PART 1 ~ THE BEGINNING
Well, I take a seat towards the back because the bus is mostly empty. The seat beside me is empty. I figure it will stay that way compared to the multitude of empty seats surrounding me. I tuck my purse between my body and the bus exterior wall. Leaning back, I close my eyes to get a little down time during my trip. I spent the week with my grandmother at her assisted living complex. At thirty-two years of age, I got a lot of ribbing from the other residents about being too young to be there.
Grandmother rambled on about her past life and asked me about a thousand times why I am not married like my other sisters. Now, I’m happy to return to turning out my Romance novels and looking forward to seeing Macloud, my white long-haired rag doll cat. We have been together for eight years, and he’s smarter than your typical cat.
I’m lost in thought with my eyes closed when someone sits in the seat beside me and softly sighs. I open my eyes and turn to see a Native American male around forty with piercing black eyes and long black hair. He stretches his long legs out under the seat in front. I glance quickly around and there are still a lot of empty seats. Why did he sit with me? I get a nod and a slight smile before he leans back and closes his eyes. He stowed his backpack under his seat.
About a half a dozen people get onto the bus and take seats towards the front. The door closes with a hiss and we lurch forward as the bus moves. Now, the silence in the bus is broken by their chattering conversations. I hear an “Excuse me.” and the man beside me jumps and turns to face the youthful woman across the aisle who tapped his arm. I watch as his body tenses slightly.
“I was wondering what Tribe you are from, if you don’t mind my asking.”
The man states, “I mind.” closing his eyes and leaning back again.
Someone rises from their seat. I open my eyes enough to watch her walk forward and sit by her companion and whisper before both turning this way. The only statement I hear is, “Well, he can’t be with her. His kind don’t mingle.” The man sitting beside me exhales through his nose in obvious exasperation at the ignorant statement. He taps my leg.
I turn slightly towards him and he softly says, “I don’t care for phony blondes. Skin color is irrelevant as we are all the same in the Creator’s eyes.”
I get an amiable smile when I tell him, “Something they will find out when our Creator looks into their hearts.”
We end up speaking quietly to each other about various life subjects. We exchange names. His name is Henri, and he is Woodland Cree from Alberta, Canada. I tell him I am Melina and I am German, English, French and Scottish from Syracuse, New York. Henri is a Holy Man traveling around visiting other Indigenous Peoples in Canada and the United States.
We are both surprised when our bus pulls off the road and comes to an abrupt stop. There are police vehicles across the road and all the cars are stopping. A Mountie or Canadian policemen gets on our bus. I listen with dread and a sense of foreboding. He says they are looking for a man and a woman. We are to remain in our seats. He examines everyone’s passport. He asks Henri if we are together and Henri teases, “Yes.” I smile slightly. We are sitting together. I am not smiling when they escort us from the bus with our belongings. The officer kept our passports before escorting us to the small station off the side of the road. We sit in a dull beige room on a hard bench. Jude will kill me for doing another dumb thing in her book. Jude is only one year older than me, but the wild one.
Henri turns and softly says, “My apologies. I did not realize the officer had no sense of humor.” I shrug as our bus pulls back onto the road and continues on what should have been our journey. I’m thinking, Great, now what have I walked along into with this handsome man?
They leave us sitting in a beige compact room with several couples removed from other buses. After an hour, another bus pulls up. We watch the officials board the bus. They are taking each couple into another room and questioning them about something. The couple who just came out are escorted to an official vehicle and driven who knows where. There is some sort of a commotion on the bus outside, screaming, shouting and then gunfire. My heart is pounding in my throat. Is someone killing people or are they warning shots?
Henri leans over and softly says, “I think we should get out of here.”
I look up at him in alarm and ask, “Why?” We watch the other officers in the building rush outside and over to the bus. The other two couples rise and dash out the front door. I look and Henri is putting on his coat and picking up his backpack. Now what is he up to? I’m torn between my desire to remain here and my doubts about whether or not here is safe anymore.
“We are not safe here. We will go out the back door and into the woods until the shooting stops.” Standing, I slip into my jacket, grab my purse and backpack. “Come with me and I’ll keep you safe.” Henri holds out his hand and I take it. Please, don’t make me regret this, Lord. He reaches over the counter grabbing our passports before turning towards the back. We walk rapidly down a long hall past the restroom to an outside door. Henri opens the door cautiously before we hurry down the three steps and across the open yard. There is a fence which we follow to the left until we find where an enormous tree fell and put the fence down. It’s no fun trying to navigate the fence where it is down under the tree, but he helps me across.
The woods get thicker and I am glad for my new heavy jeans and tall boots. It’s rather dark. I hope he has an excellent sense of direction because I am lost. After about an hour, he removes an exceptionally large thick blade intricately marked knife and chops down enough brush that we can get out of the bitter wind and rest. When the wind changes direction, we hear additional gun fire but not so much in the last twenty minutes. I’m wondering who is doing the shooting and why? When the wind shifts, we smell something burning before there is a loud explosion and the ground trembles. Henri says, “I believe they torched the station and the bus. Probably killed the officers and any passengers that would be witnesses.” I shudder, and he puts his arm around my shoulders. I wonder who they are and will they see our tracks and follow us?
“What do we do now?” I ask. More important, what will happen to me?
He looks around, “You have a cell phone?”
I nod, pulling it from my purse to state, “No signal.” Great, no way to call for help. I feel like throwing it but put it back in my purse.
Henri says, “Well, we keep walking until we get one or find a road.” What choice do I have? He stands and pulls me to my feet. Wow, he’s strong. We head out into the woods again. Several times, I hear something moving near us but Henri calmly says, “Deer.” Just when I thought the wind wasn’t cold enough, it begins snowing. I’m tired, hungry and I have to go to the bathroom. Henri says, “We need to find someplace to sleep and get warm.” He looks for something specific. “There. See the full evergreen with the long high lower branches?”
I look where he is pointing, “Yes.” I’m thinking, oh no, I’m not a camper. I don’t like bugs and dirt and no bathroom.
“We can bed down under there. I will build a fire and the tree will shelter us from the wind and snow.” He parts two lower branches and stooping, goes inside under the branches. He turns and lifts a branch, “Come on in. I’ll get some kindling and get a fire going.”
I look around. “I have to…” He laughs. Does he read my mind?
He hesitantly asks, “Okay, can you go in the woods?”
I sigh, “If I have a cup.” I’m thinking, No. No. No. Where’s the toilet?
Smiling slightly, he goes under a nearby tree and then drags in a fallen log. He comes out and says, “It’s the best we got.” I give him a weak smile and go inside. It’s better than nothing. I wipe with a tissue and come outside. I believe he went elsewhere. I go back into the shelter. He has cleared a space to the dirt and put a circle of rocks around it.
Henri returns and dumps the pile of dry wood he has beside the circle. I watch him put tinder in the circle and small twigs. He uses a flint against his knife blade and sparks a flame that he blows gently on until we have a pleasant fire going. He certainly knows his way around the woods. I pull out water from my backpack and he smiles. He removes a cloth bag containing some kind of homemade jerky. I remove my homemade jerky bag, a chocolate bar and two Rice Krispy treats. It’s getting dark and the only light is from the cracking fire. This makes him even more handsome in my eyes.
I share my jerky and Rice Krispy treats. Henri suggests I keep the chocolate for tomorrow. He’s not a big talker and handsome men make me tongue tied. “Melina, this is unusually tasty jerky. Do you have a special marinade?” His question startles me. From memory, I list the ingredients. We end up sleeping, partially sitting up, leaning together for warmth. He feeds the fire several times during the night. He’s comfortable to lean back against and sleep. I wonder what his lovemaking would be like.
In the morning, it has stopped snowing but outside is a winter wonderland. I follow him as he breaks a way through the snow onto a blacktop road. Heading right, we walk until we come upon a small motel. We walk inside the office where Henri speaks with the man behind the counter in French. Henri tells me, “We have room to clean up in and there’s a diner up the street where we can get directions to a bus station.” He leads the way to a small cabin with two double beds in it. I get to go first to shower. Refreshed, we head out and up the road to the diner and a nice hot cup of tea. Before our breakfast arrives, two officers come in and we find ourselves in the back seat under arrest. Evidently, we are wanted fugitives.
PART 2 ~ WALKING HOMEWARDS
“Get your things, we need to leave now,” Henri says turning towards me suddenly. Now what? We would have been under arrest if he hadn’t. He stands and slips into his backpack, putting a Canadian denomination bill on the table. I rise and slipping into my backpack, grab my purse and follow him back through the diner and out into an alley. He walks carefully along the alley and cuts over several streets until we find ourselves at an opening in a tall fence. Henri looks around and steps through the opening and turns to offer me his hand. I hesitate, wondering who this man is, and should I follow him? Well, I’ve come this far, and I don’t feel like I am in danger, no tiny alarms going off on the back of my neck.
On the other side of the fence is a field leading back to more woods. I draw a deep breath and take his hand. We step down into about two feet of snow. It’s like walking through mud until we reach the trees. “Stay here a moment while I brush out our footsteps until the wind picks up.”
Now I’m wondering how he knows the wind will pick up. I watch him use a fallen pine tree branch to walk thru the fence and then return, brushing out our indentations in the snow. He puts the branch down and slips back into his backpack. He leans close and whispers, “I saw us being arrested if we stayed there.” I frown, but then we hear sirens and watch two official cars pull up to the diner. My eyes widen as he takes my hand and we move deeper into the woods. I don’t think I have taken four steps, and the wind blows as it starts snowing again. The trees give us some protection from the wind, but it also whips the branches of the trees into us. I was under the impression that this new jacket is supposed to be warmer…than what? I’m chilled to the bone and trudging along after a man I met yesterday on a bus.
After walking about an hour, we reach a smaller two-lane road. We walk in the trees, following this road south. I know by the position of the sun that we are moving southward. When we round a curve, Henri spots a gas station market combination. He finds a somewhat sheltered place and removes his backpack. “They are looking for a man and a woman. Stay here and I will purchase water and food for us.” I nod and slip from my backpack to use the two packs to block the air. Henri’s pack is twice the size of mine. I wish I could read his mind and knew what his plans are.
I call my sister to tell her I will let her know when I am close to home. She’s full of questions, but I tell her I can’t talk right now. Henri returns in about forty minutes. He has a cup of hot tea and several sugars. It’s an enormous cup and we share. “I spoke at length with the clerk. She was bored, so I flirted with her to get information. There is a couple, armed and dangerous, robbing gas stations or small markets and leaving behind no witnesses. They have some blurry camera pictures, but both have scarves over their faces. Unfortunately, the man is tall and thin with long black hair and on the woman’s face they only see her cold brown eyes.” I know I look alarmed because he continues, “It’s not me. I am Woodland Cree Tribe and a Shaman or Holy Man. We will travel on foot until these two are capture or killed and then we will get public transportation.” I am slightly miffed at him making all the decisions but so far, he’s kept me safe and out of the law’s hands.
The tea is hot and really good. He has several sandwiches and some yogurt and packages of fruit pieces in juice. We share the water and split two sandwiches before having a fruit package and splitting a banana. He puts the rest of what he purchased into his backpack. “Must you?” I nod. Like before, he uses a pine tree for privacy and a log. At least I got a half decent meal.
