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Taking back forever, p.4
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       Taking Back Forever, p.4

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  “Touché.” He hopped out of bed and subtly bowed. “Maryah, would you do me the honor of accompanying me on a proper date when I return?”

  I threw a pillow at him. “Stop being so stuffy.”

  “You call it stuffy. I consider it good manners.”

  “We sleep in the same bed together. I’m pretty sure we blew right past first date formalities.”

  He winced then glanced around the room. His eyes settled on me and all flirting or playfulness was gone. I could practically see the gears churning in his head.

  “Uh oh. What’s on your mind?”

  He swallowed then leaned across the bed and kissed my cheek. “Nothing. Get some sleep. The stars are waiting for you.”

  “Hey.” I grabbed his hand before he could go. “What just happened? Did I say something wrong?”

  “Not at all. I’ll see you when I return.”

  Something had shifted in him. I didn’t know why or what it meant, but it must have been because of something I said. Had I already screwed up our relationship before it had begun?

  I wanted to rewind back to where we were before I somehow ruined everything by opening my big mouth. “Promise me you’ll take me out in the Mustang when you get back. And you’ll bring me hot chocolate.”

  A genuine smile returned to his lips. It made me want to pull him back into bed and never let him leave. “You have my word.”

  “Good, now get back in bed. You said you wouldn’t leave until I fell asleep.”

  He squinted and opened his mouth to say something, but stopped. He laid beside me, on top of the covers—much to my frustration—so I rested my head on the pillow beside his.

  “Tell me more of our story.”

  He reached for the nightstand to grab the book we’d been reading.

  I pinched his side. “No, our story.”

  He looked at me and flashed his eternal loving grin. “I have plenty of those. Very well then, once upon another lifetime…”

  I drifted to sleep listening to tales of our heavenly history together.

  DRAWING A LINE

  Harmony

  Saturdays at our house were quiet because our parents spent all day at church planning the upcoming week’s events. Faith and Shiloh were always out doing something together. Carson and Dakota usually didn’t hang out until mid-afternoon. Saturday mornings were bonding time with my little brother.

  Dakota was at the kitchen table working on his comics. I sat beside him and grabbed a few pages of storyboard frames. Superheroes, as always. Poor kid, he wanted to be an Element so bad he spent countless hours drawing out his imagined adventures in great detail. He could draw so well that art could have been his superpower.

  I read the word bubbles filled with brave and triumphant dialogue. “It’s not nearly as exciting as your stories make it out to be.”

  He finished drawing vapor trails behind one of his flying characters. “What’s not?”

  “Having supernatural abilities.”

  “Has to be more exciting than my boring life.”

  “Hey.” I leaned forward and pushed his blond floppy bangs out of his eyes. “You’re talented and all-around amazing. I wouldn’t want anyone else as a brother.”

  “Until your next life when I’m replaced by your next brother. Or the dozen you’ll have in future lives.”

  “There is no replacing you.”

  “Right,” he grumbled. He twirled his pencil between his fingers. “How’s Maryah doing? Any new memories yet?”

  “Not that I know of.”

  “She still hasn’t managed to astral travel and find Gregory?”

  “Yes,” I said snidely. “She found him and I forgot to tell you.”

  He smirked and continued sketching. “Will you wait until after graduation?”

  Dakota was an intelligent kid. We never played dumb with each other. I respected him more than to dodge his questions or pretend not to know what he was talking about. Knowing how close he and Carson were, I figured Carson had already updated him on the revelations about Gregory and his whereabouts. “I’m not sure yet. It would crush Mom and Dad if I skipped town before graduation.”

  “Dylan could make them believe it was no big deal. Persuade them to send you abroad to study or some crap that would make them proud but allow you to search for him.”

  “I’m way ahead of you. Dylan said he’d talk to them if and when we had a firm lead on where they might be.”

  “When you do go, can I come?”

  “No. It’s too dangerous.”

