Taking deep breaths, Brynn put his elbows on his knees and pushed his hair back with both hands as he tried to get a grip on what was reality and what were dreams.
All he saw, felt, had been so real. Real enough that he had to fight to hold back the tears as the emptiness in his chest threaten to engulf him. With great effort, he clawed his way up the slippery slope that lead into the darkness. An empty void he had lived in because living had been too painful. He refused to go back there and leave his children without a parent again. But if the pain was this real, then the dream must have been real too. A vision. Right?
Was Kara really coming home?
Slowly climbing out of bed, Brynn walked to the window that faced east where Aden said Kara was would be living soon. Closing his eyes, he searched for her as he had done many times in the last six years. As before he felt nothing. The chasm opened wider, darkness reaching for him. Promising an end to the pain. Of peace. So safe. So tempting. A lie.
Placing his hands on either side of the window, Brynn gently rested his forehead on the cool glass between them, holding onto the light with everything he had. There would be no peace until Kara once more stood by his side. Maybe what he thought was a vision had only been a dream. Just his fantasies making themselves known.
“Dad?” a very concerned, very real, voice quietly called. “Are you all right?”
So this was reality. Good to know. At the same time, Brynn cringed.
His children had a very unique power. They could ride other’s dreams. Where Chris had gain control of when and where, if the emotions of the dreamer was strong enough and their connection close, like father and son, Chris could be sucked in. Brynn prayed that had not been the case this time. He could barely digest what he had seen, he could not even imagine what those images would do to their son if he had seen them.
“A bit early for you to be up on a Saturday morning, isn’t it?” Brynn asked putting a smile on his face as he turned towards his son.
Chris watched his father try to hide the turmoil he knew was inside him as he smiled his ‘everything is not all right, but I’m going to put up a good front’ smile. To add to the ‘my heart hasn’t just been ripped out of my chest again’ illusion, he began to haphazardly pull the blankets over the bed, acting as if nothing was wrong. Chris knew better. His father thought he hid it well, but the pain of losing Chris’s mother was always just under the surface. Having seen what Aden had shown his father, it was amazing his father was not drowning in his sorrow. Chris was having a hard enough time holding it together, too.
“What does Aden gain by showing you what she has been through?” Chris asked quietly, his eyes never leaving his father. When Brynn missed the hook he was hanging his shirt on, Chris knew for certain that he had not imagined Aden’s presences in the house. His mother was coming home.
Brynn rested his hand on the hook his shirt was on and hung his head, wishing for once he could keep a secret from his son.
Swallowing hard, Chris walked further into the room. “Once I realized what was going on, I shielded Jamie from the images. She’ll know something is wrong, but she won’t know why unless you tell her.”
Brynn smiled. “Since when can you hide anything from your sister?” Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, he finished getting ready for the day. Movement of any kind was better than the images he could not banish from his mind.
“When does Mom arrive?” Chris asked trying to feel excited about his mother finally coming home but unable to find any emotion aside from dread. Nothing good would come of any of this.
Brynn hesitated, trying to find the right words to explain to his son that his mother might not even know him. He turned towards Chris. “Chris, you have to understand. This prophecy,” his voice was bitter when he said that word. He always believed that one was in control of their destiny. That they could choose who they were, what they would be. Now, he was not so sure. Stamping down his anger, he started over. “Aden explained that once she and the others meet, the life they knew, their feelings and memories, would disappear. As if we never existed.”
“I heard what Aden said, Dad, and even if you don’t I trust him, I do. Mom will remember us,” Chris reminded. “We are a part of her. No force in the universe can erase that bond completely. It will just take time.” He hesitated for a moment, watching his father finish his morning routine of straightening the bed and tiding up his room. His father had had enough shocks for one day, so Chris was not sure if he should continue with what he knew or not. Deciding more information was better than not enough, he took a deep breath as he sat down on the bed. “You know, this has never happened before. One of the chosen coming back to their home planet.”
“How do you know that?” Brynn asked pulling a t-shirt from a dresser drawer. Chris gave him an exasperated look. How did he know anything? That was a question not even the gods knew the answer to. “Nevermind,” Brynn smiled closing the drawer. “So, what do you think will happen?”
“No one knows. Like I said, it’s never happened before. I am anxious to meet this Tanis though. Living as long as they have, the stories he could tell.”
Brynn’s expression darkened at the mention of Tanis’s name. Prophecy or no, preordained or not, this man took Kara from him. Becoming friends was not high on his priority list. Grabbing a pair of socks from the top drawer, he closed it a bit too sharply than sat on the bed next to Chris, pulling his socks on angrily.
