I see Patrick when I pull into the lot and I toot my horn at him as I drive by. I find a spot, park, and grab my backpack and a magazine I spot lying facedown on the seat. Then I hurry to where he is waiting. “Hey!” I call in greeting.
He smiles and pulls me in for a rough hug.
Sean Waverly and Michael Judson turn the corner. Sean looks as cool as always as he walks with his arm causally around Siobhan Buchanan who this week has her corn silk-blond hair dyed with bright pink streaks. She is ultra slim and as she passes I notice the bright edges of a new tattoo peeking from under her tight hip-huggers.
Sean slides his eyes over me before he tilts his head and says, “Hey,” as they pass. Michael actual raises his hand and smiles.
I see Patrick raise an eyebrow but I ignore his reaction. “Oh I almost forgot. I brought you something.” I hand him the magazine as I plunk down my backpack and dig out a copy of Larry Correia's newest Monster Hunter novel.
Patrick and I met Larry at his Barnes and Noble signing. He was kind enough to give us each a Monster Hunter patch, which in true geek fashion, we both happily sewed onto our jackets.
“A copy of Playboy?” Patrick asks.
I wrinkle my brow. “What?”
I am speechless when he turns the magazine to show me the cover.
“I have no idea where that came from,” I tell him as I hand him the paperback.
Patrick grins. “I do. You just handed it to me and thanks for the Correia. I didn't know there was a new one.”
“It just came out.” I wrinkle my brow. “I found that magazine in my car.”
Patrick’s eyes flash bright and teasing. “And who's been riding in your car?”
I shrug. “Nobody.” I push away the oddity of the magazine deciding that it is just something I will have to deal with later and sling my backpack over my shoulder as we turn and start toward the building.
“Are you working tomorrow night?”
I shake my head. “I don't think so.”
He slides his eyes to me and I notice he’s still grinning. “Ian wants to check out a possible site for our next Ghost Hunters. Can you come?”
I smirk. “Sure.”
“Okay, I'll get the details and fill you in.”
“So what's this one?” I ask.
Patrick pushes open the door and holds it for me. “Something he read about in Haunted Phoenix.”
He holds out the Playboy. “You want the magazine back?”
I frown. “Are you kidding? No, keep it.” Then I say goodbye and turn the other way to hurry to my class.
It is late evening when Anna gets to my house. Mom is in her office and I am at the kitchen table picking through a bowl of trail mix, working through my vocab assignment. She plops a pizza box down beside me before she goes to retrieve a stack of plates and a couple forks.
“I stopped by my apartment today and got a couple things but I was too afraid to stay for very long.”
I open the box and smile at the large double cheese. “Did you see anything?”
“You mean like Sara?” She sets a salad on the table as she slips into the chair across from mine. “No, but I've been thinking about the whole situation and I think I might be able to rework a couple of these spells to create a ward to keep her out.” She pulls a stack of books out of the bag beside her chair. She chooses one from the stack and opens it to a marked page, before passing it to me. When I take it she turns her attention to her salad.
I read, 'Psychic Self-defense - Our environment is awash with negativity that has the potential to be very damaging to the human energy field. Anger, aggression, fear and depression, energy vampires, negative places and arguments all work to build and create negative energy that can cling to our auras or build up in our homes causing problems over time. Spiritual self-defense and spiritual cleansings are very important for you, your loved ones, your personal belongings and your home. Negative energy can cause stress, fatigue, headaches, depression, a run of unfortunate circumstances, bad luck and even illness.’
I notice Anna is reading over my shoulder when she points to a paragraph on the other page with her fork and says, “I want to try this.”
I read the section she is pointing to. 'To make a decoction, use 3 to 4 teaspoons of the herb of your choice per cup of cold water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and add the decoction to your wash-water. Clean as usual but dispose of the leftover water by throwing out the front door, toward the east, if possible.
Common Herbs with Protective Qualities:
Burdock: Use to purify and protect.
