Tag Archive | Druids

When Tis Done – Part 53

When Tis Done coverAll day at school, Brian is plagued by Jian, who is in most of his classes. After school, the Asian boy openly expresses his interest in Jordan, which makes Brian angry. She reminds him that he’s supposed to be kind, no matter what, but that doesn’t sit well with Brian. When Jordan gets to the drama room, she finds Lien there, sitting alone.

“Hi, you okay?”

Lien shook her head, eyes wide with fear.

“Is it your brother?”

The other girl shook her head, trembling. She shrugged.

“If he’s so mean, can’t you talk to your dad, tell him?”

“You don’t understand, Jordan. It’s not our way. My brother and father can do or say what they like. I’m only a girl.”

Jordan wanted to scream. Her Inner Feminist grew incensed at the idea. She knew that some countries had a very different view of women, but she hadn’t thought she’d ever encounter it in her home town. Now, she was confronted with a very real issue of discrimination. She wanted to fight it, but knew it really wasn’t her business or her conflict to resolve.

“You shouldn’t let him treat you badly. There are laws….”

“Yes, but not for me.”

Jordan tried to speak, but Lien held up her hand.

“Thank you. I appreciate your support and the fact you want to stand up for me, but this is how it’s been since I was a little girl. It will continue forever, until I marry. Then, I will be under the auspicise of my husband, answering to his rules.”

“That’s so—archaic. Barbaric.”

Lien shrugged. “But it is our way. It’s all right, Jordan. They don’t always get their way, but they can be very unkind when I talk back or refuse.”

Jordan had no answer. Lien had accepted it, so must she. She couldn’t fight every battle, even if she wanted to.

The drama coach walked in, grinning. “We’ve got a new student joining us today,” she announced. “Everyone, please welcome Lien.” She presented the shy young woman.

Smiling, Lien stood and waved at everyone.

“Jordan, will you take over introductions and start the warm up? I have to go talk to Mr. Ferris.”

“Sure. Everyone, up on the stage.” She’d done this before. As a senior, and the designated assistant director, they listened to her. She did the introductions and started a game to help them all learn one another’s names. It wasn’t just because of Lien, there were some new freshmen and transfer students, so it was helpful for them all. By the time Mrs. Joyce came back, they were well into their warm up. She let Jordan continue until they were done, and invited everyone to sit in a circle on the stage.

“I’ve just spoken to Assistant Principal Ferris. He’s informed me that he’d like us to perform for the first assembly of the year, introducing students to the arts. He’s been a big supporter of ours, fighting for the team to have funds, so I don’t want to disappoint him. We need to think of some things we can do that won’t take a lot of preparation, since the assembly is in less than two weeks.”

“We did that short one act last year,” Jordan said. “All three of us are still here. We could do that. It’s about ten minutes.”

“I can do the soliloquey I memorized last spring,” a boy popped in.

“And Dwight can do his Mark Twain,” Jordan suggested. “Lien, is there something from your country that you could perform?”

Taken by surprise, the young Asian woman stared at Jordan.

“Perform something from my country?” She thought a moment. “Well, yes. I suppose. As a project one year, I learned one of the traditional dances. I still have the dress and fan. Would that be all right?” she asked the teacher.

Mrs. Joyce beamed. “Oh, I think that would be amazing! We could start with Mark Twain, go to the soliloquey, do the short one act and end with your dance. I think that would make an amazing performance! Excellent! Let’s get to work. Lien, can you come show me the dance, even if you don’t have your costume and music?”

“Of course. I would be happy to.”

“Great. Jordan, why don’t you three take the stage. Boys, one of you on stage right wings, the other stage left.”

“Yes, Mrs. Joyce!” they chorused.

Brian stood just inside the door to the debate coach’s room, feeling Jian’s eyes on him. He didn’t have to look around to spot the boy, he knew exactly where he was in the room. The weight of his glare wasn’t frightening so much as it was irritating. It made Brian angry, but he pasted a smile on his face and walked over to greet the members of the team. Mr. Wymore was talking to a couple of new freshmen, getting them oriented and finding out how much experience they had—virtually none.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 52

When Tis Done coverTo their surprise, they find out that John Curtis’ brother is the Voice of his Circle. John was just as glad that he wasn’t chosen himself. He has come to them, to ask for help. Their Inner Circle is weak, and not all the families have children. Cynthia calls the other Circle members, asking them to come and meet him.

