Love From the Past

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Summary

Starting her life over, with no memory, Pera is happy in the life she's created. When strange dreams threaten that life, a man, Titan, shows up as a savior. But has he shown up in time?

Genre:
Erotica / Fantasy
Author:
EOElliott
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
21
Rating:
4.9 7 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1

Something is wrong.

Foreboding creeps through me, forcing my mind to wake, to focus. Spasms travel along my spine and limbs. Apprehension creeps across my hypersensitive skin leaving a glistening of chilled sweat. Awareness tingles across my neck, raising the hairs. My whole body responds, a supernatural alarm. Please, not again.

I open my eyes and will them to adjust, frightened by what they will show me. Praying they lie. My stomach lurches and my veins nitro freeze. My eyes didn’t lie. The bane to my sanity and well-being has returned. Moonlight spilling in from the terrace windows casts his haunting shadow over me. Heart racing, I struggle to cross the king-size bed, away from him, to get to the door. My feet tangle in the bedding, and I fall hard at his feet. Crab scrambling away from him, with fear driving my limbs and clouding my mind, I never questioned how he was in front of me. My escape is a short-lived idea. I crab walked myself against the wall, not to the door. He stalked after me, gloating, with an evil smirk.

“Get away from me!” Panic seizes control of muscles, locking them to bone. Fear and adrenaline rush through my veins, fight or flight taking over my body. My heart bangs a frantic rhythm on the back of my ribs and dizziness attacks my head, threatening a TKO.

Blood hums through my veins and rushes to my ears, creating a steady, whooshing beat. “We’ve been through this. I don’t have your timepiece!” I shouted again at the disfigured intruder. Shouting only sped up the tempo of my heart and increased the throbbing in my head. But failed to impact the trespassing psycho. He stares at me blankly, his head tilted to the side, still smirking. As if he’s watching something I can’t see.

In only my gown, I sit trembling on the floor with knees to chest. I wrap my arms around my exposed knees and lean harder on the wall for support. My eyes bang around in their sockets searching for proof that this is a dream. Not finding any, the search begins again. Must avoid all eye contact with this madman. I’m still in my bedroom? How is this possible?I close my eyes and wipe the sleep away. Desperate, I silently beg, pray, and make promises for a miracle; any miracle. For, the nightmare to be over; the stranger gone. My twitchy lids lift, and I survey the room once more. No miracle granted, no prayer answered. Same scenery and same crazy ass glaring at me.

Exasperated, I tried again to explain to this deranged individual I don’t have what he’s looking for. “I’ve told you, I don’t have what you’re looking for. Please, just leave me alone. This can all just be over. No one has to know, no cops involved. No one, just you and I, and it’s over. Done,” I said as calmly as a hostage could.

How did this whack job get in my apartment?

The alarm is silent. Which means the doors and windows were still locked. This makes absolutely no sense. Unless he disabled the high-tech security alarm, or it’s malfunctioning. Neither of those are likely.

My imagination spins like a toy top. Whirling and bouncing from one bizarre scenario to the next, ranging from expert burglar to demon spawn. Terror claws into me deeper, shredding a path up my raw throat. It’s just a nightmare Pera, it’s not real.If only my eyes had lied. Then my mind wouldn’t be tail spinning out of control. I devote my focus entirely to convincing myself that I’m still asleep and I’m dreaming. I fixate on this simple explanation, turning it into my mantra. And, my terror recedes, but only slightly. Enough to draw my focus away from him. He notices my attention being elsewhere, and dives into a rage.

“Pay attention, you deceptive, little twit!” he snarled as he seized my hair. With a handful, he painfully pulled me to my knees positioning my head back at an uncomfortable angle. His face distorts with cruelty, with undiluted hatred.

“I know you have it, you lying bitch!” he shouted. “I will have that timepiece!” His spit showering my upturned face.

I struggle to speak. Fear gripped my throat, squeezing. I raise a shaking hand to point toward my vanity where I keep my watches. Voice quivering and cracking, “My vanity... my watches... take them... and go. Please... let me go,” I said. He growls his frustration, but releases his tight grip on my hair. Freed, I slump back against the wall, and hug my knees once again. A few tears escape, but I choke back the sob. Pera, you can’t afford to break. Don’t let him win. Be strong.

“This isn’t a cheap bauble to be carelessly abandon on a makeup table,” he said as he paced. The plush carpet absorbing his heavy steps. His irritation quickly becoming a tangible monster of its own.

“I’m getting nowhere... again,” he said to himself as he followed his tracks on the carpet. He dug his hands into his hair, pulling loose a few oily strands. “So much time and energy devoted to this here and now. And for what? For naught!” The long, black trench coat he wore covered the filthy suit of undetermined color, that once looked as if it may have been dapper.

“Take whatever you want and leave. I won’t call the police. Please... just go. Take anything. Everything. Just go.” My voice, a quaking whisper, exposes my fear.

Finally, my words stopped his pacing. He raises his scarred face with those cold eyes to glare at me. I snap. “Just get out!” I scream, finding my voice, my cowering courage. Emotions raw like road rash makes me lose my slippery grip on my frayed nerves.

Hysteria roots deeper and branches off to my limbs, causing physical symptoms. Shaking and unsteady, I wobble. The wall I was using for support becomes pointless. Hyperventilating becomes an inevitability, not a possibility. Closing my eyes and dragging oxygen into my burning lungs, I fight for control of my unstable psyche. Bad idea. Dizziness assaults me, creating bright starbursts on the backside of my twitching eyelids.

