This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples comes from “Samhain Proposal,” Chapter 6 of Green Sunrise, the hiatused book between Little Ragdoll and Justine Grown Up. It’s Halloween 1974, and the ladies are telling one another’s fortunes through various methods of divination after trick or treating. In the middle of their fun, Ernestine gets a very happy holiday surprise.
Deirdre gets up. “Close your eyes and I’ll spin you three times. You toss the apple peel over your left shoulder after the last spin.”
“Are there any boys you like in school, Justine?” Emeline teases as Deirdre spins her. “Any names you’d like to tell us?”
“Oh, there are a couple of guys I fancy, but no one I’d be interested in getting serious with. I’m having a hard time in somea my classes anyway; the last thing I need is to burden myself with a relationship.”
“Are you failing?” Ernestine asks. “I know you’re too old to need us to check your schoolwork, but if you are having difficulties, we might be able to help you.”
“I’m having problems too,” Aoife confesses. “They’re nothing that can’t be fixed in due time, when the material gets easier.”
Justine throws the apple peel over her left shoulder and holds onto Deirdre for support, her eyes still closed.
“Is that an O?” Emeline asks. “Or maybe a G?”
“I think it’s a U or a V,” Fiona says.
“Oh, brother,” Deirdre says. “That looks like a D to me, and we all know you’ve got a big crush on my brother.”
Justine blushes. “Even if this stuff is for real and not just a parlor game, I’m still five years younger than David. I don’t like him enough to wanna get him in trouble or force a relationship with someone who’s way outta my league at my age.”
“You’ll be old enough for him in five or so years,” Adicia says. “Age differences aren’t so big when you get older.”
“Can we try tasseography now?” Ernestine asks. “I’m mad with curiosity to see if you can see anything concrete in a bunch of loose tea leaves.”
“Maybe you can have some candy while you’re drinking the tea,” Deirdre encourages her. “Do you have a preference for tea?”
“Raspberry green tea with honey, please.”
Deirdre resumes reading Fiona’s palm while the water heats up and Emeline pulls out teacups, saucers, the wooden box of teas, and the blue cast iron teapot with a butterfly motif. Ernestine thumbs through one of her fortune-telling books as she waits for the tea to be brought in.
“This line right above the Heart Line and under the index and ring fingers is called the Girdle of Venus,” Deirdre says as Ernestine sips the tea. “It’s usually found in people who are extremely sensitive, and we all know how sensitive you are. And this marking between the Head and Heart Lines is called La Croix Mystique. It means you’ve got a natural gift for mysticism and the occult.”
“That’s groovy,” Fiona says. “I’ve heard caulbearers have psychic powers, though I was en caul, not in the caul.”
“That makes you even more special. It’s not every day a baby comes out in an unbroken sac.”
Ernestine sets down her teacup and reaches for her pillowcase, hoping to pull out a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a bag of M&Ms, or a Snickers bar. Instead she finds the wooden box now resting on the top of her sack of loot. Curious, she pulls it out and examines it.
“Did anyone else get something like this? Don’t tell me it’s from some dentist who gave out boxes of coins ‘steada real candy. We had some awful killjoy back in Poughkeepsie who gave out toothbrushes every Halloween.”
“At least you can do something with money,” Aoife says. “The worst are the dentists and health nuts who give out apples. Who wants an apple on Halloween?”
Ernestine pulls the box open and finds a folded note propped up on a slight angle. Even more curious, she sets the box down, neglecting to notice the ring, and reads the note. “’My belovèd Ernestine Zénobie Troy, you are my best friend, my life, my soul, my heart, the only best friend and life partner I want for the entire rest of my earthly existence. I’m formally, officially asking you again if you will be my best friend, my dear one, my partner through life, even until we are seventy, and beyond if we live so long. We’ve been inseparable and interconnected for years, and now I want to make things permanent with a handfasting ceremony. Will you please make my world complete by telling me you’ll marry me? Love forever and always, Deirdre Apollonia Ryan, Halloween 1974.’”
Deirdre looks at her expectantly, knowing full well the answer, but still unable to breathe until she knows for sure. Ernestine sets the note down on the table and turns her attention back to the little box, letting out a loud excited scream when she sees the brilliant red garnet in the claddagh setting.
“Yes, of course I’ll marry you, Deirdre! I’ll belong to you forever!” She jumps up and throws her arms around Deirdre, shaking in excitement, nervousness, and happiness. “Would you like to put the ring on for me?”
Deirdre takes the box, pulls the ring out, and slips it onto the ring finger of Ernestine’s left hand. “I knew it would fit you perfectly!”