I had survived my first weekend as a newly single lady living in the city. I might have been more proud of myself if I had done it alone, but I fully realized that I had depended mostly on my friends, wine, and running the shit out of the school’s indoor running track to get me through it. When I got an ache in my chest, either from the loneliness or seeing something Chad related, I called a friend, or picked my old one up from the inside of my fridge and poured a glass.
Now, on an overcast Tuesday morning, I had finished classes for the day, and the world wasn’t as dark as it had been five days ago. Chuck and I had plans for a coffee date and peer-reviewing each other’s literature sections in about half an hour at the library.
Walking across the campus, I breathed deep the winter air. Snow was coming soon, I could definitely smell it, maybe a few days? Before my reigning family member decided that I was obviously non-magical, at least not enough to put time and effort into, there was some speculation that I might have had an aptitude for the elemental magics, but eventually failed for that too.
At least they were nice about it. I had heard stories from not even a hundred years earlier about non-magic children being outcasted. Just sent packing off into the wilds, given some food, some coin, and a ‘see-ya later’. Harsh, but the past had never been kind to witches, both internally and from the public.
Not for the first time I wondered what I would be doing at the moment had I shown some kind of magic skills. Tuesday morning in December? Probably preparing something from my area of magic for the upcoming solstice, or maybe I would have started up my own business by now in selling some kind of product. Body scrubs seemed to be a thing now, maybe a poultice based around the minerals in our area of the river? Oh god, that sounded so hippyish, I inwardly cringed.
I was walking through the Uni’s main square, laughing to myself about potential poultice names, when I spotted them and was struck still.
Sitting together across the courtyard on one of the stone benches. Lord, it was his microbiology partner. My imagination didn’t do her justice, she was wearing medical scrubs and she still looked like the most exotic creature ever born. I could vaguely now recall that she was born in France, or was raised French...something about France. Yeah, that girl looks French. Medical scrubs, hell, she could wear week-old dirty laundry and still be erotic. She laughed at something Chad said and then I turned my attention to him.
This dick. He pulled his hand through his long hair and looked at her with a look I knew well. Those dimples, the crooked grin, perking one eyebrow. He was putting every Chad move in the book out there. This...dickkk. Looking at them, my sadness at being replaced started to wane to the anger of infidelity. This asshole cheated on me. Maybe not physically, but from what I could tell, fuck yeah, emotionally. After I gave nothing but support for him and his aspirations, goddammit, I financially supported him for eight months at one point. And it leads to this because..what, because I’m not French and tiny?
I feel my breath start to quicken with adrenaline and anger, something my body just isn’t used to. Any one of my friends would swear that I am calmest of people, I’m the giver of the group. But this? Him? This is enough to let my normally calm veneer crack. Giving so much only seems to yield me wounds and bruises. The sight of him makes me think ‘no more’. Anger bursts in my chest and behind my eyes, and I consider walking across the hundred meters to confront him, not to beg for him back as I originally thought I would. But to let him know that, yeah, I might have been a pushover, but I could change that, he, however, would always be a piece of shit.
Standing still and alone with my internal rage, I wanted to scream, I had never felt such anger or wrath. I wanted blood vengeance on this mother fucker. Or at the very least, tears of sorrow ripped from those green eyes. Looking at them canoodling, he placed his hand over her knee in tenderness and it felt like my brain burst and I literally saw red, feeling something twitch around my eye. Suddenly panicked, I cupped my hand over my eye and doubled over to my knees.
At the same time, a crack of lightning and thunder sounded above the campus and the students in the courtyard let out a collective whelp of fear and surprise. I whipped my back up in sudden pain. Oh Jesus, my body felt like it was on fire. My lungs felt like that had been electrified, my fingers and toes tingled, the hair on my arms and neck were erect. Was I just struck by fucking lightning? I still cupped my eye and both were squeezed closed, afraid that I had burst a blood vessel. What the fuck was going on? Why was no one helping me? I was on fire and no one was stopping to help.
God, I felt that lighting down to my bones, in my bones. I was definitely just struck by lightning. I had to be. It had gone through me and out my toes, into the stone beneath, I felt that lighting as if it were now me. Around the courtyard, I heard students start to scurry inside to the nearest building. None seemed panicked, just normal Seattle weather, if not sudden. No one seemed to comment that I was on fire. No, I wasn’t on fire or burned, I could even feel that initial burst of pain turn now to a throb. With the pain in my chest and back slowly subsiding, I felt raindrops begin to fall on my hair. As the lighting and thunder heralded, the rain was now coming.
“Shhhhh quiet, quiet, quiet.” I whispered to myself in an effort to calm my breathing. I uncupped my eye, keeping it closed, and lifted my face to meet the rain, letting it kiss my eyelids and merge with the tears of anger and pain of the last minute. My heart slowed and my breathing followed. “Quiet, quiet, quiet,” I continued. The rain kept up its patter but now seemed as calm as I wished to be.
My eyes craned to the sky were met with placid grey clouds. The type that loiters around the city on a daily basis in the winter months. Not the type I would expect lighting from, but stranger things have happened. I looked over to where Chad and his femme were sitting, but the courtyard was now empty, save for people with umbrellas walking through. Standing still in the freezing rain, I looked like crazy, I was sure of it.
What the fuck just happened? My breathing and pulse were now back to normal, but I still felt shaky, like something might have been literally shaking me. I raised my hands to my head and pushed my hair back and held it to my neck, focusing on my breathing. I felt different, substantially different. Like something in my mind shifted, not that I was a new person, but I had something...more on my shoulders now. Well, yeah, I guess it was now confirmed that Chad was most definitely scum of the earth, though that might have been a bit harsh to the scum.
