Flying Home, Part XIII

“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.” 

Flying Home, Part VIII

Leigh noted Emily’s saddened expression almost immediately. “I know it’s hard, but surely you didn’t think you’d find him here.” 

Emily spun around and pasted a smile on her tearstained face. “No, of course not, she said in a more chipper tone than intended. It was just a dream. This place is just so weird. It’s unchanged.” She wandered into the kitchen, not surprised to find it exactly as it has been in the dream. She turned to the right and found a hallway leading to what had to be bedrooms and perhaps a guest bath. 

Leigh followed her. She poked her head into the first door on the right. It was a medium sized bedroom with a mid century bedroom set and a double bed covered in a cream chenille bedspread. The room smelled faintly of women’s perfume. “It looks like someone might live here after all.”

“How very odd,” Emily walked into the room as if in a trance. Several perfume bottles were lined up in the dresser. Upon closer examination, the closet was a little ajar, revealing a full wardrobe of clothing inside. Shoes lined the closet floor, all colors and styles that reminded Emily of hoe women dressed in classic films. 

“Nice,” Leigh said, peering over Emily’s shoulder. 

It was irrational but Emily felt a pang of jealousy as she thought of Julian sitting in the armchair in the living room when it was obvious that this was the home of another woman. Why has he been here? Just a dream, she told herself. Someone lives here, but it isn’t Julian. If he were around, he’d live with me just like before. 

Emily looked down at the shoes again and one image struck her: Natasha at the club the night before. She flipped through the clothing. 

“Do you think this looks like something Natasha would wear?” 

“Probably, it’s flashy enough.” Leigh sat down on the bed. “Do you think this room belongs to her?” 

“I don’t know,” Emily replied as she tried to fight the unsettled feeling that came over her. “Maybe she’s one of the people who knows more than she’s letting on.” 

They explored the other bedrooms, three in total. One was a guest room but the other clearly belonged to a man, based upon the clothing and other items found inside. Unlike the woman’s room, it was harder to pinpoint the type of man who would wear the rather generic apparel in the man’s closet. 

As they left the room, a motor approached. 

“Why didn’t we park farther away?” Emily’s heart pounded. 

“We thought it was abandoned,” Leigh answered her. 

They took refuge in the guest room as the front door opened. Two familiar voices rang out from the living room. 

“Obviously she knows something,” a silky female voice said. “I thought you took care of that.” 

“Natasha,” Emily whispered to Leigh. 

“I did,” the man insisted. The voice belonged to Wesley, Julian’s military superior. “Looks like I’ll have to do it again.” 

Flying Home, Part VII

Part VII

Emily didn’t wake immediately but rather felt the dream fade from her as darkness tapers in the sunrise. She knew in a growing sense of awareness that what she had seen was not real. Julian was not there. The lights had been so vivid in her mind but were merely an imagination. Hot tears slid down Emily’s cheeks as she decided to open her eyes and face the day. Why couldn’t it be true? It has been so beautiful and perfect. Why couldn’t there be a few things like that in reality? 

She sat up, wondering why happy endings seemed only to exist in the movies. 

Leigh was making breakfast as usual when Emily stumbled into the kitchen, more disheveled than on an ordinary morning. 

“What happened to you? I thought you went to bed early,” Leigh’s brow creased with concern. 

“I had a dream about Julian,” Emily replied. 

“Oh, you poor thing. I’m sorry. I wish you’d stop having nightmares, but I guess it’ll take more time.” 

“It wasn’t a nightmare,” Emily said. “It was quite amazingly nice. But in the end, it wasn’t true.” 

“I’m sorry. If you want to talk, I’m here.” Leigh sighed as she looked at her sister. 

“There’s something you could help me with but I’d need you to keep it between us. It sounds crazy.”

Leigh nodded. “You can trust me with anything, Em.” 

“There is a house outside of town in my dream but I feel like I’ve truly seen it. Could you bring your cameras and help me look for it? If it does exist, I’d like photographs. Something odd is going on and I can’t put my finger on it.” 

“Sure, we can go after work. I doubt the library opening is going to cause us any late hours. What do you think we might find there?”

Emily shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, but something strange is happening here. I just can’t put my finger on it.” 

The day dragged on with nothing more exciting than Emily’s task of writing up the interview with the town council and head librarian, added to Leigh’s photographs for the next edition of the Observer. 

When five o’clock came, they both said goodbye to Leroy and took off in the direction of the house. 

“All the way out here?” Leigh inquired as she watched the desert speed by outside her window. 

“Yes,” Emily said, growing much more sure of herself the closer they drew to their destination. The shrubs and sand dunes looked very familiar to what she’d seen in the dream. Nothing could prepare get for the sight of the house in broad daylight. 

