The house needed cleaning so Nola managed to make it through Sunday being productive. She had a small collection stacked at the back door to go to the Salvation Army. It would grow as she moved through the house evaluating, paring down and determining what she would take if… did she dare say when? she left. James and Jamie didn’t think twice about it because it was such a regular part her cleaning process. She had managed to charge her cell phone and had it in her pocket because she was afraid Owen would call and wanted to be the one to answer. And she didn’t like the way that made her feel. But then again she did. She took the puppy outside again thinking how ridiculous her confused feelings were.
She was outside when Owen called. She took the phone out of her pocket and answered it.
She could hear him smile as he said, “You answered.”
“Yes.” And she teased, “Are you just checking to see if I would?”
“Well… yes but I really just wanted to know you are ok.”
“I’m ok. I’ve stayed busy cleaning house.”
“Ah, being productive.” And she could hear the smile.
“Are you laughing at me?”
And he laughed but said, “No, just enjoying you.”
What the hell do you say to that?
“What time will you be here on Monday?”
“I don’t know.”
And she heard him snort a breath and could tell he was not happy with her answer. So she added, “I think I’ll be free for 4PM. But I have a meeting with the Refinery Leadership Team and since they are these are the big wigs it really all depends on them as to how fast the meeting moves or how many questions I’ll have to answer. So I can’t be more precise.”
It satisfied him that she wasn’t just procrastinating. He knew better than to say I love you over the phone. “Ok. I’ll be home waiting for you.”
“Ok. I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon. I promise, as soon as I can.”
She let the dogs in and smiled as the puppy tried to keep up with his almost year old sister from another litter. But then he turned around and put his paws on her shins. He had decided that she was his human. And he had already stolen her heart. There seemed to be something in the air. Her heart seemed to be doing all the leading these days. Where was her head? She made it up the stairs and wondered around the house again. This was her life. This was what she had worked for. This was who she was… at least right now today. Geography again. But who was she really? Or maybe the question to ask was who did she want to be? Did she want to be who she had been for far too many years?
She was tired of being the responsible one, the one who paid the bills and managed the household and took care of things and forgave and made things better and created the space for James to do what he loved. She was tired of being afraid. And tired, worn down really, by a relationship where she gave so much more than she got. Then Jamie was there playing with the dogs and talking about school and the new puppy and she kicked herself because without all the rest she wouldn’t have Jamie. Her life had been more than a little bumpy but not horrible. She managed to make it through the weekend. James was so deep into the script that the only things that mattered were that the patterns he expected didn’t change and his family was where he expected them to be. Full Moons had become part of the pattern. So when Nola said that she had a meeting with refinery management on Monday and would go straight to Owen’s for the Full Moon and would be staying over after the ritual because it was easier, he didn’t think twice. There were no rehearsals on Monday nights so he would be home with Jamie, up to his eyeballs in the new script.
Nola pulled into Owen’s driveway at 4:30PM and he was smiling as he opened the kitchen door. “So were the big wigs nice to you?”
She let herself enjoy the hug before she answered, “Yes, mostly. They’re satisfied. I’ll get to keep the resources I need to do the job they’ve asked me to do. But I don’t want to talk about work.”
“That’s ok with me.” And he released her so they could walk through the door. “Are you hungry?”
“Not really. Are you? Wait, that’s a silly question.” She could smell the sauce cooking.
He laughed, “Well I am a little but I have no idea what you typically do before ritual so I’ve planned pasta with meat sauce for me because I eat before ritual and a salad for you in case you don’t.”
She smiled as she went through the door and then turned to him and said, “Owen…” and he waited not sure what to expect based on her tone, “I am in love with you.” And she waited and watched his eyes for a response. They crinkled as the smile broke his face. He crossed and pulled her into a kiss and then said, “I’m not hungry any more.”
She chuckled and said smokily, “Maybe not for dinner but, Yes, you are.”
“Oh woman, Please move in sooner.”
She grinned at him and said, “I’m moving as fast as I can.”
