Chapter XXII

Last night at dinner, while the three of us were sitting at the dinner table feasting on Mother’s Tarragon Poached Salmon, my parents informed me of their joint decision to work on and resuscitate their dying marriage. They had mutually agreed that to do so successfully they were required to be alone, to be somewhere that neither of them could be easily influenced by outside sources such as work colleagues, friends, or family members. So my Dad had made a reservation for them to spend a week in the Bahamas and had made arrangement with Aunt Rachel and my cousin, Christian, to stay at the house with me while they were away. They explained that they had contacted my brother, Daniel and asked if he would be able to come home for the week to stay with me, but he was unable to leave campus; his demanding schedule and commitment to the summer camp program that the school offered didn’t allow him time for trips home that summer.

It was a challenge for me to stifle a mocking laugh that had lurched from inside my gut. His “demanding schedule”? Really? Were they serious? Did they honestly believe his weak excuse for not coming home? It was evident to me that neither of them followed Daniel on any social media platform because it was clear, at least to me, by his numerous photos and status messages that he was having a very exciting and busy summer so far, socializing with numerous peers and by my own deduction was not even staying on campus this summer. There was no way he was involved or had a commitment with the summer camp program that his school was offering. He had posted plenty of photos of himself holding a variety of alcoholic drinks, Narraganset Beer being his beverage of choice, with a diverse menagerie of girls in countless poses all in social settings that were noticeably not his school campus. He appeared to have a freedom that contradicted the information my parents shared with me, but I wasn’t going to point out the blatant inconsistency. I understood why Daniel didn’t want to spend the week at home even if my parents were in denial or just plain ignorant about it. It wasn’t just because he wouldn’t be surrounded by pretty girls hanging all over him or by the never-ending flow of beer; it was because he didn’t want to spend the week alone with me.

I sadly realized that not only were my brother and I estranged; we were just two very dissimilar people. My personal interests were not Daniel’s and his were not mine. (I dislike large crowds of people and alcohol does nothing for me except make me nauseous.) It was almost as if we were raised in two different households by two different set of parents, which I found to be more than just a tad disturbing. Was it possible that one of us was actually adopted? Daniel was named after Caroline’s father, but I was unsure of who I was named after, if I was named after anyone at all. Is it beyond reasonable consideration to think that perhaps Caroline and Edward were not my biological parents? Could I be the daughter of someone else? Perhaps there weren’t any other members of the Williams’ family who possessed the same abilities as I did. Maybe I was abandoned and left in a cardboard box on the porch of my pseudoparents because I was so powerful at birth and the unusual facts about my beginnings was kept from me for all these years because it could inevitably endanger those around me. Conceivably my feelings of alienation were because I honestly didn’t belong in the Williams clan, these people weren’t my tribe and their ancestors weren’t mine. The answers that I was seeking from them, they couldn’t provide because I simply didn’t belong.

“Am I adopted?” The question flew out of my mouth before I could capture it and regret settled in as soon as I heard my own voice utter the words in the silent pause of the ongoing dinner conversation.

“What?” Mother carefully placed the silver fork she was using onto the table next to her plate and blotted her painted mouth with her cloth napkin. “Why are you asking, Angie?”

Dad was obviously annoyed. With his hand he waved off Mother’s question and glared in my direction. “What does that have to do with what we’ve been discussing here, right now?” He vigorously jammed his index finger against the surface of the oak table as he spoke, emphasizing every other word. He paused, waiting for my response, to which I gave none. I stayed silent which clearly irritated him even more. I winced at the volume of his voice as he continued his tirade. “Have you heard nothing we’ve been explaining to you, Angie? Are you aware that we are informing you about a very serious situation that will affect your future in this family? Are you listening to what we are saying to you? Are you comprehending what’s happening here? Or are you off in your own fantasy world as usual?”

Mother glanced from Dad to me in silence. When I didn’t respond to his bullying, he purposefully dropped his fork onto the table so that it created a loud thud and grabbed his beer glass draining it of the dark ale it had been holding. When the glass was empty he forcefully placed it on the table with a thump; the white foam slowly slid down the inside of the thick glass from the rim to the bottom. Dad was clearly agitated, but I understood that his reaction to my question wasn’t solely in response to my inquiry. I wasn’t the original catalyst that sparked his passionate anger. He had redirected his feelings of inadequacy that Mother’s indiscretion with Peter Morrell had stirred within him to me, an easier target and origin of some of his overall life’s frustrations. I silently wondered if their vacation to the Bahamas was truly a shared decision or if Mother was manipulating the situation so that Dad had no choice but to agree with what she had proposed.

