Forgotten Art: Norman – Mel 6

A reply to: A letter from Mel

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Dear Mel,

First, an apology. I am sorry I haven’t written sooner. I wanted to write to tell you the good news, but life got busy.

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In your last letter, you wrote:

“I see that you now refer to Aari as your stepdaughter. Is it what I believe it means, or would my celebration be premature?”

Well, truth is, in my last letter, I referred to her that way as a type of short-hand. Or maybe it was wishful thinking. Or maybe, some combination of both.

But by now, and this is part of the reason for me writing so late, she is, officially, my stepdaughter.

Yup, her mom and I got married.

And, your premature celebration was right on time! You always have been good luck for me. Thank you, Mel.

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It was a real wedding, with Ira looking story-book, and all our friends and family in attendance. Well, almost all. My uncle Jasper was coming down with a flu and didn’t want to spread the germs, so he stayed home.

Everybody there had a great time. Everyone except my sister, that is.

She wore her grumpiest face throughout the ceremony and even during the party after.

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Ira said she cornered her before the reception to ask philosophical questions about the institution of marriage, like, “Isn’t it a patriarchal relic?” And how does she reconcile it with her feminism?

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But Ira was too happy to let Meadow’s cultural analysis stifle her mood.

We danced til dark.

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After all the guests left, Ira insisted on doing the clean-up herself.

“We can hire someone to do this tomorrow,” I said.

But she wouldn’t hear of it.

“But is this how you want to spend your wedding night?” I asked.

“I want to get us off on the right start,” she insisted, “and leave nothing undone. Besides, this won’t be how I spend the whole night. This is just the opener.”

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I never saw a more glorious dishwasher. Of course, I stayed up with her to dry and put the dishes away.

I’ve seen her face first thing when I wake for many a morning. But now, it feels different. It feels permanent, somehow, and like maybe, it’s a step towards undoing–or at least getting past–all the bad things that happened to her and all the lonely selfish days of my own youth. We’re a couple now, official-like.

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I was happy to hear about your horse. I hope both your boys are healthy and that Gari’s ear infection cleared up OK.

In other news, the family business is going well. We’ve got more investors than we need now. I guess solar energy is all the rage these days, and I’m busy. All the staff we kept are working hard, and we’re even hiring new folks. We are, even after our previous set-back, ahead of schedule.

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I got a lot to be thankful for, Mel. Sometimes, I stop and think about who I was when we first started writing–a lonely guy, struggling with my business, struggling to find connections, struggling to do right.

Now, I’ve got the business on track, in good shape financially and, more important to me, in line with my environmental ethics. No more windmill raptor deaths in the Windenburg hills! Solar power firing up our town.

My home life is on track, too, more full than I ever imagined it could be.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for writing in the busy future. Each day seems more full than the next. Aari has said that she would like to write to you, so if you’re able to write back, maybe you would have the patience to read a letter from her. Or maybe she could write to your boys, and you could read over their shoulder to learn what’s up with us.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever know how to thank you for being a friend and bringing me good fortune. But I bet that you can see into my heart, so look close. All this shining rose color? That’s for you. Thank you.

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Wishing you lasting happiness, good health to you, your boys, and your horse, and…

Love always,

Norm

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Lighthouse: Box of Answers

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After Xirra left, Septemus carried down a wooden box full of journals and bundles of letters tied up with string.

“There are some things you need to know,” he said, “before you go through with marrying me. I’d tell you myself, but I’m afraid I’d leave too much out. One look of sadness or horror on your face–and what you’re about to learn is full of sorrow and horror–and I’d never be able to follow through. I can’t bear to see you sad. But you need to know about me, my past, and where I come from. If I’m going to ask you to share my life, you need to know what you’ll be sharing. I should have told you before we got engaged. I’m sorry, byu. I got carried away by you, and I couldn’t think.”

He went upstairs to bed, leaving me with his history.

