A New Chapter – The Story of Enid

Some years back a good friend of mine and I had a pact that every Halloween we would write each other a Halloween story. After a few years of this, I wrote one entitled “Wolves” which was the story of a sort of vigilante who was on the hunt for a diabolical werewolf that had killed her parents. Well, it turned out the werewolf in question wasn’t so diabolical but rather an enigmatic European fellow who at present was a carpenter who built his own furniture. A few years down the road, this particular character, Ethan Garraint, made another appearance as a supporting player in a Halloween story that I called “The Broken Window.” At this point, I was beginning to get the feeling that my werewolf needed a solo outing. So, I decided to write The Broken Vow: Vol. I of the Clandestine Exploits of a Werewolf. This story took Ethan Garraint, or rather Etienne at that time, through a very tumultuous period of his life when he lived with the Cathars at Montségur in Southern France, and hundreds of years later was in New Orleans tracking down a mysterious entity who had largely been responsible for their massacre. Within the novel, I explored some mystical concepts as Etienne was essentially mentored spiritually by the Cathar people. I always knew that I would write a sequel to this book and that the tone of this new one would change a bit. It would have to be a love story. So, as I’m finding Kindle Vella to be a very productive conduit these days, I decided to put The Story of Enid on Kindle Vella where it can function as either a stand-alone tale or a sequel. Once I complete it on Vella, I will be publishing it as a regular book and eBook. So, if you are in the mood for a werewolf tale that is just a bit unusual, I hope you’ll drop by Kindle Vella and check out The Story of Enid: The Clandestine Exploits of a Werewolf. (The first three episodes are free to read)

Take Care,

Evelyn Klebert

When one realizes that a long-lost soulmate has been reincarnated, it poses some complications. When you have been a werewolf fThe Story of Enidor nearly a millennium, the complications explode exponentially. Ethan Garraint understands that he should stay far away from Erin Holt, but she is in his city, New Orleans, and possibly in danger. And the truth is, he doesn’t want to stay away. He only wants to remind her of the lifetime they lived long ago, when they were more than lovers, when they became legend.

New Reel for Dumaine Street

Check out my new Dumaine Street reel for Instagram!

Voices in her head, catastrophic emotions, hallucinations, Rebecca Wells is more than convinced that she is losing her mind. And as a last-ditch effort, she contacts a self-professed counselor who seems convinced that he can help. Gabriel Sutton has abandoned the world of medicine to navigate a realm filled with psychic phenomena. Diagnosing Becca with extreme empathic abilities, he struggles to help her stabilize her gifts while trying desperately not to fall in love with his patient.

Dumaine Street- First 3 episodes Free!

The Lady in the Blue Dress – Completed

I have just posted the 23rd episode of The Lady in the Blue Dress at Kindle Vella, so it is officially complete. I am very happy with the way the story turned out. At one point, I had adapted the premise into a short story, but I really think the longer version fleshes out the intricacies of the narrative much better. In any case, the story will remain posted at Kindle Vella if anyone wants to read it, but I also have plans of releasing it as a book and eBook later this Spring. I also still have another on-going story, Dumaine Street (nine episodes in), at Kindle Vella – just saying. 🙂 For those who are interested.

Take Care,

Evelyn K.

Mika Devalieur desperately wants to deny her beloved grandmother’s last wish, but she can’t. Reluctantly, she travels from New Orleans to rural Virginia to deliver a priceless Pre-Raphaelite painting into the hands of James Clairmont, someone she’s never laid eyes on before. But something isn’t right, and James Clairmont knows much more about her family and the painting than he is letting on. There are so many secrets about him, about her, and most especially, The Lady in the Blue Dress.

Dumaine Street

I am very excited to announce the launch of a brand new Kindle Vella story called Dumaine Street. I’ve so enjoyed my experience with writing episodes of The Lady in the Blue Dress that I decided to start a new paranormal romance embroiling a different sort of love story with some of my favorite places in New Orleans. As with all Kindle Vella Stories, the first three episodes are free and you can access the episodes through your Kindle or through your computer if you enter Kindle Vella. And as an added bonus, if this is your first time at Kindle Vella, you get your first 200 coins free. So I hope you drop in and check out Dumaine Street.

Dumaine Street

Voices in her head, catastrophic emotions, hallucinations, Rebecca Wells is more than convinced that she is losing her mind. And as a last-ditch effort, she contacts a self-professed counselor who seems convinced that he can help. Gabriel Sutton has abandoned the world of medicine to navigate a realm filled with psychic phenomena. Diagnosing Becca with extreme empathic abilities, he struggles to help her stabilize her gifts while trying desperately not to fall in love with his patient.

A New Writing Process

Whenever you ask an author, what is your writing process you get widely different answers. I remember reading once that Margaret Mitchell wrote the last chapter of Gone with the Wind first. I’d also read that Agatha Christie would first figure out who committed the crime in her novel, how they did it, and then weave everything else around that core. The short answer is that for a writer their process is whatever works for them and may well change from project to project.

In my case, sometimes I will have a novel well-plotted out, and sometimes I’ll start from page one having no idea where it is going. In the case of An Uneasy Traveler, which I have since renamed A Quiet Moment, I wrote the first paragraph of the book about two years before I actually started writing the novel. I have a pretty large collection of extraneous pieces that I may have started or dabbled with and then abandoned, only to pick up at a later date and complete. By the way, for anyone who is interested, A Quiet Moment has been posted in its entirety on this website. I did that during the early days of the pandemic as a diversion for those who might need it.

So recently, when I first discovered this new project of Amazon’s called Kindle Vella, I thought about some of those pieces, some which I’d actually written a substantial amount on, but sadly still remained incomplete. I wondered if this episodic format would be a way to flesh some of these out. So, I gave it a try and am happy to announce that I am closing in on the completion of The Lady in the Blue Dress. For me, it’s a somewhat grander tale than I ordinarily write, spanning across several generations of a family embroiled in a paranormal lineage that they really have no knowledge about. I combine fascination of the paranormal with my love of Pre-Raphaelite art – a good combo for me.

Any brave soul willing to dive into the world of Kindle Vella can access it through Amazon looking up Kindle Vella or actually on their Kindle Device. I’ve just posted my 17th episode, but the first three episodes are free to read. So, you can give the process a try before you pay for any coins, which cost about $1.99 for 200. My episodes which average about 2000 words are averaging a cost between 20 to 25 coins a piece.

I do hope you drop by and read at least the first three episodes, and hopefully join me as we head to a potentially intriguing and unexpected conclusion for The Lady in the Blue Dress.

Thanks, and Take Care

The Lady in the Blue Dress

Mika Devalieur desperately wants to deny her beloved grandmother’s last wish, but she can’t. Reluctantly, she travels from New Orleans to rural Virginia to deliver a priceless Pre-Raphaelite painting into the hands of James Clairmont, someone she’s never laid eyes on before. But something isn’t right, and James Clairmont knows much more about her family and the painting than he is letting on. There are so many secrets about him, about her, and most especially, The Lady in the Blue Dress.

The Lady in the Blue Dress – Promo Video

Check out my new reel on instagram promoting The Lady in the Blue Dress.

If you haven’t dropped by Kindle Vella yet, all you have to do is type Kindle Vella into the Amazon search engine. The first three episodes of any Kindle Vella story are free, and once you log into your Amazon account, you can redeem 200 free tokens to use to unlock further episodes. Thus far, I have posted 13 episodes of The Lady in the Blue Dress. I hope you’ll drop by and try this new, innovative way of storytelling.

Mika Devalieur desperately wants to deny her beloved grandmother’s last wish, but she can’t. Reluctantly, she travels from New Orleans to rural Virginia to deliver a priceless Pre-Raphaelite painting into the hands of James Clairmont, someone she’s never laid eyes on before. But something isn’t right, and James Clairmont knows much more about her family and the painting than he is letting on. There are so many secrets about him, about her, and most especially, The Lady in the Blue Dress.

Breaking Through the Pale – New Revised Edition

The first book I ever wrote was a collection of paranormal/esoteric stories called Breaking Through the Pale. Recently, I returned to that collection and decided to give it an overhaul. The new revised edition of this book has recently been released at Cornerstone Book Publishers and Amazon. I hope you check it out!

Breaking Through the Pale

Journey with metaphysical author Evelyn Klebert into a collection of short stories that travel beyond the pale into the unpredictable realm of the paranormal.

In “A Grey Mourning,” a disillusioned man encounters a mysterious being on the foggy streets of New Orleans. “Contact” is a tale of automatic writing, when a young artist establishes communication with a spirit guide, and the victim of a car crash unravels the true nature of her existence in “Dancing on the Threshold.” The final tale is called “Isolation,” in which a confused and disoriented woman finds herself in an old, quaint house where she must piece together the mystical implications surrounding her predicament.

The Lady in the Blue Dress

Recently, I decided to take a chance and dive into something completely different. If you haven’t already heard about it, Amazon has launched a new way to publish books called Kindle Vella. Instead of a complete manuscript, books are published by continuous episodes reminiscent of the old days when Charles Dickens and other Victorian writers like Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, and Robert Louis Stevenson would publish in literary magazines in a serialized format. At Kindle Vella, the first three episodes of the novel are free and subsequent episodes are unlocked with tokens which are purchased.

The Lady in the Blue Dress is my first foray into this new publishing venue. It’s a book I actually began a good while back but have returned to often over the years, combining fantasy, paranormal, and my love of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I hope you’ll drop by Kindle Vella and read my first three episodes for free and then decide if you’d like to take this adventure with me. From what I gather, you get you’re first 200 tokens free when you join.

Mika Devalieur desperately wants to refuse her grandmother’s last wish, but she can’t. Reluctantly, she travels from New Orleans to rural Virginia to deliver a precious Pre-Raphaelite painting into the hands of James Clairmont, someone she’s never laid eyes on before. But something isn’t right, and James Clairmont knows much more about her family and the painting than he is letting on. There are so many secrets about him, about her, and most especially, The Lady in the Blue Dress.

White Harbor Road – Halloween Month

Sometimes the supernatural crashes in on you in an abrupt and jarring manner, and at other times, it’s a slow, languorous journey that unfolds in surprising and unexpected ways. My third story for Halloween Month is the tale of a woman who essentially is running away from her life, if only for the holidays, and how a chance encounter on a beach along the Mississippi Gulf Coast changes everything.

White Harbor Road

It wasn’t exactly as she’d intended, but the truth of the matter was that nothing ever was, exactly as she intended. It was Christmas, the Christmas holidays, and she had three weeks off at teaching at the University. But she wouldn’t be travelling home. Her parents were off to visit her sister’s family in North Carolina — a trip that she simply couldn’t face. So instead, Helen had decided to do something odd and spontaneous that no one really understood. She’d decided to rent a beach cottage and spend Christmas alone.

