Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The very last Michael dive log I'll ever write!

Writing that title made me teary-eyed. But it's so true. This is the last time I'll dip into Michael's mind and scoop out a scene. Wow. Michael's first words came to me in a free write at my first residency at Vermont College in 2002. I've spent nine years with him and Leesie. And now it's all coming to an end. I promise I won't take forever revising because I know you all want your own beautiful copy of the book, but it's going to be hard to let go of this one.

Here it is, the last scene. Thank you all, again, for each step you've taken with me and Michael and Leesie.

Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  ??
Dive #:
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site:
Weather Condition:
Water Condition:
Water Temp: 
Bottom Time:  

            As we drive away from the reception, man and wife, alone for the first time since we vowed to love each other forever, I try to stay calm, cool, but my heart—that I used to be able to slow at will free diving, beats so hard it pulses in my fingertips. My palms sweat. I grip the steering wheel way too hard. Good thing Leesie’s blindfolded. If she saw what a wreck I am, she might want to trade me back in.
            She’s sniffing the air like a bloodhound, trying to figure out where we’re going. I cut through a subdivision to disorient her.
            “Can I let my hair down?” She wore it up all day. It’s long again. She grew it out the whole time I was serving in Brazil. I felt like I’d stepped through a time warp when she met me at the plane with her hair long and gorgeous, catching the sun like the first time I caught her staring at me in physics.
            I pat her knee. “If you promise not to peak.”
            “That’s big of you. The hairpins kill.” She holds the blindfold to her eyes with one hand, slips the elastic loose with the other—pulls pins out and throws them at me.
            “Ow! Are you peaking?”
            She shakes her freed hair, combs her fingers through it, finding more pins, and shakes her head again. The car fills with the smell of hairspray and a tiny hint of her sweet banana mango shampoo.
            “Do you know what you’re doing to me?”
            “Who me?” She slips the blindfold elastic back around her head and folds her hands in her lap.
            We stop at a red light. “Get over here, then.”
            She’s in my lap in a second. We make out until the car behind us blares its horn. I keep her close, drive the rest of the way with one hand and my arm around her, worrying she’ll recognize the highway we’re on, but she chew on my fingers instead of playing bloodhound.
            I turn off the highway onto a gravel road, relieved we’re almost there.  When I slow way down and turn right onto a bumpy dirt road, she sits up straight. “This isn’t the airport.” She elbows my ribs. “Roll down your window.”
            I obey. Pines lining each side of the road invade their car with their sharp sweet scent.
            She sniffs. Sniffs again. “This is our lake road—at Windy Bay.”
            I hold my breath.
            “It’s washed out. Dad said—” She hits my thigh. “You got my dad to lie?”
            I move my hand from her shoulders to the steering wheel. Even in good condition this road is dicey.
            “We’re going to our lake?”
            Yeah, babe. Don’t you remember our first date here?
            “We’re camping”—her voice rises in pitch—“tonight?”
            I wish for a video camera and bite my cheeks to keep from losing it.
            “Did you rent a swank RV?” She fiddles with her blindfold. “Buy a cool sail boat?”
            I keep silent.
            “Not a tent, Michael. Please.”
            As soon as the car stops, she rips off the blindfold and climbs out over me. She stops dead in her tracks when she sees the lights. She spins around. “You did this?”
            My eyes move from her to the cabin and back to her astonished face. “I wanted to do something for your family—to make up for—you know.” A pre-fab log cabin on their empty water front lake lot won’t bring back their son, but it makes me feel less guilty for stealing their daughter.
            Leesie bows her head and wipes her eyes.
            I close the distance between us in a stride and scoop her up like I did when she was hurt. I haven’t picked her up like this since then. I sense she’s awash in the same memories that flood through me.
            “I love you.” She snuggles her face against my neck.
            I inhale her hair and carry her towards the lit cabin.
            “I need my shoulder bag from the back seat.”
            “I have a surprise, too.”
            I carry her back to the car, get the bag, slide the strap on my shoulder—all without putting her down.
            I carry her into the cabin. “Do you want a tour now?”
            “No.” She chews on my neck.
            I head upstairs.
            “Was that Gram’s couch in the living room?”
            “I couldn’t pitch her stuff. Your dad stored it at the farm when we rented Gram’s house.”
            Her lips press against my cheek. “I like that.”
            I open the door to our “honeymoon suite.” The big window and king-size four-poster bed are draped with white gauzy stuff. The bed’s made up with a six-inch thick down comforters and piled with cushy pillows.
            “This is beautiful.” Leesie squirms out of my arms, takes her bag, and disappears into the bathroom. A high-pitched, muffled, “Look at that tub,” comes from inside.
            I sit down on an armchair by the window, take off my tie, slip off my polished black dress shoes, stare at the closed bathroom door, grip the arms of the chair to keep myself from breaking it down. The sound of my heartbeat echoes in my ears. I’m sweating. I close my eyes, inhale deep. Hold it. Exhale. My eyes fly open at the sound of a turning door knob.
            Leesie hesitates in the doorway. She wears the long silk skirt I bought for her in a Thailand market and a bra-top made of turquoise shells and beads that I’ve never seen. The Cayman-colored shell necklace I gave her there hangs around her neck. My diamond on her finger flashes in the bright light coming from the bathroom.
            Her cheeks flush rosy. “I packed for our island.”
            “I love it.” I cross the room—take her hands—kiss her fingertips, her fingers, each palm—turn her left hand over and find those faint scars that fit my fingernails, kiss them one by one.
            We sink to our knees. She bows her head onto my shoulder. I bury my hands in her thick, fragrant hair and offer our first married prayer, whispered thanks that she’s mine forever.
            I gather her into my arms and carry her to the bed. “Are you scared?”
            Her eyes are big, but she whispers, “No.” She reaches for my lips. “Are you?”
            My eyebrows rise. “Terrified.”
            Her lips find mine, and our embrace yields to the passion we’ve held back for years. “Don’t worry”—she’s breathless as I lay her on the bed—“I’ll let you up for good behavior.”
            She pulls me down beside her, and             I’m enveloped in silk, beads, long hair, and Leesie.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Epilogue--Part One

