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Taking back forever, p.7
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       Taking Back Forever, p.7

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  Anthony snuck away at some point after the Ella concert. Nathan and I stayed to listen to some of the current jazz band then finished the evening by sharing a scrumptious piece of chocolate cake. The drive home was much more relaxing without a chaperone in the backseat.

  When we arrived back at the house, Nathan walked me to the front door. “I had a lovely evening. I hope you’ll allow me to take you out again soon.”

  I played along. “I’d be delighted, sir.”

  He stepped close to me, took my hands in his, and held them against his chest. “May I kiss you goodnight?”

  I wanted to kiss him until the sun came up, but I managed to demurely turn my cheek. “A lady never kisses on the first date.”

  His head tilted back and he smiled at the sky. “Of course. Where are my manners?”

  “But perhaps next time I’ll allow it, if I’m still as enamored with you as I was this evening.”

  He leaned down. His mouth was so close to mine that his fingers barely fit between us as he traced one finger over my lips. “I dream of an existence where you yearn for my kisses and are enamored with me for all of eternity.”

  My lips parted, aching to kiss him. I leaned forward but he stood up straight and kissed my hand. “Good night, Maryah. I’ll call on you again soon.”

  He turned away and stepped off the porch.

  “Wait,” I said. “You are coming inside, right?”

  The pretend formalities were fun, but Nathan lived here. We had slept beside each other every night since the Montezuma Well nightmare. “

  He gracefully stepped backward of the porch, slightly bowing to me. “A gentleman would never enter a lady’s home at such a late hour.”

  “Nathan, enough. Come inside with me.”

  He blew me a kiss and turned away. As he walked to the driveway, he called over his shoulder, “I shall ring you tomorrow.”

  Tomorrow? He had to be kidding. His Mustang roared to life and I watched—worried he might have been serious—as he backed down the driveway. I went inside and found Louise, Krista, and Sheila in the living room watching an old black and white movie.

  Krista used the remote to pause it. “How was your date?”

  “Heavenly. But he left. And I think he was serious when he said I wouldn’t hear from him until tomorrow.”

  “What else would you expect?” Louise asked. “I’d never allow a suitor into our home at this hour.”

  “He’s your son,” I argued.

  Louise shrugged. “Society makes the rules not me.”

  I opened my mouth but shut it again, predicting I’d never win this silly debate. Krista and Sheila giggled. “Very funny,” I said. “I’m going to bed.”

  “I expect details in the morning!” Krista called after me.

  I walked into our bedroom, expecting—hoping—to see Nathan waiting for me. But I was alone.

  As I changed and got ready to go to sleep I was on high alert for Nathan appearing, but much to my disappointment, he never came. I crawled under the sheets and hugged his pillow to my chest. It smelled like him and that made me miss him even more.

  Eightball was already snoring in his dog bed. I sighed. “This sucks.”

  Dating in the old days must have been excruciatingly lonely.

  BETTING ON HUNCHES

  Harmony

  I’d been helping Dylan and Amber move into their new house since the early afternoon. Anything to try to distract my mind from what Gregory might be doing with the Nefariouns. Knowing he was with Dedrick was enough to make my blood boil.

  I set down the last box labeled Nursery next to Mikey’s crib. Molokai watched me from the doorway, panting and wagging her tail. Her gray ears perked up just before the loud crash. She took off running down the hall and I rushed after her. We found Amber and Dylan in the kitchen. Dylan was laughing at Amber who had apparently fallen into a moving box butt first.

  Her arms and legs flailed above her awkwardly. “Don’t laugh! Help me out.”

  Grinning, I grabbed her hand and yanked her up out of the box as Molokai licked her excitedly.

  “I know, I know. I’m fine, Molokai.” She glared back at the crushed cardboard like it was the box’s fault she fell into it.

  “One step,” Dylan said. “Throughout this entire house there is only one step into the kitchen and you still managed to fall down it.”

  Amber waved him off and picked up the pots and pans strewn all over the kitchen. “My socks are slippery on the tile floor.”

  Dylan shook his head and helped pick up pans. “Did you hurt yourself?”

  “Do I ever hurt myself?”