“You can’t spend the holidays alone dear.”

“That’s just odd.”

And a maelstrom of other responses, but she was thirty-six years old, unattached. And her heart craved something indefinable. But as was not unusual, her plans did not turn out as she expected.

“This is not a beachside cottage.”

The manager, a woman in her early sixties with abundant white hair, smiled at her broadly, clearly unruffled. “If you follow this street down White Harbor Road, you will hit the beach in no time.”

Helen frowned. On the internet, it had advertised a Gulf Coast beachside cottage. “That’s not exactly the same as a beachside cottage. I wanted to be near the water.”

Mrs. Haughn smiled broadly again, smoothly, as though completely untouched by misunderstanding. “You know Miss Ellis, it is Miss.”

“Lately it’s been Ms.”

Another smile, “Ms. Ellis, I would be happy to refund your deposit, but I must tell you I think you’re making a mistake. This sweet little cottage is right in the midst of historical Crystal Springs. Just turn a corner and you’re walking down a lovely street filled with shops owned by our artistic residents. And my dear, you can walk to the beach. It’s only three, well, maybe four blocks down, a lovely jaunt in this cool weather.”

Her head spun a bit. It wasn’t what she’d planned. She’d planned to be well isolated, work on the novel she’d been piddling with for the last two years and listen to the sound of the water, not of cars driving by. “I don’t know Mrs. Haughn. It’s just not exactly what I had planned.”

“Well, my dear, why don’t you try it out for a few days. Plans can change sometimes, change and often for the better.”

It was a lovely cottage, wooden floors, a cozy bedroom with a full-size bed covered in a light blue chenille bedspread that reminded her of her grandmother for some odd reason. There was also a small sort of den with a comfortable overstuffed chair and a television that she did not intend to use, then a connecting open kitchen with a small dinette table. All in all, very comfortable, very solitary, and there was free wireless. It fit the bill for what she wanted, except she wished all of it were sitting right on the beach.

“Helen.”

“Hmm?”

“It’s not too late to catch a flight out to North Carolina. I hate the idea of you spending Christmas alone.”

“No, no don’t worry. I need this time to myself to figure some things out.”

Actually Mrs. Haughn was just slightly off. The beach was a five block walk from the Seaside Cottages. That was even their name, Seaside Cottages. But the first morning, actually a Sunday morning, Helen bundled up and made the jaunt. Living in the South, one would think the winters weren’t as terribly cold, but they’d be wrong. There might be an absence of snow, but there was also the moisture in the air that made the cold so penetrative. As she walked, Helen pulled the heavy teal colored scarf that she’d wrapped around her neck up to cover the bottom part of her face.

The beach itself was definitely worth the walk once she arrived. The day was gray, overcast, but the white sand gleamed. The water soothingly lapped up on the shore. She sat on a cold granite bench for a moment that had been placed in a park like area leading up the sand. She breathed the cool air into her lungs as she considered for the first time that perhaps she’d made a mistake. Christmas was in four days, and she would be alone. It hadn’t bothered her before, not really. She’d felt determined, possessed in some way to be isolated, but now there were doubts — the best laid plans.

She bowed her head, overcome with a sudden surge of confusing despair when out of nowhere she felt a long cold nose nudge her. Her head pulled up, and she met the large dark eyes of a black dog. It aggressively pushed its face into her hands, so she would pet it.

Finally, regaining her bearings after being so startled, she noticed the long slim dog was leashed and followed its long connection to a man standing quietly a few feet away. “Don’t worry. She’s harmless,” he commented. Helen slowly stood up, though the dog was still intent on nuzzling her. “You know, she doesn’t take to everyone but seems to like you.”

He was tall, tall with a big blue jacket on. “Well, she’s beautiful. I didn’t notice you two walk up.”

He pressed a button reeling the leash in a bit tighter as he approached her. “You seemed like you wanted to be alone. I was planning to walk by, but then Hazel had other plans.”

She laughed, “She’s a lab?”

“Lab, collie, a mix of other things.”

She smiled nodding. He was closer now. Brown hair, beard and mustache, maybe forties she thought. “Are you—” then she stopped.

“Are we—” he echoed in a friendly manner.

“Sorry, I was going to ask if you were from here.”

“Ah Crystal Springs, not originally, but I have lived here for the last three years. It’s a lovely little antiquated community. And I would say quite definitively that you are not.”

She laughed nervously, “No, I guess that’s obvious.”

“Yes, but not for reason you may think. Visiting?”

She nodded, “Yes, I rented a cottage.”

“Ah, one of Mary Haughn’s cottages down White Harbor Road?”

“Yes,” she answered a bit surprised.

“Over Christmas here alone?”

She sighed a bit in response, trying to decide how to respond.

And then he smiled, “Would you like to get a coffee. It’s just into town.”

Now that was quick and unexpected, seeing as though they’d literally just met. “I suppose,” she answered a bit hesitantly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t get your name.”

“No you didn’t. My name is Billy Struve.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Helen, Helen Ellis.”

It was a small café/coffee shop just off Main Street. And by the time they arrived, she was grateful. She’d thought she was in good shape, but all the walking this morning had proved differently. Mr. Billy Struve had tied Hazel to the white wrought iron chair across from hers on the café’s patio asking her to keep watch as he disappeared into the restaurant. The patio was positioned just off the street where she could observe people milling around, wandering from shop to shop. It was actually quite soothing, a different pace from the city where these days nothing much felt languid.

In moments, she was pulled from her thoughts back to the presence of her companion arriving with two steaming cups of coffee and two almond croissants. He smiled, sitting across from her. “I hope you don’t mind. I thought you might be hungry. Breakfast went right by me today.”

Strange, she hadn’t given a thought to breakfast this morning, just focused on the necessity of getting out by the water. “Oh, actually it’s perfect, thank you,” she answered.

She hadn’t looked too closely at her companion on their jaunt here. There was some conversation, but purely superficial, about the lovely houses near the water, the weather, the beautiful day, and Hazel. She learned quickly all there was to know about Hazel — an SPCA dog he’d adopted as a puppy just after he’d moved here. He took a sip of his coffee and more than a few bites of his croissant and then leaned back in his chair, eying her amiably. “So, you work here?” she asked a little awkwardly.

“Yes, I own one of these shops here. It’s a bit of a gallery for painters, sculptors, other artists. “

“Oh, that’s interesting. What about you, are you an artist?” It was an odd question that had simply popped into her head. But he seemed to take it in his stride, as though he were not surprised.

“Yes, Helen, as a matter of fact, I am a painter and I make pottery as well.”

She nodded, “So you sell?”

“My work as well as others,” he answered, smoothly completing her thought. “And you are a writer?” he asked, as he took another sip of his coffee.

The question hit her strangely. “No, not really, why would you say that?”

He hesitated, almost as though he didn’t believe her, then shrugged, “Felt right.”

She glanced away, feeling a little uncomfortable now. “I’m a professor in New Orleans. I teach English.”

He slowly lowered his coffee cup to the table. “Hmm, strange, you just have that writer vibe, you know.”

She turned back to him adding, “I guess I dabble in it a bit, my own writing.”

“Well, Helen Ellis, I have a sense of these sorts of things, and I think you should do more than dabble. You should commit to it. I’m sure you’d be wonderful.”

She felt a bit stunned at his pronouncement, at how personal he was getting. “And this you know from our short acquaintance?”

“Hmm, don’t mean for you to get your back up. In my experience, it’s just important to do what your soul craves. “And then he smiled warmly, “And if you don’t, it won’t give you any peace. You see, I used to be a lawyer, practiced out in Georgia for many years. Then I gave it all up and came here.”

“Really?” she asked a bit surprised.

“Seems reckless I suppose to some. But I don’t think you can put too high a premium on peace.” She felt stunned, having no idea at all what to say. “So Helen, since we’re being candid, is there anything else you’d like to know?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I’m not married, have been, have been divorced, have no children.”

She nodded, not at all sure where he was going with this. “Oh, well, that’s nice.”

He laughed, “Yes, my point being that if we’re finished with me for the moment, I would like to know about you. About why such a lovely woman has come to this place, a place she clearly doesn’t know, alone for the holidays. Why?” and then he smiled in that warm way of his, “And why again?”

She sipped her coffee, wondering if it was time to leave and start closing doors. “It’s not a mystery. I wanted to get away, alone. That’s all.”

“And write?” he asked.

“Maybe,” she hesitated.

“Been married Helen?”

Another odd moment in a series of odd moments since she’d met this man. “Yes, once, a while ago,” she answered with a distance in her voice.

He nodded slowly, as though it was of no surprise. “Thought so.”

“Why, why would you think so?”

And then he looked past her to the people milling on the sidewalks, “Because these things leave marks.

After coffee, they walked around Main Street with Billy Struve amiably pointing out this establishment and then the next. She found herself drifting into a peaceful zone, one that was not contemplating her next move, or analyzing the implications of what was happening. She was simply moving in the moment, a soothing place to exist.

“Are you getting tired?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe a bit, I’m not really used to walking this much.”

“Well, we don’t want to wear you out on your first day. How about I walk you home?”

“All right,” she answered, as he changed directions, she following his moderate strides back towards White Harbor Road.

“You know, I was thinking Helen Ellis. Why don’t you let me fix you dinner tonight?”

She breathed in the frosty air, her city upbringing creeping back into her mind with doubts. After all, Billy Struve was a virtual stranger. What did she really know about him, except that he was pleasant, laid-back and —

“Only the things he has told you he is.”

She halted in the middle of the road at his strange pronouncement exactly mirroring her thoughts. “What did you say?” she asked.

He frowned, “Sorry, I told you I get a sense of things. You’re worried about whether you can really trust me.”

“How did you know what I was thinking?”

“Helen, it’s not such an incredible jump to make. Tell you what. I’ll take you out to dinner, into Biloxi. Things roll up early here in this sleepy little town. Would that be better?”

She started walking again but slowly this time, a bit taken aback by what had just happened. “I don’t know.”

“Hmm, look, I like spending time with you. You seem, how can I say this, kindred to me. So, don’t over think it, all right.”

She didn’t answer just let his pronouncement float solitarily in the air as they turned another corner that led into the parking lot of Mary Haughn’s cottages.

“So how’s the great experiment going?”

“Fine, it’s beautiful here.”

“You know, we could still get you a last-minute ticket to fly up here for Christmas,” Helen could hear a bit of strain in Lydia’s normally cheerful voice. It was evident that her mother had put pressure on her to make this scenario happen.

“Thanks, but I’m all set up here. And I think it’s doing me some good.”

“Oh, okay, met anybody interesting?”

She sighed, questioning whether to open this up or not, but in truth, it would be reassuring to them to know that she wasn’t completely alone. “Actually yes, I met a man on the beach this morning, and we’re having dinner tonight.”

