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Fighting for infinity, p.17
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.17

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  I sighed. “I worry Nathan isn’t telling me everything.”

  Louise reached across the counter and held my hand. “He’s telling you what you need to know.”

  “He shouldn’t get to decide what I need to know. I should know everything about my past.”

  “I’m not saying this to hurt you,” Louise said, “but you erased all knowledge of your past. That could only mean there were things you didn’t want to remember. None of us know as much about your past as Nathan. He can’t tell you volumes of history all at once, so he’s picking and choosing as the situations call for certain information.”

  “He’d never intentionally keep anything from you,” Krista agreed, “especially about Dedrick.”

  I spun my ring around my thumb. “Dedrick claims to know so much about me. He has all these stories, and he pretends we were so close.”

  Krista sat beside me. “Never trust a psycho.”

  “Look at all the people he has doing his dirty work.” Louise cracked a couple eggs into a bowl. “And as you’ve seen with Gregory, they aren’t working with him of their own free will.”

  My lips parted, preparing to tell them about Evelyn and Lexie, how Evelyn was only pretending to be mind-controlled, but then Louise said something that shifted the conversation. “The best advice I can give is to trust Nathan.”

  Even Nathan had told me things that were hard for me to believe. “He told me I claimed to have visited Meru.”

  Louise set her spoon down and smiled up at the ceiling. “Ah, I remember that so well. We were so proud and a bit envious.”

  “So you believe it too?”

  “How could I not?”

  “Because it’s a mythical place, and I claimed to meet beings called akin.”

  “Oooh!” Krista rocked happily in her seat. “The alien people. I remember hearing about them. They always fascinated me.”

  I refused to picture an encounter with little green men with antennae on their heads. “No. Nathan said I described them as light and energy.”

  Krista nodded. “But they live in outer space.”

  “Not exactly,” Louise said. “They come from the stars. The stars are where everything and everyone begins and ends, and begins again.”

  “Right,” Krista confirmed. “But I remember her describing them as living among the stars, so that had to be somewhere in space, right?”

  “I’m not sure of their specific location. Mary—” Louise pointed at me. “You explained it as a different plane of existence. Not a specific destination.”

  “How did I get there?” I asked. “How does one travel to a different plane of existence?”

  “How do you astral travel?” Louise asked.

  “I’m still not sure I understand the ins and outs of that either.”

  “You travel using energy. Every living thing, every planet and star, every energy source: we’re all different parts of the same universal puzzle. We’re kindred. Whether good, bad, light, dark, past, future, existing on Earth or in some other galaxy, or even vibrating on a different plane, we’re all connected by the same energy. Once you tap into that energy, the possibilities are infinite.”

  “That’s why my soul can travel anywhere,” I clarified, “because of energy?”

  Louise pinched a finger full of flour and held it in her palm for me to see. “We’re all made of recycled stardust.” She flung it above her head, and a white cloud formed, but then it froze in place. My jaw went slack as I watched the flour hang in mid-air. Then it swirled and dipped around us as if being controlled by Louise’s words. “You travel like light, fly through the air, swirl with the wind, ride on waves, glisten in the sun, and though you may settle in one place for a short period of time.” The flour trails stopped then gently joined together and fell into a pile in her open hand. She blew on the flour, and it burst into a cloud. “You will always rise again.”

  “Oooh,” Krista cooed. “That was cool.”

  “How did you do that?” I stared at Louise’s powdery fingers.

  Louise tossed the flour into the sink and wiped her hands on her apron. “Come now. As old as my soul is, I’ve learned a bit of magic throughout my journeys.”

  “Sure, but you just controlled that flour like it was nothing.”

  “It is nothing. And it’s everything. It’s energy.”

  “What other kind of energy can you control?”

  “Small doses mostly. Nothing as impressive as you or Nathaniel.” She clicked a beater into her mixer. “And nothing nearly as exciting as how Anthony can freeze time. I still think it was a cruel joke of the universe to give me a partner with such a powerful ability.”

