“Go ahead son, tell her.”

“I was thinking about what an idiot I had been for joking about you being a toy.  And I was coming down the stairs trying to figure out how to say I was sorry and…

“You almost broke yourself.” She said as she smiled at him.

He nodded sheepishly.

“Owen, you can’t break me. Just please be careful with your self.” And she hugged him as gently as she could and he hugged her back much less gently.   When he released her she said, “I think you’re right. Surviving falling down the stairs deserves a drink.”

 

He grinned and opened the frig and took out the Prosecco. And she laughed. “Well since we’re celebrating your survival it seems only fitting.”

He opened the bottle and poured 2 glasses and said, “Let’s go to the library.”

“Ok.”

And he turned out the light in the kitchen as he left.

 

She had turned on the lamp in the library when she was there before he fell so the lighting was soft and he kept it that way. He handed her a glass.  She took it but didn’t sit or sip.  He turned on the radio. It was late so WWNO was playing jazz.

She turned to him from the other side of the sofa and then lifted her glass, “To survival.” And sipped.

He smiled and raised his glass to her and sipped.

 

“Well son I would have never thought of falling down the stairs as charming. I don’t know how it’s possible after she was ready to swing a poker in your defense while in her bear feet and that slip of thing, but she seems a little more relaxed now.” And Owen chuckled.

And Nola looked at him questioningly.

So he said honestly, “Papa Eric was impressed with your poker wielding abilities and your night gown.”

And she smiled into her glass.  “I guess that was …”

“Smart.  Quick thinking.  It could have been anything.  Break-ins happen.”

“I’ve learned that sometimes just looking like you can handle yourself and anything that comes along can keep you out of trouble.”

His grandfather teased, “You know what son.  I think I’m coming back in my next life and finding Nola.”

“Sorry, pop. Dibs.” and he grinned.

“What are you grinning at?”

“Papa Eric.  I think he has a crush on you.”

And she smiled but wasn’t quite sure what to say to that.

 

“Son you do realize that she’s managed to keep the sofa between you and her?”

He hadn’t. 

“She’s here but she’s far away from that warm safe spot.”

 

She said, “I should be tired. But I’m not.”

“Too much adrenaline.”

And she thought about that as she sipped her wine and ran her fingers over the spines of his books and nodded, “Maybe so.” 

“I have a better idea than reading.” And he managed to get on the same side of the sofa but she was now on the opposite end of the room. 

She smiled at him and said, “Really?”

And he stayed where he was and put his hand out and said, “Dance with me.”

And she looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language.

His grandfather said, “Oh… good one son. Very good.  Let her come to you.”

“Dance with you?”

“Yes, you’ve done it before.  You even said you liked it.” And he held out his hand and waited. 

“Here in your library?”

“Sure why not?” And she took a step toward him.

He moved a little closer and then put his glass down on the table behind the sofa and held out his hand again and waited. “I won’t break you.”

And she smiled and set down her glass and put her hand in his.

 

As they danced slowly to the soft jazz music, he felt her relax into him and into the music.  By the 2nd song she had to acknowledge that it didn’t matter that this wasn’t the real world. It was good. By the 3rd song Owen didn’t really need his grandfather’s reassurance because right after Papa Eric said, “Warm happy spot, son.”  Nola, who had her hand around his neck and her mouth next to his ear, said, “Thank you, Owen.” right before he kissed her.  

 

The kiss was very slow and gentle and she melted into it.  And Owen enjoyed it but wanted more.  She had been letting him lead so she let him lead where he wanted to go with the kiss and before she knew it he had picked her up. “What…?”

“Shhh woman. I won’t break you.” And he carried her to the sofa and set her down on her feet and she held on to him and he kissed her again.  “You are beautiful in this but I don’t think you need it.” And he lifted her gown over her head and when she brought her arms down she pushed his pants off and he stepped out of them smiling and they made love on the sofa.

