The Second Season
Parental Advisory Rating: L, AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Created, Produced, Directed and Written:
Fanatic and TNovan
Episode Fifteen: Blessings
My cell phone rings waking me up from a very happy place. I slap at my jacket draped on the chair. I pull out the offending appliance and flip it open. How can Kels sleep through this?
"Kingsley," I growl, wanting whoever this idiot is to know they should not have called this early on a Sunday.
"Bonjour, mon Coeur," Mama greets me happily.
I slide up the headboard, hoping that sitting upright might lead to consciousness on my part. Kels grumbles in protest and clutches at my waist, trying to pull me back down. I rub her back gently and she settles down.
"Le Jour Heureuse De la Mère," I reply. "Comment ca va?" Happy Mothers Day. How are things?
Kels lifts her head as I begin speaking. "What? Who is it?"
"Shh, baby. Its Mama. Go back to sleep," I soothe, gently stroking her hair.
"Wonderful!" Mother replies, oblivious to the morning hour. I confirm it is only six in the morning. Mama and I will be having a little chat soon. "It arrived yesterday! Je laime."
"Im glad you love it." How could she not? All of us kids contributed and had a new kitchen table made for the Conspiracy. Its a large cypress table with inlaid Italian tiles creating a colorful mosaic. It has all of our names in it, our spouses names, wedding dates, grandkids names and birthdates with plenty of room for more.
"She liked it?" Kels echoes, still insisting on waking. She struggles to sit up, the blanket falling away, exposing luscious flesh to my view. She follows my line of sight, grinning at how easily I am distracted by her. She takes the phone from me. Its for the best. I dont even remember who Im talking to. "Hi, Mama!"
Shit! Mama. I was thinking of doing things my Mama would not approve of while on the phone with her. Thats not quite true. Shed approve of them, but I really dont want to think about that.
I listen while Kels chats with Mama. Thank God for her. I lean forward and kiss Kels shoulder before slipping out of bed. I pad to the bathroom and splash water on my face, getting rid of the last vestiges of sleep. I also brush my teeth and gargle. I have plans for my girl now that were up.
I come back into the bedroom, am instructed to say goodbye to Mama, and stretch out on the bed by Kels. "Good morning, sweetheart."
She brushes her hand against my cheek. "Hi there. We should have bought Mama a clock."
I laugh. "Next year," I vow. I scoot down the bed and hover over Kels belly. Those are my babies in there. "Hi there, champs. First off, thank you for letting us sleep and for not making me sick." Theyve earned a kiss for that. "Second, I want you to know that today is your very first Mothers Day. This is a very good thing for you, because you have the best da darn mother in the world."
Kels begins running her fingers down my bare back. Thats nice. And distracting.
Focus, Harper. "Now, its traditional to give your mother a gift today. Since you two cant really go shopping yet, I helped you out this year. But, next year, I wont be cutting you any slack." That said, I twist and reach into the nightstand and pull out the small box I hid there yesterday.
"Harper, you shouldnt have."
"I should have and, more importantly, I wanted to." I put it in her hands. "Open it."
She does and removes the cameo pendant necklace within. "Harper! Its beautiful!" she exclaims.
"Let me," I urge and I take it from her. I unclasp the necklace and put it around her neck. The cameo lands just at the rise of her breasts. "The three," I angle the pendant so she can see the carving, "are the Graces, from Greek mythology. And thats what you and the babies are to me: pure grace. Unexpected, joyous, grace."
I watch as Kels struggles to say something. She finally gives up and instead pulls me down to kiss her.
I like Mothers Day.
* * *
Well, at least the morning sickness seems to be history. Thank God. Its so very nice to get up in the morning on my own, rather than that rude way my children choose to do it for me. Or how Mama chose to do it for me yesterday.
Sipping a cup of tea, I watch Harper work with the remote crew, framing shots and telling them what she wants. She obtained lots of good footage while she was here and all of my interviews have been very successful. So now we do the final stand up and head back to the affiliate to do the edit.
After that, it looks like well be taking a few days off to stay here so Harper can explore this new philosophy that has caught her attention. Damn, if Langston finds out whats going on here, my darling spouse-to-be will be in a lot of trouble. Im just going to have to make good and sure that doesnt happen.
There is something about being pregnant that turns you into a lioness. Right now, in her current state, Harper is another cub of mine and this lioness has serious claws.