“Edward,” Mother warned, focusing her gaze on Dad as she lifted the crystal water glass to her lips and sipped.

He grunted, stood from his chair, set his napkin on the table, and grabbed his beer glass. “I’m getting myself another ale.” With his free hand he gestured to Mother and me. “Do either of you need anything from the kitchen?”

“No, thank you, Edward,” Mother responded, gently replacing her glass to its place off to the right of her dinner plate.

I shook my head uneasy with Dad’s seemingly quick change of demeanor. He left the dining room quietly as Mother smiled weakly at me.

“Don’t take your father’s behavior so personally, Angie. He’s under a tremendous amount of stress at work lately because of what’s been happening over these last few weeks. He’s had to take on more clients and well, you know, with what’s happened with Mr. Morrell,” she paused as a subtle shadow of remorse appeared. She quickly waved her hand in front of her face as if to wipe away the lingering shadow. “Any way, I’m certain that when we return from the Bahamas everything will be back to normal.”

I nodded indicating that I heard her and understood what she was trying to convey, but not because I agreed with her. Was she attempting to persuade me or herself? She picked up her fork and continued with eating. I studied her expression with confusion and disbelief. Did she really think that a week vacation in the Bahamas was going to fix everything in her marriage? In Dad’s life? With our family? I watched her coral-colored lips part so that the fork full of green beans could find its way into her mouth. The silver metal tongs easily slid back out with a soft tug of her hand. She glanced at me as she chewed the vegetables and smiled, briefly patting my hand that rested on the table near my own fork, reassuring me of whatever she felt I needed comforting about.

I contemplated why she hadn’t responded to my original question and why it had sparked such an emotional response from Dad. Was Mother ignoring my query in hopes that I would forget I had asked? I wondered if I had even spoken the words aloud. Maybe I had just considered doing so within my own mind and hadn’t vocalized my concern with an actual question. Had I even spoken at all during dinner? Did I utter words aloud or had I only imagined that I had?

“Am I adopted?” I asked the woman sitting with me at the dining room table, who I had known as Mother for all the years I could remember.

I made a mental note that: yes, this time I knew for certain I had clearly articulated my question. Was her reluctance to respond because I was adopted and neither parent wanted to discuss it? What was so disturbing about the circumstances of my adoption that they denied it and never wanted to discuss it with me? My curiosity was evolving into something greater, something darker, more turbulent.

Mother swallowed the green beans, placed her fork gingerly on the table, and took a quick drink of water before responding to me.

She looked me directly in the eyes as she replied aware that her response was meaningful, “No, Angie, you are not adopted.”

“Is Daniel?”

She shook her head. “No. Neither of you are adopted. You are both our biological children. You know, when you were younger the resemblance you had to your Aunt Rachel when she was the same age was uncanny. You could have easily been mistaken for twins. There are some old family photos in the big album that I keep on the bookshelf near the fireplace in the living room. If you’re curious you should dig them out and look through them.”

I was overwhelmingly disappointed with her reply. I had been convinced that I was adopted and the idea had brought me hope of finding someone else who I could relate to, someone who could understand the  lonely life I was living, and the elation my abilities bestowed upon me, but with her reasonable words Mother demolished that hope. I picked up my fork and stabbed the piece of salmon that sat untouched on my own dinner plate.

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Chapter XXI

In ancient Norse mythology, the Valkyrie, “Chooser of the Slain”, was originally a group of nine sinister spirits of slaughter, corpse goddesses, and dark angels of death who soared over battle fields like birds of prey and were represented in carvings as carrion-eating ravens. The original Valkyries were purely immortal beings who possessed the power of malicious magick, which they used to cause the death of the warriors they did not favor; while others guarded the lives and ships of those dear to them. They would intimately weave the fates of mortal men with the loom, weaving victory and defeat with the intestines of slain warriors for their thread, severed heads for weights, and swords and arrows for beaters, all the while chanting their intentions with ominous delight. They possessed the art of the war-fetter, which allowed them to bind a warrior with terror, or release a favored warrior from those same bonds. In this capacity, the Valkyrie were worshiped as demigoddesses and offered sacrifices. There were also references made to mortal Valkyries, who were beautiful, young maidens, possessing supernatural powers and armed with helmet, spear, and shield, while riding winged horses onto the battle fields. Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and beauty, was often depicted as their chieftain. Although the Valkyries were most often portrayed as battle maidens, they were not warriors.

Between the third and eleventh centuries, the perception of the Valkyries changed and they became associated with Odin, The All Father of the Norse pantheon, whom they served as bodyguards and messengers. They would dispense out warriors’ fate in his name, but their primary role was to select the most heroic of slain warriors to become the deathless Einherjar, the soldiers who would fight at Odin’s side during Ragnarok, the final battle between the gods and the giants. The Valkyrie escorted the new Einherjar across Bifröst, the rainbow bridge that linked Midgard to Asgard, and on into the great hall of Valhalla and Fólkvangr, the home of Freyja, where the Valkyrie served the Einherjar fine foods, such as wild boar, and sacred wine made from honey. They would remain the Einherjar’s servants until Ragnarok.

Mortals in Midgard witnessed the Valkyrie’s flickering armor and streaming light from their spears whenever Odin sent them out. In the Middle Ages, Scandinavians believed the northern lights were the Valkyries flying across the night sky.

“Good afternoon, Angie,” the man smiled, nonchalantly peeking around me into the foyer clearing searching for someone other than the person who answered the door. What the hell was this guy doing here? There was clearly no logical way that he thought my Dad was home, I mean, since he worked at the same place with the man, so what was he doing here, at our house? I scrutinized his casual appearance: denim jeans, blue V-neck sweater, white collar shirt, and tweed jacket. He was not wearing a business suit, which had to mean that he was not coming from the office. Okay, so I will give him the benefit of doubt, maybe he didn’t know whether Dad was home, but the intense focus he had on the interior of the foyer was a bit unsettling.

“Hello, Mr. Morrell. If you’re looking for my Dad, he’s not home,” I volunteered, addressing his blatant voyeurism. He’s at work where you should be, I added in my head.

“I’m not here to see your father,” he clarified, removing his sun glasses and placing them into the interior front pocket of his jacket.

What? I was momentarily confused. I must have misheard him; he did tend to mumble slightly when he spoke. It sounded as if he said that he wasn’t here to see my Dad.

“I’m sorry; did you say that you’re not here to see my Father?” I asked, wanting to be certain that I accurately heard him. It was possible that my medication was screwing around with my hearing, sometimes I had strange side effects and diminished hearing wouldn’t be the worst I had experienced.

He nodded. “Yes, that’s what I said.”

I wished that Mr. Stokes hadn’t left because I was annoyed with Mr. Morrell and he had only been standing there for a matter of seconds; his clothes irritated me, his body language bothered me, and the way he was looking at me with lecherous arrogance aggravated me. “Then why are you here?”

Smiling, he slipped his hands into his trouser pockets as realization hit me like a hammer. Seriously? Fuck me! No, this was not happening.

“Is your mother home?”

“No. No, she’s not.”

“But that’s her car, isn’t it?” he asked, cocking his head to the side and gesturing to the blue Cadillac coupe parked in our driveway. “Please tell her that I am here to see her.”

This was not acceptable. While I was fully aware that Mother and I didn’t have a happy or even functional mother-daughter relationship, she was still the only mother I had even when she was being an idiot and I wouldn’t allow Mr. Morrell’s actions or hers to fuck up our family. I may complain about the distance between us or the lack of connection, but I’ve come to rely on my family just as it was. No one was going to change it; not Mother and certainly not this shady character standing before me smirking at me, visually fondling my breasts.

“Come in,” I said, stepping out of the way, as I pulled open the front door wide enough for Mother’s visitor to step into the foyer. I felt him staring at my butt as I lead him to the living room. I pointed to the sofa that was situated across from the pair of Queen Anne chairs. “Have a seat. I’ll let her know that you’re here.”

“Great. Thank you, honey,” Mr. Morrell said, touching my lower back as he passed by me and into the living room. Confidently and without hesitation, he walked over to the corner bar and helped himself to a glass of my Dad’s eighteen year old Scotch Whiskey.

“I’m not your honey,” I stated flatly from the threshold of the living room.

Chuckling, he turned to me, holding the crystal glass filled with alcohol, and took a long slug. “Lighten up, Angie. I think you might need to find something to help you relax a little. You’re always so serious.”

