Mom sticks around watching with sharp eyes for anything strange. You see at lunch I’d let myself get too comfortable. Mollified by the warm comfort of the pizza, the false smile on my mouth replaced with my own, I’d let it slip how I wasn’t feeling quite like myself. I knew my mistake by the look that crossed her face. In that instant she stopped being angry with the school. She’d also insisted that I agree not to drive for a while and now I’m feeling the ramifications as I sprawl on the living room couch.
I grab a magazine from the table and flip through the pages. Mom disappears and comes back with a glass of iced water. She sets it on the table beside me. “You okay, dear?” she asks again as she brushes her finger across my forehead.
“Mom, I already told you, I’m fine.”
“But you’d tell me if you started to feel strange again. Wouldn’t you?”
I roll my eyes. “Would you quit it already?”
“You would though?”
“Geez, Mom. Yes. I would tell you.”
She smiles and gives me a small nod. Then she lavishes me with attention for another hour. I have to tell her that I’m going to take a nap just to get her to stop pestering me. I go to my room, get in bed and pull the covers over my head. It works. I hear her hovering in the hall for a long moment, but when she is sure that I really am I’m going to take a nap, she heads off to the bookstore just like I hoped she would.
At the sound of the front door closing, I toss the covers back. The vision of the sparkling woman drifts through my thoughts and I pull my laptop open and hit the internet. I type ‘waking dream’ into the search bar and wait. After an hour of reading, I’ve almost convinced myself that I’d just fallen asleep in class and had a vivid dream.
My cell chirps. I glance at the time. School’s just let out. I reach for my phone to see I have a new text.
Patrick: U OK?
I text back: You know I am.
Patrick: Just checking
Me: Did I miss anything?
Patrick: No. Nothing.
Is it true you’ve been suspended?
An unbidden image of me on the ground, my whole class looking on while my arms and legs twitch, blows up big in my mind and I sit up straight and poke the options tabs.
Patrick answers on the first ring.
“No. I am not suspended.” My voice is sharp. “Why would you even ask that?”
“Just something I heard.”
Great, the rumors are already flying. My stomach sinks and I close my eyes. I’d been trying hard not to think about it. Thoughts kept busy on other things. “Well, that’s great, just frigging great!”
“So then you’ll be in class tomorrow?”
I don’t say anything.
Patrick has to ask again, “Rachel?”
“Ah, actually no. They are making me stay home for the rest of the week…” Suddenly the whole idea of not having to go back is welcome. Like being granted a reprieve, I have an entire week to fall into anonymity. My thoughts stick on wondering if a week is long enough for them to forget…
“But I’m not suspended. The nurse said I’m out on a sick leave.”
“But I though you weren’t sick—”
I cut him off. “I’m not. That’s what’s so ludicrous. I’m perfectly fine. I guess they just don’t want any more disruptions…” I give a loud sigh. “Whatever. Guess I’m stuck here.”
I snort. “Lucky, my ass. I’m already bored.”
“Why don’t you go do something? Check out a movie, cruise the mall? God, if I had a week off—”
“Because I promised mom, I wouldn’t drive.”
“Oh.” He is quiet for a moment. “I can see how that might suck then.”
“Don’t worry about me. I have a stack of books I want to read. Aren’t you working today?”
“Well, have a good day at work.”
“Okay. I’ll talk to you later Rachel.”
“Sure, Patrick. Later.”
That night just as I’m about to drift off to sleep, my room fills with the scent of jasmine and then the sparkling lady is there, leaning down, just as beautiful as before, hair haloed, skin radiant with light. Her rose-petal lips part. “Stay calm. If you are not afraid, your body won’t reject you when you return.” She takes my hand and she pulls. I feel an odd, tingly sucking sensation and then the strangest thing happens. I pop free like a cork popping from a bottle. I glance back to see my body nestled in the covers, face at rest, eyes closed. It leaves me both weirded out and wonderstruck.
The lady gives my hand a tug and I turn back and catch the soft brush of her lips as she leans in to plant a soft kiss on my forehead. I close my eyes. When I open them again, she is gone and I am alone standing on the shore of the lake.
I lift my face but there is not much to see. It’s very dark. I open my eyes wider trying to make use of any light there might be but the sky must be blanketed in clouds because the stars are gone and the moon offers none. A cool gust rolls in off the black water. It tugs at my hair as it breezes by setting it to flutter and float around my face. I have to catch my hair back with one hand as I glance to my right. I am barely able to make out the steps of the dock in the shadows. Then a magic happens as my eyes trace the wood. An inner guide begins to whisper, a gentle urge calling for me to mount the sturdy planks. I follow the call and each step forward makes it feel more right. Though the night is dark and quiet, my fears fade as I place my foot upon the stair. The compulsion to climb and follow wherever the path might lead grows in my chest. I barely notice the roughness under my bare feet. The white of my gown glows as it drifts and floats around my churning legs. A couple quick steps and I make it to the top. Fearlessly I stride across to the edge only to find a lower platform reaching out into the darkness and I am powerless but to follow it across.
