It had been eleven weeks since I moved into my new home. I would typically spend most of my time with Aeden. Lately, however, no matter what I have been engaged in, my thoughts drifted to Markus. I hadn’t seen him since that wonderful night we shared. When he left, I finally knew for certain he was a part of me. I knew that somehow we’d known each other for an eternity, and the someplace didn’t matter. All that mattered was this place, this time. And that his presence in this place, no matter how brief, had altered my life for the better and had helped to release me from the confines of a limited mind. I never felt more at peace in my life, more in touch with the universe, more balanced or more eager to live. Freedom began to have new meaning to me. To Markus, I was forever grateful. I just hoped that I would see him again.
“Myryna! Little sister!” Aeden snapped me from my thoughts.
“You are supposed to be helping—remember? Painting?” He smiled as he stood against the doorframe with a paint brush. It looked as if he had just finished. We were supposed to touch up the walls outside the kitchen.
“Oh yeah. I’m so sorry.” I took a deep cleansing breath.
Aeden walked over and placed his hand on my shoulder. “Markus?” he asked sympathetically.
I could never lie to him. Even if I tried, he could always tell. But try I would.
“No. I was thinking of planting.”
His eyebrows lowered.
It wasn’t a total fabrication. I’d told him in recent weeks that I wanted more color, more life at the front of the house, and that I was thinking peonies.
“Yes, I was thinking of planting blended pink peonies in the front. Don’t you think they’d be pretty on either side of the steps?”
It was quiet for several moments while he held my gaze. He was highly perceptive. I didn’t even flinch. And then he retorted, “Markus—like I said!”
“Aeden please,” I smirked. “It’s just that he has done so much for me, and I feel close to him. My life is so happy right now, and it is hard not to wish he were here; even if just for a little while. So, I do admit my mind strays at times to thoughts of him.”
“I know it’s hard on you, Myryna. But you knew how it would be,” Aeden firmly, but thoughtfully, reminded me. “He’ll return, that I’m certain of. Try not to think about it. And besides, there’s something more pressing at hand.” He looked at me strangely.
“Oh, really? What?”
“The fact that you have paint on your cheek.”
I felt my face and found nothing. “No I don’t!”
“No, but you’re about to,” he replied nefariously.
“Aeden, if you touch me with that paint brush, I will hurt you; realize that,” I informed him as I instinctively moved into a defensive stance.
He simply smirked as he neared. “Is that so?”
“That is so,” I cautioned him. “Aeden, I am not kidding. I’m warning you…”
“I’m so scared,” he joked. “Please not the wrath of Myryna! Anything but that! Throw me in a briar patch, but please don’t let my little sister get me!”
I tried desperately to control my laughter as I turned to run, but he grabbed my arm and nearly got me when the doorbell rang. It startled us both and we laughed heartily. I caught my breath as he put the paint brush down. I’d been saved.
“Myryna, are you going to get it?”
“Do I look like the housekeeper around this place?”
“As a matter of fact…”
“Boy, you’d better get that door!”
He chuckled and did as told. I heard him politely conversing with another male voice and then closed the door.
“Who was it, Aeden?”
“A delivery guy; this package is for you.” He gave the package the once over. “It doesn’t say who it is from.” Suddenly he paused and sharply inhaled. “Uh-oh, what have you been ordering?” he asked suspiciously. “Never mind—don’t tell me.” He shook his head fretfully and held the box at a distance. “It must be X-rated to have a P.O. Box with no name.”
“Give me that! Of course it isn’t. And how would you know that X-rated things are sent with no name?”
“Oh, I don’t. I was just guessing.”
“Sure you were.”
When I opened the box and tore away the tissue wrapping, I was unpleasantly surprised. There was a gift inside and a small envelope with my name on it. I immediately recognized the handwriting. “It’s from Paul.” I rolled my eyes.
“I shouldn’t have let you open it. What the hell is it?” Aeden asked. His voice was deeper than before, which signaled a bit of anger.
“It’s a gift; a purple velvet jewelry box.”
I opened it up and was even further surprised. “I can’t believe this. It’s my wedding ring.” I was not amused. I closed the box and handed it to Aeden. I couldn’t have been more displeased if it had been a sack of diamonds sent to the wrong address.
“Why would he send this to you?”
“I don’t know, but there’s a letter inside the package. I’ll read it aloud.” I tore open the ivory envelope and slid out the paper. The very first words singed my lips.
My love, my wife,
We can start again. You can’t throw away everything we had. I need you, and will always love you. Give me another chance. Love, Paul
PS: I hope you decide to keep your ring. The only place it should be is on your hand.
Aeden huffed. “Oh, I can think of another place to put that ring.”
I crushed the letter into my fist. What could Paul be thinking? Why is he doing this to me? I will never want him back. Doesn’t he realize that? “I don’t understand. I just don’t. Aeden, I’m sending this back.”
“Just pitch it!”
“If I do that he won’t get the message. I want him to see for himself that I don’t want it.”
“Well how ’bout if I go show him for you.”
“No, don’t do that. I’ll just send this back and maybe he’ll finally understand.”
“Oh no; I don’t think so. You told me the last time to stop and let him go. Now here he is sending packages, and leaving love notes. He’s harassing you.”
Although I really wouldn’t have minded Paul’s being taught a lesson, I didn’t want my brother in any trouble, especially under the circumstances. Further, I wanted to try to continue our newfound peaceful existence. “Violence isn’t going to solve anything, Aeden.”
Aeden began to scratch his chin and look at the ceiling. “I don’t know. I’m thinking that with my hand wrapped around his throat, he may be able to think a little more clearly.”
Suddenly the phone rang.
“I’ll get it,” I blurted quickly before Aeden got the chance. He was in a foul mood, and I didn’t think he would sound very cheerful answering the phone.
I answered it on the second ring. It was Paul.
“Did you receive the gift I sent you?”
I swallowed hard. I was beginning to feel as if my own ex-husband was stalking me.
“Paul, I don’t…” Aeden rushed over to grab the phone. I leaned away from him and raised my hand to stop him. He paused.
“Paul, I don’t know what you are thinking, but I don’t want this. The divorce is final. Why in the world would you start this now? Didn’t you get the hint when you came out here?”
“You were just talking that way because your friends were there. We need to talk alone. And who was that man? He called himself your brother. I didn’t know you had another—”
“My family is none of your business.” I was fuming. “And my friends have nothing to do with this! I can speak and act on my own! Paul, it’s over. We have nothing to talk about.”
“Yes we do. I will not leave you alone until you agree to talk to me. Have dinner with me. And we’ll sort this out.”
Aeden heard me snap. I knew he wouldn’t hold much longer.
“Baby, please listen…”
“Do not call me that.” I ground my teeth to keep from spitting.
“Just listen. We’ll meet at, uh…We’ll meet at T.J. Iguana’s. Seven o’clock. Okay? And I promise I won’t try anything. We’ll just talk, and if you decide then that you never want to see me again…” I heard him inhale. “Then I’ll leave you alone…forever.”
Something about the way he said those last words felt odd to me, but I was somewhat distracted by Aeden. I could feel the anger emanating from him as he stared at me. I hesitantly looked up into his eyes almost afraid to let him hear what I was about to say.
“All right,” I said softly. “Seven o’clock.” I stared at my brother waiting for his response. His eyes closed tightly, and he sucked in his lips.
I hung up the phone slowly.
“Aeden, don’t worry about me. He only wants to talk. He promised to leave me alone forever if I do this. It’s worth it. Hey, think about it this way, I’ll get a free Mexican dinner out of him and still get to rain on his parade. Could you stop inhaling so deeply? You’ll give yourself a coronary.”
“Don’t joke right now.”
I rolled my eyes.
“You’re not going alone,” he stated—authoritatively.
“What?” I scoffed.
“You heard me. Don’t even try to argue with me. Monae and I will have dinner there ourselves.”
“I am not a child, Aeden. You don’t need to protect me anymore.”
“Oh no? I saw him put his hands on you that day! Don’t try me on this.”
I wasn’t scared of my brother, but I didn’t like him to be angry like this. I didn’t know what to say other than “fine”.
“I know it’s ‘fine.’ I will not be moved. Now let’s just clean up this mess, and then I’ll call Monae.”
Aeden wrapped up the plastic and walked through the kitchen to take it outside to the detached garage. I heard him grumbling colorfully to himself. I just shook my head and hoped for Paul’s sake this nonsense would end tonight.
TWICE IS ENOUGH
It was six fifteen as I finished getting ready. I chose business casual as my look for the evening, wearing a deep purple blouse and my most comfortable and flattering black dress pants. I looked in the mirror and put on a final touch of clear lip gloss. I didn’t put on my usual dinner face because I didn’t want to give Paul a false impression. He was known for getting those. I wanted to have the opposite effect.
I left my room and went down the stairs. At the bottom, my nose caught the faintest hint of what was a sweet, musky aroma. “Aeden, is that you that smells so good?” I grabbed my purse from the phone table and walked over to him.
“Why, yes it is. You like?”
“Yeah.” I sniffed. He’d grown a goatee in recent weeks, and he looked very sophisticated. “Look at you. Your beard is chiseled and you’re wearing cologne; you actually look rather dashing. Monae will love it, but she may go into shock!”
He was dressed in a royal blue shirt tucked in to black suit pants. His hair was down and his leather jacket draped over his arm.
“What do you mean shock? I always look good,” he countered pretending to sound arrogant. “And by the way, why are you all dressed up?” he asked in a familiar fatherly tone.
“Dressed up? Aeden, please. It’s a blouse and dress pants. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“And high heels,” he finished. “And button up those top buttons.”
“You’ll give him the wrong idea.”
“Thanks for looking out for me, but it’s three buttons not eight! And besides, what would the harm be in letting him see what he’s never going to get again?”
“Just humor me.”
“Oh, calm down, Father. I purposely dressed down as not to give him the wrong idea. And I’m humoring you by letting you go in the first place.”
“You’re not letting me go. I was going regardless. Now, let’s leave; we still have to get Monae.” He rattled the car keys.
“We’re taking separate cars.” I snatched the keys to the pickup and strolled passed him. He inhaled deeply and pulled closed the front door.
We all arrived at T.J. Iguana’s at seven sharp. Monae seemed somewhat unnerved.
“Do you think that he’ll pull anything funny tonight?” she asked. “I have a strange feeling.”
“I don’t know,” Aeden replied. “But if he does, I have strange feeling that he’s going to painfully regret it.”
I walked in first and sat with Paul who already had a table. Aeden and Monae entered a few minutes later so that Paul wouldn’t notice and sat somewhere out of sight.
“So, Paul, I’m here. Let’s order and get this over with.”
“I’ve already ordered your favorite: tequila chicken with lime, and a margarita—no salt.”
“Well see, you messed up. If I’m going to sit here and listen to you, I don’t want a margarita—I need straight up tequila. And I don’t mean a shot.”
While I scowled, he grinned. “Come on; we’ll have a great time.”
“You know, I’m sick of this already. Why don’t you get to your point so I can leave?”
“All right. I wanted to tell you that I made some changes in my life. When you filed for a divorce it didn’t seem well real, until the day it was final.”
I motioned for the waiter and told him to bring that tequila. “Go on, Paul,” I managed to breathe out.
“I realize now how much I need you in my life and I cannot let you go. I’ve realized the error of my ways. Sherry is gone.”
I looked into his eyes now for the first time since I got here. “Sherry, huh? So that was her name?”
“Yes. Just listen. I told her to hit the road. She was just a fling. She meant nothing to me. And now I realize—”
I cut him off. “Just a fling? That makes me feel a whole lot better. But you know what? I really don’t give a damn.”
Our food arrived just as he was opening his mouth.
“Look, I know you’ve moved on. You’re using your maiden name again, and I can respect that! But why don’t you…”
“If you can respect that, then why can’t you respect my wishes? Why can’t you respect the fact that I don’t love you anymore?” I couldn’t even eat, I was so mad. This infuriated him.
He attempted to mute his words because of the potential audience and spoke through gritted teeth. “If you weren’t influenced by your goddamned friends, you might find way to be true to your feelings!”
“That is it! You know, that is another reason I don’t love you anymore. You have never given me credit for anything! Such as being able to think for myself!” The audience was now paying attention. And I didn’t want to say what I was about to, but I was boiling with anger and could think of nothing else that would force him out of my life for good. He had pushed me.
“Paul, I am in love with another man, a real man.”
He stood up from the table. I suddenly saw Aeden standing in wait.
“What did you just say?”
I looked up at him. “You heard what I said.”
“Who in the hell is it?”
“None of your business.” I stood and grabbed my purse. “If you can’t understand that we are through that’s your problem. But I won’t stop living my life.”
I saw Aeden quickly grab their waitress and pay for his and Monae’s meals. Paul saw our waiter, shoved a fifty into his chest, and followed me out the door.
“Fuck!” Probably because of my impatience, the remote wouldn’t unlock the truck. I know I’m doing it right! Shit!
“Myryna, how dare you walk away from me!”
“How dare you get in my face!”
“Who is the son of a bitch? Huh?” He took hold of my arm and shoved me against the truck. “I said, who is he!”
He was much too large for me to take down completely, but I would give him one hell of a fight. “Get your mitts off me!” I struggled with him. “He is infinitely more man
Aeden wasted no time and rushed up behind Paul. He grabbed him by the back of the neck, turned him around and connected his fist with Paul’s jaw in a way that Paul would never forget. Paul fell down but was still moving. Aeden pulled him up by the jacket and shoved his head into my truck, breaking the headlight. He beat him repeatedly—over and over, until I ran to Aeden and tried to stop him. At first he seemed to be in a different world; he couldn’t see me. I had never seen my brother like this. I tugged at his arms and called out his name. He finally snapped back to a familiar state and dropped Paul’s broken body to the ground a bloody, disgraceful mess.
Aeden turned to look me over for injuries. His fist was bleeding badly. “Are you okay,
Myryna?” He was slightly out of breath.
I cried into his chest as people gathered around. No one said a word. “Yes, yes I’m fine.” I raised my head when I heard Monae yelling.
“Take that you worthless bastard!” She spit on Paul and walked over to us. “Are you all right Myryna?”
I just chortled shakily.
Aeden looked concerned. “Hey, My-J, looks like I owe you a headlight.”
“Ha! You don’t owe me anything.” I laughed. “I, on the other hand, owe you a dinner—and a drink.”
Aeden decided to drive my truck home, and I rode with Monae in the Charger. As we were leaving, Paul slithered his way to his car. I knew him well. He would be far too egotistical to call the police. I did wonder, however, if this was finally over. At least for the moment it sure felt like it.
Aeden, Monae, and I relaxed in the chairs out back. Monae had helped Aeden get his hand cleaned up and put ice on it. He refused to wrap it of course. “It’s just a little scrape,” he said. He was always a stubborn man.
“What are you thinking about over there?” Monae asked and they both turned to me.
They’d caught me off guard. “Oh not much, just how stubborn that man is. How’s your hand doing?”
“It’s fine. Like I said, it was just a little scrape; nothing more.”
Monae and I just smiled to ourselves.
“Well, I owe you a nice dinner, Aeden. Are you guys hungry?” I was, and remembered
none of us had a chance to eat at the restaurant.
“Starved,” they both answered.
“So am I. Does chicken pasta sound all right?”
“And how about that drink, Aeden?”
“Sure, little sister; anything with a bite.”
Monae stood to come and help. “I’ll chop tomatoes.”
She turned to my brother and kissed him on the forehead. I loved seeing them so happy together. It warmed my heart and soul. This was still a good day. When I turned to go inside, I remembered when I last saw Markus, and when I breathed in, it was almost as if he were standing there with me. As if I could smell him, feel his warmth.
I was jolted from my daydream. “Oh, yes, Monae?”
“Do you have any portabellas?”
“Yes. Yes, they’re in the crisper.”
I instinctively looked at my brother. Aeden grinned knowingly. I looked away coyly.
“Well, I’m going to put on some music, then start the chicken breast.”
“Okay,” they answered and watched me shuffle away. I thought I’d escape before they had time to start in about Markus.
Smooth, soft jazz would be perfect for the hour, so I set the stereo to one of my favorite track lists. When I reentered the kitchen Monae sang along with the song as she diced the tomatoes on the same counter where I stood when Markus brought me the roses. It’s where we had first kissed. “Aeden! You scared me! Don’t sneak up on me like that! Where’d you come from? I didn’t see you come in.” I was shaken out of breath.
“I walked right past when you were turning on the music. Had to get some more fluid for the lamp outside. If you were paying attention, you would have heard me coming.”
“I was just in a trance. I don’t know why.”
“Whatever you think you know, you don’t. So stop trying to figure it out!” I play-punched him in the ribs and he pretended to be wounded from it. “I think I’ll get to cooking that chicken.” Maybe he’ll drop it.
A little after ten o’clock I headed back down to the kitchen after changing into my lounging togs; light blue cotton pants and a white tank top. I felt a lot better than I had earlier. Paul sure got what was coming to him. I remember that I did love him once. It used to hurt that my marriage was ending. But now that it was over, the only thing that hurt was that he wouldn’t go away. He still thought I should love him. It made no sense, none whatever. He has a few screws loose. Well, Aeden may have knocked them back into place. I sure hoped so.
“Ladies that was the best chicken pasta I have ever had.”
“Thanks, Aeden, but isn’t it always the same?”
“No. This was different. I think it was the way you sliced the tomatoes, Monae. They were… extra sweet.” He took her hand and kissed it graciously.
I nearly choked on my water. “Listen to Rico Suave over there!”
“Why, dear sister, it was also because as usual, you have outdone yourself. You used just the right amount of olive oil and seasoning, and the spinach leaf was especially fresh.”