He realized that the sauce needed to be stirred and turned down or it was going to burn so he moved to the stove. As he lifted the lid, she said, “Hmmm that smells good.”
“I almost burned it. Do you just have to be in the kitchen for something to burn?”
She smiled at him and said, “Not usually. But if you want I’ll wait outside while you work your kitchen magic. I don’t want my energies to interfere.”
He laughed and as he stirred the sauce turned off the burner and covered it said. “The sauce is ready and so is the salad. I just need to cook the pasta.” He poured her a glass of Brunello from the open bottle on the counter and said, “Here take this and go wander outside with your plants. That way you’re not a distraction. I’ll come and get you when dinner’s ready.” She took the glass from him but looked unsure. “I mean it. Go.”
She smiled, kissed his cheek and went out the back door. He could watch from the window near the stove as she took a sip of her wine and then crossed to the other side of the pool. She ran her hands along the passion vine and stopped to admire one of the flowers before she headed to the trees. When she got to the other side he could see her sigh and smile and it made him happy but he wondered what she was thinking.
“That she is lucky and grateful. She’s thanking the universe for you… again.”
Owen smiled, “Thanks, Pop.”
Papa Eric chuckled, “Don’t get cocky. If you hurt her in this lifetime I promise to give you a run for your money in the next.”
Owen chuckled, “No chance of that, Pop. And if I were to mess up… I would do anything to fix it.”
His grandfather laughed again, “I know son. I remember what that feels like.”
“Do you ever think about Mimi?”
“Sometimes, son. Like every Ambioren man I loved my woman. But… I don’t think we were destined for another life together.”
“Hmmm… I can’t really say for sure. I loved her but there were lots of things we differed on; religion for one thing. It’s hard to imagine Mimi even thinking about reincarnation. She liked the comfort of the church. She never questioned it.”
Owen nodded and thought about that, “Pop… don’t come back too soon. I like having you around.”
And he heard his grandfather chuckle. “I like being around too, son. You better stir that pasta.”
By the time Owen had dinner ready Nola had done some weeding in the garden, had a short mental list of which seeds she wanted to order for the flower garden, realized that it was getting close to time to plant Owen’s vegetable garden and was finishing her glass of wine at the fountain.
Owen knew she was no longer in the back yard but wasn’t sure where she would be. He smiled at how peaceful and relaxed she looked sitting on the fountain. She got up when she saw him and walked toward him. They met in the center of the front yard. “Dinner’s ready?”
He nodded and let her take his arm. “I thought we could eat on the porch.”
“I’d like that.”
“What are you thinking about?”
“How amazing it is that the rue plants are doing so well here and that it’s almost time to plant your vegetable garden.”
He laughed very lightly as he opened the kitchen door, “Our vegetable garden.”
She smiled at that.
He ate a plate piled with pasta and meat sauce and another of salad. She ate a plate of salad and a small bowl of meat sauce. He watched her nibble and wondered if she ate this lightly all the time or just before ritual. She mostly sipped wine and drank San Pellegrino while he ate. He smiled thinking that he’d find out soon enough. When they’d finished dinner she insisted that he let her clean up the kitchen. So he sat at on the barstool and drank wine while she cleaned and he gave instructions on where the containers to store the sauce and the salad were and kept her company as she washed the dishes.
“The Autumn Equinox is only a week away. If the sky stays clear tonight the moon should be amazing.”
“More amazing than usual?”
“Yes, the September and October moons are my favorite. They seem larger and more alive.”
“The moons are different?”
“Well yes and no.” and she smiled as he smiled at her answer. The experience of seeing the September and October moons is different. The angle of the earth and sun are different and our skies here are usually drier. Although science says the Harvest Moon is not any bigger; to me all that matters is that, these moons seem bigger, more brightly colored, closer somehow.”
“And you like that.”
“Everybody likes that or we wouldn’t have the term Harvest Moon. It’s the only moon left with a name in our modern culture. That alone makes it special.”
She placed the last dish she had washed on the towel she had laid out on the counter.
