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Taking back forever, p.5
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       Taking Back Forever, p.5

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  Sorting through the puzzle pieces of what I’d learned about everyone, I tried figuring out what she meant but came up with nothing. Krista read my silence correctly and continued explaining.

  “Sheila was sick. Very sick. Medicine was not what it is today, and my ability wasn’t nearly as strong back then as it is now. Remember, I wasn’t technically an Element until this life.”

  I nodded.

  “Well, Helen told me about a mixture of herbs she thought might help. You and I traveled to a different town to get them. We were only gone half the day, but when we returned to the house…” She crossed her ankles and shook her feet. Her fidgeting was making me nervous. “Sheila had passed away.”

  “What?” That couldn’t be right. “But Sheila is ninety-nine. She hasn’t died since—”

  “She did die. In 1938.”

  “But—”

  “I didn’t know what I was doing,” Krista rambled emotionally as if reliving the past. “I was hysterical. I desperately wanted to heal her. I couldn’t accept her death, so I gave her all the healing energy I had. And I mean all of it. She started breathing again. The color slowly appeared in her cheeks.” Krista wrung her hands in her lap. “Only you, Nathaniel, Sheila, and I knew the truth about what happened. As happy as I was that Sheila was alive, I felt sick and drained so I fell asleep beside Sheila, still giving her whatever healing energy I could. You never left our side.” She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. “After a while I didn’t feel weak or sick anymore, and my mind felt stronger than ever so I kept pouring every ounce of energy I had into Sheila.”

  “That’s amazing, Kris. You brought her back to life. You saved her.”

  Krista’s big puppy dog eyes met mine. “There’s more. You pressed your hand to my forehead and called out my name. I was confused when I saw the shock on your face. I couldn’t figure out why you kept yelling my name and shaking me, until I realized I wasn’t connected to my body anymore.”

  I froze, replaying her explanation. “I’m confused.”

  “So was I. It all happened like a hazy dream within a dream that made my soul feel better than ever. I had no idea what I was doing at the time but…giving Sheila enough of my energy to bring her back to life meant I gave up my own.”

  My chin jutted forward. “You died in her place?”

  Krista nodded.

  “Oh, Kris.” My eyes stung. I couldn’t imagine losing Krista. Ever. A past me did lose her, but I didn’t remember experiencing that loss, nor did I want to. We both sat there in silence. “You aren’t thinking of doing it again are you?”

  “I can’t find anything wrong with her. I’ve been trying relentlessly. I’ve even focused randomly on common health problems, but nothing works.”

  “Wait, why are you trying to find something wrong with her? She seems perfectly healthy.”

  “Because her death is inevitable, and it will be here soon.”

  I couldn’t imagine living to be almost one hundred like Sheila. That length of time was almost impossible for me to comprehend. I’d have to come to terms with it sooner or later because I would never erase again, but in my current limited state of time perception, living to be one hundred seemed so long. “She can’t live forever. But when she dies she’ll reincarnate and start a new life with us.”

  Krista shook her head, not meeting my eyes. “No, not with us.”

  “Why not?”

  “She’s going to erase.”

  I felt like I’d been smacked across the face. Sheila knew what my erasure had done to this kindrily. How could she possibly think of putting them through that again? “But she can’t.”

  “It’s her decision and she already made it.” Krista brought her hands to her lips in her signature prayer position. “When she dies, if I give up my life for her again—”

  “No. Krista, no!”

  “Calm down. You’re thinking with your limited mind and emotions, but look at the bigger picture. I’m an Element. It doesn’t matter if I die. I’ll be able to come right back. It will buy us time.”

  “Time for what?”

  “For you to strengthen your ability. If you prove to Sheila that you can astral travel then she’ll retain, but not until she knows for certain you can find her when she’s reborn again.”

  My stomach clenched. “She’s erasing because of me?”

  “Don’t look at it like that.”