“Why thank you, kind sir.”
Monae giggled. “Aeden you are so silly.” She always sounded a bit more feminine when she spoke to Aeden.
“No, he just wants something.”
He looked at me with mock surprise. “I can’t pay the two most beautiful women in the world a little compliment?”
“Oh now it’s really started!”
“Well, I was sort of hoping for one of your famous ‘magic potions’. I’d try to make one myself, but with my poor hand and all…”
“Oh, I’d better make them then, I don’t want you to reinjure yourself or anything.” I smiled and opened the cabinet for a bottle of grenadine. “Go on outside and I’ll bring them out. You want one, right, Monae?”
“Sure, but I can help you make them.”
“Oh, that’s okay. I’ve got it. You go on out with Aeden and enjoy the stars. I’ll be right there.”
Aeden came over and kissed me on the forehead.
“What was that for?”
“For being the greatest.”
I tried not to get choked up the way I usually do. “Thanks for saying that.” When I looked at him I could tell that he was sensitive to what I was going through. “Thank you for what you did tonight.” I tried to hold back tears. I couldn’t put into words how much I appreciated it, but he knew.
“You’re my sister, Myryna. And I’m not going to let any man put his hands on you.” My eyes fell to the floor remembering what Paul had done. “I might not be able to stop Markus though,” he teased, lightening the mood.
My eyes quickly shot up at him and he chuckled. So I figured I would be brutally honest with him. “Thank goodness. I don’t think I’d want him to stop.”
His eyes grew wide.
Um-hm, I knew that would get him.
“Well–I’ll just be outside…there…out there.” He fumbled uncomfortably. “Make mine strong.”
“You brought it up, big brother!” I called behind him.
He shook it off and went out the door.
It was then that I noticed the music had stopped. I disregarded it and began to make the drinks. They were indeed my specialty and included, among other things, cognac, and coconut rum. I tried to recall the last party I made them for when I was startled by a muted thud. It seemed to come from the foyer. What the… Aeden and Monae are both outside. Something must have fallen. I returned to the drinks.
There it was again. That time I knew it was something. I looked around the corner outside the kitchen, nothing. I walked slowly into the foyer. The door was still locked. The light was on, but the lights to the library and the living room were both out. Pitch darkness in those rooms. I saw nothing from where I stood. I started to turn back to the kitchen when my eyes fell upon something on the phone table that made my heart stop.
“Aeden!” Damn, I scared myself even worse by screaming. At least when it was silent I felt a little safe.
Aeden tore into the house and Monae followed. “What’s the matter!”
“I think someone is here… in the house. I heard a noise, and I came to see what is was and that was sitting there.” I pointed to the velvet jewelry box on the phone table.
“I thought I told you to pitch that damned thing.”
“Aeden, I took it with me to give back to him, but I forgot to. I left it in the truck. I swear I did. And I did not bring it back in. Someone else had to.”
“Are you sure? The door is locked.”
“Yes! And you drove the truck home, so if you didn’t bring it in then…”
Monae spoke up. “We locked the door when we got here, but Myryna, you went back outside later to get your purse. Are you sure that you locked it back?”
“That’s right, I did go back outside. Oh no, I don’t remember. Maybe I didn’t!”
Aeden opened the front door and gazed out into the darkness. “No cars in the driveway. But I’m going to have a look around anyway, inside first. I want you two to stay in the kitchen and wait for me.
“Like hell!” I yelled.
“Girl, just do what I say for once.” He spoke firmly.
I was growing considerably less fond of his dictatorial tendencies.
“And I wouldn’t worry about it being Paul,” he continued. “I left him in no condition to go out sneaking into people’s houses tonight. I’ll be back in a few.”
We reluctantly listened and I rushed Monae into the kitchen. “We’d better hurry or Daddy will get mad,” I spat. My sarcasm was apparent. Monae just laughed a little to herself. I did not.
NEVER RUSH ME
Aeden searched the interior and exterior of the house and found nothing and no one. I tried to convince myself that I had absentmindedly grabbed the jewelry box at some point or had left it home to begin with. But I knew very well that I hadn’t.
Later, Aeden had gone to bed and Monae with him. I stood by the open window in my own dark bedroom, wearing only that tank top now with knit shorts, letting the cool midnight wind renew me. I stood there staring, not really seeing the darkness, but thinking. I was thinking of the days’ events, and then of better thoughts… of Markus. The thought of him made my heart smile, but it was bittersweet. I especially missed the comfort of him tonight.
I closed my eyes. I imagined he was there and I was safe in his stalwart embrace. I breathed deeply and was minutely contented with this thought; it would have to do. I leaned on the window frame and recalled his menacing yet soothing voice. I miss him so much.
“I’ve missed you too.”
I opened my eyes and he was there.
He came to me from the shadows. Suddenly the weeks since I’d seen him seemed as if they’d been even longer and more deplorable. I ran to meet him and, possibly to his surprise, kissed him madly!
“I know,” he began, but was interrupted by my kisses, “that there is much to talk about since I went away, but…” I kissed him again and he finally relented. “Let’s talk tomorrow.” And another kiss as he placed me down onto the sateen and lay atop my waiting body. “Tonight, I want to show you exactly how much I’ve missed you.”
I panted loudly. Do hurry, Markus. I was so elated to see him, to feel him; I wanted to be as close to him as possible, and I wasn’t feeling particularly patient.
He whispered, “You’re in a rush?”
I did not part my lips, but, for the first time, continued to speak with my mind. I found it to be an erotic game. “Yes Markus, I would like you to stop dilly-dallying and ravish my body.”
“Is that right? Well it seems that I will have to teach you a lesson. Never rush me. I plan to take my sweet…precious…time.”
He towered over me like a lion that’d just found its prey. After removing my shirt, he pinned my wrists firmly above my head with one strong hand and gripped my hip with the other. He then leaned down and slid his tongue up my waist, to my chest, to my throat. To say I was in blissfully agonizing ecstasy would be the understatement of the ages.
IT WASN’T ME
As the sun rose that morning, I watched as its rays sauntered up his body; his smooth skin glistened in the golden light as he slept. He was still there. He hadn’t left. I would bask in his presence as long as I could. I didn’t want the feeling to end. But alas, I fell to sleep once more, my head upon his chest as he held me; serenity washed over me. I was in love and at total peace.
After showering and getting ready for the day, I took Markus’s hands in mine and gazed over him slowly. He wore a black tee. The sleeves fit snuggly around his bulging muscles and tucked tightly into his jeans. “Markus, how different is your world than mine?”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean, I see that you wear jeans and speak my language, those kinds of things. Are there many other similarities?”
“Many. Imagine that you could look at your world and see it from a different angle, a different perspective. It might seem like another place, another time. And we are not as prone to ideas that would inhibit our natural instinct to question. It has shaped a much… different course for us.”
“I think I understand. Is it a better version of this place?”
“Myryna, I like to think that the seventh dimension is enlightened, but in truth we have our own tribulations, just as you do. I have been many places, and as of this very moment, the only place I’ve ever been that is perfect–is in your company.”
I rested my head on his chest and listened to him breathe. “I feel the same way, Markus. I feel exactly the same way.” I traced my fingertip along the edge of his sleeve, and a truly wonderful idea formed in my head. “Markus, do you ride?”
He seemed surprised. He must not have heard my thoughts. “A bike?” he asked, understanding what I meant but seemed rather taken aback by the random question.
“Yes, Markus. I love to ride. Aeden and I used to go with our friends all the time, but it’s been a while. We used to head out from John’s ranch and go down to Emerald Lake. It’s a breathtaking place. So do you? Ride?”
He shot me a devilish grin. “You could say that. Why don’t you round up your friends.
See who wants to go.”
“All right! Let’s go!” I made him follow as I darted for the stairs. It was only for a second, but I thought I saw something black flash passed me as I went down the hall. I stopped. Markus neared me.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
I didn’t know quite how to answer. It was like the shadow of a person, but walking on its own. “It was probably nothing.” I blinked a few times and looked around me. “Just my mind playing tricks.”
Markus raised a brow.
“I mean striving to be open and free,” I corrected.
He just shook his head in amusement.
Downstairs I entered the kitchen and found my brother and Monae. They had just finished eating bagels and fruit. They saved the blackberries for me. Even though I rarely ate as much fruit as I should, blackberries were a treat I could never resist.
Aeden stood from his chair. “Markus, you’re here.”
The two clasped their arms together.
“It’s been too long already, my brother,” Markus declared.
“Indeed, it has,” Aeden agreed. “Too long. Come in. Have something to eat. It’s not much compared to what you are used to I’m afraid. Regretfully we don’t have any brandhor to serve your appetite!”
“Ah Aeden, the mere thought whets the palette.”
“What is brandhor?” I asked.
“Brandhor, my dear sister, is a beef side marinated in hemp vinegar and the hottest peppers in the world for three seasons; then it’s stuffed into a magnificent sour bread, and toasted over a roaring fire. It is a fine breakfast, fit for a king. A serving weighs no less than four pounds, and it’s Markus’s favorite. Only the meanest bastard in the realm could even get near the heat from those peppers, let alone eat it.”
Monae and I were silently flabbergasted. Words like four pound breakfast, king, and meanest bastard were floating around in my mind. At last words managed to fumble from my lips. “Markus, I thought you said your world wasn’t much different from mine?” I didn’t expect an answer; I was simply thinking aloud. He sounded like a beast—I found this extraordinarily tantalizing. Every time we were together, I found him more intriguing.
“So when did you arrive, Markus?” Monae finally uttered.
“Early this morning, very early,” he answered.
Aeden and Monae both cast me a glance of surprise and then to Markus as if in realization that he’d spent the night. Monae’s look turned to a pleased one, while
Aeden was still slightly staggered.
Monae noticed this and took charge of the situation. She grabbed hold of Aeden and spoke to him seductively. “Now don’t you fall into a tizzy. You were too preoccupied to even notice he’d arrived last night… tiger.” She then proceeded to growl at him.
The astonishment quickly changed sides. I couldn’t believe she’d said that, and he was flushed. I flashed him a saintly grin. I was satisfied. He couldn’t say a word now. I would thank Monae later.
“Well,” I said, changing the subject, “I wanted to ask if anyone wanted to—” But I was interrupted by the phone. I volunteered to answer.
“Hello, Jacobs’ residence.”
“John!” I turned to Aeden. “I was just thinking of you.” I noticed Markus and Aeden both had pained looks about them. However, Markus was looking my way, and Aeden was looking at Markus. I remember that I never had asked Markus about the incidents around John and me. It would have to wait. I returned my attention to the phone call.
“So what’s going on?”
“Well I’m taking the bike out today and wanted to see if anybody else wanted to take a short road trip? I know you haven’t ridden for a while and I’ve got two bikes. And you know I still have Aeden’s old bike as well. Figured he might be ready to get back on the saddle again. What do you say?”
“John Corbin, you are unbelievable. Something today made me think of the very same thing. I was about to ask Aeden and then call you. That’s insane! Hold on—” Aeden and Monae nodded in agreement and I informed John. “How does Emerald Lake sound?”
“Sounds like a plan. When can you be here?”
“After we get Monae’s bike.” I looked her way when I said this and she nodded.
“Right on. I’ll be here.”
I hung up quickly. Aeden was stunned to learn that John still hung onto his monstrous bike, appropriately named the “Big Red Machine.” He was more eager now to get out there.
I ran upstairs to get one more thing before we left. In the closet were my old leather chaps. All us girls had matching pairs that we wore back in the day. They still fit. Perhaps a bit more snuggly. Probably because they’ve been sitting so long. That’s it. They still looked and felt good though, and that’s what counted. Monae screamed when I came around the corner and said, “Remember these?” She vowed to wear hers too.
While Aeden locked the house, Monae and I went to the pickup. A deep voice beckoned me toward him.
“You ridin’ with me, darlin’?”
I turned around to see Markus sitting on the most beautiful piece of machinery I’d ever set my eyes on. A magnificent steel horse; black with blue flames adorning its sides.
The airbrushed images of souls tried to escape them to no avail. Markus’s hair was pulled back in a braid; he wore a dark blue and white bandana and daunting black shades. I was thunderstruck. Monae arrived at my side, her eyes in amazement as well.
I could finally speak. “I would make love to that.” She looked at me as I turned to her.
“And the rider too.”
She just nodded her head.
I didn’t look at Markus when I spoke to him, for I could not help staring at his bike.
“Markus, that’s your horsy?” I choked out.
“This is my horsy.”
I swallowed hard. “Of course I’m riding with you.” I ran over swung my leg around and held on tight. “She have a name?”
“Dominion.” He revved the engine and kicked up the stand. The engine gave a low rumble that sounded like the groan of some fell beast roaring from the depths.
“I can see why.”
He sped off down the long driveway and waited at the end for Aeden and Monae.
“You know, your brother and I used to ride together.”
I pictured this and held him tighter. When I turned back to see the truck coming this way my eyes also caught a glimpse of something else. Just passed the trees to the side of the house I saw someone walking.
It made my heart stop a moment. Markus felt me jump.
“Are you all right?”
He hadn’t read my mind.
“Yeah.” I clung tighter to him. “It was just my mind ‘not’ playing tricks on me again.” I half-laughed.
I hoped that’s all it was.
The truck pulled up behind us, and we were off.
Once we’d finally reached town, we still had a couple of miles to go before we reached Monae’s house. I began ponder the whole John/Markus thing. We stopped at a red light right next to my brother. Markus leaned his head over his shoulder.
“It wasn’t me.”
He was quiet for a moment and then revved the engine.
“Any incidents surrounding you and Corbin, it wasn’t me.”
“What do you mean?”
Green light. We rode ahead.
What is he saying? He can’t deny it, can he? I mean, there’s no one else it could have been. Right?
When we arrived at Monae’s place, he killed the engine. He stepped off first and turned to me. His look was very serious. I was dumfounded.
“Sweetheart, listen to what I’m about to tell you.”
“As much as I’d like to take credit for those things…”
I interrupted with a disapproving look.
“I really was not responsible.”
He had to be kidding. “Markus, if it wasn’t you then who was it?”
“It was Ilexia.”
“Who is Ilexia?”
“I didn’t really want you to know this, but I sent her to watch out for you and to report any potential danger back to me, whenever I could not watch you myself.”
“What?” I still thought this was a tall tale. I watched Aeden and Monae in the garage.
“What?” I repeated. “Watching? Who was watching me?”
“For the last couple of years, I’ve had her keep an eye on you for safety reasons, whenever I could not.”
My mind just brought to the surface a new question. “How long have you been watching me?”
“That’s not important right now,” he said, dodging my question. “What’s important is that the ‘incidents,’ as you call them, were not directed at your buddy Corbin, but more specifically at you.”
I didn’t say anything. I simply tried to absorb all of this information, and wrap my head around it somehow.
“The night that we first met, the banging wasn’t the pipes. And the first whispers you heard…”
“...was her pleading when she felt my presence.”
Chills stung my skin.
“The point is that Ilexia is especially interested in Corbin. But she won’t hurt you.” His voice then became lower, more pungent. “Her memory has been refreshed as to the cost of certain endeavors. Don’t worry about it any further; the situation has been dealt with.”
“Did you hurt her?” I suddenly worried.
His jaw stiffened. “I said don’t worry about it any further.”
I took that as a yes.
“No, I didn’t. Now let’s go. They’re ready. We can talk about this later.” He mounted the bike, and my eyebrow rose.
Yes we would talk more later on, as I still had one unanswered question. How long has he been watching me again?
We arrived at John’s ranch in record time. John came out and greeted everyone right away.
“Hey, John!” I called while strolling up the drive.
“Hey, baby girl,” he replied, but just patted my shoulder instead of our usual friendly hug. I turned to find the reason for this. Markus watched John as if to remind him his place.
John respected his wishes, however, did glower a little bit in Markus’s direction.
I was beginning to feel as though the men around here thought of me as property; a point I would be glad to settle for them. For the moment, I tried to ignore it and rolled my eyes. We were going to have fun today.
“Darin! I didn’t know you would be here!” I ran to him leaving those the boys to their testosterone fest.
“I just dropped by and happened to be riding ‘Hell Fire.’”
“How strange—I guess we were meant to get together today. So where is she? It’s been such a long time!”
“Right this way, milady.” He smacked me on the bottom playfully as I went by.
I guffawed loudly because I knew Markus and John were watching. I turned around slightly as I sauntered to observe that I was indeed correct. Their looks said, “Not amused.”
“What was all that about?” Darin asked.
“Oh nothing; just big boys acting like little boys.”
“Oh Hell Fire! She’s as beautiful as ever!”
“You don’t have to ask.”
I sat and gently settled into the pristine leather seat. “Wow. This is great, Darin.”
Hell Fire is flaming red, and an airbrushed portrait of a naked woman poses, seductively, with hair of flames.
“Start her up!” he exclaimed.
“Are you kidding?”
“No! Go ahead!”
I fired her up all right, and nodded approvingly. “Oh yeah, Darin! Nice!”
Candra entered the garage behind me. “The way that thing is vibrating, you can let me on it too!”
“Candra? Hey, when did you get here?”
“John told Foxy about it this morning, but she had to work.”
John came in just in time to here that. “Yeah, I told Fox not to tell Candra but I guess she did anyway,” he joked.
Candra playfully elbowed him for the remark, and he laughed.
I slid off the bike so that Candra could try it out and she pumped the engine so it would vibrate more. “Shoot, this is better than sex!” She shouted backing it out into the driveway.
“You’re sick with it, girl,” I tittered loudly over the now-roaring engine.
She laughed. “I know it.”
From a distance, we heard John’s phone ringing, but he didn’t.
“John, are you going to get that?”
