The thoughts that preoccupied their father night after night as he tucked his matching daughters into their mismatched beds sometimes prevented him from getting a decent night’s sleep. He would pull the handmade quilts up to their chins, kiss them goodnight, and sigh. As if the weight of some great problem lay unsolvable on his conscience.
After their nightly story, he would wrangle his wife Lily to his knee. Then he would kiss her too. It was at this point that he would often become uncharacteristically grim.
DON’T let a boy be disrespectful towards you, EVER. And whatever you do, DON’T give him a second chance! He would tell his two young daughters; as if he were a pilot giving emergency exit instructions as the plane is going down. Lily couldn’t always tell if he was acting; teasing or serious. She suspected it might be both.
Once a boy thinks he can get by with SOMETHING, he’ll think he can get by with EVERYTHING! Jake would continue with an urgency he rarely exhibited in day-to-day life.
Will he remember HOW you forgave him? No, he will remember that YOU DID. Then look out! By this point Jake had generally worked up to the point it was advisable he release some of his agitation, and he would start to pace, practically hyperventilating with images popping in his head. (HIS daughters grown and dating! Imagine!)
If HE WANTS you to forgive him for something, if HE WANTS a second chance, let him make it for himself! His daughters always recognized their cue, and never missed their mark:
THAT IS NOT YOUR JOB! They would finish with him in unison, and then burst out laughing.
Jake would pause in his circuit around the large room long enough to glance in Lily’s direction, a silent plea for commiseration if not full agreement. Oh yes, Jake knew he sounded overprotective. He knew his wife and daughters thought he was all but certifiable, at least on this particular theme, but it remained his basic rule for his survival, if not theirs, when it came to members of his own sex. Beware. Besides, whether he appeared ridiculous to them or not wasn’t important. His daughters’ safety and happiness were the only thing that mattered—he often wondered how Lily could remain so cavalier—SO HOPEFUL— in the face of these facts. Had she even considered the SHEER NUMBER of boys their daughters would ultimately have to deal with? (TWO TIMES as many as if there had only been ONE of them, that’s what!)
Of course, brilliant and loving though he was, Jake consistently failed to remember, as good men often do, that Lily’s daughters were, after all, Lily’s daughters. And in her daughters, at least, Lily had faith. The thought of his daughters alone, without him in the world, running up against all manner of masculinity, depressed him. And yet, he knew that ultimately he would have to be fair and relent somewhat. So, as they grew closer to the age they might (God forbid!) begin to think about boys, Jake altered his nightly talk, slightly, with a grudging, barely wrought amendment:
ONLY THEN... he would announce, grabbing a stuffed toy for emphasis and one last, grand flourish...can you even BEGIN to entertain the idea of giving a boy what he wants. Lily had been known to cough at this point, but never, EVER had she laughed. Jake pretended to continue to scold them mildly as he flipped on their favorite star-shaped nightlight, (which they refused to part with, arguing for years over who would retain custody of it when they went off to college years later).
Right before they lost their father, they began to argue on behalf of some less-than-desirable males—in their father’s eyes, at least. The nightly stories became more highly charged, and any excuse for the most perfect young man would produce a level of theatrical flourish in their father not seen this side of New York's theater district, but Cadence and Chlöe were oblivious as to why he might fight them.
By the time they understood their father's reaction to the ‘men’, it was too late to argue. Actually, it was just too late. It would have been a consolation to his heart to know what they did feel—sense—something that they would not have known had anything less potent than Promise blood been running through their child-fragile veins. In fact, they would sense something of the situation, which he never had: That he wasn’t scolding them at all, but casting an enchantment over them which would protect them from their future.
Lily’s solace when Cadence and Chlöe came of age without their father to help guide their adolescence was that periodically a young man would arrive who deserved to be put in his place. Their father’s sermons hadn’t been wasted on the girls as much as they had pretended, and when one of these young men arrived, asking for Cadence or Chlöe, it gave the women of Ambergris more than a little satisfaction. They were all a little...well, witchy, after all.
