I am posting Chapter 2 of my paranormal romance, A Quiet Moment, entitled Iris. All the chapters will remain posted if you need to catch up. I hope everyone is doing okay during this time of social distancing. And hopefully, this will be a distraction. Peace to All. 🙂
The first thing that Aimee did once she returned to her townhouse and shed her winter garb in favor of a very comfortable rayon shirt and pants set, was to light a pink candle that sat on the table at the foot of her bed. Beside it was a small crystal bowl filled with fresh water that she changed once a day. She focused on the flame and concentrated on breathing deeply.
She was sitting cross legged on her bed in a meditative stance surrounded by things that comforted: a beige afghan made for her by her grandmother; a soft satiny bedspread in very muted shades of rose; soft pillows; soothing artwork of ocean scenes; and finally but perhaps most importantly large, polished pieces of clear quartz strategically placed at the North, South, East and West points of the room.
Every aspect of this personal space, she had designed as a refuge to bring comfort when she felt the need to escape into a protected cocoon. The crystals that she had taken great care in selecting helped her regroup and restore energy balance. This was a place to be calm, reflect, recharge, and recover—something that she desperately needed at the moment.
She held a pillow against her chest and leaned back on the bed. It still felt as though she were trembling inside, experiencing the aftershocks of some cataclysmic event. It was entirely incomprehensible to her that she’d given this man, the one who had done this to her, this Jacob Wyss, her phone number. Yes, it did seem like a very simple, innocuous thing, but nothing about this situation was simple or she feared in the least innocuous.
The man was a stranger and on top of that a potentially, dangerous stranger. But at that very bizarre moment when he’d slid his card over to her, and she had fully intended to slide it right back as blank as it had arrived, something happened. It was as though everything grew silent around her and then the whirling sound of a windstorm seemed to rise in her ears. It felt endless but strangely familiar. And she knew that somewhere she had opened a door to something new, perhaps frightening, but the only way to close it again was moving forward not back.
Then, without feeling as though there was a choice, she wrote down her number. And he looked quite pleased about it.
Now here she was curled up on her bed wondering why, why she had done something so stupid.
The emotional fatigue caught up with her, as did the fact that her body had still not recovered from its most recent illness. Aimee closed her eyes and let sleep overtake her. But her dreams were restless, of a faraway land and of a desert that she was certain stretched into infinity.
They lived in the house on Carrollton Avenue for about five years. Aimee was just shy of her tenth birthday when they moved. During those years Aimee never achieved any extended contact with Rose, but she was able to calm her, at least she felt as though she had. Later, when she was in her twenties, she would find proof, an old death certificate at the courthouse stating that there had indeed been a death at that house about the turn of the century. It was a young woman, not out of her teens. The details were excluded, but Aimee knew without anyone telling her that it was a suicide. And given the nature of the wound that she’d experienced, she came to the conclusion that it had been a very painful and protracted demise. Rose had probably spent some hours bleeding to death. She must have wanted to die very much not to have summoned help in those long, agonizing hours. Aimee did not push to learn the cataclysmic nature of this young woman’s grief. She had experienced enough of its residue to be frightened out of seeking too many answers.
Outside of Rose, there was something odd that Aimee began to notice about two years into their stay on Carrollton. Her mother began developing some peculiar habits. She had begun to strategically burn candles and place sprinklings of water throughout the house. There were herbs too left here and there that Aimee did not recognize the nature of. It was something that was not discussed, and it went unnoticed by her father. Looking back now it was easy to see that her mother had implemented a campaign of cleansing the house of negative forces. Evidently Rose’s presence had not gone as unnoticed as she had first thought.
And then somewhere around the middle of their third year there, Anna Marston began a new strategy to solve this particular dilemma. She began to subtly talk Aimee’s father into moving. Being a rather inflexible individual, it took a full year of wearing him down before he capitulated.
