I slipped my key into the keyhole and opened my front door. My hand shook as I pushed it open. I wrenched my head around it, trying to catch a glimpse of what may be on the other side. With mom behind me, I entered into the front living room and sat down on the couch. I filled my already sweaty palms with large salty tears. My voice boomed throughout the room with the wails of my defeat. Put your emotions on a shelf, Liza. You have to get those kids back. I told myself.
The tears had stopped for a moment, but I knew at any time they would return. I looked down at the black screen on my cell phone. My finger pressed the button several times. I thought that through persistence I could get it to work. I was wrong.
The town had been quiet on our drive home. I don’t recall having seen a single vehicle. There was not one person out watering their grass. There wasn’t even a child riding their bike. The air was stale as if nobody had been breathing it. The town had been deserted. I couldn’t even really remember us driving back. Perhaps the stress of it all had caused me a minor lapse in my memory, but I didn’t bother to ask. All my focus, hopes, and dreams were in one direction. I knew that no matter what happened to me in my life, my children were paramount. I had nothing; only the memory of their faces looking up at that Christmas tree. Mom jumped up out of her seat as she headed toward my bedroom.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Oh,” I responded.
As she entered my bedroom, I heard a shriek so high that it made me jump out of my skin. My stomach tightened as my feet sprung out from beneath me. I ran to my bedroom door.
There were two long dresses spread out over my bedspread. Between them was a familiar off-white envelope. My mom’s gasp said it all as we stood there in amazement. This tricky man was playing out a very elaborate and sick game with us. I grabbed my mothers arm as I tried to steady my legs. I could feel my knees wanting to buckle beneath me. Don’t let him have the power. I thought. I grasped the card off the bed and read the dreadful words.
Dearest Liza (and Mrs. Ward),
I am so delighted you’ve decided to accept my invitation. I took it upon myself to ensure you had the appropriate attire for my celebration. Please be assured that in your despair, all will be revealed.
See you soon
Without a word, I handed the repulsive note to my mother. I could hear her reading it aloud. I cringed. The dress itself was lovely, but I was sick under the circumstances I was being asked to wear it. He had me eating out of the palm of his hand already. This game I was determined to win had no guarantee of success. Yet, I still felt I had what it took.
“Don’t underestimate me, you fucker,” I said under my breath as I crumpled the card in my fist.
The blue dress was mine. I touched the material with my hand, admiring the quality of it. As I did so, a surge of good feelings pulsed up my arm and overflowed into my heart center. It wasn’t as if I felt calm, but the energy made me feel exhilarated. I could feel butterflies dancing around in my body.
My mom picked up the black dress and held it in front of herself in my full-length mirror. She too admired it. I could see her demeanor changing. The worried wrinkle between her eyebrows smoothed over. The corners of her lips turned up into a smile. She was bubbling with delight. Her hand continued the stroke the material. We looked at one another and nodded in an unspoken agreement. It’s funny what happens when you try on dresses. Some fit, some don’t, and when you find just the right one, you know it instantly.
They fit us as if they were tailor-made just for us. I guess we could just add it to the list of strange things that had happened that day. My dress came all the way to the ground with ruffles flowing out the bottom. It fit close to my body, showing off my figure and exposing my cleavage. It was sexy, yet classy. The material was soft and comfortable like a warm fleece blanket, but it was elegant like a princess dress for the ball. I admired myself in the mirror stroking the material downward. It felt like a sweet candy treat made just for the hands. Butterflies began to flutter around in my belly just watching my dress twirl as I spun around. Inside my heart, I could feel the rush of delight surging with each beat as if joy was being pumped through my veins. Mom and I gazed at one another with dazzling smiles, then embraced in a hug. Our giddiness couldn’t be concealed as we giggled with sheer delight at the way the dresses hugged our bodies. We held hands and began to spin around in a fit of joy. Spinning and spinning, I could feel an uncomfortable dizziness setting in.
