Amanda felt confused. Long before the first promising rays of morning snuck through the pale yellow curtains that hung in her bedroom window, Amanda had been sitting up in bed contemplating how she wondered why her life had gotten so wildly off track.
With the goose down comforter tucked close to her chin, Amanda recalled that for as far back as she could remember, she had always felt alone. More accurately, she felt as if she were supposed to be with someone else—someone who had been taken away from her. As much as she hated to admit it, the search for this missing part of herself left Amanda feeling alienated from her family and hopeless. When she was young she hated feeling that hope had abandoned her, but as she grew older, the sense of hopelessness that defined her gave her the strength to deal with her family.
Her father and sister were bound to each other by their sociopathic view of the world, while her mother and brother shared a compassion and sensitivity that Amanda didn’t possess for she was a realist. As the eldest child, she saw that love was not an ingredient in her parent’s marriage and that Edwina’s jealousy of her was based on nothing more than her younger sister’s insecurity and spiteful nature.
Amanda closed her eyes and remembered how the townspeople embraced her relationship with Joe. The privileged, yet earthy, Love heiress, and the rugged, blue-collar widower’s son. She still remembered how Inez Collins would point to a teen-aged Amanda and Joe as they held hands in a booth at the Collins Inn and whisper loudly to customers that they were the king and queen of Nightfall. Amanda would always blush at such comments, but deep down she knew there was truth in them. She and Joe weren’t better than anyone, but they shared something special. She considered them soulmates.
But even soulmates could be ripped apart, which is just what happened to Amanda and Joe after their son was kidnapped. Amanda immersed herself in the search to find Joey, while Joe found comfort in Edwina’s touch. Angered by her husband’s betrayal and preoccupied with the loss of Joey, Amanda didn’t fight for Joe and quietly stepped aside as he walked Edwina down the aisle of Nightfall’s courthouse to be wed. Amanda accepted the fact that Edwina had finally succeeded at something where she had failed. It was rare, but it did happen.
Tired of dwelling on the past, Amanda opened her eyes, shook the clawing images of so many yesterdays from her memory, and threw the comforter off of her. She went to the window and lifted it to let the cold morning breeze rush through her. She knew she couldn’t change her past, as much as she longed to get back the years she spent without Joe, but she could change her future. And starting today that was exactly what she was going to do.
Edwina felt different. Standing in front of the mirror in her flaming red bathroom, she examined her reflection with a curious gaze as if she were seeing herself for the first time. She was wearing the same clothes she had on yesterday but couldn’t remember how they had gotten soiled and torn. Worst of all, she couldn’t find her precious Manolo Blahnik black patent leather pumps. Of her 63 pairs of shoes, those were her favorites. And as she stared at herself she couldn’t decide if she was more upset that she couldn’t find her shoes or that she couldn’t find her husband.
When she had woken up, just as the sun was rising, which was a first for Edwina, she discovered she was lying on top of the bed covers and that she was alone. Completely exhausted, she managed to walk through the entire house only to find a note from Jonatha saying that she was staying overnight at Nightwind and no sign of Joe anywhere. She instinctively knew that he had left her and for some reason she didn’t want to hunt him down and kill him, both slowly and ritualistically, but rather, she wanted to thank him.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Edwina asked her reflection.
Physically, Edwina look ravaged. Her hair was a mass of knots and was actually littered with a leaf and small twigs, her eyes were underlined by two black circles, and the left side of her neck was bruised. The small scar on her neck was only about two inches in diameter, but it throbbed as if it were alive. Edwina’s fingers traced the scar, but could not remember how it got there. She tried to convince herself that it was a remnant of her car accident, but she knew that she survived that bizarre incident unscathed. More than anything Edwina hated being uncertain.
Emotionally, however, Edwina felt vibrant. She felt more optimistic than ever before, and despite her worn-weary appearance, downright youthful. She was quite certain that she had lost her husband to her sister, but she wasn’t vengeful or bitter, she was relieved. It was becoming taxing to feign love for a man whom she simply didn’t love and who simply didn’t love her just so she could prove to her family and the little people of Nightfall that the most respected man in town chose her over Amanda. She brought her face close to the mirror and peered deep into her own eyes. Somewhere in their depths must lay the reason for this revelation. And then it hit her. The truth washed over her like a rough wave brutally slapping the side of a lone rock jutting out from the sea, no man had ever loved her and it was time Edwina accepted that fact.