Saturday night I had the best time at Changing Hands. After the event, a group of us had dinner and swapped sob stories. Authors are solitary beings, so it's good to flock together now and then.

This is kind of longish, but I think I got everything in there. Shoot. Leesie's hair. I didn't mention what it looks like. I'll make Michael do that when we hear from him next. Or add a line when I revise it. Is anything else confusing or left out? This needs lots more poefying, but it gets the job done. I hope you like it. One more dive log and then that's the whole first draft. I'm exhausted. I hope I haven't worn you out, too.

After Michael's post tomorrow, let's take a few days off. I'll post the contest winners, Tuesday, February 8th, and then start posting revisions. Deadline for the contest will be Tuesday, February 8th, high noon, AZ time. I've got a fun event this Saturday with Girl Scouts, and lots of stuff due to my agent on Monday, February 7th, but you've all waited so long, I want to start sending out those prizes! Feel free to  let your followers on your blogs know and be sure to comment today!


POEM # ??,

As I stand gowned in white
satin and lace glowing
with thousands of seed pearls,
shaking hands and hugging
a blurr of happy people
parading through the same gym
at our stake center next to the Spokane Temple
where Michael and I first danced, first fought,
 I’m not sure if this is real or one of the thousands
of dreams I’ve conjured of this day.
Next to me, there’s Kim, maid of honor,
BYU roommie bridesmaid’s and Stephie
looking too grown up in her matching dress.
Mom and Dad anchor the line wearing
truly happy expressions.
My bouquet is laced with pure white gardenias
in memory of Michael’s mom. I know
she’s here, smiling on us.

Michael beside me—very real in a black tux
with dark green leaves and white blossoms
fragrant on his lapel.
The guys next to him—shaking hands
and looking after Gram, who presides
in a big, cushy chair
are companions from his mission.

Yeah. His mission.
This day took three years
to happen post-baptism
instead of one.

After his baptism—
intense and beautiful in it’s simplicity
and purity, Michael glowing
and handsome all in white,
like he was at the temple this morning,
my dad in the water immersing
him with the same power, same hands
that gently lay eight-year-old me back in the font
and brought me out all new,
Gram, Stephie, Mom and me
in the front row holding hands and crying—
he walked four feet above the ground
until we went down to Utah
at August’s end.

He bought a condo in Orem.
I moved into an apartment near BYU
with Cadence and Dayla from last year.
Sundays trying to go to his ward and mine together
were crazy until I got called as Relief Society president
and couldn’t go to his at all.
He preferred his ward full of beauty school girls
and UVU students to my nerd-stocked congregation,
so he went by himself, and I hid my jelousy
until it boiled over in an ugly fit.
He took of for Cayman—stayed away three
long, lonely weeks, came back worried.
“It isn’t the same here—as in Cayman.”
“The gospel isn’t true in Utah?”
His face gathered into a knot.
“Just feels different.”
I nod—he’s right. “There’s nothing
like a branch.” Even the one
I grew up in. “More like a family.”
Is that what he searched for?
What he found? Not me? Not God?
He saw trouble storm my eyes,
kissed my hand like he always does,
and rested his cheek on my head.
“Be patient. Give me time.
There’s way more to being a Mormon
than I thought.”

