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Tunica Falls is the title, Romantic...

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Chapter One - Daytime

Lisa was thinking of Pauls mom, and of her initial disapproval at Pauls proposal to her 6 months ago. That kind of thing was hard for her to shake. She always wanted to please, and thought his mom would be sooo happy to have her. No? take that back?LUCKY to have her, and so Lisa felt she should have been accepted with open arms.

But there had been a small amount of friction at first. Not much, but over time it bore in Lisas mind. As her mind often tended to work overtime and make things bigger than they might really be. And with something as important as this, well, that meant extra thought to the details of it.

To compensate, Paul had made sure Lisa spent plenty of time getting to know Pauls family. They were non-conventional, unlike Paul. So much so that at times she thought he must have been adopted. His mother grew to love her, and she felt that love more and more lately. But Lisa also had an idea that she expected more of Lisa, whatever that ?more? might be. It was just a feeling, but it was hard to let go.

Mindlessly playing with the engagement ring on her finger, Lisa told Paul, ?I?m thirsty, could we stop somewhere to get something to drink??

Paul and Lisa had spent an hour and a half in the car on the way up from New Orleans talking about just about everything, and had a lot of energy to get out. Their focus had been on each other, as the surrounding scenery up to this point was nothing unusual, or worth talking about.

But now, the drive through St. Francisville was a turning point in their trip. They noticed The Myrtles plantation on their left, and they talked about how they had heard it was haunted, but without any real particulars. Lisa, she said she had heard from a friend that the friends cousin had videotaped a ghost there at the plantation. But she didn?t know much more than that.

It was a slight diversion from the conversation which had been all about their lives? which meant their past, and also what they hoped for in the future. This was now a shift from themselves to their surroundings. They were beginning to take note of the outside world.

And it was getting their attention more and more, as they passed into a world different from their city life in New Orleans.

This was country, and that meant the people did everything at a different pace. When these people worked, surely, even then, the country nature of peace and tranquility permeated their efforts. It had too.

For anyone passing through this world would expect that. Telling themselves that if they were in such a position, out of the rat race of the city, that they would be laid back if they had the opportunity. So no less of these people would be expected from Paul and Lisa, that they would expect from themselves.

And so Paul and Lisa started almost subconsciously to adopt the spirit of country folk.

They pulled into a convenience store in St. Francisville to get something to drink. Paul lingered and chatted with 2 locals there, then brought he and Lisa back some bottled water.

Lisa loved that Paul was settling into this trip, and being so nice to her. He was a kind fellow all in all, but the city often takes its toll on him, as it does on Lisa. Special efforts therefore have to be made at times just to find the personal space that we all need to recharge and go forward in our lives.

And so this trip today was a mandate for them.

They continued on their journey on Hwy 61, and just past St. Francisville turned left on Hwy 66.

The land started to undulate underneath them as if they were riding the back of a massive serpent. Large swaths of forest had been cut out of either side of the road, and so the size of the road became magnified by that to a larger dimension. They were all alone on this highway. No cars were behind them, or even passing them from the other direction. It was a very private introduction into the world they were exploring today.

They had successfully made the transition from the city to country, in the physical as well as the mental sense. Some miles further, they made a right turn at a green sign indicating the direction for Pinkneyville, MS.

Now they were rarely talking at all. The scenery changed dramatically in one turn off of Hwy 66 onto the road to Pinkeyville.

It became a roller coaster ride as the road suddenly swept down underneath a marvelous canopy of trees covering the road, a road that had been cut down into the landscape itself, not laid onto the ground as what we are the most familiar with. With the road then sweeping up out of the depression, a momentary break in the trees revealed a dark azure sky, with fluffy white clouds of powder dotting the landscape of that sky.

The road switched in color and texture indicating better than any sign that they were passing officially from Louisiana to Mississippi.

Their attention was fully on their environment, and they felt diminished by it. Their selfish fixations on their foolish little lives seemed so insignificant here. They were out of their element, and felt the need to take everything in, to assimilate everything about this world, as one does when traveling to a foreign country.

They felt invincible. Which one often feels on a rollercoaster. Though the illusion of safety is just that, an illusion. They relaxed slightly as the road settled into a rhythym for Paul, as he adjusted to the demands of driving this landscape.

They felt as if they had risen in altitude on this road. The clouds seemed closer. The scenery was taking on hues that didn?t seem natural. The colors were deeper, the shadows had higher contrast. The rules were changing up here. Was that possible?

The landscape flatteded out slightly, and they glanced at the old brick church off to the right, set way back off the road. Years ago, they had gone back there to see just what is was all about. It looked old, and they were right. It was now abandoned, and open to the environment. It was still owned the Episcopals, but not maintained to any degree. They talked about how neat it would be to buy it, and convert it into a house. It had such a powerful aura to them. The graveyard to the side of it completed the mystique.