She watched her face in the mirror lose all pretense and façade and grow very pale. The tears began to fall, slowly at first, then with more speed. Even when the weight of the tears grew unbearable, Edwina merely blinked her eyes and let the tears gallop down her cheeks. She watched herself lose control and for the first time in her life she thought of someone else. She wondered how many times Amanda had looked into a mirror to watch the pain and loneliness flee from the depths of her soul. Compassion was odd and foreign to Edwina, and she wasn’t completely sure that she liked feeling this way.
When the tears had run their course, Edwina remained transfixed on her reflection in the mirror.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Edwina repeated quietly to herself.
No answer was to be found, but she knew one was lurking in the darkness.
Ondine felt tired. She lay in her bed, eyes wide open, and waited until the pain in her body subsided to became a dull throbbing sensation. Squinting she looked around the room and was reminded how she detested shabby chic with all its chintz and distressed wood. Sometimes, she realized, humans could have the most dreadful taste.
After several minutes of focused concentration, Ondine was able to get up and follow the scent of fresh-brewed hazelnut coffee that was emanating from Dashiell and Llewellyn’s adjoining suite. She walked past the large round mirror that was part of the vanity table in her bedroom and let out a sigh when she saw her ghastly reflection. She was almost out of time and if her plan was going to work she would need the help of the two men in the other room, a fact that did not comfort her for despite their protests to the contrary, she knew neither of them liked her very much.
“Good morning Llewellyn,” Ondine chirped as she entered Llewellyn and Dashiell’s room without knocking.
Llewellyn, sitting alone at the small table, drinking his first cup of coffee noticed Ondine’s tired appearance, but wisely chose not to remark on it.
“Good morning, Ondine,” Llewellyn said.
“There’s nothing like being awakened by the smell of fresh brewed coffee,” Ondine said mustering all of her energy.
“I brought up breakfast for Dashiell and I,” Llewellyn said pointedly. “But you know how late Dash likes to sleep.
“Especially when you wear each other out in the dark of the night,” Ondine replied. “These look wonderful.”
She filled her plate with fresh strawberries and blueberry muffins hoping that a healthy breakfast might replenish her.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying our breakfast,” Llewellyn said.
Without raising her eyes to meet Llewellyn, she replied: “When will you learn that my son and I share everything?”
“Except the same feelings for me,” he responded.
“Are you feeling neglected?” Ondine replied. “You know you are one of my most favorite mortals.”
“Because I keep Dashiell preoccupied.”
“And you do it with such. . . gusto,” Ondine said. “That is why I chose you to be his companion. He’ll need a trustworthy friend when he crosses over.”
“I’m more than just a friend to him,” Llewellyn said in between bites of fresh cantaloupe.
Ondine placed her coffee gently on its china saucer and looked at Llewellyn for the first time. “I know that. But what I would like to know is what am I to you?”
Llewellyn glanced, not so subtly, at the door to the bedroom hoping that Dash would arise. As much as he tried to match wits with Ondine, he was frightened of her, for he knew the sort of evil that she was capable of.
“I don’t understand what you mean,” Llewellyn lied.
“Llewellyn, don’t insult me,” Ondine said. “I plucked you from obscurity to stand beside my son because of your intelligence. I know you can’t read minds as I can, but surely, you know by looking at me that I am in trouble and that I need help.”
After a moment Llewellyn replied: “It is clear that your powers come and go quickly these days,” Llewellyn said.
“Yes they do,” Ondine said not making contact with Llewellyn’s eyes. “And that’s why I need your help to put my plan into action.”
After many years in Ondine’s company, Llewellyn had learned to read between and beyond her spoken words. Never before had she asked him to help her. Yes, she wanted him to be her son’s companion, but that was because he could give Dashiell everything a mother could not. This was different. Ondine was asking Llewellyn to help her personally and if she was willing to ask a mere mortal for assistance, she was obviously in dire straits.
