I Married a Medium
Lois Cloarec Hart
“You guys did a great job on the polish and presentation. You can all take off. I’ll do the test drive and deliver the car myself.”
I eyed the 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia my crew and I had just finished restoring. It wasn’t going to be a hardship driving this little beauty back to the client.
“Are you sure, boss?” Even as Jake asked the question, he was peeling off his coveralls.
“Yeah, go ahead. But Jake, if my place ends up egged or tp-ed, tell your boy Jason that I’ll know exactly who to come after.”
Gales of laughter greeted my threat. We all knew that Jake’s eldest had inherited his father’s love of practical jokes.
Ben snickered and slapped Jake on the back. “And that goes double for me. You tell that hellion of yours that my place is outta bounds, Halloween or not, got it?”
You’d have thought it was Friday afternoon of a long weekend, given how fast my crew cleared out. They earned it though. We’d worked on this project for five weeks, converting the bucket of rusty bolts the owner dumped on our doorstep to something that shone and purred like it had just come off the assembly line.
I wouldn’t want it to go to their heads, but I was proud of them. It had been a challenge and a half, but they’d risen to it. I’d have to see if I could pry open McCarthy’s wallet to get bonuses all around.
The owner was a notorious tightwad, but I had leverage. If I ever walked, my entire crew would come with me, and Champion Classic Car Restorations would be out of business within weeks. Me and the guys were the ones who built the company’s reputation, and we’re the reason there’s a nine month waiting list for our services. This most recent rebuild would only enhance our “go to” status.
I shut down the shop, activated the security alarm, and took that baby for a ride. When I got to the mansion, the client and his family spilled out of the house.
“Oh my God! It’s gorgeous!”
This is the best part of my job. It’s also one of the reasons I personally make deliveries when I can.
The teenage son caressed the front fender. “You have to let me take it for a test drive, Dad. Please?”
“Not a chance. Your mother and I are going to take this sweet thing for a spin before you or your sister are allowed anywhere near it.”
I handed over the keys and the paperwork, put the customer’s cheque in my pocket, and declined his offer to call a taxi. It was such a nice night, I wanted to walk home. A little exercise might make up for the homemade doughnuts that Eric’s wife brought us this morning. Since I turned forty, it’s been harder to keep lean and mean, when slow and soft is a siren call.
I walked away, grinning at the sound of the teens arguing over who would get to drive the car after their parents. Another job well done.
The night was cool, so I zipped my lined jacket against the breeze. When I got to Constellation Park, I went in. Normally I’m not dumb enough to go tripping through the woods in the dark. I wouldn’t be the first fool mugged in this park. But tramping through dried leaves blown into crunchy heaps by autumn winds takes me right back to my childhood.
I was halfway through the park when I left the main walkway and took a side path towards the creek that traversed the grounds. I crossed a small bridge, and after a few minutes of kicking up leaves along the tree line, stopped beside the creek. I knelt and trailed my fingers in the water.
“Damn, that’s cold.” Sheesh, what did I expect? It was the last day of October, not the first day of August.
Suddenly a movement in the trees beyond the brook caught my attention. I froze, then retreated to the tree line on my side of the creek as something white moved towards me.
A woman came out of the woods and floated down to the water’s edge.
I blinked. On second glance, the stranger only looked like she was floating because of the way her long gauzy dress fluttered in the breeze. Her bare feet curled beneath her as she took a seat on a large flat rock.
Is she nuts? It’s too goddamned cold to go without shoes at this time of year. Not that it was any business of mine if some crazy woman wanted to dress up in gossamer and freeze.
I was riveted. She was beautiful. Her long hair was almost white in the moonlight, and her gown draped her slender figure like one of those classic Greek statues you see in fancy gardens.
She wasn’t at all dressed for the weather, but the temperature didn’t seem to bother her. She was totally absorbed by whatever she held in her hand, but it was too dark for me to see what it was.
The stranger tilted her head as if she were listening, then laughed and turned her head.
It was weird. I swear she was looking right at me, but I was dressed all in black and crouched in the bushes. She couldn’t possibly see me.
“You might as well come out. We know you’re there.”
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want her thinking I was some sort of pervert who spies on women for kicks, even though technically I had been spying on her. I started to retreat, and she twisted to face my direction.
“Please, don’t go. It’s all right. Come talk to me.”
She held out her hand. “Please?”
I wasn’t able to say no, and though I didn’t realize it yet, I’d never be able to say no to her. I stepped from the cover of the trees.