Helen dressed in one of the few slightly dressy outfits she’d brought with her — a dark green wool skirt and matching sweater with boots of course, her favorite cold-weather accessory. It was just after six when she heard the light quick knock at her cottage door. She’d spent most of the afternoon resting and then actually for the remaining hour or two writing. She was gratified at actually getting some of this work done finally. The normal distractions that always seemed to vex her were absent here. Truly, it was as though she’d escaped, at least temporarily, to a different reality.

“You look beautiful,” he immediately commented as Billy Struve crossed the threshold into her small den.

“Oh thanks,” she responded. He was so gracious, so smoothly attentive that it took her by surprise. Most people who had been orbiting her sphere of contacts lately seemed more self-absorbed, completely focused on keeping their personal realm intact. As a result, giving wasn’t a high priority.

He was dressed nicely too, a sweater over dress pants and a long trench coat that gave him a different look, sharper, as though she could now imagine him as that lawyer he had claimed to be.

“Look, I’m sorry about brushing you off, I mean about dinner at your house.”

“No, don’t give it a second thought, too soon. That’s my problem. Once I set my mind to something, I’m ready to move ahead full steam.”

She picked up her long gray coat, and he immediately took hold of it, helping her into it. “Set your mind to what exactly?”

He grinned a bit, “Yeah, hmm, how about seafood? I know a good restaurant.”

“Sounds fine,” she said realizing that he was not going to answer.

It was dusk, and they traveled the long quiet stretch of beach road into Biloxi. Billy Struve drove a Jeep Cherokee that seemed to be filled with various extraneous equipment in the back that denoted a more rural style of existence than she was used to. It was strange. The pace here seemed more mellow, calmer, but the further they traveled away from Crystal Springs that feeling of tranquility seemed to dissipate a bit.

“You feel it?” he murmured.

She turned to him with curiosity. The conversation between them had died off since he’d initially picked her up at the cottage. In fact, so gradually that she hadn’t even acknowledged it. “Feel it?” she asked.

“The change,” he said.

She smiled. He certainly was being opaque. “I’m sorry. Maybe I’m a bit thick, but I don’t follow.”

He shook his head, his eyes still fixed on the long curving stretch of beachside road. “I just mean the feeling. It changes once you get out of Crystal Springs. Of course, it’s lovely here along the water, but there is something particular and special about that little town. That’s why I originally suggested cooking you dinner, all decorum aside. I thought you weren’t ready to leave yet.”

“Ready to leave?” she echoed with some confusion.

He sighed, “Sorry, I mean never mind. Here we are,” he noted, as she looked up seeing the corporal limits sign for Biloxi.

Helen Ellis was a blond, a blond with rather large hazel eyes. And he had to admit, she was beautiful. All these facts sort of hit him like a rock in the side of the head. They’d settled into their table at The Seagull, a nice table where they could see the water, even though the light of the day was nearly gone. The waves felt a bit more turbulent tonight, just a bit, by degrees. Perhaps, there was a storm coming, but none was forecast. Then again, perhaps, he was projecting his own somewhat tumultuous thoughts onto the scenery. He’d felt sure that when he came here, that when she came here, he would be prepared. But now, it didn’t feel that way, not nearly.

She glanced up from behind the menu, a lovely smile but something else, a pensiveness. “What do you recommend?” she asked lightly.

He breathed in deeply, coaxing patience to himself. He’d tried to refrain as much as possible canvassing her thoughts. No matter how tempted he was. And he was tempted. Helen wore a veneer, a protective veneer. It wasn’t so obvious who she was, one had to dig to find it. On the surface, she appeared to be a smooth serene pearl, fluid, pleasing, lovely. But beneath, and it was beneath that he was interested in, it was a different story. “Well, that all depends on how hungry you are.”

She smiled smoothly, “Not really all that hungry.”

“Then the redfish or the flounder.”

She nodded, closing the menu and putting it softly down in front of her. “So, tell me Mr. Struve. What did you mean about Crystal Springs and the feeling there?”

He placed his menu down in front of him as well. Tactful buddy, not too much too soon, or she’ll scare away. “You know, the Indians originally settled that area. They felt there was something special there, mystical energy if you will. It’s my experience every place has its own energy. Your city, New Orleans, being so large is overlaid with many different energy imprints. But this little town, there is something encased about it, strong, pure, consistent. It’s healing.”

Her eyes had never left his face, those large deep eyes. “Do you believe all of that?” she asked hesitantly.

“Billy.”

“Okay Billy, do you believe all of that, about the city, I mean?”

“Well, there is more than is dreamed of in our philosophy Horatio.”

She’d almost asked him another question, but then the waiter arrived just in time. It was better this way, small steps, small truths to digest a little at a time.

She’d decided. This was it. She would have this dinner with him, and then the rest of her time in Crystal Springs would be reflective, solitary, and uncomplicated. The man sitting across from her, engaging her in relaxed, entertaining conversation, was anything but uncomplicated. On the surface, he was handsome, in a rugged kind of way, intelligent, thoughtful, and at first glance easy-going. But this was not her first time around the block, and she had the intense impression that she was being handled.

“How’s the fish?” he asked.

She glanced up, pulling herself out of her troubled assessments. “Oh, you were right. It’s great.”

He hesitated, his eyes on her face, and it disturbed her. All evening she would catch him doing this, weirdly looking beyond what she’d said. “What’s wrong Helen?” he asked.

That was it, too perceptive. He was too damn perceptive. “Oh, nothing really, I just have a lot on my mind.”

Again, with that stare but the warm bluish eyes at the same time put her at ease, put her at ease and made her nervous. She worked to steady herself. This wasn’t happening. Whatever this was, wasn’t happening. “Am I making you nervous?” he said placidly.

She shook her head in reflex. Her mother’s influence, never hurt anyone’s feelings. Be tactful. “No, no this is all lovely. I just. . . I’m not sure how to say this.”

He frowned a bit, “Well, if you have to be that anxious, it’s best just come out and say it.”

Directness, refreshing, disarming. “I just don’t want to give the wrong impression. I came here, well, to figure some things out quietly. I don’t want things to get complicated.”

“Friendship.” He stated a bit bluntly.

“What?” she answered with confusion.

“I’m just offering friendship. I like you Helen, and I could use a friend. Is that acceptable?”

She eyed him with confusion. It sounded so, on the surface, perfectly acceptable.

“You know, your abilities are getting stronger William.”

He frowned, “I know. Sometimes it’s difficult controlling them. I don’t want to see auras bleeding out of everyone as I walk down the street.”

“Sometimes, it takes time for natural talents to develop, and, of course, this place is especially conducive to the psychic energies.” Sara Morgan, the lovely lady that he sat across from on the rug in her den began to cough very lightly, and then reached for a cup of tea, she’d placed on the coffee table beside them.

“Are you sure you’re feeling up to this Sara?”

She smiled softly. She was a slight silver haired woman in her late sixties, and she was a bona fide psychic. She’d come to live in Crystal Spring just six months before he’d settled there. She ran a small metaphysical bookstore and gift shop. After a brief acquaintance, he’d begun taking classes from her; first for stress control, and then later for other pursuits. “It will pass,” she murmured. “Anymore dreams?” she asked.

“Yes, several times a week.”

“The same woman?”

“Yes, we meet on the beach, and then we talk, talk about everything, and then sometimes just sit there. I can’t really see her face, but her energy I know. It’s so familiar.”

She nodded, “She’s coming, maybe another year,” she murmured.

And it had been as Sara had predicted. And unfortunately, six months earlier, his teacher had crossed over, passing away from an affliction she had opted to keep private.

He’d scared her. Too much too soon, that’s a lesson that Sara had often stressed that he needed to learn, patience — the ability to allow things to unfold in their own time. They were traveling along the long dark road back to Crystal Springs. The darkness of the winter night was thick just now, heavy and dense. And her mood reflected it. He could feel that her thoughts were somber, somewhere else. Stuck in some painful rivet from the past, he suspected. “Doing all right?” he asked.

She roused from that gray misty place where she’d resided in only moments before. “Yes, sorry,” she said. “It’s so dark tonight. Is this the way it usually is around here?”

“At times, seems more so in the winter.”

She sighed deeply, “You didn’t tell me. Do you have family?”

“I have a brother up North and a sister out west. My parents have passed on.”

“And they didn’t want you to visit for Christmas?”

“Well, I have to say it didn’t really come up. They have their own families, their own lives, and we were never what you would call a close knit family.”

She responded pensively. “This is really my first Christmas away from some kind of family. And you’d swear I was stealing the Crown jewels, the way everyone is reacting.”

“Good to know they care.”

“Hmm, I don’t know if it’s that or them just being shocked I’m not doing what they expect me to do. They don’t take to change very well.”

“How about you?”

“What?”

“How do you take to change Helen?”

There was a pause, and he could feel she was actually genuinely considering the question. “I’m not sure. I haven’t had very much lately.”

It was strange, unexpected. She was comfortable being with Billy Struve and yet not — relaxed and yet tense. She’d decided to not see him again and yet couldn’t seem to follow through.

The dinner was nice, and he’d taken her out to a coffee shop later. Nothing earth shattering happened but it felt as though something, something had happened. Something she couldn’t put her finger on. And then he’d taken her home. He talked about his shop off of Main Street and invited her to drop by.

Her response was vague, and he seemed undaunted. A good night at her door, a slight hug, and then he was gone. And she felt, well, clearly not quite herself.

It was after eleven and the darkness of the cottage wrapped around her. Silently, she eased out of the bed and wrapped herself in a soft fluffy pink robe that she’d brought from the city. It was comforting. There had been many sleepless nights like this one when she’d wrapped up in it, settling into the large blue-gray lazy boy that she’d taken with her when her marriage had ended.

Here, there was only the large over-stuffed armchair in front of the TV. But it would have to suffice, and she curled up in it, tucking her feet beneath the robe. She’d tried not to think of it much, but she supposed that was when everything changed, at least when she changed. As marriages go, hers was short lived. Just two years, and most family and friends had commented supportively, “Well, at least you didn’t invest too much. There were no children, no real entanglements.”

At the time, she’d responded numbly to such comments, but in retrospect, she wondered exactly what they could be thinking.

She’d come out of it changed. The sparkle had gone out of things, the enthusiasm from youth, and yes, the innocence. She’d left much on that doorstep, so strange. Kevin wasn’t a bad guy by any means. But together, well, it drained something out of her, something she didn’t know how to get back.

There was a chill in the air. She supposed she could put the heater on, but that would take effort and a perceptible grogginess was slipping in. She let her head rest softly on the back of the chair and closed her eyes, not even willing to make the effort to return to bed.

