Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Practical Magic: Memory is a Funny Thing 2 (Practical Magic #17)

They were starting their fourth session with Charles today. They had been moving very slowly and so far had only revealed more of the dream he was having before he robbed the store. Today they would be working toward the center of the previously completely blocked memory. Deidre was hopeful that today would be the day they would finally begin to see the shape of what was hidden in Charles’ memory. It had been a tedious process for her. Everyone else had been fascinated by the procedure. This was something that hadn’t been done before, that they hadn’t seen before. For Deidre it was just waiting. She wanted the information that Charles held trapped in his memory but the process of getting it out was of no interest to her. She was only interested in the last 15 minutes of her time here, the part where they all reconvened and the circle shared the next piece of memory to be uncovered. But even that had, so far, been of no use to her in uncovering what actually happened that night.

Charles still could remember falling asleep. As they uncovered the dream he was having he would recall bits of that, but they would fade quickly as dreams do when the dreamer wakes. But those that were sharing his memory were looking at it and would record their impressions after the session. They would also answer questions from Dot and Al about the process itself, how they were all feeling. Charles would be watched for the next 24 hours to ensure that he was having no ill effects on the rest of his memory from having so many people share his consciousness at one time and from having the block removed. The procedure was still exhausting to all parties involved and they felt that there was no safe way to move faster.

Which meant Deidre watched and waited. It was her duty and she was a professional so as soon as they started her focus was entirely on the people around her. Making sure everyone seemed to be doing what they were supposed to. Watching the people, watching the doors, listening for movement in the hallways. But when it was over and she was off duty she would admit it was her least favorite part of the day. Though she wished it was moving faster there was a part of her that was grateful to know the entire procedure from start to finish would take no more than an hour each time.

As she felt the magic lessen in the room and watched the circle begin to stir she was anxious to move along to the next portion, where she could finally hear what they had found. Looking at Deborah’s face she thought there must have been something new today. She seemed to be puzzled by something. Deidre was taking this as a good sign.

After they were all settled in the conference room Greg started by explaining where they had started that day and what they had done to remove the next portion of the block. He did this every session, they were recording all of this information for further studies and felt that all information could prove useful to someone. On this day that were closer to the center of the block than they had been. Working on the widest part of the ink spill in Charles’ mind they had succeeded in removing the very middle of the stain. They had been afraid that they would encounter more resistance here because it was the largest portion of the block but that had not proven out. This part lifted out much the same as the other pieces. They had worked carefully unraveling the memory from the block leaving the memory intact and accessible.

Deidre listened to all of the preliminary information as patiently as she could but was relieved when Deborah began to speak, “What we saw today was a continuation of the dream,” Deidre tried not to show the disappointment on her face, she had been so sure that there was something different this time, “however the dream has started to shift.”

“Started to shift? Do you mean a new dream is beginning or he is waking up?” Dot asked.

“We are just at the beginning edges of the shift and we should really know more next time, but it looks like a new dream, or a change in the dream he was having more correctly.”

“Charles, do you have anything to add?” Al directed the question at Charles not wanting it to seem as though they were discussing him like a lab rat and not an actual member of their society sitting right there in the room with them.

“I wish I did. When this portion started to be uncovered I had a fleeting glimpse of the dream. But it’s very hazy. I don’t really remember much about it. Maybe singing?”

“You were singing in the dream?” Al asked.

“No, I don’t think I was singing, I think I was listening. But it was brief and then it was gone.”

Deidre turned back to Deborah, “Do you have anything else about the shift? The new dream beginning? Your expression as you closed the circle seemed a little puzzled.”

“I don’t know what it means, and I don’t want to speak prematurely, and I’m not sure if Al or Joshua saw this as well, but it seems like the new dream Charles was starting he was going someplace. That’s what I think I saw right before we ended this session. I think I saw him dreaming of leaving.”

Deidre leaned back in her chair, “That is interesting. Charles, you said before you have no history of sleep walking, correct?”

“Yes, that’s right. I shared a room with my brother growing up he would have noticed if I did. I’ve never woken up in a strange place. I normally don’t even toss or turn much. I’m a pretty deep sleeper.”

Joshua nodded his head, “Yes that makes sense from what we’ve seen with his brain patterns. Solid sleeper, deep sleeper. I’ve not picked up anything in the dreams around this one to show anything unusual. I did not see what Deborah did, any details on the shifting dream as we were leaving, but I was focused on easing us out of his thoughts with as little damage as possible. I don’t see the dream memory as well as Deborah while we are working. We have to have an area cleared for me to focus on it, our gifts are different that way.”

Dot nodded, “That’s understood, it’s part of why we have the three of you working together. Complimenting each other’s work instead of duplicating.”

Greg stood, “Are there anymore questions? My wife is picking me up, I nearly fell asleep on the drive home last time so chauffeuring for me from here on out.”

As Charles and the three from the circle left the room Deidre turned to her aunt, “I’ve seen you read thoughts in court all day and not show such signs of exhaustion that these four are having, why is this different?”

“Al and I have been talking about that, I think it’s a combination of things. One they are doing something unknown so they are concentrating at a very deep level. But more importantly we think it’s because they are wading slowly through a sleep memory. We think they are feeling the exhaustion that Charles felt while it was happening, they are fighting sleep the whole time they are working. By entering his consciousness they are allowing a part of him into theirs, so they really want to sleep.”

“What would happen if they fell asleep while they were still linked? Is this something we should be worried about?”

“Dot and I don’t think so. We believe that they would fall out of sync with each other and the connection would be broken. The sheer amount of concentration they are using to hold together is astounding. But it is probably a good reminder as to why we have to move slowly. We don’t want to test that theory.”

“Agreed. Do we have anymore to go over today?” Dot looked to Al and Deidre, “No? Okay, then let’s plan on meeting back here in two days as usual.”

Deidre was very much looking forward to the next session, finally something was starting to change. What would it mean if he did dream of leaving? Was it a case of sleep walking after all? But what would have caused the memory blockage? Was it his own mind protecting himself? She had heard of cases where people forgot traumatic experiences, that their own subconscious tried to protect them from the memory. Could this be what they were looking at? Charles dreamt he robbed a store, did rob a store and because he is not the sort of person that would do such a thing his own mind blocked it out? Still more questions than answers but at least now she felt like the might actually be getting somewhere.

Practical Magic: Memory is a Funny Thing (Practical Magic #16)

“Tell me about the first time you ever saw Dad.”

Deidre smiled and turned to her daughter, “Are you expecting some sort of teen romance version of a story? Like I knew from the first time I ever laid eyes on him that he was the one?”

“No, I’ve heard the story about your first sparring session. Everyone tells that story. I think all of my friend’s parents must have been there that day. But you had already known each other for two years by then. And Dad already had a crush on you. That’s why you could beat him. But you had to have had a little bit of a crush on him as well or you wouldn’t have kissed him.”

“Fair enough. Okay, let’s see, when was the first time I saw your dad. Hmm, that’s actually a tough one. I mean I’m sure I saw him a few times before I noticed him. We were in classes together from the start. But I would have to say I noticed him the first time in Healing Arts 1.”

“That’s because he was better than you right?”

Deidre laughed, “Yes, it was. I’d like to say it was because I was impressed and wanted to learn more, but I was angry that this kid, this boy, dared to beat my grade on a test. Like it was a personal insult. I had gotten very used to being the top of my class.

So the first time we had a test handed back out and our instructor posted the breakdown of grades on the board I saw that the top score was a 97% while I only had a 95%. Someone in that room was better. I looked around and there was this kid sitting there with the smuggest smile. I knew right then that’s who it had to be and I wanted nothing more than to smack that look right off of his face.”


