Emily looked around the room and was suddenly struck by the similarity in the color of the decor to the lights. “Have you seen the gift? You sound as if you’re familiar with it.”
Harry and Mary Jean exchanged a look.
“We’ve seen it,” Mary Jean said.
“How long have you known about it?” Emily wondered. “I see some of the same colors here. That’s not a coincidence, is it?”
Harry shook his head. “We’ve known of the gift for a long time.”
“Longer than Julian has been missing?”
“Much longer,” Mary Jean confirmed.
“I made the gift,” she added.
It took a moment for Emily to process the idea. “Then you’re working with the visitors?” She still couldn’t bring herself to say the word alien.
“No,” Harry said. “There’s a simpler explanation if you’ll only see it. Pretend it’s a story for the paper, Emily. What makes the most sense?”
“If you’re not working for the visitors…” she trailed off. Emily gasped. “Oh, my. You are the visitors? No. I can’t believe it.” Her eyes grew wide and she turned to look at the door. Should she leave after all? She was practically being held captive by two people who were obviously insane! Or perhaps she was the one who was crazy. Either way, panic surged through her body and she thought her only option was to get out. Her eyes met Leigh’s, and her sister looked equally scared.
“I know you’re afraid, but please don’t be,” Mary Jean said. “We will explain everything.”
“How?” Emily stopped as soon as the light appeared in the middle of the room.
It was about the size of an orange, but was made of pure white light. It started to spin as it developed streamers of blue, red, orange and green. The streamers danced in an invisible wind that felt cool on Emily’s face. She looked at Mary Jean, who appeared to be totally enrapt in her creation. Any expression of delight that Emily had ever seen was understated compared to this level of joy. Harry seemed proud as he watched his wife create the spectacular light show.
Emily saw that Leigh was no longer fearful but in a happy wonderment.
“This is incredible,” Leigh said. “You’re so lucky, Emily, to have seen this.”
“I know,” Emily found herself saying as the ball of light grew to the size of a beach ball and emitted the most beautiful smells. The first few were of the ocean and roses. Then they combined to create a luscious feeling of a garden in springtime, familiar yet otherworldly. It must be a representation of the other planet. Music started to flow from the streamers as well. They were experiencing everything of a foreign place through their senses.
“Julian liked it, too,” Mary Jean said. “This is where he went when his plane disappeared. He never crashed. He met us, in our true forms. And we shared our gift and our plans with him.”
Five ways to win your heart: chocolate, music, spend time with me, be interested in my interests, be kind
Something you feel strongly about: Faith in God
A book you love: Perelandra by C. S. Lewis
What you ate today: pancakes, smoothie, pizza, apple muffins, frozen yogurt
How important is education: very important but so is life experience
Something you’re proud of: my nonjudgmental nature
Fears: spiders, not reaching my dreams
Something you miss: trips to the city
Somewhere you’d like to go: London
Something you’re excited about: writing my next novel and getting the others published
The two eleven year old girls lay in the sunshine, yards away from where the above ground pool sat, not quite ready to be filled. It was only May and the weather was not yet warm enough. Instead, they looked up at the sky and imagined what the clouds were shaped like and tried to make each answer more interesting than the last.
The first girl suddenly pointed up at a particular cloud that struck her interest. “That looks like Jesus!”
The second girl squinted at the cloud and tried to quell the shaky feeling the topic of God produced within her. “Yeah, I can see that,” she agreed, hoping that her friend wouldn’t push the subject. She used to believe in God when she was in preschool that was held in a church. But in the years that followed, after too many people had been unkind, she decided to keep her belief in what she could see and touch.
“God is real,” the first girl said in a gentle tone. She looked over at the pool. “God could make it rain only in the pool if He wanted to.”
The other girl thought it over. “Really? Only in the pool?”
Her friend nodded. “Really.”
Years later, the second girl would think back on this day and mark it as the beginning of her search to believe again, a search that was eventually fulfilled with joyfulness and childlike faith.
“I don’t know how any of what’s going on could make sense,” Emily said as she got comfortable on the sofa. “But I thank you for taking me in. Am I even safe to go to work?”
Harry was quiet as he stared off into space, deep in thought. “I’m sorry, my dear, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Emily sank against the linear cushions. “I guess I didn’t really expect that it would be by now.”
“I’m sorry, Emily.” Leigh reached over and touched her sister’s arm with sympathy. “I’ll stay here with you.”
Harry sighed. “It would be best for you to continue your normal routine, Leigh. Both of you disappearing would tip them off. You’re not in any danger yourself.”
Tears formed in Leigh’s eyes. “Why? What made them pick on Emily? I wish I could trade places.”
Emily regarded her older sister with gratefulness. She had always been protective of Emily, from the time they were small children. She knew she could count on Leigh for anything. “That’s very sweet of you,” she said. “But I’ll be OK.” Emily straightened her back in with it, her resolve. “If this is all happening for a reason, I have to do what Harry and Mary Jean want me to do.”
“I appreciate your confidence in us,” the bandleader said.
“What do the lights mean? Why are they so important?” Emily asked. “Was it something bad? It seems very peaceful when I saw them in the dream, I mean, in my memory.”
Mary Jean nodded. “Very peaceful,” she said. “Think of it as a cooperation between two entities that existed to promote goodwill. Like an ambassador bringing a gift to a foreign country on an official visit. A beautiful gift that would leave a mark on the countryside forever.”
“Why can’t I see it when I’m awake? The house looked normal when Leigh and I went there today.”
“It’s because the gift isn’t finished. When it is, you’ll see everything.” Mary Jean paused for a moment. “It’s when you’ll see Julian.”
“So he’s not real yet?” Emily was crestfallen.
“Oh, no, honey. He’s real,” Mary Jean soothed the younger woman with a soft smile. “So many things are real that we can’t see. But the important thing is that you will. Wesley and Natasha knew that,,and that’s why they drugged you on the night that you visited the house out in the country and saw the colors. You saw Julian, too, and they didn’t want you to remember. But they had intruded on the beautiful gift. Julian found out about the gift and that’s why he was there.”
“Who was giving the gift? A visitor, like you said. You don’t mean someone – something from outer space, did you?” Emily couldn’t wrap her head around the idea.
“Precisely,” Mary Jean said. “You can say it. UFOs. Aliens. Extraterrestrial visitors. But I can assure you they’re nothing to fear. Please trust me.”
It seems incredible to think that November is just around the corner, only five weeks or so to go until NaNoWriMo 2015. I’m really looking forward to it but feel unprepared as I usually do in the month before it starts. This time, however, I have a reliable template for my project, and it’s all thanks to a challenge I completed here in July and August.
I wrote Freedom as a flash fiction series in an attempt to complete the thirty day blog challenge. It worked. My confidence in finishing a different kind of marathon than those to which I’m accustomed grew. As I wrote the series, it became something I wanted to expand because there so much more storytelling beyond the bounds of flash fiction.
Once I decided to turn it into a novel, I realized that I have a full outline of my November project, a first for me! I typically enter the month with some idea of a plot. I plan a little but end up pantsing about eighty percent of the way. It’s undoubtedly the reason I struggle to complete some of my novels… a feeling of openendedness that is overwhelming and never settles to a conclusion. In the case of Freedom, the end is the part of which I’m most sure. It’s where a twist occurs. Those of you who read it will know what I mean!
So, even though the weeks until November are growing short, I’m excited because I unwittingly prepared for it a couple of months ago. Here’s to a finished first draft by the end of NaNoWriMo!
That autumn of 1996 brought simply too many men from whom to choose. There was the distinguished record collector, the man with the boat in his yard and the other who swung his own kind of machismo, leaving a girl totally bewildered. I was a homemaker and an auction runner, surreptitious in the way I left pies cooling on the windowsill. The courthouse was too crowded every time I checked on my passport, so I consoled myself with another recipe, jazz record or pattern for an A line dress. The gentleman would perhaps need to wait for me, but not his next first edition. My skills ensured him the next great read of his life; I was way too sharp to let that go. If we’d started a band, would he have died happier?
On a Saturday morning when the whole town was still asleep, I staked out Mr. Boat in my car, camera in hand to take pictures of the autumn leaves. It made me vibrate with urgent jealousy that all of the other women knew where he lived, yet I did not. But soon my mission was accomplished and I was sashaying past the address every weekday morning in my can can skirts. I rustled like the leaves, wearing teal blue like the paint on his boat. It made me smile and twist my film noir hair around my fingers.
But only the bewilderment making man appreciated the heeled espadrilles I wore as I longed for a glimpse of the man behind the boat. He approved of my long legs, tan from the summer sun, peeking out from beneath the tulle. His smile was like sweet tea on a humid afternoon when you’re sitting on the porch swing, praying for the ennui to end. I think I was happy there. I know I could have been if I’d stayed longer.
As I think back on that autumn, I imagine how much easier my autumn leaf photography might have been with a digital camera. I probably should have thought to cut out the middleman. But we used touch tone phones and three day photo shops, none the wiser.