Ch. 17 – Unresolved Phantoms

I have just posted Ch. 17: Unresolved Phantoms of my paranormal novel, A Quiet Moment. There are now only three chapters left in the novel. I originally started posting this novel as a distraction during the Covid 19 outbreak and subsequent stay at home orders for most of the states. Since then, there has been much upheaval in addition to the pandemic including the nationwide protests in response to the George Floyd murder. Our country and the world is in a time of great change and change isn’t ever easy but necessary if we are going to evolve as a people. I hope in addition to giving you a bit of distraction my writing in some small way may have sparked the opportunity for you to look at things just a little bit differently. As always peace to everyone.

Unresolved Phantoms:

Chapter 17

As he picked up his phone in the kitchen to check his messages, Jacob thought with real concern that he had to get some kind of handle on his life. Lately, every day spent veered off into an entirely unexpected direction. Bob had left a message to call him at the gallery, but his head was throbbing so painfully that a sensible conversation might not even be a possibility. He glanced across to the den. Aimee was sitting on the couch, her hands rubbing her temples. Evidently, his headache was not an anomaly.

Placing the receiver down, he walked over to her. She glanced up, looking pale. “Do you want some aspirin?”

She shook her head, “I don’t think it will help.”

“Any idea what might?”

She looked at him tentatively, then answered softly, “Sleep, right now only sleep will. We used a lot of energy.”

“Yeah, I put that together.” And then he held out his hand to her, “Come on.”

He pulled her to her feet and started leading her down the hall toward his bedroom. All he wanted to do was sleep. He was in entirely too much discomfort to worry about pretenses. But she stopped in the middle of the hallway. Turning to her, he stated flatly, “I just thought we could rest.”

“I know. That’s not it.” Her eyes were focused on the bedroom doorway, as though something quite alarming was just beyond the threshold. “I just don’t want to rest there, in that bed.”

He looked at her with a bit of confusion, “Because?”

She looked uncomfortable, hesitant to answer him. “Because that was your bed, you and your wife, I would feel you together there.”

He glanced toward the room, understanding dawning through the throbbing pain in his head. “Um, well, we could lay down on the futon in the studio. It’s big enough, and I’m the only one who used it. I just want to be near you Aimee.”

“Okay, that sounds fine.” And then she added, a bit nervously, “I really need to sleep.”

He wrapped his arm around her waist guiding her in the right direction. “Of course,” realizing that among other things he would have to cure her of her skittishness around him.

The breeze that came from outside was cool, fluttering the sheer, silky drapery that hung around the bed. No matter how hot the days became here, the night always seemed to cool off everything. So different from, and then a brief stab of pain passed through her. She wanted to say home, but her homeland was so distant from her now, not just in actual distance, but also in her mind as well. It had become cloaked in the type of fogginess that accompanies dreams or imaginations, not things that were real.

A single candle flickered on the table. It was cluttered with scrolls, parchments, configurations that were meaningless to her. He had taught her some things, but others he’d held back. It was some time ago that he’d left the bed, telling her to wait for him. He’d been gone much longer than she’d expected. But she hadn’t left. She’d given up resisting his will, or perhaps it was better to say his influence over her. It was disturbing in some respects to surrender so much. It was faulty and careless to have let her emotions take over, to have let him become the governor of her heart as well as her body. It gave him entirely too much power, power that he did not wield, but it was always as if a sword hung above her, ready at any moment to crash down without mercy.

“You should be resting.”

He was standing at the open doorway that led out onto a private patio. Usually, he did not speak to her as such, but tonight seemed to be an exception for many things.

“I couldn’t,” was her simple answer.

His expression was solemn. “It’s difficult now. The very air is filled with, well uncertainty I suppose.”

She pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on them. Vaguely, she remembered doing this as a little girl, talking to her Mama. “Did you discover anything?”

There was a slight flicker of a smile across his face, and then the veil of guardedness in his eyes quickly fell back down. There was such heaviness, a disturbing aura around him. It made her greatly uneasy. He frowned, “Not the answers I wanted. I fear that the world we are accustomed to may be short lived.” He sat on the edge of the bed looking at her intently. “Do you miss your home?”