“I warned you. This wasn’t a dreamy eyed first look. I was really angry at him. How dare he? Then I overheard him tell the kid sitting in front of him that his mother was a Healer and would be disappointed he only got partial credit on one of the answers. He should have gotten 100%. Ah ha! He already knew all of this, no wonder he did better. In fact he was right, he should have gotten 100%, so really that meant that I had done better than he had.”

“She’s always been a gracious loser hasn’t she?” Jocelyn said as she walked in to the room. “Let me add to it, I believe when we were walking home that day your mother lovingly referred to your father as that Healer wannabe and vowed that she would beat him on every Healing Arts test from there on out.”

“And did you?”

“No, well, wait, actually once. I did beat him on one. By half a point. But that was the closest I ever came in any of our Healing Arts classes. But he could never beat me in a Prophecy class so it was even.”

“And the only reason she was better at Prophecy class was because she wouldn’t let me sleep for a week before a test! What happens if? What is the rule when? What if? How come? Why? I was relieved when she started her junior year and the more focused Warrior track.”

Deidre shrugged at her daughter, “It’s true, what can I say? I wanted to be the best. Your father was the only person standing in my way so I wanted to beat him. And trust me he felt the same way I did.”

“So how did you end up liking each other? Why didn’t you hate each other?”

“Ah, just because I wanted to be better than him and just because I wanted him to know it didn’t mean I hated him. I’ll admit at first I sort of did, I was just not used to not automatically being the best. But because of him, because of my focus on beating his grades, I worked harder. I got better by testing myself against him. And the more I competed against him the better I got to know him. And the more I got to know him the better I liked him.”

“It didn’t hurt that your father was one of the cutest boys in school either.” Aunt Joy added.

Deidre laughed, “No that didn’t hurt. But it was more than that. Your dad was not only a great Warrior; he was smart and competitive and driven, but he also had touches of your Grandmother Springwater in him. He was kind to everyone. If someone was struggling in class he was there to help. If someone was being picked on he was the first to step in and stop it. He wasn’t just fierce he was more than that. I don’t think there was anyone who could help but like him. And I did.”

“Was Dad your first boyfriend?”

“Yeah he was. I wasn’t really popular with other boys. Your Aunt Joy was the social butterfly in school.”

“Let's tell the truth here, your mother was terrifying in school. The only boy brave enough to even approach her was your father. This gentle soul you see before you today was from years of following your father’s good example. I know it might be hard to believe but your mother could seem sort of unapproachable when she was younger.”

“Like when she glared at everyone at the bake sale?”

“I did not glare! I was just watching the crowd. A lot of people all crowded in to a space like that? That’s just dangerous.”

“It was a bake sale, they were kids from my school. The biggest danger was crumbs. You glared.”

“Just know that before your father’s influence she might have growled as well.”

Aska started laughing, “Were you really that bad?”

“I might have been a little prickly. Your Uncle Aric was the Spell-Caster he spent all of his time with your grandmother learning about everything he could get his hands on, then he chose to go to school with The Others, part of that meant he had to blend in with them. Hide his Gift and pretend to be something he wasn’t. Aunt Joy over here was the Gifted Prophet child. She worked with Aunt Dot for as long as I could remember to hone her skills, part of that means always being concerned with everyone’s feelings because she could feel them as well. That left me. I trained with your Grandfather. Now l love your grandfather, and you know he adores you and all of us, but he’s not what you would call warm and fuzzy. And he knew that if I chose to join the Guard, which I told everyone I was going to, I was going to have to be twice as good as everyone else just because he was my father. Everyone would assume any promotion I got, any assignment I did well on was because he was covering for me. So he made sure I was better than everyone else. And when I wasn’t, when I didn’t step up in our sessions he told me about it. He made sure I wanted to be better than everyone else. So I had a little bit of an edge to me when I was younger.”

“So why did dad like you?”

“Ha! Thanks a lot!”

“No, I mean, if you weren’t really nice and you didn’t let anyone get close to you why did he like you? You liked him because he was kind right? What was it about you?”

“Well, what I liked in your father was the same thing he liked in me.”

“The Warrior part?”

“Not really, though that’s part of it. What your father said he liked most about me was that I worked harder than anyone else. I didn’t expect everything to come easy. If I was having trouble with something I worked on it until I didn’t. Which is what I liked about him. He was a hard worker, he was driven. He also liked that I was tough. That I stood my ground. That I wasn’t scared of anything. He liked in me what he didn’t feel like he had. I helped him find that part of himself that was always there and bring it out. He did the same for me. He taught me that being kind to someone wasn’t being weak. I taught him that it was okay to be scared of something, but what took courage was doing it anyway. We balanced each other out. So does that answer your question?”

“Yeah, I think so.” Aska walked over and gave her mother a hug, “thanks, I know talking about dad isn’t easy for you.”

“Oh, honey, no, I don’t want you to ever think I don’t like talking about him. I love talking about him. I want you to hear all of the stories we all know about him. I want you to talk about all of the things you remember most. Just because I miss him and it’s sometimes a little sad, or more than a little, to think about losing him, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk about him. He was the most important person in my life. He gave me you.”

Aska hugged her mother harder then broke the embrace, “Okay, enough of that, I am off to Kayla’s for a bit. I will be home in time for dinner.”

“Have fun.”

After Aska shut the door behind her Deidre turned to her sister, “Well that seemed to go well, right?”

Jocelyn smiled, “Really well. I think she’s starting to understand that not talking about Cal wasn’t doing either of you any good. Grieving is sometimes a slow process but I think this is a good sign that you are both starting to heal. You made it through that whole conversation without crying once, did you notice?”

“I did, thank you very much. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m healing yet. But grieving with my daughter is better than grieving alone.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Practical Magic: Further Exams (Practical Magic #15)

Dot, Deidre and Al were back in the observation room. Charles had readily agreed to the further testing that Greg had suggested. Everyone who had been called to examine his memories around the night of the robbery agreed that though they were blank it was more that they were covered up than cut out. After much consulting and planning they were gathering today to test their theory. The plan was to try and remove a portion of the block today just to see how if they could and then go back in and remove the rest piece by piece. It wasn’t a large portion of his memory so it shouldn’t take too many sessions but as it was a new experience for all involved they felt that slow and steady would be the best course of action.

Dot and Al were more interested in watching the proceedings than Deidre was. Deidre knew her Aunt would be reading and watching all of the other Prophets as they worked, seeing things that she could not. And Al would be able to see the threads that tied all of the people working on Charles together, he would also be fascinated by just the fact that this was new and unknown, Spell-Caster curiosity at work. For Deidre she would just be watching the proceedings because it was her duty to Charles. She would only see Charles and three other people sitting in a room for how ever long it would take. She would be able to feel the magic as they raised it in their circle but not having the ability to read in to his mind she wouldn’t see what was happening there. Not possessing the connected gift she wouldn’t see how they were all working together. But she would watch anyway. And wait.

Greg was leading the circle since he had been the first person to discover the anomaly in Charles’ mind. Those sharing the circle with him had also examined Charles so they were aware of what they were looking for, there was Deborah Livingstone who was a Prophet known for her memory skills. She was able to reconstruct even the older memory from the tiredest mind. In fact she made a living working with the elderly of The Gifted putting their life stories down in print for their families. Working with Greg and Deborah was a younger member of The Gifted. Joshua Tanner was one of the rare who had been called with complete dual gifts. He was a Prophet and a Healer. He had more than just a trace of one with the other being dominant but was a true Healer and a true Prophet. He had taken the dual natural of his gifts and used it to perfect his studies in neurobiology. He had studied with The Others as well as with The Gifted learning as much as he could about the scientific and the magical natural of the brain and memory and thought.

