Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chapters 76 and 77

Chapter 76                                                                                                 
                  When the music started at noon on Saturday, March 10, a nervous me turned to my best friends as if to say, “Am I really doing this?” They smiled reassuringly, picture perfect in their closely matching dark green suits, similar in style to my tailored ivory linen suit. I had insisted I was way too old for a traditional wedding dress and matching bridesmaid’s gowns.  
                   Sharon and Carol each carried a single yellow rose. I carried a small nosegay of yellow and white roses with dangling satin ribbons. My salt and pepper hair was piled up at the back of my head, completely covering the bald spot and nicely-healing wound, small yellow sweetheart roses sprinkled elegantly throughout the curls. Pearl earrings fell to just the right length in accompaniment to my mother’s pearl necklace. I didn’t care if Saint Paul did disapprove. 
   Wanting only a small, intimate wedding, Colin and I had chosen to be married in the original St. Elizabeth’s chapel on the northeast corner of the church grounds. Outside, the Texas Historical Commission plaque described the chapel: “Built in 1936. Eclectic design shows Byzantine and Spanish Colonial influences with elaborate stonework featuring stylistic elements and religious symbolism.” Dark beams crisscrossed the rich wood interior of the small simple chapel, and bright sunlight streamed in through the plain glass windows. A few candles helped to light the scene along with the ornate Byzantine chandeliers. Two simple bouquets of long-stemmed yellow and white roses were the only extra altar decorations.
    When the music started, my two girlfriends walked arm in arm out of the small waiting room at the back of the old church — both designated as honor attendants, but Sharon went down the aisle first, insisting because their heights were so different. With the two granddaughters as picture-perfect flower girls, their procession was shortest to tallest. Fine, I had said, not worrying about the details.
    Ben and Michael then stepped up, each offering me an arm, escorting me to a waiting Colin, who flushed when he saw me. I smiled broadly at him, knowing I had been right back in January, the groom was prettier than the bride – but then so was the priest!  
  Father Sean was the Mass celebrant, and Colin had asked their older brother Patrick to stand for him along with Tom Arbuckle. These tall, smiling men were handsome in their dark suits and yellow rose boutonnieres — Father Sean outfitted in his finest priestly vestments. 
   At the end of the Mass, Father Sean gave them the same Irish blessing his parents had received decades earlier on their wedding day: 

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.

