I want to believe in positive change, in a better year than last, an easier, graceful year. Wouldn’t mind a fairly “boring” year, I tell myself, anyway. Meditation, writing, research rabbit-holes, art, and lots of music are my simple blessings, along with my loves. I refocus a couple of times a day on building stories, managing my sometimes dicey health with too many strategies to count, surrendering a lot of empathy and sympathy for friends and strangers to Universal Love, and reviving optimism and humor. This feels habitual now. From what I’ve learned, chances are my same ol’ baggage will be with me at the end of the year, maybe a bit lighter. Chances are I will apologize less and love myself more by N.Y.’s Eve, too. Chances are I’ve healed the past… unless my secretive psyche surprises me.
Chances are the stories I have to tell are different this year, and hopefully get better with consistency. I will read interesting and well-written books, and more of them than last year since it is a highlight. This year will be different than last, chances are.
A growling thunder grew louder outside the loft’s single-pane windows and provided cover for 3 deafening cracks like sniper fire, each earning a jump from Doyle as he grappled with memories played on an incessant reel since he awoke that morning. The tiny jade plant he’d hurled across the loft lay broken on the kitchen counter. “Bad karma for your own evil”, Kazmir whispered in his mind. Had he gone mad himself? His long fingers raked through his unwashed hair and made it stand on end. Phoebe’s channeled anger couldn’t possibly lift him, or rather slam his body, into a beam 12 feet in the air. Except his back sported a bruise the length of his spine, the width of the beam overhead, and his skull throbbed without a touch-a persuasive set of evidence. Then there were the dreams. Doyle remembered all but one of his “research subjects” had expressed doubts about reality, and this gave him a sliver of denial he mistook for a life raft. Phoebe had all but forced him to drink her “tonic”. His scattered mind forgot the exact order of last night’s events. “I don’t feel like myself, like my head’s in the clouds for real”, he remembered Shana had said one afternoon after he’d dosed her with two hits of LSD. She’d not been “herself”, or the Shana from before that trip, ever again. He saw her bare feet swinging over his head and pulled on one, but it was stiff and purplish… wait, that wasn’t Shana. The lace of her nightgown filtered sunlight in a floral pattern on the pink wall behind his mother’s dead body. Doyle slammed his hands on the table as a sob escaped his throat and urine soaked his jeans, just as it had once soaked his Pooh pj pants. Kaz whispered in his ear, “Did you drive her to it?” and “Admit it. You pushed Shana to it”. “Nooo! No! No!”, Doyle yelled, “They did to themselves. They did it! They left me”! Phoebe heard his anguished cries from the landing, unsurprised and unmoved for the most part, except for a sliver of enjoyment, an intriguing new feeling not entirely unwelcome. Thunder clapped and grief made way for anger as she wondered again why Shana hadn’t broken it off with him when it became obvious he had control issues. While the tail-end of Eddie Money’s If I Could Walk on Water streamed through the loft’s heavy security door, Phoebe hesitated a minute then drew back her key as Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love started, and decided to eat in the cafeteria for the first time without Shana. Her urge to distance herself couldn’t be denied, no matter what Dr. Pressman had advised regarding Doyle’s apology and atonement. The stench of pizza puke would likely ruin meals at home for a few days, anyway, and the radio was not her friend lately.
An almost black horizon to the east crackled with bright white jags as Phoebe zipped her jacket, pulled up her hood and made her way south, across the quad still littered with white and pink tree blossoms, colorful flyers and a few Styrofoam cups in the mix. Only a couple others were out, both headed in the same direction as Phoebe- toward the student center and hub of university life outside of classes. They had almost lived there during their freshman year between aerobics, the pool, their freshman dining plan, trivia and ping pong tournaments, T.V. lounges including movie nights, and the acoustically impressive performing arts auditorium where they’d seen P.M. Dawn and Bow Wow Wow. Memories made her smile a little. The girl’s tiny shared room in Lindbergh Hall had been stuffed with coats for every season hung on the end of the bunk, dozens of highlighted worn books in boxes under the bed, multiple mediums of art supplies in copy paper boxes labeled in black marker, records and cassette tapes along with a simple stereo set on the desk, and Shana’s boots and Phoebe’s picture albums scattered and wedged into corners. Thankfully, there were lockers in the communal shower room down the hall where they used one for jeans and sweatshirts-their “uniforms” that first year. Her mother would’ve been proud of how they coped and organized their lives after she died. The few times Phoebe couldn’t summon up her Mother’s voice within, Shana had stepped in with her stories of a better tomorrow. Her heart clutched in her chest and she found it hard to swallow for a moment until someone behind her cleared their throat, “Excuse me”. “Oh, yeah, sorry dude”, Phoebe moved aside and wiped her eyes quickly with her her sleeve. Rumbles overhead muffled what they said next as they turned their heads to reach under the sneeze guard, which was good because she didn’t want to speak to anyone at that moment. She wondered if Shana enjoyed her “better tomorrow” as the two friends wandered away chatting. With long sighs she built what her best friend would’ve called an “emotional mountain of a salad” and watched the storm arrive through a northern wall of glass. Charcoal rivers poured across the sky, painted over golden wisps of daylight, and cast the vast space around her in shadow. Mini cyclones of debris-laden wind bent trees this way and that and stripped them of their final blossoms while rain lashed against the glass. Shana would have loved the impressionist watery view, may have created a charcoal rendition of it in black and white. Perhaps I’ll do it, she thought as she blinked hard. Three golden orbs in the distant dark sky, obscured as if by smoke, moved further away until she could barely notice them. Storms usually reminded her of her mother, of standing at her graveside for hours until the rain ceased and a patch of white sky shone through, backlit by blinding sunlight. Phoebe didn’t think of her mother now, nor the parting clouds that day four years ago. Loneliness abated more and more as she planned Doyle’s metamorphosis in her mind’s eye. Kazmir stoked her anger with visions of Shana in the coroner’s drawer, a single pinprick on the inside of her arm. He’d pay. Each stab of her fork met with a sharp squeal. He’d pay much more than that, she decided, and was rewarded with a deeply pained groan from him as in her mind’s eye Phoebe imagined her hands, strong and pulsing with navy blue veins, painstakingly stretch Igor’s cervical vertebrae and hold the bones apart. Lightning cracked both in the sky before her and in his limbs as the nerve passages narrowed, shocks unlike anything Doyle had ever felt. Thrilling bloodlust throbbed upward from her base and allowed Death himself to will her phantom hands gleefully with a handsaw across bony protrusions, back and forth, back and forth. Flashes of brilliant azure and silver pulled one hand away in a vacuum of energy to her left as her mind appreciated her handiwork and joined her will to flare the smoothed bone outward. Phoebe’s teeth bit down on a carrot as her right hand stabbed a