Aunt Rachel returned the hefty tome to me as she stood from the bed, suggesting that we find something to prepare for dinner. It was already close to eight o’clock in the evening and I couldn’t remember the last time I ate food. The uncomfortable cramping inside my stomach and dry mouth made it difficult for me to oppose her suggestion and continue our discussion. She reached out for my hand with her own indicating that I should take hers. Without hesitation, I took it and abandoned my book. As I stood she leaned into me and enveloped my shoulders, her left arm embracing me in an unusual, but comfortable side hug. I gripped her hand with mine, as an insidious fear rumbled inside of me like a timpani. Something was not right.
We walked in silence through the upstairs hallway, the hardwood floor pressed against the soles of my bare feet as we passed Mother’s treasured museum-like collection of glassware, ceramics, vases, and figurines she had displayed in the numerous cabinets that lined the wallpapered walls. The light of the halogen bulbs spilled softly through the glass panels of each cabinet into the unusual darkness of the corridor, casting peculiar shadows of the items held within them. With Mother away no one had considered turning on the house lights once the sun set so we walked in blackness. Mother was compulsive about ensuring that there were always lights on in the house. Until then I had assumed that it was due to her unfounded fear of home invasions, but now I wondered if it was something more personally rooted in her experiences with me and my abilities. Perhaps there were hidden details that I have yet to unbury about the midnight whispers of The Ancestors and other childhood nightmares I experienced that incited Mother’s reservations about the darkness of night.
As we approached the top of the main staircase Aunt Rachel paused, released me from her embrace, and slowly retraced her steps. Curiosity motivated me to follow her back to the most ornate of Mother’s cabinets. The French styled Louis XV display case stood with one bowed glass door opened. My aunt gingerly reach out her hand and closed the gold trimmed door, turning the key to secure it. She glanced at me.
I nodded. “Yes, it was closed.”
We peered inside at the Royal Doulton and Dahl Jensen figurines. I wasn’t sure what we were looking for, but assumed we’d know what it was if we spotted it. The halogen light inside the cabinet flickered and went out. The familiar rumble within me returned. I grabbed my aunt’s hand. Her palm was moist. I heard her exhale loudly as she abruptly walked towards the staircase pulling me behind.
“Everything okay?” I asked, knowing that it was not, but wanting to hear what she was thinking.
She didn’t respond, but forced herself to smile at me reassuringly, though it did nothing to comfort me. I considered that The Ancestors were rebuilding their power in an effort to reclaim my aunt in the same way that they had previously, but I didn’t know how to defend against them because I had no idea as to how they originally trapped her, and Aunt Rachel had made it clear that she felt uncomfortable discussing the topic with me. I decided to approach the subject from an angle that she wouldn’t be expecting.
“Do you remember when Grandma Claire died?” I asked, turning the dial that controlled the chrome and crystal chandelier that illuminated the foyer and staircase.
We began our descent down the carpeted stairs still hand in hand.
“Yes. You were four or five, right?” she prompted.
“Right. And my parents didn’t want Daniel or me at the funeral,” I explained, feeling the smoothness of the banister against the palm of my left hand and the skin of her hand against my right. “But for some reason we were brought to the funeral home and my cousin Ashley watched all of us kids in another room.”
“I remember,” she replied. The light reflecting off the crystals above us created abstract patterns on the crimson carpet. “But you snuck in.”
I snickered. “Daniel helped me get by Ashley, which wasn’t even difficult, and snuck me into the viewing parlor.”
“You were precocious even at that age,” my aunt chuckled.
“I walked up to the casket and looked down and I remember thinking that she was so beautiful then feeling really strange; sort of dizzy, but tingly like a gentle electric current flowing through me. That feeling you get when you pinch off a nerve, like when my arm or leg falls asleep.” I explained. We reached the bottom of the stairs and continued through the foyer, which had been tidied, towards the kitchen. “It’s the same sort of feeling I get when I listen to music.”
“Inspiration?” suggested my aunt, pushing open the swinging door and walking through. “That’s the best word I’ve been able to come up with. I feel something like that when I sculpt.”
“You do?” I was pleased, but a tad guilty that she took the bait. The guilt wasn’t strong enough to stop me from talking. “I felt that even when I was pulled away from the casket and dragged out of the room. I kept staring at the casket because I saw Grandma Claire standing next to it.”
My aunt didn’t appear surprised. She opened the first cabinet, the one closest to the kitchen door and started rummaging through its contents for ingredients she could use to prepare dinner for us.
“Aunt Rachel,” I stressed her name to ensure that she was listening. “She spoke to me. She said something curious. Something I can’t really understand and I was hoping you’d be able to sort it out with me.”
I heard my aunt sigh, though her face was obscured by the opened cabinet door. “What did she say?”
“She told me that I was special, then she warned me about something …,” I paused as I sat on one of the three counter stools, waiting to see if Aunt Rachel would look at me, but when she didn’t – I continued, “An omen … The Blood Omen. Do you know anything about that?”
This was the question that ceased her search and although I couldn’t see her face, I knew the expression that she wore. That was the reaction I anticipated. Silently she removed a glass container filled with brown rice and placed it on the counter. With contrived focus she closed the cabinet and opened the one next to it, distracting herself with Mother’s collection of dried herbs.
“The Omen has something to do with how I was born, doesn’t it?” I prodded relentlessly.
She waved her hand around her head in a motion that could easily be perceived as swatting an invisible fly. “I can’t talk about that, Angie.”
Well, I wasn’t giving up. I was going to force her to admit that my supposition was accurate. I stomped through the house, retracing my steps back to the guest bedroom and retrieved my abandoned copy of Sacred Magick from the bed. I carried it into the kitchen, flipping through the pages as I walked. My aunt had placed a pot with rice and water on the stove to boil and was cutting a variety of colorful vegetables at the island counter facing the stool I had recently vacated. As I reclaimed my seat, I placed the opened book on the counter; the text positioned so that Aunt Rachel could easily read it and slid it towards the glass cutting board where she was actively slicing through a dark green zucchini. Only then did she look up from her task.
I pointed with my index finger to a very familiar paragraph on page ninety-three. I had read it numerous times since I had discovered the book at the library. Aunt Rachel followed my direction and read the entry to herself.
“It has been stated in numerous ancient texts that the Blood Omen is a significant portent not to be overlooked. The importance and the presentation are difficult enough to understand when taken singularly; but the interpretation and the realization of the omen itself become tenfold more noteworthy, when, instead of being comprehended, is witnessed. The list of Seers who have endeavoured to interpret the Blood Omen is long indeed. They have discovered with trepidation that the child, usually female though on rare occasion male, associated with this portent is the signifier of the advent of great change, not only for the bloodline from which the child sprung but for the community as well. The child harnesses within a timeless and everlasting power that is irrefutably attributed, in the minds of the ancient Seers, to Spirit within blood. This merging of the two into a unity becomes thereby significant when that power is recognized.”
“I was born in a pool of blood,” I told her. “When we were little Daniel would talk to me about it. He said that it was a secret, but that he had overheard Mother talking with Aunt Brenda about how difficult it was for me to come out and that Mother almost died giving birth to me.”
She placed the knife on the counter and reached out grasping both of my hands with her own. “Yes, I know.”
“Is there a connection between the Blood Omen, my birth, and my ability?” I asked practically begging her to answer the question.
“Oh Angie, I can’t.” She released my hands as if she realized they were dirty or hot. She picked up the knife and continued cutting the squash into half circles. “I can’t discuss that with you. You really should ask your Dad.”
I laughed exaggeratingly.
“Ask my Dad?” I mocked. “Ask my Dad? Really? If I ask my Dad it will inevitably lead to a change in my medication. And I don’t want to increase the fucking dose or change the prescription. I don’t want it. I’m done with it! I’m not taking it anymore!”
“None of it!” I yelled with tears forming in my eyes.
“I don’t blame you, sweetheart,” she said walking around the counter.
I allowed her to embrace me. I wasn’t really angry with her specifically. I logically understood why she wouldn’t talk to me, but I was upset. I was frustrated with the situation, with my parents, with my fucking life. I slowly returned her hug, sobbing quietly into her shirt as she stroked my hair. We stood like that for a moment as I listened to the bubbling of the rice on the stove.
“Will you at least answer me this,” I asked still holding onto her. “Was I able to free you from wherever you were because we are bonded by our blood?”
She gently pulled away from me, but held onto my upper arms and looked directly into my eyes. I could see her considering if she should answer me and how much she should say if she did. But how was she going to deny that the past forty-eight hours didn’t happen without undoing our bond? If she did deny that she was in some sort of supernatural vortex, that she had been trapped on another plane of existence, then she was going to imply that I had actually hallucinated it all and infer that I was schizophrenic as my parents and Dr. Worth have said, which would contradict everything we had shared earlier that evening. We had nonverbally agreed that I was not mentally ill, but that I possessed an ability or talent.
She inhaled deeply and still looking at me directly simply said, “Yes.”
I knew it. I felt good about my ability to come to accurate conclusions about what was happening in my life so I ventured forward with another question hoping that she would continue to respond and verify what I already concluded on my own.
“Why was Mr. Stokes so annoyed when we first found you in the foyer?”
“I can’t go into that with you,” she responded, returning to the vegetables on the counter.
But I persisted. “Does it have anything to do with the vision I saw of Christian when I was trying to free you from that vortex?”
She located a large frying pan from the rack above the island counter and placed it on the stove. She turned on the burner beneath it and retrieved the bottle of olive oil lining the bottom of the pan. “Yes.”
“Then tell me, Aunt Rachel. Tell me,” I begged, handing her the cutting board covered with sliced vegetables. “Dad doesn’t have to know. I won’t tell him. I am an expert at keeping secrets from my parents. They have no idea who I am.”
“No, Angie,” she shook her head as she added the vegetables to the pan. “You may be an expert at keeping secrets, but I will know that I shared information with you that your Dad made me promise not to. There are things that really are not a burden meant for you to bear.” I watched her move the vegetables around in the pan with the wooden spoon, the colors creating an abstract design as she did so. She continued, her voice trembling with each word. “I made choices and I take full responsibility for those choices, but unfortunately sometimes things don’t go as we expect and the consequences are painful.”
“Aunt Rachel …”
She put her left arm around my shoulders and pulled me against her as she leaned her head on mine. “I appreciate that you want to help me. I do. And I believe that you are capable of dealing with serious issues, but this isn’t something that you need to deal with. It’s all on me.”
“Okay,” I conceded. She made a valid point.