Then, when we walk again, I notice the wind is colder, and the snow is getting heavier. I trudge along behind him, wishing I had walked to the bus station and got another ticket and gone home. Then, this voice in my head teases, but he’s so tall, handsome and mysterious. I hear another voice telling me I’m crazy too.
My watch says it is about one p.m. when he stops and looks around. My first thought is, Oh God, he’s lost. Before he turns to face me.
“Let’s take a break and have something to eat.” I nod and he finds a nice tree for us to take shelter under. He makes a fire and heats some water in this collapsible metal cup. I provide the chocolate bar and we have a poor man’s cocoa. He adds two packets of sugar to it. At the market, he purchased protein bars and a package with two brownies inside. I eat slowly, noticing he’s doing the same. We eat and rest about an hour before relieving ourselves. He carefully extinguishes the fire using dirt.
Now, it’s early December, and it gets dark fairly early. Henri says, “We will walk for another two hours and then find a place to rest for the night.” I’m watching his eyes as he talks, then I realize he’s waiting for my answer.
“Sure. Do you know where we are heading?” After speaking, I wonder if I shouldn’t have asked. His face appears calm.
“Yes. There is an insignificant town about a day’s walk from here where we can get a room and a hot meal or two before we continue. I want to see if they captured those two.” He smiles slightly.
“That would be nice.” When I smile, he laughs.
“I’m sorry, would you rather be in jail?” I shake my head.
“No. But I was planning to ride home and not walk there.” I lightly say with a smile on my face. Henri sighs and slips into his pack. We walk without talking, and I try staying in his footsteps and using him as a windbreak. I search my feelings and I don’t get any bad vibes from being with him. We walk about three hours before he finds the perfect night’s lodging. I wasn’t expecting a four-star Hilton. It’s a collapsed cabin. The roof left a nice dry area in the one corner. He starts a fire and leaves me with the two backpacks. He returns and warms up by the fire.
“I set two rabbit snares. If we are lucky, we will have some meat to eat.” At his remark, I smile and lean back against the cabin wall. We don’t talk and he sits cross-legged, staring into the fire and occasionally feeding it. He rises saying, “Pray to the Creator that my snares have caught our dinner.”
A gust of wind blows in when he moves the board to duck outside of our little nest. He returns with two nice sized rabbits. From his pack he removes a collapsible pan. “Do you need help?” I hesitantly ask.
“No. Stay here and be warm. I will skin and prepare the meat.” He removes a bag with lard or grease and squeezes the material into the pan before he leaves to skin the animals. Returning, he puts the meat pieces into the pan after melting the grease. He seasons with several pinches of seasonings from a small pouch.
“You travel prepared.” At my soft statement, he looks up and smiles.
“I have been traveling for many months and not always able to get suitable lodgings. I will keep the skins to be used to make something useful. I have a pair of wooden forks and spoons but only one plate. Do you want to eat first or share?”
“I have nothing against sharing a plate.” I watch him tend the meat and then add the two small containers of fruit and stir gently. His movements are fluid and almost sensual.
He glances upwards at me, “Do you cook?”
“Yes. I enjoy cooking.” I bite my tongue to keep from talking on and on. I watch as he tends the meal, which smells rather good. “I’ve never had rabbit.”
He looks up and smiles, “What wild game have you eaten?”
I think for a minute, “I have had groundhog, venison, rattlesnake, elk, goose, bear and duck. My best friend’s Father used to butcher his own meat, and I went down to help with the packaging.” He’s listening intently and then stirring the dinner.
“What other womanly abilities do you possess?” He’s cutting up the meat pieces to bite-sized morsels. He speaks slowly, and his voice is deep and throaty.
“I know how to can food, sew clothes, curtains, blankets, coats, knit and crochet, paint and embroider.” I state. He smiles and dips onto the plate he hands me to hold. He hands me the fork and spoon.
“Go ahead.” He motions to eat. I extend the plate towards him. He moves closer and uses the second set of utensils.
After my first bite, I raise my eyebrows, “This is superb.” I get his slight smile and we eat in silence. Meal consumed, he goes outside for snow, for water to melt and to clean the dish and dispose of the undesirables away from our shelter. I feed the fire it was getting low. He returns with more minor dry branches for our fire. He melts the snow and we have a cup of tea with sugar in it to warm up our insides. He goes out and gets boards from the collapsed cabin and brings them inside. Some pine boughs laid on top make a somewhat drier and almost soft bed. I’m shown our bathroom and then I get to sleep closer to the fire with him curled at my back. Our backpacks make nice pillows and he lays more pine boughs over top of us to hold in our body heat. I’m surprised I slept over six hours. I am stiff in the morning. When I struggle to get off the ground, he grabs my hands and pulls me up.
Releasing my hands, he says, “I’ll start some breakfast while you head to the tree.”
“Yeah.” I’m still groggy, but that fades in the wind that blows through my jacket. I quickly get relief. I use a wipe from my purse and clean my hands. I enter and he’s cleared the bed and has water heating on the fire. We reuse the tea bag from last night with the last of the sugar packets. He has two more protein bars and an apple that we split. We each have some jerky we have left. Then he extinguishes the fire before we exit our nest and pull our backpacks on and begin our walk. At least the wind has died down to an occasional gust.
We walk about two hours and then rest briefly. The last hour, we walk just out of sight of a two-lane road, hearing and watching as the plow opens the road below us. Once again, I am left in a sheltered spot with the backpacks while he goes walking into the insignificant town ahead of us. He is away for two hours. Did he leave me? No, his pack is here, but I get nervous until I see his long-legged figure striding along the highway. He comes up off to my left and over to squat by me.
“Sorry I was away so long. There were a lot of police vehicles at the one gas station where the killing couple hit early this morning, killing two attendants and four customers before leaving in a stolen vehicle.” He has a hot tea for me to drink. “You look worried. I spoke with several officers and was lucky enough their Lieutenant remembered me from last year when I walked through here. Come on, there are hot showers, a hot meal and soft warm beds waiting for us.” I am pulled to my feet and we slip into our backpacks and walk through the town to the motel. We have to walk past the station with its yellow tape and bloody snow areas. Henri walks between me and the road until we approached the station, and then he tries to block the bloody areas from my view. We walk past several houses to the motel with a small Restaurant on the one end.
Henri already has the keys to the third unit. We shed our packs, jackets and boots. “You go first, and I will wait for our food. I registered you as my wife, it was simpler than explaining anything further.” I glance up sharply and smile at him. In the bathroom, I strip and quickly shower and wash my hair. I pull on my last clean pair of panties but pass on the bra. There are clean robes on the back of the bathroom door. I slip into one and tie it closed. I won’t go barefoot in a motel, so I slip back on my canvas shoes and come out of the bathroom.
“We can get our clothes cleaned here. The owner’s wife will wash and dry them.” He motions at the bag on the foot of the closest double bed.
“Good. Clean clothes will feel good.” He nods at my words and closes the door. I hear the shower start and put my dirty clothes into the bag with his. He comes out wearing the robe after drying his hair with the blow drier. He adds his dirty clothes to the bag and calls the front desk. “Yeah, this is unit three with laundry ready.” The food delivery person arrives as Henri is paying for the laundry. I take the food and put it on the small table.
He gets two waters from the small refrigerator and we sit at the table and eat. The news at noon has the story of the shooting and shows the bodies covered with yellow plastic. Evidently the armed robbers escaped in one of the customer’s vehicles at the gas pump. They have more pictures of the robbers, but they have covers over their faces, making it hard to distinguish anything. anything. They leave no witnesses so there are no descriptions.
Our lunches contain fried chicken hoagies, fries and a pickle. “Oh, this is so good.” I exclaim after my first bite. I eat half my sandwich and a few fries and both pickles. He finishes what I don’t eat. I try to pay for half, but he refuses my money.
As I stretch out on the one bed Henri asks, “Do you have a man friend?”
Not opening my eyes, I reply, “No. I live with my sister and our two cats.” This bed is comfortable. It shifts when he sits on the side closest to where I am stretched out.
Leaning closer, he says, “You are quiet for a white woman.” Opening my eyes, I turn towards him.
Confused, I ask, “Is that bad?”
He laughs, “No, that is good. Are you attracted to men or other women?” I roll more on to my side and my robe gaps to reveal my lower breast which I quickly cover. He stretches out on the bed, gazing intently at me.
“Men.” I reply, but I’m not sure where he’s going with this conversation.
“I am attracted to you and that surprises me. I have given this much thought but have reached no conclusion. Would you object to my kissing you?” He’s speaking softly and calmly. I have to think on his question. I really don’t know this man, but my life has been in his hands over the past day or so…
“No. I don’t think I would mind your kissing me.” Secretly, I have been wondering what his kisses would be like. He pushes my shoulder down onto the bed before his lips descend onto mine. He’s a wonderful kisser. I don’t remember putting my arms around his neck or encouraging him to open my robe and softly caress my breasts. When I gasp into his mouth, he moves further over me. He lifts his head and his lips trail across my cheek and down my neck. He moves downward and his lips trail to my breasts. I arch myself under him, and he raises his head.
He slowly asks, “Should I stop?” staring down into my wide-open eyes. Not trusting my voice, I shake my head. A little voice says, “Not an outstanding idea.” But I don’t listen. He stands from the bed and removes his robe and then reaches over and unties mine. He tugs on my arm, I stand from the bed to remove my robe and damp panties.
He’s beside me and pulls me into his arms. Do I want this? Except for the bumbling neighborhood boy I toyed with in high school; I have really never had a man friend. I am lowered onto the now open bed and made love to by a man I met two days ago. We sleep curled together. When I open my eyes, Henri is up on his elbow looking into my face. “You have not been with a man for a very long time.”
My face flaming, I softly admit, “No. I’m shy around men. My father was a mean-tempered man.” He rises and pulls me into the shower. Back in our robes, there is a tap at the door. Henri answers and gets our clean clothes. He places them on the other bed. He sits cross-legged on the floor and removes a flat rock and something from a cloth pouch in his backpack and lights it. It smolders and he removes his robe and chants and waves the smoke into his face. While the small pile smolders, he sits quietly and calmly breathing. The mixture has a pleasant smell. I remain on the bed, quiet and still. He rises and flushes the paltry pile that is still smoldering slightly.
“Do you fear me?” I’m startled by his voice coming from directly over me.
“No.” I am pulled upwards.
“You are timid about being in your natural state. Don’t be. Woman is the most beautiful creation given to man.” On my feet, he removes the robe and smiles before pulling my panties down for me to step from. He encourages me to touch him. “We will learn each other’s bodies and then dress and walk to the Restaurant for some dinner.” I’m not sure what is nicer, the feel of his body under my hands or the feel of his hands on my body.
We open the packages of clean clothes. I put on what I was wearing on the bus after we fold our sweat suits into our backpacks. I call my sister to tell her where I am and that I am going out to dinner. I’ll call her later when I know more about what I’m doing to get home. We walk hand in hand over to the Restaurant and get a booth towards the back. I am surprised when Henri sits beside me instead of across from me. He orders a fish
platter and I get roasted chicken, stuffing and mashed potatoes. There is no conversation during the meal. The rest of my dinner comes back to the room with us. We brought over the breakfast menu. My dinner doggie bag does not last the night. We do not use the other bed.