forkful of lettuce, malefic energy alone holding her nemesis in a vengeful stretch. Kaz tickled her heart and Phoebe giggled as Doyle gasped and sucked at the air, his throat constricted. Phoebe willed Shana’s final gasps for breath to play on repeat in his ears, then connected the pieces of bone with tremendous force, Igor’s bones fused with Death’s contribution, Phoebe’s intention and Doyle’s karma. Torturous heart-rending grief rippled across campus and up Budway Avenue to 333C at the top of steep wooden stairs, the loft Shana had insisted was kismet, then flowed back again to the dining hall to form a circlet of deathly energy shot through with daggers of blame, regret and revenge. Death and Kaz had a lot of material to work with for her soul’s imprisonment. The last of Phoebe’s loneliness abated, as did the powerlessness that had hounded her since her ambulance ride. “He thinks you’re weak“, came an unfamiliar voice as she thought of Doyle’s intrusion, his schemes, his selfish pleasure-seeking at Shana’s expense. At her expense. “He wants to control you like he did Shana”, Kazmir planted in her mind, “He plans to steal all your money”. That was crazy, but what if it were true? A poisonous vine sprouted as she realized again she was on her own. Phoebe’s soul stiffened, a golden thread in her star chakra severed even as her ancestors the Tri-Eloh petitioned The Marys for her salvation. “Why show him mercy? Make him earn your forgiveness with service.” The idea of cocky, handsome and brilliant Doyle as Igor took on more life, fed by her friend’s betrayal and absence. She envisioned her hands as they separated the upper trapezius and viewed the levator scapulae behind it. Doyle regretted ever meeting Shana, ever wondering what darkness resided within her. “I don’t deserve this”, he thought right before Phoebe remembered what that particular muscle did. Her thumb and forefinger pinched it resolutely and twisted it an infinitesimal tiny bit, which allowed Igor to take small gulps of air through his mouth. Thunder exploded overhead and the cafeteria emptied as tree limbs and loose lawn furniture hit the glass. Kazmir flashed memories of Shana pale and sickly during the last month of her life. “I should’ve helped her, made her listen, fucking done SOMETHING”, Her own spine tingled when Phoebe’s phantom hand caressed the ligamentum nuchae with her fingernails and left inch-long horizontal slices that deepened with accusation and made Doyle’s soul howl as she tinkered with his voice box. The tickle in her heart increased and spread to her belly. Death laughed and so did Kazmir as Phoebe, entirely given over now to her crude surgical maneuvers, sobbed Shana’s name. Eyes glazed and golden, together they pulled on tendons her probing fingers discovered underneath the fibrous nuchal sheet of cartilage until Doyle’s skull angled to the right at 45 degrees over his shoulder and his arms stiffened straight. “He knows his anatomy even better than me“, Phoebe thought when she realized his heart raced and entire body shook in stark terror, unable to get up from the floor. Drool covered his chin as he mewled, “peeee… sorrreeeee”. Satisfied and a bit excited to see him, she drew her consciousness back to her physical body with a backward count of ten. The storm was all but over, the wind and thunder gone, natural and man-made debris mixed at the bottom of the glass wall. Phoebe wiped her eyes on her wet sleeves, pushed her tray aside and appreciated a pink glow to the west before she said out loud to no one, “I suppose it’s time I go meet MY creature, my Igor.”
The Marys allowed familiar assistance for Phoebe, not the requested Guardian exactly, but the Tri-Eloh thought they might be able to convince a supremely soft-hearted Angel to inhabit a cat for a few years, or maybe a short decade considering how quickly Death and Kazmir corrupted Phoebe. Of course, it was all up to Oisin. The Marys reminded the Tri-Eloh of Doyle’s soul’s merkaba, how close he was to a cage of his ancestor’s bones, and urged them to review both it’s contract and lineage. The Tri agreed to assign a research angel to the task, however Saint Joan asked to be of service as she’d taken an interest in the endurance of the Anam Chara’s soul bond. Free will complicated the universe, however it also led to surprises Death never saw coming.
“We are fashioned creatures, but half made-up” ~ Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Originally, Frankenstein seemed an easy essay to knock out due to it’s familiarity, Phoebe insisted in her second session with Dr. Pressman since her discharge a week ago. “But it was Shana, not YOU, who was familiar with Mary Shelley’s work. I think it would be productive for us to focus on your enmeshment with Shana so you can move on and successfully finish university. This essay is as good a place to start as any. I’d like you to further make it yours by writing it in your space in the apartment, not you and Shana’s shared space, but yours alone. Do you think you can do that?” As always, Dinah Pressman’s tone remained even and confident, as if no one had ever told her, “No, I will not.” Phoebe would not be the first. Although it had been Shana in their senior year of high school who crafted her first “A” paper, the friends had discussed both the Creature’s and Victor’s motivations and torments at length, to the point of arguing. Only a few years later, death, alchemy, and the nature of the creature weaved a tale beyond imagining in Phoebe’s mind. Kaz’s whispered comparisons between her and Victor, Shana and the Creature, made her question her friendship and true feelings. Was she mindlessly motivated by a savior complex? Shana had saved her many times, and at other times they’d leaned on one another, like when they touched on their grief. Was she “enmeshed”, and where was the line between love and this handicap? “I’ll try. It’s an open loft, ya know? I usually wander around, look out the windows by Shana’s bed ever so often; helps me think.” “No need to be a purist, Phoebe”. “Trust me, Dr. Pressman. I want to get away from everything that reminds me of her, but it’s impossible. Maybe it would help if I start packing up a few of her things this weekend”. Or maybe she’d ask Doyle to do it, but she kept that thought to herself. The psychiatrist looked at her with kindness, but Phoebe didn’t sense pity like she did when they met in Resting Pines. She decided to take it as a good sign despite the doctor’s misunderstanding. She’d never needed Shana for school, but for writing projects they’d excelled by teaming. As her mother used to say, “what one doesn’t think of, the other will”. Shana usually said Phoebe overthought it, just as she currently did. If Mary Shelley could imagine such a psychologically complex tale, surely Phoebe could write an aspirational final essay without Shana’s input. “I’ll see you back here on Friday and you can let me know how it went. From what you’ve told me, I don’t expect any surprises from Mr. Regan’s progress report this week. I’m happy to hear the nightmares have resolved, but don’t be concerned if you have them until your mind is more settled about your new reality.” Phoebe couldn’t tell the doctor about the pain of being eaten alive or what it felt like as she slithered on her snake belly across the bottom of a lake, and certainly not about her recent journeys to unimaginably exquisite or horrifying spaces, nor angelically-guided reunions with Shana’s essence. Her secret existences were still better than her reality. Phoebe felt as if she hauled around a leaden head and heart, despite lighting a candle for Shana every day in a campus chapel. But, disturbed as she was, she still could not imagine how Shana felt in her last moments, couldn’t fathom what lies ran through her friend’s head, but she began to imagine.
Tchaichovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers played vibrantly from her dented and taped boom box and instantly grated on her nerves. Coke cans and Oreo crumbs littered her mother’s silver-flecked formica dining table; what Phoebe recognized as pages-thick advanced chemistry exams along with his rumpled test key covered stains, and by association-memories. Of course he’d set up right where she and Shana normally studied the most. Phoebe tossed a can into the kitchen sink, then another with satisfaction. He’d be up most of the night if he planned on finishing, she thought and heard the shower’s signature pipe rumble as if in agreement. “I’m ordering pizza!”, she yelled through the frosted pane of the bathroom door and stood transfixed as he turned the water off and stepped easily out of the tub. He knows damn well I can see him. Doyle stretched a towel between his hands and slowly sawed it back and forth on his backside. “Russo’s? Will you get onions and mushrooms on half? Sorry about the music, didn’t think you’d be home for a while yet”, he called. Barone’s was right around the corner, but Phoebe thought she could be a little flexible this once. She turned the music off with a shake of her head. Who, other than Shana, listened to The Nutcracker in May? “Please bring a 2-liter of Coke, too” she told the chill voice on the phone. Loose sweat pants and a high school track sweatshirt fraying at the cuffs and neck signaled a trickle of inspirational flow in her mind, the issue of Victor’s responsibility to his creation tugged at a thread of an idea, but it broke, again. Essays required her flavor, but for an “A” they required fresh blood, a profound realization. Professors got off on student’s epiphanies, the more vulnerable the better, unless it crossed into uncomfortable territory and kept going, as she’d mistakenly done only once. Did she have a responsibility to Shana? If so, she’d failed entirely. Phoebe caught her light blue eyes at the moment they turned golden in a star-shaped mirror swinging on a strand of wooden beads in a breeze from nowhere. Shana had held her steady on a wobbly barstool when she hung the mirror, her Christmas gift, from a rusty nail head. She’d called her a star, her very own true north. Am I a monster? Phoebe remembered waves of possessiveness and rejection she was ashamed of when Shana started dating Doyle, similar to the creature’s envy when he spied Dr. Frankenstein with his new wife through the window, the two happy and laughing with no care for him. Her stomach growled in time with a single hard knock. A couple notes to help her pick up this thread of self-reproach and, simultaneously, restrict her personal revelations on the page. Her eyes changed more often when Doyle was near, the only “trigger” she’d figured out, so far. Phoebe stuck her head out from behind a paneled screen painted with golden and bronze wild mustangs in full gallop and smiled at the delivery person before she stuck her tongue out at Doyle’s back. Although they’d settled quickly into a routine, both taking refuge in their schedules, she hated him living here, in her and Shana’s loft. It was perverse, but she reminded herself it was temporary several times a day. Clearly unamused, the pony-tailed teen rolled her eyes at Phoebe then smiled extra wide when Doyle handed her a five. “Have a good one, Dude”, he said distractedly as he flung the door closed and she was forced to step back. At least he was also pressured by finals. “Put it over there on the coffee table”. Phoebe waved at Doyle with a pack of doubly thick paper plates he’d bought when he got her cheerios, bananas and milk before her discharge, his first act as her “guardian”. He’d confessed he hated washing dishes, to which Phoebe gave him no reply. After a couple days, he’d mostly given up talking to her, except when he woke her from night terrors. Phoebe was lost in thought when he cleared his throat. “You can run it past me if you want, your essay. I’ve got a load of papers to correct, but I can’t go back to that right now. I’ll have just as many after tomorrow morning’s exam. Please. You’d be doing me a favor, which might work against me, but if it would help… up to you”, he ended with a shrug. Emotionless, she stared through Doyle, as she’d done dozens of times over the past two weeks. When she looked at him she always thought the same thing, but if she killed him, she’d never write the essay, never receive a final grade for the single class she didn’t drop. Desperate for another viewpoint, she reconsidered her tact and surprised him. “Any thoughts on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? I’m thinking about the doctor’s responsibility to the creature, to his creation” Phoebe wrestled a piece of pizza crust with her back teeth as she forced her eyes to focus on the man who might be responsible for her best friend’s death. “One of the saddest books ever. God, I hated the end. Lemme think. Oh yeah, freshman paper on Mary and Percy toward the end of the semester, so depressing. I cast him as a predatory type and her as a literary genius. Don’t some people believe they were cursed? I think a lot of my classmates took that angle.” He wasn’t an English major, Phoebe reminded herself, but he thought in an orderly, and linear fashion, suited for science. “Yeah, I don’t give a shit about Percy. This essay is about Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, in other words-the subtitle’s inference” Phoebe watched Doyle turn Prometheus over in his mind, his hooded eyes slanted away from her and to the ceiling, brows flattened. “Well… what do you have so far? You’re saying Prometheus or Frankenstein’s ambition is the crux your thesis? I can’t remember how he… wait, ok, he was chained and pecked to death by a bird every day, a punishment from Zeus, right? How does that fit?” Phoebe let the question hang in the air for a moment as if she considered what he’d said, when in actuality she pictured Doyle chained to a mountain top, vultures feasting as other flew away with his entrails. Her breath quickened. “Yeah, for stealing fire and giving it to humanity. He over-reached, changed man’s fate. I propose Mary Shelley likened Prometheus to scientific experimentation with unintended consequences. At least that’s what my interpretation is right now.” She had to admit the pizza was better than Barone’s. As she wrapped cheese around her finger, Doyle rose and wandered barefoot over to a narrow window, dusky light . He ran one long-fingered hand through his still-wet blonde mane and let out a loud sigh. “Is that supposed to be directed at me?” His voice let Phoebe know she’d hit her intended target, but she didn’t expect him to hurl the little jade plant he’d given her when they first met against the brick wall behind her with surprising ferocity. Shards of green pottery landed in her hair, but stopped short of the pizza, thank goodness. Phoebe rose quickly, more than a little afraid, but even more angry at this person who had the audacity to insinuate himself into her life after he helped her best friend, her soul sister, self-destruct. Doyle realized his mistake when Phoebe’s eyes changed from blue to golden elliptical-shaped viper eyes, and with a gaze, lifted all two hundred pounds of him quickly until a beam on the loft’s ceiling cut into his back. He froze, suddenly afraid his struggles would plummet him to the hardwood below. “Let me down, Phoebe! I’m sorry; I swear it won’t happen again!” “No, it won’t.” She struggled to hide her shock at this ability, intent on keeping control now that she had it. “You almost had me fooled, you fucker.” Her face twisted with grief as she remembered what this man took from her, took from them. Doyle groaned loudly and doubled over on the ceiling. A voice inside cautioned Phoebe, but a different instinct took over as she envisioned her viper self ‘s hinged jaws take a bite from his center, right below the belly button. No thought existed for her when she entered his thoracic cavity. As the golden viper Doyle knew was Phoebe coiled inside him, it flicked it’s forked tongue like a whip and cut tiny slices in the tissues between his ribs. She slowed within his body and felt his wildly erratic heart call to her from behind a lung. He screamed as her flat head pushed hard against the pinkish lung and pinned it aside. “Noooo, Phoebe, Pleeeee…” his gasp ended, the pain a sudden suffocating blanket of dark mercy he mistook for Death. Kazmir could not be happier with his quick transformation of the girl.
