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When Tis Done – Part 9

When Tis Done coverNeil is welcomed home by his family. After a long shower to get off the road grit and sweat, he sits with Chase, comforting the boy while he grieves for his father.

“So much pressure,” he gasped. “Expectations…. Man of the House…. I can’t do it all, Neil. I can’t!”

“Shh, shh…. You ought not to have to, boy. But with Daddy so sick, you’ve had it handed to you. I’m here now. Anything you can’t handle, you throw at me. I guarantee it can’t beat us both down.”

“You boys ready to eat?” his mother called from the kitchen.

“Yes, Mama. Be up in a few minutes. We gotta wash.”

“Okay. Don’t you make my food get cold!”

“No, Ma’am!”

Rising, he hugged Chase. “It’s gonna be okay. I’m here now. I can’t take your father’s place, but anything you need from me, I’m here.” He took Chase’s head in his hands. “Anything.”

Nodding, Chase smiled. He washed his face in cold water and they both washed their hands quickly before heading up to the kitchen. Dora and her mother were setting the food out on the table. Chase and Neil joined in, carrying the heavy pans and trays for them.

“We having a party?” Neil asked.

“Yes,” his mother said, her dark eyes twinkling. “Come on out and see. You’ll need shoes. Chase, you should have told him.”

“Slipped my mind. I got a pair of boat shoes that’d fit you,” he told his uncle. “By the back door.”

“Thanks.” Neil slipped them on and followed his mother outside.

Stunned, he stopped at the top of the long steps, staring at the faces. There, below him, were the people he’d most wanted, and dreaded, to see. They looked older, of course, as did he. But still much the same as they had when he’d seen them last. The teenagers and children milling around must be their offspring. He felt cheated. He’d never had the kind of life where he could settle down. Being a Marine, he moved a lot, but he never managed to set down roots or take a relationship to the point of marriage. He’d never missed it—until now. A deep, abiding ache started in his chest and he wanted to sob like Chase had.

Pasting a smile on his face, he descended the stairs, opening his arms to the group. “My God, if it’s not Maribelle Girard!” He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I guess you ended up with this goob, huh?” He shook Miles’ hand, grinning. “Which ones are yours?”

Maribelle called to a tall, blue eyed teen with sandy blond hair. He was holding a pretty, dark eyed toddler.

“This is our boy, Brian, and our little girl, Elise.”

The little girl flung herself at Neil, patting his cheeks as he smiled at her. A lump rose in his throat.

“She’s a beauty, for sure. Hey, Sugarbean!”

Elise squeezed his mouth, making a Mwa sound at him, though she didn’t kiss him.

“She just started doing that, but never with a complete stranger. You have a way with children,” Maribelle said as her daughter lunged at her.

“I’m great with little girls, it’s grown women I have trouble with,” he confided to Miles and Brian.

He made the rounds, meeting the children and reconnecting with his old friends. These were the folks he hung out with, mostly because his sister was one of their number. He was close to them, but not part of the Circle. By virtue of some quirk of fate, he’d never been one of them.

“What are you doing with yourself these days?” Heath Barrett asked as they each popped open a beer.

“Just retired from the Marines. I’ve had enough. Only so much death a man can take.” He shook his head. “They wanted to give me another promotion so I could send our boys in to die. I couldn’t do it another day.”

Heath nodded. “I’ve had a sheltered life, Neil. No doubt about it. But I feel your pain, brother.”

Neil’s eyes teared. Of them all, he’d been closest to Heath and Cliff. Cliff was more like a brother than a friend. They’d been inseparable.

“I can’t believe I missed his funeral,” he sighed. “I was deployed and they wouldn’t let me come home. If he’d been my brother…. It’s another reason I left. This is all the family I’ve got.”

“You never married?”

“Never could find a woman who’d put up with me. I sometimes wish I’d chosen another path, but it’s too late now. Got to find a new one to follow.”

Heath nodded, handing him another beer. “I’m not driving. I told Jackie I was going to enjoy myself and spend time with my brother.” He looked like he was going to cry. “It’s been too damn long, Neil.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 8

When Tis Done coverNeil, Dora Finley’s brother, has returned after nearly two decades. Could he be the replacement that the Center Circle needs to heal it?

“Yes, the way Mama fixed it. Me, I’d have burnt it to a crisp.”