“Oh really? What might help me relax, Mr. Morrell?” What was he going to advise? I’m sure it wasn’t going to be something as innocent as meditation. Was he going to offer me some of my Dad’s expensive whiskey? Or suggest I take a hot bath, preferably with him? I was curious as to how far he was willing to go with this situation. Unfortunately I could tell by the bulge in his trousers that he was raring to venture rather far with someone. “I’m sure a man like you has some ideas he is willing to share with someone as stern as me.”

He drained the rest of the glass and poured himself another. What a freeloader!

“Yeah, I have a few ideas I could share with you,” he walked over to the sofa and sat down, inviting me to sit next to him with a pat of the cushion. “Let me share them with you.”

I refrained from joining him on the sofa, but took a few steps into the room so that I could see more than the back of his head. “Do you like music, Mr. Morrell?” I asked. My fingertips traced the edge of the MP3 player that I had concealed in the pocket of my cardigan sweater. The hard plastic triggered my heart to beat just a bit faster than usual. The wires of the ear buds twisted around my hands like baby garden snakes.

“Call me Peter,” he urged as he waved his hand in the air in front of him, the whiskey beginning to affect his gross motor skills. “Mr. Morrell is too formal.”

“Okay. Peter,” embracing the intimacy he suggested. “Do you like music?”

Smirking, he held the glass of whiskey just inches from his mouth, the same lust dancing across his face that I had witnessed on Ryan Fuller a few weeks prior. “I do.”

“So, do I.” I really did love music probably more than the average person. I mean, how many others had the connection and felt the power to create and destroy as I did when listening to a composition? Music brought me great joy and was my constant companion regardless of my many unusual behaviors that seemed to be an issue for people. Music never deceived me or broke a promise. “Do you think it might help me relax?”

He took a gulp of the amber alcohol and wiped his mouth with the back of the hand holding the glass. “Yes, I do.”

“I could play something for you,” I offered. “Or maybe I should go get Mother.”

“I think that you,” he pointed to me then to himself, “and I should listen to something together before you get her.”

Of course he did, this man was beyond redemption. I walked over to the sofa as I removed the MP3 player from my pocket along with the two sets of earbuds. I crawled onto Mr. Morrell’s lap straddling him so that we were positioned face to face. I was aware that he probably perceived my actions as an attempt to seduce him, however in reality it was simply a strategic move for me to ensure that the ear pods were fitted in his ears correctly. I took the glass from his hand and placed it on a coaster on the coffee table and placed the second set of earbuds in my own ears as he rested his hands on my hips. I could feel how much he was excited by this turn of events, but I knew he really wasn’t prepared for what was about to transpire.

“Let me play this for you …” I said as I chose a piece titled The Shadow’s Bride.

The piano set the rhythm that began us on the unforgettable experience we were about to share. I leaned my body against his torso as the cello began to play, their notes vibrating in our ears. He firmly gripped my hips, subtly rubbing me against him as his gaze became distant. I pushed his head against the back of the sofa and gently placed my left hand over his eyes encouraging him to close them. He did so without struggle, the whiskey had removed any resistance, becoming my liquid accomplice. He inhaled deeply, settling into a steady breath. I carefully stood, removing myself from his lap and creating a spatial distance between our energetic vibrational bodies. His hands gently fell from my hips to the cushion and rested palms up. He was intoxicated not only from the whiskey he had consumed, but from the melodic soundwaves that caressed his body, which had now become still as if he were asleep.

I inhaled deeply, closing my own eyes and eased into the notes of the piano. I found resonance with the sounds as the familiar whisper became clearer to me. The soft haunting notes of the cello caressed my psyche along with murmurs of encouragement from Syn, the goddess of my ancestors. Her voice mingled with the piano and cello, washing over me, instructing me, guiding me, allowing me to harness the power held within my veins. I slowly opened my eyes as Mr. Morrell’s physical body slowly levitated above the sofa. Like a lover, the music seduced him, creating a resonance within him, coaxing his essence to move in unison with it. I smiled and raised my arms preparing to begin the required gestures. I effortlessly guided him through a complicated dance, a series of movements with turns and dips. The volume steadily decreased causing his energetic frequency to visibly become weaker, less physical and more ethereal; fading it seemed, into nothingness.

I closed my eyes as the calmness enveloped me, cradling me in the depths of profound satisfaction. I removed the ear pods from my ears and retrieved the abandoned set from the sofa cushion. No one will change my family. No one will fuck up what I have, even if it is dysfunctional. I won’t allow it.