By the time Phoebe returned from the library with the name of the rock (Caucasus Mountains, likely Mount Elbrus) Prometheus had been chained to, she’d also come up with a solution to the problem of Doyle Regan. His entrails and organs were intact when he awoke on Shana’s bed behind a screen painted with a gloriously colorful garden, complete with birds, bees, a copper fox and Monarch butterflies. The viper was gone and Phoebe’s eyes were blue and intent as she watched him warily. He’d been having nightmares since Shana hung herself, but nothing had prepared him for the experience they’d had earlier. “There’s another one… another version of Frankenstein. Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein gave me an idea.” Doyle felt odd. Slowly he rolled over and put his feet on the floor. Phoebe put two frames and Shana’s fairy cards in a copy paper box she’d also gotten at the library. Doyle sprang up and ran toward the bathroom as three slices of pizza ejected from his roiling belly not only in the open toilet, but all over it. Ten minutes later he still dry-heaved into the bowl, face red as tears and snot flowed. Phoebe handed him a cold wet wash cloth, one of the thick white ones she’d given Shana for Christmas. “Don’t worry, Doyle. I’ll take care of you. And you will take care of me.” His stomach suddenly calmed. He wasn’t sure if he felt afraid or just very sick. “Here you go”, Phoebe handed him a dainty tea cup, “I know you said you didn’t like tea before, but this is like a tonic, a little medicine to help you go along. You see… you are going to be MY Igor. Now, sip it ’cause it’s really hot”. The sweet tea did seem to soothe his nerves and slow down his anxious heart. “What is it?” Phoebe smiled at him placatingly before she slapped him satisfyingly hard, like she’d wanted to for quite some time. “Don’t worry about it. You should get back to those exams, and I have an essay to write. In a couple of hours I want you to help me pack up some of Shana’s things and we’ll move her screen. Then you can have her bed for the rest of the summer.” He wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t feel like arguing with her, of that he was certain. An hour later Phoebe wandered over to the window as Doyle sat at her mother’s formica table and corrected chemistry exams as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Phoebe’s essay flowed like a spring creek on a sunny day.
Sha’s trite confession hung in the air and multi-hued stars holding space for her form recessed into inky shame she’d secreted away in a secured heart chamber. An imaginative 11 year old constructed an almost impenetrable locked space for memories incomprehensible to her young spirit-beginning with a plastic picnic table stained with blood not her own, her father’s voice bitching about Bertie’s fee while she yelled he would pay or she’d call the cops on his perverted ass. He said she could at least knock 10 bucks off for disposal; the girl would bury it herself. A single snake stirred from her soul’s essence and slithered out from between her legs. A hiss boasted of soul ownership, “She belongs to meeee. Master Nidhug promised me the next light being turned murderesss.”
Saint Joan materialized between Sha’s essence and Nidhug’s Collector serpent, who grew fatter by the second with smugness as his potential mate refused to lay her soul bare. His forked tongue tried to move around her to kiss its’ prize. Joan’s copper form swirled, flames of orange and blue green ignited in her center as she whispered, “You have no claim”, and deflected it’s aim with holy fire. Mary the Maiden, still connected to Sha with thorny vines, pulsed sacred light energy toward her form. “She will bear me thousands. You cannot shield a murderesss without sacrificesss.” Archangel Auriel’s wings beat furiously and emitted ten phosphorescent orbs which floated into place around the Divine Sister circle then raised it above the temple, through Archangel Haniel’s opened wing, it’s feathers of silver fluff a blessed tickle on the serpent’s underbelly as it followed. Sha heard her parent’s dealer, “Tell ‘im it’s uncut, Baby, a lil’ thanks for taking care of your situation”, and felt familiar disgust swell in her locked heart chamber as she envisioned his gold-toothed grin and felt his filthy hand pat her aching belly under her mother’s Coca-Cola t-shirt. Blood had run down one of her legs in a rapid trickle and stained her new Converse high tops as she returned to her parents at the condemned flop house that was her nightmare. The circle hummed with combined harmonies from Mary the Maid, Saint Teresa, Saint Brigid, and Archangel Auriel. As the serpent coiled and snapped its’ jaws in irritation they sang, “I am loved, I am forgiven, I am whole, I am healed” in lilting and low voices layered onto Sha like silky warm blankets around her shoulders and over her head. Meanwhile, her form’s legs, one white and one black, fused together in a single grey slimy appendage as Sha’s stubborn unwillingness divided her soul between Nidhug’s guilt and Divine acceptance-her birthright. “She called me a baby killer and he made me bury it in the alley”, Sha sobbed as her form steadfastly gripped a memory of her human self as a girl knelt over a hump in gravel, blood and dirt under her fingernails. She further devolved into a grey serpent and the Collector hissed in happy anticipation of its’ progeny of snakelets in Nidhug’s pit below the Tree of Life on earth. They will eat her roots faster than she grows them, he fantasized. Archangel Haniel enveloped the circle of Saints and angelic belonging, Sha’s soul in it’s center. Haniel’s impenetrable massive wings of protection closed the Collector outside and infused the space inside with El’s loving Sun energy. Darkness often celebrated prematurely. Sha’s essence stated plainly, “I wanted them to die. I hated them.” Her skull painfully changed into a Dragon’s head and circled around to swallow her own scaly tail.
