----------- Ellie eyed her daddy’s easel with glazed over eyes. She didn’t see the wooden frame, or the half finished painting; Ellie saw the face of that cruel math teacher, the mean bullies. She also saw vague images of her father dying, of Jerry turning her down, of her mother’s naiveness in the face of it all. With all that in mind, she pulled her hand into a fist and aimed for the innocent easel. -----------
I entered the room just in time to see my daughter punch Dawson’s easel with more strength than I knew she had.
I saw the easel falling towards me and I instantly remembered how heavy it was. Sure, it looked like a few flimsy sticks of wood, but it was deceivingly weighty. When Dawson had first brought it, between the two of us we could barely move it a few inches.
Within the fraction of a second it took me to remember that, the easel was already almost upon me. I dropped to the floor as it picked up speed.
I still wasn’t safe. As I rolled out of the way, I saw Ellie pull back her foot and kick the canvas on its way down.
I lay panting on my back while the easel completed its fall. A protruding section hit my leg with a thump, and I knew I would later find a bruise.
Ellie brought her boot down on the easel time and time again, dangerously close to me. Her eyes had a distant look, and I leapt to my feet for fear of being hit.
She wouldn’t stop, and the look on her face terrified me.
She had worn that look before, and it rarely ended nicely.
“ Ellie! Eleonora Hope Mendez! ELLIE!” I cried, grabbing her arm and yanking at it, hoping to bring her out of this trance.
She fought for a few more minutes, thrashing about and bruising me a bit more while she was at it.
Finally she was still for a moment, and I pulled her into a hug then. Ellie willingly hugged back, but she still had a distant look in her eye.
“ It’s okay, honey. It’s all right. All right.” I consoled over and over again. Just when I thought I was getting through, Emilie’s wail drifted through the house. I felt my older daughter stiffen, and the connection was lost. “I guess I better get the baby. I’m sorry, Ellie.”
------------ Any hope I had left with Mother, to look after the baby. Stupid baby. I didn’t feel the same amount of desperation I had felt when I first struck the easel, but I still felt awful. And then, with no warning, my legs gave out beneath me. Before I knew it I was on the ground.
It only took me a few moments to figure out what happened. Was that really necessary? Aren’t I suffering enough without you adding to this? I didn’t know exactly who I was addressing. I only knew that someone out there was doing this to me, and I did not appreciate it at all.
But They refused to be kind. The floor shifted beneath me and I lost my balance once again.
Before I knew it I was hitting the floor hard .
I lay on the floor trying to regain any sense of control, glowering at the ceiling the whole time. You can’t leave me alone, can you? You like rubbing it in my face, hmm? Get this: it won’t work. You have no control over me, I am my own person. Now run off and bother some other innocent girl, ‘cause you’re through with me.
Concentrating with everything I had in me, I slowly pulled myself up until I crouched cautiously on the floor.
Then another wave assaulted me, and I was pushed forward. I gasped, barely catching myself. Then I remembered, today I was in charge of myself. Nice try, but I’m not giving in today. Not today.
Shakily I stood, and then smiled defiantly at Them. Haha! In your face, whoever you are!
I made my way to the piano, and settled down and examined the keys. I stroked them with loving fingers, for here was my best friend. I ran my hands back and forth across the entire instrument, until I knew it was time. I pressed down, and music filled the room. As my fingers danced across the keys of their own accord, I lifted my voice and wordlessly echoed the piano. Today’s song was one of power and freedom, and I loved it. Then my finger accidentally pressed the wrong key, and everything came to a screeching halt. My brief reign over the kingdom of myself came to an abrupt end along with the music, and I felt myself tipping back towards who I had been minutes before. Suddenly the floor seemed very close. ------------
---------- “ Ellie, my sister,” I called to her, watching her flutter like a leaf in the breeze, clutching the piano bench with all her might. With my eyes I beckoned her, trying my best to keep Them away from her.
“ Are you okay?” I asked softly, feeling her confusion at my concern. “ Of course I--” She was cut off by the look on my face. I could tell she was lying. Her muddled feelings made me want to cry; she wanted someone to care, but could not expect us to understand. But I showed her I knew, that she could tell me. I smiled with my eyes, urging her to answer my question. “No. I’m not okay at all.”
