Dec. 10th of Year 1 of the Vow
You know those movies where ex-assassins have their homes boobytrapped in the event unwelcomed enemies show up? Blaze warned Ricki was that type. I asked why we couldn’t give Ricki a call.
He said, “Ricki will think I stabbed ‘em in the back and set ‘em up.”
Naturally, friends are most likely to be your secret enemy in blockbuster action movies. It would make sense that real life is like that too. My question though is, is it? Is real life really like the movies, because if it is, why does the end to every mission (I go on) lead to a bigger question and not a happy ending?
Unless my life is actually some YA novel series and the author is making too much money to have the series end, so I can’t get a happy ending because the money train would end…
Blaze instructed me to follow a muddy road in the marshlands of Florida. He has me pull over to the side of the road. In the distance, a little, modest abode sat on the water next to a dock. Yep, we were visiting a potential looney on a moving water house, aka a houseboat.
We get out of the truck, and Blaze gets his pistol and holster out of the glovebox. He made sure he’s comfortably packing before we approached the dock.
Fortunately, the thing I admired about traveling south for the winter was the warmer weather. The Everglades were in their dry season. Low humidity and cooler temperatures. I still felt like I was walking in a sauna but at least I didn’t need to wear a jacket. The sun’s rays warmed me down to the bone and it felt refreshing. I welcomed drastic changes from the ever-chilly days in Michigan.
Blaze fixed his worn-out baseball cap and lowered the curled lip of the hat to point straight forward, instead of up in the air like it was for the whole truck ride. I leaned on the hood of the truck waiting for Blaze to give instructions on how to approach the death trap on the water.
The man closed the passenger door loudly, slamming it shut. So much for being incognito. I thought he would check the perimeter with binoculars, but instead, he hocked a loogie and spit it out on the ground to his right.
“Something feels different…” Blaze huffed, almost like he was disappointed in some way.
To me, everything felt like it looked. A serene, care-free, sunny day.
“It’s quiet…” Blaze obviously stated.
I knew I shouldn’t have, but I inquired anyway, “Too quiet?”
Annoyed, Blaze side-eyed me, “Boy, now is not the time to be a toddler.”
Hmm… are my childish antics plain for all to see? If that is so, why don’t my parents tell me to grow up? And isn’t it their fault I still act like a baby…? They raised me!
Blaze’s cell phone rang.
At that point, my heart skipped a beat. Maybe Ricki got captured or something. Would we have to go on a side mission to rescue Blaze’s friend before we could finish ours?
He answered the ancient flip phone, “Ricki?”
He listened to the other line. Moments like these made me wish God included super-hearing with the Nazarite package, but He didn’t.
Blaze “uh-huh”-ed and “mmhmm”-ed for a bit. Then he started laughing, “You know me so well Ricki!”
Is he flirting with Ricki (I know I spell the name with an “i” at the end, but in the moment I thought the name was spelled with a “y” at the end)?
“Sure, we’d love to stay the night…” Blaze said, turning his back to me, “I don’t know about all that, but I’m sure we can arrange something. Yeah, we’ll be right up.”
He opened the door to the back cab and pulled out his duffel bag. He hounded me to do the same.
As we walked side by side to the dock, I asked, “So Ricky, is he here?”
“Yes– she– is. She invited us to stay as long as we need to, she doesn’t have the boobytraps up right now.” He explained.
I wasn’t that phased to discover Ricki was a woman. I had my suspicions when he shared stories about their work together.
We ducked to step inside the door. The home swayed on the water gently with our every movement. How amazingly agitating. I loved it.
Ricki was beautiful for a woman over 50. She was in great shape. Her ginger eyes were a unique feature that made her intriguing. Her hair was bundled up in some scarf thingy so I don’t know what hair type she had. She wore a black tank top and jeans. She invited us to sit at the table booth, by a window that gave us an incredible view of the marshy waterscape.
