Flying Home, Part XXI

Part XXI

The drive out to the house in the desert seemed like an eternity as Emily was a mix of emotions, rather like a teenage girl going to her first dance. For months she’d thought only of Julian. Now it was going to happen. It was really going to happen. She smiled shyly at the thought. 

When they arrived at the house, the blossoming garden caught Emily’s eye first. 

“Oh, Mary Jean,” she said, “thank you. It’s exactly as I remember it. There was no more talk of dreams by now.” Perhaps, Emily mused, it had been the other world that was the dream, making this the true reality all along. 

“You’re welcome. Enjoy!” Mary Jean gave her a big hug as she stepped out of the car. 

“May you be happy together,” Harry said as he shook Emily’s hand. 

“I can’t thank either of you enough,” Emily said she looked toward the house.

“Just enjoy being with Julian again,” Harry said. “That’s the best way that you can thank us. It makes everything we’ve done worthwhile. Go on, then.” 

Emily’s legs were shaking as she ascended the steps in front of the house. But when her hand closed around the doorknob, her nerves melted away. It was her house, her new life. She opened the door and came into the living room with eyes wide with anticipation. 

All of the sweetest music and most delicious scents from the light show could not match the exhilaration of seeing Julian exactly as he had been in her memory. He was dressed in this flying uniform, sitting in a relaxed pose in his favorite chair beside a crackling fire, reading a newspaper. 

The sound of her footfalls made him look up. “Emily!” He laid the newspaper aside and ran to her, lifting her in the air as he embraced her. “You’re a sight for sore eyes!” 

Through tears that had filled her eyes upon the sight of him, she smiled and even managed a laugh. “I can say the same about you. I guess I don’t need to ask you where you’ve been. I’m just glad you’re home – we’re home. I don’t want to ever be apart again! But that’s over now.” 

“Yes, it is,” he said. Julian brushed a loose strand of hair from her eyes. “We have only the future now. I’m so sorry that I disappeared.” 

“It wasn’t your fault,” she said. “I know you wanted to come home.” 

“I’ve been across the universe and I only wanted to be here,” Julian exclaimed. “It’s all I wanted.” 

“How lovely of Harry and Mary Jean to give us our happy ending.” Emily sighed with contentment. “But it’s really only beginning, right?” 

Julian nodded. “There are so many things I want to show you. And I will. After all, we have a lifetime to share.” 

The End

Flying Home, Part XX

Part XX

It was safe for Emily to go out that night and meet up with Leigh to watch what promised to be a very spectacular light show. Mary Jean and Harry had talked excitedly about their plans for finishing the gift to the town all afternoon. Despite Emily’s reluctance to ask how long it would take to complete the work, it seemed as if it would be a short project. 

“I can’t believe we’re coming this close to everything being done,” Leigh commented as they stood in the cool air of evening near the town square. “What does it feel like to remember the changes that the rest of us had forgotten?” 

Emily thought it over for a moment. “Bittersweet. It’s not that I miss those things, not really. Living here in what feels like a dreamland with Julian and you and the friends I’ve made since arriving in Arizona more than makes up for it. And I can come and go from the other parts of the country whenever I wish. So can you.” 

“Will it seem strange?” Leigh queried. 

“No, I don’t think so. This will always be home. Every time I’m away from it, I will eagerly anticipate coming back.” 

“What if you ever run into Wesley or Natasha when you’re on assignment?” 

“They won’t remember me,” Emily said with confidence that true safety can provide. “Their memories of anything here are gone. I’ll be fine.” 

They stopped talking when the first few colors appeared in the sky. Purple wisps that looked like smoke from a chimney suddenly rose into the air and elicited wonder from the crowd that had joined them on the square. Next came shoots of red and blue, yellow and pink. The unearthly music and pleasant scent followed. Emily breathed it in with gratefulness, knowing each plume of light or wafting scent brought her one more step closer to Julian. 

It felt as if the show went on for hours, but it probably took around thirty minutes. No one in the crowd except for Emily and Leigh knew that Harry and Mary Jean were responsible for the display. When Mary Jean approached them once it was all done, she looked at them with a twinkle in her eye. 

“Leigh, I think you’ll find that your house is back to the way it was before any of this sadness,” she said. “Emily, it’s time for you to see what I’ve done in your garden. I think you’ll find it to be very romantic, if you get my drift. Harry will drive you if you want to go now.” 

Emily suddenly felt very shy and stared down at her shoes. “Really? Do you think it’ll be ok? Will he be happy to see me?” 

“Of course he will. You’re all he’s thought about, remember?” 

Flying Home, XIX

Part XIX 

Emily’s reverie of reading was quickly interrupted by Harry’s footsteps coming in the front door. Mary Jean had not yet had time to go downtown and make her appearance to promote the normalcy of the day, and sounded very surprising to see her husband so soon.

“Harry! I didn’t know you be back so soon! Is everything all right?” Emily could hear the concern in Mary Jean’s voice. 

“Everything is fine,” Harry said. “In fact, better than fine. Where’s Emily?” 

“In the library. She seemed fascinated with it and I thought it best for her to distract herself during this awful waiting.”

“Go get her because I have great news,” Harry encouraged his wife. 

“Emily?” Mary Jean came into the library, where Emily was already looking up at the door with hopeful expectation. “Harry’s home and he says he has good news. Come with me!” The blonde was smiling from ear to ear.

“Good morning, Emily.” The bandleader looked triumphant. “I’ve taken care of everything with Wesley and Natasha. They’re in New York City as we speak with absolutely my memory of what happened here. I doubt they even know Aurora, Arizona exists.” 

“Really?” Emily finally let the impact of hearing something positive sink into her soul and give her real hope of seeing Julian again. 

“No one’s going to be after you anymore. Now we can finish our work and brung your husband back.” Harry didn’t seem capable of any expression other than a grin. 

“You don’t remember, but the house where you saw the lights actually belongs to you and Julian.” Mary Jean volunteered with a smile that matched her husband. “It’s now clear of Wesley and Natasha’s belongings and yours have been restored. As soon as he’s back, you can move right in.” 

“This is too good to be true,” Emily exclaimed. “Is it really happening? And what about Leigh?” 

“It’s happening,” Mary Jean answered. “And the house you’ve been living in is Leigh’s. She’ll be fine, sweetheart. All I need to do now is finish my work.” 

“How do you do that?” Emily asked.

“Come outside tonight,” Mary Jean said, “and I’ll show you. It will be similar to what you’ve already seen that night by your house, but this time we can complete everything.” 

“Where has Julian been?” 

“He’s been flying to places you can only imagine. He’s already visited our planet and galaxies no other human being has ever seen. We were able to keep his fuel tank from running out so he never needed to concern himself with that. There’s so much out there, Emily. Julian has stayed in the finest hotels the universe has to offer, more like what you call a resort on earth. But through all his adventures, he still thinks only of you.” 

“I wish we hadn’t been interrupted in the garden,” Emily said with a tone of regret.          

“Me, too,” Mary Jean reflected. “But soon all will be made right.”

Flying Home, Part XVIII

Part XVIII

“It’s not as different as you’d imagine,” Mary Jean replied. “That’s partly why we came in 1947. It was a peace mission, no matter what all the hype says. Our societies are similar enough that we wanted to reach out. But disloyalty made a mess of things. And now Wesley and Natasha got the wrong idea and probably want to expose us to some paranoid government panel.” She sighed. “All we want is to create our little place and enjoy it. I wonder why it’s so hard for people to understand.” 

“I don’t know,” Emily replied. “It makes sense to me.” 

The other woman smiled. “I know it does. I’m so grateful for people like you. Thinking beyond the impossible. You’ll be seeing Julian shortly, as soon as Harry wraps up this nasty business with Wesley and Natasha. They’re definitely leaving with no memory of the situation. Then we’ll be free to continue building things and you won’t have to worry about them anymore. We only hid Julian in order to protect him because of what he saw.” 

“Harry is taking care of it today?” Emily asked. “I’m sorry, I know it’s your business, but I’m so anxious to see Julian.” 

“Of course you are,” Mary Jean smiled with sympathy. “It’s fine. It sounds like he’ll take care of it today, yes. Then I can get to work finishing things and that day should come for you very, very soon. In the meantime, relax. Harry and I haven’t gotten to do as much entertaining here as we had hoped since moving in, but we do have quite a music collection and a big screen TV with a lot of DVDs, not to mention a library of which I’m very proud. So please enjoy yourself. I’ll be in and out, going down to the club in a while to see how things are going with Harry. Just as it’s important for Leigh to keep up her work at the newspaper, I’d better put in an appearance downtown.” 

“This sounds harsh,” Emily began, “but with Natasha leaving, are you going to sing with Harry’s band again? I’d love to hear you perform.” 

Mary Jean stopped as if considering it. “I hadn’t thought of it with everything going on. But there will be a vacancy. Oh, it was fun. Perhaps I will give it another spin! Thanks, Emily. I’ll be in my home office down the hall if you need me.” 

Emily smiled, happy that she’d inspired Mary Jean to think about her singing career. She stood up and wandered into the library. It was as impressive as Mary Jean had made it sound. Emily found a book about space travel, not really more than a vintage novel, and settled into one of the overstuffed chairs. Before beginning to read, she glanced around the room and smiled. It was decorated in a way that could easily make one feel as if they were in the 1950s.   

Flying Home, Part XVII

Part XVII

That night as she lay in bed in the guest room, Emily tossed and turned, thinking about everything that she had been told. So much of it felt unbelievable, bordering on what she may have thought to be crazy only a few days ago. But that’d was before the smartphones disappeared and the dream of the dancing lights. 

Leigh had gone home alone as Harry and Mary Jean suggested to avoid suspicion. Emily hadn’t realized how much she still relied on her older sister until the comfortable familiarity of Leigh was gone. Emily felt oddly alone as she faced the long hours of night in a strange house with people who weren’t even what she’d classify as people. But at least they were kind, protecting her from those who wished to take her life. 

The memory of the dancing light ribbons that Mary Jean made in the living room gave Emily peace. It might have been because Julian experienced the same thing on the night Emily couldn’t remember, or it it could be the soothing music and scent it brought, but for whatever reason, the feelings convinced Emily that she was correct to trust Mary Jean and Harry. Her newfound relaxation finally allowed her the rest she so badly needed.

After dreams of only the light ribbons, Emily awoke to a brilliant beam of sunlight coming through the guest room window, creating an uplifting feeling in the entire space. She loved mornings in the desert. The sunrises were full of beauty, their light bringing a hopefulness to the otherwise austere landscape. 

She dressed in an outfit she found in the closet, ironically in her exact size and style, before walking out to the kitchen. 

“Good morning, Emily!” Mary Jean wore a smile nearly as bright as the desert sun. “Did you sleep well? I know Harry and I gave you a lot to think about last night. I hope you were comfortable.” 

“I did rather well,” Emily replied. “Thank you for being such a kind hostess.” 

“I’m happy you’re here,” Mary Jean said. “Coffee?” 

“I would love a cup, thank you.” Once Emily took her first sip, she smiled. “Don’t tell Leigh, but I thought she made the best coffee ever.” 

“Thanks,” Mary Jean answered as she poured herself a cup. “I guess after traveling around with Harry and his band, one gets an idea of what one likes.” 

“So you really traveled with him? That wasn’t a cover story for your mission here?” 

“Heavens, no. One of the things we liked best was the music,” Mary Jean explained. “That was how our idea started. To make a place where all of those enjoyable things existed again. We knew there was an audience for retro bands, so we took the opportunity.” 

“That must have been fascinating,” Emily said. “What is your home like? You know, not here.” 

Flying Home, Part XVI

Part XVI

“We were hoping you’d be one of the charter human members, dear,” Mary Jean said. “Along with Julian, of course, and Leigh, if you want to stay with us, too.” 

Emily’s older sister nodded. “Yes. Absolutely,” she agreed. 

“Why did Wesley and Natasha see you as a threat?” 

“Because they’ve filled their minds with all the hollow mythology that surrounded the crash of 1947,” Mary Jean explained. “Once they saw what we had done with the lights and knew that Julian’s plane had disappeared in the middle of them, they let fear guide their reasoning. They’re not like you, open minded and inquisitive about things you don’t understand.” 

“All we’re doing is using a corner of Arizona to create a place we can enjoy and hope others will enjoy, too. Mary Jean and I have been here for a long time. It’s finally feasible to build what we came back to build and live our lives. The plans had to get approval before we could proceed.” 

“Thankfully the exploration committee on our home planet had reorganized after some of the members betrayed us, so we are a united front,” Mary Jean said. 

It struck Emily as funny that even extraterrestrial planets had a paper trail. “It sounds like life here. It took five years for the new library to be approved.” 

“But before we can create what we came to do, we must deal with Wesley and Natasha,” Harry sighed. 

Emily’s eyes grew wide. “What if they try to hurt Julian?” 

“We won’t let that happen,” Mary Jean assured Emily. “We need to find a way to keep them out of our territory. As despicable as their actions have been, we do not want to resort to harm. It’s not our way. That’s what perpetuates the fear among humans, and we don’t want to do a disservice to our race.” 

“Banning them from the territory seems best,” Harry mentioned. “Even use a light ball to alter their memories since they would only use the memory of this place for wrong reasons. He paused. We don’t like to use our abilities to control anyone, but in this case, many lives will be spared. They can be happy together in some other place in the country, focusing their greed on matters of ordinary life instead.” 

Emily felt the tension she hadn’t realized her body held ease and loosen at Harry’s words. No more running or fear, and certainly no more attempts on her life that she couldn’t even remember. 

“Can I move in and out of your creation? Once it’s done, do I have the ability to come and go? Do Leigh or Julian? I don’t really want to leave, but I thought I’d travel as a reporter…” 

“Of course! You’ll have to do that in order to become the journalist you are meant to be,” Mary Jean answered. “You have a fantastic hometown that you can return to at the end of the day. We give freedom, not captivity.” 

Flying Home, Part XIV

Part XIV

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. 

“How?” 

“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.” 

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 XII

“No. Julian’s dead.” Emily was beyond stunned. “He has to be. His plane went down. He’s gone. ” A flash of anger ripped through her body. “How can you just sit there and tell me something like that when everyone knows it isn’t true? I’m the one who’s had to live without him. I don’t know how you people can be so cruel… She stood up and started to walk toward the door.” 

“Did you see any wreckage? A body?” Harry’s voice was gentle as he asked the probing questions. “What do you have, Emily, beyond what other people have told you? You’re a reporter. How much of this lack of evidence could be used for a news story? Please just consider that. When you write about deaths, be it an accident or whatever, how much proof do you require? Leroy wouldn’t sign off on a story made of nothing but gossip.” 

Something of this logic resonated within Emily. She stopped and turned to face Harry and Mary Jean. “No, he wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t present him such a piece, either.” 

“I know. Why don’t you apply the same ideals to this case?” 

“Wesley did warn Natasha against chasing after Julian in the event of my murder,” Emily recalled. “But everything there seemed so unreal. I don’t even know why they live there.” 

“It’s far worse than a love affair,” Mary Jean said. “They’re only fooling themselves, though. They imagine their employers to be some sort of monsters who will be displeased if they don’t shed as much blood as possible.” 

“Julian’s blood.” Emily meant to state it as a question but it sounded like a statement. 

“No, my dear,” Harry sighed. “Yours.” 

“Why? Who am I to them?” 

“A witness,” Mary Jean answered. “And they’re too blinded by fear to realize that what you saw had nothing to do with them but rather these employers of whom they’re so afraid.” 

Emily shook her head in confusion. “The lights? How could they have made that happen? And what’s wrong with my witnessing it, if that’s even true?” 

“In reality, nothing. They only think so.” 

“How could Julian be alive?” Emily returned to the original source of shock. 

“I’m afraid we can’t keep you safe right now if I answered that question,” Harry intoned with a glance at his wife. “But you can know that he is truly alive.” 

“Then where is he? I want proof!” 

“He isn’t here, but it won’t be long,” Mary Jean answered. “I suppose you’ll either trust us, even though we can’t reveal much yet, or take your chances with Wesley and Natasha.” 

I can’t do that, Emily thought. They want to kill me and I have no idea why. But how much dare I trust Harry and Mary Jean? Something inside told her that the couple were by far more trustworthy than the perennially owly Wesley and the simpering Natasha. So she sat back down. 

“I’ll stay. Just promise me this will make sense.”

Flying Home, Part XI

“You? You’re the one who left the note?” Emily couldn’t imagine Mary Jean being so cryptic. True, she didn’t know the woman very well, but she was an extroverted person who seemed much more likely to speak openly about something important. 

“I’m sure I’m the last person you thought would write to you under the cover of anonymity, but I have my reasons. You’ll be safe with Harry and I,” Mary Jean continued. “I’m not trying to make you paranoid, but at this point I wouldn’t advise either of you ladies to trust much of anyone around here.” 

“Leroy isn’t involved in all of this, is he?” Leigh rubbed her eyes with fatigue and weariness of the secrecy. “We can trust our boss, can’t we?” 

Mary Jean smiled. “Yes, Leroy is one of the good guys. Although I would warn you that the people besides him and Harry and I might not be.” 

In a few minutes, Emily and Leigh were inside Harry and Mary Jean’s palatial mid century house. It sat on the outskirts of town on the opposite end of where Natasha and Wesley were apparently living, built with a view of most of Aurora. Leigh, the natural designer with her artistic eye, seemed to approve of the house. 

“This is beautiful,” she said. 

“Thank you,” Harry, the tall, lanky man with prematurely graying hair, said. “Mary Jean and I had it built after we married. We met on the band circuit. I was leading my group and one night I fell in love a singer in the other one. It happened that we were traveling through Vegas, so we got married and lived on the road about a year before we stopped for a show here and never left. I guess the place has a way of pulling you in.” 

“I guess,” Emily agreed. “So what’s going on? Why am I in danger?” 

“Natasha and Wesley fear that you know too much.” Mary Jean sighed. “They imagine that they’re working for people who have shady motives, but in truth, there’s no reason to fear those to whom they report. Have you noticed any strange lights or colors in the sky, Emily?” 

“Only in a dream,” Emily replied. “I had a vivid one the other night. I was drawn to the house and there were dancing lights in the sky that even played flowers in the sand that grew. But most of all, I went inside and saw my dead husband sitting in a chair as if nothing had changed in our lives.” 

Mary Jean gave her husband a knowing look before turning to look at Emily with tears in her big blue eyes. 

Harry leaned in toward her, his face growing somber. “What if I told you it wasn’t a dream?” 

“None of it? Even Julian…” 

“No,” Harry shook his head. “Emily, you need to know that Julian is alive!”