  A frown formed so fast that an onlooker might assume I’d just killed his dog, but he recovered quickly. “If I got hurt Krista could heal me.”

  “No, Dakota.”

  “Why not?”

  “Hurt is one thing. What if they killed you?”

  He tapped his pencil eraser on his sketch book. “Her power couldn’t save someone from dying?”

  “She can heal. She can’t resurrect.” I picked at my black fingernail polish at the memory of Krista’s early and unexpected funeral from two lifetimes ago. Mary and Nathaniel were devastated. Sheila didn’t speak for almost a year while she mourned her sister.

  “That sucks,” Dakota said.

  “Told you it wasn’t as great as you imagine.”

  Dakota glanced sideways at me, biting his top lip. “I made something for you, but I don’t know if I should give it to you.”

  “If you made it for me, I’m entitled to it.”

  He blew his bangs off his forehead then stood up. “Wait here. I’ll get it.”

  He headed down the hall to his bedroom and I ran my fingers over his latest drawings. A flying superhero who very much resembled Dakota—except for the bulging muscles—carried a pretty girl from a burning building. It was the first time I’d seen his character have a potential love interest. I hadn’t been paying attention to what he was doing in school lately, or who he hung out with. I’d have to keep an eye out for the cute doe-eyed girl who inspired him to make her a character in his stories.

  “Here,” Dakota said, handing me a comic book that looked professional. It was in color and bound with a cover.

  “This looks like it came from a store.”

  “Nope, I made it. Carson helped me produce it into a real book.”

  I whistled and opened to the first page. A lump formed in my throat. There I was drawn in cartoon form, right down to every last detail: my eyebrow piercing, my short black hair with purple streaks, my all black clothing, even my combat boots. I glanced up at Dakota. “I’m honored.”

  His milky white cheeks flushed a deep pink.

  I flipped to the next page and there he was. Gregory. Dialogue bubbles hovered over our heads, and I’m sure the story would be enthralling, but my mind couldn’t compute words at that moment. All I focused on was Gregory’s strong jawline, his long black hair, his bronze skin. Even the gleam in his eyes was perfect. I closed the book and held it to my chest.

  “Thank you,” I told Dakota. “I will cherish this forever.”

  “You’ll read it?”

  “Of course I will.” I studied the front cover again. The title was The Reunion. “It does have a happy ending, right?”

  He nodded then sipped his soda. “Just like you will have a happy ending.”

  ∞

  Carson and Dakota were playing basketball in the driveway when Faith and Shiloh pulled in to pick me up. I grabbed my sunglasses and rushed out, hoping Carson and Dakota wouldn’t ask too many questions. Faith spewed out information much too easily.

  Shiloh was already out of the car. Dakota passed him the basketball.

  “No,” I said. “We’re in a hurry.”

  “Aw, come on, Harm,” Shiloh shuffled his feet while dribbling the ball between his legs. “One quick game.”

  “In a hurry to go where?” Carson asked.

  “Nowhere,” I replied.

  “Jail!” Faith called from the driver’s seat. I turned and glared at her. She shrugged. “Y
ou said we couldn’t tell Maryah. You said nothing about Carson and Dakota.”

  “Jail?” Carson walked over to me. Dakota ignored Shiloh as he pivoted around him and dunked the ball. “To see River?”

  It’s not that I was trying to keep our trip a secret from Carson or Dakota. I just didn’t want them to be guilty accomplices if I ended up beating information out of River. “I have some questions for him.”

  “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Dakota offered.

  “We’ll be fine.” Faith leaned out her open window and draped her arms over the door. “We’ll make sure she doesn’t kill him.”

  Carson leaned on the hood of his Mustang. “You can’t visit him.”

  I rolled my eyes. “I appreciate your concern but I need to speak to him. He’s the only accessible connection to the Nefariouns we have right now.”

  “That’s fine and dandy,” Carson smirked. “But you literally can’t visit him. The jail doesn’t allow visitors on Saturdays or Sundays. And you need an appointment, which clearly you didn’t make or you’d know you can’t visit on weekends.”