She straightened up a bit. He’d read her thoughts. She’d asked him not to do so, but any boundaries she placed were evidently easily put aside. “I do not think what I remember as home exists anymore.”

He nodded gravely, “Do you blame me for that?”

She looked away. “The world is a turbulent place. I cannot hold you personally responsible for its violence.”

He put his hand beneath her chin and turned her gently back to face him. “I wonder if I would be as generous in your position. If I will be?”

Her eyes widened, “What do you mean?”

And then he let his hand drop and stood up moving back toward the open door, staring into the night. “I think it is time for you to leave.”

A coldness of fear swept quickly around her heart. “You’re sending me away?”

“It’s a matter of safety. Things will be happening soon, and I cannot guarantee your future if you stay on. Now, for a short time, I can still safely arrange for an escort.”

“An escort where?”

“Back to your homeland, to freedom.”

She waited, considering, then asked. “Is that what you want?”

He turned to her and stated quietly, “What I want will soon be of no consequence.”

Her eyes flickered open, and a chill passed over her skin. Aimee pulled the blanket that Jacob had thrown over the futon up higher. He had opened a few of the windows of the studio to dispel some of the lingering fumes of the paint, paint thinner, and whatever other chemicals he had lurking about. But it was cold. She leaned back on the pillows that he’d brought from upstairs and stared at the ceiling. She could still feel the powerful energy from this room wrapping about her, and she could still feel the emotions from the dream still clinging tightly to her — fear, vulnerability, desperation, and most acutely powerlessness.

She sighed, of course it was important. And of course, it was more than just a dream. It had a substance, a concreteness, that ordinary dreams lacked. It was trying to tell her something, perhaps illuminate something that she had as of yet failed to piece together. What would Iris say to her? Something like make sure you’re listening. Then the image of him, earlier this afternoon in the restaurant, flashed across her mind. He’d said he was in love with her. It still took her breath away, thinking about it. She didn’t want to deal with how she felt about him, didn’t want to look too closely in the midst of everything.

And then, he turned beside her, reaching over to gently touch her cheek. “Problems resting?” he murmured.

She swallowed suddenly very conscious that she was in bed, well in a sort of bed, with Jacob. Of course, there was last night, but last night still had a fevered, unreal quality to it and by the time they actually made it to her bed. Well, they both fell into an exhausted sleep. It was almost possible to dismiss the whole encounter with a Did this really happen.

“I hope I didn’t wake you?” she whispered.

He turned over a bit more with a lazy sort of smile. “Well, this thing’s a little small. If you breathe, I can feel it.”

“Um, do you want me to go somewhere else?”

He quietly twirled a lock of her hair around his finger. “No, I like you right here.”

Her heart had started to thump a bit nervously now, feeling that familiar pull to him. “I just woke up. I was dreaming.”

“Anything good?”

She shook her head. He was gently running his fingers down along her arm, sending little tendrils of sensation along her skin. “No, it was disturbing.”

He nodded, “Sorry to hear that.” She could tell that at the moment he could care less about her dream. But his touch, it did feel good, soothing, energizing.

Abruptly, she sat straight up, trying to disrupt the sensual mood that had descended between them. “I really need to get home.”

She heard a bit of a chuckle, as he sat up beside her, then proceeded to pull her gently but firmly into his arms. “I’m not ready for you to go.” He kissed her on the neck, and she felt oddly like a bit of her insides were melting. She knew that she could not continue down this course with him, and ever hope to get her life back on track.

“I can’t do this.” She whispered to him, but he was still kissing her, now on her bare skin where he’d pulled her sweater down off her shoulder.

His voice sounded a bit husky in her ear. “Stop fighting it, Aimee. This is what’s real, now, us.”

The pull was so strong, like a magnet, clouding everything else, fascinating her and terrifying her. If she needed him too much, everything would crumble somehow. She would crumble. “I can’t,” such a soft murmur. But she felt his hands on her skin, beneath her sweater and the hum of energy between them, wherever he touched the power between them, a healing power.

