"Swee' tea, sweetie?"
Maria looked up, nodded, and smiled. Laurie refilled her glass from the pitcher, replaced it on the table, and sat down in the rocker beside her on the porch. There was a soft breeze rustling the turning foliage of the trees scattered across the landscape.
"Is that one of your children playing in the leaves today, Maria?" referring to the zephyr moving about the woodlands.
He pronounced her name with an 'uh' at the end. As in the song, They Called the Wind Maria. That was how they got to know each other, actually. She was voting in an election and he was a poll worker. When she approached him for voting information she produced her identification and he said her name out loud as he searched the registry.
"Oh, how did you know that was how to say my name?"
"Well, young lady, I'm a theater lover and I've seen the musical Paint Your Wagon more than once," and he smiled at her with his crooked smile.
So they 'met cute' she always would say to friends after that.
But she laughed gently at his question about her children. "Yes, my love, it's the good children out to play today. It's going to be a gentle Samhain this year." To display just what she meant she gestured over at the jack-o-lanterns with their candles flickering slightly in the wind but remaining alit.
And, as often occurred with the two of them, they both began to think back to other cute, or perhaps not so cute, times they had spent together. Two entwined minds and souls. Recalling when their first Samhain together had not been so gentle.
It was just a year after they met and they were not yet living together, still learning more about each other each day. So much to know, so many secrets to divulge, such a lot of love to share.
So, as was their wont, they had been exploring an abandoned hotel not far from their hometown. It was on their 'to do' list for some time and finally at the end of one October, they decided to check it out, sneaking in furtively, not wanting to do harm except suss out what the building had to offer in the way of entertaining relics of long ago.
The hotel was built in the last century at the height of Victorian architectural trends in America. It went out of business during one of the recessions in the economy and the building was slowly dying. They were sure from all they heard that it would be fascinating fun to explore.
They were inside the structure for some time when they heard voices echoing in the empty rooms. They prepared to make their escape out an exterior door when they were suddenly surrounded by several men with flashlights, laughing, and roistering.
As Maria and Laurie began inching away, trying to get away from this crowd they could see that their way was blocked. Laurie tried to place himself in front of her as best as possible, but men were all around. He whispered frantically into her ear, "Don't worry, they're just drunk. It'll be okay, hon," as he began hoisting his long flashlight as if it were a club.
Several voices began to hector them, laughingly promising to have some wretched fun, their giggles and smirks bespoke their intentions.
Maria touched his arm with tenderness and then laughed out loud. "That's enough, fellows. We'll be going along now. You have had your fun, but we need to leave." She lifted her arms and Laurie could suddenly hear the wind begin gusting outside the broken windows. Breezes played about with trash and leaves strewn over the floors. Then it freshened and became more, a whoosh becoming a howl. A true squall quickly developed outside.
The men were yelling, crying out with fear as bits of mortar and twigs stabbed into their faces and bare arms, droplets of rain flicking into their eyes. Not harming them particularly, but letting them feel the pain that was possible with stronger gusts while the storm began to howl. With that, Maria grabbed Laurie's hand, and they both left through the nearest opening in the building's exterior wall, laughing as they ran away and got into their car.
As he drove down the rutted crumbling pavement of the abandoned road he looked over at her in wonder.
"Was that all you back there, Maria?" he questioned with some glee but no apprehension at all. "You're a wonder."
"Aw, shucks, it wasn't nothin', my darling." Now she could not help but giggle just a little. "Just a bit of the Craft."
Now, sitting on the porch, they shared a chuckle, two hearts knowing and liking themselves, together as one.
The daylight was waning as they looked out over the limestone topography, covered with purple oaks and red maples, with yellow willows along the streams below. Dark green cedars were interspersed with the deciduous trees. The day was darkening and bats began to appear, fluttering across the sky, searching for insects wafting about in the slight breezes.
That brought back another memory and they nodded to each other, sipping their sweet tea.
The cave was a new one for them. They had no intention of exploring too far inside. They didn't have the proper gear for a good job of spelunking, but they had two flashlights each and it was fun just to check out the interior of the cavern close to the entrance.
However, as often happens with good intentions they went slightly astray. After about fifteen minutes it occurred to them that they were not quite sure of where they were. Behind them were two possible exits. They were shooting the beams of light around them. Trying to remember which way they had come. At that instant, Laurie felt the bat landing on his back.
"Hon, please get this little chap off of me," he quietly said to Maria.
She laughed and then picked the creature up with her fingers, smiling at the velvety animal and knowing what she would do now. She had been feeling the slight movement of air on her back. The quiet, gentle air was seeking an exit from the cave. And with the time now nearing twilight so were the bats. The wind was a friend to the bats, Laurie, and Maria.
She delicately tossed the bat into the draught and it flittered away as some of its fellows followed suit. She took Laurie's hand and they shot their lights in the same direction, following quickly behind and soon exiting the grotto.
They were much more careful now when they ventured into their various explorations, of man-made objects or nature's offerings.
A question had been flickering across Laurie's mind for some time. Not that it was too important. But he did wonder. So, as always when he had a question for his sweetheart he asked it.
"I've always wondered, little Wiccan, what actually did you ever see in an old fellow like me? I mean, you are a wonder in so many ways."
"Now, you're just being silly, my love. What I see in you is what you see in me. An old-soul. An artist and nature lover. A free-spirit. Completely and always totally supportive. But you know all of this. What you may not know is just how completely silly it is to call yourself the old one in this relationship." She now softly giggled. "No way am I going to tell you just how old I am, my prince. But you would laugh with some glee if you really knew."
With that, she arose and picked up the pitcher. "Swee' tea, sweetie?"