“I will help you,” Llewellyn said.
“Splendid,” Ondine replied.
“On one condition.”
Slowly Ondine raised her eyes to meet Llewellyn’s. She did not like his tone nor his words, but at the moment, she was too weak to teach him how to respect a superior immortal being.
“And what condition would that be, Mr. Radcliffe?” Ondine replied.
Llewellyn took a deep breath and said: “I want to know everything about your past. I want to know what your connection is to Jonatha Lassiter, why we are here in Nightfall, and, most important, why you so desperately need my help.”
“Is that an order?” Ondine said dripping with hatred.
“That . . . is, . . . well, yes, Ondine, that is an order,” Llewellyn said. “If, of course, you seriously want my help.”
Ondine paused and let the anger she felt for this young man seep out of her pores and infect the air. A long time passed before she felt calm enough to speak and level-headed enough to realize that the time had come for her to accept another person’s terms. She saw Llewellyn’s brow crinkle and collect beads of sweat in the folds and she thought how wise he was to be scared. Once Llewellyn had helped her regain her strength and full power, she would kill him and make him sorry for ever belittling her. For now, she would invite him to take a journey with her. A journey to hell and back.
“Take my hand Llewellyn,” Ondine said. “It’s time you witnessed my truth.”
When she closed her eyes, Jonatha could still see the image of the Blessed Mother extending her loving arms to her. Her softness and gentility still lingered in Jonatha’s soul and she felt protected. She remembered everything the Blessed Mother said to her and was deep in thought so when Anthony approached her from behind she was startled.
“Uncle Anthony!” Jonatha gasped. “I didn’t hear you.”
“I don’t think I have to ask who you were thinking of?” he replied.
Jonatha closed the doors to the drawing room so she and her uncle would not be overheard by the rest of her family, who undoubtedly would consider her spiritual experience a reason to commit the young girl to an institution for the very, very confused.
“Uncle Anthony,” Jonatha began. “I’ve been going over this St. Agatha incident again and again and I’m perplexed. I know this family is used to being the target of things that are better left unexplained, but this is a bit out of the ordinary even by our standards.”
“You’re right about that,” Anthony replied, smiling at his niece. “But you’re a bit out of the ordinary yourself.”
“Winter always said I was the weird one,” Jonatha said.
“You’re not weird, I truly believe you’re blessed.”
“I don’t feel any different on the inside,” Jonatha replied. “But on the outside I feel that I’m being protected.”
“By none other than the Blessed Mother,” Anthony said.
“But Uncle Anthony,” Jonatha said, “Why do I need to be protected?”
Jonatha had finally asked the question Anthony had been wondering ever since he heard about her levitation at St. Agatha’s. Looking at the girl’s inquisitive, truth-hungry eyes he knew he had to be honest with her.
“I think you’re in trouble Jonatha,” Anthony said. “For some reason you’re life is in danger and you need protection.”
“But from what?” Jonatha demanded.
“That I don’t know, but I imagine it has something to do with my visions,” Anthony said. “The last time I had visions Joey was kidnapped. Perhaps the same person is now after you.”
The young girl moved away from her uncle and her eyes searched the room for something harmless, something innocent. Her eyes settled on a vase of freshly cut red roses, simple and elegant and to Jonatha, at this moment, the most beautiful flowers she had ever seen.
“You’re scaring me,” she said as she watched one drop of moisture roll down a rose petal.
“I’m sorry, but I believe our entire family is in danger.”
“I keep remembering something the Blessed Mother told me and now I think I understand what it means,” Jonatha replied. “She said that I was not meant for this earth.”
Anthony moved closer to Jonatha, but she refused to turn her gaze away from the roses so he could only see the left side of her face. But even with just a partial view, he could see the young girl age as she suddenly grew very serious and wise.
“I’m going to die, Uncle Anthony,” she said. “Aren’t I?”