  I peeked in the box. “Lucky for you this box contained placemats and potholders. That could have been a lot worse if it was full of knives and kitchen utensils.” Amber’s clumsiness was a trait she hadn’t been able to shake in any of her bodies, but amazingly she rarely injured herself during her trips and spills. I handed Dylan a pot that had rolled across the room. “I’m surprised all the noise didn’t wake up Mikey.”

  “That boy could sleep through a hurricane.” Amber took off her glasses and examined them, but they survived the fall too.

  Nate strolled through the front door and Molokai trotted away to greet him. Dylan wriggled his eyebrows at Amber and they both dashed into the living room for questioning.

  “How’d the date go?” Dylan asked.

  “Brilliantly.” Nate tossed his suit jacket onto the arm of the couch. He might as well have been walking on air.

  I leaned against the archway connecting the two rooms. “So why are you here?”

  “Because I’m a gentleman and Maryah should experience how respectful dating should be.”

  Dylan laughed. “You’ve been sleeping together in the same bed for a week.”

  “For the record,” Nate said, “I’ve been a gentleman about that too. It’s not what you think.”

  “Oh, for prudence sake.” I groaned. “Seal the deal already.”

  “I think it’s sweet,” Amber said. “Maryah is lucky to have someone who isn’t just trying to get in her pants.”

  I smirked. “I bet good money Nate is dying to get in her pants.”

  “Even if that were true,” Nate said, clearing piles of bubble wrap off the couch and sitting down. “It won’t be anytime soon. I’m developing this relationship slowly and genuinely. Maryah deserves nothing less.”

  “Shall we place bets?” Dylan said.

  “We should,” I agreed, digging in my pockets.

  Dylan threw a wad of cash on the table. “A hundred says less than a month.”

  I threw two fifties onto the pile. “A hundred says less than two weeks.”

  Amber scribbled on a notepad and tossed in an IOU. “Two hundred that he waits until they’re officially bound.”

  Nate took off his shoes then reclined back on the couch with his hands behind his head. “Amber, your two-hundred dollar winnings will be a nice start to Mikey’s college fund.”

  Amber looked pleased, but Dylan and I shook our heads at each other. Amber would surely lose the bet.

  Dylan leaned over the couch arm and nudged Nate. “Shall I persuade Maryah to marry you this week or next?”

  “No persuading will be necessary,” Nate said. “Any and all supernatural meddling will result in a forfeit of the bet in which all monies revert to me.”

  Amber and I grinned, while Dylan faked disappointment at not being able to use his ability to win the bet. Dylan would never use his gift to control such an important decision.

  I dug into another box and unwrapped knickknacks.

  “When’s the housewarming party?” Nate asked, rubbing Molokai’s head.

  “Ugh,” Amber moaned. “I can’t even think about that. The baby, then moving, all this stuff with Maryah, it’s overwhelming.” Big Kahuna head-butted her leg so she picked him up and sank into a chair. The other two meerkats were probably rifling through boxes somewhere. “Big Kahuna’s right. It’s late.” Amber rubbed her ne
ck. “Let’s call it quits for the night.”

  “Hallelujah,” I grunted. “Tell Big Kahuna thanks for stating the obvious.” My fingers were raw from tearing through boxes and cleaning. Hilo was asleep on the floor so I curled up beside him. If I couldn’t be cuddled up with Gregory, at least a miniature horse would keep me warm. It was nice to have all of Amber’s animals around again.

  “We appreciate all your help and hard work,” Dylan told me.

  “No problem.” I watched all of them, guessing what kind of reactions I’d get when I told them my news. Time to get it over with. “I want you guys to be the first to know that I’m leaving tomorrow.”

  “Leaving?” Nate asked. “For where?”

  “Carson and Dakota sent me searching the Internet for any leads on where Dedrick might be.”

  Nate rolled over and propped himself up on one elbow. “Louise has been monitoring the Internet for years and hasn’t found anything.”

  “I know, but I had a hunch. Some reports I found led me to believe my hunch might be correct.”

  “What was your hunch?” Amber asked. Dylan stood behind her looking concerned but intrigued.