The lower deck gently sways under my steps. By its motion I know that it must be floating, the sturdy wood the only barrier between me and the monsters hidden in the inky depths. Fearful images dart though my thoughts but they do not weaken my resolve, the call inside me is too strong and I only quicken my steps.
I walk and walk and walk. The world I’m wandering through seems endless as it stretches away from me in every direction. Soon, I lose track of the distance I’ve traveled. Still, I forge on and eventually come to a higher platform that is firmly set. Gingerly I climb upon the higher deck, and as my foot meets the wood, I know I’ve made it across to the other side.
“Finally!” I look up to see a woman in a white medical coat coming toward me. “You’re late,” she quips. Then she takes my hand and pulls me down a sidewalk lit with the gauzy hallows of old-fashioned streetlamps. We follow the walk up the bank and over a hill to a brightly lit building. She pulls me through double glasses doors up to a front desk, and while she talks in whispers to another woman, I steal a look at the room. A few feet beyond is a counter where several women work with bowed heads. I turn to see a row of seats and realize that I am standing in a doctor’s office. Just as the realization blooms in my brain, the doctor himself appears. He sweeps into the room pausing only to run his eyes over me before he turns to the woman in the white coat and commands, “Go on. Set her up at the table.”
The nurse gives him a quick nod before she takes me by the arm and pulls me down a hall to a small room that is empty but for a table and two chairs. “Please take a seat. I will be right back,” she tells me. Then she turns and disappears around the corner leaving me alone.
I take in the three bare white walls before I do as she told me and slip into the chair with its back to the wall. The space is more of an alcove than a room. I’m sitting there looking out at the hall wondering what I’m doing here, when the woman returns pulling behind her a tattered-looking man. She guides him into the seat across from me. Our eyes lock as she leans down to his ear and she whispers in a voice loud enough for me to hear, “Offer her your hands.”
Hands? Her words are an uncomfortably jab. I have no idea what I’m doing here, and she’s given no hint of what it is that she expects me to do. I’m hoping for a clue when I slide my eyes from him to her, but only catch the sight of her back disappearing again around the corner.
The man makes the smallest movement. I shift my eyes to give him an awkward blink and in that instant I see him for what he is, an injured soldier weary and broken. Everything about him, from his face to his clothes, is sad and worn. I’m still blinking when he draws a loud breath and offers me his hands. Confusion freezes me for a movement but I am freed when I drop my eyes from his face to his open palms. It’s like a seed of knowing opens in my mind. The moment becomes sharp and bright in its importance and, for the first time in my life, I know without a doubt what it is I am supposed to do. I reach out and take both of his hands in the palm of my left and cover them with my right.
The moment our hands touch, his emotions wash over me, a sorrow-filled shock of regret and anguish that crashes over me like an ocean wave. A small gasp escapes me. The man reacts pulling back but I keep a tight hold on his hands as I draw a deep cleansing breath. Then I begin. I close my eyes and call to the energy of the earth under my feet as spidery roots unfurl from the bottom of feet. The roots spiral out and down reaching into the pools of cool nurturing energy. With a conscience breath I draw the energy up through the roots into my feet and up my legs into my root charka. Another breath and I am able to will the energy into my hands. I gather it and press it, and wrap it and when my palms begin to heat and tingle, I lift my hand to touch the top of his head and plunge the energy down. I send it down, deep to his third eye. I let the energy pool there before I funnel more shoving it down into his throat chakra and then into his heart.
I suck in a long breath and run the energy, funneling it through his chakras until they are vibrant prisms of spinning color. When they glow like bright jewels, I move on, shoving the energy down, pushing it into his belly. I continue to fill him and when his solar plexus chakra glows a sunshine-yellow, I push the energy to his sacral chakra, then to his root. I run the energy through him, and when his chakras spin at the same rate as mine and radiate a rainbow of colors to match my own, I move my attention to his aura.
It is as ragged as an old moth-eaten sweater. I use the cocoon of energy to infuse it and clear away the shadows. I fill in the rips and mend all the holes. I work until his aura is whole and healthy. And when I think it is complete, and there is nothing more I can do, I let go and fall back into myself.
I gasp loudly when I open my eyes. The exercise has left my skin wet with sweat and my muscles seizing. I’m trembling as I watch him open his eyes but the look of peace that comes over his face as he lifts his eyes and the smile he gives me floods my soul with joy because I know that I’ve done it. His sorrow is gone and in its place blooms hope.