Ive watched her these last few days and she does seem to come to life when we are with the Diné. Its amazing to watch a spark come to life in those eyes. Its the same kind of spark I see when we talk about the babies. So, this must be a good thing. Right?
I take another sip of my tea and begin wandering around a little, taking in the fresh air and the beautiful land of the reservation. My thoughts are interrupted by my partners voice. "Kels, you ready?"
I turn with a smile and head to her. "Absolutely, boss. Which shot do you want first?"
She looks at me, giving me a good once-over. Its like its the first time weve worked together. I wonder if Ive grown another arm. I cant help but examine myself for the problem. "What?"
"I think were going to use a tighter shot on this than I originally thought, Kels." She says this as gently as she can.
I lift my brow. Great, now I look too pregnant to use in a long shot. Okay, fine. I knew this was going to happen. I didnt expect it so soon, though. I nod. "Standard two thirds?"
"Yeah, a medium should do it." She waits for the cameraman to signal hes ready.
All in all, Im not having a great time on this story. Im stressed and Im getting fat. I take a deep breath and set my cup down in the truck. "Lets do it."
Harper takes my arm and pulls me to the side. Im sure to the crew it looks like she has to stroke the Talents ego before doing the shoot. "Are you okay, sweetheart?"
"Im fine. Im fine." I smile reassuringly at her, patting her on the shoulder. "All those nasty hormones are starting to kick in. Watch your backside, Tabloid. Its going to be a bumpy ride."
* * *
"I think we need to use a little more footage of the Geo-Tech interview here. Hand me the tape, will you?"
I rummage through the pile and manage to find the one marked with the Geo-Tech label. "That guy was a jerk, but I hate to admit, he made sense."
"Yeah, he did. The company is definitely looking to make the facility as safe as possible." She pushes the tape into the reader. "Another complicated issue."
I lean back in my chair and rub my eyes, yawning a bit, watching Harper cue the tape. "As safe as any storage facility can be. Lets hope the contractors dont use substandard materials."
"Ooo, Kels." Her eyes never waiver from the tapes shes working with. "Spoken like a true reporter. Bet you believe in men in black and the silent helicopters, too."
"You dont? Okay, the weddings off." I chuckle, getting to my feet to stretch a bit. If I dont move, Im gonna fall asleep on the equipment. Harper surprises me by unerringly finding and rubbing my stomach as I do so while never looking away from the monitor. "It is amazing what people will do for money though. Hey, speaking of which, my dad wants us to come up to his house when we get back."
This does make her pause for a moment, but she still doesnt look at me. "His house? Where is it?"
"Upstate. He said he has someone he wants me to meet. What do you think?"
"Do you want to?" This question is accompanied by a scratch to my belly.
I stretch a little more, giving it some thought. "Yeah, yeah, I think I do. You think we can manage it?"
"Dont see why not? Who does he want you to meet?"
"Dunno." I give her shoulders a rub. Damn, theyre tight. "He wouldnt tell me over the phone." I continue the massage, standing feels good to me, and I think Harper is enjoying the rubdown. Wait until I get her back to the cabin. Ill show her what a rub down is meant to be.
"Well, he loaned you his plane. The least we can do is go up and say thanks in person."
"Thats a good reason too. You do realize well be taking that plane home."
She barely nods, intent on the work shes doing.
I lean over and whisper in her ear. "Think well fly over Denver?"
Her groan is priceless.
* * *
Its late when we finally finish the piece.
"Kels, come on, darlin, wake up." I give her a little shake. She grumbles a very grouchy no and rolls over on the couch, away from me.
The editor who gave me a hand on the piece chuckles, sipping from his mug. "Sounds like my wife in the morning."
Wonder if his wife is eleven weeks pregnant? "Come on, Kels. Were done. Its time to go."
She finally rolls over and opens her eyes. Damn, they are beautiful when shes first waking up. "Done, huh?" she mumbles, rubbing them.
"Yup, that voiceover you did before you crashed out was the thing we needed to pull it together."
"Sorry, Tabloid. I didnt mean to fall asleep on you like that. I just got really tired. Its been a long day."
"I know, but we can head out now. Weve got a great story here."
"Of course we do." She gives me a little smile, sitting up on the couch. "Could we do anything less?"
"Not in this lifetime." I laugh a little.
"Are you all set, Ms. Kingsley?" The editor finishes making some log notes, checking reference points on his copy.
"Yeah, John, were all set. Thanks for your help."