Frowning, Chris moved off the bed to kneel in front of his father, who looked up at him in surprise.
“No matter what happens or how this plays out, we will get through this,” Chris promised, his quiet voice fervent with his conviction. “Together. Like we always do.”
Smiling, Brynn wrapped his hand around the back of his son’s neck and pulled him forward until their foreheads touched.
“When did you become the adult?” he joked.
“I have my moments,” Chris smiled.
Kissing his forehead, Brynn let go of Chris and sat back. Time for self-doubt later. Now he needed to gather what strength he had and tell the rest of the family that their lives were about to be turned upside down. Again.
* * *
“And you believe him?” Gavin asked as he reached for the butter. As the oldest, Gavin had inherited the farm and moved in with his wife Mary Jo and their two daughters, Emma and Bridgett, after Uncle Cas had passed the year before. Another void that would be forever empty.
“You didn’t see the look in his eyes,” Brynn answered quietly, staring at his plate but not seeing it or the food he had hardly touched. His mind was seeing the dead defeated look in Kara’s eyes. Her pale skin. Her screams.
“I don’t understand. If she can’t remember us, then why return her here? It doesn’t make sense,” Delia frowned.
“They were never supposed to return to their families,” Chris explained. “It would be too painful for all involved, but by inviting the demon inside Caius has changed the rules. And there is the baby…,” he added with a shrug before taking another bite of his eggs. It was an important part of the story that needed to be told. If his father wanted to ignore the elephant in the room, then he would have to point it out.
Brynn closed his eyes, groaning inwardly. He had purposely left out the part about the baby, not wanting the rest of them to know the darker side of why Kara was returning. He opened his eyes to see Delia, Gavin and Mary Jo staring wide-eyed at him.
“Chris, maybe you should…,” Brynn started, knowing he would now have to explain it to his cousins but not wanting to do it in front of the younger kids.
“I’m not a child anymore, Dad,” Chris interrupted, his voice sad as he looked at his father, who wouldn’t meet his son’s eyes. “I know what the demon forced Mom to do. I saw everything very clearly. Including the images your mind refused to see in the beginning.”
Brynn looked at him in horror. “No!” he whispered hoarsely.
“What did you see?” Gavin asked looking from Brynn’s horror stricken face to Chris’s ill expression and back.
“I also know one of the reasons he is hiding Mom here is because of the wards,” Chris continued ignoring his uncle’s question. There were enough people living with the horrors of his mother’s life. No need to add more. “It will keep her hidden from everyone, including the gods that they answer to. If they find out there is a child, they will do everything in their power to destroy it. Because Mom thinks she’s pregnant with Tanis’s child, someone she loves, that will in turn destroy her.”
There was a stunned silence. The way Chris had put into words what the danger was was so clinical it was hard to believe he was talking about his own mother. With a glance at each other that said they were in agreement, Mary Jo and Delia started to round up the younger kids and herded them outside. Only Jamie seemed to know what Chris’s words meant. It was in her eyes. That sad knowing that even though she was powerful in her own right, knew what was happening, there was nothing she could do to stop it. So to make the grown-ups more comfortable, she allowed herself to be herded outside with the younger kids. A few minutes later Delia came back in and sat down.
“And if they do find Kara?” Gavin asked unsure if any of them wanted to know the answer?
“It’s not a matter of if, but when they find her. And it won’t matter how old the child is or how much she tries to fight them. They will take it from her,” Chris answered looking at his uncle.
“And Kara?” Delia asked, her voice a soft whisper. “What will they do to her?’
Chris looked at his aunt for a few moments, gauging how he should answer her question. Out of everyone here, only he and his father understood his mother curse and how easily it could be used against her. To be able to feel what others felt. Have those feelings intertwined with yours, enhancing or confusing your own feelings. Have your body respond to another’s touch no matter how unwanted or repulsive. Used to gain an advantage over her, or to punish her.
There were times Chris cursed his own power. Cursed the knowledge that came with it. His whole life, the people who lived in their small community considered him strange, a freak, and it was the same with his sister. Where powers, or magic as some liked to call it, was not unusual on their planet, the kind of magic they wielded was unheard of. The ability to see into other’s minds, predict what the future held. To ride other’s dreams where their deepest darkest desires were hidden. Before he was old enough to know what he was seeing, he had blurted out more than once peoples’ deepest secrets he had learned by accidentally falling into their dreams. Not a stranger to nightmares concerning his mother, he was just happy he had realized what was going on and been able to shield Jamie from the worst of what Aden had shown his father. She did not need to know the horrors their mother went through. Even if she didn’t remember her.