Henri has massive breakfasts delivered. Over breakfast Henri asks if I would like to join him traveling across the United States visiting various Indigenous Tribes on their Reserves. I could write about them while he speaks with their elders and Holy men. He’s quite animated and talks more than he has since we met. We end up getting a burgundy colored four-door Ford Edge for seventy dollars. I use my credit card, AAA card and insurance card. The man scans both our driver’s licenses, passports, and Henri tips the man twenty dollars. Everyone is talking about the “Killing Couple.” Evidently, there was a big car chase followed by a shootout with Police and they finally killed both after the couple attempted to cross into the United States.
We are on the road by ten a.m. Henri drives. I am navigator. I am very comfortable in his presence. We take 403 to Niagara Falls and cross over to the USA. At the border they are still talking about the Killing Couple, and their lead filled demise. They have to re-route us a little to go around the crashed pickup and crime scene tape. Once we clear customs, we pick up Route 290 to the thruway to Mattydale. This takes us about four hours. I point Henri to Tully’s Restaurant for some late lunch. My sister Jude is at work so I text her I am at Tully’s having a late lunch and we will be there when she gets home from work. She texts back, “WE????”
I get my usual Asian chicken tenders and Henri eats half of them and dips his chicken tenders into my tangy sauce. He charms the waitress and we get great service. We then head up Route 11 to Taft Road and the development where my double wide sits on an acre of land. My Expedition sits on the right side of the garage. I pull up in front of that garage door. We grab our backpacks and go in through the front door. They have cleared our driveway and sidewalk of snow. The front bay window has my long-haired white cat, Macloud and Jude’s tabby cat, Mischu sunbathing. I hang up our coats in the closet behind the front doors on the left. We sit on the deacon bench and remove our boots to the tray under the bench.
Henri stands looking around this sizeable room. Henri walks out into the room, looking around. The living room has my covered bridge paintings and needlepoint pictures on the white walls. I wonder what he is thinking. I don’t regret making love with him. I just hope he doesn’t abandon me because I believe I’m falling in love with him.
I give Henri the royal tour. He looks at all the family pictures on the breakfast nook wall. He views the guest bedroom, my office and my bedroom. Jude’s door is closed, she keeps the heat higher in her bedroom. Henri walks into my office and studies my bookcase with my published novels on the top two shelves. He turns and says, “You are truly a writer.” I nod.
He huskily asks, “Do I sleep in the guest room?”
“Only if you want to. I have a king-sized bed in my room.” He follows me into my bedroom and sets down his backpack.
Coming close to me, Henri notes, “This is an enormous home for two women.”
“Jude’s children are adults.” I explain as he nods and walks around the room examining the pictures on the walls in here and the cross above my bed. He smiles and walks out into the primary room again. I wish I knew what he’s thinking.
“I like all the windows and the openness of this room. Is there something cooking?” He asks. I walk over and check out the crock pot.
“It looks like Jude has a chicken in the crock pot.” I get out dishes and silverware. I gesture at the refrigerator, “Help yourself to bottled water or whatever you find.” Mischu has stretched down from the bay window and worked his way cautiously over near where Henri is standing. Henri squats and extends his hand. Mischu sniffs and rubs. He talks to Henri, who listens and nods. “That’s Mischu. Someone threw him in a dumpster and Jude rescued him. The white one is Macloud, and he’s mad because I was away for over a week.” Henri walks up to Mac who watches him and then cautiously sniffs Henri’s outstretched hand. Mac allows several strokes before he gets down and runs back to my room.
Henri rises, “He is still mad at his mistress.” I nod. I have put a pot of water on a burner for egg noodles. Jude has the package laying on the counter. I get out mixed vegetables and turn almost into Henri’s arms as he asks, “What time does your sister get home?”
“Between five and six depending on her caseload. She works with mentally challenged people out on their own and recovering drug addicts.” I explain putting the vegetables back into the freezer. “Jude likes salad with her dinner.” Henri nods, pulling me into his arms.
“Special lady. How about proving how comfortable your bed is?” His lips claim mine, and he walks me backwards to my bedroom. Mac is in one of my windows, slightly behind the open drapes. He jumps down and runs out of the room. “How long will he be mad at you?” I shrug as he removes my blouse and unhooks my bra.
“Oh, it depends on when I get the treats out of the cupboard.” I’m now on the open bed and he’s getting naked after closing the bedroom door.
Henri teases, “Just in case your sister sneaks out early.” then joining me in the bed and starting to arouse me to passion with his hands and lips. I’m thinking that’s not a suitable way to meet someone for the first time.
We are laying quietly in bed before Henri decides he wants to try out the walk-in shower in my bathroom. Jude’s bathroom has the whirlpool tub. We are finishing dinner when Jude’s SUV pulls in the driveway and into her garage. I hear the door go up. She comes in through the connecting door at the family room and leaves her stuff in the office end of the family room before coming up the hall to the kitchen.
She throws her arms around me, “I was so worried. I want to hear all that happened since you left Grandmas.” Henri is sitting at the island bar and stands when she enters the kitchen area.
“Jude, this is Henri.” Jude walks over and takes his extended hand.
“Hello. Well, it appears you took excellent care of my sister.” Her tone is ominous. She knows what we have been doing, and she’s upset. Henri carries the crock pot to the table and waits for us to sit. Jude takes a chicken breast after Henri chants the blessing. It does not thrill her that Henri is one of the Indigenous People.
Henri looks at her for a long time before asking, “I sense that you do not care for my People.”
Jude flushes slightly and says, “My first husband was part Mohawk. He got mean when he drank. He left when I was six months pregnant with my daughter and tending his two-year-old son.”
Henri says, “I do not drink. I am a Shaman. I am Woodland Cree. They raise us to revere all women.”
Jude looks right at him, “Yeah, it appears you were worshiping on my sister. She’s naïve and not familiar with men.” She doesn’t
pull any punches. She does not eat very much. Upset, Jude goes over to her son Kyle’s home right after dinner.
Henri and I clear the table and he says, “I can take the rental car back tomorrow and catch a bus to the Reservation.”
I shake my head telling him, “No, this is my home, and I invited you. I will go with you and see some of this country if you were serious.” He nods. I am excited at the thought of traveling and seeing some of these United States as well as the different Tribes.
Jude returns about nine p.m. and goes to bed. Henri and I turn in soon after. I am up at five a.m. and out to see Jude before she leaves for work. Jude is in the kitchen at the nook table having a cup of tea. I sit at the table with her and reach across to take her hand.
“I don’t want to see you get hurt by this guy. Just don’t trust him too far. As far as traveling over the country with him, I don’t think it’s wise. He could leave you somewhere.” I nod, but I’m thinking I already decided.
To relieve her mind a little I tell her, “Okay, I’ll give it a lot of thought.” She squeezes my hand and gets her things together and heads to the garage. Mac comes over and sits in the chair she just vacated. He was on the sofa next to Henri last night after I got the pounce salmon flavored treat can out. He is washing up from having his breakfast. Mischu is in the window behind me because the sun comes up that side of the house. Mac will join him soon. Both cats like Henri, so he must be a righteous guy. Mentally, I’m planning what I will take along. I gather Henri travels light.
I head back and Henri is just returning from the bathroom. He sleeps naked; I put on my nightgown. He slides back into the bed and says, “I like the room darkening curtains and shades.” I slide into the bed beside him.
He pulls me into his arms, “Your sister does not trust me.” I smile. I’m hoping you grow on her.
“I know. Ted really did a number on her.” Henri pulls me close and begins tugging at the neck of my gown for me to remove it. I do. He makes love and we shower together. Then I make us breakfast and clean up the kitchen. He is taking the Edge back to Enterprise Rental. He tells me he will get a ride back here when I volunteer to follow him. It’s easy, we map quested it. Straight up Taft Road and follow the airport signs. He leaves at ten a.m. and I expect him back in about an hour. I go into the office and start working on my current book. I call Grandma and talk to her for quite a while.
When he hasn’t returned by three p.m., I call Enterprise and I am told he turned the vehicle in at around eleven and left at noon. I don’t have a number to call and by the time Jude gets home at six p.m.; I am frantic with worry. Jude takes me out to dinner at Tully’s, but I’m unable to eat. When we arrive home and he’s still not there, I am in tears. As quickly as he dropped into my life, it appears he has dropped out.
PART 3 ~ GONE BABY GONE
Jude doesn’t know what to say. She warned me about Henri, but I didn’t listen. Henri was the first man to pay me any attention since my fling in high school. Jude makes us both a cup of tea and we go to bed. She’s got work in the morning and I have to deal with my loss on my own. I am up at five a.m. helping her get organized and out to work. Then I go into a cleaning frenzy. I finish up my online shopping since Christmas is two weeks away. I reheat some of my dinner for lunch, but it makes me remember having lunch at Tully’s with Henri.
Mischu and Mac follow me all around until I get the vacuum out and then I’m alone.
Dinner on Saturday night means Kyle, Jude’s son, will join us. I decide to make BBQ ribs. That means getting the ingredients out, mixing in a bowl and pouring into the Ninja over the meat pieces. Parmesan noodles will be perfect, so I start the egg noodles boiling. When I find out from Kyle he is bringing his girlfriend, I’m glad I always make plenty. It’s midafternoon before Jude texts me that Rena, Kyle’s guest, will bring Turtle Brownies she is making from my cookbook.
Jude arrives shortly before they do. She pulls into the garage and is just coming into the house when Kyle’s vehicle pulls into the driveway. I meet them at the door, since the doorbell sends our kitties into a frantic running race. Rena remarks when she sees the two of them sitting in the front window. I open the door so they can come in, give hugs and remove their shoes. I take the brownie pan from Rena and put it in the kitchen as Jude comes into the kitchen. Jude hangs up their jackets while I wave for them to come into the kitchen area.
“Smells good in here, Aunt Melina. We’re starving.” Kyle is over by the Ninja lifting the lid. “Yes! Ribs.”
Jude stopped at the Lyncourt bakery on her way home. She hugs Kyle and hands him my big serrated knife. She hugs Rena and then pets Mischu who is rubbing around her ankles and talking up a storm. We sit at the table and Jude offers the blessing before we pass. Conversation is sparse until our plates are empty and in the dishwasher.
We go back to the family room to digest. Kyle talks about his job and Jude talks about her hassles at work. Rena is playing with Mischu and Mac is up on the back of my chair with his head against my cheek. “He really loves you.” Rena says.
“Yeah. He’s my baby.” I tell her. We discuss my last book which Rena just started reading and then they head home around nine p.m. We discuss Christmas Day. I guess everyone is coming here for dinner. Jude thought she was going to Nikki’s, but plans changed.
I get through Christmas Day and start the New Year. Henri has become a life lesson learned. At the end of January, we have a quiet birthday party for Jude. February, I have six book signings for my newest, which hit the newsstands just after Thanksgiving. I had four book signings in November before turkey day. I got a nice royalty check in January, which went directly into my savings account.
In March, I start not feeling well and I’m sleeping all the time. Jude insists I go to the doctors. When she gets home from work, I tell her what the doctor found. Jude comes in and I’m sitting in my office crying. My mind has been racing. Am I ready for this responsibility? Jude rushes over and says, “My God, is it Cancer?” She sits in the other office chair in the room after chasing Mac and Mischu out of it.
