Ch. 10 – A Tentative Footing

I hope everyone is doing well during this challenging time. I am posting Ch. 10: A Tentative Footing of my paranormal romance, A Quiet Moment, to hopefully offer a bit of distraction. Don’t forget to click on the book at the bottom of the page of you need to catch up on some previous chapters. Take Care. 🙂

A Tentative Footing:

Chapter 10

“I know it’s not precisely local, but with all the weather right now local is a bit thin. So, I think it’s appropriate to travel out of our venue just a tad. And a segment of the artisans is supposed to be international. So, that should be interesting, if Joan here can get some good pictures.” She aggressively tapped the end of her pencil on her oversized cherry wood desk. Aimee found the piece of furniture a bit overdone, but for Claire it seemed quite suitable. Again, aggressive tap, tap, tap, “So, what do you think?”

Aimee glanced up from a haze of fatigue. She’d zoned out, perhaps deliberately. Restful sleep had been eluding her lately. “What?” Two pairs of eyes zeroed in on her. Maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say.

The pen stopped its tapping, and Claire’s heavily lips ticked mouth, in a bit of a brownish, copper tone today frowned at her. “What’s going on with you? It’s like you’re not even here with us.”

Joan who was strategically perched on the corner of Claire’s desk chirped up with. “I think it’s man trouble.”

Aimee immediately retorted with a, “No, it’s not!” Damn, that was way too quick.

An expertly sculpted eyebrow rose somewhere beneath the poufy, quaffed auburn hair, “Really?”

Aimee straightened up. That’s all she needed, these two digging around in her business. “No, I just haven’t been sleeping well.”

“Seen much of Jacob Wyss lately?” Joan prodded.

Claire seemed to perk up like a bloodhound on a scent. “Are you dating Jacob Wyss, our artist?”

Aimee wondered with irritation when he’d become their artist. And then Joan continued with, “You should have seen the chemistry between those two at the gallery. It crackled.”

“No, it did not!” she fired back. Damn, another unconvincing denial.

Claire leaned back in her leather chair, “Why deny it? I saw his picture, quite a handsome fellow.”

“Glad you think so,” she mumbled.

“So, then you’re not seeing him?”

“I,” wondering what the answer actually was, “well, we went out a couple of times, nothing serious.”

Claire nodded in a rather unconvincing manner and Joan quipped, “Too bad, he’s gorgeous. Too old for me, but for you. Well, you two looked nice together.”

And then Claire added, “So, what do you think?”

“I told you it’s not serious!” she retorted, then heard it fall on an awkward silence.

A slow insidious smile gradually spread across Claire’s face, “No dear, about the artisan festival in Waynesboro.”

The heat of embarrassment began creeping somewhere around her face. “I think it’s a good idea,” she replied in the most modulated voice she could summon given the circumstances.

Again, the pen resumed its tapping, “Good, so you two will cover it Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. You can stay over or just drive in.”

Aimee straightened up, the strangely curved wooden chair in front of the desk was nearly impossible to get comfortable in. “Why, so many days?”

“Apparently the exhibitions will be changing a lot, and I want you two to cover the highlights. Is it a problem? Of course, we’ll cover all the expenses. So, do you want to drive in or stay over?” Aimee had heard a rapid fire of questions, not clear on what to answer first.

Joan again chirped up, “I’d rather drive in. I can work it around some of my classes. Aimee can tell me what she wants pictures of.”

And then Claire turned her piercing brown eyes on her, waiting calmly. “I think I’ll stay over. I could use a change of scenery.”

Claire smiled with an expression that said emphatically that she was not surprised, “Very well,” and neither of them commented one bit on what they were really thinking.

They sipped coffee in an Italian restaurant that Bob had recommended. Yesterday, they had eaten at Bob and Frances’ house, and the day before they had taken a day trip to Harrisonburg to a book fair that had proved to be nice, but uneventful. Mary had suggested they invite Aimee out with them tonight, as she was leaving in the morning, but again there was no answer although he did leave a message. He had even dropped by her apartment earlier in the day, thinking perhaps there was something wrong with her phone, but no one was there. He hoped that she wasn’t just ignoring his calls. But he felt somehow that she wasn’t in the area. Perhaps her psychic nature was continuing to manifest in him. He did not feel her presence anywhere around.

