Saturday night Nola mixed the dough for the rustic loaf she was making for the Equinox Ritual. It needed to rise for 12 hours. She was making 2 loaves; a small one for the ritual and a larger one to leave at home. James had laughingly suggested that she couldn’t bake bread and not leave some for him. She had been reminded of the symbology Owen had made of her life and the ritual. She covered the dough and went downstairs to flip the last of the laundry into the drier and folded the previous batch. Jamie was now all set with school uniforms for next week. While downstairs she organized, on the table by the back door, the leafy branch tips she had collected from those the squirrels had trimmed from the oak tree in the back yard and thought to herself, the universe provided. Earlier in the day she had cleaned house. As she tidied she had looked around trying to imagine leaving the home that she had built. And she was still struggling with what that would mean, to her, to Jamie, to… But it was too much, too soon, so she had run away by making a trip to the grocery and taking Jamie along to pick up box sushi for lunch at the store. With the house clean, laundry done, larder stocked and James off at rehearsal, she packed up what she would need for staying over at Owen’s and took this down to her truck. She brought up the last batch of laundry to fold while she and Jamie watched a Star Trek DVD. Then she took the puppy out one last time and kissed Jamie goodnight and curled up to sleep and stop her brain from swirling.
Sunday she left James and Jamie at home; one working on his script, the other working on homework that she refused to do until the last minute. It was before sunset but she knew that her family wouldn’t miss her and from Owen’s phone calls on Friday that he wanted here there, yesterday. She called Owen after she pulled out of her driveway and he met her in his driveway.
He was doing his best to wait patiently. Papa Eric was doing his best to keep Owen calm.
She pulled into her spot under the driveway and Owen pulled the door open with, “Finally.”
“Son, easy now. Don’t smother her.”
Nola reached to the passenger seat and handed him the loaf.
“Umm that smells good.”
Once out of the truck she opened the rear door and grabbed her bag.
He beamed, handed her the loaf and grabbed the larger bag and hooked her arm and sauntered to the kitchen door.
Nola smiled inwardly thinking it was ridiculous how happy he seemed. She wished she could push the worry out of the way long enough to feel that way.
Owen headed straight up the stairs, so Nola followed. Owen placed the loaf on the altar that was already set and dropped her bag in the bathroom. When he returned he scooped her up.
“Oh…..” and she had no choice but to hang on.
“Woman” and he sat on the bed holding her and let her slip off of his lap and rolled her onto her back kissing her neck and between kisses saying, “I. am. so. glad. you. are. here.
Nola looked up at the ceiling and chuckled. Then she managed a full on laugh. “Ok, Big Man. Ok….. and she rolled him over.
He loved that she was laughing. She leaned into him, nuzzled his neck and then lifted his shirt and said between kisses down his chest, “I. am. so. glad. to. be. here.”
“Oh I am just getting started…” and she ran her hand over his chest and then down the inside of his thigh before she slid off the bed.
“Wait!” he sat up. “Where are you going?”
“Wait is just what you will have to do Big Man. I’m going downstairs.”
“Downstairs!” and he managed to get off the bed and catch her in hug in the hallway at the top of the stairs.
“Nola….” And his stomach rumbled.
“hmmm???” and she melted into him and ran her hands under his shirt again this time around his back. “I see you are hungry in more ways than one.”
He laughed. “Yes I am.”
He laughed. “Yes I am.”
“Good… once we feed you that will work quite well for the ritual.”
He laughed, kissed her teasingly but lightly and headed down the stairs.
“What’s for dinner?”
He handed her a large salad bowl and the plate of sliced flank steak.
“It’s still warm.”
“Yep I cooked the steak while you were on your way here. Take that into the dining room and I’ll get the glasses and the wine.”
He had already set the table. Nola set the food down and Owen came in behind her. He set the opened wine bottle and glasses on the table. Then he lit the candles. “Go ahead. Sit.”
“Thank you Owen.”
She chuckled again, “For making me laugh, for the candles, for the wine, for dinner.”