Without opening my eyes, I know he’s in front of me. The air around me changes, becomes volatile. His hot breath stagnates the surrounding air, choking my personal space, smothering me. He leans in closer, his breathing rasping in my sensitive ear, “Make no mistake, Istoria, I will possess that which you have. You will give me what I want,” he whispered. My eyelids jerk open, frightened to my core. His whisper more alarming than his ranting. An oath, evil and unspoken, but heard, loud and clear.

He reaches out for me again. I squeeze my eyes shut, and fold in on myself, cowering in sheer terror. Steeling myself for the brutal assault from his hand, I stay in a ball waiting for the physical violence to begin. Stomach churning with horror as I await the contact. His brutal savagery is reaching for me, I can sense it around me, swirling violently. When there’s no contact, my fear peaks at a level I never imagined existed. Bright flickers continue to dance behind my eyelids and the dizziness is trying to drag me under. If it succeeds, I’m afraid I won’t recover. My eyes, squeezed shut so tightly they couldn’t have been be pried open with a crowbar. The reality too frightening to witness. Only something, or someone, worse in my room could interrupt his fury.

Then I notice it, a faint whisper. It sounds as if it’s coming from far away. I angle my head to pinpoint the source of the answered prayer; the sound that has saved me from his wrath. Please let that be real, please let me hear it again. Relief floods through me when I hear it again. Thank goodness! It’s real, but where is it coming from? Through my haze of terror, I hear the raspy sound again, but stronger this time. There!It’s coming from the hallway, breaking through the fog. Someone is at my bedroom door, calling for me. Saving me.

“Pera!”

“Pera!”

Yes! My roommate is home. Kearie is here, and will free me from this evil ass-hat. She will help me drive this man from our home. My courage gathers once I realize I’m not alone.

“Pera! What are you shouting about!” BAM, BAM, BAM. She beats on the door, and if the doors weren’t solid oak, I’d worry about the integrity of the door. Her fist pounds an unrelenting beat.

“Open the door Pera! It’s a little early to be complaining about watches.” She beats on the door again and causes the psycho to growl and curse.

She growls her own frustration and beats on the door again BAM, BAM, BAM. “Pera, it’s almost four in the morning. Why are you awake? Come on, open the door. We have work in a couple hours. And your yelling disturbed the most amazing dream,” she said, almost whimsical.

That will teach this lunatic! My best friend is calling the police right now. She’s going to... wait, what? I’m not complaining about a watch. Didn’t she hear this psycho yelling at me?

“Kearie! Help me!”

“Pera, I can’t get in. Unlock the door,” she grumbled while shaking the doorknob and kicking the door with her foot.

Opportunity presented, opportunity accepted. While Mr. Batshit is busy muttering to himself and not paying attention, I can escape. I wonder if I can scoot my way over to the door and unlock it, without him noticing?As I slide towards the door quietly and nonchalantly, I hear him muttering, something about “time, and all the pieces needed to change the past”. This guy is a smidge batty. What in the hell is he rambling about?

Back and forth, he traces his previously cut out trail. His foot traffic leaving more lines in the soft carpet. And he continues to mutter about, if I heard him correctly, time travel. Quick realization, he’s not a smidge batty, his belfry runneths over.

Almost there, just a little more. Then, I can escape and be with Kearie. And more importantly, away from this psycho.

Then, from out of nowhere, he appears in front of me. His face twisted by anger and rage, pulling the scar to a position even more frightening. A quick hand shoots towards me, tangling in my hair. With a fistful of my hair, he painfully yanks my head back, and forces me to look up at him. I will be bald if he doesn’t leave soon. Focus Pera, don’t worry about your hair, worry about getting away from him!His anger and hatred making his face even more disfigured, more than the scar he bears. Our eyes meet and hold. His eye color is not of this world. There isn’t a word that could catch the sheer beauty of such a color. The swirling depth of purples, blues, greys, and greens. They twist and turn, constantly moving, fighting for supremecy. But there is so much hate and rage, I realize, he has nothing to lose. My fear spiked to an unmapped level.

“My dear Istoria, I must leave, however, I will return for what is mine. Make no mistake, I will have it, with or without your cooperation.” His jaw clenched so tight, his teeth were grinding.

After his odious threat, he disappeared. Kearie fell through the door, landing awkwardly on her face. She scowls at me through her shock of falling. The message crystal clear; it’s my fault she’s awake and on the floor. From the glare she’s throwing at me, she’s envisioning strangling me. I stare where he’d been standng. Then fly back to Kearie. Brown hair loose from her braid sticking out in every direction, sleepy eyes, yet managing the evil eye, and a scowl set in stone, I search her face for any sign she saw the intruder too. Nothing. Nada. I couldn’t believe it. Not only did she not see the man, she didn’t even acknowledge him disappearing. Impossible. There is no way he vanished. He could not have just poofed away. He has to have a superpower. An inhuman, Superman, speeding bullet fast superpower. No way she didn’t see him! I am not crazy! Am I?

Shaken, but knowing we have to act fast to catch him, I stare at my life saving roommate, and point in the direction he had been before he ghosted away. I speak over Kearie, before she can start with the lecture, “Quick, he must’ve gone out the window!”

Not moving with the speed of the hare, but the speed of the tortoise, she raises her herself to her elbows, and gives me her best, “I’m going to kill you,” scowl. She moves slow and meaningful when she needs to make a point. Drags it out like she’s thinking, but she already knows what she will say. It’s her dramatic affect. And right now it’s making me crazy. Crazier? Sleepy eyes narrowed, she stares hard at me, glaring at me venomously from her position on the floor. Her brown eyes throwing daggers and nostrils flaring, I catch on right away. She is furious at me over this. At me! How is her crashing through my door my fault? There was a crazy, burglar person attacking me! How did she not see him? Unbelievable.