  I smirked. “You can see people’s auras. That’s pretty powerful.”

  She bobbed her head. “It has come in handy from time to time.”

  Dakota barreled through the back door. He was focused on his sketch pad. “I did what you said, and it worked!”

  He slapped the pad on the counter in front of me. “Check it out.” He looked up at me, and his smile fell. He pulled back his pad. “Sorry. I thought you were Rina.”

  I hadn’t asked Dakota about Rina visiting because I hadn’t seen him since I arrived. “Why would you think that? Was she here today?”

  Dakota hugged his pad to his chest. “Yes.”

  “Why didn’t you tell us?” Louise asked him.

  “I thought she was still here. She taught me a new way to draw then said she’d be back to check on me. I’ve been busy working on a new story ever since.” He eyed the cookie ingredients and licked his lips. “I guess I lost track of time.”

  Why would Rina visit Dakota? I held out my hands. “Can I see what you drew?”

  Dakota’s cheeks blushed. “You probably won’t be able to.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because you’re still learning how to sensperience.”

  Louise, Krista, and I shot each other questioning looks.

  “And you can suddenly sensperience?” Krista asked him.

  “Not exactly,” Dakota said, “But I can draw with stardust, and those who can sensperience can see it.”

  Dakota mentioning stardust right after Louise’s magical flour lesson gave me goose bumps.

  “May I see it?” Louise asked. Dakota handed her his pad.

  I leaned forward, stealing a peek at the blank page. Louise flipped through a few pages then looked at Dakota over the rim of her glasses. “Rina taught you how to do this?”

  Krista moved beside her to look at it too. “It’s blank.” Krista hummed. “Oh wait, I see traces of something, but I can’t make out any details.”

  “What?” I grabbed the pad from Louise and held it close to my face. “There’s nothing there.” I set it on the counter. “Are you guys messing with me?”

  Louise’s serious expression answered my question. She dipped her head, making eye contact with Dakota. “Why was Rina teaching you to draw this way?”

  “So Maryah can learn to see it.”

  “So I can learn to see what?” I asked.

  Louise pressed her hand to her necklace and calmly said, “What’s written with the stars.”

  FOR CRYING OUT LOUD

  Maryah

  I returned to my invisible cage, more fuddled and lost than ever. “Why didn’t you tell me you visited Dakota?”

  “I was going to,” Rina said, “but we were interrupted.”

  “He told me to tell you that it worked. He drew with stardust, and Louise could see it.”

  “Good.”

  I had asked Louise a dozen questions but somehow forgot to ask an obvious one. “Where would someone even acquire stardust?”

  “Stardust is everywhere. Rub some dead skin from your hands, and you’ll have stardust.” She cocked her head. “Did anyone else see Dakota’s drawing?”

  Louise had explained one of the drawings as two hands clasped together. Another was a peacock feather surrounded by black feathers. Krista told me she saw blurs of lines but nothing mo
re. “Almost every kindrily member could see it.”

  Her head tilted. “Almost every member?”

  “Obviously I can’t.” As if I needed another reminder of how inadequate my abilities were. “And Krista can see only hints of something.”

  “Keep trying.”

  “How can I keep trying when I have to be stuck here?”

  She rubbed at one of the many dirt spots on her pants. “Try whenever you go back to your body.”

  “The short spurts of time I do have in my body aren’t going to be spent staring at a sketch pad, hoping to see a magical drawing.”

  “If you want to free us, you’ll practice. When you’re there, you practice with Dakota’s drawings. When you’re here, practice with that.” She pointed to her prized blank book.

  “Rina, you have to—”

  The candle went out.

  Dedrick had returned with Lexie.

  I had been back mere minutes. That was way too close.

  Dedrick leaned down and whispered something to Rina. She kept her focus straight ahead at the wall but nodded then walked over to Lexie. Darkness cloaked the room again, and when the light returned, Dedrick and I were alone.