In childhood, the injuries to her soul could’ve been healed enough for an allowance of her and Phoebe’s soul contract, but none of Shana’s helper humans knew. She’d almost told her first counselor, Holly, a no-nonsense Grandmother who hugged her at the end of sessions and said it was a shame her parents didn’t teach her Spanish. But, Holly moved to Sedona after only three months of therapy, and Shana vowed to never reveal what was an even bigger shame. Instead, she excelled in school and resolutely did her best to appear “normal” and happy living with Phoebe and her Mom. And she was happy quite often, as long as she didn’t allow herself to think about, let alone emotionally process her rape, abortion by Bertie, and her parents’ betrayals and overdoses. How would a twelve, or sixteen, or twenty-year-old even begin to heal from that? In reality, almost everyone preferred to believe that whatever horrors she survived at other human’s hands were in the past, hurdles she’d jumped with ease thanks to the solicitous care she received. Until she met Doyle, who sensed she was not nearly as contained and content as she looked at first meeting and set out to pry her open for a closer look inside.
Saint Joan let out a warrior cry born of her earthly mission at Orleans, France, when she helped restore the earth’s balance of power with Archangel Michael’s, Archangel Margaret’s, and Archangel Catherine’s help. Sha felt Joan’s tremendous faith surround her serpent/dragon form with motivational wisdom as she devoured her own shadow essence. Round and round the Saintly circle, their song grew deeper, resounding clashes and thunderous groans echoed throughout the universe as Sha released lies about her own culpability and accepted unconditional love on offer to staunch a flow of exposed agony. Fully dragon, Sha’s soul embraced herself as a survivor and fire from her nostrils blazed across the ethereal realms. In the same instant, Nidhug’s Collector returned to his place in the pit below the tree to wait for his murderess bride. Perhaps her Anam Chara, her soul friend, if Kazmir’s boasts proved true.
Phoebe screamed as a snake swallowed her feet and ominously advanced up her legs, each movement accompanied by a loud crunch she felt as well as heard. “Wake up, Phoebe. It’s ok, I’m here.” Awakened for the third night in a row, Doyle wondered if her release from the hospital was a mistake as he called out to her from a futon in the open-concept loft she shared with Shana, or rather Shana’s ghost. The first night she’d gifted him a black eye when he shook her awake, an intrigue for his advanced psych seminar students who all knew about Shana’s suicide. “Ahhhhh!” Phoebe howled as the snake swallowed the rest of her alive and said, “Since she’sss not here, you will have to do.” Inside, it continued to squeeze and break the bones in her face until she heard her skull crack loudly and the snake, then tremble excitedly in enjoyment of its’ meal.
a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment
Most of us on earth right now share common experiences of changing landscapes both external and internal. Over the past two decades the entire skyline changed in the smallish city where I grew up. While development spreads cement like an invasive species, bureaucracy often moves more like a sloth, bogged down in habitual “this is the way it’s always been done” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It is broke, though.
Over the past few years, millions rejected the limiting mantra of “no religion, politics, or money”, and more people across our planet than ever before embraced a right to free speech. We became uncomfortable with humans expressing differently from us in massive numbers, while some became unable to control their stored anger. Others became enmeshed in a struggle, while others chose to ignore the changing world and hold fast to the past.
Now we are here, in this place of knowing the center isn’t holding, in this place of void. What do I create for my timeline given what I now know and also what I don’t know?
I am adapting to supply chain challenges with fresh food by growing green beans and herbs (anyone can, SO EASY), and not buying food from across the country in drought spaces. I am adapting to sketchy quality of mass-produced food by upping my game with organic fresh foods and local organic meat. Honestly, I am willing to spend more on groceries right now since most prices are higher than normal, anyway.
I’ve adapted to 24/7 media by using discernment a.k.a. “being picky” about not only who and what is healthy for my mind and soul, but also worth my time, a precious resource. I no longer justify what I do to take care of myself, as it’s kept me alive and on this side of sane. My outlook on health continues to evolve as I develop a holistic approach and utilize what I need from differing systems. Past work experience in medical education made me over-value data, which isn’t a match for my intuition. My intuition tells me I can lower my cholesterol without a pharmaceutical med, but I cannot control Rheumatoid Disease naturally… yet. A healing gut and diverse microbiome is adaptive for my body’s hyper army of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Food as medicine is my reality.
Nothing is more adaptive than my meditation and spiritual practice, which gifts me with heightened intuition and a will to change what needs to be changed so I can be comfortable for a minute.
I am staying open and accepting of changes in resources which may not be convenient, but may also provide a practical way of doing something or a new opportunity to socialize.
Adapting to a constant state of stress the collective is experiencing as war wages, tired and worn-out practices die away and new ventures and ideas require Herculean efforts to launch, books are an escape where we learn compassion, empathy, and what courage and integrity looks like when it feels like the real world is in short supply. Stories are always waiting to be retold, even refashioned.
We seem to be in flux, so I’ll stay as open-minded and flexible as I can be. If there’s one thing I’ve learned-there’s almost always another option. What adaptations have you made that make you happier?
Shana’s soul, busy with re-orientation to life in the cosmos, still yearned for its’ connection with Phoebe’s soul. While the pair were given privileges due to El’s love and respect for Anam Chara and the Tri-Eloh, a complex universe required division of dimensions. Limited to dreamtime, Shana’s soul showed Phoebe compelling details of what it experienced, a compulsion to share with her ingrained. Everyone thought they knew what true darkness looked like, whether closed in a windowless room without light, or free in a forest on a cloudy night with unrecognizable wildlife noise, but this blackness was more than visual. Shana shared a weightless darkness where nothingness smelled faintly like a baking cake, tasted like honey water. In sweetened darkness Phoebe felt a vibration inside as she floated and heard Shana’s voice, “Gurlll…”
Rays of light fell on the nurse’s hand as she poured water from a pink plastic pitcher she brought in full every day with identical instructions. Phoebe raised her red and swollen eyes to look out the window at a blue sky for the first time since she arrived, blossoms on an apple tree branch tinged pink and half unfurled. She decided grey and dismal was more to her liking, this change a painful reminder of time’s passage. A dove alighted outside on the sill, soon joined by its’ mate. “You know the drill. There’s a clean hat in the toilet. If you don’t swallow your meds, we’ll know. You really do need to eat more today if you want the doctor to discharge you.” She nodded toward the tray of cold scrambled eggs folded in a sheet, dry white toast with a rock-hard marble of butter on top and a tiny paper cup with two pills. “Yeah, I know. If you’d give me some coffee with sugar I could choke the toast down.”, Phoebe said with a sniffle and more tears as she laid down and turned her body to the wall. Fucking doves and fake eggs, Shana. She told herself to get it together or she’d never get out of Resting Pines, but it just made her cry harder when she thought of walking into their empty apartment.