“Um, hi. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
She smiled. “Don’t worry. You didn’t.” She patted the rock beside her. “Join me?”
I waded across the shallow stream, grateful I was still wearing my work boots. As I sat next to her, I fumbled for something to say, and came up with bupkis. Fortunately, she was much more articulate.
“My name’s Aurelia Grant. And you are?”
“Noelle, but most people just call me Noe.”
“Do they? Does it suit you? Do you say no a lot?”
I looked her straight in the eyes, and completely forgot to engage my brain before I opened my mouth. “Not to beautiful women.” I could’ve smacked myself, but she laughed.
“So you say yes a lot then, do you?”
“I think I’ll just stop talking now.”
“Oh, don’t do that. I want to learn all about you.”
“You do?” I had not expected her to say that. “What would you like to know?”
She cocked her head and her eyes went out of focus, like she was listening to something I couldn’t hear. Then her vision cleared, and she gave me a gentle smile. “Why don’t we start with the basics? What’s your last name, and what do you do for a living?”
“Jeffries. I manage Champion’s Classic Car Restorations.”
“Restorations? What a wonderful field. Renewals of all sorts, material and spiritual, are such a lovely contribution to the universe, aren’t they?”
I’d never thought of my work in that grand a fashion, but I enjoyed her appreciation of my craft.
As the conversation continued, I learned that Aurelia was close to my own age and she worked in the registrar’s office of the local college. She had the sexiest laugh I’d ever heard. It was low and throaty, and sent tingles all through me.
Maybe it was the magic of the night, or more likely the enchanting Aurelia, but when she finally told me why she was there, I wasn’t even fazed.
We had reached the topic of crazy ex-girlfriends, and I figured I could one-up this conversation hands down.
“You think you have a crazy ex. Let me tell you about one of mine.”
Aurelia laid her hand on my arm. “Trust me, if it’s a competition, I’ll win in a walk.”
I laughed. “No way. When my ex left, she shredded every single piece of fabric in the house. I mean sheets, towels, pillows, curtains, cushions. If it could be ripped, she took a knife to it. I guess I should be grateful I wasn’t home at the time. She might’ve tried to shred me, too.”
“My ex is a witch.”
“I know what you mean. Tammy could be a raging—
Aurelia shook her head. “No. I mean Betty really is a cauldron stirring, spell casting witch. You may even have heard of her. Her professional name is Psyche Seven.”
I gaped at her. “Psyche Seven? You mean that loon on Channel 96? The psychic who always gives the poor saps who appear on her program such dire predictions? Geez, broken romances, bankruptcy, the seven plagues—you couldn’t pay me enough to show up on her stage.”
Aurelia sighed. “That’s the one. Still want to compete?”
“Hell, no. You win. She gives me the willies, and I’ve never even met her.”
“She wasn’t always like that. She had a genuine gift, but she was convinced she was destined to be the next Sylvia Browne and she lost sight of her true purpose.”
“Genuine gift? You believe in that crap?” Maybe Psyche Seven put some kind of spell on her when they were together.
Aurelia held out her left hand, opened her fist, and let a silver chain fall free. A dark, cylindrical stone dangled at the base. “It’s not crap, Noe.”
I studied it. It looked innocuous enough. “What does it do?”
“It helps me communicate with my spirit guides.”
There was a little smile on her face, so I couldn’t tell if Aurelia was jerking me around. But I’d been talking to her for over two hours without picking up on any obvious signs of derangement, so I decided to go with the flow.
“Are you talking about something...I don’t know...”
“I guess. I’m not exactly sure what that means.”
“Some would call it supernatural or paranormal. I regard it as transcendent reality.”
“Huh. So you mean like ghosts and stuff?”
She chuckled. “And so much more.” She cocked her head. “Too soon?”
I started to answer, but realized she wasn’t talking to me. For a split second, I considered walking away. Briskly. I could tell the nice lunatic I’d enjoyed our conversation, go home and have a beer...or six.
Then she looked at me full on. Her eyes were so compassionate and her smile so warm that I melted.
“So...” The amusement was clear in her voice.
“So, how does it work?”
“It works in conjunction with mental communication. Sometimes I want visual reassurance of what I’m hearing from my guides. That’s where the pendulum comes in. It circles right for yes and left for no.”
“Huh.” I studied her skeptically. “You hear voices in your head?”
Her laughter rang out in the night.
I squirmed, but didn’t withdraw my question.
