"Where are we going?" Kai asked. He may not have spent a lot of time here, but he could have sworn that going through town was the wrong way to get to the Goddess Pond.
"To see my mum," Jovie replied cheerfully. "She moved to town last Fall."
"She's in town now?"
"Sure! She had a house built on the empty lot across from Lillia's farm." They approached the house. It was a modest house with two floors and a good yard. It looked like it was definitely enough for a woman living by herself. Jovie knocked on the door.
"Coming!" they heard a musical voice say from inside. When the door opened, Kai did a double take. The Goddess stood before him, but the hair in buns and flowing silver robes were gone. Her hair was pulled back into a loose braid that went clear down to the back of her thighs. Instead of shimmering robes, she wore a cheerful dress with a full skirt and three-quarter sleeves, very much like the other women in town. If it weren't for the glittering blue eyes and shimmering skin, she'd look normal. "Hi, honey! You're certainly chipper about something. Do I get to know what it is?" She looked at Kai and smiled. "Kai! You're back in town for the summer?"
"Actually, that's what we came to talk to you about," he said.
"We're getting married!" Jovie said ecstatically. Florimell gave Jovie a huge bear hug. Kai wasn't sure he saw the movement into the hug, just the hug.
"That's great!" she said. She turned and gave Kai the same bear hug, making Kai chuckle. He had hoped for her just being tolerant after what happened. This was much better. "I'm so happy for both of you! I knew you would someday. Kai, you can call me 'mum' now. You look a little shocked."
"Well, my parents were never very attentive to me. I'm not used to all this affection," he said.
Florimell laughed. "Well, get used to it. Now that I'm settled in town, I'll be around a whole bunch. Who's in the wedding? Do I get to help?"
"Of course you do! But you do know that I'll be inviting Dad," Jovie said.
"I know. I figured you would, and I encourage you to."
"I think you should talk to him."
Florimell looked at Jovie, and Kai in turn. Kai knew all about her and what happened with Jack. They had told him last summer, as Jovie wanted to be completely open with him. "He thinks I'm dead. I can't just walk up to him and say, 'Just kidding!' How can you tell someone something like that?"
Jovie took Florimell's hands. "Mum, I'm going to call him now to tell him. I'm also going to invite him out here to spend the week in town before the wedding to catch up with his friends. Everyone in the village is covered—I told them that you had moved here from town. I know that Dad will understand. It might take him some time, but he'll understand."
Florimell looked at her daughter for a moment, then nodded. "You're right. You're very wise for your age, Jovie. Couldn't imagine where you got that from," she said with a chuckle. "Go call him. I'll go with you two to meet him at the dock when he comes."
Jovie hugged her mother and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you! I'll come by tomorrow with designs for wedding dresses, and I'll drag my bridesmaids with me."
Florimell's face lit up. "This is so exciting! I can't wait! I know you have to go call your father. Let me know what he says." She bade good-bye to her daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law, and wondered what Jack would say. She had never stopped loving him—when you had eternity, a year seemed like a day and her feelings hadn't faded one bit. She went back inside to wonder and worry. Could a goddess worry herself into an ulcer? She shrugged and figured this would give her one if it were possible.
The next day, Jovie, Kai, and Florimell waited on the beach for the boat from the mainland to come over. It was 9:00 in the morning, and the ocean breeze was cool with the sun halfway to the top of the sky.
"I love this salt air!" Jovie said cheerfully.
"Me too. I wonder what the beach will be like during other seasons," Kai replied.
"In the Spring and Fall, it's very much like the Summer but without the Summer heat. It has a different feel to it than in Summer as well, but you'll have to see it for yourself. I can't describe it."
"It's anxious, like me," Florimell pouted as she paced, keeping an eye on the horizon.
"Mum, it is not, and while you are anxious over this, you don't need to be."
"Well, I am. And I'm going to stay that way until I know."
Kai pointed suddenly out to sea. "You'll know soon, because here comes the boat," he said. He and Jovie both saw the instant panic on Florimell's face.
"Oh no. What do I do? What do I say? I'm going to throw up." Can goddesses throw up? She never had, but there was a first time for everything. Her panic escalated when she saw the boat was already halfway to the pier. How dare he hire the high-speed charter! Suddenly someone grabbed her shoulders, and she found herself looking into Kai's dark, yet amused eyes.