Hazel was restless when he returned home. She knew as well. She’d taken immediately to Helen Ellis as had he. For a full two years, he’d been aware of her presence. It was something that had slowly seeped into his dreams and then his waking thoughts. At first, it seemed like some sort of fantasy, perhaps like an imaginary friend of from his youth. But then, the impressions became more insistent.

And tonight the pull was strong, maybe because they’d finally met in the flesh. But her flesh, her free will, was resisting this, even though her spirit felt differently. He heard the rush of wind chimes just outside the French doors in his bedroom. The doors led onto a secluded patio. Patting Hazel lightly on the head, he gently put her out of the room and then pulled on his jacket. As he opened the doors, he could make out shadows, but he reached for the lights on the wall to light up the stone patio.

It startled him at first, the figure he saw down the steps moving across the granite stone pattern he’d designed himself. She was dressed in a long white nightgown, just silently wandering barefoot across the patio. It was startling to find her here, such a direct contact. But he cleared his mind and directed his thoughts to Helen.

“What do you need?”

The figure stopped and turned to him with no expression on her face. It was her and not her — a spiritual manifestation, reaching out, feeling the powerful connection between them as had he. There was silence in response but also confusion, yearning.

“How we make our own prisons,” he murmured. And then she was gone. Shakily, he sat down in one of the wrought iron chairs near the patio table. He felt shaky all over. She would seek him out again. He was sure of it. After all, it was what her spirit wanted.

It was her intent to resist, instead, to spend the day writing or perhaps taking another walk on the beach or perhaps even a long ride along the coast. All of these were distinct possibilities. But what she had decided against was walking into town and heading in the general direction of Billy Struve’s place of business. Helen had decided after a somewhat restless night that she would avoid this and him. But of course, just after lunch, after one, her feet were itchy for exploration. And they began to draw her in the direction that she had decided against.

“Just friendship,” that was what he was looking for, that was what he had said. But as had been her experience, what one said was not exactly always what one meant. Kevin, her ex-husband, had said he supported everything she wanted to do, was enamored of all she was. But that was before they were married, before he began to chisel away at her dreams piece by piece, slowly and methodically, until it almost went unnoticed by her. Of course, upon reflection, she never felt as though he did it deliberately. It was just his nature to absorb what was around him and funnel its energy to benefit himself. She often chastised herself for not being more of a fighter in the relationship and less of a giver. But then again, she had never envisioned a relationship where she would have to fight. It went against her grain.

She drifted toward Main Street and noted how busy it was but more of foot traffic than cars. “A right off of Main Street onto Pine.” That was what he had told her. Again, she questioned the wisdom of seeing him again. Would that denote too much interest on her part? But something pulled her, something unconscious. And she disregarded her better instincts. She smiled in appreciation as she turned the corner and spotted his establishment. Artistically scripted across the window was the word Illuminations. He hadn’t told her the name of the store, but she knew it was his. With a deep breath and not another thought, she turned the knob where she was greeted by the happy bark of Hazel that drifted in from somewhere in the back of the store.

She was initially overwhelmed, actually stunned, by an impressive array of glass shelves decorated by all manner of artistry imaginable. She simply stopped in the middle of the significantly large room and allowed her eyes to travel and soak in all that was around her — pottery, jewelry, paintings, baskets, all manner of decorative items formed from seashells. And it felt, it felt as though light and energy poured through the room, so much that it was dizzying. “What do you think?” His voice took her by surprise, but she was more surprised by that fact that he was right beside her, evidently moving next to her while she was completely distracted by what she was seeing.

She turned to him a bit shakily, “You startled me.”

He smiled, his face more pensive now as though he were a bit preoccupied, “Sorry, I wasn’t sure if you’d come today.”

“To tell you the truth neither was I, but I’m glad I did. This place, it’s amazing.” She said as she drifted over to a lovely curling, bluish vase made of glass.”

“I try to pick pieces that are conductors of energy.”

She stopped focusing on the beauty of the items around her, then looking at him curiously, “Conductors of energy?”

“Yes, you could feel it when you walked in.”

She answered thoughtfully. “I felt light, and yes, I guess you could call it energy.”

“Everything carries its own energy, and some objects serve as conductors. It’s very helpful to any environment it’s placed in.”

She turned to him, smiling. Clearly, he was quite serious about this, “Sounds like you’ve made a science out of this.”

He nodded, “If you had come earlier, I would have taken you to lunch.”

“I wasn’t really sure what my plans would be today.”

There was another bark from toward the back of the expansive shop. “I think Hazel wants to see you as well. Come on. I’ll show you the back.”

Windows and light, that was what struck her about the backrooms of Billy Struve’s establishment. It was winter, icy and cold outside, but it felt warm in here, and not just from artificial means. The first room was a stock room with shelves of items that had yet to be placed on display. The next seemed more of a studio — a table for pottery, an easel, counters for all variety of work. She was envious. It was charged with energy. Oddly, she could imagine herself having a desk near one of the large windows and writing, writing in a way that she’d never been able to before.

He’d disappeared in the front, hearing the chiming of the front doors. She was left here, not quite alone. Hazel lie curled up on a bed just under a light wooden table against the wall. Clearly, it was a spot she’d made her own. There were dual impulses she was feeling. One was to bolt and return to the life she knew, forgetting that people lived like this on their own terms. The other, even more perplexing than the first, was to sit down on the window seat and pull the soft afghan throw that was draped across it lightly across her shoulders and relax — allow herself to let go of all the tenseness and all the baggage from the past that she seemed to carry around with her and simply be.

She looked up and saw him standing there in the doorway. Again, he’d surprised her while she was deeply enmeshed in her own thoughts. He frowned, “All right?” he asked pointedly.

She wondered, simple question but what was the answer. “It must be wonderful to work here,” she said, sidestepping the question entirely.

“Well, it is great, at times. But the retail thing interrupts.” He stepped off the small landing and in a few direct steps had made it to the space directly in front of her. “So, I have a microwave. How about a cup of mint tea?”

“Sounds nice.”

He nodded, turning away from her, but then adding just over his shoulder. “Then after that maybe you’ll answer my question, Helen.”

It was disorienting, having her here, having her here after seeing her last night on his patio. He’d done his best. He’d concentrated on sending energy to her, but then he’d done something else, something that he wasn’t at all sure that he should. He’d brought her here today, funneled all his concentration on luring her to him. Truthfully, for all intents and purposes, he’d felt as though he’d failed, until he found her standing in the middle of his shop in an almost mesmerized state.

He debated within. Was this really fair to influence her like this? After all, he wasn’t some sort of vampire beckoning his intended victim to his side. He wanted to help Helen. He wanted, and then he stopped. What exactly did he want from her? If it wasn’t even clear in his mind, he shouldn’t be playing around with her life.

He brought two cups of steaming tea from the small kitchen galley to the studio where he found Helen sitting on the window seat with Hazel curled up beside her as she stroked her. “Now that’s a pretty picture,” he commented, as he handed her the tea.

“It just kind of happened,” she said, taking a sip. “It’s good. Do you do a lot of painting?”

He’d grabbed one of the metal chairs lurking around the studio and pulled it up beside her. “When I’m inspired. The shop brings in enough money that I don’t have to paint, but, of course, I have to stay creative, the ener—” then he stopped.

“The energy,” she finished for him.

“I’ve been bantering that word around a lot today. So—” he said.

“So,” she repeated, continuing to stroke Hazel’s heavy black fur.  She felt calmer now, not thinking as much. He could feel it. This place was soothing her, clearly exactly what she needed.

“You seemed very bothered earlier.”

She didn’t answer at first, just quietly sipped her tea. And he was struck again at how physically beautiful she was, her hands long and elegant, an aura of delicateness, and now rather fragileness. “I don’t know. Like I said at dinner, I came here to sort some things out, reassess I guess.”

He nodded, “How’s that working out?”

She smiled lightly, meeting his eyes with her large green ones. “Good question, sometimes I think reliving the past is maybe just that reliving the past. Doesn’t really change anything, just stirs up,”

“Pain?” he asked.

“Maybe, I mean it’s not a huge secret to me why things happened, how they happened. But it is a secret how I can let go of all that.”

“Hmm, there’s the trick.”

Her long elegant hand started to scratch Hazel just under the ear, and she settled against Helen as though she was in bliss — odd to be jealous of his own dog. “You seem to have made peace with things William.” He felt a bit startled. The last person who called him William was Sara Morgan, his teacher. But here in the small town of Crystal Springs, he was just Billy or Struve to some. Her eyes widened. She was perceptive. “I’m sorry. Would you rather I call you Billy?”

He smiled, shaking his head, “No, no William is fine. Um oh yeah, making peace with things. That’s a bit of a tall order. I don’t know if you can ever completely get rid of the old stuff. I don’t know if we’re meant to .It kind of reminds us of where we’ve been, who we’ve been — a benchmark so to speak. But it’s important to learn from it but not to keep beating yourself up for it. After all, you wouldn’t make the same choices today that you did say five years ago.”

Her eyes were wide and filled with shadows. “I hope not,” she murmured.

“And the rest of the cure is living. Just moving on and filling your life with new things, better things that bring you joy.”

She sipped her tea, her eyes focusing on something beyond him. She was considering. He could feel it, considering carefully.

She hadn’t intended to stay here as long as she had. In fact, she hadn’t intended to spend much of any time at all with Billy Struve. But the hours of the afternoon stretched on. There was a comfortable, languid feeling throughout the rooms of Illuminations. And Helen was not in much of a hurry to relinquish the feeling.

It was approaching four, the hour at which he would close up shop. There was a door at the back of the store that led to the back patio. While he took care of business up front, Helen wandered outside. It was a bright winter day and she inhaled deeply. The cool air flooded through her lungs, and she felt peace float in, a peace that she had never comprehended as possible.

He appeared in the doorway, quietly waiting for her to notice his presence. “So,” he said quietly. “All closed up.”

She smiled, “So soon?”

“Well, I’m the owner. It’s my prerogative.” He walked out further onto the patio. “And today feels like other things take precedence.”

“I hope I’m not interfering with your business.”

He nodded, “You are, but it’s not unwelcomed. So, can we try dinner again?”

Her head swirled a bit. It was not unexpected but still caught her off guard, “Dinner?”

He smiled, “Yes, but at my place. You know, Hazel and me.”

“Um, I don’t know.”

“Too late to be cautious, we’ve spent the afternoon together.”

“Oh, you think it’s too late, do you?”

“I think it’s time to let things follow their course. Don’t you Helen?”

Her heart was hammering in her chest a bit more profoundly. But she didn’t want to think about it too much, didn’t want to let go of this peacefulness that was wrapping around her like a cocoon. So all she said was, “I suppose not.”

