Moonshine

Moonshine

A Story by Katie Foutz Voss
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Story for workshop portfolio #1. A mountain, some hippies, and forgetfulness.

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            Quentin Fielding was 18 years old when he ran away from home. Just three days after graduation, the first real milestone of his life, and suddenly he was gone. Televisions and newspapers and radio stations erupted with flashing newscasts and front-page headlines about the disappearing teenager. The local church had several meetings devoted to praying for his safety. Of course his parents were also frenzied and there were reporters at the house for days, weeks, months after he vanished. It was years before the search was postponed “until further notice” and aside from Have you seen this man? posters, everyone essentially gave up on him.

            The search would have been significantly less traumatic if Quentin had at least left a goodbye note, or called to leave a message on the machine, or if he had given some small and seemingly invisible clue to let everyone know that he had not vanished or disappeared or been stolen away by some killer. It would have been so easy to write something to ease their worry, even something like, Going to find myself. Don’t worry.

            But he did no such thing. Rather, he had been planning for weeks about his trip into the wilderness and the others agreed it would be best if he didn’t say goodbye. There was no telling when he would return, if he would return, and he didn’t want to leave anyone waiting up for him in the middle of the night with candles in the window or an unlocked door. He simply packed up his things the Monday following graduation and discreetly emptied the house of his life while his parents were at work. He took a car-load of his belongings to the pawn shop and sold everything"electronic devices, his nicest clothes, all of his books, and collections of baseball cards.

            “You can’t use a computer out there, or a fancy suit,” Goldblume had told him, “but you can always use money somewhere.” The others had nodded with such adamant agreement that Quentin had no choice but to oblige.

            Two years later, however, Quentin was not feeling so obliging.

            He felt the first pulls of reluctance on a Tuesday, the third Tuesday of the month to be specific, when he and Luna did laundry in the creek.

            “Happy sunrise!” Luna said, pulling back the flap of his tent. The sunrise was practically screaming with happiness as it blasted through the opening and into his blue eyes.

            “Happy sunrise,” he groaned in return. He squinted hard and saw Luna’s arms full of dirty clothes. “Happy laundry, too.”

            “I thought you’d like to start this day by doing your work first.”

Luna was smiling so happily that he couldn’t refuse. He pulled his moccasins on and together they walked down a foot-paved path to the creek.

“How was your sleep, Fielding?” Luna asked.

“It was alright.”

“Alright?” she repeated, one elegant eyebrow tilting upwards. “Words like that sound like trouble to me. What did you dream?”

“Nothing, to be honest.” He shook his head. “But it’s no trouble, really. Hand me that tunic.” Truthfully, he had dreamed quite a lot, but he wasn’t entirely sure how to explain it to Luna.

They said nothing for the next few minutes. Solitude was a great treasure on Mount Bower, as Quentin had learned quickly, and so they sat and washed the others’ tunics and pants and a mismatched assortment of socks. The creek soothed its way between their callused fingers and the rough fabrics, refreshing and calming them. The sun was rising steadily, warming their backs, “Like the embrace of an old friend,” as Goldblume would say.

“You used to hate this so much,” Luna said with a soft laugh.

“I don’t hate anything,” Quentin replied.

“Oh, don’t be silly. I was just thinking.”

He glanced at her sideways, but couldn’t make eye contact. Her blonde hair, which flowed to her waist when standing, dangled from her shoulder and hung in front of her face. He brushed it behind her ear so gently she barely noticed.

“What were you thinking about, Luna?”

“You,” she said with a smile. “The old you.”

He shook his head. “Is the old me so interesting?”

“I’ve always thought so.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “No, the old me is not.”

They were silent for another moment when Luna looked up at him from the skirt she was holding in the creek. “I have always loved your name.”

Then he was caught. All morning he had been acting so brotherly and disinterested, washing the clothes with her and engaging in the silence. Her gray gaze was all it took to send his indifference swirling down the creek with month-old grime. The sunlight touched her hair, her freckled cheek, and her bare forearms.

“Fielding isn’t an interesting name,” he said, deflecting, and simultaneously reminding himself that Luna was five years older than he. But her gaze went unbroken, and so did Quentin’s.

“Quentin,” she said emphatically, “I love that name.”

“I’m Fielding now,” he said, as though she needed some sort of explanation, as though she hadn’t been present at his naming ceremony. He had meant to sound explanatory, it was his only intention, but when he opened his mouth and said those words his voice was low and feathery. “Fielding,” he repeated, but his voice would not return to its usual condition.