She laid a hand on my arm and squeezed. “I assure you I’m not crazy, Noe. You needn’t call out the men with the butterfly nets. I’m just clairaudient.”
I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. But since I didn’t want to leave my fascinating companion, and didn’t want to take a chance on alienating her, I decided to just Google “clairaudient” when I had a chance.
“What are you doing out here, anyway?” I touched her bare foot, which rested against my thigh. “You’re not exactly dressed for the weather.”
“Actually I am. I’m celebrating Samhain, and this is what I always wear.”
“You’re celebrating what?”
“Samhain. From sunset today to sunset tomorrow, I find a place of beauty outdoors to honour the passage of all souls, celebrate the harvest, and mark the beginning of earth’s winter rest. It’s the time when the veil between our world and the world of spirit thins.”
“So, what do you do to celebrate? Dance naked in the moonlight?” It was a pleasant thought, as long as she didn’t expect me to join her. Well, not for the dancing anyway.
She smiled, and I blushed. It was as if she was somehow tuned in to my thoughts.
“Though that does sound...interesting, I actually use this time to communicate with Spirit. For me it’s like New Year’s Eve. I want to start the next year with a clean slate, so I seek resolution for the emotional residue of the past twelve-month—silly arguments with loved ones, anger left unresolved, hopes unfulfilled—and guidance for the upcoming year.” She laid a hand on my arm. “And this year, I awaited your arrival.”
“Uh-huh.” I probably should’ve followed up on that claim with pointed inquiries, but my focus was entirely on her touch, her scent, and the way my head spun.
We talked until dawn. When we finally wound down and she drifted off to sleep with her head in my lap, I was in love. It was the second best night of my life.
What was the absolute best night of my life? That was about two weeks later when I walked Aurelia home after a date, and she took my hand and led me inside. ’Nuff said.
When we woke the next morning, I was jonesing for a coffee. She only had tea in the house, so we showered, dressed, and set out on a caffeine quest.
We were both giddy, laughing and holding hands like a couple of kids. We stopped every few steps to steal another kiss.
When we rounded the corner, we damn near ran into a wild-eyed woman who was just standing stock still in the middle of the sidewalk.
I’ve gotten the stink-eye from more than one person, but I’ve never been on the receiving end of a death glare like the one she gave me.
Aurelia groaned softly. “Psyche. What are you doing here?”
This was the infamous ex. She was even creepier in person than on TV.
Psyche shifted her stare from me to my girlfriend. “You know what I’m doing here. It’s been long enough. It’s time for you to come home.”
I opened my mouth to protest, and I swear my vocal cords froze. I couldn’t make a sound. I dropped Aurelia’s hand and clutched at my throat.
Aurelia stepped between me and Psyche. “Stop it, right now.”
I’d never heard Aurelia’s voice so cold, and I prayed that I’d never hear that tone directed at me.
Instantly my voice was fine, and I coughed a few times to clear my throat.
“Get it through your head. I am never coming back to you, not ever.”
Psyche cast a contemptuous look at me. “Because of this cretin?”
Aurelia reached back for my hand. “Noe is the best thing to ever happen to me, but even if she weren’t in my life, you and I would never be together again.”
“Why? We were good together. We can be again, Aurie. We’re meant to be, you know that. I made a couple of mistakes, but I’ve changed.”
Aurie? That so didn’t suit my elegant partner.
“Have you? No, I don’t think you’ve changed in the least. And even if you have, we aren’t meant to be together. You have to accept that. According to Ted, a union between us was never in our soul plans—”
I wondered who Ted was, and why Aurelia valued his opinion. I slipped my arms around her waist, and she leaned back into my embrace.
Pysche’s eyes flashed, and I flinched. It was one thing to be brave with your average run-of-the-mill psycho ex, but this woman was entirely out of my league.
Aurelia stepped out of my arms and went nose to nose with Psyche. “Stop it. You harm a hair on her head, and I will take you down. Got it?”
Wow. I didn’t know exactly what Aurelia meant, but Psyche apparently did. She glared at me one final time, and slunk away.
Aurelia turned to me, once more the kind, gentle woman I’d fallen for. She touched my throat. “Are you okay, sweetie? Do you want to go home?”
I shook my head. “No, I’m good. Besides, I happen to know there’s a chai latte with your name on it waiting at Jimi’s Java.”
She smiled and took my hand to resume our walk.
“So, who’s Ted? Your spiritual advisor or something?”