He handed her a full glass of wine, “Oh I have a feeling you’ll make it up to me.”
She lifted her glass and they touched glasses. “I’ll see what I can do.”
While they were eating Nola reviewed the ritual.
“Do you have your robe?”
“Yep and I have an idea for how to use it.”
Nola looked confused. “But you’ll wear it as the God in the ritual.”
“No, I won’t.”
“The robe will be draped, hood up on my valet stand.”
“I’m ok serving as priest during parts of the ritual. But when the God stands hooded, I will be the Grove.”
Nola let that sink in then she said slowly as he comments about his favorite part of the ritual replayed in her head. “Ok, that could work.”
“It will work.”
She smiled at him. “Sure of yourself aren’t you.”
He smiled back, “Yes woman I am. You will speak as Goddess and Grove. I will speak as God and Grove. But I will be standing next to you and we will be Grove to the Hooded God.”
She managed a small smile. Then pushed her food around, nibbling lightly on the tender meat and lush tomato. Finally she said, “It really is a good idea and a way to have the symbology of the departing God when you don’t have enough participants.”
“Yep.” And Owen poured himself a little more wine, while Nola looked at him over the rim of her glass.
“Since you seem to have this all planned out, when do you want to start the ritual?”
“Do you want to soak in the Jacuzzi first?”
“Me either. It’s dusk. I can make the room dark by drawing the curtains.”
She smiled and sipped her wine and then took a sliver of meat in her fingers and nibbled it. “Yes, you can.”
He smiled at her sensual playful tone and felt his body respond.
“I don’t recall seeing a valet stand.”
“It’s in the closet.” But didn’t push it and tell her it was newly purchased specifically to use in the ritual.
“Ah.” She nibbled the rest of the strip of meat and cleaned off the tips of her fingers and gently wiped them in the napkin before she took a sip of wine. She was thinking about the ritual and slipping into priestess mode.
Owen watched her as he finished his larger plate. Finally he said quietly, “Nola.”
“Are you finished?”
“Yes.” And she came back to earth as Owen lifted her plate on top of his and then put them both on the meat platter and picked up the salad bowl. Nola picked up his glass and the napkins and followed him into the kitchen.
As she set his glass on the counter, he kissed her on the forehead, “Go on upstairs priestess. I’ll meet you.”
She smiled took the last sip of wine from the glass and went upstairs.
Owen stored the remaining steak in one container and the left over salad in another. Then cleared off the plates and bowls and loaded everything into the dishwasher. Then he headed up to the other bathroom upstairs to prepare.
Nola had just enough wine to take the edge off. She undressed and before she tied her core around her, decided on a quick warm rinse off in Owen’s shower. Then she grounded and centered and was ready to be priestess.
Owen rinsed off in the other shower warmed by the water and the wine. He was more than ready for ritual when he stepped into the bedroom.
Nola had just finished setting the leaf oak branch tips around the God & Goddess statues on the altar. When Owen entered she looked up, smiled at him and asked, “Do you want to cast or should I?”
“I’ll do it. But first…” and he pulled out the valet stand already covered with his robe. The stand had a small shelf at the shoulder level and, as he set it in the west, Nola said quietly, “Oh that will so work.”
Owen cast the circle wide enough to encompass the whole house. Nola said, “We gather at this sacred time to rejoice for the abundance which has come into the world…”
Owen as High Priest took the god flame from the east to the west and set it on the valet shelf. Nola placed the chalice filled with wine and rue on the shelf and bid the God farewell. She and Owen did the rite of union facing the God in the West. Nola turned to Owen and moved around him lightly stroking his arms, his chest, his back and beckoned him and all his maleness to come with her around the circle. She settled him on the ottoman that was inside the circle and as priestess took the essence of the god from him. She then extinguished the God candle and said, “The Lord has departed from his shining abode in the heavens for the season has come. And Death shall come to the world for the Winter draws near. The Lord of Light has now become the Lord of Shadows.” She walked around the circle again and placed some oak leaves in the caldron that she had set in the west. Owen recovered enough to place some oak leaves in the cauldron.