 

“Owen…” and she nudged him slightly. “Owen…”

“Hmmm… what is it woman?”

“Do you think we could go to bed now?” and he could hear the smile in her voice. As he moved he realized that she was wedged between him and the back of the sofa. “You want to go to my bed?”

“Is there another option?”

And as he finished sitting up he said with a chuckle “No. There’s another bed but there’s not another option.”

She sat up smiling and found her gown on the floor and lifted it over her head in one flowing move and then handed him his pants and started toward the stairs. He followed and as they got to the stairs she turned and said, “Please, hands on the banister.” And dashed up the stairs.

 

He smiled and followed more slowly.  She was just coming out of the bathroom door and he met her there with another gentle kiss, before he said, “The bed’s over there.”

She smiled as he went into the bathroom.  She crossed to the bed and found the pillows and pulled the covers back and was straightening them.

He came up behind her and kissed her neck and said, “Get in the bed, woman.”

So she slid in and started to move to the far side.

“Where are you going?”, and he slid in behind her.

“To sleep.” And she moved toward the pillows on the far side of the bed but he reached around her and pulled the pillows and her back to the center of the bed.

“Fine, but not way over there.”

“Ok Big Man it’s a big bed and there’s plenty of room.” And she fluffed the pillows and then snuggled into them and sighed. “Is this ok?”

“Almost.” And he put his arm over her and she smiled as she turned on her side and snuggled into a loose spoon. “Perfect.” And they both went to sleep.

 

Owen had made sure that the blackout curtains were pulled on all his windows. But a small amount of early dawn light was slipping in through the not quite closed bathroom door. Nola was still next to him. She had managed to stay in the center of the bed but was about 18 inches down from down from the head of the bed.  He was sure she had her foot hooked over the edge of the bed. She was curled up on her side with the pillow tucked under her head and her hand tucked under the pillow.  Her hair was a pile of loose curls.  There was a cheek in there somewhere.

 

He got up and went to the bathroom. When he returned he made sure that the door was closed. Nola was still soundly asleep in the bed.  He leaned back into the pillows and closed his eyes and went back to a light sleep.  He woke when Nola stirred about an hour later.  She had been so soundly asleep and it was so dark that she wasn’t quite sure where she was until Owen pulled her in to a hug. She sighed and then breathed deeply.  “Hmmm…. Owen… you smell like warm leather…  limes….. and newly mown hay.”

He chuckled. “So you like the way I smell?”

“Yes.”  and she snuggled into his chest, “and feel… and kiss …. and dance…” and she hugged him close with her hand around his hip and then moved her hand to his growing penis “and feel…” and then she put her mouth over his penis and after it was hard took her mouth off long enough to say, “and taste.”

“Oh woman.” And she enjoyed him and brought him close to climax but he wanted her not just her mouth. He pulled her gown off of and rolled her over and she buried her face in his neck as he entered her amazed that she was so wet and ready. She breathed deeply and gasped lightly and moved her hips into him as she put her arms over her head to the headboard so she could push closer to him and said quietly in a barely auditable whisper to the universe, “All of you… I want all of you.”

And as he drove into her and climaxed he realized. Yes all of you. I want all of you. Sated they fell back asleep.

 

Owen woke again.  He knew it was morning. He wasn’t sure if Nola had realized earlier that it was morning.  Not that he really cared. But he was sure that once she realized did she would start struggling to leave. He got up slowly and made sure that she was still asleep before he slipped out of the bedroom. Leaving it as dark as midnight.

 

He returned in about 20 minutes with coffee and toasted buttered and salted English muffins and the Sunday paper.  He put the tray down on the ottoman next to the bed.  Then he picked up a cup of coffee, sat on the bed and waited for her to stir.  It didn’t take long.  “Hmmm… coffee and…. English muffins?”  And she sat up before she realized that she didn’t have her gown on and rooted around in the bed until she found it and slipped it over her head as she slipped out of the bed and then into the bathroom.