She laughed, low in her throat. “Quen-tin,” she said, almost tauntingly, and leaned towards him.

“Field",” he began, and then his lips were captured in Luna’s quiet kiss.

Well, he thought. Someone’s in a good mood.

Not half a second later, though, she was gone, flying down the mountain’s gradual slope crying, “My skirt! Oh, my skirt!”

Quentin laughed at the sight of her, golden hair streaming behind her like a cape, bare feet stumbling over roots, her short legs barely keeping up with the creek as it trickled down the side of the mountain.

He remembered with a strange ache in his chest one of their first meetings.

May had been  a hot month, hotter than usual that year. Quentin was not entirely sure that he wanted to be out in the sun so early on a Saturday, but his new friend Goldblume wanted to talk to him, buy him coffee, and the prospect of a summer adventure was enough to get him to the café. That, and Goldblume had said that his niece was coming along"his girl niece.

“So, what’s this summer trip you’re planning?” Quentin asked through an iced coffee. He swirled his straw through the chilled brown liquid anxiously. He needed to sound interested, if he was going to carry out his plan.

“A hiking trip, up Mount Bower.” Goldblume smiled widely with his yellow teeth. Cory Goldblume had skin leathery enough to be middle-aged, and was smelly enough to be a senior citizen, but after some fairly awkward conversations with their mutual friend Cliff, Quentin had been informed that the man was actually in his early thirties, and only looked aged due to living outdoors. The beard currently taking over his chin gave testimony to his life as a mountain man.

“How long will we be gone?”

“A while. At least all summer. You said you didn’t have college plans.”

“That’s still true.”

“That’s good, that’s real good. And your parents are okay with a trip?”

“I guess,” Quentin laughed.

“Don’t guess anything, Fielding. This is more serious than just a road trip. This is your life we’re talking about. No internet, no phones, not even a post office.”

Quentin frowned. “I thought we were going to Mount Bower.”

“Not the part of Mount Bower everybody goes to,” Goldblume’s niece interjected.

“This is Luna, the niece I mentioned yesterday,” Goldblume said, giving the young woman a hard look. “She’s lived on the mountain before. She’d like to think she knows everything about it.”

“You’ve lived there before? Shouldn’t you be in school still?”

Goldblume looked particularly irritated that Quentin was talking to Luna, but she answered for herself before he could say anything.

“I’m twenty-two,” she said. “I know I’m small for my age. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to live on Mount Bower.” She gave her uncle a teasing glare.

“My point,” Goldblume continued with a sigh, “is that the mountain is not just a resort or a camping site. It’s remote, more remote than you’ve ever been, and if you don’t remove your soul from the world before you get up there, it’ll feel like prison.”

“Remove my soul?”

“I’m talking about leaving behind your attachments to this world. You’ve gotta forget about technology and running water and those consumerists and conformists you like to call your loved ones. No more mommy and daddy to take care of you, no more friends or parties or date nights. No more nothin’. Just you and the mountain.”

Quentin had been listening with caution, his ears attention to each of Goldblume’s alarming words, but his gaze had been transfixed on Luna. As her cousin spoke, she had turned herself inward, lowering her face and closing her gray eyes. Obviously removing her own soul from the world had left some damage.

“You understand what I’m sayin’, Fielding?” Goldblume asked, snapping his fingers in front of the young man.

“I’ll have to think about it.” Quentin stared at the man in front of him, wondering how safe he was exactly, if this young woman in his care was so distraught. “Give me a few days. Either way, we have to wait until after graduation. Just give me a few days. I’ll let you know.”

 

When Luna returned with the sopping skirt, as well as water a few inches up the hem of her ragged jeans, Quentin could not help but stare up at her now glowing face. It was that face that had brought him up the mountain, and the same face that would be his downfall, he was sure. In her expression he had seen the joy of a thousand sunsets and sunrises, had seen peace under a midnight sky, and had witnessed the kindness that can only be found in a soul removed from the world. She would be his undoing, there was no doubt in his mind. It made him smile.

 As they returned to the main camp with the wet laundry, Goldblume was sitting by the fire. He was holding a tin pot in his hand, a large rag wrapped around its handle. The smell of coffee hung in the air with such a prominence that it could not be ignored.

“Come sit for a while,” Goldblume told them.