“Oh!” He hadn’t heard it right away as the men were over discussing the Big Red Machine.
After answering, he came back outside. “Myryna, it’s for you.”
I wondered who would be calling me there. Everyone who knew where to find me was also with me. I hurried up the stone steps and through his door to answer the phone.
“Hello, Myryna speaking.”
“I’m watching you.”
“Excuse me? Who is this?”
“Hello?” No one was on the line. I slowly hung up the phone. Did that person say,
“I’m watching you”? Huh. That was strange. I heard the screen door open behind me
and then close. It was John.
“Who was on the phone?” he asked.
“They didn’t tell you?”
“No, I didn’t ask, I’m sorry.” He looked concerned. “Then I take it you weren’t expecting the call? Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know who it was, and the phone says it was anonymous. Whoever it was said,
‘I’m watching you’ and then hung up. Should I be worried?”
“Are you sure that’s what was said?” John motioned for Aeden and Markus to come inside. Everyone else followed suit. They knew that something wasn’t right. I told them what happened.
Aeden’s chest swelled. “Surely that cretin isn’t stupid enough to come back for more.”
“Aeden, I don’t know if it was Paul. I don’t even know if it was a man or a woman.” I stood by my girlfriends who tried to comfort me. Markus and Aeden shared looks of intensity. It was as if they were thinking the same thing. “You know what? I just want to forget the whole thing. I won’t let it ruin our day. Let’s get outta here!”
Candra broke the silence. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Let’s roll!”
“Yeah, forget about it. Somebody is just trying to scare you,” said Monae as she stepped in front of the four men. “And besides you’re safe with me and Candra around,” she stated honestly.
The four men had varying expressions of ambiguity. It made me feel better.
“You’re right, let’s go! Candra, who do you want to ride with?”
“Yeah Candy-Girl you can ride on hell Fire with me if you promise to hold on real
tight,” Darin offered.
“More like you ride behind me, Darin.”
“Hey, I don’t ride…pillion.” We noticed a significant pause between ride and pillion.
“Were you going to use the B-word?” she demanded.
“What B-word? Oh that? Of course not!” He fumbled as we women closed in on him.
Then I got an idea. “Okay, Darin, you can live—for now. Candra why don’t you ride John’s other bike instead of me.” I advanced toward Markus who stood against the door frame with his colorful, muscular arms crossed. I slithered between them. “And I’ll play bitch to my man, it’ll be fun.” I slowly licked my lips.
Markus raised an eyebrow and gave me a sly smile. He was utterly surprised by my comment. “You’re a wicked little thing, aren’t you?” he drawled lowly.
The rumble of his voice hurled my hormones into a frenzy. I swiftly took his hand and he pulled my out the door. As we went out, our bewildered friends followed.
John’s phone rang once more and he answered on the way out.
“No answer,” he said while locking the door.
As everyone mounted their bikes, I stood beside Markus. “How could that caller have
known I was here?”
“Baby, I was wondering the same thing. But don’t you worry. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. Kiss me and you’ll be just fine.”
Roaring engines tried to break our kiss, but it didn’t work. After several seconds they started to hoot and whistle.
“Come on, Romeo; mount her and let’s ride!” It was Candra. She might have meant the bike, but Monae gave her a sly five for saying it, so I knew what she meant. I flashed them a Cheshire grin, and we mounted Dominion and rolled away.
It was a good ride down to the lake and everywhere else. It felt incredible being so close to Markus and being able to hold onto him for so long; and to share with him that invigorating feeling of roaring down the open road with no perception of time or a care in the world. It also felt great to do this with my friends and my brother, just like old times. No words, no worries, no phones, nothing but the road ahead. It was rejuvenating, and something we all needed.
It was dark now however, and after a nice long drive, it was also good to be back at John’s place. We would soon be heading home. As we sat in John’s living room for a bit, Candra hung back to lock up the garage, and John started his outdated answering machine to check for messages. There were two.
Beep… “Two thirty-two p.m.”
“Yeah this is Ray at Art’s Automotive. I got that part you ordered. We’ll be open ’til five today, or tomorrow nine to six. It’ll be here. Thanks.”
Beep… “Six forty-eight p.m.”
“John, this is Paul. Listen, man, I know that we’re not friends, but I have to get hold of Myryna. It could be a matter of life and—just listen, man. I can’t talk now. Just please try to warn her. Tell her not to trust anybody. You hear me—anybody.”
The room was silent. No one knew what to think or to say. All I could hear was the pounding of my heart when Candra barged through the door.
“Look at what I just found lying in the driveway, Corbin.”
She handed him a gold locket necklace. He opened it and quickly tossed it to me. Inside was a picture of John and me kissing in a photo booth—it was from many years before, when we were younger. We were both confused.
“Where in the hell could this have come from? I gave that to you years ago,” he reminded me.
“And I haven’t seen it in years.” I handed it to Markus. I was a little unnerved by this time.
The phone rang.
I nearly came out of my seat. Markus held me. John answered. “Foxy? What’s wrong?” His tone alerted us all. “She’s right here.” John shot me a concerned look and put it on speakerphone.
Foxy said that I wasn’t “answering my phones.” I quickly found my cellular, which was on vibrate and indeed I had several missed calls–all from Foxy.
“Thank goodness,” she breathed. “What about Paul? Have you seen or talked to him lately?”
“Paul? Why the hell would you ask that?”
“Something has happened,” she continued.
“What are you talking about? That asshole just left a message on my machine two hours ago.”
“John Corbin, I am not joking. Candra and I live right down the street from him. Well I just pulled up from work a little while ago and there were cops at his house. I ran down to see what was going on. When I got there, his girlfriend was talking to the police.
When they left, I told her that I was a concerned neighbor. Long story short, she told me that Paul had left the house in a rage over his ex-wife and that the police just found his car in a ditch on V Highway.”
John searched the call log to see all of the recent callers. Other than the parts store, every call that day was anonymous.
“Renee, is this for real?” Candra demanded into the phone.
“Real as rain. And there was no body. Dead or alive, they can’t find him. I mean she was crying and everything. And she had some strange guy there with her. She said it was her brother. I don’t know. It’s just messed up.”
Markus seemed to be deep in thought, and I didn’t want to interrupt him. His face was terribly serious. I purposely gazed away from him and began to ponder my own thoughts. He and Aeden shot each other a look; then he suddenly squeezed my hand, stood, and led me outside while the others deliberated.
We stood in the darkness next to Dominion. I closed my eyes as he gingerly stroked my face.
“I don’t want to, but I have to leave.”
I flung my eyes open. “Leave?”
“There is something that I need to take care of and it has to be done right now.”
My eyes pleaded with him, even though I knew his word would be final. “But, Markus…”
“Stay with your brother. You will be safe. I will return tonight, I promise.”
With that, he kissed my lips until I closed my eyes. When I opened them, he was gone. No trace of him, only dust in the wind. I touched my lips with my fingertips trying to recapture the feel of him. His leaving so abruptly unnerved me. Something must have disturbed him. And what about Paul? Missing? His girlfriend said that he was in a “rage over his ex-wife?” He had only one ex-wife.
I’d better get Aeden. There is something I need to tell him.
When I turned toward the house, he was instinctively there. He stepped out of the doorway, and I had him follow me to the yard. It was dark and John’s only neighbors were trees and grassy fields. It was very quiet except for the crickets.
“Myryna, where is Markus?”
“He’ll be back tonight, but he said that he had to take care of something that couldn’t wait. That’s not why I wanted to talk to you. There are some things that I think I should tell you.”
“Stay close to me.”
I held onto the bend of his arm as we walked.
“Myryna, are you all right?”
“Yes. I’m just a little nervous that’s all. I’ve been doing some thinking.”
“Now I’m nervous too.”
“I apologize,” he said still wearing a slight grin.
“With Paul missing, and everything his girlfriend said—I’ve started to remember some things. Toward the end of the marriage, I started receiving threats, notes in the mailbox, crank phone calls, someone even tried to run me over while I was checking our mail at the curb. That’s how I found out about the affair. Now, I’ve never met Paul’s girlfriend, but I know she had to be the one who did all of those things. It all stopped after the divorce. The reason I’m bringing this up now is that at T.J. Iguana’s, Paul told me that he’d left his girlfriend. He said that he told her she was just a fling.
And now all of these strange things are happening? The phone calls, and if Paul had broken up with her, why was she at his house tonight? Are you hearing all of this?”
Aeden stopped and turned to me with a stern look. “I’m hearing it all right.”
“Paul said her name was Sherry. Do you think she and her brother could have done something with Paul? I mean…missing? He’s kind of big to go missing without a trace.”
“Yeah, he’s kind of hard to miss.”
“Surely if he wrecked and walked away someone would’ve seen him walking.”
“You’re right. Something about that woman’s story is off.”
“I say I go tomorrow and do some investigating.”
“What? You’re out of your mind. Does this look like New York Undercover? Somebody’s crank called you at least twice today, and Paul is supposedly missing. Forget it. I’m not letting you leave the house. We’ll either call the police or have someone else check into this.”
“Excuse me Aeden, New York Undercover? There’s nothing dangerous about talking with a couple of neighbors or getting a couple of license plate numbers. I know you love me, but you’re being a tad overbearing. I’m not your child.”
“I know that, Myryna. I just don’t want you to go off and get hurt trying to take care of this yourself.”
“Aeden, I appreciate you looking out for me, really I do. But you can’t keep me from walking out the door. Besides, I have some shopping to do tomorrow so I have to go.”
By this time I was walking ahead of him and we were arriving back at the house.
“Stop right there!” he bellowed.
I turned around with an attitude, staring into his eyes pointedly.
“You are being irrational, Myryna!”
“Let’s see… where have I heard that before? Aeden, you are being irrational. Nothing is going to happen to me; not tomorrow, not the next day or the day after that. Just forget I brought it up!”
Our friends came out in light of the commotion.
“Fine. Markus will be home tonight, right?”
“And?” Where does he think he’s going with this?
“Well, if he thinks that it’s okay to let you run around alone tomorrow playing private detective then I’ll go along with it.”
I was grinding my teeth something fierce, while our friends seemed to naturally segregate into two groups; the women by my side while the men stood by Aeden. But they said nothing.
“Aeden,” I inhaled deeply, “My father’s name is not Markus.”
“Don’t be sarcastic.”
I could not continue the discussion with him. I turned to my two female friends.
“Would you guys like to go shopping with me tomorrow?” Aeden wasn’t about to tell Monae what to do, and no one could question Candra.
“Sure.” They knew there would be more than shopping going on.
“Good. Shall we meet at North Wind Shopping Center?”
“How about eleven? It’s close to my house,” said Candra. “I can meet you at the main entrance.”
We all seemed in agreement. “Perfect. We’ll see you then,” I replied.
Aeden turned me around by the wrist.
“Don’t manhandle me.”
“I’m not manhandling you. You are just very stubborn, aren’t you?”
“I stand my ground.”
He let go.
“And I don’t care how big you are, Aeden; you nor any other man tells me what to do.”
He put his hand to his head and closed his eyes. “You give me a serious headache.”
I spoke with Monae and Candra for a few moments, under the watchful eyes of my brother, Darin, and John. The three seemed suspicious, but we truly were only discussing driving arrangements. In the truck was rigging and enough room for one motorcycle. We could haul Monae’s that way, and Aeden would ride after on the Big Red Machine. That way, Monae and I could talk—or more specifically, I could vent. I was feeling short tempered and even a bit moody, and I really needed a woman to woman talk. I needed to clear my mind, even though I wasn’t the one with the problem.
I shot a glance at my brother and sure enough he was still watching us; with a hard expression. But I began to see light around him…and around John…and Darin. It was a sort of glow, white with a hint of color; around Darin was a pale blue, John an unusual tint—not red, not pink. When I blinked it was gone, except for Aeden’s; his light was strong and white and I was beginning to see a red outer glow, when I blinked again and it had vanished. But I also saw something in an instant that made me gasp; a glimpse of black went past them. I thought so anyway.
All of this happened in only a few short moments, however, and Aeden seemed to notice my look of wonder. I shook the thoughts from my mind.
“Myryna, are you still with us?” Candra asked.
“Um. Uh, yes; just tired I guess.”
“So we’ll see you tomorrow, Candra?”
“Right. See you then.”
We said our good-byes then I asked the men to load Monae’s bike into the truck and for Aeden to ride behind us. He, of course, was being difficult. “We will all ride in the truck, and I will leave my bike.”
“I just want to talk to Monae for a while.”
“Why must you do everything the hard way?”
“Why must you, Aeden?” I was beginning to feel unlike myself and just wanted to leave. He was infuriating me, and I didn’t know why. I would silently count to ten.
“Let’s just go,” he demanded.
“No!” Breathe girl breathe! I commanded myself. One, two, three, four… It wasn’t
“Why not? Are you up to something?”
“Aeden, if you don’t trust me then how can you be my brother? I don’t even know you.”
I knew those words hurt him. And I instantly wished could take them back. But I didn’t.
He didn’t say a word. His eyes narrowed out of anger. He removed the keys from his pocket and threw them to me. I caught them and went to sit in the truck while they loaded up. Monae went to his side out of concern, but he just stood there fuming. I didn’t know what was going through his mind. And for the moment I didn’t feel there was anything I could do about it; there was nothing more to be said. Monae climbed inside the cab with me.
John and Darin approached the truck once it was loaded. John on my side, Darin by Monae.
“You take care now, you hear me?” Darin insisted.
Monae patted his hand in accord.
I just stared at the steering wheel in silence.
John took my hand. “Myryna, he’s just looking out for you. Take it easy on him. We all care about you and don’t want anything to happen to you.” He then took my chin and made me look into his eyes; his safe, compassionate dark brown eyes. “I’m only going to say this once.” He spoke firmly. “Call the police, and don’t do anything stupid.” We stared at each other for a moment and then he kissed me. His mouth was warm; his kiss was familiar, tender. “Get outta here, kid,” he said as he stepped away from the window. He slapped the side of the truck two times signaling we were ready to go. Aeden sped off ahead of us, and we lost sight of him.
As we drove down the road, I explained everything to Monae that I told Aeden earlier, about Paul’s supposed girlfriend, and the threats. One of the things I liked most about Monae is that she was a terrific listener, never condescending, never said, “I told you so.” She sat looking out her window as we spoke.
“That is too coincidental,” she said. “Hey, was that a car backed into the woods?”
“We just passed it.”
“Oh, I barely saw it. Black. That’s strange; maybe it broke down.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. Or someone’s dropping off a body.”
“One of the two.”
“Hey, I’m thirsty.”
“So am I; all of that yelling. I’ll stop at the gas station up here.”
We parked at an all-night gas station and convenience store. It wasn’t that late at night; still there weren’t any other cars around. We discussed Aeden as we went inside.
“You know, Aeden doesn’t realize that he hurts me when he doesn’t trust me to take care of myself. I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
“I understand. I know that he just cares about you, but I’ll admit, he seems to go a bit overboard.”
“Thank you! Finally someone with some sense.”
We got fountain drinks and browsed around, even thumbed through a few magazines.
“Hey, girl, remember this?” Monae held up a wrestling magazine. “I used to love this stuff!”
“How could I forget?” I was in awe. “Some of those guys sure know how to put on a show. It can get intoxicating.”
“Hey,” Monae chortled as she obviously recalled something. “Remember when we were little we said we were going to be wrestlers and we wouldn’t bother fighting women, we’d fight men?”
“Yeah.” I laughed. “I remember that.”
“Remember when you almost killed yourself leaping from the top bunk?”
“Oh yes.” I had nearly forgotten. “I was six years old. Aeden was on the floor reading, and I decided to give him an elbow drop.”
“You were bad. Thank goodness he knew what you were up to and turned around and caught you. You could have broken your neck.” She sipped her drink while flipping through one of the magazines. “Oh, and remember when he bought that ’71 Javelin to fix up, and you wrote ‘I love Bret Hart’ all over it with lip gloss? That was a big one.” She chuckled. “He would have killed you too if it weren’t for the go-cart incident.”
That was true. Aeden told me to stay out of the go-cart because the brakes weren’t working right. I took it out anyway to race the boy next door, and the brakes went out. When Aeden came to kill me for the other thing, he saw me headed for the road. He ran and caught up to the go-cart and snatched me from it not a moment too soon. The go-cart rolled into the road and was crushed by a pick-up. I promised to listen to him from then on, and he never did get onto me for the Bret Hart thing.
Recalling those events, I became troubled at how I’d talked to him. I wondered if Monae had purposely brought it all up. My whole life he’d been there to save me. I was definitely a handful. I was very headstrong, but he was always there to save me—mostly from myself. I guess not much has changed. I needed to talk to him, to fix the whole situation.
We paid for our stuff and walked out the door. There was a note under the wiper blade.
“Someone’s been here.” I had a bad feeling.
Monae ran up and grabbed it. “Don’t worry, it’s probably from Aeden, you know. He probably came back and saw the truck.” She unfolded and read it. “Uh, no it’s not.”
She handed it to me.
The note read in block letters:
YOU CAN’T ESCAPE ME.
I’M EVERYWHERE YOU ARE.
I swallowed, hard. I didn’t move my head, only my eyes as I scanned the parking lot for a suspect. No one seemed to be around.
“Let’s go, Monae.”
We jumped in the truck and started backing out.
“Monae, don’t tell Aeden about the note.” I drove off watching the rearview for any followers.
“Are you serious? Why on earth not?”
“I don’t want him to overreact.”
“Overreact? I think that you are under reacting to this.”
“You saw how angry he was that I wouldn’t let him drive me home! I don’t want him to think that he was right. I need him, yes. But I can still take care of myself.”
“I understand that, but you know that I can’t lie to him. I won’t.”