  “How are you, Maryah? Are you adapting to not having a body or do you miss yours?”

  Conversation was pointless considering he couldn’t hear me without Lexie. What did he expect me to do, blink my light-beam eyes once for yes and twice for no?

  “I know you can’t answer me. I’m certain you feel incomplete. Hopefully we can come to some sort of agreement.” He paused as if waiting for me to react, but I refused to give him the satisfaction.

  “I’d like to bring your body here so you can feel whole again.”

  It was hard to show no emotion. What did he mean bring my body here? Was he planning to kidnap me? The kindrily’s safety was my main concern. What if he hurt them—or worse? I shook my head.

  “No?” His brows arched. “You don’t want to be back in your body?” He rubbed his beard. “Ahh, I see. You’re worried what lengths I will go to make that happen. You’re worried about your precious Nathaniel.”

  “No!” I shook my head again, trying to convince him it had nothing to do with Nathan. If Dedrick thought Nathan was the reason I refused his offer, he might try to eliminate him all together. Dedrick turned away from me.

  “He’s not good enough for you. Never has been.” He rested his fingertips on the table, slowly moving them as if playing an invisible piano. “You told me that yourself three or four lifetimes ago.”

  Again with the lies. I activated my mental white noise to drown out his words. It worked for a few minutes, but then he held up a photograph. He shoved it so close to me that I drifted backward.

  It was a black-and-white image of a newborn baby wearing only a diaper. He flipped to another photo of a toddler smiling big for the camera. Dedrick pointed to a lady in the background, sitting cross-legged on the floor. I recognized her from old photos Faith had shown me. It was me from two lifetimes ago. “That was you, my love. I’m sure you can see the father-son resemblance. We had a child together.”

  The baby had dark features like Dedrick, and my nose, but I refused to believe I had ever slept with Dedrick, much less had a child with him.

  He flipped to another photo of me holding the child while Dedrick leaned in to kiss the boy’s cheek. “This was our lifetime before last. Have you seen photos of yourself from that cycle yet?”

  I reminded myself what Nathan had said. Photoshop, mind tricks: Dedrick was capable of much more impossible things than doctoring photos. He was getting desperate, and this was just another one of his elaborate lies.

  “You can keep looking away, but it doesn’t change what’s true, Maryah. You loved me once, and you loved our son. But of course your precious Nathaniel would never reveal that dirty little secret. How convenient that you erased your past so he and that kindrily of yours could pick and choose which parts of your history to disclose.” He set the photos on the table. “I’m not like them, Maryah. I will always tell you the truth. The whole truth—whether you want to hear it or not.”

  ∞

  Rina returned not long after Dedrick had left.

  “Where’d you go?” I asked.

  “Dedrick needed me to conduct someone’s power for him.”

  “Whose power?”

  “I don’t want to talk about it.”

  “It will help if I know what kind of abilities the Nefariouns have. I can warn my kindrily.”

  “What’s wrong?” Rina asked, changing the subject. “Your light is much dimmer than when I left.”

  I was too upset to deny or mask my feelings. Dedrick talked for at least thirty minutes, telling me stories about our make-believe son. His first word, his first day at school, his favorite foods, the woman he married, how he died too young and sadly wasn’t an Element. “Dedrick’s lies are draining me.”

  “What did he say?”

  “He said we had a child together.”

  Rina’s brow creased. “If you don’t believe it, why do you seem so affected?”

  “It’s another reminder of how much I don’t know about my past. Dedrick showed me photos of the previous me with a baby—a baby who looked like me. What if he really was mine? I never even thought to ask Nathan about our children because, well, I don’t know, it’s so weird to think about.”

  Rina chewed her fingers, spitting out tiny bits of skin onto the floor. “Go ask him.”

  “Ask Nathan about our children?”

  “Just remember what I told you. You won’t like the answers.”

  “What do you mean?”

  She turned away. She knew information on that subject too?