This time, when the family began house-hunting again, they were always accompanied by Anna’s mother. Aimee’s grandmother was a small woman, just five feet, but in spite of her advanced age with black hair only very sparsely sprinkled with grey. It was her eyes, however, that mostly stood out. They were a clear, piercing blue —very kind but also very keen as though they missed nothing.
There was one day in particular that she remembered not long after they had settled in their new home. Unannounced, her grandmother briskly came into her room and closed the door behind her. She sat on the edge of Aimee’s bed, looking at her intensely from behind her wire spectacles. Without any ceremony, she pointedly asked her what she knew about the young girl in the old house, the one that had killed herself. It seemed like a sort of matter of fact, ordinary conversation at the time. But looking back now, it was clear that it marked Aimee’s first steps into a whole new world.
He paced. He paced through his house, brimming with creative energy. There were so many ideas but much too unfocused to put anything down on paper. Painting, even just drawing, required a certain degree of focus, and he was nowhere in the vicinity of focused. He was all over the place.
He sat on the beige and dark blue, striped sofa that he and Talia had picked out. It was soft, almost a velveteen. But it irritated him. He hadn’t really thought about it much before, but perhaps it was time to replace it. Talia hadn’t wanted it, hadn’t wanted much of anything except money and a clean slate. The house itself had been his before the marriage, but most of the other things, perhaps most of the memories she’d left for him to deal with. But he really hadn’t, frankly for years after the divorce he hadn’t cared, hadn’t been able to muster up the energy or emotions to care about much of anything. He was too disillusioned. Despite his rather rough and as some would describe brusque exterior, he was a dreamer perhaps a bit romantic but not in a slick, flowery way, but rather a spiritual way. He’d expected his marriage to last forever. He’d expected and then yearned for a communion of souls that would deepen. He hadn’t anticipated what happened — the sheer pain of it all, and then worse than that the numbness. It had taken something out of him. In some respects, it had taken his resiliency. He’d always thought he could bounce back from nearly anything. He didn’t think that now. He had been introduced to his limitations, and because of it had tempered himself in a way that would have been unthinkable in youth.
He glanced over to the huge scenic window at the heart of his very rustic den. The snow was coming down today. Going out, driving the winding mountain roads back to his home had been reckless, at least twice he’d nearly slid off the road. He’d taken chances, but he couldn’t find a single molecule beneath his very agitated skin that regretted it. He’d do it over and over again and even maybe spill off a mountain if that meant that he could feel this way. He was in the grip of some madness, some wild obsession tied intrinsically to one Aimee Marston. He couldn’t ever, and he meant ever, remember a woman affecting him like this. It was completely juvenile, completely nuts, and he was loving it. He felt alive and he was determined to follow this crazy, lunatic’s path wherever it might lead.
It was approaching dusk, nearly five in the evening. To call now would probably be ill advised. But he wanted to, so needed to.
He walked to the walnut wood table against the wall where his phone was. He pulled the card out of his shirt pocket where he’d put it for safekeeping after he’d pressured Aimee to write her number on it. He frowned, sincerely hoping in the aftermath that she hadn’t regretted her decision. Deep breath Jacob, and then he dialed quickly before he could entertain more reasonable voices in his head.
She was in a heavy, drugged-like sleep when she heard the ringing sound in the distance. It pulled or rather dragged her back to consciousness. She groggily reached over to the phone on her bedside table not in a coherent enough state of mind to consider who could possibly be on the other end of the line.
“Hello,” her voice was soft and groggy.
“Aimee,” her eyes opened more widely. She knew the voice. Had she just been dreaming about that voice?
“Yes,” she waited.
Jacob looked down. He’d probably jumped the gun, not too suave. She was going to think he was some kind of nut. “I woke you up, didn’t I?”
She sat up in bed sort of rubbing her eyes, “Yes, sort of. I came home tired.” She turned her head and coughed. It still sounded so deep.
“Are you all right? You don’t sound well.” She smiled. He did sound concerned. That was nice, someone around here being concerned about her.
“I’m just getting over a bought with bronchitis. This is Jacob, right?”
“Yep, I wanted to make sure you made it home all right, with the snow and all.”
