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The Life of a Star

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I. Protostar

"For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love." - Carl Sagan

When Bill first explained the idea of a celestial marriage, Margene couldn’t admit to him that the whole idea sounded silly.

Not having multiple wives (which didn’t shake her or worry her), not planning out when you get to have sex with your husband with his other partners (which just seemed fair, even if the logistics seemed confusing), but just the very word made her giggle.

Celestial. Celestial.

It ran through her brain and she could only see a little sleepy bear rocking back in front of a fire.

He looked at her with a cocked head of a golden retriever, confused as she first giggled. 

“What is funny Margene?” Bill asked with his tone hurt but demeanor slightly outraged, slowly dropping her hand and leaning away.

She grabbed his hand back and squeezed it, “I’m just so happy, I can't help but laugh.”   

He grabbed her tightly into a hug and squeezed, “I’m happy too Margie.”

II. Main Sequence Star

“And they were married, and given in marriage, and were blessed according to the multitude of the promises which the Lord had made unto them.” - The Book of Mormon

Margene knew Barb loved the Lord. From first light to her slow walk through the hallways at night checking in each bedroom, Margene could see it in her. A lack of fear and an understanding that she walked in his step and in his promise.

Meanwhile, Margene didn’t even know where her Book of Mormon was. She was pretty sure it had been on her coffee table, but then she had recycled a bunch of gossip magazines and she couldn’t admit to anyone in the house that she had recycled their holiest book because she confused it with an US magazine.

“Barb, how did you find Jesus?” she asked one day in Costco, as Barb struggled with a tub of mustard.

Her eyes widened slightly, “Margie, this is Utah, if you don’t believe in Jesus, you certainly don’t announce it in the middle of the supermarket.”

Nicki laughed loudly, “As if Margene’s statement of faith would tear people away from the cocktail frank samples.”

“Nicki, go get the cereal,” Barb shot her a look and Nicki glared back, turning on heels.

“Barb, I don’t not believe there is a Jesus, I just don’t know if I think he was more then just a guy with some really great lessons,” Margene continued in a lower tone, “But also, it doesn’t match up, like why didn’t he have a wife? And what made him different some other people if everyone is God’s child-”

Barb grabbed her and pulled her into a quieter aisle, “I knew Jesus the day I was sealed to Bill and I knew him again when each child was born and I knew him during each doctor’s visit. I knew it wasn’t just a story, it was this real love that watched me.”

Margene could feel her eyes welling besides the bin of undershirt and in front of the dog beds, “But what if I don’t find it? I can’t lose this.”

Barb hugged her tightly, “I knew him the day you came to us. I know you’ll find it and Bill is a patient man.”

That was the first time Margene decided not to leave.

III. Red Giant

“Let us not live a life … that would bring regret. … It is not going to matter very much how much money you made, what kind of a house you lived in, what kind of a car you drove, the size of your bank account—any of those things. What is going to matter is that dear woman who has walked with you side by side as your companion through all of the years of life and those children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and their faithfulness and their looking to you … with respect and love and deference and kindness.” - Gordon B. Hinckley

Most days, Margene knows Bill is a good man.

He provides for her and all of his children, he tries especially hard to make sure she finishes whenever they have sex, and he is never rude to waiters. Plus, he looks so cute in his suits or in his weekend t-shirt doing yard work or holding a baby. Margene had never realized the true joy and handsomeness of a man holding a baby until Bill.

She reminds herself that whenever he lied or did anything questionable that he did it in her best interest, and for the best interest of the family.

Whenever he was jealous, mean-spirited, or angry, it was because as the husband and leader of their family, he had stresses and concerns beyond them.

Plus, nobody liked it when she made a fuss and she hated whenever everyone was mad at her.

But some days, she’ll see Nicki or Barb red-eyed and hoarse, and this weird far-away ache will spread through her.

Because this life means loneliness that she never expected or understood in a house so full of love.

Because he isn’t always a good man and this family came with expectations that she wouldn’t just leave.

Because despite every man that came through her mother’s life, she still had her own life.

Margene feels okay because she still has her own corner of the world.

But Nicki and Barb have this family, and Margene can’t rescue everyone.

Besides, Bill is a good man.

Why would they need to be rescued?

IV. Planetary Nebula

“water were your limbs, and the fire was your hair
and then the moonlight caught your eye and you rose through the air
well, if you've seen true light, then this is my prayer:
will you call me when you get there?” - Joanna Newsom

Margene found the Lord on a snowy day months before her baptism in the backyard.

