The Pearl Necklace
“The sun woke them early and they left the campground right after breakfast cleanup. They could have spent more time hanging in the warm waters, but there were other campers, so they opted to hike out early. “Katie, have you ever been on the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road, leading from Big Sur to Jolon?” “No. Is that the way we’re going? Doesn’t it go through a military base?” “Yeah, it goes through Fort Hunter Liggett. The road is twisty and windy and has the greatest views in the world. It’s a shortcut inland right through the center of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. I think it’s one of the oldest roads in California. I’m going to take you back in time to 1769.”
— Yéiitsoh Omen, Jim Aarons
“What road are you looking for?” she asked when she noticed him slowing and looking around.
“A special switchback, it just sort of pops up, somewhere past Kirk Creek Campground…”
“Here’s the campground on our right, see it?”
“The road we’re looking for is coming up on the left. Yes, here it is! Take a last look at the waves. They’re going to be hard to see in about twenty minutes because we’re going up the road, straight into the clouds. There are a lot of hairpin turns, so you tell me if you feel nauseous and I’ll slow down.”
Negotiating a left hand turn he began the uphill climb.
“Slow down honey please, I'm on the outside of the curves here.” The steep road made her heart jump; it didn't have guardrails. Only little berms built up along the outer edges prevented a vehicle from sliding over the edge. And there were times when the car was very close to the brink.
Rory slowed down and pointed along the coast. “Look at the view,” he said. It was breathtaking. The road followed the edge of the mountainside; she could see far up and down the coast. They were still beneath the lower level of fog clouds, and she could make out the grey-blue water's edge with its rolling lines of waves building into whitewater crashes as they smashed onto the rocks of the small islands and beaches along the rocky shoreline. Further out the grey-blue color was smudged into dark black-green regions. These were the famous kelp forests of the Central Coast home to numerous colonies of sea otters.
Directly below she could see Hwy 1 Pacific Coast Highway following a narrow pathway between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean waters. When they reached the top of the climb from Highway 1 he slowed.
“What are you looking for?”
“The last place to see the ocean is just up here somewhere. Soon we’ll turn inland. I like to stop here for the final view of the blue Pacific.” He slowed and pulled the car off onto a widened place on the ocean side of the road, a grassy overlook. The fog ceiling was only a hundred feet above them so they would soon lose their ocean view.
“This is my favorite spot where I say goodbye to the ocean and the fog. See, out there, look straight out. We’re five hundred feet high at the edge of the foggy mist. Oh, other people must like this spot too.” He pointed to a concrete bench some enterprising souls erected. “This is new, let’s sit and enjoy the view.”
The wind was moderate, and the gusts blew Katie's hair around her face. The turbulence was created by the interface of the cool, moist area mixing with the heated inland air rushing seaward. “It’s always windy here,“ he said.
“But the breeze is warm; this is beautiful Rory.”
“Good I’m glad you’re comfortable. Hang on a minute. I brought some wine and cheese and crackers.”
“Oh, this is a pleasant surprise.”
He returned with the picnic basket.
“I didn’t know you had anything in there.”
“Here take the glasses.” He pulled a bottle of chardonnay from the basket, ripped the foil wrapper, and uncorked the bottle.
Filling both glasses, he smiled and stood to face her. “Here’s to us, Katie Reynolds and Rory Evans.”
“I second that,” she replied. She clinked her glass to his, and each took a sip as he sat down next to her.
She gave him a quick kiss. “You’ve done a lot of reading about this area. It’s really neat.”
“It comes easy when you stay in one place. I’ve been talking to old timers for over a year now, and I'm forming real solid friendships, something I was never able to do before. Maybe we moved too much, or maybe I wasn’t ready, but I feel different here. Now I have a keen interest in this area; I feel this is my home. I finally know how you feel about Dinétah, Katie.”
“I don’t feel the same way anymore except for the memory of how it used to be. Evil has overrun Dinétah, and I am not strong enough to fight it. That grieves me so much, but I’m happy for you Rory. It’s wonderful that you feel so at home here. I love you so much.”
This opened up a perfect opportunity for Rory, and he jumped up from the bench. “I brought something else; I’ll be right back.” He trotted to the car, rummaged around inside and ran back.
“Are you hungry?” he asked pouring more wine.
“No.” She shook her head.
They sat side by side again on the concrete bench watching the white caps and the sparkling waves. “Katie, are you happy with me?”
“You know I am Rory.”
"I want you here with me always. And it's not just because I worry about you and want to protect you though that's part of it."
He took her wine glass and set it on the bench next to his grabbed both her hands and looked into her eyes.
"I want to wake up with you every morning. I want your clothes in the closets and drawers and not in a suitcase. I want your makeup cluttering the vanity. I want to come home and find you here or be here when you come back because this is where you live not someplace you're spending the night."
She swallowed mesmerized by his words and his thoughtful expression.
"I want to bring you coffee in bed and make you breakfast. I want to take care of you, and I want you to take care of me." His voice shook slightly. "I want to marry you, Katie. I want us to have children together.”
He stopped at her sharp gasp. Katie felt her eyes fill and blinked, tears rolling down her cheeks. He wiped them away tenderly.
"I want a future with you; I want a life with you. Katie, will you marry me?”
He ran his hands down her arms closing his fingers around hers. His voice was a gentle caress spilling over her like lapping water making her body tingle and her head spin.
“Yes.” She nodded.
A brilliant smile lit up his face and his breath caught in his throat. "Really?" he asked looking delighted.
She giggled at his astonishment. "Yes," she said slipping her arms around his neck. "Yes," she repeated in a whisper brushing her lips against his.
He pulled out a black box. She assumed it would be one containing a ring, but this one was long and thick like a wallet. He opened it up and lifted a pearl necklace from its silk lined case.
“This is beautiful Rory. What ever made you think to get a necklace for an engagement present?”
“Everyone has an engagement ring. You’re different; I’m different.”
“Well, I can’t wear it every day.”
“That’s fine. Jewelry shouldn’t be worn every day anyway. Otherwise, it becomes every day ordinary. I wanted to get you something fresh and different.”
“Wedding rings signify a connection between two people and I look forward to wearing yours,” Katie said. "Thank you; I accept everything you offer and take my responsibilities for this relationship seriously. I promise to work hard and earnestly to maintain it. The necklace is beautiful, and I'll wear it proudly. Just make sure I have a wedding ring on the big day.” She leaned into him and kissed him. “I love you so much.”
“I promise my entire self to you, Katie. I promise to be faithful to our vision and to protect you with all my strength. Oh, and I promise you'll have a wedding ring.” He smiled.
“Well, that certainly sounds like an ironclad set of points. We should have a lot of fun working on this together. Gosh, I hadn’t realized how much I anticipated this. My worries are gone, well most of them anyhow. Oh, you know me.”
“I don't think I'll ever actually know you Katie, but I'll spend the rest of my life trying.”
They kissed and sealed their lovers' contract.
Audiobook coming soon