Ch. 13 – Aimee’s Portrait

I hope everyone is doing well. I’ve just posted Ch. 13: Aimee’s Portrait from A Quiet Moment. Peace to All 🙂

Aimee’s Portrait:

Chapter 13

He watched the clock in the kitchen with distraction and a degree of frustration. She’d left about eleven, and it was well after two now. The parting itself had been subtle, calmer, superficially serene. It heartened him that she seemed more in control before she left, but also tormented him that to do so, she had become quite distant. He wanted to ask her to call him when she got back into town, but he didn’t. It didn’t seem at the moment he should ask anything of her.

“I’ll talk to you later.”

She nodded and watched without meeting his eyes as he put her bags into the trunk of her car. He slammed it shut, probably too strenuously, but it accomplished what nothing else had. It startled her into meeting his gaze. There was uncertainty there, but an opening for him, so he spoke. “Look Aimee, I know how upsetting this morning was to you. Well, maybe, I don’t know since I can’t really experience what you do. But what I do know is that it was an event. And there are a whole lot of options between here and any extreme.” He hated walking on eggshells and not saying what he really was thinking.

“I just need a bit of time.”

He sighed, “Yeah that did us a lot of good last time. We can make this work. I’m sure of it. You just need to meet me halfway.”

She smiled a little sadly, and it concerned him that she wasn’t buying into this. “Just, give me a little time,” she reiterated softly.

A forced smile, evidently now was not the time to have this conversation. “Okay, then at least be careful. Keep your mind on the road and all that careful sort of stuff.”

She nodded, “Okay, sorry I messed up the weekend.”

He shrugged, “I’m adaptable.” And then he pulled her into his arms. And she held onto him so close for a moment that he convinced himself that she wouldn’t leave at all. But then she pulled away and did just that.

He took a sip from his coffee. It had gone tepid. Maybe he should cut back, at least today. Already, he felt as though he were jumping out of his skin. Out of impatience, he put down the cup and picked up the phone to dial. He’d waited long enough, and if she didn’t answer this time, she definitely would be getting an unexpected visitor this afternoon. One ring, two, he waited, and then finally, “Hello.”

“Hi, it’s me.”

A silence, “Hello Jacob.”

“Well, obviously I wanted to make sure you got in okay.”

“Thanks, I did. Sorry about things, what happened caught me off guard.” Her voice was quiet, restrained.

“I know. Don’t apologize. I just want to know that you’re all right.”

“I’m okay, just tired.”

“All right, well, get some rest. You know, I’m going to need to see you soon.”

Another silence, “I know.”

“Okay, well, I’ll call you tomorrow, all right?”

“Okay, have a good night Jacob.”

“Good night Aimee.”

She quietly put down the phone, her hand trembling a bit. There was a quakiness in the middle of her stomach now that she felt from talking to him. It had grown. Whatever was happening between them, had grown over these last few days, magnified as had her fear.

With the calmness of someone thrown into a blind panic, she began to plot her escape. It would only be a matter of months before she would be leaving anyway. So, why not make plans to leave now? That was it. She could file this story and then call the airlines. She would fly home, find a place to live, and then come back for her things. There wasn’t really all that much here that she needed to keep. She had bought furniture with that in mind, with her eyes on its transitory nature. The only thing that could possibly put a stop to what was happening with Jacob would be distance. That was the only possibility now, because if she stayed, she wouldn’t have the strength to, to—.

To stay away?

Her eyes rose at the sound of a familiar voice. He was across the room, standing next to the front door, just as she’d remembered him, or maybe a bit younger. He was dressed in a dark suit, like the ones he used to wear, dark brown sort of a cocoa color. “What are you doing here?” was her reply.

“My favorite pupil is falling apart, and she won’t listen to the voices inside her. So, the voices have to come to you.”

She frowned explicitly, “This isn’t a great time.”

“So, I gathered. Letting the lad drive you round the bend. Not the strong, determined young woman I remember.”

“There was a woman.” He nodded affirmatively. “I felt like I was being murdered.”

“It’s not the first time, remember Rose.”

Her voice was in a whisper, “That was a long time ago. I’m supposed to be beyond that now Dominick.”

“Emotions are funny things sometimes. They can send everything askew. You just need to find your balance again my darling.”

“I had my balance. I’ve had it for a long time.”

“Yes, well, maybe it’s time to find a new balance. In any case, this nonsense about leaving is out of the question. You made a promise.”