Nola read portion of the Mythos. “In the earliest times, our Lord and Lady lived in the ancient forest of Nemi… Now there came a time when all things grew to their fullness…. And in that time was the God slain and drawn into the Harvest. Owen then moved the cloaked God to the north and came around to stand next to Nola.
Nola as the voice of the Goddess read, “I have come in search of Thee, is this where I begin?”
And Owen responded as the God using his priest voice, “Begin to seek me out, and I shall become as small as a seed, so you may pass me by.”
They looked to each other and as Grove said together, “Then we shall split the rind, crack the grain and break the pod.”
Owen responded again as God “But I shall hide beneath the earth, and lay so still that you may but pass me by.”
Nola as Goddess responded, “Then I shall raise you up in praise, upon a mantle of green.”
Owen in the priest tone said, “But I shall hide within the green and cover myself that you may but pass me by.”
He then looked down to Nola and together they said as Grove, “Then we shall tear the husk, and pull the rook and thresh the chaff.”
Owen in a tone that made the hair on her arms raise said, “But I shall scatter, and divide and be so many that you may pass me by.”
Then he put his arm around her and they said as the Grove, “Then we shall gather you in, and bind you whole and make you One again.”
Nola turned to the altar and took the sacred loaf around the circle. She was everywhere and no where all at the same time. Her blade was too light to cut the loaf so she used Owen’s and as she cut the loaf in half and then 2 small pieces from the loaf she was struck again by the symbology.
She handed Owen his piece and said, “Behold the Lord, the Green Man, the Stag King, the Hooded Man. Let us take Him within us and be one.” She took the chalice of wine took a sip and handed it to Owen and then and gave the final blessing “Behold you are now as One, you are of the Blood. That which was at the time of the beginning is now and always shall be.”
The ritual ended and Nola had small tears running down her cheeks. Owen set the chalice on the valet shelf and took her into his arms. Finally he said, “I’m told that the celebration concludes with merriment.”
She managed a smile. He lifted her and started walking toward the bed… “Owen, the circle…”
“Encompasses the whole house.” He kissed her neck, stroked her breast and reached for her sex and was surprised to find it so wet. “Oh woman I think you want me.”
And she did but managed to say in a priestess voice that was only slightly breathy, “Taking the God’s essence drew my own.”
“So you don’t want me?” as he kissed her breast and down her belly.
“Oh yes Owen. Yes I do.”
After spending some time in the Jacuzzi, they ended up down stairs snuggled on the couch having a snack of leftover loaf, steak, cheese and apple with the rest of the bottle of Brunello. They were on Nola’s side of the couch; Nola facing the window, Owen facing the fireplace with his feet up on the ottoman. The radio was on.
Owen finally broke the silence with “What do you want to do tomorrow?”
Nola sighed, “Nothing.”
He smiled. “Nothing? Really?”
She smiled and said, “What do you want to do tomorrow?”
“I’d like to stretch tomorrow into a month and take you far away from here so I could have you all to myself.”
“Ummm that sounds nice. But one of the things I love about being around your Taurians is that you make such luxurious nests. Every time I’m here it’s like a vacation; the wine, the Jacuzzi, the pool, you.” He smiled, pleased with himself and she asked, “Is there something you want to do closer to home?”
Owen thought, Pack up all your stuff and move you here but Papa Eric’s “Now Son…” stopped him from saying it out loud.
“I didn’t plan anything.” Then he thought, “Wait, I know. We could go crabbing.”
“Yeah, I want you to show me how that chicken neck on a string thing works.”
“You are kidding me.”
“No, I’m not kidding. We don’t have to do it tomorrow. But I’d like to do it, with you, one day.”
She laughed, “Maybe what we should do tomorrow is get what we’ll need to go crabbing, a good scoop net with a long handle, string, a hamper…”
She giggled again, “You really want to do this?”
“Yes, woman I really do.”
“We can probably get most of what we need at Academy Sports, especially if you want to do it with a string and not nets.”
“Ok… then it’s a date: crabbing supply trip tomorrow.”