I sat opposite of Blaze, needing some space from him. Inside the houseboat, it was brown and had a boxy design. Everything screamed a 70s vibe. The place smelled like burnt sage.
That’s when I noticed we weren’t alone in the houseboat. Unclean spirits infested the place in the nooks and crannies like roaches. They were little ones that are assigned to mild practitioners of the New Age. They affirm false beliefs like karma, the law of attraction, reincarnation, etc. Ricki was not a saved woman.
Yet, setting sights upon her face, she appeared kind and loving. A euphoric warmth radiated from her. She was making small talk with Blaze, standing at the edge of the table, with her hand on her hips. She beamed with joy to have Blaze present here with her.
Finally, my existence was acknowledged.
“And you would be?” She asked with the sweetest tone of voice. I would never imagine her geared up with body armor and weaponry shooting hellfire at anyone.
“Jude Priestly,” I said.
Her eyes bugged out and she gasped putting a hand over her lips. Moving the hand to her chest and leaning back, she wondered, “Nike’s Jude?”
Sighing, Blaze confirmed it, “Yep, he’s the boy-ish knucklehead she can’t stop daydreaming about.”
“You’re handsome, and manly!” Ricki commented.
“Thank you,” I responded. I think that was a compliment.
“When are you going to ask her to court?” Ricki asked, turning to walk to the kitchen sink. On the back of her neck, I saw a two-headed black and gold snake mark on her skin. Suddenly, the two-headed snake mark went from two-dimensional to three-dimensional stretching from her neck toward me. It was a kundalini spirit. She was a practitioner of kundalini yoga and she merged with that unclean spirit for the awakening. That’s why she felt peaceful to be around and the sense of euphoria was in this place. The kundalini spirit gives an addictive feeling of love, warmth, and euphoria. The spirit sprang back into place and settled into a two-dimensional figure on her skin.
We talked about all the reasons why Nike and I were taking things slow. I, of course, left out the part that I might have a daughter and my witchy ex-girlfriend wants to give our relationship another try. I feel like I can’t decide until I meet the child or at least until I know the truth.
Serving us fresh mugs of coffee, fixed to our liking, she made herself cozy next to Blaze.
“Well, as Nike’s godmother, I approve of the two of you being an item. From what she tells me of you, you’re quite the catch and a perfect gentleman.” She said. Then she took a sip from her sage green mug that had “namaste” written in black cursive on it.
Blaze put an arm on the back of the booth behind her, like he was putting the moves on her. He asked, “Why are all your defenses down? Anyone with bad intentions could swoop in and well, do the bad thing they want to do.”
Looking at Blaze, as if she was peering into his soul, “I’m tired of fighting. I’m retired. If my enemies, which I gained serving the country I love, want to take me out, they can have me.”
“But–,” before Blaze could convince her otherwise, she interrupted him.
“A brain tumor seems to be the silent killer, bound to get me in a few months’ time. I just want to spend my days happy and in my bliss. If I go sooner than that, so be it.” She said looking down into her coffee mug she rested on the table cupped between her two hands.
“Do the girls know?” Blaze asked, moving his arm from the booth, to around her shoulder. Breaking out into tears, she leaned into his side embrace.
“I can’t bear to do it…” She whimpered.
Great, another secret I have to keep from Nike.
My cell buzzed to inform me I got a text from Nike. I excuse myself and go back outside to solid ground to text her back.
What should one say to a deep text like that? Confrontation freaks me out. I wrote so many songs about Celly because I didn’t know how to tell her directly how I felt. And Celly wasn’t even real, she was just a shell of the witch assigned to love me.
Yes, I wanted to let myself fall in love with Nike. I wanted to build upon the authenticity we shared, but I was scared that if I told her the truth about Caitlin and my daughter, she would be the amazing woman I knew she was and pull away from me. To give me time to think about what I wanted. To make sure all my feelings for Caitlin (if I have any) were gone. And truth be told, currently, I just wanted Nike and I wished Caitlin wasn’t in the picture.