Mary smiled at him, drinking her coffee. “You know, I think I prefer this one.”

He glanced up at her, “Hmm?” Completely clueless as to what she was talking about.

“This restaurant, the food is better than the one on the mall. You know the one we went to with Aimee.”

He nodded, “Yeah, I think it probably is.”

She shrugged, “Maybe you should take her here sometime.”

“Yeah, maybe so,” he murmured.

“Tell her I’m sorry I didn’t get to see her again.” He sighed a bit, sipping the coffee that was becoming distasteful just at the moment. It had an odd sweet flavor, sort of like caramel. “So, are you going to tell me?”

He glanced up, “What?”

Her eyes had that steely blue quality that he remembered from childhood when things got very very serious, and he was most likely about to get in trouble. “I’ve given you space, lots of it to fix whatever needs fixing.” And then she was silent, as he waited for her to go on.

“What are you talking about?” he answered in true puzzlement.

“But it has become pretty clear to me that you haven’t.” Again, he waited for extrapolation.

“I haven’t what?”

“Fixed things, my darling.”

“Mom,” he said as quietly as he could manage, “what the hell are you talking about?”

Her eyebrows quickly darted together, “Don’t you curse at me.”

“Am I getting any kind of coherent answer?”

She grimaced, “Fine, for an artistic genius you are very thick. Aimee, you haven’t fixed things with Aimee.”

His eyes widened, “Fixed what things?”

“Well, I don’t know the specifics. I just know something happened to derail the very nice relationship that was blossoming between you two.”

He felt the flames of anger licking around his neck somewhere, that very particular anger that only his mother seemed able to inspire. “First off, I hate that word —blossoming. Nothing was blossoming with us. And second, nothing happened that I need to fix.”

“Are you sure of that?” Her voice was quiet and a tad bit superior.

“Yes,” he spat out.

“Well, I don’t see her anywhere around. And you don’t seem to know where she’s gone off to. If she wanted you to know you would, wouldn’t you?”

He waited, “I suppose,” he growled.

“Are you telling me you don’t want to see her anymore?”

“I didn’t say that,” he snapped.

“What are you saying?”

He bit back hard on his white, hot irritation. “I’m saying,” he enunciated harshly, “that it’s complicated.” It shook him soundly that he was forced to use Aimee’s words.

She stared back at him with so much compassion in her eyes that it made him feel guilty, guilty at his exaggerated reaction to her concern. “Sometimes, we’re foolish and we make very simple things seem complicated.” He said nothing but felt her hand covering his. “Don’t let things that don’t really matter get in the way Jacob.” He glanced into those very soulful blue eyes, “You seemed happy with her, in a way I don’t remember seeing before. Be very sure before you let her walk out of your life.”

He nodded, “Yeah, thanks Mom.”

She smiled, “Don’t mention it.”

Thursday morning, he had accompanied his mother to the airport. Although she had told him repeatedly it wasn’t necessary, he had insisted. It wouldn’t hurt to pick up some supplies, some canvases, paints, specific types of brushes that were harder to come by in Charlottesville. After he’d seen his mother off to her plane, he’d tried calling Aimee again. There was nothing, no answer, just silence.

The rest of the morning he spent visiting old haunts, and halfheartedly purchasing the supplies that he didn’t really need, not yet anyway. His mind was focusing in now, targeting as it was apt to do when he became frustrated. There was a choice now at hand. He could let it all go, not pursue it anymore. And all the complexities, the complications, the extraordinary entanglements that accompanied any involvement with one Aimee Marston would dissipate and eventually be forgotten. Or, he could go the other way.

As he sat in a coffee shop on the corner of Broad Street, he phoned information for The Quest’s main office. Much to his pleasure when he dialed the number Joan Lundi answered laughingly. She told him she was just filing pictures from the assignment that she and Aimee were working on.