Llewellyn’s Journey – Part I
Hesitantly, Llewellyn took Ondine’s hand and immediately felt a surge of energy rush through his body. He felt himself race higher and higher but when he looked down he saw himself sitting at the table holding Ondine’s hand and realized that only his spirit was making this journey.
The world below appeared smaller and smaller as Llewellyn and Ondine, looking ghostlike and transparent, rose higher and higher into space. The temperature dropped as they rose above the clouds into a world of clear blue. Llewellyn was amazed that it looked very much like a child’s drawing of what heaven might look like. Reading his mind, Ondine commented telepathically: “It’s not heaven, but it’s close.”
Llewellyn heard Ondine in his mind and realized that he didn’t need to speak to communicate in this realm. He began to feel less afraid and prayed that he would remember this experience when he was back in his physical body. He felt weightless, but also felt a tension between him and the air as if something was pushing on him.
“They don’t want us here,” Ondine said.
“Who are they?” Llewellyn silently replied.
“The angels,” Ondine answered. “They’re not all sunshine and light like humans make them out to be.”
What Llewellyn had thought were flickers of sunlight shining through the clouds were actually angels swooshing all around him. He could hear them whisk by, but they were traveling so fast he couldn’t get a good look at one of them. And while he sensed they didn’t mean him any harm, he had to agree with Ondine that they weren’t the pleasant, loveable creatures man imagined they were.
“Are they angry?” Llewellyn asked.
“Angels don’t get angry,” Ondine said, “but they aren’t pleased that I’ve returned.”
Llewellyn tried to conceal his shock, but wasn’t entirely successful. He couldn’t believe that the woman who was holding his hand, the same woman who had committed vile acts against humanity was, at one point during her enormous lifespan, an angel. Ondine chose to ignore Llewellyn’s surprise.
“Originally, I was an angel,” she said, “until I was cast out. You see those rays of light piercing through the clouds?”
Llewellyn saw several pinpoints of orange light moving rapidly in and out of one small cloud.
“They’re called Soul Angels, which is what I am. We were created by the almighty to bridge the gap between humans and all angelic creatures. Although we were steps below the archangels, our order was much more important because without us there could be no communication, no transference between humans and God. We were essential and beloved, and most of the angels were jealous of us.”
“I had no idea angels could be jealous,” Llewellyn said as he watched more flecks of orange light dance on that one cloud.
“Angels are capable of much more than pulling Cupid’s arrow,” Ondine said. “Unlike the other levels of angels we were allowed to roam the physical world, and it was only a matter of time before some of us grew to covet the human life experience. We wanted to eat, drink, make love. So I asked God to let me enter their world completely for a brief time.”
Llewellyn waited for Ondine to continue, but she grew silent and looked at the other Soul Angels illuminate the cloud. For a moment, Llewellyn watched her face betray her sarcastic veneer, as her eyes pined for what was once hers. But as quickly as sorrow filled Ondine’s face, it left.
“He seemed surprised that I would want to give up all that He had given me, but I explained that I just wanted to know what it was like to be one of them in order to better serve them. How stupid I was to think that anyone, even our creator, could understand something so simple.”
“What did he do?” said Llewellyn, fascinated.
“He cast me out of our paradise. Your God is not kind, he is intolerable of unique thought. He scolds his children when they disobey him and he banishes them to live in a strange, hostile land without any comfort.”
Llewellyn felt Ondine’s grip on his hands tighten and realized she was no longer talking to him, but to herself as she relieved the most painful experience of her life. Because they were linked telepathically, Llewellyn also witnessed the event. He saw Ondine in her true spirit form—a pulsating mass of orange light—become enveloped by a powerful and blinding white light that Llewellyn instinctively knew was God. He then saw the white light abruptly disappear to be replaced by black.
“I wasn’t about to walk among humans without a companion. I couldn’t be sent to earth alone, so when I was being pushed down, I reached out to the other Soul Angels who I thought were my friends, and I begged them to come with me, to share whatever awaited me on earth,” Ondine said frantically, then added in an even shakier voice. “And they all turned away from me, every one of them.”
Llewellyn could see the Soul Angels, one by one turn their light from Ondine and fly away. He could feel her desperation and fear grow as she descended further and further from her celestial perch and closer to the harsh surface of earth.