She walked in about that time, smiling. “They’ll be here at six thirty. They’re bringing food. The local members of all the Outer Circle will be here, the other two will be complete.”

“Thank you,” John said, smiling at her. He cocked his head to one side. “Did you say wife?”

“All this, and you come back to that?” Neil laughed loudly. “Yes, we got married yesterday.”

“Holy shit, you work fast!”

“We felt it was necessary for the Circle. It was severely damaged when my brother was killed. We did the ritual to hand over the position, but the Circle couldn’t fully heal until we married. We’re still coming under attack, if your posession is any indication.”

“You’d still be perceived as weak,” John replied. “Since your bond is new. I’m surprised, though. As Voice and married, you should be strong. Your wards are kick ass. I don’t know how I even got through.”

“Because you didn’t intend to harm us, whatever was inside you, did. But their intentions could be masked by yours.”

“That’s a terrifying thought,” Cynthia said, wide eyed. “What if others can do the same?”

“It has to be something very powerful,” John replied. “Not just anything can possess. Not only that, I’ve had the same training you and Neil had—all my life. I still practice my cleansing rituals. My brother sends me stuff. Now that I’m State Side, it’s easier.”

There was a knock at the door. Neil hopped up and looked out the peephole.”It’s my folks.” He opened the door.

Mr. and Mrs. Braxton came in slowly, with her supporting him.

“Dad, we could have come to you.”

“This is the ritual grounds,” he wheezed.

Myra bustled to the kitchen, coming back with a glass of water. She wasn’t happy until he’d sipped the whole thing. Neil made introductions and waited for his father to finsh his water.

“We came right over,” Myra said. “David knew it couldn’t wait. When you called, we’d been talking about things, looking at some of the journal entries made by Evangeline Cayce.” She pulled a three ring binder from a bag. “Brian is borrowing our audio discs, but I like to read things for myself.” She plunked the thick volume on the table. “Have a look at page four seventy-three.”

Brian’s day wasn’t going well. He found that not only was Jian Fēng on the debate and speech team with him, he was in five of his seven classes. The only ones Fēng wasn’t in were his A.P. English and P.E. classes. For five hours a day, he got glared at by the dark eyed Asian and it made his skin crawl unpleasently. It seemed that no matter where he sat, Fēng was behind him, staring. Disconcerted and irrate, Brian scurried back to his locker, to find that Jian and Lian had lockers nearby his. He wasn’t sure how that worked. They were assigned alphbetically and Fēng wasn’t so close to Casey that they should have been anywhere near one another. Chase’s locker was at the other end of the hall, which was where the Fēngs should be as well—but weren’t.

“You okay?” Jordan asked as he threw books into his locker at the end of the day.

“Yeah. Peachy.”

“You don’t look peachy.” She touched his cheek, a worried frown on her face.

Fēng flashed a toothy, leering grin at her as he closed his locker. The ground trembled slightly as Brian tried to contain his temper.

“Will you get a grip!” Jordan whispered.

“I’m fine.”

“Right. I guess the earth moving under my feet is just because you’re near.”

He gave her a look down his nose. “That guy gets under my skin.”

“You let him get to you. What did Neil tell you? Kill him with kindness.”

“Not kill, just kindness. I know, but it’so hard. He’s such a dick.”

“Then you be that much nicer. The more of a prick he is, the nicer you get. I know it’s not easy, but what in your life is?”

“Loving you,” he replied without thinking.

Jordan stopped talking, staring at him. Tilting her head, she tried to decode what he’d said. Yes, he had said that, and he meant it.

“Brian Casey, you’re a wonder. If we weren’t in school, I’d kiss you.”

He pulled her close, gazing into her lustrous blue eyes. “If we weren’t in school, I’d strip you naked and do more than kiss you.” Letting go rather abruptly, he slammed his locker closed and headed for debate.

