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Taking back forever, p.10
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       Taking Back Forever, p.10

           Karen Amanda Hooper
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  He laughed adorably. “Did you enjoy yourself?”

  I nodded, enjoying the rush of adrenaline, instead of fearing it. “That was incredible.”

  He leaned across the center console, gently brushed my cheek with his thumb, and kissed me. My adrenaline soared even more.

  “Bro, what did you do to your car?” Carson asked through my open window.

  Nathan pulled back from our kiss. He looked past me and said to Carson, “You’re not the only one who can move fast.”

  The dust cloud was still pretty thick, but I could make out the shapes of everyone in their cars. Anthony was leaning out his window, talking to Helen and Edgar. Dylan and Shiloh were walking around, assessing Nathan's car. The bleachers couldn’t be seen through the dust cloud, but I was certain Louise, Amber, Faith, and Mikey had enjoyed the show too. I covered my nose because it felt dry and I could smell all the dirt, but the rush was worth it.

  “Pop the hood,” Dylan told Nathan.

  We all climbed out as the guys crowded around the front of Nathan’s Mustang.

  Dakota hung on Carson’s every word as Carson explained car dynamics to Krista. She nodded and said “uh huh” a lot while his hands whirled around pointing out parts under the hood.

  Edgar revved his engine. “Shall we race back?”

  There wasn’t a moment of hesitation from anyone. Nathan’s hood slammed shut and the guys rushed back to their cars, but Harmony was already in Dylan’s driver seat.

  She lowered her sunglasses and said to Dylan, “Did you really think I was going to let you boys have all the fun?”

  She revved the engine and Dylan laughed while hustling around to the passenger side.

  We raced back to the starting line even faster than we had the first race. It was better than any roller coaster I’d ever been on.

  We had a huge lead until Nathan downshifted. Carson blew by us followed closely by Harmony.

  I glanced at Nathan and he shrugged. “What’s the old saying, ‘can’t win ‘em all’?”

  “But you slowed down on purpose.”

  “Maybe they should change the saying to ‘you shouldn’t win ‘em all when you have a young-souled little brother who needs a confidence boost every now and then.’”

  Nathan pushed a button on his dashboard and Roy Rogers sang, “Happy Trails to You.” Nathan held my hand. “In honor of Sheila.”

  I sang the perfect lyrics. “Until we meet again.”

  He kissed my hand then spun the car in multiple 360s.

  I felt so alive.

  And maybe that was the whole point.



  That evening, Nathan and I walked along our favorite cliffs again. It was within walking distance from the house, but it felt like our own private planet looking out over the rest of the galaxy.

  “Can we sit and talk?” I asked.

  “Of course. Give me one second.” He vanished and I cradled my arms while I waited for him to traverse back to me. He reappeared several seconds later with a blanket which he spread over the ground and motioned for me to sit down.

  He sat beside me and for a long time we just stared out at the valley below us in silence. He turned and watched me in such a tender way it made me not want to speak. I didn’t want our moment of serenity shattered with the wrecking ball of thoughts I’d been having.

  He pushed a stray strand of my hair behind my ear. “Shall I guess what’s upsetting you, or would you like to tell me?”

  I sighed, already wishing we could return to the quiet stillness. “I feel like I’m letting everyone down.”

  “You’re not.”

  “I am. I can’t find Gregory for Harmony. I couldn’t astral travel so Sheila probably erased all memory of us and will be reborn god-only-knows-where. And you. I can’t even remember our past lives together. I can only imagine how much that hurts you.”

  “We will find Gregory. Sheila’s soul will continue however it’s meant to. And I’ll survive.”

  “That’s just it, you shouldn’t have to survive. I should never have erased, or put you through so much worry and heartache. I shouldn’t be putting anyone through any of this.”

  “As we have told you before, you wouldn’t have erased without good reason. You did remember some bits of your past, and you’ll remember more, including remembering why you erased. I truly believe that.”