“I can’t believe that this is what you really want to do.”
“Well it isn’t my first choice.”
“Oh.” And he watched as she evaluated that and worried about what he really meant.
“Oh woman.” He moved closer. “Don’t fret.”
“I’m not fretting.” She said in light tone but thought, to herself I’m just preparing for the worst.
“Yes you are. You are scared to death that I am going to change my mind and disappear.”
She looked into her glass.
“You are.” He insisted.
“Yes, I am.”
He shook his head disapprovingly. “You know what I really want to do?”
She looked at him and shrugged.
“I’d really like to rent a van and move you lock, stock and barrel into our house so that you will stop worrying that I’m going to change my mind and disappear.”
She looked at him, eyebrows slightly raised and took a sip of wine to let it sink in. He let her stew. She moved the glass between her fingers and studied the wine. “I…” she sighed. “You really are the irresistible force aren’t you?”
He smiled at her, “Yep.”
“You know if it weren’t for Jamie, I think I could let you do just that and everything else could be worked out later.”
He had not expected to hear that. She continued, “I’d walk away. Leave James, the house and most of the stuff and figure the rest out as time passed. But I can’t do that. I need time to figure out how to straighten out my life and not mess up Jamie’s. I’m sorry. I really am.”
He put his glass down and took hers from her and set it aside and pulled her across his lap as he said, “You are serious!” and kissed her.
When she caught her breath she managed to say, “Well, I didn’t expect that.”
“Why not woman, you just said you’ll do exactly what I want!”
“No Owen, I said if it weren’t for Jamie I could almost let you do exactly what you want.”
He furrowed his brow and said, “Stop splitting hairs.”
She sighed and decide to she needed to be straight forward, even if it… even if he did change his mind. “Sorry, but I have to split hairs.” He started to speak but she kept going, “You know I was married before James. So I’ve done this whole thing before. I left my first husband, the house and almost everything in it and walked away. It wasn’t pretty or easy and sometimes I cried just because I was hurting him or because I would worry that I was being stupid, making a terrible mistake and would end up alone. When I told him I was leaving him, essentially for another man, he tossed all my clothes out of the house. I ended up at James small, and not clean, man cave for a few weeks before I found my own place and really moved; my stuff and my dog. I left for good and never went back. So I know how to walk away from a relationship and end a marriage, stay civil and end up friends. I know how hard it is but I know how to do it.” She finally paused. “Think about that Owen. I’ve been married” and she paused just long enough for emphasis, “twice. I’ve walked away from a marriage before. I am flawed.”
“Nola, you are not flawed.”
“Oh but I am. I so very much am.”
“So what if you are. I don’t care. Don’t paint yourself as someone you are not. I know you better than that.”
She sighed. “I liked my first husband, loved him but was never in love. I was in love with James for a very long time. He broke us. He broke me. I’ve tried to fix it. I can’t.”
“I know and I’m sorry but I thank the Gods James is an idiot.”
She managed to actually chuckle. “I would probably still be doing my best to make my marriage work if I hadn’t met you.”
He smiled. “The fates conspired, Nola.” And then he turned on his formidable charm and said, “I would be making due too.”
“Oh how I love your face.”
He kissed her. “I hope you love more than my face.”
“Oh I do. I do. But I can’t just walk away. I need to make sure that Jamie is safe and I have to make sure that I don’t lose her, not to a court system and I also don’t want lose her heart. You can’t just pack me up and move me. It’s much more complicated than that and I need time. You have to give me time. It’s barely been a week! I feel like I’ve fallen off a cliff.”
“Told you so son.”
Owen paused before he said, “Ok.”
“Ok?” and she strung the word out into more than one syllable trying to figure out what Ok meant.
“Yes woman, Ok. I will give you time. But you can’t stop me wanting you here.”
A short sigh escaped her, “Anymore than I can stop myself from wanting to be here.” She shook her head. “I hate it that I feel so guilty about loving you.”
“What the hell does that mean?” he said laughingly.