     Sharon and Doug hosted the wedding luncheon at the Nest, although we, the bridal couple, insisted on having the simple affair catered. We wouldn’t even allow Doug to tend his own bar, saying it was enough he and a few friends were providing beautiful stringed-instrument music for the ceremony. The Tech Catering crew was taking care of everything, and Jamie easily switched from wedding guest to bartender, earning some extra cash that day. 
  Other guests included my family and a few friends. Most of Colin’s family had flown in from the Chicago area, leaving behind two feet of snow. They were still marveling at the warm spring weather and the flat empty land of West Texas. Doug had opened the patio doors so guests could spill out to enjoy the sunshine around the pool.  When the groom’s father remarked again about the amazingly warm weather, Doug told him this was Texas and if he waited a minute or two, it was likely to change. Late spring snow storms are not at all uncommon. 
    Russ, Fern, Julie, Winston, Jonathan and his wife, and Monsignor Fitzpatrick were also there, as were my staff members, including Charlie who served as the official photographer. At the couple’s request, he was taking only informal shots — no posed photos were allowed. 
    All the out-of-town guests were either flying or driving home that afternoon, and Colin was taking me to Santa Fe that night, a five- to six-hour drive, so we didn’t linger at the luncheon. Colin was paying Jamie to housesit to watch my place and to feed the cat. I didn’t realize until later that he also paid him to set up a surprise for his new bride. Colin continued to be worried about him and made a mental note to talk with Sean about the young man when they returned later this week. Surely there was something they could do to bring him out of his seemingly unending depression? He had never talked with Sean about his inkling toward the priesthood.
By 2:30, I had kissed everyone goodbye and climbed into the old pickup — the heater was still out on my car and we were heading into snowy mountains. Besides, with the old bench seat, I could snuggle next to her my husband the entire way. 
Chapter 77
    Heading north out of the city, I nestled next to Colin, the Texas Tech Red Raider bobblehead doll right in front of me, continuously bouncing as if nodding at me. I reached up to steady the head, but it was made for movement.
“Can I at least turn it around?” I asked.
   “Sure. He’d probably like to see where he’s going anyway.” 
   I gave a small chuckle, still thinking the gift from Jamie was sweet ... but sweeter was my new husband’s ready acceptance of it.  New husband, I thought, hardly believing I was now, once again, a wife. And delighted I was going to have Colin for always, or as always as God allowed. But I trust Him and would savor every day as if there might not be a next. That was a lesson I had learned too well.
   Our wedding Mass had been simple yet beautiful, and I’d kneeled next to my new love and prayed with him. And just like Sharon had said, it was magic. It had been so different than my first wedding, and it was hard not to compare the two. With Jim, we were both so young and naive, and the details of the wedding, from the right lace on my expensive dress to the right flavor of cake frosting and complementing filling were among my priorities. On Saturday, my priorities had been Colin and his being comfortable with his first, and I hoped only, wedding. I concentrated on him instead of on things, and it made so much difference. Maturity definitely had its good points. 
   Quickly eating up the miles, we talked comfortably about our guests, and how strange it was for Monsignor Fitzpatrick to sit in the pew as a guest instead of presiding. He’d said he rather enjoyed it, but nobody believed him. He liked the spotlight too much.  
   Doug’s music had been amazing, floating joyfully from the small church’s choir loft. How the five musicians and their instruments had all fit inside the tiny space was a mystery. 
   And we talked about Colin’s family. The thirteen of them who’d been able to attend arrived two days before the wedding and had been adopted by Russ, Fern, Tom and Julie, who insisted they all stay out on the Cotton A — there was plenty of room at the two houses — and see firsthand how a West Texas farm/ranch worked. Colin’s parents, just slightly older than the Arbuckles, quickly became the older Arbuckle’s new best friends, promising this wouldn’t be their last visit to the South Plains, especially now Colin was finally settling down. 
    After a little more than an hour of heading north on Interstate 27, I wondered at Colin’s earlier decision not to take the Clovis Highway out of Lubbock, a more direct route to Santa Fe. Maybe he’d rather hit Interstate 40 in Amarillo and head west? It was a wider interstate but not the most direct route. I finally decided to ask.
   “We’re heading up to I-40 and over?” 
   “Nope,” he said matter-of-factly.
   “You missed the Clovis Highway about an hour back, then.”
   “Aren’t we going to Santa Fe? To the La Fonda Hotel?”
He smiled, appearing to concentrate on the road ahead. “Not tonight.”
  “What? Where are we going, Colin?”
   His smile broadened, slowly, menacingly, I thought, still not looking at me, but concentrating on the highway. 
   I stomped my foot, if that was possible while seated in a pickup. “Talk, Murphy. Now!”
   He turned to me, grinning, “Margaret Grant Murphy. You didn’t really think that after waiting all these long months to bed you, I was going to wait another whole six hours, did you?”
   I opened my mouth in retort but hadn’t a clue what to say, so shut it again and looked out at the long, flat landscape. Finally I asked again, “So where are we going?”
   “You’ll see. Only about 20 minutes away, Love.”
   At Canyon, they turned east, definitely not the way to New Mexico. Ten miles outside of town they turned into Palo Duro State Park. 
   “We’re going to camp on our wedding night?” I asked tentatively, afraid of the answer. It wasn’t exactly my idea of a romantic way to spend our first night together. The luxury suite at the La Fonda would be so much better than a sleeping bag on the rocky ground.
   “You’ll see,” was all he said, looking at his watch. With that, he pulled in to the ranger station and disappeared inside for a few minutes. Returning, he went to the back of the pickup and started unloading our suitcases, telling me, “Get out, Wife.”
    I got out of the truck, slammed its door, and stomped my foot, unhappy about this “surprise.” I took a deep breath, asked God for patience, and then thought that it really shouldn’t matter where our first night was, as long as we were together. I thought I heard Colin chuckle. Calmer now, I walked around to him and asked what I could carry.
  “This,” he said, handing me a small duffle bag, “and pull this, please.” It was a Coleman cooler on wheels. I hadn’t noticed it before. 
   Colin picked up our suitcases and headed around the side of the ranger station. I followed, amazed I was here ... in a state park ...on my wedding day. I chuckled to myself that being married to this professor who made furniture, this ex-G-man with a deep faith in God, certainly wasn’t going to be dull. It hadn’t been so far!
   Rounding the corner of the ranger station, I was concentrating on pulling the cooler over the rough ground. I nearly ran into Colin, who’d stopped. I stopped, too, then looking up, quickly took a step back, eyes wide, almost falling over the cooler. We stood on the edge of the north rim of the canyon, looking out over a breathtaking view of steep, eroded cliffs, colorfully red and brown in the mid-afternoon spring sunshine. Palo Duro Canyon was part of the Caprock to the High Plains. Called the Grand Canyon of Texas, it was a miniature at no more than 800 feet deep. I thought I remembered the state park they were in was established somewhere back in the 1930s.