The hit of the floor on my bottom shook me up as if I were being awakened from a dream. It made no sense for my mother and I gain so much delight from dresses. What was this strange enchantment?
A tense, uncomfortable feeling came over me in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to vomit. I choked on air as I opened my mouth, anticipating the warm goo to spew from my lips like lava. Nothing. I doubled over on the floor, coughing and rocking. If only the sweet relief would come. Mom was still mesmerized by her reflection in the mirror. After some time choking and struggling to regain control, I reached over and grabbed her arm.
“Take it off mom. It’s dangerous. Take that damn thing off. We will wear something else,” I pleaded. I attempted to grab her zipper, but she wriggled away from me. Her hand slapped mine.
“Ouch!” I yelled.
“No, I think I like this dress,” she said. I reached over to her and began to try to get the dress from her once again. The wrinkle from between her eyebrows returned as she pushed me to the floor.
“Fine, but I’m changing,” I gruffed.
I reached around the back to try to move my zipper down. My hand clasped around it, trying to wriggle free from the dress. I could feel the material constricting around me. As I pulled the stubborn zipper, it stuck.
“Get off of me!” I yelled.
With a stern yank, I pulled the zipper with all my might. It released finally and I stepped out of the dress. I grabbed a sundress from out of my closet and put it on over my head. If he wanted to play games, then so could I.
My mom was a different story, but I figured I could deal with her later. Just having her with me through this whole thing was absolutely necessary. I had to keep my sanity. If she was happy and comfortable, I’d let her tag along. Prying her away from her place in front of the mirror, I grabbed her by the arm. I drug her back down the stairs and placed her in the driver’s seat of the SUV.
“Come on mom,” I said. “Do you remember how to get to Wendy’s house?”
“Of course I do,” she giggled. “She lives in a red brick house. You know Liza, I don’t think that dress you’re wearing is appropriate for the occasion.”
Well, at least I knew mom hadn’t totally lost her marbles. We made our way back down the long ribbons of winding roads that lead us to the other side of town. As we reentered the red brick house neighborhood, my stomach turned. I drummed my nails on the door handle while we were passing by the identical houses. It was getting dark outside as the hour of our arrival was upon us. Finding the house again was a bit more seamless this time as the lights of the Christmas tree illuminated through the front window. Not one car was parked in front of the house. Was this a joke? I thought. My mother’s dazzling smile was still plastered across her face. She threw the car in park and looked at me.
“There now,” she said. “We’re here darling. Shall we go in?”
“Okay, mom,” I replied. “Let’s go.”
We walked up to the door together to find another off-white card with gold lettering. I read its ridiculous instructions to walk in without ringing the doorbell. It was, of course, addressed to us and signed by Blane. Disgust filled me as I put my hand on the door handle. I was afraid of what might be exposed if I opened it. I wasn’t certain if I’d like what I saw. I took a deep breath. I grabbed my mother’s hand with my left hand and pushed the front door open with my right.
Once inside the front door, I was not standing in a living room or any kind of space that resembled a residence. Inside, there was the Christmas tree in front of a window, but it opened to a giant room with dozens of guests. It could only be described as a ballroom or event space someone would reserve for a large-scale gathering. The door slammed itself shut behind us. I jumped. There was a young, blonde lady standing there with a clipboard.
“Name please?” she asked.
“I’m Liza and this my mom, Mrs. Ward,” I replied.
“Oh yes, we’ve been expecting you. You’ll find your name on your reserved seating. Please enjoy yourselves,” she said as she gestured for us to go along to the party.
Clutching my mother’s hand like a baby, I led her through the crowd. The guests were all dressed to the nines, standing around drinking champagne and dancing. I looked around the room, but it was impossible for me to sort out where Blane was going to turn up. I saw a lady with a long purple dress standing next to a well-dressed man in a tuxedo.
“Excuse me?” I said tapping her shoulder. She didn’t turn around. “Hello?! Do you know Blane?”
I turned to the man in the tuxedo.
“Sir? Are you Blane? Do you know Blane?” I asked, but again, my regard was not reciprocated.
I would try to stop and talk to the other guests to ask about him, but it was as though they couldn’t see nor hear me. They continued to do the things they were doing in the party with smiles adorning to their miserable faces. The lack of acknowledgment aroused frustration. My mom was unaffected, however. I finally made my way to the table after giving up trying to be visible to any of the guests. I found our reserved places and slumped down into my chair. Another young woman who appeared to be working the party approached our table.
“Would you like some champagne, Liza?” She asked.
“No!” I replied. “I want that son-of-a-bitch Blane to show me his face to me right now!”
“Oh,” she giggled sweetly. “Well, he’ll be along.”
With that, she nodded her head and turned to walk away from us. It was quite clear that nobody was going to offer me their help. My mom sat next me not speaking a word enjoying the splendor of her surroundings. I could feel the angst of anger welling up in my boiling blood. The tears tried to make an appearance from behind my eyes, but I would not oblige them. Emotions would only create a deviation from my goal. This could not be afforded. So in my despair, I found strength.
Folding my arms in front of me, I sat and waited. This man would show me his face and when he did, I would be ready for him. Perhaps I should have accepted the champagne if only to calm my nerves. How could I handle this rationally?
I looked to my right where my mom had been sitting, but she had disappeared. I searched the room with my eyes, but I couldn’t find her. I wouldn’t borrow trouble with worry that she may have vanished in the same fashion that my children had. I put the thought in the back of my mind. My eyes continued to scan the room for any signs of suspicion. I drummed my fingers on the table and bit my bottom lip. From behind I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned my head to get a look at him.
A tall man with gray hair was standing there. His sharp eyes were the darkest brown I had ever seen. There were so black, it was difficult to distinguish where the pupil ended and the color began. Every wrinkle on his face stood out like an exclamation point. He was old and ragged looking, but tall and distinguished at the same time. He looked old enough to be my own father, but there was nothing fatherly about him. He was sexy and almost God-like, causing my stomach to turn flip-flops of excitement in his regard.
I shifted in my seat as these conflicting impressions spun their web inside my mind. My face was flushed as he reached out his hand to help me up from my seat. Without hesitation, I took it and arose with our eyes clasped to one another. His gaze into my pupils made me feel exposed. My eardrum vibrated with the pulsation of my heartbeat. Thump, thump, thump.
In comfortable silence, we stared into each other’s eyes, entrenched in the exchange. Words were unnecessary because it was as though we spoke the same language. Without a sound from our lips, we touched. The touch of his hand sent a surge of a thousand butterflies tumbling throughout my stomach. The feelings of despair were pushed back and replaced with happy ones. Again, it was not a calm, but an uncontrollable excitement that couldn’t be explained. He pulled me close to him, inhaling the scent of the skin on my neck. His lips came close to my ear whispering sweet things to me. Goosebumps shot through my body with the feeling of this man.
“You look lovely my dear,” he said. “May I have this dance?”
“Yes,” I whispered back.
With a glimmer of adoration in his eye, he put his hand in the small of my back leading me to the dance floor. I didn’t even know how to dance, but he was so deliberate. I didn’t trouble about a misstep or blunder. I relinquished control to him because he commanded it without words. It was his energy that had me flustered. With each step we took, holding one another close in a dance, the chemistry was palpable. Every eye in the room was upon us despite the fact that I had been so clearly invisible before. I was now the center of attention and this man seemed so taken with me as well. It was a feeling I had not often experienced, but always so desperately sought after. The room was transforming itself to fit our splendor in this dance. The material on my dress was changing as well. The soft fleece blanket material could be felt on my skin as my dress morphed into the beautiful light blue dress that Blane at picked out for me.