Luna and Quentin hung the wet clothes on the branches of a skeletal tree nearby, then sat on one of the three log benches. The benches surrounded the fire pit in a jagged triangle, their jagged surfaces covered with old clothes to prevent splintering.

“Have some coffee,” Goldblume said, pouring the hot black liquid into fist-sized tin cups. “It’s pretty strong, today.”

Fielding took a gulp from his little cup, holding it with his sleeves to keep from being burned, and swallowed it with his eyes closed in a sort of ecstasy. There were very few things on the mountain that pleased him as much as, especially when their food for the last week had consisted of only carrots and potatoes, grown in the fickle mountain soil.

“It’s good,” Fielding said with a smile. “How long have you been hiding this?”

“A few months. Since Cliff and I last went down. Why, you miss it or something?” Goldblume chuckled lightly.

“Sure I do. Along with bread and fruit.”

“So do I!” called Cliff from his tent.

“The blackberries satisfy Luna well enough,” Goldblume said, gesturing at his niece with his coffee pot. “Aren’t they good enough for you?”

“I want something sweet,” Fielding replied with a dramatic sigh.

“Ain’t my niece sweet enough for ya?”

Fielding laughed awkwardly, and glancing sideways at Luna he saw her freckled cheeks turn a soft shade of red. “Of course. Of course she is.”

Downing his cup of coffee, Goldblume stood up with a groan. He scratched his beard, a sign of restlessness, and hummed thoughtfully. “I think I’m gonna take a quick wash in the creek. If you really miss coffee that much… I suppose Cliff and I are due for another trip to town anyways.”

Fielding frowned, knowing that he would not be allowed to go along. Since coming up the mountain three years before, he had not once gone more than halfway down. Goldblume told him it was because someone needed to watch Luna, but Fielding was sure that they just didn’t trust him. Someday, he would go back down the mountain, with or without permission.

“Take care of your lady!” Goldblume called over his shoulder. He then jogged down the mountain to the secluded area of the creek, where bathing was the most discreet.

With her uncle out of sight, Luna leaned her blonde head against Fielding’s arm. “Am I?” she asked.

“Are you what?” Fielding asked in a flat voice.

“Am I your lady?”

He sighed. “You’re the only lady on the mountain, Luna.”

“Don’t be mad, please.”

“I’m not mad.”

She sat back and touched his face with one slender hand. “Your cheeks are all hot.”

“It’s warm outside,” he replied, gently but firmly removing her hand from his cheek.

“Why won’t you talk about this?” she said with a confused frown.

“We can’t talk about it, Luna. There’s nothing to talk about. You know how I feel.” He squeezed her hand, almost to reassure her, half to reassure himself. “You know I care about you. But you’re not my lady. I won’t own you.”

Luna let out a noise similar to a growl, which sounded alien and terrible coming from her small body. Frustrated, she fled the fire and went into her tent.

“You’d better fix that,” Cliff said. He had emerged from his tent, long hair tousled from sleep.

“You know how I feel, Cliff,” Fielding said. “About Luna and her uncle.”

“How you feel hasn’t got nothin’ to do with it.” Cliff nodded, as if that statement settled the matter, and sat down on the bench next to Fielding with a cup of coffee.

“Well then… if my feelings don’t matter… what does?” Fielding asked, perplexed.

“That girl loves you, my friend. And love like that is true. The earth says so. You ain’t gonna find a girl like that in the big city. You came up Mount Bower for the lady and I say that’s reason enough to make her yours.” Cliff nodded again.

“But she shouldn’t belong to anyone. She’s her own person.”

“Her own person!” Cliff laughed. “Fielding, she lost her own person when she was eight years old.”

“Eight? How?”

For a long minute Cliff didn’t say anything. He sat drinking his coffee, running his dirty hands through his dirt-colored hair. “I’ll tell you a secret,” he finally said. “But you gotta promise not to say a word to Goldblume. And don’t go actin’ crazy about it either. You’re part of this family now and there ain’t nothin’ should change the way you feel about us. You hear me?”

“Yeah. What’s the big secret?”

“Well, you know how Luna lives with Goldblume 'cause she’s got nobody else?”

“Yeah…”

“Goldblume is the one that got Luna’s parents killed. He was watchin’ the girl one day when they drove home. He distracted ‘em somehow, got in the way, and they swerved so they wouldn’t hit him. They hit a tree; the tree fell right on top of the car. And that was the end of that.”

“What happened then?” Fielding asked.