  Dakota chuckled. “As advanced as you guys are you still haven’t learned to look up basic planning information on the Internet. It’s baffling.”

  I glanced at Faith. Her mouth had formed a surprised “O.”

  “Great!” Shiloh dribbled the ball again. “Now we have plenty of time for me to wipe the floor with Dakota.”

  “Bring it,” Dakota said, turning to continue their game.

  “Why would you know or even research the jail’s visitation policy?” I asked Carson.

  “Because I wanted to visit him last weekend and couldn’t.”

  “You? Why did you want to see him?”

  Carson stuck his hands in his pockets. “I had questions of my own.”

  That was Carson—always working behind the scenes. Figuring out how to solve a problem before the rest of us could. I didn’t know what questions Carson had for River, but they would most likely be better than mine. I should have asked for Carson’s help from the get-go.

  “We’ll take Dylan,” I said. “He can persuade them to let us talk to River.”

  Carson shook his head. “Dylan is in Colorado with the movers, remember?”

  “Then we’ll take Anthony. He can freeze time and we’ll break in.”

  “And then what?” Carson asked. “You’d need to find River in his cell. Don’t you think he’d question how you got in and why everyone and everything was frozen? The last thing we need is him telling Dedrick that our time stopper has the ability to control who and what is frozen.” He was right. And I was irritated at myself for not thinking of it first. “Your desperation is making you sloppy. You’re making mistakes. That could’ve been a costly one.”

  My jaw tightened. I could feel Dakota, Shiloh, and Faith staring at me but I refused to look at any of them.

  “It’s okay,” Carson continued. “I almost made the mistake of visiting him too, but I gave it more thought, and River isn’t the key to figuring out where Dedrick is. None of us should visit him in jail. We’d be bringing unnecessary attention to ourselves.”

  “But he’s the only possible lead we have right now,” I argued.

  “Then we find a new lead,” Faith chimed in. “Carson’s right. Besides, I promised to keep you from hurting him and going to jail, but if I see him again I might break his neck with my bare hands and move into his cell.”

  Shiloh laughed. I glared at him. “What?” He asked me, wrapping his arm around Faith’s waist. “It’s funny because she’s serious.”

  I hated not being in control of a situation. “So I’m supposed to sit around here and hope a new lead magically surfaces?”

  “It’s all we can do,” Carson said.

  They acted like it was no big deal. That Gregory being in the evil hands of Dedrick was not a red alert emergency. They had no idea what it was like to be without their twin flame for almost two decades, or worry day and night about their safety and wellbeing.

  I stormed back into the house and threw my keys at the wall. Our kindrily believed that with time the universe would always provide a solution. I’d given the universe enough damn time. I wanted my soul mate back.

  FATE CALLING

  Maryah

  Nathan wasn’t beside me when I woke up. I rubbed my hand over the cool sheets of his side of the bed. I slept in much longer than I had planned. Maybe he had been here but got tired of waiting for me to wake up. Unlike me, he didn’t like to sleep in.

  I stumbled into the kitchen rubbing my eyes. “Good morning, Louise.”

  “Good morning to you, Maryah. You missed breakfast.” She was drying dishes but motioned toward the foyer with a spatula. “But a messenger left something for you on the table by the front door.

  “A messenger? Left me what?”

  She flipped a dishtowel over her shoulder. “Go see for yourself.”

  I was somewhat worried about what I’d find as I walked into the foyer, but sitting on the table in an antique silver tray was a peacock feather and a small envelope with my name written in calligraphy on the front.

  At first I didn’t touch it. Something about the card on the tray felt familiar, and the scene looked too elegant to disrupt. A wave of pain throbbed from one side of my head to the other. I rubbed my temple and leaned against the wall, taking mental pictures while hoping a memory from my past would break through.

  “Aren’t you going to open it?” Louise asked leaning against the wall beside me.

