Chapter Thirty

To say that things couldn't get better was an understatement. Jared couldn't help but smile. Everything was working out for him, and things were just getting better and better. He looked to his side as he pulled his arms up behind over his head for a morning stretch and saw Toni sleeping silently next to him, and his smile grew wider. Turning over, he rested his chin on his hand and glanced across the room at the tv. The sound was too low to hear, but Jared knew what was going on by the pictures. It was a repeat showing of Hollywood Tonight, and Candi Daniels was the lead story. Jared chuckled and pulled his hand free, tracing Toni’s cheek. Deeply asleep, she didn't flinch in the slightest as he trailed his fingers down her neck and traced the exposed curves of her naked body. He owed her big time. The Candi tip her biggest yet. He’d figure out some way to properly pay her back. She deserved it. 

Jared carefully eased himself out of bed intent on letting Toni sleep. The cool air of the air conditioned hotel room was a shocking contrast to the warm comfort of the sheets next to Toni, and he felt a shiver dance up his back as he arched his back stretching the remnants of sleep from his naked body. Reaching for the corner of the sheet, he pulled them up over Toni’s lower body. At least one of them would stay warm, for now. He would take care of some business, taking advantage of the stillness of early morning then climb back into the big bed for some his revised and highly preferable version of a workout later. 

The laptop buzzed to life as he reached for a his black agenda book, flipping it open to the notepad at the back. Several numbers and notes were scribbled on it. Leaning back in the chair, he studied his notes for a few seconds calling back to mind his thoughts from the night before. Some of the numbers Toni had gotten off of Candi’s cellphone, her manager’s number, the number to Hugo’s, one of New York’s hot hair salons. Jared knew this number offhand since he himself had gone there for haircuts, managing to ferret some juicy gossip tidbits from the staff that served many a star and socialite.  

Another number jumped out at him, the main number to the Four Seasons a top of the line hotel. Interesting. What need would Candi have for a hotel, no matter how posh? Jared knew for a fact that Candi owned a trendy loft. Unless, he grinned, she was seeing someone staying there. It would prove to be an expensive task but Jared decided to send one of his assistants for a work vacation of sorts. He would pay for a room for one of the guys in his employ, instructing him to hang out in the bar, by the pool, in the lobby, anywhere he might be able to catch sight of Candi and her mystery man. 

Connecting to the Internet, Jared tapped his pen on the table as he waited for his email to pull up on the screen. Bingo. There was a message from Chuck, his connection within the communications industry. 

‘Hey J,
          You owe me big. Attached is a file of Candi’s
          cellphone bill. There
seem to be a lot of repeat
          calls, even several long distance numbers.
          Hope it helps.

     “Excellent,” Jared said aloud, there was a lot to work with here.

Area code 954 and 305. Those were definitely not New York area codes. His fingers worked quickly at the laptop keys, accessing a database program he had recently paid quite a bit of money for. Entering the numbers, the program pulled up the information he needed. Both long distance codes were in Florida, Fort Lauderdale and Miami to be precise. Sweet, Jared thought. He needed a tan.

As a super model it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Candi to have visited these cities, yet Jared’s reporter’s detective sense nagged at him. There was one number in Fort Lauderdale she called a lot. Typing the number into the laptop, he hit a dead end. Unlisted. One way to find out, he thought, dialing the number. The phone rang, 5 times, but Jared waited patiently. It was early but there was a good chance that whoever he was calling had an answering machine. After the 6th ring, an answering machine switched on:

     ‘You have reached the offices of the Wave, South Florida’s top weekly paper. Our business hours are from 9:00am to 6:00pm. We are unable to take your call right now but if you leave your name and number we will get back to you as soon as possible 

The Wave, Jared mused. He had contacted them when he had first offered up his colum for syndication nationwide. A trendy paper in that covered the hip South Florida area, they had turned him down. Not one to take being snubbed lightly, Jared had filed away some basic information in his sharp mind on the paper and its snotty owners, Blair Publishing, for just an occasion. Payback was a bitch.

 Tapping into one of the search engines, he ran a search on Blair Publishing. Lots of hits came up, including the usual fluff pieces of William Blair the head of Blair Publishing, with pictures of the self absorbed stuffed shirt at his desk in..New York. Interesting. Blah, blah, company profile, stock numbers, yadda yadda. Clicking on the next link another photo came up that proved to be more interesting. Next to a list of the parent company’s subholdings was a shot of Zachary Blair, Blair senior’s son. Scrolling down Jared hit pay dirt. Frat boy was managing editor of The Wave.

 Daddy’s money had apparently opened up all kinds of doors for him since each consecutive picture he got to showed Zachary surrounded by stars and society people alike. Jared jotted down notes, meticulously scrolling through picture after picture until one in particular caught his eye. Clicking on it to enlarge it, Jared’s eyes widened in disbelief. The photograph was of Zach standing at the entrance of the latest South Beach hot spot, a nightclub called the Oasis. And in the background, almost out of camera shot was none other than Candi, preening for the camera.