“Well, it looked like an accident. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.” Cliff shook his hairy head back and forth, obviously conflicted about the matter. “Either way, Cory Goldblume was the only known relative of that poor little girl. She had one distant aunt, but the woman was almost dead, stuck in a nursing home somewhere. So after the funeral he took her in. But Goldblume’s always been a wild man, not meant for society. I think it was just too much for him to handle, you know?”

Fielding wondered briefly if Luna could hear them, but the sound of her quiet sobs convinced him that she was too distraught for eavesdropping. “So what did he do?”

“Well… he tried for a while.  But eventually, he took her to Mount Bower. She grew up on this mountain, under his care. He taught her how to live. She owes everything to her uncle.”

Fielding nodded, although his mind was already filling with images of a little Luna, learning how to wash clothes in a creek and grow potatoes in frozen soil. He could see her cooking for Goldblume, and sewing him shirts and knitting scarves. If what Cliff had said was true, Goldblume probably reminded her often of how he had taken her in. He might have even convinced her that she was at fault for the death of her parents. Fielding’s affections for Luna were usually restricted but at the moment he wanted to lash out and defend her against the suffering dealt by Goldblume.

As Fielding and Cliff finished their coffee, the proud leader of the little family walked back to camp from the creek. His hair was wet, and he had put his old clothes back on, but the smell of him had decreased significantly.

“Ready to go?” Goldblume asked, his eyes focused on Cliff.

“Yeah, I think I’m ready. I got the money in my boot. You have a list of what we need?”

“It’s all in here,” Goldblume said with a rotting grin and tapped his forehead with one finger. He then turned to Fielding and said, “We’ll be back by dark. Be sure to put the clothes away before any birds do their business on ‘em.”

Fielding laughed and assured the man he would take care of everything while they were gone. He was actually looking forward to the alone time with Luna, but he decided not to mention something that would make the older men so pleased.

Goldblume began heading down the mountain, an empty sack on his shoulder, but Cliff turned at the last minute and said in a hushed tone, “Take my advice, Fielding. Make the girl yours. It’ll be better for all of us.”

When at long last the two men disappeared through the trees, Fielding poured another cup of coffee and quietly approached the door flap of Luna’s tent. “Luna,” he said with all the calmness he could muster, “can I come in?”

“Alright,” she said with a sniffle.

He went inside and knelt in front of her, his head hitting the slanted ceiling. She was curled up on her sleeping bag, her honey hair splayed out on the pillow. Her pant legs were still a little bit wet from the adventure in the creek.

“I brought you some coffee,” he said, holding out the cup with both hands.

“Thank you,” Luna said, rubbing her eyes. She slowly eased her body upwards, tired from such frenzied crying, and took the cup from him.

“Luna,” Fielding began, but couldn’t find the exact words he wanted.

“Yes?”

“How long will they be gone?”

“You know how long they’ll be gone,” she said with an amused smile. “Three hours down, one hour there, and four hours back up.”

“So we have some time.” Fielding wouldn’t look at her. His gaze was fixed on his hands, which were resting nervously on his knees.

“Time. Yes, we have time. Fielding, what’s going on?”

He was silent for a good minute then. There were so many questions he wanted to ask, but he wasn’t sure how to proceed when she was so upset. She drank her coffee, and they sat in the tent without speaking.

“Luna,” he finally said, still apprehensive.

“Yes, Fielding?”

“Cliff is a friend of Goldblume’s. They met in high school. And they’ve lived on the mountain together for a while, right?”

“Yes, Fielding. What’s this about?” She took another drink of her coffee, staring at him suspiciously over the rim.

“So how is it that you live on the mountain too?”

Luna sighed. “I find it hard to believe that you don’t know that story.”

“Maybe I do. But I want to hear your side of it.”

“Alright,” she said. “If it will make you happy.”

He smiled in encouragement. “Go ahead.”

Luna then began the same story Cliff had just recited, about how her parents had died in an accident with a tree and that Goldblume couldn’t take care of her in society. She described with much annoyance how she had learned to sew, and that growing vegetables on the Mount Bower was like trying to build a fire underwater. “It was ridiculous and hopeless,” she said with wide eyes.

Fielding laughed. “I had always imagined that you found life up here more frustrating than you let on. You’re not so mysterious after all.”

She smirked at him. “It’s not hard to be mysterious. Although, Uncle Cory made up all my mysteries for me.”