Their destination was close. The Clark Creek Natural Area, also called Tunica Falls, was just ahead. The map referred to Pond, Mississippi. But there was no town there.

The last sweep in the road came taking them even higher towards the clouds. To the left, several red cabins appeared hovering above a large pond. Just next to them on the hill, was the Pond General Store, dating from 1881.

They made the left turn through the main gate, to pass up the little hill to the store. A first stop for anyone visiting the waterfalls. The pond was to their left, and they noticed several donkeys, and plenty of geese on the left to the pond, and also in the yards to the right. This was their land, and a person had to be a little careful to avoid hitting them. They were everywhere!

The store was on the right at the top of the rise, and they parked in front.

There was a bench out front made of old weathered cyprus. It looked so old and worn, it didn?t look capable of supporting a persons weight. It looked more like ancient driftwood. Maybe it was for looks, or maybe it had sat there since 1881.

Passing inside, the floorboards creaked and groaned as they walked. There were huge gaps between the boards, which appeared to match in color and texture to the wood of the bench out in front. The store was fantastic!

To the right as they entered were display cases full of mammoth fossils, all sorts of strange, petrified objects? Indian arrowheads and other curiosities.

To their left was a magnificent doll house someone had made, fully outfitted. And on the front wall they passed walking in was a curio case with old ladies dresses that were certainly 100 years old if a day.

They gawked at everything, then picked out some homemade preserves of Mayhaw jelly to buy.

Paul took the preserves to the counter and talked to the owner for a short while Lisa walked casually around the store, taking it in. It was sensory overload. The store was a trip back to a simpler time and place.

She felt as if she were in a church, and that to say anything would be sacriligious, or might possibly break some spell, and the store would then revert to a version of modern convenience store they knew so well in the city. The floor creaked beneath her feet and she sought to glide even slower along the floor.

Paul picked up the key to their cabin from the counter as the owner placed the preserves in a paper bag for him.

They stepped out into the glare of the day from the cool comfort of the store. Lisa peered at the treeline of the opposite side of the road and was reminded of a poem from her childhood by Robert Louis Stevenson:

From breakfast on through all the day At home among my friends I stay, But every night I go abroad Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go, With none to tell me what to do--

All alone beside the streams And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

The strangest things are these for me, Both things to eat and things to see, And many frightening sights abroad Till morning in the land of Nod.

There was a great deal of power to this place. Indians had lived here. Prehistoric mammals before them. They still made their presence known at the store with objects preserved within curio cabinets. As Paul and Lisa passed outside and felt the breeze bringing fresh scents of the forest to them, they now felt the spiritual energy of those beings. And they both calmed within to yet another level.

They drove over to their cabin and began to unload their bags. They hadn?t brought much, just some essential clothing and food. More picnic style fare than anything. They wanted to rough it. To make sure they felt ?different? from how they felt in the city. In the city?where they had everything they needed, yet felt unfulfilled.

With everything in its place, there became a vacuum of silence between them. The very purpose of words had changed meaning during the course of their trip. They started out their journey with many words. They had chatted unceasingly all the way up to St. Francisville.

Then shortly thereafter, the words had diminished over time to that which was essential for them. They had been overwhelmed by the landscape and transitioned to non-verbal communication. It was mostly symbolic, with a gesture here or there, hardly ever using words, as if the words would taint that which they were sharing together. Pervert it in some odd way.

They had come from the city, and perhaps they didn?t want to contaminate this wonderful world with the city, in an effort to keep it pristine.

Paul stood in front of Lisa. They were 3 feet apart and stared intently at each other. Their thoughts were very different, those of the pursuer and the pursued. They varied in method according to their sex of man and woman. But, ultimately, their goals were the same.

It was primeval? ancient? this drive within each of them, and it drove them forward toward each other. But at this moment, they both stood. Staring? Wondering? Lusting. Living in the moment, and for the moments which were sure to come.

Paul streched out his hand to Lisa and beckoned her forward with an unconscious gesture. She took his hand and he guided her gently toward him.

She now stood immediately in front of him. Inches apart, they locked eyes for several minutes, each drinking the others essence deeply. And then Paul said to her, ?Turn around, and put your back to me.?

Lisa was confused. She had moved forward toward him according to the mating ritual, and now to turn her back to him seemed a step backwards in their dance. She wanted to put her arms around him, to have him pull her close so they could envelop each other in warmth and love.

So this didn?t make sense, and for a moment, her mind started going through the possibilities of what this meant. For with Paul, everything had meaning, everything had intent. He did nothing for idle consequence. The thought of rejection even passed through her mind briefly, as foolish as that was.