Stunned, Jordan took off after him. Her short legs couldn’t catch up. He was in the debate room, the door closing behind him, before she reached it. She didn’t dare go in, Jian was right by the door. He turned around and saw her, flashing another toothy grin. Jordan’s grimace didn’t seem to faze him in the least. She scurried off, worried she’d be late for drama practice. When she arrived, she found Lien there. The shy Asian girl was sitting by herself, looking anxious. Jordan sat by her.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 51

When Tis Done coverCaptain Curtis has been possessed. Neil and Cynthia drive the evil spirit away, leaving him shaken and puzzled. They gather in the kitchen to eat sandwiches and have some restorative tea, while they try to explain to Curtis what happened.

Neil and Cynthia exchanged a look. Normally, they wouldn’t have said anything, but this man had become an unwitting player in their drama.

“We don’t know exactly who, but why should be obvious. Somone wants me dead and used you to do it.”

“Yeah, but why?”

“John, what we’re going to tell you must be in the utmost confidence. This isn’t something anyone else can ever know. If there were some way to make you forget it all, I would. But they might try to use you again. I can’t risk that.”

“Neil….”

“Just don’t say anything until I’m done.”

John nodded.

Neil and Cynthia told him about the Circles, being descended from Druids and having taken up the mantel of the Circle leadership. John listened quietly, far more calmly than they had anticipated. When they were through, he nodded, lips compressed in a tight line.

“My brother is the one from our family,” he said simply. “He’s a couple years older than me and he sent word, asking me to come see you. Not to kill you,” he explained quickly. “I’d still love to know how the hell they did that. I can’t imagine it was easy.”

Neil’s mouth dropped open. “You’re—one of us?”

“I’m what you were,” John explained. “The one left out. Only, unlike you, I’m relieved as hell I wasn’t chosen. My brother’s Circle has had some bad shit happen the last couple years. Their kids, though….” He shook his head. “They don’t all have children, so that Circle isn’t complete. They’re weak, vulnerable. We’re appealing to other, stronger Circles, for help. That’s why Roy sent me. He sensed that you had some troubles, too, with your Inner Circle.”

“How would he even know?”

“Roy sees things—in dreams. He’s got a rare talent….”

“He’s a Dreamer, too?” Cynthia yelped.

“Too? What?”

“The Voice of our Inner Circle is a Dreamer. We thought he was the only one.”

“They’re rare, but there’s never just one,” John explained. “Roy sensed something was happening here, but I don’t think he knew that. It would explain a lot of what he’s seen, though. There’s trouble brewing and it’s closer than any of us would like. Unfortuantely, yours isn’t the only Circle involved. Ours is too. We need your help, Neil. Can I talk to this Voice?”

“He’s at school,” Neil said. “Probably won’t be home until after three. But yes, we’ll make arrangements.”

“He’s in college?”

“High school.”

“So, a real kid.” John huffed out his breath. “Shit. I was hoping for a more mature viewpoint.”

“Don’t underestimate Brian,” Neil cautioned. “He can do things I’ve never seen done, and I’ve been around this my entire life. Even my grandfather couldn’t do the stuff that Brian does, and he’s the most powerful of us I’ve ever known.”

“We can call the Center Circle members,” Cynthia said, pulling out her phone. “And they can bring their children. I think we all need to be in on this.”

“What about your Outer Circle?” John asked.

“They’re scattered,” Neil said. “And some, like my dad, aren’t well.”

“Your father would be very useful,” Cynthia said. “He’s Voice for his Circle,” she explained to John. “I’m going to make those calls.” She got up and walked to the dining room to call so the men could talk.

“Interesting. Doesn’t often become a generational thing.”

“No, but our Circle was in flux for a long time,” Neil said. “It settled on me when we filled in for Cliff and Dora. I hope the Powers That Be know what the hell they’re doing, because I’m completely clueless.”

John put his hand on the back of Neil’s neck, squeezing gently. “I think they know exactly what they’re doing. I’ve never seen anyone as capable as you, or as readily adaptable. You can walk into a situation room completely cold and give an in depth briefing. You take the least explicit directions ever and make a perfect battle plan. I wish I’d been able to convince you to take a higher rank. You were a hell of a Marine, Neil.”

“Thank you, sir, but I liked where I was, still down in the mud and guts with my men.”