Fennel: Great for deflecting negative energies.
Hyssop: Good for protection, cleansing and removal of negative forces.
Marigold (calendula): Will ward against negative threats.
Mullein: Use to uncross, deflect and return to sender.
Pennyroyal: Will repel unwanted guests and ward off negative energy.
Rue: Rids space of malevolent energy. Use to return hex to the sender.
“Think it'll work?” I ask.
Anna shrugs as she reaches for a piece of pizza. “The idea is that you empower your protection spells with an herbal infusion. I thought we could try a few here first.”
I take a bite of a hot, chewy goodness. “Which one do you want to try?”
She pulls the book closer and reads over the list again. “I have pennyroyal and I bet you have some fennel.”
We brew the infusion and then we go to work cleaning my room, and as we clean the space, we work to clear away any negativity that might be lingering by washing down each threshold and all of the windowsills with our brew.
When we finish, Anna lights some sage and she smudges the room. As she is wafting the fragrant smoke, I look around. If nothing else, my room is a lot cleaner.
I go to shower and put on my PJs. When I come back, Anna is at my desk painting her nails. It’s been eons since I’ve bothered with nail polish but her company draws out my girlie-side so I choose a bottle named 'Spring Pink' and give my nails a quick coat.
“Rachel, Can I ask you something?”
I don’t look up. I’m frowning down at the smudges I’ve already managed to set in the smooth color. “I guess.”
“What happened to your dad?”
Her question takes me by surprise and I freeze, tiny brush hovering above my fingernail. “Cordelia told me there was some kind of accident?”
I let out a long breath. “It was a long time ago.”
“She said it was from the legal proceeds that your mom was able to buy the store?”
“That's true.” I give up on the repair job and slip the brush back into the bottle as my thoughts go to what I'd been told about my father which isn’t much. It seems to be a subject Mom and I both prefer to avoid. Tension leaks in to draw my muscles tight and I push the subject away. “Honestly, I don't remember much about him. I was little when he died.”
“And the accident?”
My stomach shrivels. Thinking about it fills me with unease. I glance at her. My lips pull thin before I divulge, “I don’t know much about it except that he worked in research at the Luria Foundation.”
“Luria Foundation? I’ve never heard of it. What kind of place is that?”
“I'm not really sure. I've Googled it but nothing comes up.”
Anna is quiet for a moment. “I'm sorry.” She comes to sit beside me on the bed. “Don't you ever wonder about him?”
“Sometimes.” Gloominess presses in to fill my eyes with tears. I look away. My voice is just a whisper when I say, “But I have so few memories…and it just makes mom sad to remember.”
“And you never tried to contact him?”
I glance up to find that she is watching with eyes, dark and deep. Long repressed childhood memories swim up toward the light and my mind fills with a scene of me as a small child. Mom is on her knees calling my name. Her voice is full of urgency as she reaches out to give me a shake. But I can’t respond. My body is locked, eyes rolled up, muscles only twitching as my mind is full of a scene much too horrible for a small child to witness. “Rachel, baby, come back to me! Rachel! Come back!” I shiver hard.
“Rachel?” Anna gives my arm a hard squeeze and I’m back blinking into her watchful eyes. “What was that?”
I stand up quick and begin to pace. Anna watches me for a long moment. “Oh, I almost forgot.” She kneels to rummage through her bag. Then she pulls out a fat green book and hands it to me. “This came for you today.”
I walk over, take the book and read, Faery Way. Forging relationships with the Enchanted World by Emily Card. I glance up. “Are you sure? I don't remember ordering it.”
She shrugs. “There was a reserve slip in it for you.”
I flip the book over. 'Prepare to embark on a spiritual journey unlike anything you've ever known! Faery Way is a comprehensive guide to human-faery relations. Brimming with practical and spiritual advice, you'll discover how to find and work with a faery ally.'