"My pleasure." He gets up, extending his hand first to me, then to Kels. "Always nice to help out the network. If you need anything else before you leave, let us know." With a nod, he leaves us alone. He was a nice guy and he was intent on impressing us.
"Come on, sweetheart. Lets get you back to the cabin so you can get some real rest."
"Dunno, why Im so tired," she groans.
"I can think of two very good reasons." I give her tummy a little rub. "And all three of you need a good nights sleep."
* * *
"Sweetheart," Harper whispers far too early in the morning. Were snuggled together in the cabin about to begin another No Clothes Day for Harper. Its no longer confined to Saturdays. Especially since were taking a couple comp days. Langston wasnt thrilled, but Harper didnt give him a lot of choice when she promised to get some footage of the burn in Los Alamos.
Little did he know, she had already done it. The one thing you can count on with Harper is, when theres a story shes going to have a camera turned on it. We used a small segment in our story pointing out another potential hazard to the site, but theres a lot of good footage left over. Itll fit in well with a piece Sam is doing on expensive blunders by the government. Hard to believe someone in the Park Service actually set the fire despite the weather conditions.
It was fun listening to her argue with Langston on the phone. God, I love it when she gets all cranky. Every now and then I miss seeing the big, bad ass, leather clad biker I first met. But, I wouldnt give up what we have now for anything. Rough and rumble is fun, but it doesnt make for a relationship.
"Sweetheart," she tries again. "I have something I need to ask you."
"What?" I grumble and knead her skin like a kitten does its mama.
She begins twitching under my onslaught. "Stop that!" She slaps my hands gently. "Youre insane, you know that?" Harper pulls me tightly against her and kisses under my jaw, distracting me. "Now, I have a question."
I remain silent, hoping it will elicit further kisses. No such luck.
"Cora asked me to do a sweat with her today. Id like to do it, but, not if it makes you uncomfortable."
The thought of Harper sweating with anyone other than me makes me more than a little bit uncomfortable. Now, how can I not sound like a completely jealous and controlling woman? "What happens in a sweat?"
"Other than we sweat?"
Her hand travels down my back and caresses a cheek which is slightly sunburned from our afternoon by the lake. I flinch. "Hey! Careful down there!"
"Not everyone is as naturally dark-skinned as you. Now, answer my question."
"Its a spiritual thing, Kels. You go into a hut and get hot. Your body is cleansed of impurities and you are able to see to the other side."
Oh boy. "This is important to you?"
She takes a deep breath under me. "It is. More than I would have thought before I came here." Her eyes are puzzled, as is her tone. "I dont understand it myself, Kels."
"Then do it," I say, shoving aside my own hesitation. "If its that important to you, its important to me."
"You sure? Because youre the most important thing in my life."
That helps. "Absolutely. I want you to be happy. And I think this will make you happy." I kiss her chest. "If its good for you, then it has to be good for us, right?" I will make that true.
"Youre welcome, Tabloid."
Her hands cup both of my cheeks again, sending a mixture of tingles along my spine. "How would you like to work up a sweat with me right now, though?"
"Maybe you should save your strength. The sweat sounds pretty intense." Im only half kidding.
"Maybe youre right," she does an exaggerated stretch. "Ill just sleep a little while longer then."
I know shes teasing, but, I kinda need a chance to get a grip on this concept. "Okay, honey," I whisper and kiss the corner of her mouth before crawling out of her arms and heading for the bathroom.
I need a little time to myself to think.
* * *
I stand outside the hut with Cora. Im a bit apprehensive. This is a new thing for me. A religious thing. Ive never considered myself religious. Ive never quite felt comfortable with God indoors.
I also know that Kels isnt quite thrilled with this. I dont know what exactly it is thats bugging her. Shes never seemed opposed to other religions. I think she grew up Protestant, but not practicing. Is it the nudity? Cora told me I could go in wearing my skivvies, so, thats what Im doing. I can understand not wanting to share.
I would kill anyone who made a move on Kels. And, Id die if I thought she wanted someone else.
But thats just me.
Were standing outside, wrapped in blankets for the moment, waiting to enter. Aunt Shadow is going to join us. She is making her way over to us, moving carefully over the uneven terrain.
Not far from the hut is a large fire that has provided the flame for the sweat. There are several women attending to it, and to the feast that is prepared for afterward. Kels is over there talking quietly with one of Coras relatives. She is carefully keeping her eyes from wandering over here.
I wish I knew what was going on inside her.
Should I even go through with this?
"Yes," Shadow says, now at my side.