I spent the night reading. His father began writing him letters a few days after he adopted him. In his first letter, he told him he was writing so that, “when you’re on your own, later, when you’re all grown up, you can have something to look back on, to help you remember, to keep you connected to your past, and maybe even, to answer some questions.” I guess my questions were being answered, now, the ones I didn’t even know to ask.

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The box contained journals, too, which Sept started writing when he was a teen. He was right. The story packed grief and brutality.

I read about Sept’s trauma from the crash, which Sebastion helped heal when Sept was still a tiny kid, the grief from Situ’s death, the longing to find the other 143 children rescued with him. I read of Sebastion’s search for other caregivers selected by the government program to provide homes to the 144 children found in the crashed spacecraft, and I read of their joy at finding the forums where these caregivers shared their struggles and successes.

Sept’s journals revealed the fate he’d been spared, which he learned of from Xirra, who’d sought him out when he was a teen. Where he’d originated, those who’d cloned him didn’t believe clones had souls. They produced them in vast labs for slave labor or, worse, for their organs. Sept’s brain had been destined for implant in the premier’s daughter, and his eyes, hearts, and other organs to the highest bidders or traded for political favors.

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Situ had interrupted this fate. She, with the other rebels, had rescued him and scores of other children from the lab. Rebel children filled out the roster, and the craft sailed for Haven. But when they’d been detected, Situ attempted an emergency landing here, on this planet, after first securing all the children in their travel pods. The ship burned when it entered the atmosphere–something had malfunctioned. And so Situ died in the crash. All the children survived.

I realized, then, the depth of meaning that being compared to Situ carried. She was not just his first caregiver, the first to love him, she saved him. She gave up her life in rescuing these children. I could never live up to that, but I could do what was in my power: stay beside him so that he might always know the sweetness of home.

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Sept had been cloned from Baxin’ivre, the poet, and, I gathered, something of a Siddhartha to his people a thousand years before. The rebels, stealing the tissue sample from the lab, had cloned Emmanuel from Baxin’ivre’s brother, Batuotuo, who’s been called the George Washington of that time. Together, a thousand years ago, the two originals founded the rebellion, in protest of the abuses perpetrated by the elite.

This was what Sept had come from. His genes, his cellular memory, carried the rebellion.

I read through the night. At dawn, I stretched out on the couch and slept. I didn’t want to disturb Sept in our bed. I wanted to sleep alone so that, through the solitude of my breath, I might process all that I’d read.

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I woke after noon to find that Sept had covered me with a quilt and arranged a pillow beneath my head.

I was thirsty and starving. A cup of tea and cinnamon toast with cream cheese waited for me on the table.

When I finished my snack, I looked out the window and saw Sept, standing on the bluff, gazing over the bay to the horizon.

I ran out to him.

“I read it all!” I said.

“Oh,” he said. “I’m bashful. I’m afraid to even ask. What did you think?”

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“It’s hard to put into words,” I said. The air sparkled–could I see the molecules of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and carbon dioxide? Sounds carried great distances–I heard the ferry horn, though it was well out of the bay–and yet, inside and out, hung great silence.

“Let’s walk,” Sept said, leading us down the trail to the beach.

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“So,” Sept said as the waves crashed, “I want you to know that if you’ve decided it’s too much, and it’s not the life you choose, I understand. It was never fair of me to ask anyway. I just got carried away, byu.”

I wrapped him in a hug.

“Are your eyes closed?” I asked him.

“They are,” he said.

“I’m going through with everything,” I said. “I choose you.”

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“Even knowing it all?”

“Especially knowing it all!” I said. “Let’s get married!”

“OK!” he said.

“No,” I said. “I mean, now! Let’s get married now!”

“This is a moment!” he said, and he whipped out his phone so we could have this moment always.

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“If you want to marry me,” he said, “you’ll have to catch me first!”

And he raced towards the boardwalk.

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I chased him through the walkers’ tunnel under the road.