Kearie pushes herself up from the spread eagle, shaking her head in disapproval. Her drawn down brow and stern set mouth causes my heart to plummet. She seems disgusted and disappointed she even knows me. The pity she tried to mask, but couldn’t, causes a ripple of hurt that slowed my rapid heartbeat, and my breath to catch. That look cut. Deep.

She dusted her knees, then rearranged her camisole, and she calmly placed her hands on her hips. “Pera, I’m going back to bed until my alarm wakes me. Then, after a shower, and a mainline of coffee, you can clarify why you are sitting in the corner screaming about a watch at 4 a.m. Until that time, I’m done. Just done,” Kearie said, sounding annoyed, drained, and extra irritated with me.

“Kearie, wait, please. There was a man in here. He must have gone out the window. He had me trapped in the corner and I couldn’t escape. I didn’t even know you were home until you were beating on the door. Please, you have to believe me,” I pleaded.

I point over to the window, to show her how he fled, only to find that the drapes weren’t moving. A hand hadn’t thrown them open and they aren’t billowing from any outside breeze. Which could only mean, the windows aren’t open? How did he shut it behind him? Dumbfounded, I walk stiffly to the windows. My limbs refusing to help present evidence to prove disprove my sanity. With a shaking hand, I draw back the drapes. And yep, whattaya know, the locks are in place. Shock and disbelief clear on my face. This is impossible. My hands try to pull closed a robe I’m not wearing. Unconsciously searching for comfort.

“Pera, I love you. You’re the sister I always wanted while growing up. But, damn it! This must stop. This is what? The third or fourth time in just a couple weeks? That I know about. It’s becoming a pattern. I’m concerned and worried. And the longer this continues, the more concerned and worried I’m becoming. It’s unhealthy for you. It’s unhealthy for me. No one is here. No one has been here. I bet the locks on the windows are untouched,” she said. Not condemning, just stating facts. Standing in her wrinkled camisole, with her arms crossed and her hair braided, fraying from sleep; she’s disheveled and cranky. But, she’s not wrong. Except, someone had been in here.

She’s exasperated with me. And moving from irritated to irate at warp speed.

I struggle to explain the madness. This man, this monster, really is coming into our apartment. He’s terrorizing me and driving me to this point where it’s affecting her. I need her to understand. To believe me. Hell, it seems like he’s here as often as we are. But, I’m the only one being visited by our intruding squatter.

“He locked the door somehow, and had me cornered,” I said. I was getting frustrated myself at having the same exchange, with no new answers. Tired of feeling like a basket case and losing myself in this madness. If this continues, the whack job visiting me will have nothing on my level of crazy.

“Noone locked the door, it’s getting jammed. I’ll have someone from maintenance come look at it tomorrow. I’m done with this convo until I’m awake and full of caffeine.” She trudged for the door, yawning, done talking about it.

“Please, Kearie, just listen,” I begged. Tears filling my eyes.

Without turning around, she held up her hand to cut me off and said, “Pera, don’t push me. I’m drained, concerned, and now sore. It’s better for us both, if I go back to bed. Otherwise, I will end up saying something I shouldn’t.” And with that, she stomped off towards her room.

BAM!

Yep, there went her bedroom door. The slamming, a physical exclamation point ending the conversation. An overwhelming sense of loneliness slammed into me. I reminded myself of Kearie’s love for me and her concern, and lack of sleep, was the root of her anger.

Why is this happening? What is happening? When it’s happening, it’s solid, physical. It’s real. And has become my new reality. How can it be a dream?It’s the same man, every time. He breaks in during the night while I’m sleeping, corners me, and demands a watch. Then complains about the “here and now”and “time and all the pieces”. I guess I’m losing what’s left of my mind. I don’t remember ever seeing the man. That I can recall anyway. And that feature altering scar across his face, makes him unforgettable. But, then again, my memories are like static on a tv screen, black and white, extra fuzzy. Everything before my eighteenth birthday is just not there, poof, gone. Never to be seen or heard from again. After a visit from him, my memory takes another slip on a banana peel. But, I’m sure that’s due to the rawness of the newest nightmare.

Maybe I should talk to someone. Someone trained to handle a mental breakdown of this type. A professional who can shed a little light on why my subconscious has taken a wrong turn into Crazyville and has me behaving like a loon. It’s gotten worse over the last month. Every day it seems as if my memories slip further into hiding, a little further down the rabbit hole. Every day another small piece of me gone, lost. Then sprinkle in late night visits from Mr. Batshit, add just a touch of pissed off Kearie, and you have my life, stirred, not shaken.

In this dream, his desperation was more palpable than ever. I felt the true danger of being hurt. Or killed; even within the dream. But something doesn’t sit right about that isn’t right either. His conviction of my having the timepiece he is so vehemently obsessed with, is plain.

My brain is experiencing an erratic, emotional overload. A weird, psychological scheme, manifesting to show me I’m running out of time, or something absurd. Could he signify I need a man? The watch he is asking for, could symbolize my biological clock ticking down. Might be my subconscious telling me it’s time to start a family. Pera, you could be on to something. That could explain it. I don’t have a degree in psychology, but that wasn’t that hard to figure out. Look at me saving thousands of dollars in mental health care!

Something’s got to give though, before my friendship with Kearie becomes damaged beyond repair. I realize she’s worried about me. I realize, too, that I’m draining her patience.