“No. Henri gave me a present in December.” I blow my nose and sit quietly. She grabs my hands and squeezes.
“Well?” She’s rolled the chair as close as she can get it.
“I’m pregnant.” I can’t keep the heartbreak from my voice. I always wanted a family but thought it would involve a man, love, marriage…what a fool I am.
“Oh, God. What are you going to do?” She asks, and I sigh several times.
“Keep it. I can’t kill a healthy child. The doctor checked and everything appears normal.” I’m looking into her face. Jude would never speak ill of Henri because she knows I still love him. I keep hoping he’ll just show up here. That’s the romantic writer in me. But my mind is driving me crazy.
She’s quiet for a while and then she says, “Well, I’m here for you. You know I won’t leave you.” I nod at her solemn words. She looks around and says, “This room is big enough to be a nursery and office. We can set the crib where the daybed is.” I nod and look around the room.
“I guess we have plenty of time. I’m due about the middle or end of August. I’m sure it will upset Grandma with me.” Jude laughs at my words. She was the wild one, and I was the careful one. I keep thinking about facing my family after I begin to show.
By May, we have purchased secondhand furniture for the nursery comprising a crib and a changing table. I let my publishing Editor know that I won’t be doing any long distance signings after May. She’s happy I’m having a baby and looking forward to reading about this mystery birth in my next book. Kyle and Nikki go together to purchase a black Boston rocker for the living room. By June I have six months of baby on my front and the last ultrasound shows a definite male.
I like to hang our sheets and some clothes outback on the clotheslines. I now have a rolling laundry basket, so I don’t have to lift the heavy baskets of clothes. I leave the basket in the laundry room and go out into the kitchen area to check on the pot roast in the Ninja. I add the rest of vegetables and rinse my lunch dishes and put them into the dishwasher. The front doorbell rings, so I figure it’s a package. With a gray van in the driveway, I figure it is an Amazon van. I walk over and standing on the other side of the locked screen door is Henri wearing black sunglasses and a familiar long black coat.
My heart freezes in my throat. I don’t know who is more surprised, me or him. I unlock the screen door and step back saying, “Come in.” He is using a cane and limps when he steps into the foyer. He removes his sunglasses and looks down at me. My mind is racing. On one side, I’m thrilled to see him, but the other side asks, Why is he here now?
There is silence for the longest time between us. I gesture to come in and sit in the living room. He slips out of his coat, walks into the room and sits after I do. He leans forward, “I have a lot to tell you and to hear from you since I left this home six months ago.” I gesture for him to go first.
He asks, “You carry my child?” I nod. “Male?” I nod again. He leans back and stretches out his one leg. “I left here intending to return the vehicle and get a lift back here. I was walking along Taft Road thinking the wind was colder than I liked. I woke up in Alberta, Canada, at a Hospital near my parent’s home. A man, who had left a nearby bar, hit me from behind with his out-of-control truck. He broke my left leg, left arm, several ribs and left me in a coma beside the road. The Community General Hospital where I was flown went through my pockets and found my Canadian Driver’s license and contacted my parents. They flew here and brought me back to a hospital in Alberta near their home. It was early February before I slowly came out of the coma. I have had three months of intensive therapy to regain my mobility. Then I could not call you because I did not know your actual address, phone number or remember your last name.” He falls silent. I sit just looking at him. I don’t know what to say. Henri asks, “When is the baby due?”
“August” I watch as he struggles from the couch and moves to kneel at my feet.
He slowly asks, “Can I touch the child?” He watches for my nod and then puts his hands on my baby mound. I watch a slow smile spread across his face before he says, “A son. This is my son?”
I tell him, “Yes. A healthy baby boy.” staring into his face. He smiles slowly before rising to his feet somewhat unsteadily. Obviously, his leg is a work in progress. My romantic heart is singing that he has returned to me. My brain is asking, Why? And for what purpose?
He is standing, just looking down at me. I wish I knew what he was thinking and if he was planning to say his piece and leave. “I am not married, nor have I ever been. I wanted you to travel with me to see the country and meet with the original Tribes, but now…” He goes back to the couch to sit. “All of that now changes. Will you travel to my hometown to wed and give birth?” Not trusting my voice, I rise and walk back towards the hall before gesturing for him to follow. He rises using his black cane and with a noticeable limp strides towards me with a slight frown on his face. I walk into the nursery and stand by the crib. I watch him slowly walk into the room with his frown changing to awe. He touches the framed long stitch needlepoint train on the wall and the soft blue afghan laying over the crib side. There is a needlepoint quilt of teddy bears and balloons folded on the mattress. “You had no way to find me.” He abruptly states with a haunted look on his face.
“I could not recall your last name and I had no phone number for you.” I am crying and feeling bad about this. The little voice says, Stop your blubbering!
He comes over and puts his arms around me. Tipping my face upwards, he kisses me. “I did not stop loving you, I could not physically return.” The baby kicks at him. Henri just moves back and chuckles. He says ‘mon fils, désolé j’étais trop proche’ in French. “Sorry, I told my son I was sorry I was too close.” I get another long kiss before he pulls me into my bedroom. “Sit. We must talk.” Now I’m terrified that what he suggests I won’t be agreeable to do. . In certain ways, my mind has been slowly made up over the past months.
I sit, but I’m not comfortable. I wrap my arms around my baby. Henri reads my body language. He turns partially to face me and puts his hand on my shoulder. “I do not know if you will believe me but,” he reaches into his jeans pocket and brings out a small velvet case, “I came here to ask you to be my wife.” He opens the small box and inside is a diamond ring. With a bit of effort, he slides to one knee and extends the ring. With a jolt, I realize what he just said and that he’s waiting for an answer.
To say yes means I may have to go where he goes but to say no selfishly leaves my baby without a father. “Yes. I will be your wife.” He takes the ring and slides it onto my finger and kisses my palm. Why does this man raise such passionate feelings with even the simplest action?
He struggles to his feet saying, “Sorry, I rushed my healing to come here.” He pulls me up into his arms, “We can live here in your home for some months and then journey to Alberta to visit my parents. This is their first and only grandchild.”
“We will work through things together.” I state and he smiles. My timer goes off on the oven. He nods and steps back when I say, “Dinner calls.” Walking out with him following. I check the meat and vegetables. Not quite done. I add the thickener for the gravy. He sits at the island while I make a tossed salad for Jude. I have fresh strawberries marinating in sugar, which I get out and stir. It feels so natural with him here. I am the calmest I have been in many months.
I feed him a spoonful and he says, “Very good.” What is he thinking? Is it love in his eyes?
I tell him, “We have them over angel food cake with whipped cream.” Mischu is sitting in the chair beside Henri. I get out a cool whip and put some on a small plate which Mischu laps up eagerly.
“Sounds sinful. Dinner smells remarkably interesting.” I hand him my cookbook and he glances at the cover. “Your own cookbook.” He looks up asking, “May I?”
“Go ahead. When I try new recipes, some make it into the book, some don’t.” I watch him look through the individual sections. He finds the pot roast recipe and smiles.
I have him sit in the living room while I set the table and then join him. He pats the couch next to him. He puts his arm along the back and says, “We can marry here and stay until the baby is born. Would my parents be welcome to come and stay here until the baby is born?”
I realize this is a big concession on his part. “My parents are buried in Lyncourt. Your parents would be our son’s only grandparents. They would be welcome here always.” I speak honestly from my heart.
The garage door goes up and Henri stiffens slightly. “Your sister may not like you marrying me.” I am having that same thought. I wait with baited breath.
Jude comes in and comes to an abrupt stop when she sees Henri. Her smile looks forced and phony as she says, “So, what do we owe this visit?” Henri awkwardly stands and faces her.
“I explained what happened and why it has taken me so long to come back from returning the rental vehicle.” Henri states calmly, watching her face as he speaks.
Jude comes in and sits in the nearby chair before she motions for Henri to sit. I lean forward, “He came here to ask me to be his wife.”
Jude’s eyebrow goes up as she says, “Oh really?” I lean forward and show her my ring. She leans forward and examines it. “This appears real. Aren’t you from way up north in Canada somewhere?”
“I am from the Canadian state of Alberta outside the city of Edmonton. I have a home near Fort Saskatchewan on the North Saskatchewan River. I lived in California for some time several years ago. I am a citizen of two countries. I will stay here and visit the Reserves in the state but stay near my wife and son. There are many Tribes living in surrounding states.” Jude is listening, and she has her unhappy, disbelieving face on. Her lips are a tight line. I’m thinking she’s not buying this. She was hurt too deeply and for too long.
“So, you intend to travel all over the country and leave your wife where?” Jude has leaned towards him, literally getting in his face with her body language. I have been in that situation and my heart aches for Henri.
“I intend to visit the Onondaga Nations and stay here with my wife and wait for my son to be born. I would like my parents to come and stay here while they wait for their first grandchild to be born.” Henri is watching Jude’s face. “You do not want your sister to marry me? I am Inuit of the Northlands Cree Tribe. She has already consented to be my wife. I will not whisk her away from you to some neither region in the North.”
Jude says, “She is a grown woman and able to make up her own mind. Our mother told us of the iron skillet and if she won’t tell you, I will.” Jude looks at me and smiling, I take a deep breath.
“Mother told us of her best friend Ginny’s husband who started beating her after ten years of marriage. Mother told our father and us that if he ever hit her, he better kill her with his first hit because if she ever got up off the floor, she would take an iron skillet to him the next time she saw him.” I watch his face while speaking.
“Did your Father ever strike your Mother?” Henri asks us.
I tell him, “No. He never raised a hand to her.” before looking at Jude.
With a tight line to her lips, “Ted got drunk and was beating me. Kyle came in and he was about eleven and tried to come to my defense. When Ted started beating on Kyle, I heard my mother’s words. I got the iron skillet from my stove and knocked Ted unconscious. We dragged him into the backyard to dry out. I threw him out and he went down to the Reservation to stay.”
Henri says, “Good. Women are precious and revered and held above all. I do not know why your sister could capture my heart. Do I have your permission to wed your sister?” Jude leans back and thinks for a few long minutes.
“If you make her happy and keep her in your heart always.” I stand as Jude does. Henri struggles and rises.
“Let’s eat the dinner I worked so hard on.” I remove the meat to a platter, the gravy to a pitcher and the vegetables to a bowl. Jude gets out salad dressings and a pitcher of iced tea. I put ice in three glasses. Henri carries the meat and vegetable bowl to the hot mats on the table. I grab the gravy. Henri offers the blessing and we pass the serving dishes. I slice the meat thinly. Henri eats mostly vegetables and tossed salad. He takes one slice of the meat. He enjoys the gravy on Italian bread. Jude and Henri clear the table. I am sent to the living room. Jude feeds the cats and Henri watches. He lets her precede him into the living room and sits after she does.
Jude wants to know where he was for six months and he tells her. He holds my hand while he talks. When he finishes, Jude asks, “So, that’s your van in the driveway?”
“Yes. I drove here from my home. My Uncle had my van when I left last year so I used public transportation.” He sits silently for a
few minutes, “And I met your sister. Her magic is more powerful than mine and it captured me. She is in my mind constantly. Hers was the first name I uttered when I regained consciousness. I did not know where I was or how much time had passed.”
Jude rises, “I’m going to bed. I have work tomorrow.” I nod and rise.