Dr. Pressman with her pristine white coat and gentle-but-firm demeanor entered a short while later, her hair unbraided and worn in a wavy afro that gave her kind of a halo-effect in the sunshine, “How are you today, Phoebe?” She settled herself in a chair she pulled up next to the bed and clicked her pen, the demon Kaz assigned to her already transformed into a light being by Dinah Pressman’s full heart. Phoebe flipped over to look at the most powerful person in her world at the moment. When she’d insisted she did not now or ever intend to kill herself, outraged by the repeated accusation, the doctor stoically told her it was not unusual for a young person in her situation to attempt suicide after such a hard loss, especially with no other family for support. In the days that followed, she remained immoveable, steady in what she told her was her commitment to Phoebe’s safety. She did not argue with Phoebe, but neither did she affirm faith in her mental stability. Phoebe imagined her a formidable poker opponent. Dinah Pressman’s kind bedside manner did not include weak fences around her own emotions, but this young woman engendered a protectiveness usually reserved for her pediatric patients. “Honestly? I’m pretty wrecked today, Dr. P. I guess it is really sinking in that she isn’t coming back.” She grabbed another handful of tissues and wiped her wet face, blew her nose. “I think I need to move”, Phoebe blurted and shook her head back and forth slowly, “I’ll always be looking for Shana there.” After she made an encouraging note about the patient’s active engagement with reality, the doctor leaned forward, “Phoebe your friend Doyle Regan came to see me this morning. He informed me that you have exams in two weeks and that your courses will be dropped if you don’t return to class next week. You’ve put in far more work than average, in his opinion as a graduate T.A. He’s concerned your academic career may be irreparably damaged in less than a month’s time due to Shana’s suicide. I’d like to help you, if you want to sit for finals, that is. Normally, I require another adult reside with a suicidal patient when I discharge them, or in cases like yours, in-patient therapy here is extended.” Phoebe’s mind felt like it housed a pinball machine, each of Dr. Pressman’s statements setting off bells, whistles, dangerous urges and screams. Was this another episode like with Dr. Cooper and Farwin? Her confusion registered on her face, eyebrows drawn down when the doctor said Phoebe was lucky to have a friend like Doyle. Lucky wasn’t how Phoebe felt whatsoever as she wondered why Doyle bothered. “He’s in the hall. Why don’t I let you two discuss his suggestion, and you can let me know what you decide tomorrow morning. If you’re agreeable to outpatient follow-up in addition to his help, I think a return to class would be good for you”, she declared, as if it was normal to buddy up to your best friend’s killer.
Doyle stood at the end of the bed and took in how Phoebe’s pallor matched the stark white walls and bedding, her copper greasy hair the only contrast in the cramped room except for himself. When she raised her head he sucked in his breath at her gold eyes. “What’s wrong? You look like shit, Doyle.” Phoebe felt some satisfaction by his apparent shock. She noticed his eyes were as puffy as hers when he came closer to drop her voluminous 19th Century Lit text down next to her untouched breakfast. “Yeah, well… I guess I look how I feel then.” Anger boiled within and made her flush. “Don’t even”, her voice thick with disdain, “I’ve got no reason to pretend anymore that I don’t see you for who you are, you, you… UGHHH!” “Go ahead. Yell at me. Hate me. I deserve it, but I swear I didn’t mean to hurt Shana”, he said as he walked to the window to put a bit of distance between them. Phoebe’s eyes are blue, he reminded himself and shook his head. “What do you want from ME, Doyle? ‘Cause if it’s sympathy you should be the one in here.” She stood up and walked over to him. “I want to help you, Phoebe. I… I think Shana would want me to do what I can for you.” Her pale arms gestured in the air as a flood of emotions rushed up in Phoebe and she shouted, “Look at me, Doyle! Everything, everything that meant something to me is gone! She’s gone! What did you do?” Carrie poked her head in, a look of concern on her face, but quickly backed out when Phoebe glared at her. “I don’t blame you for being angry, Phoebe. Let me just help you get through the next month. I promise to stay out of your way”, he held out an envelope, “I had my trust guy draw up something for your trust guy so I could pay for Shana’s cremation. Figured you’d want to pick out the container”. Phoebe had never hit anyone in her entire life, so it rattled her when she felt the urge to sink her fists in his guts; she would not let this bastard change her like he did Shana. Instead, she snatched the envelope out of his long fingers, and turned away from Doyle and blue sky. “Are you serious? You have control of my money?” If she hit him she might not be able to stop. Air suddenly seemed in short supply as Phoebe struggled to take a deep breath and steady her nerves, to climb out of an emotional tidal pool. While Phoebe depended on Shana to fight whenever they needed a champion, Shana depended on Phoebe’s logic and discernment, both in short supply in that moment. It had been a week since she died, so maybe Doyle had only done what was needed. But Phoebe couldn’t help remembering the little and big ways he’d controlled her friend. Shana spent more nights at Doyle’s than at home because he said he slept better with her there, and then there were the drugs. At least it appeared the conservatorship was constrained to only her monthly allowance for two months, at which time the petitioner and attorneys would review Phoebe Monteer’s mental status per reports from Dr. Dinah Pressman and other staff involved in her therapy, as well as the opinion of her live-in conservator, Doyle Regan. “What the hell do you mean you’ll stay out of my way?” “Live-in conservator” connected with what Dr. Pressman said about conditions for discharge like a key in a lock. “It’s just for a little while, just to make sure you’re safe. You don’t know how much I wish I never left Shana alone. I won’t make that mistake with you, I promise.” Kazmir planted anxiety in Phoebe regarding exactly what Doyle meant, but that damned text book owned too much of her attention for it to take hold. She would need a different tact than her soul friend to break her, he thought as he made Doyle smile at her and pat her shoulder. Phoebe cringed inside just as Kaz knew she would. “There’s something I need to know before I decide whether I want to be discharged tomorrow. What happened that night? Why did she do it, Doyle?”
In this esoteric era it’s said time is a construct, an illusion created to help mankind organize our existence, yet it doesn’t feel ephemeral turning 54. These lessons are solid. Looking back, and wandering repeatedly over familiar landscapes, isn’t where my heart lies. I am ready for new adventures outside of the same ol’, new ways of being me, new ways of relating and loving.
I can compartmentalize my life in decades,20’s being the learning years, 30’s being the building years, 40’s being the destructive years, and 50’s being the… the… maybe I will know once I am 60. I’d like to call them my “creative years” for now. I will not limit myself. Since I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 40, I’ve been working hard to overcome limitations. Not all, in fact not most, of those efforts helped me feel better physically. RA was like an undertow and the more I fought for control, the more disabled I became. I’ve never been so angry; inside I shook my fist at the world for a few years. There is a space in unrelenting pain which whittles down a person’s focus to only the cause, and a willingness to do almost anything for it to stop. A Rheumatologist is hard to come by, a good Rheumatologist who keeps up on medical advances in the journals is harder. I knew from the beginning I’d have to read and advocate for myself. What I didn’t know is how many factors would work against me. In January of 2018 a virus teamed with my RA for a lung attack. I was 49 and spent 10 days in the hospital.
These first 4 years of my 50’s have been different, almost as if there was a reset. The Universe seems confident I reclaimed my desire to live after it tried to kill me. My new rheumatologist prescribed a different biologic after the lung incident and it’s worked up to now. I had to laugh when I learned I’d have to push the plunger on the syringe, a new challenge for a human who fought off nurses as a child, and just happens to have a tremor. I stopped caring so much about so many different things, and started meditating with a goal of not being afraid of death. 50 made HUGE goals, but this, along with other mind/body energy practices, set me on a peaceful path for the first time in my life. Many things aren’t as hard as I once made them. Embarking on the 5th year of this decade, I am writing fiction about death and the afterlife, about friendship and grief, two themes of my journey thus far. I am ready for new stories now, having released all of the old ones except for the good. I still want to wrangle this beast RA, tie it up like a trussed hog with natural healing and self-love, good nutrition and friendship, writing, reading, and laughter. Can’t hurt to aim for it, to steep myself in the Divinity and richness of my life for the rest of this one. In this moment, it is well and I’m grateful I get to be this old.
“A great portent appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of 12 stars.”
Revelation 12:1, The Bible
As energy within a healing tetrahedron saturated Phoebe and Shana’s souls they became thoughtless, closer to original than either had been since the first few years of their friendship, when they were new to womanhood, tried on relational influences and found safety with one another. Two green stiches closed the fissure between them, forgiveness barely begun, but Anam Chara remembrance enough to satisfy Tri-Eloh for now. The Tri, having realized a quickly escalating danger to Phoebe’s physical being, gently moved the pair from Mary’s constellation and handed them off to escorts from Michael’s Divine Army for transport to their in-between place. Emboldened by El’s interference, the Tri assumed survival of this Anam Chara link warranted favors from even the most high. The higher the angel or spirit, however, the busier the angel or spirit, as Archangel Michael reminded the Tri of their lengthening line of souls who awaited healing during this deviation from routine cosmic life. Mary’s blessing, however brief, accomplished what would have taken longer than Phoebe’s lifetime and justified the choice even if it did not entirely eradicate Shana’s shame. Tri-Eloh rushed toward their purpose with gratitude that flowed behind them in wide swaths of golden starlight and touched every ethereal being they passed. Visible in the final hour of dark before dawn, a thirty-three-minute meteor shower built upon a Spring Triangle created by the stars Regulus, Spica and Arcturus. Intimate mysteries often revealed themselves to solo audiences on earth.
First they heard “shooosh (pause) shooosh”, then they felt sand beneath their feet at the same time the water came into view, waves shining and dark with frothy remnants when the tide receded. While it possessed key elements of thousands of their summer days, the air was different, shimmering and energetic as if alive and moving on the edge of vision. Shana reached for Phoebe’s hand as a fishy breeze cooled their faces wet with tears. “I am”, they said, “I am you”. “I’ll see you again”, Shana’s whisper landed as Phoebe opened her eyes in a dim cold room. Dry prickly hands rubbed her calves irritatingly, an unidentifiable acrid smell filled her nostrils as she shook her head back and forth on a thin sheet over a plastic mattress that crackled beneath her. “Where am I?”, Phoebe snatched one foot away and kicked at the air. She wanted to go back, to go back to… damn it! She rubbed her nose and noticed the IV in her left hand. “What is going on?” Her heart began to race even as she closed her eyes tight and took a deep breath. Formaldehyde and ammonia overlaid with something worse stung her nostrils and throat and made her stomach lurch. Dry Hands let his other hand descend to her foot before she heard, “You are safe under my care at Resting Pines Hospital, Miss Monteer. You’ve been catatonic for a couple days now, so I’m helping the circulation in your legs so you don’t get bed sores.” Back to my beach dream, back to Shana, Phoebe thought, but the ambulance ride, flashes of her dead friend’s neck, questions about heroin and drug dealers crowded her mind instead. Her breath came faster as she remembered it all and wondered if she’d lost her mind, if her mother’s weakness had finally showed up to claim her intelligence and grip on reality. “Water peese”. Dr. Cooper desperately needed composure, but his body betrayed him. It was as though he watched himself rub her foot against his khakis in slow motion. Engrossed, he was blindsided when his dentures clapped loudly as Phoebe’s foot jerked away and met his chin with force. Kazmir bid the Doctor, “Make her pay. Hurt her NOW.” “You will be restrained if you can’t control yourself, Miss Monteer!”