In my elegance, I spun around with this man. The twirling of my dress sent waves of excitement throughout all my senses. I was suddenly familiar with all the dance moves; gliding across the floor like a swan on the lake. The guests began to gather around us. Their eager eyes watched as we spun, danced, and twirled. He dipped me at the end of the song, again inhaling the scent on my neck. He planted his soft, warm kiss. The guests roared with applause. He took me by the arm, escorting me away from the dance floor. Shaken, my legs trembled like a newborn deer taking its first steps.
“You’re quite good at that,” he said to me as he sat me back in my chair. He sat himself next to me. His black eyes were still peering into my exposed soul.
“I’m quite taken by you Liza as you can tell.”
He touched my face, brushing my hair back. As our lips drew close to one another, I pulled away. I looked down at my hands as I sat back in my chair.
“Who are you?” I said in a low voice.
“Isn’t it obvious who I am?” he replied. “I’m Blane.”
There was that name again, Blane. It was that horrible, miserable name that had stabbed me like a thousand knives. It only reminded me that I had misplaced my children. Any good emotions that I may have had on the dance floor were short lived. I remembered why I had come to that miserable party. My eyes turned sharp as I looked at him. I grabbed the collar of his shirt as I stood up over him. I bowed up my shoulders like a man looking for a fight. I pulled his face within inches of mine.
“I’m only going to say this once you sorry son-of-a-bitch. Get me my children or I will kill you. Do you understand me? I will fucking kill you,” I hissed. He cracked a small condescending smirk but quickly tried to conceal it.
“Liza dear. I have no intention of holding your children captive. I’m only here to offer my help,” he replied. “I can help you get them back you see, but you have to trust me. Nobody from your world will be able to help you, but I can.”
“I trust nobody. Especially not you,” I replied.
He stroked my hair again and looked at me with those eyes. I felt a softness bubbling around in my insides. I didn’t like these feelings he made me have because it was easily confused for something that might have been comforting. So comforting in fact, that I could have easily forgotten my children. I would never forget them and I was determined not to allow the evoked emotions to overrule my logic. I pulled away.
“Okay,” he responded. “I understand, but what choice do you have Liza?”
“There’s always a choice!” I sneered. “I’m going to call the police.”
“The police,” he laughed. “Oh my Liza, you really don’t know anything at all. Why don’t you step into my office where we can discuss this quietly? If you don’t like what I have to say, then you can do things your own way, but I guarantee it won’t do you any good.”
I had a feeling he might be right. There were many things that occurred that day that couldn’t be explained by logic or reason. He had all the control and he knew it. I was simply bluffing with my threats to kill him. I wasn’t even sure he was human. I wouldn’t know how to go about killing something like him anyway. I nodded in agreement and allowed him to lead me out of the back door of the party room. He placed his hand in the small of my back. I moved away.
“I get it,” he said to me. “I’ll have you soon enough, Liza.”
Like hell! I thought. We walked down a long hallway with fluorescent lights. We approached a door at the end of it. He slipped some keys out of his pocket and unlocked it. The door opened to a large floor of cubicles with young women sitting at them with headsets on. It was like a call center of some sort. Each woman was beautiful with her locks all twisted up on her head. Not a single hair was out of place. They all wore a pressed white button-up shirt, a plain black skirt, and black high heel pumps. Their voices were bright and cheerful as they smiled with the perfect red lipstick lips. Blane and I worked our way through the maze of cubicles. I turned to listen to one of the women on the phone.
“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?” she beamed in a high-pitched, pleasant voice. Disgusted, I continued to follow Blane. From the distance, I could hear her voice again.
“Oh, I know a lot of things!” she said in a happy voice.
It was clear to me that he had this whole thing planned out. Not only that, he had a lot of beautiful women who worked for him to get his agenda accomplished. It was sick and disgusting. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to be a part of this disturbing plan. It’s true he exuded a sexiness about him, but it was still unfathomable. Finally, we came upon his office. He led me inside and shut the door behind us. It was a large, dimly lit office with a seating area. His desk was at the far end, decorated with small plants.
