Her heart swelled so large, Agatha found it hard to breath. It contracted with such a “thud” that her slight frame shook with the shock. The blood-hammer hit the anvil of her eardrums so strongly, that she could hear nothing but the beating.
Her cousin Maeve’s words fell distant and frail. “You okay Aggie?”
Agatha’s young heart had not pounded like this since news of her father’s death when she was six years old. Most her girl cousins stood on tippy-toes straining to see the commotion down the sun-scorched street. Agatha stood flat footed enthralled with “him”. Only “Little Maeve” noticed Agatha reaction, but at first she could not see over the heads of everyone else to determine the cause.
Agatha and the other girls in her family stood on the bench framing a flower bed to get a better look at the performance entertaining the crowds waiting for the three theatres to open. She and Little Maeve shared a bottle of now warm “spring” water. She was college age, the eldest of the girl cousins, but only by a little. Maybe a little taller, maybe a little darker, but like them all slim, tan and raven-haired. Only Agatha inherited their grandmother Maeve’s dark eyes. They wore light summer dresses at Grandmother Roxanne’s insistence. She declared today “informal” due to the extreme heat. But Agatha talked her maternal grandmother into allowing her to wear something a little longer, something a little more adult.
A small band of musicians played. A group of dancers in blue and plum took turns performing as couples or small sets. The crowd had really been enjoying the show. Moistened sawdust covered the concrete sidewalks leading to and from the Allen Pavilion. A gasp moved up the busy lane leading to the theatres, heads turned to look down Pioneer Road, relatives leaned in that direction, some started moving that way.
As the crowd started to ease around them, Agatha had spotted the young man. His eyes were green. Green eyes were common in Agatha’s family. Agatha is French/Italian. He was not. Curly blond hair covered his head, almost a page boy hair cut like you’d see on a roman statue of the god Apollo. He and his friend (too dark to be his brother) wore nice short sleeved dress shirts and matching ties. “He” outgrew his shirt just recently. It clung tightly to his slight muscled frame. The short sleeves bulged trying to enclose his massive biceps. He wasn’t that much taller than Agatha, but…
”Tall enough.” She mumbled to herself.
Without knowing it, at that moment she mimicked her grandmother Maeve’s habit of licking the inside of her lips with her pretty pink tongue, like she’d just eaten something sweet and wanted to get every bit of its sugary taste. She wished for redder lipstick. It looked like, from his name tag that his name was “Eldon Brigham”.
Little Maeve witnessed all this; the hard stare, the lick of the lip and the squint to read Elder Brigham’s name tag. She whispered “Not exactly your type.”. She nudged Agatha, took her arm and said it again, before Agatha heard her over the hum-bum.
Batting her long eyes lashes in order to escape her trance Agatha assured her innocently that “Yes, he is!” Then awakened to the mob relatives joining everyone already watching the entertainment. “What’s going on?”
“Everyone wants to meet Grandmother Maeve’s cousin Isolde. No one ever met anyone from her side of the family. Everyone thought she had no family.” Little Maeve explained, a little too rote at the end.”
“Everyone” thought Little Maeve was their grandmother’s favorite and treated her accordingly. Little Maeve knew that Agatha was in fact her favorite and their grandparents treated her accordingly. Their little secret bonded to the two girls long ago. They exchanged a barely noticeable roll of their eyes. They knew perfectly well that their Grandmother had no living relatives, but kept it to themselves.
“He’s gone.” Little Maeve pointed out as the mob around Maeve and Isolde passed by.
“That’s okay.” Agatha muttered pretending to stare after their grandmother while her eyes searched the crowd for Eldon.
“It’s wouldn’t have been okay if our fathers had seen the look on our face.” Little Maeve whispered in the other girl’s ear, the fanned fingers of her right hand protecting the conversation.
They exchanged nervous wide eyed expressions and then burst into giggles when they noticed the moat of Sienna men folk surrounding them and their girl cousins. Agatha grabbed Little Maeve’s hand and pulled it to their sides, so that nothing more could be said while surrounded by their extended family. Agatha bent and whispered something in her step-father’s ear. He and her brother Deuce helped Agatha and her cousin down. Deuce intended to go with the girls, but his step-father held him back. The two girls made their way towards the “Group Sales Chalet” across the Green Show stage. Since the “everyone” wanted to talk to Maeve and “everyone in the know” wanted to talk to Agatha, several step-aunts and uncles and many of their males second cousins greeted them along the way. . They never would have a found a moment alone but to each greeting they inquired softly for the restrooms and went on their way.
“Well, Elder looked smart.” Little Maeve commented sotto voce.
“It’s Eldon.” Agatha quipped while pointing absently at a shiny black-winged crow sitting in a tree in case anyone looked their way. “Why do you think he’s smart?”
“He was carrying a book; solid blue cover. I’d guess reference or text book.”
“Think he goes to school here in Ashland?” Agatha blurted out.
Forgetting herself she turned excitedly to better hear her cousin’s reply. Then she froze, while slightly bent towards the smaller girl, people stared at her. Little Maeve saw the scared, shocked look on Agatha’s face. He couldn’t help it, the corners of her mouth started to rise. The same happen to Agatha and they both burst out into giggles and rushed to the ladies room.
