Through the Veil

Erin’s green eyes shifted from the freckles that dot her nose out across the waves licking the smooth sand. The sunlight crouched behind a heavy storm cloud and she found herself focusing on a mental vision, a girl in a dark lit room reaching for a glass figurine from a shelf. A muffled sound of disappointment from a grown up in the background made the girl whine in protest. Erin got the sense this figurine meant something deeper to the girl and the denial of such would change the girl’s course. As the girl made another attempt to reach for the figurine, a shadow rushed across the floor and soon her mother was there to physically assure her she would not be touching it today. Erin felt the girl’s disappointment and saw her begin to cry alone on her bed. As Erin continued wondering what was so special about that figurine, the sound of a seagull’s cry made her refocus, bringing her back to the present time. The switch between the visions and reality always made her a little uneasy because it was like jumping back and forth through time; often the mental visions were so powerful that once in reality, it takes her a few minutes to figure out where she is.

Erin has always had the gift of clairvoyance though she often wrote it off as daydreaming. Her teachers and parents punished her for being distracted and even forced her to take medicine to help with focus and depression. Erin wasn’t depressed, but she realized that she was able to recall and feel other people’s experiences from another time, much like deja vu. Sometimes she gets a warm feeling of nostalgia in a place she’s never been and she wonders if she’s remembering something from a deeply hidden past, another lifetime or perhaps someone else’s memory. Other times she hears words, voices and still others she sees with her mind’s eye, vivid images as if someone is playing a movie in bits and pieces with some of the edges of the film damaged. It’s all a sign for her to try and make sense of. Sometimes the message is for her, sometimes it’s for others. Close friends have encouraged her to share her gift but she knows she will have to face the doubters and she doesn’t feel strong enough to do that yet. So she keeps the information to herself knowing that the universe will let her know when the time is perfect.

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Candy Coated Happy

Polly climbed the stairs of the city bus with snow-slushed boots and sat down gently in the first seat. As the driver closed the door and continued the route, she looked around to see if she knew anyone riding. It helped to ease her anxiety about where she was going.

“Hey George! How ya’ doin,?”

“Oh Polly I tell ya, I’m just gooder ‘n gum! You going to visit Sissy’s?”

“Not today I’m afraid.” She said, staring out the window in hopes she wouldn’t have to say more.

“Well next time you see that beautiful sister of yours tell her I said ‘hello gorgeous! Will yo do that ‘Skits’?”

Polly let a smile tug at the corners of her mouth at the mention of her nickname. George had known her since she was young, healthy and loved to go out dancing. He always fancied her sister but never had the courage to tell her himself. It was as if just admiring her from afar was enough for him; it seemed as if that private little thought inside brought him joy somehow. Polly didn’t understand it but she admired it.

“Suzy works too many hours at that hospital, George, she wouldn’t have much time for keeping a home. She’s married to her job.”

“That might just be so, huh? Suppose that’s a lonely life. Just like mine since I lost my Dorothy.” He let his words fall off after that as he now joined her in looking out the window silently. Together they sat watching the city breeze past them. Mother’s walking to work, bike messengers whizzing by with important deliveries, kids playing in the snow and construction on new buildings downtown.

Polly felt her heart jump as they neared her stop. She pulled the cord and readied herself to exit the bus.

“Nice to see you George. Take care!”

Seeing where she was getting off George got a lump in his throat. “Skittles?”

She had already begun exiting the bus and tears were starting to roll down her cheeks, she did not answer or look back. As the bus moved back into traffic Polly wiped her tears and straightened up. Nothing is stronger than I allow it to be. I can fight this. And I have the perfect tool for starters! She reached deep into her pocket and pulled out a bag of Skittles candy. The colors were so cheerful they made her happier. She popped a red and yellow one into her mouth together and looked up at the sky. Sun reflected off a cloud making a brilliant piece of art of the sky. With a cleansing sigh she pulled the door opened and stepped into her fate.

Writer’s Block

Anne walked past the kitchen table where Will sat silently with notebook and pen, staring out across the snowy woods that sprawled before the cabin. It had been six whole days since he’d spoken to her and the quiet of the secluded cabin was maddening to Anne. The clock ticking felt like a wrecking ball tearing down walls of patience and calm inside her until she could take it no more.

“For God’s sake Will just fucking write something! Don’t you know it’s not about what comes out in the ink but those you keep trapped inside because you’re afraid of what will happen if people know the truth?” Warm tears flowed down her cheek as she tore her jacket from the hook and headed toward the door. She looked at him briefly as she put her boots on across the room, his hollow eyes were pooling tears but his fists were clenched in a physical display of the inner torture he was trying to escape.

“Just write it!” She forced her voice through tears as she stepped out into the blustery woods.

Will wept, face deranged and drool spilling onto the blank pages. “Oh God no! Oh my Annabelle! Daddy’s sorry!” As he wept he looked outside and became momentarily distracted by a cardinal chirping on a branch just outside the window. The bird turned its head to listen to him and he suddenly stopped weeping. “Annabelle?” The Bird continues to chirp and listen and Will brightened. He quickly grabbed his pen and began to write.