I look at her, wondering how she heard my thoughts. Of course, there is no way that she could have.
"Its time," she continues and drops her robe. She lights a braid of sweetgrass and runs her hand through the white smoke. She directs it over her head, then over each shoulder, down her chest, over each leg and then back over her head and face. Then, naked as the day she came into this world, the shaman lifts the flap and steps into the sweat.
Cora shakes her head. "Its time," she echoes, smirking. She folds her blanket, repeats her aunts movements with the sweetgrass and steps inside.
Alright Harper, stop being a baby. I take the smoldering braid and follow their example.
* * *
The first thing I notice is it is ungodly hot in the hut. The heat and steam are oppressive and I am immediately coated from head to toe in sweat. It is an aptly named practice, I suppose. The bra and underwear I am wearing are now a second skin, so Im glad theyre a beige tone and not white.
Through the fog, I see Shadow and Cora stretched out on the floor on hides, taking deep breaths, eyes shut. I lay down and do the same.
"The sweat is a joyous time," Shadow intones from her side of the fire. "There are many reasons to celebrate. Why are you here today?"
A very good question. But, if we want to talk about celebrating, "Im getting married soon."
"A good reason. She is very beautiful."
I look over at Cora, wondering what shes told her aunt about me. "She is."
"But theres more. What else are you celebrating?"
"Her. Her life. She nearly died at the beginning of the year." God, its hard to talk about even now. Or maybe its just the effects of the heavy air.
Okay, something is burning on my body. Houston, we have a problem. I sit up and immediately cringe as I singe more of my stomach. Its my goddamn navel ring. The metal has absorbed the heat of the hut and is radiating it through my abdomen.
I try to figure out a way to stand up that will not require me using my stomach muscles whatsoever. Cora and Shadow lay there peacefully unaware of my plight. This is going to be embarrassing having to leave so soon. Guess many Navajo dont have navel rings where they would think to mention this particular hazard.
"In the sweat, you acknowledge the gifts of the spirits. The gift of your lifemate and her life. I celebrate your finding the Red Way, your willingness to respect and to listen."
"I celebrate the voice you have given to the Navajo by coming here," Cora adds.
To my surprise, and relief, they both now climb to their feet and head toward the exit. This was a bit short, I must admit.
We all step outside, and take huge gulps of air. I reach down and try to remove the ring from my bellybutton. The metal is still hot and I have to move quickly. "Yow!" I cry.
This immediately draws Kels attention from across the way. She hurries over to my side, carrying a glass of water. "You okay?"
I nod and hold out the hoop. "Can you hold on to this for me?"
She begins laughing at my plight. "And here I thought something was wrong." She takes it and puts it in her pocket. "Ill have fun putting that back on you later tonight," she whispers.
I take her glass and dump it over my head. Thats better.
"Come," Shadow commands and steps back inside.
"See you in a bit," I whisper and, once Cora and her aunt are inside, I steal a kiss.
* * *
We all stretch out on the floor immediately. It seems a little more bearable now that Ive had air not burning through my lungs for a few moments or metal trying to melt into my flesh.
Its almost pleasant until Shadow reaches over and ladles water over the circle of heated rocks in the center of the hut. New steam fills the hut and I wonder if I am supposed to be able to breathe in here.
We repeat this process five more times, never staying inside the sweat hut for more than a few minutes at a time. On our seventh and, Shadow assures me, last trip into the hut, we all lay on the ground, silent.
I am hot and dehydrated and exhausted. All my energy has been sapped. I look and feel like the boneless chickens they sell in the grocery store and in that Gary Larson cartoon. I close my eyes and relax, wanting to complete the experience successfully.
I drift for what seems like forever.
"Holy mother!" I cry, jerking myself upright. I claw at my chest, trying to loosen my bra which must be suffocating me, the way I feel.
"You saw," Shadow says.
I look at her through the mist. I try to speak, but I cant. The air is too thick and my mind is reeling.
Cora stands up and offers me her hand, "Come, my sister, lets rejoin our family."
* * *
We exit the hut for the seventh and final time. I stagger out, a bit overwhelmed by what just happened.
I saw Kels and our babies. Except, they werent quite babies. They were toddlers. They were happy and healthy and playing here. Well, not quite here. Playing where the storage facility is supposed to be built, but its not there.
I couldnt really make out much. Kels looked beautiful, motherhood suiting her. The twins were too far away for me to tell much about them, other than one was fair-haired and the other dark.