  “Rina.” I steeled my voice. “Tell me what you know.”

  “I’m not allowed.”

  “Says who?”

  “This is a conversation you should be having with Nathan.”

  “Why are you always pawning off these conversations on other people? Why can’t you just give me a straight answer?”

  One impassive shrug was her only reply.

  A big secret loomed thick in the air. Was I wrong to so quickly dismiss Dedrick’s illegitimate child story? Could it be true and my betrayal is what caused me to erase? There was only one way to find out. “Will you free me so I can talk to Nathan?”

  “I was wondering why you were taking so long to ask.”

  She was right. I had procrastinated. Part of me was afraid to ask Nathan because I was afraid to hear the truth.

  ∞

  Nathan agreed to my request to talk in private, but instead of going to a different room, he politely suggested everyone should leave the house and catch up on errands. The news report on the television revealed the date and time. I doubted that anyone had errands to run on a Sunday night, but Anthony, Louise, Gregory, Harmony, Krista, Carson, and Dakota filed out the front door, like they all knew that whatever I was about to say would spread through the house like a virus, and they didn’t want to be infected.

  I sat on the couch. Nathan clicked off the TV with the remote and stood in front of me, waiting. The shadows cradling his eyes had deepened.

  “You look exhausted,” I said. “You need more rest.”

  “I don’t sleep much without you next to me.” He sat down and rubbed my knee.

  “My body has been here the whole time.”

  He attempted to grin, but didn’t seem to have enough strength. “You’re right, let me clarify, I don’t sleep much when your soul isn’t with me.”

  I tugged at my fingers, staring at him as I rehearsed a dozen different ways to approach my heinous question. Finally, I eeked out the words. “Did I ever have a child with Dedrick?”

  His eyes flamed with a fire I’d never seen before. I didn’t even know what emotion to call it. “Never.”

  “How can you be sure?”

  “How can you ask me that?”

  “I hate to say this, but every couple has problems. I’m sure
we must have too.” I tucked my hands under my legs to keep from fidgeting. “Did we ever go through a really rough patch where I might have strayed?”

  He hung his head. “After our last discussion, I can’t believe you’re even suggesting that as a possibility.”

  “No relationship is perfect,” I said weakly. “Nothing lasts forever.”

  “That’s a blatant lie.” He swiveled to kneel in front of me. One of his hands braced my thigh while the other lifted my chin so our eyes met. “My love for you is forever. Even through awful, nightmarish times when we both wanted to give up, even the rare moments when we couldn’t stand to look at each other, even when you deleted every precious moment of our history together, when you erased all knowledge of me and us, I never stopped loving you. Despite your best efforts, the universe led us back together. Do you know why?” His gaze pierced me like a lightning bolt connecting my heart with his. “Because we are forever. There’s no changing it, no erasing it, and no one will ever come between us. There is one thing in this unpredictable merry-go-round called life that is certain: Our souls belong together. Forever.”

  I inhaled as he exhaled. Slowly, and silently, we breathed each other in and out. Just like our first kiss, just like every time he allowed me to enjoy the calm before a perfect storm of our souls connecting. I closed my eyes, overwhelmed in the best way by his downpour of devotion.

  The energy radiating from his lips warmed my own as he leaned closer. His bottom lip brushed against mine, just long enough to offer an invitation I could never decline. My mouth closed over his and a whirlwind of passion erupted.

  Eventually, when I came up for air, I was on top of him. We had somehow ended up on the living room rug. “I’m so sorry,” I said between kisses. “I hate having to ask you such ridiculous questions.”

  “It’s all right.” He shifted beneath me, his fingers still kneading my scalp and making the rest of me ache for more. “My answers keep earning me kisses that make the aggravation well worth it.”

  We both smiled.

  “You’re absolutely certain,” I said, trying to refocus. “Maybe by trickery or some other awful soap opera plot twist, that none of our children could have been his, right?”

 
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