True to the family spirit, Cypress was quick to make up her mind. The morning after her first kiss, she woke up with a whim to ask Knox McRae, Granite Falls Park Ranger, to be her boyfriend.
“Um. It’s kinda sudden,” McRae said. “And it’s a really long commute to Granite Falls.”
“Just kidding!” he laughed. “Of course I’ll be your boyfriend! I’d move mountains for you! You got any mountains need moving?”
They giggled in unison. And then he scared her, and they both cracked up. It was an inside joke, since she had scared him on a mischievous whim shortly after they met at the Granite Falls community garden.
Sugar joined them shortly after they officially became a couple.
“So, are you two a thing now?” she asked. “What’s your ship name? CyRae? McPress? Give me time, I’ll get the right one.”
“Yeah, run the ship names by us when I come back, right, Pepper Doodle?”
“Come back?” Sugar asked. “Where are you going?”
“Well, I got to head back to Granite Falls. It’s a long drive, and I’m pretty beat. Don’t want to fall asleep behind the wheel.”
“You know,” Cypress said, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now!”
It didn’t take much convincing for McRae to quit his job as a ranger and move in–right then and there.
“I’ve always wanted to be a body builder, anyway,” he said. “The ranger gig was just a stop along the way.”
“So. Moving in with my little sister, huh?” J.P. asked over a high protein supper that evening. “Fast mover, huh?”
“It’s not that fast,” McRae answered. “Well. Ok. It is. It is fast. But when it’s right, it’s right. Know what I mean? Of course you do.”
Jade dropped by the next morning to join Cypress for breakfast.
“So, you see,” Cypress said, “it worked out really well that you were honest with me! Now you get your time alone, and I get somebody who likes to spend time with me!”
Fortunately, Jade likes a straight-shooter, so he had to agree that it seemed to be working out for the best.
“We still friends, though?” he asked. “Because you’re like my oldest friend.”
“Of course!” said Cypress. “That’s what I’m saying! Now that I don’t have all these misconceived expectations, we can go right on being super good friends!”
McRae wanted to go camping at Granite Falls–he was used to that mountain air and the scent of firs and pines, and, while he loved the desert, he was already feeling withdrawal symptoms from the mountain high he loved so much.
He didn’t even have to talk Cypress into the trip: the moment he mentioned “camping” and “mountains,” she was all over it.
“I’ve only been there the one time,” she said, “the time I met you! But I was happier there than anywhere! And I’m happy everywhere!”
Cypress loved the campground even more than the cabin where she and her family had stayed. It was secluded, and she could hear the chipmunks scampering through the fields and the woodpecker in the trees.
When McRae got back from picking up his last paycheck at the ranger station, he called her over.
“I got something for you,” he said. He pulled out a funny old boy scout ring. “It’s not much to look at, but it belonged to me when I was an earnest kid, and I want you to have it. I want us to get married, too. Will you marry me, Pepper Doodle?”
“For sure!” she said. “For sure and forever.”
They wanted to elope right then and there, but the park had some regulations–since it’s on the border of four counties, marriage ceremonies can’t be held there; it’s too confusing to determine which county would issue the marriage license.
“Let’s just go back home,” Pepper Doodle said.
“I want us to see one thing before we do,” said McRae. “Race you there!”
She ran after him down the trail.
And they stopped at the community garden.
“This is where I first saw you,” said McRae. “If I could marry you here, this is where I’d want us to get married.”
“It’s just as well we can’t,” said Pepper Doodle. “I’d get all confused and call you, ‘sir!’ That first time I saw you, in your uniform? You looked like a grown up!”
“Well, I am a grown up,” said McRae.
“Yeah, but you’re not some guy in a suit anymore,” she said, “even if it was a ranger suit.”
They cut their vacation short and headed home first thing the next morning.
“You look so beautiful in the garden,” McRae said, before they even made it into the courtyard to let everyone know they’d returned.
“Let’s get married right now!” said Cypress. “You said you wanted to marry me in a garden!”
“Pepper Doodle Bough,” said Knox McRae, “I can’t even say what my heart does when I look at you. I just know there are two things that make me feel this way: the beauty of nature, and the beauty of you. Well, since you’re a child of nature, I guess that’s just one thing. I’m not fancy with words, but I’ve always been earnest and I’ve always been true. I’ll be the best partner I can be, and babe, you’ll always come first with me.”
“It’s the color of your eyes,” she said, looking at the ring he put on her finger. “And the color of the sky. Blue’s always been my favorite color–it’s freedom and joy, and that’s what you are to me.”
There in the garden, under trees planted by great grand aunts and grand fathers and all the great greats down to the founder, Cypress Bough and Knox McRae married each other, for sure and forever.
“Do you feel any different?” Cypress asked him after they sealed it with a kiss.
“No,” he said. “Do you?”
And she had to admit, as she thought about it later that morning, that while she didn’t actually feel different, she recognized that everything around her was different. They had set into motion the events that would be ushering in the end, the end of the restrictions and responsibilities that had encircled their family for nine generations and the end of a way of life.