Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~ Stephen King

Friday, May 7, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Friday

This is the next chapter of the novel (or project, as I continue to insist on calling it) that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It's sat dormant long enough - time for me to take another look at it - and to give you a peek at it as well.

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition

Chapter 4: Brunch

Chapter 5.
Ted’s Farm

Marnie thought she had something to wear for every occasion, but she stood in front of her closet, stumped. She’d need to wear something warm for the ride – last night had proven that. But she also wanted to look cute. Not that she thought Cal would be caught up in anything that superficial. He clearly liked her – he wouldn’t care how she dressed. But she cared. She finally opted for a short leather jacket and a soft, warm wool scarf. She grabbed a pair of leather driving gloves and shoved them in her pockets, just in case. She had a feeling she’d be glad she had them.

When the doorbell rang, she was ready to walk out the door. “Hey! Right on time!”

“I had no idea.”


“About – this” he said, indicating her condo in a swooping gesture.

“Oh” she said, dropping her gaze for a moment.

“It’s really nice Marn. I mean REALLY nice.” When she didn’t respond, he continued, “I kept getting further and further into this neighborhood and thinking – this can’t be right.”

“Look, it’s no big deal. Did you want the tour, or were you ready to get going?”

“Raincheck on the tour. Let’s roll.”

“Fuckin’ A.”

“Fuckin’ A.”

She locked her door and hit the remote button for her alarm system. Cal handed her a helmet. “Full face, today.” They had both worn helmets with less coverage last night.

“How come?”

“Well, from a practical standpoint, they’re safer. But the real reason? It will be warmer. And the shield will keep that cold wind off of your face. You’ll thank me.”

“Well – thanks, then.” She said, smiling at him then putting on first the helmet, then her gloves. He started the bike and indicated that she should jump on. She did so easily and wrapped her arms around his waist. She hoped it was going to be a long ride.

The further away they rode from town, the better the ride became. She trusted Cal completely and relaxed her body into his, following his every move. He reached back absentmindedly from time to time to pat her on the thigh. Now why the hell would that particular gesture make her feel so cherished? Pat, pat, pat. Just like his tap, tap, tap on the mirror. She smiled at the connection. Wait – she was smiling at no-one and no-one could see her. She let the smile widen until she was grinning like an idiot. Well what do you know? This helmet was the most private place in the world. She could do ANYthing here! She sang a few notes, tentatively at first then more loudly. Cal didn’t do anything to indicate he’d heard her. Oh AWEsome! She sang every song that popped into her head. She squealed out loud when they took a particularly twisty turn. Wheeeeeeeee! This was pure uncut joy.

Her legs were starting to get cold, but it was nothing she couldn’t deal with. She had never felt happier or freer than she did at this moment. This was crazy good. Why hadn’t she been doing this forever? She was going to ask Cal to teach her to ride. Maybe. Definitely. Maybe not, though. If she could ride, she couldn’t wrap her legs around Cal. She couldn’t rest her heavily helmeted head on his shoulder. She couldn’t give in to him – give over all of the control. Giving over control was delicious.

They turned onto an unpaved road and Cal slowed down. They must be close, then. When the thrill of the ride slowed, the awareness of her discomforts rose. Her legs were cold and cramped. Her back was cramped from leaning over for so long. The weight of the helmet was heavy on her neck. How perfect was this? The moment she noticed things that were uncomfortable, the ride was over. She thought maybe she could seriously dig this whole biker chick thing. No doubt, life was good for Miss Marnie Hammond.

Cal pulled up in front of a big white farmhouse. If Marnie had to guess, she’d guess it was more than one hundred years old. It was beautifully maintained. There was a porch which wrapped around the entire perimeter of the house. She couldn’t have imagined anything more charming.

She dismounted and was surprised to feel her legs buckle a little bit beneath her. “Whoa there!” said Cal, putting an arm around her to steady her. “Trouble finding your land legs?”

“I guess so” she said, removing her helmet and handing it to him to put on the back of the bike. “Cal, that was amazing!”