“I have sheets on the line to bring in. Do you have things to bring inside from your van?” Henri rises.
“I will help you and then unload my things.” He carries in the laundry before I have him bring his items into the foyer to keep from raising the garage door near where Jude is trying to sleep. He has several cases of clothes and some of his personal journals and religious items. Everything goes from his dolly into my walk-in closet. We hang up his clothes. We shower together and the baby mound fascinates and excites him. I am dried and back in the bed for some of his sweet love making. I really missed his loving touch and strong arms around me.
Jude gets up alone in the morning. I’m usually up, but Henri says to sleep a little longer for the sake of the baby. He rises and puts the tea kettle on for Jude. He has her tea ready when she comes back out to the kitchen. He feeds the kitties and talks some with Jude. She has left by the time I rise and come out to the kitchen.
Henri is sitting on the couch with our two cats near him. He rises and meets me in the kitchen. “Well, I think Jude is not as distrustful as she was yesterday.” He chuckles and pours boiling water over my bag and his. “It is good you have this white tea. I would like to do a cleansing in the house and for my son.”
“I have no objections. I am past the time when I can safely travel. Your parents are welcome here.” I tell him as he gets out yogurt and eggs.
“We should get you foods to keep you healthy. Can we visit a market?” I nod. He makes scrambled eggs and adds some plain yogurt to them. I get strawberries with a cool whip on them. We dine together at the nook table. When the dishwasher running, I get his cell phone number put into my cell phone. He gets my number and Jude’s. Henri calls his parents and speaks with them and then I am handed the phone on speaker. Henri says, “mère père c’est Melina pour être ma femme et porte mon fils. She only speaks English right now. I told them you are to be my wife and you carry my son.”
It is silent for a few minutes and then a woman’s voice quickly says, “Que dites-vous Henri? Cette fille vous épousera mais elle porte déjà votre enfant?”
A man’s voice comes on, “Mother, English. Melina, sorry she got excited. She said, ‘What are you saying, Henri? This girl will wed you, but she already carries your child?’ Melina, we are most happy to meet you over such a long distance. Will you wed soon?” I can hear the woman jabbering in the background in French.
Henri picks up the phone. “Mère, I did not know that she carried my son until I arrived here. She welcomes your visit whenever you can arrive. She lives near Hancock International Airport in the State of New York.” Henri listens and says, “She lives in…”
“North Syracuse.” I tell him, and he nods.
“… North Syracuse in New York State. oui, j’attends votre appel. Nous vous envoyons notre amour. Au revoir.” Henri ends the call. “Mother does not understand English too well when she is excited. I told them, yes, I await your call. We send our love to you. Goodbye. I will teach you French and Cree while my son learns both.” I get a long kiss and then brought back to my, well our, bedroom. He removes my gown and his robe and makes love to me. We shower, dress and then come out to sit at the nook table.
“We need to talk so I can ease your mind.” Henri makes another cup of tea for me. “I do not intend to live here off your money. I am forty years old. Over the years, I have made excellent business decisions. I made a nice profit from the sale of my business in California. Governments pay me to visit the various Tribes and learn their ways and history. Then I make documentaries on what information I have gathered. To live I only require food and your love.” I squeeze his hand. I’m thinking that has probably been on Jude’s mind more than mine.
“This house, I want to pay for half and help with the monthly expenses.” Henri softly says. The house is paid for but I will put those finds into my saving account.
“I purchased this home with royalties from my first three books. Jude pays for the yard maintenance and snow removal. She purchased the large TV in the family room. I pay for the cable and internet. I can claim the internet and my phone charges against my income. We can sit down and discuss the expense distribution. Jude and I talk everything over.” Henri kisses my hands and leans close to me.
I remind him, “You mentioned going to Market so we should head over. It’s close and they have a wonderful variety of fruits, dairy, vegetables and fish.” We put on light jackets and walk out to the van. I give him directions to Wegman’s. He frowns so I explain, “This place is like a farmer’s market inside.” I get a raised eyebrow before we walk inside. He checks out the fruits, fresh vegetables and cheeses and nuts and then fresh fish. He will not let me pay. I pick up milk, butter, some of my yogurts and paper products. He loads up the van after seating me inside. It is a genuinely nice two-year-old van, spotless inside. At the house, I am escorted to the door, but he carries in all the purchases. We put them away together.
“I will make the dinner tonight. It will be fish, fresh vegetables and fruit.” I nod as he teases, “If it is good enough, you will add my recipe to your cookbook?” I laugh and kiss his cheek. Jude arrives home as dinner is almost ready and comes inside and right to the kitchen.
“Melina, are you trying something new?” She asks, shedding her jacket.
“No, we have a French-Canadian chef preparing our meals now.” She tips her head and walks into the kitchen to check out the dishes Henri has prepared.
“Well, you are still on probation in my book and only on page two.” Henri laughs as she goes to hang up her jacket and change into her lounger. I have the table set. Henri brings over the fish, my plum sauce, his sautéed vegetables and cut up fresh fruit. Jude is melting towards him after dinner. He insists she sit while he clears. I take pity on him with his cane and help clear.
We are sitting in the family room watching something on TV when Henri’s cell rings. He answers and I gather it is his parents. I hear him say, “Okay, We will be at the airport when you arrive. We have a guest room all ready for you. Our love to both.” Henri comes back and sits down. He looks at Jude and then me. Jude smiles but remains silent. Henri says, “My parents will be here next week on Friday about ten in the morning.”
Jude tells him, “We are looking forward to meeting them. Right, Melina?” I lean against Henri and stroke his cheek.
“Right.” Henri is watching Jude. I turn to him, “She’ll warm up to you eventually.” Jude makes a sound of disbelief and then laughs. Mischu comes in and gets into Henri’s lap and curls up.
Jude rises and says, “Well, he can’t be all bad, Mischu likes him. Night all.” We get a wave and she’s back in the hall.
Henri picks up the remote and turns off the TV. He turns down the lights, and we do a little making out. Part of me is still terrified I will wake and he’ll be gone.
Over the next ten days I clean and clean. Henri has strenuous therapy from his doctor to regain total use of his left leg. Henri does all the cooking and finally tells me, “This place is cleaner than most hospital’s operating rooms. Sit before you hurt the baby.” I am made to write instead of clean. I make sure I clean the guest room closet out and the dresser drawers are empty and freshly lined. I have Henri take down the curtains and hang clean ones. I put clean sheets on the bed and the guest towels into the bathroom.
I am a nervous wreck sitting in the proper area of the airport. Henri stands when his parents’ flight disembarks. He looks down at me, “They’re clearing customs now.” I stand and grab his hand. We walk over and wait for them to clear the last barrier. My mind is a whirlwind of wondering what they are like and will they like me?
PART 4 ~ MEET THE PARENTS
Henri’s mother runs right to me and throws her arms around me. She looks at Henri and says, “Elle est belle avec l’enfant. Oh, désolé, anglaise. Melina, you are beautiful with the child. Sorry my English not so good.”
Henri says, “Melina, my mother Grace and my father, Jean Paul Penyaht.”
His father hugs me and steps back as I am saying, “I am pleased to meet you both.” I am nervous so I stammer and then blush. Jean Paul laughs.
“Henri, she is a fard à joues, oh..” He looks at Henri.
Henri tells his father, “A blusher. She’s a blusher. Oui.” Henri goes to gather up their luggage. He brings it on a cart. We got to park in the expectant mother’s parking. Henri puts me in the front and then his mother in the back seat. Henri and Jean Paul load their luggage and we head home.
Henri drives slowly so they can look around. He’s smiling because his mother is talking a mile a minute in French. His father keeps telling her English several times before giving up. Henri tells me in a soft whisper, “She’s never been to the East coast United States. She’s amazed at the homes and cars.”
Henri pulls into the driveway and tells his mother, “Mère, c’est la maison de Melina. Which in English is telling her this is your home.” Henri gets out and comes around to open my door and slide open the van door.
His father helps his mother out. She is looking all around saying, “oh mon, si beau.” Henri chuckles. We walk to the front door so I can unlock the door and swing it open.
I tell them, “Please, come in and rest from your journey.” Henri puts their jackets into the closet. “Do you want to show them to the guest room in case they need to wash their hands?” Henri laughs at my words. We walk them to their room, and I show them their bathroom and closet. “You can unpack into the dresser drawers; they are all empty.”
Jean Paul wants to rest for a bit. Grace sternly whispers, “tu as dormi dans l’avion. Nous devrions les visiter et nous reposer plus tard.” Jean Paul sighs and motions for her to precede him to the living room.
Henri chuckles and whispers what she said, “That he slept on the plane. They should visit with us and rest later.”
When we have gotten seated Jean Paul says, “I will work on her English. She is not comfortable with it. I am a Pastor and most of my flock understands English but like Grace prefer not to speak it.”
I smile and tell him, “That’s okay. I will try to learn French and Cree from Henri.”
Jean Paul smiles, and I take a minute to study this man. He’s dressed in a black polo with black jeans which make him appear rather thin, but I think he’s muscular. They are shaken when they see me. I sense they will tolerate me for Henri and the child. Henri’s father’s mostly gray hair is long like Henri’s but pulled back with a clip. His gray eyes have a lot of lifelines around them, like his mouth. Henri has his mother’s dark brown eyes. Her hair is white and very long. She has it braided and rolled into a bun on the back of her neck. She is not thin but not heavy, well rounded I would guess. She is about my height and wearing a printed dress with a burgundy jacket over it. Both removed their shoes and slipped on moccasins. Since I put our boots away, we use that tray for outside shoes. They are studying me while I study them. I usually give everyone the benefit of the doubt when meeting them.
Henri says, “I think it will be easiest if we wed here. Perhaps within this home if you are agreeable.” I wish we would have talked this over between ourselves before he spoke. Well, it’s not worth fighting over. I detest conflict.
Jean Paul says, “I am unauthorized to marry in the United States, but I could do the ceremony after Melina gets someone here to do it.” Everyone turns to look at me. I’m thinking I don’t care where I get married as long as I get married.
I look at Henri. “Marrying here is fine. Jude and I have been attending a small United Methodist Church, and she can speak with the Pastor. Perhaps the two of you could perform the ceremony together.”
Jean Paul says, “Yes, your sister should be here. Henri says your parents have passed and I am sorry for your loss. We can speak of that later.” He rises and turns to Henri, “Let us bring in the luggage.” Henri rises and follows his father outside. I walk through and open the garage door.
Henri says, “Thank you we will carry in through the garage.” I wave and go back to sit with Grace. With her, the silence feels uncomfortable.
“What do I call you?” I ask.
She leans forward, “Comment avez-vous appelé votre mère? Oh, English, I asked what you named your mother.”
“I called her mom. Would it insult you if I called you mom?” I ask, and Henri stops in the hall and views how we are communicating.
She does not understand all my words, “Ensalted, is what?”
Henri smiles, “cela signifie des sentiments insultés et blesses.” She nods at him.
“My English not so good. I would like you to call me Mom or Maman.”
“Je parle français, Maman.” She smiles at my words. I repeated what Henri slowly whispered in my ear.
She intones, “You did well.” Henri kisses her and goes to finish unloading. He returns and sits by me.
“Mère, tu peux déballer maintenant. Père se repose.” At his words, Mom rises and pinches his cheek before going up the hall.
