Here it is, the final chapter of our serial novel on MV Patch!
Guests had assembled, a charming two hundred-plus of them, clad in chic casual party garb, all of them, being Priscilla’s friends, present in their six-hundred-buck haircuts, hoity-toity watches, pearls and more elaborate jewels set in laid-back designs. Women under forty wore this year’s no-exceptions hairdo: long and flowing and, if not naturally silky, then hot-ironed and mousse-saturated to a fare-thee-well.
Also, as Sam had noted as he brooded from his retreat in the sand-dunes – now he brooded a closer distance – scores of women had arrived in the obscenely high heels that attended styles in fashion, and they kept them strapped on even as they surged and tripped and even fell plunk! in the sand.
The bride, Sam was happy to see, was barefoot. He did find curious, however, her choice of orange-balloons-and-pandas summer dress. She carried no bouquet, nor had she tucked even a white carnation in her long satin mane of brown hair.
The young groom looked meek. He was starkly under-dressed for the occasion, in tan shorts and a grey tee-shirt with an obvious tomato-based stain down the front. He stood beside Fiona. The bridal pair faced a lovely lady lama who now spoke in an alto voice with a lilting German accent:
“A good marriage, a lasting marriage, is one based on true connection. It doesn’t focus on those personality traits that both please and annoy us. We need to come together without our false personas, but rather as beings who can open our hearts to one another. And this applies not only to marriage, but to all relationships. When we live in the present, we’re free of old expectations for one’s self and for one’s partner. This in turn yields an experience of ‘us’, of shelter for the couple that allows each individual to be more than he or she could be alone. Together they may then reach out with loving kindness to all beings. As the great poet Kabir wrote, ‘The river that flows in you also flows in me.’”
Lama Peldrup adjusted the sepia-colored shawl over her shoulder. As Sam watched, he wondered why monks constantly fiddled with their apparel. You’d think after twenty-five hundred years of Buddhism, they would have come up with something as unencumbering as, well, as the American tee-shirt!
The lama turned to Milo and trained on him a look of keen attention. Wow!, thought Sam, she really had it going on. He’d met a lot of clerics from both the western and the eastern traditions, and few of them struck him as the real deal. This woman, on the other hand, may very well have been precisely that.
She said to Milo, “Milo, dear, are you ready to enter into marriage with Fiona?”
He cleared his throat. A long struggle ensued in him. He jerked his head in a series of nervous tics, as if he needed to consult with the five scruffy buddies who formed a scrimmage of support behind him. At last some nascent sense of decorum won out. He stopped squiggling and he faced Lama Peldrup full on. He cleared his throat.
“I, um, yah.”
The ani gazed into his eyes, assured that something cognizant, something human stirred within. She turned to Fiona.
“Fiona, dear, do you – “
But the pop star shook her head. “No. No, I don’t think so!” she said, staring hard at the groom. “I’m sorry to have dragged you through all this, Milo. And thank you for saying ‘Yeah’. I know you’re a good person, and you were trying to do the right thing. I just put more faith in our young love than you did.”
The scores of guests in their gleaming rich clothes and hair and jewels sent up a collective gasp of surprise.
Fiona, ever attentive to her audience, gazed at them all with a look of devotion. “But hey! Thank you all for coming! This is still a beautiful occasion for a party! So please stay an’ eat an’ enjoy this splendid beach an’ does anybody have a guitar?”
Within moments of chatter and hubbub, a guitar was handed from guest to guest, and then over to Fiona, who strapped it around her neck. She twiddled the strings, expertly tuning.
Teddy Zizik cleared his throat and stepped up alongside her to whisper in her ear, “Do you still want to dedicate your new song to Justin Bieber?”
Fiona glanced over a Milo who now stood amid his buddies as they clomped him on the back to cheer him up; he looked sorely disheartened. One of his buddies said loud enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear it:
“Bummer, man! Lady Gaga didn’t show!”
Fiona sighed and whispered back to Teddy, “Justin’s the better choice. And I sure the heck don’t wanna book a photo shoot with this bozo.”
When Mandy, Thorn and Nick reached the truck parked at the side of Moshup Trail, they’d found Chichi Tatem already there, holding a cuddly Albert in her arms, the dagger gone. On her face was a look of pure affection.
“There you are!” she called out to them gaily. “Sorry if I gave you a freak out. I never would’ve hurt this little cutie! I just needed to clear some bad stuff out of my system!”