I think I was there. I didnt see me, though.
God, will I not be with them?
I nearly lose my balance, but sure hands are sliding around my waist. I recognize Kels touch instantly. I lean against her, grateful for her presence, and mindless of how messy I am.
She picks up on my fear and immediately begins leading me away from the others. I feel a bench against the back of my legs and she sits me down. She then drapes a blanket around my shoulders. "Relax, baby," she coos and then she fetches me a glass of water. "Drink this," she instructs, holding the glass before me.
"Are you okay?"
"I love you."
She rakes her fingers through my damp hair, rearranging the strands away from my face. "I know you do. I love you too."
"Dont ever leave me, Kels. Please dont."
Kelsey smiles and gently whisks away the sweat from my face. "Never."
I close my arms around her waist and pull her tightly against me, burying my face into her stomach, wanting, needing to be close to her and our children.
Kels folds her arms around me.
This is home.
* * *
A little while later, we join Cora and her family at the dinner. I am happy to have my core body temperature back to normal. And I am happier still to have Kels hand securely in mine. It makes it a little difficult to dish out the food, but I dont care. I pause when I encounter a huge pot of jambalaya. "Kels?"
She blushes. "Mama gave me her recipe. I thought you might like it."
A bit reluctantly, we join Cora and her aunt at their table. I am embarrassed at my behavior at the end of the sweat. Fortunately, neither of them mention it and instead welcome us warmly.
"You are a true HeartBlood, Harper," Shadow congratulates me.
I am dumbfounded. I feel like a wannabe and a failure. I say as much.
"You had a glimpse, did you not? The spirits showed you something. They do not speak to everyone. They only speak to those who will listen."
I feel Kels tense beside me. She clearly doesnt like the idea of me having visions. Im not overly thrilled with it either, to be honest. "I did," I admit quietly. Can we change the subject now?
Fortunately, Cora does that for me. "I would like to invite you to be part of our people, Harper."
"I dont know if I can. I cant stay here."
"Its not about a physical presence. Its a spiritual one." Shadow pulls out a pipe and lights it, drawing in the smoke deep into her lungs. If I didnt know how sacred the tobacco was, Id be fanning the smoke away from Kels and the babies. "You dont have to be here to be a part of us. You already are practicing the four principles."
"What does being a member of your clan entail?"
"Nothing," Cora smiles gently, patient with me. "Its not like joining a club. There arent any dues or membership forms. Im inviting you to be a part of our family." She turns her attention to Kelsey. "Members of our clan can celebrate many facets of life."
I look at Kels, wondering if she caught the not so subtle hint. We could elope. I could wear shorts. Ive been informed by both Mama and Kels that is not an option for our June wedding. Kels reaches over and takes my hand in silent response.
"Id be honored."
Shadow beams. "So, tonight, we celebrate an adoption and a BlessingWay."
I rub my thumb over the back of Kels hand. Truth be told, being with Kels is like being born again every single day.
* * *
Less than two hours later, in the waning afternoon sunlight, there are four of us standing on a hilltop. I am wearing shorts, a loose linen shirt and topsiders, feeling very comfortable. Kels looks equally at ease, dressed in similar fashion, though her shirt is not tucked in and shes wearing hiking boots. Maybe were relaxed because weve had no time to worry about this little ceremony, no one to put expectations on it.
Cora steps forward and extends her right hand toward me. "From this day forward, I will call you my sister, and one of the Bítahnii. You will have all the rights and privileges as a member of my family."
I take her hand. Shadow steps forward and wraps a single piece of rawhide around each of our right wrists, binding our hands together. She begins an incantation over our wrists in the language of the Diné. When finished, she cuts the length between our wrists and bends down to the ground with it. Once it is buried in the earth, she rises and cuts the bands from our wrists.
Cora hands me the one from her wrist and I follow her example. We both put them in our medicine pouches, which hang about our necks. Cora gave me one prior to the ceremony. It now holds the band signifying my membership in the clan and will soon include several items representing Kels.
"Thank you," I say, embracing Cora.
"Be true to your path, Harper." She gestures to include Kels. "The spirits are leading you to a fulfilling land." She steps back.
I look up at the sky, now streaked with red. On the horizon, the sun sits like a guest hesitant to leave. The wind brings the scent of sage and the hint of rain. The breeze feels good on my skin, lifting the back of my shirt gently.
Turning my gaze to my bride, I feel everything within me calm. Kels looks like she might lose her lunch, on the other hand.