“He made them up? Doesn’t that make them lies?”

Luna finished the last of her coffee and set the cup down just outside the door. “Yes, I suppose it does,” she said. “But it was almost eleven years ago now. The lies have become truth.”

“Wait,” Fielding said with a frown. “Eleven years? But that would make you…” He began counting silently in his head.

A heavy sigh lifted Luna’s shoulder momentarily, and then with an even heavier expression her shoulders fell. “Don’t try counting. That’s the first lie.”

Fielding couldn’t do anything but stare at her. Surely this wasn’t possible. He had spent two years thinking that she was an older"just one reason he was hesitant to be attracted to her. He couldn’t make an older woman ‘his lady’ as the others liked to tell him. She was an adult. She was her own person, at least in age. He furrowed his eyebrows, conflicted, and still said nothing.

“I’m 19,” Luna said slowly, guiltily.

“So you’re younger than me,” Fielding said, his mouth turning upward in an uncontrollable smile.

“Yes. Why does that make you look at me like I’m a big juicy hamburger?”

“Well, that makes you… adorable.” He had chosen his last word very carefully.

She smiled. “Thank you.”

“So, why did you have to change your age?”

“The same reason we changed my name.”

Fielding was speechless again. The naming ceremony was very important to Goldblume, and he could see little eight-year-old Luna going through with it, her face twisted with confusion.

His own ceremony had been similar. He had been so conflicted that day. Quentin had only been up on the mountain for about a week and already he was feeling the pull to go back down. Every day he had to get up when the sun got up, which is an ominous task for a teenager. The food was terrible, there was hardly ever any coffee, and the bathing circumstances were less than enjoyable. He tried not to think about how awful the winters would be, if summer was already making him have doubts.

The ceremony took place in the evening, just before sunset. Goldblume, Cliff and Luna each stood around the campfire, at the joined corners of the three log benches, all holding something discreetly in one hand. Quentin stood next to the fire, within the triangle of the benches.

He was finding it difficult to keep his focus. Whatever happened that night, it didn’t need to change the reason he’d come up Mount Bower. He would go through with the ceremony and do what he was ordered, but internally he would stay the same. He would not change his mind.

To begin the ceremony, Luna placed an empty bowl and a bottle full of clear liquid on each bench.

Then Goldblume began to speak. “We’ve gathered here on this mountain to welcome Quentin Christopher Fielding into our family. Today we’re assembled for the ceremonial naming. Before we go on with the naming, our new brother must hear the creed and make his vows.”

Cliff approached Quentin, trying hard to keep a straight face. He had told Quentin earlier in the day that he was extremely excited for the ceremony, and his exuberance was apparently difficult to contain.

“The first part of the creed says that a member of the family must love the earth,” Cliff said with a small smile. “You’re not gonna live in nature; you’re gonna live with nature. By becomin’ part of this family you’re becomin’ friends with the hornets and the owls, the trees and the sunshine, the hard rocks and the sharp thorns. You’re gonna live under the rule of the earth because the earth takes care of you. Do you vow to do what the earth says, and to live harmon’ously with nature?”

“I promise,” Quentin replied with a nod.

With that, reached for the bottle on the nearest bench and poured it into the bowl. He took a drink, and then offered it to Quentin. “As you drink, you’ll forget the life you had apart from nature,” he said, mouth gleaming with the liquid.

Quentin stared dumbly at the bowl before him, hoping it was just water. He lifted it to his lips, and found that it was certainly not water. Rather, it was more like drinking fire. After just the slightest taste he gasped and held the bowl away from his body. The burning sensation travelled slowly down his throat.

“What is this?” he asked, when his mouth felt reasonably cooled.

“Strongest stuff you can get,” Cliff said. “It’s illegal in New York, Minnesota, Virginia, Idaho, Ohio, Maine, Mass".”

“The ceremony,” Goldblume said sternly.

Cliff giggled. “Goldblume’s right. You gotta finish the bowl.”

Quentin shook his head. “No way. I’ll ignite or something.”

“Ha! Goldblume calls that stuff the fire of life,” Cliff laughed. “Gets easier the more you drink. Just go fast. I promise, it’ll be fine.”

After taking a deep breath, Quentin lifted the bowl again and began gulping down the fiery liquid. He stopped a few times to take another breath, but eventually the bowl was empty. As he finished, Cliff put a chain of thorny vines around his neck.