He said, “I can’t argue with that.” And before she could start to fidget, said, “You’re done here woman.” And held out his hand, “Let’s go sit in the Jacuzzi. I turned it on when you took the dishes in. It should be warm. I bought you a robe. It’s in the downstairs closet.”
She looked at him like he had lost his mind. “You… bought me a robe?”
“Oh don’t look at me like that.” And he grinned down at her breasts, “I see how cold you are coming out of the bathroom and after you get out of the pool or Jacuzzi. Go change. I’ll meet you outside.” And with that he turned to go upstairs.
“Where are you going?”
“To change upstairs.” He put a hand on her back and edged her to the downstairs bathroom. “Go ahead, you can do it.”
“Are you always this stubborn?”
“Yep. Immovable object.” And he headed up the stairs.
He set the altar and then met her in the Jacuzzi. She had her hair up and was leaning with her head back against the side. She didn’t hear him until he got in. “Oh.”
“Oh yourself. You looked comfortable.”
“I am. I really love the Jacuzzi.”
“I know. I’m so glad I thought of putting it in.”
“You’re a genius, a generous genius. Thank you for the robe.” She kissed his cheek. “It’s beautiful. I love the shade of green and it’s perfect, not too thick but luxurious and the perfect length, most robes are too short and the arms too long. How did you do that?”
“Lucky I guess. I hoped you’d like the color. It matches your nightgown.”
She said quietly, “The one I left here after Cornucopia. I was sure I had taken that with me.”
“Yes that one. It bothered me that it was here and you weren’t, then I took you to dinner and you told me to find another woman and have babies…”
She could tell she was being chastised and teased at the same time, but she was serious when she said, “You still could.”
“I wish I didn’t know that you mean that. But you need to understand that I have absolutely no intention of finding another woman. Besides it’s not what you really want or we wouldn’t have had such a fabulous full moon last month and you wouldn’t have insisted on sex before Gustav…”
He laughed, “You did. And if it wasn’t what you wanted you wouldn’t be here now. Would you?”
He laughed, “You did. And if it wasn’t what you wanted you wouldn’t be here now. Would you?”
“No. You’re right.”
“Oh my God. Roger isn’t going to believe it!”
“That there’s a woman on the planet who will simply tell a man, ‘You’re right’.”
She laughed. “It’s because I’m old Owen. I’ve learned how to say it.”
“Old has nothing to do with it. I think it’s wise and you’re wonderful.” And he gave her a gentle kiss.
“Wisdom comes with age.” She joked.
“Hmmm?” She said through her smile.
“It’s only 4 years.”
“Then why does it bother you when so many other social mores do not?”
She had to think about it. “Gosh Owen, I never really thought about it like that before.” And she turned to him. “I… I think I used to it keep you at a distance. I thought it could be a buffer between…”
“You are always this stubborn.”
“Yes. And it’s only 4 years and they don’t matter.”
She smiled before she said, “You’re right.” And kissed him lightly.
She laughed and said jokingly again, “You’re right of course.”
And he chuckled.
She asked, “Have you told Roger… that… well that…”
“You’re moving in?”
And she thought… Am I really going to move in? But she nodded slightly and Owen took it for a yes.
“No.” and he smiled as she released the tension the question had caused. “He figured it out I was in love with you before I did. If he knew you were moving in he would just gloat and goad me about why it was taking you so long. He…”
“He doesn’t know I’m married.”
“It won’t matter. Although it will make you more human once I tell him you can simply tell a man, ‘You’re right’.”
She managed to laugh at that.
“Don’t worry about Roger. He likes you. He knows how I feel about you. He’ll always be the same old Roger. He has a heart of gold. It’s just the rest of him that can be irritating.” And they both laughed.
Owen stirred and said, “I bet if we go upstairs we can see the moon from the balcony.”
She smiled and nodded. He got up and wrapped a towel around him and then held the robe for her to step into.
“Thank you.” She tied it and turned to him and he held her at arms length so he could take a look.