At these times, Lily would excuse herself, and go in search of the cedar-lined chest for a poppet made of last year's Harvest wheat straw. They gathered a nice bunch each year under Cancer's full Mead Moon—a Thunder Moon—a full and incandescent moon whcih lit the Midsummer's Night in June. Meadows mown for hay would be their tablecloth, and they would picnic at dusk on strawberries gathered from the woods. Lily’s mother Elizabeth her best friend Margeaux always joined them, and they drank bowls of cider laced with pomegranate and lemon, the little girls making crowns from ivy and wild tiger lilies for them to place upon their heads. Waiting for the moon to rise to its fullest height, they would then draw it down again, into themselves, filling themselves with an energy and optimism, which lasted until the last harvest.
They would gather armfuls of that Summer Wheat, twining and wrapping, creating little figures which would dry, hanging in the attic, until they were brittle and rustled with each gust of wind through the eaves of Ambergris. It was one of these Lily would sprinkle with ginger for protection and anise with which to bind the hopes and dreams for each girl. Then she would go into the kitchen and begin a batch of sugared tea for refreshment.
Jake’s words would rise from the corner of Lily’s mind as she handed the figure to whichever daughter had a date for the evening. She would let the young people carry on by themselves, and she would sit in the back garden with Gabriella and read, or talk. She would sit listening to the young voices chiming with a true, ringing clarity through the house, louder than Jake’s admonishments ever had. But when her daughters spoke about the young men they eventually came to like, even love, but were never, it seemed, in love with, it was clear only that while they might be mesmerized, infatuated for a moment, there was never one that could entrance them for a lifetime. The young men were certainly better off once they left Ambergris, having lunched or taken tea with the Promises.
After a visit with their chosen Promise, the one they imagined they would marry, the young boy-men would inevitably revert in small ways. You see, they came to understand the path they were meant to take. There was something about those encounters at Ambergris, which let them see their true love, the result of those lunches and dinners and teas had the result of sending many a man home to his wife where he belonged (the ones skulking about after Lily) and many younger men back to their sweethearts.
Despite much of the gossip surrounding Promise women, after Jake died, the women were fairly content without the ongoing presence of men at Ambergris (except for their gardners). They thrived on love, not hate, after all, and had been grossly miscalculated in their ability or penchant for destruction, seduction, or the general catiness so often attributed to their sex. Gabriella, Lily’s grandmother had been heard to remark in the local shops on the rare occassion she had her driver take her into shop. She had the Italian penchant for the Machiavellian and would, given the chance, stir up the proverbial pot. There isn’t a destructive spell—I mean bone—in any of us she would remark casually to a shopkeeper as she paid for a set of books she had ordered, and Marcello took her arm and allowed herself to be escorted back to the car. Mischief was another matter entirely.
Promises had a greater depth of natural influence only because they acknowledged it, and to it to heart. What had so often been referred to as supernatural was simply an alignment of synchronicities and a willingness to see natural potential lying dormant in all of us and then acting on it—the magic of childhood, for example, or the state of subconscious awareness.
A person couldn’t know, of course, whether the acquaintance of today might be the true love of tomorrow; couldn’t know if turtle doves would land on the branch in the garden and encourage a young woman to take her opportunities where she could get them; couldn’t know if a fountain, which had stopped coursing for years would spontaneously begin to flow—a metaphysical parallel to the gushing hormones which needed tending in those young men—but you could be sure there would always be the promise of love. It isn’t wise to take a chance when it comes to love—which hurts more often than it heals. It’s best to pray, best to keep those you love closest to you, best to deal gently with those who have roots tendriled deep into your heart. For uprooting them only tears you inexorably apart. Promise women knew it; and they also knew that to keep from breaking a Promise didn’t always seem worth the effort, but they those who managed to keep from doing so would be transformed in ways unimagined.They would never have used a word such as witchcraft. It was much too ambitious a term for their nature to heal and to protect; to motivate or propagate a positive outcome. They might, however, convinced of danger, bind bad energy or deflect it from themselves or another. But they were never encouraged by their predecessors or instinctually motivated by greed to dip into the deeper but poisoned pools of control.
Causes Deborah Monahan Supports
American Autoimmune Related Disorders, American Myositis Association, The City of Hope, ASPCA