     “Outrageous!” he exclaimed.

Damn, he was good. Could Zach be the mystery guest at the hotel? Jared’s hands shook with excitement as he redialed the hotel’s number, amazed at how easy this all was.

“Good morning, Excelsior. How may I direct your call?”

“Zachary Blair’s room please,” he stated calmly, holding his breath.

 “One moment please.”

 Jared laughed, throwing himself back into the chair, almost toppling backwards. The phone rang and Jared could barely contain his excitement. The fact that Zachary Blair was in that hotel already confirmed his suspicions. His mind raced with the possibilities this stroke of luck could mean to scooping the story of Candi and the rich kid.

 Zach groaned as he lifted his head off the pillow, cursing. Who the hell was calling him this early? His father purposely waking him up? Jessie?

 Candi stirred slightly, just enough to roll over and crack an eye open in the direction of the ringing phone. “Is that the phone?” she pouted.

 “Don't even think about it!” stated Zach, shooting up in bed to block Candi just in case she had any ideas.

 “Thought never crossed my mind,” Candi answered, her tone noticeably subdued. The last thing she needed was a repeat of the other night. She moved her arm away, feigning a yawn, when what she was actually doing was protecting her face in case Zach lashed out again.

 Zach scrambled mentally, debating whether or not to get the phone.


 “Mr Blair,” Jared said, taking a breath, “this is your wake up call..”

 “What wake up call?” Zach yelled, “I never ordered a damned wake up call!”

 “I’m sorry sir for the inconven..”


 “Who was it?” Candi asked, stroking Zach’s arm soothingly.

 Not in the mood, Zach batted her hand away. “Some fucking idiot at the front desk..”

 “Lay back down sweetie, it’s early yet..”

 “Naw,” Zach said, getting up. “I’m wide awake now.”

 Somewhere inside him he had hoped it was Jess calling to touch base as she usually did. His already foul mood got worse when he realized that she hadn’t called him once this trick. He would make sure to punish her for her misbehavior when he got home.

    Back at Jared’s hotel room across town, Jared luck continued to improve. There were other emails waiting for him from various rag papers wanting to buy rights to run the pictures he had gotten on Candi. This was turning out to be one sweet deal.


It was Toni calling out to him from the other room. He could see her peering at him from under the covers. Jared smiled and powered down the laptop after one of the most productive fifteen minutes of his life.

“Come back to bed baby,” Toni said, caressing the back of Jared’s neck. Jared pivoted in the chair to find that Toni was as naked as he was. “Don’t you ever stop working?”

“Out of bed yes,” he said, gathering her into his arms, Toni giggling with delight as he lifted her off her feet. Jared kissed her appreciatively, and strode back towards the other room. “Now in bed is a whole other story..”

    Lynn was in a bad mood. Just when she was starting to relax she had gotten an SOS call from Mitch. Only Kelly could have cut her much needed escape short. The traffic out of the Keys wasn’t doing anything to improve her mood. It was the last thing she needed now that she wanted to get home to check on her daughter.

The extra drive time did give her time to mull things over, like what she was going to do to get Nikc to leave her alone. Sure, she had Mitch as well as her parent’s place to drop Kelly off at if things got crazy, but she couldn’t live her life that way and neither could Kelly. Lynn knew what a life with no structure had done to her and she refused to do that to Kelly.

She was thirteen years old when her father’s business had taken off. Two years of shutting his family up to New York, sometimes for weeks at a time so his wife could be at his side and start establishing social contacts, had made Lynn feel like a yoyo. Sure she got to go to cool places and guilt had caused her parents to buy her gifts to make up for all her time alone, but missing so much school had alienated Lynn from her classmates back in Fort Lauderdale.

Now the move would be permanent, to the posh Palm Beach where her father and mother could hob knob with the influential people of Southern Florida. Lynn had been crushed since it would mean picking up and attending a completely new school. The first year at high school would have been hard  enough but not knowing anyone was an unbearable thought.

Lynn had kicked and screamed and her parents had finally relented letting her live with her Aunt Jean and Uncle Paul who lived just down the street from their old house. This would allow her to attend Piedmont high with the rest of her friends. Yet the separation from her parents, no matter how distant emotionally they had been in the past, had hurt her dearly. To this day she lacked a truly close relationship with either of them. From the moment Kelly was born Lynn vowed to never let such a rift emerge between them, no matter what.

    The warm morning sun and ocean breeze felt good on Mitch’s face. God knew he needed a little time alone after a night like last night. Between Kelly’s flu and the dream he had had about Jessie, Mitch hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep. Stopping at the little Cuban bodega on the strip, he bought himself some expresso to go and opted for a long walk along the surf to clear his mind.

