Exhausted, Rachael pulled up in front of the shop. Between the arguing with secretary at the real estate office to find out what they did with her car and rushing to get it out of the impound before it closed, all she wanted to do is go home, drink tea and play with the kids. But that would have to wait until after she convinced Norman and his crew to work on the cottage next. She had a fairly good idea of what she wanted and they would be stripping the old wallpaper while she decided on the specific paint colors. They could also check for the electrical and plumbing problems everyone had been telling her about. But not if she didn't get it into gear and get out of the car. Today was the last day they'd be working on the store. Tomorrow Rachael and her new staff started stocking the shelves and setting up displays. What a ride, she thought. It's been quite a month.
Looking out the open car window, through the newly stenciled window of Dragon's Den, she felt proud and nervous. So much happened so fast. Inside she watched the carpenters and painters clean up. Several of them were on the path; two were curious. One quit the first day, calling her a heathen bitch. She thought it was a strange way for a Christian to act, but let it go.
Opening the car door, she stepped onto the curb and closed it. For the first time she noticed the long scratch along the side of the car. They couldn't stop themselves from doing damage, having it ticketed and towed wasn't enough. She'd deal with it and them tomorrow. At this moment, she simply didn't trust her temper.
She spun around on her toes and walked to the door. Before opening it, she took a deep breath to center herself. She was angry, but the people inside didn't deserve to hear about it. She brushed back her hair and opened the door, the smile already in place. "Hi, guys. Looks fabulous."
"Thanks." Was the common response as they rush to clean up and remove their tools.
Meredith, a petite painter, pointed toward the back room. No doubt she was rushing to pick up her kids from day-care before the rate changed to the evening billing. A divorced mother of three girls, with an ex who didn't know when it was over, was how Meredith described herself. He didn't pay child support and refused to acknowledge the divorce or restraining order against him. Meredith still occasionally had her tires slashed and on at least two occasions in the past month she came to work with visible bruises.
Walking past her, Rachael wondered what she would do in that kind of situation. Quickly she banished the question; she didn't need those particular challenges added to her life. Part of her wanted to be able to help, especially the children. She knew what it was like to grow up in a household where love equaled pain and respect was non-existent. Meredith had options, but the children didn’t. Rachael recognized the look of fear and sadness in their young eyes. She saw in the mirror ever day until she moved away to go to college. It was only then did the healing start and she found the beauty of her own soul.
She walked down the hallway, looking in the office and the classrooms. Norman was no where to be seen. He must be in the storeroom or the mediation center, she thought, continuing through the store. The storeroom was empty. She moved to the end of the hall. Knocking on the door, she waited for a response. After a moment, she heard, "come in."
Norman was sitting lotus position on the futon. His hands, supported by his knees, were in the position representing peace. His eyes were closed. He looked like Buddha only with a crew cut.
Rachael never would have thought it of him. But he looked completely comfortable in the position; this wasn’t something new to him. Waiting for him to open his eyes, she walked quietly around the room as not to disturb him. Carol had finished the murals. Each of the four walls had a different motif.
East represented spring with new growth and rainbows with storm clouds in the distance. Rachael couldn't tell if they were coming or going. The flowers were those of spring. In the center, a lilac bush was in full bloom. She wondered if Carol had known about the cottage before she had found it. Birds were building nests. In the stream, a fish jumped after an insect. It all had a sense of movement.
On the Southern wall, it was summer. The colors were more vivid, almost three-dimensional. The sky was a blue Rachael had only seen before in the sky on a hot, summer day. She was impressed. A doe with her twin fawns walked out of the lush forest onto the field. The wheat reached for the sky. Blueberries hung heavy on the bush and a bird, Rachael didn't recognize, sat on a limb posed ready to pluck a berry.
Fall was represented on the Western wall. The colors were darker; the leaves had taken on the yellows and reds. The sky had a gray cast. A flock of geese flew in formation. The harvest had been collected. Nature was preparing to sleep. Yet it felt active and alive. To look at the wholeness of it gave the impression of prosperity and good fortune.
The Northern wall was different. It represented winter, yes, but it also departed from the nature theme. The centerpiece was a castle, a steel, cold gray, but every window held a light burning, waiting to welcome the visitor from the approaching storm. A path wound up from the door she entered and crossed the floor to the drawbridge painted on the wall. It was darker than the others, yet it was the one that seemed more comforting. The motif was that of a safe home where all were welcome. The lights were on and soon the traveler would be protected within it’s walls. It was the philosophy behind the room and the store. Everyone was welcome; everyone was safe.
"Impressive isn't it."
Rachael turned to face him. "You've been holding out."
"Not even my wife knows."
"She'd thump me with her Bible."
"Sorry." She leaned forward against the back of a chair. "How'd you like another job? Starting tomorrow."
"Another store already?"
"A house. I found one."
Norman scratched his thick mustache and waited.
"I need the electrical, plumbing and heating checked. And some God awful wallpaper removed."
He laughed. "For you, we'll juggle. When, where, and how long do we have?"
"Start tomorrow. Four days." She hesitated.
On of his bushy eyebrows arched. "And?"
"It might be difficult. It used to belong to Kevin Mitchelson's Grandmother."