Henri pulls me into his arms. “She has gone to unpack. They are not vegetarians like me. They will like your Swedish Meatballs. I made several with white fish and they have toothpicks in them. I think a light mid meal for them if they don’t lay down and sleep. Why don’t you make your special eggs for them?” I get several pleasant kisses and he rises and walks back to their doorway. The conversation is low and in French. Mental note to self: Work hard to learn French. Although, I don’t think they are discussing me.
Henri returns and says, “I will put the eggs on, and we will make your egg salad and devilish eggs.” I smile and nod. I remember when I made my deviled eggs last week and Henri consumed most of them. Jude got quite a charge out of it. Mom comes out and sits at the island and watches me make the devilish eggs and the egg salad. I wrapped the egg salad in lettuce leaves and Henri really liked them. I ordered several boxes of the white tea. I make iced tea with them and put the pitcher in the refrigerator to chill slightly.
Jean Paul comes out looking slightly sleep mussed. We eat at the nook. I heated some tomato barley soup, and it’s in my tureen in the center of the table. I ask Jean Paul to do the blessing and he smiles. He thanks the Creator God for his daughter, the meal she prepared and the safe ending of their journey here.
Henri explains about my cookbook and that this is tomato barley soup and my deviled egg rolls (in the lettuce). I have sliced fresh tomatoes for in the egg salad rolls. I smile when Jean Paul takes several slices and puts sugar on them. When he notices my smile, he tips his head. “My father ate tomatoes that way or fresh from his garden with salt and like an apple.” I’m remembering the summers of putting in the garden and harvesting it.
Jean Paul says, “A wise man. You raised your own vegetables?”
“Yes, I have a garden out back, but the tomatoes are still green.” Henri’s head whips around at my words.
He asks, “Where?” and Jean Paul is listening.
Smiling, I tell him, “In the backyard, just over the knoll to your left. I have tomatoes, green peppers, sugar peas, eggplants, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini and cabbage.”
Henri inquires, “No carrots or onions?”
“No, the bugs eat any below ground vegetables in this somewhat sandy soil. I need a couple more years of turning leaves under to get richer soil.” I explain.
Jean Paul says to Henri, “Perhaps we can help with the mulching. What do you use for fertilizer?”
“I have to have bags delivered for my gardener to spread for me. This year I could not put the garden in myself.” Speaking, I’m remembering what a costly venture that was.
“We can weed for you.” Mom says and I wink at her.
“My father taught me to lay watering hose under black plastic in most areas. I get very few weeds.” Jean Paul sadly shakes his head at my words.
“I great and wise man I would have much enjoyed speaking with. A Christian man?” I love his slight French accent when he speaks.
“Yes. We attended church every Sunday until my mother lost her battle with Cancer and my father became very disheartened.” My timer goes off signaling the noodles need to go in for dinner. Henri puts his hand on my shoulder when I rise.
“The noodles go in?” I nod at his question. I really enjoy cooking but it’s nice to have someone to help. Jude’s a good helper but really does not cook.
I ask, “Would you like to see the nursery?” Both quickly nod and immediately rise. I walk them back and gesture for them to enter. enter. Mom goes quickly in and checks out all the baby items on the crib and changing table. Henri puts his arm around my back and kisses the top of my head. I have always wanted a baby and husband. Once we are married, it will seem more permanent. I still fear them disappearing.
Mom turns, “These are Fait main. Was et you?”
I smile and nod, “Yes, I enjoy making things.”
Mom asks, “Your sister, does she make too?” I shake my head. Jude’s few attempts at crafts are best left unmentioned.
I look at Henri and then tell her, “She’s not prone that way. She has made some beautiful dream catchers for our windows.” it confuses Mom.
Henri explains, “elle a fait des capteurs de rêves pour les fenêtres. Son mari appartenait à la tribu Mohawk.”
I am startled by the garage door starting up. We file back to the Living room as Jude comes into the house.
Henri waits to let Jude know his parents are here. Jude puts her stuff down and comes into the Living room. Henri introduces her to his parents. Jean Paul takes her hand and squeezes it. Mom nods and says, “I am happy for you.” Then she shakes her head, “I don’t English very good yet.”
Jude smiles and says she is happy to meet them. Henri is setting the formal dinner table as it would cramp us at the nook table. I washed my French Lead Crystal last week. I get out the water glasses for with our dinner. I confused Henri when I made the iced tea in the matching pitcher. I am proud of the Crystal collection I have acquired over the years. I purchased a twenty-piece china set for in the buffet in the dining room. They are frosted glass looking with a silver rim. They make Jude nervous.
“Melina, I stopped at Lyncourt bakery and picked up the cheesecake you ordered and the chocolate cake. Kyle wants to know if we are still having dinner on Sunday.” She’s putting out the silverware from our parents.
Henri says, “Of course. Your children will be introduced to my parents. Jude, does not your husband’s Tribe welcome all blood into his Tribe?”
Jude shakes her head. “No. Those on the Reservations associate very little with the English.”
Jean Paul says, “Shame. We Northland Cree are not like that. We consider all blood part of our family and Tribe.” I watch Jude warm towards Jean Paul. Henri brings them to the table and Jean Paul gives the blessing. Jude likes the white fish balls that Henri makes. All enjoy my dish. Henri sneaks a turkey meatball and says, “These are good too.” Mom makes me sit down while she and Jude load the dishwasher. Henri carries the dishes over to the kitchen.
Sunday morning, Jude goes to church and we all join her. It surprises her. After the service, Jude speaks with Pastor Tim about our wedding. Pastor Tim will gladly due a dual ceremony in two weeks at our home Sunday afternoon. It thrills him to meet Jean Paul and is very interested in meeting with him next week to talk. I can tell he has a lot of questions about Jean Paul’s services.
Sunday, Jude’s son and daughter arrive in the afternoon. Henri gets to meet Nikki and her man friend, Stuart. Kyle arrives with his girlfriend, Rena. Kyle and Rena met Henri last Sunday. We bring them into the family room, which holds larger groups easier than our living room. I made a roast turkey, per Kyle’s request. I did a twenty-one pound turkey and a pan of turkey thighs. Mom and I made my sweet potato casserole. Nikki brought her mashed potatoes. Rena brought a green bean casserole. When we got home from church, I had Henri and Jean Paul put the leaves on the dining room table.
I put the hot pads I made on the buffet leaf that pulls out. Jude put candles in my crystal candelabra. The table looks very nice set with my French Lead Crystal glassware. I have Kyle, Stuart and Jean Paul bring the stuff to the buffet. Jude made a fruit tray and our parent’s fancy glass dish is loaded with dill pickles, cranberry sauce, black olives and sweet pickles. I made my cranberry orange walnut relish. I make the gravy in the roasting pan. Henri is removing the stuffing to a gigantic bowl. Jean Paul carves the turkey to my enormous platter. Once I pour the gravy into two pitchers, we get everyone to the table for the blessing. I ask Jean Paul to chant the blessing and he does a beautiful job.
We have both coffee pots brewing. They do twelve cups, but that’s only six mugs apiece. Everyone fills their plates. Mom likes my relish, stuffing and the sweet potato casserole. Jean Paul likes everything. Stuart has a few second helpings on the stuffing and the relish. One of the plates Jude was taking to the dishwasher falls onto the floor and shatters.
Henri quickly goes over, moves her aside and cleans up the broken glass. Alarmed, Jude looks over and I tell her, “It’s only a plate. As long as no one got hurt, I can order replacements of this pattern. That’s why I purchased it.” I don’t tell her I prepaid for an additional twenty pieces of each setting. They will hold them until I request shipment. I wanted glass dishes to compliment my French Lead Crystal. I looked for hours on line to find exactly the right pattern.
Jude gets out glass containers to put the leftovers in. Kyle and Rena want samples to take home. Jude tries to hush them because we have a house full. Henri says, “Let them take some. Melina can make another time for us.” Stuart wants to talk with Henri, but there isn’t much time for them to chat. After we have our desert, Nikki and Stuart make their goodbyes.
Kyle and Rena don’t stay too long. Henri and Jean Paul restore the dining room. Mom and Jude empty and reload the dishwasher. The leftovers go into the garage refrigerator. I put the carcass in my enormous soup pot to cook the meat off the bones. Henri and Mom take turns picking out the bones as they float free. Tomorrow’s dinner will be turkey pot pie.
It is a tired group who sit in the living room and digest. Jude goes to bed, and it is not long afterwards that Jean Paul and Mom turn in. Henri drags me back to our bed. Jude is off on Mondays, but that’s when she gets her running around done.
Henri wants to visit my parent’s graves, so we go over there mid-morning. Henri helps clean the dirt and grass clippings from around the headstone. He notices my Dad’s WW2 plaque. We stop at the Lyncourt bakery. We end up with two gigantic boxes of goodies. After lunch, Henri wants to talk with Jude and I while his parents are resting.
After we are all seated, Henri looks from Jude to me. I watch him gather his thoughts. He looks at Jude when he speaks, “Jude, I know that you think little of me because of your ex-husband. I will be here for Melina and our son. I want to give the two of you fifty percent of the purchase price of this home. As the man, I expect to pay for the monthly expenses. Melina, you will need to put me under your health insurance here in the United States. I have already called to add you and my son to my insurance in Canada. Then we are covered in both countries.” Jude is still looking at him with a lot of distrust. Henri puts his hand over hers on the table, “I know that it will take time for me to prove to you I am a different breed of man from your husband.”
Jude smiles slightly, “Yes, time will tell. Your Father is a preacher?”
Henri gives that slight smile I am familiar with, “Yes. He has his own church in the town I was born in.” Jude stands.
“I will do a few things in my room.” She walks back down the hall and leaves Henri standing at the table. I get a raised eyebrow.
For me, I am very restless after we go to bed. Then my legs jump and Henri rubs them for over thirty minutes. Finally, we get to sleep. I am up at five a.m. I start the coffee and water for tea. Jude comes out into the hall and Henri is just feeding two patient cats. I make her tea and Jude sits and watches Henri. “Thanks. I guess your parents are still on their own time zone.”
Henri smiles, “Yes. It is about three in the morning there.” My face flushes, and Henri frowns.
“I forgot about the time difference. Guess I didn’t need to get up this early.” I sit and sigh as Henri pours water over my tea bag when I nod. Henri’s parents get up about two hours later. Henri stopped the coffee from brewing when he realized I was off on my time.
I make French toast and oatmeal for breakfast. Henri’s mother wants to try my coffee. She adds a little creamer and a teaspoon of sugar and smiles at me. “My dad said I made the best coffee.” They praise my breakfast highly. After the dishes are running, we all walk out to the garden. Jean Paul is the first one to reach the gate.
He looks back at me, so I smile and nod. “Oh, ma chère, c’est un beau jardin. Sorry, my dear, this is a beautiful garden.” He got so excited that mom stands softly laughing because he relapsed to French. I have my green beans, tomatoes, green peppers and sugar peas tied to stakes to keep them off the ground. Jean Paul found a ripe tomato and held it up for me to see.
I tell him, “Go ahead. Let me know if it is good.” Mom is walking back further to the green beans, peppers and sugar peas.
She excitedly points. “certains d’entre eux sont deia Presque murs. Oh English, some of these are almost already ripe.” She’s wandering up and down the aisles. She looks up at me, “It would honor me to help you harvest these beautiful fruits.” I smile.
