Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
We got up in the morning for church as we always do. We almost never miss church – the last time we'd done so had been during our early summer trip to Red Hawk, when we'd arrived so tired that we slept in the next morning. It's not that we're afraid God will get us if we miss, but that we want to be there, just as I want to be with Darlia and Cecelia. I don't preach sermons about church attendance, but I literally can't understand someone who doesn't want to gather with his family, for that's what one's fellow Christians are in a very literal sense.
I got ready as I always do – in a fancier shirt than I normally wear, a pair of jeans that's not worn out, and my church boots. Darlia decided to follow me that morning. Though she usually wears a dress to church, that day she put on a pair of almost new jeans, a white cowboy shirt with roses on the yoke, and her nicest pair of boots. She's learned to do simple braids, for she loves her hair in braids, but that day Cecelia put in a French braid that ended between her shoulder blades. The brownish blonde of her hair, and its natural lighter streaks, made the finished product unique and beautiful. With her hair back off her face Darlia looked different than I'm used to – her face looked almost square, more adult, though still clearly a child's face. I've often thought that when she gets older I'll have to fight the boys off her with a club, and the thought came to me again that morning.
Cecelia also broke tradition. She almost always wears a dress to church – indeed, she wears dresses or skirts half the time if not more – but that morning she put on one of her suits. She doesn't own many, but those she does have make her look like the high powered executive she almost certainly would have been by now had she not ceased working to stay home with Darlia. This one was gray, and the blouse she wore with it was a white so pure it seemed to glow against her skin. The sleeves were long, and ruffled, and stuck out beyond the jacket sleeves almost like lace. Around her neck she'd twisted a black and gold scarf and tucked the ends into the jacket, and she'd pulled her gold and ruby necklace out of the blouse and it hung down against the cloth.
I'd been holding Darlia on my lap and complimenting her on her looks, and had just finished putting a kiss on the diamond in her nose, when Cecelia came out. I looked up and saw her, and almost without thinking about it I set Darlia down and rose to my feet. "Cecelia," I said, "if I didn't love you already, I would have to love you seeing you as you look now. And if I weren't already married to you, I'd propose right here and now."
She smiled, the gentle smile that, though it's not as spectacular as the more common one, actually conveys a greater depth of feeling. "Darvin," she said, "perhaps I ought to require you to propose. You will recall that your dilatoriness in 1995 forced me to press you for an answer, and I could easily think that it's your turn to go through the tenseness of anticipation."
I looked at the ruby dangling against her blouse, and then back up at her face. "I think you know where I was headed that day, C, but if you insist..." And I made as if to go down on my knees.
She quickly came to me and took my hands, keeping me on my feet. "Darvin, I know you were speaking in fun, but I do not insist. I do indeed know that my necklace was your prelude to a proposal, and that had I not already determined to seek your hand you would have sought mine a moment after putting the necklace around my neck. I do not need further demonstrations of your love for me; they are a daily occurrence which I can never forget."
I looked then into her black eyes, so bright always and brighter now with tears. My own eyes blurred, and I kissed her slowly and with all the passion that I'm capable of. Some have said that after the initial flush is over marriage becomes a routine. Perhaps for them it does, but it hasn't for us; we love each other as fervently and freshly now as we did 11 years ago.
When we released each other Darlia was looking at us. "You guys make kissy-kissy too much," she declared. "When I grow up I'll never be like that."
Cecelia and I both laughed. "Darlia," I said, "if you can say that in 10 more years, and mean it, I'll give you half my worldly goods."
She looked at me, and appeared ready to take me up on the offer. But she closed her mouth, thought a moment, and then asked, "Mommy, is Daddy right?"
"I'm afraid that he is, honey. When I was your age I didn't care for boys either, except as they could help me in the field or play with me. And by the time I was 19, I was exceedingly interested in boys – or young men, for at 19 any male worth noticing has at least begun to grow up. And though it took me another 11 years beyond that to find the 'boy' I wanted, once I did – and realized he was the one I must have – I wasted no time. As one of your father's favorite characters puts it, 'Reader, I married him.'"
"Then I guess I'll let Daddy keep his ... what did you say, Daddy?"
"'Worldly goods, 'Lia. It means my stuff, money, books, like that."
"Oh ... well, I'll let you keep it."
I looked at Cecelia. Without telling Darlia about it we've been putting money away in half a dozen banks for years – not enormous sums, but enough that if you total the accounts it isn't paltry either. We know that of all the things you can't take with you when you die, money is the most conspicuous; why not, we figure, put it in a place where it'll do some good – especially since we both have individually more than we need, and have more money still in joint ownership. Darlia might let me keep my worldly goods, but though we weren't spoiling her, she was going to be a rich young lady someday.
We said nothing, but I knew we had the same thought in mind. After 11 years Cecelia reads my mind much better than I read hers, but just then it was almost telepathic communication. She smiled, and I smiled, and I turned to Darlia and said, "Okay, Weightlifter, if you say so. Y'all ready to boogie?"
So we boogied.
As much as I wanted to get on with business – even business that was more going through the standard checklist than following promising leads – when we go out for lunch after church, we go out for lunch. I was in an Italian mood, and neither Cecelia nor Darlia objected, so we headed for the Olive Garden. We debated whether we wanted to go to the one on San Mateo or the one on Juan Tabo, and we settled for the latter, that being one we visit less often. We all like to see new things, though none of us is ready to uproot ourselves to the extent necessary for real live full-time traveling. Even a trip around the world, that cliché of travel, would require us to cut off roots to a greater extent than we want. And yet both Cecelia and I are a long way from where we were born, and neither of us lives in the same kind of climate or community in which we grew up. I guess roots, like home, are where the heart is. Or maybe they're like Edward Abbey said of gold – they're where you find 'em.