“In a way. He’s my spirit guide.”
“Oh. You mean the guy you talk to with the pendulum?”
“That’s the one.”
Still…Ted? That’s a stupid name for a guide. I mean if I was going to be a spirit guide, I’d call myself something like Athalides or Persephone, or something mysterious and romantic.
“Shouldn’t he have some kind of name like...I don’t know...Socrates or Aristotle, or something like that?”
Aurelia laughed, lifted my hand up to her lips and kissed my knuckles. “His name is Ted, sweetie. I suppose you could call him Edward, if you like.” She stopped and cocked her head. “No, sorry. He insists on Ted.”
In the fifteen days I’d known Aurelia, I’d sort of gotten used to her having conversations with disembodied spirits, which only goes to show how quickly we can adapt to the weird and wonderful world of woo-woo when we’re head over heels in love.
“Okay, hon. Ted it is.” All I could think about was that dumb movie with the bear, but if that was her guide’s name, then that’s his name.
The weekend passed in a blissful bubble of new love, but when I got back to work on Monday, things started to happen. There was nothing major, nothing I could even put my finger on. I just got clumsy. I dropped a Diet Coke I got from the machine for morning break. I was holding a wrench and it snapped like a Popsicle stick. In the afternoon, Jake’s mallet flew out of his hand and hit the side of my head.
I saw stars; I’m sure Jake saw the unemployment line. He couldn’t stop apologizing and swearing he didn’t know how that had happened.
While I sat at my desk with a makeshift ice bag held against my aching head, I started to wonder if having a witch pissed at me was going to be permanently bad for my health. But backing away from Aurelia wasn’t even an option, and I didn’t want to go whining to her, either. I had no proof. Maybe my stars were just misaligned and... Oh for crying out loud. My stars? When did I start buying into this stuff?
The first time I looked into Aurelia’s eyes, the first time she kissed me, the first time we... Well, you get the picture.
But when I tripped over an untied boot lace and skinned my hands on the pavement, I decided ridiculous or not, I had to do something. I looked up the nearest metaphysical shop on my iPhone and drove there. I felt like an idiot when I asked for some sort of protection gizmo, but the clerk didn’t bat an eye. I couldn’t help wondering whether this was a common request in their world.
I bought the necklace she recommended. It had an intricate lacing of silver around a crystalline mirror stone—sorta Celtic-like. It was probably my imagination, but I felt safer the moment I put it on.
I drove to Aurelia’s without incident, or accident. She wasn’t home from work yet, but she’d given me a key so I let myself in. She got home just as I was poking around in the fridge to see what I could whip up for dinner. She launched herself into my arms, and we ended up on the kitchen table rather than sitting at it.
In a frenzy, she tore my shirt open, then stopped.
Stopped? Hey, wait a minute. Why’d she stop? Things were just getting good.
Aurelia laid her hand over the necklace. “What’s this?”
“Just something I picked up today. Pretty, isn’t it?” I resumed my attempt to lift her skirt, but she pushed me back and stood up.
“It’s a protection amulet. Why are you wearing it?” Eyes that had burned with passion a second ago, now dimmed with sadness. “Is it because of me? You’re afraid of me?”
“God, no!” My libido was forgotten. “I love you! I could never be afraid of you.”
Her face lit up, and I realized it was the first time I’d said the L word aloud. I modulated my tone. “I do, you know. I think I fell in love with you that very first night, in Constellation Park.”
“And I love you.” Aurelia leaned down, and for a few blessed moments we forgot the damned necklace. Then she pulled back and laid her hand over it again. “But why this, then? What’s going on?”
I sighed and rolled off the table. I picked up the chairs we’d knocked over and held one out for her. She took a seat. I took another and extended my raw palms. “I seem to have become extraordinarily clumsy today.” I gingerly touched the lump on the side of my head and winced at how tender it still was. “It’s probably nothing, but—”
Aurelia’s eyes blazed and went unfocussed.
I recognized the signs, so I kept quiet. She was having a mental conversation with Ted.
A few seconds later, she stood up. “I have to go out for bit. Wait here. I’ll be back soon.”
Alarmed, I jumped to my feet. “You can’t go confront her. It may not even be anything she did.”
“It is, and we’re about to have it out. I am not going to permit her to do this to you.”
I seized her hands, ignoring the pain in my own. “But it might not be safe. Please, leave it alone.”
“No, I can’t do that. She’s a bully, and bullies don’t stop until they’re confronted.” She gently disengaged my hands. “I’ll be fine. Trust me.”