For Lisas knowledge of Paul, it was as if his entire life and death had been worked out in advance, so much were the thoughts of his intent that she had for him. Her own meandering thoughts were often wrong, but at times, carried her into new areas of her mind, opening up explorations.

So they were healthy, and Paul then fed off of her passion in that. He was patterned in his behavior, and she craved his manner. She was spontaneous, and he reveled in that nature of her. And so they complemented each other well.

They stayed like that as time passed. Lisa with her back to him, and Paul slowly closing the gap between the two of them, eventually pressing up against her from behind just ever so slightly. 5 minutes passed silently with nothing said.

Pauls fingertips pressed gently against either side of her dress, and gradually followed the contour of her body up from her hips to her shoulders. He did this several times. Up the side of her, and then down again. There was a firmness to his touch, but he applied no pressure. Her eyes closed and she imagined he was touching her not with his fingers, but with his mind, and that made more sense to her with the sensations she was receiving.

Then he started to trace the outline of her back with the fronts, and then the backs of his fingers, casually, in a way that did not even disturb the wrinkles of the fabric. They came together right at the middle of her back, in the crease of her spine, and she gasped as his lips made contact on her neck? once? then pulled away.

He was leaned against her, but not touching forcefully. Just present and accounted for one might say, and she knew he was there, but there was no observable full body contact if one was to be watching. Everything was part of a covert operation, in which he led, and she trusted? and she followed.

Lisa could feel his hot breath hitting the back of her neck, then felt its heat of the side of her neck, and then on her shoulder. She became aware that he was taking in her scent, and then breathing it back out through his nose back onto her. He definitely was doing that. He wasn?t just breathing heavy because he was excited. It was more than that. In her knowledge of him, she knew it was more than that.

She felt excited that she would turn him on in this way. She had always heard about how men are turned on by sights. Women know that the term ?visual males? is a trademark for the gender. And smells were now an added dimension to heighten their arousal. How wonderful! Her lips curled in a smile and she relaxed now a bit more.

Lisa knew he was excited by her. She wanted to reach behind her and feel his excitement for herself, but she resisted.

She accepted the role of prey, and let him take his lead?. For the moment?

His breathing got deeper and deeper as time passed. She could swear that she felt the temperature of his breath on her neck increase, if that was even at all possible, to a point she felt it might burn her if he stayed too long on any one spot. But it didn?t. She chuckled to herself at that odd thought, that him getting ?hotter? in a turned on way meant hotter breath.

He moved around slowly in place, taking in as much of her as he could. No one area could hold his attention, as he wanted all of her. And so Paul would move imperceptibly to new territory, exploring each area before moving on to the next.

Lisa felt the brush of lips on her neck, and she shivered. Goosebumps rose up on the back of her neck and between her shoulder blades. The dr*ped fabric of her dress made slight caresses against her body which only added to her pleasure when they happened.

Lisa murmured the single word ?Exquisite...?

Paul now started to shift. His arms were reaching around and pulling her tighter against him, and he enveloped her, but not in an overpowering way. It was comforting, like familiar warm sheets on a cool day. No? even better? clean sheets on a PERFECT day.

He now was brushing his lips against her neck and shoulders, occasionally planting tiny kisses as if he was growing a garden. Coming back to tend and nurture those kisses once planted, to bring them to more sensation and fullness for her.

And still she felt his heated breath on her. But now his physical touch gathered momentum, and her focus on that became less and less, as the other sensations took over.

His lips were wet, and when he touched her and then moved on, each of those spots experienced a coolness from the surrounding air hitting them. So the hot and cool feelings added a dimension to his play.

The back of her neck was the most sensitive. The tiny hairs there surely were responsible. And Paul must have known that. For he continued working around her neck and then on to her shoulders, nursing each follicle to a goosebump.

She had on a slender gold chain that traced the feminine contours of her neck. She felt sleek with it on, like a gazelle. And Pauls attention to her neck made her proud and justified in her own feelings of attraction for herself. And this gave her confidence and a sense of well being.

He now nuzzled her with his nose, alternating his nose and lips onto her neck and shoulders, such that it was hard for her to separate out the sensations. Breath came from each to confuse her further. The interplay of lips, nose and breath was very erotic to her.

She thought in one moment that Paul was quite the gentleman and lover for spending such time doing this. But then in the next moment she realized he was not being magnanimous at all. And NO, it was not that he was being selfish in some way either!

Paul was simply following his nature, as a blind person touches the terrain to learn about it. He wanted to learn about her. Learn HER. And this was the only way to do it. The only way for anyone to really do it. He wanted to possess her, and to do so required these actions. He had no other choice.

They both followed the flow of energy passing between them. Though she was passive, she was completely responsible for the exchange between them. Without her, he was lost.