“Yes. It does fit you nicely.
She smiled, “Owen the robe is very nice but you don’t have…”
He kissed her. “Shut up woman. Let’s go look at the moon.” And he took her hand and led her to the backstairs and started up. She just followed. He was impossible. It had taken her months to let him hand her out of the truck. She was going to have to learn a whole new set of skills. She was lost thinking that through and lifting the robe so she didn’t step on it as she climbed the stairs. He was waiting at the top with his hands on the railing.
“Oh my god.”
“In this light, wrapped up in that towel, you look like a Greek God standing at the railing of a ship.”
He beamed. “I think Roman or maybe to honor my ancestors, Celtic; but we weren’t sailors.”
She pinched him.
“Owwww!!!! What the hell was that for woman?”
She shook her head. “I wanted to make sure this is real.”
He laughed, “Next time pinch your self.”
She giggled. “I’m sorry. Maybe you should pinch me back.”
“I have a better idea.” He gently kissed her then hugged her and said, “I’m real. You’re real. This is real. I’m not going to pinch you or hurt you in any way. I’ve promised Papa Eric. He says if I foul up, he gets to try for your heart next lifetime. I’m not fouling up. He’d be powerful competition.” She hugged him back. It was going to take more than a day or a week for this not to feel like a dream.
“Look, you can see the moon.”
She turned. “Oh it’s beautiful peaking over the clouds.”
“It does look larger.”
They just stood and watched as the clouds blew over and around the moon as it rose in the sky. When it completely cleared the clouds they turned to each other and smiled. Nola squeezed his hand and then released and they both moved smoothly into the Rite of Union. They finished just as the moon slipped behind some clouds.
“I guess that’s our cue to move inside.”
She nodded and started toward the stairs.
He took her hand and said, “No, I’ve locked up downstairs. This door is open.”
She smiled when she saw the altar was already set up and wondered when he had done it. Her cord was on top of the chest. They could start the ritual any time. He had caught the smile and said, “We can get started as soon as we put on our cords.” And he slipped into the hall bathroom, leaving her the on-suite bathroom.
They met in front of the altar.
She asked, “Will you cast?”
“Of course, it’s our tradition.”
She smiled and they moved through the ritual like the old hands they had become. When Nola spun the meditation she was still struggling with how much Owen seemed like a dream. The Grigori came to reassure her that it wasn’t a dream.
Tago said, “He is solid. You can trust him. Do not run from the work it will take to make this permanent. Do not doubt yourself.”
Bellaria said, “You can take this apart and put it back together as many times as you want. The pieces will still all fit, if you let them.”
Settrano said, “Will you relax already and have some fun!?”
Meana said, “You are safe with Owen.”
“You’ve been saying that all along.”
“Because it’s true.”
“What about James?”
“What about James? You have taken care of him, loved him and been in and then out of love with him. He will always be your daughter’s father. You will always love him. What does your heart want?”
“My heart wants to be safe and happy with Owen and to know that James will be ok.”
“Then let yourself be safe and happy with Owen and James will be ok.”
Owen was waiting for her when he heard the sigh. She brought them out of the meditation. They moved through the ritual, smoothly, easily. Owen set the charged blade on the altar with one hand and then turned back to hold Nola with both hands. “You said that we don’t have to end the ritual the same way every time.”
The look on her face was unfortunately what he had expected. She was confused and concerned, almost frightened. “No, we don’t have to end the ritual as… as we have been.” Oh god, she wanted him… didn’t he want her?
“Good. Because tonight you aren’t priestess. Tonight you are mine.” She sighed and put her head on his chest. He lifted her face to his and kissed her gently and asked, “When will you completely trust me?”
“I’m sorry.” And she moved her head to kiss his hand and then slipped down into a kneel to refill the spirit bowl so she could take down the circle.
Once she did she felt the Grigori leave a loving whoosh. As he crossed to her she untied her cord and dropped it on the altar. He smiled and took his off as well. She held out her hand to him and he pulled her into a kiss.