“I’m sorry,” he spoke very softly to her. “I can’t let you go.” And then he was kissing her, with an intensity that made the memories of last night suddenly become very real.

“Where have you been all day? I left messages on your voicemail and email.”

“Yeah, I just got that one.” She responded a bit nervously. She glanced over at the kitchen where Jacob was making them something for dinner. After she checked her messages, she was planning to help him. “I’ve been on the go today. What’s up?”

There was a silence on the other end. Aimee knew that Claire hadn’t gotten to be the editor of the newspaper without instinct, determination, and dogged curiosity. She glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was nearly five-thirty. She must be spending a late night at the office. “Actually, something cropped up today that I wanted you to cover. But I had to give it to Jim. He’s a little heavy handed. I would have preferred you.”

“Oh, sorry Claire, I’ve been out-of-pocket.”

Another silence, “Everything all right Aimee?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine.”

“Well, then give me a call tomorrow. I’d like to talk to you about some things that are coming up.”

“Okay, I will,” very much wanting to end the conversation.

“Well goodnight.”

“Goodnight Claire.” She clicked off the phone. Wonderful, she was quite sure that she could expect the third degree at their next encounter. She wandered into the kitchen where Jacob was busy at the sink.

“Is a salad all right for you?” he said, not looking up from his activity.

“Yeah,” she sighed, “that actually sounds great.”

He glanced over at her, with a look of mild concern. “Problems?”

“No, it was Claire. Evidently, there was something she wanted me to cover. It’s not a big deal.”

He nodded, taking the salad spinner out of the sink. “Then, why do you look bothered?”

She shrugged, “She’s a bloodhound, nosy. Nothing I can’t handle. Do you need help with anything?”

“I have a bottle of red wine in the fridge. Do you want some?”

“Yeah, I’ll get it.” She pulled the bottle out and then two wine glasses from out of the cabinet. As she watched him pour out the wine, she asked sort of quietly. “So, are you taking me home tonight?”

He looked at her calmly, then took a sip of his wine. Flatly he stated, “I wasn’t planning to.”

Her eyes widened a bit, and then she whispered, “What are we doing Jacob?”

He put his glass down on the counter and then pulled her into his arms. “I know we need to figure out some things, but right now we’re just being together. Let’s take one thing at a time.”

His embrace felt warm and safe but letting go like this, still felt a bit like falling off a cliff.

He kept the conversation at dinner light, and it was of benefit. She was unwinding, relaxing. He made her a cup of tea and then later a glass of brandy. Then, when the time felt right, he took her hand and led her quietly to the table, where he sat her down across from him. The sudden change in mood seemed to catch her off guard. She seemed unprepared for the possibility that things might take a serious shift. And that was exactly as he had planned it. “What is it?” she said smiling.

“I’d like to talk about a few things.”

A shadow passed over the brightness of her green eyes. He’d forgotten how attuned she was to him. For him, the dancing around was over. “Like what?” She sipped the brandy he’d given her.

“Earlier, we started talking about things, important things, that were unresolved. I want to get everything out onto the table now.” It bothered him that this suddenly felt more like a business meeting than an intimate conversation.

Her eyes widened a bit. Perhaps his tact was wrong, so direct. But that was his nature when the stakes were high. She crossed her arms in front of her, a bit defensive now. But Jacob knew it had to be done, for his own piece of mind. “What exactly are we talking about Jacob?”

“We’ve been together a few times now, and to be blunt, we haven’t used any precautions. Have you considered the fact that you might be pregnant?”

Her face seemed to pale, just a fraction of a bit. “I’m not pregnant.”

“How can you be sure?”

She glanced down into her glass, then back up at him directly. “I’m a sensitive. I know the meaning of every nuance of feeling, emotion, sensation I have. I would know if I were pregnant, Jacob. I’m not.”

He nodded, taken a bit back by her gravity, but nonetheless willing to plunge forward. “But if we continue, like we have been, you might be. Look, this isn’t exactly what I’m trying to say.”