I lean forward and whisper in her ear. "Remember, Im a sympathetic barfer."
She is able to keep from laughing for only a few moments. "Great, Tabloid, thats gonna be what I will always remember about our wedding day."
"Nah, you said youd remember it was all my idea, at least if Mama ever finds out."
That earns me the smile I was looking for. Our fingers tangle together and we wait for the shaman to begin our ceremony. I like this. Simple. Serene. Outdoors. Intimate.
Growing up and attending all of my brothers weddings, I never thought I would experience one myself. I still dont. Well do the ceremony for our family, but it seems a bit out of place to me. The state doesnt recognize it. The church absolutely wont. It almost would be a waste of time, but for the symbolism. That and the fact I want Kelsey to never lack for anything for having chosen me, and that includes a wedding.
But, this is real. In the eyes of the Diné, we will be legitimately married. In their sovereign state, we are recognized. That has meaning to me. We have a place in this world.
"Harper, did you bring the items for your pouch?" Shadow asks.
I nod, my mouth suddenly dry. I swallow and find Kels smirking at my discomfort. I reach up and pull the pouch outside of my shirt and then I rummage in my pocket. I remove a handkerchief which has several items inside it.
"Kelsey, I asked Harper before the ceremony to bring some things that would symbolize you and your relationship together. Those she will put in her pouch, keeping it, and you, close to her heart always. As she puts each item in, she will say why she chose each."
I pick up a wooden matchstick first. "This reminds me of the fire in your belly, the spark of life you have. That, and you set my skin on fire every time you touch me."
"The rose petals remind me of how much beauty you bring into my life. They smell sweet and will always remind me of spring and our joining." I drop the petals into the pouch and catch a hint of their perfume. I pick up one of the new gold dollars. "This is indicative of my promise to always provide for you and our children. In good or bad times, wherever we are, you will never lack for anything you need."
Kels eyes hold mine, conveying more with a look than I seem to be able to with words.
"And, finally," I carefully fold up one of our precious photos of our children, "a picture of our babies. We are family. You know how I feel about family, Kels. It is the one truly sacred thing in this world."
That starts the tears. She held out longer than I expected. I sniff, to keep from joining her.
Cora steps forward and drapes a blanket around both of our shoulders. "The blanket symbolizes your being covered together, a willingness to share a bed and a life going forward." Shadow then binds our wrists together exactly the same way she had bound mine and Coras.
Together they sing over us. I have absolutely no idea what the words are that they intone, but, even if it were in English, I doubt if I would understand any better. Under cover of the blanket, Kels snuggles up against me. Her eyes are closed and she rests her cheek against my breast.
I feel complete.
The singing ends and we reluctantly part. Its almost physically painful. The shaman cuts the cord and buries the joining segment at our feet. The two bands from our wrists are placed into my pouch.
"Now -" Shadow begins but Kels clears her throat, interrupting her.
"I have something Id like to give Harper."
The shaman smiles kindly and nods. "Please."
I watch her reach into her pocket and pull out a box which had been carefully concealed by her untucked blouse. "Harper, I love you. For the first time in my life, Ive experienced love and understanding in ways I never thought possible, until you. You have taken care of me, loved me when I had no right to expect you to. You have stood by me in the darkness and led me into the light. Now you keep me safe and warm and have given me a family who makes me feel the same. As our family is about to grow, I want to give you this." She presses the box into my hands. "Today is the perfect day for it. I hope youll wear it with the love intended."
I open the box and find a bracelet, letting out a low whistle at its beauty. I can only begin to guess at all the time and effort Kels went to in finding it. I take it out and open the clasp, slipping it onto my wrist. It fits perfectly. "Thank you, Little Roo," I whisper, unable to do much more.
We turn our attention back to the ceremony. Holding her hands up in benediction, Shadow says, "Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years, may happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth."
I guess thats it. Were married.
"Now, you should kiss your bride. Hold the blanket up over your heads, concealing you both, for your marriage is a private thing between only the two of you."
Ah, I get to kiss my girl. Thats what I wanted to hear. I readily pull the blanket over us and bend down to meet her lips with mine. The kiss is achingly sweet and tastes salty. It is then I realize I am crying. I gather Kels as tightly against me as I can, wishing I could make her a physical part of me. I feel the swell of her belly against me and it brings on a fresh flood of tears. Parting, I drop to my knees and press a kiss to her stomach, before she pulls me up to her mouth again.