“This is it!” Emily stopped the car, smiling triumphantly. 

“What are we waiting for?” Leigh asked. “Let’s go inside. You said it’s abandoned, right?” 

“It’s supposed to be, but it doesn’t look it.” Emily pushed the door open and gasped in shock as everything inside was the same as in her dream. The only exception was that Julian was nowhere in sight.  

Flying Home VI

Part VI

As soon as Emily got home from the jazz club, she was much too tired to discuss anything, let alone ask questions about the note. Once she was settled with the idea that her sister was beyond suspicion, it was enough for the night. 

“I’m going to bed,” Emily yawned.

“Okay, I’ll see you in the morning. Fun night, though.” 

“It was. The music was really good. Harry never ceases to surprise us.”  

Once her head hit the pillow, dreams began to invade Emily’s mind. She floated in a cloud to a secluded place a few miles outside of town. A house stood on the property, although it was not abandoned as one might expect. 

Emily pushed the door open. “Hello? Is anyone here?” 

Inside she found a living room much like her own, a radio playing instrumental music from its place on an end table. The lights were on but low. Emily crossed into the kitchen. It, too, was empty, but when she returned to the living room, there sat Julian. It was as if he had never left. 

“Julian! What are you doing? I’ve been looking all over for you.” 

He embraced her. “I’m here now, honey. I’m so sorry to make you worry. Let’s go outside and look at the colors.” He wiped away her tears with the pad of his thumb. “It will be great from now on. You’ll see.” 

The sky was ablaze with colors, growing more intense as they descended toward the ground. Soon the pinks, purples, reds and blues were living things with scent and tastes that filled their senses as well as the landscape. The entire desert was lit up in an otherworldly light show. Strains of music poured forth from some of the hues that danced and wound their way around the earth. 

“It feels as though the lights are alive,” Emily giggled in Julian’s arms. “They’re watching us.” 

“They are,” he said. “I owe them my life. They’re here for a reason, but trust me when I tell you that they have the best of intentions. Don’t you remember the night we first saw them?” 

Emily shook her head. “No, I don’t. I only know that you flew away and I haven’t seen you in a very long time.” 

“I’m right here,” Julian reassured her, holding her closer. “And you know where to find me. Where the colors are. They’ll always be playing our song. Look!” He pointed to an empty patch of earth a few feet away.

The colors reached into the dirt and sand, bringing roots from deep beneath the surface and made them blossom before their eyes. Roses, tulips, morning glories, irises, orchids, sunflowers and begonias sprang forth from the once barren ground. Emily laughed in delight as they erected an arbor in the middle of the tremendous garden. 

“For us?” Emily asked. 

“Yes,” Julian took her arm and led her through the garden. 

Then wakefulness drew Emily back to real life.

Flying Home, Part V

Not even the music of the local jazz band was able to take Emily’s mind away from the note. She wanted to talk with Leigh about it as soon as they got home at the end of the night. Certainly it couldn’t be her own sister to whom the note was referring! She should hope not! The thought stirred up so much inductance in Emily that she immediately reasserted her belief in Leigh’s innocence. It had to be someone else. 

She eyed the room with wariness and suspicion. Natasha was singing at a microphone that dully passed Emily’s mind as suddenly antique, just like the typewriters in the office, but she was much more interested in discerning who among her friends and neighbors might be complicit in deceiving her. As she watched the singer toss her brassy blonde hair over her shoulder between songs, Emily remembered that Julian and Natasha had attended high school together, dating off and on. But that had been over ten years ago. 

The bandleader, Harry, seemed an unlikely candidate. His wife, Mary Jean, sat placidly at the head table, watching the show with a mild interest of one who had seen and heard the same thing too many times to work up too much enthusiasm. Or was she preoccupied with something else? 

James and Leroy were enjoying the music, participating in lively conversation, pleased with the company. Once Leroy caught Emily’s eye, he rather uncharacteristically smiled. 

“Lighten up, kid. Enjoy your night off.”

Emily returned his smile but found it impossible to stop her mental inventory of everyone in the room. 

It suddenly dawned on her that everyone had known each other for years, having lived in the town all of their lives. Emily and Leigh were the only outsiders. She had moved to Aurora when she married Julian five years earlier, and Leigh had followed a year later when she grew tired of city life and discovered that the newspaper needed a photographer. Emily had been immensely grateful for her sister’s company in a new place since the rest of their family lived on the east coast. 

Wesley, one of the top commanding officers in the Air Force at Aurora, sat in the back, a grim expression on his face. It didn’t strike Emily as anything out of the ordinary because he’d always been a sourpuss. She’d wondered how Julian stood working under him, but as long as it could be done, she didn’t question it. Had that been a mistake?