“Have a seat,” he said as he gestured for me to sit on the red couch.
“Would you like a drink?” he asked as he poured himself a cocktail.
“No thanks,” I replied as I sat down. My insides clenched with anxiety. He paced in front of me sipping his cocktail in between steps. Then, he stopped and stared at me.
“You know Liza, I think you’ll be my favorite. I am quite taken with you,” he began.
He shook his head and resumed the pacing back and forth. Then, he stopped to make eye contact once more.
“You’re so beautiful to me. You know that? You’re so damn beautiful.”
“Cut to the chase Blane. Don’t waste your flattery on me,” I said.
He snickered at my confrontational outburst as he resumed the pacing. It was clear he wasn’t all that intimidated by me. Rather he only succumbed to my requests for his own amusement.
“Okay Liza, here’s the deal. I’m not from this world. You’re sitting in a place that is somewhere in between your world and another, but you haven’t quite gone through the portal to transition. Do you follow me so far?”
“Continue,” I said raising my eyebrow in skepticism.
“In order to go through the portal, you have to be carried through by me. I’m the only one with the ability to transition people back and forth with the exception of my mother Issiryth. You see, where I’m from, I make dreams come true. Issiryth lives on a separate island where she governs her own creation. The only thing that separates us is a small stretch of ocean, but unfortunately, over the years we’ve become estranged. We had both agreed we wouldn’t take people from earth to come live in our worlds anymore, but I suppose her desire for sons overwhelmed her again, which is why she took yours. I’ve been grown for some time now, but when I became powerful on my own island, mother became angry with me and she didn’t want to speak to me anymore. When I found out she had taken your boys, I knew I had to do something. I didn’t anticipate that you would be such a beautiful creature. I can’t quite pry myself away from you and I really want you to come and stay with me for a while. Your mother can come too. I can help you find a passage across the small stretch of ocean that divides us and you can get your boys back from her.”
I was silent for a time while he continued to pace back and forth once again.
“Okay,” I managed to squeeze from lips. “Where’s my mother Blane?”
“She’s waiting just in the office next door. Would you like to talk this over with her?”
“It depends. Has she still lost her marbles?” I asked.
“Oh Liza, she’s just adjusting to the effects of the material from my island. I’ve created a place where people can live out their dreams. Some people have more trouble adjusting than others. You seem to be doing pretty well with it,” he retorted.
“Is there anything else I should bear in mind before we go with you?” I asked. I stood up. Blane drew close to me, putting his hand on the small of my back as he pulled me in for a warm embrace. I could feel the tickle of his breath on my skin as he inhaled my scent. I tried to remain still, but the excitement of it all began to penetrate my senses. His lips brushed across my earlobe.
“Make love to me,” he whispered in my ear. “Make love to me and I’ll take you to the portal.”
“What?!” I exclaimed as I pushed him away from me. “I have to have sex with you before you’ll take me?”
“Liza, try to understand me,” he replied. “In order to go into the portal, you must pay a toll. Because I’m the only one who can take you, you have to give me something I want otherwise it won’t work. What I want is you, Liza. I’m sorry I can’t change that. I promise you if you let me have you right now, you’ll enjoy it. And if you don’t ever want to make love to me again after this, you don’t have to.”
With two strong hands, he pulled me close, jutting his hips against mine. My heartbeat thudded against his white cotton shirt. I threw my head backward, slinging the curls in my hair over my shoulder. His breath titillated against my neck. My hands felt flimsy against his chest. I could not push him away. There was an excitement brewing inside of my now wet underwear. I put my hands around his neck, gazing up at him. I tried to decipher where the color ended and the pupil began, but something in his eyes captured me. I could feel the heat in his stare. I blinked, mesmerized by this invasion into my soul. He began to kiss me passionately, sliding his hands down to my ass. His hands squeezed the round part of my cheeks, sending a surge of excitement to my vagina.