"Thank you," I whisper.
* * *
We have some time before the reception celebrating our BlessingWay. Now that the ceremony is complete, Harper and I are married in the eyes of the nation. This makes Harper happy and willing to let Mama have the ceremony she wants in New Orleans. So now Mama will be happy. As long as those two are taken care of, Im thrilled.
Watching Cora, Shadow and Harper together I can see how much she fits in here. She has finally found a spiritual home. Cora smiles at Harper, hugging her and giving her the blanket we were married under.
"Thank you," Harper says quietly, rubbing her hand over its surface. A tear threatens to slide down her cheek, but I reach up and wipe it away. Without missing a beat, she captures my hand and kisses the palm.
Cora and Shadow leave quietly, giving us some time alone. "Come on, sweetheart, theres something we need to do." She reaches into her pocket as we walk toward the Blazer. "Kels, would you mind driving?"
The surprise must show in my face when I take the keys. "Sure. Are you all right, honey?"
"Im feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment." She stops us by the truck and gives me a very tender kiss. "This is everything I need and want, but Im still a little " her voice trails off.
"Youre settling into it, Harper. Take your time. Im right here beside you."
"Ah, Little Roo, thats the best part."
* * *
With our purchases made at the reservation store, we return to Coras house for the celebration. It looks like a Kingsley get-together only with a few more bodies and a few more kids. No wonder Harper loves it here.
I take a seat at a table while Harper makes her presentations to those gathered. Its traditional to give a blanket to each family in the clan. In the past, the number of blankets you had indicated your wealth and your ability to provide for your kin. As a new member, Harper now has family obligations. She gives one blanket to each family group in the clan, but presents Cora with four, one for each member of her family. This is because Cora is now her sister, so special honor is paid to her. The only other person to receive an individual blanket is Aunt Shadow, as a token for marrying us.
Aunt Shadow takes a seat next to me after receiving hers. She takes my hand and pats the back of it gently. "Welcome to you as well, Kelsey. You are a part of our clan too, you know."
I smile at her gentle nature and nod. "I married well."
"Yes, you did. Harper is fortunate to have found you. You are her center, her balance."
Hmm, thats very nearly the same thing Rene said to me.
"Without you, her life never would have balanced. She would always have been moving from place to place, never staying anywhere too long. Now she will settle and her life will become full in ways that she never was able to imagine."
"Im glad to know I make a difference."
"You are the difference." She pats my arm reassuringly. "Your babies are healthy and doing very well." This she says with a distant look in her eyes. "Youre taking very good care of them, even now before they are born"
Did Harper tell them about the babies? I certainly havent mentioned them and I know Im not that big yet.
The shaman laughs at me. "You glow. Only women who are with child glow like that. And, I saw Harper put a sonogram picture into her pouch. I am old, but not blind," she chuckles at her own self-deprecation. "Your glow is for more than one, though. How many are there?"
"Hmm, two babies is truly a blessed thing. Four is a sacred number to the Navajo. Your family is now constituted of four people. You were meant to be a mother."
"Do you think so? Ive been "
"I know. Dont question and dont doubt your ability to have children and raise them. You wouldnt have been blessed if it wasnt meant to be."
The breath I release is a relieved one. I dont know why, but lately Ive been feeling a little scared. Oh, hell, I know why. I wasnt kidding when I told Harper those nasty hormones were kicking in.
"Now," she pats my hand, "go to your lifemate. She knows youre not beside her and she is missing you."
I rise and look into eyes that have seen more than I ever will, even given my line of work. "Thank you so much."
"Thank you for bringing the HeartBlood to us." She returns my smile, then shoos me toward Harper.
I dont know how she could possibly be missing me. She surrounded by dozens of people, including of course every child in the clan. I can only laugh as I make my way to her and watch her cuddle a newborn. Yup, Im gonna have to wrestle her for our children.
* * *
She looks at me like Ive lost my mind when I take a left instead of a right at the fork in the road. The right would have taken us back to the cabin. "Kels." Her head turns and she looks back at the road I didnt take. "Are we not going back to the cabin? We have a honeymoon to get to, you know?"
I chuckle. "And I thought my hormones were out of control. No, were not going back to the cabin."
"Why not?" This is said with a petulant whine. She sounded exactly like Christian. Too bad hes only three.
"Its going to be okay, Tabloid. Close your eyes and relax."
I hold up a finger and wag it at her. "No arguments. You know how inventive I can be. If you need a reminder, I have one word: Saturday."
I glance over and watch her settle back into the seat and close her eyes. Theres a huge smile on her face.
I sigh. Sometimes its just too easy.
* * *
Leading her by hand to the clearing, I find everything has been arranged as planned.
Cora and I managed to pull this surprise together in a very short amount of time. I told her what I wanted to do for Harper and she suggested this beautiful spot. She then sent her husband and brother to the clearing by the lake to fix it up for us.
They prepared a fire which Cora guarantees me will provide us plenty of warmth and burn through the night. They have also provided us with food, sparkling grape juice, and a simple shelter, complete with a soft, makeshift bed. I have brought the blanket from the ceremony and there are three others on the bed already. I need to find my place here. I hope this will show Harper how much I support her decision. I have a feeling were going to be spending time here in the future.
The moon is rising above the mountains, silhouetting the trees, and illuminating the night gently. Its more beautiful in the moonlight than in the day. Theres less chance of sunburn for what I have planned too.
"Okay, Tabloid, open your eyes."
She does so. She stares at the camp for a moment before she turns to me. "Kels, I dont know what to say."
"Dont say anything. Just kiss me."
"Oh, sweetheart, I can do that."
And then she proceeds to make good on her promise. Another batch of brain cells are choked out, but, damn, its for a good cause. "Whoa!" I take a deep breath and steady my legs, holding onto Harper for dear life. "You are so very good at that."
"Im good at a lot of things." Her grin is truly evil.
"Yes, you are. Before I let you prove it, I have something I want to give to you."
I lead her to the shelter and place the first blanket in her hands. "This is ours. Yours and mine, to keep us safe and warm for the rest of our lives together." Harper smiles and takes it from me. I pick up the other two, which are much smaller. "These are for our babies. I would like for them to be brought home from the hospital wrapped in them. That way theyll know well always be there to keep them safe and warm."
Harper nods tightly. "Sounds good to me." She holds up her wrist. "Tell me about the bracelet. Its so beautiful."
I explain the symbolism of the sapphires, diamonds, black pearl and our intertwined initials. "Le coeur a ses raisons;" I whisper, echoing the inscription she put in my engagement ring
"De quelle raison sait rien," she replies and then leans forward to kiss me.
Yes, the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing. And I will always be grateful for that fact.
* * *
I cant help but laugh as I make my way back up the long, horizontal body under me. Shes still groaning and, for some reason unknown to me, grasping at the top of the bedroll. Its like shes looking for something. "What are you doing?" I ask, giving her soft kisses on the chin.
"Looking for the top of my head." She lifts her head and grins down at me, where I am happily nestled between her breasts. "How do you do that?"
"Ill never tell." I take a deep breath, placing a soft kiss to each breast. Well, its now or never. I need to know. "Harper?"
"Yeah?" Her hands stroke and massage my back, scratching me lightly.
Thats good. I like that. If I were Trouble, Id be purring. Hell, Im not Trouble and I still might, it just feels that good. "After the wedding in New Orleans, how would you feel if I took the name Kingsley?"
Her head comes up again, but she doesnt say anything. Okay, that must have been over the line. I pushed too far. Damn it. I knew our good run couldnt last forever.
She reaches down and pulls me up to her and kisses me. Its a long, lingering, extremely passionate kiss. Then she cups my face in her hands. "Id be honored, darlin. Simply honored."
Oh, thank God. "I, personally, think Kelsey Diane Kingsley has a really nice ring to it."
"It does. It sounds beautiful, like you are." She gives me another little kiss and a hug to go with it. "Do you not want Stanton at all, though? As a tribute to your grandpa?"
"Well, as far as work goes, Ill have to keep Stanton. And on paper I can put in the dreaded hyphen." I give her collarbone a kiss as I settle down in her embrace. "But privately, and among our family and friends I want it to be Kingsley."
"Nah, no hyphen. Just have four names. Be unique." She chuckles. "And, you already are a Kingsley, darlin', in every way that counts. You see, you're a HeartBlood in my clan. And, your adoption took place about seven months ago."
I settle down in her arms and close my eyes, allowing my hand to caress her. As I let myself drift into a content sleep, I feel Harper pull our blankets over us. I realize then that this woman lying here next to me is now my wife. I smile against her shoulder, happy with that thought. I feel her tuck the blankets around us to ward off the night air, keeping us safe and warm.
I am complete too.
No matter where we are or what we are doing, in these arms, I am home.
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