“The thorns represent the friendship with nature,” Cliff said. “No matter how much you might get poked or stung, you’ve made a commitment.”

Feeling woozy and slightly nauseous, Quentin walked cautiously to the next bench, where Goldblume awaited him.

The older man was staring at him in all seriousness, which was a little easier to handle in comparison to Cliff. “The second part of the creed says that you must be part of this new family, and forget your old family,” Goldblume said. “Like you make a commitment to the earth, you make a commitment to us. You’ve left ‘em all behind, those others. They’re probably out searchin’ for you still, but if the earth wanted them to find you, they would have by now. By taking the next oath you accept that you are meant for the mountain and not for the rest of the world. They don’t care about you anymore. That’s why you left.”

Quentin frowned. He knew that the alcohol was getting to him already, but surely he wasn’t completely drunk yet. Certainly his family missed him. And he hadn’t left because they didn’t care about him. No, his reasons for leaving were entirely different, completely opposite.

“I don’t understand,” Quentin said quietly.

“You’re here to forget them,” Goldblume said with an emphatic nod. “If the earth wanted you to be with your family, you would be. But the earth wants you here. It’s the truth because the earth says so. Don’t you agree, brother?”

Quentin didn’t know what to do. He needed to finish the ceremony, or he would be sent back home, and he had no idea how to get down the mountain. Before him, Goldblume’s face tightened almost in an angry way and without a second thought he said, “Of course I agree!”

“And you promise to forget?”

“Yes, I promise,” Quentin replied, every word making him feel more and more sick.

Again, the bowl was filled with alcohol. Goldblume took one gulp, and then left Quentin to finish it off. He only paused to breathe once.

When the second bowl was empty Goldblume placed a chain of lush leaves around the young man’s neck. “The leaves represent new growth,” Goldblume said. “The old has gone, the new has come.”

With his vision swimming Quentin turned to the third and final log bench and faced Luna. She was smiling brilliantly, holding something in her hand so small that it was hidden within her fist. He focused all his energy on making eye contact. She was the reason, he reminded himself. She was the reason he had come up the mountain in the first place. Even if everything else was a lie, he could listen to her.

“The third vow is to love people,” she said softly. “For just as you loved the earth enough to listen and come up Mount Bower, you must love those around you who have also answered the earth’s call. It is a simple request, but not a simple task. Do you vow to love the others in your new family?”

“Yes, I promise,” he said, drunkenly grinning at her.

With a sweet smile, Luna filled the bowl, took a drink, and watched with fascination as Quentin drank it and did not falter.

“Now,” she said. “Give me your hand.”

He thrust out his left hand. “What, no necklace?”

She shook her head, and tied a small piece of intricately woven fabric around his finger. “This represents the circle of your new family. It is a symbol of the love you will share with us.” Then Luna smiled once more, a mysterious smile that Mona Lisa would have been jealous of, and kissed him. “The love you will share with me.”

“The ceremony is completed!” Goldblume said with a grin. “Our friend Quentin is now our brother Fielding! Bless the earth for sending him to us!”

Quentin was still standing there, completely undone by Luna’s kiss, and completely overwhelmed by the 190-proof alcohol swimming around inside his body.

He told himself that it was wrong. He was underage, for one thing. And second, he had not followed Luna up the mountain to seduce her. And yet, it seemed this was the only way to do what he had intended when he started this journey.

 

Fielding had been preparing himself to ask what Luna’s real name was. The question was in his mouth, and his mind was already thinking of probably names for her. But instead, the night of the ceremony flooded back into his memory, and he groaned loudly.

“Oh, no….”

“What?” Luna asked, concern marring her delicate features. She touched his arm gently. “Fielding, what’s wrong?”

Fielding shook his head. Two years he had been suppressing that memory. For two years he had forgotten the entire point of coming up Mount Bower. It was no wonder he didn’t understand his decision not to pursue Luna romantically.

“I remember,” he said, his voice low and rough with emotion. “Luna, I remember why I came up here. I had forgotten.”

“I thought you came up here for the thrill of it?” She cocked one eyebrow.

“No. No, that’s not it at all! Do you remember where we met?”

“On a street corner.”

“Yes, Luna, but what building were we next to?”

“I don’t know. It was big and white.”

“It was a church!” Fielding exclaimed. “I had just gone to church before I met you.”

“I’m confused. That’s why you came up here?”

“Sort of,” he said, running a hand over his face. “Can we get out of this hot tent?”