  “But how? How do I do that? I’ve studied every photo the kindrily has. I’ve searched everyone’s eyes over and over. I’ve stared at my ring, willing it to magically show me something—anything—again. But nothing has happened since Mikey was born. It’s like I’m getting weaker instead of stronger.”

  “What about the storm of feathers you saw during Carson’s experiment?”

  “That was just my imagination trying to recreate something similar to the times something actually happened. I didn’t learn anything. I didn’t watch over anyone.”

  “You knew Sheila had passed.”

  “Because I saw black feathers and heard a raven caw.”

  “That’s something. You saw an omen.”

  I shook my head. “Omens won’t help me find Gregory or remember our past lives.”

  “Be patient. Give it time.”

  “I’m worried I’m never going to remember anything else, and that I’m never going to astral travel again.”

  “You will on both counts.” He rubbed his hand up and down my back. “Carson is planning more training sessions in the sensperience room.”

  Sensperiencing. Another thing to add to my list of failures. I pulled at a loose string on the blanket. “What’s it like?”


  I nodded.

  “It’s incredible. You connect with something so much bigger and more powerful than yourself. The energy and magic of this world go unseen and unfelt by so many. It’s such a shame.”

  “Many just like me. I can’t see or feel it.”

  “That will come with time too.”

  “When? Two or three lifetimes from now? I don’t want to wait that long.”

  “It’s really not that long all things considered.”

  “It’s too long for me.” I pivoted to face him. “Will you try to teach me?”

  The corner of his mouth lifted into an almost-smile. “I thought you’d never ask.”

  “What? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you offer?”

  “I was waiting for you to ask for my help”

  “Waiting? Nathan, we don’t have time for waiting. What if you could have helped me before Sheila passed. I could’ve—”

  “Easy,” he interrupted, taking my hand in his. “Everything is and will be exactly as it should be. The universe makes sure of that.”

  “Oh, sure. Easy for you to say because you and I are here, together, and safe. What about poor Harmony and Gregory? And Krista might never see Sheila again.”

  Nathan’s lips pursed and he looked out over the valley. “You know, I love Sheila too. I helped raise her. She might as well be a member of our kindrily because she’s that cherished and important to me.”

  I felt like I’d been punched in the gut by my own ignorant selfishness. Why hadn’t I considered how hurt he would be over Sheila’s death? “I’m so sorry, Nathan. I should have realized how hard her death would be on you.”

  His jaw flexed as he stared out at the valley. “I debated whether or not to tell you this, but I don’t want to keep secrets from you.” I held my breath until he continued. “I don’t think Sheila will erase. Truly, I don’t.”

  I let out my breath and let his words sink in.

  He bent his knees and rested his arms on them. “My belief in the universe was thoroughly tested and broken for many years,” he explained. “I was crippled in so many ways because I thought I lost you. But one of the greatest benefits of being part of our kindrily is that when one link in the chain is weak, the others stay strong so that we never separate. For years I was our weak link, b
ut our kindrily wouldn’t let me break. They stayed strong for me, and for you—for us. Including Sheila.”

  I focused on the tiny feather inside my ring, a dozen guilty thoughts running through my mind. I wanted to claw my way into my own soul and rip out my biggest secret. Because I didn’t want it to be a secret. I wanted to know what was so important. I needed to know.

  “Sheila never stopped believing in you,” Nathan said. “None of them did. You made powerful promises and predictions throughout your previous lives. You kept every promise and every prediction came true. Sheila knows that. She was the one who recently reminded me that you, when you were Mary, believed with all your being that she and Krista were meant to be part of this kindrily. That you promised her it would happen.”

  “I had no right or authority to make that promise.”

  Nathan turned. “You’re so much stronger than you believe. Sheila witnessed your power with her own eyes many times. She never lost faith that you’d keep your promise. And I believe that undying faith in you will give her the strength to retain.”