“You liked it? I’m glad. It was a long ride for your first time.”

“It wasn’t my first time.”

“Last night didn’t count.”

“Oh. Then I guess it was. I loved it. Seriously. That was awesome.”

“Hope you feel the same way on the way home. Come on – let’s go say howdy to my brother.”

Marnie followed Cal up the stairs. He walked right in the door into the kitchen and yelled, “Ted? Susie? Anyone home?”

Marnie looked around. This place was great. It felt like her grandmother’s house. She could imagine her grandmother working on her quilting in that rocking chair by the fireplace. Marnie couldn’t think of much she loved more than a fireplace in the kitchen, unless maybe it was a fireplace in the bedroom. There was a fire going and she stepped over to it to warm her hands. She removed her gloves and rubbed her hands in front of the fire. The effect was almost immediate. She felt the numbness on the front of her thighs fade away, as well. If she were a cat, she would’ve purred.

“Cal? Is that you?” a woman’s voice called from the next room. “I thought I heard the bike, Ted said you might stop by…” her words drifted off as she entered the kitchen and saw Marnie. She was clearly surprised, but regained her composure in a moment. “I’m Susie.” She said, extending her hand.

“Marnie. Nice to meet you.”

Susie shot a glance at Cal that expressed surprise, confusion, and mild pleasure. Cal shrugged. “Marnie’s a friend of mine. I thought it would be a nice day to take her for a ride.”

“Well, you sure weren’t wrong about that. Have a seat, Marnie. Make yourself comfortable. Can I get you guys anything? I still have coffee on…”

“I’d love a cup” Marnie answered, “But first – could I visit your facilities?”

“Oh – sure enough! Long bumpy ride and I bet Cal didn’t even offer to stop… Right through that door there. Don’t mind Ted’s dirty towels – there’s a clean one on the rack by the sink.”


Marnie did indeed need to use the facilities after the long bumpy ride. When she stood up to wash her hands, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Oh, holy hell! Her hair was a nightmare. She tried to run her fingers through it but to no avail. Shit!

“You didn’t warn me about THIS!” she playfully accused Cal, holding it out on either side of her head with her hands as she re-entered the kitchen.

He laughed. “It’s the price you pay. For the record, I think you look great. Seriously.”

Susie smiled at this. It was nice to see Cal interested in a girl again. That last one, she’d been no good from day one, that one. She had a good feeling about this one. They seemed to have chemistry. And they sure did look good together.

“Where’s Ted?”

“He’s out in the garage. Why don’t you go get him, I’ll keep – Marnie is it? – company.”

Cal looked at Marnie and she nodded her approval. She watched Cal walk out the door and turned her attention back to Susie. “Have a seat at the table there – how do you take your coffee?”

“Cream and sugar, please. Your home is lovely.”

“Oh,” Susie said, “It is what it is I s’pose.”

“It’s beautiful. Absolutely charming. I love a fireplace in the kitchen.”

“This one opens on the other side to the dining room.”

“You’re kidding! Can I see?”


The two women walked out of the kitchen and into the dining room. It was informal and rustic and Marnie loved it. Her eyes gave this message to Susie before her words could. “We can stay in here, if you prefer” Susie said.

“Oh no, let’s go back to the kitchen.”

The two women headed back to the kitchen and clutched their cups of coffee at the big heavy wooden table. There were long benches on either side instead of chairs. The word ‘charming’ was getting a more serious workout in Marnie’s head today than it had in an awfully long time. Marnie felt instantly at home.

“So tell me about yourself. How long have you been with our Cal?”

“Oh, we’re not really together, you know, we’re just friends.”

“Um hmm.” Said Susie, not believing it for a moment. Marnie wasn’t sure she believed it, either. She knew she didn’t want to.