I remembered how Aurelia had backed Psyche down on the way to the coffee shop, and felt a little more optimistic. “At least let me go with you as back-up.”
That made her smile. “My love, this isn’t your battle. It won’t be fought with weapons, just words.”
I pulled the necklace off and tried to put it over her head. She stopped me.
“I appreciate the thought, but I don’t need that.” She gave me a quick kiss and was out the door before I could stop her.
I spent the next hour pacing the floor and feeling hopelessly inadequate. Dumb, right? Like Aurelia needed me to protect her. She’s got a whole spiritual team looking out for her. She tells me I do too, but I have my doubts. They sure don’t talk to me the way her people...her spirits...talk to her.
About the fifth time I circumnavigated the living room, I noticed that she’d left her purse and pendulum behind. She’s never without the latter, but she was in a hot hurry when she left. I picked it up for a closer look. I held it like I’d seen her hold it and, feeling more than a little foolish, asked, “Ted, is she okay? Is she safe?”
It didn’t move, not so much as a quiver. So I put it back just like I found it.
Finally I heard her at the door and rushed to meet her. She looked fine, as if she’d just come back from an innocuous run to the grocery store.
I pulled her into a hug. “Are you okay?”
She snuggled close and pressed her face against my neck. “I’m just fine. And you don’t need to worry about any more unexplained clumsiness.” She caught the amulet’s chain between her teeth and tugged gently before releasing it. “You don’t need to wear this if you don’t want to.”
“Oh, I dunno. It’s kind of cool. I might keep it.”
She grinned at me mischievously, hooked a finger in the chain and led me towards the bedroom.
Alrighty then. To hell with protection. I like the way my lady thinks.
An hour later, we emerged from the bedroom. “Are you hungry?” I asked Aurelia.
She smiled. “Not anymore.”
I laughed and pulled her back into my arms. “I meant for sustenance. I could whip us up some omelets.”
“Mmm, sounds good. Thank you.”
I kissed her and went to the kitchen.
I was in the process of beating eggs when I heard her call my name. “Yeah? Did you say something?”
She poked her head around the door jamb and held out her pendulum. “Noe? You were using this?”
How the hell did she know? And worse, was she pissed at me? “Um, I’m sorry. I was worried about you, so I tried to ask Ted a question.”
“I take it you didn’t have much success.”
Whew, at least she wasn’t going all crazy-eyes on me. One of my exes used to do that whenever I missed the laundry basket with a sock. “No, it didn’t move at all. But how did you know—”
“It has your energy all over it.” Aurelia sighed. “I’ll have to cleanse it.”
I was mildly insulted. What was wrong with my energy?
She saw my scowl and read me as easily as one of her metaphysical books-with-big-words.
“There’s nothing wrong with your energy, love, but you can’t have two sets of energy on one stone. It confuses the link.” She came over and kissed me. “If you’d like to begin communicating with Spirit, I’d be happy to get you your own pendulum. I’ll even have Ted help me pick it out so it’s right for you.”
“No, that’s okay. I don’t think Ted wants to talk to me.”
“Well, of course not. He’s my guide. But yours might. Her name is Justine, by the way.”
Aurelia vanished from the kitchen, off to do whatever she needed to do to clear my energy.
Justine, eh? Well, maybe someday, but for now I’ll leave the weird and woo-woo to my lovely partner.
* * *
It was exactly one year ago today that Aurelia and I first met in Constellation Park. We moved in together five months ago, and things are going really well. Aside from her irrational tendency not to separate lights and darks before laundering them, we couldn’t get along better. And I don’t know what Aurelia said or did, but Psyche has kept out of our way. I haven’t had any further unexplained accidents.
We had planned a midnight picnic for Granger’s Cliff to celebrate Samhain. I teased Aurelia that surely there must be some naked moon dancing involved since it was going to be a full moon, but she said I’m the only one she’s dancing naked for. I liked that.
Granger’s Cliff is about an hour out of town and a popular weekend hiking spot. I doubt there would be anyone around on Halloween night with the temperature dipping towards the single digits. Celsius, of course. I’m not damn fool enough to go traipsing into the wilderness if it were single digits Fahrenheit. Give me some credit for good sense.
I wonder if Ted told Aurelia what I’m planning. I took the precaution of asking him not to, even though I felt silly talking to thin air. But I’d undoubtedly know soon enough.