It was like a battery in analogy. Either positive or negative pole has a potential, but without the other, such potential is meaningless when unrealized. And really can only be measured as a function to the other pole. It has no real independence. They were interdependent unto each other for that.

Paul now became more aggressive with Lisa. His arms followed her outline, her form, but they were now becoming stiff and rigid as they passed along the sides of her body.

The final touch of his fingers on her was gentle, to be sure, but she sensed he was tensing with an energy that was starting to come over him. Lisa wanted to look into his eyes and see the intensity building.

To see what she was responsible for. To see what she was creating by all of these actions between them.

As these thoughts rose within her, he suddenly bent down and reached under her dress, and clamped the palm of his right hand on the back of her thigh right above the kneecap, fingers pointing downward.

He buried his nose and forehead fully against the center of her back. He slowly and very firmly moved his hand up the back of her thigh in a steady motion, his body pressed hard against her. He rotated his hand as he went, fingers pointing upwards as he brought up his hand, clenching and drawing the fabric of her dress up with it as well, exposing the back of her legs and her panties to the room.

He drew his hand past her thigh, and all the way up her back to her shoulder, taking fabric with it. As it came to shoulder height, he now pushed his body even harder against her and put his open mouth against her shoulder, taking a portion of dress fabric into his mouth as well in the process.

He mouthed her shoulder, biting the fabric as a substitute for her neck. He was impassioned, and working hard to contain his emotions. His entire body was clamped against hers as if in a vise. He felt tears welling up within him as the intensity was so great, and he wanted to consume her, to eat his prey. He was also new to taking things so gradually, and this exploration affected him so.

Lisa felt his mouth against her, and this started to have an effect. She had done so well to this point being silent and receptive, but when he closed his mouth onto her neck, she let out a moan and her legs crumpled slightly, taking them both down slightly.

She had thought at first he was going to bite her. But as his teeth pressed down, he stopped just at a point that she could feel their pressure, without doing them doing any harm.

In fact, after this action he froze virtually altogether. He stopped with his mouth wide open, but still maintaining his force of his body against the whole of her body, very gradually releasing his mouthful of dress and neck. Paul had heard her moan and this helped break his momentum. Which was necessary.

They both took in the moment. Paul took perspective, and wondered what Lisa was thinking about him. The energy within him had been so powerful, it had been all he could do to avoid just ripping off all her clothes, and penetrating her to his orgasm as an animal would, regardless of whether she wanted it or not. It was completely irrational, which was not his normal manner.

They both relaxed as the intensity of the moment waned, and they gained an awareness of the room and their place in it.

Paul loosened his grip on her, and the fabric of her dress fell, covering her back up. He reached his arms around her, the sides of his arms brushing by her breasts, drawing them up fully to the top of her chest and then he locked them together around her upper torso, pressing the side of his head to snug against hers.

The sounds from the radio gave Paul movement, and he started to sway very slowly, back and forth, with Lisa cradled, her head resting into his forearms. It was his own rhythym, moving slower than the music. She moved to his rhythym. She felt him breathing slowly in and out to the rhythym he had created and she felt at peace.

Together they danced slowly, Lisa still with her back to him, as the setting sun came in through the window, leaving their extended shadows on the floor and opposite walls. Paul and Lisa were merged at that moment, just as their shadows were merged together.

Time passed and the shadows lengthened, then dimmed, the songs coming and going as Paul would find and then maintain his own rhythym to each new song.

Paul separated and walked over to the window, drawing the shade, it being now almost dark outside. Lisa got them a drink of water from the kitchen, and she brought it for both them, and they shared it together in the bedroom, sitting on the edge of the bed.

They sat silently and stared deeply into each others eyes, drinking deep the others essence, holding hands in the fading light.

Chapter Two - Nightime

Paul had surprised Lisa by renting this cabin by the waterfalls at Clark Creek Natural Area. He wanted them to take both of their minds off of the world for one day and night of adventure.

They had been to the falls many times over the years, that was nothing new. Typically they followed the trail to the streambed, meandered it to several falls, and left after several hours of hiking around. Always getting out before dark fell, never once staying the night in one of the cabins.

They had heard of another fall further in, supposedly the largest one of all from what people said. But they had never been to it. Paul wanted them to see it on their trip there this time.

So this adventure was an exception.

Therefore, the moment when the sun disappeared and the sky darkened marked an important moment for both of them. Their comfort zone disappeared. They were far away from home, and in a place which at one time bore an eternal familiarity for them, but which now was new and wild.

They were safe in the cabin, and with each other. But Paul had other ideas.

Time passed throughout the early evening with them doing nothing in particular. Just idle movements in the cabin, then always retreating to the safety of the bedroom, where they would lay against each other, snuggling in silence. Time and again Lisa would fall asleep for a short nap, then awaken to Paul. He was always staring forward into nothingness, biding his time it seemed to her.

