Spirit of the Place

Oberon:  Book Six


It was a Friday night, a week before Christmas, and all along Main Street the flow of foot traffic had slowed to a trickle as the stores began to close and shoppers headed for home.  Alone in her teashop, The Crone’s Nest, Marsha Quinn breathed a sigh of relief as she wiped off the last table.  It had been a busy day in a busy month, at the end of a very busy year.

Not that busy was necessarily a bad thing, she reminded herself, smiling as she thought about some of the events that had marked the past year.  It hadn’t all been terrible.

Hey, some parts of it were excellent, her friend Scout might have chided if she’d been there.  The birth of Scout’s son, Cole, the previous March certainly counted as one of the year’s highlights.

Yeah, and some parts sucked, their friend Lucy would no doubt rejoin.  But, then, Lucy had been born to play devil’s advocate, and she’d be fooling neither of them with that attitude.  True, the past year had brought heartaches to each of them, but they’d all had their share of happiness, as well—Lucy included.

Thinking about her two best friends, who had talked her into joining them for a drink after work, had Marsha checking the time.  She wished they’d hurry up and get here, she was anxious to leave.

As she turned her wrist to glance at her watch the light from the fixtures overhead caught in the big, pink stone on her third finger, left hand.  The bright sparkle called to mind one of the chief causes of her own happiness over the last year.  It also startled up an all too familiar flight of butterflies in her stomach.

In the five months since she’d agreed to marry Sam, the nervousness she thought she’d conquered had come creeping slowly back to claim her.  It wasn’t that she didn’t love Sam, or that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life with him.  It was just that marriage still seemed like such an unnecessarily big step to take.

What do we have to prove?  Can’t we just go on as we have been?  We have a good life together now.  Why rock the boat?

Marsha pulled out a chair and sat down, putting her head in her hands as she thought about it.  She’d been on her own for too long, she was sure that’s all this was.  Nothing more than pre-wedding jitters, made worse by the fact that both she and Sam were used to being the one in charge.

She was used to making her own decisions.  They were both used to making their own decisions.  And the thought of having to cede some of that control to another person, especially someone as accustomed to seizing command as Sam was--  Well, that was enough to make anyone nervous, wasn’t it?  Even someone without a disastrous first marriage to look back on and hope to live down.

“It will be different this time,” she told herself, fisting her hand on the table top.  It had to be, didn’t it?

She and Sam had been living together for several months.  They were already settled into a harmonious routine.  Common sense said there was no reason to expect things to change all that much once they were married.  But in her heart she didn’t quite believe it.

Marriage was different.  It was an adjustment.  There were certain expectations that accompanied it.  And, obviously Sam must think so, too.  Otherwise, why had he pushed so hard for this?

Sure, he claimed to be happy with the way things were between them.  He insisted that he was motivated simply by the desire to formalize what they already had, to solidify things.  And to acquire the legal right to care for her and her children.  But that did nothing to assuage her fears.  So, he had a lot of money—so what?   She didn’t need a lot of money.   She did all right on her own.  She didn’t need a care taker, either.  Not yet, anyway.  And marrying for the sake of her children was the same stupid mistake she’d made last time around.

Well, marrying for the sake of her child, that is.  She’d only had Jasmine when she married Alex, and  she wouldn’t deny that the thought of giving her daughter a father had been topmost in her mind when she’d accepted his proposal.  But she only had to look at her daughter now to see how foolish and vain such hopes could be.  When her marriage to Alex had ended, it had been Jasmine who had lost the most.  Who had suffered the greatest pain.  And who had been the longest time recovering.

In fact, as far as Marsha could tell, her daughter wasn’t through with the process yet.  It could be Jasmine was fated to always carry the psychological scars she’d acquired during her childhood.

Marsha sighed as she thought about it.  Memories and expectations.  Hopes, dreams and aspirations.  Sometimes it seemed they were all just different names for heartache.  Probably everyone’s life would run a lot  more smoothly if they could all just trust to fate and let the rest of it go.  But, no matter how hard she tried, and no matter how much lip service she paid the idea, she’d yet to achieve the necessary detachment that might make that possible.

Even being a psychic didn’t help, since she couldn’t make predictions for herself with any kind of accuracy.  Although that never seemed to stop her from trying, now did it?  Especially in the last year and a half, ever since Celeste, her close friend and business partner had been killed.

She had no one she trusted to give her readings now.  No one she could really turn to for advice or guidance.  She missed that.  Almost as much as she missed her friend.

Maybe she’d come to rely too much on Celeste’s wisdom, over the years.  Her own inner compass seemed  useless now.   She had absolutely no way of knowing with any certainty whether or not this marriage had even the slightest chance of lasting.

But, she did love Sam.  That much she was sure of.  And he loved her.  And, so, with nothing else to guide her, she would ignore the doubts that continued to assail her.  She would ignore her daughter’s resistance to her re-marriage; as well as the fact that, with her track record, she really ought to know better than to marry anyone.   And, in a little over two weeks time she would walk up the aisle to meet him.

She was doing it not because it was what she wanted, but because, for reasons which continued to elude her, it was important to Sam.  So important, in fact, that she wasn’t entirely certain it was negotiable.  She’d managed to postpone the inevitable for almost half a year, but his determination to marry her had never once wavered.  Not even a little.  And she had a sneaking suspicion that if she tried to back out now, it would spell the end of their relationship.

In fact, thinking back on it, she considered it a miracle that she’d held him off as long as she had.

All through the spring and on into the summer, she’d sensed the impatience growing within him.  But it wasn’t until after she agreed to marry him that the full impact of his feelings on the subject crashed over her.  Like an emotional tsunami.

Overnight, he’d turned all of that energy, all of that suppressed desire into another channel, diving headfirst into Wedding Planner mode, swinging into action with a vengeance.  He’d taken over, like a man possessed by demons.  He’d dealt with almost every aspect, made practically all the decisions--at least partially in an effort to spare her the trouble of having to think about it.

Just about the only details she’d been allowed to concern herself with were purchasing a dress to wear and choosing her attendants.  And she was pretty sure that had she hesitated overlong with either of those, he’d have co-opted them as well.

It had been amusing, all through the Fall, to watch as Sam, accompanied by her thirteen year old twin sons, Frank and Jesse, pored obsessively over wedding catalogs.  The three discussed music and menus, bouquets and boutonničres, favors and fancies and sundry other details over dinner each night with apparently boundless enthusiasm, enjoying themselves so much that she’d almost begun to feel left out of the process. 

In fact, if she’d been the one who was anxious for the wedding to take place--if it were she who’d wanted it and dreamed about it--she was sure it would have bothered her no end to have had all the decisions, all the planning, and most of the fun, taken out of her hands.

If she didn’t have implicit trust in Sam’s taste and judgement, if she didn’t understand that he was doing this as much for her sake as for his own, it might even have begun to annoy her.

Might?  Oh, please.  She got up from the table and crossed to the display cases that lined the long wall that ran perpendicular to the street.  She spent several minutes dusting and preening, fussing and fidgeting.  Rearranging objects in the cases and blocking the shelves.  Attempting to distract herself.  But it was no use, and in a moment she returned to the table.

Who was she trying to kid?  It did bother her.  And, although she wouldn’t ever admit to it, she’d passed annoyed the day the bakery called to double check on the filling for her cake, and she couldn’t tell them a damn thing about what might have been ordered.


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