“Then just as I was about to be cast out of our land forever, when I had given up hope that someone would explore the human world with me, I felt a hand place itself in mine. It was the strong, loving hand of my friend Raz,” Ondine said with a wistful smile.
“Who’s Raz?” Llewellyn asked.
“In human terms he would be described as my lover,” Ondine replied.
“Where is he now?”
“Right here in Nightfall,” Ondine said. “He’s the man you know as Perry Love.”
Anthony was torn between cradling his niece in his arms to whisper some reassuring words in her ears and grabbing her and running from Nightwind forever, for he knew that this dwelling was a place where evil liked to visit. Instead, he grabbed the girl by her trembling shoulders and turned her so they faced each other.
“We are all going to die Jonatha. But if you die in a hundred years, or today, you have been graced by Her almighty hand. You have nothing to fear for she is waiting to hold you and comfort you for all eternity.”
Jonatha closed her eyes and felt tears sting her flushed cheeks. “Oh Blessed Mother please forgive me, but I’m not ready to die.”
“Look at me Jonatha,” Anthony commanded and waited to speak only when Jonatha opened her eyes and looked up at him. “No one is ever ready to die, but if we have love in our hearts, we will be able to accept death whenever it comes.”
“Promise me Uncle Anthony that when death comes for me, you will hold me until I’m ready to let go.”
Anthony’s heart broke as he realized Jonatha was foretelling the future. The young girl, who looked so vital and full of life, knew that she was going to be taken from him and the rest of the physical world, sooner rather than later.
“I promise,” he whispered, hoping with all his heart that he would never have to keep that promise.
As the two were about to console each other, Edwina threw open the drawing room door.
“Jonatha, I’ve been looking all over for you,” Edwina said. “Have you seen your father? I have something to tell him.”
Even before Amanda turned around, she knew Joe was in the room with her. She fluttered with girlish delight as he wrapped his arms around her and paused to look deep in her eyes before he kissed her tenderly on her waiting lips. She brushed her cheek against the roughness of his day-old beard and was amazed that she could blush just by thinking of all the different ways she yearned to please him. Joe blushed too when he realized what thoughts lay behind her mischievous grin. They were happy, and they were both determined to make sure their happiness was not short lived.
“We have an announcement to make,” Joe declared.
“I feel good about this Joe,” Amanda said.
“So do I,” replied Joe. “But I feel better about this.”
Joe leaned into Amanda and once again kissed her, this time with more passion. Amanda felt her legs weaken and she held onto Joe tighter for more support. They looked like the end frame of an old fashioned romantic movie until, of course, Edwina entered the room.
“There you are, Joe,” Edwina said. “I have an announcement to make.”
Startled, Joe and Amanda instinctively pushed each other away and Joe tried to wipe Amanda’s lipstick from his lips.
“If you keep rubbing like that Joe, you’ll smear it all over your face,” Edwina said.
“Is that your announcement?” Amanda asked.
“No,” Edwina replied. “Joe, I want a divorce.”
“What?” said both Joe and Amanda at the same time.
“You don’t love me. I don’t love you. It’s time we stopped dancing around our marriage bed, because, let’s face it, that’s the only action our marriage bed has seen in quite some time. We’re wasting our time, and obviously Amanda’s, so we should give each other our freedom.”
Amanda and Joe exchanged curious glances and waited for Edwina to throw an emotional tirade. Or at least a shoe. But no tirade, or shoe, was thrown.
“You two belong together,” Edwina finally said. “I’m sorry it took us all so long to see that.”
Taking one last look at her husband and sister standing awkwardly side-by-side, Edwina turned to leave.
“Edwina, don’t go,” Joe said.
“Now Joe, please don’t get all emotional on me, you know I never approved of your sensitive side.”
“Edwina,” Joe interrupted, “Amanda and I have an announcement of our own to make. We’ve asked the family to gather in the drawing room.”
Since she had never received an invitation to this impromptu family meeting, Edwina tried to hide her surprise.