I looked down my body, expecting some kind of visual sign only to find I was now drenched. There was no way I was going to return to my office and mark those freshman papers, I was KO’ed for the day.
Decisively, I started to run the six blocks back to my apartment, the rain following me the whole way. I leaped up the five flights to my apartment and slammed the front door behind me, dripping on the floor like I had just come out of the shower. Oh god, something was different, even wrong, maybe? I felt like I was on some kind of coke, I was trembling so much. I brought my hands to my head to wring the water out of my hair. Fuck, my hands were still shaking. Adrenaline from the run? It had to be.
My tiny purse, still hanging at my side through it all, started to buzz insistently. With quivering hands, I pulled it out and answered, a loud voice cutting off the pleasantries
“What’s wrong? What’s happening?!” A frantic Franny asked. I had to take a deep breath before answering her, my voice unstable.
“I don’t know, but I swear, I think I was just struck by lightning. I mean I really feel like I was just used as a human lightning rod!”
“Okay, start at the beginning...” and I recounted the last twenty minutes right up until running inside. Franny listened and for once made no stereotypical noises in agreement or disbelief. She kept her silence when I had finished.
“Well, Franny, oh wise one? What the hell is happening to me?” My adrenaline and shakiness were now being replaced with incredulity, whatever this was, it was beyond normal. She remained silent for a moment more.
“I have no clue. You’re sure you are not physically hurt or changed anywhere?” I gave my body a little shrug and jump on the entryway tiles to feel around for anything.
“Nope, besides that first sharp pain through my chest and through to my back, I feel fine now and.... I can’t see anything obvious.” Looking down around my body, nothing was singed or mutilated, my converse sneakers showing no signs of melting rubber.
“So, maybe this could all be in your head?”
I shook my head to myself, “No, Franny, I thought I was fucking dying I was in so much pain, no way that is something mental, and so spontaneous. I mean, I didn’t actually burn, so spontaneous combustion is out.” I tried to add a little levity to my suggestion, but she stayed quiet. I muttered more for myself, for my own sanity, “There is no way that was all in my head. I might have been royally mind fucked last week, but I am still sane.” Franny was still quiet in thought.
“What do you know, Franny?”
“Nothing, Kelly. I don’t really know anything, but I am just thinking about how much we actually knew about your father before he actually wandered into Hunter Valley. It’s not much.”
I pushed my back up against the front door and sank to the floor, a small pool of rainwater now surrounding me. My frantic-ness and shaking had calmed some, now replaced with worry at the mention of my father.
“You think this has to do with daddy?”
She exhaled with exhaustion, “I really don’t know, Kelly. But it sounds like you are going through some mental health issues. And, well, he wasn’t the shining beacon of sanity all the time.”
As my adoptive parent and the ease with which we loved each other, Franny and I had never really fought, not about important things. Curfew times, allowance amount, house chores. She mostly imposed such things as she thought that was what I needed, that is what a parent did, so we never really argued. But when it came to my father, no one was allowed to say a thing against him and I called her out.
“Bullshit, Francis. That wasn’t him, that is what she did to him, and you know it.”
“No, Kelly Devon Jones, I don’t. No one really knows what happens between a husband and wife behind closed doors. You were so little when what you think you saw happened, it might not have been that at all,” her edgy voice retorted. I had no reply. I know what I saw and no one, save the ghost of my father, would be able to change my mind.
“Okay, well, I am feeling much better now.” Lies.
“Well, good,” she knew it.
I breathed in and out for a few cycles, trying to calm down at the sudden mention of my parents. I didn’t want to fight with Franny over something that happened 15 years ago. I felt like shit. I didn’t have the energy to fight. She sensed it and her voice softened.
“See you on Friday?”
“Yes, I’ll be on the bus arriving at 3.”
“I’ll send one of the boys to meet you at the stop,” I nodded. One of the other families on the commune usually had a teen who would be the appointed chauffeur for anyone too young or old to drive off the commune, and even the occasional visitor. There was silence for a few more moments.
“Kel, I don’t know what happened today, but we will figure it out okay? Don’t let that poor excuse of a man be the reason for a quarter-life crisis.” I gave her a laugh for the effort.
“Quarter-life crisis sounds better than mid-life for sure. Twenty seven never felt so old.”
“We will figure it out.”
“I know, I’ll see you on Friday,” I replied, then hung up.
I stood up and stripped off my soaked clothes, til I was left in my underwear and walked through the living room straight to my bathroom. Warming up the shower, I turned the faucet to full. As steam filled the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror, examining my body closely. My slight mascara had run down my cheeks, and they were still flushed with the exercise. Something else was different though, off. I was... changed. For better or worse, I still had no idea.
Was this part of the breakup process? I’d been extremely lucky in my twenties, with only short-term boyfriends littering my life up until now. No real heartache had been involved. Running through the seven stages of grief in my mind, I decided I had to be in the anger phase and what I might be feeling was running into the next stage of depression. Holy shit, was my depression a physical sensation? Was my anger? That made no goddamn sense. No, my ex was an asshole, I was not the same sniveling person begging him to stay. This was not going to happen.
Ignoring the now steaming shower, I strode back purposefully to my phone in the foyer. I called Bec, and reliably, she answered on the second ring. Without waiting for her to greet me, I spoke first.
“Okay, I’m there, and you are the first person I’m calling. Let’s fuck this shit up.”