"Sarah." The word was soft, almost like a prayer.
"You don't sound surprised."
"Knowing her and you. I'm not." He uncrossed his legs and stretched. "I helped her design it. A special picked crew built."
"So the energy level won't be a problem?"
Again his eyebrow arched. "Don't worry 'bout me and mine. I know how to take care. Several of the original crew are still available. I’ll call them tonight." He chuckled. “She loved that wallpaper. It nearly blinded me every time we had tea together.
Rachael breathed a sigh of relief. “I didn’t want to spend every day at the cottage watching you work.”
His eye brow arched. “What colors do you want?"
"I haven't decided yet."
"Make it difficult to paint."
She shrugged. "It'll take you at least one day to remove the wallpaper. I'll decide by then."
"You want it done in four days." He planted his hands firmly on his hips. "Paint by three o'clock tomorrow. Got the keys?"
"Let's have'em." He held out his hand. "It’s been a while since I been there. I want to see what I'm getting into. We might have to start tonight."
"It's in good shape."
"That's what you said about this place. It took us a week longer than expected."
She dropped the keys into his palm. "Point."
His fingers curled around the keys, which seemed child size in proportion to his hand. "Besides there's something I need to check out."
"The railing. They say it gave way and that's why she fell."
Rachael's curiosity was sparked. "That's not true. The railing was solid."
"I know. I put it there myself."
"Tell me about her."
He smiled. "She was a true lady. She always had a dignity, even when she was being silly. To describe her in one word--tireless. She loved the fact she had the resources to make a difference. But unlike some,” a tint of anger crept into his voice, “she could help without intruding. Sarah wanted to help others find their best and highest path without forcing her beliefs on them." He paused to enjoy a private memory, but the smile changed to a frown. "When she died,” the tone of his voice again changed, adding subtle unspoken meanings to the word died, “many of us became angry. It wasn’t time for her to cross over and we knew it.”
"Everyone who knew and loved her." He sat in the chair next to his shoes and reached for one. "Almost everyone did."
"Except the members of the House of Christ."
Norman bolted upright. "Don't mention those bigots. I'm a Christian. They're an obscenity! They simply don‘t understand what Jesus tried to teach. The Christian faith is built on wisdom, tolerance, hope and love. People like those in the House of Christ simple don‘t get it. When they promote fear and bigotry, they corrupt the word of the Lord. The best example is the story of creation. God created Adam and Eve. It is a genetic impossibility for a single couple to populate a planet. And if you really think about it, the concept promotes incest. The tale is a parable. The true meaning is that we are all family and all Divinely created. There are no special groups, countries or beliefs In God‘s eyes we are all equally loved and cherished. When we harm each other, for whatever reason, we are actually doing harm to the God who created us all!"
Rachael was taken back by the rage in his voice. He did not leave the chair, but his tone pushed her backward.
"Sorry. Even after all these years it‘s still a sore spot for me" He continued putting on his shoes. ‘It’s just that until justice is served many of us will continue to be ethically challenged. I--and others nearly did things that….” His voice trailed off. “But then I remembered what Sarah tried to teach us.” He fumbled tying his left shoe and snapped the lace to pull out the loose bow. “I prayed for hours on hours over these past years to find an answer. All I found were wonderful memories and the smell of vanilla. It was her favorite.”
She stared at the top of his head, wondering about the man of many contradictions. He looked like an army sergeant. He meditated like a holy man. His voice had been always calm and loving, even when they debated abortion. Where did the nearly uncontrollable rage come from?
He stood and took a deep breathe. The fire still burned in his eyes, but he was able to control his anger.. "I'll go out when I leave here. Will you be here or at home?"
"Home." She didn't want to press the issue. The intensity of his fury was still close surface. She wasn’t afraid of him, yet she knew that she wasn’t to be involved. Norman had issues to work out within himself. No one could help him. After the past few moments, she didn’t think anyone would even be brave enough to try.
"I'll call you there." He turned quickly and exited.
Rachael breathed a sigh of relief. What in the Goddess's name was she doing here? She sat on the edge of the futon. Covering her eyes with the palms of her hands, she rested her elbows on her knees, trying to re-energize her own systems. This was crazy. Even in the occult world, when things weren’t always as they seem, this was beyond strange. She had asked the Goddess for simple and uncomplicated, but instead she got in a multi-dimensional, multi-personality game where everyone else knew the rules and wouldn’t share.
Betty Williams stood in the doorway. The person she needed to see. She was best described as clairvoyant, healer, and all around warm, fuzzy grandmotherly type. The latter is what she needed at the moment. "Come in."
"Are you all right?"
"Just leaping tall buildings at a single bound again. And running into the fifty-second floor."
"Again?" She walked into the room and embraced Rachael. "You promised you'd stop doing that."
"I know." With the older woman so close, Rachael realized her hair actually was red, not just a magic potion. She found that strange; red was usually a recessive trait, but not in this town. She slowly pulled away from her warmth. "Ever feel like you are playing a game where you don’t have a clue, but everyone else does?“
“You are far from clueless.”
Labels: authentic magic, Awakening the Dragon, Book of Shadows, dark passions, magical fantasy, pagan fiction, Theresa L Chaze, Twilight, wiccan fiction