“Oh a family meeting. How very Peyton Place of you,” Edwina said with a laugh. “Since I’ve been so demure and cooperative, can I have a hint?”
“Just meet us downstairs in a few minutes and we’ll explain everything,” Amanda said.
“That’s not the kind of hint I was hoping for,” Edwina replied, “but I know when I’m not wanted.”
As Edwina was about to leave the room, Amanda called out to her sister.
“Edwina. Thank you.”
Amanda’s sister paused at the door and felt a familiar, malevolent feeling constrict her heart.
“I didn’t do it for you.”
Edwina closed the door behind her and she, along with Joe and Amanda, shook their heads in dismay to ponder if Edwina was being unselfish, or just unscrupulous.
Llewellyn’s Journey – Part II
The air surrounding Llewellyn suddenly got very thick and oppressive and the young man felt himself grow faint. He looked into Ondine’s sorrowful eyes and could almost see the torrent of emotional pain flood from her heart into his body. The sensation was overwhelming and although Llewellyn had no idea who Raz was or how we was linked to Perry Love, he knew that these men hurt Ondine terribly.
“How is Perry Love involved?” Llewellyn asked as he and Ondine floated in the air as if in suspended animation.
“Perry Love is the Soul Angel Raz.”
Llewellyn saw the darkness consume him and he realized he was near unconsciousness. Accepting Ondine’s pain and acknowledging her past were becoming too much to bear and he feared he was not going to survive this escapade much longer.
“I want to go home,” Llewellyn declared.
“Oh no,” Ondine replied. “You gave me an order to reveal my true self to you and that is exactly what I am going to do. So stop whining and pull yourself together because I’m not finished telling my story.”
Yanking Llewellyn’s arm, Ondine surged upward, high above the blue sky and clouds, and settled in a different plane, one that was much darker and colder. Llewellyn looked around, but his vision couldn’t penetrate the darkness and he gripped Ondine’s hand even tighter.
“When Raz and I first began our life on earth we were frightened,” Ondine began. “We were lost children wandering throughout a land we had previously only watched from afar. We quickly discovered being an inhabitant was much more difficult than being an observer. And it took us years to enjoy our new life.”
As Ondine spoke, Llewellyn could see the woman, looking exactly as she did today except with luxurious raven-colored hair that fell to her hips, walking with a blonde-haired man, who looked nothing like Perry Love. The man was tall, muscular, and handsome and Llewellyn thought Ondine was rather lucky that this man grabbed her hand while she plummeted to the earth and not someone less extraordinary looking.
Reading his thoughts, Ondine responded: “Looks can be deceiving.”
Flying higher still, Llewellyn realized they must be traveling through some sort of time warp since each time they moved they seemed to be visiting a different moment in Ondine’s past. He saw Ondine and Raz, hand in hand, dressed in medieval garb roaming the countryside of some anonymous country. They looked like two young lovers frolicking in the midday sun, until Llewellyn looked closer. He felt Ondine’s hand shake as he saw Raz strike Ondine in the face with his fist. He saw her fall to the ground and
struggle to get up only to be struck down again, and again, and again, until she gave up all hope of ever standing. When Raz saw that Ondine refused to stand, he began kicking her stomach, her head, wherever his heavily booted foot landed.
Blood began to trickle out of Ondine’s mouth and the vision became so clear to Llewellyn that he saw her eyes glaze over and he could hear her whispers.
“You will pay for this betrayal,” Ondine breathlessly said.
Raz knelt down beside Ondine and held her close so his mouth was next to her ear.
“You have betrayed me Soul Angel,” Raz seethed. “This earth is killing me as you knew it would.”
Confused, Llewellyn searched Ondine’s eyes for an answer.
“Raz was much younger than I and I should have realized that his limited powers would leave him vulnerable to this world,” Ondine said. “But I was so thankful that my precious Raz wanted to join me for all eternity that I pushed those thoughts from my mind and allowed him to take this dangerous journey with me.”
Turning back to the vision, Llewellyn saw Raz rise once more to stand over Ondine and draw a three-foot sword from his belt. Gasping in horror, Llewellyn tried to close his eyes, but like a man possessed he could only stare at the spectacle.