The war paint was scrubbed from her face, her outfit changed out of the camo gear she’d worn in the video clip to high-waisted short-shorts of black-and-white-patterned satin, and a long-sleeved blue shirt buttoned up to the collar.
Nick sprang forward. “Cheech! You’ve gotta get some help!”
She looked surprised. “I was just prepping for my new role! I’m set to play a psycho first lady of a third world country. Ben Kingsley just signed on as my husband, so I wanted to impress him with my homework!”
Nick grabbed the pig from her. He pivoted to place Albert in Mandy’s outstretched arms. He started to explain, “She needs – “
“I don’t care what she needs!” cried Mandy. She tore off down the head of the trail to the beach. Thorn chased after her.
Nick groaned. He turned back to his future ex-wife. “You have no idea –“
“Shut up and kiss me!” She giggled, “That’s what Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck and all the big film stars used to say to their leading mans! Come on, kiss me, then I’ve got a jet waiting to take us to Nantucket! Let’s blow this island’s dust from our Calvin Kleins. Well, your Calvin Klein. My Marc Jacobs!”
He stared at her a long time. He felt like an archeologist who had spent half his life trying to break the code of an ancient hieroglyphic: should he give up now, or take another stab at it?
Stab or no stab, he found this woman more perversely exciting than anyone he had ever known before.
He kissed her.
Mandy and Thorn sat in the sand together, tucked away in another one of the many dunes providing shelter from the thronging partiers to the north of them. Albert snuffled in the sands around them. It had taken Mandy a long time to release her pig from her embrace, so relieved was she to have him back, and unharmed.
In the meantime, she told Thorn everything about Titus’s million-dollar grant to their farm, as well as the oddly distasteful request from the Brit author and Sonja to carry their designer baby.
Mandy searched Thorn’s model-handsome face. She expecting to see a mirroring glance of unease. Instead he looked unfazed.
He said, “We could raise the kiddo together.”
She blinked. “You mean -- ?”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t mean that. I realized a while back that, as much as I adore you every which way, Mandy Pease, including the romantic and carnal way, I know you have no similar feelings towards me.”
“If I were to feel that way towards anyone, it would be you, Thorn. I’ve never told you that.”
“Yes you have.”
He considered something, then made up his mind, and took a deep breath. “When I saw that video of Chichi just now, threatening to burn down our barn, it all came back to me, that night in the cornfields, and me taking a torch down one row after the other.”
“What came back to you?”
“Before it happened, Mandy, I tried to kiss you, and you turned your head away. That’s when you said ‘If I were to love anyone, blah blah blah.”
She chuckled darkly. “I believe the rest of the sentence was, ‘—it wouldn’t be someone as stew-balled as you.’”
He sighed heavily. “Whatever. I guess I was a big enough mess to allow your rejection to trigger a full meltdown.”
She gazed at him with a new twist of interest. “So now what?”
He shrugged. “Let’s raise this wild child of Sonja and Titus’s. It’ll probably be born with a smoker’s hack and a ready wit.”
“But you and I won’t be -- ?”
“I found out during therapy in rehab that I have my own taste for asexuality. Maybe we can be the new St. Francis and St. Clare of sweethearts. Only you’re more Francis than I am.”
She laughed in an anxious sort of way. “Really?”
“Why the hell not? There are so many different ways to be partnered these days, why not try it as a pair of wannabe saints with a Petrie dish of a baby on the way?”
Albert came snooting up to them as if aware some brand new family decision had been rendered.
Thorn said, “We already have this crazy-assed pet!”
They held hands and laughed as more gulls swooped over the clam-bake, a line of pale apricot-colored clouds amassing along the western horizon, the ocean deepening and churning below with hidden springs and mystery creatures that had never seen the light of day but had secrets of their own to keep.
All of a sudden, from the north and east, a battalion of helicopters clattered over from darker skies. Down on the beach, a shout from the party throngs went up as if an Olympic contender had just broken all records with a javelin thrust. From both ends of Moshup Trail, a cavalcade of cars swooped in, two of them colliding in a crunch of fender and fiberglass. More choppers swarmed in at the same time that fireworks blasted free, not the big Roman candle kind, but the backyard variety, big on bang and hefty drawn-out fizzy-fizzle noises.
Thorn pulled Albert close to protect his tender sensibilities from the sudden uproar. He said to Mandy:
“Guess Gaga made it after all.”