“You an earth shaper?”

“Fire and water.”

“Interesting combination. My brother is Earth and Air.”

“So is Cynthia.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 50

When Tis Done coverThey and the house have been cleansed, so Neil and Cynthia settle down to do some studying. They discovered, what looks like, a recipe written in Old Gaelic. While they are trying to figure out its use, Neil’s C.O., Captain Curtis, arrives at the door. Unfortunately, he’s there to kill Neil. Fighting the influence, he begs for Neil’s help. Neil asks her to bring the holy oil, after taking Curtis’ weapon away.

Curtis’ hands trembled. Sweat broke on his brow. Neil held the weapon, pointing it away from them both. Cynthia trotted through the doorway and stopped cold.

“It’s all right, Cynthia. Just bring the oil over and annoint the Captain, please. Someone has taken over his body and we need to help.”

“What’s going on?” she asked as she hurried over. “Who is this?”

“A friend. We don’t wanna hurt him if we can help it,” Neil kept his voice level, his tone calm. “John, my wife, Cynthia, is going to annoint you. It may hurt. You just take deep breaths and let it work, okay? I’m here. It’s gonna be all right.”

Cynthia started praying, unsure what language she spoke. The words came to her and she muttered rapidly as she dipped her thumb in the oil. It felt warm to the touch and tingled against her skin. Raising her hand, she touched John Curtis’ forehead, making the sign of the cross. She might be descended from druids, but she was raised Catholic. Some things were instinctive.

Curtis shuddered, moaning as she touched him. Closing his eyes, he inhaled slowly.

“Look at me, Johnny,” Neil insisted. “It’s worse if you close off. Look at me.”

The Captain forced his eyes open, moaning again. “It hurts, Neil.”

“I know. And it’s gonna get worse.”

“Not a comfort, kid.”

“It’s all I’ve got, sir. Go ahead, baby,” he said to Cynthia. “Hands next. Then heart.”

Trembling, she made the sign of the cross on each of Curtis’ hands as well as Neil’s. She reached awkwardly inside his shirt and made the sign over his heart, then turned to Neil, repeating the forehead and heart on him. Afterward, she poured oil in her hands, rubbing them vigorously together. Unsure what she was supposed to do, she followed her instincts and placed one hand on each man’s head, praying as she pushed at Curtis with her mind.

Screaming, he shuddered, his hands tightening on the weapon. Neil held on, joining Cynthia in her litany. Curtis screamed louder and his skin roiled and writhed under Cynthia’s hand, as if his muscles had all decided to curl up at once. Making sounds none of them had ever heard before, he let go of the gun and fell to his knees on the porch.

Neil took the weapon, releasing the magazine and emptying the chambered round. These went into his pockets, the gun into the back of his pants. Curtis shuddered and groaned on the porch. The ordeal had caused his bladder and bowels to evacuate. Covered in mess, he huddled on the porch, still in agony. Suddenly, he was flung on his back, in full grand mal seizure.

“I can’t do this,” Cynthia said. “I don’t know….”

“Help me turn him on his side.” Together, they positioned Curtis safely. Neil spoke to him calmly, stroking the other man’s hand as he seized. “I’m here, John. It’s almost over. I promise. It’s going to be okay. Baby, get him some holy water for him to drink. Add a pinch of blessed salt and cumin and purifying herbs.”

Cynthia rushed off to do as he asked. Moments later, she was back with a small glass. The worst of the seizure was over, so they helped the Captain sit up enough to drink. Groaning once more, he relaxed against Neil’s chest.

“I’m sorry.”

“No. Nothing to be sorry for, Johnny. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

“I can’t come in like this.”

“I’ve got an outdoor shower. Can you walk?”

“I think so.”

Together, Cynthia and Neil helped John up and led him to the shower. Neil undressed his friend down to his briefs and rinsed his garments at the hose. Cynthia brought towels, soap and clean clothing which had been Cliff’s. Dora hadn’t cleared it all out yet, but she was glad to have it, because the Captain was more his size than he was Neil’s. Left to bathe in the outside shower stall, the Captain spoke to Neil, who waited on the other side of the enclosure.

“What the hell happened to me, Braxton?”

