Esmra and Tallulah returned from town from a fun day when the two best friends engaged in a grand witch’s shopping spree. As the toggled through the front door, they struggled to carry the bags from the shops in town.
“Wow, Tallulah, I think I may have spent way too much,” Esmra said as she dug out a bottle of essential oil, “I can make this just as easily from my backyard garden.” She gazed out her kitchen window at the whimsical garden she nurtured for many years.
Tallulah dropped her bags. “Well, you can take a break every now and again. I am going up to bed. I am worn out. With my road trip back home in the morning, I want to make sure and get plenty of rest.”
Esmra put on a pot of water for her tea, and while she waited for it to boil, she shuffled through the pantry for something to eat. Meanwhile, Tallulah got into bed. Raina remained upstairs in her room after the argument between her and Amelia.
Raina lay asleep in her bed with smears of tear-soaked mascara dried on her cheek. She had not even taken the time to remove her combat boots or her clothes. Her black silk pillow pressed against her other cheek, where drool had seeped from her mouth and remained for quite some time.
Her eyes were shifty as she fell into a deep rem sleep and a happy dream of better days with the father she now hated.
Raina and her father walked down a sidewalk, and she had pig tails and a backpack on. Her father’s face was serene. “Are you ready for kindergarten?”
Raina looked up into her father’s eyes and her grand smile pushed her chunky cheeks high, tightening her eyes. “Yes, Daddy! It will be so much fun.”
“You will do a magnificent job, and I will be here for you when school is out.” Raina’s father waved goodbye to Raina as the teacher took her hand for her first day of school. She peered back and watched her father wave goodbye until she disappeared from the hallway into her classroom.
Raina took her seat at the round table next to the classroom window. Her eyes shifted back and forth into the sky.
“Raina? Raina?” Her new teacher stood next to her with her hand on her shoulder.
Raina said, “Look outside, in the sky. It is they who watch me.”
The teacher looked through the window up into the sky, where Raina’s finger pointed. To the teacher, there was nothing more than a few clouds floating. “Raina, who is watching you?”
“My little friends. They follow me, you see. They told me they would protect me when I came to your class.”
The teacher smiled. “That is great, Raina, you have some imaginary friends.” She patted Raina’s shoulder once more and walked away to begin the morning’s session.
Raina maintained her stare out of the window, and to her, it wasn’t just imaginary friends. They were as real as anyone else was. Crusty and withered her friends were, they lived just down the street in an old cemetery. The three of them were the victims of a two-hundred-year-old massacre by a mad man who went on killing sprees. These dead friends of little Raina visited her often, giving her nightmares. She most often awoke from, screaming.
As her dream progressed, the sky turned black, and the winds blew, dragging away the scenery of the school. Raina found herself seated in her kindergarten chair as an adult in the middle of her house she lived in as a teenager. Her mother had abandoned her not too long before she started school, leaving Raina’s father to raise her. He was in the background on the phone with the principal of the school. He hung up the phone and struck Raina across the face. She bled from her mouth near her lip ring.
“I can’t take this anymore! You! Look at you! You dress like you are going to a funeral, you have a fake tattoo of a pentagram on your arm. They caught you smoking in the bathroom and writing pagan phrases on the stalls. You listen to obscene music, you paint your face as pale as a ghost, and you continue to tell me you see dead people. When is this going to stop!”
Her father continued to shout, and each time that she refused to answer, he struck her again. He hit her so many times that the next day she went to school, everything changed. Instead, she was taken to a foster care home where she would never see her father again. A father who daily beat his daughter. He hoped that if he hit her enough, she would snap out of what he considered inappropriate behavior. Little did he know, it was dead people she could see as a child and a curse that she learned to shut out and never tell a soul.
As they took away her from her father, she cried her last set of tears for him or any man. She screamed and pleaded as they took her away out of her house while her indifferent father only gave her a fleeting hollow glance before he turned his head away.
Raina jolted upward from her sleep and looked around as though she didn’t know where she was. The creaking steps that Esmra walked on startled her. “Raina, are you okay?” Esmra peeked her head through the door. “I feel like I haven’t seen you for days.” She walked over to the bed and sat down next to Raina, who rubbed her eyes.