When he released her he said, “You didn’t answer my question?”
“Because the truth is I don’t know. You are too good to be true. First I have to believe that you won’t disappear like some dream mist and… and… then I need time.”
“I told you, you’d have to be patient son. Giving up so soon?”
He answered his grandfather by scooping her up and taking her to bed.
He laid her on the bed and hovered over her, “I can give you time. We have all night and tomorrow morning. But the sooner you move in the better.”
She looked up at him and said, “Owen I want you so badly I ache.” And she pulled him to her. He kissed her and put his hand on her breast and nuzzled her neck and caught her nipple in between his fingers and felt her gasp and arch her back and reach for him. He suckled her other breast and controlled her movements as he reached down to her sex and found it wet and wanting and was rewarded with a low moan. She was running her palm over tip of penis and then moved her hand under his sacks and then took his penis gently in her palm, “Oh please Owen, please. I want you.”
He didn’t resist and as they rode the crests Nola wrapped her legs around him and held onto him as if he really would disappear.
He was lying sprawled on his back with his hand behind his head grinning. Nola was snuggled into him with her head on his chest and her leg draped over his.
“No woman, Thank you. And please, in a little while, may I have another.”
She giggled. “Yes.”
She had been running her hand through the hair on his chest and enjoying the tingling sensation… “Owen.” she stopped moving her hand.
“You stopped. Don’t stop.” She laughed lightly and started moving her hand again.
“You know what we need?”
“Prosecco. We should celebrate.”
He stirred. “I celebrate every time you’re here. What specifically are we celebrating?”
“My first night here as just me.”
He rolled on his side and kissed her. “You’re right. We should celebrate that. I’ll be right back.”
She smiled at him from the bed and said, “Please don’t fall down the stairs.”
“I think I can manage that.”
When Owen returned with the Prosecco Nola was no where to be found. He finally noticed the door to the front balcony was open slightly and after tossing on some pants, found her wrapped in her new robe looking at the moon as it peaked through the clouds. He was carrying 2 glasses upside down by their stems and the bottle of Prosecco.
She heard him and turned and started walking toward him with a smile.
“Do you realize that you are rarely where I leave you?”
She looked confused. “Leave me?”
“Yes I left you in the bedroom. I found you on the balcony.”
She smiled, “I wanted to see what the moon looked like. I’ve always seen the moon from your backyard. I had to walk to the end of the balcony to find it. At home I know exactly where to look to find the moon anytime. I’m still getting oriented here. Can you see the moon as it sets from the French Doors of your bedroom?”
He smiled and said, “It’s no wonder you can’t stay in one place.” And he raised the glasses and the bottle and she moved to him to take the glasses from him. “I bet that’s only about a quarter of what you actually thought about in the time it took me to get this.”
She looked confused. “What do you mean I can’t stay in one place? I’ve lived in the same city my whole life and worked for the same company for more than 20 years. I think I have fairly decent staying power.”
He laughed as he filled the glasses she was holding. “Perhaps it’s your essential quantum nature. You are like an electron in an atom. You are part of the atom but there is no telling exactly where you will be in any given moment. If I leave the room, you wander onto balcony to look at the moon or into the kitchen to make coffee or outside to commune with the plants.”
“Oh, I see. You want me to stay where you leave me.”
He thought about that, “No, woman you are free to wander where ever you want. But I do look forward to the day when you live here and when you talk about our house and our bedroom and when no matter where you wander you come home to me.”
And she touched her glass to his.
He opened the door and they went inside and sat on chair and ottoman. Owen was pleased to see that Nola actually looked relaxed. Nola sipped her prosecco and had an out of body experience. She was floating on the ceiling, looking down at herself and Owen. She smiled at how beautiful he was. She realized slowly that she didn’t feel at all like herself. That happy person down there was someone she almost didn’t recognize…
“Nola?... Nola?.... Nola?.....” and then she looked at him and smiled.
“hmmm???” and she snapped back into her body.
“What in the world were you thinking?”