“ I know,” I replied, still aching for my sister and the surprise on her face. “We are both children of the same father, Ellie. He gave me a gift also, but They haven’t been able to touch me.” “ So daddy... you... They... wow,” she somehow still managed to look completely in control as she blabbered. It was all an act, but she had played it for so long it had almost become natural.
“ Wow,” I echoed, then held my hands out, palms up. “Put your hand over mine, Ellie, but don’t touch me yet.”
“ Like this?” her hands obediently hovered over mine, the only sign of her inner turmoil was a slight tremble in her fingers, stilled only by her beloved piano keys. Until now. “ Yes. Now touch my hands, sister.” ------------
------------ I lowered my hands unto Jonathon’s, and immediately the room seemed to burst with light. From his hands to mine and through my entire body, warm light pulsed. But it was more than light, I could tell. With the light I felt strong healing passing through me, chasing Them away. Not forever, not entirely, but enough. But while I realized this, my hands were already pulling away from Jonathon’s, and at last the blinding whiteness left the room.
“ What exactly was that?” My voice was shaky with the power of the question, but my fingers were still for the first time since... the incident. Jonathon was grinning, looking like any other boy his age who had planted a frog in his sister’s bed. But what he revealed to me was much more than any silly toad. “ Just my gift from Death, sister. That is all,” he giggled. ------------
After tending to Emilie I had called up Tina for a few more dates. I could hear Ellie playing the piano, and then her and Jonathon talking, so I assumed she was all right.
Tina introduced me to several new people that night, only slightly put off by the tiny amounts of money I had to offer.
Although I knew I would eventually get bored of the “Hi, bye!” dates, it kept my mind off of all my troubles. And at this point, temporary happiness was worth a lot more than it should be.
------- Emilie dreamed. She dreamed of the future. She dreamed of the past. And tonight, she dreamt of what could have been.
---------- Early the next morning, before their mother awoke, brother and sister sat down across from each other at the table, observing the other with newly opened eyes.
They sat silently for a while, each chewing their own food and thoughts.
Then Jonathon tossed his fork aside and started shoving large handfuls of muffin into his mouth. Ellie stared down at him, motherly frown in place.
“ Jonathon!” she admonished, melting into a smile as her little brother sagged into his chair sheepishly, his hair falling all over his face. “It’s fine. Here, let me show you.”
Jonathon brushed his hair aside and watched as she carefully dipped her spoon into her cereal bowl and slowly lifted it to her mouth. “See? Easy, right?”
Jonathon grinned mischievously. “Sure, sis.” Then he took his fork and used it to keep shoveling food in, along with his other hand. Ellie just rolled her eyes and had to laugh. ----------
-------- Later, back to his somber self, Jonathon ventured into the forbidden room where the remains of his father were kept. He was there for a long time, asking himself question he wished the urn could answer. Who were you? Who are you? What happened? Who am I? And, of course, Why? -------
----------- Ellie invited Jerry over after school that day. She hoped that maybe today she could say the right words, do the right things, so that he would see her the way she saw him.
Finally, she managed to convince Jerry to give her a back rub. For a time, just the feel of his skin touching hers was enough, but then she felt the urge to do something more. She pulled away from Jerry’s gentle hands, and in one swift move, spun around and leaned towards him with puckered lips.
He saw her and pulled away seconds before the contact. Ellie found a familiar feeling invade her mind and body, like everything was falling apart.
Blushing furiously, she turned to Jerry with a question. “Why not?” “ Not now. Not yet. Just... sorry, El.”
After an awkward half hour or so, the non-couple was back to their normal selves. They played around with the playground equipment before Hope called them in for a snack.
Just before they reached the front door, Ellie drew to a stop. Jerry began to pull the door open, then noticed Ellie and turned to her. “What is it?” “ I just wanted to tell you...” she trailed off. Why had she gotten the urge to admit this right now? “My dad... he was a vampire.”
“ A vampire?” Jerry mused, as though he received news like this every day. Ellie nervously waited to see what he would say.