“Then what are you saying?” her voice was very measured.

“I don’t want to have an affair with you. I want to be with you. Damn it, I want to marry you.”

She looked a bit puzzled, “Is that a proposal?”

He grimaced. She was right, how romantic. “Not much of one. I know it seems way too soon. But I’m very sure of what I want. And I want some assurance that you’re in this with me, not ready to bolt when things get, well, strange.”

There was a flicker of a smile, then she looked away, “Jacob, you have to understand. I’ve been alone for such a long time. This is hard for me, even thinking about including someone else in my life.” And then she focused back on his face again. “And I’ve told you that I can’t stay here. I can’t explain it. It’s what’s inside me. There are things I need to do back home. It’s who I am.”

He fired back, perhaps too impatiently, “Then what have we been doing?”

“I don’t know. What’s between us is powerful, but something about it scares me too. I don’t understand why.”

He paused momentarily, letting her words sink in. “I know, but I also know I need something from you. I need something concrete from you. Then I don’t care, if we’re here or there, as long as we’re together. Can you understand that?”

“I do,” she said quietly. “I just need to sort out what I’m feeling.”

He stared at her calmly, in that moment making up his mind about a few things. “Then, I’ll set you up in the guest room tonight. I think we both need to understand where we’re going before we move on any further.”

Her eyes seemed a bit misty to him. He didn’t know if he’d hurt her. All he knew was that he was playing to win it all, and nothing less would do.

She sat awake in the semi-darkness, staring at the dimly illuminated walls. She had left the door open a crack where a light at the end of the hall filtered into the room. He was awake painting. She knew it, even though they had said goodnight, even though he had indicated that he was going to bed. He had done so for a little while, and then later had silently passed by her room, and headed downstairs into his domain.

She leaned back against the wall behind the bed. It was positioned sideways, sort of like a daybed. She was bothered, tormented by numerous, elusive things. Her eyes moved restlessly over the furniture in the small room. There was a maple colored dresser next to the door, a rocking chair on the opposite side, and a small nightstand near the bed all in that same, honey-colored wood. It was a tone that she didn’t particularly care for, but then again this was a personal choice. Come to think of it, she hadn’t noticed any other pieces of the same shade in the house, only here in this room.

She breathed deeply and felt the traces of energy that were still present. Almost, as if it were her thoughts, her body, she could feel sitting in the rocker late at night, listening to him beneath the stairs. But it wasn’t her. Aimee refocused. She could see her now in the room, outlined in the darkness, quietly rocking. Then she could feel her in the bed, tossing with upset, with anger, and later with cold detachment. She swallowed over a painful dry throat. They had never shared this bed, but Talia had been here. Once things had begun to disintegrate between them, she had preferred to take refuge in this room. She had chosen the furniture here, decorated it, had placed the photographs on the wall. Aimee squinted through the darkness at one over the dresser. Even in the shadows, she could make it out. It was so bright. It was a mountain scene, a snowy photo of an inn in the mountains. She remembered having seen the picture before, but it certainly hadn’t truly entered her consciousness.

There was a gentle thread that was pulling her toward it now. And she allowed it, curious and yes, somewhat hungry for understanding. She allowed her awareness to travel further within, within the photograph. Something gnawed at her, whispered that this was a piece to a puzzle that she was trying to put together. Her environment shifted, and she could feel the crispness of the snowy air around her and hear the laughing in her ears. Then she moved beside them. Talia was there in a ski jacket and white snow hat, different somehow, lighter, the camera in her hands. A broad smile lit up her face and then she handed the camera to the man next to her. He focused it and took the shot, the shot that now hung on the wall before her. But she knew it wasn’t Jacob, even before she saw his face. And then he embraced her, spun Talia around, and kissed her as a lover would.

Aimee felt a chill pass through her. The picture had hung on this wall through several years of their marriage. She could still hear Talia’s laughter in her mind. Laughter she didn’t hear anywhere in this house. He was a better match for her. Jacob’s powerful energy, his intensity, suffocated her. Their spirits had become damaging to each other.

