Cierra and JP stood side by side; not touching while Samuel Martinez performed the smudging ceremony. The future couple had decided to base their joining partly on those of the Algonquin speaking nation, which didn’t permit divorce. By their traditions, they also required that the future couple have sponsors who guided them throughout their lifetime. Jenny had also listened intently, determined to know her role well.
Samuel fanned the smoking sage and sweet grasses while chanting softly under his breath. The sacred smoke permeated the air around the wedding party, serving to sanctifying the ceremony and cleansing away undesirable essences.
Samuel finished and allowed the smudging pot to burn out. He would properly dispose of the ashes after the ceremony.
Jenny stepped forward, her attention on the couple. “My friends, you have sought my blessing, wishing to join your lives together formally. I have the authority to do so, but more importantly, I have a duty to not only yourselves but also our entire community. This duty is to decide within my heart if a couple truly is prepared to face a lifetime together, and in doing so, strengthening our community.
“Cierra and JP, you have chosen not to take the easier path but rather you wish to declare yourselves Bonded partners in this lifetime and beyond.
“Sharon and Cyd, you have vowed to become their sponsors, guiding them when they need it.” Both answered yes. Jenny once more faced the couple seeking marriage.
“As your officiant, I must remind both of you the seriousness of this commitment. Bonded mates may never divorce or even live separately. If, for some reason you decide to separate, you must still reside together peacefully. Also, this is a monogamous relationship for your lifetimes. An act of infidelity within a bonded partnership is considered so loathsome that the guilty partner will be either exiled or sentenced to death.
“Do each of you understand these terms to such a marriage?”
“I do,” each spoke.
“Then face your friends and declare your intentions before them all,” Jenny ordered them kindly.
Cierra and JP turned around but in such a way that they could look at one another. Both women smiled and held hands. JP spoke first.
“Cierra, I have known since the first time you touched my life that no one else could possibly mean more to me. Without you I would be half-dead. I wish to be bonded to you forever. I vow to do my best to be a worthy life-partner to you and a parent to our children.”
Cierra smiled shakily and took a deep breath. “JP, with you I found a solid and caring footing to support me. Never have I felt more cherished and respected. I also wish to share my lifetime with you. I couldn’t imagine life without you in it.”
Jenny placed a hand on each of their shoulders, lightly urging them to face her once more. Jenny turned to her right and lifted the carved pipe from Lisa McGaven’s hands. The little girl smiled brightly, happy she was permitted to be part of her hero’s wedding. Jenny smiled back at the girl then faced the couple.
Jenny handed the lit pipe first to JP, who took a puff from the pipe then blew out the smoke. She then handed it to Cierra, who also took a puff before returning it to Jenny.
Jenny turned to the audience. “I present to you, Cierra and JP Foley-White, bonded partners.”
Everyone cheered and clapped. Everyone shifted forward, each wanting a chance to congratulate the happy couple.
The celebration party was winding down. The sun had set and Cierra wanted to go home and get some sleep. She would be taking the visitors back to the Old World tomorrow. She and JP stood up just as Cyd approached them.
“Hey, can you spare a moment?”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“I was talking to Frankie. I was thinking we could use a tattoo artist here in the colony. He and his partner had actually put in an application to Mother Earth a few weeks ago.”
Cierra and JP shared a look. “Oh, Kelly hadn’t mentioned it. Do you think he’s serious about relocating?”
“I think so. I told him we weren’t going to bring anyone new in until after the construction crews built some more homes. Do you think you could put in a good word with Kelly? I know tattoos aren’t high on our list of things we need but I think you may have started a tradition with yours joining tattoos.”
“Sure, no problem. Do you have any idea what his partner does for a living?” JP asked.
“Something to do with chemistry. I couldn’t pronounce it if I tried.”
Cierra perked up. Any chemistry knowledge could be useful. “Tell him to resubmit his application to the website with ‘Elu says hi’ in the subject line. I’ll tell Kelly to watch for it.”
“Great, I’ll let him know. You two have a good night.”
The three boys brought in by Carey returned to the guest quarters after the party was over. They had been invited to attend but Archer figured it was because no one trusted them to be alone in the long house unsupervised.
Jeremy lit a single candle and they undressed for bed. None of them were tired enough to sleep like they normally were after chopping wood all day. Phillip chuckled and spoke low enough that his voice wouldn’t carry far.
“Did you get a look-see at those titties on that English chick? I’d love to—”
“Shut up, Phil,” Archer snarled and got out of bed. He left their quarters.
Phillip snickered. “I bet he went to jerk off in the bathroom.”
