Yesterday I signed my first writing contract. In February, assuming all goes well, my first novella will come out!
So, my friends, in February, will I become an author?
I can't say for sure yet.
What's it about?
I can't tell you that either. I know, I'm horrible.
Until February, here's a snippet of a novel I've been working on for quite some time. It's called DREAMTHIEF, about a young lady named Olive Kennedy who helps people remember their past, specifically their time they spent in fairy world and have no memory of. Their repressed memories lead to mental instabilities such as depression, bi-polar disorder, etc.
And you thought depression was genetic . . .
I don’t believe in karma. Once I gave twenty bucks to earthquake victims, thinking hey, maybe tomorrow my luck will change, maybe I can pay the utilities this month without digging into the grocery bill. The next morning my car broke down. Transmission. Five-hundred bucks. Don’t get me wrong, I still think we ought to help others, but not because we expect the universe to pay us back for doing it.
I do believe in magic. Not magyk. Not Magick. Not the stuff that Wiccans do or warlocks. I believe in the old stuff, the real, honest-to-goodness-straight-from-fairy-land kind of magic. Am I crazy? Maybe, but not because I believe in magic.
I knocked on apartment 31C off Champion Forest Drive. Houston is a damp place in November. Standing on the porch, hands in my pockets, my breath like puffs of cumulus clouds, I wished the lady inside wouldn’t have taken five minutes to open up. The door cracked open and a gray eye peeked out, matching a wiry mass of hair. I tried to ignore Ms. Shot’s sour expression. I get that a lot.
“You the shrink?”
“Yes.” I stopped correcting people a long time ago. If they want to call me a shrink, let them. I know what I am. I’m not offended. “My name is Olive Kennedy.”
“Dr. Hill sent you?”
She looked at my purple Doc Martens, my cropped red hair, and then stared at my slightly pointed ears. Her brow creased. “He said you were a shrink, not a circus freak.”
Circus freak. Wow, I’d never heard that one before.
Ms. Shot took a step back. “Ruby’s real sick. Maybe you ought to come back next week.” The door started to close. I held it open.
“Ms. Shot, if she’s as sick as you say, don’t you think I should see her now before she gets worse?”
“She’s getting better.”
“You just said she was real sick.”
“Then may I please come inside?”
“I’m not sure you can help her.”
“We won’t know until I try, right?”
“You sure you ain’t gonna mess her up even more?”
“Ma’am, Dr. Hill trusts me. There’s a reason he sends me to all his patients he can’t cure.
Because I can.”
Ms. Shot gave me one last stern glare and then opened the door. I stepped inside. The smell of cat feces hit me immediately, followed with the unmistakable scent of old lady.
Crocheted doilies covered every surface. The couches, the end tables. Through the apartment’s tiny living room I could see into the kitchen. Pill bottles cluttered the counter, interspersed with loaves of half-eaten bread and cloves of garlic. But I didn’t find what I needed, not yet anyway.
Ms. Shot led me through the living room to a door opposite the kitchen. She turned to me, her voice low. “Ruby’s in bed. Refuses to get out, even for Jeopardy.”
“How long has she been in there?”
“Two weeks. She woke up week before last like usual. Watched Price is Right and then went to bed. Said she wasn’t feeling well but won’t say why. Dr. Hill calls it depression. Baloney, is what I call it.”
I glanced through the door. Ruby didn’t resemble her sister. Her cheeks were more filled out. She looked like the sort of old lady who would offer you hard candies any time you visited, who would bake the world’s best cupcakes and give them to trick-or-treaters, whose face would light up any time you said hello. Instead of a smile, her face twisted in a frown, in pain. I knew the look. I’d seen it too many times to count. Turning to Ms. Shot, I saw her watching me, expectant, part of her hoping I could help and the other part suspicious.
I wanted to help, but so far, I hadn’t found what I needed.
“May I go inside?” I asked.
Ms. Shot nodded, opened the door.
I stepped into the bedroom, searching. Ms. Shot followed.
On a wall near the bed sat a china closet. Fairy teacups, figurines, statuettes.
The closet, the end table, every surface available. All fairies.
I turned to Ruby. She eyed me from the bed, her expression sour.