It struck a chord. They’d stopped on the way to William’s house at a small grocery just a few blocks away from Illuminations. It was like everything else that she’d seen of Crystal Springs, homey, personal, and creative. The owner knew Billy Struve on a first name basis. She waited in the café portion of the store with Hazel while he shopped. Mr. Deangelis, the owner, and his daughter came from inside the store to greet her and play with Hazel. It seemed no problem for the dog to be there. It was so different, so alien for her. Where she came from, people were generally aloof, and you’d never see a dog in a grocery. Oddly enough, it felt destabilizing. When William returned to her, he looked at her with concern, “Something wrong?” he asked. “You look a little pale.”

“I’m just tired,” she lied. And he looked unconvinced. It was second nature for her to cover like this, to cover the truth of her feelings. Why exactly, she’d never particularly examined except that it had begun in her marriage.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m unhappy.”

“What’s the matter with you? Can’t you be satisfied with anything?”

And then it became, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I’m just tired.”

But the truth seemed to bring caustic, painful confrontations. So, she began to avoid them. But this man, this one next to her, was not content to accept platitudes.

It was the house, however, that struck a chord. This shook her a bit, because it seemed so oddly familiar. When they pulled up in his driveway, it nearly took her breath away. It was a wooden frame house, sort of warm beige in color, the front with several steps leading up to a porch — nestled comfortably in trees surrounding it, protecting it she thought a bit abstractly. It was lovely, not the most extraordinary house she’d ever seen, but in some other, indefinable way it was the most extraordinary house she’d seen.

He patted her hand softly, not questioning her this time. “Come on,” he said, but she hesitated. She couldn’t help it. She knew that if she went inside things would change. That thought resounded through her mind. But then she stepped out of the jeep, knowing that she would. It was inevitable.

She was wandering around his house, and it made him feel odd, as though some electric sort of energy was weaving its spell around them now. He didn’t know he would feel this way, didn’t really think about it at all. “You really don’t get it William. When the two of you finally come together, it will be extraordinary, powerful. Change both your lives in ways you can’t imagine. Your spirits are a perfect fit, created together for each other.”

“That sounds a bit overwhelming,” he’d told Sara Morgan.

“I imagine it will be,” she’d answered. “But you have never struck me as a man who would shy from a challenge.”

And here he was, watching Helen Ellis, absolutely incandescent in the way she was subtly connecting with everything around her. It was profound how drawn he was to her, physically, emotionally. He wanted so fiercely to get past all those barriers that she’d erected in the name of self-preservation. And he’d only known her a few days.

“So, what do you think?” he said wandering into the den where she was standing near the fireplace.

“You have a wonderful place. Did you do this?” she asked in regards to the landscapes that were placed on either side of the fireplace.

He handed her a glass of white wine. “Yes, some of my early work. I hope I’ve improved.”

She shook her head. “They’re wonderful William. They feel peaceful to me,” she murmured. And the she looked at him oddly, “Have you found that here? In Crystal Springs, peace?”

He sat down slowly on the small moss green sofa. “Sometimes Helen, I think peace is something you have to work at. It’s something earned, not just a natural state of being.”

She nodded, sipping her wine. “I guess that’s why I don’t have it. I never thought I’d have to earn it.”

“Well, it helps when you’re in a place you want to be, doing things because you enjoy them, not just because you have to.”

“Is that what you think I’m doing?”

“Actually, I was talking about myself. I had to remove myself from an environment that was, well, toxic to my spirit. That was the first step for me, I guess caring for my inner self.”

“Some of us don’t have that luxury.”

“Some of us don’t give ourselves the luxury.”

She turned away from him, facing his pictures again. He stood up and walked over to her putting his hand on her shoulder. He could feel it, fear. Her experiences had taught her fear. “I’m sorry Helen. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“We’re just very different William. Come from different places,” she murmured.

He put his glass of wine on the mantle and put both hands on her shoulders, beginning to gently rub, trying to drive some of her tenseness away. “I’d like to help you relax some, Helen,” he said. But she didn’t answer. He could feel so much, just connecting with her skin — confusion, tumultuous emotion, but it was helping. She was calming. “That’s it,” he said.

“William,” she began.

“Just relax Helen.” She was leaning back against him a bit, not realizing at all what she was doing. It was completely unconscious. He breathed deeply, feeling it as a languid and yes sensual feeling traveling through his veins. Sara had said they would be powerful together, but he hadn’t realized to what degree. There was a decision to be made now. Move forward or wait, give her a bit more time.

He pulled his hands away from her shoulders and whispered into her ear. “I better get dinner going.”

She straightened up, turning around to face him, “Yeah sorry, that felt good.”

He smiled, “Just relax awhile. I’ll be in the kitchen.”

He headed out the room, trying to shake the almost overwhelming need that was coursing through him.

William had a lovely natural wood dinette set in a small sunroom just off the kitchen. But instead, they ate in the den on the coffee table, sitting cross legged on his large Aztec pattern rug in front of a crackling fireplace. Of all things, he’d made spaghetti, but it was actually quite good.

“This is really great. When did you learn to be a great cook?”

He laughed, “Well, I’m not a great cook but generally out of necessity. After my marriage fell apart, I decided either I would learn to cook decently or eat take out the rest of my life.”

“That makes sense.” She picked up her glass of wine off the coffee table to take a sip. Her plate was somewhat precariously perched on her lap, but truth be told, she didn’t care. This was her second glass of wine, her limit usually was one, but she felt warm, cozy, and watchful of Hazel who more than once had tried to abscond with her dinner. “I can’t believe Christmas is in two days.”

“It’s true, any regrets?”

“You mean coming here?”

“Not being with your family.”

“No, oddly enough, it feels right. I guess though I feel some pressure not doing what I feel I should be doing.”

He put his glass down abruptly on the coffee table. “Okay, you’re going to have to explain that one to me. Not doing what you feel you should be doing?”

She laughed. It was true. Once she voiced it, it sounded remarkably nonsensical. “Okay, let’s see. Christmas comes with pressures. You feel if you don’t celebrate it in a certain way, you’ve failed somehow.”

“Wow, that sounds joyous!”

“Now you know what I mean. If you don’t have a tree,” she gestured to the small live pine tree he had in one corner of his house, sparsely decorated with ornaments from his shop. “If you don’t have a family around you, if you don’t exchange presents, if you don’t send out Christmas cards.”

“You send out Christmas cards?”

She sighed, “I used to when Kev,” then she stopped.

William put his basically cleaned plate onto the coffee table. “Okay, you want to finish that thought?”

She swallowed, good question. Did she really? “I was going to say I did when Kevin and I were together, then for a few years after. I guess to make it seem like I was okay, then I let it go.”

“I see, and all this was because you felt you should.”

“It’s part of the trappings of Christmas. Come on, didn’t you send out Christmas cards when you were married?”

“Honestly, I think Laura did, but I let her handle all that stuff I’m ashamed to say.”

“I see, a bit of a workaholic husband.”

He nodded, “Yeah, ambitious, self-centered, all the trappings that go with it. It isn’t a wonder she left me.” He took a sip of his wine.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you think about unhappy things.”

“No, no she did me a favor. Made me wake up, re-examine things.”

“Did you ever try to reconcile, I mean, once you changed things?”

He shook his head, “No Helen, one thing I’ve learned emphatically is that not everyone is a good match for you. Two people can be very nice, but once you put them together, they just don’t bring out the best in each other.”

“Sounds like you believe in soul mates.”

He smiled, “That’s one word. Kindred is another. Twins, twin spirits, is another.”

“Then I wonder why so many people wind up with the wrong match?” she said softly.

“It’s all about learning Helen. We’re all here on this earth to learn, to evolve. And that’s hard to do if you always do things perfectly.”

She glanced at a clock on the wall. It was already eight. The evening had been flying by, great food, great conversation, and she wasn’t in all that much hurry to go back now to her lonely cottage. They’d just had coffee, and she knew she should leave. “Ah, I see thinking about leaving now.” He spoke from across the den.

“You know, sometimes I get the strange feeling that you’re reading my mind.”

He walked in further, coming to stand just next to her near the fireplace. “Would that I could my dear,” he said laughing.

“I really should get back.”

“Because you think that is what you should do Helen?”

It was awkward. He was too honest, too unvarnished about what he was thinking. “I had a lovely time. In fact,” then she stopped.

“You know, before you vanish back into your old life, it is my quest, my most earnest desire, to get you to say what you really mean.”

She frowned, “Are you implying that I’m insincere?”

“No, I’m saying that you’re guarded and defensive and protective of yourself. But you don’t have to be around me.” He reached out and softly touched her face with the tips of his fingers. It made her literally catch her breath.

“I wanted to say that I can’t remember, at least not for a very long time, having such a wonderful evening.”

He nodded, “That’s high praise, and may I say that I feel the same.”

He moved in a step closer, and her heart began to race. “William, I,” she tried to say, but he was touching both sides of her face now with his hands, softly caressing. “You said you were only offering friendship,” she murmured.

“I know, we can be friends, and more,” he whispered.

She thought to answer, but then she didn’t because he was kissing her now. Softly at first, so gently he eased her into an embrace. And then more intensely, as he folded her deeply in his arms, against his chest, more passionately. It was unexpected, and yet more than reasonable.

He drove around the city after he brought Helen home. He was rattled, completely overwhelmed, but delightfully so. “It’s control that you need to work on William,” Sara Morgan had said.

“I don’t know what you mean. I’m always in control of myself, my life.”

“That’s the problem,” she’d said. “You have to learn to let go, allow life to have its flow without you impeding it.”

He hadn’t really understood what she’d meant, until tonight. He felt as though he were caught in a tidal wave. Helen would have stayed with him the night. He was sure of it. She was caught up just like he was in the passion igniting between them, the electric crazy flow of energy. She would have stayed, against her better judgment, against what she believed she should do, and all of that would have come crashing down on her the next morning. She wasn’t ready for this. Hell, he wasn’t ready for this. But it didn’t matter, not really, because it was going to happen. The feelings, the sensation, the connection was like a deluge. It wouldn’t be denied. But tonight, he’d pulled back. And he didn’t know at all if he was happy about it or not. She’d seemed confused, scattered. But once he’d brought her back, he’d stepped into the cottage, closing the door behind him.

Her eyes were wide with a bit of surprise. But he pulled her, without asking, straight into his arms again, kissing her softly, but trying to stave off the intense passion. “I want to see you tomorrow,” he’d said.

She was breathing deeply, “I don’t know.” She was confused, but he wouldn’t let her pull away from him now.

“It’s all right Helen,” he whispered into her hair. “Don’t worry. I’ll call you tomorrow.” She nodded and again he kissed her. This was crazy. All he wanted to do was scoop her up and take her back to his house, into his bed — such an incredibly powerful need.