Together they had formed a plan. They would join each other in a circle of sharing, a very fancy name for allowing each other in to their minds. Basically dissolving the physical barriers around themselves then they would enter Charles’ memory, using Greg as a sort of doorway. They would then focus their energy on the thinnest edge of blot that they had found. Where the blank spot started. There was a jagged edge at that point that they felt they could visualize picking up, maybe rolling against the other and then lifting it away. As they were all working toward moving the blockage away Deborah would be concentrating on the memory beneath, making sure it was not being damaged, and Joshua would be focusing on the rest of the brain activity around them. They still weren’t sure what they were dealing with but after Shakel everyone was cautious. What if this was a trap? Only made to look easy to remove but there was more underneath? Possible a spell hiding in Charles’ mind waiting to call on their power to trap them? No one thought that was likely but no one really wanted to take any chance either, so they would move slowly and cautiously.

Deidre watched the three form a circle and begin breathing in sync. A sign the sharing had begun. Right now if you were to check their heart rates they would all match. She could feel the prickle of magic along her arms, knowing if she had been in the same room with them it would be even stronger. Then she turned to look at her Aunt and at Al. Both were leaning forward watching the circle intently. Deidre knew they were both seeing things that she could not. She understood what they were watching from her classes, she knew the theory of it all, understood it as much as she could, but she still could not see what they did. Which was fine, they couldn’t see what she did either. Like how fast she would have to move to be from where she was seated to inside that room if something went wrong. What she would need to do to alert The Guards in the outer hallway of any danger. She didn’t expect there to be any, but she could have no more sat in that room and not figured out the safest way out and the best way to protect those around her than her Aunt Dot could stop from seeing the sharing of the circle. It was who they were.

After about 20 minutes Dot sat back in her chair, “They are finishing now.”

Deidre watched as the circle slowly dissolved their connection. She felt the power lessening and then saw Joshua shake his shoulders out a little.Then Deborah stood and stretched out slowly. Finally Greg turned toward the mirror and gave the three in the next room a tired smile and a thumbs up. “We can all meet to discuss the results with the council if you’d like?” then he turned to Charles, “You are of course welcome to join us as we will be discussing your memory.”

Charles, the three observers along with the three Prophets from the circle met jointly to discuss the results of today’s session.

“I will start with my own observations and then ask Deborah and Joshua to chime in,” Greg began, “It was much like we thought. The blank spot in Charles’ memory seemed covered up more than removed. We worked on a small edge of that cover and were able to remove it leaving the memory underneath in tact.”

Dot interrupted, “Before we hear more from the circle, Charles, can you tell us how you feel? Do you have any further memory of that night?”

“Not really, I still remember going to bed and starting to dream but then nothing. Maybe after some sleep? It’s sort of exhausting having that many people in your head at once.”

Dot smiled at him, “Yes, I can imagine it would be. Okay, Greg, continue.”

“We didn’t take much today. I think this is the best, as you can see it’s very taxing on Charles and truth be told on me as well. Using myself as a doorway was the best idea we had but it’s a hard thing to maintain that split concentration of keeping the link to Deborah and Joshua open while at the same time working on the edges of the block with Charles. I would imagine you two feel the same?”

Joshua and Deborah nodded agreement. “The interesting thing we found today was that there is nothing worth hiding just yet.” This was Deborah.

“What do you mean?”

“What we found as the block was lifted and separated from his base memory was the dream he was starting when he fell asleep. So whatever it is we are looking for must be deeper in.”

“And you found no evidence that this was a false dream? We aren’t looking at a block hiding a false memory are we?”
“Noooah,” Deborah yawned as she spoke, “Excuse me, sorry about that, no, as far as I can tell it’s a true memory. There are no signs that a new memory has been woven in.”

Al turned to Joshua, “And what did you find? How is Charles handling the procedure?”

“Well. Really well actually. Though I wouldn’t want to move any faster than we did today and in fact as we get to the more solid areas of the block we might even need to slow down further. Trying to lift out the block without damaging what is underneath as well as adding all of our thoughts in to his space is, as you can see, draining. What we don’t want to happen is for his body to start fighting us and try to protect that block as it would a memory.”

“Okay, so what we know so far is that what we thought might work seems to be working. We need to be patient and take it slowly. And so far we know nothing new about what actually happened that night?” Deidre looked to her notes.

“Yes, that seems to sum everything up, now if you will excuse me, I think I need to have a nap.” And with that Greg stifled a yawn and stood to leave with Deborah, Joshua and Charles fast on his heels.

Deidre closed her notebook and put it in a vest pocket, “Let me know when you want to schedule the next session, it seems to me that we should not do them daily, at least while we figure out how taxing this is going to be.”

Dot nodded, “Yes, I think we should give them a day at least to rest. Let us all check schedules and I will have my assistant call you to verify free times.”

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Tell me a story...

I drove down to Bend to help Christopher out when he had his wisdom teeth removed. I'm really glad we live close enough and my schedule is flexible enough to be able to do things like that. Last year I was able to drive down a few times to help him get settled in to his new apartment and get things up and running. It's nice to be close enough to help him out but far enough away that we don't intrude (too much) on his life.

But when I drive down to Bend on my own (Brent was away recruiting veterans at Michigan, yes, it almost seemed tailor made for him) I have HOURS in the car by myself. I listen to the radio and I'm driving and those two things aren't quite enough to keep my head busy so I also think. I think about my life. I think about things that have happened. I think about things that might happen. I think about everything. And, of course, I think about stories I want to tell. And stories I don't ever want to tell again. It can be an overwhelming amount of thinking that happens.

Yesterday on the drive home I thought about books on tape, or I guess they are just called audio books now, and if listening to them on the drive would be enough to keep my head busy. I don't usually listen to audio books unless I am able to just sit and listen. I want to get as lost in the story as I can. So I don't listen while I am working out or driving or cleaning or anything else. Just when I can sit and let someone tell me a story. So I decided that wouldn't change at all just because I was driving to and from Bend. I would still resent the intrusion on my story time of actually having to pay attention to the other drivers.

I had bad insomnia last night, is it just me or does the full moon make everyone's insomnia worse? And as I was laying awake thinking about the stories from my drive I thought, "Does everyone like to be told stories?" I thought about asking the question here but then had to laugh (quietly, Brent does not suffer from insomnia, at least not until the next day when he deals with lack of sleep me) when I realized that this is not exactly a good scientific pool to survey. I mean you wouldn't be here if you didn't like stories right? That's all I do. Tell stories; my stories, bar people stories, Aska and Deidre's stories, stories of people who have no names but STILL have stories to tell. It's all stories. So I have to assume you like stories. Either that or you are burning off karma which is a story all by itself and you should share it with me sometime...

SO anyway....

As I was driving to and from Bend and taking in the cars and the people and the leaves changing (seriously gorgeous on Highway 22 up where it's already cold at night, pops of bright red, orange and yellow just glowing) I was thinking about all of the stories going on around me. Driving down to Bend I took what we call the top way, and it took me through Warm Springs. The fire damage from this summer was heartbreaking to see. Just so much desolation. On the way back I took the bottom route. The recovery from older fires is starting there. Which then made me think again about Warm Springs and how long will it take for that area to recover? And what will the changes be? Fire is good for an ecosystem in a lot of ways. It adds nutrients to soil, it brings plants out that get crowded out by too much shade and over brush. It clears out the dead and dying pieces. Small fires are healthy for a system. Big fires? Not as much. They take out everything. The healthy as well as the dead. It's life right? We need to clear out the old stuff from time to time and if we don't we risk burning it all down around us.

Yes, this is the way my head works while I am driving.

And then I have story fragments that float up and down in my head. And I wonder, "Is this something I've already written or something I should write? Is this a story that is forming or a poem? Or is it neither and just boredom?" Then I laugh. Because I'm crazy. No, I mean because I'm rarely bored. Bored to me means it's time to change what I am doing. Bored doesn't usually happen when I'm just alone with my thoughts. Because I have some really crazy thoughts... best not to get complacent with them. But as dangerous as they can be, they are almost always entertaining.

So tell me...what are your favorite types of stories? The ones you tell yourself or the ones other people tell you?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Practical Magic: Gifted and Others (Practical Magic #14)

Aska was hanging out with her friend Kayla listening to music and pretending to do homework. Kayla and Aska had made friends a few years ago after The Joining. One of the first places The Gifted and The Others integrated was in the schools. Aska’s Aunt Jocelyn was one of the first teachers of a blended class of Gifted and Others. And as is usually the case the children were the first to make friends. Playing together the children of The Gifted and The Others shared stories about what it was like to live in their worlds. The Others were fascinated with stories about magic, things they had always thought to be make believe. The children of The Gifted liked to hear stories about how different a world without magic was. As stories were shared common ground was found. What Aska liked about the most about her friend Kayla was that she always said what was on her mind. She didn’t have much of a filter. If she thought something she said it. What Kayla liked most about Aska is that nothing was off limits. She could ask her anything and they would talk about it. They had figured out most of the world’s problems and solutions over the past two years. They just needed everyone else to do what they did and it would all work out fine.

“My mom thinks your mom is kind of scary.”

“Yeah? I can see that.”

“Doesn’t that bug you?”

Aska laughed, “A lot of people think my mom is kind of scary. It’s sort of in her job description.”

“Is it true that she killed the man that killed your dad?”

“Yeah, I mean she didn’t like hunt him down and do some sort of movie revenge thing, but when he received the death sentence she was the executioner.”

Kayla made a face, “I don’t think I could do that.”

Aska thought about it for a second, “I couldn’t either. I wanted him dead. I won’t lie about that. I’m glad he was found and punished. But I couldn’t have done it myself. But I’m not my mom.”

“Cause that’s her gift right? To be able to kill someone?”

Aska laughed, “Well no, killing someone isn’t really her gift. She’s a Warrior. There are a lot of parts to it, part is that she is protective. She’s part of the group that watches over everyone else. The ones that make sure everyone is safe. Sometimes that means doing things other people couldn’t. So being mentally strong is part of it. And it takes a sort of mental strength to do what is right even if it’s not easy.”

“Do you think it was hard for her to kill him?”

“Well, no. I don’t think so. I know she’s had to fight other people that she didn’t want to though. I know that she killed someone once that she didn’t want to. I remember hearing her telling my dad about it. It was a young guy. Like 20 or something? He went crazy and started shooting people. Mom was working and had to kill him so he would stop killing other people. They couldn’t make him stop any other way. They had tried using a Healer and a Prophet to calm his mind, but nothing was working. So Mom shot him. I know that was harder for her than killing Shakel.”

“Did they ever find out why he went crazy?”

“Not really. He was dead, right? He couldn’t say. There were a lot of people who had theories but no one really knew.”

“That’s scary.”

“Yeah, you guys have had that too right? People just going crazy and hurting other people?”

“Yeah and then every one argues about how he did it instead of why he did it and then they forget it until the next time. It always makes my dad really angry. But nothing changes.”

“My Uncle Aric always says that there are more things alike between us than not. It’s really too bad that we share so much of the crap.”

“So what’s it like? To be you? You know? Gifted?”

“I don’t know, normal? What’s it like to be you? You know, a redhead?”

Kayla laughed, “That’s just hair, you could always dye your hair red, but I can’t really do what you do. I mean I know what you’ve told me about it, but what does it feel like?”

“Here, do this” Aska started rubbing the palms of her hands together really fast, “Now hold out your hand.” Aska put her hand above Kayla’s hovering just a breath away from touching it, “Do you feel that? The tingle and the warmth?”


“That’s sort of what it feels like. When Uncle Aric and I work together to learn a new spell I can feel that coming from him and from the air around me and it’s like I can sort of grab it in my mind, hold on to it? Does that make sense?”

“Sort of. So you feel it all the time?”

“Yeah, kind of, it’s always there. I’m always aware that there is more out there than just me. It’s stronger outside than inside. It’s really strong for me near the water. Some people it’s stronger in the desert or the mountains. It’s like we all have a line of magic that is ours. And it’s always strongest when we are using it to do something.”

“And is it the same for all of your family? Like are you all water people?”

Aska started to laugh, “Water people? Like we’re mermaids?”

Kayla stuck her tongue out, “Don’t make fun of me, I’m trying to understand!”

“Okay, sorry, no, umm… my Grandfather, my dad’s dad, is a mountain person. He goes camping a few times a year to sort of recharge. I don’t know if mom has a place she likes best, she’s never said. I think she would feel like it showed a weakness to admit that some places her magic was stronger than in others.”

“I can’t imagine your mom ever showing weakness. I think I agree with my mom, she’s kind of scary.”

“She can be. But not to me. She’s like any other mom. Mostly. I mean she would read me stories and tuck me in at night when I was little. She worries about me being safe, just like your mom, she makes sure I eat right. But she’s not ever going to be you know, that mom. The one that bakes and always knows the right thing to say and has all of the neighborhood kids over for movie night. Her mom is like that. Aunt Joy is like that. But Mom? Not so much.”

“Does it bug you?”

“No, why would it? That’s who she is. I’m really proud of my mom. She’s one of the youngest people ever to lead in The Guard. Even after taking two years off to teach when Dad died she stepped right back in and was given her own company. Yeah, she’s intimidating, but for all the right reasons. And I know she loves me. And I get to see her when she’s not being Warrior Springwater, just Mom. And she’s really good at it.”

Kayla flipped through her math book, “I am going to have a slumber party next week. I want to invite both you and Brianna, would you come if I do?”

“She hates me. You know she won’t come if I’m there.”

“That’s not what I asked, I asked if you would come.”

Aska remembered the last time she had seen Brianna. She had stopped by Kayla’s house to see if she wanted to hang out and Brianna was there working on a school project. “Oh look it’s a gifted one.” She had put as much venom as she could in that one word. This was the first time Aska understood how nervous Uncle Aric had been about them using Gifted to describe themselves, and the only time she had wished his idea to not do it had stuck. She’s never thought of it as a bad name before that day. But after a talk with Aunt Joy she had realized Brianna’s feelings about her had nothing to really do with Aska herself.

“Yeah, I would come.”

“Does it bug you that she doesn’t like you?”

“Sure. I mean we all want people to like us right? But not everyone is going to. She doesn’t even know me or want to get to know me and has made up her mind not to like me. I can’t do anything about that. I can only worry about the people I like, not the ones I don’t.”

“I think she’s scared of you.”

“Of me? Why?”

“Because she knows you could read her mind if you wanted to. She thinks you would tell everyone what she is thinking.”

“Why aren’t you scared then?”

“Because I always tell everyone what I’m thinking anyway. What could you say?”

The girls laughed together

“Besides, I trust you when you say you won’t do it. That’s what friends do.”

“Thank you. And I really can’t. Not yet anyway. I might not ever be able to. Not every Prophet can. My Aunt Dot though? Forget it. She can read anyone at anytime.”

The girls went back to pretending to do homework for a few more minutes.
“Does it bug you that Brianna is worried I would tell you what she really thinks?”

Kayla smiled at her friend, “Yeah, it does. What does she really feel about all of us if she’s so worried you can tell? But like you said, I can’t change that. But I can keep an eye on her.”

Aska smiled wickedly, “Do you want me to invite my Aunt Dot over?”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Denise...

The gym has been crowded the past few days. Or more specifically the cardio machines have been crowded. The weights and machines have been fairly empty but I guess everyone has overdosed on Pumpkin Spiced goodies and feels the need to be on a machine. This means instead of the customary every other machine arrangement that I prefer I've had to work out in between two other people. It's not my favorite but it's usually not that big of a deal.

Today as I was finishing entering all of my start up info I noticed the guy next to me is talking to me. Take out my earbud and say, "Hmmm?" and....

"Do you really weigh that much?"

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to a Brand New Denise...Speechless Denise.

Not biting her tongue Denise, or bowing to her better angels Denise but literally I cannot make words form Speechless Denise. It was like all of the Denises in my head dropped what they were doing and peeked around their cubicle walls. There was a buzz which I had to imagine was all of them murmuring..."Did he just say what I think he said?"

And because I was speechless he took that as a sign to keep talking.

"I didn't think people put in their real weights, I thought it was like the DMV where you tell them what you wished you weighed and put that in. Or I guess here you could go high, because then it would say you are burning more calories than if you went low so that could be..."


Now, of course, as she usually is the first one to find her voice was Bad Denise who wanted to tell him to shut the fuck up, but she was followed by Good Denise, who, bless her heart, is normally right there trailing Bad Denise to make sure she keeps her cool. Good Denise thought Well maybe he has Asperger and doesn't realize how inappropriate he's being and can't help it. Which then caused every Denise in my head to give her side eye to which she responded, "I'M FUCKING TRYING HERE! HE'S NOT GIVING ME MUCH TO WORK WITH!"

By this time I'm softly biting the inside of my cheeks to keep from telling him off. Finally he takes a breath and stops talking long enough for me to get something out. "Are you done?" And the question, the tone, the look on my face, something about the combination was enough for him to realize that maybe he needed to shut up. "yeah..."

I put the earbud back in and finished my warm up.

But I did not finish the conversation.

As I hit the floor to do my workout the voices started in. Bad Denise was full of things to say, "Yes that's my actual weight, did you enter the speed you wanted to walk or is that your IQ?; Yes, that is my actual weight, balls of steel add a few pounds. Yes that's my actual weight, did you actually mean to use your outside your head voice you fucking asshole?" Gym Rat Denise was trying to keep everyone on task, "Focus on the workout. Feel your muscles working. Full range of motion. Good, good." Good Denise, "Muscle weighs more than fat. You are solid. You aren't fat, it's okay, you are fine."

And then Skinny Denise slinked out of the corner she's normally hiding in. "Muscle weighs more than fat is what fat people tell themselves...Finally someone said it. You know you are too big. Look at you." And she started pointing out the saddle bags, the lack of thigh gap, the fact that you can see the curve of my ass from the front when I'm doing squats because it's so round. She's been talking softly lately anyway. Now she got to run free and I could feel the tears...

Bad Denise, "You are not fucking going to cry because some asshole you never met before said something about your weight. You WILL NOT FUCKING CRY OVER THIS."

Skinny Denise was doing the mental calculations in her head, "You could catch the Step class that starts at 10 you know. There's no reason why you need to only do one workout session a day. What else are you doing?"

Gym Rat Denise, "Focus on your reps. Keep your knees back in line with your ankles. Good."

Skinny Denise, "If you started skipping lunch, but just entering something nobody would ever know you weren't really eating..."


On and on the voices in my head fighting over what a stranger said to me about my weight.

Then one of the trainers came over as I was doing shoulder presses, "Do you have another set?"

"Hmm? Oh yeah, I have one more, do you need to work in?"

"No, I was wondering if I could use you as a training aid for a second?"


So he shows his client how to do shoulder presses while I do my set, "See how she keeps her elbows at shoulder height the whole time? Don't drop them down, keep them engaged. Now watch as she presses the weight up. No twist. Just straight up, then straight down. Because she's keeping her arms steady she's engaged her biceps and triceps as well. Look at the muscle there move as she lifts, and then as she lowers...."

And I finish, "Thanks"

"No problem, glad I could help."

Walk over to do biceps curls and I'm on a break at the same time as the lady that was just taught shoulder presses. "You made them look easy. I'm not even using half of the weight you did and struggled."

I smile at her, "To be fair, this is your first time. Today is my last workout in this cycle so it's at the very easiest for me. Monday I will add weight and reps and it will be a struggle again." I didn't tell her about the first week I was doing them and the cords in my neck stood out so much I told Brent I looked like one of the vampires from The Strain and then got the uncontrollable giggles when I thought "You have a vagina neck!" I wasn't sure she would find that inspirational.

Good Denise, "See? You've got this. You are strong. You are fine. Just fine."

Skinny Denise, "I'm not done, just so you know, we have so much more to talk about."

I put on the Rock Your Workout (Explicit) playlist and went back up stairs to finish off my cardio.

Watched the Pope, watched a lovely Yogi Berra tribute. Sang loudly in my head to songs with lots of cuss words. Pulled everything back in. Finished strong, sweaty, determined and went to leave....

And then he started to walk towards me. Are you fucking kidding me here?

Started thinking, "Channel your Carly Fiorina to his Donald Trump. He's not worthy of anything but your contempt. Don't say anything. Just look at him...."

"I just wanted to say that I wasn't trying to be insulting I was just shocked..."

(Okay, so I'm not a good Carly Fiorina)

"Just stop talking. There is literally nothing you can say that is going to make this any better. The only person who should ever comment on someone else's weight is their doctor. Other than that it's just a no." and then though I couldn't quite get my tone or face to register as pleasant I said, "Have a great rest of your day." and I walked out of the gym.

I'd like to say that I was filled with confidence from the trainer using me as a role model. Or the woman complimenting me on  the workout, or that the self talk I did made a huge difference. I'd like to say that but it's not really true. I still cried when I got in the car. Yes, that is really what I weigh. And fuck you for being rude enough to watch me enter my weight and beyond the pale in feeling like you should say something about it.

Though it's nice to know even after all of these years there are still a few new Denises hanging around up there.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Practical Magic: More Mysteries/Family Matters (Practical Magic #13)

“Do you ever think maybe the criminals are just messing with you?” Captain Taylor was talking with Captain Springwater. They hadn’t worked together since leading a joint task force during the early days of The Joining and were spending a little time catching up.

“Umm…” Deidre paused, not really sure how to answer her old colleague. She liked Captain Taylor, despite their age difference and difference in leadership styles they had worked together well. But sometimes she wasn’t sure if he was teasing her or not.

“There is a case right now where bakeries are begin robbed over night. Every night a different bakery. And we can’t catch the guy.”

“Just bakeries? How much are they taking? Is there enough money left in the store every night to make that worth the risk?”

“No, see that’s what I am saying, the guy isn’t taking money. He’s not taking equipment, he’s taking cake. And cookies. Once a fancy show cake from the window, you know those types they do to display decorations? It’s like maybe he’s starting his own day old shop with things he’s taking from other stores. But never anything else. Just the baked goods that are left.”

“The Great Cookie Caper?”

Captain Taylor smirked at Deidre, “Now you are messing with me as well, Captain Springwater.”

Deidre smiled, “Maybe a little, and please, again, call me Deidre.”

“Right, I’ll call you Deidre when you remember to call me John.”
“Fair enough. John. Okay, to be serious, do you have any leads? Any crumbs to follow?”

“Stop it…and no. None of the shops have security footage. There have been no witnesses. The thefts have all happened in the middle of the night, that brief window after closing before the bakers come in to start for the next day. It seems ridiculous but it’s still theft.”

“No matter what is being taken it’s serious to the person who loses it, right?”

“Exactly. We had one last week where three birthday cakes were taken. They discovered the loss first thing in the morning and had to remake them right away before their customers came in to pick them up. For the business owners it wasn’t just the cakes that would have been missing but their reputations that would have been damaged. It’s important to them. But try telling that to my guys who are getting teased for working the muffin mystery.”

Deidre laughed out loud before she could stop herself, “Oh, sorry.” But she couldn’t stifle the giggle that broke through again. “I’m sorry, John, I know it’s serious, I really do, but…”

He held out his hands and shrugged, “What are you going to do right? It’s all part of the job. It’s not always car chases and bank robbers no matter what you watch on TV.”

Deidre laughed again, “I know what you mean, I really do. I had to arrest someone last year for stealing dirt from his neighbors yard. Yes, dirt. They had competed in a local fair for one of those who grows the biggest pumpkin things, do you have those?” Captain Taylor nodded, “Okay, well, it seems that one neighbor was a better gardener than the other. The dirt thief swore that his neighbor must have been using magic to get his garden to grow that way. Which is completely against the rules. You are not allowed to call on any extra growing magic. Any way, the neighbor kept saying that he wasn’t, he was just a better gardener. So finally our dirt thief has had enough of being bested in the gardening department and sneaks over in to his neighbors yard and steals a handful of dirt. He’s going to exam it, cast a spell over it, see what he can find and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is not a lousy gardener but that his neighbor cheats. But he got caught by the neighbor’s wife and we had to arrest him for trespassing and stealing dirt.”

“Dirt thieves and cake thieves I don’t know which is worse. So did it turn out the neighbor was cheating or did he not ever find out?”

“Oh he was cheating all right. During the questioning the Prophet who had to listen in for lies kept getting this really loud thought from the better gardener. Finally he asked out loud, ‘What is miracle grow?’”

Captain Taylor started laughing out loud. “He was using OUR magic instead of yours!”


Aska was singing again. Sound asleep and singing in her bed. That made the third time this week. Deidre and Jocelyn had stopped checking on her when they heard it, they knew she was sleeping but they did take note when they heard her. She hadn’t talked in her sleep before this that they had noticed but for the last few weeks a few times a week she would sing a lullaby. Just one.

“Do you think this is tied to talking more about Cal? Some sort of self soothing thing?” Deidre wasn’t sure if she should be worried, it was just singing, but anything out of the ordinary like this made her extra cautious. “You know the first night she sang I woke her and she told me that ‘she’s lonely and only wants friends’ but it was just sleep talking. I wonder if she’s worried about starting a new school next year?”

“I don’t know. She doesn’t know what she dreams about when she is singing, she’s not having odd or vivid dreams. No nightmares. I don’t know that it’s anything we really need to worry about at all. We can talk to Aunt Dot and see if she sees anything? She doesn’t have a lot of compunction about taking a peek when she wants to know something.”

Deidre laughed, that was completely true. Though she would never do it with people she worked with or in court she had always felt that family was different. They had learned at a very young age that trying to hide something from their aunt was a waste of time. “No, I don’t want to have Aunt Dot do something we aren’t willing to have you do. If it starts to affect her sleep then we can say something. Let’s just chalk it up to stress right now. Besides it’s kind of nice to listen to. She has a lovely voice.”

“She does. She must have gotten that from Cal.”

Deidre smiled at her sister, “I would get mad at you but it’s true and I know it.”

The sisters sat and listened as Aska finished her song.
“Well, now that I’ve had my lullaby I think I’ll head to bed.”

“Night, Joy, sleep well. I’m going to stay up for a little while longer I think.”

Deidre didn’t want to tell her sister that though Aska’s dreams seemed peaceful, if melodic, hers had not been. She had dreamed of Cal every night for the past few weeks. But they hadn’t been happy dreams. Over and over each night she had lost Cal in a different way. The Earth opening and swallowing him up. Watching him walk in to the barn where he was killed and not being able to stop him. Having him leave for work and just never come home. And every time she would have a dream like this she would have a moment when she woke up where she was relieved it was only a dream. Only to remember that it wasn’t. Not really. She wasn’t sure when it was going to go away. To be easier. Sometimes she thought she was close. Life was calm again. It wasn’t pure pain everyday. But then a dream would hit. Or she would find something in a drawer that had been Cal’s. Or she would see someone or something that reminded her of him and it would all come crashing back.

Part of her resented that she was still upset. She was a Warrior. It’s not like other people in her life hadn’t died before. She had lost friends over the years. Colleagues. Mentors. But losing Cal had been unlike anything she had ever experienced. They had been together for so long she hadn’t really paid attention to how much she depended on him for day to day things. Not just as her husband and as the father of her child but her true partner. No one understood work struggles like he did. No one understood the feeling of facing down the unknown and being triumphant. It was unseemly to brag about your accomplishments but she and Cal had both been extraordinarily successful. She was the daughter of the Commander of the Guard and had gone in to service determined to make people forget that. Cal was the son-in-law of the Commander of the Guard and he was determined to make sure that Commander Keeper was always aware what a good match he was for Deidre.

They had competed against and with each other for so long that it was only natural that it carry over at work. Each bringing out the best in the other. Working together had been the most fun Deidre had ever had at work. Once when they were still new to the Guard they had to track a family pet that had gotten in the way of a growing spell and then gotten loose. They were in the woods stalking a 200 pound gerbil. Who else would understand the absurdity of that? And the fear when they came face to face with what that spell had done to his teeth. She remembered the strange looks they got at the pet store years later when Aska asked for a gerbil and they both shouted NO! At the same time and then both broke out in to mad laughter.

Even when they stopped sharing shifts after Aska was born Deidre never really thought that it was more than a precaution. It made sense to be double safe and not have them both at work at once. But the thought that anything would ever happen to either of them? It just wasn’t going to happen. There was no way that something could ever be better than her or Cal. Pride can sometimes be the problem with too much confidence. But confidence was important for a Warrior to have. So you dealt with the pride. But that one touch of common sense had kept her alive when Cal had died. And sometimes she resented it.

Not for long. Not once she thought of what it would have done to Aska to lose both of her parents on one night. Not when she thought about missing a moment of Aska’s life. Then she was grateful they were smart and safe. But for a moment here and there she would let herself wallow. Let herself miss her husband with all of her being. And then she would shake it off and move forward. The one thing she couldn’t really decide was if she wanted the day to come when she didn’t feel like giving in to the grief of missing him or if she never wanted to get over it. At least missing him meant she still had a little bit of him with her.

Deidre heard a noise and looked up to see her daughter standing in the hallway looking at her, “Mom? Are you okay?”

“I am having a little bit of a pity party tonight. But I will be fine. What woke you? Are you okay?”

Aska walked over and sat next to her mother on the couch, “I was thirsty and when I got up to get water and I saw the light on out here so I decided to check.”

“Did you get your drink?”

“I’m fine now.” And with that Aska lay down and put her head in her mother’s lap like she had done as a young child, “I miss him a lot too sometimes. Grandma says that it means he was worth a lot to be missed so much.”

Deidre smoothed Aska’s hair, “Yes, yes he was worth a lot. And you have his best qualities. Do you know how proud he would be of you? Of the young lady you are becoming? Especially making up a dumb excuse about being thirsty when your dear old mom woke you up with her pouting?” Deidre could feel Aska’s cheek move as she smiled.

“Okay, maybe you were a little sad and it woke me up. But I didn’t want you to feel badly for being sad. It’s okay to be sad.”

“Now you sound like Aunt Joy.”

“I might have heard it from her. A time or two.”

Deidre kept smoothing Aska’s hair back, “we are lucky to have her. And luckier still to have each other.”

As Deidre brushed Aska’s hair with her fingers she felt her breathing slow and become regular. It had been years since her daughter had fallen asleep in her lap. She decided to let her stay for a bit before she would carry her back to bed. But for now she would just sit on the couch with her sleeping daughter and take in all of the good things that were still in her life.

And this is where Jocelyn found them in the morning.

Phone calls...

The phone rings....

Startled awake.

Is there ever a good call at 2 AM?

The phone keeps ringing

Can't I just ignore it?

Voicemail will wait until the morning.

The phone keeps ringing

Sleep won't come again though.

If it weren't important they wouldn't call

The phone keeps ringing

Deep breath.


Is there ever a good call at 2 AM?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Practical Magic: The Best Gifts (Practical Magic #12)

Aska was doing her homework while her Aunt Joy cooked dinner. “Do you remember when I was little and asked you what gift was the best one?”

Joy thought for a second about the conversation they had had when Aska was still very little.


Aska was staying with her Joy while her parents were having a grown up date night. She liked to hang out with her Aunt. Aunt Joy was a teacher and always had fun things to do. Today they were coloring in Mandalas with colored pencils. Aunt Joy had even let her sharpen all of the pencils in the electric sharpener before they started.

“Aunt Joy, what’s the best gift?”

“Well I guess it depends on the person. Who are you planning on getting a gift for?”

“No, not a present, a gift. Like GIFT. Spell-caster, Healer, Warrior, Prophet, which is the best to get?”

“Hmmm, I guess I’ve never thought about it. Why does there have to be a best gift?”

“There’s always a best at something. Like when Mom and Dad were in school they were always competing to see who was best. Everyone talks about it. Sometimes Mom was the best and sometimes Dad was. And Grandma says that Aunt Dot is the best Prophet to ever sit on the High Council. And Grandpa Keeper is head of the Guard so he is the best Guard. And Grandma Springwater is in charge of a whole hospital so she’s the best Healer. But what is the best to be?”

“Well what do you think? Your parents are Warriors, are they better than your Grandmother Keeper who is a Spell-Caster? Or better than Grandmother Springwater? How about Aunt Dot and me? Are we better than they are because we are Prophets? Which of us is best?”

Aska narrowed her eyes and thought about it. “Mom and Dad and Grandpa are best when you need someone brave. I went through the haunted house at school last year and didn’t even get scared because Grandpa was with me.”

“Okay, so does that make them best? How about when you fell out of the tree last year and broke you arm? What happened then?”

“Grandmother Springwater fixed it.”

“So does that make her best?”

Aska thought about it for a minute, “If you could have picked what would you have been? Are you happy that you are a Prophet? You don’t do what Aunt Dot does with her gifts, you don’t go to court or sit on the council. You’re a teacher like a lot of Spell-Casters are, do you wish you were a Spell-Caster like Uncle Aric?”

Aunt Joy shook her head, “No, I think your Uncle Aric is pretty cool, don’t get me wrong, and he knows a lot of things. But I like being a Prophet. And I like being able to teach kids and using my gift helps me. You know how Uncle Aric can tell you about just about everything? Because he studies all the time? And he always wants to learn more? That’s part of his gift. But he wants you learn as fast as he does. Patience is not part of who he is. Or part of your mother for that matter.”

Aska laughed.

“But for your Aunt Dot and me? We are patient. Because I know when I tell you something that you are thinking about it. Working it out on your own. I can see you learning. So I can be patient and wait. It makes me a good teacher, and growing up with your uncle and your mother being patient was a benefit. Reminding them to slow down helped out our parents.”

Aunt Joy took the pencils Aska was coloring with and started to lay them out next to her picture, “Which one of these colors is best? You used them all in your picture, so which one is the best one?”

Aska looked at her picture.

Aunt Joy said, “You used the blue more than the orange, does that make it best? Should you have only used the blue?”

“No, because the orange looks better in the small diamonds. See how it stands out? If I had used the blue it would have been too plain.”

“Okay, so the blue would have been too plain there, does that make the orange best? Should you have only used the orange?”

“No, that would have been the same, if it was all orange it wouldn’t have looked special either.”

“So maybe there isn’t a best? Just a best for that triangle? A best for that circle right there? But you need all of them to make the picture the best?”

Aska wrinkled her nose at her aunt, “You tricked me.”

“Maybe I’m best at tricking.”


Aska went back to coloring. Keeping her eyes down at her picture she quietly asked, “Do you know what I’m going to be?”

“I do.”

“Will you tell me?”

“Of course. You are going to be strong. You are going to be smart. You are going to be kind. You are going to be helpful. You are going to be fair. You are going to be beautiful. And most of all you are going to be loved. But you are already all of those things so I’m not sure why you would ask. Now finish up your picture and get ready for bed. I will lose my babysitting privileges if they ever find out I don’t do anything but color with you all night!”

Aska walked over to her aunt and gave her a hug. “Best at tricking.”


“We decided that the best gift was being able to be tricky, right? I think that’s how we ended up.” Joy smiled at her niece.
Aska smile back at her aunt, “Yeah, and remember I asked if you knew what I was going to be?”


“Did you already know I was going to be a Prophet?”

“Yes, we were all pretty sure that would be your gift.”

“How? And if you knew why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, you had always shown the signs. Little things that you took for granted, knowing who was at the door. Knowing when your parents were almost home. Never being surprised by a wrapped gift. You just didn’t realize that not everyone could do these things. And there is a feeling of like calling to like. Does that make sense? The Prophet in me recognizes other Prophets more easily.”

“Like I know when Aunt Dot is listening to people more than just what they are saying out-loud?”

“Yes, just like that. How you can see her connection as she works. If you weren’t a Prophet you might be able to feel something, feel the tingle of the power, but you wouldn’t see it. Like Uncle Aric can see the way that flower in that vase is connected to that onion on the counter over there. You and I both know they were both grown in your mom’s garden, but he can see a thread that ties them together. And if another Spell-Caster were standing near him they could tell that he knew as well. Two Warriors can feel each other in a room. The energy they give off is different than that of a Healer, right? So even if your gift hasn’t really fully come in yet, you still have a little of that feel to you. Some more than others.”

“So why didn’t you tell me?”

“What if I was wrong? What if you did have a touch of Prophet but when your full gift came in your were actually called to Healer? What if by telling you that you would be a Prophet you started to trust your instincts before your gift was realized? You were 5 at the time right? Or were you 6? Either way you were still young enough that your make believe stories were as real to you as anything else. What if you thought something you had made up were true because you knew you were going to be a Prophet? And you were too young to know. Taking away the what if time isn’t fair. Playing at being a Warrior or a Healer is more fun if you aren’t positive you are going to be a Prophet or a Spell-Caster right?”

“I guess, but you knew.”

“I did. I was probably 90% sure. But that is part of being a Prophet right? Even when you know something sometimes you don’t say anything. When you start at Martindale you’ll learn even more. You will do experiments with vision that will teach you why you can’t always trust them.”

“But sometimes they are true and there is nothing you could do.”

“Yes, sometimes they are true and no matter how much you wish you could change them you can’t.”

Jocelyn ached for her niece. She knew she was thinking about the night her father had died. How she had seen it all happening but didn’t realize it was a vision not a bad dream. They had talked about it many times and Aska knew that there was nothing she could have done even if she had realized it was a vision, that it happened too close to the actual event to change anything, but Jocelyn knew that didn’t change the way Aska felt about it.

“What’s the point in seeing something happening that needs changed if you can’t actually change it?”

“That’s complicated. It’s not up to us to say what needs changed. Sometimes changing something for ourselves would make it worse for everyone else.”

“But I don’t care about everyone else. Sometimes I wish I weren’t a Prophet.”

“I know. We all wish that sometimes. I’m going to tell you a story I’ve never shared with you before. Okay?”

Aska just shrugged.