“Do you really think he goes to school in Southern Oregon?”
“Why not? We’ll say we are interested in going to school here and check it out tomorrow. Maybe we’ll see him.”
Agatha did a double take at Little Maeve, “You know, Grand-daddy might let me go to school here. Everyone loves it.”
After their dad’s death their grandfather became the father-figure in Agatha and Deuce’s life. He also remained the disciplinarian.
“It’s either here or they’ll send us to Bryn Mawr College.”
The girls really hadn’t needed to use the rest room, but they went in for appearances, splashed water on their faces and fiddled with their hair.
“Ever think about coloring your hair?” Little Maeve asked as she admired in the mirror the affect of sun light pouring in the frosted windows on her own black locks.
Agatha rolled her eyes, then paused. After a thought she chuckled. “Once. When I was six. I convinced Aunt Harmonia to help me paint one strain of hair in rainbow colors. “
“Next day all the other girls started doing it!”
They laughed again and walked outside. A man in a blue Hawaiian shirt stood a few feet away with his back to them leaning against the bole of one of a cottonwood at the back of the stage. He stood 6’1”and seemed at ease in his muscular body. His full head of auburn hair hung in curls almost collar length., The shirt hung loosely as though unbuttoned and he wore…
“Shorts!” Agatha gasped. Grand-Daddy was barefoot too, ( per his sister-in-law’s request) but the girls never noticed because he talked with Brigham. “I’m going to die, right now.” Agatha insisted.
She clutched Little Maeve’s fingers so tight, that the younger girl felt pain. At least until she turned and saw how white Agatha looked and then she felt fear.
Grand-Daddy’s hairy right arm scooped them up and pulled them forward as he said, “Gentleman, I’d like to introduce my granddaughters. This is wife’s namesake; Maeve. And this is,” there was something sweet and knowing in her grandfather’s voice, but Agatha was too nervous and awestruck to notice it. “my granddaughter Agatha.”
A moment before Agatha worried that her grandfather might hear her heart beating. A moment earlier she saw her brother Deuce’s stern stare. A moment previous she wondered what to say to Brigham. But, now she knew something. The hand that lay in the small of her back was the hand of destiny. That this meeting was met to be.
“Ladies, this Elder Brigham and Elder Ortiz.”
The girls offered their hands.
Maeve made sure to shake Brigham’s hand first so that Agatha need not drop it later as they stared dumbly into one another’s eyes. She noticed that Ortiz’s features were more to her liking than Brigham’s; dark and that she liked his accent. She mumbled something to the affect “Do you guys go to school here?”
Which her grandfather translated more elegantly as “What do you gentleman think of my granddaughters going attending to school here?”
As Ortiz in a thick Spanish accent made courteous replies about how nice the people were, how pretty the town, how ideal the weather, Little Maeve saw Deuce making a bee-line for them. Her grandfather made some little joke in Spanish in response to Ortiz’s diplomatic comments. After a double-take at the girls’ grandfather Brigham responded in like language.
Deuce broke into the circle at that moment. His face flushed with emotion. He stood taller than usual. His chest puffed out. No rage twisted his face when got Agatha’s attention. He saved that for when he turned towards the young men. His mouth open and barked “Grand Daddy!” Apparently, he’d never seen his grandfather behind the tree.
“Deuce!” his grandfather yelled. “I want you to meet these young men. They want to talk to us about God. This is Elder Ortiz. He is here on an English speaking mission from Columbia. Elder Brigham here is on a Spanish-speaking mission.”
Deuce got pulled into his grandfather’s arms. He listened as Ortiz explained that the “Book of Mormon” in his hand was another testament of Jesus Christ. The doors opened to the theatres about then. Agatha’s uncles called for their father and mother to lead the way in. Two additional tickets appeared like magic from his pocket. He pushed Deuce and Ortiz ahead of him.
“Brigham, bring along my grand-daughters please.”
Brigham sat between Agatha and Maeve during the whole performance of, remarkably “Tristan and Isolde”, just in front of the girls’ grandparents. Brigham admitted that Southern Oregon might be the school for him when his mission ended. At the end of the evening Agatha’s grandfather invited the missionaries on the train trip the family planned for the next day. He pointed out how many people they’d be able to give their testimony to. Clearly, neither Ortiz nor Brigham needed the added encouragement.
As the audience strolled their separate ways, their grandfather took Agatha and Deuce under his arms. Little Maeve after exchanging looks with her grandfather knowingly followed along.
“He reminds me of your father.” Their grandfather said. Deuce, who barely recalled their father, nodded vigorously, after all Ortiz has their father’s manly dark looks and serious countenance. Agatha and Little Maeve shared a look of surprise. They assumed their grandfather meant Brigham. Agatha’s father had been notoriously not handsome nor blonde. “He has your father’s graciousness, your father’s artistic ability and charm. I like him.”
Deuce was sent to find his step-father,
“You know girls. Five percent of Mormon missionaries return with foreign brides.”