“Thanks.” I flip the book open and begin to read. When I glance up again, I see that Anna has settled back on the futon. I pull the covers back and slip into bed with the book, glad for the diversion.
I'm standing at the edge of a very dark lake. The soft lap of water is the only sound but I am not afraid as I walk to the end of the platform. I take the long walk across and when I step up from deck onto the land, no one is there to greet me. I don't mind. I no longer need a guide. I know the way to the office. The woman in white is there behind the desk. “Good to see you,” she says with a nod. “Go ahead and get started. You know the way. ”
I walk around the counter and go down the hall to the table in the alcove and I have only just sat down when the woman is there, this time with a woman. She guides the woman into the chair before me. She is beautiful, tall and slim with ebony skin and long black hair but she is barely there, her spirit is squashed, her aura a thin shadow.
I reach for her hands but she is completely unresponsive and suddenly I realize that she is the most tragic thing I have ever seen. Everything about her cries tortured oppression and I know that she has been beaten down and suffocated, bullied and intimidated until her spirit was completely crushed. I reach across the table and take her limp hands in mine. My mind fills with what I need to do. “Come with me,” I say, my voice soft, hypnotic.
There is a stirring of wind at my back and then we are standing on a green, grassy knoll under a great tree, huge and ancient. The ground is litter with colorful leaves, red, orange and yellow and larger than my hand yet the tree is in full plumage, every branch covered. A lone gale breezes through the branches, sending dozens of leaves to fall in a slow spiraling drift of color that settles around us. Then as I watch, new leaves sprout and unfurl to take the place of the ones that were lost and I understand that this magical hill is a place of power.
I turn and see a small body of water just below us. The water is the most amazing color blue, the blue of turquoise, the blue of Tahitian atolls. As my eyes trace its surface, I feel compelled to be closer. The attraction draws me to take a step, the woman, an empty ragdoll staggers bound by the clasp of our hands.
I turn to her and whisper, “Trust me.” And this time when I tug, her feet follow though the rest of her remains unresponsive. I lead her down the hill, the grass a cool cushion under our bare feet. In moments we are at the water’s edge and without hesitation I step in pulling her behind me. The water seems to purr as it accepts us and every cell of my body responds with a pleasant shiver for the cool water is a conduit for energy that gently wraps around us, engulfing our bodies in pure life-force as we wade in. It bolsters my aura and nourishes my spirit filling my energy centers with power until I feel immense…I am more…A laugh escapes me as I lead her deeper. We wade in until we are waist deep. The restorative pulsing water spools around us yet her face remain slack. I search her face but nothing stirs behind her eyes.
I take her into my arms and gently lean her back, to dunk her under, submerging her in the water, baptizing her in the amazing power. The water flows over her to coat her aura. It glides across it, filling it, and when I pull her up her aura has shifted from a dull shadow to glow a soft aqua blue.
I dunk her again. She comes up and this time, when she opens her eyes, I see she is in there now looking out at me. I give her a smile. “Hello,” I say. She holds my eyes with her own as she blinks. Then her features soften. A sigh escapes her lips as we bob in the water, still holding hands, luxuriating in the power of the water, languishing in the restorative energy. Her eyes fill with life and when she tugs, I let her pull free and watch as she begins to swim, treading circles around me, her eyes and nose above the water, watching. Then with a splash, she dunks under to swim like a fish and when she breaks the water, I hear her laugh before she dives back down.
I sink under watching. Her movements have turned graceful, and as she glides by, her aura shifts from aqua to violet and then to deep fuchsia pink. It looks whole and healthy. A gentle tug from beyond, pulls at my consciousness, telling me the time has come for our return and I stand to offer her my hand. This time when I look into her eyes she doesn't blink but looks back at me as her lips curve in a smile. I close my eyes and visualize the hospital room. There is a soft stirring of wind at my back and when I open my eyes we are back at the table again and she is crying but I know that the tears running down her face are tears of relief.