It was unsettling. The mutinous emotions that had taken root within him. He had spent the last month in the capital with not even a divided perspective. He simply no longer wanted to be part of the intricate rush of life centered about the nation’s ruler. He yearned to return home, to its simplicity.

And then he pushed the thoughts away. He was too old and hopefully too wise to lie to himself.

He sat on the floor of his suite within the palace, crossing his legs in a meditative position. It was more difficult with the distance but not impossible, not for him.

In his mind, he could still see some dim lights still illuminating his house. His mind moved silently through the corridors. He had given her rooms, not far from his, but he found they were empty. He smiled grimly. Anything that he offered she resisted. She was so filled with fear and anger. It was a puzzle how to heal such wounds given their disproportionate positions in society.

Again, he began to move through the house, searching. Ahh, he found her outside, sitting on the small stone wall beside the garden. He paused reflectively, and then allowed her emotions to fill him. Her eyes snapped open. She’d been praying deeply for guidance, but she sensed him. She was so gifted, so raw, so untrained, and yet so blindingly gifted.

Forgive me for disturbing you.

What do you want? Her mind answered calmly. She wasn’t nearly as defensive as he had usually found her to be.

This trip has been more difficult than usual for me. Simply, I was missing home.

There was a tremulous smile that traipsed across her still very youthful features. I don’t remember what my home was like.

I’m sorry that your life has been so difficult. Perhaps this place can come to be home for you.

She closed her eyes, and then closed her mind to him. It was painful to him, but it was her right. Servant or not her mind was her own, and it must be given freely. But, as in all legal respects, she was considered his property, and he did allow himself some miniscule liberties. He surrounded her completely with his mind so that his very thoughts brushed her skin with warmth. Her eyes opened again at the shock of the intimacy. He knew that she felt it. He hadn’t pressured her into any physical intimacy yet. He was content to be patient, although how patient he would be remained to be seen.

She pulled her arms tightly about her and seemed confused. Perhaps his emotions weren’t the only ones in conflict.

The thing that draws people together, that elemental spark, the one that draws you in one direction rather than another is so difficult to pin down. Perhaps, it is only a flash, something momentarily that tips your life in a particular direction.

Of course, some people were convinced it was entirely of a cognizant nature. Bob had explained to him that Frances mentally met all his specifications for his perfect match. He knew this firmly before he allowed anything of an emotional nature to kick in. But then again, Frances told him laughingly that her soul mate was completely full of shit and that it was a chance meeting at a golf course of all things where she walloped her golf ball right into his side. And once he finally got over the pain and rage, he came to see what a fortuitous accident it was. And of course, among others, golf was still a passion they shared to this day.

So, the question then became why some attractions that are undeniable and powerful end up in that gray area termed unsuccessful and others turn into those rare but enduring matches that seem so elusive.

It was a cold and rainy day late in March that he first set eyes on Talia Mercer. They both found themselves in a sandwich shop on the east side of the city trying to wait the rain out that had decided to pour endlessly to extremes.

He was in no hurry, reading a newspaper and finishing off what remained of his lunch, when he glanced up to see an agitated figure staring out the front window. At first, he returned to his paper, and then his eyes again were drawn to the blond woman, irritatingly pacing back and forth in front of the door. She was extremely thin but gave the impression of one who took up more space than she actually occupied physically. It was a presence, not a serene one by any means, but an anxious presence.

He smiled and returned to his paper. His nature was calmer in those days, unstressed by little irritations, but of course he had no pressing appointment, or persons waiting for him anywhere. He sighed, finishing off the last bite of his sandwich and then noticed that she was still now. She had stopped pacing and just stood there with acceptance, he indulgently thought, watching the rain. It was that woman that drew him for some inexplicable reason, the magnet of that serene figure he remembered. It would be a side of Talia that he would seldom see and then after a point never. Uncomfortably, he came to realize that they did not bring out the best in each other. Just like the proper canvas, the proper paintbrushes, and the proper hues and shades of color, people must be fundamentally compatible. But, to say their time together was just a mistake seemed such a naïve and simplistic evaluation. Their association had honed each other into something that was different and, in some respects, more evolved than their previous selves.