They weren?t tired, but exhilarated. Close to 11:00 at night, Paul started to get restless.

Paul said, ?Lisa, do you trust me??

Lisa thoughtfully replied, ?Yes, of course I do! I don?t know what you have in mind, but as far as trust goes, you know I trust you!?

Paul said, ?Then lets go take a midnight stroll!?

Lisa thought for a moment, then said, ?Paul, that doesn?t seem like a smart thing to do. There might be animals down there. And you know it isn?t allowed anyway, to be in there at night. They have reasons for that?

?Nonsense? Paul said. ?There is noone around but us and the few people at the other cabins. We are here out in the middle of nowhere, and the woods belong to us?

Lisa didn?t think it was a good idea at all. She kept up protesting. ?Paul, please stay together here with me.? Lisa said.

?Lisa, you know I will always be there to look out for you, to take care of you. You said you trusted me. Take a leap of faith with me. Trust me on this one!? Paul said.

?If at any time you feel scared, we will leave? guaranteed. I am not out to make you upset, I want to please you, always. Everything is for you. This is something we can share together, to remember for the rest of our lives.? Paul said, with his comments making her more comfortable about his suggestion for a nighttime stroll.

?I know you will enjoy it Lisa.? Paul said.

Lisa was quietly intrigued.

She knew that Paul would protect her. They had been there before so she knew the trail well, and that they would not get lost. It was a spectacular moonlit night. The visibility was such they wouldn?t even need a flashlight, though Paul told her he would bring one just in case.

Her resistance was more because she felt opened up and emotionally vulnerable for some reason. That to stay in the cabin with Paul was safe. And she wanted safe right now. She wanted to feel him with her, and have his attention. His attention to her and nothing else. More than any other one thing in the world, she had discovered in her relationship with him that to have his full attention filled her, and gave her great peace.

The cabin was what she needed. ?The cabin isn?t going anywhere? Paul said to her. ?After our walk, we?ll come back to the cabin, to be together again.?

So she relented.

?Paul,? Lisa said, ?If I get scared, we will leave, won?t we??

?Promise,? Paul said, ?And if there is the slightest problem at all about anything, we are out of there!?

Paul took Lisas hand, pulled it up to his mouth, and kissed the back the backs of her fingers gently. ?I love you? Paul said.

?I love you too honey? Lisa blushed out.

Though January, the temperature was a perfect 75 degrees, and so there was no need for jackets. They headed out through the door and walked the hundred feet along the top of the ridge above the pond to the beginning of the trail.

The trailhead was a small unpaved parking lot. There was a lockbox besides a map of the area, under a wooden overhang. Each vehicle was asked to put $2.00 in under the honor system.

Paul reached in his pocket at they came to this point, and pulled out $10, and put it in the box.

?They have earned that $10 tonight, Lisa!? Paul said, ?This is fantastic! The weather is perfect, and we?re all here alone, to share this together!?

?Let?s go!? Paul exclaimed.

They passed down the trail excitedly, and Lisa commented to Paul on the night sky. The moon was full, and the light reflecting back from the ground went back to the clouds above, illuminating them fully. This made the clouds very noticeable as white fluffy balls of cotton embossed against a background of the deepest blue sky one could imagine. Surreal white clouds, with light blue in them, gilding their edges.

The moon bobbed in and out of the clouds. A white, white, white, full moon?

There was no need for a flashlight here. Everything they could was shimmered in silver.

Reaching the bottom of the trail, they passed down into the streambed. The water pathway itself was only several feet wide. The sand to either side of the water stream gave them up to 5 feet of walkway on each side of the water. This varied to sometimes more, then less dry walking area as the stream took its meandering course. So they would leap from one side of the stream to the other, as their available walking space changed.

They approached the first fall, and stepped out of the streambed to the side trail, to take the staircase down.

There was an illumination coming from the bottom of the fall. Lisa noticed it first, and pointed it out to Paul.

?Paul, there is a light down there! We might not be alone!? Lisa said.

Standing at the top of the stairs Paul said, ? Let me go first, to see what?s down there, but stay close to me.?

Lisa stood behind Paul, and they cautiously followed the length of the stairs down further, to a lower elevation of land.

There were the smoldering embers of a fire. Someone had been there before them. But they were gone. Noone was around.

It was approaching midnight as they reached the bottom. The waterfall was set into the hillside in a horseshoe shape, the walls being 25 feet high.A large sandy spit yawned in front of the narrow stream falling from up top into the pool below.

The fire was positioned in the middle of this spit of sand. It had dimmed, but occasionally it flared up as the wood settled within it, embers dancing up the sides of the fall. Paul found some wood and put it on the fire for them.