“I would have thought you were the one who had more to worry about.”
“Yeah, that’s true. I avoided a few mishaps but made it back in one piece.” Again, she turned her head and coughed, “That doesn’t sound too good.”
“Well sounds worse than it is. I guess I should have stayed home today.”
“At the risk of sounding terribly selfish, I’m glad you didn’t.”
Again, she smiled, wanting perhaps in part to say me too, but she didn’t. She needed to be guarded until she could figure out a strategy. “Well like you I’ve been accused of being unwise on occasion.”
“Now with you I find it hard to believe. Do you have tea in the house?”
She nodded, “Yes, all kinds.”
“Right I forgot the tea drinker. Well I’ll let you get some rest, if you’ll let me call again sometime soon.” Her heart had picked up its beat, all sorts of conflicting emotions suddenly racing through her. “Aimee, are you there?”
“Yes, yes that would be fine.”
“Have a good night then.”
“You too Jacob, have a good night.”
“Hmmm,” Aimee stared at the blank computer screen before her, hungry to be filled with words, words that she seemed unable or perhaps unwilling to provide at the moment.
“Hello, are you with us?” She glanced up from the wooden desk that she had settled behind. It wasn’t exactly her desk. For the most part she emailed in the articles that she wrote for The Quest in from home. She liked the flexibility of working for this particular local and somewhat artsy newspaper. Even its headquarters had a casual, congenial sort of feel, housed in an old warehouse building just walking distance from the downtown mall — the most eclectic and cultural retail area in Charlottesville. She liked the creative atmosphere in this area of the city. This room itself was enormous with shiny wooden floors and filled with light. The furnishings were sparse but comfort oriented and of course there were a sprinkling of odd art pieces that its owner Claire Carrera liked to collect. She didn’t share her taste, but it was tolerable.
Before her was one of a string of part-time photographers. Joan Lundi was presently perched on the edge of the desk staring at her with the purest blue eyes, a bit reminiscent of her grandmother’s but not quite as piercing and sporting wildly permed blonde hair. Joan was at least seven years her junior and was only working here while she finished up her degree in fine arts at UVA.
Aimee glanced up at her a little blankly. “Did you say something?”
Joan frowned, looking perturbed. Joan was a Taurus. Aimee had discovered early on. Usually unruffled by life, unless of course life got irritating, then so did she. “What’s with you? You seem like a space cadet today?”
She rubbed her eyes. It had been nearly a week since the big snow, and she was still in a bit a funk. And of course, the cold medicine she took this morning hadn’t helped matters, not at all. “I’m drugged. I took an antihistamine this morning. Don’t take it personally.”
“You know you’re not supposed to drive after taking that stuff.”
“Yeah, I do a lot of things I shouldn’t.”
“Really, so what’s his name?”
“You have a dirty mind.” She started typing slowly. It was coming back to her. She was doing a feature article on a new bookstore opening on the corner of Main Street. Her hands paused on the keyboard, and she frowned. Didn’t this town have enough bookstores? One in particular came to mind.
“No, I just have no life. Between school and this gig, I have no time to devote to the male population.”
“Now that’s a tragedy.”
“Yes, I think so too.” She fiddled with the camera that she held in her lap. “I thought you’d be heading back south before too long. Didn’t you say that?”
She grimaced a little, just couldn’t seem to focus on the task at hand. “Yes, I think so, when the time is right. The weather here sort of wreaks havoc on my immune system.” It was hard visualizing the smells and textures of the Avondale Bookstore with Joan’s chattering. But then she did appreciate her presence. She in all her kookiness had a calming energy to her, and she liked being around her.
“Yeah, I know the cold and the snow are nice at first and then, well a little goes a long way. When I finish school, I’d like to settle somewhere warm like Florida or California.”
“Just make sure you do it before they fall into the ocean.” The flow was beginning to come now, and her typing picked up speed.
“Yeah, what is that Nostradamus or something?”