  “I think Dedrick is in Damanhur. We know he was obsessed with the temples in the 1990s and I have a feeling he might want to overtake them for his own.”

  Amber’s eyes were wide. “He could never pull that off. Too many people are part of that community.”

  “Yes, but what if he plans to mind-control all of them the way he did Gregory?”

  Dylan shook his head. “Thousands of people visit the temples every day. He’d never be able to control so many members of the public population without drawing a lot of attention.”

  “I’ll go,” Nate said. “Tomorrow, I’ll walk the temples in disguise and look for anything or anyone who seems suspicious.”

  “Good,” I said. “You can meet me there.”

  “There’s no need for you to travel across the world on a hunch,” Nate argued. “I promise I’ll thoroughly investigate every nook and cranny. If I find anything at all I’ll ring you and you can fly out immediately.”

  “What if you miss something? Four eyes are better than two.”

  “Harmony.” Amber set Big Kahuna on the floor and he scampered off. “Explain why you think he might be there. The whole truth.”

  I sighed. “In London, Dedrick told Nate the Nefariouns intended to be the gatekeepers of this world. Louise discussed that with Audrey, Marcus, and members of some of the other kindrilies and they seem to think Dedrick is trying to control a soul’s energy. He wants to decide which souls come and go in this world.”

  “That will never happen,” Dylan said. “No soul is that powerful. Only the infinite source controls the reincarnation process.”

  “Sure, we know that, because we aren’t psychotic and delusional, but this is Dedrick we’re talking about. He craves more power. Always has. He’s mastered mind control. What if he manages to master something worse? “

  Nate sat up. “And you think because Damanhur sits on energy lines to the cosmos that he’d set up operations there?”

  “Exactly.” I was making sense to Nate. I could see it his eyes. “The same reason Mary wanted to build a home in Sedona. The Earth’s spiritual energy centers empower the souls who spend time there. My hunch is that Dedrick is living somewhere near the temples, hoping to infuse himself with more power.”

  “Why haven’t you discussed this with Louise?” Nate asked.

  I shrugged. “She’s been researching and investigating long and hard for so long. I was worried she’d brush off my theory because it doesn’t match up with any of her previous leads.”

  The three of them glanced at each other, silently debating whether my plan was a worthy one.

  “I know it’s a long shot,” I said, “but please give me your blessing and support. Let me do something. He’s my soul mate. How can any of you expect me to sit around here and wait while time ticks away? With every tick of the clock Dedrick could be making Gregory worse.”

  Dylan sat on the arm of the chair beside Amber and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “How long will you be gone?”

  Finally. Success. “Hopefully only a day or two,” I said. “Dylan, can you handle the situation with my parents? Tell them I’m going on a senior trip or something.”

  He nodded.

  Amber looked up at him then back at me. “Harmony, are you sure about this? What if something happens to you?”

  “Please don’t try to talk me out of it. If you do, I will resent you for it, and I don’t want that burden.”

  “I’ll be with her,” Nate assured her. “Well disguised, of course.”

  “Okay.” Amber didn’t seem happy about my plan, and her fingers tapping endlessly on her knee meant she was nervous about it.

  We sat around ironing out the details of my trip and what Dylan would tell my parents. Amber agreed to take me to the airport at noon to catch my flight.

  My eyes were so tired they ached. I tried staying awake as Dylan, Amber, and Nate chatted about the drama Dedrick had caused for the temples in the early nineties, but Hilo’s warmth and steady breathing lured me to sleep. I was vaguely aware of Amber covering me with a quilt, and then, as always, the memory of Gregory singing me Spanish lullabies was too solacing to resist.

  EXPLORING THE HEAVENS

  Maryah

  I dreamed of Nathan dancing. I knew it was a dream because I danced with him, and I was good—even better than my parents. Gregory stepped onto the dance floor with us. I reached out to dance with him, but he pulled out a metal pipe and swung at my head.

  I opened my eyes and my mother was there bandaging my forehead, telling me I was okay, that all my marbles were still inside my jar. I didn’t understand what she meant so I looked in a mirror. My head was a glass globe and my eyes were sideways peacock feathers. Gregory appeared again, but this time he tried helping me, shouting at me to be careful. He shook me and I watched in the mirror as glowing stars floated around inside my glass head.