Lisa said, ?Paul, we should putting OUT the fire, not encouraging it!? She was mad that someone would set a fire down here, then leave, to have it risk burning the forest down. She wanted to find the people responsible and tell them something, but a greater part of herself was also relieved that there was noone there for them to confront. This was supposed to be their excursion, just them on this nighttime adventure. No strangers welcome.

They idled about the fire for awhile, then Paul told Lisa they needed to go farther down, to find another waterfall.

This didn?t make any sense to Lisa at all. They had come a distance, and taken risks. They weren?t supposed to be here in the first place. In the second, they might not be alone, and who knows WHO they might run into down here.

Before Lisa could take control and get them out of there, she noticed Paul had passed 50 feet downstream. He shouted, ?Come on Lisa, let?s go!?

There was no way she was going to stay there alone, not even for a minute. She would catch up with Paul, and bring him to his senses.

Paul would have none of it. He picked up a pace that became hard for Lisa to follow. He seemed bent on some kind of a mission, driven to take her deeper into the woods. Lisa was always 25 feet behind him, as she danced from one side of the stream to the other in an effort to keep her feet dry. She couldn?t close the gap.

She wasn?t too mad about this for some reason. Normally, this would be grounds for a breakup as seen with her past boyfriends. Just being late for a date had cost at least one soul his future with her. But with Paul, he so rarely pushed her boundaries that she was more surprised than anything.

As a half hour passed, they reached new areas of the stream never seen by them before. They were deeper than they had ever been.

The streambed became wider.

They came across a fork in the stream. Paul had heard over the years that to continue the downstream path would eventually take them to the Mississippi River. To the right, that was obviously an upstream path.

In front of them was a sign hung on a wire suspended across the stream. It said, ?No trespassing?. The option to the right was the only choice, or else turn back.

Paul was insistent they continue. Lisa said, ?Paul, we can go back now. This is the end of the trail, and we shouldn?t go any farther.? She was slightly tired, but not in a sleepy kind of way. She was giddy from the exertions, and also from the pride she felt knowing she had kept up with Paul without much complaint. This kept her energy level up.

She was beginning to just go with the flow. By Paul pushing her out of her normal boundaries, she found herself in new terrain. It required of her great trust. And Paul, she felt, was worthy of that.

It was her state of mind that had changed. She was surrendering to the charisma of the waterfalls, and also to Paul, without judgement. She told Paul, ?Whatever you want to do, I?m there?, comfortable she could now assign full control to Paul.

Paul smiled with the moonlight on his face, and he pulled her close. ?Lisa, I love you so much? Paul said. He reached down, and took his right hand in her left.

Never breaking eye contact, he drew her hand up to her lips. Swishing her ring between two of his fingers, he gently and with great reverence kissed the stone first? then the gold of the ring? and then tumbled tiny kisses onto the backs of her fingers.

They both knew the journey must continue, that they must explore and find the last waterfall they had always heard about. The stream was theirs, and Lisa was now sure there was noone else around them. She concluded the fire had been abandoned. They were all alone, and she felt that tonight was meant for them, and would complete them somehow.

They turned to the right and began the walk upstream.

Having made great conquests thus far in their hike, the first portion of this new trail brought no challenge. Though if they would have started their journey at this spot, maybe they would have thought otherwise! It?s just that they had been conditioned by the whole of the expedition today, and were up to this task at hand.

They came to another, more difficult section. The streambed suddenly rose up a full 3 feet higher, and they had to ascend a ledge to make this higher level. Paul went first, then reached down to help Lisa step up onto the ledge. They made it without any problem and continued on.

They traveled for awhile, and wondered if there truly was a waterfall at the end of this trail. Or even if it would be worth the hike. They had found that some of the waterfalls in this area were small falls, hidden behind tangled snags of twisted branches that wouldn?t flush out properly during the rainstorms.

The main trails were so pristine because the massive volumes of water that passed through them cleansed the area periodically. So strong the current could be, that even entire trees were taken the entire length of the stream, out to its connection with the Mississippi River.

This side trail upstream was unknown. They didn?t know what they would find.

Continuing on, then coming to another of the many bends, Lisa noticed a light up ahead.

?Look, Paul! There is something up there! Maybe another fire!? Lisa said.

It was faint at first, just an occasional flickering was noticed. Then fully rounding the bend, the source of the light was revealed.

There were a series of small tea candles stretching out before them. Was one on the left, then 10 feet further one on the right of the stream, alternating back and forth, again and again. The candles were located in small puddles off of the main stream itself, such that they were stationary and didn?t float downstream.

?Who had placed them?? Lisa wondered aloud. Paul put his finger to his lip and said, ?Shhhhh!? in a quiet tone. He didn?t say it in a manner to indicate that he might be worried in any way, that maybe there was someone here to hide from that might do them harm. To the contrary, he had a HUGE smile on his face!