“That you are beautiful….”
Owen slightly shook his head as he smiled thinking that this was definitely a one of a kind woman and while he thought it he heard Papa Eric chuckle and say, “She thinks you are beautiful… that is a one of a kind woman.”
Nola finished with “…and that I am so happy when I am with you that I don’t recognize myself. Thank you.”
He shook his head. Thank you. Had anyone ever thanked him for making them happy? He grandfather answered, “Nope.”
Nola sipped her prosecco then got up and put her glass on the mantle. She reached out to him and said, “Owen, I want to go to bed and wrapped in this beautiful dream.”
He got up put his glass on the mantle then pulled her to the bed. “Fine with me but we have to take care of this one thing before we sleep.”
He pulled at the tie on her robe to open it. She reached for him and nuzzled his neck and let him take her wherever he wanted to go.
Owen woke at his normal 5AM. When he shifted in the bed Nola moved.
“ummm….” And her hand snaked to his chest and she nuzzled his neck and kissed it lightly and then rolled over, tucking the pillow under her head and taking the covers with her as she went back to sleep. He heard his grandfather chuckle. Ok now he really needed to get up.
“You know you could have the decency to wait until I’m all the way awake before you laugh at me.”
“Oh, you’re awake son, awake and fully functional.”
Owen rolled his eyes as he hit the bathroom door but he was grinning. “This is why she needs to move in sooner rather than later. Please do what you can with your friends the Grigori to speed that along.”
He pulled on his bathrobe and headed downstairs to make coffee before he swam morning laps. He was reading the paper when Nola came downstairs.
“Morning, sleepy head.”
Nola smiled at him as she came around the corner in her new robe, reached into her purse, grabbed her keys and went out the side door.
Where are you….”, and the door closed. “going?”
She came back in with a small cloth grocery bag dropped her keys on the counter and kissed his neck from behind as she said “Upstairs to take a shower and get dressed.”
He smiled and enjoyed her kisses, “Don’t you want coffee?”
“ummm… yes, but not now.” And she ran her hand over his neck as she headed for the stairs.
“Maybe I’ll join you.”
She said, “It’s your shower.” As she dashed up the stairs playfully.
He caught up to her before she entered the bathroom as he took her elbow he said, “Before or after?”
She looked at him with a question on her face. Then smiled as she realized…“Before.”
They were lounging in the bed afterward when Nola kissed Owen’s neck and said, “I must take a shower and get to work.”
She ignored him and slipped off the bed, “Big Man I have to work for a living.”
“No, you don’t.”
And she ignored him as she went through the bathroom door.
Papa Eric chuckled. “Son, don’t push it. She is never going to give up the independence her job provides.”
Nola had managed to adjust the shower and was letting the warm water was over her hair and beat on her back. What she was thinking was, damn stubborn man. What made him think that she would or could turn her life and her job totally upside down, just because his ancestors had left him lots of money? He had no idea how important…..
She sighed… “Yes?”
“Can I join you?”
She sighed again, “Yes.”
When he stepped in she had her back to him. She turned to him as he reached over her head to grab the soap and he smiled such that she had to smile back. “Dammit Owen.”
“What? What did I do?”
“Do you have to be so damn appealing?”
He answered nonchalantly but couldn’t keep the grin from his eyes, “I do what I can.”
She had to laugh. They managed to finish their shower with a minimal amount of play. Owen slipped into his closet and changed into jeans and then as he left the room said, “See you downstairs. I’ll have your coffee ready.”
Nola managed to get to work by 8:30AM. Today sure hadn’t started like a typical Tuesday. During the fall she often felt strangely strung between the worlds. But this fall was turning into one of the oddest in between times in her life. Ever. Bar none. She felt grounded in each reality as long as she was in that reality. Work. She thought as she unlocked her office door. Home. Owen. … But somehow she was still struggling to feel a continuity, a real belonging in her own life, in her own world. She turned on her computer. And before she knew it her work world engulfed her and she didn’t have any time to think about anything but work.