"Florimell, you're overreacting. You have no way of knowing what he will say, but there's no sense in worrying about it until he's here. You're already worked up into a tizzy, so try to take yourself down from it before he gets here."
"You're right, Kai. You're right." She took three deep breaths, and tried to collect herself. "You're very wise for your age as well, Kai. And remember, it's Mum to you."
Kai glanced behind himself when he saw her look over his shoulder. The boat was pulling into the pier and about to dock to let off its passenger. He turned back to Florimell. "You can do this, Florimell. Deep breaths. We're here for you if you need us." She nodded and they turned to face the dock.
"Dad!" Jovie said, running to the brown-haired man who stepped off the boat. Kai couldn't help but smile at the look of happiness the man had when he saw her. Jovie nearly pounced on him with a hug. He stepped back to look at her and smiled.
"Jovie, you look great! You've toned up with the physical labor you've been doing, and it suits you," he said. "You must be Kai!" Jovie turned around to see Kai now standing next to her.
"Yes, I am," Kai replied with a grin. He extended his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Clarke." Jovie's father shook it, then gave Kai a hug.
"It'll be Dad in a few days, son. Welcome to the family. It's a small one, but we know how to have a good time."
"Um, Dad, speaking of family . . . there's someone that wants to see you," Jovie said nervously. Her dad gave her a questioning look, then she stepped aside to reveal Florimell who had come up to stand at the end of the dock. He just stared.
Florimell took a few steps forward. "Hi, Jack," she said, her voice shaking. He continued to stare at her. "It's me. I . . . wondered if we could talk for a bit."
He just continued to stare in shock. Jovie and Kai whispered to her that they were going to take off, and she nodded. Then she was alone with her estranged husband. She stepped toward him more until she was standing a few feet in front of him. "I'm just going to spit this out before my nerves get the better of me. I'm not a ghost and you're not seeing things. I was never really gone—I can't be gone. I never told you before, but I'm the Harvest Goddess that lives in the pond on the mountain. You wanted so badly to take Jovie away to the city, and for good reason, but I couldn't go with you because I can't be away from this island. I'm tied to it and I can't go any farther from that pond than the edge of the island. So I left one day, and never returned.
"It pained me every day for the last eighteen years to be without you and our Jovie, but I knew just as you did that she would have so much more opportunity in the city than here. I did it for her future.
"I know it's a lot to absorb, and I know that you'll probably hate me for the rest of your days for what I did, and for not telling you what I was. But I wanted to tell you everything. I wanted to tell you that I always loved you. I haven't stopped and my heart aches for you every day. I'm living in town now in a new house across from Lillia's farm. You're welcome whenever you wish to come. If you don't, I'll understand—I'll see you at her wedding and then you can leave and go on with your new life. I won't disturb you ever again.
"I'll see you, Jack." She turned on her heel and began to head back to her house, with him still staring right through the spot she'd stood in.
Florimell sat in her living room three days later, knitting an afghan for Jovie and Kai. She enjoyed crocheting and other simple things that she had lost touch with in her eighteen year stint as Goddess between her times as a mother. She enjoyed being a mother much more. And when she was done with this afghan, she'd start on a baby blanket. She was jumping the gun on that one, but Jovie's turn to be a mother would come soon enough.
The knitting had helped her pass the time since Jack's arrival and her subsequent spilling of her guts all over the dock. He hadn't come yet. He had visited Jovie and had helped Kai and Cliff with wedding stuff, so he was out and about. But he hadn't come to her door. She figured he probably wouldn't. Leaving him without warning for reasons that she should have told him of before they were married was a quite a heinous act, let alone her letting him think she was dead. She didn't blame him for not wanting to see her again. She put down her knitting and went into the kitchen. Thinking of it made her stomach feel queasy and she poured herself a glass of water.
A knock at the door startled her. She put the half-full glass on the counter and went to answer it. She just stared at the person on the other side after opening it.
"Hi," he said. Jack stood there with a sheepish look on his face. "May I come in?" She nodded slowly. He stepped into the living room and she shut the door. He looked around and nodded. "This is a nice house. Gotz built it for you?"
"Yes, with some help on the masonry from Jovie. She helped with the foundation and the fence outside is all hers," Florimell replied.
"Really? Those masons in the city were losing out by keeping her as a secretary." He took a deep breath, and turned to face Florimell. "I won't toy with you any longer. I came here to talk to you about . . . everything. I did hear everything you said three days ago. I was in shock as I thought you were dead. The whole goddess thing too . . . it was a little much. I didn't come sooner because I needed some time to collect myself, absorb everything, and figure out just what to do." He turned from her and walked toward the back of the room with his hands clasped behind his back.
"It hurts that you never told me what you are. Even if you didn't tell me before we were married, you should have at least told me why you couldn't come to the city. And I'm hurt that you let me believe you were dead. That caused me a lot of pain, and Jovie the pain of growing up without a mother."
Florimell could feel herself starting to tear up. "I know I should have done things very differently. I should have told you right from the start what I am. I didn't because I didn't want to frighten you off. I thought that if I told you why I couldn't go to the city that you would have been angry that I didn't tell you before and go anyway. It damn well frightened Kai off for a while that Jovie's mother is the Harvest Goddess. I saw your leaving as inevitable, and I just handled it the way I thought best."
"How would you have known? You never even told me, so you never found out for sure."
"I'm sorry. But would you have taken it well, or would you have run?"
She could hear the audible sigh. "I don't know. I probably would have been scared. I think it scares me a little now." She sat down in an armchair before she lost herself.
"I knew it. I knew I should never have told you. I fell in love with you the first time I saw you, but I knew that you'd never be with me if I told you what I was. So just make it quick. I promise I'll never bother you again." She stared at the floor and tried to stop the tears from coming.
Jack walked over and crouched in front of her. He lifted her chin and looked into her eyes. "Florimell, I want you to look at my hand."
She glanced down slowly and looked at his left hand. "You're still wearing your wedding ring?"
"Yes, as I see you are. I've never taken it off. I thought it was the only piece of you I'd ever get to have after you were gone. I didn't come to tell you I never wanted to see you again. I came to tell you that I never stopped loving you either. I am a little hurt that you never told me what you were before, but not because I would have left. I would have stayed here. I spent every day wondering what you would be like now, what you would think of Jovie, if you would be proud of the way I've raised her. I've dreamed of being able to hold you every day for eighteen years. And if you'll have me, I want to be here every day until I die to hold you."
"Jack, I am very proud of Jovie. She's a wonderful person, and I know it's because of the way you raised her. I'm very proud of you both. And you'll have to stick around to find out what I'm like now." She smiled at Jack, and he pulled her into his arms. They smiled at each other, and kissed for the first time in eighteen years.
Ann chuckled as Jovie nervously wrung her hands and looked in the mirror. "Jovie, everything will be fine," she said. "Don't worry about anything. The wedding will be perfect and then you can relax at the reception. Then you'll get to bounce on each other for a week on your honeymoon."
"That's the part I'm worried about," Jovie said. "How on earth am I going to know what to do?"
Ann shrugged. "I've got no experience to go on. Kai's got nothing to go on either, so you're both on equal footing there. You'll be fine. If it's not perfect the first time, you'll just have to do it again." When Jovie burst out laughing, Ann smiled. "With that laugh, my job—for now—is done. Here's your bouquet. Kai's waiting for you."
Jovie took a deep breath, looked at Ann, and they walked down the hall that ran beside the sanctuary to the lobby. Cliff and Jack were waiting, and whistled at the same time when Jovie came out. She smacked them both in the arm with a chuckle. Cliff patted his pocket to show he had the rings, and Jovie nodded and mouthed, 'Thank you.'
Their entrance music started. Cliff offered his arm to Ann, who smiled as she took it, and they both smiled in mirth as they walked down the aisle. Then Jovie's song started. She took her father's arm and took a deep breath. As they started their walk, she looked down the aisle at Kai. He wasn't wearing his bandana today, and thick, wavy black hair fell to his shoulders. Her heart skipped a beat as she realized that he looked exactly like the boy she'd seen so often in her dreams over the years. She'd watched him grow up through those dreams. Kai just stared at her as they walked up. Her father gave her a kiss on the cheek when they reached the front, and gave her hand to Kai. As Carter started talking, Kai leaned in and whispered, "Jovie, this might sound crazy, but now I know where I've seen you before. I think I've dreamed of you since I was a child."
Jovie beamed inwardly. This was right—this was where she was supposed to be. "That doesn't sound strange at all, Kai. I dreamed of you too."