  His words filled me with hope. “Please help me tap into the strength you all swear I have. Carson’s hi-tech room is great, but the night my family was killed, when I almost died, it was you my soul grasped hold of, it was you I astral traveled to over and over, it was you and your eyes that showed me the only glimpses of my past I’ve ever remembered.”

  “It’s me that gives you the headaches.”

  I sat up straight. “What?”

  “Your headaches.”

  Had Krista told him about our discussions? Did he know I suspected my headaches had to do with my soul wanting to remember my past? “Krista told you?”

  “Krista? No. I’m not blind, Maryah. Our Ella Fitzgerald date induced a headache. After the hot air balloon incident you had one of your worst migraines to date. Every year on your birthday and Christmas, I’d see you or come around you, even if only for a minute. I might have been a stranger in the crowd, but your soul knew I was nearby. And you would get headaches every time, correct?”

  I nodded. Every year at Christmas and my birthday without fail, like clockwork.

  “You’ve probably had more than that. Maybe you fight off the minor ones and don’t mention them to anyone, and trust me, I don’t like the idea of you being in pain, but there’s a connection between your headaches and me.”

  “I told Krista I thought it was my soul trying to remember my past.”

  “I agree with that theory. And I’m your strongest link to your past, so I’m a major trigger. I just wish you didn’t have to suffer every time a memory tries to surface.”

  “If that’s really what’s happening, I’ll endure any amount of pain to remember my past.”

  “I’d like to try a different tactic—the opposite of pain, but just as powerful.”

  I bit my lip, tingling at the thought that pleasure was the opposite of pain. Please let me be right. Please let me be right.

  “Pleasure,” Nathan confirmed. Yesssss. “It triggers similar reactions in the mind and soul. During our Ella date your headache subsided when I rubbed your scalp, correct?”

  “Yes. Almost instantly.”

  “I’m assuming it’s because my touch brought you pleasure, so I’d like to experiment with that theory.”

  “I support that idea one hundred and infinity percent.”

  His green eyes sparkled mischievously. “Good. Get comfortable.”


  “Yes, this is the perfect place. Out in nature.”

  I adjusted to sit cross-legged and rested my hands on my knees like I did when Krista, Faith, and I did yoga.


  I rolled my shoulders and scooted to the left after noticing a rock digging into my butt under the blanket. “Now I am.”

  “Good. Close your eyes and rub your hands together.”

  I did.

  “Harder and faster, until you feel intense heat.”

  I rubbed harder.

  “Good. Shake them hard then clap once and hold them apart in front of you.”

  I followed his instructions precisely, but so far, on a scale of one to ten on the pleasure scale, this rated a one.

  “Bring them close together but not touching.”

  My palms and fingertips hovered less than an inch apart.

  “Do you feel the energy from each hand pushing against the other?”

  I concentrated. “I feel warmth. And maybe a little buzzing in my fingers.”

  “Good. That’s a great start.”

  His fingers landed on my wrists as he gently pushed my hands into my lap. “Expand your awareness. Don’t feel with only your hands, feel energy traveling up your arms.” His fingertips brushed over every part of my body as he mentioned them. “Into your chest, pumping through your heart, filling your stomach and solar plexus, traveling down your spine and through the root of your core into the earth. Can you feel it?”

  “Oh, I feel something.” We had shot up to an eight on the pleasure scale. I wanted to jump his bones.

  He lifted my chin. The sun warmed my face, and even though my eyes were still closed, I had to squeeze them tighter due to the blinding bright sunshine.

  “How about now?”

  My neck was exposed and begging to be kissed by him, but I knew that’s not what he meant. “I feel the warmth of the sun.”

  “Only warmth?”

  “Umm.” I focused on my skin, trying to feel the hum of energy like I had in my hands. All I felt was warmth and a subtle breeze blowing my hair and making my scalp tingle.

  “Do you smell anything?”

  I inhaled. “I smell you.”

  I could hear the smile in his voice. “Besides me.”

  “Not really.”

  “What does the air taste like?”

  I opened one eye and looked at him. “Taste like?”

  “Eyes closed.”

