“Mmm. You awake over there?”
I wasn’t, but “No, leave me alone” didn’t seem like an acceptable answer. “Kind of. What time is it?”
“I don’t know. Sun’s not up, so it can’t be tomorrow yet. Way past midnight, so it’s not yesterday either. I’d say it’s halfway between Beltane and reality. Seems like the perfect time for some of that investigating.”
Turns out, she was right.
After Sabrina drifted back to sleep I lay there nestled into her back, delighting in the delicious warm silky texture of her skin and thinking about how remarkable this whole incredible adventure has been. When Mr. Sun finally showed up I flipped him the bird to let him know that for once he hadn’t woken me up, then slipped out of bed and headed for the coffee pot.
All that was visible of Adeline was a few stray stands of hair that had escaped the mound of blankets piled up on the couch.
I drank my coffee, got dressed, and had written a page and a half when Sabrina finally made an appearance. Hair brushed, dressed in my robe, she looked fresh and full of life, none the worse for her adventures.
“Is this the perfect way to start the day or what? Some early morning lovin’, sleep in past eight, somebody else makes coffee for you. A girl could get spoiled by all this.”
“You mean Wanda doesn’t have coffee ready when you get to work?”
“Yeah, but one out of three just doesn’t cut it.”
I poured myself the last bit of coffee that Sabrina had left, put on a fresh pot, and led her out on the porch to savor life. We had time for considerable savoring before Adeline stumbled out, still wrapped in a blanket. Her hair wasn’t brushed, and she did appear much worse for the wear. A lot closer to how I felt than how Sabrina looked.
“What the hell is everybody doing up so early? Is there any more of that coffee?”
“And a happy day after Beltane to you too, boss lady. Here, take my seat. I’ll bring you a cup and get another chair.”
We sat in comfortable silence for a bit, with Sabrina’s hand on mine the only communication, other than the occasional mockingbird.
“Did all that really happen?” Adeline finally broke the stillness. “Did I really go back in time 1500 years only to traipse off in the bushes with a string of unwashed peasants and fuck like a mink on the cold, hard ground? And not caring a fig that my long-lost father was watching me come and go?” She shook her head. “Seems more like a dream, but then where did all these bruises come from?”
“Guess you’d better be more prepared next year. Bring an air mattress, maybe.”
“Next year. Now there’s a scary thought.” She looked up from her coffee cup and grinned. “I have to wait an entire year?”
After Sabrina got dressed and Adeline showered and made what repairs she could to her hair, we sat down to a council of war.
First order of business—JD. We agreed to keep our story simple and straightforward: we’d never seen him. We combed the cottage to make sure there was no trace that he’d ever been there. First opportunity I’d go into town and buy a reload for the Taser so I wouldn’t have to come up with an explanation about why I’d fired it.
Next item on the agenda was tidying up the finances. Adeline wrote me a check for $25,000 and presented it with a flourish. It was the most money I’d ever held in my hand, for sure. “Thank you, ma’am. This should keep me from having to take the first job that comes along.”
“But here’s the thing, Rick. I’m going to have to make arrangements to get out to the island on feast days, plus some trips in between to come to terms with the place. And I want to keep the cottage up so I have somewhere to stay when I’m in transit. So if you’re interested, I’ll pay $1800 a month for a caretaker/nautical chauffeur, and go ahead and buy that boat you’ve been renting.”
I hadn’t figured out how I was going to keep up my new romance while getting a job somewhere out there on the other end of the road from hell. The pay wasn’t nearly as generous as it had been, but it was plenty. Besides, turning Adeline down after seeing Sabrina’s face light up at the idea would have been the beginning of the end for said romance. So I accepted without further negotiations.
The last item to decide was what we were going to tell the world at large about the island.
“Not a goddamn thing,” was Adeline’s firm opinion. “In fact, why don’t you turn those newly-idled investigative powers of your to finding out who owns it, and we’ll see if we can buy the place.”
Well, there went my best shot at a Pulitzer. But nobody would have believed it anyway, without taking teams of scientists and historians out to the island to observe, and then it would become a zoo on sabbats and eventually break the link. So I eagerly agreed.
Hey, maybe I’d find a place for Avalon, S.C. in a novel someday.
Two days later, Sheriff Tate swung by with the news that JD’s truck had been discovered by a couple of teenagers parking on a dirt road about a half mile from the cottage. “I have no idea what to make of that,” he confessed. “Seems like bizarre behavior, even for a man for whom no behavior is truly bizarre.”
“Any idea how long it’s been there?”
“Not really, although I doubt it could’ve sat for a week without somebody finding it.”
“Maybe he was coming by to visit last night and got lost.”