 

When she returned she sat down against the head board. She was still a bit sleepy and her hair was tousled but not a much as before she had gone into the bathroom.  He smiled at how little she worried about how she looked and at how naturally beautiful she was. He held out a coffee cup to her.  She took it breathed it in and said, “Thank you.” Before she said, “Based on the sun, it has to be after 9AM.” And then she took a sip.

“Almost 9:30 actually.”

“Wow.  I slept great.  I hope you did.”

He smiled and teased.  “When you let me.”

She smiled back, “I told you I steal the covers.” And she took another sip of coffee and reached for a muffin.

He chuckled. “Well you managed to stay in the center of the bed this time. But why do you sleep with your feet off of the edge of the bed?”

She had just taken a bite.  So he waited while she chewed.  She took a sip before she said, “I’m not really sure. But I’ve been active enough playing sports that I’ve had knee problems and arthroscopy on both knees.  Sleeping with my foot over the edge takes the pressure off of my knees when I sleep on my stomach or my side.”

“And sometimes you manage to sleep on your stomach and your side at the same time.”

“I warned you.  Between that and stealing the covers it’s better if I sleep on the other side of the bed.”

He shook his head. “No it’s not.  I like being told I smell like warm leather, limes and freshly mown hay.  You can’t do that from the other side of the bed.”

And she smiled and looked at him with those dark eyes over the rim of her coffee cup before she said, in the spirit of Cornucopia, “I am very grateful for you, Owen. It is a pleasure to spend time with you.  You are a warm and generous man.”

He was dumbfounded as he waited for the but.  But there was no but.

She got up off the bed and walked to the French doors, “Do you mind if I open the curtains and let the natural light in?”

He managed to say, “No, not at all.” because it was what he would have done.  She sat back on the bed with her cup and then took another bite of English muffin before she reached for the newspaper.

He watched as she surgically extracted all the ads from the paper and let them slip to the floor, while retaining the Parade.  She left the Parade with the rest of the sections and then quickly flipped through the front page seeming to focus on the local stories, flew through the Living section but paid attention to the Op Eds, skipped the Sports, breezed through the Metro and looked more carefully through the Money section.  She finished the paper and her coffee and looked more awake.  He had been more watching her read the paper than read the paper himself. Her muffin was half eaten but her cup was empty.  She got up off the bed and stretched like a cat.

She smiled at him through the stretch then asked. “Do you mind if I use your shower?”

He smiled and said, “With one condition.”

And she looked at him expectantly and waited and watched as he got up. “That you let me join you.”

She looked at him and he could see that she was pulling away moving back into what she called the real world. But then she smiled acknowledging, “It is your shower.  But give me a minute. Ok?” And she headed into the bathroom and shut the door.  He waited.  She opened it and said, “OK. I think it’s best if you turn it on.”

 

He turned it on and waited for the water to be just right before he said, “Ladies first. I’ll be in in a minute.”

She smiled and put her hand under the water and then walked under the many jets. He heard a small “Hmmmmm.” and smiled.

She had found the shampoo and was washing her hair when he joined her.  She rinsed and he watched as the suds ran down between and over her breasts.  She turned her back to him and reached for the conditioner. Then quickly rinsed it from her hair too, before she started soaping up. Owen had stepped under one of the jets and wet his head. He reached over her head to get the shampoo, squirted some into his hair and then had turned around to put it on the other shelf and continued lathering his hair.

 

“Oh my…” and her soapy hands were slipping over his back and his backside. He tried to turn to her but she followed his turn looking closely at his back. “You have the beginnings of some interesting bruises. This one here…” And she poked his backside gently with her finger.

“Oww.”

“… is going to hurt.”

 

“Woman you can run your hands all over me. But don’t poke my bruises.”

She giggled and said, “Ok.”, found the soap and soaped him up. “Better?”

“Much.” And he soaped her up as well.