“Oh, yeah. I am sorry, Esmra. I have been so busy with work.”
Esmra didn’t seem convinced, keeping her eyes on Raina’s face, studying her eyes. “Really? Amelia mentioned a new boyfriend or working out something with an ex? Could that be keeping you busy?”
Raina moved around Esmra to get out of the bed, and once she saw her make up smeared face in the reflection, she washed it off. “Yeah, well, it’s complicated.”
Esmra snorted, “Aren’t most?” She walked into the bathroom, “Raina, is everything all right? Gabe paid me a visit, and though he tried to remain casual, he just seemed a little off. I have known him for years, and I can’t say I recall a time that he acted so strange.”
Raina slammed her towel down on the sink. “He was here? What did he say?”
“He was looking for you. I told him I had not seen you.”
Raina cut her eyes down toward her purse that set next to the nightstand. “When was this?”
Esmra shook her head. “I don’t remember. But everything is okay, right?”
Raina picked up her purse and dug through it. “Yes. Things are fine. Have you seen Amelia?”
Esmra shrugged. “No, I haven’t been back long. It is getting late, and Tallulah went to bed. She leaves early in the morning. Where are you going?”
Raina slid on her jacket and said, “I will be back later.”
“Where are you going, Raina?”
Raina continued to jog downstairs, and the only response that Esmra received was the audible slamming of the front door downstairs, and she left.
Derek sat in the café just as he asked her to meet him. When Raina walked in, he was about to give up on her and leave. “Raina? Where have you been? I have been sitting here for two hours. They are about to close; we can talk somewhere else.” He took Raina by the arm and led her outside, where they walked down the sidewalk to a vacant picnic-style table placed next to a food vendor truck.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” Raina smiled.
Derek let out a sigh. “Well, for starters, what is with not locking the door? Why didn’t you even try to get off me? Or shout, don’t come in?”
Raina’s smile left, and she tightened her lips. “What? Why didn’t you say anything? You act like that situation is all my fault.”
“Okay, well, I see your point. But it was like, well, you wanted him to see you. Do you have a thing for Brian?”
Raina was incredulous. “What? Rich boy? Hell no! What do you think?”
Derek flashed his eyebrows and shook his head. “I don’t know. It is just that it was strange to me was all.”
Derek’s phone buzzed, and it was Brian. “Speak of the devil.”
Raina lifted her eyebrow. “What does he want?”
“Nothing, he just wanted to know where I was and when I would come home.”
Raina hissed, “So is he your mother?”
“No, he had asked if I wanted to grab a beer later. But now Amelia is there, and he wants to stay in with her instead. That was it.”
“Good, that means you and I can spend some time together.” She had a beaming smile as she extended her arm out. “Come on. I will take you to a real bar, well, besides my own.”
Derek took her by the hand and went along. They continued to walk until they made it to the bar she mentioned. “I have seen this place before. Yeah, it is a superb place.”
Raina nodded. “Cool, let’s play some darts are have some fun.” She turned and looked over her shoulder with her face lit up. “You coming?”
Derek’s face melted, and he said, “Yeah, sure, why not.”
He tagged along behind her while she searched for the perfect table. After setting her purse down, she said, “I will go to the restroom, please order me a drink. You know, whatever you have, I will have.”
Raina disappeared, and Derek ordered two beers for the both of them from the pretty waitress. Just as she was wrapping up with taking the order, Raina was walking out of the bathroom and saw Derek smiling at the bubbly blonde server. Raina’s eyes tightened after she put her hand on his shoulder.
“Who is she?” Raina cut her eyes to the server who was taking another order at another table.
“She is nobody, just the waitress.” Derek pulled out the stool for Raina to sit down.
Raina plopped down while her suspicious eyes surveyed his phone, which showed a few text messages. “Who has texted you?”
Derek picked up his phone, “Well, my ex has been.”
Raina’s lipped pursed together, and her eyes squinted. “What does she want?”
“I think she wants us to get back together. She is away at school and I haven’t seen her since the night we went out. She was just here for the weekend.”