“I don’t like living a lie at my own house. I was managing before… before you insisted that I admit to myself that I was in love with you. Now I feel guilty that I am going to hurt James, break up Jamie’s family and could be messing up your life.”
“You are not messing up my life.”
“That’s what you say now.”
“Nola…” and he tipped her chin so he was looking her in the eyes, “I’m a big boy.”
She smiled at that, “Yes. Yes you are.” And she sighed.
He hugged her and said. “It’s going to be ok. I’m right here. I’m going to stay right here. I am your safety net.”
And she wanted to believe it, she really did but right now she felt anything but safe.
Owen sent his grandfather a question. “Well how is she really?”
“Scared. Scared and lost and confused.”
“But she loves me right?”
Meana said, “Yes, she loves him. But she wishes she didn’t. And she wishes Owen didn’t love her.”
“Yes, son. But…
“But what Pop?”
“But what Pop?”
“Owen you are going to have to accept that what Nola is going through is a double edged sword.”
“What does that mean?”
“She loves you. She wishes she didn’t. She loves that you love her. She wishes you didn’t. She wants to leave her husband. She wishes she didn’t. It’s not easy for her.”
Owen sighed and Nola sighed and he just kept holding on to her.
“But Pop, it could be so easy. It is so easy when she is here.”
“Yes son, I know. For you it is easy and I’m happy for you. But…”
“I know she needs time.”
“It’s barely been a week for her, son.”
“It’s been 10 days and feels like 10 years.”
Papa Eric looked to Meana but all Meana could offer was sympathy.
“Take your woman to bed, son.”
Owen rolled over and smiled as he woke to Nola in the bed. She was lying with her back to him, her neck exposed. He ran his hand over her hip and down her thigh and kissed her neck. As she turned her shoulder toward him with a small, “mmmm” her breast slipped out from the sheet and he didn’t hesitate to take her nipple into his mouth. As he did Nola inhaled sharply in surprise before another small satisfied moan escaped from her and she turned more fully toward him. He took that as invitation. Her eyes opened as he slipped inside and then slitted as she arched her back to met him. He consumed her, driving deep as she wrapped her legs around him. He was no longer sure if he was awake or dreaming.
He heard Nola giggle under him and say, “I don’t remember setting the alarm clock to full on rapture. But wow! It sure feels like a vacation day now.”
Owen raised himself on his hands but Nola wouldn’t let him slip from her. “I am crushing you.” He said with a smile.
“Maybe, but I like it.” And she squeezed him inside and out and he collapsed back on top of her with a satisfied groan before he rolled over onto his side.
“I love you woman. Don’t move.” And he rose from the bed and went into the bathroom.
Nola got up and slipped into the other upstairs bathroom. So she was gone when Owen returned. He had just realized that she wasn’t in the bed when she came back into the room.
“There you are!” And he scooped her up and moved them back to the bed, nuzzled her neck and watched her nipple rise.
“Oh, this is…. I want you again.”
“Good.” He said huskily.
“We must be in love or at least in lust. This is ridiculous.” But she moved her hands down his back and then slipped one over his penis and then moved the back of her hand between his scrotum
“No, it is not woman. This…. Ummmm…. is one of the reasons I want you to move in as soon as possible.”
She didn’t reply to that but rolled on her side and him onto his back and began to stroke him and gently nipped his nipple and worked her way down his chest until she took him with her mouth. She nuzzled and licked and sucked until he was squirming for release then she mounted him and rode them both into oblivion.
When they recovered he asked, “So shall we stay in bed a day for a sex marathon?”
“Hmmm..??? Do you really thing that you could do it 24 more times today?”
He chuckled. “Probably not. But I’m willing to try.”
“If we count the orgasms separately we only have 22 more to go.” She teased.
“You are the most amazing woman.”
“You only say that because of the sex.”
“No I don’t!” and he paused, “But if I do say so myself, the sex is amazing.”
And his stomach rumbled. She giggled. “I think you need to eat to keep up your strength.”
He smiled and said, “Oh you will need yours too. Come on woman, let me make you breakfast.”