She shook her head, “No, I need to go now.”

“I know you think you need to go now, but there are still things to do here. And leaving things unfinished is a messy business.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Till spring my dear one, until spring, and then you can do as you wish. Rest now and things won’t look quite so bleak when you wake up.”

A fatigue quickly came over her, and she closed her eyes for a second in frustration. When she looked up again, Dominick had gone. She knew it was no easy feat for him to appear to her like this. Even where he was, it had taken a great deal of energy. She couldn’t think anymore, was even too tired to be upset. She lay down on the sofa. Now she would rest and then plan later. The sleepiness that overtook her was strong and uncompromising, and for a time it eclipsed everything else.

“So, I need those two paintings by Monday at the latest.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you think you can have them here in the morning?”

“I said I’d have them there.” The back of his neck was prickling. Damn, irritated is what he was feeling.

“Hey buddy, are you all right? You sound strange.” There was a real concern in Bob’s voice that made him feel incredibly guilty.

“Sorry, preoccupied just now. But you and Frances have done a lot for me. I’ll hold up my end.”

“No, I have no doubt of that. By the way, Frances was asking me the other day about Aimee. Have you seen much of her lately?”

He ran his hand through his hair. Wonderful, Frances was a good friend, but did like to be in the know. “Yeah, actually I saw her this weekend.”

“No kidding, well, I’ve got to tell you both of us really like her.”

He nodded, thinking suddenly of her standing in the midst of his den in her gown last night. “She is special.”

“So, maybe we can all go out to dinner next week. What do you think?”

Hmm, something normal, how novel, “Well, Aimee mentioned being tied up quite a bit next week but maybe after that.”

“Okay, that would be great. Just let me know. And I really hope it all works out well for you two.”

So, do I, he whispered to himself with a degree of discouragement. “Thanks pal, I appreciate that.”

After he put down the phone, his irritation began to increase. A wave of depression and aggravation had hit him from out of nowhere. Sure, he didn’t like how things were left with Aimee. But just now, this seemed a bit exaggerated. He could feel himself being pulled back into the past, regrets with Talia, but deliberately he stopped it. Mentally, he abruptly ceased the train of his thoughts and then deliberately stepped outside of them.

His eyes wandered about the room with a steely determination. It seemed to him as though something wanted him to feel this way, wanted him to become mired down in the past. And that realization angered him greatly.

He lay back on the couch, on its soft pillows, and willed himself into calmness. He would see. If she could see it, he would see. He felt himself move further into what could only be described as a deep stillness of mind and body. His hands tingled in a way they often did when he was painting, creating the gentle rush of power. Unconsciously, his eyes became drawn to the ceiling. It took a moment, and then he gradually began to see the red glow. There was a fluttering of excitement in his chest. He allowed his eyes to relax, unfocus as it were. And it became clearer, great fluttering things circling around the ceiling.

His stomach rolled in distaste then renewed anger and irritation. He focused on them intently, scrutinized them for a time, and then with a force that came from deep within, he sent forward a power that nailed them to the ceiling. He saw their frantic movement, heard their tortured sounds of pain, before they disintegrated.

He stared at the spot for some time where they had been, feeling calmer and more secure than he could remember feeling for some time. There was indeed a power within him, and he would have what he wanted.

The images that floated through his mind were fevered, disconnected. The sensations were vast, flying, soaring through the air and then flatness, pain erupting from everywhere.

He sat up in his bed. It was not morning. They were deep into the darkness of the Egyptian night. This he knew by his skin and the prickling energy that accompanied this particular hour of the evening.

He breathed deeply. There would be no returning to rest for hours to come. There was something happening, something approaching that was out of balance. It was a change he felt sure, but not an easy one, perhaps not a welcome one.

He looked beside him, the empty spot on his bed. She wouldn’t remain with him. It had been nearly a week since he’d taken her to his bed and not once, not once, despite his requests and then his commands, would she remain once he’d fallen asleep.

He frowned. It was a matter of pride he supposed. No, he knew. He knew very well. In all other respects, save this one, she had complied with him. She had opened her mind, given him her desire, her body, her companionship. But she would not freely be his, because she was not free to choose.

He could release her, give her freedom. Let her leave, but in this region, it was doubtful, given her exotic appearance, that she would remain free long enough to leave the domain. This he told himself, although there were ways he supposed. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was possible. But then, she would be gone from him.