Raz raised his sword high in the air and laughed maniacally as he readied himself to kill the woman who had led him astray. His laughter was so loud that he didn’t hear the cougar a few yards behind him gather speed and soar through the air until its razor-sharp claws pierced through his shoulder blades. Raz’s laughter was replaced by the roar of the cougar and the tearing of Raz’s flesh.
By the time the cougar finished devouring Raz, Ondine’s supernatural body had healed from its wounds. She stood up without a trace of the bruises that had covered her only moments ago and watched as Raz’s spirit fled its body and rose to the heavens.
“He thought he had freed himself from our earthly prison, but he underestimated God’s lust for punishment,” Ondine said. “We were allowed entry to the earth to live among the humans, but we would never live as them.”
“You retained your immortality,” Llewellyn said.
“We retained the potential for immortality,” Ondine replied. “It was God’s idea of irony.”
Ondine psychically detected that Llewellyn was confused and she was forced to elaborate.
“Our immortality was compromised,” Ondine continued,” because He is spiteful. He felt that since we wanted to claim human form so desperately we must feel that the body is more important than the soul.”
“So in order to live forever . . .” Llewellyn began.
“We must maintain our physical body,” Ondine finished, then added. “All we have to do is replenish it on occasion with a new soul.”
Shocked into silence Llewellyn was lucky that he didn’t have to speak in order for Ondine to hear his question.
“And where do you find these new souls,” Llewellyn asked.
“We have our ways,” Ondine answered as the smallest indication of a smile formed on her lips. “But if we lose our body like Raz did then our soul is doomed to live forever from one body to another with no memory of its past existence.”
“And today the body Raz lives in is Perry Love’s?” Llewellyn surmised.
“Finally your intelligence surpasses your emotions,” Ondine said. “My Raz has become Perry Love, without a hint of the memory of our life together.”
“But you remember.”
“Oh I remember everything. I remember what he did to me as Raz. What he did to me as Perry Love, and what he did to me as every other being he was in between. Each time he has been given a new body I have tracked him down. That is why we are here in Nightfall. And that is why I will destroy him yet again.”
Llewellyn noticed that the darkness had returned and the visions of another time had disappeared. He also noticed sadness once again creep into Ondine’s face.
“And yet, after everything that he has done to you,” Llewellyn said, “you still love him.”
Abruptly, Ondine turned to look at Llewellyn and he knew (one second too late) that he had said the most inappropriate thing he had ever said in his entire life. Although, Ondine was still transparent and gray, Llewellyn could see the blood boiling in her veins. Just when he thought the woman would explode, she screamed violently, and let go of his hand. As he careened back down to the earth, Ondine’s savage cries echoed in his ears.
A hush fell over the drawing room when Amanda and Joe finally entered. Amanda wanted to believe it was because she was holding her chin high and wearing a new found air of confidence, but she knew it was simply because she was holding Joe’s hand. Both she and Joe looked straight ahead and avoided anyone’s stares until they sat on the red velvet loveseat at the far end of the room.
Directly facing her family Amanda was unable to focus on the emptiness between each family member and wound up staring directly into their faces. She saw her mother, Madeline’s, astonishment, her father, Perry’s fury, Anthony’s curiosity, Winter’s amusement, Jonatha’s confusion, and Edwina’s apathy. The thought that so many different expressions could be worn by one family struck Amanda as hysterical and almost made her forget the seriousness of her present situation.
“Can we please get on with this drama?” Perry roared. “My plane is waiting to take me to the lab.”
“Can’t your lesbian lab technician handle anything on her own?” Edwina replied.
Perry’s retort could hardly be heard over the shouts of laughter, embarrassed and fully realized, that filled the room. When the family finally settled down, Madeline expressed her own opinion.
“Astrid has become rather needy, for an employee.”
The redness that covered Perry’s face matched the loveseat Amanda and Joe sat on as once again the family’s laughter filled the room until Joe finally calmed them down.
“Please we really have something important to tell you.”
“Well get on with it,” Perry barked.