“Good an explanation as any. Or passed out drunk on the way. I’m having a K-9 team sent over from Beaufort to scour the woods. You keep your eyes open in the meantime.”
“You bet. Thanks for the warning.”
Three deputies and a dog searched for most of the afternoon without finding any sign of JD. I felt sorry for letting them go through all that hassle, but I didn’t see any other option. Spouting out, “Oh, don’t bother, Deputy. We took him over to an island far out in the sound and left him there to become a Sacred King and possibly save King Arthur,” didn’t seem very attractive as an alternative.
It’s a month later and, as incredible as it may sound, JD still hasn’t turned up. The current leading theory over at Peckerwoods’ is that he made it down to the water, decided to go in for some reason—maybe sneak up on me by swimming over to the cottage—drowned, and floated out to sea. I carry the Taser around openly in public sometimes so everybody can see that I’m still a little worried about it.
The other opinion spoken often and loudly at breakfast is that Sabrina and I ought to get engaged. Which is definitely rushing things a little, but the way we get along, the idea isn’t completely horrible. I think our secret is, we’re both pretty laid back people. Give each other plenty of room, kid around a lot. Plus the fall-off in both the quality and the quantity of post-Beltane sex hasn’t been significant. Making love on the island is still the best, but any horizontal surface seems to do in a pinch. And it doesn’t really even have to be horizontal.
Adeline and I cleaned out George’s studio and turned it into a guest bedroom. Donated the painting supplies to the art department of Davy’s school. Adeline insisted that we hang the unfinished painting of the golden-haired woman and her daughter ‘waving at her father,’ as she puts it, over ‘her bed.’ Samantha loves it too, even more than the pelican painting, and sleeps there whenever Sabrina brings them over, relegating Davy to the couch. I finally gave in and got the satellite fixed, since I have a fair amount of company these days. But I still hardly ever watch it when I’m by myself.
I’m almost 70,000 words into my novel now. It’s not great. There are moments of what I consider—well, not real brilliance, but at least real pretty goodness—scattered in and amongst pages of solidly pedestrian writing. But I’m getting better. I found an on-line critique group that’s helping a lot, although they were pretty brutal for the first week or two.
The other thing I’ve been spending my spare time doing is learning to fix stuff. I’ve lived most of my life about as mechanically minded as a call girl. But I’ve got George’s entire library of “How to Fix Nearly Everything without Smashing Your Fingers” books, as well as his tools. So far I’ve successfully repaired a sagging step at Peckerwoods’, a leaking toilet valve at Sabrina’s house, and Mrs. Ellis’ doorbell, for which I charged her a buck. Plus changed my own oil and oil filter. Not exactly credentials for a bachelor’s in the science of home repair, but it’s a start.
When Sabrina started her period a couple of weeks after Beltane, I was much relieved. Particularly when I did the math and figured out that she’d likely been fertile the one occasion we hadn’t practiced birth control.
“Guess we were pretty lucky, huh?” I remarked during an intimate interlude.
“Not exactly luck,” Sabrina whispered, snuggling in so that her mouth was close to my ear. “Don’t you remember what Nimue told us? Priestesses are free to decide whether or not to conceive from their sacred coupling on Beltane.”
That jolted me out of my gentle reverie. I pulled her up so I could look at her as we talked. “What do you mean? You’re a priestess? How and of what?”
“I’m not exactly sure, but yes. I’m the caretaker of the island, which makes me sort of a priestess. Or at least that’s how Nimue explained it.”
“Back on Beltane? Or do you still talk to her?”
“Of course I still talk to her. Whenever I need advice I ask her while I’m walking the wheel, and she always answers. Plus occasionally she visits in a dream.”
Well, why should I be surprised? In my own mind I thought of the adventure as over. But nothing had really changed except that we’d found George.
“I sure hope that doesn’t mean you can only have sex on Beltane.”
Sabrina laughed. “Of course not, silly. That only applies to the Lady of the Lake. There’s one of those already. She lives in Wales. We have to go meet her sometime soon and pay our respects.”
I’ve spent a fair amount of time replaying that conversation in my head while sitting on the back porch or out walking the wheel. What I’ve discovered, hiding way down in the deep dark recesses of my subconscious, is that in addition to being relieved that Sabrina isn’t pregnant, I’m also a little disappointed. What the hell? The very idea of being a father scares the crap out of me. Being an indulgent father figure to Sabrina’s kids is more than enough for now.
One thing for sure: I’m not sharing that thought with Sabrina. Women can get you in a lot of trouble. No matter what else changes, that remains the same.
But the books all say that a child conceived on Beltane is blessed by the goddess.
Well, as Adeline says, there’s always next year.