“If he doesn’t ask it’s not lying.” She didn’t blink. “If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll tell him myself, okay? Just not tonight. I’ll do it tomorrow after you and Candra and I get back.”
She was still unsure.
I turned to her. “I promise, okay?”
“All right; but if you don’t, I will.”
“Okay, okay,” I passively agreed. “Dial the police. I want to call them before we get to my house.”
Monae did call and I explained to the police what happened. I told them I didn’t need an officer to visit my house, but I gave them as much information as I could. I mentioned that Paul was my ex-husband and had called John’s earlier and left a message regarding my safety. It was confirmed that he was reportedly missing, and the officer said detectives would be in touch with John and would contact me if they needed any further information. I was told I could bring the note in, at which time I suggested I might, in a day or so when I had time. Monae was tightlipped.
We arrived at the house and if we weren’t spooked before, we were then. Aeden’s bike stood in the front drive, but the house was completely dark. The front door was open.
“Why no lights?” She wondered aloud.
“I don’t know. Why is the door standing open?”
We got out and I carefully felt the motorcycle. “The engine is cold. He must have been here a while.”
Inside the doorway was pitch darkness. I pressed the door open the rest of the way and entered slowly. “Aeden,” I said softly. “Aeden, where are you?”
I reached for a light switch and flipped it several times. Monae grabbed my arm. “No electricity?” She was slightly unnerved and so was I.
“Aeden has got to be in here somewhere. We’ll just have to find him,” I suggested.
“You’re right. You check the house and I’ll check outside.”
I whispered loudly, “You’re not going out there alone! You check upstairs and I’ll check down here.”
We parted ways. I ventured to all the downstairs rooms and found nothing but cold wood and silence. Upon entering the kitchen I tried the lights once more. Nope, still out.
There was suddenly the sound of a slowly creaking door. I could barely make it out by the moonlight, but the basement door had slightly opened.
“Aeden?” I walked closer. “Is that you?”
I touched the door opening it the rest of the way. I felt into the darkness, nothing. Must have been the wind. Then I suddenly had the bright idea to check the circuit breaker.
What a smart chick, I didn’t even think of that until now. Maybe we’d somehow blown a fuse.
I retrieved a flashlight from the junk drawer. Why is it that the batteries never work when you need them to? “Oh, they do work,” I spoke aloud. “Well half-ass is better than nothing,” I discovered as the dim bulb flickered on, then off, then on. I made my way down the basement steps slowly because the flashlight kept flickering off.
“Damned thing!” I hit it. “Oh, that’s better.” It finally shined a steady beam as I arrived at the bottom step. “Now where’s that breaker switch? Aha! Found it.” I flipped it back and forth and listened for the sound of electronics restarting and tried to see up into the kitchen for a glimpse of any light; nothing happened. “Great. Now what do I do? And where in the hell is Aeden?” I whispered. I also wondered if Monae had found him.
What was that? I shined the light across the basement and down that long hallway. I heard something that almost sounded like a scuff on the cement floor. The flashlight didn’t help much. “Hello?” I stepped closer. I heard it again. “Aeden, is that you? This isn’t funny, you know.” As I approached the black hall, I thought something was beginning to appear when, “Damn!” The flashlight quit. I hit it repeatedly against my palm. “Work, you stupid thing!” Apparently the magic words weren’t working. It didn’t come back on.
I went back toward the stairs and took a step up, but heard a whisper. It was from the hallway.
“Hello?” I called out. “Aeden, I said this wasn’t funny. Come on out. Well, fine. Then I’ll just come and get you.”
I eased my way as quickly as I could without tripping in the darkness. I thought I’d gone about midway down the hall, when I stated, “You are not scaring me Aeden.”
There was no response. “Did you hear me? I said I’m not scared! But you’d better be!”
“It’s not Aeden, Myryna.”
I choked! I couldn’t find my scream! “Who are you?”
The house seemed to throttle for a moment and the lights came back on.
As my eyes acclimated, I could see the strange person. A woman stood before me in a black robe. I immediately knew who she was.
“My name is Ilexia.”
She had long copper waves that draped forward over each shoulder, and the bluest eyes. I stared at this stranger in astonishment. I was speechless. I knew she could be dangerous. Is she responsible for all that has happened? And even more, she’s beautiful! How exactly is this woman associated with Markus? I wasn’t altogether sure I wanted to ponder that thought.
“Don’t worry. I couldn’t turn his eye if I dared try.”
“You can read thoughts too?”
“Not exactly; I just have a way of sensing these sorts of things.” She smiled.
What else does she know about me? I wondered silently.
Her eyes swept away for a moment. “Really, I must hurry. The reason I’ve come is that Lord Cambridge came to me tonight. As a matter of fact he stormed into my home to make me confess to harassing you.”
Lord Cambridge? I didn’t have time to ponder everything she was saying. “Was it you?”
“No! I swear to you I have done none of this. I would not dare to consider the thought. It is not wise to cross Markus. I must never anger him, or disobey him. And yet, I find myself here,” she paused. “But only to help.”
“I caused the little disturbances around you and John Corbin. But I was made aware of that mistake… and I swear to you that I have not done anything since. I have visited and that is all. I saw someone come into your home the other night, someone who didn’t belong here. It was after you came home with your brother and his woman. While you were in the kitchen, a man entered the house. He had long dark hair. You had left the door unlocked when you came in from retrieving your bag, and in he brought the velvet jewelry box. Locking the door behind him, he left quickly on foot. I followed him. I saw him run through the trees and down to the road to a waiting car. It was a shiny black one.”
I gasped. That was the kind of car that we had seen parked in the trees on the side of the road…
“I have to leave now. I haven’t permission to be gone this long.”
“Why didn’t you tell Markus about this sooner?”
“I wasn’t supposed to be here then. But I’m trying to make up for that now. I must go!”
She looked as if she suddenly sensed there was trouble. “Please listen to me, Myryna.
That man told you not to trust anyone, correct? He was right. Be careful, Gaiamne.”
“What did you call me?” Where did she go? Oh, where is Aeden? I’ve got to find him.
I ran upstairs and through the doorway and smacked right into a wall of man.
I fell helplessly into his arms. I tried to explain what had just transpired, but was rambling so fast that I fumbled most of the words. “Markus, Ilexia was here…and the lights were out…and I can’t find Aeden!” I was nearly out of breath.
“I’m right here,” someone answered from the kitchen doorway.
It was Aeden. He stood with Monae. Seeing him there, safe, I temporarily forgot about the night’s events; and realized we had a rift that I needed to take care of.
I started toward him and Markus stopped me. “Ilexia was here?”
“Yes. Didn’t you send her?”
“No I didn’t.” His eyes darkened.
I wanted to make sense of all this, but my first priority was to clear things with my brother. I’d hurt him and I needed to make things right.
“Aeden, can I talk to you for a moment?”
He reluctantly followed me into the living room and I closed those sliding wooden doors. I turned to see him sit on the couch. An overwhelming feeling washed over me–almost a fearful one. He looked so furious. I had to consider backing out. No! This is my brother. He is entitled to his feelings. And no matter how he lashes out, I deserve it.
“I’m sorry, Aeden.” Tears began to fall as I neared him. “I am a wretched human being, and I deserve anything you say to me. You must give me credit for taking care of myself for all of these years. But I didn’t mean anything else I said. When I told you I didn’t know you, it was unforgivable. I do know you. I know that you are the one person in my life that has always been there for me; always picked me up when I would fall, and carried me when I couldn’t walk. I am truly sorry. Please forgive me. I don’t know what I’d do if you couldn’t.”
I lost him once and would not lose him again.
He remained ever silent.
He stood and put his hand on my shoulder. He still looked very upset, but as if he was simmering down. “It’s all right.”
It was the answer I was hoping for, yet I was still taken aback. “What?”
“I know you didn’t mean what you said earlier, but I deserved it. Don’t be sorry. I pushed you and I know it.”
“You took care of me for a long time. You were my father when I didn’t have one; when you didn’t have one. I appreciate every single thing you have ever done for me.
Even when you were not ‘here’. You were a constant for me.”
“I’ll always be protective of you. But you’re my little sister, not my daughter. I’ll back off—a little.”
I opened my mouth to protest his last remark, and he gave me a look. I just smiled and held it in, and we left to rejoin the others.
Markus sat on a barstool while Monae stood at the island. I explained everything Ilexia had told me, and Aeden told us that the lights were out when he got there and that he couldn’t find the problem. He explained that he was outside walking off steam when Monae and I arrived, and that he must have forgotten to close the front door.
“Well good. Then I guess everything is explained.” I lied. I briefly remembered the note from the windshield and quickly dismissed it from my thoughts. I hoped to change the conversation and that Markus would not read my mind. I also secretly hoped Monae had forgotten it, and didn’t want Markus to hear me ponder that either.
“Tea, anyone?” I slid the jar of loose-leaf blackberry tea out of its place and pulled out the tea pot.
Markus watched me strangely. “Actually, Myryna, everything is not explained.”
Great. He knows. But to my surprise…
“I didn’t send Ilexia here,” he said in a low tone.
Whew! He doesn’t know!
“What was that?” Markus asked.
I almost swallowed my tongue. “Oh, nothing— what were you saying?” I hoped I hadn’t given myself away.
“I said that I didn’t send her here. In fact, I told her not to come near you. Evidently, my wishes were not clear. I’ll have to remedy that.”
“Markus, don’t say anything to her. She just wanted to help.” It was apparent he did not like my response when his eyes suddenly met mine. I didn’t have much of a rapport with the men folk that day.
“I’ll deal with this as I see fit,” he snarled.
Monae felt the need to jump in. “Wow! I’m bushed! How about you guys?” She forced a yawn.
Markus never broke his gaze.
Aeden, more familiar with Markus and his ways, ushered Monae out of the room and bid us goodnight.
Markus didn’t look very happy with me. I’d have to fix that. I slid myself between his knees as he sat, and guided my hands up his chest and over his tense shoulders.
“Markus,” I said, almost in a whisper, trying to calm him. I slid my hands down his arms and moved his hands to my hips. “Are you upset with me?” I slowly untucked the T-shirt from his jeans. I slipped my hands under and glided them up his waist to his chest. His skin was searing and smooth. He inhaled deeply.
“I apologize for upsetting you, please don’t be mad at me.” I pouted. I found his nipple and begin to suck gently, wrapping my arms around to his back. Then tenderly bit him.
“You taste so sweet,” I mouthed.
He’d had enough.
Markus hurriedly stood and threw me over his shoulder. He flew up the stairs to my bedroom. I hoped it was to punish me for this.
THE SHOPPING TRIP
At half past ten, Monae and I prepared to leave for the shopping center.
“Nice day to go shopping, isn’t it?” Monae asked while touching up her lipstick. She always put it on just the bottom lip and rubbed it into the top one. She always said it was “just enough.”
“Why it’s a lovely day, Monae!”
We both knew the men were listening close by.
“Well, we’d better be off. The mall is about twenty minutes from here.”
It happened to be just around the corner from Candra and Foxy’s apartment, which meant it was also conveniently close to my old house—Paul’s house.
When I picked up my handbag, I was overshadowed by two huge males.
“Yes?” I would be leaving no matter what either of them said; and they were not coming with us.
“Bye, baby sister.”
Markus kissed my hand. “Be careful.”
They had to know I knew better than this.
“Okay, good-bye then.”
As we pulled away, Aeden and Markus watched from the door. “They’re going to follow us.”
“Then we’ll give them something to see!” Monae cried.
I gave her five.
As we pulled into the parking lot of the North Wind Shopping Center, we noticed a shiny black pickup truck with black tinted windows pulling into another entrance. It was strangely familiar.
“They aren’t very slick are they?” said Monae.
“Men are never as slick as women. They don’t think through their plans. They just do it. We, on the other hand, have our shit planned in advance.”
We had a good hearty laugh, but I did hope Markus couldn’t read my thoughts from this distance. It might not be as funny then. Well, in a sense it would have.
After meeting up with Candra, she told us that Asia would be able to join us. She would be there shortly. She had been so busy lately, we hadn’t seen her. We were ecstatic. But it gave me an excellent idea. Since Aeden and Markus weren’t expecting her, we called and told her to meet us outside one of the stores. We would slip away unnoticed in her car, and pick up our cars later. We told her to give us an hour.
“Myryna, Candra, there’s the store for us,” Monae suggested as we stood by a table finishing some cold drinks.
Candra scoffed. “What am I gonna do in a lingerie store? I don’t even have a man.”
“Well,” I interjected, “I never really wear lingerie at all, but I’m willing to look around.”
“About the ‘man’ thing, Candra. Myryna and I have been talking, and we’ve decided it’s time you start dating again.”
“Oh you decided?”
“Yes,” I replied. “You’ve been well… irritable lately, and quite frankly you need some…”
“Don’t finish that sentence!” Candra was not easily shocked, but she blushed.
“Whatever do you mean?” She looked to make sure no one heard me.
“Don’t play with us, Candra. We know the truth and we’re going to get you a new man or else!”
Candra stepped back. “I’ll have you know—I ‘gets mines.’ But excuse me if I don’t have a big strapping man to have romps with three times a day like the two of you.”
“Three times a day? I wish! I would never get out of bed if Markus were around that much! And if the truth be told, I don’t think I could handle it three times a day!”
Monae snickered. “Speak for yourself. I could take Aeden all day and all night.”
“Someone smack me, please,” I blurted and rubbed my eyes as if they’d just been stung. The two women fell into a fit of laughter.
We got rid of our cups and browsed around the lingerie store. Markus and Aeden watched from nearby. I could almost hear Markus in my own mind saying lingerie was a waste as it ends up on the floor anyway. Too bad, I couldn’t really hear them....
After a short time, we began to mosey toward the exit where we would meet Asia. While walking along we were approached twice by a couple of men who were overtly forward. It was humorous at best. They were overly dressed, their cologne was too strong, and they seemed to think they were some sort of gift. They were a ‘gift’ all right—that needed to be returned. We just ignored them. The third time they approached us, however, was the last. For the one closest to me suddenly lost his footing and fell on his face. We tried not to laugh and embarrass him further; well at least Monae and I tried. Candra’s laughter was only suppressed by the cackles of the teenagers standing around.
Monae nudged me. “Almost like magic wasn’t it?”
“Almost,” I said.
“Hey, isn’t that you and Paul’s old neighbor? Pardon the pun.”
“Yes! Old Mrs. Findlehorn. I think she still lives next to him. Maybe this is our first chance at information.”
“Myryna? Myryna Kingston! How have you been? Come here and give me a hug! I’ve missed you since you moved out.”
“Thank you. I’ve missed you too.”
“And who are these pretty young ladies?”
“These are my friends Candra and Monae. Girls, meet Mrs. Findlehorn.”
“Oh, you can call me Mildred. I hate formal names. And Myryna here is like a granddaughter to me.”
“Well Mildred, I must tell you that I’m going by my maiden name, Jacobs, now. You know…since the divorce.”
“Yes, yes. Girls, the best thing she ever did was to leave that two-timing man of hers.”
“We agree,” they said in unison rather quickly.
“Say, some weird things have been going on around there lately,” Mildred stated.
Our ears perked up.
“Yes. You know of Paul’s disappearance right?”
“Well, I talked to Paul about a week ago. He said he’d broken up with…Sherry, I think her name was.”
“Well, last night about two hours before the supposed accident, Paul had come home from work and she was there. So I figured they must have got back together. But there was a young man with her. They all started arguing and Paul left in his car. He was furious! I figured that harlot had been cheating on him. It served him right. Then the guy took off after Paul. I went to bed. You know I go to bed early.”
I just smiled.
“Well I woke from my sleep to put on some menthol rub; you know I can’t breathe without it during the night. Anyway, I heard a door slam over there. I looked through the curtains and saw Paul standing in the front yard. His car was in the driveway but that other man’s wasn’t. I could see the girl inside the window. I went back to bed.
Now that was only twenty minutes before they say the accident happened.”
“That is strange. Did you tell the police all of this?”
“Yes I did; went out in my robe and everything. Soon as I saw the flashing lights next door. What’s more, when they got there, that young man was back. He was standing with the girl. I heard her say it was her brother. But they looked a little cozy, if you ask me.”
“Could you tell me what the man looked like?” I asked.
“Sure can. He was a tall fellow with long black hair. It was in one of those ponytails.
Well, girls I have to go. Have to pick up some new poker chips. I can’t find mine, and you know the girls come over today to play cards. They’ll have my head if they have to play with pretzels again!”
She kissed the three of us each on the cheek and went on her way.
“Long dark hair, huh?” Monae’s eyebrows were raised.
Candra tapped her chin. “That was a very informative conversation, don’t you think?”
“And it’s time to lose Markus and Aeden. We don’t want them to see where we’re going.”
“Paul’s house right?”
“What timing,” Candra added looking at her cell phone. “Asia just texted me. She’s here.”
Asia was right outside. We jumped into her car as fast as we could.
Monae looked back. “I hate doing this to them. Shouldn’t we leave them a note? They could worry.”
“No notes. Markus can find me anywhere anyway. They’ll know we are fine. Besides, as far as they know, we don’t even know they’re here. And I’m sorry Monae, but they both have a sexist streak in them. I know it and you know it.”
“Do you really think it’s sexist—or is it just protectiveness?”
“The part that makes them think women can’t fend for themselves—sexist. I know they both have it. And you know what else I know?”
“What?” the three asked.
“I know they’d better have my dinner done when I get home!”
The outbreak of laughter could be heard round the world.
We drove down the familiar tree lined street, dotted with Victorian houses until we neared the one I used to share with Paul Kingston. My plan was to see if anyone looked familiar to me. I hoped that someone would be standing outside. If they weren’t we would pull over.