  I still couldn’t peel my eyes away from the card and feather on the tray. “What is it?”

  “It’s a calling card.”

  I spun my ring. The pain in my head dissolved as quickly as it had surfaced. My first thought was a long-distance phone card, but then I thought of the book Pride and Prejudice. My mom and I read it together and she gushed about how nice it must have been to live in the genteel days of taking the time and effort to hand deliver cards to friends and family. Nobody used calling cards anymore. Or did they? “Who is it from?”

  Louise nudged me with her shoulder. “Open it and find out.”

  “What if it’s from Dedrick and laced with anthrax or something?”

  “Oh, Maryah.” Louise laughed and walked over to the table. She picked up the card and handed it to me. “It’s from Nathaniel.”

  I craned my neck to glance at the hallway to our room. “But he lives here. Why would he leave me a card?”

  She shook the envelope and her bangle bracelets jingled. “Just open it.”

  I pulled the card out of the envelope and ran my fingers along the gold scalloped edges. A message written in calligraphy said:

  May I be permitted the honored pleasure of accompanying you on a date this evening?

  Eternally Yours,

  Nathaniel Luna

  My stomach flipped. He had meant it. He was setting up a proper date. Invitation and all.

  I looked up at Louise who watched me with a pleased grin. “How do I respond?”

  “That depends. What is he calling on you for?”

  “A date.”

  “He does have an upstanding reputation in the community. I daresay you’d not find a more perfectly matched suitor.” Clearly Louise already knew about this invitation and was doing her part to keep it genuinely old-fashioned. “Do you wish to allow him to court you?”

  It all seemed so dignified and refined. I stood up straight and pulled my shoulders back, wishing I were wearing a dress with a petticoat skirt instead of shorts and a ratty old t-shirt. I pressed the card to my chest and batted my eyelashes. “Well, he is quite handsome. Yes, I do believe I would fancy a date with him.”

  Louise turned her chin as her smile spread wider. “Fancy a date?” My, aren’t we well versed in British colloquialisms.”

  I was giddy. “This is fun.” I read the card again. “How did they reply in the old days? I want to reply properly.”

  She linked arms with me and we strolled
back to the kitchen. “You send a card of your own with your reply.”

  “But I don’t have any cards, and where would I send it? To our bedroom?”

  “Helen and I have several styles to choose from. We’ll set your reply on the tray when it’s ready. But don’t use an envelope.”

  “Why not?”

  “Sending a reply in an envelope implies you no longer wish to be called upon.”

  “Oh. Then definitely no envelope.”

  She winked at me. “I figured as much.”

  ∞

  After some guidance from Helen and Louise, and several attempts at writing in legible calligraphy, I placed my own elegant card on the tray then showered. I tried calling Nathan, but he didn’t answer his phone, so I headed back to the foyer to see if he had picked up my card yet. As I rounded the corner I heard Krista and Louise quietly talking in the living room.

  “It would be senseless,” Louise said. “Her time would come soon regardless.”

  Krista sounded upset. “I can’t accept that.”

  I turned back because their conversation seemed private and I didn’t want to intrude, but the memory of Carson’s air horn wailed in my head. I was part of this kindrily. I was allowed—and expected—to ask questions. I stood tall and walked into the living room. “Can’t accept what? What are you two talking about?”

  They both look surprised, obviously not expecting me to overhear them.

  Krista sighed. “Nothing.”

  “We should tell her,” Louise said. “She has the right to know.”

  I fought my urge to apologize for eavesdropping and go to my room. Instead, I leaned on the sofa. “Tell me what?”

  Louise squeezed Krista’s arm before rising from the couch. She smiled almost pitifully at me. “I’ll leave you girls alone to talk.”

  Krista patted the couch so I sat beside her. “There’s something about my gift that you should probably know.” She crossed and uncrossed her legs. “My last life, it ended because I…well, because I saved Sheila.”

 
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