By the time I got home from work, Aurelia had a picnic basket packed. She greeted me with a smile and a kiss that reminded me exactly why I was about to do what I planned to do.
“Go put on something warm, love.”
I looked her over from head to toe. She was wearing the same gown she’d had on last Samhain, and again, no shoes. “Um, honey? Are you going in that? You’re going to freeze.”
“Trust me, I won’t. But if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll bring some warm clothes along, just in case.”
I nodded. “Thanks for humouring me.”
“You’re welcome. Now hurry. It’s almost sundown.”
We reached our destination and wound our way up the hill to the trailhead’s small parking area. We left the truck there and I lit our way up the trail with a flashlight, though the moonlight was so bright, we barely needed it.
When we emerged from the forest onto the granite outcropping, I stopped and stared. I’d never been up here at night. The city lights were visible on the horizon. Every dip, curve, and swell of land and river that stretched in the valley below us was softly illuminated by the full moon.
“It’s magical, isn’t it?”
Aurelia’s lilting words jolted me out of my awe. I set the picnic basket down and turned to her. “Almost as magical as you are.”
One kiss led to several more, and finally I couldn’t wait another instant. I fumbled inside my coat pocket as I dropped to one knee. “Aurelia, I’m sure there are those who would have all sorts of fancy words to say this, but you know me. I’m just going to ask you straight out. I love you more than I could ever say. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”
Aurelia’s jaw had dropped the moment I sank to my knee, so I knew Ted hadn’t let the cat out of the bag. I sent a quick thank you heavenward.
She squealed and jumped at me, knocking me perilously close to the cliff’s edge. But she rolled me back towards safer ground and ended up with me on top, looking down into eyes that shone with joy.
“Can I take that as a yes?”
“Of course it’s a yes, silly goof.” Aurelia yanked my face down to hers to seal the deal.
When we finally came up for air, we were both laughing and talking at the same time.
“May I make one request?” Aurelia asked.
“Of course.” I sat up abruptly. “Oh shit. I dropped the ring.” I looked around frantically, but Aurelia put her hand on my knee. I calmed instantly. I knew what was coming. I’d seen her do this a hundred times.
She closed her eyes, tilted her head, and listened to whatever it is she hears that I can’t. Then she opened her eyes, smiled, and pointed behind me.
I whirled around and, sure enough, there it was, sparkling in the dirt. I picked it up, polished it on my sleeve, and took my fiancée’s hand. As I slid the ring on her finger, I started to cry.
She cupped my face in her hands and gently brushed my eyes. “Why the tears, love?”
“I’m just so freaking happy.”
She laughed and kissed each cheek. “So am I.”
I scrubbed at my face and remembered what she’d said. “Hey, you had a request?”
I grinned. “I like the sound of that.”
“Funny you should say that.” Aurelia plonked herself on my lap and settled her head on my shoulder. “Would it be okay with you if we don’t wait to get married?”
“Of course. The sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Tomorrow? Seriously?” I tried to see her expression, but her face was turned into my neck. “I mean that’s okay with me, but it’s pretty short notice for our friends.”
“We’ll have a party later to celebrate with them, but I’d like to come back up here tomorrow with a licence and a celebrant, and say our vows before Samhain ends. Would that be all right with you?”
My mind instantly flew to everything I’d need to do—get off early, pick up the licence, buy wedding rings, figure out what to wear, find a minister—
“Shh, Noe. All you have to do is meet me here right after work. I’ll take care of the rest, okay?”
Of course she would. I relaxed. “Okay.”
The next day I didn’t tell any of the guys what I was going to do. I just said I had an appointment and clocked out early.
They’d know soon enough, and would no doubt insist I have a post-nuptials bachelor party. They’d glom on to any excuse to close early on a Friday and hit the bar across the street. One memorable time, we celebrated when Brett’s dog was fixed. We celebrated again two months later when Brett was fixed. I swear I saw his yellow lab, Butch, grinning from the bed of Brett’s truck when we all staggered out of the bar after last call.
When I got home after work, our home was quiet. I knew it would be. Aurelia had texted me that she and the celebrant were already on their way to the cliff, so I hurried to change out of my coveralls and into something appropriate. Maybe I couldn’t carry off fashionable, but I could honour the occasion with clean and sleek, even if hiking boots would have to substitute for my good shoes and my suit would be hidden under my heavy fall coat.