?Take my hand,? Paul said, ?And come with me. Don?t say anything else.?

Passing further up the stream, Lisa pointed out a strong flickering ahead of them. ?It must be coming from around that bend up ahead.? Lisa thought to herself.

The sides of the valley grew lighter as the flickering increased in intensity. Passing the next bend, the source of the light was revealed to them.

Ahead of them lay the final waterfall! It was more magnificent and larger than any of the others they had ever seen.

However, even more splendid were the candles. Literally hundreds of white candles everywhere! They were in all shapes and sizes, and all in white.

They were positioned everywhere on the ground, and? more amazingly?there were dozens of tall, white dinner table candles arrayed about the 30 foot tall sides of the waterfall. Those were suspended from the top of the waterfall on strings, and each had a protective glass sheath around it to protect it from the wind. The entire waterfall area was like a giant Christmas tree!

In the center of the waterfall grotto was a large spit of land, as they had seen with the other falls. Water tumbled down from above and passed around most of the quarters of the spit, creating virtually an island. In the middle of this island was a large fire. The fire was carefully constructed by the look of it, not hastily done by any means. Tucked against and almost into the wall of the waterfall was a tarp, covering something. Located in the center, it was mostly obscured by the falling water from above.

This was a treat! Someone had taken incredible care to do this.

?Why would they do such a thing?? Lisa thought. ?And where are they? They will be coming back? are they watching us??

Paul stood directly in front of Lisa, and took both of her hands in his. He looked deep into her eyes and stared. Not saying anything. Lisa felt devoured by his intent. His eyes were watering with tears, and they started to shimmer in the flame of the fire.

Paul said, ?Marry me now! Lisa!?

Taken aback, Lisa shook her body slightly, wrapping her mind around what Paul was saying. It confused her.

?Paul, we are going to be married, in April at my moms church.? Lisa said.

?No, Lisa,? Paul said, ?Marry me NOW?.HERE!!! At thi waterfalls! We?ve shared so much happiness at the waterfalls over the years, we have such great memories. Marry me right NOW, in front of the final waterfall we?ve always waited to see!?

Lisa was flustered, and didn?t know what to say. A mix of emotions came over her. Paul never minced words about anything. For him to say this, he must have meant it. But it didn?t make any sense to her. How could he marry her in the middle of nowhere, with noone around?

After a moment, Lisa stammered, ?Of course I?ll marry you. Here at the waterfalls, in the church, anywhere you want. I just want to be with you, always, you know that!?

Paul then said, ?Lisa, that is all I ever wanted to hear. I don?t need to hear anything else.?

Lisa started, ?Paul, I ??

But before she could get the words out, Paul told her, ?Lisa, not another word? not?another word.?

Lisa stood and stared at Paul, regrouping.

She heard a rustle behind her, in the direction they just came from. Out of the shadows people were coming! She could make out the forms of women, not men, coming here to their spot.

She couldn?t believe her eyes. Oh my God! It was Pauls mother! How could that be? Then next to her appeared his grandmother, both of his sisters, three of his nieces, with two of his aunts following behind them, everyone in a single file.

Each woman had a large 8-1/2 x 11 wood framed picture in their hands, and each held their respective picture out before them, against their stomachs. In every picture was a solitary woman. She saw that these frames held pictures of Pauls relatives, women that were no longer living.

Very excitedly, Lisa started to ask them what they are doing there. But Pauls sister put her fingers to her lips and whispered, ?Shhhhh??.

Lisa remembered Pauls words to her. ?Not? another word.? Paul had said. So she watched, quietly, intently, her eyes larger now, as more women strode onto the spit of land, and started to form around the fire into a circle around Lisa and Paul.

Now came Lisas OWN mother, sister, and her 2 nieces! Her two cousins Judy and Jane ended the procession.

Each of them had large wood framed pictures as well, with photographs of female relatives that Lisa recognized as being from her own family. Lisas mother smiled broadly at her, and nodded slowly once in the direction of Pauls mom, as if to indicate that this was all her idea.

A final woman appeared singularly out of the darkness. This was Celeste, Pauls moms cousin, and Lisa had a recollection that this wacky relative was an ordained something-or-other.

?Episcopalian?? Lisa thought. The pieces started to fit together.

?Please hold hands.? Celeste spoke aloud.

They formed a perfect circle around the fire and gathered their hands together, facing forward. Celeste walked behind Paul and Lisa, draping each of them in a large, white lacy piece of fabric.

?Women?? She spoke, ?Are the fabric of society.?

?Women are the nurturers. They are the bearers of life, the heart and soul of all that humantiy holds dear? She said.

?As such, women have a responsibility. A responsibility to embrace those necessary to our lives. To take forward all that we hold important.. our traditions, our morals, our values?To start new generations and pass along meaning, in a world often devoid of reason.? Celeste he said.