She nodded, now far away enmeshed in the atmosphere and nuances of the store on Main Street. “Something like that.”
Joan checked her watch and then continued to fiddle with her camera, “I guess I got to get this thing loaded. I have that art gallery shoot at four with Ron.”
Aimee’s hands froze on the keyboard. She asked perhaps a little too tentatively, “Art gallery?”
Joan seemed unconcerned and oblivious of her reaction, “Yeah there’s a showing there, some local artist at that big gallery down in the mall.”
Her heart started to race. It had to be. Damn, she’d lost the bookstore now. Joan glanced down at her with a big smile. “Well I’ll catch you later, good luck on the story.” And in her energetic way she was out the door before Aimee could say anything else.
She tried to refocus on the task before her, but guilt and cowardice nibbled at her. He’d called twice during the week, but she hadn’t answered. She’d let the calls go to voicemail. And he hadn’t seemed perturbed, but there had been something in his voice, something that told her he knew. She just felt ill prepared to deal with him. Even Iris hadn’t been around to help. And she felt before she had any more to do with him that she needed help.
Aimee breathed deeply and cleared her mind. The staff room was empty now and it would be easy to finish this, get it filed, and go home. It was fortunate Ron was covering the gallery today. Very fortunate, she repeated to herself.
“Jacob, how’s this for the mountain landscape? Hey dude, you with us?” He’d been staring out the window watching the Saturday shoppers meander by the plate glass window at the gallery. But he wasn’t seeing the people, he was somewhere else entirely. He glanced behind him where Bob Sanders one of the co-owners of the Lingstrom Gallery was yelling from. Two workers were holding his Appalachian landscape up looking irritated and strained. The frame made the painting one awkward and heavy construction. He eyeballed it and the smaller surrounding works that had already been mounted. “Yeah that’s good.” He could’ve sworn the workers rolled their eyes at him, but of course he couldn’t prove it. He would be the first to admit that he’d been at bit of a pill today. He was irritated. His Mom had called that morning with some sort of a virus, saying how sorry she was to miss the opening, but she’d be in next week. And it wasn’t his first show, so that wasn’t a big deal, but—
He felt a hand on his shoulder. Bob was looking at him with concern in his eyes. He and his wife Frances were about his age give or take a few years. They’d been friends for about five years now, meeting just prior to his break-up with Talia. It had been a lucrative and supportive sort of relationship. “What’s the matter buddy? Is there something wrong with the way we’re setting things up here?”
He shook his head, “No, you’re doing a great job as always. I’m just out of sorts.”
His friend not convinced, sort of frowned, “Anything I can do?”
He laughed, “No, the most interesting woman I’ve met in a long time has given me the brush off.”
Bob nodded solemnly, “Must be out of her mind. You wouldn’t want her if she’s crazy.”
“Right,” he agreed, “absolutely not.”
“Come on, let’s get this stuff finished, and we can catch a late lunch before the opening.”
“Yeah,” Jacob turned around, looking at the stack of paintings still unmounted. Definitively time to get serious.
The first time they met was at the ocean, actually sort of on a bluff overlooking the ocean. But then Aimee didn’t take it very seriously because it was a dream. It was a woman, a beautiful Indian woman with sparkling dark eyes and long black hair that was in braids. The day, at least in the dream, was overcast with turbulent skies, the waves in the ocean violently crashing on the shore below them.
The woman didn’t take notice of her, just continued to sit cross legged intensely staring out ahead of her. Aimee noticed that she wore a lovely bracelet of turquoise on one arm and a thin band of silver on the other. She was dressed as though she were straight out of her social studies book from the section about the early settlers and their encounters with the American Indians.
Aimee could feel the rumbling of the thunderous sky all around her. She looked up at the lightning darting jaggedly through the voluminous dark clouds. There is much energy in a storm. That is one way for you to replenish yourself. She looked down at the woman seated beside her. She hadn’t moved, but Aimee felt certain that she had heard the voice. And then the lady turned to her with her elegant perhaps almost regal face and again she heard her. Don’t be afraid. This is how we will communicate. Sit next to me and feel the power around you.