Mitch was a little disappointed in himself regarding how he had handled the situation of Kelly getting sick. Maybe Lynn was right. How hard could it be to take care of a five year old? Yet he had panicked, and called Lynn. Once again he had sold himself short opting for back up when things had been clearly within his control. What was it with him? Why didn’t he have the confidence to act? Even now he had left Kelly with Angel so that he could go lick his wounds.

Mitch took a sip of the strong coffee from the Styrofoam cup, trying to suppress the growing sense of flailing inside him. Too little sugar, he thought, grimacing. Too little. It was the story of his life. Maybe if he had acted on his emotions things would be different right now between him and Jessie, and he wouldn’t have to settle for just dreaming of making love to her.

Drinking down the last of the coffee in one gulp, he slammed dunked the empty cup in the first garbage can he came across, increasing his pace down the beach, until he was at a run. Mitch ran hard, pumping his arms, digging his feet into the semi-wet sand, trying to burn off some of his anger and frustration. His eyes gazed blankly ahead, sea salt and threatening hot tears clouding his vision.

Before he knew it Mitch had reached the end of the road, an old lighthouse out on the slim peninsula extending out into the Atlantic. There was nowhere left to run. Chest heaving, Mitch took a seat on a large, angular boulder that was part of the jetty. Leaning way over, trying to catch his breath, another memory leaping into his mind.

It was of him and Jessie, back in high school, after the prom. A crowd of seniors had assembled at the lighthouse to hang out around a small bound fire and burn off some post-prom pre-graduation energy. Both he and Jessie had attended the prom, unfortunately not with each other. Rob De Carlo had beat him to it. Rob, Mr. Ivy League Nice Guy, had treated Jessie well all night. Hell, he had even let Mitch dance with Jessie for a slow song no less, Bryan Adam’s “Heaven,” one of Jessie’s favorites. He could still see it, hear the song:

‘Ooh thinking about all our younger years
             there was only you and me
          we were young and wild and free
          Now nothing can take you away from me
          We’ve been down that road before but that’s over now
             You keep me coming back for more.

     Jessie looked gorgeous in a strapless tafetta prom dress, tapered to the waist and filling out into a full skirt at the bottom. Not one for being fancy back then, it was all Jessie’s mom could do to get her to agree to  wear her hair in loose, flowing curls down her shoulders. Mitch smiled. Ever the tomboy, he saw Jess’s face light up when she heard the first verse of the song, but the high heels she wore was making dancing an interesting proposition. In true Jessie fashion she kicked off her shoes, plopping them down under their table, giving Mitch the chance to cut her off on the way to the dance floor.

     “Mind if I ask Jessie to dance this song with me? It’s one of her favorite,” Mitch grinned.

     Amy, his date for the evening, smiled and nodded. “Sure, I’ll take this opportunity to go freshen up a bit.”

If it hadn’t been for Amy the prom would have been a total bust. Going with one of his best girl friends had meant that they didn’t have to fuss over formality just jump into the evening and enjoy, which they had.

     After getting Rob’s okay, Mitch came up to Jessie, and tickled her side.

     “Got space on your dance card for me?” Mitch teased.

     Jessie’s eyes went to her date who nodded gallantly.

     “Always,” she smiled, slipping her hand into his, “who else could enjoy this song as much as me?”

      “Besides, this’ll probably be our last chance to dance together in this gym,” Mitch said.

      “I’ll have none of that,” Jessie said, kicking him playfully in the shins, “don’t make me mess up this monkey suit. You look really good by the way,” she said, looking up at him for a whisper of a moment, before looping her arms around his neck and resting her cheek against Mitch’s chest.

Even back then there was that playful banter between them.

      “Promises, promises!”

      ‘Baby you’re all that I want
      when you’re lying here in my arms
      I’m finding it hard to believe we’re in heaven
      And lovin’ is all that I need
      And I found it there in your heart
      Isn’t too hard to see we’re in heaven. '

      'Oh once in your life you find someone
        Who will turn your world around
       Bring you up when you’re feeling down
       Yeah nothing can change what you mean to me
       Oh there’s lots that I can say
       Just hold me now
       Cuz our love will light the way.’

     “You and Amy having fun?” Jessie asked, still swaying to the music. “She looks really pretty. I love her hair that way..”

      “A blast,” answered Mitch, “you know me, the life of the party..”

      He had told Jessie the truth. He was having a good time with Amy. What he didn’t tell Jess was that he had stolen glances at her all evening, amazed at how gorgeous she looked in formal attire, as well as making sure she and Rob were having a good time.

      'And baby you’re all that I want
      when you’re lying here in my arms
      I’m finding it hard to believe we’re in heaven
       Yeah and love is all that I need
      And I found it there in your heart
      Isn’t too hard to see we’re in heaven.’