I whistled while I drove out of the city. I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I felt so good that it had to come out of me somehow or I’d explode from an overload of happiness. I wheeled off the highway onto the secondary road that would take me to the parking lot at the trailhead.
About twenty klicks in, I was almost at the parking lot when twin explosions rocked my truck and had me fighting for control on the narrow road.
I managed to wrestle the truck into submission and pull over on the shoulder of the road. I scrambled out to see what the hell had happened. Both my driver’s side tires were blown, and my old truck wasn’t going anywhere. I kicked the running board. “No goddamned way am I missing my wedding.”
I ripped open the door, tossed my overcoat inside, and donned the suit jacket I’d laid so carefully on the seat when I set out. I strode up the road and past the only car in the parking lot, only to dodge when a shower of pine cones rained down on my head just as I reached the trailhead.
Grimly, I brushed off the debris and kept going, a little slower, my gaze sweeping from side to side as if the trail was a minefield.
I rounded a corner and found a pine tree down across my path. I stood there, staring. It was huge, with branches jutting at least four metres into the air. If I tried to climb through it, I’d likely get stuck, so I trudged off the path, and slipped and slid my way around a massive root ball. The upturned earth smelled fresh, like the pine had fallen just moments before, but I hadn’t heard a thing.
I don’t know if I was more mad or scared, but I figured I knew who was behind it. Psyche. The witch was back. There was no point in trying to be subtle or quiet, so I tromped through the brush and forged my way back to the path. I had to grab on to trees, roots, and bushes for support, because the land fell away sharply from the edge of the trail.
Finally back on the trail, I bent over to catch my breath. My trousers were torn. My suit jacket was much worse for the wear, and my hands were criss-crossed with welts. But Aurelia was waiting for me.
I stood up.
Psyche was in the path ahead, her eyes wilder than ever and a triumphant sneer on her lips.
I glared at her. “Get the fuck out of my way.”
“She’s not yours, and she never will be. Aurie was meant for me. And with you out of the way, she’ll finally understand that.”
Psyche raised her arm and I froze, certain I was seconds away from being turned into a toad.
“Make one move towards her, and it will be your last.” Aurelia’s icy voice came from behind Psyche, and it was the witch’s turn to freeze.
I looked past her to see my soon-to-be wife.
Aurelia wrapped her hand in Psyche’s hair and yanked her head back. She whispered in her ear for several moments. Even in the moonlight, I could see the witch go pale.
Aurelia released her hold, and Psyche bolted past without giving me a second glance. Last I saw her, she was diving over the trunk of the pine and fighting her way through the branches.
I hurried up the trail to Aurelia’s side and wrapped my arms around her. “Damn, what did you say to her?”
“I simply reminded her that the karma she was accruing would likely see her living her next lifetime as a pine beetle.”
She laughed, but I didn’t know whether she was joking or not.
Aurelia squeezed me tight. “It really doesn’t matter what I said, sweetie. She won’t ever bother us again, I promise.”
My gentle, loving, kind-hearted partner—the one who can’t even kill a bug—took me by the hand and led me up the trail.
A woman waited on Granger’s Cliff, her back to the valley. She smiled as we appeared out of the forest and came to stand before her.
“Noe, this is my old friend, Maida Truscott. Maida, this is my beloved, Noelle Jeffries.”
I shook Maida’s hand. “Thanks so much for making the trip up here.”
“I was honoured to be asked. I always hoped that Aurelia would find her perfect match, and from everything she tells me, she has. To help sanctify such a union, I would climb the Matterhorn.”
She sounded like she meant it.
Maida gently steered us to face one another, and as I looked at Aurelia, my heart so filled with love that I thought it would surely shatter with joy.
“Aurelia Lyris Grant, do you freely and for all time, take this woman’s hand and heart, to honour, to guard, and to cherish.”
Aurelia’s eyes shone as she gazed at me. “I do.”
“Noelle Virginia Jeffries, do you freely and for all time, take this woman’s hand and heart, to honour, to guard, and to cherish.”
Maida extended her hands towards the ground. “As two become one, the Earth rejoices.” She raised her hands to the sky. “As two become one, Spirit rejoices.” She took my left hand and Aurelia’s right, and bound a silken cord around them. “As two become one, our souls rejoice.”
She raised a hand above each of our heads. “In the name of Mother Earth, in the name of the Divine, in the names of our souls, I declare thee joined. May your union be blessed and fruitful.”
I blinked. Fruitful?
Aurelia winked at me, and I grinned.