“Daddy, enough!” Amanda said louder than she had planned. “You all know that I have received a different thank you letter this year from the person who kidnapped Joey. What you don’t know is that I received another letter just the other day.”
“Oh no,” Winter gasped.
“No, it’s not bad news,” Joe said.
“How do you know it’s from the same person?” Perry interrupted.
“It’s the same handwriting and the same stationery,” Amanda replied.
“What did the letter say, Amanda?” Anthony asked quietly.
“It said that I would be reunited with my son in one week’s time,” Amanda softly told her family. “Our son is coming home.”
“We’ll see him again on Friday night,” Joe said. “The night of Madeline’s birthday party.”
“I can’t believe this,” Perry muttered.
“Well, I guess this makes miracle number two,” Winter quipped.
“What?” Amanda asked.
“Oh forget it, you wouldn’t understand anyway,” she replied as she embraced her mother. “I really can’t wait to meet my brother.”
Tears flowed freely as the realization hit each of them that the little boy who was taken from them involuntarily fifteen years ago would be returned to their lives in one week’s time as a young man. They all embraced each other and expressed their joy and happiness at this unexpected turn of events. Even Jonatha forced herself to ignore her devastating proclamation and concentrate on the wonderful news. Collectively the family wondered if they would even be able to recognize him, but before Amanda could proclaim that she would recognize her son regardless of how many years had gone by, she felt a breathtaking pain in her stomach. Her screams bounced off the domed ceiling as she collapsed to the ground unaware of the panic that immediately ensued around her.
The End of Llewellyn’s Journey
Clouds, stars, Soul Angels, and other other-worldly beings moved out of Llewellyn’s path as he careened back down to the earth. He shouted out in sheer terror to Ondine, but the scorned super creature was nowhere to be found. His body shook uncontrollably as he sped closer and closer to the ground and in the last moments when he faced certain death he wondered if Dashiell would miss him. It was perfectly clear to Llewellyn as he saw the world around him whisk by that he would find any paradise or heaven that awaited him miserable to endure without his beloved Dashiell at his side.
As Llewellyn was about to crash through the roof of the Collins Inn, he felt something wrap around his waist. It was Ondine’s arm.
“You don’t think I’d let you die after all that do you?”
Ondine cradled Llewellyn like a lioness cradles her prey and glided through the roof. She guided Llewellyn’s spirit back into his body as she reclaimed her own physical host and watched the young man struggle to breathe again.
“Now do you understand why I’ve come back to this godforsaken village?” she asked.
“Not entirely,” Llewellyn said between gasps. “You still haven’t explained your connection to Jonatha.”
Unable to control her rage, Ondine flipped the breakfast table over, causing the strawberries and muffins to scatter across the room.
“I created Jonatha!” Ondine shrieked. “That bitch was supposed to be my salvation!”
“You . . . you created Jonatha?” Llewellyn asked, horrified.
“Yes, but she was born without a soul, so she is useless to me!” Ondine replied. “I have waited for another opportunity and hung onto this decaying body for far too long, but the wait is finally over. This other child is different and she will be mine!”
“What?! What other child?” Llewellyn stuttered.
“Amanda and Joe’s child!” Ondine cried. “They may have conceived the bastard on their own, but I’ll steal its soul! And you, young man, will help me!”
Twice in the same week, the Love’s found themselves nervously pacing the waiting lounge of Mercy Hospital as Dr. Saxon attended to Amanda behind the closed door of
the emergency room. The minutes ticked on relentlessly as Amanda’s family members tried desperately to maintain their composure. When it looked as if Perry was about to attack the emergency room nurse, Dr. Saxon finally entered the room.
“Jeffrey!” Madeline cried. “Is she alright?”
“Yes,” Dr. Saxon replied. “There was some hemorrhaging, but she’s fine and so is the baby.”
“So she really is pregnant after all,” Edwina said. “Fancy that.”
“Oh there was never any doubt about that,” the doctor replied. “But we were wrong about the timing. Amanda was right all along, she isn’t four months pregnant.”
“I knew it,” Joe said more to himself than anyone else.
“She’s in her seventh month.”