     “Don’t look now but you’re friend is trying to spike the punch,”

     Jessie said, hiding her face against Mitch’s lapel fighting not to laugh.

Mitch couldn’t help but smile at the memory of Sid, during his New Wave/Punk stage, hair spiked, dressed in a traditional black formal jacket, collarless shirt, with black jeans and scuffed up army boots completing his look.

      As if he didn’t stand out enough already,” Mitch laughed, “he better not let Mrs. Farley catch him with that booze..”

      ‘I’ve been waiting for so long
      for something to arrive
      for love to come along
      Now our dreams are coming true
      Through the good times and the bad
      Yeah I’ll be standing there by you.’

      They both got quiet for a moment, and Mitch sighed, enjoying the close contact with Jessie. Not wanting Jessie to notice his change in mood, Mitch said the first thing that came to mind.

      “Can you believe graduation is less than one month away?”

      “Don’t even go there. I’m nervous enough as it is! College will be great and all, but don’t tell anybody, I’m kinda scared..”

      “Piedmont’s class valedictorian scared?” Mitch asked.

      “Will you shush?!” Jessie said, reaching up to cover his mouth. “Sure I’m top of the class here in a class of 400 seniors, but Wheaton? That’s a completely different ball of wax..”

      “Jess, listen to me. I know you. You’ll do great. You always do.”

      ‘Baby you’re all that I want
      when you’re lying here in my arms
        I’m finding it hard to believe we’re in heaven
      And lovin’ is all that I need
       And I found it there in your heart
      Isn’t too hard to see we’re in heaven.
       You’re all that I want.. you’re all that I need..’

      “What am I gonna do without you guys to lean on?” Jessie sighed. “If you woulda done less partying we could be going off to Wheaton together!”

     Later on at the late night gathering by the lighthouse, Jessie’s words had echoed in his mind all night. She’d be going away to school and they’d probably lose touch with one another and there was no one to blame but himself. Amy had tried unsuccessfully to cheer him up by offering him a beer and even an impromptu dip in the ocean. But nothing could salvage his evening.

He had looked over at Jess, silhouetted in the moonlight, huddled up to Rob for warmth, as she chatted and laughed with other happy classmates.

Mitch knew Jessie’s future was bright, as bright as the moon’s rays dancing on the surf behind them, so bright that memories of him would probably be totally eclipsed when she made a whole new group of friends at college.

“Too many memories,” Mitch stated aloud, and crossed the beach to the strip of shops along the boardwalk.

      Who was he kidding? Where ever he went there were memories of Jessie and how he had let his future slip through his fingers. He should be happy that he and Jess were still friends and move on from there, trying to make better decisions and new, happier moments to overshadow the past.

 Phoebe had just opened up her shop, a combination of New Age store and psychic reading parlor, where people could come in and buy books on the paranormal or other metaphysical subjects, candles, crystals and the like, or have a psychic reading done. She was just about to turn the sign on the door to read open when she saw a familiar face approaching.

 “Mitch?” she said, stepping outside.

 “Hi Phoebe,” Mitch answered, coming to a stop a few feet from the doorway, surprised.

 “You okay?” Phoebe asked, puzzled at Mitch’s jumpy behavior.

 “Caffeine high I’m afraid,” Mitch lied, “have to lay off the expresso.”

 “Oh,” Phoebe answered quickly, “for a moment I thought you were avoiding me. Nothing to be afraid of Mitch. I’m a white witch, remember?”

 Mitch blanched, realizing how rude he was behaving. “I’m sorry Phoebs. It’s not you, it’s me. I didn’t sleep very well last night.”

 Phoebe could sense there was something more going on and decided to try and rope Mitch in for a past life regression.

 “Seeing you kinda took me by surprise too. I never see you out this way anymore..”

 “Just taking a morning walk along the beach to clear my head,” explained Mitch.

 “Jessie been by yet today?”

 “Nope not today. I hope she’s okay. Zach’s coming home today.”

 “I think she's fine,” Phoebe lied.

 "I hope she is," Mitch said, coughing. He coughed once more, this time it hacked at his throat.

“I have some herbal tea and honey inside that can help sooth your throat,” suggested Phoebe. “Or I can just hypnotize you and make you feel better that way,” Phoebe teased.

 Mitch could see right through her ploy. “You just want to put me under.”

 “Okay, you got me,” conceded Phoebe, “ I'm dying to find out about your past lives.” She could see Mitch was wavering and decided to press the issue. “C’mon, you look like you need a break. And I swear I won’t slip anything into your tea but honey.”

 Phoebe stepped aside, allowing Mitch to walk past into the store. Hoping he’d agree to a regression, she replaced the open sign with a sign that read ‘With a client. Call for an appointment.’ “Take a seat in the parlor. I’ll be right there with your tea.”