  “What other way is there to look at it? It’s bad enough that I can’t locate Gregory for Harmony, but now this?” I stood up. “You and Sheila have been together for almost a hundred years. You gave up your own life for her. And now, because of my awful, horrible, forbidden decision to erase, she’s going to be separated from us forever.”

  “Please don’t say forever. I can’t even think about it.”

  “How long do I have to master astral traveling?”

  Krista bit her lip but didn’t answer.

  “You said you can’t find anything wrong with her, so maybe we have years,” I said optimistically. “I’m sure I’ll figure out my ability by then. Heck, with Carson’s help maybe I’ll be able to do it in months.”

  Krista’s voice hitched. “She said she’s going to die this week.”

  I gaped at her. My heart pounded in my throat so hard it took me a minute to swallow it down and speak. “This week? How could she possibly know that?”

  “She saw it in her tea leaves.”

  “Tea leaves?”

  “I know what you’re thinking, but her readings have always been accurate.”

  My hands flew up at my sides “We’re getting all worried and worked up because of tea leaves?” I turned to walk away, but turned back again. Krista wouldn’t be so upset if she didn’t think there was some truth to this crazy prediction. I didn’t want her stressing out over this. Sheila was healthy, but maybe she wasn’t as mentally sound at her old age as we thought. I needed to speak to her and debunk this death forecast. “Where is Sheila?”

  “At Edgar and Helen’s resting.”

  I stormed out onto the deck and down the pathway to Edgar and Helen’s cottage. No way was I going to let Krista and Sheila stress out and plan their goodbyes because of some silly tea leaves. Helen’s recipes were extremely powerful, and Sheila must have consumed so much Chamomile or whatever that it made her delusional.

  ∞

  I knocked on Edgar and Helen’s door.

  Helen answered within seconds. “Maryah,” she said warmly. “What a pleasant surprise. Please come in.”

  Edgar and Helen’s home always smelled of spices. Their cottage was styled similar to the main house, but in a condensed version. It was still open and mystical looking, but it didn’t quite have the same wow factor. Cozy was a good word for it.

  An old record player spun as violin music filled the air. Their fireplace crackled in the living room. On the other side of their large windows, Edgar sat in a rocking chair reading on the back porch.

  “Would you like some tea?” Helen asked.

  If I hadn’t known better, I might have thought she was mocking me. “No. No tea for me, but thank you. Krista said Sheila is here.”

  “She is. I believe she’s finishing her bath.”

  Even though I didn’t believe the tea leaves prediction, thinking about Sheila alone in the bathroom with a wet tile floor made me uneasy. “What if she slips and falls?”

  Helen rested her hand on one cocked hip. “What if any of us slip and fall?”

  “We’re not as old as she is.”

  “We’re all much older than she is.”

  “You know what I mean. Physically.”

  “Sit down and try to relax.” She pulled out a chair from the kitchen table and I sank into it. She ran her fingers over the end of my ponytail. “How about some hot cocoa?”

  “I would love some.” Helen’s hot chocolate had become my new favorite indulgence—aside from Nathan.

  Helen tied on an apron and went to work. “I gather you heard about Sheila’s upcom
ing departure?”

  “I heard she has convinced herself and everyone else that she’s dying this week based on tea leaves. Which is crazy.”

  “What’s so crazy about it?” She pulled a container of cream from the fridge. My mouth was already watering.

  “Tea leaves? Come on. She’s not even sick.”

  “Tasseography has been around for ages. The power isn’t in the leaves; it’s in the clairvoyant ability of the person reading the leaves.” She turned to face me, hugging her large mixing bowl under one arm and whisking her ingredients together with the other. “Let me get this straight. You believe Sheila can read a soul and see its history, like she did with Michael, but you don’t believe she can see omens in tea leaves?”

  I opened my mouth to explain the difference, or give a reason, but I couldn’t come up with anything.

  Helen’s thinly waxed black eyebrows arched higher. Then she looked past me. “Ahh, there’s our girl. How was your bath, Sheila?”