There’s no chance in hell, I’m going back to sleep after that nightmare. I should just get a shower. Start my day. Before showering though, I should call the little bakery on the corner and see if they could deliver muffins. That may help earn Kearie’s forgiveness. And be the conversational ice breaker to last night’s flash flood; my nightmare. Muffins and caffeine that’ll for sure put me in her good graces.

I grab my phone off the nightstand. After fumbling around with it, shaky, sweaty hands make using the fingerprint scanner a trick of Houdini’s, I finally get it unlocked. I pull up the bakery’s number in my contacts and place an order for delivery at 5:30 a.m. That would give us about an hour to talk before we both leave for work. Done ordering the blueberry bribe, I head into the bathroom to start my shower. To loofa away the remnants of that tangible, bone chilling dream.

My bathroom connects to my room. So I don’t have to go out into the hall and chance making any noise to wake a grumpy Kearie. I undress and toss my laundry into the hamper. Then the tiny dancing droplets bombard my body.

Hot water pelting tense muscles feels good, but does nothing to ease the knots. Ceding defeat, I scrub quickly, on autopilot. Methodically going through the process. Shampoo, conditioner, loofa with, dang it, that was shampoo. No matter, it’s a soap, right?Rinse. Not even going to bother shaving my legs this morning. No time soon will anyone, but me, be seeing them, little on touching them.

I take my favorite towel off the rack and dry myself in front of the steamed up mirror. It’s lemon yellow, extra fluffy, and has my initials at the bottom. Kearie’s parents had the apartment furnished with some of our favorite things when moved in. They also had monogrammed towels, in our favorite colors, made for us. It usually makes me feel like I’m wrapped in bunnies. This morning, I could have dried off with sandpaper and not noticed. I dragged the towel across the steamed up mirror and am startled by what I see. A stranger. A stranger with my eyes. I could only stare. Even through the streaked mirror, it’s clear these dreams are taking a toll on my physical appearance, not just my mental stability.

Dark circles ring my puffy, REM deprived eyes. My skin is sallow, washed out. Ugh, this streaked up mirror isn’t showing me anything to improve my mood. I appear strung out.Mimicking my movements, the reflection turns to walk away. Then, before spinning on a heel, and leaving the bathroom, my eyes glimpse something on the reflected image’s chest. Closer to the glass, I stare at my tired reflection, zeroing in on the spot between my reflections breasts. I brush my fingers across the spot on the mirror, it’s damp. Then, I brush my fingers across the spot on my chest.

Swollen and irritated, it reminds me of a whelp. About the size of a quarter. Similar to the glow of my skin when it’s sunburned; a pinkish red. Great, now I’m getting a rash.But it doesn’t feel like a rash. It’s not small bumps gathered together, or rough to the touch. It’s one big, solid, raised mark. Similar to a scar, or a brand. However, I haven’t ever had a mark of any kind. My skin has always been flawlessly clear, porcelain smooth. Not even teenage acne. Soft as a baby’s bottom, no blemishes, no freckles, no moles; nothing on my skin. Wonderful.One more worry. Something else to freak me out. As if that’s possible. I’ll probably have hives next.

Anxiety meds are in my near future, I fear. Or alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. Just become an alcoholic, so I’m not aware of anything happening around me. Maybe then I could justify the crazy ass-hat visiting me. Maybe, it’s from the stress of all this craziness that’s caused it. The man from my nightmares is affecting reality. I wonder if I bruised myself while I was sleeping. Like, when I was trying to get away from that loon as he was grabbing at me during my dream.

Ok Pera, that’s enough,I inwardly berate myself. Get it together. Stop getting in your own head. You’ll only add to the piling issues. Until they come to take you away haha,I sing inside my head. I chuckle out loud at my odd sense of humor. My only other choice, is to sit down and cry. A nasty, snot dripping, air gulping bawl. But, I’m still stronger than that; I hope.

Get dressed, get caffeine, get on with the day. Get past the stalking sense, that life as you knew it is crumbling apart, and your sanity is melting through those cracks. I grab my robe off of the hook and wrap it around myself, like a protective cocoon. Sit down, Pera. Just sit down and regroup.My feet carry me slowly to the vanity outside my walk-in closet. I sit down, facing away from the mirror. Enough mirrors for the moment. Elbows on my knees, I drop my face in my trembling hands. Deep breath in, slow exhale out. Deep breath in, slow exhale out. My mantra on repeat. Slow exhales being pushed between my hands. I raise my head and prop my chin on my palms. I stare at the floor, willing it to show me the answers to what is happening. My eyes roam the floor, searching it as if it were a treasure map. Trying to find the ‘X’ marking the secret location to my buried answers. The answer must be a simple one. There is a reasonable explanation for my nervous breakdown symptoms.My inner dialogue is on repeat, replaying the same conversations. The same observations, over and over, making a short loop.

Crestfallen, my eyes still wander the floor, searching for the hidden ‘X’, when they find something out of place. One corner of the rug beside my bed is turned up, no longer flat. In my shrine to meticulousness, it’s an unholy offender. I make haste for the offending rug corner, to correct its erroneous ways. So, I may be a tad bit neurotic. Or, so Kearie is always telling me. I drag my foot across the rug to flatten it back out, but it refuses to lie flat. There’s a hard lump keeping it from lying flat. Bending over, I lift the corner and to my surprise, I find a loose gem. A beautiful, blood red ruby. Opal cut and flawless. Where did this come from? Could it have fallen out of something of Kearie’s? Although, I haven’t seen her wear anything like this since that last event she attended with her father. Sadly, I’m not even sure what charity it was for, they do so many. She would’ve asked about it by now, surely. I’ll ask her, when she speaks to me again; if she speaks to me again.

