Leila couldn’t be certain how long she sat there on her bed, just staring at her reflection in the mirror. The eerie glow the necklace was emitting when she placed it around her neck seemed to have receded back into the amulet somehow. She still felt energized as if she had been charged like a battery by the Triquetra/heart symbol. Her body thrummed with the excess energy, making her feel wide awake and alert. It made her feel alive. She was still sort-of in shock when her phone went off. Her ringtone was “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White Tees. It was her happy song. Nikoli’s name flashed on the phone and she couldn’t help but smile.
“Hello there, stranger,” she said, still grinning into the phone like a crazy person.
“Hello,” came his tentative reply, he sounded worried, “Are you okay?”
Still thinking she had plenty of time before their date, she glanced at the ornate wooden wall clock, puzzled by the time its hands displayed. According to the clock, she was 10 minutes late already!
“I’m so sorry,” she replied, still confused how she had lost nearly an hour, “I’m not sure what happened, but I’m on my way now.”
He hesitated for a moment before she heard him breathe out a relieved sigh, “I thought something had happened to you. I lost track of time myself in the bookstore across the street from Antonio’s. I’ll see you in a few moments.”
She smiled softly, enamoured by how much he cared for her, it was refreshing. Hitting the end call button, she bit her lip and got up from her bed slowly, cautiously. She thought about removing the necklace, but decided against it. She felt better with it around her neck, safer somehow, as strange as it was to admit it to herself. Maybe it would bring her luck or something. It was, after all, a family heirloom. It still struck her as rather odd, though, that her grandmother managed to send it post mortem. How had she known where to send it before she passed away? Shaking her head in frustration, she grabbed her purse and closed the door to her apartment and headed towards the elevator after making sure her door was locked.
She made it off the elevator, out of the building and into her Cherry red bug without any further incidents. Turning on her radio which was playing a cheery pop song she didn’t recognize, she headed to Antonio’s. The Italian restaurant was her favorite in town thus far. She just loved their pastas, ravioli, pizza, rolls, etc. Everything was divine comfort food. Anytime she had a bad day, she’d head down to Antonio’s and pick up some food to go. She knew she shouldn’t eat her feelings, but thankfully her metabolism was still in fine working order. So, she didn’t so much worry about getting fat. She’d only do something about it if she started to gain too much weight.
Truthfully her grandmother had started the tradition of eating at Antonio’s. She had said that it was important to have a routine when you were upset.
“Time heals all wounds,” she used to say, “but Italian food helps keep you happy!” Then she would always throw back her head and laugh, like it was the greatest joke ever created. Leila missed her terribly. She had been the only family that Leila truly cared about. Once she was taken away from her parents, she started therapy with a kind doctor named Samantha Swanson. Ms Swanson never pushed her to talk, instead she gave her a journal to jot down things. In fact, she is the very reason that Leila uses a diary to this day. It was a way of working out her feelings and dreams. Jotting things down and leaving them be were the best form of self-help she could find, aside from exercise. Which she loathed. Sometimes it was also nice to go back and see how far she had come on her journey to happiness.
It definitely made her more self-aware, made her question things, notice details she normally wouldn’t. Through her journalling she had become a more confident, capable, self-reliant woman. She didn’t feel like she needed any one person to make her feel complete anymore. She used to blame herself for the abuse that she had endured, but her gran made her realize that it wasn’t her fault. She wasn’t too pretty or disgusting as she once had thought. She was a beautiful woman who had gone through too much at such a young age. That kind of thing messes a person up for most of their life, especially when it happens as a kid or early adolescent.
Leila had long ago forgiven her parents, not for them, but for herself. Holding onto hate only made her angry for a long time. She had no friends at first and had a hard time controlling her temper when provoked. Once she acknowledged what had transpired and also acknowledged that it wasn’t her fault, she was able to move on with her life more or less. She still had a hard time trusting people, especially guys, but that was to be expected. The important thing was that she didn’t let it eat her alive and rule her life. She was able to look in the mirror and not hate herself most days. It still wasn’t good enough to her, but her self-confidence and insecurities were things that she was continually working on.
Emotional scars never really disappear, but they healed in such a way that it made a person a stronger version of what they once were. They also instilled caution where before there may not have been. Leila truly believed that horrible things happened so she could learn and grow as a human beings. Everything has a purpose and a lesson, even if it doesn’t seem like it right away. In life, this had been her experience. She wished some things wouldn’t have happened, like her grandma dying for one, but no one person could live forever. ‘Or could they?’ she thought. She had been sent a package from someone who had died years ago. Shaking her head she pulled her car into Antonio’s and got out of the car. As she made her way to “The Corner Bookstore,” she chuckled to herself. She had a blind date with a guy she met at a bar. It was so unreal it made her head spin.
She couldn’t wait to see him without his mask. She was having a hard time picturing what he had looked like that night at the bar. With as much as she had drank, she was surprised she could even remember anything about him since the details were fuzzy and muddled when she tried to replay moments in her head. Leila took a deep calming breath before opening the door, trying to brace herself for what was to come. Nothing in the world would have been enough to prepare her, however, for who waited for her on the other side of that big, creaky door.
“I’ve got to be high,” she thought, unable to look away. It was like she was compelled to just stare at him. This had to be a dream. There was no way that the guy of her dreams was just standing there. He hadn’t yet seen her, so she had time to study him, to drink in his strong jawline, his pouty lips, his.....everything. ‘Nope! This is a dream, has to be a dream,’ she thought in a panic, shutting her eyes tight. When she opened them again, he was just staring at her, eyes wide in disbelief, looking exactly how she felt.
“You’re real…” she breathed out before swaying on her feet, feeling slightly dizzy, losing her balance and before she knew it she was swept up into Nikoli’s strong and capable arms, looking deep into the eyes of the man that she had once only imagined.