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Taking back forever, p.11
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       Taking Back Forever, p.11

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  I couldn’t imagine any scenario bad enough to make me give up the ability to taste chocolate moonlight. “You said in the first life that I learned to sensperience. How many lives did it take for me to learn?”

  His eyes darted to the ceiling and he tilted his head. I envied his ability to think back on multiple lifetimes. “It was our fifth go-round. It took all of us a lot of practice.” He shrugged. “That’s the theme of life: make mistakes, keep practicing, hope to master a thing or two.”

  “Except our kindrily members die then come back to repeat it all.”

  “Not repeat. Evolve.”

  I had evolved. And then I flushed it all down the drain by erasing. “Your ability to traverse, did you have that right away? Or did that evolve too?”

  “That took practice as well. In my early days I’d traverse and end up naked on the other side. Very inconvenient when people were around.”

  My cheeks warmed at the thought of Nathan naked. I was envious of anyone who got a glimpse of that. “So you figured out how to take things with you. Like clothes.”

  He nodded as he wiped down a wrench and hung it on Anthony’s wallboard of tools.

  “Krista told me you can’t take people with you.”

  “Correct.”

  “How do you know?”

  “I’ve tried many times in the past.”

  “When was the last time you tried?”

  He sighed and wiped a smudge of grease off his arm. “A few years ago with Harmony.”

  “What happens when you try?”

  “Nothing on my end, besides feeling frustrated and having to come right back to check on the person I tried taking with me. Harmony explained a strong tingling sensation, but she never actually went anywhere. She developed a severe headache afterward.”

  “Let’s try it.”

  “The last thing you need is to participate in activities that induce more headaches.”

  “I’ll take some aspirin later. Just please try for me. I batted my eyelashes, feeling foolish for trying to seduce him into saying yes. But his face softened, so it must have worked.

  “Would it make you happy if I tried?”

  “Yes.”

  “Would it make you sad if I failed?”

  “Well, yes and no.”

  “And there’s the rub. I would never want to do anything to make you sad.”

  “That’s not fair. It’s not a bad kind of sad. I’d be a little disappointed that I couldn’t travel with you, but I’d be sadder if you didn’t try at all.”

  He sighed again and rolled his neck. “As you wish. I’ll give it a go, but afterward when you get a headache, and after I pamper you back to good health, I will say I told you so.”

  “Okay,” I agreed, bouncing on the balls of my feet. “Where should we go?”

  “How about we start small and try the driveway?” He motioned toward the open garage doors. The driveway right outside didn’t seem very exciting. “That way if I lose you along the way I won’t have to look far to find you.”

  My stomach clenched. “You could lose me when you traverse?”

  “Seeing as I’ve never taken anyone with me, I’m not sure what might happen.” He glanced at the floor in contemplation. “Dropping you into the ocean or over a mountain range could be disastrous.” He rubbed his chin. “And then if I couldn’t find the exact spot I lost you, well, that would be quite dire.”

  My eyes were wide with fear. He stared at me for a few seconds and then laughed. “I’m not Superman, Maryah. I don’t actually travel across land and water. I aether travel using light and energy. I couldn’t physically lose you.”

  I still didn’t understand, but I fake chuckled, trying to erase my mental image of floating in a dark ocean with great white sharks swarming me for dinner. “Okay then, let’s try it.”

  Standing in front of me, he looked like the gorgeous super-powered hero he just claimed not to be. He wrapped his grease-smeared arms around me. “On second thought, how about we traverse to our bedroom? That destination would be much more enjoyable.”

  I kissed his chin. “Take me anywhere you want.”

  He gripped me tight and mumbled with pessimism. “One failure to traverse with me coming up.”

  And then he was gone. His solid form vanished out of my arms and I was alone.

  His head popped around the garage wall. “Told you,” he said smugly.

  I turned slowly, my mind calculating. I shook my head. “How naïve do you think I am? You didn’t even try.”