I admit to her, “I never turn down help.” Henri is watching his Father use the hose in the yard to rinse the tomato before eating it.
“Father, wash that better.” It alarms Henri.
“No, I only use organic fertilizer and sprays on my food.” I tell them, patting my baby mound. They all laugh. We walk back to the house as several rabbits run across the yard.
Jean Paul turns to Henri, “Pouvons-nous poser des pièges ici?” Henri smiles at his father.
“I’m sure Melina won’t mind if you trap a few rabbits. She’s partial to rabbit stew.” I get a hug as we come back inside after watching the rabbits dine on my flowers.
Father looks at me, “As long as you don’t feed or mention this to Nikki. She raises floppy-eared rabbits.” Both men laugh at me. Mother just shakes her head. We sit at the table and discuss the wedding. I get frozen curried chicken and rice soup out of the freezer to heat after everyone nods that it sounds good. Henri makes toast for in the soup over the crackers I get out.
“I can make biscuits, if you like?” I ask and Mom wants to make her biscuits. I get the sheet pan out for her use and spray it with Pam. She reads the label on the can. It’s non-aerosol. I get a smile. She’s thrilled in the kitchen. Henri gets what she needs, after I point to the correct cupboards. Another woman who enjoys cooking. I’m thinking, she can cook all she wants whenever she wants.
Jean Paul goes outside. I gather he set some snares. He asked for the keys to the shed. He comes inside, “You have a very well-organized shed. Your lawn people use your mower?”
I admit to him, “No, they bring their larger ones.” Jean Paul frowns and turns to Henri.
“Nous pouvons tondre l’herbe et entretenir la cour. Cela leur fera économiser de l’argent.” Jean Paul says in an inaudible voice to Henri who flushes before he replies after taking a deep calming breath. (His dad telling him they can mow the lawn and save us money.)
“Père, je n’ai pas l’intention de rester assis toute la journée. Il y a beaucoup de travail que je ferai. Tu ne m’as pas élevé pour être paresseux.” Which translates roughly to: (Father, I do not intend to sit all day. There is a lot of work that I will do. You didn’t raise me to be lazy.)
His Father nods, “Oui, je m’excuse, j’ai parlé à la hâte. Pardonne-moi.” They hug and both go outside.
Mother watches, shaking her head slowly. “My son told his Father he wasn’t raised to be lazy. He knows there is a lot of work to be done with a home. My man forgets that Henri is also a man. A little boy, always in Jean Paul’s heart.” I smile. This starts me thinking about my own son. I hope Henri will be a good Father like his own Dad.
I tell her, “Henri will find out in three months.” I have a sweater set I am making. Mom comes over and sits beside me.
She speaks hesitantly, “You have books here for this? I enjoy to make for my grandbaby.”
“Yes. I have books and yarn here.” I rise, and she follows me to the storage area in the family room. I show her the two-drawer file cabinet with drawers of patterns. I show her the plastic containers marked yarn.
She exclaims, “Oh mon, you have a store here.” I turn on the light and pull over the wheeled chair so she can look to her heart’s content. Before I leave, I put my hand on her shoulder.
“I have a program on my laptop that will convert the pattern from English to French.” Her entire face lights up. I wave and go back to the living room to watch the dinner.
Tonight’s dinner is one of Mom’s that she usually prepares especially for Henri. No meat, all vegetables and fruit. It’s baked in a pastry puff in a pie tin. She makes three. By the time Jude gets home from work, it smells good. . It appears I will have competition for my cooking. That thought makes me very happy.
The boys caught four rabbits, which they took to the bench in the shed and skinned. Henri got several bowls for Mom to scrape the skins. They remove all evidence before Jude gets home. Jude casually remarks to me, “Pastor Fisher is coming over for dinner tonight. Sorry, I forgot to tell you before I went to work this morning.” I groan in dread. I hate unexpected guests and she angers me when she does this. But, she gets busy at work and forgets.
PART 5 ~ A WEDDING SURPRISE
I watch a strange vehicle pull into the driveway. Henri gets the door while I put two additional place settings on the dining room table. Mom is just removing the three pastry tins from the oven. Henri carries them one at a time to the table. Jude brings our guest to the kitchen area. I’m trying to remember the last time I total cleaned in here.
Pastor Fisher says, “Something smells delicious here.” I get a hug. Pastor Fisher is a very tall, sizeable man. He does a lot of outreach programs. He has the voice of an angel and a smile that lights up his entire face. I introduce him to Henri, who introduces his parents.
I tell him, “Henri’s mom prepared tonight’s dinner for us.” Henri seats his mom and then me at the table. Jean Paul seats Jude. I made my orange lemonade for with our dinner. Jude goes with iced tea.
Henri asks Pastor Fisher to offer the blessing, and then Pastor Fisher insists that Jean Paul finish the blessing. Jude has two helpings and says, “This is so delicious. Melina, put this in your cookbook.”
Dinner complete, we retire to the living room to discuss the wedding. Most of the talk is between the Pastors. They are planning how to combine the two ceremonies. Mom, Jude and I go into the living room with Henri. Mom shows Jude what she is knitting.
“Your sister has so many books and so much yarn. She translated to French for me to understand the pattern.” From the way she is talking, I think they have accepted me as her daughter to be. Jude winks at me. We listen as the two Pastors plot out our ceremony. I gave Jean Paul a lined tablet and pen. They are sharing. Henri is watching, smiling.
Mom looks at Henri and quickly asks him, “Vous avez commandé les bagues et les fleurs?”
Henri laughs, “Oui, maman. Ce matin même.” Jean Paul whispers to me what Mom asked and what he told her.
“My wife worries that the flowers and rings are not ordered yet. Henri assured her he had.” Mom punches his arm. He kisses her.
We all turn in. I realize Henri’s parents are dealing with the time change. Jude confides she was not at work. She took Rena and Nikki to get dresses for the wedding. I tell her I forgive her and hug her as she laughs and ducks into her room.
The following morning, Jude tells me again, “Call our Uncle Bill and invite him.” I sigh, and Henri tips his head.
After Jude has left for work, Henri sits beside me on the sofa. He pushes my crochet hook down and leans towards me, “You do not get along with this Uncle?”
I smile, “He is our Father’s younger brother and my Godfather.” I shrug.
Henri prompts me to continue, “Speak to me. Is this because of the child?” I flush slightly and sigh again. Henri pulls me close and says, “I will take the blame for our delay in marrying. I would have returned to you in December but for the accident.” I nod and lean across his lap to stare up at him.
“I have to invite him. Jude called our Aunt Pat’s boys and John and Jay are coming with their wives.”
Henri asks, “Your Aunt will not attend?”
I smile, “She passed last year, and our Uncle Jack died a week later. He could not face life without her.”
Henri nods and leans over to kiss me passionately. “Let’s go back to bed, you look tired.” His mother laughs from her position in the hallway and Henri’s head comes up quickly.
She tells him, “Elle a l’air fatiguée. Elle va au lit, tu as du travail à faire.”
Henri sighs and says, “Oui, maman.” And turns to me, “I am to put you to bed, and she is putting me to work.” Mom is listening, nodding and smiling. Henri walks me back and puts me in bed. I sleep four hours and wake with a start. I lay listening and I hear something outside.
My riding lawnmower is a John Deere. When I rise, the lawn is being mowed. Mom is planting flowers along the back patio. Macloud and Mischu are on the back screened-in porch. Someone locked the cat door open. I stand watching Henri with a shovel, digging I assume where his mother told him. There are various flowered plants sitting in areas of the yard. I seem to have gained a gazing globe, bird bath, hanging bird feeder and several nice wooden benches. For the wedding, I assume. I enjoy watching Henri’s muscles under his tee shirt as he shovels the dirt.
They have delivered a pile of wood off to my right. Mother smiles when she sees me. She rises and comes to the screen door, makes a broad gesture saying, “For the wedding.” I smile and nod.
“It looks nice.” We are being married in a new gazebo in the backyard. Jude had Henri order the rental tent. Rena’s mom runs a catering business and is catering our wedding.
The answering machine is blinking. It’s from my Uncle. “Melina, this is your Uncle Bill. Of course, we will attend your wedding on the 19th. I guess we will need to get caught up. Can your Aunt and I come for a visit some evening?” I sigh and dial his number.
Uncle Bill answers. “Hi. It’s Melina. We would love to have you here for dinner this week, if you can.”
Uncle Bill chuckles, “Is tomorrow night too soon?”
“No, I will make something nice for dinner. You can meet Henri and his parents. They are here from Alberta, Canada.” I wait to hear his reply.
“No problem. What time?” Uncle Bill asks and I hear Aunt Nancy in the background. “And, can we bring anything?”
“We are here, so you can come anytime. We’re behind Wegman’s off Taft Road.” Henri comes in and goes over to wash his hands at the sink. He points and mouths “WHO??”
“No, Uncle Bill, five p.m. is fine. Just bring your appetite. We can talk before dinner.” Henri is kissing my neck and fondling my breasts under my knit top.
His mother comes in and sternly says, “Henri, behave.” Henri chuckles, and when she slaps his backside, moves away from me.
Uncle Bill rings off and I recount the conversation to Henri and his mom. I move lunch along with her help. Henri goes back and showers. He returns and says, “You need not clean. This place is clean enough. Now, what will you make for dinner?”
While we get the table set and our turkey broccoli stuffing back out of the oven, I think for a while. “How about cod with my plum sauce, sautéed vegetables and a fruit salad?” His mom is nodding and smiling. Jean Paul comes in, washes up and joins us at the nook.
At the table, after the blessing, Henri says, “We could cook on the grill and eat on your picnic table on the deck.” I nod.
Tomorrow morning, Mom helps me get the place tidied up. It’s a marvelous day so Jean Paul and Henri straighten up the patio and sweep the floor.
Mom goes with Henri to Wegman’s for the foods stuff for dinner and brings home a lovely centerpiece for the table.
Uncle Bill and Aunt Nancy arrive at 4:45 p.m. Henri and I have showered and dressed nicely. Mom has orchestrated the dinner preparation and the table outside. Henri prepped the fish. The plum sauce is made, and the vegetables are marinating.
Henri dresses in his typical black dress jeans, black polo and boots. His father is also dressed in black. Mom is wearing a mint-colored dress she purchased when Jude took her shopping for her Mother of the Groom dress. She picks out a navy a-line dress for me.
I like the dress; it minimizes my little half basketball on my front. Henri and I go to the door after the bell rings. Henri ordered and installed a new bell that plays soft chimes and muted drums. Jude is still up in the air about his changing the doorbell. I really like it and both cats ignore the chimes. We talked about it first.
Henri says, “Mr. and Mrs. Sutton, please come in. I’m Henri Penyaht.” We step back so they can enter.
Uncle Bill says, “Please call me Uncle Bill. This is my wife, Nancy.” The men shake hands and Jude comes out of her bedroom to hug them after I do.
Aunt Nancy is starring at my front and frowning slightly. “Hello, let’s come inside and sit.” She smiles and nods. We walk over and join Henri’s parents in the living room. I upset Jude, I neglected to tell her Uncle Bill was coming.