Before Maida could finish the unnecessary permission, Aurelia and I had come together in a kiss that lasted so long, Maida started to laugh.
“All right you two. I need to get back to my husband and kids before midnight.”
We broke apart, and Maida unwrapped our hands. She kissed Aurelia’s cheek, then mine, and handed over our signed certificate.
I stared at it. Aurelia and I were married. My cheeks fairly ached from grinning.
Maida left us. I was about to call out a warning about the downed tree, but Aurelia shook her head.
“It’s okay, love. It’s gone.”
I blinked. I’d thought it would take a logging truck and hauler to get that beast out of there. But Aurelia had a way of making me believe, so I didn’t argue.
We sat down on the edge of the cliff and dangled our feet in mid-air. I put my arm around her. “Thanks for saving me, sweetheart. I was sure your crazy ex was going to turn me into a toad, and I wasn’t certain that you’d be able to change me back with a kiss.”
Aurelia laughed and looked up at me. “A toad? Where do you get these crazy ideas?”
“Well, she is a witch and—”
“Oh honey, I know I’ve called her a witch and she calls herself that, but she’s just aping traditional conventions. She does have a telekinetic gift and some clairvoyance, but she always did have an exaggerated opinion of her powers.”
“But, but...all those accidents that happened to me.”
Aurelia lifted one hand and then the other. “Knocking a pop out of your hand—knocking down an eighty-foot pine. You tell me which is the more likely. Besides, she’s perverted the gifts she does have so badly that she’ll probably come back as someone’s pet pig next time.”
“Can that happen?”
Aurelia rolled her eyes. “No, darling. It was a metaphor. I’m simply amazed that anyone listens to her at all. In any case, I believe Psyche Seven has made her last local appearance.”
I glanced at my wife with surprise. “Did you scare her right out of the city?”
“Don’t be silly. Toni told me yesterday that Psyche got an offer in Los Angeles and is moving there next week.” Aurelia snuggled closer to me. “Can you believe it? A year ago, all I had was a suggestion from Ted that I celebrate Samhain in the park, and now, here were are.”
I tilted her chin back and pressed my lips to hers. I lingered for a long moment, enjoying the soft sweetness, then I rested my forehead on hers. “Any regrets?”
“Only that we didn’t meet sooner. When I think of the years I wasted with Psyche...” Aurelia shook her head.
“Wouldn’t Ted say we met exactly when we were meant to?”
Aurelia caressed my face. “He would indeed, wise woman. But if we were twenty-three instead of forty-three, we might’ve followed Maida’s instructions to be fruitful.”
“Eh, so we’ll adopt a couple of rescue dogs.” I gathered Aurelia closer. “It’s a lesbian tradition, isn’t it?”
Aurelia laughed. “I don’t think there’s much about us that’s traditional, my love.” She toyed with my jacket zipper. “Do you know what I’d like to do?”
“Mmm, what’s that?”
She looked at me squarely, her expression serious. “I want to go home and show you exactly how much I love and cherish you. You ground me, Noelle Jeffries. You’re my rock. I’ve never been happier than in this past year. You are my joy, you are my life.”
My breath caught and a tear trickled down my cheek. How could I top that?
Aurelia leaned forward. “You don’t have to say a word. Everything you do tells me how you feel.” She got to her feet and held out her hand. “What do you say we go home and consummate our union?”
I thought it was a marvelous idea, though it occurred to me that we probably should’ve asked Maida for a ride back into the city. My truck wasn’t going anywhere on those blown tires. But that was okay. I’d call one of the guys to bring me out a second spare, and if we had to wait a while, we could always start the honeymoon early in the cab. It did have a bench seat.
We got to our feet and ambled down the trail, hand in hand. When we reached the spot where I’d fought so hard to get around the downed tree, I stopped and stared in amazement.
The trail was pristine. There wasn’t so much as a pine needle out of place. I went to the edge of the trail and peered into the gathering darkness, but couldn’t see anything awry—no downed tree, no root ball...nothing.
When I turned around, Aurelia was watching me with a smile. “It was never really there.”
“But I saw Psyche trying to get through it.”
“She was hoisted on her own petard. Rather fitting, I thought.”
I opened my mouth to ask a question or fifty, then clamped it shut. As I stepped up beside her, I tucked her arm through my mine, and decided there were times when it was best just to let things go. That would probably prove a good guiding principle for wedded bliss, as well—accepting the unexplainable.
It was kind of in the terms of our marital contract.
© Lois Cloarec Hart