 Mitch was surprised to find that the parlor, as Phoebe had called it, looked like a normal sitting room, just smaller and cozier. There was no overhead lighting, only lamps and candles scattered about illuminating the room with a warm, inviting light. Other than for a few New Age pieces, this could be anyone’s living room, with a soft couch and two recliners surrounding a low, Asian looking coffee table. Mitch took a seat in one of the recliners, feeling at ease enough to actually recline back in it.

 “I see you’ve made yourself at home,” Phoebe smiled, crossing over to hand Mitch a steamy mug of tea.

 “Nice set up you got here Phoebs,” Mitch said, sipping the tea.

 “What were you expecting? A black table cloth with a crystal ball?” Phoebe laughed. “That’s all a crock. How could I expect any of my clients to relax if they’re too busy checking out the room instead of concentrating? Besides, you look comfy in that chair, much more than you would be on a straight backed chair at some table.”

 “You know,” Mitch paused, wondering if he should be saying this, “I really didn’t sleep much. But I did have a dream about Jessie last night.”

 “Really?” Phoebe asked, grabbing Mitch’s hands as she took a seat on the sofa next to him. “Tell me about it.”

 The dream was so vivid, so real that even now Mitch blushed remembering what he had dreamt. “Let’s just say I wish it had been real,” Mitch sighed.

 Better not push it, Phoebe thought. The important thing was he had dreamt about Jessie. Hopefully this would make delving into Mitch’s past a lot easier, since Jess was already in his subconscious.

“That’s fine Mitch. I just need for you to relax. This is gonna be a piece of cake. I promise.”

“You still set on spying on my past, huh?” Mitch said, skeptically. “I don’t have the time for this..”

“Sure you do. It’ll only take a few minutes, I promise.”

“Okay, no rattling around in my head,” stated Mitch.

“Now I want you to relax as best as you can, okay Mitch?" Phoebe said. Reaching into her pocket, she retrieved a velvet bag, pulling out a small crystal. “This’ll help with the regression.”

“You sure about this?” Mitch asked, believing that although Phoebe was well intentioned, this whole regression deal was bull.

“You won’t regret it, I swear,” Phoebe soothed. “All I need you to do is hold it. Relax, become conscious of your breathing. That’s it.. slow it down. Watch the way the crystal catches the light producing all the  pretty colors.”

“Here,” Phoebe said, noticing that Mitch was starting to relax. Grabbing a pillow, she slipped it under his head. “This should make you even more comfy.” Phoebe ran her thumbs over Mitch’s eyebrows, caressing his forehead. “Just concentrate on my voice as you hold the crystal. Let all the muscles in your body start to relax. Start at your toes, feel your feet resting against the foot rest.. relax your calves and your thighs. Your body feels light as a feather. Just let go of everything, breath in fresh, calming air into your lungs.. that’s it. Let your head fall limp to the side, you’re so relaxed you can hardly keep you eyes open..”

It was working. She could see Mitch’s expression soften, his jaw slacken, eyes starting to flutter.

“Now, I don't want you to try to do anything, okay Mitch?" Phoebe instructed. “Just listen to my voice and let your body float on a warm, safe cloud.” Mitch was slipping into a state of hypnosis, his breathing steady, his eyes closed.

In her softest of voice, Phoebe continued to talk to Mitch. She glanced at her watch to take note of the time. Most of her clients slipped into a receptive state seven minutes into the session, and it seemed that Mitch was progressing right on schedule. A consciousness between wake and sleep, just deep enough to be able to reach back into his memory, awake enough to hear her voice giving him instructions.

“Before we begin Mitch, I want to tell you to awake when I command you to, with a single clap of my hands, okay? Do you understand? Raise your right hand if you understand.” Right on cue Mitch lifted his hand and set it back down. “Good. Now Mitch, picture a wave slowly washing over your body,” she whispered. “As the wave washes over you you lose all sensation. All you feel is a calm sense of peace, all you hear is the sound of my voice..”

“You can’t see anything at all. Everything is dark, still, quiet,” she instructed, in a calm, soothing whisper. “Now you see a large white screen, like a movie screen. Slowly some images start coming into focus. Look at the screen Mitch. Tell me what you see..”

Mitch lay there silent for a moment, his stomach rising and falling softly. Phoebe waited, a couple of minutes passing before his jaw lowered as his lips parted and he began to speak.

“Hills. Lots of hills,” he said, pausing as if he was looking at something. “Green hills, and green forests.”

“What else do you see?”

“In the distance, a lake, a very large lake. It looks like a giant mirror, reflecting all the green. There's a village on the edge of the lake, several small buildings gathered around each other. They look like buildings made from many stones, with wooden frames.”