She nodded, and they migrated to a shady spot under a big tree.

“So,” Luna sighed. “Will you explain things to me now?”

“I can try,” he said.

“We’ve got all day, Fielding,” she said.

He regarded her silently. They did have all day. Barely an hour had passed since the others had left. With that knowledge, he wondered if he could possibly change things by the time they returned.

“Alright,” he said. “I’m going to explain things, but you have to listen carefully and you can’t freak out. Okay?”

Luna nodded with wide eyes.

“Okay,” he began. “Here’s what happened: I went to church. It was only my fourth or fifth time going to church. It was kind of a new thing for me. I became a Christian just a few weeks before I  met you. And then that Wednesday night, my pastor spoke on evangelism, and how we shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to people. So I walked out of church all excited about evangelism… and you were standing there.” He stopped, and smiled so happily that he felt the grin might split his face in half.

“And then?” Luna prodded, although something in her voice told him that she knew what was coming next.

“And then you were standing there,” Fielding sighed. “And you looked so perfect. And we talked about your uncle, and your life. You remember how I met your uncle a few hours later, and then when he introduced us we pretended we’d never met? And I thought about how free I’d be after graduation and that if I was really serious about my faith… I would take that freedom, and I would follow you to the ends of the earth just so that one day I could sit in church with you.”

“You’re blushing,” Luna giggled and touched his cheek.

“And you’re laughing at me,” Fielding said. He took her hand from his face and held it. “Does that make any sense to you?”

Luna looked down at their joined hands, and her signature mysterious smile tilted the corners of her mouth. “I knew you were from the church,” she said after a long silence. There was still a tone of laugher somewhere in her voice. “And I wanted to go in. But Goldblume would never stand for it. So I just stood there and listened through the window. It was a really good sermon.” She looked up at him, her eyes sparkling, even in the shade. “And then you were there.”

“Wait,” he said. “You knew?”

“I knew you were following me. I knew that you didn’t really want to become just like my Uncle Cory. And yes, I knew, in a strange way, that you thought you were doing a good deed by coming up here.”

“But?”

“But I couldn’t say anything!” she said, crossing her arms. “You know that. Goldblume would never have let me become friends with a guy I’d met by a church. If he knew that I still believed in God and all that, he’d"well, I don’t know what he would do, but it would be worse than anything else he’s ever done.”

Fielding could only stare at her. All that time he’d forgotten about his original goal for the mountain, and it was still a possibility. There was still hope.

So he kissed her. It was not an elaborately intoxicated kiss like during the naming ceremony, nor was it hastened like their kiss that morning. It was the kiss of complete surrender. She had loved him for two years, waiting for him silently, and with the new truth of her faith"and her faithfulness"he no longer had a reason to hesitate.

Luna broke away. “So what are we going to do now?” she said softly.

“What do you want to do?” he asked her, their hands still joined together on the roots of the tree beneath them.

“I want to leave,” she said without a second thought. “I never wanted to live with Cory. I wanted to live in my parents’ house, and go to their church, and stay with my friends.”

“But he took care of you.”

“Yes,” she sighed.

“And you felt obligated to make him happy.”

“Not anymore,” she laughed. “I’d much rather feel obligated to make you happy.”

He smiled at her. “You know, there is only one way your uncle will ever let us get away from him.”

“And what way would that be?”

“I have to make you my lady,” he said, chuckling.

 

When Goldblume and Cliff returned that evening, Fielding went and informed them of his decision to ceremonially bind himself to Luna. Both men practically roared with delight, throwing their hands up in the air and hugging each other.

Then Fielding said, “And we’d like to get the ceremony over with right away.”

Goldblume stopped celebrating and stared at the young man in curiosity. “What’s the rush, son?”

“Well, we’ve been waiting for a while. I want to make her my lady immediately,” he said with a grin. “I’ve got to have her right away.”

Goldblume and Cliff exchanged a look.

“I was married once,” Cliff said. “I get what you’re sayin’. Better now than later.”

All three men laughed, and Goldblume went to his tent to find his “ceremonial necessities.”

Fielding knew for a fact that the man had no right to marry anyone. He and Luna planned to have a proper marriage somewhere, once they escaped, but for the time being they needed a way out. Having a ceremony was the only way Goldblume would give them privacy"and with that privacy, the freedom to get away from Mount Bower.