She ran her razor over her legs while he thought, I didn’t see or feel anything for her to shave. And finally his curiosity got the better of him and he asked, “Do you do that every time?”

“Yep. It’s easier that way. Did you know that the Romans essentially shaved to get clean?”

“No.”

“Well they did. As I understand it they used a grease, sand and lye mixture and baths that could be even more elaborate than yours.”  She had managed to get most of the soap off of her and was planning to get out when he hugged her to him and got her all soapy again.

“Ohhhh.”

 “I thought you liked my decadent shower.”

“Well I do.” She smiled. “But I had managed to get rinsed and was planning on getting out.”

He pulled them under the jets and let the water wash all of the soap off of both of them using his hands to make sure all the soap was off of her.

“There.”

“Thank you.” And she giggled as she stepped out of the shower. “But Owen, you still have shampoo in your hair.” And she grabbed a towel. 

He laughed and finished shampooing.

She wrapped her hair up in a towel turban and dried off.  She was wrapped in a 2nd towel and was finishing up brushing her teeth when he got out. He dried his hair with a towel and then ran it over him before he wrapped it around him. She finished brushing her teeth and he said, “That’s all you brought? A toothbrush, your razor and your nightgown?”

She turned and smiled and said, “Yes. I used your toothpaste and shampoo.”

“No change of clothes?”

“Well no. I showered and put on fresh clothes before I left. I’m planning on wearing the same clothes home.” And she smiled “I told you I travel light.”

“You certainly do, woman. You certainly do.” And he kissed her shoulder and stepped into his closet which was attached to the bathroom.  He stepped back out in a pair of jeans and holding a shirt before she managed to slip back into her street clothes.  She had done her best to dry and was combing her hair.  He kissed the top of her head and said, “When you’re ready, we’re going to Elizabeth’s for breakfast.  I’m hungry. All that English muffin did was whet my appetite.” And he stepped out of the bathroom before she could object.

 

She finished dressing and tucked her comb and the zip lock bag with her razor and toothbrush holder into her purse and headed downstairs.

He was in the kitchen waiting patiently with the newspaper. 

“Owen, I’ll just head home.”

He looked at the clock.  He had been expecting resistance. “Is there anyone waiting for you to get home?”

“Well… no James and Jamie will both sleep until noon… or later.”

“Then don’t make me eat breakfast alone. Come with me.”

And he got up out and opened the door and she followed him out.  He opened the passenger door and she got in.

“Well son it seems that the trick is to just assume that she will go along and she goes along.”

 

Apparently Owen was enough of a regular at Elizabeth’s that they found a spot for them upstairs even though the place was busy.  It was almost 11.   Owen ordered a huge breakfast and Nola ordered tuna salad stuffed tomato.

 

“Tuna salad?  You’ll have to order something more interesting than that when we go to dinner next week.” Then he grinned, “This week. Thursday.”

“It’s really not necessary to take me to dinner, Owen.  Cornucopia was…”

“Cornucopia. We’re going out for your birthday.”

“But…”

“No but.  Nice restaurant, you in a nice dress and something more interesting than tuna salad for dinner.” And she started to say something and he said, “Nola. It’s your birthday. I want to do something nice for you. Please let me.”

And she nodded yes as the waiter arrived with their meal.

 

He intentionally dawdled over his breakfast.  He watched as she relaxed and then, when the waiter came with the check, started to slip away from him again. He drove home and knew there was no way he could keep her longer.

 

She had her keys out of her purse before he was all the way down the driveway. He met her at the passenger door and hugged her one last time before he let her get in the truck. “Thank you again, Owen.”

“I’ll see you here at 6:30 on Thursday. Right?”

And he waited, “Right? .....Nola don’t you back out on me. Promise you’ll be here.”

And he smiled when she said, “I promise.” before she started the truck and backed out of the driveway.

 

“Easy to be around, huh son?”

“Yes… when she’s not running away.”

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