She knelt down beside her and then emulated her position, crossing her own legs. You have many gifts Lily. I have come to help guide you to use them.
Why did you call me Lily? It was odd. She knew that she was now communicating the same way that the woman had spoken to her, simply with her mind.
Again, she was struck by the lady’s beauty when she smiled. A long time ago we lived a life together as sisters. Your name meant Lily, and mine was Iris.
Is that what I should call you, Iris?
If you wish, I have the privilege of being your spirit guide.
A guide? That sounds good.
Yes, little one. It will be fine.
When she awoke the next morning, she felt more energized than she could remember having felt for some time. She was ten years old then and embarking on a new phase of a very old journey.
She glanced up at the ceramic clock in the shape of a typewriter that Claire had mounted on the wall of The Quest’s staff room. It was an odd piece, as were other odd pieces that Claire had decorated the building with, but then again Claire was a bit of an odd piece herself.
It was eleven o’clock. This was good, finishing this up now left Aimee plenty of time to finish other projects that were lying around at home. Among other things there was a stack of editing to finish for a local law publisher that she worked for on a freelance basis. Working part-time at several places suited her lifestyle. She enjoyed the fluid nature of her employment. It paid the bills but also allowed substantial freedom for other things that needed attention.
She walked across the shiny wood floor, her brown boots echoing a bit as they made contact with the hard surface. As she rounded the corner, she stuck her head in Claire’s rather plush office. She was surprised to see Joan perched on the large cherry wood desk and Claire, a little lower on the horizon, in her brown suede, executive chair. Claire, as Aimee would most often find her, was on the phone.
Her keen eyes locked onto Aimee immediately much in the manner of a hawk that had zeroed in on its prey. With animation, Claire gestured her into the room. Aimee felt an immediate plunge in her stomach that she feared foreshadowed something very dreadful to come. She debated strongly on turning on her heels and leaving quickly but that of course would possibly get her fired. And that particular consequence, she debated also.
Again, with great drama, Claire motioned her to enter.
“No, No, No, Rob,” Claire repeated with deliberateness into the receiver, “take care of your kid. A solution has just walked in. Don’t worry, we’ll cover you.”
Oh no, the wheels started spinning, not Rob, not today. Although she hadn’t thought it possible, her stomach seemed to plunge a few degrees lower. Claire hung up the phone and stared at Aimee with a bit of dismay. “Are you coming in, or just going to hold up the doorframe?”
She swallowed and smiled, trying to think up a stellar excuse. She took a few daunting steps inward but then stopped.
Claire frowned. Her lips were a strange shade of orange today. This woman was a fifty-something, redhead powerhouse who liked to experimentally stretch the boundaries of the warm tones in cosmetics. Each time Aimee saw her she seemed a bit remade into a different version of herself. “Are you all right?” she asked rather cryptically.
“Umm, a little under the weather.”
“Ah well I know just what will perk you up. Rob’s son has taken a spill out of their tree house, poor kid broke his arm. Of course, I don’t know what they’re doing letting the kid go up in a tree on an icy day like this. But anyway, I need you to cover the showing down at the Lingstrom Gallery at four. Joan will go with you and take pictures.”
The very quick words sealing her fate had her head spinning. Trapped, trapped, whispered her mind. “Claire, I’m not an art critic.”
Claire waved her hand, “I know. I don’t want a critique, just a sort of impressionistic piece, like your other stuff. Apparently, he’s quite good, this isn’t his first show. Um, what’s his name?”
Joan who had been listening intently picked up at pamphlet off the desk and chirped in, “Jacob Wyss. He’s not too hard on the eyes either.” She held out the paper to Aimee.
She took it and looked down at the handsome face staring back at her, those warm but penetrating eyes. On some level, she felt as though he’d set this up, but that wasn’t possible. “Look Claire,” she started but was intercepted.