“Look!” I said. “It’s Mojo!” He sat with his head hung down in a spot of sun on the boardwalk.

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“Mojo,” Sept said. “What brings you out here?”

We hadn’t seen him since the day of our first date, three weeks before.

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Mojo picked up his head at Sept’s voice and spun around.

“He knows you’re Max!” I said. “He recognizes you, disguise or no disguise!”

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Mojo reared and placed his front paws in Sept’s hands, and they waltzed.

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“He loves you, Sept,” I said. “He missed you. He came all this way to find you.”

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“Did you miss me, my friend?” Sept said, dropping to his knees and hugging Mojo.

“He’s chosen you, too,” I said.

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“Catch me!” I yelled. I knew the place where I wanted us to get married.

Sept ran after me. “We’ll be back, Mojo!” he said. “Wait for us!”

I ran through the upper meadow.

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The stream flowed into the bay, and the air sparkled again, and the beat of my heart banged in my ears, and the noise of life, with singing wrens and chattering gulls and piping killdeer, cascaded around us until the racket burst into dense silence: this was now, and Sept stood beside me.

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“I never thought I’d catch you!” he said, as we collapsed on the bench.

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Time has always been strange with Sept. It’s not chronological. It’s a strange Wittgensteinian mix of the moment and the eternal. Three weeks stretches longer than three decades. And a lifetime passes in a moment.

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“Do you know when I first loved you?” Sept said.

I expected him to say something romantic.

“When you started scowling at me while I watched you work,” he said. “You looked so cute trying to look to tough!”

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“I loved you from the moment I first saw your mop-top hair,” I said. “And your cute little tight bell-bottoms.”

“I know,” he said. “I’m just happy you still feel the same when I look like this.”

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We stood and walked toward the vista.

“I’m not the type of person that just anyone could accept,” he said, as we exchanged vows, “not with my origin and history. But you’re so far from just anyone that I sometimes can’t believe I was lucky enough to meet you. I thought I might lose you, the more you got to know me and those who are connected to me. But you know it all, and you’re still here.”

Whenever I’ve told this story to family and friends, they seem surprised that, after only three weeks, we pledged our lives to each other. It’s not the way things are done. We know this. But it was that Wittgenstein time, that feeling that we’d known each other forever. And besides, I was convinced then that within a decade, maybe sooner, all of this would be underwater. Where would we go? The planet would be inhospitable, and civilization, as we know it, crumbled. If I’m to be perfectly honest, and I am really striving to be so in these accounts, I’ll admit that part of me hoped that when life here was unsupportable, Sept’s people would come for him and take him someplace pleasant, and if they took him, maybe they’d take me, too. And maybe even Mojo. I wasn’t selfless in marrying Sept. I was very, very selfish. But it’s that selfishness, I discovered, that brings out the best love in me, the fierce love of a warrior and a mother.

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I told him that he was the best, bravest, most deeply good person I’d ever met, and the more I knew of him, the deeper I loved him.

It was true then. It’s still true now.

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Some loves crumble in the crucible of challenge. Others transform into metamorphic gneiss. Sept has taught me to rise to the challenge, for you never know what treasure you will uncover.

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Vampire Code: The Cynda

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“What are they doing, Ama?” asked Sparkroot.

“Have a chat-chat-tickle-me!” laughed Rocket.

“They’re not having a tickle-fest,” said Cathy. “Though it does look like it,” she added as she glanced over to Jaclyn and Davion near the portico. “They’re getting married.”

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After supper, while Jaclyn had helped Cathy wash the dishes, she’d leaned over and whispered, “Will you be my cynda?”

“Really?” Cathy had replied, louder than she’d intended. “Really?” she whispered. “You’re doing it? When?”

“Tonight!” Jaclyn had answered. “Now! Or at least, as soon as we’re done with the dishes.”