   Evidence of settlement as far back as 12,000 years gave the canyon an ancient feel, smell and taste that often humbled visitors into accepting their own insignificance. Here tribes of Native Americans had sought shelter from winter storms, had found water during dry seasons and made use of the limited shade of the juniper and cottonwood trees, cedars and scrub brush that grew on the canyon floor. Until 1874, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Apache and Comanche tribes inhabited the area at various times, before the bloody Red River War resulted in displacing all Native Americans from the southern plains to the Oklahoma Territory.
   Colin headed for the top of a trail that must take them down to the canyon floor. I no longer cared about sleeping on the ground — the beauty was overwhelming — I just hoped I didn’t have to pull the cooler for too long — I wasn’t exactly wearing hiking boots. I’d been here before, but then I was 20 and on an adventure with Sharon and Carol. They’d spent a cold night on the side of the canyon in sleeping bags and loved it.
   The steep trail was roughed out of the cliff, sloping sharply with intermittent rock steps. Concentrating on keeping my footing and not losing the cooler contents, whatever they were, about 30 feet down the trail Ie once again almost ran into my new husband. Looking up, I followed his gaze, and to my amazement, saw three small weathered stone cabins perched on the canyon rim, facing southwest. 

“We’re here,” Colin said brightly. He held up a key and said, “Leave the gear. Let’s go look, Love.” I followed him to the third cabin, grateful I wouldn’t have to sleep on the canyon floor and wondering if at least they’d have bunks that were off the ground. 
   Colin unlocked the door. Opening it slightly, he stuck his head in and then turned back to me with a wide grin, “Yep, it’s ready, Love. Go on in and see what you think.”
   He stepped back to let me into the doorway. The walls of the small cabin were the same rustic stone as the exterior, and the fireplace was original, much like mine at home, wood piled high but not lit on this warm afternoon. But nothing else inside the fifteen-by-fifteen foot interior was anywhere near rustic. Dominating the room by taking up most of the small cabin’s floor space was a huge king-size four-poster mahogany bed, delivered that morning from Lubbock’s finest furniture store. Colin and I had seen it a few weeks earlier when shopping. Colin didn’t think he would fit in my current full-size bed with thrift store headboard. We’d talked about the need to eventually buy a bigger bed, but with my tower incident, we hadn’t found the time, or so I thought.
Six fluffy pillows, covered in crisp new cotton pillowcases rested across the oversized headboard, and matching sheets were tucked out over the largest quilt I have ever seen. It was a colorful crazy quilt pattern, in blues and greens, with the tiniest touch of purple, and I knew it would be heavy and warm, just the way I liked. Fresh yellow and white rose petals were scattered across the linens and up over the pillows. 
  A handsome matching nightstand sat near the north window, a bouquet of long-stemmed yellow roses gleaming in the sunshine. A small door to the right led to the bath, where I could see two hotel-quality plush white terry cloth bathrobes hanging expectantly. 
   Colin said quietly, “I thought our first time should be in our own bed. So, it’s ours, and tomorrow they’ll take it and put it in your — our house. Will that work for you?”
“Will that work for me? Oh, Colin, it’s perfect! It’s wonderful. It’s ... I thought you were going to make me sleep in a sleeping bag on the ground. This is wonderful, Murphy. Just wonderful.”
   Grinning, he said, “And you would have slept on the ground on our wedding night?”
                 I nodded, not taking my eyes off the new bed. “Yes, I would have... with you.”
“Okay, then,” Colin said, “make yourself at home, and I’ll bring in the suitcases. Oh, my mom made the quilt. Hope you like it.” And he disappeared out the door, thoroughly satisfied with his surprise for his new bride.  
   “She made it?” But he didn’t hear. I walked over to it, and ran my hand lovingly over the pattern, marveling at the quality craftsmanship and relishing the softness. Obviously made with love, I thought. And the perfect colors for our new master bedroom. 
   How in the world had he arranged all this? What a wonderful surprise! Unable to resist, I took  my shoes off and lay down, head resting on the supple pillows. Remembering my hair was still pinned up with roses in it, I sat back up to take it down. I set the roses on the pillow next to me among the petals, putting the pins on the side table. Running my fingers through my hair to untangle it, I thought of Sharon and Carol fussing over me that morning, expertly covering my bare spot, arguing about how many roses should actually adorn my tresses. Did they know about this surprise? Probably, and so probably did everyone else, I thought. Some friends, I thought ... keeping secrets from me. Smiling, I lay back, clasping my hands behind my head thinking this was a pretty wonderful surprise to keep secret. I have such good friends. 
   Colin came in and saw me relaxing on the bed, smiling at him in a way that had him quickly dumping everything in the corner, closing the door and joining me. 
  “Think you might need to take your boots off your mother’s quilt first, Murphy,” I said as he reached for me. 
  “Oh, yeah,” he replied sheepishly as he sat up and pulled them off. “Mom never allows boots on beds.”
   “Smart woman,” I said, as he reached for me again. I put my arms around his neck, leaning over to kiss him. He let his hands explore my back, reaching down to cup my firm but ample buttocks and pull me closer to him. He’d waited a long time to get his hands on that backside, and he wasn’t letting go anytime soon. 
We’re in Santa Fe now, enjoying the city and each other. More next week after we have returned home. How blessed I am. 

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