  His face didn’t change, which meant I was right.

  “You said Harmony felt a strong tingling. I didn’t feel anything. Just like on the cliffs when you traversed out of my hands. If you were really trying, I would have felt something.”

  I didn’t know what was sexier, his scowl or the way he sauntered over to me. “Why must you put such lofty expectations on me? Don’t I make you happy the way I am?”

  “Don’t use that reverse psychology stuff on me.” I tried pulling away as he wrapped his sinewy arms around me again. “You know how much I adore you, but I want to see the world with you.”

  “We can see the world whenever we want. Where would you like to go? I can have the plane ready in a few hours.”

  I shot him a sidelong glare. “You know what I mean.”

  He kissed my temple.

  “Please,” I whispered. “Just try. Really try. Just once, for me.” I traced a heart over his chest and attempted once last innocent pleading look from under my lashes.

  “You’ve learned to effectively manipulate my weak side.”

  I smiled with satisfaction. “You can call me Kryptonite.”

  He laughed then kissed me. “I assume Kryptonite never tasted so sweet.”

  “Please try for me?”

  “Okay, love.” He inhaled deeply. He wrapped his arms around me again but there was something different about it, something determined, focused, and unwavering in his intensity. I took a deep breath, knowing this time he was actually going to try to take me with him. And I had faith he’d succeed.

  A strong vibration hummed through my bones, like someone was jackhammering the garage floor. My vision blurred. A wave of pain pulsed from my eyes to the bottom of my spine. I jolted forward but my limbs were numb, so I collapsed onto my hands and knees. I looked up at the red door of Nathan’s Mustang then turned just in time to see him rushing toward me. I tried to offer a reassuring smile, but before I could force my lips to move he slid down onto the floor beside me.

  “I’m sorry,” he said, running his hands over my head and examining me. “Are you all right?”

  “I’m fine.”

  He held me at arm’s length searching my eyes. “Does anything hurt?”

  A headache bubbled at the top of my skull, but no way would I admit that to him. “No. I’m all good.”

  His face was cold as stone.

  “Nathan, it’s okay. I didn’t really expect you to get it on the first time.”

  Still he said nothing.

  “Nathan.” I touched his cheek, but he leaned back against his car and gazed at the ceiling.

  “Please don’t ever ask me to do that again,” he said.

  “Why? I’m not hurt, it didn’t—”

  He rubbed his hand over his hair. “Do you have any idea how hard that was for me?”

  Did it hurt him too? He never mentioned that traversing hurt him. “What do you mean?”

  He turned his head, but I reached out for his hand, trying to ignore my intensifying headache. “Why are you upset?”

  He let go of my hand and stood up. “In our last life, at Dylan and Amber’s wedding, I attempted to traverse us to safety. I prayed and pleaded for the ability to protect you. Just once, one time, to be able to take you with me so your life would be spared.” He walked hard, pivoting after only a couple steps like he wasn’t sure which way he wanted to go. “I failed. Over and over I tried, while our loved ones were killed one after another.”

&
nbsp; I pushed myself up to standing but leaned on his car for support, stunned and speechless.

  “I made you weaker.” His hands were limp at his sides. “With every attempt I drained more energy out of you. You begged me to stop and I didn’t. I kept hoping I would finally be able to take you with me.” He stiffened and hung his head. “I was the reason you couldn’t fight Dedrick. You had no strength left because of me.”

  I shook my head, wanting to defend his actions even though I couldn’t remember any part of what he was telling me.

  He continued. “If I had been able to traverse us out of there, you would have been safe. Our kindrily and I would have never had to go through you erasing. I wouldn’t have had to endure eighteen excruciating years without you by my side, and you would still possess all of your memories, knowledge, and abilities. You would still remember me. You’d still remember us.”

  He stepped toward me, a look of humility and seriousness on his face. “I failed you. I failed us and our entire kindrily. And you’re asking me to relive that failure by reminding me of my human limitations.”