The two women fell into easy conversation. Susie told Marnie stories about Cal and Ted’s antics on the farm. Apparently this had been the house where Cal had grown up. Ted had inherited it when their dad passed on. Ted and Susie had been working it ever since. It wasn’t a large farm, but it was enough to provide enough income for them to keep it going. They had a few small crops, some egg-laying chickens and a dozen sheep. The sheep were her pride and joy. Susie hosted a sheep to shawl event every spring when the sheep were shorn. She asked if Marnie spun or knitted – she’d love for her to join them this spring. Marnie did not, but decided to make learning a priority between now and then.

So this was how Cal grew up. Awesome. Her mother had grown up like this, too, but she didn’t like to talk about or acknowledge it. Marnie could never understand why – it had always seemed like a pretty great way to live to her.

Cal and Ted came in through the kitchen door. Ted was a glimpse into Cal’s future. The same startling good looks, just a couple years further down the line. Well hello there, farmer Ted. Ted came over and pulled her to her feet in a bear hug. “I’m pleased to meet you, Marnie. Cal’s been telling me all about you.”

“Nothing too terrible, I hope!”

“Not hardly. Susie taking good care of you? Sus!”

Susie had already returned to the counter to fix coffee for the men. “You kids staying for dinner?”

Cal and Marnie exchanged glances. “If it’s an early one.” Cal answered. Long ride home and Marnie’s got to work tomorrow.” The fact that he did not hung heavy in the air for a moment. Susie tactfully swept it away.

“Dinner’s always early on the farm, Cal. Surely you haven’t been gone so long that you’ve forgotten that.”

“4:30, then?” he said, winking at his sister in law.

“Probably. And I don’t want to hear a word about it, either, Mr. Fancy Pants.”

Marnie smiled at him and then turned her head to include the whole cozy room in her smile. She wished she didn’t have to work – she felt like she could stay here forever. Of course – eating dinner at 4:30 would take some serious getting used to…

“I need to start fixing things. Why don’t you boys take Marnie for a walk around the farm.”

“I could help you” Marnie offered.

“Nonsense. You go out and enjoy this beautiful day. Take a little walk. Work up an appetite.”

Marnie had a feeling that wasn’t going to be a problem.

Cal helped her into her jacket, while Susie smiled approvingly. He held the door for her and ushered her out onto the porch, where Ted was already waiting for them. Ted’s pride was evident as he showed her around the grounds, pointing out the large garden and the field where the sheep grazed. Their next stop on the tour was the barn, where some of the sheep were escaping the elements. Marnie was enchanted by the sheep. She looked to Ted for approval and Ted nodded toward the sheep. She had never touched one before. She expected it to feel soft and fluffy, like the cotton balls they resembled in pictures. She was surprised to find that it felt rough, oily and matted. She dug into the wooly mass with both hands. The sheep seemed to like this, turning to look at her and nudging her hand with its muzzle.

“She likes you!” Ted proclaimed.

“The feeling is mutual!” Marnie dropped to her knees in the soft hay. She loved the way it smelled. Even the smell of the sheep – which was not what most would consider to be an olfactory treat – met her nostrils with delight. She hugged the sheep around the neck and smiled at Cal. He hadn’t taken his eyes off of her for a moment. His expression was one of simple, pure appreciation. Marnie was caught off guard for a moment. She wasn’t used to being looked at like that. A girl could get used to it, though. Oh yes she could.

“I’m going to check on the chickens – do you kids want to join me?”

“We’ll be along in a minute. I think Marnie might need another moment or two with the sheep.”

As Ted exited the barn, Cal approached Marnie. He squatted beside her in the hay and tousled the sheep’s fleecy coat with his big hand. Do sheep smile? Because it seemed that this one had.

“You havin’ fun?”

“This has been the most crazy, fun, surreal day of my life.” Then she added, “I guess we should catch up with Ted – I’ve never seen a chicken up close before.”

“They’re not quite as loveable as the sheep…” Cal warned. He rose to standing then offered his hand to pull her up. She took it and rose to stand next to him. She didn’t let go of his hand right away. She looked up at his face to find it looking intently at hers.