“You know that it’s rare to get your gift as young as you did right?” Aska smirked and nodded, she’d heard this for years, but she got hers young, Aunt Joy had as well, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

“Well I did too, you know that. And when I was around 9 years old I knew our dog was going to die. And die soon. I told my mother, I told Dad, I made them take him to the vet to be checked. And there was nothing wrong with him. But I still just knew it was going to happen if I didn’t do something. So I followed him around for days. I watched to make sure he was safe. Never off leash. He didn’t eat anything he wasn’t supposed to. I was going to make sure nothing happened. And then about three days after I had the vision he lay down to take a nap and didn’t wake up. I was angry. Angry that I done everything I could and nothing had changed. Angry that I knew it was going to happen and it did no good. And angry at our dog for daring to die when I hadn’t wanted him to.

No one in the family could comfort me. Your Uncle Aric tried to explain to me that our dog wasn’t dead, he was just part of a new circle. That his body would nourish the ground when we buried him and that his energy had been released to join the greater world.”

At this Jocelyn looked at her niece and made a face, Aska laughed, “That sounds like something Uncle Aric would say.”

“And your mother offered these words of encouragement, ‘everything dies. We are going to die too, no big deal’ She was already a Warrior at heart.But what no one seemed to understand was that I had seen it, and not been able to stop it. And what was the point in seeing if you can’t change things? What was the point of being a Prophet if you were just going to bear witness to the horrible things in life twice?”

Jocelyn took a deep breath, “So Mom called Aunt Dot to come help. When she got there she took me for a long walk. We talked about the vision I had. That I knew our dog was dying but I couldn’t stop it from happening. I told her how angry I was. How I wished that I would never have another vision again. Then she asked me what I did after I had the vision. I told her about taking our dog to the vet, I told her about spending all of my time watching him. Playing with him. Sleeping with him in my room at night. And she asked if I thought he liked the attention. That with all of us being busy maybe sometimes the dog didn’t get a lot of attention, sure he got a walk everyday and fed and pet and played with, but for those three days he was the center of my world. I brushed him, I walked him, I played with him, I slept with him. How would I have felt if I hadn’t spent that time with him? Maybe I saw the vision so I could say goodbye instead trying to stop what was coming. He was an old dog, my parents had him before they had any of us kids so he would have been 15 at least. He died peacefully in his sleep after spending three days being doted on. Wasn’t that better than if I had found a way to make him hold on and he got older and maybe started to suffer? Who was I to think he should live like that?

Then she told me that she understood not wanting to have any more visions. That she sometimes felt the same way. She also said that the reason most children didn’t get their Prophecy gifts until they were much older was because they were too hard to see. That you had to be very strong to bear them. And that there was a reason why I had this gift so young. She didn’t know what it was, but she had faith that it was important.”

“So what was the reason? Why did you get your gift so early? If you couldn’t do anything about your dog what was the point?”

“It was so I would understand what it is like for you. That’s what I believe. So we could have this conversation, and all of the others we will have over the years. I know what it’s like to see something and wish you could change it, I know what it’s like when the biggest concern your friends have is what color dress to buy for prom but you know that the boy they want to go with is going to ask someone else. And how to most adults that might not seem like a big deal, but to your friend it’s the world. Some of the things you will see and know are small and some of them are big. But you will see them and have to deal with them. And that takes a lot of strength. And a lot of acceptance of things you don’t want to accept.”

“Like your dog?”

“Yes, like my dog. But more importantly like your dad. What do you think might have happened if you hadn’t seen what you did? If you hadn’t been brave enough to tell everyone. And tell everyone over and over? What if that vision hadn’t come? Would your dad had lived?”

“No. But what if I had had it earlier and could have stopped him from going to work?”

“Do you think you would have been able to stop your father from doing his job?”


“No, you wouldn’t have, you are right. But what might have changed is the circumstance he found Shakel, what might have changed is Shakel might have gotten away with it. He might have added the gift of Warrior to what he had already taken and then escaped. The consequences of that would have been far reaching and devastating. People like Shakel have to be stopped. And you stopped him. You and your dad. He would have been very proud of what you did. How you handled yourself.”

Aska sighed, “I know. I KNOW. Everyone tells me that all the time. I know he would have been proud. I know I did the right thing. I know! All right? I know.”

“But all you want is your dad, right?”

And with that Aska started to cry, “I just miss him so much. And it’s just not fair. It’s not. Not at all.”

Jocelyn took her niece in her arms and gently rocked her like she had done when Aska was much younger, “I know, sweetheart, I know. It’s not fair. It never is.”

When Deidre got home from work that evening her sister Joy met her on the front porch. “Come take a walk with me for a minute.”

The two sisters started off down the street. “What’s up?” Deidre assumed Joy wanted to talk to her about something out of earshot of Aska. Not like secrets were kept for long in their house. Living with two Prophets did not lend itself to that.

“Aska and I had a talk today about visions.” Joy saw her sister tense slightly, any talk about visions with Aska generally led to talk about the one she had of her father. Deidre had no idea how her daughter dealt with seeing that. Just hearing what happened haunted Deidre’s dreams. “She’s missing her dad a lot right now. I think knowing that she is starting Martindale soon, that she will be going to school where you and Cal went is weighing on her.”

“Maybe, or maybe she overheard us talking about Charles the other night. I found her up and reading after mom and Aric left. Maybe she hadn’t been reading but eavesdropping. If she heard us talking about Charles she wouldn’t be able to help but think about her father, the same way we did. Did she say anything about that?”

“No, not at all. We just talked about gifts and visions and how hard they can be. Then she talked about how much she misses her father.”

“Of course she does, I miss him as well. Especially right now. Thinking we could be facing something like that again? What if it is a group of Stan’s people out there? What if the reason the spell isn’t the same is because they aren’t as strong as he was, but they are working on it? I’m not sure I can do this again, Jocelyn. I don’t know if I have it in me.”

“You are the best at your job, if you need to do this you will be able to. I know you.”

“I know myself as well. And if I find someone practicing the sort of evil magic that took Cal’s life? Joy, I’m not sure I could arrest them and bring them in for trial. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t rip them apart with my bare hands first.”

Jocelyn took her sister’s hand in hers. “You will be able to do what is right. I have faith in your strength. You know the system worked for Shakel, excuse me, Stan. You know justice was served. By your own hand, it was served. And it was done right. You do the right thing. You are that strong.”

“I’m glad you are sure. Because I’m not. Not at all.”

The sisters walked for awhile longer, “What should we do now? Do you think I should talk to Aska?”

“I think she is afraid to bring up her father’s death around you. I think she is so worried that it will hurt you that she keeps her own pain tucked away inside her. So maybe it’s time for the two of you to sit down and talk about it more? Now that she’s a little older. And maybe talk to her about Charles and what you think. I can be there if you want. Or we can invite her to listen the next time Aunt Dot and Aric are over. She’s young and I know we’ve all tried to protect her from this, just in case, but maybe that’s not the right approach. Like you said she has had to handle what she saw everyday since she was 8. I know adults who would have buckled under that. She hasn’t. She’s as strong of a woman as you are going to find already. And she’s only 12. I think it might be time we started treating her not just as the niece of a Prophet but as the daughter of two Warriors.”

Deidre stopped and looked at her sister, “You’ve been thinking about this for longer than today haven’t you?”

“I have. I told Aska today about something Aunt Dot taught me, we all have a purpose and I think part of mine is to help Aska. Not just with managing her gift, but with managing her life. The extra pressure and burdens she has. I mean it’s not easy having Pain for a mother.”

Deidre laughed, “No I would imagine it’s not. Okay, you’re right, you are always right. Tonight at dinner lets all talk about what we need from each other right now. And if that means she needs to talk about how Cal died, I will be there for her.”