Define Ritual: a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence.
Now define Union: A word describing things coming together, or uniting to make one.
This was our story, and the ritual union that kept getting us into trouble.
It was a beautiful spring day when Evelyn Grace, my 70 years old grandmother married John Edward Williams, her 72 year old boyfriend, and the love of her life. I had just turned 16 and thought it was the sweetest most beautiful thing in the world. Thanks to this time of the year, natures gift to her was a meadow naturally adorned with every colour flower you can imagine. The sun shone, but it wasn't hot, a breeze blew, but it wasn't windy, birds chirped, but it wasn't too noisy, it was just absolutely perfect, just the way it should be. They both stood amongst friends and flowers, their little cottage sat in the distance, a home they had shared for many years. This wasn't the beginning for them, it was just their announcement to all of us that it doesn't matter what age, nor what time in your life you want to celebrate your love for each other, this is their day and we are here to witness it. Tears filled my eyes just thinking about all the memories I've had here in this field, this one will be one of the best.
I glanced around at the small gathering of people standing there with me. Ellie, my mum, and her daughter, smiled sideways at me, both of us standing so proudly beside the beautiful bride. Mum squeezes my hand noticing my blurring eyes, her own eyes just as blurry, we both laugh at ourselves getting all emotional. My eyes move over mums shoulder at John, the smile on his face priceless. John's son stood there beside him, he looked like he was under pressure standing there, he actually always looks troubled. He lives the other side of the country so I haven't had the chance to get to know him that well but he doesn't ever look happy. Then my eyes move to his side, to a boy standing beside his dad. This boy was a total stranger to me. Without me even knowing I was doing it, I checked him out from head to toe. It intrigued me that after all these years we had never met either John's son or this boy, his grandson. He's tall and lanky like Pa, dark skinned with pretty blue eyes, probably looks like his mother, who I've heard is very exotic looking, not ever meeting her either. When my eyes end at his I find him staring back at me with the biggest smirk swiped across his face, making me quickly look away embarrassed. Finally, I look back at him and smile, apologising for being so rude with my eyes, which makes him smile back, which of course makes me blush stupidly. What's going on with me? I'll blame all the love dancing around in the place today.
I mean honestly, blushing, what was that? I'm not shy, with most people thinking I'm even a little pushy. 'Pigged-headed' mum calls it, 'not backwards in coming forward' my Grammy always describes me. I'm not sure I'm any of these names. I think I should be described as determined, confident, mature even. I think growing up with all these women around me had made me this way. I just knew in my mind what I liked or didn't like, no-one else could ever sway me, I did it my way or no way. Probably why I was left to run the cafe mum owned on my own more than often lately. Grammy being her age and 'in love' stayed home a lot more wanting to garden and potter around with John, finally deciding retirement suited her. Then with mum being an artist, staying in the studio a lot more now, the cafe and all the responsibility was left all up to me. But I didn't mind, I had finished all the schooling I needed, so running the cafe, which I love, is what I do, even at this young age and it's fine.
I look at Sarah, listen to words that are being spoken by her, she's my mum's partner, and the wedding celebrant for todays big occasion. And yes it's what you think, I'm being raised by two women, no father, just these two women who have been in love and together since I was little. I listen to Sarah speaking of love, love that has no age limit, no time gaps, and when it's true love, no distance. How this sort of love, it just stays buried deep in one's heart, always. I wonder if I'll ever find a love like this. So with that and a few cheers from our friends watching we've all witnessed a union between two people who will be together until the end. Without caring I run and throw myself into my Grammy's arms over-joyed for her. Then I pull John's head down to mine wrapping my arms around him. He kisses my cheek, picks me up and swings me around just like he did when I was smaller.
While everyone is busy congratulating Grammy and Pa I head towards the large white marquee we've hired to over-see that the caterer's are on track. My best friend Bailey is standing back making sure everything is perfect. He's been a god-send, helping me with all the thousands of jobs necessary to make this a day to remember. And besides he wouldn't of missed it for the world.
"That cake you made is just magnificent" he says grabbing hold of me for a hug.
"Thanks Bail, just look at this place, I'm very grateful you think like a women, its so pretty" I say to him cheekily.
"Oh honey it was nothing, I wouldn't of missed it for anything, besides I needed a week-end away from the hustle and bustle of the city, I miss all this country hick. Here babe, skull this, then let's get this party started" handing me a wine glass full of something awful tasting, I happily drink it in one go, making me all light headed.