  His eyes were filled with so much sadness I felt it like it was my own. I held his face in my hands, some deep and instinctive part of me taking over my thoughts. “You did exactly what you were supposed to do. All of this was meant to happen the exact way it happened—torment, loss, and all. You’re not a failure. You’re my hero as you have always been and you will be for eternity.”

  I blinked quickly and with confusion. Nathan had a similar reaction, both of us surprised by my words and confidence.

  His brow furrowed. “I haven’t heard you speak so confidently since our last lifetime.”

  “I know. I’m shocked too. Where the heck did that come from?”

  His expression was questioning but admiring, as if I had just performed an impressive magic trick. “That was the way you used to be.”

  The familiar cloud of sadness swept over his eyes—a look of yearning and loss, but in a purely emotional sense. I knew it was because he didn’t see nearly enough when he looked into the windows of my soul. He always pushed through and assured me that the current version of me was enough, but it wasn’t. I wasn’t enough.

  He longed to see so much more when he looked into my eyes: our history, our love, and our memories. As badly as I wanted to grant him that wish, I couldn’t. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

  Like the sun parting through gloomy clouds, he smiled. “You and me…then, now, and eternally.”

  I nodded, but silently wondered if then would always be missing from my memory.

  EIGHT TRACKING

  Maryah

  The trend started eight nights after Mikey was born.

  Nathan got the call from Faith around midnight. She and Shiloh were checking out of the hospital. Shiloh wrecked his truck into the cement McDonald's sign on the main street of town. They weren’t hurt badly—the truck got the worst of it—and Krista could heal their minor injuries with no problem, but Faith said we needed to have a round table ASAP.

  Amber set Mikey’s baby carrier on top of the table. I figured Mikey would be asleep, but he was wide awake and giggling. Amber set him next to Carson, in his rightful place in the order of our kindrily. They were the last to arrive so as soon as Dylan and Amber sat down the meeting started.

  “Something is happening to Shiloh’s vision,” Faith announced.

  “What do you mean?” Louise asked with concern.

  Shiloh scratched around the bandage on his forehead. “It’s freaky. I was driving along, and everything was fine. Then all of a sudden my view of the road changed. Actually, I wasn’t even looking at the road. I was looking at my truck from head on.”

  Everyone appeared confused. I’m sure I was no exception.

  “Is this an April Fool’s joke?” Dylan asked.

  “What? No,” Faith said. “April Fool’s isn’t until tomorrow.”

  “Shiloh,” Helen said delicately. “Keep in mind you bumped your head in the accident.”

  Shiloh groaned. “I’m telling you, my vision was wacky before I swerved off the road.”

  Mikey giggled, causing a few of us to glance his way, but then we refocused on Shiloh’s issue.

  “Had you been drinking?” Dylan asked.

  “No, not a drop.” Faith assured him.

  “So you viewed your truck as if you were standing in front of it, watching it approach you?” Nathan clarified.

  “Yes,” Shiloh said. “Except I wasn’t standing. I was moving with it, but it kept driving toward me.” He turned to Carson. “You know how when we play video games we can change the character’s view to see from above, below, or behind? It was like that.”

  “Could you see yourself in the driver’s seat?” Amber asked.

  Shiloh squinted, staring up into the air. “Umm, I don’t remember. It all happened so quickly.”

  “It was like he went blind.” Faith interjected. “He veered to the side of the road and next thing I knew we were crashing into a wall of concrete.”

  “How is your vision now?” Helen asked.

  “Fine…so far,” Shiloh said. “But what if it happens again? I could have killed somebody.”

  Harmony snickered. “We certainly can’t let you drive or operate any heavy machinery.”

  “Did you tell the doctor about your visual impairment?” Nathan asked.

  “Why? So they can start testing me to see how many of my screws are loose? No thank you.”