“You were possessed, sir.”

“The fuck you say?”

“When you’re clean and dressed, we’ll go inside and talk about it. It’s gonna sound like witchcraft and hoodoo, sir.”

“You can drop the sir, Neil. You’re a free man now.”

Neil chuckled. “Yeah, well, you’ve earned it the hard way.”

“Didn’t we all?” He came out, dressed in Cliff’s jeans and Pink Floyd T-shirt.

Neil took his wet things to the washing machine before going into the house proper. Cynthia had a pot of herb tea brewing and they sat down to eat sandwiches and have some relaxing, restorative tea.

“I was possessed,” Captain Curtis prompted. “Why? By whom?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 49

When Tis Done coverNeil and Cynthia are woken the morning after their wedding, by a creepy guy pretending to be a UPS delivery man. Neil slams the door on him and calls Heath and Jackie. Every available Circle member arrives and they do a thorough cleansing of the property, as well as Neil and Cynthia.

They all gathered outside near the fire pit. The ritual was short and to the point. Neil and Cynthia were bathed with blessed salt water and dried with wind that the others conjured. Afterward, they dressed in fresh clothing. The other garments were taken for cleansing as well. Every inch of the house, all their possessions, were given the same treatment. Satisfied they had done what they could, everyone went home. Left to their own devices, Neil and Cynthia snuggled on the couch.

“This is insane,” he said.

“What now?”

“I think now we should break out the books and do some cramming, like we did for tests back in school. I recognize what I’ve forgotten; virtually everything, I learned.”

“You had no need for it,” she reminded him. “It’s not like you were going to whip up a sandstorm or anything.”

“Can you imagine what a group of us could do for the war effort?” He shook his head, awed.

Neil got out several books of rituals, as well as a laptop with hundreds of other files that they might find necessary. He had no idea where to start, so he closed his eyes, waiting for inspiration. His left hand tingled and he laid it on something without opening his eyes. Relaxing his hand, he felt a large, leather volume. Opening his eyes, he saw a book he couldn’t remember ever seeing before.

“What’s this?”

“It’s something Miles loaned me. Very old. The Encyclopedia Magicka. It’s all on disc, but he felt we needed to have the actual book as reference. He doesn’t know how old it is, but I found a few references made in the margins by Luminous Cayce.”

“You’ve read it?”

“Not by a long shot. You have to handle it with cotton gloves.” She handed him a pair. Shuffling a stack of notebooks, she picked one up. It was three inches thick and heavy. “This is the scanned copy. There is one thing I want to show you, though.”

She lifted The Encyclopedia Magicka carefully, turning to a page marked with a red satin ribbon. “Here.” She pointed with her gloved finger.

Neil turned the book so he could see it. “Should the time come when the Circle must be repaired, let it be quickly. Let them that make this repair move swiftly to breach the gap lost souls create.” He shook his head. “What does it mean?”

“Just what it sounds like. This is talking about us. I hope we’ve moved swiftly to repair the gap, but I’m not sure about breaching the gap. We did the ritual.”

“Yes, but I think we missed something. This wasn’t in the ritual.” He pointed to a bit that was written in the corner in faded, blue ink.

Cynthia peered at it, squinting. Rising quickly, she dug in the desk for a moment and brought out a magnifying glass. “That’s not English.”

Neil looked at it. “No, it’s not. I don’t recognize it. How do we translate language we can’t identify?”

The laptop was already open and Cynthia typed diligently into a translation program, hitting the Recognize Language button. After several seconds, the text box popped up, “Language unknown.” She copied and pasted the words into a search bar and hit enter. Several more seconds passed, then the page responded. Only one box came up.

“Old Gaelic? How old?” Neil asked. “If it were Farsi, I could have a prayer of figuring it out. How do we get a translation on something like this?”

Cynthia flipped open another notebook, looking smug.

“Sweet. I love you, you know,” he said, giving her a kiss.

“I know. I don’t know who put this together, but it’s been very helpful translating things. Most notes are written in Old Gaelic. I imagine it’s to prevent the wrong person from getting the information. What does it say?”

Neil scowled. “Honestly, the translation isn’t much better than the Gaelic. It doesn’t make sense. I think it’s a recipe of some kind, giving me proportions?”