Flick pushed the branches in front of him out of the way as he stepped closer to her. He was hoping she hadn’t seen him. Flick walked closer, carefully planting his leather clad feet, hoping there were no twigs in his path. He spotted Jean in the distance, lightly stepping along a flowered path. The flowers were all so beautiful and the many colors fascinated her. She could take her pick of which ones she liked the most, so she grabbed several, one of each of the colors she saw. Her pink lips quickly parted in a smile as she took them each by their long stems, and placed them carefully between her breasts that were held closely together in a tight corset, placing the remainder in her hair.

  Flick wondered how he got so lucky as to happen across Jean.  He watched her from afar as her long white dress gently floated in the wind. As the wind blew around her Flick saw Jean’s heels and toes, between the laces and leather of her sandals. He kneeled behind a bush to hide as Jean hummed a Scotish lullaby s she went about her way.

  Jean wasn't far from town, not more then a bit of a walk Flick thought to himself. But still, did she really feel safe enough to wander out to the woods alone, especially as close as they were to the Moors?  Flick was in the woods too, but he was there to hunt and had daggers and a slingshot to protect himself. Flick just hoped he wouldn't come across a Banshee. .

  Flick turned his attention back to Jean, as she bounced about on her way. The streams of sunlight through the trees hit her dark auburn hair bringing out her red highlights. Jean’s hair tumbled off her shoulders, several long curled strands covering the front of her face. Around her seemed to be will'owisps if one didn't know any better. But as she came from the darkness of the woods into an open vale, the sun filtered though, and like a prism, it's light affected everything with splendid colors. Even the bugs flying around Jean seemed to glitter.

  If nothing else, why was she alone? Flick wondered. And in watching Jean he had wandered off from the hunt. The others surely must be looking for him. This was to be a day of fun after all, all the fellows out on a hunting trip, a day away from the tavern, but still, she kept his interest. Jean always had his interest, he just admired her best from afar. Flick had seen her many times in the tavern and wanted to talk to her, but there was always a big man by Jean’s side overshadowing her. Jean would just sit there silently, smiling through it all, as the big man stood tall over her and his friends, his loud mouth boisterous enough to fill the whole tavern. Flick couldn’t help but wonder if that ominous voice echoed through the Manor as well.

 “Is she beautiful?” Phoebe asked, one knee swinging over the other in interest.

 “Very. I can't stop watching her. It's dark in the tavern, you can't see very well and the smoke, it hurts my eyes. But I can still see her, in the corner, sitting behind him.”

 “Go on.”

 “It smells very musty, the walls, they're moldy, but still the place is full of people. She walks by and I can smell her, something sweet in the air when she passes by.” Mitch paused, his lips continued to move, but nothing came out of his mouth. “She walks by and she sees me. I have to turn away, her stare makes me blush. I feel almost ashamed for looking at her in such a way. I drink my beer, it's very, very strong. It has a strange dark color. I look up to watch her again, over my mug as I drink from it.”

 “Do you like her?”

 “Very much so.”

 Phoebe stopped, and wondered why he wasn't telling more. “What’s happening now?”

 “I don’t approach her because she’s married..”

Phoebe took a notepad off the coffee table and jotted down names and images from this lifetime. Could it be medieval Scotland or Ireland? She had heard two distinct names, Flick and Jean and jotted down details about the two and their surroundings because Mitch got silent and this lifetime seemed to be slipping away.

 “Okay Mitch, that was really good. Now the screen has gone white again. Take in the light and look deep into it again and let images emerge..”

 Having Mitch remember one past life was wonderful, trying for another one maybe was asking for too much. But to Phoebe’s surprise, moments later Mitch started speak.

 “Please don't go,” Mitch said, his face pained.

 Phoebe looked up from the notepad she was writing on. “Who's leaving?”

 “She is,” Mitch said.

 “Look around you Mitch. Tell me about your surroundings..”

 She looked away, not able to look him in the eyes. “I have to go with my family,” she said, her gloved hands holding tightly onto a powder blue parasol that matched her hooped dress.

      “Jennifer,” Michael begged, taking his top hat into his hands, “please don't go.” The collar of his shirt felt like it was strangling him, as the pain and frustration of losing the one he loved washed over him.

     The wind suddenly kicked up, rustling through the trees that lined the broad cobbled streets, causing a shower of blooms to fall about Jennifer’s feet. Heartbroken, she stared down at them, still unable to look her beloved in the face. “I have no choice,” she said, pain lacing her words. Michael stood across from her, the mighty Mississippi river to his back, Jackson Square in front of them. Horse and carriages trotted by them on their way to the French Quarter. “I have to go to California.”

      Michael’s mind raced, as he tried to think of a way he could make her stay. “Is there anything I can do to convince you to stay?” he asked, tightly gripping his hat, bending the rim out of shape.

