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Taking back forever, p.14
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       Taking Back Forever, p.14

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  “Some magic,” I breathed, but it was hard to carry on a conversation. All I kept thinking about was how badly I wanted Nathan to let go of the railing and touch me. I lifted my hands, slipping my fingers under his shirt and letting them skate over his smooth abs. “There’s more?”

  His forehead pressed against mine. “Yes. Our magic runs deep.” He pressed his pelvis against mine. His voice was sultry. “Very deep.”

  I groaned and tugged at the waistband of his jeans. “Do you enjoy torturing me?”

  “More than you can imagine.”

  “It’s unnecessarily cruel.”

  He lifted me up and set me on the railing then wrapped my legs around him and held onto my waist. I ran my fingers through his hair as he gazed up at me, pulling off an impossible sexy and innocent look. “Believe me, it’s going to be worth the wait.”

  “So you say.”

  Without uttering another sound he carried me through the doorway of the bat cave, down the hallway, and into the weapon room. He lay me down on the huge table between the cabinets and climbed on top of me.

  “We have about an hour until they land in Calgary. I’ll have to traverse there and meet them.” I didn’t understand how that was possible, but Nathan kissed me and all my thoughts vanished. He ran his finger over my lips. “Until then, I’m spending every possible minute convincing you it will be worth the wait.”

  “You mean you’ll spend every minute torturing me.”

  “Convincing, torturing.” He kissed my neck while his hand skillfully stroked my thighs. “It’s all subjective.”

  BETTER LEFT ALONE

  Maryah

  After lots of sensational torturing and unsuccessful convincing, Nathan traversed to Calgary.

  I tossed and turned the rest of the night, worrying, imagining dreadful things that shouldn’t be repeated, and watching Eightball snore beside me without a care in the world. I’d close my eyes and picture Nathan’s eyes in as much detail as I could, hoping to astral travel to him and make sure that he and the rest of the gang were okay. I never went anywhere. I never even saw a glimpse of them.

  The superhero secret mission stuff would take some getting used to. More importantly, I would have to develop my ability or I would be left behind on every mission. It was no fun to be part of an X-Men-ish family if I would always get left out of the action.

  Around 5:00 A.M. I heard noise in the kitchen so I went to see who was awake. Louise was staring at her cell phone.

  “Any word yet?” I asked.

  She rubbed her fingers over the screen so I guessed she was worried too. “Nothing yet, but I’m sure they’re fine.”

  She put up a strong front, but judging from the bags under her eyes and her unwrinkled pajamas, she hadn’t slept at all either.

  “Do you always get left behind?” I asked her.

  She smirked. “I prefer to be left behind.”

  “Why?”

  “Sweetie, when you’ve lived as many lives as I have, you’ve seen much too much tragedy. This mess with the Nefariouns is dangerous. I usually leave the danger to those with abilities that can be useful. If I were there all I’d be able to do is see how negative and evil some of their auras are. I know enough about them that I don’t want to see how tainted their light is. Or their lack of light, rather.”

  I leaned against the side of the fridge. “What about fighting? Your name means warrior. I imagine you’d have acquired some serious fighting skills by now.”

  “Don’t get me wrong. I can protect myself in most situations. But I prefer to work behind the battle lines. Like you used to do.”

  “Me? Nathan said I was the one who wanted a weapon room.”

  “That’s true.” She filled a tea kettle with water. “You predicted there would be a day when our kindrily would need to fight an important battle. You wanted everyone protected as thoroughly as possible.”

  “Battle. Like at the wedding when so many of us were killed?”

  “Maybe.” She tilted her head while clicking on a burner. “Only you would know if that were the event you foresaw, but I doubt that was it, because if you’d have had any inkling that anyone would be attacked that day you would have warned everyone. Your psychic and intuitive power was your most useful weapon. I have a feeling it still is. You just need to tap into it again.”

  “Some help I was that day,” I mumbled under my breath. I thumbed the glass dome of my ring. “I wish I could tap into some kind of power. I’m beyond frustrated.”

