Neil sets Marissa and Chase on a task of charming the necklaces, while he and Brian prepare the meeting area. They talk about why Chase is so obstinate, and Brian blames himself.
Neil smiled. “Kid, this is not all on you and you aren’t allowed to take the blame. Sure, that hurt. It probably affected him some, but that isn’t enough. I wonder, sometimes, looking back, if our folks started teaching us too early. I was four when I started my first lessons. Chase was five or six. It changes your perspective somewhat. I believe it’s important to teach our children, but maybe some middle ground before they mature, but after they have a few years on them. Trouble is, we don’t have a handbook for this. We play it all by ear.”
“How did they do back in the day?”
“Back in ancient times, we lived in closed communities and raised our young to know what was what from birth. But we weren’t trying to fit into normal society. Some of the remote Circles, those that live in less developed areas of the world, can do that. Around here, they’d think they had another Wako on their hands and send in the FBI to rescue our kids.”
The door to the shed opened below, Chase and Marissa came out smiling and holding hands. Neil and Brian pretended not to notice. Neil popped the top off a couple of IBC root beers and handed them each one when they sat down.
“Done. Good job on the necklaces,” Chase said. “They needed a little tweaking, but otherwise, they were fine. Marissa got the charms on them and they are ready to get the new stuff tonight.”
“I got to thinking,” Marissa said quietly. “These necklaces are good, but they can be damaged or torn off. What we really need is some sort of ward on our skin—like a tattoo.”
“Only not quite as archaic,” Chase concluded. “Mar had an idea.”
“There is a spell for a charm to be infused in the skin. I’m not entirely sure how it’s done, but I bet one of our parents would know. If this is something we’re really worried about, we should do that.”
“I agree,” Neil said. “We’ll discuss it tonight when the Texas party arrives. I think the necklaces would make a good option, but I’m not averse to two lines of defense. Brian?”
“I agree. Good idea, Marissa.”
“I’m going to go check on Jordan,” she said and stood up rather suddenly.
The men hopped to their feet as she left, settling back once more. No one knew what to say. Neil was waiting for the boys to bridge their gap, only acting as a moderator. When it became obvious that neither of them knew what to say, he decided he should.
“Brian and I laid the wards around the fire pit, but it wouldn’t hurt to double check them. Do you know what your dad used to use?”
“Yeah. I could do that.”
“Why don’t you and Brian work on that? I’m gonna go see if the ladies need help.”
The boys put their empty bottles in the recycling bin and trotted down the steps. Neil stood on the deck, casting his focusing spell before going inside. The women didn’t need his help, but he knew the boys needed time alone. He also knew that if he helped out, they would let him act as official taster, a job he had always loved. Not only that, he needed to be close to his wife. He’d never experienced this sort of thing before. Whether it was part of their bonding, or because he was finally able to show her how much he loved her, he didn’t know. He’d learned not to question.
The women were in the kitchen. Cynthia was next to the stove, stirring something mysterious in a big pot. It smelled good, but he had been taught as a child, not to taste things without asking what they were. A useful lesson, since sometimes his mother wasn’t preparing food. Sidling up behind her, he put his arms around her, nuzzling her cheek.
“Smells almost as delicious as you.”
Giggling, Cynthia gave him a taste. It was smooth, silky and sweet. Licking his lips, Neil tried to analyze the flavors as Brian had.
“Chocolate….” that was obvious and easy. “Cinnamon. Little bit of orange essence.” He licked his lips once more. “What is that? It’s delicious.”
“A pudding to go between the layers of the cake. I’m glad you like it. It’s my own recipe.” She gave him another taste.
Neil closed his eyes, savoring the flavor. “I wouldn’t mind licking that off…um. Sorry,” he whispered.
“I’ll save some,” she whispered back.
Marissa tightened up, but Jordan patted her hand. Neil and Cynthia were newlyweds, after all. She could only imagine how she and Brian would be once they finally gave in to their passion. Looking outside, she saw Brian and Chase coming up the back steps. They were laughing and joking like they had before the intensity of their reltionship drove them apart. Unable to stop herself, Jordan rushed to the sliding glass door and let them in. She gave Brian a quick kiss, hugging him tightly.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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