      Jennifer stood tall, her back straight, eyes lowered, with tears streaming down her face. Was it so hard for him to say the words her heart yearned to hear? All Michael had to do was tell her that he loved her and she would stay behind in New Orleans, questionable fate or not. She would give up a wealthy, sheltered existence to stay with the man she loved. But how could she if Michael had never professed his love, not even now when he was so close to losing her.

      The tails of Michael’s long coat flapped in the wind, and he lifted his hand, shading his eyes from the dust rising up off the street. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, how he wanted to ask for her hand, but what good would it do now?  She had already made up her mind, dressed and packed to move out west with her family. How could he, someone of average means, presume to take her away from her family and the life of luxury she was accustomed to? Michael barely made enough money to keep the Inn in business.

      Jennifer’s mind screamed a silent plea. Say it, tell me you love me and can’t live without me. In a very inappropriate move, Jennifer crossed over to him, reaching out to touch his hands, gazing deeply into his big blue eyes, her eyes pleading. If he truly loved her he would say so.

But time was running out and he knew it. It wouldn’t be the same if she coaxed the words out of him, he would have to offer them up on his own. Say the words, just say the words. Have the courage, have the strength, just take the chance for once. Please Michael, before it’s too late..

Suddenly, her family’s carriage approached. Michael’s heart pounded and the tears he had fought so hard to hold back started to stream down his face. Jennifer stood as if in a daze, her hands falling to her sides as the footman jumped down from the carriage to gather the luggage at Jennifer’s feet.

      Jennifer’s shoulder’s shook as she too started to weep. In a last ditch effort to change her fate, Jennifer began to speak between sobs.

“My parents already have a marriage arranged for me,” she cried, realizing how much her words must be hurting him. But I don't want to go. My life is so planned for me, she thought, please ask me to stay. Yet the words never came. Jennifer’s heart sank. “My life is already made for me in San Francisco..”

      Michael’s chin dropped to his chest. There was no hope.

      “Ready ma'am? We have to leave now if we're to make the train,” the driver said.  

  Jennifer nodded, and the driver opened the carriage door. Her feet felt like lead and she felt as if she was going to faint. Mustering all the courage she had left, Jennifer looked around at the New Orleans streets she loved, capturing the image in her mind, for there was a good chance that this would be the last time she would ever see her home.

Taking an unsteady step forward, she reached up to caress Michael’s cheek, and discarding everything she had ever learned about proper ladylike behavior, she stood on tip toe resting her powdered cheek against his before pressing a kiss against it, leaving a red lip print.

      “Goodbye Michael,” she uttered, between sobs.

      Michael turned away after the kiss, unable to look Jennifer in the eyes. He couldn’t bare the pain in her eyes, much less watching her leave. There was no way he could live with this as his final memory of her.

      The driver held his hand out for her and Jennifer took a step back, hiking up her dress so that she could step up and into the carriage.

The driver closed the door behind her and Jennifer held onto the edge of the window, yearning to lean out of it. But he was letting her go, the pain of the fact almost too much for her love sick heart to bear.

Hearing the slap of the reins and the horses start to move, she leaned out the window and glanced back for one final look of her love. She waved, resting her head against the window as she wept, realizing that Michael had turned away towards the river. He had made his choice. It was over, she thought with dismay, sitting back.

      The carriage was already half way down the street, the sound of the horse’s hooves on the cobbled street echoing back at him.

Michael turned, desperation hitting him, and he began to run. “Stop!” he yelled, waving his hat.

     Unaware of the chase, the driver lashed the reigns again, and the horses sped up their pace, into a full gallop. Jennifer held her lace handkerchief to her eyes, trying to stop the full flow of tears. Her eyes ached, and her head pounded in pain as her ears rang, filled with the sounds of her own sobs.

     Michael ran as fast as he could following the carriage the best he could down St. Charles. The carriage wheel hit a mud puddle and splattered mud all over Michael, but he didn’t care. “Jennifer!” he yelled, “Jennifer! Please stop!” He yelled once more, as loud as he could, but his words went unheard. The carriage turned the corner and Michael ran up onto the promenade, rounding the corner at full speed. But  his legs buckling out from under him, and he grabbed onto a black iron gate gasping for air.

    Phoebe was drained, never having experienced such an intense regression. She was concerned for Mitch who looked like he was in pain. “Mitch, what did you say? Say it again, please..”

A tear emerged from the corner of his eye, rolling down his cheek. “I love you,” he whispered, ever so softly. Phoebe bit her lip, excited from what she just heard, a smile emerging.

“The screen’s gone blank again,” stated Phoebe, scared that the regression would be too much for Mitch since it was only his first time. “You’re totally calm and ready to receive any other images..”

Mitch shifted positions, his body language totally changing into a more defensive stance. 