“And speaking of jerk-offs…” Jeremy taunted. He was tired of Phillip too. He was going to get them into trouble and he didn’t want to go down with him. He already figured out that they either toed the line or else.
“A pair of wimps, that’s what you two are.”
“If you’re so tough, you go tell the council to fuck off and see what happens? Until you do, shut up,” Jeremy hissed.
The next day Phillip found himself working alone. Jeremy and Archer wouldn’t come near him. He muttered under his breath and half-heartedly went to work. By mid morning he was bored with no one to talk to. He stuck his ax into the log and sat down. He was sipping water from his canteen when he spotted the cook’s granddaughter carrying a basket and a digging stick, probably collecting wild plants.
Phillip stood up and looked around. Why was she alone in the woods? Seeing no one else he decided to try his luck. Maybe the girl hooked up with the other chick because no guys were around. He ran his fingers through his hair quickly and jogged over to Kim.
“Hey there, sweet thing. Do you need some help carrying that?” he asked, pointing at her basket.
Kim pulled the basket more snuggly against her body. “No, thank you. I’m fine.”
“C’mon, what can it hurt to let me help you? We can talk and get to know one another better.”
Kim stepped back. Getting to know this guy was the last thing she wanted. She saw how he ogled her breasts.
“I have to go, Grandmother is waiting for these.” She took a step away from him but he wrapped his hand around her upper arm.
“You know, if you gave guys a try I bet you’d dump that girlfriend of yours. Hell, there are five of us. Why not give one of us a chance?”
“Not interested, now let me go!” Kim tried to shake off his arm, now frightened.
He grabbed her by both arms and drew her close, thrusting his hips against her belly. “See? I bet we could be great friends,” he smirked.
“I don’t think so,” said a voice from behind him. Phillip tried to spin to see who was behind him but never saw the fist that struck him solidly.
He woke up reluctantly but the headache he had was killing him. He wondered how much he had drank the night before. He could hear some people talking but he couldn’t concentrate on the words. Then he felt a needle being injected into his arm. He drifted back to sleep.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Cierra?” Sandra asked the Shaman.
“I don’t have much choice, do I? If Robbie hadn’t come to Kim’s aid then heaven knows what he might have done to her. I either put the fear of God into him or have him executed. Just keep an eye on both of us. If either of us starts having difficulties slap me awake.”
Cierra lay on small cot and got comfortable while JP settled down in a chair nearby. She understood what Cierra wanted to do but it still frightened her. But in spite of the fear she was determined to be supportive. She took Cierra’s hand in her own and remained silent.
The Shaman closed her eyes and began relaxing, willing herself into a meditative state that allowed her to control the corridor. She looked around and saw the Dream-walker.
“You seem troubled,” he stated.
“I am. I need to bring a young man here.”
“And why is that?”
Cierra sighed wearily. “He has no respect or fear of anyone. I’m bringing him here for a lesson. Either he learns it or I have to protect the innocent in the only way I know how.”
The Native American nodded sagely. “Bring him. I will not interfere.” With that, he disappeared from sight.
She closed her eyes within the dreamscape and reached out her hand, imagining the young man in front of her. Just as she drew JP into the corridor, she felt a hand under her palm. She wrapped her fingers around it and tugged. She opened her eyes as Phillip blinked and opened his own eyes.
He looked around silently and Cierra heard him mumble about weird dreams.
Cierra tapped him on the shoulder and when he turned to look at her she balled up her fist and slugged him. The young man spun and nearly fell as one hand cupped his newest bruise.
“What the fuck!” he exclaimed and she slugged him again.
“This is no dream, Phillip, and if you keep swearing you’re not going to be able to chew for a month,” she threatened him.
Phillip felt himself turn red in both embarrassment and fury. He raised his own fist without thinking, only feeling the urge to punch her back. He threw the punch but he only struck air. She wasn’t there.
He stumbled around until he spotted her. The Shaman looked like she was thousands of feet away. How did she get there? He shivered, wondering what was going on. He started heading her way then realized he couldn’t see her any more. He stopped in his tracks and looked around.
He spun around. “How…?”
“You forget, I can travel between worlds. This place,” she said, looking around, “this place is a corridor, and midway point between worlds. And your prison.” She saw his stunned expression. “I think you need a place to rethink your life. You certainly didn’t learn anything prior to now so it falls on me to try and teach you. I want you to take a good look around you, Phillip. If you don’t make a change for the better I will leave you here—forever.” With that she vanished from sight.
Cierra watched him from a distance and sat down. She knew the short time they were asleep and in this place would seem far longer than it actually would really be.
“I know I said I wouldn’t interfere but could I introduce myself?”
“If you want to.” Cierra didn’t bother looking up, she knew he’d be gone.
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