I pick up the pristine gem and at once drop it. Unseen lightening rushes through my hand, travels up my arm, across my chest, into my heart, and explodes throughout my body. A burning, so deep, it brands every cell inside me. It’s scorching, searing. But not unpleasant. It changes me. Immediately, something changes inside me, something is released. My soul feels released, unchained. The elation, the burning, the ultimate high dissipated within seconds of dropping the stone. Loss gripped me tightly, but fear of the unknown had a tighter grasp.

Excited and afraid the stone caused the strange, electrifying sensation, I use caution when I reach for it again. Because with the way my psyche has been behaving of late, a precious gem giving me an odd, terrific, unseen lightening zap would be right up my alley. Hell, it may even dance a little jig for me.I squeeze my eyes shut and using just my shaking finger; I poke at the stone. To rattled to full on grab it again. Too afraid I wouldn’t let go. Nothing. Heartbeats pass with no new bolts. No new exhilaration. I take a peek and poke at it again, just to make sure I touched it. After no inner light show, I pick it up and laugh at my foolishness. It’s just a normal stone. Cold, hard, and inanimate. It was static electricity and a head rush from the hot shower. Had to have been. Right?

I set the stone on the vanity, and chance a glance at my reflection in the mirror. To my surprise, my complexion looks better. Less like a habitual drug addict and more like the delicate porcelain I’m used to. My eyes are brighter and the bags are less noticeable. It must have been the streaked mirror in the bathroom that made me appear worse than I am. And with the dream so fresh on my mind, I’m sure I wasn’t real mentally balanced. That’s what it is, my brain working over-time.

Thinking of the dream again, my eyes seek my watches. Placed in a velvet-lined watch case, six faces and twelve hands lay snuggled on soft faux wrists. And not one I couldn’t live without. Not one face could I hurt someone over. I remember where and what drove my purchase of each one. There isn’t anything that makes them special to anyone other than me. The dazzling MK Wren Pavè silver-tone, I purchased on mine and Kearie’s last day in Paris. We took the trip after we graduated. Our graduation gift to ourselves. The vintage gold bracelet Rolex I purchased at my first auction, to celebrate the start of my business. I had it engraved, “Time & Again”. Those two are irreplaceable, priceless even. But only to me. The others I’ve collected while window shopping.

So why would I dream of someone demanding I give them a watch?The dreams have to be my mind telling me something else. Not literally a watch, but possibly something time related? Maybe it isn’t about the man, but what he signifies. Could it be about what he’s saying? This is too overwhelming to contemplate after last night. Too much thinking and too little sleep. Just get dressed for work Pera.

I finish my makeup and walk into the spacious walk-in closet to get dressed for work. Thankful, on a morning like this, I like things simple. I choose my go-to undergarments, the ones I wear when I need an emotional pick-me-up. Red lace bra, no padding, no wire and cheeky boy shorts. I’m so glad Victoria didn’t keep these a secret. There’s just something about red lace that makes me feel sexy, in control, and overall good about myself. Feelings I desperately need, instead of the insane professor of Crazy DYI. I pull out a pair of dark gray Gucci slacks and my favorite red silk blouse from Lafayette 148. I choose the black Louboutin simple pumps on my way out of the closet and get dressed quickly.

Next stop, the full-length mirror to verify I’m still capable of dressing myself properly. Shirt tucked in and buttoned straight, I nod to the reflection, satisfied. Honestly, I needed to make sure I didn’t put my blouse on backwards, because, well, that’s how life’s been going.Pleased with my masterful skills of dressing myself correctly and without help, I give an encouraging smile to my image and walk towards the door.

Before grabbing the doorknob to leave my room, I recall what Kearie said about it hanging up. I turn the doorknob and pull the door open slowly, expecting it to catch. There’s no resistance. I pull the door open easily and smoothly. It doesn’t hang, drag, or stick. I close the door, and again, effortlessly pull it open. Still no sticking, jamming, or hanging up. That’s odd. I let the jammed door issue lie, for now. I’ve got bigger things to worry over, like my best and only pea in the world forgiving me for losing it this morning.

Down the hall I go, the plush carpet thankfully masking the sound of my footfalls. I don’t want to wake the sleeping bear, Kearie, before I have coffee and apologetic baked goodies. Straight to the kitchen to start the coffee. As the coffee pot grumbles and gurgles, I try to figure out the best way to approach the dreaded conversation. The convo about the nightmare, that deep down in my bones, I know wasn’t a nasty head trip. But, how do I convince her? Convince her enough so the conversation doesn’t end with her telling me my new roommate will be a drooling lobotomy failure, sporting a never-in-fashion white jacket, sharing a padded environment for our “safety”. Ugh, so not excited about this.

I grab our usual mugs from the cabinet above the coffeepot and patiently stand at the counter waiting for the coffee to finish. I let the aroma of the coffee wash over and through me. The fresh coffee infused scent does little to lessen the tension that’s twisting and creeping through me. Will nothing take away these knots?

Liquid Go done, I pour myself a cup and enjoy the richness, the heat. The safeness, the quiet. Although the coffee didn’t get rid of the knots, it woke up part of my brain. Remembering I didn’t bring the gemstone down, I set my cup on the counter to retrieve the gem. Not surprising I forgot though. I’m still apprehensive about touching it again. Even after no trouble, or elation, the last couple times I touched it.