“No, I'm going after him!” Mike said, as he shoved Seth aside. His hands came instinctively to the holsters at his hips as he bounded up the stairs.

     “Ya crazy as an injun! He’ll gun you down Mike!” Seth said, grabbing Mike’s shoulder. But it was too late, rage already burned in his eyes. “Ya ain’t thinking straight, and ya ain't gonna shoot straight..”

      “I'm tired of seeing him slap her around like a mule,” Mike said, swatting Seth’s hand away. “I don't care what she is, she don’t deserve to be treated that way.”

      “But she's..”

      “Paid for or not,” Mike yelled, “it ain’t right.”

      “What's not right?” Phoebe asked, leaning forward on her knees, suddenly confused.

      Mitch's voice was agitated. “Zeb..”

 Phoebe's brow furrowed. “Who’s that?”

 “Zeb,” Mitch said, his jaw tensing, “he keeps putting the rough paw to Jenna.”

 Phoebe nearly fell out of her chair. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. “Mitch, where are you?”

 “Wild west.. Colorado maybe.. It’s packed with people.. lotsa noise..”

 “Mitch, tell me about Jenna..”

 Mitch didn't speak for a few seconds. “She's almost naked, she's not wearing much. All I see is some white bloomers and a ripped corset.”

      “I don't understand Mitch,” Phoebe said, wondering what was happening. “What's going on?”

 “I.. I..” Mitch began to stutter his words, his lips moving much slower. “I see red..”

 Phoebe leaned in towards Mitch. “What do you mean you see red?” Mitch was a lot more agitated so Phoebe took his hand. “It’s okay Mitch, you’re safe. Tell me what’s red..”

 “The door. I..”

 “The door is red?”

 “No,” Mitch answered, a muscle twitching in his arm. “The door is brown. I.. I knocked it down.”

 “What's red?”

 “The room.. I see her.”

 “She's dressed in red?” Phoebe asked, confused. “What's red, the room?”

 “No..” Mitch’s stomach tensed. “I.. I see him."

 “Is he wearing red?”

 Suddenly his stomach stopped spasming. “No, I'm red!” he said, "I'm bleeding!”

 The adrenaline coursed through Phoebe’s body and she dropped the notepad and pen, amazed at the success that she had had regressing Mitch but was scared at the latest development. He was bleeding in a past life and she had no way of knowing if it was a life-threatening wound. She had to get him out of the trance and fast.

 “Mitch..” Phoebe stated loudly.

 Mitch's lips opened slowly after several seconds. “Yes.”

      “When I clap my hands you will wake up totally refreshed,” Phoebe said, clapping her hands.

 Mitch coughed, as his eyes opened and he brought a fist up to cover his mouth. “That it?” he asked, a little short of breath. Mitch slowly sat up, seeing Phoebe standing over him.

 “Yep, that's it,” Phoebe said, all smiles. Mitch looked at Phoebe uneasily. “Uh oh. What did I say?”

 “You don't remember?” Phoebe asked.

 Mitch sat on the edge of recliner, rocking back and forth, thinking as best as he could. Finally he looked up to Phoebe. “Nope.”

 “We can go over the session if you like. But it’s gonna take a while..”

 “Oh man, what time is it?” Mitch asked, checking his watch. “10:30? Geez, I have to get back. Kelly’s sick and Lynn should be by to pick her up soon..”

 “And you thought you couldn’t be hypnotized,” Phoebe grinned. “You can take that crystal with you and try to see how far you can get into a regression on your own.”

 “I can’t be,” he scoffed, “I just fell asleep. And to me the whole crystal thing is mumbo jumbo.” Mitch didn’t say anything to Phoebe but the crystal felt like it was vibrating a warm, pulsating heat in his hand.

 “Fine, just keep telling yourself that,” Phoebe replied, “but when you’re in the mood for the truth gimme a call. You won’t believe what you told me.”

 Phoebe was frustrating. She’d never had such a rewarding experience doing a past life regression. Mitch was a natural. But what good was that if he didn’t believe. “If it’s all bull then why are you still holding the crystal so intently? Hmm?” Phoebe teased, pressing Mitch. “It’s still pulsating, isn’t it? Okay, just forget it. Give it back to me. But once I touch it you’ll lose any positive charge you have already put into it. But it’s all baloney anyway, right?” Phoebe leaned over, reaching for the crystal.

 “Okay, okay! Sheesh! You really are relentless you know that?”

 “Put it into this velvet sack and don’t let anyone else touch it, okay?”

 “Yes mother.”

 “You know I’m gonna nag you and nag you til you hear me out on this!” Phoebe yelled after Mitch, but he was already gone. But he had taken the crystal with him.

* * * * *

Copyright © 1998 Susana Audrain 
and Richard Tingle All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this novel or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law.


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