What happened to Annabelle should never happen to anyone.

Sick

Mandi likes to be sad. She likes the bittersweet twist of restlessness and bitter memories like salty seas that support her heavy body while making holes in her skin. She’s happier when she has something to complain about; people notice her and assure her everything is going to be OK. Secretly she knows it will, but being secure and satisfied feels like someone else’s life she’s trying to step into.

She writes poetry about being emotionally tortured, as if she’s trying to win a who’s-got-it-worst contest. She likes when people read it and tell her it’s good, when she knows they want to roll their eyes at the drama. She is drama. She likes to see people squirm and make up compliments; to somehow shower some dark clouds over their perceived perfect little world.

Mandi is sick. But really she’s OK.

Marge Hates Pockets

It’s Friday afternoon and Marge is at the doctor’s office talking about pockets. She doesn’t like slanted pockets because she feels like all her change will fall out. Of the pockets. She prefers the non-slanted type, the deeper the better. And please don’t get her started on the story about when she was twenty two and lost her bus fare and had to walk six miles home. Damn pockets! As she’s telling her story, the sweet lovely receptionist is placating her with nods and cut-off half-replies in hopes the conversation will be over soon so she can get her work finished before the next patient comes.

“I went to that amusement park near Chicago once, and I wore some shorts with no pockets…” she started, smiling as she spoke, “Can you believe that?! Of course girls didn’t wear short shorts back then so my mom about had a fit when I insisted on wearing them, only to find out they didn’t have pockets!” She continues her story about how she didn’t have a place for her tickets and ended up losing them so she couldn’t go on any rides, too proud to tell her parents. And speaking of parents, did she tell you that her dad died at the age of 58 from a massive coronary? And he wasn’t even a smoker. She tells of her vitamin and health regimen which consists of walking around the hardware store’s parking lot aided by a shopping cart because she’s too proud to get a cane or walker for her bad back and knees. “My knees are bad from that damned concrete floor at the paper mill. I worked there for 22 years until I had surgery and after I got back from medical leave they fired me.”

For a while Roberta watches from across the waiting room, happy that she isn’t the one under the gun. Most of the times Marge comes in Roberta is her target, listening for more than an hour each time as she swings wildly between topics, some she’s heard multiple times. But before she could fully appreciate the break, Marge pauses at the reception desk and looks in Roberta’s direction.

“Oh, there you are!” Marge says, lightning up, “I wanted to finish the story I was telling you last time!”

Shiver

Pulling her hair back in a low pony tail, Beth readied herself to take her yellow lab Mort outside. The predawn darkness was especially chilly for September, the moon felt icy hung there in the blackness. They started across the dew drenched grass toward the conservancy. A low row of shrubs and tall grasses blocked out the vastness that lay behind. Beth let her mind shift to the seemingly endless list of tasks she would have to tend to this week, while Mort sniffed and marked up the ground. Suddenly a loud mad laughter rang out from the bushes and Beth stood frozen in place as the laughing man moved closer.

Crossing

Eyes are open but I’m fuzzy, passing through cheesecloth to the curtain sheltering darkness. Twisted, half-formed faces with piercing eyes talk to me without speaking. The night wind tells my secrets to the person I was in a former life, and I pass back through cheesecloth to pale room full of mundane sanity.

Sheila and Tilly

Sheila wraps her leather trench coat as tight as she can and takes a long, slow drag off her Virginia Slim Cigarette. Damn wind and snow are messing up what was a perfect hair day. She exhales and plumes of smoke traffic jam in her eyes before wisping away with the harsh winter wind. For a moment she stands frozen in thought, light glinting off the fresh snow as if she were standing ankle deep in a field of freshly cut diamonds. Her gaze fixed on the sparkling before her, her mind lulling off to the place where she knew she was destined for fame and fortune. In the blustery reality of Wisconsin, those dreams felt so far away.

“Hey! You know how to work this damn thing?!” An elderly woman, dripping in hand-knitted winter gear was standing at the gas pump looking puzzled. Rolling her eyes, Sheila took one last draw off her cigarette before smashing it on the brick window sill and tossing it into the snow. Making her way closer, Sheila heard the lady moaning and quickened her pace. “Lady, don’t croak, I don’t know CPR or none of that shit.” The lady replied, “I’m not dying I just feel like such an idiot! My Robert is gone and I can’t do anything for myself!” Tears began to slip down her cheek as she sat sideways out the drivers seat.

“How much do you want?”

“Huh?”

“Uh, gas. How much do you want me to put in your tank?”

The lady looked far off, lost in thought. “How much will it take me to get to California?”

Sheila couldn’t stop the look of surprise on her face before it took residence. “Well, it’s going to take a full tank and then some. Are you really thinking about going to California? Tonight? Don’t you have anyone who would miss you? What about all your stuff?”