Up the stairs I go, tiptoeing down the hall to my room. Again, the door opens without a problem. Let the jammed door go Pera,I scold myself. I gently pinch the stone in between my thumb and finger. And stare at it like it’s about to do a trick. When it doesn’t roll over or sit, I shrug and let it effortlessly roll to the palm of my hand. How strange, the gem is warm now. As I hold the stone, a sense of completion moves through me. A fulfilling connection, like the stone belongs to me. A sense of wholeness. As if it were a vital piece of me and had been missing my entire life; unnoticed, until now. More than just a feeling of belonging, but with me, as if it’s a part of me. Convinced, that if I held it long enough, all of my unanswered questions, will be answered. Maybe even the mysteries of the universe. The impression intense, electrical. Complete. Transcendent. Kearie’s voice floating up, draws me away from the sense of familiarity.

“You are on the path to redemption,” she calls out.

She found my bribe. I smile and shove the gem in my pocket.

The smell from the kitchen makes my feet pick up speed. Muffins and coffee dragging me by the nose. Convo about my sanity has me wanting to hit the brakes and change directions. When I enter, Kearie is spreading butter on her muffin choice. I walk over and fill my mug with coffee, two and half teaspoons of sugar and a splash of creamer. With my hand shaking so badly, I’m surprised I didn’t spill the creamer all over the counter. Although, the clammy hands helped the hot mug stick to my hand like a suction cup, so that was useful I suppose. Mug in hand, I cautiously approach the island where Kearie is sitting on a stool. To buy me a few more seconds before the nerving discussion begins, I open the box of muffins and choose the one that will get me through this conversation. And buy me a few more seconds to swallow my beating heart. It’s damn near beat it’s way up my throat. I sit on the stool at the end of the island, diagonal Kearie. To guage her reaction. Please let her forgive me. Sweet lifeline in front of me and my cup of caffeinated courage, I dive in. Heart swallowed. Deep inhale, slow exhale, surrendering to defeat, I start the dreaded conversation. Now or Never.

“Listen, Kearie, I’m not sure where to start. Or even what to do. But, please, accept that I am so very sorry that I have made things difficult for you the last several weeks. I’m not sure what’s happening with me,” I said, with all the sincerity in my heart. “It’s like my life has taken a detour into Crazyville.” I look her in the eye, honest and open.

Once my words settled, I spread a slice of butter on my distraction. I push it down into the soft surface to make sure the melting butter is in every little cakey pocket. I send up a small prayer that my best friend accepts the sacrificial muffins and coffee as the apology they are. And my heartfelt, sincere apology from throat where my heart is. I pray she gives me a chance to make the situation between us better, somehow.

The clock in the kitchen ticks by slowly, barley a minute has passed. But in my heart, hours have gone by. And she has as said nothing. I stare a hole through the muffin on my plate that was supposed to make the situation easier; but isn’t. Her silence is squeezing my heart. Sadness is choking me and my eyes are burning. I know what’s coming next. Tears. Lots and lots of tears. I have to get her to respond. Barely containing the nervous wiggle my body is performing on the stool, I start again, “I am very sorry. I’m aware that whatever is happening with me, is becoming a burden to you,” I said with heartache. I pick at the muffin with a lost appetite, dread settling deep in my stomach instead of the muffin. The lousy, good-for-nothing-muffin!

I sneak a peek at her. Her head is down, and she’s focused on the breakfast before her. But from the side, I see the expression she’s giving the apology bread. Painful concern. An expression she hasn’t worn in her life often. She’s never had to worry. I fear, though, what’s unfolding in my life right now may cause deep wrinkles and aging on her youthful, smooth face. Because she has a crease across her brow and at the corners of her mouth, her lips curl up, just a smidge, where they form a thin, stern line. Given her expression and tensed body, I’m certain she’s contemplating how to say what she needs to, without hurting me. Guilt swamps me. How can I keep putting her through this?

Then she stops. She cleaned the crumbs from her fingers and raised her head. She sat on the stool quiet and unmoving. Forever it seemed. My heart dropped to my feet from her full expression. Her brows were drawn down and her lips were a tight thin line. The usual sparkle in her brown eyes, dulled from exhaustion. Concern and anger clearly fighting for position on her beautiful face. It’s possible the crazy in my life created an impassable bridge between us. Part of me shriveled up, not wanting to continue the conversation.

Next, she astonishes me. Humbles me. She reaches across the distance between us and grabs my hand, “I’m just worried for you. Really, deeply concerned. I’m afraid you actual believe what you’re saying. And what you’re dreaming. We have our whole lives in front of us. And when you have an episode, it makes me wonder what the quality of yours will be like. I don’t want you to suffer or hurt. I don’t want to come visit you in a mental ward.” She reaches out and takes my other hand, giving both a slight, comforting squeeze, “I don’t want that kind of future for you.” Love and concern. And forgiveness. I couldn’t ask for a better podmate.

She’s reassuring me she isn’t going anywhere, she’s not giving up on me yet. Her big brown eyes show a depth of emotion hard to swim through without tearing up. Peering into her eyes, I see her sincerity and love for me. Reflected there also is how much this mess is affecting her too. She’s telling it straight though. Kearie, my pea, my podmate, will always tell me how it is. Good or bad, honest to a fault.

Kearie closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, like she does when she has something important to say. Harsh words, but said with love. She reopens them and bores into mine, holding contact refusing to break away, she continues, “It could be beneficial for you to talk to someone qualified in this kind of thing. Whatever it takes to get your marbles back in their box to put it bluntly,” she said with no remorse.