?Paul and Lisa, we are here tonight to marry you in the eyes of God. Equally important, to marry you in the sight of those people most important in life, your female relatives. All of them. We bring pictures of our most cherished family members that have gone before, for them to bear witness for this event, as a final testament to this.? Celeste pronounced.

?Ladies, please face Lisa and Paul.? Celeste said.

?Paul, do you take Lisa to be your wife, for all time? never to forsake her? to be there for her in times of sadness ?to take care of her in times of sickness, to nurture, and follow her to the end of your journey together, to be her rock? unwavering?? Celeste asked.

Paul said, ?Yes, I do. I will always be there for her.?

?Lisa, do you take Paul to be your husband, for all time? never to forsake him? to be there for him in times of sadness ?to take care of him in times of sickness, to nurture, and follow him to the end of your journey together, to be his rock? unwavering?? Celeste asked.

?In the eyes of God, and of your families, I now pronounce you Man and Wife.? Celeste simply finished.

Celeste removed the fabric surrounding Paul and Lisa. She ceremoniously gave Pauls garment to Lisas mom, and Lisas garment to Pauls mom.

Celeste instructed the women, ?Take these garments, and all kiss them, indicating your acceptance of Paul into Lisas family, and Lisa into Pauls family.

The mothers complied and kissed them first, passing each fabric down the line of their respective family members. All eyes were shimmering with wetness in the fire now, as the garments passed through the hand of one family member, then another? each kissing the fabric, before passing it on to the next.

The ceremonial aspects were coming to a close.

Celeste handed Lisa the two garments to her, and told her, ?Keep these always, and pass them down, as they have passed down through our family. These are very important to our family. They were from the wedding dress of Pauls great-great-grandmother.?

Celeste pulled Lisa aside and whispered, ?Lisa, this was Pauls moms idea, to do this. She knew you both got off to a rough start. She is so protective of Paul. She wanted to do this to show you she loves you, that she trusts you, and that she is giving Paul completely to you now. There are no apronstrings attached to him, in any way.?

Continuing, Celeste said, ? Lisa, your mom thought this idea bad at first, almost perverse, as her idea of a church wedding was obviously different that what happened here tonight. I am ordained. Everyone here knows this and is supporting this as a true marriage. You are married in the eyes of God and in both of our families. But, you will have your church wedding. That will be done too. This doesn?t change that. We will all be there for that too.?

Lisa was relieved. She didn?t know what this was all about, and had gone with the flow as it all happened so fast, and as in a dream. It was beyond belief. But now the truth hit her. Full force. She was MARRIED! It was REAL! She wanted to scream something? anything. To get the emotion out that had built up. She choked up and stifled the tears.

Both mothers wept audibly, the emotions all around being hard to contain. It was important release and welcomed here fully. The younger women influenced by the power of the event, and witnessing the mothers weeping, started crying openly. Overwhelmed, emotion overtook everyone. The circle broke down and teary hugs were shared by all to comfort each other.

The ceremony fully over, each woman passed by Lisa and then Paul, giving each one a kiss on each cheek as they passed by, and then left passing back down the stream in single file. Everyone left silently, carrying their portraits with them..

Finally alone, Paul took Lisas hand, pulling her close and kissing her deeply. They both reflected back on the power of the moment, and how everything that happened today was in a different life.

Paul said, ?When we came here, we were single, but everything from now on will be viewed by us in a different perspective, that of a couple. We knew this moment would come, how do you feel??

Lisa was caught up with emotion. She blurted out through the tears, ?I didn?t know the feeling of being married could be so strong.?

?Perhaps it was the way everything happened tonight Paul. But it?s more than that. I?m feeling something grow in me. There is something larger happening here, and I feel it. Do you feel it Paul? Or is just me?? Lisa said.

Paul said, ?Yes, I can feel it too. I think in marriage there is something created that is bigger than the two people. Like one plus one equals three or something like that. I always saw suspected that in other great couples and wanted that so badly. Now, that?s us!?

Paul threw some wood on the fire, and the sparks swirled and rose delicately up the side of the cliff face. It?s flames built a slight intensity, then settled down and crackled softly.

Paul pulled at the tarp, hidden behind the falling water of the fall, to reveal a bedding arrangement? pillows, comforter, all laid out on a massive bed of white flowers?daisies. Thousands and thousands of white daisies.

Paul fixed Lisas eyes with his, and maintaining eye contact throughout? guided Lisa down to their bed. Both cried together quietly and began to explore each other and make slow, passionate love beside the smoldering fire beneath the rim of their waterfall. The final waterfall they had always sought.

A waterfall that this evening was found at the end of one journey, but which now signified the beginning of another, more important journey. Which was their life? together.

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