After a couple of hours on my feet making sure everyone is happy I finally get to sit for a second. Smart of me I had avoided another glass of awful champagne, rather sticking with water. I scan around for Bailey who has been just as busy but he's nowhere to be found. I could do with a little time out, he always manages to make me giggle about something, I miss his company most days. Instead, I sit taking it all in. My Grammy never had a big white wedding with her first marriage, she was given to an older man by her parents, which I thought was totally barbaric, but she told me it was the tradition back then, not liking it but sticking with it to please her parents. After about ten years of an unhappy marriage she produced just one child, my mother, then her husband past away, leaving her substantial fortune. So she found her freedom later in life, moving here, opening up the cafe, buying this land, building the cottage and raising my mum alone. Then in her fifties she found John. And finally here we are celebrating their vows.
Eventually with John coming into grammy's life he became a father figure for mum, which was important in her teenage years, my mum was lucky to have him. Then after a few years mum jetted off across the ocean to travel. Her intention was going a year backpacking around the world but she was gone for quite a few years longer than expected. Apparently towards the end of her journey, she had a one night stand, producing me. She has never told me much but just looking at us I'm nothing like the rest of the family. I'm blonde and bright blue eyed, mum is dark haired with brown eyes. I'm tall and slender, both mum and grammy are short and stout. It has never worried me not knowing about my father, but I decided my children would know where they came from. In the end my Mum was never sure whether she liked men or women but was happy about falling pregnant either way. She once told me it must've been when she was travelling thru Sweden, because I look like that nationality, making me curious as to just how many men she actually slept with. I can't imagine ever doing that.
Finally, she came back here to have me, found and fell in love with Sarah, which answered her question about who she fancied more, and they've been together since. They've both been the best parents anyone could have, filling my heart with pure love and respect. Pa has been around to fill the 'father' needs. So, living here ended up being a totally women dominated household, barring Pa, who learnt early to just shut-up. Me being pigged-headed, determined, well do you blame me? Of course you have to speak up when you want to get heard, especially living here.
Finally getting the chance to stop I lean down to release my feet from the clutches of the fancy shoes I'm totally not use to being in, rubbing my sore feet when a voice beside me surprises me.
"Hey, finally we get to meet, I'm Lachlan, do you need help?" Lachlan asks me holding out his hand to greet me. I twist my body to look up at him. He has a gentle face like Pa I think. I shake his hand feeling a little weird.
"Hey yourself, I suppose you know I'm Evie, and I don't need any help, I'll just rest for a sec." He sits beside me, and there is an awkward silence.
"Are you having fun?" I say stretching my feet out in front of me, rotating them for relief.
"As much fun as a wedding can be I suppose, I can think of better things I could be doing" he says giving me a smirk, spoiling his nice face.
"Why don't you go then, your father doesn't look like he's having much fun either. Go, no-one's stopping you" I say looking over at his cranky looking father sitting over the other side of the room. Lachlan looks at me surprised at my angry answer.
Holding up his arms in surrender with a big smile he answers me back "sorry I didn't mean it like that."
"I'm sorry too, everyone is having so much fun, you surprised me, and my aching feet don't help" I say truly sorry for snapping at him.
"Here lift your feet up here, I'll massage them for a minute" trying to put my feet in his lap, embarrassing me making me giggling.
I hit his hand away still giggling, "I'm really ticklish, I'll just rest them, but thanks." He takes the hint, putting his hands in his pocket. Slouching in the chair slightly in defeat "did you really do all this?" he finally says.
"Yeah, I did most of it, we had caterer's come in, but I did the cake and a few other things. It was for grammy and pa, sorry, I mean your Grandfather so I did it out of love for those two, I don't make a habit of organising weddings if I can help it" I say being a bit of a smart-arse. He smiles at my answer.
"Pretty cute you calling him Pa? I've never called him anything but Grandfather, that's the few times I even met the man" he says seriously. I turn my head wondering about this boy sitting next to me.
"I'm sorry you didn't see him very often" I say to him, sounding nosy, but "can I ask why you didn't?"
"Stop being sorry for me. My father and him didn't see eye to eye, it's only just recently they've sort of reconciled. I didn't expect anything like this but."
"Anything like what? Do you mean the way we live? Lachlan, all this has always been here, we've never been anywhere else, your grandfather has always been here, you should've asked to come and visit or something" I say defensively again.
"It's complicated Evie. I wasn't raised with...with love being thrown at me left, right and centre like you. You can't expect someone to just step into here and not feel awkward. Look at my dad sitting over there scowling, that over there, well that's my life, my mother doesn't look any happier" he says sadly.
"Why don't you stay for a while, get to know Pa, make the effort and you'll be rewarded, trust me" I say realising I'm trying to talk him to staying, making this even more awkward.