But he didn’t, instead he wandered the darkened streets of Crystal Springs, trying, trying to get a handle on things.

Helen woke from a heavy sleep. It was late for her, ten o’ clock, but she felt well-rested, calm. As she wandered around the small cottage, it distantly registered in her mind that it was Christmas Eve. Presents weren’t something she needed to worry about. She’d mailed a package filled with them up to North Carolina. But then of course, there was one person that she hadn’t bought anything for yet — William.

Her breath hitched a bit in her throat at the memory of last night. It was the point at which their understanding of friendship had evolved into what she could only describe as passion, uncontrolled passion. She watched the small coffee pot that the cottage provided slowly drip. Coffee was such a wonderful aroma. It connected her with peaceful soothing things. There were actually just four more days that she would spend in Crystal Springs. The time was flying now.

She poured herself a cup of the morning brew and curled up in the overstuffed chair. She didn’t want to think too much, about the future or the past, just allow herself to feel now, to feel joy.

Her cell phone rang, and she answered without even looking at the number.

“Hello.”

“Hello back, and how are you this morning?”

She sipped her coffee, “Good, a bit lazy though. I only got up a little while ago.”

William laughed a bit on the other end. “Well, maybe you needed the rest. I was hoping you’d meet me for lunch. We’re closing early today because it’s Christmas Eve.”

She straightened up, thinking about the gift she had yet to buy for him. “Are all the stores closing early?” she asked.

“All of them around here. Why? Have some last minute shopping to do?”

“Well, a bit.”

“There’s still a little of the morning left. Do your shopping, then meet me at the store. Can’t wait to see you.”

It felt like butterflies, and she was much too old for butterflies. “Okay, that sounds good.”

“Great, see you later.”

“Okay,” she’d already said that, just like a flustered teenager. And then she hung up.

She looked up at the clock, ten-thirty, enough time to hop in the shower then make a mad dash into town. She wasn’t thinking, wasn’t examining too much. That, she felt acutely, would ruin everything.

He watched the clock. The morning was busy enough, a steady stream of customers to distract him. But then, it was eleven and eleven-thirty and his mind wandered, lingering on the wild energy last night passing around them, through them, within them, when he touched Helen, when he kissed her. He’d been warned of it but still hadn’t really expected it.

“When the two of you come together, it will be extraordinarily powerful.” Sara Morgan had told him serenely, as though it were quite natural.

He’d frowned at her a bit. It was undeniable. At that point in his life, there was still a hefty dose of pessimism within him. “What do you mean powerful?”

She’d smiled at him, almost indulgently. “William when two spirits reunite who are a perfect match, it is extraordinary. Energy is created, healing occurs. And there is a need between them to be together that is like an unstoppable storm. It will defy logic, judgment, and reasoning. It is simply undeniable.”

And then she’d said something odd, that he’d forgotten. “I envy you William, what is to come. Don’t let anything come between you, especially yourselves.”

“Especially yourselves,” he murmured to himself. Yes, he could easily see that possibility looming — fear, wounds from the past, and a host of other things perceived as stumbling blocks. But if he’d learned anything in his years of life was that perception did not necessarily equal truth.

The front bell chimed, and Helen crossed the threshold of Illuminations.

She was holding a small decorative bag in her hand and smiling as she approached him.

“So,” he said kissing her softly on the cheek, “what’s in the bag?”

“None of your business,” she laughed. And he knew it was a Christmas gift for him. The truth was that he’d already picked one out for her on that very first day that they’d met on the beach.

There was a change. At first, he’d felt it, then he’d seen it, in Helen’s aura — the colors of the energy around her. When he’d first met her, in fact before he’d even introduced himself that first day on the beach, he’d taken a moment to look at her, really look at her. Seeing auras wasn’t something that had come easily to him. It had begun first as picking up random splashes of energy on people, objects. At first, he’d thought it was his vision going, but an eye doctor confirmed that this was not the case. Ever since he was a child, he’d had extremely good vision, and that hadn’t changed as he got older. So, he’d mentioned it to Sara Morgan in one of their sessions, and she had introduced him into the world of energy, the colors of energy and its significance.

And with much practiced meditation, he’d begun to see clearly, the auras surrounding people.

Helen had been low on energy and surrounded by great splashes of pink and orange. The pink denoted confusion within her emotions and the orange a strong connection to other people who might be influencing her. But rather quickly over the last few days of their association, he was noticing a difference, less pink, less orange, more white and blue-green — strong energy colors. There was a lighter mood to her, more buoyant. And with no humbleness, he knew he could claim credit or rather their association could. They were helping each other already, because he also could feel the energy shifting within himself for the better.

He’d just closed the shop, and they were sitting in the back room with Hazel at their feet.

“So, what do you want for lunch?”

She smiled, “This is your town, what do you recommend?”

He grabbed her hand and impulsively brought it up to his lips kissing it softly. “Well, we can pick up some po’boys at a little seafood place I know, then go picnic somewhere.”

“Sounds nice,” she murmured. But it was clear, her focus was on the hand he was still holding. He breathed deeply. It was difficult. Last night they’d pretty much let the genie out of the bottle and now. Well, there seemed as though there was no going back. Again, he brought her hand up to his lips, kissing it more lingeringly this time.

“Or we could go back to my house, and I’ll fix us something.” She was breathing deeply, and it felt like a spell wrapping around them.

“What are we doing?” she whispered softly but with intent.

He shook his head, “Not really sure Helen Ellis, feels a bit like falling but not in a bad way.” He turned her arm a bit and now brought her wrist softly up to his lips.

“You know, this isn’t really like me.”

“This isn’t like anything. This is all brand new.” And then he reached over, softly drawing her to him, and began kissing her. He kissed her again and again, and he could feel she was not holding anything back. “Let’s go,” he whispered to her. He thought he read some confusion in her eyes, but then it was gone, just acceptance. She nodded then he stood up, soon after pulling her to her feet.

She was going to have an affair. This was the only way Helen could interpret what was happening. It didn’t fit into any other construct that she had been taught since she was a child.

Of course, it was still new to her. She’d never had an affair, although there had been a few opportunities. Several she could remember after her divorce from Kevin. And she had considered it. She was lonely, feeling terrible about herself, but something had held her back — something that clearly was not holding her back now.

They were largely silent as they drove to William’s house. Hazel barked occasionally from the back seat, and once William had reached over to squeeze her hand. “Okay?” he’d said.

She’d nodded, saying nothing. She was afraid a bit, but it had such an edge of excitement, like the unknown. This was her plunging into the unknown, whatever it might bring, but feeling intoxicatingly alive. They pulled into his driveway, and he turned off the car. But he made no move to get out. Finally, after a few moments, he spoke, “I guess I should ask you if you’re sure you want to do this,” he murmured.

She waited, smiling a bit. “Was that a question?” she couldn’t help but saying.

He turned to her, also smiling a bit. “I think that was the lawyer in me trying to cover the bases.”

She nodded, “I’m sure.”

There seemed to be a slight sigh of relief from him. Then he opened his door and stepped out of the car. She did the same. Her answer had been true. She was sure. Whatever would come, whatever it would bring, she was sure. Breathing in the cool mist around her, she noted happily that around them it was a sunny day.

Copyright © 2012 by Evelyn Klebert

White Harbor Road and Other Tales of Paranormal Romance

A psychic soul mate, a time traveler, a horror writer, and a enigmatic stranger take a selection of resilient, life-battered heroines to a place of paranormal healing and transformation. In this collection of short stories, White Harbor Road is the last stop where life’s burdens and hardships evolve into something unexpected.

Slipping – Halloween Month

Well, it’s that time of year again, the spooky time, and it’s also Halloween Month at evelynklebert.com. To kick off the month in hopefully a great way, I’m posting a story from my recent collection The Hotel Stories: Appointment with The Unknown. I started to pen this collection while my husband was on a very busy lecture circuit, and I found myself spending more and more time in very interesting hotels. My mind began to wander, and the result was this curious collection of short stories. So I hope you’ll enjoy this slightly unnerving offering that I call “Slipping.” And whatever you are up to, please take a little time to enjoy the season. 🙂

Slipping

She’d checked into a hotel off of US Highway 65. It was on the outskirts of somewhere, some town or city, heading into the Ozarks. She hadn’t really paid much attention, just stopped when things started getting wholly unbearable.

“Just one?” The girl at the receptionist desk had asked. Just one, as though it were an oddity. The world was filled with people who were Just One, traveling this great canvas all by themselves. But she didn’t belabor the point. She was deeply in need of a shower and a soft pillow to rest her weary mind upon.

“Enjoy your stay Ms. Ascher.”

She was not married, thirty-four and more single, she thought, than most people.

She took the elevator up to the third floor. Her surroundings were not penetrating her psyche just now. It took every effort to reach her destination down a long insufficiently lit hallway. But perhaps it wasn’t the lighting, perhaps just her eyes not functioning properly.

She slid in the card, opening the doorway to room 302. She let the heavy door close behind her, plopping her large shoulder carrying bag onto one of the two double beds. The room was large, beige, decorated sparsely with a few oversized floral photographs. The beds were unremarkable, white bedspreads, dark burgundy, cotton bed skirts. The headboards were a dark wood of a cheap variety, as was the rest of the furniture. As hotels went, it was serviceable, and her skin wasn’t crawling.

She pulled her long black hair out of its ponytail and shook it out. Even in her thoughts that sounded, well, snobby. But it wasn’t actually. It was literal.

Many places felt simply, physically intolerable to her. She laid back on one of the beds and closed her eyes. She was so tired. With distraction, she wondered why they gave her two beds if she was Just One?

She heard the fly buzzing around her, and her eyes flickered open. A chill of recognition traveled up her spine. Evidently, she was not Just One. There was something else here with her.

He must have been only a half an hour behind her. It was eight in the evening when he pulled into the Ozark Mountain Motel. It had been late afternoon when he first became aware that a traveler was passing through the area. He was just leaving his office as the first wave hit him. It felt a bit like a strong current of erratic weather rushing through the landscape, a sudden storm but not a focused one, though evidently only apparent to those that were tuned in. Immediately, he’d cleared his mind, sending out feelers to his network.

“What is it?”

More like someone.

“Are you sure? It doesn’t feel like anything I’ve ever sensed before.”

Yes, the consensus is it’s a traveler.

“A traveler, you mean a time traveler?”

No, no different, maybe dimensional.

Now that had given him pause. He’d been studying esotericism and parapsychology for nearly twenty plus years, and he’d never encountered a dimensional traveler.

Do you want me to follow it up? There seems to be something wrong there.

“No,” he’d sent out almost involuntarily. “Let me. I’ve never encountered anyone capable of dimensional travel before.”

At this point, it really isn’t clear what she’s capable of.