His mind reached out through the corridors of his house and called to her. There was quiet, but he called forth again. Then there was an answer,

Yes, my lord.

Come

It’s late

Come anyway. I miss you

As you wish

It was merely moments before she crossed his threshold, dressed in the white silk gown he brought her from his recent travels. “What troubles you?” she spoke to him. She only used the other way of communication when they were not in proximity.

“Dreams, dreams of fire and death.”

She nodded serenely, and he felt concern in her mind. Whether she wanted it or not, she was becoming bound to him. “I have felt it as well.”

He held out his hand, “Comfort me.”

Her eyes seemed hardened in the dimness of the light. “There can be no comfort, only distraction.”

He smiled, “You seem to think our time together is so brief.”

“All our time is brief.” She said with a conviction well beyond her years.

She took his hand and reached down to kiss him of her own accord.

Jacob opened his eyes, but the shroud of sleep still seemed to surround him. His mind felt muffled and strangely removed from the reality of what he was seeing. His vision itself was blurry, but then it cleared enough for him to focus on the figure across his den.

Groggily, he murmured, “Should I be calling the police now?”

He smiled, “You could, I suppose, but by the time you reached the phone, I’d be gone.”

“Hallucination? Dream?”

He shrugged, seemed very nonchalant for being in the middle of a stranger’s house. “Whatever you’re more comfortable with Mr. Wyss, but if the truth be told, I felt it was time we had a little talk.”

Jacob blinked his eyes. Strangest dream he’d ever had. It felt awfully real, but he also felt awfully disconnected, as though his real self were off floating somewhere. “We have something to talk about?”

The stranger smiled. He had an odd accent that Jacob couldn’t quite place, Italian, French? Maybe he was some kind of weird vampire from Romania. “Felt good didn’t it?”

He felt clueless, “Excuse me?”

“Getting rid of the drainers, the power, it felt good, didn’t it?”

“Um, I suppose.”

“Can we be candid?”

Why not? “Yes, it felt damn good.”

He nodded, “That’s the thing about power. In the wrong hands, it’s like a new toy, ready to be used to fulfill one’s whims. It’s so important that one who has it, uses it with great discretion.”

“Yes, I agree.”

“Glad to hear it Mr. Wyss. Then perhaps you can reflect on why your spirit has chosen to keep your particular brand of power submerged for so long. Perhaps to learn those very important lessons first.”

“My what? Did you say spirit? ‘Fraid you’ve lost me.”

“Give it time. It will all connect. And now, I’d like to discuss one other subject.”

“I’m listening.” What else was he going to do?

“I’m glad to hear it.” He laughed a bit, “Let’s say that hasn’t always been your stance in the past.”

The man was getting under his skin a bit, “Again, you’ve lost me.”

“I digress. Miss Aimee Marston.”

“Aimee? What do you have to do with—”

“Let’s just say, we’re old friends.”

“Oh,” he nodded, wondering who in the world this was supposed to be. “What about her?”

“Since we were talking about power, let me inform you that she has spent the balance of her life trying to put hers to good use, or should I say for the good. It hasn’t been an easy or a particularly happy path.”

“I think she deserves to be happy.”

“And do you think you can bring her happiness,” he asked quite pointedly.

“Are you saying I can’t?”

He laughed again indulgently, “This isn’t a contest Mr. Wyss. She is my concern.”

“And mine also.”

He nodded, “Very good. Well then, understand this. An exquisite treasure has to be cared for, has to be given the proper environment to thrive in, and has to never be mistreated.”

“I understand that.”

“But also, a last little piece of advice, before I send you on your quest Mr. Wyss. You also must never let it slip through your fingers.”

He considered the words for a moment “Yes, I agree.”

He smiled, seemingly satisfied, “Good boy.”

Her head throbbed unmercifully when she awoke. There was darkness outside. The wall clock read seven fifteen. She’d been asleep for hours. She felt shaky, but not particularly hungry. That was a bad habit of hers, forgetting to eat when she was preoccupied. She fished an apple out of the refrigerator, then curled up on the sofa with her laptop computer. Might as well do a preliminary of the Waynesboro festival story. It wasn’t likely that she would be going to bed anytime soon. And it would be a distraction.