She tried to clear away the impressions. But they were tenacious. She could see Talia returning from that trip, embracing him. She gasped a bit. It was on that first embrace that she saw the wound begin, the one on his chest that bled in the dream. The betrayal had caused a cut in his spirit as plainly as if she’d taken a knife to him. She wiped the tears away from her face, and tried to focus on him, to clear away the vibrations of the past.

Part of her was frantic to see that he was all right, although she knew logically that the wound was long ago. Time, though, as she had learned from Dominick was not as most believed. All things heal in time was not necessarily an accurate depiction of the process. Energy was an eternal thing, and undealt with issues could come to fruition even years, decades, or centuries after their inception. Pain unacknowledged and unhealed did not simply vanish.

Quickly, her mind traveled down into the studio where Jacob was sitting at the enormous drafting table in the far corner. She glanced about. All appeared quiet, serene, and he was untouched by the tumult of emotion that she had experienced moments before.

The energy created within the room seemed to act as a buffer from the rest of the world, a protective cocoon. Satisfied, she was prepared to retreat when she noticed a straightening of his shoulders. He glanced about for a moment, and then calmly stated almost to himself, “If you can’t sleep either, you might as well come down here and join me.”

She felt stunned, but then she’d forgotten in a moment’s panic how very perceptive he’d become. She got out of the bed and pulled on her jeans beneath the t-shirt that he’d loaned her to sleep in. She ran her hands briefly through her hair, then headed downstairs.

It was clearly strange that he was thinking differently now. He sat on the stool in his studio and studied what was around him, although oddly seeing it newly, with a clearer perspective. He allowed himself to detach and not soak in at all what he expected to see. For a moment, everything seemed solid, and then as he drifted into an even calmer state of mind, the colors began to flow off the canvases around him, vibrate each with their own energy. It was like the night that he was working on Aimee’s painting. Only his eyes were open now, and it was the room that he was standing in that was pulsating to life.

He allowed himself to sink further into that harmonious place, becoming a part of what he was seeing around him, bright flashes of energy and activity everywhere. He breathed deeply and then his eyes traveled compulsively to a small painting hanging on a far wall. It was a quiet little piece that he’d done many years ago, before he’d moved here, before he’d even chosen this as his vocation.

It was a painting that he often forgot was there, but apparently tonight, it was not to be overlooked. Like the others, it too was vibrating with energy, but there was a difference. There seemed to be gold around it, an aura of gold glowing, radiating from it toward him. He didn’t move from his chair, but he was moving, moving, being pulled. In some respects, he felt like an observer who with detached clarity was witnessing these events. But there was another part that was participating, a part that had to make a decision dive in or not. And being who he was, in that instant everything around him swirled into somewhere quite different.

There was dizziness everywhere, in his head, in the room. Nothing was solid, or concrete. But he could still feel the warmth of her skin next to his and breathing, her breathing, because his he did not even detect anymore, so detached he had become from sensation.

How long?

He breathed in deeply, but it was painful. Had she spoken to him, yes and no? Again, he heard her whispers in his mind, and they were more comforting than anything else could be at the moment. How long is there?

His vision had begun to fail as the room closed gradually to grayness. You should sleep now. There’s nothing to worry about now.

He wasn’t sure if his message was received. He was so weak. But then again, the barest murmur. Will I be able to find you again?

Jacob’s eyes snapped open. He looked to the floor. He’d knocked over a container full of sketch pencils that were perched on his work desk. But he didn’t remember doing it. He glanced back over to the painting that had spawned this odd circumstance. It just sat there quietly on the wall, where he’d hung it so many years ago. With shaky fingers, he touched his own arm. It was odd, in the vision he was himself and yet not. His very skin felt different. But it was his, unquestionably his. He sighed deeply, much too rattled to try to figure this out. Of course, Aimee would no doubt have some explanation for him. But then she was asleep.

With little hope of accomplishing much of anything now, he turned back to his worktable. He closed his eyes, trying to sweep away some of the disturbing impressions that still clung to him. And then suddenly, he felt a familiar presence and was very grateful for it.