  Mikey started fussing and let out a shrill cry.

  “Sorry.” Amber sprang up and rounded the table to pick up Mikey. “He might be hungry.” She disappeared down the bedroom hallway. Mikey’s cries faded.

  Edgar continued the discussion. “It is a bit concerning, Shiloh, but I don’t think there’s much we can do right now to assess the situation. Pay close attention over the next week or so and let us know if there are any other changes or incidents.”

  Shiloh nodded. Mikey cried out again from down the hallway.

  “Ahh! There it goes again!” Shiloh yelled, pushing backward and stumbling out of his seat with his eyes shut.

  Everyone was on their feet at the same time, including me.

  Faith had her arms wrapped around him instantly. “Don’t be scared. I’ve got you.”

  Amber came back into the room, looking startled. “What’s going on?”

  Shiloh was breathing laboriously. “I saw them coming down the hallway.” He looked directly at Faith. “It was like I stood up, walked through the kitchen, and turned down the hallway to see them.”

  “But you didn’t,” Faith whispered.

  “I know!”

  “Shiloh, take a deep breath,” Nathan said.

  The looks on everyone’s faces ranged from confused to worried to astonished. Mine was probably a mixture of all three. I wanted to offer some comforting words, but I didn’t understand what was going on whatsoever.

  “Seriously,” Shiloh moaned. “What’s going on with my eyes?”

  “Perhaps your gift is mutating.” Edgar leaned on the table.

  “Why would that happen? I like my sight the way it is.”

  “Look around at our kindrily,” Edgar continued. “What is unique about us?”

  We all scanned the circle, assessing each other.

  “Me?” I offered meekly. “I erased.”

  Edgar shook his head.

  “We’re in proper alignment,” Krista said.

  Edgar nodded. “Yes.”

  “This was the plan,” Nathan said. “When Maryah was still Mary she pondered what might happen if we were ever all properly aligned. Even during the horror and panic at the massacre, she was telling everyone to return in order.”

  “I did?”

  Nathan placed his hand on mine. “You must have intuitively known it would change something.”

  Members started sitting down again. I glanced around, involuntarily imagining the dreadful scene at Amber and Dylan’s wedding. For more than a week, I’d heard
stories and seen photos of what everyone was like at the time of the wedding. Dylan and Amber were Hawaiian natives, both with dark skin and dark hair, living on the island of Oahu. Harmony and Gregory were twenty-something and visiting from Peru, where they lived with their four-year-old son Carlos, who was now Carson. Faith and Shiloh were elderly Asians, well into their seventies at the time of the wedding. Krista was forty-nine and single.

  Nathan and I were only nineteen at the time. It hurt my heart to think of all of us murdered on that beach, our bodies maliciously stripped of life.

  A shocking thought occurred to me. Why had I never questioned it before? Even when Nathan told me he tried to traverse both of us to safety, I never thought of such an obvious question.

  “Nathan,” I whispered under my breath.

  “Yes?”

  “You could have escaped. You could’ve traversed to safety. You shouldn’t have been killed.”

  “I would never leave you.”

  “But if it meant saving your life,” I argued.

  He spoke to me intimately, as if we weren’t surrounded by a dozen other people. “It was easier to let them kill me. Death by a broken heart is torturous to endure.”

  “People don’t die from broken hearts.” Even as it came out of my mouth, I wasn’t sure I believed it. I could feel many gazes on me, but I didn’t look away from Nathan.

  “I assure you that many souls die of broken hearts, and you and I have done so many times. We never lasted a year once one of us had departed.”

  “Really?”

  “It’s the same for all of us,” Louise explained. “When your soul mate dies, part of you dies as well. It doesn’t take the body long to cease to exist, once your soul decides to be reunited with them. For us, it’s always temporary. We know once we’ve both reached the Higher Realm, we choose to go back together. Twin flames are usually born within days of each other.”

 
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