“Cal, I don’t know…” she started to say, but his lips were upon hers before she could finish the thought. It was a gentle kiss, but she was glad he had slipped his arm around her, because it was having a powerful effect. She parted her lips and it became more passionate. His arms tightened around her, one encircling her waist, the other supporting her head. She found his thick wavy hair with her fingers and entangled them in it, pulling him in closer. Her world faded in and out – nothing existed but her, and Cal, and this kiss. She never wanted it to end. When it did, Cal pulled her into him and Marnie rested her head on his chest. She could feel his heart beating quickly. Apparently this new development was having the same effect on him as it was on her. When she’d regained her composure, she said, “What are we doing here?”

“Did you want to be somewhere else?”

She smiled. He returned the smile. “You know what I mean. Less than twenty-four hours ago we were casual friends, sitting around Josh’s table, you know…”

“You didn’t want this then?”

“Oh hells yes! But I thought it was a bad idea. Why does it seem like such a good idea now?”

“It’s always been a good idea, Marn – we just never both had it at the same time before.”

She considered this. Cal had been involved with his ex for years. She thought he was good looking then, but never gave it more thought than that. What was the use of pining after somebody else’s man? When they first broke up, the thought had crossed her mind, but she didn’t want to be rebound girl. Then there was the matter of a job and the fact that he didn’t have one. But that hadn’t mattered a few seconds ago, when she was melting like butter in his arms. Maybe it didn’t matter at all. He was a good man. She had just been passionately kissed by a good man. How could that possibly be bad?

“So what now?”

“Now? We catch up with Ted.”

She smiled. “You know what I mean, dufus.” She said, punching him playfully on the arm and trying to lighten the intensity a little bit.

“Seriously, Marn. Now we catch up with Ted. Screw one day at a time, let’s take it one moment at a time.” Marnie brushed the hay from her jeans and Cal added, “I hope we have lots and lots of moments.”

Marnie and Cal headed to the chicken coop hand in hand. This was not lost on Ted, who couldn’t have been happier for his little brother. “Susie’s going to wonder where we’ve been,” he said, as they approached him, “we probably ought to be heading back.” The three of them walked back to the house in companionable silence. Holding Cal’s hand as she walked felt like the most natural thing in the world. Marnie couldn’t believe she hadn’t been doing it forever.

When they got back to the house, they were greeted by the homiest aroma Marnie could imagine. “Have you made?” she drifted off and Susie completed her thought.

“Chicken Pot Pie. I hope you like it.”

“Like it? I haven’t had it since - oh my goodness, I don’t even know when, honestly. My grandma used to make it for me when I was a girl. Honestly, Susie, this just smells like heaven!”

“Well, it’s going to be another fifteen or twenty minutes. You guys want a beer or something?”

“I’ll get ‘em, hon.” Said Ted, patting Susie’s ample behind as he passed her to get to the refrigerator. “Light beer ok?”

“Do we look like pussies?” answered Cal to Marnie’s amusement, Ted’s confusion and Susie’s disapproval. “Sorry. There’s this girl we know… Inside joke. Light beer will be fine. Sorry, Suz.”

Susie shrugged it off and joined them at the table, where Ted had opened a beer for her, too. Ted and Susie used this time as an opportunity to tell Marnie stories about Cal. Their love for him was so evident and so real. “I love this family so much.” she thought, and smiled to herself, resting her head on Cal’s shoulder like she’d been doing it forever.

Dinner was over far too quickly. Marnie had eaten with a gusto that surprised everyone, from such a little girl. Her belly was full of good food, her head was full of good thoughts, and her heart was so full she feared it would burst. When Cal suggested they take off, she balked at first, but conceded that it was indeed time. All good things, and all that. She hugged Cal and Susie and thanked them profusely for the lovely day. They extended a sincere invitation for her to come back anytime. Her equally sincere answer was that she hoped it was very soon.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure if I comment every Friday, but I love this series. Or book, rather. I still can't believe this is your NaNo. Mine looks more like this:

    akdjfgkiajdfadjsfkiajdfkjdflsjdfljlk they went to the movies wliehjksndfkajhdfkjasd and shared a popcorn alsdjfkasjdfkasjdfljs

    Can't wait for the rest.