  “I know you are, but it will happen soon. I’m sure of it.”

  Amber came out of the hallway in her pajamas, carrying Mikey. “Thanks for letting us stay here, Louise. The house would feel empty without Dylan. And you know how I worry.”

  “What about all the animals?” I asked.

  “I’ll head over to check on everyone and feed them. I’m just not comfortable sleeping there without Dylan yet. I don’t know why. Still getting adapted to the house, I suppose.”

  “We can watch Mikey while you take care of things at home,” Louise offered.

  “I’ll take you up on that offer,” Amber said. “He seems to love spending time with Maryah.”

  I rubbed my chin that was still sore from Mikey kicking me.

  Something Harmony said had me thinking. If the soul never forgets, did Mikey know I used to be his sister? He was super smart last life. Maybe his intelligence carried over into this lifetime too. Harmony said his ability wouldn’t develop until around three years old or so. That seemed so far away. I missed my brother. I wanted to be able to talk to him again, and my mind still had a hard time grasping the fact that the tiny, cooing, sometimes-smelly baby was my Mikey.

  As if Amber were reading my mind she said, “I know he spends most of his time drinking, pooping, or sleeping, but this infant stage will fly by before you know it.”

  I nodded but lowered my guilty eyes. “I’m sort of...weirded out that my brother’s soul is now in a different body. Is that normal?”

  Amber grinned. “Hear that Louise, Maryah wants to know if it’s normal that she’s having trouble accepting Mikey being a baby.”

  Louise chuckled to herself.

  “It’s just that he was my twin, you know. We were the same age. A year ago he was taller than me, playing varsity football, and chasing after girls. Now he’s this little baby who can’t talk or walk. It’s not like I don’t believe it’s him. I know it’s his soul. But I just feel kind of weird about it. And I feel terrible that I feel that way.”

  Amber dipped her teabag into a steaming mug while keeping Mikey on the other side of her body. “That’s completely normal, Maryah. I faintly remember my first few awkward lives when I had to come to terms with the fact that people who I used to see as young were now old or vice versa. For many of us it takes a few lifetimes to adjust to the concept. Think about Krista for example. Krista is living this life as your cousin. She’s the same age as you. But two lifetimes ago, you were her adopted mother. She had to live through you dying. And then she had to witness you return as a baby. She was forty-nine at Amber’s wedding and you were only nineteen.”

  “At first it takes some getting used to,” Louise said. “But after a few years it’s like…” She glanced around the kitchen. “Well, kind of like a remodel job. At first when you see your new kitchen with updated appliances, countertops, cabinets, etc., it’s all so different than what you were used to. It even feels different. But over time, you learn to love the new kitchen in its changed state, and even though you remember the way it used to be, you wouldn’t ever convert it back to the old version.”

  “Great,” I said. “I’m a remodeled empty kitchen with no useful appliances.”

  They both laughed.

  “We’re all remodeled over and over again,” Louise said. “It’s part of the process.”

  Amber shifted Mikey to her other arm. “And I bet you still have all your appliances. You just need practice learning how to operate them.”

 
I half-heartedly nodded, wishing I could be as sure as Amber sounded. Mikey cooed while staring at me. “But it does get easier, right? Eventually I won’t think it’s strange that this little baby used to be my twin brother?”

  “What usually happens is you stop thinking of any of us as a title,” Louise explained. “There is no mother, father, sister, cousin, son, daughter. We’re all equals. We’re all souls who share a strong love and bond. Simple as that.”

  “But don’t you think of Dylan, Nathan, and Carson as your sons?”

  “Actually, no.” She blew into her cup of tea. “I know it’s difficult for you to understand because this is the first full life you remember, but keep in mind that I have memories of Dylan and Nathaniel as old men, middle-aged men, young boys. I’ve known a few of their other mothers, their fathers, siblings, and such. I knew them when they lived in different countries, fought wars. The list goes on and on. After such a long history it’s nearly impossible for me to have motherly emotions for them. I love them, and I look out for them, but there have been many lifetimes when they were older than me for long periods of time. With Carson, I only recently knew him as Harmony and Gregory’s son. Yes, I feel a great deal of responsibility for teaching him right and wrong, and helping his soul evolve, but Harmony feels that way too. So does every member of our kindrily. It’s hard to understand until you’ve lived a few lifetimes and retain your memories of them, but eventually you will learn that titles don’t mean much to our kind.”