Henri introduces everyone before sitting beside me. Henri says, “It is an honor to meet Melina’s Godfather and his wife. First, let me take the blame for our wedding being this late in our relationship.” He then tells them about our travels in Canada and his accident here. Aunt Nancy has her hand to her throat in shock, I guess.
Henri’s Mother says, “We did not have contact for Melina. I was most scared for my only child.” She’s speaking slowly.
Aunt Nancy leans forward, “I would have been frantic.” The conversation turns to the menfolk talking amongst themselves when Henri goes outside to prep the grill. This morning I got a London Broil out and made BBQ beef ribs in my Ninja. We will finish them on the grill and give my Aunt and Uncle a choice. Mom’s English is getting better. Mom insists on showing Aunt Nancy the nursery and ends up bragging about my books. When they return, I am taking up the ribs to a platter to finish on the grill. Jude and I bring out the foodstuffs for the grill. We end up on the patio sitting and talking. Aunt Nancy talks to Mom about her children and grandchildren.
My mouth waters when Henri puts the meats and vegetables on the grill. Jude and I bring out the iced tea, a bucket of ice and a pitcher of my BBQ sauce and the plum sauce. I sliced lemons for on the fish. Jude gets the fruit salad from the refrigerator.
Jean Paul chants the blessing, and Henri asks Uncle Bill to say his. Platters are passed and conversation is quiet during the meal. Everyone helps clear. Uncle Bill goes out into the yard with Jean Paul and Henri to see what they are doing out there. The gazebo is almost completed. Tomorrow they will stain and seal it.
We ladies sit in the living and chat. Mom and I work on our current craft projects. Jude excused herself to meet an old friend for coffee. She whispered that an old friend was in town from Texas to visit his son. She invited him to the wedding and he accepted.
My aunt and uncle leave about eight p.m. My Uncle does not like to drive after dark. I am exhausted and made to go to bed. It seems like I wake up on the morning of my wedding. The previous days are all a blur of activity. Henri is spending the night sleeping in the family room on the daybed. He takes a hot shower to limber up. Jude and mom are seated at the nook having a cup of tea.
Evidently, Uncle Bill asked Henri if he could escort me down the aisle and Henri said it would honor him. He’s worried I am angry at him and tell him, “He’s my Godfather too. I just felt awkward asking him.” Secretly I feel relieved that Henri asked him. We talked about it and I shrugged at his question about him asking my Uncle for me. He’s making decisions after we talk and it’s okay with me.
Henri’s four Uncles arrived last night and slept in a nearby motel. I am most anxious to meet them.
By nine a.m., my, well, our home is full of people. The caterers are setting up under their tent. The tent and chairs are all set up for the ceremony. Jean Paul and his brother Saul are setting up the altar. Nikki is just finishing my hair at 9:30 a.m. The wedding is at ten a.m. They move guests to the backyard via the garage end of the home. Stuart, Benjamin Penyaht and my cousin John are seating the guests as they arrive. Someone is directing parking of the cars. I’m glad I purchased the lots on both sides. I didn’t want someone parking their home tight to mine. Jude helps me with my dress, and we get our flowers out. At 9:55, Uncle Bill taps on the door. Jude lets him in and slips past to go with Stuart to take her seat. When the wedding march begins, Uncle Bill and I come out through the living room, screened-in porch and down the three steps to where the white silk carpet is unrolled all the way to the altar. Pastor Fisher’s music lady is handling the tapes for the ceremony.
As I walk down the aisle, the photographers (Adam and Saul) are videotaping and taking pictures. We stop on our mark up inside the new gazebo and I hand my bouquet to Jude to hold. Uncle Bill makes the necessary response and Pastor Fisher begins his portion. At a certain point, he asks if anyone sees or has a reason for this marriage not to proceed and after a few minutes; he steps back and Jean Paul wearing his Minister apparel steps forward and begins chanting the first portion of the Cree wedding ceremony. His portion complete, he steps back so Pastor Fisher continues. They recite the vow questions together before Henri slips the ring on my finger and I slip his heavier ring onto his finger. My hands are trembling and I don’t know why.
Henri takes my face in his hands and pledges to love, cherish, worship and care for me for the rest of his life. “You have surely captured my heart without firing a single shot.” I sigh with relief and realize this is for real and forever.
Jean Paul steps forward and says, “My son, my most precious friend, Grace and I have waited so long for you to bring us a daughter. We are not disappointed and eagerly await the birth of our first grandchild. Six months ago, we prayed daily for your life, now our prayers are answered. Kiss your beloved and turn to be introduced to those gathered here to witness this joining.”
Henri kisses me and I briefly cling to him. He raises his head and we turn to face everyone here. Pastor Fisher introduces, “It gives me great pleasure to introduce Melina and Henri Penyaht.” Everyone stands and applauds. We walk back and greet everyone. Mom is crying, and Henri pulls her into his arms with me. I remember my own mother telling me to watch how a man treats his Mother. That is how he will treat you.
They bring us into the living room while the photographers explain what they want to have people do. Henri is kissing me and he asks, “Do you like the rings?” I smile up at him and nod.
“They are as beautiful here as they were on-line. Your Uncle Joshua does beautiful work.” I get another pleasant kiss.
“He is most eager to meet you and spend some time with us.” Henri whispers. His Uncle Adam and Saul are the photographers at our wedding. They are also twins and look very much alike. Today in their black suits, they really are hard to tell apart.
Henri continues, “They are unique. He makes no two sets identical. He also engraved inside in French stating ‘Notre Créateur me fusionne avec toi pour toujours. Translation: Our Creator melds me to you forever’.”
The photographer signs for us to come outside for the receiving line. The caterers are about finished setting up. They have removed the unused chairs. Henri introduces me to his Uncle(s) Joshua, Adam, Saul and Benjamin. They flew down in Jean Paul’s plane. Joshua is two years older than Henri. He spends a lot of time with Jude, which upsets her date so badly he leaves right after the reception dinner. Jude fails to notice.
Henri takes the microphone and tells the guests, “Once you have cleared the receiving line, please proceed to the banquet table and rest a few minutes.”
It seems like forever until I can take a seat at the main banquet table with Jude, George (from Texas), Uncle Bill, Aunt Nancy, Jean Paul and Mom.
Jean Paul tells Henri to let me remain seated. Henri nods as both Pastors stand to offer the blessing. Henri then puts his hand on my shoulder before he leads the table members to the buffet tables. A caterer is to send people to the tables. Henri has a helper who carries my full plate over to me. Conversation is at a minimum after everyone gets a plate. As people finish eating, some of them come over to Henri and me.
My cousin John and his wife Barb stop by and introduce themselves and chat for a while. Then my cousin Jay and his wife Brooke stop and chat. Jay is impressed by the gazebo. I tell Brooke that Mom did all the flowers. No one is to bring a gift, and we handed out wedding announcements as they entered. I did them on my computer. The gift table still had a lot of gifts on it.
By five p.m. we have cut the cake, tossed the bouquet and garter and done the dancing. Jude caught the bouquet, and Joshua caught the garter. We bid our guests goodbye. Nikki left with a reluctant Stuart. I am so tired that Mom sends me to bed.
I don’t feel Henri slip into the bed, but I feel his hands when I wake. “Mrs. Penyaht, prepare to be introduced intimately to your husband.” I am.
We rise, shower and come out to the nook table. Uncle Joshua and Jude are sitting there having tea. “Kettle’s hot.” Jude says.
Both men say, “Good morning.” Henri seats me and gets two mugs for us. After breakfast, Jude wants to talk with me. She brings me into her room. I sit in her office chair while she sits on the bed.
“Melina, I now know how quickly you were attracted to Henri.” She leans close, “Josh spent the night here with me last night. He is the most spectacular lover. I can’t believe he made your engagement and wedding rings. Did you know that Josh lives in the cabin on Henri’s land?” I shake my head. “He’s staying here for a while so we can get to know each other.” I’m hoping she will be happy and well treated this time.
“Okay, I have to get dressed, we’re going to the later service.” I rise and kiss her cheek before slipping out of her room. I notice Joshua’s suitcase is in her room instead of the family room. I guess that King sized bed came in handy.
I walk into our bedroom and Henri grabs me and spins me. “Love is in the air. Do you think the garter and bouquet sparked something?” Henri is teasing. Jean Paul and Mom went to the prior service we usually attend. At the late service, it surprises us when Pastor Fisher announces a visiting clergy who will give the sermon and talk about life at his church in Alberta, Canada. A most enjoyable sermon for me.
The last week in June, Henri gets in contact with the Iroquois Confederacy on the Onondaga Reservation. After his first lengthy visit, he comes home so excited. We hear all about his meeting with the Leaders. He tells me, “I have much to learn about them. The Onondaga people are one of the original five constituent nations of the Iroquois Confederacy in northeast North America. Their traditional homeland is in and around present-day Onondaga County, New York, south of Lake Onondaga. We know them as Gana’dagwëni:io’geh to the other Iroquois tribes. I am thrilled to learn that they gave the women who are our life givers the important responsibility of carrying on the clans and the citizenship of the Haudenosaunee. At Onondaga, there are nine clans, which are; wolf, turtle, beaver, snipe, heron, deer, eel, bear, and hawk. The Haudenosaunee are known internationally as a peaceful people, with a heritage of statesmanship, government/law and an oral tradition passed from generation to generation. Onondaga remains the meeting place for the Grand Council of Chiefs, the traditional ruling body for the Haudenosaunee.” Henri hugs me and kisses me before he continues, “They are contacting the Grand Council of Chiefs for them to meet with me.” We have to go to bed early and assume our new position.
Uncle Joshua becomes Jude’s constant companion. She comes home in tears several times and it enrages him. She works another month before accepting his proposal of marriage and quitting her job. Henri says, “He must genuinely care for her. A Northland Cree warrior will protect his woman until his last breath.”
I am surprised when Jude comes in and announces that she is going up to Canada to visit Joshua’s home. “I want to see if I can live up there as your neighbor. Talk to Henri about moving up now and having your baby up there.”
Well, that did not go over well with Henri. “My son will be born here in a modern hospital. I have work to do in this area. Jude will be fine. Joshua will take care of her.” I kiss him and go back to the kitchen. Henry speaks with Jude who is angry that he won’t bring me up right away.”
Joshua says, “I can wait for the birth of the baby to travel. We will travel around here and enjoy this magnificent country.” It pacifies Jude. I am told to call Joshua by his first name. Calling him Uncle makes him feel old.
In July, this tiny baby grows and grows. Henri takes me for my scheduled Doctor appointment in the middle of July. Dr. Miller listens to the baby’s heartbeat and orders an ultrasound immediately. Henri has a multitude of additional questions for her. “Mr. Penyaht, I don’t think there is a problem. I am getting an echo on the baby’s heartbeat and want to check his development.”
An orderly arrives with a wheelchair and I am whisked to the ultrasound department where I am only third in line for the test. Dr. Miller arrives as they are moving me onto the table and spreading the warmed jell on my baby mound. Henri has my hand in a death grip and I have to keep reminding him to ease off on the pressure. Dr. Miller and the tech watch the screen as they move the wand over my belly.
Dr. Miller laughs, “My, my, my.” She looks up continuing, “I think you two can handle this news.”
NOT THE END
TO MY READERS: I hope you enjoyed this sample of my book which will be available on Amazon upon completion. Marcia