“We need someone else to look this over.”

“I agree.”

Someone knocked at the door. Surprised, Neil peered out. This time, it wasn’t a creepy, pseudo-UPS guy or any other stranger. It was, however, not someone he expected. Smiling, he opened the door.

“Captain Curtis, this is a surprise.”

Captain Curtis, his C.O. from the Marines, stood on the porch like a pillar of stone. Suddenly, his hand lowered to his weapon. He had it out and pointing at Neil’s face before the younger man could react. Neil could see his friend fighting something. His face contorted and the muscles in his hands tightened, though he kept his finger off the trigger.

“Help,” Curtis whispered hoarsely. “Help me, Neil. I don’t want to kill you.”

“It’s okay, sir. Let me take that.” Neil reached for the weapon, slowly and carefully. “Baby,” he called calmly to Cynthia. “Bring the holy oil.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 48

When Tis Done coverSensing that their nocturnal visitor thinks they are the weak link in the Circle, Neil and Cynthia decide to get married that day. After a few phone calls, they get dressed and head to City Hall.

As they exchanged their vows, a crowd gathered. Soon, the downtown shop owners and their customers were standing around, watching. After the bride and groom kissed, a huge cheer went up. Someone had brought confetti, someone else birdseed. The local baker invited them all in for cupcakes and the ice cream parlor supplied everyone with a scoop of vanilla or chocolate. It was an unusual celebration, but it made it much more special having so many people involved.

“We got our fuss after all,” Neil said, holding Cynthia close.

“I don’t think any conventional church wedding could top this,” she agreed.

They met up at the Braxton home for a reception in the form of a barbecue. The teenagers chipped in and bought another cake for dessert and everyone had a wonderful afternoon together.

When Neil and Cynthia got back to her house, he lifted her, carrying her into the house.

“Fifteen generations of Finley brides have been carried across this threshold,” he declared. “I may not be a Finley, but I’m not breaking tradition. I love you, Cynthia. With all my heart and all my soul. I will honor and protect you all the days of my life.”

“I love you more than I have words for,” Cynthia replied.

“Actions do speak louder.”

He carried her upstairs, taking two at a time. They made love for the first time as husband and wife, pleased to see that their glow hadn’t diminished, rather it seemed more pronounced. They made love most of the night, stopping for a meal and several showers before settling down for a nap around 3:00. That night, Neil slept deeply, dreaming of happy, blond children with their mother’s smile.

They woke the next day around 10:00 to the sound of someone knocking loudly on their door. Grabbing his boxers and pants, Neil stumbled down the stairs only half dressed. A man stood on the porch. Neil didn’t recognize him, because he stood with his back to the door, but his brown uniform made him think it was UPS. Warily, he opened the door with the chain on.

“Yes?”

“Neil Braxton?”

“Who’s asking?”

“Special delivery for you.”

“Who’s it from?”

“I’m not sure. Are you Mr. Braxton?”

“Who are you?”

“Able, the delivery man.”

“Where’s your truck?”

The man flashed a rather leering smile. “That would be telling.”

Neil slammed the door in his face, locking it tightly before dashing upstairs.

“Who was it?”

“No idea. Creep of the Week. Get dressed.” He called Heath and told him what had happened.

“We’ll be right over. Jackie says you need a full blessing and more wards. I’ve called the rest of the Circle and the kids are coming, too.”

“Thanks. See you soon.”

Within two hours, all the members of the Center Circle had arrived. All the teens from the Inner Circle were there and as many of the Outer Circle as were able to, had also gathered. They spread out with purifying sage, holy water and blessed salt with cumin, walking the house and property. Those who were best at laying charms and wards went behind, reinforcing the spiritual protection of the home.

“Were there holes?” Neil asked. “How did it get in?”

“I didn’t sense any weaknesses,” Jackie said. “I even laid wards underground to protect from there. Heath and Miles are checking water pipes and electrical wires. Anything leading to the house from the outside…. I can’t imagine what it was.”

“Had anyone around lately, someone you invited over?” Maribelle asked Cynthia.

“No. We all did the work for the repairs ourselves. The only different person who’s been here, is Neil.”