Cathy agreed to the honor. Jaclyn had been her own cynda when she and Brennan had married. The cynda is the most respected member of the traditional elvish wedding ceremony, especially when it is private or when the union has been expected for a long time. The term comes from “cynda-rutin,” or “bystander,” and the cynda is witness, midwife, and marriage counselor, all rolled into one.

Like a bystander, the cynda stands in approximation of the ceremony, close enough to watch, near enough to eavesdrop, and at the ready to coach, persuade, or nudge at the slightest hesitation.

From her spot on the patio, it didn’t look to Cathy that Jaclyn and Davion would need any nudging whatsoever. She’d never seen Jaclyn, in spite of her free and independent spirit, quite so happy.

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Davion said the traditional Gnomish vows:

Spree taka longdy
Aska me de pardy.

Longa dech ne baydoo
Mekka snee par kardy.

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Cathy didn’t know Gnomish, but she knew the voice of love.

“They look happy,” Sparkroot said.

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Jaclyn replied with her own cross between a blessing and vow:

Sun in the west,
bird on the nest.

Feather on the wing,
You wear my ring.

It was supposed to be a joyous occasion, Cathy thought. And certainly it was. These were words of love. Sparkroot had grown silent, as he stood to watch and listen. Then why did this heaviness settle over her?

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It wasn’t for Jaclyn and Davion, of that she was sure. She listened to Davi continue with his own vows as he left behind tradition and moved into the region of his own heart.

“Jaclyn, what brought me, brought you. What brought you, brought me. We were both pulled by rune into this nomdish land. What was it for, but to find me and you?”

Cathy had felt that, once, about Brennan, brought here by the rune of her own wish. She’d been happy when they’d married. She’d believed the words she’d said:

To stand with fate
Sometimes brings
Greater freedom
Than to walk alone
Through heaven’s gate.

But that had been so long ago, before she’d felt imprisoned by his harshness. Still, it felt like standing with fate, to have brought into this world these three children. That was something.

But where was freedom? Where was warmth? Listening to Jaclyn and Davi, she couldn’t help but imagine what it would feel like to have kindness and fate.

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She shook herself to dispel her wistfulness. This wasn’t a time to shade the moon.

There’s freedom in surrender, no matter how heavy the weight.

Jaclyn laughed again.

“Go on,” she said. “Put on the ring!”

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“Once I do, it’s nae comin’ off!” replied Davion. “Are ye sure as can sure can be?”

“Oooh!” replied Jaclyn. “Maybe you can take it off on Sunday, every fifth Sunday, and I’ll be a fifth-free-dove!”

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“That would nae do!” said Davion. “Just give me the ring and I shall put it on before we have to call the cynda to make us do so!”

And with that, he put on the ring that sparkled like a star’s wink.

“My bonny elvish bess,” he said.

“My sweet runish doan,” she replied.

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“They’re married now,” Sparkroot explained to Florinda, “just like Ama and Ada.”

“Will they live in separate houses,” asked Florinda “like Ama and Ada?”

“Most likely so,” replied Sparkroot. “That’s how you stay a happy couple.”

“Will they have lots of kids?” asked Flor.

“Most likely yes,” replied Sparkroot. “That’s what comes from married people.”

“Then they’ll be very, very happy,” said Florinda. “Just like us!”

“More pasta, Ama!” yelled Rocket. “Tummy wants yummy! More yummy!”

Cathy had to laugh. Love is still love, even if no one is the perfect spouse. And even the sting of the harshest of words could fade inside the ring of happiness.

Freedom meant something more than having no cares: It meant tending to the cares entrusted to one with a carefree heart.

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New World Symphony: Musical Chairs

“Nice dress,” said Cathy Tea, passing Kitten Nell as she walked down the stairs.

“Thanks,” said Kitten. “Part of my entertainer gig, you know. It’s kind of hard to walk down the stairs in. Not to mention the breathing part.”