She allowed her mind to wander back to the colors and textures of the event, the quiet days that she had spent there, deliberating, confining herself to only that and nothing beyond. It was a skill that she’d practiced over many years, being able to discipline the thoughts of her mind. It allowed her a measure of control that was extremely necessary in her life. Her grandmother, Marie Roussel, had told her, when she was very young, that thoughts have power. “That is why energy is so easily lost and gained,” she had said. And then added, “Don’t allow your mind to wander down unproductive avenues. Losing energy can be critical, to you in particular.”

She sighed deeply, refocusing. There was a job to do. She was deeply into the second paragraph when the awareness set in.

It was light, relaxing, calming in a way. It began with a light sensation on her skin, a soft tingling along her arms. Something that would be completely dismissed by most people, but she had trained herself to be highly perceptive of any physical anomalies.

She stopped typing, puzzled by what she was feeling. Making herself be very still, she waited. Either the sensation would dissipate, or she would be able to locate its origin. For a few moments, she sensed nothing. And then, she felt a flood of energy pass into her. It immediately cleared the headache that she’d been carrying around ever since she’d left Jacob. Her skin tingled everywhere, and she felt remarkably revitalized. Someone had sent her quite a bit of energy. She recognized it. It was something that she had been on both ends of — less seldom the receiver, more often than not, the giver.

She was a bit light-headed. The energy was of a strong nature but immensely helpful to her. She put down the computer and closed her eyes, trying to locate the source of the gift.

He’d spent the balance of the day working in the studio. There was some touch up work for the paintings that Bob needed for the gallery. He concentrated and busied himself with that until nearly dusk. Everything else in his life, the things of substantial gravity, he pushed to the side. The visit, which he had yet to classify as a dream or some sort of visitation, remained on the fringes of his consciousness. It wasn’t something that he wanted to examine yet, nor did he want to think about Aimee just now. It was too frustrating. He was frustrated, wildly frustrated, so as an alternative he had decided to lose himself in his work. But that was earlier and now the night was stretching before him with possibilities.

His eyes fell hard on the easel against the wall. Just now, it felt painful. Perhaps, he should have pressured her to stay, until they reached some sort of understanding, until she had accepted the change. The change had come to both their lives. Why that seemed less catastrophic to him than her, he didn’t know, didn’t necessarily want to know just now.

He hadn’t touched the painting, since she had initially posed for him, sitting uncomfortably on that stool in the middle of the room. He smiled to himself. She’d hated it. He could tell. Being the focus of such scrutiny seemed to go so profoundly against her grain. It was clear that she had spent much time attempting to be somewhat inconspicuous, but to him, it was an absurdity to label her so.

Again, there was the unfinished painting, something that intrinsically bothered him. He didn’t like things left dangling, and he despised having unfinished paintings about. So, he made it a practice to have few. Rather grimly, he wondered if he’d ever have the opportunity to complete this one. But this, he knew, was his disgruntlement talking. As clear as if she was standing in front of him, he could see her here now. There was no real need to have her here in the flesh. She was already sharply etched in his mind, sharply enough, that was, to complete the painting.

Well, no one could ever say he wasn’t a glutton for punishment. He positioned the easel in front of him, beginning to mix the paints. The green eyes stared out at him from the canvas, calling him, he thought with indulgence, making his skin actually prickle in anticipation. “Well Aimee,” he murmured to himself. “It seems we’re going to spend the evening together after all.”

There seemed to be a slight humming in his ears and a tingling that was coursing through his hands. It wasn’t an unusual sensation. It happened whenever he painted, but tonight was different, in that it felt amplified. He’d felt it earlier with her spiritual bugs, a raw power coursing through him. That was what he felt, but now more concentrated, more controlled.

He finished mixing the color, satisfied with the flesh tone for her arm, tanned but with a slight pallor, a very creamy color. He sighed deeply. If he continued on this track, it would be quite torturous. There was a creaminess to her skin, but also a warmth, a sizzling warmth that seemed to permeate right into his flesh when he touched her.

He closed his eyes trying to focus. This certainly wasn’t helping anything. If he sincerely wanted to do this portrait, he had to concentrate. He painted her long tapering hand that was exposed from the sweater. In his mind, he could see the silver band on her right hand that she always wore, the Celtic one.

He was drawn back up to her eyes, her wide eyes. It gave him a chill. He could feel tendrils of emotion creeping along his skin, emotions that were not connected to any thought of his. He paused from the painting and allowed himself to be drawn along by what he was feeling. It was pulling him, gently pulling him, away somewhere. The question was, did he want to allow it? It would be more than simple to break the delicate thread of emotion that he was feeling. But he was a man who was sensitive to, and he might even say enjoyed, subtleties. Subtleties had to be nurtured, or they would dissipate in the unyielding and yes violent rush of the world. Subtleties are the seeds of artistic creation. Someone had told him that, but who exactly eluded him.