“Don’t got much stuff anymore, and the things that I shared with my husband make me too sad to see. No one is waiting for me, I’m all alone now. My family is all gone, my kids are grown and moved away, and I gotta tell you, this weather is SHITTY!” She put her hand over her mouth as they both broke out in laughter.

“I’m in total agreement with you there” Sheila managed between laughter, “Seriously though, I have been aching to move to the west coast. I want to be a celebrity, it’s my dream. My destiny!”

“Then why don’t you come with me? We can be famous together and live by the beach!”

For the first time in a long time, Sheila felt excitement coursing through her. “Naw, I can’t. Can I?”

“Don’t be silly girl, if you don’t do it while you are young you won’t have a chance, Hollywood doesn’t hire old people!”

That was just the right button to push with her. Before she thought anything through her gut was telling her this was her chance.

“I have to go pay for the gas. And tell my coworker I am leaving. Jesus! Am I really doing this? I’m running away with someone I don’t even know! I must be having a breakdown.”

“Oh, my apologies, I haven’t introduced myself,” she said, extending her hand,”I’m Tilly”

Eugenia

Wrenching hands together, Eugenia began rocking back and forth and humming to herself, the same way she did since she was a toddler. Her mother’s loving embrace ripped from her long before she was ready; too young to understand the tough choices adults make to help a family survive. Her father, Hank was silent and cold, his interactions with her swung between awkward and forced, his torn overalls always full of dirt from working long hours to make ends meet. Eugenia believed he blamed her for everything, and she felt no shelter from his judgment, no warmth or nurturing. Like a sapling left exposed to the fierce winter, Eugenia was clinging onto whatever scrap of ground she could claim. Even though she was an adult now, she still felt like the small cowering girl wondering what she did wrong to make her mother go away.

Sam and Andy

Samantha Stark was pondering her complexity when fate poked her on the shoulder by way of a vibration of her phone. She imagined it was another annoying comment from someone on a fashion forum she follows and nonchalantly lifted her phone. Her heart beat faster as she noticed it was a message from Andy. Stop it! She told herself as she felt her stomach twirling in restless anticipation of his message. The mere site of his name, Andrew Hall, brought memories flooding back of years of the quasi-friendship, flirty, shyness that lead to them always missing each other’s boat. Sam had to move on, it was crushing her that he never wanted to take things further. They spent nights out together, sipping tea and laughing for hours, and the long goodbye hugs as the evening succumbed to dawn were, unfortunately, just that. She would drive home cursing herself for not making a move, and wondering how it is possible that he couldn’t feel how badly she ached to be in his arms for more than just a goodnight hug.

Andy always had a way to keep her coming back around. He was charming and very charismatic and had a wit to match any she’d met. He could be short and abrasive but also warm, protective and caring like a brother. Or a husband. The only time he ever made a move was when Sam finally put it all on the line and spilled her heart out in a letter to him, that she left taped to his front door in the wee hours of the morning. After not hearing anything from him Sam decided she needed to give up and start seeing other people. She had gone on a few dates that were not promising, but Andy was always curious to know how it went. “Fine.” She would reply, flatly when asked. Any extrapolation on it was not deserved by anyone that couldn’t answer a girl vulnerably pouring her heart out to him. But one evening when she was beginning to imagine moving past the waiting and wondering, a card with a short note saying he has been wanting to be brave and kiss her but he’s afraid of what it would do to their friendship. They met again, an occasional tea and chat, but both Sam and Andy were guarded, afraid to be vulnerable. Stuck in the same nowhere place they had been for years.

Sam decided there was nothing left for her in that little town. Things were stressed after the letter, and the evenings of tea and laughter subsided, so she moved a couple hours away. On her own in a new town, with a new job, Sam felt like she could finally breathe. She spent time writing and singing and dancing in her apartment while the neighbors upstairs fought for hours in Spanish. Maybe being alone is not so bad, she thought to herself.

Until she met Troy. Friends came to see her new pad and take in the town, a slightly bigger college town with more things happening. One evening she found herself in a beatnik club, where a live reggae band was just finishing their set. Her eyes fell upon the man on percussion and she held her breath, as if he would disappear if she exhaled. His ice blue eyes met hers and although she was painfully shy and wanted to look away, she allowed a giant smile to claim her face. He smiled back and suddenly, for the first time in eight years, Sam forgot all about Andy.

After 17 years, marriage and two kids, Sam and Troy were happy and solid in their marriage. But why did Sam have such a knee jerk reaction just to seeing Andy’s name come up on her phone? She contemplated opening it. They were never anything more than friends. But she wondered, on long restless nights or when she felt lonely and small, did he feel the same all that time? Maybe they were both too shy to make a move. Maybe…

“What the hell am I doing?!” Sam said out loud and tapped on the phone to get her message.

“What are you mumbling about?” Troy said as he suddenly appeared behind her, kissing her on the back of the neck while peering down at her now opened message.