The ceremony, like any other ludicrous ritual Goldblume had made up, took place around the fire. Luna and Fielding sat on one bench together, with Cliff and Goldblume on the other two benches. Like proper people desiring to escape, the young lovers carefully and obediently observed every part of the ceremony without complaint. Together they drank some of Goldblume’s most-likely-illegal alcohol"or “the liquid of fire” as he liked to call it. They also bound their wrists together with a thorny vine, symbolizing the truth that all hardships should be endured together. And after Goldblume had prompted them both to say, “Yes, I promise,” they kissed.

In the estranged world of Mount Bower, they were married. According to all of the trees and the insects and animals, and most importantly to the earth, they were joined together forever. And in the mind of Goldblume, Luna was now owned by Fielding.

Fielding knew this, and so did Luna. Now that it was official for everyone there, the new couple could carry out their plans to escape. They had spent much of the day preparing for it by packing their few belongings and taking some food as well. But more imperative than food or clothing was the means of keeping Goldblume from chasing them, and Fielding had taken care of that.

As the ceremony was ending, Fielding stood up and said, “I’d like to dance with my lady, if that’s alright with everyone.” He picked up an unopened bottle from Goldblume’s feet. “And I’m taking this with me.”

Smiling in their secret way, Luna and Fielding began to dance in a little circle around the fire. They each took a drink in turn, and within the circle of their dance the two older men hummed a tuneless song. As they danced and drank, a fire seemed to build inside them. Such passion had been ignored for two years, waiting within the depths of hesitant hearts for the right moment to burst into flame. The liquid burning down their throats echoed the same sentiments that their glittering gazes expressed to each other, and had it not been for the two men sitting close by and the knowledge that the marriage wasn’t real just yet, there might have been a different sort of passion between them.

Only when the strange humming faded away did the dance also cease. Fielding looked around himself, as if searching for something he’d lost, then picked up a twig and lit the end of it on fire.

Luna stared at him with most earnest trepidation in her eyes. Still, she said, “I’m ready, Fielding.”

Fielding nodded and the two of them stepped away from the fire. “We’re going now,” he said calmly.

“Where you off to?” Goldblume asked. “Got a secret honeymoon spot somewhere?”

Cliff laughed at that. “If you want privacy we can just for a midnight hike or somethin’, kids.”

“Well, we’re looking for a bit more than privacy,” Fielding replied. He took the flaming stick in his hand and tossed it to the earth, and the two men on the benches were immediately surrounded by a ring of flames, fueled by a circle of the strongest alcohol in existence.

“What the"Fielding, what is the meaning of this?” Goldblume demanded. The flames weren’t that high, but it still would have resulted in injury to jump over them. The men were stuck.

“We’re leaving,” Fielding said over the fire. “Luna is mine now. Her heart belongs to me and I’m going to take her away from here. I’m going to take care of her.”

“You can’t do this!” Goldblume shouted. “You took an oath. You made vows.”

“They’re not real, Cory! None of this little world is real.”

“But what about".”

Cliff grabbed Goldblume shoulder. “It’s over, man. You can’t make ‘em believe you. It’s their decision.”

“But, Luna,” Goldblume pleaded. “You’re my only real family.”

As Luna and Fielding pulled their backpacks on, she turned to face her uncle one last time and said somberly, “My name is Phoebe.”

 

All through the night Quentin and Phoebe travelled down Mount Bower, until they reached an established path and followed it until they found a ranger’s station.

The man on duty looked Quentin up and down and said, “Hey, you look like one of the guys on a ‘missing person’ poster in the back. Your name Quentin, by any chance?”

Quentin nodded, tempted to smile.

“Your girlfriend looks familiar too. You guys have been up here for a while, haven’t you?”

Phoebe looked at her soon-to-be husband, and he looked back at her with shining eyes.

“We got a little lost,” she said. “We just didn’t figure it out till now.”

© 2010 Katie Foutz Voss


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The ending was awesome too!

Posted 9 Years Ago


What a great story! A few typos: the line about the midnight hike, and Goldblume's questioning of Quentin; missing and added words. Other than those tiny things, this was a well -written story with a solid plot, and an extremely enjoyable read!

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on May 9, 2010
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Author

Katie Foutz Voss
Katie Foutz Voss

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About
1. My name is Katie, Kat, Kate, or Katherine. Never Kathy. 2. You will find me with flowers in my hair and paint on my hands. 3. I love: Jesus, my husband, art, coffee, pajamas, chapstick, the color.. more..

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