"I think I will" he says standing, heading towards Grammy and Pa sitting at the main table.
Lachlan stayed for a couple of weeks, this was the beginning of my time getting to know him. Not blood related in any way to me, sort of related by marriage, but part of the family all the same. We just clicked, probably being only a year apart. He finally had the chance to wind down those couple of weeks, went from a up-tight suit wearing boy into a bare-foot happy man. We both hated saying good-bye at the end of it, but had to accept our different lives either side of the country.
Spring the next year, Lachlan made his way back to us. He's finished his schooling sticking it out until the end, unlike me. I've been running the cafe whole and solely by myself by now, with just a few casual staff helping. Grammy and Pa have suddenly grown old together, never leaving each others side, visiting me every morning to share a pot of tea and read the paper together. There a permanent fixture in the cafe, leaving a permanent mark on not only my heart but everyone else's in this little town. They're going away for a week to celebrating their first year of marriage so ask Lachlan if he wanted to look after their place. I could've helped but I moved to the little flat above the cafe, staying weekdays here but managing to stay out with them on week-ends. Mum and Sarah who live in the loft above the studio, a renovated farm shed on the land also help out during the week but seeing Mum's art has finally been recognised, they're not always home. They mostly are gallivanting around the country promoting and selling the art these days. Sarah goes with her most times, and sometimes there gone for weeks. So during the week I'm happier to stay local rather than hide away out on the land. I don't mind being by myself, but look forward to this week with Lachlan visiting.
He turned up today, with me making him go upstairs to wait for me. I quickly finish up, lock up the cafe and run up the stairs excited about seeing him. I find him busy in my kitchen, cooking for me, surprisingly. I hug him then sit at the table watching him. He's actually smiling while he cooks, making me smile, he doesn't smile very often so it's really nice to see him like this.
"You look like your enjoying yourself there, nice to see you smiling for once" I say to him, him knowing I'm only joking.
"I am. I'm here in the house of love, I have to be happy" he answers cheekily.
He's filled out around the shoulders a little bit, not got any taller thank god, and his hair needs a cut. He's kicked off his shoes, and I have a feeling I can see a tattoo just peeking out below his sleeve. He turns and finds me perving at him. He puts a plate of delicious food in front of me, then kisses me on the top of my head. Last year when I first got to know him he was so cynical, methodical and up-tight. I know it's the way he was raised. I could tell from the very small time I actually spoke to Joseph, his father. Joseph was a very strict, sergeant major sort of fellow, I could tell he would never break the rules, or deviate from routine. And forget about sharing the love, he would hate showing any sort of feeling to another person. He was nothing like Pa. When I asked Lachlan about his life, from what I could tell, his father wasn't around much being in the Navy, and when he was it felt like talking to a brick wall, and his mum was a trophy wife, more interested in her looks rather than caring for him and his sister. I didn't even know there was a sibling, but from what I can calculate doesn't associate with the family anymore. Lachlan's parents seemed to cause him to fall into a solemn depressed mood just talking about them, so I avoided it as much as possible. But I wanted him to know he could always talk to me about it, which he did in small doses.
After dinner we sat together watching a movie, Lachlan was tired from the hard year of studying he'd endured and I was just tired full stop.
He grabs my hand as I get up to go to bed "can I sleep with you tonight Evie?" he asks me. I'm a little taken back at the request.
"Why Lachlan? Something's wrong isn't it?" I ask him sitting back down looking at him.
"No nothing's wrong, it just...I love being around you, I just need to have a good night sleep that's all, I won't touch you I promise."
I know that's not it but I just shrug my shoulders and pull him up off the lounge with me. I don't think anything of it, he obviously needs some comforting, and I have all week to find out what's going on in that head of his.
"Go and get into bed while I close up" I say to him, turning his body towards the hallway.
I stand and look out my little window above the cafe. My last thoughts always of grammy and pa cuddling asleep together warming my heart, readying me for sweet dreams. I go and get myself ready for bed, wondering more than anything about what's going on with Lachlan, I climb into bed next to him quietly just incase he's already fallen to sleep. But he turns instantly pulling me to his body, then he sniffles. Is he crying?
"Are you crying Lachlan, why won't you talk to me" I say to him softly. I feel him relax a little.
"It's everything Evie, just everything." I rub his arm that's across my stomach. I can hear him still sobbing beside me.
"It'll be ok, just hold me, things will feel different in the morning, you'll see" I say to him sounding confident but not feeling it so much. He doesn't answer me he just holds on tighter. I go sleep that night restless, and being held tightly.
In the morning I wake to an empty bed, the smell of bacon and eggs waking me. I make my way out finding Lachlan cooking breakfast happy again. He just smiles as he puts a plate in front of me, kissing me on the top of my head again.