“Aimee, I’m sorry about the short notice here, but I really need you. You’re a fabulous writer, and I don’t want somebody handling this who will botch it all up.” She stared at her expectantly with her bright orange mouth. She was an Aquarius. And while that could be inspiring at times, at other moments it felt as though her vision of things was mowing you over like a bulldozer.
She shrugged. This was pointless. She didn’t have to be psychic to know she was caught. “Okay.”
Claire smiled broadly and slapped the desk, “Great, I love it when people don’t argue with me. Now you need to go home and change, the opening is sort of dressy, invitation only stuff. Probably champagne, some kind of munchies,” she slapped Joan on the shoulder and eyed her. “Got to get out of those jeans, Joan. Do you own a dress?”
“Yeah I do, a black one, kind of short though.”
“Good enough.” And she waved them off with her hands, “Run along girls and don’t have too good a time. We don’t need any DUIs.”
“Oh, by the way Claire,” Aimee interjected with little enthusiasm. “I finished the Avondale Bookstore feature.”
Claire glanced up from a pile of papers that she’d begun to look at. “Great, and thanks Aimee. I owe you.”
Aimee knew that she was sincere, but at this very moment it felt like small comfort.
Jacob smiled, shaking hands and chatting as people whom Bob and Frances Sanders had invited to the opening slowly filtered in. Most of them he didn’t know. They were on a list of Who’s Who that the Sanders had compiled. Those who were most likely to either buy or spread the word about his art. It was a necessary evil. He told himself. His natural inclination and lifestyle were to live as bit of a hermit. All of this fluffy, insincere stuff sort of went against the grain and as a consequence made him extremely tired.
Bob suddenly appeared at his elbow, looking flushed with animation. Jacob had noticed long ago that this man thrived on these sorts of mixers. It was definitely a skill and an enviable one at that. He patted Jacob’s shoulder, “Looking good buddy, I’ve already had a few inquiries about some of the paintings. How about you, any bites?”
He nodded, “Yeah one little old lady asked me if I could do another Appalachian landscape but have the mountains pink instead.”
“Hmm, yep, well, these social types. What can you do? Get a glass of wine and relax. The press is here. The Advocate’s people have been here for a while, and The Quest’s are just arriving. Frances said they called and are sending over a different reporter. She’s read her stuff, says it’s very umm, unique.”
“Umm unique? Does that mean it’s good?”
“Dunno, she’s over there at the entrance with her photographer.”
Jacob’s eyes slowly scanned past the shifting huddles of people to the doorway where Frances was ensconced greeting the new arrivals. Immediately, his eyes were drawn to a familiar form in a dark purple dress that at that particular moment seemed to make her light skin luminescent. She was shaking Frances’ hand, and then, as if in response to his gaze, her eyes scanned through the crowd. They stopped as they made contact with his. The world around him seemed to still and the murmurings around him dissipated to inconsequential background noise.
Copyright © 2019 by Evelyn Klebert
Jacob Wyss is caught in a rut, in fact on the verge of being engulfed by it. After an excruciating and disillusioning divorce, his life as an artist in a sleepy-college town at the foot of the Appalachian mountains has become quiet, routine, and maddening in its predictability. One wintry day, his deep restlessness drives him out in precarious conditions to a largely empty bookstore nearly devoid of another living soul, nearly.
Aimee Marston isn’t like everyone else. On the surface, she lives a sedate life working as a feature writer for a small local newspaper in addition to several other editorial jobs to help make ends meet. But just beneath, her existence is largely not her own. She is a sensitive, an empathetic psychic, guided by her calling to use her gifts to help others. Unfortunately, as a result, her secretiveness has made her defensive, protective of herself, and prevented her from having much of a life of her own.
A psychic call for help sends Aimee out on a freezing January morning where her destiny and Jacob’s collide sending both their lives spiraling onto an unexpected and often disturbing track. Two lonely souls connect, not by accident, but by design. Theirs is the intersection of two spiritual paths, two lovers who must struggle to overcome the phantoms of a past life, as well as the challenges of their own inner demons to carve out an extraordinary future together.