I release the breath I had unknowingly been holding. She hasn’t given up on me. That’s another reason I love her so much. She says what’s on her mind. No guessing or wondering what’s spinning around in her head. No decoding what she means. Kea is as straightforward as they come. Sometimes it can be brutal, but anything she says, is usually what needs said. She’s never been afraid to say what needs said, no matter who doesn’t like it.

My dearest friend worries for me, not committing or condemning me. My “episodes” are making her life difficult too. I say another silent prayer I haven’t done irreparable damage to our friendship. I promise myself to get answers to this insanity today. Whatever it takes. If I can’t give her any answers by the end of the day, I will call and schedule an appointment with a professional first thing Monday morning.

“I realize you don’t believe in this crazy. Nothing I say or do will convince you. Nothing will make you understand. Short of having proof to show you that what I’m saying and seeing is real,” I said with conviction.

“Somehow, this man is the answer. He’s the key. He’s the key to unlocking the answers about what’s going on and why. I can’t explain it, it’s just a feeling, deep down. You know, one you can’t describe. It’s as if he knows things about me that even I don’t, it’s like he knows me. I know you don’t believe in dreams. I don’t normally either, but this, this is different,” I said, trying to reassure her, and myself, that my lid hasn’t flipped completely off my jar. Talking about this always makes my body thrum, like a calling.

Though, even to my own ears this whole mess sounds like something from a Twilight Zone episode. I am not, nor have I ever been, a believer in fate, destiny or anything that has to do with stars lining up just right, at the exact moment needed, for the universe to change people’s lives. People make their own destinies. They choose what doors to walk through and which ones to shut. They decide where they end up in life. I am a logical and scientific person. If I hold firm to those beliefs, I know I can find the answers to this problem. Given enough time, I can reason this out, find a logical explanation.

Kearie, focusing on her last bite of muffin, grabs her coffee mug. She holds on to it for support and exhales, defeated. Disappointed that I’m sticking with my story.

Her exhale confirms what I said, wasn’t what she wanted to hear. I try to salvage the conversation and my freedom from the nuthouse, I beg, “Please, give me a few days to sort this out on my own. If I can’t come up with a logical explanation for these episodes, then I will talk to someone. A trained someone. I promise.” My eyes plead for her to understand and agree to my plan.

She says nothing, just walks around the island with her coffee mug in hand. Her fingers lightly tapping on the side it. Once it’s refilled, she casually makes her way back to her seat, picking up another muffin as she’s sits down. I guess she needs something to focus on other than my latest drama. Watching your best friend have a nervous breakdown can’t be easy. Time is standing still while I wait for her to say something. Anything. The silence drags out between us, nothing but the sound of metaphorical crickets is surrounding us. I can’t take the defining silence any longer, I have to persuade her to allow me the day before she commits me.

I break the silence, “Please, give me today to find answers. If I can’t, then I will schedule an appointment with a professional on Monday,” I pleaded. “You can even come. You can tell the doctor what’s been happening, and leave nothing out. And make sure I don’t forget anything.”

Instead of holding my breath, I take a sip of coffee. Patiently waiting while the only family I have ever known is considering putting me in a type of sheltered living. And I don’t mean the kind of sheltered, cushy living an only child of a loaded tycoon would have. The coffee is a good distraction, but the caffeine is jumping up my pulse on top of my increased heart rate. So, with that said, I’m extra jittery.

This is scarier than the plunge I took to open my little antique store, “Time & Again”. I guess it’s because I can always do something different in life; different job, apartment, city. But without her in my life, I’m alone. Miserably alone. She is my best friend and only family. I can’t imagine what I would do without her. I don’t want to. I never want to find out; afraid this could be the point in my life where I might.

While I’m waiting on the verdict of my future living arrangements and my friendship, my mind wanders over the series of events that have led to this point. The stone, I forgot about the stone. Again. Ugh, what is going on with my memory lately? It was a little off before, but now it’s like I need to be tying ribbons around my fingers to remind myself to read the color-coordinated Post-It notes to remember simple things. Before I could forget again, I reach inside the little pocket of my slacks and grab the stone.

Again, that peculiar sensation, the sense of connection, pulses through me. It triggers something in my mind, something buried deep. But now, floating, within a breaths reach, but still miles away. Taunting me. Like I found the key I’ve been searching for, to open the treasure chest, but can’t get the rusty tumblers in the lock to turn. It’s just out of my grasp. I lean more towards the therapy idea myself especially with the strange connection to this gem.

“Before I forget, here’s a setting from a piece of your jewelry. It must have fallen out of your ring or necklace this morning. I’m guessing it fell out when you fell in,” I said, not bothering to hide my grin. I giggle, hoping and praying it’s contagious. I pass the stone across the counter to her.

She picks up the stone and examines it. A smile breaks on her face as she said, “Pera, first, that was not funny. The falling part or your reminder of it. Second, I didn’t lose a stone out of a ring or necklace. I wasn’t wearing any jewelry this morning as I did the floor show in your room! Remember, it was 4:00 a.m. wasn’t dressed.”

Not able to fight the laughter bubbling up, she gives in and joins me in a fit of laughter. A little hysterical, maybe. Much needed, definitely. This is how I knew she had forgiven me for this morning’s outburst. We will be ok. She’s giving me the time I need to sort this mess out. Forgiveness, understanding and easy banter are just a few of the many things that make our friendship solid, lasting. We’re two peas in a pod.

“It has to be yours. I can’t afford a stone this size. Even by itself. I wouldn’t buy a ruby this size even if I could afford it, because let’s face it, the insurance on something like this would be outrageous. And the good lord knows, I haven’t dated anyone to garner the type of commitment this stone would require. Or anyone who could afford it to gift it to me,” I said.

