Late Boxing Day, I was surprised to find him in the lobby of my hotel, enough that I embraced him before remembering where we were. "Oh, Merry Christmas, dragul meu," I said, blushing at my brash action.
He smiled, and said, "I meant to meet you and attend services yesterday, mo cridhe. Life had other plans. Can you forgive me?"
I shrugged, returning his smile, "It happens, sometimes."
"Would you like to share a few quiet prayers for the season now? If you're not running off your feet, of course." When I gave my assent to the plan, he continued, "I was told of a nice spiritual place... would you like to investigate? There is also a ballroom in the same neighborhood. If it doesn't suit, we can fall back on St Pat's Kinvarra, or St Columba's in Giverny."
The chapel itself was one that could not have existed at home, cradled in the branches of an ancient oak, the glass-work sparkling in the afternoon sun. I made my obeisance and sat in a pew, not quite focused, as I marveled at the chapel. He slipped into the pew beside me and took my hand. I laced my fingers with his as he murmured, "Beautiful simplicity in the architecture."
I nodded, and murmured back, "It is not a House of the Builder, but it is lovely."
"They are all Houses of the Builder, I think. But some see the Builder differently - perhaps this one works in colour and nature, instead of gears and connecting rods?"
"A Botanist rather than an Engineer," I replied.
"Perhaps." He smiled and focused on the altar. Moments later he murmured, "If everything was made by the Builder, then He (or She) is Botanist, Engineer, Healer, Resurrectionist, Astronomer, and all the rest, wouldn't you say?" He smiled down at me.
"Miss Tarkeshwari, one of my teachers, was raised in a pantheist culture, saying there was a time when it was hard for her ancestor's culture to understand how one being could do it all. The more we learn, the more difficult it becomes to grasp how one being could create everything, down to the minutest structure. That, she said, is where Science and Faith meet."
"So Deity is Male and Female; then Young/Mature/Old; then many personalities within each of those six variations. Yet still Deity. We chop up God into smaller pieces to help us to understand, in the same way we chop up, oh, a sentence to understand its structure."
That made me giggle, quietly. "Miss T used an audit as the example, but it is much the same."
"I once heard a wise man say, 'God created Man in His Image, and man returned the compliment.' We can't do it all, so how can God?"
"Still, when one is far from home, and the holy days of obligation roll around, we seek familiarity."
"True," he responded. After a few moments more, he asked, "This is beautiful, but is it familiar enough, mo cridhe? Or should we seek a traditional pile of stone?"
I shook my head and murmured, "My first Yule away from home, I began trying to do the fretwork Mama and the aunties did in wintertime." He smiled and nodded at my recollection. "Auntie Sorina, being from the city, taught me to crochet instead. Over the next winters, we both learned the new skills from each other. Our situations change, and old traditions change with them, but the familiar nuggets in with the new experiences thread everything together." I nodded to the windows in the chapel, "That the glass-works are set in wooden frames here is the new, but the themes of the glass-works are familiar enough."
We sat in meditation for perhaps another half-hour when I noticed there had been several couples come to the chapel. I nodded towards yet another couple at the altar rail. "It seems we all come here in pairs today?"
He quietly replied, "I gather the place is a popular wedding chapel. Perhaps they, too, are thinking and yearning ahead?" I squeezed his hand, thinking how wonderful it was that he did not shy away from the idea.
Suddenly shy myself, I remembered another reason I had wanted to see him yesterday. "I... I have a gift for you."
"A gift? But ... I have not yet found the right thing for you...."
"You give me your company, and it is not a very grand gift, compared to that," I said as I pressed the small bit of crystal in his hand.
He seemed delighted with the watch fob, as he examined it in his hand. "Tell me about this, Mary! What did you think of as you picked it out?"
"I did not sell my hair for it... but I did cut a bit of it for the wreath in the crystal." I blushed, not telling him I had made it from pieces not used in the laboratory.
"It's lovely," he smiled, and tucking it into his pocket he said, "...and I can carry a part of you close to my heart."
His smile made me forget a year of language tutoring, "Inima mea iti apartine, dragul meu."
He turned serious, and murmured, "You have my heart, and all that I ever hope to have and be." Then he kissed me, chastely, a seal on a promise, befitting a commitment within a House of the Builder of All. I returned his the kiss, with my joy overflowing. He whispered, "Mo cridhe, mo gaol, mo anam cara, tha gaol agam ort." After an eternity that did not last long enough, he murmured, "Shall we go find that ballroom, mo anam cara?" I nodded in response, not trusting my voice.
Later, while dancing, I heard the faint chime of his watch alarm. I sighed, and asked, "Time to go back to your duties?"
He did not break off the dance, murmuring, "Hmmmm ... I wish I never had to leave your side, Sweet Mary."
"Duty calls, and we are both in service." But I did not stop dancing just yet, either.
"A pity we are not, at the least, in the same service."
"Someday, perhaps, dragul meu."
"We can dream, mo cridhe." He finally guided us to the side of the dance floor, "I should go, Mmmmmm" as I cut him off by kissing him soundly.
I blushed at my own brashness, and murmured, "Something to see me through to our next meeting."
He chuckled and kissed me again, then slowly released his embrace. "I must go, love. Duty calls, as it always seems to do. My heart dwells in your body. I know you'll keep it safe for me."
As I watched him dash off, I could not help but think I may be able to keep his heart safe, but that I worried that the rest of him was in danger every time he answered the call of duty.