"Your spoiling me" is all I say. He sits and eats with me, I'm waiting for him to speak to me, he surprises me with his next question.
"Can I help in the cafe's kitchen while I'm here? I'm not going out to the cottage until Friday, your coming with me aren't you?" he asks me in a deep voice.
"I'll try to get out of opening up on Saturday, but Lachlan don't you want to have a rest, it's been a full on year for you with all your studies."
"I love cooking Evie, I'm relaxed when I'm busy in the kitchen, besides I get to be with you" he answers me making me smile.
"Ok, it will be nice spending time with you too" I say to him.
We make out way downstairs, to be greeting by grammy and pa, Lachlan goes and sits with them for a while, I get busy. I can see Pa talking to him, grammy holding his hand gently, Lachlan looks like he's really enjoying their attention. The day ends with another meal being cooked for me, then Lachlan attaching himself to me for the night. He's seems to be happier than when he first got here, so I haven't asked him again if there is anything wrong. But I know I need to, and I can tell he isn't going to sleep. He knows I'm awake too so he talks to me first.
"So...will you come and stay for the weekend with me?" he says close to my ear, making me get all ticklish.
"Yeah, I'd like to have a little break from work" I answer him quickly thinking he might move away a little, this is torture.
"It will be great, like last year when I stayed. It's so peaceful out there, it's nice to let my guard down" he says stroking his fingers up and down my arm, not helping.
"Lachlan, what's been going on that you can't relax and be yourself?" I ask turning over to face him, realising I'm still rather close.
"It's just dad. He wants me to join the forces, he doesn't care which one, but I want to become a chef. He says that's not possible, it's traditional that I follow in his footsteps but I don't want that Evie." I know I have no opinion about his dilemma, not having a father or the pressure of tradition.
"Can't you become a cook in the forces? I thought you can do a trade and serve at the same time." I can see his face slightly in the dim light. He's always had a nice gentle face, that's when he's not scowling like his father does.
He looks down at me, at my lips actually, making me suddenly nervous. I've never thought about Lachlan like that, even though I've always thought he was good looking "imagine doing that, how much shit I'd get into" moving his face even closer to me. I can feel his arm across my shoulder, his large hand spread out across my back, keeping me close.
"Why can't I just stay here like this?" pulling my body closer. The funny thing is I feel so comfortable with him. I wonder if he's thinking the same.
"I'm not sure I'm the right person to answer you, I've pretty much done my own thing without anyone's opinion Lachlan" I answer him leaning back a little to see if he's listening.
"I know and that's what I love about you, your free spirit, and how much you love your life." I look at his eyes, then down at his lips this time..
"And don't be sorry Evie, just let me share your life, just for this week" he says before he leans in and kisses me. At first I don't kiss him back, like passionately, but it suddenly feels good being here with him, in bed being held and caressed so I kiss him back. He pulls me over the top of him, I feel his body up against mine. I'm not sure if this is wrong, but it feels so right. And that is all we do, kiss.
I wake the next morning knowing it's Friday and we'll be heading out to Grammy's cottage for a peaceful weekend. I even feel excited about other things that may happen also. I thought it would be weird facing him this morning, but he cooks me breakfast, kisses me on the top of the head like usual and we just get on with it. Later that day Lachlan and I drive out to the cottage before it gets dark. Lachlan cooks another fantastic meal before we cosy up together to watch a movie. I'm anxious about what's going to happen next, if it's actually going to be a next. Lachlan is quiet, so I wonder.
"Your acting a little weird Lachlan, is everything ok?" I ask looking up at his face.
He puts his hand under my chin before he answers me "was it ok that I kissed you last night Evie?"
I smile up at him, "yeah it was nice Lachlan. I think I want more."
"I definitely want more, I want us both naked, then staying naked for the next few days, how's that sound?" he says smiling, then pretending to start taking his clothes off.
"You seriously mean it? I'm not very experienced at this stuff, getting naked is easy but the other things, do you know what your doing?" I say starting to copy him giggling nervously. I've never had a problem with my body, probably another part of being raised with lots of women around but definitely haven't had any experience naked in front of a male.
He takes my hand, leading me to my old room, "it will be my first time too Evie, I want this with you, only you" putting his hand either side of my head, leaning down and kissing me again. When we're like this together all our worries seem to disappear, nothing else matters but him and I. We don't just end up naked all week-end we both end up learning lots of different things about each other and it was good. Saying good-bye this time is much harder, but we both have our lives elsewhere, mine here and his back across the country. This time it feels bitter-sweet.