“Pierre received a shocking wake-up call,” a female, news anchor spoke with a sense of fascination, “after a burning meteorite crashed just outside of the city limits near the Missouri River in the middle of the night earlier this week, disrupting power and cellular towers...”
The news was mostly background noise as Flora and Kristen sat with a depressed Jaime. She hadn’t left the house since her mother and step-father came the previous Sunday. Flora had sensed her friend’s distress, coming by every day to sit and just smell her fresh air. Jaime seemed more relaxed when the plant Element was there, but her step-father’s threat still haunted the youth, stifling the joy she normally would express with her dear friend.
Today, Jaime had started watching television with them. Though there wasn’t much watching going on. She was talking a bit more, asking for little things, or replying with simple phrases. Kristen was relieved to see her coming back from the numb after the latest fit. Flora had begun planning another trip to Buyan for their friends, which held Jaime’s attention. Letting Flora ramble to fill the uncertain silence, the woman stood from the couch after hearing a knock at the door.
“Yes?” Kristen’s voice died in her throat once she saw the face outside the door. Staring back dumbfounded at the anxious visitor, her lips trembled as tears welled in her eyes. The tall, slender man looked equally emotional to see her, but they both seemed unsure how to approach one another. Finally, they took a single step before rushing into a tight embrace. “How are you here, Kan?! Are you alone?! Are you all right?!”
“I had to come, Kris,” the man of caramel complex spoke softly as he held Kristen close. He buried his face in her hair, basking in her scent and energy before leaning back to hold her face in his hands. He was holding an opened letter in his left hand and tears finally fell from his dark brown pools. “I saw you in a dream, and I knew I had to warn you.”
“What about your grandmother?” Kristen asked with fear in her voice. Gripping his hands caressing her jawline, her voice faltered, “You didn’t tell her you left... Oh, Kan how did you find me?”
“This.” He held the letter between them. Glancing down at the envelope, Kristen’s face twisted at her October letter to him. “This was the last letter I got from you. I kept it between my mattresses, so she didn’t take it like the others. I never gave up hope that you would find your answers, Kris, but after that dream in April...”
“You had a vision in April? About me?” Shaking her head, Kristen pulled his right hand from her face. Gripping it gently, she reached to pick up the duffle bag beside him. “Come inside before we meltdown on the porch.” He complied without resistance, only for her to give him another hug after she closed the front door. “This doesn’t feel real... Please tell me I’m not dreaming, Hawahkan.”
“That’s my thing, remember?” He answered with a relieved smile, hugging her shoulders.
“Yeah,” she looked up with a light laugh, “but what was your dream about? It couldn’t have been good if you felt compelled to run away from home to find me.”
“I started in the lodge, like usual,” he whispered as the memory of his dream returned to him, sending a chill through his body. “Then, there was a spiral of stars above me that suddenly shifted backward before restoring the original motion. I saw something come flying out of the stardust - a rock or something - toward me. When it struck me, I felt as if I were falling from the sky toward a massive tree. A voice said that the balance had shifted, and a host had been found. Now... they were coming.”
“How do I play into any of this?” Kristen asked as she stroked his cheek with her thumb. She knew how troubling his visions were for him. She just wished she could have comforted him after this one.
“Just before I woke up,” Hawahkan said in a small voice, “I saw you, clinging to a child, a girl. She was being pulled away from you by something I couldn’t see. You failed to keep her close, and as she drew away, she smiled at you just before...”
“Before what, Kan?”
“She transformed... into... a tree.”
Kristen gaped at the description, not wanting to believe what she was hearing. Visions were rarely so obvious, but after everything she’d learned about the Wunderlust, she couldn’t deny the ideas popping up in her mind. Turning to walk further inside, she blinked that Hawahkan had frozen in the archway. His dark eyes fixated on something behind her.
Kristen looked at where his gaze had fallen. Jaime and Flora had turned to kneel on the couch, craning their necks to get a peek at the entrance. Which one was he looking at though?
“Who is she...?” He asked in a fearful voice as his whole form shook.
“This is my niece, Jaime, and her friend, Flora. Girls, this is Hawahkan,” she answered with forced calm. “Why do you ask?”
Suddenly, Hawahkan’s legs gave under his weight, sending him to the floor. Kristen knelt to see why he’d collapsed, frantically. The girls paused at the reaction to their names. As if things weren’t crazy enough, Flora gave a shutter out of nowhere, drawing Jaime’s attention.
“Flora...?” The youth asked anxiously. “What’s wrong? Why are you shaking so bad?”
“Mother...?” The plant Element cried hoarsely as tears fell from her long lashes. Coiling in on herself, Flora gripped clenched fists to her sternum. Jaime reached out hesitantly to touch her tremulous shoulder. Flora didn’t seem to notice as a haggard breath passed her lips. “I can’t feel her... Where did she go...? Mother...?!”
Standing shakily, Flora walked around the couch toward the kitchen. Jaime followed after her, worried about the usually cheerful girl. As Flora pushed through the back door for the outside, she gawked at the sky.
“Rain!” The plant Element called out desperately. “Rain!”
Jaime stood at the threshold of her house, watching Flora call for her guardian. Nothing happened. They both knew the water man would never ignore her voice, so the gravity of Flora’s premonition became even more frightening.
“Flora, what happened?” Jaime’s voice gained some strength as her concern morphed into courage. “You said something about your mom.”
“I can’t feel her anymore... It’s like she... vanished... She’s gone...” Looking back at her friend, the immortal’s shattered visage searched Jaime’s dark pools for answers. “I’m frightened, Jaime... How could she just vanish...? That can’t happen... It can’t...”
Glancing at the threshold a moment, Jaime considered why she hadn’t wanted to leave her home. Aunt Kristen had told her she was safe in this house. With Leon’s threat of taking her away from her family lingering over her head, she hadn’t wanted to leave her sanctuary. Now, it became clear to her that the danger didn't go away because she was inside. She was just hiding, hoping it would eventually.
Turning her gaze toward the elemental, she wondered if that was how she looked at her aunt, father, even her little brother. They stood up for her. Steven had pushed their mother away. Her father still fought with her mother to protect her feelings. Aunt Kristen had tried to physically shield her. A new feeling welled inside her core as she locked eyes with the plant Element. She didn't quite understand it yet, but it gave her the strength to take a step outside for the first time in over a week.
"Flora," the youth spoke softly as she reached to take her friend's hands in her own, "we'll figure this out. If Rain isn't coming, he might have felt what you did."
"Do you think so...?" Flora's voice sounded so small, uncertain, but the hope in her emerald irises clung to Jaime's voice. "He might have gone home to check on her then..."
"If that's true, we should meet up with everyone. The lake is a good place for us to blend in. Most people go to the clearing in the park, so there shouldn't be too many around the water."
The two embraced as Jaime rubbed the still shaking shoulders. She wasn't used to comforting others, but the teen knew what made her feel better from her loved ones' example. Even her friends had grasped how to help her when she was struggling. Flora needed her now, and for once in her life, Jaime Aarons felt capable of doing something for someone else.
"Thank you, Jaime," Flora sighed with relief. "I'm so glad you were with me."