“Oh, well,” Cathy replied, “I’m sure you could change into something more comfortable. It’s the music, not the dress, that we care about.”

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A few minutes later, they passed each other on the stairs again. Kitten had changed into a cotton t-shirt dress.

“How’s that?” Cathy asked.

“Much better!” replied Kitten Nell. “I think I can actually breathe and move, simultaneously!”

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While all the other guests made their way inside to the bar on the gallery floor or upstairs to the supper spread in the Crow’s Nest, Sugar waited outside for Kitten Nell’s concert. She’d heard about her interpretations of Liszt’s transcriptions of Bach’s preludes and fugues, and she expected to learn something new.

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Upstairs, Floyd joined Cathy for a snack.

“No plus one?” Floyd asked.

“Ah, no,” said Cathy Tea. “I forgot to invite him.”

Floyd chuckled. “Flying solo!”

“I guess so!” she said. “Anyway, everyone I want to see is here!”

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“What a day,” said Wade, wrapping Jaclyn in a big hug.

“You make a fantastic best man,” she replied.

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onezero stood in the middle of the room and closed her eyes. She could hear everyone’s thoughts, all the conversations, and the wedding songs of the 1,000, and every voice, spoken or unspoken, sang of happiness.

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Jaclyn recounted elf weddings that lasted days and days.

“And we had to sleep in the treetops,” she said, “those of us who could sleep! Matter of fact, my mother tells me I owe my very existence to an elvish wedding celebration!”

“Conceived in a tree-top?” Rae asked.

“More like a hobbit hole!” Jaclyn laughed. “My father’s folks aren’t tree-climbers much.”

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Wade looked dashing–everybody thought so.

“What will it be, Wade,” Jaclyn teased, “ever the best man and never the groom?”

“I’m a happy bachelor,” he replied.

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“That I can understand,” said Jaclyn. “I’m in no hurry myself. Something about being part of a couple makes me feel like running away by myself to the mountains sometimes, even if getting together with Davion was my idea!”

“And how does Davion feel?” Wade asked.

“Pretty much like me!” said Jaclyn, and everyone chuckled.

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Sempervirens listened carefully to a conversation that Floyd and Sabreene were having. She caught the word “tree,” her attention was rapt.

“I love this line,” Sabreene said. “‘God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, “Ah!”

“Who said that?” asked Floyd.

“Joseph Campbell.”

“Ah, of course! And do you agree?”

“With the feeling, yes,” said Sabreene.

“And many things can generate that feeling?” asked Floyd.

“That’s right,” said Sabreene.

And Sempervirens began to think that maybe that meant that God was in many things, not just trees and pollywogs.

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Jeffrey noticed midway through the reception that the caterer hadn’t arrived yet and they had no cake! It was getting late, and the guests might start leaving soon. He thought about which recipe could be baked most quickly: carob cake! As soon as he pulled it from the oven and added the decoration, the caterer arrived.

“Sorry,” Meggs said. “There was a screw-up at the catering office! I just now got the text. Got here as fast as I could.”

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No matter! The guests were still there, the cake was baked, and Meggs was just in time to join the fun!

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Sempervirens knew that every cake deserves a song, so while J. P. cut the first slice she sang loud and clear:

An aunt takes an aunt
And an uncle with an uncle!

‘Come with me to the pond
beneath the hidden tree,’
said the grasshopper to the frog.
‘We will be happy, happy as can be!’

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“I’ve got an idea!” said Rae. “Let’s play musical chairs, and when you’re out, you grab your piece of cake!”

So Sempervirens sang, and the adults marched around the table, and when Sempervirens stopped, the one left standing grabbed the cake.

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“What’s the incentive to find a chair, again?” eXo asked Floyd.

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“To play the game?” he replied. “To be the last to get a piece of cake? Oh, never mind! Just, quick! The music has stopped!”

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It was almost–but not quite–too much joy for onezero. All those games, all those friends, all that family, and the songs from beyond that never did quit, not once.