He took the exit toward Waynesboro and turned on the radio to get any news about the upcoming weather.

They came like vibrations now, wispy tendrils of threadbare emotion, most not particularly connected to anything. They floated through the air unseen but were felt, definitely felt by some a fleeting spark of creativity, a joyous bubbling surprise, the elation of a new love, as delicate as a dandelion floating away on the breeze. The happy ones seemed content not to cling and dissipate into some pool of universality somewhere.

But the others, they clung like a film, like atrophied cobwebs on objects, the material things of the world.

She’d passed through a tent filled with antique collectibles, stunned at how pervasive the negative energy clung to so many things — old clothes, dolls, even some furniture. She knew that if she took the time to focus, she would see the physical manifestation of the energy. But she did not choose to see it, just cloaked herself in a protective shield of energy and walked past. It would be unfortunate if people acquired some of these items. There were ramifications to excessive amounts of negative energy.

She walked out of the tent and breathed in deeply the cool winter air. It helped. She had lost some, not much, but some. There was no avoiding it under such circumstances.

On the whole, it had benefited her, being here. There was a particular energy in the valley right next to the mountains. It was definitely clearer, purer than that in Charlottesville. The last two days she’d spent at the artisan festival in Waynesboro had been helpful. She thought, perhaps in some measure, it had strengthened her. If not though, then it had allowed her to obtain some perspective — clear out some debris, if you will.

The city itself was older than the University town, but in some ways, she preferred it. She imagined Crozet had a similar feel, although not nearly as large. No doubt Jacob’s creativity benefited from being so near the mountains. But quickly, she brushed thoughts of him out of her mind. That had been a determination of hers, not to entertain musings about Jacob Wyss, about what he was doing, what he was thinking, and how he could possibly fit into her very unusual existence. She had closed off that line of inquiry and focused on restoring harmony to herself. How else would she ever be of benefit or help to anyone again?

She walked the grounds of the fairground, the still icy grass crunching beneath her boots. There was a slight wind that stung her already chapped cheeks. It was a peculiar time to have a fair, but perhaps that was the charm of it. Residents had turned out in droves for the several days that she’d been here. They and she had walked the roadways of booths set up — pottery, crafts, glassblowing, even furniture making. There were some beautiful warm maple pieces that she’d admired and had the price tag to vouch for it. And of course, there were paintings, and she wondered just for a moment. But there weren’t any pieces of Jacob Wyss’s present. Probably had all his work tied up with the gallery just now.

She carried a small tablet in her purse to take notes, but the truth was that the specifics of the article could have been filed days ago. All she was doing now was attending special events before the close of the festival. There was a weaving demonstration this morning, and later this afternoon a special charity auction where artists’ donated pieces would be auctioned off to raise money for a local children’s hospital. And then there would be fireworks at the close in the evening. And it would be over. Joan had been in taking pictures for two days but had reneged on coming in today. She thought about leaving too, but there was such a languid quality in being here, a detached feeling that was soothing. So, she had decided to stay. She’d even considered driving further into the mountains for the rest of the weekend. She felt no hurry in rushing back to what awaited her in the city.

She continued to stroll well beyond the parameters of the fair, still entranced by the icy tendrils that decorated nearby trees, by the snow that reflected the morning sun in an almost blinding manner. There was a magic in the winter here. It was one that she would miss once she was back home. That time of leaving now was becoming more and more concrete to her now. At the first sign of spring, she would take a trip back and look for a place to live.

In a sort of meandering fashion, she made her way back to the fairgrounds and took a moment to perch on a bench near a picnic table. There were two young children not far from her rolling up the remains of a cluster of snow from last week’s bad weather. She smiled, watching them with distraction and a feeling of melancholy. They emitted an energy that was a pure shade of blue green, a strong intemperate, energy force, not yet tainted by anything.

She hadn’t allowed any contacts to come to her, not even Iris. On some level, she knew she was blocking them, but she didn’t want advice now. She just wanted time.