“She?” He’d asked, surprised, but why exactly he wasn’t clear. He’d just assumed it was a man. Perhaps that was a tinge chauvinistic of him.

Yes, late twenties, early thirties it seems. But the energy is erratic. Be careful.

“Yes,” he’d answered, getting in his car. There was an overnight bag in the trunk already packed in case, well, just in case the unexpected might happen. And this as much as anything qualified as unexpected.

It seemed like a dream at first. No, that wasn’t true. It seemed like a nightmare, a waking nightmare. Nina woke up in her bed, and she had slipped, though at the time she didn’t know it. Where she found herself was dark, shadowy, but undeniably her bedroom. She remembered the horrible panicked feeling, her heart pounding wildly. She was only twelve. That’s when it had really started. Her menstrual cycle had just begun the week before, and it brought with it changes, clearly unforeseen changes to her psyche. Her mother had told her to be aware, cognizant of unexpected feelings, but she hadn’t warned her about this.

She’d sat up in the bed, calling out, “Hello,” but no answer, in fact just an eerie muffled sort of silence. Silence, until of course it wasn’t. The movement began quickly, first in the shadowy corners of her room. There were things unseen there, things rustling, scurrying.

Cold fear energized her as she jumped out of her bed and began in fact running through the house. But it wasn’t the house she knew. Everything was different, even the air, cumbersome, as though she were pushing through sand, heavy wet, mushy sand that clung to her skin, weighing her down and impeding movement. “Momma,” she screamed in terror, but the sound of her voice was constricted, stifled in the thick darkness.

With Herculean effort, she moved from room to room, only to find each empty, filled with dense shadows. No one was there, and yet it seemed as though they almost were. She could feel heat in places, the heat of living bodies, the heaviness of form that was simply not quite where it should be. Again, she opened her mouth to scream, but it was as though she was swallowing the murky atmosphere around her, thick in her lungs. There was no doubt in her mind that this would kill her if she remained. She was literally drowning in this place.

And then joltingly she was back, as though she’d just awoken from a bad dream. But it didn’t feel like a dream because that place was still inside her making her sick. She thrashed in her mother’s arms. “Nina,” she whispered in her hair. “It’s all right. You’re back home now,” and it chilled her, because it was clear that her mother knew exactly what had happened.

They called it slipping, her mother, her grandmother. But it was a secret, something not spoken of — a curse of sorts, they believed, passed from daughter to daughter. It bypassed the men, her uncles, her brother, being immune and completely ignorant of it.

“Shouldn’t we tell them?” she’d asked.

“They wouldn’t understand,” was their answer. “They will believe something is wrong with your mind.”

“But I don’t understand. What is that place?”

Her mother had remained silent, and then her grandmother had spoken. “It’s another realm, a dark place, just next to us. A terrible place, I think. That was how my mother described it. There are things there that shouldn’t be seen, shouldn’t be known about. The best thing to do is to try to learn to keep yourself here and ignore it.”

That was all that was said, their best advice she surmised. And when she tried to speak of it again, she was stonewalled.

Usually, she was pretty successful in anchoring herself. Unless, well, unless she was too tired or run-down. Over the years, Nina became an expert in monitoring her physical and emotional state. And, of course, relationships were a problem. She started dating in college, Jerry. And then it became a battle, a constant struggle.

A year or so into their relationship, she’d spent the weekend with him and found herself trapped in the middle of the night in the cabin with things, horrible distorted things in those shadows. She’d concluded that there was an emotional component to all of this. The next day she had him take her home, and she broke up with him soon after. She would be Just One. Decidedly, it seemed the only solution.

She opened her eyes and watched the fly bounce off the ceiling of the hotel room. It wasn’t very big. But her instincts told her that it was much more than just a fly. Her eyes opened wider as it circled overhead. Louder, louder, the buzzing grew until she felt it in her fingertips, her hands, beneath her skin, then her blood synchronizing with the irritating pitch.

“Anchor yourself.” She could hear her grandmother’s voice from the past. But it was all too late, she noted as she slipped into the darkness.

He’d just begun to settle in his room on the third floor when he felt it. Something powerful seared through the energy around him. There was a distinct pull and loss of energy in his chest as he abruptly sat down on the hotel bed trying to collect himself. Peter Lochlan breathed in deeply, while focusing on centering himself again.

“She’s traveling,” he sent outward.

Yes, an answer. He was never really alone, just a directed thought away from obtaining much-needed guidance. Are you sure you want to handle this?

“Yes,” though he didn’t know why exactly, just something he felt strongly about. “She’s pulling energy.”

It’s not deliberate. It’s done in a sort of panic.

“Do you think she’s dangerous?”

It depends on what you mean by dangerous.

The room pulsated around her. It wasn’t always the same. Where she ended up wasn’t always the same. The hotel room wasn’t couched in shadows but rather distorted, flickering frequencies of light. And she could still hear that buzzing sound that the fly was making, but it was in everything, the walls, the furniture. The carpeted floor all pulsated at that strange reverberating pitch.

She moved rather fluidly back against the bed. This was the manner of movement here, a sort of liquid-like slithering, not unakin to swimming through jelly. She continued to stare at it. It was affixed to the pulsating ceiling. She should have screamed, but it was pointless. And she’d seen worse, much worse in her time. The fly had ballooned in size, its eyes glowing orange, all its eyes on its enormous head, now around the size of a small bear. Its legs fidgeted and pranced, moving around the ceiling as though trying hard to get a grip on its fluctuating surface. No, she was wrong. Perhaps, she should scream. It was zeroing in her, undeniably positioning itself, wanting something.

She deliberately focused on the door, concentrating. Each place, each space, had its own rules. This place felt connected to it, to that thing. She didn’t want to call it a fly, because it wasn’t really. That was only what it looked like in her world.

With will and concentration, she pushed off from the headboard, springing across the room to the door. When her hands made contact, she found the fluctuating wood thick and slimy. Wielding a fist through its unstable surface, then punching through, she pushed herself through the newly created opening, tumbling with significant force.

Again, she focused, being direct and mindful she’d learned were the tools of the trade in survival. The hallway was different, completely different, as though she’d passed into a different level. Its ceiling was low, and it seemed to stretch endlessly, bending, and curving out of her sight. Here, all the walls were a flickering, blinding white. She heard it behind her, scrambling, that horrible buzzing sound. The other place had been its domain, but it clearly was coming after her, hunting, predatory in nature.

She took off down the curving hall. But the more she traveled, the more it curved and bent like a confusing sort of maze. She was stupid to have stopped here at this place, at the hotel, but she’d been so tired. This place was complicated, so many pockets, unseen pockets. It would be easy to get lost.

Directly behind her, she heard it scuttling, that horrible, incessant buzzing noise. She could feel how it wanted to rip her to pieces in that pincer-like mouth. And if it did, would she be dead, or just trapped somewhere unspeakable? Her calmness was deteriorating into panic. That could be deadly to her. She pushed forward, stumbling along the tight and uneven little walls of the hallway. They went on and on relentlessly, no place to break out of. And then she turned a sharp sudden bend, and there was something or rather someone standing there in front of her. Her vision was blurred here, but she clearly made out a form.

Her heart clutched in fear. In all the years she’d been doing this, experiencing these bizarre phenomena, she’d been alone, solitary, except for the ambient creatures. There was no one else. But this form, person she suspected, reached out toward her, jarringly grabbing her arm in a painful grip.

“Come on,” she heard a voice inside her head and then felt an abrupt yank outward.

Nina sat up in the bed in her hotel room. She touched her face with the palms of her trembling hands ― icy, sweaty, her heart cramping painfully in her chest. She physically jumped when the first knock came at her door and then the second, sharp, unrelenting. She looked around, still in that state of panic. She didn’t see the fly. Perhaps, it had moved on. Then the third knock, just as fierce, reminding her sharply of the present. After that it stopped, for quite a space nothing, just silence. If she waited, whoever it was might just leave. But there was something that began to pull at her, something powerful, insistent, drawing her to her feet.

Without thinking, without being able to stop herself, she reached out, opening the door.

A man was standing there, out in the hallway, looking at her intently. “Are you all right?” he asked directly. And he reached out, catching her, as she began to collapse in exhaustion.

He had gotten her a glass of water and waited patiently as she took a sip. He watched her intensely as though every movement she made was of some peculiar fascination. “You need to leave this room. There’s something in here that’s not good.”

She looked down into her clear glass of water, feeling intensely embarrassed. “It’s a fly.” She spoke softly. It was so awkward, so alien, speaking to anyone about this.

“A fly?”

“I mean, it looks like a fly, but I’m sure it’s something else.”

“Some sort of drainer?”

She frowned, looking up at him with some confusion. How could he know? Who was he? He wasn’t an old man, maybe a bit older than her, but not terribly. He was dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt, sleeves rolled up, and tan slacks. She wondered with distraction how it was possible that he was jumping into the middle of her secret world, and more than that why. “Maybe,” she murmured hesitantly.

“You’re not the only one who knows things, sees the unseen, you know. They’re many of us out there,” he said quite solemnly.

“I—” she tried to speak, but it felt as though her breath had been cut by something.

“You’re very tired. Get your things and come with me.”

“Where?”

“My room, there aren’t any flies there,” he said flatly, though with just the hint of a smile.

Nina Ascher appeared oddly delicate to him ― that long black hair that she pulled up into a bun at the nape of her neck before they left and that pale porcelain-like complexion. Her skin felt cool, in fact too cool, and clammy as though she’d run a great distance. And as far as he could tell, she had indeed.

Peter was surprised that she seemed so willing to go with him. He hadn’t expected, well, the truth was that he hadn’t known what to expect. But he knew, as soon as he walked into her room, that there was something very problematic and even threatening there. He accepted her word that it was a fly. He’d seen odder things, and he was greatly concerned about her. Dimension traveler or not, she needed help.

As he opened the door to his hotel room, she slowly walked inside, a bit dazed. “What was your name again?” she nearly whispered.

“Peter, Peter Lochlan.”

“Oh,” the overnight bag that he’d taken from her room, he placed on the far bed. She glanced around tentatively with obvious distraction. “It looks like mine.”

“No flies,” he murmured, closing the door behind her. “Would you like a soda or something?”

“Maybe, but don’t leave right now,” she said with hesitation. “I’m so tired, worried I’ll slip again.”

“Slip?”

She laughed awkwardly. “That’s what my grandmother used to call it, slipping.”

“You mean dimension travelling?”

She looked at him with a bit of confusion. “Is that what I’m doing?”

“I think so.”

She sat down gingerly on one of the beds. “Just don’t leave. I feel so weak. If it happens again, I’m worried I won’t come back.”

It was calming, being around him. She’d expected questions, but he was quiet. They’d walked down the hall, largely in silence. He’d gotten her a Sprite from the vending machine and a Coke for himself, then they’d returned to his room, a stranger’s room that she curiously felt safer in than her own.