“Wow! didn’t think this one was going to come around without ECT, Doc”, a new voice echoed and startled Dr. Cooper out of what he assumed were his own deviant thoughts. “Want me to get the restraints?” Why were they turning off more lights? “Water”, Phoebe croaked. “Yes, good idea at least until she calms down. I don’t know how I would’ve managed if you didn’t come in when you did, Farwin. You are truly indispensable!” The orderly blushed with the doctor’s approval. Dry Hands roughly grabbed Phoebe’s ankles. Hard plastic straps snapped over them at the corners of the bed. She struggled in silence as Kazmir planted images of archaic electroshock methods, biteplate in her mouth, her eyes rolled back in her head. “Give me your hand and I’ll help you with a drink in a second.” Phoebe tried hard not to panic as her arms were restrained. “Go ahead and finish your rounds, Farwin. I’ll take her vitals and give her some water.” “I’m only a little behind, but thanks, Doc. Kinda surprised after that kick, but she’s lucky to have your firm expertise. I’ll check back and make some notes on her status this afternoon. Please page me if you need any assistance before then.” Minutes passed with no sound but breathing from the end of the bed, out of range of sight. A tall thin man in a white coat approached her without a word and pressed a button on the wall behind her. While the bed raised slightly, he clamped his fingers over her nose. “Open your mouth and tilt your head back”, he instructed as he held a cup of water before her face and smiled, thin lips stretched into obvious pleasure as Phoebe opened her mouth. “Further!” he snapped. The doctor let go of her nose and held her head by the hair at her nape as he poured the water. Her nose gurgled then spewed like a fountain as she struggled and the doctor pulled her hair painfully. “Let’s get those vitals now”, he said cheerily as he let her go, brushing her hair from his hands onto the floor. “You really do smell, Miss Monteer. Since your attendant is occupied with other patients now, I know just the man for the job.” Phoebe sputtered and swallowed air as her throat spasmed and her lungs emptied. I have to get out of here, she thought as Dry Hands explained how he might have to take her temperature several times to get an accurate read, but not to worry-he would insure her records were detailed. Regret that he couldn’t report catatonia for a while longer frustrated the doctor. Kazmir plotted out the next few hours for his fully-compliant gadget Dr. Cooper, another fool who’s guilt and unworthiness birthed virgin evil. The doctor opened a drawer on the table next to her where Phoebe saw syringes and a horseshoe-shaped apparatus that he removed and shoved in her mouth before she knew what was happening. She tried to free her tongue to push against it, but it was pinned. “You’ll drool, but we don’t want you to injure yourself during therapy, young lady”, his face moved close enough for her to see flakes of white in bushy brows of grey and black like dirty snow banks in early spring. The doctor moved a machine with gauges next the the bed and flipped a small red switch. He widened her eyelids with his long course fingers, thrilled as his other hand flung the sheet back and exposed her trembling body, bikini underwear her only cover. Both Dr. Cooper and Kazmir delighted at the pure terror evident in her expanded pupils before he blinded her with a tactical light he’d purchased just last week with the demon’s persuasion. Wait a sec. A shiny speck grew in three directions in her left pupil. Surprised and worried he’d damaged her visibly, Dr. Cooper’s breathing quickened and his erection fled. He could lose everything, and all because of one plain girl who hadn’t cooperated, who he’d barely treated yet. A neon green triangle pulsed and cast a glow into the dim room as Phoebe’s body stilled and her soul found itself back on the beach with Shana.
In holographic embodiments of their most recent vessels, the Anam Chara sat cross-legged and sunk into warm sand within a clear crystalline cube open to a sky bleached innocent by scorchingly bright sun rays. “There’s something I have for you”, Shana said as she took her hand and pressed their palms together. Like most of their peers, in high school Shana and Phoebe experimented with alcohol, boys, and marijuana at house parties of classmates with vacationing parents. Phoebe’s mom’s heart-to-heart talks with the girls about dangerous situations and people made little impact. Then, she hit pay dirt when she restricted them to their respective rooms for a month with a threat of additional time if they spoke to one another. Although the friends lived together, went to school and church together, and even sneaked letters to one another, loneliness for their connection far outweighed any popularity they’d gained. If anything, they yearned for their previous invisibility, rather than being known as stupid freshman who could not hold their alcohol. Cautiously optimistic about the girl’s future afterwards, Phoebe’s mother even gave them a later curfew after improved grades proved their seriousness and they talked openly about everything at dinner-time, often seeming to forget she was even there. They were able to launch their plans in earnest with Phoebe’s talent for planning and foresight and Shana’s boundless imagination. Their futures outlined, hard copies reviewed and agreed on, Shana produced a jack knife from her backpack, opened it and swiftly cut her palm to Phoebe’s astonishment. Phoebe put her hand out with her eyes closed and head turned away. Their blood mingled as they joined hands and vowed to never betray one another, just as she dreamed during their separation. In her dream they wore long cotton nightgowns, and she could not make out the details of their features, but she recognized herself and her best friend in a floral wall-papered room with a high ceiling and tall leaded windows, tree branches and a night sky wavy through thick glass, a bed with four posts she knew they shared. A dagger rather than a kitchen knife sliced their flesh and in the dream they also vowed to protect one another.
Shana’s soul recovered a soul memory of this promise shortly after they departed the in-between. Death howled with outrage at her scrap of redemption.
In this moment, sitting on the sand with Shana, a lake lapping the shore on the other side of the cube, Phoebe felt a calm strength fill her mind as her Anam Chara’s soul energy met with reciprocity, light making their joined hands glow. “See you on the flipside”, Shana smiled.
Phoebe opened her eyes to find herself on the plastic mattress again with a low pillow beneath her head and daylight filling a sterile white room. “Great! You’re awake!”, sang a sunny voice. A youngish woman with smooth skin and golden eyes approached her bedside, poured water from a plastic pitcher into a paper cup and announced, “My name is Carrie I’m going to raise the bed slowly, then help you take a tiny sip of water so you don’t spill, ok Miss Monteer?” Phoebe nodded her head. Cool water trickled down her throat and she smiled a little in appreciation. “There you go. Now you just relax while I go get Dr. Pressman. She will assess if you need any more inpatient help. You’ll like her.” The nurse stopped at the door to turn and smile with the last part before leaving. Phoebe picked up the paper cup from the tray table over her bed and sipped while she took in her surroundings. Outside the window an apple tree budded, white scrolls yet to unwind and blossom. She opened the tray table to find a comb, a toothbrush in cellophane, the smallest tube of toothpaste she’d ever seen, and an attached mirror that slid out and angled back to reflect her tangle of red hair and Shana’s golden eyes, a green speck in the left. “What the… ok, ok, Shana.” Phoebe closed her eyes and made herself take a deep breath. Had it all been a nightmare when she awoke before? As she opened her eyes and stared once again into the golden eyes she’d loved, she realized she needed a new outline for a new future. Tears welled as a sob caught in her throat.