“Looks like no one’s here,” Asia said.
Candra corrected her, “Looks can be deceiving.”
Asia parked, and I climbed out of the car and strode to the front door. The other women exited the car and Monae followed me a short way. Our story was that we needed to see Paul and knew nothing of his disappearance.
Monae stopped me for a second. “Don’t forget what Paul said. Don’t trust anybody. Remember that.”
I continued on. She was right. I haven’t been able to get those cryptic words out of my head since I heard them on John’s answering machine. “Don’t trust anybody.” I still wondered exactly to what or whom he was referring.
I pushed the doorbell. It was strange hearing it ring from this side of the door. I waited for several moments, but there was no answer. I rang again, just to be sure. My friends watched as I left the porch steps and sauntered around to the side of the house. If caught, I would pretend to be going to knock at the back door. I knew Paul had an office back there. When I reached the back, I noticed the detached garage was open and what I saw nearly threw me back. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stumbled back to the corner of the house in view of my friends and motioned for them to come.
They hurried, and like me were stunned.
The four of us walked closer to the garage for a better look. It was a new Cadillac; a shiny black one.
“I can’t believe this?” Monae breathed. “Could this be the same one we saw parked in the trees that night?”
“And the same one Ilexia claimed to see near my home,” I muttered. Chills burned my spine. I glanced back at the house to see that no one was watching, and approached the car. I saw nothing inside the car except what seemed to be a day planner or schedule book of some sort. Using my shirt, I tried the door. It was locked.
“What is it?”
“It’s a black day planner, I think, but the doors are locked.”
“Are you sure?” Candra insisted.
I tilted my head toward her. “No, the door won’t open, but I’m not sure if it’s locked.”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, let’s try the house again.”
“Candra, Myryna, wait.” Monae seemed to be pondering something heavy. “Why in the hell would that car be here? Don’t you think it proves Sherry has something to do with all of this? Obviously the car belongs to Mr. Long Dark Hair, who must be the same guy she ‘says’ is her brother. I mean look at all of the evidence. Mrs. Findlehorn even said that Paul had broken up with her. So he must have been telling the truth.
‘What if… what if… Oh, this is all coming together! What if Sherry found out that Paul wanted you back, they argued, he tried to warn you by calling John, and then…”
Monae covered her mouth with her hand and Candra finished the sentence. “She killed Paul.”
The two stared at each other with wide eyes.
I’d considered that before, but the reality was just sinking in. Maybe Sherry had murdered Paul. And her brother helped—if he was her brother.
In the corner of my eye, I saw a curtain slowly drawing back in a window of the house. I quickly looked up to see an evil looking, red haired woman staring at me from inside.
It startled me for a moment. “Sherry?” I called. “Sherry, is that you?!”
Without warning, I heard the very deep rumble of a certain man’s voice. “Have you had a momentary lapse of reason?”
My friends jumped.
“Markus—what are you doing here?” My nerves were suddenly rattled. I turned back to the window and the woman had vanished.
“Hey!” I pointed. “She’s gone!”
Markus turned me around. “I asked you a question.”
“Markus, we just came here to…” Wait a minute that’s beside the point. “Why are you here?”
He just glared.
Suddenly Aeden walked up to Monae and I. “Well, Paul Drake and Perry Mason. It’s so nice to meet you.”
I broke my gaze with Markus and turned to Aeden. “Let’s just go.”
That had to be her. As we walked to the car, I stared back toward the house and saw nothing. It had to be Sherry. I would call Mrs. Findlehorn the next day and find out.
At home, dusk had fallen. Markus and I went for a stroll through the gardens so we could talk. The evening breeze was fragrant with lilacs and the hint of lavender.
“Myryna, what’s going on with you?” He sounded concerned as well as frustrated. We stopped walking and he caressed my face in his warm masculine hand. “I could read your thoughts now, but I won’t. I want you to tell me yourself.”
“Markus.” I didn’t know where to begin. “I am overwhelmed with everything that has happened even since yesterday. And I know that I’ve driven you to distraction.”
“No you haven’t,” he said comfortingly.
“Markus, I know I have. And I’ve done it to Aeden also. I’m sorry. I love the fact that you both want to protect me, and you have…for a long time.” I gazed into his eyes now, and placed my hand over his on my cheek. I wanted his absolute attention as I said these next words. “I know you have always been here. You have been with me beyond the boundaries of this life, haven’t you?”
His eyes told me yes.
The clues had been there all along, but I just comprehended them the night before. When we made love, he told me that he’d always loved me. That moment was the first time that I pieced it all together.
“Markus I love you. I don’t understand all of this, but I would like to try. I trust you with my life. I want to be with you. I want to know everything.”
“You will learn things in time that will help you understand. My love, these things cannot be rushed. And my feeling for you does span dimensions, times, as does our relationship. This I know you understand, somehow. I could not explain this with simple words. You must find these answers within yourself. In the right time, Myryna, this will happen.”
“Markus, truly, a lot is going on right now, and I have been erratic these last few days, maybe irrational. But my relationship with you means everything to me. I don’t want any tension between us. And I don’t want you upset with me.”
“I could never be upset with you.” He slid his fingers through my hair. “I love you,” he whispered.
It was as though his spirit coursed through my body, every time we touched. As I gazed upward into his beautiful green eyes, the feeling of enchantment was nearly overwhelming. My heart and body were filled with infinite love for this man. Standing with him under the moonlight, as night fell upon us was rapture. I could have stayed that way forever.
“Markus, I wish that this moment would never end.”
“My dear, this moment can last as long as you wish.”
The following morning I awoke still in Markus’s arms. I was at peace simply breathing the air of him. I didn’t know everything about Markus and his dimension; what he did there, why he was feared as Aeden had described. Part of me didn’t want to know. And possibly another part of me already did. Markus said the night before, that I would
learn things over time; and somehow I felt that was true.
“Markus, I think I shall make you a cake soon.” I said, out of the blue.
“A cake? What will be the occasion?”
“You are the occasion. And it will be plum cake.” I stared up into those winsome eyes.
“I know it’s your favorite.”
He pulled back a little bit. “How did you know that?”
“I don’t know. Somehow I just did.” I was as confused as he was. “But I guess it will have to wait until next time.”
“The next time you come here.”
“I’m not leaving yet.”
“Markus, every day that you stay here, in the third dimension, is aging you
significantly in your own time isn’t it? More than thirty years each day.”
He didn’t speak, rather his look turned to one of query.
“I know that you plan to spend even more time here–no matter the risk to yourself and it’s simply to watch over me. I won’t let you do that.” I turned away from him and the next words were painful. “You can watch over me as you always have, from afar. You should spend your life in your time, a fulfilling life, for as long as you can. That’s what I want for you.”
He forced me around to face him. “Your compassion knows no bounds, does it?” He stared intently into my eyes, piercing my very essence. “Myryna, one shouldn’t ‘spend’ his life—he should live it. And a day without you is not worth living. I’ll leave when it is imperative, but I desire to be with you whenever I can. Do you understand?”
I simply nodded.
“Do you want to tell me how you knew that I planned on staying here?”
I looked down for a moment and thought about this. “I can’t explain it. I just ‘knew’ as if you’d told me.”
“Myryna, it has been increasingly harder for me to interpret your thoughts recently. Have you noticed?” He stood and began to dress.
I had noticed as a matter of fact. He looked at me strangely.
“Have you learned to block your thoughts?” He asked in a low tone.
“No… I mean… I don’t think so. Markus you are scaring me. What’s wrong?”
There was a different kind of feeling radiating from him; it was vaguely familiar as if it were there all along, but I’d never perceived of it. I was almost fearful of it.
“My love, nothing is wrong. I just feel that…” My demeanor must have changed, for he paused abruptly. “What is it?” he asked worriedly.
“Markus, what are you doing? Stop it.”
“What do you mean? What do you see?”
“The colors. There are colors surrounding you; you’re entire body is engulfed in…light.”
Suddenly he became relieved, his lips curved into an approving, sideways grin. “Have you seen this before?” he asked silently.
“Markus, I heard you?” I was perplexed. “Yes, I’ve seen this around my brother and friends–just recently, but it wasn’t so bright.”
He smiled wider.
I was more confused than ever. I lay on the bed against the pillows and began to calm down. Markus neared me and with the softest touch of his fingers he caressed my face.
I felt myself open up to him. I felt as though a weight had been lifted. The colors faded away. “I love you Markus.” He could read my thought easily now and responded with a gentle kiss.
“And I you,” he revealed through his thoughts as we kissed.
“Myryna, you are seeing my auras, some of them. Every living thing has them. I am very proud of you. In my world, we see auras as often as you miss them. Your mind is less guarded than before. You can even hear some of my thoughts?”
“I’m not sure how to explain it Markus. It’s not really ‘hearing’ them; it’s almost as if I can ‘feel’ them. It probably doesn’t make sense, I know.”
“It makes perfect sense.” He lay next to me, shirtless, holding me close. The security of his body next to mine put me at ease. “Now lie here and rest a while longer. We can discuss it more at a later time.”
VISIT WITH MILDRED
I woke to a light knock at my bedroom door. Markus was resting. Over my tank and knits, I slipped on the black satin robe Monae talked me into purchasing from the lingerie store. It was a comfortable combination.
“Be right there.” I called softly as not to wake Markus.
I opened my door to find Aeden.
“The phone is for you. It’s Dwayne.”
I went downstairs to take the call.
Dwayne was an incredible person. He and Asia had been in a committed relationship for a long while. He always spoke in a delicate manner with me since Aeden’s return. He was very empathetic. Aeden was a secret we kept between us close friends as we attempted to live normally, while simultaneously trying to cope with the reality laid before us, the reality that everything we thought we knew in this life was bogus, and that everything we thought impossible seemed to be real. Dwayne, who was a doctor and shaman, practiced the “ways of the old country,” as he’d explained it. His “upbringing and study,” he’d told us, made him aware of many truths in the universe that the close-minded choose to ignore.
As I picked up the receiver, Aeden went outdoors. I wondered what he was doing.
“Myryna? How are things?”
“Wonderful. It is great to hear your voice.”
“Likewise. I just wanted to call and let you in on a secret.”
“What is it?”
“Asia’s birthday is coming up you know.”
“Oh, yes.” I smiled. “What are you up to?”
“I’d like to surprise her with a party next weekend.”
“Oh! You are such a good man. That would be fantastic! Why don’t we have it
here—at my house! If you don’t already have plans…”
“Whoa…Are you sure?”
“Yes, of course! My place is huge! And she’ll never suspect a thing. I’ll help with whatever you want me too.”
“I have a friend from work who likes Asia really well. I’d like to invite her and a date. Do you mind?”
“Dwayne, it’s you’re party, all right? Invite whomever you want! I don’t mind at all.
I’ll just supply the place! Will Saturday at seven work for you?”
“Yes, that’s great, Myryna. You are very generous. I’ll call you again soon, we’ll discuss it more. But one more thing. Could you call your friends and invite them? I don’t have much time before she gets back.”
“Sure I will.”
“Thanks a million.”
We said our good-byes and immediately upon my hanging up, the phone rang again. I answered on the first ring.
“Damn, were you sitting on the phone?”
“Hey, Candra. What’s up?”
“Did you call Mrs. Findlehorn yet?”
“No. In fact I was thinking of going to see her instead.”
“See her? She lives right next door to Paul’s house!”
“Well I’m going with. I don’t want to miss this.”
“Fine. And by the way, Dwayne is throwing a surprise birthday party for Asia at my house next Saturday; you coming?”
“Of course I’m coming!”
“Good. Now as for today, I’ll pick you up at noon. How’s that?”
“I’ll be ready.”
“All right, see you.”
I had a busy day ahead and wasn’t even dressed yet.
Still the phone rang once more.
“You have got to be kidding me.” I paused before answering. “hello, Grand Central!”
There was a distorted voice on the other end. “Did you tell your brother about the note
“Excuse me? Who is this?”
“Ha-ha, foolish woman. You never listen. You shouldn’t trust anyone.” The voice was followed by raucous laughter and a click.
“Myryna?” Aeden entered from outside. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I’m just going to run up and take a shower.”
“All right. Will you want some breakfast?”
“No. I’m fine, thanks.” I turned and ran upstairs.
Aeden knew something wasn’t right, but didn’t say a word. I was glad. I just hoped he would forget about it altogether.
Markus looked so peaceful lying there. Even sleeping, he was fiercely intimidating.
His look was dark and brooding. He also looked like royalty. My bedroom, while large and impressive to me, didn’t fit him somehow. He belonged in a palace. I didn’t want to wake him. I’d quietly find my clothes and slip into the shower. When I passed him however, I couldn’t resist a light kiss. I leaned over him and gently brushed my lips against his. He grabbed my arm.
“Markus, you scared me! I thought you were asleep.”
“I was, until I felt you near me. Your essence is intoxicating.” We then shared that kiss.
“Where were you?” He asked calmly.
“Downstairs. Dwayne called.”
He released me. His grip wasn’t tight, just firm. “You’re blocking me from your thoughts.”
“No I’m not.” In truth, I was attempting to do so. I didn’t wish for him to know about my plans to visit my old neighbor. “I just have a lot on my mind right now. We’re having a surprise party here next weekend for Asia’s birthday, and uh, Candra called. We’re going out for a while today. Not long. I’m picking her up at noon.”
“Then we will talk later about you?”
“Of course.” I winked at him seductively and ran to the shower.
He knew I was holding back. But I didn’t need him worrying about me. Blocking my thoughts was getting easier, and fast. I didn’t quite understand how I learned to do it. I just did it. I didn’t let him see the images in my head. I thought of unrelated things.
While I conditioned my hair, I wondered how long I could keep it up. I couldn’t hide the note and the phone call from them forever. But I didn’t want Markus to kill himself just to stay here and protect me. No. I would not let him. It wasn’t worth it, and telling Aeden would only defeat the purpose. He’d immediately tell Markus everything.
I finished getting ready in my room as Markus showered. I tried to find my brush which should have been lying on the vanity and finally located it in my dresser drawer. I never could understand how things like that got moved to strange places and considered it must be another inter-dimensional thing.
While blow-drying my hair at the vanity, I noted that my hair had been growing very rapidly lately, at least three inches in the last three weeks. I always kept it long, but it had never reached the middle of my back before then. I must be getting a lot of vitamins in my food. Huh.
Downstairs, I began to look for my brother and Monae, all the while recalling the disturbing phone call from earlier. When I entered the foyer, it rang again. It startled me this time, and I gasped. I had to gain better control over my emotions or the men would notice.
It rang again. It seemed louder this time. My senses must be heightened for some reason.
“Yes,” I answered in a shorter tone than usual.
“Be careful out there.”
“How about if I just never answer the phone again,” I hung up with frustration.
I looked up to see Aeden.
All of this was somewhat distressing but I couldn’t let “them” win, whoever “they” were. I couldn’t let it get to me. I was stronger than that. I could handle anything. Still, I went over and hugged my brother. I felt safer with him near, but I couldn’t let him know everything. Not yet, for the sake of Markus.
“Say, your hair is getting pretty long,” he said. I still hugged him as he lifted the length of my hair.
I let go. “Yeah, I must be eating right.”
“You can sell that to somebody else.”
“Shut up, you. There’s nothing wrong with the way I eat,” I laughed.
“Hot sauce isn’t a vegetable.” He took his turn to laugh—heartily.
“It isn’t?” I egged him on, then punched him playfully on the arm.
Suddenly, Monae called from outside the open front doorway, “Come out and see what we’ve done!”
Aeden bade me close my eyes as he guided me outside. Once there, Monae took my hand and turned me to face the house. To my great and very pleasant surprise, they’d been planting a garden, beautiful leafy red and green bushes with hints of crimson and fuchsia that would soon bloom into beautiful peonies. So that’s what Aeden was doing out here this morning.
“It’s just what I wanted. They’re going to be beautiful!”
“I know,” Monae replied. “When Aeden said that you wanted some, I made him get up so we could go get them this morning. I’ve kept him very busy!”
I hugged my friend. “Thanks, Monae. Aeden, I appreciate it so much.”
“We thought it would cheer you up.”
“And it has. Thank you again. It’s time for me to go and see Candra. Do you want to come, Monae?”
“Actually I’m dirty so I’d better stay here and get cleaned up. Besides, Aeden is going
to take me home in a little bit.”
“All right—if you’re sure. I need to say good-bye to Markus.”
I leaned over to touch a rose bud. “I can’t believe you guys did all this for me,” I smiled, and slowly a dark pink rose bloomed into my hand as I touched it. I snatched back my hand and stood in disbelief.
I looked up with widened eyes and my brother and friend too were stunned! I didn’t know what to say and neither did they. “It’s the sunshine,” I explained with a shaky voice. “It just opened because of the light.” I could see that they weren’t buying it and neither was I. “I’ll just go say goodbye to Markus.”
I reentered the house, leaving them awestruck. Aeden looked as though he knew something further about this sort of thing.
Whoa! What is happening? I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before I went upstairs. I looked in the mirror above the phone table. First my hair growing… and my mind being so “open”…now this. And I’ve been feeling so healthy. I couldn’t explain why, but I felt a very pleasant, almost ethereal vibe throughout my body. It was much the way I felt when Markus was near. It just felt…good.
Without warning, and merely for an instant, my eyes seemed green. But I knew they couldn’t have been. Heh. Keeping things bottled up is getting to you. You’re hallucinating.
I felt Markus’s captivating presence as he approached.
“I must go, Myryna. But I will return this evening.”
“Markus, you mustn’t return so soon.” The words burned my tongue.
“We have already spoken of this.”
“I know.” I hung my head.