“You must think I’m very peculiar,” she commented, as they made their way down the actually very unremarkable hallway.

“I think you’re extraordinary,” he answered softly.

That was shocking, comforting, having someone be so kind to her. The world she was used to was hard, people generally rough with her. He opened the door to his room, and she walked in, but then stopping, just inside as the door closed behind them. She looked around, actually actively considering things for perhaps the first time since she’d met him. “Why are you here?” she murmured. “I mean at the hotel.”

“You,” he answered, sitting on the edge of the bed closest to them, then sipping his Coke.

“Me?”

He looked at her directly. She noticed him doing that since they’d met, just looking at her directly, unflinchingly as though it were no problem. It made her uneasy. She was used to other sorts of people who didn’t look so closely, who were perhaps more comfortable only seeing what they thought should be there. “I felt you, sensed you, driving near where I worked. So, I followed you. It felt as though something was terribly wrong.”

She looked down at her Sprite, breathing deeply. It was easy to talk to him, and for her that was more than unusual. “Where do you work?” That wasn’t the question she wanted to ask. But it was the one she could manage.

“Branson, I’m a psychologist.”

She glanced up. He had brown eyes, not hard, but still focused on her. “Then you must think I’m crazy.”

“No,” he said with a bit of surprise. “But I think you’re having a difficult time. You should sleep here tonight, in the other bed.”

She’d expected it but still ― “Peter, I don’t know how I can do that.”

“I don’t know how you can’t,” he stated flatly.

Do you need help?

“I don’t know.”

Have things stabilized?

“I’m not sure about that either.”

She slept restlessly, tossing, murmuring in her sleep. He concentrated on her, trying to place a protective shield or rather bubble of energy around her, but he wasn’t sure if he was trying to keep something out or trying to keep her within. And on top of everything, just attempting to maintain it was incredibly draining to him. It was a battle. Clearly, there was an unconscious component of her that wanted to travel, wanted to slip into these other lower, problematic dimensions so close to their own. Yet, her conscious self resisted and was being dragged unwillingly along.

What was happening was terribly disturbing, but beyond that the why of it bothered him even more. There was a persistence, perhaps a self-destructive thread here that he did not understand. Peter sat cross-legged on his bed, focusing on her, dropping down to a level where he could reach her subconscious mind.

“Nina,” he summoned. He felt a stillness overtake her, and the restless thrashing of her sleep ceased. Again, he directed the thought to her mind. “Nina, do you hear me?”

The whisper came floating tentatively back to him. “Yes.”

“What are you fighting?”

There was silence, then a stirring. “I am drawn.”

“Drawn to what?” he prodded.

“There is something here, something dark.”

“Why are you drawn to it?” he asked, pushing her for concreteness.

“I need to stop it.”

He hesitated. He hadn’t expected this, that there might actually be a purpose to any of her traveling. “You’re very weak.”

“You’re stopping me.”

“Yes, I don’t want anything to happen to you.” This was the concern, and he’d openly admitted it, perhaps for the first time to himself. There was something about her, about Nina Ascher that he was finding it difficult to keep professionally detached from.

“I have to go. Let me.”

He stopped, considering. Whether he wanted it or not, it was clear that she would be traveling. “Let me go with you.”

It seemed like endless moments before there was an answer. Then finally, “Yes.”

He sent out a call for aid to help bolster him before he released the shield around her. It was clear. If this was really going to happen, then he needed all the help he could get.

Was it shame? She wondered why it was never spoken of. The women of her family seemed to bury their ability as if it were an aberration. They operated under a definitive pressure to blend in, be unseen, appear normal.

But she wasn’t. And at times in wandering the darkness and in exploring these unknown spaces between, she admittedly felt more herself than when she was in the “normal” world.

She landed on a swampy surface, her feet sinking and then rebounding. It was different here, in Peter’s hotel room, than it had been in hers. The shadowy, turbulent surfaces were slashed with waves of calming blue-green light, flickering, and tempering the darkness.

She recognized from some inner compass that it was temporary. Peter had brought the serene light with him — his influence, his power perhaps. Straightening up from a crouching position, she canvassed the room. As her vision cleared, surprisingly, she saw him right beside her, though he appeared insubstantial, as though he hadn’t fully made the leap.

“Are you all right?” She sent the thought toward him. She could almost see its physical movement appearing as a kind of wave in the thick, gelatinous atmosphere.

His image beside her seemed to solidify a bit as her thought merged into him. He began to move, and she saw fluctuations in the light bands. It was clear that all that energy was connected to him.

“Adjusting,” he sent to her. And again, she could see the thought traveling in a ripple through the jelly-like atmosphere, until it hit her. Although it wasn’t exactly a hit, it felt more like a benevolent warmth spreading over her before the meaning crystallized in her mind.  

She silenced her thoughts and listened. The buzzing that she remembered from her room was in the distance but near. With instinct, she began to move toward the door, but his arm shot out in front of her, barring her way. “Wait. Where are you going?”

She stopped. She hadn’t thought, just responded to the pull. “I need to find it.”

Again, his thought collided with her. “Why?”

Why? That repeated in her mind. There wasn’t a coherent answer. She didn’t know Why. She only felt an urgency. She pulled away, forcing her way through the pulsating barrier that was his door. Peter was following her. That much she knew. His thoughts and emotions were tangible things wrapping around her like a cocoon.

Complete disorientation was what Peter was experiencing. The first time that he’d sent himself to this level to reach her, it hadn’t been wholly him, just a projected piece of his consciousness. But now, he was all in and woefully out of his element.

He followed her through the sticky mess that was his doorway and into the hall. His vision here was severely compromised. He had experienced moments of complete blindness, then after periods of settling some splotchy forms had begun to creep in.

The usual guidance he received from others on his team had become completely muffled out. This place that Nina Ascher had slipped into was clearly a corrosive, toxic space. Just being here had already caused him a severe drain of energy. He had no idea how she continued to function on this level of reality, except that perhaps by virtue of who she was, she possessed a natural immunity to it. Trying to keep up, he followed her down the dark aberration that was the hallway, amazed at how quickly and fluidly she moved in this space, nearly as though she were swimming through the dense atmosphere.

“Where are you going?” he sent out to her.

But she didn’t respond, just continued to move, wrapping around unexpected corners and turns. And then suddenly, abruptly, she stopped in front of a doorway. This gave him the chance to finally catch up, reaching her side. She remained motionless, staring forward. From his sketchily representational vision, she now seemed to be floating, feet not even touching what could loosely be called the carpet of the hallway.

“What is it?” he sent out. Though at first, she didn’t seem to respond to him.

“My room,” she sent back jarringly. So odd, how he could feel actual impact from her words. “It’s inside.”

He looked at the fluctuating doorway, now semi-recognizing it in its mutated form. “What does it want?” He sent toward her.

Then she turned to him, no expression. So strange how different she seemed here, more confident, oddly in her element. “It wants me.”

Peter wasn’t doing well. She could feel it. She knew she should attempt to send him back, but for some reason his presence was helping her, helping her feel more focused than she usually did, more empowered in some way.

As he stood next to her, she felt an inexplicable impulse that she seemed helpless to resist. Reaching her hand out, she grasped his tightly. Initially, the effect was as expected, skin touching skin, as it would be in their “normal” world, but then, just like the doorways and everything else here, she felt the surface give way. Her flesh began to actually part and melt into his, and she moved beneath the surface of his palm. Her hand began to physically merge with him, sinking past skin, past bone, beyond.

She could feel, feel all that energy that she had seen in the room, touching her. And then she sunk deeper, her form, the body that she remembered, completely merging into his, until vision was not hers, nor his, but theirs.

“What is this? What are we becoming?”

“We’re one.” Each thought was not hers, nor his, but now undeniably theirs.

They moved, though in what form was now unknown. They moved through the doorway, then beyond.

It was there, as expected, waiting in the middle of the room for them. It had drained all the energy that she had left behind and grown to enormous proportion, now almost reaching the ceiling in stature.

They knew that they could not leave it like this. It would be too damaging in this world and theirs. They centered thought, drawing from both consciousnesses.

The creature almost immediately began to react, nervously twittered, clearly intimidated by what they’d become. It felt them, and its great misshapen head twitched in agitation.

With all the force that they could muster, they directed energy, his energy, her focus, with the solitary thought of evolution. The thing that had been a fly in her room was hit, at the center of its being, scrambling, maddeningly for a moment in response to the flood of positive energy, then stopping and finally allowing the evolution to take place. It shrunk and transformed before them, mutating into a small form, a bird, perhaps a sparrow that fluttered uncontrollably for a moment then flew out of the room from a sudden gap that appeared in the wall.

They stood there, transfixed by what they’d done. Then Nina began to feel the tearing of their separation before everything swirled into blackness.

She was unconscious when he found her on the floor of his hotel room, breathing steadily though her pulse was racing. Peter shakily placed her in one of the beds pulling the blanket over her. He was trembling himself from the profound loss of energy. What had occurred, he couldn’t even begin to wrap his mind around. Profound didn’t even begin to scratch the surface. He’d always been drawn, drawn to the paranormal, drawn to the other worldly elements of his studies. And undeniably, he’d been drawn to Nina Ascher even before he set eyes on her. But now, well, they were connected in a way that he couldn’t begin to fathom. At the moment though, all he wanted to do was rest. He hesitated, then climbed into the bed himself, pulling her into his arms before he collapsed into sleep.

What happened?

“It’s hard to say. We were able to intercept a drainer on another dimensional level and, well, stop it.”

Stop it, how?

He paused. How could he explain? How could he explain something that he didn’t understand?

Nina had woken up during the night a few times. She seemed a bit disoriented but other than that in reasonable health. He had a made a motion to leave the bed, but she’d held onto his arm, pulling him back. There weren’t words. What had happened between them was beyond words. They had become one being, one being that had the power to evolve another creature out of its own darkness into a new form of existence. He couldn’t imagine what that meant going forward — only that there was a formidable link that had been forged between them. 

She’d slept the rest of the night in his arms. Tomorrow they’d talk, talk about how to move forward; how they would move forward together.

“It’s hard to explain. I think we’ll need a bit of time to sort things out, sort out the ramifications. But I’ll be in touch.” 

Copyright © 2021 by Evelyn Klebert

A hotel for most represents a normal place, a predictable realm of commonality. One might even go as far to say a safe space, the reliable where nothing particularly unusual is expected to happen. Or is it?


Dimensional traveling, spirit guides, mystical storms, and soul mates separated by time are only a few of the elements dotting this supernatural landscape. Drop into a collection of romantic paranormal stories where that place of commonality is only the threshold, the jumping off point, for extraordinary adventures into the unknown.