  “I missed you,” Gregory whispered, but he sounded like Nathan.

  “I missed you too,” I told him.

  A gun shot fired and I turned around to see Harmony barreling toward me with a cartoon pistol in her hand. She pulled the trigger and I ducked. In slow motion, the bullet—which was a silver star—sailed over my shoulder and hit Gregory between the eyes. He exploded into a cloud of glitter, but it sounded like glass shattering.

  I looked at Harmony, but she stopped, lowered her gun, and kissed me on my cheek. Her lips moved, but it was Nathan’s voice coming out of her mouth. “I tried to stay away, but I couldn’t.”

  I opened my eyes and Nathan stared back at me in the dark. I blinked a few times, shaking off the eccentric dream and focusing on reality. Nathan was lying beside me in our bed. Under the covers and everything. His intoxicating smell caused my hands to clutch the front of his t-shirt and pull him closer.

  “Did you say something?” I asked him.

  “I said I tried to stay away but couldn’t. I missed you too much.”

  I nuzzled into his neck and breathed him in. “Good. I promise to be a proper lady during the day, but at night I need you here with me.”

  He chuckled and lifted my face so our eyes met again. “That’s a brilliant plan.” His lips brushed against mine lighter than a whisper. “May I have our goodnight kiss now?”

  I brushed my lips against his just as softly. “I’ve been yearning for it.”

  His lips closed over mine so sweetly I thought I might still be dreaming. He kissed my chin, each of my cheeks, then my lips again. If my head was a glass globe he would have seen all the stars inside swirling out of control.

  ∞

  In the morning, Nathan and I were awakened by the blaring of a trumpet, followed by Faith’s wretched attempt at impersonating Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam.

  “Gooood mooorning, Ma-Ma-mam! It’s training day!”

  I squinted thro
ugh the sunlight to see Shiloh carrying a boom box which started playing an old rap song called, “Ghetto Superstar.” He and Faith danced around our bed singing and dancing. I buried my face into Nathan’s t-shirt and pulled the covers over our heads.

  “Are they serious?” I moaned.

  Nathan ran his fingers through my hair. “Serious as a myocardial infarction.”

  I glanced up, giving him an unimpressed look.

  “Sorry, heart attack.” He cleared his gruff throat. “No use fighting it. Faith is on a mission.”

  The bed bounced in time with the music as Faith danced and Shiloh sang along with the song.

  “Okay, okay, we’re up!” I grumbled.

  “Report to the living room in ten minutes,” Faith ordered.

  After reluctantly crawling out of bed, I dragged myself into the kitchen and made two bowls of mixed cereal for Nathan and me.

  “Didn’t all that racket wake up the baby?” I asked Shiloh.

  “He’s in his new home with Dylan and Amber. We finished setting up all the furniture yesterday.”

  “Oh.” So many people came and went in the Luna house that it was hard to keep track of everyone, but knowing Mikey wouldn’t be living here full time anymore made my mood even worse.

  Harmony was sitting at the island rolling a plum across the counter. “I’m leaving the country today. Just thought you should know.”

  “To search for Gregory?” I guessed out loud.

  She nodded.

  “But Nathan said he didn’t know who he was. He thinks his own name is Argos. What if he doesn’t remember you? What if he...” I hesitated. “What if he hurts you, or worse?”

  “He won’t.”

  “How can you be sure?”

  “The heart is a muscle,” Harmony explained. “Muscles have memory. Scientists have proven that the heart retains memory function even when removed.”

  “I don't understand what that has to do with Gregory.” I took a bite of my cereal.

  She swiveled her stool so she was facing me. We were sitting so close our knees almost touched. “Imagine someone ripped your heart out of your chest and threw it in a cage. Outside the cage, vultures, rats, and coyotes circle, waiting to rip your heart apart and devour it. Worse yet, as they circle, their wicked energy surrounds the cage, tainting the pure and good soul inside. Over time your heart starts to change; it becomes evil too. Smothered by negativity, it slowly stops beating until it ceases to exist.”

 
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