“I could have brought something with me,” Neil admitted. “I was in some rough places with bad things going on. I’d quit doing my cleansing rituals. Kind of hard to get hold of the ingredients in the desert.”

“Then we do a cleansing of the two of you,” Jackie said.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 47

When Tis Done coverNeil spends an uneasy night. He hears someone clumping about on the deck during the night, but doesn’t go down to confront them. His rationale was that if it was strong enough to get through the wards, it wasn’t something he wanted to face alone. Whoever it was, built what looks like a gibbet on the back deck with the outdoor furniture.

“Oh, Neil!” she rushed to his side. “Why here? Why us?”

“I guess by the reckoning of whoever did that, we’re the weak link. We’re new and we aren’t married. Much as I don’t wanna rush things, babe, I think we need to get married immediately.”

“I agree.”

“Well, darling, it looks like we’re getting married today.” He kissed her, holding her close.

“Surprise!” she sighed somewhat sadly. “I wanted a big fuss.”

“I know. I did, too. When this—whatever it is—is over, we’ll have our fancy wedding.”

“Promise?”

“Absolutely.” He kissed her again, holding her close.

“Neil.”

“Yeah,” he replied in a dreamy voice, nuzzling her neck.

“We need to make some plans.”

“Um…yeah. Shit.” He reluctantly released her.

“You call your family. I’ll call mine, then I need to call Jackie to do the ceremony…. So many plans!” She rushed off to get her phone.

Chuckling, Neil pulled out his phone and called Heath. His friend answered somewhat blearily.

“It’s eight o’clock on a Friday, Neil. I don’t work on Friday. This better be important.”

“How would you like to be my best man?”

“What?”

“Do I have your full attention now?”

“Yeah. What’s brought this on? Is Cynthia pregnant?”

Neil laughed. “I love that you think the only reason I’d marry her was because of that. No. It’s actually far more serious.” He snapped a picture of the structure and sent it to his friend.

Heath cursed loudly. “Jesus. Who would set up a thing like that?”

“You recognize it?”

“Yes. The award for the most disturbing use of lawn furniture goes to that guy. What time we thinking?”

“Whenever we can get down to city hall. Oh, Cynthia wants Jackie to perform the ceremony.”

“You got it! We’ll get up and get moving. We’ll head over there when we’re ready.”

“Cool. Thanks.”

“Congratulations, my brother.” Heath hung up.

Neil called his mother next, knowing the entire household would be up already.

Lucy answered. “Braxton-Finley residence. Who’s calling, please?”

“This is Uncle Neil, can I speak to Nana?”

“Okay! Nana, it’s Unka Neil!”

The phone changed hands. “Neil? Is something wrong?”

“I’m getting married.”

“I know dear, but….”

“Today.”

“What?” she screeched.

Once he calmed her down, he explained and thought it would surely have been a better idea to tell Dora or his father first. He hung up with them and Heath called.

“You got a suit?”

“No. I never needed one.”

“We’re the same size. I’ll bring one. Jackie says that sunny yellow is an auspicious color for you to wear today. Don’t question, I’ll bring the yellow shirt as well.”

“All I have are the boxers and T-shirt to go under it.”

“I’d anticipated that.”

Cynthia came downstairs, damp and flustered. “I can’t reach Jackie.”

“Already done. I talked to Heath about being my best man.”

“Maid of Honor!”

“Dora.”

“Oh, obviously!” She dialed her phone and talked to her sister-in-law. Hanging up, she grinned. “She’s loaning me her wedding dress and silk bouquet. I’m set.”

“Super. Let me get a shower and I’ll be ready to dress. Oh, paperwork.” He trotted off to his duffle bag and secured his necessary documents, packed at the very bottom.

Cynthia was pawing through a file cabinet when he returned from his shower. Once they had all their papers, they had a cup of coffee and waited for friends and family to arrive. In a flurry of activity, they got dressed and ready to go to city hall. They applied for their license, waited about twenty minutes and had it in hand. They didn’t want to marry in city hall, but there was a pretty park across the street. All their friends and family members were there, with Jackie waiting under a sheltering oak tree. As an ordained minister in a non-denominational church, she was able to perform their ceremony.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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