“However, it may please you that tomorrow I will have to leave for an undetermined length of time.”
I was overwhelmed with both bittersweet elation and agonizing grief. I wanted him to live long in his time, but felt a selfish need to have him here with me.
“It doesn’t please me, Markus. My desire for you is beyond measure. Still, my greatest desire is what is best for you, not what is best for me.”
I kissed him as if I would never see him again and left. Weighing on my mind were thoughts of him, the changes I’ve been going through, and of that last phone call. The caller said, ‘Be careful out there.’ What could that mean?
I parked outside Candra and Foxy’s apartment and saw that the door stood open. I knocked twice and let myself in. She entered the room with a boisterous greeting and immediately commented on my hair. A few inches it would seem made for a drastically noticeable change.
Once I expounded on the details of the phone call and such, Candra was pretty well spooked; however, not enough to keep her from going with me to Mrs. Findlehorn’s. She was actually more excited to go than ever. We were both anxious to get to the bottom of things.
“So, are you ready to go?” I asked as I headed for the door. She stopped me.
“Myryna, what does Markus do in his world? You never told me.”
I looked at her blankly, but then images began to flash before my eyes. Darkness, then light; green eyes turning to flame; then wind, rain, sudden death, then rebirth. It all flashed in an instant, and just as quickly the images vanished. I felt drained of my energy and nearly collapsed. Candra grabbed hold of me.
“Are you all right?” She worried. “You should sit down.”
“No,” I shook my head. “No, I’m fine. I saw things… things I don’t understand. It was all so strange. And I don’t know what Markus does. I’ve been feeling so different lately. What is happening to me?”
“Girl you need a drink… a stiff one.”
“Actually, water sounds good right now.”
She turned toward the kitchen.
“No I’ll get it. I’m fine, really.”
“Okay, bottles are in the fridge.”
While reaching for the water I promptly noticed the rows of light-beer Foxy kept on hand. I sniggered to myself. “Hey, don’t you think Foxy’s running a little low on beer?” I called out.
“Shoot, that’s nothing. You should’ve seen how she had it stocked for Y-two-K!”
A little while later we arrived at Mrs. Findlehorn’s place and knocked on the screen door. The main door was open signifying she must be at home.
“Oh, girls! Come on in!”
“Hello, Mildred. How are you doing today?”
She motioned for us to have a seat on the couch. “I’m just fine girls.” She smiled.
“Would you like some lemonade or tea or something?”
We both declined, with thanks.
“At least have a hard candy then.” She pointed to the large crystal dish on the coffee table.
“Why, thank you.”
She sat in a large red arm chair next to the window and rested her feet on a foot stool.
“So what brings you out this way?”
“Well, I wondered if you could tell me what Sherry looks like.”
“Of course, dear. She is very pale, even lighter then little old me,” She tittered. "Yes, and she has flaming red hair. Long as her rear-end, and the look of the devil. She’s a bad seed, I tell you. Something about her isn’t right.”
This description matched the woman I’d seen exactly. “Oh, really? Could you tell me, has she been staying next door since Paul’s disappearance?”
“As a matter of fact…” She lowered her voice and peered through the curtain to next door.
“She and that so-called brother of hers have been there the last couple of days. What’s more is that I could swear I saw them… well, I’m not one to meddle in other people’s affairs, but I saw them kiss inside the window there. Not that I was spying; you couldn’t miss it. I was at the door last night to let the cat in, and happened to glance over and see them hugged up in there.” Her eyes were wide.
“Mildred, you have been so much help. Thank you very much.”
She walked us to the door. As we began to exit, I noticed the black car next door was in the driveway with the windows down.
“You know, girls,” Mildred said with a wicked grin. “I saw you all out there yesterday peepin’ in that car. I wasn’t spying, you understand… it just so happened that I was checking the mail… I’d missed the mailman earlier, on account that I was shopping. It looked like you saw something in that car but couldn’t get it. Well, just before you got here today, I saw the both of them leave in her car— if you get my drift.”
It warmed my heart. “Why, Mildred, you are perfectly sinful.”
“Whenever I get the chance.” She grinned and closed the door.
Candra and I went immediately to the Cadillac, and of course found nothing. We’d have to try another day.
“Are you okay, Myryna?” Candra asked.
“Yeah, but I’m a little hungry; craving fruit. It’s all I’ve wanted lately.”
“Yeah, I feel like having cantaloupe and oranges, and definitely some more water.”
She stared at me from across the seat with squinted eyes. “You never eat much fruit.”
“Yeah, that’s what Aeden says, but for some reason I want it now.”
“Let’s go uptown then, to the center shops. There’s a fruit stand there and we can get a reading.”
“Yes, a psychic reading.”
“For you, of course! Anyway, it’ll be fun. I’ve had one before.”
“Foxy wearing a scarf on her head in front of a cat candle doesn’t count.”
“Not that! I’ve been to a real psychic before. And she told me some far out stuff. All of it came true.”
“I believe in it; I just have never been to one myself. I’m a little nervous of what they might tell me.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be with you. And besides, I want to find out what’s going on with you too! Maybe you’re possessed!”
“Don’t say that!”
Candra suggested we see if there was a wait for the reading before getting a bite to eat. We entered the dimly lit shop and were greeted by the pleasing aroma of clove incense.
I recognized it right away, as it was one of my favorites. There was a friendly-looking woman behind the counter with short black hair which she wore a scarf partly around, and purple eye shadow to match her dark purple eyes and plum colored lips. Her rich brown skin shined of golden glitter.
“Hello, are you the woman who gives the readings?”
“No, dear, my name is Mystique,” she replied with a grin. “I manage the store while Pantera, the gypsy standing behind you, tells your fortune.”
We turned quickly and saw that a woman indeed stood behind us. Boy, she sure sneaked up on us.
She looked pleased. “I don’t sneak; I creep.”
“Wow, you are good.”
“I like to think so,” she said kindly. “Could you girls give me about fifteen minutes? A client just left here and I need to purify the room before your turn. Besides, you should go eat the fruit that you crave. I’ll be waiting.”
Candra and I turned to each other in amazement, and when I looked back, the gypsy was gone. Mystique looked quietly amused and returned to her work. We left to get that fruit.
At the fruit stand, an elderly couple stood bickering over which fruit to buy. “I tell you we have apples at home! We need bananas!” the man argued.
“Look, little man, I’m not going to tell you again. We have enough bananas; we’re out of apples! I used them in that pie the other day!” the wife spat.
“You called that drab a pie? My toothbrush has more flavor in it.”
“When did you ever use a toothbrush?” The wife saw the two of us standing there.
“Oh, you’ll have to excuse us ladies,” she said politely and then began to whisper. “My
husband missed his medication today.”
“I heard that, woman!” he blasted.
She smiled at us sweetly and then pulled him away. “Shut it up you, before I put my fist in it!”
“You would never dare. It’d be too much exercise.” He closed his lips tightly and turned away. She then offered their place in line. “Heh-heh, we’re a little undecided yet.”
Candra and I tried to hold it together. It was terribly funny. But for a time, I could see the auras burning red around them, as they seemed to quell, the auras became a lighter pink and began to fade. I was beginning to get used to this—or at least not be as surprised by it. I hoped Pantera could shed some light.
I got two oranges and a peach and carried them in a paper bag. We each bought a piece of freshly cut cantaloupe and sat around an outdoor table to eat.
“That was the best piece of cantaloupe I have ever had.” I wiped my hands and threw the trash away.
“Girl, it’s probably the first piece of cantaloupe you’ve ever had!”
“Very funny, and where did you and Aeden get the idea that I hardly ever eat healthy?”
“Okay, okay, you do eat fruit, but up ’til now you would have taken a steak and hot
sauce over a cantaloupe any day!”
“I’m never eating hot sauce again.”
We both found that humorous but for different reasons.
“Oh well, it’s time to go in.” We grabbed our things and entered the shop.
Pantera placed several crystals and stones across the table; a large black obsidian orb rested on a small pillow in the center. She lighted a sage smudge stick, blew out the tip and walked around the table as we sat, encircling us with the smoke as she quietly muttered an incantation about protection. She sat and held my hand as she closed her eyes. She inhaled deeply. When she let go her eyes remained closed and she spoke in a serious yet surprised tone, “You have a very strong connection to a male witch.” She paused briefly. “No…he is not a witch, he is…” she became somewhat breathless; her eyes flung open, and she stared directly into my eyes. She seemed to search my mind to determine of just how much I was aware. “He is powerful,” she finished. Somehow, I felt she was not revealing all she now knew.
“Yes, that is correct.” I was becoming a little nervous and my heart began to race.
“Don’t be nervous, child. He will not harm you.” She looked somewhat astounded by this.
I wondered why she would say such a thing. It was as if I should have been worried up to that moment.
“You are going through some changes right now.” She suddenly smiled knowingly.
“Myryna, he is a very powerful man; his life force is potent beyond telling. The changes you are experiencing are because…his blood is within you.”
Candra shifted in her seat and covered her mouth.
I was utterly confused. “How do you mean?”
“A part of him is inside of you…you carry his child.”
I think I blinked my eyes a thousand and one times. I tried to stand, but my legs felt incredibly weak; my bones had turned to sand. “What, what,” I stuttered. “What did you say?” This was the very last thing in the world I would have expected her to suggest.
“I am certain of it. You are pregnant my dear. But there is something else.” She stood and came around the table to help me stand. She looked into my eyes. “You must be careful. There are two that mean to harm you. They’ve tried it already. Be wary of whom you trust. That’s all I know for now. Congratulations on your child.”
I was dazed. In the background, I could hear her saying something about “although we leave the circle” and “still protected”, I was too mystified to pay attention. Candra paid the woman, and we left for home.
“What are you thinking right now?” Candra asked as we drove away.
I could barely part my lips. “I–I’m not sure.” I stammered.
“Wow. I can’t believe it. Pregnant?”
“Pregnant.” I whispered to myself. Just hearing the word, I still couldn’t believe it.
Candra responded abruptly. “Is it?”
I looked at her dimly, and then made a decision. “Stop somewhere and pick up a test.”
“A pregnancy test?”
“Yes. I want to be sure. Get the most expensive one they have.”
She pulled into the drug store parking lot.
“What if the baby has like ‘seventh dimension’ DNA, and it doesn’t show up on a home test?”
I looked at her and forcibly rolled my eyes. No words were needed.
“All right, all right I’m going.”
I started to hand her some money but she refused. “Oh no, it’s on me.”
I used those few minutes alone to gather my thoughts. I loved Markus with my entire being. Could this be true? How could he not know? Or did he know and had a reason to keep it from me. Maybe Pantera was mistaken. But she was so right about the other things. And Markus—he has another life. He can’t always be here. He shouldn’t be here at all. Will I be alone if this is true?
Tears began to flow as I pondered these questions. Would he want a child? My thoughts became more troubled. What if he’s not happy?
Candra was back at lightning speed. “Got it.” She affirmed, and we rode away.
“Oh, I’m feeling nauseous! Roll down the window, quick! I need a breeze!”
“Well it’s not from being pregnant. It’s from crying so hard. I know what you’re thinking of and you need to stop. He loves you and that’s that.”
I hoped she was right.
We drove down an old country road to get back to Candra’s quicker. From nowhere there were three hard clunks. We had a flat.
“What in the hell?!” I cried. “Can anything else happen? You have to stop hanging around me Candra. I’m cursed every time I leave the house. Aeden was right. I should stay home.”
“Don’t stress, Myryna; I’ll change it real quick.”
“I’ll help,” I said as we exited the car. “How did this happen anyway? We didn’t run through glass or anything. It is always something!”
“Just calm down.” She opened the trunk. “Where’s the jack?”
“What do you mean ‘where’s the jack’?”
“I mean where’s the jack?”
“Oh shit! No jack!”
“We’ve established that. Now what do we do?” She covered her face with her hands.
“No one will drive by out here. We’re stuck.”
“No we’re not. We’ll drive on that wheel or walk. I’ll be damned if I’m stuck.”
Instantly, I had an eerie recollection. “Candra, on the phone today the caller said ‘be careful out there.’”
“You don’t think…”
“Yeah I think! And how did the jack just disappear?”
“Oh, thank goodness, someone’s coming! Look!”
A large truck, four-doors, obviously diesel pulled to the side of the road, and a man
“Wow,” Candra says as she pumped her eyebrows up and down. “Look at tall dark and handsome.”
“He’s got a kid with him; he’s probably harmless.”
I stared at her dumbfounded. “Where do you get your information?”
“Shh, he’s coming.”
“You ladies having a little trouble?”
He wasn’t bad looking. Nice build, about six feet tall, ponytail, six-gallon hat. He’s
just Candra’s type.
“Actually, we need a jack to change out a flat. Ours went missing.”
“Let’s try mine then.” While retrieving the jack, the little girl in his car made faces at us.
“No, actually, she’s my niece. I don’t have any kids. Wish I did though, just haven’t found the right woman. Know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Candra answered salaciously.
“Hey, it fits,” he says after trying the jack.
Candra reached for the four-way tire iron. “I’ll get it.”
“Now what kind of gentleman would I be if I let you change your own tire while I sat
back and watched?”
Oh boy, he’s laying’ it on thick.
“I’m sure I can handle it, cowboy,” she said with a lilt in her voice.
“I’m sure you can too.” He grinned.
Oh, brother. “Can we get on with this?” I interrupted.
“Sorry, ma’am.” He tipped his hat to me with a smile and proceeded to change the tire.
He was pretty quick. I was grateful for his assistance and offered him some cash for his trouble. He politely refused. “No ma’am, it’s been my pleasure to do this favor for you two fine young ladies.”
He was straight-up cowboy. There was no denying it. Candra sauntered herself over to shake his hand. “Thank you for stopping.” She spoke barely above a whisper.
He kissed her hand. “The pleasure’s all mine.”
I got in the car. I suddenly felt like driving. Maybe it was to get away from the sickening scene. Next thing you know they’ll be exchanging numbers. I took a look into the rearview. “Yep! They’re exchanging numbers.” I could merely shake my head.
He left and she jumped back into my car. “He was sweet.”
“Yeah, but did it ever occur to you that all serial killers are nice at first?”
“Please nothing. I knew you needed it, but damn! That was way too easy. I hope it’s worthwhile.”
“I have a feeling it will be.”
“There is no shame in your game.”
“Yours either,” she reminded me.
“I guess not.” I grinned.
“I’d better hurry and get home. Markus will be there later and…” I paused.
“And you want to take the test before he gets there, right?”
“I think so.”
There was a long period of silence.
“I’m a little nervous. What if…”
“Don’t worry about that. He is going to be ecstatic. And if he’s not, I’ll ruff him up for you.”
I grinned. “Thanks, you always know how to cheer me up.”
“I know.” She grunted smugly.
When I arrived home, the truck was gone so I assumed Aeden and Monae were too. I took a deep breath. If Markus was inside, I would tell him everything. If he wasn’t I would take the test on my own. I wondered how it could be that before I thought I could be pregnant I was so sure he loved me, and now I questioned it.
I gingerly reached for the doorknob with key in hand and the door slowly creaked open. I hadn’t yet touched it, and no one was there. This is different. Should I be getting used to this sort of thing? Walking into the foyer the house seemed silent.
“Markus, are you here?” No answer. I searched the main part of the house and did not find him, so I locked the door, put the fruit away, and went upstairs to run a bubble bath.
While the tub filled, I slipped the package out of the paper bag and stared at it long and hard. This was it. My life could very well change again in a matter of minutes. Once I took the test, I set it on the counter and relaxed in the bath. I wouldn’t look at the result until I was finished. The soothing hot water eased my nerves.
After a long soak, I felt a lot more relaxed than before. I dried off and put lotion over my whole body. I purposely avoided looking at the test just yet. It was still daylight so I put on a plain red sundress, and sandals. I look down at the test and exhaled: a pink plus. I pulled the box out of the trash to confirm the meaning of the results. I cried silently into my hands. It was true. I now knew I was carrying the child of the man I love. I would willingly die for him. I’d give everything I have to spend the rest of my life with him—and now… I brushed my fingers gently across my waist…part of him is growing inside of me. “Markus, I love you. Please accept this.”
I heard a car in the driveway and ran to the window. Aeden was home. I quickly patted my face with a towel, tried to look normal and hurried downstairs to greet him.
“Hello.” His face told me something was stressing him.
“Aeden, is anything the matter?”
“As a matter of fact, Monae just told me a rather interesting bit of news. Have any idea what that might be?”
Sarcasm, not good. She’d warned me that she would tell him about the note if I didn’t.
I was just surprised that she waited so long. “The note.”
“Why,” he said in a low, bated tone, “didn’t you tell me?”
It was difficult to tell if he was even breathing.
“Aeden, I didn’t want you to worry.”
“Is there anything else you need to tell me?”
“There have been calls, threatening phone calls.”
I didn’t think Aeden could see straight. His anger was building. I hoped it wasn’t toward me.
“Two calls today. The first was a voice laughing. They said I was foolish and to never trust anyone.”
He glared at the ceiling.
“And the second call said, ‘Be careful out there.’”
“And you left the house?!” he boomed.
“And when we were out, we got a flat tire.”
“Wha—” He couldn’t even speak.
“And the jack was mysteriously missing…”
Well, I think that just pushed him over the top.
He turned quickly and with all of his strength put his fist through the wall.
I just swallowed. “Aeden, are you okay?”
“I will be when I get my hands on whoever is doing this to you.”
Good. The anger wasn’t toward me.
“And you are not leaving the house without me again until this is over. And that is final!”
The best thing to do at that moment was agree with him. His eyes were piercing me. I
refrained from speaking—as anything else I said might do him in.