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Soon the game ended, and all the slices of cake had been eaten, and more guests arrived from downstairs. No more cake? No bother! Redbud whipped up a fresh one, white this time, with sprinkles.

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“Oh, well done!” said Meggles. “Now that’s a cake that any caterer would be proud to serve!”

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Knox got to wondering where his wife had gotten to. The wedding joy was stirring up romantic feelings in him, reminding him of how lucky he felt to be married to the most beautiful member of this family.

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“Have you seen Cypress?” Knox asked Davion and eXo down at the bar.

“She did grace her form troo this way den funf minuten,” Davion said.

“She said she was looking for you,” said eXo.

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Cypress had headed outside–that’s where she always went she couldn’t find Knox.

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But this time, she didn’t see him there. She took a moment to take in the big sky and look up at Orion’s belt. She took a moment to listen to Kitten Nell’s performance on the piano. And then she headed back in.

They found each other at the bar.

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Upstairs, Nathanael painted a wedding gift for the couple. He’d been married to a woman strong as a mountain, burning like lava within–it had been bliss. With this gift, he hoped to pass on that magic to J. P. and Floyd.

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The sky took on the gray of early dawn.

“Hey, Squid,” said Knox. “You’ve been up all night! Maybe it’s time for us to head home.”

“I’m not tired, Dad,” said Sempervirens.

“I am,” said J. P.

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The party was winding down as Joel arrived. He’d been in the middle of drafting a chapter of his novel when J. P. had texted that the wedding was on. He finished the chapter shortly before the sun rose, but he still wanted to congratulate the couple, even if he had missed most of the celebration.

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Kitten Nell played on, and Sugar discovered that she had, indeed, learned something from her performance.

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Kitten Nell had played with passion and grace, restraint and courage, abandon and care, and it felt, to Sugar, a little like living, and a lot like love.

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New World Symphony: Cloud and Pine

“Wait!” Cypress yelled. “I’m coming! Hold off on the rings!”

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While Jeffrey Pine’s sister raced towards the wedding arch, he and Floyd Cloud stretched time the way they liked to.

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Across the block, Rae Rei and Redbud, just finished with closing up the store, also ran to catch the ceremony.

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While they waited for the guests, J. P. looked up at the stars.

“That’ll always be our constellation,” he said. “Orion.”

“Oooh,” joked Floyd. “How romantic! A sword and a belt!”

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Since Floyd had moved in a few months back, life had grown sweet for both of them. They often stayed up all night, talking, playing chess, making love, and then slept the next day through. They had so much time.

Rae Rei managed the store while Redbud and Sugar kept the gallery fully stocked, which meant that J. P. could take the day off any time he wanted.

And with Floyd around, he often wanted to take the day off.

They’d stayed up all night the night before. Floyd was in the process of telling  J. P. about his childhood and youth, starting with his earliest memories and working forward. That night, Floyd told stories about his tenth summer. He’d discovered Emerson that summer. His mom had started him on Thoreau, but all those nature scenes were a bit raw for Floyd. He didn’t like thinking about lizards and mud. But Emerson’s nature poems had a dryness that pleased Floyd.

“Can we remember a whole summer by remembering a poem?” Floyd asked J. P. as they sat on the upper deck, gazing out over the city lights across the park. “‘I see my empty house, I see my trees repair their boughs’–those lines, even now, call up that whole summer to me. That was the summer I learned what loss meant.”

As J. P. leaned into Floyd, listening to him tell of that long ago time, he caught the tail of the dream that Floyd had let go of during that ten-year-old summer. That was the year Floyd realized that he and his mom would never be returning to their old home, but would live on the road, vagabonding from seminar to seminar. “It’s good not to have attachments,” his mom had said when she became aware of Floyd’s grief.

“You don’t have to give up what you wish as a child,” J. P. whispered that night. They looked up at Orion. “I like to feel I belong. It’s a good wish to have. And when you’re grown, you can make your wishes true for yourself.”