She dug her bare feet into the grass, pulled her robe around her, staring up the pinprick stars spread above her.

Margene looked outward to the horizon, imagining the mountains that framed every view of Salt Lake City, and demanded to know why she had been sent here.

Why this family? Why this man? Why these choices and these regrets and couldn’t she just dye her hair blond and run to Vegas to be a showgirl?

The sky didn’t answer and she asked out loud this time, clasping her arms in front of her in prayer.

Why Utah and Mormons and a religion that hated caffeine? Why do they wear those outfits and then insult her clothing? Was she just too young to make the choices she had made?

The questions ran faster and faster through her head and she didn’t know the stillness Barb seemed to find.

Then she could feel the arms wrap around her, and Barb’s face rested on Margene’s shoulder.

“Father, please help sister Margene see your love and light. Guide her to your side and show her the faith that guides this family. Bless each step she takes, and give her patience to know that one day she will recognize your true grace,” Barb whispered in her ear, as snowflakes began to fall around them.

Margene clasped Barb’s hand.

Together they finished, “Amen.”

V. White Dwarf

"[The marriage] was not a love matter—at least on my part it was not, but simply the giving up of myself as a sacrifice to establish that grand and glorious principle that God had revealed to the world." - Lucy Walker, a wife of Joseph Smith

The first time she came back, it was for Adaleen.

Nicki had given her the motel’s address, and there she was banging on the door for Margene to let her in.

“The marriage isn’t only you and Bill,” Adaleen scolded as Margene stared past her at the busy paisley wallpaper that covered the room.

Margene thought of the first person who had seen that wallpaper and was so excited about how it would look in the motel rooms. She thought of that person’s spouse who probably walked in the first room and told them it was perfect. It matched the olive green bed spreads and the wood paneling perfectly and they were the most perfect of spouses. This motel room served as a brief moment of their lives when everything was happy and everyone was in love.

“Margene!” Adaleen yelled, snapping her fingers in front of her face, “Are you listening to me?”

“Did you love Roman?” Margene asked quietly, still thinking of the decorator and the wallpaper and what marriages that were normal were probably like.

“Love isn’t the most important part of a marriage,” Adaleen’s face fell slightly, sitting next to Margene, “You have your children for love, your sisterwives’ for support, and you are there for your husband to be the best man he can be.”

Margene had never unpacked.

Adaleen dropped her off in front of their cul de sac and Barb hugged her tight that night.

Bill never spoke of the week she was gone again.

VI. Black Dwarf

“I took the stars from our eyes, and then I made a map
And knew that somehow I could find my way back
Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too
So I stayed in the darkness with you” - Florence + The Machine

The last time she came back, it was for Barb.

She had only been gone a few hours, sitting in a Starbucks parking lot, crying into her hands as Nell stared at her from her car seat.

Bill was gone for business and Nicki was preoccupied with the children, so Margene snuck out slowly, leaving a note explaining that she had to go and she wanted him to have the children.

“Lord, I know that I don’t talk to you that often,” Margene started, “But give me a sign. Give me anything that says, go home.”

The knock on her window jostled Margene when she saw Barb’s smiling face.

“Margene!” she waved, “I was stopping to get a drink, do you and Nell want to join me?”

Barb opened the car’s back door and cuddled next to the car seat.

“We were wondering where you had gone, I went into your house and you weren’t there,” Barb started, “So I figured you must have just left to get a breather. I used to do that when I first had Ben. I’d run away and leave the kids with my mother.”

“Barb, I’m sorry,” Margene continued to cry, hiccuping slightly, “I just don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Margie, you’re coming home,” Barb tickled at Nell, “You know that’s what you’re doing.”

Margene crumpled the note she had left on the coffee table and made a mental note of all of the groceries she would need to buy the next day.

Nicki took the children and Barb promised her one of her nights with Bill to not complain.

They lied together that night, Margene’s hands curled in Barb’s hair, and Barb’s head tucked tight against Margene’s chest.

Bill would be home in the morning and Barb would be back at their kitchen island serving breakfast.

Nicki would complain about how the kids were behaving and how being raised with fewer things creates more gentle children.

Bill would smile at each of them knowingly and Margene would catch Barb’s eye afterwards.

This was her reason.

Barb smiled, and together they whispered.