He was sitting at a table, quietly working when she entered the room. She lingered at the doorway, wondering for a moment if she should intrude at all. But then he glanced up at her with the traces of a smile, albeit a preoccupied one. He sighed, “Well, we make a pair.” And then, he held out his hand to her.

She walked across the room, still feeling disturbed by the impressions she’d received from Talia’s photo. She quietly took his hand, but then murmured, “I don’t want to disturb your work.”

He took her other hand, shaking his head, “No, this isn’t really work. What I’m doing right now, I’d probably term piddling.”

She smiled softly, “Well, I don’t want to disturb your piddling.”

And then he looked at her with a slight bit more scrutiny. “What’s keeping you awake?”

She shrugged, wanting very much to keep things superficial for the moment, “An active mind, nobody told it that it needs to shut down.”

He nodded and then pulled her more closely until she was being held in his embrace. There was warmth, but an agitation also that went beyond anything that had occurred between them tonight. For a second, the images of Talia and the man who took the picture flashed across her mind. It couldn’t be possible that he knew. And then she felt the hands that were holding her stiffen. Quickly, she tried to clear her mind. How careless, she’d forgotten how sensitive he’d become.

He pushed her back out of his arms a bit, so that he could look at her face. But she turned away, trying to quickly find a way to cover. Very slowly and deliberately, he grasped her chin and turned her back to his gaze. His eyes were strange now, darker. It made her shiver, a bit, more like the man from her dreams. “What’s this?” he said, so quietly she wasn’t sure he’d spoken.

She swallowed, feeling a panic. “What do you mean?” She replied in a soft voice.

For a moment, he just stared at her, as though he were absorbing something. Then he took his hands off her abruptly and headed out of the door and up the stairs. She stared after him, a bit shocked. After only seconds, she did the only thing she could, followed him as quickly as was possible.

He knew what he was heading for, and he moved with a single-mindedness, a determination, fueled by a white-hot rage that was now beating a pain through his head. He flung open the door to the guest room, incognizant of the crash of the slamming door that he’d swung behind him. He reached up onto the wall and literally yanked the picture down, ripping a slight gouge into the plaster where the nail fixture was pulled out.

His hands fiercely gripped the side of the photo as he stared into it. Distantly, he heard her enter the room, and then he felt her hand covering his. He looked up at her. Her eyes were wide and worried looking. “This doesn’t concern you Aimee.”

“Jacob, think of now. Does this really matter now?”

He stared back down at the picture, but he couldn’t feel anything from it. Moments ago, when he’d held her downstairs, he’d felt much. Again, he looked up at her, “I’m not getting anything from this.”

Her voice was low and measured, “You’re too angry. Your anger is blocking out everything.”

He waited a moment, then deliberately handed her the photo, “All right then, you tell me.”

She seemed to pale a bit at his request. She asked softly, “Why?”

“Because I need to know.”

Her voice was soft but deliberate, “Why? Are you still in love with her?”

Her expression was unreadable. She just stood there, waiting for an answer, “No, of course not.”

“Do you want her back?”

“Do you think I’d be here with you, if I did?” He snapped a bit. It was frustrating him. Couldn’t she see all of this wasn’t the point?

“Then why, why does it matter now Jacob?”

“Because, because I need to know what was a lie and what wasn’t.”

She took a step back from him, “I won’t tell you things that will only hurt you.”

The anger rose up again, “This isn’t your decision Aimee. I’ll know tonight, or I’ll know tomorrow when I’m calmer. But I need to know. So, I can put things to rest.”

Silently, she stared at him, replying, “I thought those things were at rest.”

He glanced away, just feeling turmoil. “Yes, but maybe not at peace. I need to understand. I lost something along the way with her. It took a toll.” He tapped the picture she was holding, “This, this could fill in some blanks.”

She looked shaken, and her eyes nearly teary. “I don’t want to do this now.” And then she tossed the picture that she was holding onto the bed and walked out. He stared at the open doorway, feeling quite sure that someone had punched him.

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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