He sat back on the stool that he occasionally used when he was working. In truth, he would do most of his painting standing, but it was there, just in case he needed to take a moment and rethink. He put down the brush on the table beside him and took a deep breath. There was one last look at the eyes, the face that he had mostly completed.

Secrets, it was still filled with secrets that he was tired of being on the outside of.

He closed his eyes and allowed his mind to follow the thread.

The images of the mind are so ephemeral that it is easy to interpret them as simply a part of the imagination. If his personality were more controlling or pragmatic, what he began to see would be dismissed as self-created. But that was not his nature. He was one that was merely content to relinquish control and see how things unfolded.

It was vague at first, snippets of color, then foggy images that over seconds began to grow in strength. There was a peripheral awareness within him that assured him of place. That he was still safely in the studio and could open his eyes at any second, shattering the delicate connection. But, he at heart was an adventurer and was intrigued to see how things would play out.

There were buildings, houses, in dull colors of smoky gray, as though he moved, or glided through a heavy dense fog. He felt clearly if he breathed deeply, it would be a heavy cold mist that filled his throat and lungs. But he was an observer and breathing now was not an issue.

The images bent and moved with solidness of form. There were lampposts and roads and trees, shrubbery, but all lacking color, like old black and white photographs. Then, there was a hesitation of movement outside a building, seeming as though he were examining it from across the street. It was actually the first expression of color here, for its door frame began to glow with a deep red.

There was a physical jump in his heart, one that reminded him that he was in a body with emotion and not a disconnected entity. There was a decision to be made. Stop or continue. But the pull increased, perhaps a bit more insistent. It felt like her, like Aimee, but also different.

He began to move again, closer into the building. In an instant, he had passed inside.

It was clearer to him. It was a house, an older house from another place. Now, he was in the hallway. There was wallpaper, but it moved, fluctuated, as though it had life. He forced his emotions aside and continued to be drawn within. Nothing here was solid. It was all in movement — furniture, floors, walls, ornaments passed in and out of concreteness. One instant there was a sofa, large. Then, it dissipated into an old antique set of chairs. Then, there was nothing. Then, the sofa again, as though the room was rippling through time frames.

Then, in a quick breath, the whole den was in at least several feet of water. There was another shift and then nothing but rubble about him, no house, only a few buildings left on the street.

Without real understanding of why, he focused with real concentration on the thread of emotion he was following. That seemed to anchor things a bit. Again, the den was present with more distinct furnishings, although as before they fluctuated with their own sort of animation. The pull seemed to go upwards.

He traveled along a staircase into another darkened hallway. A cool breeze swept across him. With detachment, he noticed the figure at the opposite end of the hall, a young woman in white, staring at him with confusion and evident fear. She could see him. He was certain of it, but oddly, he terrified her. He felt waves of intense disorientation and panic coming from her. She was trapped somehow, trapped by her own making, her own emotions. But the pull wasn’t to her. It was elsewhere. It had grown quite insistent, intense. He passed into a doorway, into a dimly lit room. The drapes fluttered over an open window. She was there, asleep in the bed. He stopped. He could feel her completely, her essence, but she was a small child.

And then, there was activity. Something was happening. He was here to witness something. He could feel it. The other woman had entered the room, not seeing him at all or anything past her own prison of emotion. The room shifted to her self-created reality — an old wrought iron bed, one table, one large wooden trunk beneath a window. She lay on the bed, the same place where Aimee was. He could see them both, neither fully concrete. The woman in her pain, grabbed a knife from beneath the mattress and plunged it into her stomach. He could see the child screaming in pain, absorbing all the emotion of the other, but without understanding, only pure terror.

He was there, transfixed. The child was being driven near the fringes of sanity. So, shattering, so horrific, he could see the fear mark her. So, he did the only thing he could do. Without understanding how, he took her hand in his, and poured his strength into her. Her eyes turned to him. The green eyes connected.

When he came back, he was sitting, staring at the portrait.

His head pounded painfully, and he was shaking. When he stood up, the dizziness was so intense that he fell to his knees. It was some minutes before he had the strength to come to his feet again.

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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