“Myryna is there a really good reason that you’ve kept this from me?” He was speaking more softly than before and looked beside himself with disbelief.
“I didn’t want you to tell Markus.”
“Why in the hell not?”
“Because if you did, he would stay here to protect me, and I don’t want him to risk himself. Being here is killing him there.”
“Myryna, Markus is stronger than you could imagine. And that is for him to decide. You need to tell him the truth.”
“His life is too important. I cannot lose him, especially now.”
Aeden’s eyes rose from mine and looked behind me. It was Markus, and his look couldn’t have been more serious.
The two men looked at each other and Aeden nodded his head. He then placed his hand on my shoulder and spoke softly. “No more secrets, Myryna, for we do not want to lose you.”
He exited to the library and closed the doors. I stood alone with Markus.
“I heard everything, Myryna.”
“Markus.” I halted myself with silence. I didn’t know what to say.
“Myryna, I want you to understand something. I want and need to protect you. You are my sustenance. Without you I have nothing.”
I was overcome, tears silently wet my face.
“Don’t be sad, my sweet woman.” His voice was softer and more compassionate than ever before. He knelt on one knee before me and took my hand. “Why can’t you see? What’s good for me is you, and nothing else.”
I relaxed and let my guard down. I felt so at ease in his presence as always, and guilty for hesitating to tell him everything at once.
He placed his hands on my hips and pulled me to him. He pressed his face into my waist; I stroked his hair. Seemingly in an instant, his staggered eyes met mine. Something had bowled him over.
My tears stopped.
“Myryna, is there something you want to tell me?” He was genuinely surprised.
He didn’t know. “Markus, I…”
Immediately he looked even more bewildered than before. “You were unsure of how I’d feel?!” He sounded very confused. His breathing picked up quickly and he looked down at the floor, and then all around the room, not really “seeing” anything, just mystified; and for the first time since I’d known him a single tear graced his cheek.
“What have I done to make you think that I wouldn’t be happy about this?”
I didn’t know what to say.
He swiftly stood and took my head into his hands. He lowered his mouth and kissed me. A warm breeze seemed to blanket us as our eyes closed. I’d become lost in his soulful desire. Our kiss, so passionate, so full of our love, whisked me away to another place. I suddenly heard the laughter of small children. His enchanting taste filled me. In the far reaches of my mind the children’s laughter got louder… then suddenly I saw a vision. It was daylight and Markus stood in a field of lavender dressed in white, his shirt scarcely buttoned, a gentle breeze blowing through his hair. He smiled as someone approached. It was a small child, a boy. Markus lifted him into his arms and looked my direction. His words echoed inside my soul: “I love you, Myryna, and I love our son.”
He broke our kiss. “Come with me. I want to show you how happy I am.”
PROUD OF YOU
I sat on a bench in one of my flower gardens. I watched the water spout from the mouth of a fountain. It was the statue of a young boy leaning back on his hands as he watches the water flow from his lips.
Markus hadn’t known about our child. When he knelt before me in the foyer and placed his hands to me, he felt him for the first time; he felt our son. Markus felt that he should have known. That if he hadn’t been preoccupied he would have. He did show me how happy the news made him. And words were not needed. He made love to me. But not in the same way he usually did. He’d always paid special attention to my needs when we made love, and it was magical beyond explanation, but this time he was extra gentle; especially tender. He made me lay still as he explored my body with his fingertips and the feather-like grace of his lips. Every time he kissed me was like the first time. His spirit spoke to me, and to the child we share together in a soothing, pacifying whisper that reassured ‘us’ of his devotion, and of his undying love. This couldn’t be a feared man—in any dimension.
Markus had been here for two days and two nights. As he had told me before, he had to go home, notwithstanding, and neither one of us knew when he could return. But he promised it would be the very moment it was possible.
Meanwhile, I had a party to help plan, and my brother wished to escort me to the store. I had to smile when I saw him leaning against the sliding doors of the house, watching me. He must be ready to go.
As I walked across the yard toward Aeden, I was reminded of our meeting earlier that morning before Markus left. We’d told Aeden together that we were expecting a child. He was indeed surprised, but very happy for the two of us. He told Markus that he was proud that he was the father of his nephew; and reminded him that he was his brother, not only his friend.
“Aeden, how long were you standing here?”
“Just long enough to see that you were deep in thought. I didn’t want to disturb you.”
He took my hand. “Are you ready to go?”
“Yes,” I answered, but noticed a concerned look on his face. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.” He shook his head. “I’ve just never told you that I am proud of you.”
“What,” I manage to utter.
“I am, very. All of your life I’ve watched in amazement at how strong you are. You always take care of yourself, and I rarely ever gave you credit for that. You’ve always been my baby sister, and now you’re going to be a mother. This child is very fortunate to have you, just as I have been.”
“Thank you, Aeden. And I’ll always be your baby sister.”
“Good. Now let’s get to the store, so we can hurry back. I hate shopping.”
“Then let’s go!”
I’d spoken to Dwayne and insisted that he let me take care of the food items so that it would already be here and Asia wouldn’t be suspicious. He refused to let me pay and, against my wishes, sent over a check that was more than enough. He was generous and very proud.
Aeden and I shopped around… actually I shopped around and he commented and complained. We decided on finger foods and things you could eat with a tooth pick to make it simple. I picked all of Asia’s favorites: fruit kabobs, little smoked sausages, Hawaiian roll sandwiches, and, of course flautas, which she would seriously owe me for making. They were her specialty, not mine, and I wasn’t very skilled at it. It would take me forever to get it close to “right.”
Aeden even left me alone for one second to get the ice and daiquiri mix. When he returned he’d also brought sparkling grape juice for me to drink.
I smiled a thank-you for his thoughtfulness. “That’s it, I think we’re done.”
“There’s nothing else you need?” he asked, as if he were sure I would likely forget something.
“Nope. Oh, except for napkins.”
“I knew it.”
“Well, Foxy said she’d bring some with the plates, but we could always use extra.”
As I pushed, he pulled the cart to the next aisle. “There, plain old white.”
“Aeden, white? We’re trying to be festive here. Get red.”
“Red?” Aeden huffed. “No. Women always think they need fancy-colored stuff, even
though it costs more. Sorry, but I have to put my foot down when it comes to napkins. You wipe your mouth; you throw it in the trash. White is fine.”
I couldn’t help but laugh and go along with it.
When we got to the truck there was another note under the wiper, and a necklace with a gold band attached hung from the side mirror. He motioned me into the cab. First I grabbed the necklace. Aeden read the note to himself and crumpled it, putting it in his pocket as evidence. Inside the ring were the words, ‘Forever my heart, my life, my wife’. I closed my eyes tight as I recognized the ring.
“It’s Paul’s wedding band. It’s got to be that psycho Sherry. We should take this to the police. What did the note say?”
“I’ll tell you later,” he replied while loading the groceries.
“Aeden tell me now.”
“It said, ‘NO ONE CAN PROTECT YOU.’ Now, Myryna, ignore that,” he insisted as he got in. “No one will get to you. And I’m going to kill that filth and her brother if I find out that—” He nearly snapped the steering wheel.
“It’s all right Aeden; let’s just take this to the police station.”
He didn’t speak; he just drove us home to drop off the food and then to the station.
We weren’t really surprised by it, but the police didn’t help much. They did take the note. As a matter of fact, I brought the first note along. I knew I’d kept it in my purse for a reason. The police said it was possible that the two cases are related. That’s all they would say. Since we hadn’t made any physical contact with the “suspect” or actually “seen” them, there wasn’t much they could do.
The day of Asia’s party had arrived. I refused to think about anything negative. It would be a perfect day, barring one major exception; Markus wasn’t there. Suddenly I was depressed. Stop this woman. Argh. “You don’t want him to feel your pain and come back, do you?”Actually, I considered the thought for a moment, but my senses took over and I dismissed it.
Aeden stirred me from my thoughts. “Are you talking to yourself?”
“What? Oh, just a little. Anyway, are you finished setting up the birthday banner?”
Aeden chuckled when I changed the subject. “Yes. It’s up. What else can I do?”
The doorbell rang on cue.
“Get the door?” I asked.
Aeden would have answered the door regardless. He’d informed me that he’d rather I didn’t answer the door or the phone anymore. At least until the trouble had passed.
I heard voices, and I walked into the foyer.
“Hey! I brought the plates! Look, red with matching napkins! Aren’t they festive?”
When I turned to Aeden, he looked away nonchalantly.
It was an hour yet before Asia would arrive so I was expecting everyone else to arrive shortly. “Did you guys park around back?”
“Darin drove us. He dropped us at the front and went around back to park,” Michael answered. Michael was Foxy’s date. He was familiar to me, as Foxy had seen him occasionally for about two years. He seemed like a gentleman. Michael knew nothing of Aeden or our recent history. Only four people coming to the party were in the dark. The rest were in the clique. It was a need-to-know thing; no one needed to know.
“Hey, Michael, this is my brother, Aeden. Aeden, this is Michael.”
“How’s it going man?” Aeden shook his hand.
“Pretty good. You see that ball game earlier today?”
“Oh yeah! The Royals just killed the Braves! And that doesn’t happen very often!”
“Hey now, that’s my team you’re talking about. Too bad you’re right!”
They both laughed and walked into the other room. Foxy and I just stared at each other still standing in the open doorway.
“Well,” she muttered. “Men. How do they hit it off so fast?”
“I have no idea. Women have to sniff each other out first!”
“You’ve got that right. You have to build a rapport; make sure she’s not a bitch!”
“Say, the peonies are beautiful out there!”
“Thanks, Fox. Aeden and Monae planted them for me. They’ve been terrific.”
I started to close the door, and at the far end of the driveway a shiny black car drove slowly by. I wasn’t sure what to think. That looked just like the car…
“Myryna? What’s wrong? You look flushed,” Foxy pointed out.
“You don’t think that Sherry or her brother is out here, do you?”
“Well nothing has happened in a few days. But you never know. Get my brother, would you?”
I looked out the door once more and two cars pulled up and drove around back; more guests.
It could’ve been a passerby with the same kind of car… I suppose.
A hand gripped my shoulder.
“Damn, Aeden, you startled me.”
“Foxy told me what happened. Do you think it was them?”
“Now that I think about it, it probably wasn’t. Don’t worry about it.”
“All right, but I’m glad you didn’t hide it from me. I’m just watching out for you.”
The newest arrivals entered though the kitchen as planned.
“Hey, Darin!” I hugged him immediately.
“Hey, princess!” He squeezed back. “Why, don’t you look pretty tonight.” He smiled.
“Thanks. You look mighty spiffy yourself. Oh, look, Candra’s here!” And whoa, she’s with the cowboy.
All cars were parked around back in a corner where Aeden laid straw to protect the ground. Everyone had arrived ahead of Asia as planned. Monae was there, and Dwayne’s friend from work. John was with a new girl; Pam was her name. Didn’t know if we liked her yet. Still had to “sniff” her out. She was younger than me. Seemed like a sweet girl.
“Is everything in place?” I yelled from the foyer where I sat watching for Dwayne’s car.
“Yes, Ma’am!” Someone answered from the dark living room.
“It’s five after seven. Where are they?” Still another person yelled.
All of us scrambled as if needing to be any place but where we were. After a couple of minutes passed, there was a knock at the door. Aeden allowed me to get it of course.
“Asia, how are you?” I hugged her and then Dwayne.
“I’m good. And you?” Her eyebrows rose. “Do I smell flautas?”
Dwayne led her toward the living room and began to open the doors.
I played along. “Well I decided to make dinner here instead of going out. I hope you don’t mind…”
“Surprise!” Everyone yelled as Foxy flipped on the lights.
Asia turned to Dwayne and me. She blushed from ear to ear. “You all are pretty slick! I had no idea!”
“Well, you have Dwayne to thank! It was all his idea. And it was a great one.”
She kissed him full and hard. Everyone applauded. I missed Markus. It seemed, as it always had, that whenever a couple had a romantic moment every other couple in the room held each other a little tighter. It was really sweet—and sickening. Darin started the music, and the raspy lyrics of Bon Scott filled the room with excitement. The party was off to a great start. He came over and took my hand.
“Thank you, Darin. Looks like you’re my date tonight.” I grinned appreciatively.
“I’m glad to fill in for the big man.”
After a while, we had danced three songs. I somehow had an abundance of energy. I think I wore Darin out. Then it quieted down and the music switched to Otis Redding. Suddenly, I felt lonely—until Darin raised his head and smiled at someone behind me.
I heard a deep, sexy, soothing voice, like quiet thunder on my neck. “May I cut in?” I began to melt inside. The person slid his warm masculine arms around me from behind, his hands caressing my stomach to greet our child. He kissed my neck.
“Markus, I’ve missed you.”
He turned me around and I held on to him as if I hadn’t seen him in years.
A STRANGE FEELING
As the night went on, the party gravitated out back, where Monae had lighted torches. Asia seemed to be having a fantastic time. She was especially surprised that I’d made her favorite pineapple upside down cake, instead of the traditional type. And despite all of the women having dates, Aeden seemed to be the main attraction. I’d offered to get him a drink so hurried it to him.
“Aeden, oh, I’m sorry, ‘Big Poppa.’ Here’s your drink,” I laughed.
“Don’t player hate.” He joked as he took a drink.
“Nobody talks like that anymore, Aeden,” I clued him in.
“Who’s a player?” Monae called from behind.
He nearly choked. “That was just a figure of speech.”
“Mm-hm.” She spoke quietly. “I’ve got a game you can play, player.” She kissed him through smiling lips.
My other girlfriends joined us and Aeden slipped away to join the other men.
“Myryna, the flautas are out of this world,” Asia said while crunching one. “I think
I’ve eaten a dozen.”
Foxy jumped in. “Well, they’re almost as good as mine.”
We shared a good laugh and Darin swung by with a round of gelatin shots on a tray.
“For the ladies,” he stated.
The girls were thrilled, but I couldn’t have one. “Um, none for me thanks.” I hadn’t made my announcement yet so they had no idea.
“Darin, Myryna drinks tequila. Here, take my margarita, hun. I just got it,” Asia said.
“You can wipe off the salt.”
“Actually I… well really…that sparkling grape juice will be just fine. I don’t feel much like drinking tonight.” I hoped they wouldn’t press it; however, I should’ve known better.
Darin, Foxy, Asia, and John who stood nearby had no idea of my news. They stared at me strangely. Only Candra knew, and Monae, whom Aeden had told.
“You aren’t drinking? Anything?”
Hm, why is that so strange?
The women’s eyes squinted my way.
“What’s wrong with me wanting grape juice?”
Asia chimed in on that one. “Maybe it’s that you’ve never passed up a margarita as long as we’ve known you.”
“That would be a slight exaggeration.”
“Oh, girrrrrrrl,” Foxy said with widened eyes. “Markus told you that you can’t drink anymore!”
I put my hands on my hips. “I’d like to remind you that no man tells me what to do. And no, he wouldn’t say that to me. Anyway, why are we talking about this?”
Seemingly on cue, Aeden appeared. “Why were you handing her a margarita?”
“Aeden, I wasn’t going to take it.”
“Why can’t she have a margarita?”
“Because she’s pregnant with my nephew.”
Mouths fell open and the music stopped. I could’ve sworn I heard an LP scratch to a halt, however impossible.
Finally someone broke the silence. “What!” Asia screamed.
She and Foxy acted as if they’d never seen a pregnant woman before. They stood back and looked me up and down.
“I’m not that far along. You can’t tell yet just by looking!” I insisted.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Asia demanded.
“Well.” I sighed. “I wanted to tell each of you in person, not over the phone. And I also didn’t want to give my news at your birthday party. This is your day.” I turned to
Aeden with tight lips. He shrugged.
Foxy stepped forward. “Who’s the father?”
I gave a stern look for an answer.
Markus appeared and put his arm around my shoulders. “Yes, who is the father?”
Foxy, however delayed, finally realized. “Oh!”
Candra jabbed her on the arm.
Darin congratulated me warmly and so did John. He put his hands on my shoulders and shook his head lightly with disbelief. “Wow. I can’t believe it.” He swallowed hard as if this were the end of something. “You’ll be a terrific mother. I’m so happy for you, Myryna. I really mean that. And that baby has a lot of love waitin’ for him out here.” He stared intently into my eyes as if to memorize them.
“Thank you, John.”
The men then congratulated Markus, and the ladies continued to coo over me. One person in the place however, had an odd look about him. It was the cowboy. He stared directly into my eyes, not smiling, not really frowning, just staring. He never blinked until at last he turned away.
Aeden hollered, “Hey, isn’t this supposed to be a party? I’m gonna be an uncle! Now everybody start celebrating!”
Someone restarted the music.
Candra, Foxy, Asia, and Monae surrounded me. “Markus dear, could we steal her away from you? Just for a little while?” Monae asked coyly.
“Only for a little while,” he agreed.
“Oh, just a minute, guys. I’ll be right there.” I returned to Markus’s arms. “There is something I’ve been wanting to ask you.”
“What does ‘Gaiamne’ mean?”
His demeanor changed. “Where did you hear that term?”
“Ilexia said it to me. What is it, Markus?”
He was deep in thought. “It means…” He began and sucked his gritted teeth; his look was hardened. “It means mother.” He returned his gaze to me and smiled somewhat forcefully.
“Markus, how could she have known?”
“I suppose that is something I will have to find out. Don’t worry about it right now. Go with your friends.”
I was ever inquisitive. “Wait just a minute. There’s no way she could have known that. We didn’t even know until…”
Markus leaned down and forcefully quieted my garrulous tongue. His taste was refreshing as well as exceedingly arousing. He pressed his hand against the small of my back, pushing my waist against his massive frame. I forgot where I was until he broke the kiss and sent me on my way. “Don’t you forget about me,” he teased.