  “It’s just so hard to imagine.” I said quietly.

  “We know it is,” Amber agreed. “We’ve been there. Let me ask you, in the flashes of the past you saw of Nathan, was he ever old or a child?”

  “No. The only two versions of him I’ve seen have both looked somewhere between seventeen and twenty.”

  Louise made her famous discerning groan. “Interesting. Does Nathan know this?”

  “Yes. He asks a lot of questions. He figured out that my visions of him were from the period of time when we had married.”

  Married. The word stuck on my tongue. I had been married once upon a time. Many times. Bizarre but true.

  “Do you believe you’ll ever remember more?” Amber asked me.

  I shrugged. “I hope so.”

  ∞

  After feeding Eightball breakfast and eating cereal, I flopped down on the couch to watch TV and try to take my mind off what might be happening in Calgary. Louise had been babysitting Mikey since Amber left, but halfway through my second episode of The Golden Girls she carried Mikey into the living room and handed him to me.

  “I’m running into town to take care of some errands. Will you be okay with Mikey?”

  “Uhh.” I looked down at him and he yawned while rubbing his tiny knuckles all over his face. I had sort of babysat him before, but other people were in the house. Being alone with him felt like a lot of pressure. What if he cried and I couldn’t make him stop?

  “He’s been fed and changed. He’ll probably fall asleep any minute.”

  “Okay,” I agreed. Monitoring him during naptime sounded easy enough. “But I can call you if he acts up, right?”

  Louise grinned. “Of course. Or call Amber. She’ll come right over.”

  “Okay.”

  I lay down on the couch and cradled Mikey against my chest. His eyelids were struggling to stay open. “This time last year you were my twin brother,” I told him. “Now I’m holding you while you nap. Doesn’t that freak you out?”

  He made a soft gurgling sound then fell asleep. Eightball jumped up onto the couch and curled up on my feet. They both had it so easy. They had no idea they should be worried about the safety of so many of our family members. I turned to face the television and clicked the volume up two notches with the remote to drown out Eightball’s snoring.

  Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia were sitting around their kitchen table eating cheesecake in their robes. It was an episode where the women had flashbacks to clips of past shows. My lack of sleep caused my mind to play tricks on me because Nathan appeared in the Golden Girls’ kitchen and told them everyone was fine. Sophia offered him coffee while Blanche flirted with him. That’s the last thing I remembered before the Golden Girls disappeared and I found myself in a men’s public restroom.

  Nathan stood in front of me, staring right at me. He smoothed his hand over his hair then bent forward and splashed water onto his face. I looked behind me and found a mirror with a crack in the corner. I turned back around as Nathan stood again, dried his face with a paper towel, and turned to go.

  I had astral traveled. Thank the heavens! I wasn’t completely broken.

  “Hey! I’m here! I did it!” I shouted, but Nathan grabbed the door handle and swung it open. I followed him out into a crowded cafe where he walked to a table for two and sat across from Harmony. Heavy winter coats were draped over the backs of their chairs. A waitress refilled their coffees and Nathan thanked her.

  “All checked in?” Harmony asked.

  Nathan sipped his coffee “She was asleep in the living room with Mikey and Eightball. I didn’t want to wake them.”

  “Louise will update her when she wakes up.”

  The phantom me did a little celebratory dance because 1.) they were safe and uninjured, and 2.) I had astral traveled. To Calgary. No airplane required.

  “I also texted her,” Nathan said.

  “Texted?” Harmony leaned forward. “Technology has trapped you in its evil tentacles after all.”

  “I still consider it impersonal.”

  “Of course it is,” Harmony agreed. “The whole damn world is becoming impersonal.”