In the midst of her reflections, she heard a soft crunch of what sounded like someone’s boots hitting the icy grass behind her. She waited to hear them move on, but they didn’t. They’d just stopped.

And then, she felt a hand on her shoulder that sent something akin to an electrical shock through her body. She turned around sharply finding herself staring into a pair of familiar brown eyes. This wasn’t surprising. The contact had identified him immediately to her. His energy had become very distinct. Slowly, she stood up shakily as he removed his hand from her shoulder. “What are you doing here?” Her voice sounded very distant to her and very cold.

There was a definite frown, “Joan told me where you were.”

Her eyes widened, “Joan, how?”

“I called the paper. I’ve been trying to reach you.”

She checked herself, desperately determined to remain cool. “I was out of town.”

“I realize that.” It sounded like a bit of exasperation.

“Then maybe you realize that I don’t want to see you right now.” She snapped out, perhaps a bit more wounded than she had admitted to herself.

She crossed her arms in front of her. The breeze suddenly seemed to have become more biting. “Actually, I thought this was my time to think things through.” His voice sounded a tad lower and perhaps a slight bit irritated to her now.

She swallowed painfully. How dare he, how dare he intrude like this when she was working so diligently on amputating his presence from her life. “Well, I’ve been taking some time too, to reassess.”

His eyes reflected something that she wasn’t used to seeing in him, a hardness at her words. “I’m beginning to see that.”

A slight flicker of fear traipsed across her. She sensed there was a deep temper there that she had yet to see. “I— I just think maybe things happen for a reason, and you and I, well, maybe it was a mistake. Your reaction to things was—” her train of thought sort of faded away at the sight of his very stern and determined expression.

“You didn’t give me much time to react.”

She shrugged, “Well, this is me Jacob, like it or not. Either you can handle it, or you can’t, and you, well you didn’t seem as though you could.”

Her cheeks felt like they were burning. Her words were coming out so jumbled, so convoluted, not really saying anything she wanted to. “So, this is it. You’re giving me my walking papers?”

She flinched at the coldness of his words. Her chest felt painfully tight. She looked down, losing all resolve and all context of where and why they were. “Is your mother still here?”

He’d moved closer to her, but she continued to look away. “She left yesterday. She wanted to see you before she left. I tried to, well, I tried to reach you.”

She glanced up at him, “Tell her I’m sorry I didn’t.” her voice drifted off at the raw intensity of his gaze, so powerful, but needing too. He desperately needed something from her. “I really liked her Jacob, I—”

His voice was a low whisper, “She liked you. Don’t do this now, not like this Aimee. I just needed to get my footing a bit.”

Again, she looked away but felt his arms going around her, his hands on her back. “So, you have your footing now, but there’s so much you don’t know. And just knowing a little seemed to throw you, that maybe it’s just better if—”

“I missed you so much,” he whispered into her hair. And then he added, to her surprise, “I know you’re afraid.”

She glanced up at him, “That’s not it,” wondering for the first time if maybe it was, and what precisely she might be afraid of.

“I was worried that you’d use this as an excuse to pull away from me.”

She thought to speak but then didn’t. She had no idea what to say. He’d pulled her close, against him, and he felt so comforting, so warm just now.

“Aimee let’s just give this a little more time. Let’s see where things go. Can you do that for just a little while?”

She closed her eyes wondering if she could, if she should, but mostly not knowing how to say no to him. “So, you just came here to find me?”

He nodded, “Yes and donate a painting for the auction.”

She glanced up at him, “Really?”

“Yep, after I talked to Joan, I remembered I’d received a request some weeks back. So, I decided to deliver it myself.”

“How convenient.”

He shrugged, “It’s for a good cause and good PR. How long are you planning to stay?” Evidently, the auction was the last thing he wanted to talk about.

“Just until after the auction, then I was considering taking the rest of the weekend in the mountains.”

He pulled her a bit closer into an easy embrace. “Well, why don’t you let me buy you breakfast, and we can discuss another idea I have.”

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.

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