  Faith had once told me that sunshine smelled a certain way and how certain snow tasted like licorice. Apparently it wasn’t just Faith being eccentric. Nature had a taste. I felt silly, but I stuck my tongue out. That lasted all of two seconds because I knew how unattractive I must have looked. “Nope, I don’t taste anything.”

  Without warning, Nathan pushed me backward. My eyes opened as his hand caught the back of my head and he laid me down on the blanket. He hovered above me, so close a breeze wouldn’t have been able to pass between us. “What about now?”

  My lips parted but I couldn’t speak. I could hardly breathe. Every cell in my body tingled and screamed out to physically connect with him.

  “You feel me, correct?” He closed the last trace of space between us. His lips caressed my jaw as he whispered. “Can you feel my aura melding with yours?”

  I nodded, but my head felt like it was floating away. I turned slightly, needing to kiss him, but he lifted his chin. “Focus on what you’re feeling. Every inch of you.”

  “Every inch of me wants to be kissed by you,” I said breathlessly.

  He pushed himself back a smidge, but it felt like he had moved a mile. “Focus on that. Feel the craving in your skin, your muscles, and your soul. Your being is craving a connection.”

  “My being is craving you.”

  “Yes, but I’m energy. Everything in this universe is energy. We’re connected to everything. You just have to become aware of it.” His hand landed on the bare skin of my waist where my t-shirt had lifted. I moaned.

  “No moaning,” he commanded. “I’m trying to stay clearheaded while I help you.”

  I had no faith I wouldn’t moan, or groan, or yank him down against me any second.

  “Feel my energy radiating from my fingers and connecting with your skin.” His hand slid slowly across my stomach then up my ribs. My mind was spinning. He pulled his hand away. “You’re still craving a connection, yes?”

  I nodded.

  “Now, reach beyond me. Connect with the sun’s energy. Feel it warming your body the
same way it warms the earth.”

  I opened my eyes. “I don’t want the sun. I want you.”

  He licked his lips then placed his hand flat against my exposed stomach. His thumb brushed under the waistband of my shorts. I bit my lip to keep from making noise. His fingers felt like liquid sunshine warming every place he touched.

  “Your skin is so soft,” he whispered. “Just like your soul.”

  I reached up, pulling his face to mine.

  His breath caressed my lips. “We have a long way to go.”

  I lifted my head to kiss him, but he pulled back slightly and said, “Don’t be angry with me. I love you, and it’s for your own good.”

  “What is?”

  He dissolved into thin air.

  My hands, which had just been cradling Nathan’s face, fell to my chest. I lay there, looking up at the blue sky and squinting at the sun. After a minute or two I realized he wasn’t coming back. My craving for him was gone. Now I just wanted to smack him.

  Meh, who was I kidding? The only reason I wanted to smack him was so I could touch him again.

  I stood up, gathered the blanket, and walked home alone.


  Nathan was in the garage, bent over the engine of his Mustang. I wanted to shut the hood on his head. “That was just cruel.”

  He peeked out from under the hood and grinned. “You were supposed to stay there and work on connecting with the sun’s energy.”

  “Sunshine will never be a substitute for you.”

  He smirked. “I’m flattered, but if you only knew what a powerful connection you could have to the sun, moon, stars, earth, to any other natural element in this world, you would become addicted.” He grabbed a rag and wiped his hands. “And then we’d have to go through that again.”

  I leaned against a workbench. “What do you mean we’d have to go through that again?”

  “You were an energy addict in the first lifetime you learned to sensperience. Like a sugar-deprived child in a candy store.”

  “Why? What did I do?”

  “More like what didn’t you do? You filled our home with rocks, plants, water, animals, and anything else that gave off energy. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and find you outside, frenzied and intoxicated with the connection you made to the moon. You claimed the light of a full moon was the best thing you ever tasted.” He snapped his rag at my hip. “In the early 1800s, chocolate became your favorite addiction because you said it tasted just like moonlight.”

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