  “Delightful.” Sheila shuffled into the living room tying her fluffy robe. She wasn’t even using her cane. She looked healthier than she did yesterday. Her blended British and Irish accents seemed heavier than usual. “Your salts do wonders for old bones.”

  She fanned her delicate fingers. “Hello, Maryah.”

  I stood and walked into the living room. “Sheila, do you need any help?”

  “I’m all right for now. “ She lowered herself into Helen’s padded rocking chair and sighed. She motioned to the sofa beside her chair. “Sit a spell. We have some catching up to do and time is ticking away fast.”

  “Don’t say that.” I sat on the edge of the cushion closest to her.

  She reached forward and held my hand in hers, flipping my palm up and studying it. “Yer lines have changed.”

  “You said that before, but you haven’t told me what it means.”

  “It means you changed the fates. See this line?” She ran her crooked pinky along a deep curved line below my fingers. “It’s yer heart line. Same as it was when you were Mary. But these,” she traced two shallower lines that formed an X. “Yer head and fate lines have changed. You created a crossroads.”

  I searched her brown eyes. Even with wrinkled skin and her white and gold hair wet from her bath, she was still luminous. “Because I erased?”

  “Partly. But see how another line forms here, running parallel to yer fate line? That’s new.”

  “What’s it mean?”

  She closed my fingers into a fist then pressed my hand into my lap. “I can’t say, but when the universe feels the timing is right, the answer will reveal itself to you. Until then, it’s a secret between you and yer soul.”

  I opened my hand and studied my lines again. “A secret with myself.”

  “You and I used to share many secrets.”

  “We did?”

  Sheila’s head rested against the back of her chair as she rocked. “We did indeed. Drove Krista mad when you confided in me and not her.”

  Helen joined us long enough to hand me a mug of cocoa. I thanked her and tried making sense of what Sheila just said.

  “I know what yer thinking,” Sheila continued. “Now you tell Krista everything. You can’t imagine ever keeping a secret from her. And that’s grand. You should share secrets with her. She’s the most trustworthy soul I know.” Sheila stopped rocking. “A secret shared between two people is a powerful bond. Some are good, some are bad, but the secrets of life and this world are what make it so fascinating.”

  “Sheila.” I sat forward, hopeful that Mary had told Sheila the answer to everyone’s big question. “Do you know why I erased?”

  “Of course I do.” She sat forward too. She looked me in the eyes and her wrinkles deepened. “To save yer kindrily. To make the world a better place.”

  “Can you be more specific?”

  “No. That’s all I know.”

  I let out the breath I’d been holding. Her answer was as clear as mud. Probably as clear as her tea. “And what about you? Your tea leaves showed you a secret much more telling than the lines on my palms.”

  “Yes, my sojourn in this body will end any day now.”

  “How can you say that?”

  “Because that blasted raven appeared in my tea again.”

  “Raven?” I thought of Mikey’s hat that I wore every day when I first moved to Sedona. The Ravens were our hometown football team. They reminded me of Mikey, not death.

  “He floated at the top of my tea cup, flapping his wings. Same wretched way he did when he came for me the first time.”

  Krista’s story about Sheila dying made my chest tighten. “You saw a raven in your tea before you died last time?”

  “The very same one.” She leaned back in her chair, looking almost happy. “But this time, beneath the raven was a scarab, and the sight of her brought me peace.”

  “Scarab? A beetle?”

  “A sign of eternal life.”

  My focus drifted to the floor. As odd as the beetle theory sounded, something about it whispered at a memory I couldn’t quite latch onto. I sipped my hot chocolate and couldn’t help looking inside my mug to check for birds or bugs.

  “You know,” Sheila said. “Deep down you know it too.”

  “Know what?”

  “That my time has come. Erasure or no erasure, our souls are tightly bound. Yer being senses our upcoming separation.” Her words caused tears to pool in my eyes. “See,” Sheila said. “You might be in denial on the outside, but inside you know the truth.”

  “Please stop talking like that.”