“Oh, I won’t, believe me. I won’t.” However, I had forgotten the last few minutes. I turned to leave… very hesitantly.
The girls just stared at him with wide eyes. “We won’t forget you either.” I heard two of them slap five.
I shot them all a warning glare. They simply laughed.
“Girl, that’s just ‘jokes.’” Candra managed to say.
As we walked from the patio into the kitchen ‘Cowboy’ touched my arm. “Excuse me, where is your restroom?”
“Oh, it’s this way.” I led him to the hall and pointed the way. I tried to be polite, but I got a wretched feeling when he touched me. It scared the hell out of me. Maybe I’m just tired or something, or maybe I should tell Markus. No it was nothing. I looked down the hall in the direction he’d gone. For a second there seemed to be a black aura around him. He turned to me, smiled hideously, and disappeared into the bathroom. I don’t like him. There is something about him—and that aura. Maybe I’ll go ahead and mention it to Markus.
I walked passed my friends to get back outside to Markus.
“I’ll be right back you guys.”
“Well, hurry up.” They snickered.
When I reached the sliding doors, I saw Markus laughing with all of the guys as Dwayne was apparently telling a joke. Wait a minute. Markus is laughing with John? I don’t want to interrupt him. I knew I was likely overreacting about Cowboy anyway. I’d let it go.
I rejoined my friends. “Candra, what’s Cowboy’s name again?”
“So you’ve been on a couple of dates with him this week already?”
“Yeah. We’ve had fun. He’s sweet. “Very romantic, but…”
All the ladies were listening carefully as she continued. “Tonight he’s been acting a little strange. I thought maybe he was just nervous being around strangers, but he’s been getting along with everyone really well. He avoids Markus, though.”
“Well, Markus does have a foreboding look about him,” Foxy reminded everyone. All eyes fell on hers. “Well, not to us, we know him… sort of.” No one blinked. “Okay he scares me. So what?”
“You’re ridiculous,” Asia recounted. “So anyway, Candra, why would he avoid Markus?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s my imagination.”
“What’s your imagination?” Allen asked as he unexpectedly entered the room.
“Nothing, just girl talk.” Candra lied.
“Ew, I’ll stay out of it then.” He laughed playfully as he walked outside, but not before glancing my way.
There’s that black aura again.
“So,” Asia went on. “Tell us about the baby.”
“Uh, you guys. There’s something I need to tell you. Please don’t think I’m crazy.”
“About the baby?”
“No, about Allen.”
After explaining my thoughts to my friends we were all in agreement that the guy was suspicious. I was nervous at first about how Candra would react, but she affirmed that she trusted me far better than some guy she hardly knew. They asserted that if I had a bad feeling, we’d better be careful. They attributed this to my being spiritually in-tune as of late.
Foxy, of course was more than spooked. She took a huge swig of that light-beer. “You guys, what if he’s ‘the guy.’”
“What guy?” Asia asked.
All eyes widened at the thought.
I spoke first. “You mean… ‘Mr. Long Dark Hair’?”
The possibility was spine-tingling.
“Wait a minute Foxy. You’ve seen Sherry’s brother. Was it Allen?”
“I… I don’t know. It was dark that night. He had his hair down and was clean-shaven.
I’m not sure.”
“Allen has a ponytail, and a light goatee,” Monae whispered. “Light being the key word here. He could’ve grown it this week.”
“Let’s go into the living room with this so no one will hear us,” Candra suggested.
We went in and they sat while I stood. I was too uneasy to sit. “Candra, what kind of
car did he pick you up in? Please say it wasn’t a black Cadillac.”
“I drove. But he showed up at my place in a blue car.”
The phone rang and every one of us screamed.
“Shh! It’s just the phone. If the guys hear us they’ll think we’re nuts.”
I answered as calmly as possible. “Hello, Jacobs’ place.”
“This is Ned Moody, from down the road.”
“Yes! Hello, Ned. How are you doing?”
“Well, I’m fine. But I thought I’d let you know that I just came home about thirty minutes ago from town, and I saw a car out in front of you all’s property. There was a man in it. Looked like he had some business with you folks, but he left when I drove by. I’m callin’ because he’s just driven by here two more times.”
“What kind of car was it?”
“A black Cadillac.”
I dropped the phone.
The women rushed over and Candra picked up the receiver.
“Hello? Yes, she is all right. She is just shocked! What did you tell her?”
After several seconds Candra said goodbye and slowly hung up the phone. She explained the call to the others. I had time to get a grip.
“If it’s Allen—then who is outside in the Cadillac?”
“Myryna, think! Maybe Allen is not involved?” Asia suggested.
I had to think more critically. “You’re right.”
Monae became extremely suspicious. “Allen could still be involved.”
The phone rang again.
“Hell. I can’t take anymore cryptic news. Hello?”
The caller’s voice was distorted. “Between the five of you, you haven’t figured it out yet? You’re some pretty slow bitches, I’ll tell you that.”
I pushed speakerphone.
“How many times do I have to tell you, ‘Don’t trust anyone’? Ha! You never listen.
Never. All of the clues are there. You are all stupid. Just look by the phone.” The caller hung up.
In our rattled state, I don’t know how we all manage to scramble to the phone table. None of us even noticed it before—the locket that John had given me.
“How did it get here?” Candra asked worriedly.
“I left it at John’s house.” I swallowed—hard.
We tried to piece all of the clues together. Monae gave the rundown of events. “Okay. You’ve received calls at John’s house. The locket he gave you was found in his driveway. He’s here tonight and so is the locket—which you left with him. The night when we left his house, he knew that Aeden had gone ahead of us… as much as I loathe these words, John could’ve left the note on the truck.”
“No, no, no! Don’t even suggest that he could be involved! I am very sure that is not possible.” Is it?
“Myryna, we’re all friends with him. I don’t want to believe it either. I’m just looking at the facts.”
Candra jumped in. “Well how about this fact? The day that we went to Mildred’s and to the gypsy, Myryna, you said that you got a call that morning and the caller warned you to ‘be careful out there’. Then we mysteriously got a flat tire!”
I shuttered to think. “You’re right. Maybe it was tampered with while we were getting the reading! That means they were following us the whole time!”
“Yes. And the flat happened to be on an old road, where we were sure no one would pass by to help but…”
I finished for her, “Allen showed up.”
Foxy warned, “It could be either of them, John or Allen!”
“How did the caller know that one of us would answer the phone if they can’t see us?” Monae asked.
“Because there are two suspects,” I answered in a solemn voice. “One in the car out there… and one in the house with us.”
We froze in silence.
Foxy had some type of revelation. “Markus is never around when any of this is happening… is he? And he has long dark hair.”
“How dare you suggest that?” I blasted and moved toward her.
“Well it’s awfully convenient!” Foxy added.
We were now nose to nose. The other women grabbed my arms.
“You’d better watch your step! He would never do this to me! Never!”
She mistakenly pressed on. “Oh really? How do you know? You’ve only known him ten minutes and he’s already knocked you up!”
I broke free from my friends’ grips. And damn, she was knocked out.
Asia quickly tended to Foxy as Monae and Candra snatched me by the arms and pinned me to the wall. “Girl! You need to calm down! The baby!”
“I know…” I breathed. “I just can’t believe what she was saying about Markus! She crossed the line!”
“We know that but she was just scared. Damn we’ve got to stick together in this, not fight each other!”
“It must have been my hormones. I hope she’s all right.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Asia said, comforting me. “I don’t think she would have blacked out if she hadn’t had all that beer. You didn’t hit her that hard, Muhammad.”
I didn’t laugh at her comment, but the other women did. Foxy started to move again.
“I’m going to get Markus and Aeden now.” I grumbled. “I’ll bring back an ice pack.”
I turned toward the kitchen and ran smack into someone. “John!”
As he reached to grab my arms, he dropped his cell phone. He bent down for it and I gazed at his hair as he did. His hair is shoulder length. I guess it could be considered long. And his phone… could he have used it to call us a moment ago, or to inform the man in the car of goings on inside the house? No. This is John. He could never be to blame and you know it.
“What’s wrong?” He gave a strange look at the scene before him.
“Nothing. John, were you just using your cell phone?”
As he answered, he never looked away from my eyes. “No. I was just checking to see if I missed any calls. Pam’s roommate is due to have a baby any time. I told her I’d keep my phone on just in case she called.”
His eyes were fixed on mine. That sounds like a lie. “Oh.” I tried to play off my suspicion by smiling a little. He wasn’t convinced.
“Is something bothering you, Myryna?”
Foxy was now standing staring at me with fire in her eyes and pursed lips. The lights flickered.
“What the hell is going on!” Monae yelled.
There was a noise outside. Candra opened the front door. “The black Caddy is out there! But no one is in it!” She slammed the door and locked it.
John took me by the arm. “Come with me; you’ll be safe.”
“No. It’s okay. I just want to find Markus.”
“There’s no time. Just come with me!”
The lights went completely out. But for the moonlight, we were in complete darkness. John took me up the stairs and to a back spare bedroom. There were no sounds but for his breathing and mine. “John, why have you taken me here?”
“Shh, baby girl.” He stroked the hair from my eyes, but we could only see each other by the moonlight. “Myryna,” he whispered, “I want you to be silent. Don’t say a word. And do not leave this room under any circumstances. I’m going to tell Markus where you are.” He went out the door. “I’m locking this. Open it for no one but Markus, Aeden, Darin, or me. Do you understand?”
In ten minutes flat I’ve gone from trusting him to suspecting him, to having no choice but to trust him. I hope my instincts are right. And I won’t wait for long. If they don’t hurry, I’ll be coming out fightin’.
Suddenly there was a heavy thud. “John?” I peered through the shadows. He hadn’t locked the door yet. Then I saw him. I was in such a state of panic that I couldn’t even scream. John’s body had just fallen to the floor near me. He lay motionless.
I could barely utter the words, “Who’s there?”
The door shut but did not lock. In the dark, I couldn’t tell which side of the door the person was on. Suddenly he emerged from the shadows and into moonlit view.
“Allen? What are you doing!”
He smirked. “Well, well, well. You are as sweet as he said you were, hmm. That day when I flattened your tire for him, I nearly backed out. But the moment I saw you again, it was all worth it. I had to get near you.” He moseyed toward my frozen frame.
“Why don’t you come here and let Cowboy have a taste?”
He dared to touch my face, and I smacked his hand away.
“Now that wasn’t very nice. You saw what I did to your friend. You would be wise to be a good girl.”
I braced myself for a fight. He was right up on me when… Bam! The door slammed open and the cavalry came blazing in. Allen was getting mauled! In the moonlight I could see them.
“Candra, Monae, Asia… Foxy?”
They were all pounding him! Candra threw him into the wall and he slid down it. He didn’t know what hit him! Foxy and Asia kicked him repeatedly in the ribs; then Monae grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him up. As she held him steady, Candra knocked him smooth across the jaw. Monae threw his limp body to the floor. He was still stirring. I went over and tagged him across the jaw once more. The blood flung from his wilted lips. “Taste that, you son of a bitch!”
Monae and I knelt down to John as he started to move a little. We were so hyped up that none of us were scared anymore. “Corbin, are you okay, hun?” she asked. No reply.
“John! John, wake up!” I hurriedly grabbed pillows to elevate his ankles.
“Girl, let us do this!” Monae said. “By the way, are you all right?”
“I’m fine! We need to find Markus! Where is he?”
“You guys, we still don’t know who drove that Caddy,” Foxy reminded them.
“Foxy’s right,” Asia agreed. “Foxy, Candra, you stay with Corbin and watch that dog over there. Myryna, you come with us.”
First, Foxy and I shook hands, then hugged. The others joined in. In an effort to halt any tears, I reminded them, “Ya’ll are some real bitches.”
“Thanks,” they sobbed.
Then I set out with Asia and Monae to find Markus and Aeden.
We walked slowly down the dark hallway. I was last. Abruptly, and silently, I was grabbed from behind; my mouth was covered by a huge hand. My friends did not see.
Someone of enormous size and strength pulled me into Aeden’s dark bedroom. The would-be assailant jerked me around to face him and by the light from the balcony doors, I could clearly see his face. It had all come together. “No! Not you!”
I backed up to the wall, my breath was still; my eyes fixed upon his massive frame. No thoughts roamed my mind. I was in shock. He’d planned everything from the beginning. It all made perfect sense. Everything had been a lie.
He started toward me.
“Don’t touch me!” I cried out.
He just smiled wickedly and stroked my cheek. I spit in his face. He closed his eyes and wiped the saliva with his fingertips. “I’ve always loved the feel of your juices against my skin.”
I knew there was no way for me to escape him. I was overwhelmed with the realization that this was my end. He would kill me.
“Sweet thing, I’ve warned you and warned you.” He ground his teeth. “But you just didn’t listen. I told you that if I couldn’t have you then no man would have you… and you went and gave yourself to that…that…”
I finished his sentence. “That beautiful man…my lover, my life, my soul mate. Kill me if you will, but I will love him even in death!”
“As you wish.” He slid a large hunting knife from his jeans and raised it in the air in what seemed like slow motion. I was pinned to the wall and screamed. “Paul, NO!”
The knife was high, his grip firm. He grinned evilly. “I’m going to enjoy this,” he said.
“Not as much as I am,” said Marcus, his eyes glowing like flames in the darkness. When he emerged into total view, he was directly behind Paul. He placed a forceful hand around Paul’s, helping him to grip the weapon. Then he slowly forced the blade downward, bludgeoning Paul’s waist. It all happened incredibly fast! Paul was immobile; his screams were like the bloodcurdling cries of a burning swine. I slid down the wall to the floor. Paul’s soul appeared to erupt from within him as I witnessed what I was sure was his death.
Gripping the knife, Markus still had his arms around Paul’s body. Intense colors of red and black emanated brightly from Markus’s body and filled the room. Paul became terrifyingly silent as streams of every color broke free from his being. He seemed as though he were about to implode. I could but sit there still, my heart pumping with perplexity and fear. A torrent of wind exploded from nowhere and thrust me backward. Markus forced the blade deeper still with one last thrust. The house began to quake as the deafening screams of Paul’s dying returned and both men disappeared.
I could only hear my own panting breaths, as I sat alone in the dark, silent room. At first, I couldn’t move, but finally forced my weary legs to the standing position and managed to get to the balcony to seek help. Aeden was by the pool below. My friends were with him. It seemed as though they were hurriedly trying to explain something to him.
“Aeden! Up here! Come qui…” I couldn’t finish as I was interrupted by a voice in the room.
“You whore!” I turned to see Allen rushing toward me. Time seemed to slow to a slothful burn, yet I had no chance for escape. I couldn’t grab hold of the rail; I was knocked over it. The wind caught my dress and seemed to push me faster.
I screamed pointlessly, my own voice became an echo as I fell toward the pool, for a moment I saw Markus; I thought I was reaching for him. Then all sounds ceased. I heard nothing, no voice, no breath. Vociferous silence as if all the sound in the universe ended in an instant. The bitter cold of ice rushed through me as I fell… and then blackness.
Cerulean water surrounded me. I was light as air and seemed to glide effortlessly through the deep current. I was one with the water. My brother Aeden appeared. He was in the water with me and I began to drift upward. He held me until I broke free from the water, but I could not feel him. I could feel nothing. My eyes were open, but they were not blinking. I did not comprehend what was happening. I felt I was standing behind my own eyes. My friends, and my brother were speaking but I could not hear.
My body remained still. I was lying on the grass, Aeden hovered me. He was upset.
My eyes began to close. I felt as if I were fading to sleep, yes… sleep.
I was thrust into an abyss of darkness, but suddenly there were voices, voices like echoes, familiar voices, voices of the past…
“Myryna dear, now listen to Mommy. Hold your brother’s hand and look both ways. Do you promise? Do you promise? Do you promise?”
The echo faded and another began. “I now pronounce you husband and wife…You may kiss the bride.” There was applauding and cheering.
Another voice… my own. “Aeden, no! He’s not gone! Aeden’s not gone! Noooo!”
Then Markus, there is comfort in his voice. “In order for someone to bring you into another dimension you must be in the most vulnerable state possible in human life…
That is… near death… near death… near death…”
The next voice was not an echo. It was clear. It was Markus. He spoke to my brother with fierce urgency. “Aeden, I must take her!”
“No!” Aeden yelled.
“Aeden, I must take her now!”
I felt pressure to scream for help! I was screaming! No one could hear me! I couldn’t hear myself! My lips didn’t move… I couldn’t feel myself… I couldn’t open my eyes.
“Aeden, it will be too late!” Markus shouted.
There was a moment of silence.
“Take her then Markus,” Aeden cried. “Take her with you! Don’t let her die this way!”
Die? Suddenly, I could feel something; a cool wave through my entire being as if a spring breeze flowed through my veins.
The darkness faded as I walked through a bright tunnel of the purest white light toward a familiar meadow of lavender. I’d seen this field before. I could hear the echo of my own footsteps as I approached. I stood in the meadow and felt at total peace.
“Mother, take my hand.”
I turned to see a tall young gentleman standing before me. His hair was long and dark. It flowed in the breeze. He resembled someone I knew. My mind was calm, but uncollected. I felt there were memories I should have but they were faded. Suddenly I remembered him—Markus. I fully remembered Markus. And this was our son. I took his hand and smiled.
“You are safe now. Father has saved us.”
I blinked, and he was gone. I turned and Markus stood before me dressed in white. His face showed heartache and yet peacefulness. He gave me a reassuring smile and took my hand.
“Markus, where am I?”
He gazed into my eyes and answered somewhat sorrowfully. “You are in my time… you’re in the seventh dimension.”