“ That’s pretty cool!” the blond teenager said suddenly, looking impressed. Ellie let out her breath in a huge whoosh . “ C’mon, let’s go see what Mom made us.”
After finishing the platter of only slightly burned chocolate chip cookies Hope had made, Jerry and Ellie returned to the back porch and sat down to talk. Little by little, Ellie scooted closer until she could slide her arm around Jerry’s shoulders. He tensed for a moment, and she feared he would reject her again. But then he settled into her embrace, and tentatively reached out and took her other hand in his. They stayed that way for a long, long time, with giant smiles plastered on their faces. ----------
I gathered all my children, including that Jerry boy we seemed to have adopted a while back, for little Emilie’s birthday. I loved birthdays. They brought Ellie out of her shell, and made Jonathon act his age.
Once the cheering died down, the room seemed overly silent. Jerry and Ellie kept trading glances, like they were in some romance movie. Or maybe like they had a secret. Or just liked staring at people. I turned to see what Jonathon was doing before I got a headache.
He was simply smiling. He looked so happy, I felt a grin tickle my lips. Happiness and joy seemed to irradiate from my only son, and for a moment I thought I saw an orangey glow around him. I shook my head violently to clear it, deciding to head to bed early today.
I tickled Emilie’s tummy to make her smile, but she just grabbed onto my hand.
Once she saw me huffing and puffing at the cake, a tiny giggle escaped her lips. For a second I thought I saw Jonathon’s light grow, but then the room seemed to dim back to normal. I began to wonder if I should have a check-up or something. Maybe my eye sight? I was getting older, after all.
Within moments my youngest child was all grown up. Well, almost. At first glance she appeared to be identical to Ellie, a female, black-haired, version of Dawson. Eventually I realized that she actually had at least one of my features: my mouth. Unlike the thin lips her older siblings shared, Emilie had my plumper ones.
After fixing her hair, I laid her down for the night before heading off to my own bed.
--------- On the first night of her toddlerhood, Emilie Hope Mendez dreamt of herself, and her own future.
------- While the dreaming toddler slept on, Jerry, Ellie, and Jonathon enjoyed the birthday cake. “ So, kiddo, your sister told me about what you can do. Do you think, maybe--”
In a second, Jonathon’s entire slice of cake disappeared into his gaping mouth. While Ellie frowned at him, the little boy innocently asked for another piece. ------------
------------ After Ellie had gone to bed, Jerry joined Jonathon outside. The older boy started the conversation that had been previously interrupted. “So, Jonathon, can you do your thing for me, too?” “ Do you need it?” his dark hair fell across his eyes as he tilted his head to look Jerry in the face. “Really, truly?”
“‘ Cause I don’t think you do,” Jonathon said after a pause. Jerry stared at him for a moment, before abruptly standing and wordlessly walking away. Jonathon clambered up after him. “Wait!!”
“ Fine, I’ll try to do my thing , as you so eloquently put it. I can’t guarantee the results you want, though. I can’t guarantee anything , ‘mkay?”
The younger boy squeezed his eyes shut in concentration, pressing his palms against Jerry’s arm. Nothing happened. Jerry’s body sagged in disappointment. “ See? You don’t need it,” Jonathon said with a light smile, heading back inside. -----------
Count Richard Bear walked past the two contessas for the umpteenth time, spinning on his heel when he reached the wall and starting over again.
He slowed to look down on the fire once again, but the flames no longer held a message.
He sighed, leaning over the fireplace, burying his head in his arm.
“ Thirty-two,” stated contessa Jaqueline. “ What?” He asked, confused. “ That’s the thirty-second time you did that. There’s no more to see, just talk to us.”
Sighing once again, Richard rubbed his neck worriedly. Too much to think about, too little to say.
“ And that’s the forty-ninth sigh in the past ten minutes. Tell us, before you turn into a grandmother before our very eyes.”
“ It’s just... The children... They are so... Dawson never... Incredible. Amazing. Miraculous. ”
“ Let’s go, girls.” He stooped to pull Steffi to her feet.
“ Where to?” She asked before he covered her lips with his. “ To tell the big boss.” “ You shouldn’t call him that,” warned Jaqueline as she stood.