I took the hint, backed off, let him breathe,
lost myself in classes and callings,
smiled when he took off to dive all the hottest
spots in the South Pacific, made the most
of the time we spent together,
and loved him wherever he was,
physically or spiritually.
He started classes at UVU after Christmas,
business stuff for when he and Gabriel
buy their own dive op.

(They are here, by the way,
Gabriel and Alex, sitting
at a table with Kim’s Mark,
and Jaron and his wife
who’s expecting their second,
eating chocolate dipped strawberries
and black forest cake.)

Michael liked school more than
he expected, enough to miss it
when we went home May to August,
where I worked with Dad on the farm,
helped Michael move Gram into Care
Center a private room
furnished with her own dresser,
chair, living room flowered rug,
and that picture of Michael
with his mom and dad in a giant hug,
bit my tongue every time Mom
lecture me like I was fourteen again,
and hung out with Stephie
who’d grown solemn and sad
over the past year.

Michael got ordained an elder
in August, and we made
wedding plans for Thanksgiving
if the temple was open.
Our first meeting with Pres. McCoombs
about going to the temple,
He shook Michael’s hand
and said, “I’m impressed, Bro. Walden,
to call you on a mission.”
“We’re getting married,” I reminded
him, sure he’d lost his mind.
He held up his hands, pleading
innocence. “I’m merely the messenger,
Sis. Hunt. The Lord wants him to serve.”
Michael got this look on his ace
like he’d just seen the First Vision.
“You’re not going to say yes?”
He jumped at my voice like he’d
forgot I exist. “Yeah. I am. It’s perfect.
Maybe I can get close to what you deserve.”
“Two more years?”
His face went pale. “That won’t be easy.”
He turned back to Pres. McCoombs.
“Can she go, too?”
“Not with you.”
“I know—I’m not that green.
She’s twenty-one in December.
Does your inspiration inbox
have a cal for her, too?”

So he went to Brazil, and I spent
eighteen months in the parts
of the Geneva mission that are in France,
caught in a visa war between the church
and the Swiss government.
My French is good.
His Portuguese is better.
When Jaron came through the line
earlier, he, Michael and the best man
all got jabbering—just hope it wasn’t
about me.

We shake the last hand, hug
the last hug, eat cake and throw
flowers. I avoid Kim who will give
me advice about my wedding night
that I don’t want.
My mom helps me change, cries
as she undoes twenty satin-covered buttons.
I hug her, cry, too, sense she’s missing Phil.
“I wish he could have been here.”
She closes her eyes and lifts her face
towards heaven. “He was. Don’t worry.
He was.”

I run through a shower of birdseed
to Gram’s old car that Michael doesn’t
have the heart to sell.
It’s covered in Oreo’s and
whip cream “Just Marrieds.”
I hug Stephie and Dad,
Michael tucks me in the front seat,
shuts my door, shake’s Dad’s hand,
who pull him into a hug.
“Take care of our girl, son.”
“I will, sir.”
Michael hugs him again.
“Sure, Dad.”

At the end of the lane
that leads from the temple and church
to Highway 27, Michael hands me
an airplane eyeshade.
“What’s this?”
“Humor me.”
Our honeymoon is a huge
secret surprise. I play,
put it on.
“Thanks, babe.” He kisses me,
slips into an intensity
we’ve always held back,
has a hard time getting
free of my blindfolded clutches.
“We’re not going far tonight are we?”
“Hush.” He pulls out onto the highway.
Turns right. I think.
I slide over next to him—
gotta love that old bench seat—
chew on his ear while he drives.
He pushes me away.
“Get over there and buckle
your seatbelt or we’ll end up
in the back seat of this old clunker
after all.”
That sounds like a great idea, but
I obey—don’t want to ruin
all he’s crafted for our first time.
Where ever we’re going,
whatever it looks like,
whenever we get there, 
whether he’s chartered a boat
or rented an island, whether
it’s his condo in the Keys,
Cayman, or Thailand or
somewhere brand new,
it’ll be the wondrous
of the forever
we pledged
to our Savior
and each other
in His holy house
this day.