“Thanks, Peanut. This is great!”

“I’m Lucy, not Peanut!”

“Oh, sorry Lima Bean!”

She stamped her foot, pretending to pout, but the giggle escaped her. “You’re silly, Uncle Neil.”

“I got it from Mommy. She made me silly before we were born.” He stood slowly, rubbing the kinks from his thighs.

“You were twins!”

“Yep, we still are. Me first, Mommy five minutes later.”

She gave him a hug around his knees and ran in the yard after her sister.

“Come in and have a bite,” their mother said, after hugging and kissing him ardently.

“Mama, I could sure use a shower first.”

“Of course! Daddy’s inside. It’s hard for him to get around these days. His C.O.P.D. is real bad, Sugarbean.”

Neil followed his mother, shuffling his feet. It was hard enough coming home after all these years, but to see his formidable, robust father reduced to a tired, old man, was almost more than he could bear. His father sat in his comfortable, blue recliner, feet up, watching TV top volume. He looked up and grinned at his son. Releasing the lever, he lowered his feet and stood.

Neil held his father gently, afraid he’d bruise him, or worse. His father’s embrace was a shadow of what it had been, but the strength was there—briefly.

“Damn good to see you, son. Been too long since you were home.”

“Way too long, Daddy. I’m sorry….”

“Nonsense. You did what you had to. But you’re home now. By God, boy, you stink!”

“My air went out around Memphis.”

“No wonder, evil old place, Memphis.” He winked. A native of Tennessee, he enjoyed poking fun. No one else had better do it in his hearing, though. In his younger days, he’d been in more than one fight because of it. “Let this boy have a shower, Mama,” he said to his wife. “He reeks to hell and back.”

“That I do.”

“Go on up. You’re in the guest room. The girls are sharing your old room. Chase is in the basement.”

“There’s two rooms down there, you in both, boy?”

“No, sir.”

“I’d as soon be down there, Mom. Suits me to be underground.”

“Whatever you want, Sugar. There’s fresh towels and sheets on the bed.”

He gave her a kiss. Chase showed him to the basement. It looked much as it had in his youth. It was freshly painted and the pattern of the bedspread had changed, but the overall feel of it said home to him. He’d always liked the basement rooms. Built into the side of a steep hill, the back of the house was exposed, with a beautiful view of the woods. As a child, he’d spent as much time here as he could, reading, working on his school projects and daydreaming about his life to come. On cool days, he’d fling the French doors open to the outside, lie on his belly and watch the trees move, their leaves singing in the breeze.

“Takes me back a piece,” he told Chase. “Which you in?”

Chase pointed to the left. Neil nodded, heading to the room on the right. He put his bags in the floor and headed directly to the small, interconnecting bathroom. His shower was long and as hot as he could get it. It felt so good to get the road grit and sweat off his body, he indulged himself. Once he felt cleaner, he made sure to shave before getting dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. His mother insisted that they go without shoes in the house, to save the carpets. He didn’t mind, preferring going barefoot to wearing socks and shoes. His dirty clothing, accumulated over the last few days, went in the washer and he started a load. His mother might object, but his clothing reeked of sweat. He hardly wanted to touch it himself, let alone make his delicate mother do it.

Waiting in the sitting area, he found Chase. His nephew looked old beyond his years, care worn and down trodden. The emotions radiating off him were enough to make Neil gasp and take a step back. He’d always been empathic, but now—something was new here. Something had changed. Or maybe it was he who had changed? He didn’t know. Crossing the room, he sat by the boy, putting his arms around him as he drew him close.

“Let it out, son. If you can’t cry in front of me, who can you? I’ve been in your shoes, boy. Let it out.”

Chase sobbed, his body shaking with the horrendous emotions he’d tried so hard to contain. He wept for his father, and for his mother having to go on without him. He cried for himself, missing his father so much it hurt, and for his sisters, who would grow up without their daddy. He also wept for his grandparents, who missed their son.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 7

When Tis Done coverChase and Marissa have a serious talk and start mending their relationship. Heath and Jackie are worried about them because they help stablize the Inner Circle.

“Miles and Maribelle are nuts to have Elise so late,” Heath said.

“You know how much they wanted another child. The rest of us have so many. For them, it was only ever Brian,” Jackie replied.

“I have a feeling that baby girl is going to be a lot like her brother.”

“Oh, surely not. There’s only one per family.”

Heath pressed his lips together, shaking his head. “Not entirely true. I’ve been going through the archives with Chase and Cynthia, trying to make sense of Cliff’s system. We came across something. I haven’t said anything to the others yet. I don’t want Maribelle to worry. Once in awhile, a second child can also be chosen by a Circle. It’s rare, but it happens.”

“Lord have mercy, I was so hoping that Maribelle would have one normal child.”

Heath chuckled. “Baby, it’s not like any of our kids are exactly normal. The boys grew up knowing their baby sister was going to be the chosen one from their generation. They know about more weird stuff than some folks twice their ages.”

Chase and Marissa were still talking quietly on the porch when the house phone rang. Jackie reached for it.

“Hello?” She listened for a moment. “Oh, hi, Dora. Yes, Chase is here. He’s kind of—occupied at the moment. He and Marissa have been talking.” She nodded. “Yes, exactly. Well, good. Thank you for letting me know.” She turned to her husband, worried frown on her face. “He’s almost here. She wants Chase home for when he arrives.”

* * *

Crossing into the city limits of Miracle, his skin tingled. It wasn’t unpleasant, exactly, more along the lines of a sensual touch from someone he didn’t know. It felt great, and disconcerting at the same time. He was hot, sweaty and exhausted. His air conditioner had crapped out somewhere south of Memphis and he’d made the remainder of his trip with the windows down, praying it wouldn’t rain.

Rolling up to his parents’ home, a place he hadn’t been in close to twenty years, was strange to him. He’d left, not under the best of circumstances, putting Miracle, Mississippi and all its oddities, behind him. He’d seen his folks a few times, when they came to see him. He loved his family, but he’d never been able to live with the disappointment of who and what they were—that he wasn’t.

Shutting off the engine, he stared at the house without moving to get out of the car. Couched in a grove of giant magnolia trees, it looked magical. A snort of laughter left him feeling weak. Magical…. Yeah. Stepping out onto the gravel driveway, he inhaled deeply. The scent of pine trees, magnolia blossoms and the tang from the river, filled his nostrils. Closing his eyes, he inhaled again, feeling something sweep over him, knocking him back a step. He couldn’t put a name to it, but it was a sense of belonging that he’d never felt before. It comforted and scared him all at once.

It’s so beautiful here. I never noticed just how stunning it is.

The front door opened and his family walked out. He hardly recognized the two girls, Katie and Lucy, having only seen them in pictures. His sister looked older and care worn, not unexpected under the circumstances. And Chase….

God, he’s the image of his dad!

Seeing his nephew, he burst into tears. The boy, now man, raced down the steps, hurling himself at his uncle.

“Uncle Neil! It’s so good to see you!”

Neil clung to his nephew, weeping. He’d held himself together through the entire trip, only to lose it right before he walked in the door.

Some Marine you are, Braxton, he mentally chided himself. The girls drew back from him, but Dora rushed down the front steps, flinging herself into his arms. He held his fragile, slender twin, as she wept uncontrollably.

“Oh, Neil! I’ve missed you so!” she sniffed and sniffled.

He became aware of how rank he smelled and how damp his shirt was. “Sorry, I’m not real fresh. Damn air in the car conked out. Maybe you can help me fix it later?” he appealed to Chase. “Your daddy said you’re pretty handy.”

“We’ll pop the hood tomorrow.”

“Come meet the girls,” Dora said, taking his hand. “Katie, Lucy, this is Uncle Neil.”

Katie, the older of the two, stepped forward, smiling up at him. Throwing her arms around his waist, she hugged him. “Welcome home,” she said.

Lucy came forward shyly. He went down on one knee to be on her level. She handed him a drawing of two men standing together, a huge fish hanging between them.

“This is you and Daddy fishing,” she said with a gap toothed grin. “I copied the picture on Mamaw’s dresser.”

“Yes, I remember this day. We went to the river and caught that granddaddy catfish. He was some good eating, wasn’t, he Dora?”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 6

When Tis Done coverJackie has a heart to heart with Marissa, telling her to show Chase a little more affection. Jordan and Brian demonstrate how close they’ve become, virtually reading one anothers minds.

The men came in with a pitcher of fresh lemonade and glasses of ice. There were bowls with sliced strawberries and sprigs of mint.

“I’ve been wanting mint most of the day,” Heath admitted as he poured lemonade in the glasses. “But I sensed that you wanted strawberries, my love.” He handed Jackie a glass of lemonade with sliced berries in it.

“Perfect, I do. Jordan, what would you like?” Jackie raised an eyebrow, her eyes moving between her daughter and Brian.

“She wants mint,” Brian said.

Jordan’s eyes widened. “I do! And I know you want berries like Mom.”

Brian chuckled as he poured her lemonade, dropping three springs of mint into the glass before handing it to her.

Marissa’s face fell and she hid behind her hands. Chase sprang across the room, kneeling at her side. His hand caressed her pale blonde hair.

“Hey, no tears, Riss. I know—I know it’s not easy with me. I’m a dumb jock. I’m—I’m a pain in the ass, babe. I know that.”

The others drifted off, taking their lemonade with them. Jackie lingered in the doorway, watching the dynamic between them, nodding.

“I’m so sorry I’m such a jerk, Marissa. I don’t mean to push. I just—”

“I see how happy everyone else is. I want that, too, Chase. I don’t know how to get that for us.”

“Would you be happier—without me? With someone—not me?”

“Now you’re talking nonsense.”

“It’s just, Heath said that sometimes the Circle messes up. That we get one do over. One of us can leave the Circle and another mate is found.”

“You want to cast me aside for someone else?” Marissa’s tone changed as her temper rose.

“Dammit, Marissa, I’m not casting you aside! I’m giving you the opportunity to decide if you really want me. If you want to continue with the Circle, find another mate, I’ll bow out. I’ll do that for you, Riss. Because—ice crystals on my dick and all, I love you. I would die for you. But I need more from you. And I’m not talking about sex, cause God forbid I say anything of the sort!”

His temper rose, feeding off hers. Taking a deep breath, he put that old argument aside.

“What I’m saying is that I need a hug once in awhile. I need a kiss on your lips. I need to know you love me, Marissa. Because, if you don’t, I’m giving you the chance to change your mind. If I’m not the man for you, say so. I’ll step aside graciously.”

“If I do, that means you get a different woman,” she replied, angrily tight lipped. “Is that why you’re being so magnanimous? You’d get rid of me.”

“No!” Chase sobbed, collapsing at her feet. “No,” he whispered. “It means my heart would shatter. It means that I would fall to pieces. But I would give you this, Marissa Pennybaker. I would free you from our bond, if that’s what you want.”

“Well, I just don’t know,” she replied stiffly, her movements sharp and birdlike. “I will have to pray about this, Chase.” Her mouth worked, her lips tugging downward. “Is this what you want?” she squeaked, her voice high and girlish. She wouldn’t look at him, her hands working in the folds of her skirt.

“I’m on the floor, at your feet, Marissa. Does it look like this is what I want? It’s killing me,” he sobbed. “I’m dying and you don’t even care.”

Marissa burst into tears, pulling him to her. She kissed him on the mouth, holding his face in her hands. Her prim attitude shattered as she wept, hugging him tightly. Chase’s arms went tentatively around her, pulling her to him as he knelt at her feet.

“Dammit, I love you, Marissa. You make me angrier than a broke back snake, but I can’t live without you.”

“That’s the sweetest thing you ever said to me,” she whispered, running her fingers through his hair.

In the kitchen, Jackie smiled. Not all the issues were resolved, but they’d made their choice. She was glad, because she knew that this Circle, of them all, would face many challenges. They’d already been tested more in the last two years, than her Circle had since its birth.

Heath came in, pulling her close. “I guess what we said helped. Thank God. I hate to think where we’d be if they had to initiate two new members.”

“Their Circle would falter without Chase and Marissa. They stabilize it.”

He nodded, holding her close. “You scared the shit out of me with that fried food meal.”

Jackie giggled, giving him a kiss. “Sorry about that. I couldn’t resist. I have been craving it, but the girls think it might be Louisa.”

“I just thank God it’s not us. I love our kids, but I’m ready for it to be just us two. Miles and Maribelle are nuts to have Elise so late.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 5

When Tis Done coverMarissa and Chase are having even more relationship problems than usual. Although he claims to love her, he’s pressuring her to have sex. Marissa cares for Chase, but she’s very religious and has very rigid principles of behavior. She won’t even let him kiss her in public. It’s becoming a major problem for their Circle.

Marissa hung her head, lips trembling. “He hates me so!”

“Who hates you, honey?”

“Chase! He despises me! He can hardly stand to be near me and we’re always arguing.”

Jordan said nothing, letting her mother take the lead. Jackie knew about the problems between Chase and Marissa. Everyone knew. It had been worse since Cliff’s death, but had been building steadily to a head for the last two years. Now, more than ever, she saw changes between the two of them that she knew meant trouble.

“He doesn’t hate you,” Jackie said. “If anything, he loves you to distraction. But you’re frustrating him, dear. He’s a man.”

“Does that mean I should drop my panties and hop in his bed?” Marissa’s infamous temper flared, making the rose plates on the wall rattle.

“No. It means just what I said. He’s a man, with a man’s urges.”

“So’s Brian and he’s not always fussing at Jordan about—things.”

“Brian isn’t Chase. Not only that, Jordan gives him a bit more than you’ve ever given Chase. I’m not saying she’s been indiscrete,” Jackie said, her eyes flickering over to meet her daughter’s glare. “I mean she allows closeness, intimacy—not sexual—but loving. Do you let Chase hug you? Give you more than a little peck on the cheek?”

“No, ma’am. Things like that put impure thoughts in a man’s head.”

Jackie almost lost it. “Sweetheart, those thoughts are already there. Even a man with the self-control of a saint, has trouble with that. You have to give him a chance to be a man.”

“I’m not going—”

Jackie held up a hand, stopping Marissa’s rant. “Did I say that? I’m not condoning pre-marital sex. Even if we’re destined to be together, doesn’t mean that sex is for the taking. All I’m saying is, give the guy something. A kiss, a hug.”

“Throw him a fucking bone, Riss. You nearly froze his dick!” Jordan joined in rather loudly. Marissa’s Puritanical attitude annoyed her. They were friends only because of the Circle. Otherwise, she would have had nothing to do with the straight laced girl. “Brian knows his limits. He’s not pawing all over me.”

“He was earlier,” Marissa spat out angrily.

Jordan smirked, her eyebrows arched. “And how far did he get before I nearly broke his fingers? Seriously, Riss. I have him on a tight leash. He hates it, but he knows that eventually we’ll be together. It’s a given in my mind, and his.”

“I don’t want to know this part,” Jackie said, sighing. “It’s an inevitability…. At least I know Brian and love him like my own. You could do far worse for yourself, but not any better. The same applies to you, Marissa. Chase is a wonderful boy. But I see a crisis looming. If you don’t get this situation resolved, you will cause an irreparable rift in your Circle. I know Heath’s just spoken to Chase.”

“How do you know?”

“You get a feeling for it,” Jordan said. “When you get past—where you and Chase are. You know what he’s thinking, feeling, what he’s going to do next.” She pointed at the doorway, counting down, “Three, two, one….”

Brian popped around the doorframe, grinning. “Heath wants to know if we want lemonade out here or in the crystal room?”

“Which does he want?” Jackie asked.

“He said you’d say that. He wants out here.”

“That’s what I want, too, as it happens.”

“He said you’d say that, too.” He winked at Jordan and went back inside.

“That,” Jordan said with a smug grin.

“All couples have that to a degree. Just we have it more.”

“Why did Dad freak when you told him you were craving fried foods?” Jordan asked.

Jackie giggled. “Because the only time I crave fried foods is when I’m pregnant. I’m not, I promise. But I’m not entirely sure what brought it on. We know it isn’t either of you two.”

The girls exchanged a glance, grinning. “It’s Louisa,” they chorused.

“You think? She and Andre haven’t been married that long.”

“Seriously, Mom? They were having sex for ages.”

“Thank you for waiting,” Jackie said, her face serious. “Don’t make me a grandmother too soon, please.”

“No intention of it. We have to get our educations first. I don’t even want to get married until after we graduate from college.”

“Good idea. Ah, here we are!”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

When Tis Done – Part 4

When Tis Done coverHeath overhears Brian talking to Chase and sits the boys down for a talk. He explains that the Circle will pick a new person to replace Dora Finley, Chase’s mother, now that his father is dead. He also tells them that if Chase and Marissa can’t resolve their differences, one or the other could leave the Circle and a replacement would be found.

“Nope. From time to time, the force around us make mistakes. It’s bound to happen. Our choice of a mate may be pre-destined, but it’s not written in stone. Sometimes, your intended isn’t really the best person for you. So, an alternate is provided. You only get a second chance, not a third or fourth. This isn’t a dating service, after all. But it has to be a mutual thing and you both have to agree which of you leaves the circle. If neither of you wants to, then you’re stuck with one another. But solve this now before you get married. Or before you take your relationship further.”

“You mean sex,” Chase said.

“Yes. I went about it the wrong way, Chase. I almost lost the two most important things in my life; Jackie and the Circle. Until I hovered on the edge of that decision, saw the pain in her eyes because of my stupidity, I didn’t realize how important they both were. Don’t put yourself in that position. You and Marissa need to have an in depth talk. Jackie and I will be happy to mediate, because you’ll need to have someone there who’s been in your shoes.”

“I’d appreciate that, Mr. Barrett. Thank you. When?”

“Well, tonight is set aside for a party.”

“What are we celebrating?” Brian asked, feeling somewhat subdued after Heath’s revelation.

“Our Circle is mending itself,” Heath said. “We lost our Brother, gained a Sister, but now we need to find our Balance. Tonight at Chase’s house, we’ll be meeting our newest member.”

“Does this mean Mom is leaving the Circle?”

“Yes,” Heath said softly. “She doesn’t want to stay without Cliff, anyway. It doesn’t mean you’re moving or that you have to leave your Circle. And she will always be a part of us….” Heath sniffed loudly. His head dropped as he sniffed again.

Brian put his hand on the older man’s shoulder, doing his best to give comfort. He knew that Cliff, Heath and his father had been closer than brothers, brought together by their presence in the Circle. He felt that way about Chase and the others in their Circle. He didn’t know how his parents and the others in their group were coping with this break. It would be like having his heart ripped out and stomped on.

Heath clasped his hand, smiling at the boy who was working so hard to be the man he needed to be. Pride flooded through him when he met Brian’s intense blue eyes. They’d almost lost him twice, but he came back stronger. He seemed invulnerable, given what he’d been through and survived. Heath dearly hoped that invulnerability wouldn’t be put to the test again anytime soon.

“Party tonight. You’ll like this guy, boys. He’s a real pistol popper.”

“I don’t even know what that means, Heath,” Brian admitted. “Sounds like something my granddad would say.”

“He probably did. He’s a hell of a guy. Come on up, or Jackie will skin us alive if we’re late for lunch.”

“How do you know?” Chase asked.

Before the question was completely out of his mouth, the door at the top of the stairs opened and Jordan called down.

“Get up here now, or Mom swears she’ll skin you alive!”

Heath pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. “Cause that. You’ll see when you progress past a peck on the cheek. Brian knows.”

Brian trotted up the stairs ahead of them, heading to the small bathroom under the front stairs, to wash his hands. Chase held Heath back a moment, his eyes full of pain.

“I do love her, Mr. Barrett. But—”

“You feel like there’s something more out there.” He nodded. “I’ll talk to Jackie.”

“Thank you.”

Forcing smiles, they took their places at the table. Jackie gave blessing and they dug into the meal. She might be a vegetarian, but she did eat fish. She’d prepared a feast of fried catfish and hush puppies, along with fried green tomatoes, fried dill pickles and fried squash.

“Why all the fried foods, Mrs. B,” Marissa asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head. “Just had a craving for it. I’ll have to figure that out when I meditate.”

Heath’s head snapped up, his eyes narrowing. Jordan watched her father carefully as he examined his wife for something. Soon, his face relaxed and he went back to his meal. Jordan had the distinct impression that he’d been checking her aura for something. Whatever it was, he was pleased by it, so she let the matter drop.

The rule of the house was if the women cooked, the men cleaned up, and vice versa. The women relaxed on the enclosed back porch as the men loudly and boisterously washed dishes and put up the leftover food.

“Talk to me,” Jackie directed at Marissa. “I haven’t seen you this despondent since Cliff passed.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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When Tis Done – Part 3

When Tis Done coverJordan, Chase and Marissa are in Jordan’s basement when Brian arrives. It’s evident that there is tension between Chase and Marissa. In fact, Chase manages to hurt her feelings, making her cry. She runs out and Jordan goes to calm her, leaving the boys alone.

Brian punched him. It wasn’t a light, friendly punch that they sometimes exchanged. It was a hard fisted slam, knocking Chase’s breath from his lungs. Brian grabbed his shirt front, pulling him over. Less than an inch from his face, Brian growled at his friend. It was the most terrifying noise Chase had ever heard Brian make. It was base, primal, pure fury.

“Get over yourself, Chase,” Brian rumbled, his anger barely contained. The windows rattled, the floor shook. Curios on the shelves tipped over. “This is nothing, this stupid shit you’re dealing with. I don’t talk about everything that’s going on with me, but it puts this petty, teenage crap to shame. I don’t whine about how I’m not sleeping with Jordan. I don’t complain about the fact I cause an earthquake every time I get pissed off. I have a voice activated tape deck in my bedroom that I turn on every night, so I can record myself in case I Dream. I have to listen to it every morning when I wake up, to make sure that nothing catastrophic is coming. And you whine about not getting your dick wet! Do what the rest of us do, dumb ass! Jack off a hundred times a day!”

“I know you didn’t mean to share that bit of information with me,” Heath Barrett said as he came down the stairs. He put a calming hand on Brian’s shoulder.

Brian released his friend’s shirt and leaned away from him. Chase sprang up, backing across the room to get away from his friend.

“We’ve talked about control,” Heath said quietly, his hand still on Brian’s shoulder. “You’re scaring the ladies, son.”

Shaking himself, Brian closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath. “Sorry,” he whispered.

Jordan rushed over, hopping on his lap as she hugged him. “It’s okay, Brian. I’m here.”

Her breasts were in his face as she clutched him to her. The rumbling and shaking started again. Heath pulled his daughter off Brian’s lap.

“Honey, that’s not what he needs right now. Why don’t you run up and help Mom with lunch. You too, Marissa.”

“Yes, Mr. Barrett.”

“Sure, Dad.” Jordan gave her father a kiss on the cheek. With a last glance at Brian, she followed Marissa up the stairs. Heath hopped over the back of the couch, dropping on the cushion beside Brian. Chase sat in the chair opposite them, worried frown on his face.

“Talk to me,” Heath said. “I thought we’d gotten past those temper tremors.”

“My fault, sir,” Chase said. “I was bemoaning my relationship with Marissa—again.”

Heath’s placid face turned to the other boy. “Son, we’re men. Hormones rage and we get excited just smelling a girl’s scent. Knowing we’re supposed to be together isn’t easy. I fought it for a good five years. Jackie always knew. She accepted that we’d be together and she was willing to wait for me. For men, it’s a lot harder to make that commitment and keep it. We aren’t wired the same way at all. Your sexual prime is now. You want it—a lot. Having the woman you’re destined to be with for life, telling you No, it’s not easy. Hell, it’s impossible.”

“What did you do?” Chase asked, completely serious.

“A lot of what Brian suggested.” He leaned forward, hands clasped between his knees. “Jackie and I broke up for awhile. My fault entirely. I sewed my wild oats, as it were. Now, I’m not suggesting that, because it took me a long time to get her to trust me afterward. Then again, I went about it like a horny teenager, not a grown man. Which is why I’m telling you this. If it means that much to you, Chase. If you really can’t wait for Marissa, then break it off with her—nicely—for a short time. Date someone else, get laid and see if she’ll take you back. Which, knowing Marissa, will not be easy.”

“If we don’t get married, what happens to our Circle?” Chase asked.

Heath’s head dropped. “Well, there have been provisions made for holes in the Circle.” He met Chase’s eyes. “Like when your dad passed, his sister stepped up. Now, our Circle has lost its balance. We have two women where it should be a woman and a man. So, the Circle compensates and another man has to be found to fit.”

“What if he’s already married to someone else? He can’t get divorced just to marry Aunt Cynthia!”

“Doesn’t work like that. He won’t be married. In fact, he’ll be just right for your aunt, in every way. A man she can’t resist, who can’t resist her.”

“And if I broke up with Marissa? If she put me aside because I’m a lame ass who can’t control my hormones, what happens then?”

“Then, one or the other of you leaves the Circle, finds someone else and, I hope, lives happily ever after.”

“And the other?”

“The Circle finds a new mate.”

“No choice then either?”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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