  She moved to sit on the sofa beside me then touched my cheek. “Don’t avoid the truth, love, even if it’s painful. Fate and truth are two powers you should never fear. You were the one who taught me to listen to every internal whisper—every gut instinct. No matter how farfetched or impossible it seems, listen close. Then act with faith and love. Now it’s my turn to tell you to do the same.” She patted my knee. “Circle of life.”

  We stared at each other. It wasn’t uncomfortable or awkward; it was like my soul knew to drink in this moment with her. Words escaped my mouth without me thinking. “You have to retain. I promise I’ll find a way to find you.”

  She closed her eyes for a long moment.

  “Sheila, please. Promise me you’ll retain.”

  “I can’t promise you that.”

  A tear streamed down my cheek. “You have to. Don’t make the same mistake I did.”

  “I’ve had a splendid run. You were a wonderful mother to me. I know you have no memory of it, but my childhood with you and Nathaniel are some of the most cherished moments of my long life.”

  “Then don’t erase them,” I pleaded.

  “And what if I’m born to parents who abuse me or do other horrible things? How could I live through that agony with memories of what a glorious life I once had? I would be a prisoner to whatever fate handed me. Yes, there’s a possibility it would be good, but the possibility of it being bad is too frightening to consider.”

  “But we’ll find you.”

  “How?” she asked, already knowing I had no answer.

  “I don’t know yet, but we’ll find a way.”

  She placed her soft hand on top of mine. “Some ideas, while brave-hearted, are impossible to turn into reality. My path is meant to lead me where it will, but my soul will be forever graced because for many years I knew what love and family truly meant.”

  I stared into her eyes again, examining every line, speck, vein, and vessel, trying to memorize every detail so I could find her soul again. “I can memorize your eyes. You wouldn’t be sent back immediately. I’d have a minimum of nine months, probably longer. I will have mastered my gift by then, I swear.”

  “You can’t swear such a thing. You have no idea what the future holds.”

  An invisible hour glass sat beside us with sand quickly disappearing into an unknown eternity. I had to figure out how to astral travel at will. For Sheila’s sake. And K
rista’s. For all of our kindrily.

  Sheila smiled her angelic grin. “My life has been long and I am grateful for every second of it. Death is not the end, it’s a new beginning—a beginning I will embrace and welcome when the time comes.” She rubbed my chin with her thumb. “Not every star is destined to shine forever. Some of us are meant to quietly fade away.”

  “Maybe,” I agreed, “but not you. You are meant to shine eternally.”

  COMING ALONG

  Maryah

  “You look beautiful.” Krista tucked a bouncy spiral curl behind my ear.

  “You’ll be with Sheila all evening, right?”

  “Yes. Go out, don’t worry, and have fun.”

  How could I have fun or not worry? All I could think about was Sheila and how confident she was that she’d be dying soon. “What if she—”

  “Stop it. Enjoy this momentous event with Nathaniel.”

  “It’s just a date.”

  “It’s your first real date with your soul mate.” She added, “That you can remember.”

  I kissed her cheek and headed down the hall to Carson’s room. I had to check on one important thing before I left. His door was open and he was on his bed reading.

  “Carson?”

  He lowered his magazine. “All ready for your big night out?”

  I blushed. “It’s our first date.”

  “Try your millionth date.”

  “Not for me.” I smoothed down my dress. I couldn’t figure out if the dragonflies flitting around my stomach were because I was going on a real, high-pressure date with Nathan, or because I was so worried about Sheila. “When do you think your plan, or whatever, will be ready? You know, to help me sensperience and get my ability under control?”

  “In a rush because Sheila’s about to kick the bucket?”

  “Carson!”

  “What? It sounds better than ‘she’s about to die.’ Or croak. Or—”

  “Okay, enough! Just hurry along your plan if you can, please. I’m eager to get started.”

  “As if I’m not moving as fast as I can?”

  “I’ve seen you move much faster than this.” I nodded at him lounged on the bed doing nothing.

 
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