“Chris?” he heard his father’s concerned voice breaking through his thoughts. It took him a moment to focus on him and realize he must have been lost in his thoughts for a while. “Are you all right?” Brynn asked putting his hand on his son’s shoulder as he looked at him with concern.
“I’m sorry,” Chris smiled. A smile that did not reach his eyes. “What was the question?”
“What will happen to your mother if these Gods find her?” Brynn asked dropping his hand.
“I don’t know. Something is different and they are afraid of what it all means. What it could do to the very fabric of the universe,” he answered gravely.
They were silent for a while, each lost in their own thoughts. If it hadn’t been for their past dealings with things unnatural they would not have been able to believe anything they had just been told. But they had. There was one more chilling thought that ran through their minds. With Kara here, it would only be a matter of time before Colin and Anthony realized she was no longer with Caius where she was better protected. Then things would get very interesting.
“Anything we decide now is mute. When Kara returns,” Brynn hesitated, swallowing down the overabundance of butterflies the thought of Kara coming home brought on. Standing, his chair screeching loudly along the hardwood floor, he reached for Chris’s empty plate. “When she returns we will see what happens and go from there.”
Gavin, Delia and Chris looked from Brynn, who had turned and headed for the sink, to each other. They knew Brynn was right. It was just the waiting for that time to come would seem long and torturous.
“You know,” Gavin said also standing with his plate in his hand. It was a signal for the others to begin clearing the table. “I could use some help with the tractor, Chris.” Winking at Delia who smiled she understood what he was doing back.
“Is it the same problem we fixed last time?” Chris asked frowning. They both reached the counter at the same time, placing their dishes on the counter next to the sink. “I thought we fixed that.”
“No. So far that one is holding. Come on and I’ll show you. This is the…,” Gavin’s voice disappeared as he and Chris walked outside, the door softly clicking shut behind them.
Smiling and shaking her head in exasperation, Delia grabbed some dishes and headed for the sink as Brynn turned on the water.
Unwillingly, Brynn’s eyes strayed out the window in the direction of where the house his wife would soon be living in with another man she supposedly loved more than him. She would be within walking distance physically, but mentally she may not know who he or their children were. Would not remember how much he loved her, needed her. How not having her with him left a chasm in his chest that tried to swallow him whole.
Closing his eyes, Brynn tried to block out the pain that threaten to overwhelm him. Placing his hands on the counter his arms straight, he bowed his head. Shaking with the effort to keep his tears under control, he slowly closed his hands into fists. He would not sink into the darkness! Damn it! A gentle hand slid onto his arm. He did not look up. He couldn’t. If he did the pain would overtake him.
“Brynn?” Delia’s concerned voice whispered.
He refused to answer her, afraid his voice would break and then he would break too.
“Oh honey,” she crooned sliding her arm around his shoulder as she put her head against his. “She will remember. I don’t think anyone could forget the kind of love you two shared.”
“That’s just it,” Brynn croaked. He forced himself to look into Delia’s eyes. She blinked at the pain she saw. “Even if she does it won’t matter. You didn’t see what I saw. Felt what I felt when she looked into his eyes. She belongs to Tanis now. There is no turning back from that kind of bond.” Taking a shuddering breath, he closed his eyes and turned his head away. Opening them, he once again stared at the window. “There is more,” he whispered. “I was not the only one she was ripped from.”
“What do you…?” Delia stopped in mid-sentence when she realized what Brynn was trying to say, her eyes widening in shock. “Aden,” she finished.
Brynn nodded. “But after all the pain, after the numbing loss of having her ripped from us caused, it was Aden she chose to bind herself to again. So you see,” he turned eyes to Delia that held so much anguish mixed with anger that Delia could barely hold his stare. “There is no room left for me.”
“I can’t believe that. You forget what you two had, still have, and a mother does not forget her children,” Delia said angrily.
Brynn looked back out the window not wanting to have any reason to hope. It would hurt too much when that hope was crushed by reality.
“You’ll see,” Delia added with confidence, her voice less angry. “Once she sees you and the kids, it will all come back.”
“But will it be enough?” Brynn whispered looking back at his cousin.
All she could do was stare back, unsure of the answer herself.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes