The morning after the ritual, Neil and Cynthia are getting up for breakfast. Turns out, he’s a peppy morning person and she’s not.
“Dora’s a night person, I’m a morning person. I learned to keep odd hours when I was in the Marines. You have to learn to adapt or you can’t survive. But morning was always my favorite time, even after a long night. I got called Mary Sunshine in bootcamp. Sergeant Pepper gave me that name.”
“He was really named Pepper?”
“Yep. First name, Claude. Like the politician from Alabama.”
She nodded, knowing the name. “So, Sergeant Pepper called you Mary Sunshine….”
“Yeah. He told me later, after I’d made Sergeant myself, that he’d had high hopes for me. He was a Master Sergeant by that time. I really looked up to that man.”
“Is he still alive?”
Neil chuckled. “And kicking probie ass. He’s training for the government now. Last I talked to him, he was a weapons instructor at Quantico. He offered to get me a job there, but I turned it down.”
“Why on Earth? That sounds like a great job!”
“Cause I had the most beautiful woman in Miracle, Mississippi, waiting for me. No job is worth more to me than you are. Our roots are here, Cindy Lou. Our friends, families. And eventually, in the very near future, I want to start our family here, too.”
His kiss set her on fire inside. She couldn’t see if they were glowing, here in the light of dawn, but she suspected they were. How long that would continue, she didn’t know. As long as the love remained, she didn’t care. Neil held her spellbound, he’d always had that effect on her. He swept her into his arms, carrying her into the house. They made love as the morning sun peeped over the horizon.
“Do you think the Circle knew about this time? Could the Powers That Be have known in advance, that we’d be needed to step in?” she asked as they took a shower.
“I don’t know what the Powers That Be are capable of. I hardly know the term, except in the general use of it.”
After a quick shower, they decided to have breakfast. Together, they prepared a meal and Neil brewed a pot of his almost lethal coffee. Cynthia sipped it, shivering as she smiled.
“Wow, that’ll put hair on your chest.”
He grabbed the top of her shirt, peering down. “Whew! No, thank God! I love you, Cindy Lou, but I don’t think I want you hairy on the chest. That’s my job.”
She ran her fingers up under his shirt, feeling the thick patch of hair on his broad chest. “You must drink a lot of this coffee.”
“I had that much hair when I was seventeen. You just don’t remember.”
“I do, too. We used to go to the lake every summer, or hang out a Heath’s pool. I remember every inch of you, Neil Braxton.”
“I didn’t show you every inch of me, Cynthia Finley. Or our mamas would have had a fit.”
“I saw enough to know. Those swimming trunks you wore left very little to the imagination. And what imagination was needed, I happily supplied.” She teased his belly with her hand. “I have to admit, I didn’t attribute quite what I should have to some of the dimensions.” Her fingers played with his fly. “But then, I was an innocent, tender, sweet, young thing. I knew boys were different from girls, but not how different they were from one another.”
“I hope you’ve been pleasantly surprised.” He kissed her, his fingers brushing her arm.
Someone knocked at the door. They sprang apart, looking and feeling guilty. They were both dressed, but frowzy, having pawed one another more than they’d realized. Combing fingers through their hair, they went to the door. Neil peered out the peephole and smiled.
“Come on in!” He flung the door open, greeting the other members of their circle. They brought covered dishes and other mysterious packages into the foyer.
“I know this is an imposition,” Maribelle said, blushing a little. “But with us all here, we knew we needed to take advantage of the time. We talked about this last night, but I guess you didn’t get the memo.”
“My fault,” Cynthia said. “I know, but I lost track of time.”
Their friends laughed, completely understanding without being told.
“Claude can still make time stand still,” Adele assured Cynthia, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “I have no doubt that Neil is as magical as he.” She touched his face, smiling, before kissing his cheek as well. Her full, berry red lips left a blush of color behind.
Everyone gave hugs and kisses, which was almost overwhelming for Neil. He wasn’t used to such shows of affection, but found that he liked it. It had been a part of his youth, but not in later years. He and his battle buddies had maintained a professional distance, in the hope it would make losing a comrade easier. It hadn’t. It felt good to hold people close. A warmth filled him that he hadn’t even realized was missing.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes