Chapter 12 of 21. If you haven’t read the earlier chapters, please read them first. You can find them here: The Willow, a serialized novel.
“I said, my name is Beth,” she repeated as she walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to her room.
“Bethany!” her mother yelled after her. “I said Bethany! What has gotten in to you?” Carla stood at the bottom of the staircase, staring up and waiting for a response that wouldn’t come. Her body was shaking. Carla didn’t even understand why she was so upset, but couldn’t handle the fact that her daughter was becoming distant from her. She didn’t know how to argue with a four-year-old, and felt that she shouldn’t have to. But here she was, staring into the abyss of her stairway and waiting for the comforting words of a little girl who had already forgotten about her.
“If she wants to go by Beth, let her be Beth,” Michael said as he put a hand on Carla’s shoulder. “She’s just growing up.”
“Michael! This is not growing up. Something has been going on with her since the party.”
“Agreed. But if the only thing she is asking for, is to be called Beth…”
Carla’s shoulders slumped. Her happy, care free little girl was gone and a suddenly moody four-year-old had taken her place. Her moods seemed to fluctuate between anger and melancholy. They were not emotions Carla recognized in Bethany, and she worried that something bad had happened to bring them on. Carla feared that she herself had done something, or said something, to make Bethany angry, but she wasn’t about to stop acting like her mother, just because her daughter wasn’t happy with it. But what if it’s more than anger?
“Do you think we should get her professional help?” Carla asked.
“Professional help?” repeated Michael, more surprised than he really was. “She’s just a kid.”
“But what if she needs it?”
“This is just a phase.”
“But what if it’s not?
“One of many that we will weather as her loving parents.”
“But what if it’s more?”
“Are you really going to Carla-dear me, right now?”
“This is all part of the joy of parenting.” Michael smiled and hugged his wife. He hoped that his heart was beating slow enough that Carla wouldn’t be able to detect that his words were all for show. He had to calm his wife. It was his instinctual way of restoring order to their household.
Inside, Michael was feeling equally as desperate as Carla. Professional help, though, would require money that they didn’t have. They were struggling to live the middle-class dream. All it would take was a health emergency to plummet them into a debt that would take years to come out of. Michael was not ready to give up on the vision they’d created; a vision of their perfect family in the perfect house, in the perfect neighborhood. He had to be the rock on which his two ladies could anchor until this storm had passed. But what if it doesn’t.
All Beth could think of was Willow. A month had passed since their first encounter and Willow hadn’t yet returned. Beth dreamed about Willow every night, and there was some satisfaction in that, but she wanted to see her again in the flesh. Beth wanted to look into Willow’s eyes, hear Willow’s voice, and understand what Willow wanted from her. Willow was more than a friend, she was a companion and Beth could no longer imagine walking this life without her. Every night as she fell asleep, Beth would imagine being curled up next to Willow. She could feel the heat coming off Willow’s body, warming her.
While asleep, Beth began having fantastic dreams, which she was sure were memories. Beth didn’t yet have the vocabulary to talk about it, but she understood that they had lived lifetimes together. Previously Beth had been a happy child, but now she only wondered why Willow was leaving her to live out her life alone. Beth would sit in her room and stare at the wall and think, Willow, was this why I was born? Just to stare at the wall and wait? What am I waiting for? Why am I here? When will we be together again?
The desperation of Beth’s longing caused her to forget about everything else. She barely even saw her parents when they were standing in front of her. Her appetite had disappeared. She was not able to make small talk with any visitors that might pass by the house. Beth would easily become angry with anyone who tried to remove her from her introspection. Beth felt that the passion burning within her was the only real thing in the world; with all else, she couldn’t be bothered.
A year would pass before Beth would see Willow again. Five-year-old Beth was sitting in her back yard, twisting grass with her fingers, when Willow appeared sitting right across from her. Beth felt joy from the depth of her being, as she jumped up and onto Willow.
“Are you forgetting that no one else can see me?”
“I don’t care about anyone else.”
“But they are very worried about you. Every second, your mom has one eye in your direction, and one thought on what is wrong with you.”
“I missed you so much,” said Beth, unable to hear Willow’s entreaties.
“I know you did, but we are playing a game, and for us to be able to get through this game, your family must believe you are okay.”
“I am not okay,” said Beth, indignantly.
“Of course you are.”
“I’ve been struggling all on my own for this past year.”
“On your own? I’ve been right here with you.”
“Really? So then you’ve seen me crying, waiting for you every day?
“Of course I have. But, I need you strong. I can’t just fulfill your every desire. Then you would never grow up, and we have a lot of work to do.”
“But, I needed you.”
“You needed me for what?”
“I have had so many… memories – that I shouldn’t be having.”
“Those are your memories.”
“There are so many images in my head. Images of you and of me. But they aren’t of you and me.”
“Those are our memories.”
“But how can I have memories, that are not of me?”
“Do you think that this is you?” asked Willow as she gestured her two hands towards Beth. “Do you think your life started when you were born into this child’s body?”
Beth just stared at Willow, confused.
“You know that your memories are true, right? – that they’re not made up fantasies?”
Beth nodded her head yes.
“I just don’t understand.”
“That is okay,” said Willow, ready to move on. “You don’t need to understand everything right now. I came here today for other reasons.”
“I have a job for you.”
“Yes,” said Willow, as a smile formed on her face. “But it’s going to take some time.”
“How much time? I have to be in the house by 5:30.”
Willow laughed out loud as she reached over and touched Beth’s cheek. “The job will take years.”
“Years? What kind of job?”
Willow’s face turned serious. This was the business she had come for. Previous births had been about philosophy, but this one would be about action. Willow was doing everything she could to live a life that would benefit the world, even though the world was not ready to be benefited by her. She was not in fact sure that it ever would be. But Willow had to do her part in keeping all of her pieces ready in case fate nodded in her direction.
“There is a boy named Marcus,” started Willow. “He’s a little bit older than you and me. He should be around eight. He just moved into that house that was for sale, up the street from you.”
“He moved in there? How did you know that?”
“Because I sent him and his family there.”
“Why did you do that?”
“Because he needs our help?
“And we need his.”
“Marcus was born with the sight, like you and me.”
“The sight?” asked Beth.
“He is able to tune in and see the world in a way that most can’t. It is the power that you use to see me. But it is very weak in him. He needs training.”
“So you are going to train him?”
“No,” said Willow. “You are.”
“I am? How can I train him?”
“You just have to be around him. Slowly, your energy will rub off on him. But it will take time. It will be like opening a heavy door. Slowly you will push and push until eventually he will be able to see through it.”
“Why do we need him?”
“Because he knows where I am.”
“What?” asked Beth, shocked. “Where are you?”
“Did you think I was just floating around in space?” asked Willow. “I told you that I am trapped. Marcus was there at the place I am being kept. He saw me. He is the only one who can find me again.”
“Then I will just tell him-”
“No. You mustn’t tell him. He is already devastated by the events. If he feels like he is being accused, that could shut the door towards the sight totally. You have to open the door fully before you can explain yourself. This won’t be easy. He is only one step away from a normal human, with no idea of the world around him. It will take years of struggle, but eventually, he will see. Only after he is able to see, will you be able to come and find me.”
“If I have the sight, can’t I come and find you myself?”
“If your sight were complete, then sure. But we are all blessed with certain talents, and Marcus is able to see pockets in the atmosphere. I am being kept in one of these pockets. That is not your talent. That is not my talent either. God has laid a mist over my eyes, because there is a story that has to play out. I don’t know the point of the story nor the outcome.”
“Well what is my talent?”
“Is that the only thing you heard of what I said?”
“You said we all have talents. What is mine?”
For the first time, Willow seemed at a loss for words.
“What is my talent?” asked Beth again, more aggressively.
“You and me are just here to play the game. You are like… my assistant.”
“Your assistant. Is that all I’m good for?”
Willow laughed. “There was a time when hundreds were battling to be my assistant, and you defeated them all. But now, the job is not good enough for you, huh?”
Beth crossed her arms and stared Willow down.
“Not five minutes ago you were pining to see me again, and now I am receiving your cross look?”
Beth laughed at herself. “I will be the best assistant you ever had.”
“Indeed, that’s always been the case.”
“So what should I do with this Marcus?”
“He is older than you, so he won’t be that interested in being friends just yet. But he should at least know who you are. Just walk by his house and bump into him. Make sure that he knows your name. That is enough for now.”
“Okay,” said Beth, nodding and pumping herself up. “I can do that. Anything else?”
“Be nice to your mother.”
“What?” Beth felt her enthusiasm vanish in an instant.
“We are going to put her through enough turmoil later in her life. At least let her enjoy you for now.”
Beth just frowned towards Willow.
“At least try.”
I’ll see you next Friday for chapter 13.
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