Raina crossed her arms, turned her face away to watch the band playing on the stage. Derek set his phone down and reached his hand under the table and placed it on Raina’s knee.
“Hey, I am not getting back with her. Okay?”
Raina’s eyes remained suspicious. “Okay. Have you told her that?”
Derek looked at his phone that lie on the table. “No. I have ignored a lot of her messages.”
“So why won’t you tell her? Why did you break up with her?”
“Well, she got a little possessive. I felt like if I wanted to do something with my friends or just go to the gym and work out, that she resented it. I felt smothered. Conversations around marriage kept coming up. We are in college, and there is plenty of time for that. I wasn’t ready for marriage or even thinking of it.”
Raina drummed her fingers across the table. “Well I am not into the traditional commitments. I like to know who I am with is with me, but I am not looking to pick out curtains, ya know? I want to have some fun too.”
Derek’s face lit up. “Wow, that is good to know; a girl that wants to have fun.”
So, I hear that Amelia and Brian are going away this weekend or soon? Is that right?” Raina asked.
Derek shrugged, “Well, yes. I was told I could go along.”
The server who flirted with Derek placed their beers down, and while Derek paid for the drinks, Raina gave her a look that could kill. She accepted the money and walked away.
“Are you always so jealous?” Derek asked.
“Not always, but with you maybe,” Raina answered with a grin as she returned the knee rub.
Derek nodded, “Well, okay. I guess that is cool. So, did you want to go away? I thought maybe we could spend the night and get to know each other better. You know talk. Find out what our likes and dislikes. Have fun?”
Raina gulped down her beer, and with a forced answer, she said, “Yes! Just tell me when!”
They continued to sit and visit for a couple of hours, having a better time than they had before. Meanwhile, things weren’t as good between Amelia and Brian.
“I don’t care, she is not going!” Amelia protested.
“I know that Raina has upset you, and believe me, she is a little strange. But I think maybe Raina and Derek can give it another shot without so many distractions. It will only be one night out of the three. What do you say? Can you make up with Raina?”
Amelia looked into Brian’s eyes and searched for her words.
She thought to herself, Brian was a caring guy who wanted the best for everyone he cared for.” Not having the heart to break his, she smiled and nodded, but her head was full of doubts.
Brian does not understand what Raina is. I love Raina, she is like a sister to me. But at what cost do I go along? She was involved with this being, and to me, something isn’t right. Pandora is too eager to help; like something is driving her. What happens if I agree, then Raina does something that ruins things with Brian and me? Wait...Wait. I am selfish. Brian should care for me enough that no matter what, he and I will be okay, right?
Brian stared at Amelia. “Amelia? So how about it? Raina and Derek one evening? We can have the other two?”
Amelia blinked her eyes back into reality and said, “Why do you worry so much about them? Do you have a thing for Raina?”
Brian’s face dropped, and his eyes saddened. “Oh yeah, Amelia, I have a thing for her. That hurts.”
Amelia cowered and put her arm around him. “I am sorry. I just don’t understand your interest in this?”
“Look, Derek and I are best friends and have been for a long time. He has always tried to please his parents with everything. Sports, grades and who he is with. His parents are upset at him right now over his ex. Saying he shouldn’t have dumped her. He just wasn’t in love and is trying to find himself. As strange and off-putting as Raina is; for some reason, he has changed since knowing her. I think he likes her, but he won’t allow himself to give it a chance. I have no idea if those two are meant to be, but I think they deserve a fair shot of finding out. Don’t you?”
Amelia dropped her hands to her sides and sat down on the old couch and put her forehead into her hands. “Yes, sure. I will talk to Raina and make sure that she and Derek come along. I am sorry. I didn’t realize these things.”
Brian rolled his eyes. “Well, dudes don’t talk a whole lot about these things, but lately Derek and I have gone more into it. I was really worried about him when things went off track with his ex. But I will say, we rarely get into it with our girlfriends.”
Amelia gave her love a kiss on the cheek and put on a smile. With her chin up, she tried to remain excited about the upcoming weekend away. Having had the night with Brian kept her mind free of the things that bothered her.