They lingered in bed after they woke late that afternoon. When they finally rose to stretch, Floyd said, “I dreamed of my childhood house, and the door was wide open.”

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“Was I there?” J. P. asked.

“You were the one who opened the door!” Floyd replied.

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“I’d love if I could get your old home back for you,” J. P. said.

“If I have a home now,” Floyd continued, “it’s because of you.”

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J. P. thought back to how lonely he’d felt during his first few months here, before Floyd moved in–though he had hardly let himself admit his loneliness back then. Now, he had someone to cook for, someone to share meals with.

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They’d held many conversations about their wedding. Some days, they wanted to elope: it had become something of a family tradition. Sometimes, they wanted a civil service at the courthouse, “because we can” and so that they could stand as part of history.

But sometimes, they wanted the whole thing: the wedding arch, the bartender, the caterer, the entertainer, and as many friends and family as could fit. They even bought an old arch and twelve chairs that they found at a consignment shop and stored them down in the basement, just to be ready.

“I think we should get married today.” Floyd said as they ate. “This evening. Right now.”

“I doubt anyone can come at this late notice.” J. P. replied.

“OK,” said Floyd, “then it’ll just be us, the arch, and that great vast sky.”

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J. P. couldn’t deny Floyd. He called everyone: Davion to tend bar, Meggles to cater, Kitten Nell to entertain, and for guests, all the members of ZenPines, all the family, and as many friends as would fit.

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The men changed. “Our tuxes match,” said Floyd.

“Here, let’s switch ties,” said J. P., and they quickly untied their own ties and retied them onto each other.

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“Is this the day you become my uncle for real?” Sempervirens asked Floyd when she met him out at the side yard.

“It is, Squid!” Floyd answered. “Now we’re officially family!”

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Nathanael felt proud of his grandson. One of the gifts of staying ever-young, Nathanael realized, was seeing the family grow. He and his grandson had always shared a special friendship, and he couldn’t help but take some pride in the man that J. P. had become.

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Nathanael chuckled when he noticed that he’d carried two drinks out with him to the seats near the arch. One of them was for Tamarind, he realized. How funny that even now he still expected his wife to be by his side at every family event!

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“Is this seat taken?” Sabreene asked.

“No, of course not!” replied Nathanael, standing out of respect. “Only by my memories!”

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The family and friends gathered.

J. P. complimented Floyd on his tie, his handkerchief, his cuff links, even the little pearl buttons marking a straight line down his shirt.

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“Did you guys get married like this?” Vi asked her dad.

“Nope,” replied Knox. “We got married in a garden. Just us and a lemon tree!”

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Sugar remembered her own elopement with Ren, also in a garden with a lemon tree.

Sugar felt grateful for this family. Each person a miracle–like every person, really–but these ones were part of her.

cp23

J. P. spoke so softly that only Floyd could hear, whispered promises that made Floyd glow.

cp27

Redbud remembered that overwhelming feeling of young love. She still felt that way, whenever Tomas’s spirit was near.

cp28

“Look how good they are together,” Wade said to Miss Penguin.

“They’re adorable,” replied Miss P. “Simply adorable.”

cp29

As J. P.’s oldest friend and best man, Wade stood beside him to witness the exchange of rings.

cp30

Sempervirens had never seen such an exciting celebration–even confetti. She wanted to sing or cheer, but all the grown ups stood around with mouths smiling and eyes crying.

“Are you sad?” she whispered to her mom.

“No, happy,” said her mom. “Well, sad, too, maybe. Happy-sad.”

“Full hearts,” whispered her dad, and Sempervirens nodded. She was simply happy, through and through.

cp31

Sabreene was the first to congratulate J. P. while the other guests raced upstairs to lay out the snacks for the reception.

cp32

“This is such a happy day!” Sabreene said.

“That it is!” agreed J. P.

cp33

 

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