Nike’s text: You don’t need to answer right now. And my dad is pretty top secret about his work. I’m sure he doesn’t want me to know anything. Stay safe. I’m praying for you. Text or call me when you want to, and we don’t even have to address my last text. Respond to that when you’re ready.
Overwhelmed with a mixture of sadness, anxiety, and anger I wanted to scream. I wanted to punch the crap out of something. I wanted all of my feelings to go away. When I get like this, only one thing works.
I collapsed to my knees, bowed down on my face, and I cried. Whispering I prayed, “The LORD is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever…” I began my prayer of distress with Psalm 23. Then I added, “LORD, what should I do? What would be the best choice that honors your precepts? Right now, I want to be with Nike one day, but I’m still in love with Celly… I’m afraid if I give Caitlin a chance, I’ll fall for her too, and for some reason, I don’t NOT want to choose Nike. I’m conflicted LORD, what do I do?
I continued to cry, wishing my mother was here to hold me.
Blaze, at some point during my sobbing, appeared and crouched over me. I timidly raised my upper body. He looked at me with empathy. He handed me his handkerchief from his back pocket. I took it to dry my eyes and to wipe my nose clean. He said I could keep it.
“Do you want to talk about it? You got a nasty cocktail of emotions right now, you definitely shouldn’t bottle that up.” Blaze made a good point.
“I think I’ll call my mom to talk,” I said.
“Okay… I’m going to town to pick up dinner… Ricki laid down for a nap. When I get back, we’ll eat and go pay a visit to an old colleague of hers. He is gonna help us get Sibusiso.” Blaze said while his hand was on my shoulder like a loving father figure. Then he stood up and brushed the dust off his jeans around the knees and headed for the truck.
I didn’t get up. I just switched to a more comfortable position. I got off my knees and onto my butt and sat crisscross applesauce… other than rhyming that phrase makes no sense.
I stare at mom’s number on my phone. I don’t really want to talk about how I feel. But if she suddenly called because her mother’s intuition goes bonkers, then I would reluctantly talk to her.
Instead, I get a text from Caitlin.
Emotionally, no… time-wise, yes. I respond anyway.
She didn’t text anything back.
I explored the Everglades until Blaze got back since I never traveled to these parts before. I mistook three decaying logs for alligators. I low-key want to take one on in a fight, I know, how stupid of me.
For dinner, we had fried chicken and all the fixins. Ricki and Blaze had a rapport very much like that of an old married couple. They finished each other’s sentences. They ate off each other’s plates. They teased and joked with each other. I knew Blaze wasn’t married to this woman because she wasn’t a believer.
Nazarites can’t marry anyone they’re unequally yoked to, and that at the basic level means a Nazarite can’t marry a non-believer unless it was instructed by the LORD… which why would He do that?
After dinner and Ricki had cleared the table, we just talked and stayed up late. Ricky got tired before us, but before she went to bed she wanted to get extra blankets for Blaze and I from the storage shed. Blaze offered to go for her, but she insisted to do it herself.
“I thought we were going to get in touch with her colleague to help us find the Swazi Preacher?”
“Jude, people are the only treasure we get to store up in heaven, I’m gonna take the time to enjoy my oldest friend. If we miss Sibusiso, we miss him, and we’ll get him later.”
“So we’re taking a side mission to try and to save your friend from eternal damnation?” I asked for clarification.
“I also called in reinforcements, but no talking about Sibusiso.” He ordered.
What, he called in for back up to help with Ricki, wasn’t the Holy Spirit enough?
Before I could guess who, Ricki barged back inside overjoyed with whom she found outside, Nike.
“I was nearby and father called me earlier saying he was visiting Mama Ricki. I couldn’t help but invite myself.” She explained.
*Edited by Kristen Wenneborg