  “Not the whole world, just seventy percent or so.”

  Harmony cradled her coffee cup. “I miss the good old days.”

  Nathan leaned back in his chair and draped one arm over his coat. “You should have gone home. It’s useless to stay here.”

  “You don’t know that. I might find something. They were here for a reason. I intend to find out what it was.”

  Nathan sighed. “And still no word from Sheila?”

  Harmony looked guilty as she set down her mug and shook her head. “Not since last night when she told me they had disappeared and she'd lost track of them.” She crossed her leg and bounced her knee, subtly rattling the coffees on the table. “She’ll check in again tonight. She checks in every night.”

  “Let’s hope so,” Nathan practically whispered.

  “Don’t,” Harmony said. “That’s the last thing I need right now. Especially from you.”

  Nathan kept his gaze on her but didn’t say anything.

  “I know it seems like I made a selfish and risky mistake,” Harmony continued. “But what other choice did I have? If you were in my position you would have done the same. My plan worked. We almost had them. If we could have been here sooner, we would have found them. We never would have gotten this close without Sheila’s help.”

  Again, Nathan sat silent.

  Harmony tapped her spoon against the table. “We’ve all made mistakes. We’ll all make plenty more.”

  “Agreed.”

  Harmony eyed him. “What’s your biggest regret?”

  Nathan glanced at the people at tables around us, but everyone was occupied with their own conversations. Plus, the cafe was crowded and background music was playing. Their private conversation would have been almost impossible for anyone else to hear. He leaned forward. “Maryah erasing.”

  Kill me now. Even with no body the guilt flooded through me.

  “Doesn’t count,” Harmony said. “That wasn’t your fault.”

  “I have a feeling it might be. I haven’t figured out why yet, but I sense I was a big part of the reason.”

  “No,” I said. “It couldn’t have been because of you.” But of course neither of them heard me.

  Harmony pointed her spoon at him. “I refuse to count that as a mistake because none of us knew she was going to erase. So you have to choose a different regret.”
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  “Harmony, this is silly.”

  “Humor me. I feel like pond scum for jeopardizing Sheila’s soul and I’m pissed off that we didn’t get to kill Dedrick. Not one shot was fired. Hell, I didn’t even get to draw a weapon.”

  “That’s because they had already fled the country.”

  “I know. Worst reconnaissance mission ever.” She dropped her head into her hands. After almost a minute, she looked up at Nathan again. “Just one. One regret to make me feel better about my greedy self.”

  “Fine.” He watched people at other tables as he searched his memory. I was looking forward to hearing this bit of info too. Nathan seemed so perfect. It was a crappy feeling to be so inferior to my boyfriend. He leaned forward and folded his hands on top of the table. “Our first life together, I cheated on Mary.”

  If I had a jaw, it would have fallen to the floor. “What?”

  “Your first life?” Harmony whined. “That doesn’t count. Choose something within the last century.”

  “Oh, it so counts!” I shouted. I hovered close to Nathan’s face and yelled, “You cheated on me? What kind of person cheats on their soul mate?”

  “It counts,” Nathan said. “She forgave me, but it took me a long time to forgive myself.”

  “I rescind my forgiveness!” I swung at his coffee, trying to dump it in his lap, but nothing happened except that I became more frustrated and upset.

  The cafe spun and my vision of Nathan and Harmony blurred. Nathan’s voice faded away and was replaced by loud crying. An awful smell flooded my nose.

  I woke up and discovered the source of the crying and the smell: Mikey. His cheeks were bright pink and his diaper definitely needed to be changed. Eightball was pacing in front of the glass door, pawing to get out on the deck.

  “Okay, okay, hang on,” I told both of them. I sat up, holding Mikey with my arms fully extended. “Louise?” I called, hoping she had come home while I was asleep. Mikey cried harder. “I’ve never changed a diaper,” I told him like that would make him stop crying.

  I was so distracted by Mikey that I didn’t see Eightball run out of patience. But I smelled and heard it as it was happening. “No, Eightball!”

 
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