This just reminds me of the fact that I haven’t been on a decent date in forever it seems. We need to have a girl’s night soon. Find a date to have some fun with, to help me out of this depressing slump.

“My grandmother left me her jewelry collection. Any that are this valuable, are in the family vault at my parent’s. Are you sure it isn’t yours?” Kearie asked, puzzled over the enormous ruby in her fingers.

As we both stare at the ruby like it’s a cat with two heads, I have a memory hit me like a runaway train. I cover my mouth with a shaky hand; I sit back on the bar stool.

“Pera, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Are you going to be sick? You know I don’t handle vomit, I’m a sympathy puker,” Kearie said, concerned. She places the stone on the counter and takes me by the shoulders. She tries to force my attention on her when I don’t respond.

“Hey, pea, you with me? Are you all right?” she said, tension causing her voice to crack. She snaps her fingers in front of my face to gain my attention.

No, no, no, this can’t be happening. It can’t be.My panicked inner voice speaking up at this new development.

I raise my eyes from the stone to look her in the eye, “It’s his,” I whisper unintelligibly. I make the effort to seize my reeling mind and try again, “I remember where I’ve seen this,” I manage a little louder and clearer this time. “But you won’t like what I say next,” I said with apprehension.

I swallow the muffin and coffee back down as it creeps back up my throat. I look at my best friend and give the answer that’s going to put me right back into the boiling water with her.

“I saw it last night... in my latest episode. The man... who was here... or in my dream... or whatever, was wearing a ring.” The more I spoke, the faster it came out. I hope it’s intelligible. “It had a large stone in it. I noticed it when he grabbed me and made me look at him. He was wearing it on his right hand. It had a ruby in it. This exact size,” I said rambling unable to stop. Praying she didn’t just call 911 and have me sent away.

I give Kearie a pleading look to please believe me. I tried to tackle this new issue. This is just more evidence that I’m losing my mind. How could a stone from a dream end up on my bedroom floor? No way she will believe me. Kearie, is very grounded and firmly planted in reality. Much like I used to be.

Her body language exposing her quickly changing emotions. From jovial to shock to miserable when she realizes that I’m serious. I can see that she is struggling to keep her composure. I watch her face change to that of a startled deer in headlights. Her best, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me look’ settling firmly in place.

“You cannot be serious.”

I could only nod I was. My stomach begins Olympic worthy somersaults. The digested coffee and muffin competing for which was coming up first.

“Okay... this is a direction I was not expecting this conversation to take. I know you truly believe what you’re saying. I know you feel like these things have really happened and are continuing to happen,” she reaches the span separating us and grabs my hand, holding it tenaciously. “You are my best friend. I love you. But you really need to get your wheels greased. Something has caused them to seize up,” she said.

She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, then continues, “Something needs to be done to keep your reality and imagination apart. You need to seek psychiatric help,” Kearie said. Apparently she is the judge and jury of a balanced psyche.

The more Kearie speaks, the firmer her voice gets. She’s reacting like I’m an errant child in need of scolding. She’s at the end of her rope. I can see why though, my life hasn’t been a basket full of flowers lately. It usually takes quite a bit to get her to this point, but it’s possible I may have just broken Kearie’s happy to angry record.

Some good the muffins and coffee did.

I should have just left the stone on my vanity. Then, when she noticed it missing, I could’ve given it to her. Or another time, not the same day the crazy intruder stopped by for a visit. But then again, if I wouldn’t have brought it with me downstairs, I probably wouldn’t have remembered where I had seen it. I shouldn’t have told her I recognized it. Definitely not from where. Should’ve just kept that unsettling bit of info to myself.

“For the love you have for me, please, just believe me. You have to believe I’m not this off the wall crazy person to make this up. This kind of crazy isn’t who I am. I will get proof I have not lost my mind. Somehow, I will find something to convince you of that. But, until I get proof, can we please not let this become a flash flood every time we’re in a room together,” I begged. My heart can’t take much more. The beat sped up and slowed down, then caffeine jitters, then down a little bit then up again. My morning has to get better.

She continued to pick at her blueberry distraction, not able to meet my gaze.

“You’re the only family I have. I need to know you will listen to me rant about the dreams even if it sounds like I’ve lost my mind, please,” I said.

I continue begging, “Even if you think I have lost it. You know using you as my sounding board is how I’ve dealt with all of my problems, large and small for the last seven years.”

As I continue to plead with Kea, I realized my hand was fidgeting with my shirt. No, not my shirt. Unknowingly, I was rubbing at the “rash” that appeared this morning. Hmm... add more weird to the ever growing list of weird. The spot is burning and tingling.

Great!

On top of everything else, I have to manifest physical signs of stress. It’s become more inflamed than an hour ago. Peachy, I’m probably getting damned hives from all the bat shit crazy tornadoing through my life all at once.

She reaches over and squeezes my hand, “I’m sorry. I’m just concerned and worried for you. Of course I’ll listen. Maybe even after talking it out, we can understand the underlying problem. Possibly even find a solution. However, I will research doctors just in case. I don’t like what’s going on with you. It scares me,” Kea confessed.

She sounded hopeful that with a few chat sessions we could figure out what my issues are. From there, a plan to fix them. Funny how she seems more optimistic than I do. Just a sinking, churning knot, deep in my belly that this is only the beginning. My “issues” are a prelude to something worse, something that will lead to a path of pain and suffering. And my life as I knew it, is in the past.

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