“Do you collect these?” I aimed for a polite tone. Being raised for half my life in Texas, it’s not too hard to conjure up.
I stepped to the china closet. Dust covered most of the figurines. I focused on a few interesting pieces. Time worn, their little faces like something from the Dick and Jane books.
“How long have you been collecting?”
Ruby shot me a blank stare. Her mouth slacked, but she didn’t answer.
“’Bout forty years,” Ms. Shot answered for her sister.
“Ruby, I know this is going to sound strange, but do you remember the first piece you collected?”
I got the blank stare for an answer. Ms. Shot turned to me with a hard look. “What’s this all about? I thought you were here to help. This some kind of voodoo or what?”
“It’s no voodoo, ma’am.” That was all the explanation she’d get. If I told her the truth, I’d be back outside in the rain.
I scanned the china closet, scrutinized each piece. All the fairies not covered in dust I immediately excluded. Any fairies with steampunk or gothic themes: out.
That left me with a row of fairies at the bottom of the shelf. I knelt, peering at each one with a carefully trained eye.
That’s right. I stare at people’s junk for a living. Hey, I never said my job was glamorous.
One of the little faces caught my attention. A male fairy—a little boy with a dog snuggled at his feet. With the chipped nose, Leave it to Beaver kind of face, and the yellowed paint, I guessed it to be at least forty years old.
I pointed at the figurine. “When did you get this one?” I asked Ruby.
Ruby focused on the statuette but didn’t answer. Ms. Shot crossed her arms. “I think you ought to leave.”
I ignored her. “Do you remember?”
Ruby only stared.
With careful fingers, I picked up the collectible and walked to Ruby. I took her hands in mine, then placed the statue on her open palm. A strange expression came over Ruby’s face as she looked at the figurine.
“Lonnie,” she whispered in a cracked voice.
“Who’s Lonnie?” I asked.
“Our brother,” Ms. Shot answered. “He’s dead. Farming accident. Crushed by the hay-baler.”
“How long ago?”
Ruby exhaled. She ran her hands over the little figure. “Forty years.”
“You collected this piece soon after he died?”
She nodded. “It looked so much like him—the way I remembered him as a boy. Always had a dog with him. Wherever he went, there’d always be a dog that followed.”
I pointed at the tiny pair of wings sprouting from the statue’s back. “This statue has wings, Ruby. Why do think you collected a figure like that?”
“The wings.” She ran a wrinkled finger across the ceramic wings. She looked as if she were trying to remember, but couldn’t.
“Fairies,” I answered for her.
Ms. Shot heaved an exasperated sigh from the corner of the room. “You don’t have to listen, Ruby. I’ll tell her to go if you—”
“No,” Ruby answered. She looked into my eyes. I saw a flicker of hope in her expression. “What about the fairies?”
“Ruby, I know this sounds strange, but you’ve been collecting these items because you’re trying to re-live a memory. Sometimes, when people suffer a tragedy, like a loved one dying, they can’t handle the grief. When this happens, their enhanced emotions create a portal to a realm called Faythander—a fairy world.”
I leaned closer. “You’ve been there, Ruby. After Lonnie died. When you came back, you had no memories of Faythander, of the fairies you visited. But somewhere within your subconscious, you held on to the memory. You collected these items, trying to remember, but never quite grasping the truth of the past.”
Ms. Shot blew out an exasperated breath of air. “Of all the—”
“Let her speak,” Ruby cut in.
I took Ruby’s hand. “I can help you remember, if you like.”
Her gaze lingered on the statue. She nodded.
“Keep your hand on the statue. I want you to think about Lonnie. Can you do that?”
“Good. Now close your eyes,” I said. “Listen to my voice.”
Her eyes closed. I closed mine as well. I called the magic inside me, focused on the statue, focused on Ruby’s breathing, focused on mine.
I felt the magic flow from my hands. Then I felt it flow from her. She gasped. Good, we’d made a connection. Now I just needed a way for her to view the trapped memories. Ms. Shot still lurked in the corner. “Do you have a mirror?” I asked in a soft voice.
Arms still crossed, she nodded at the bedside table. I picked up a cheap plastic mirror. It doesn’t matter what kind I use. Faythander magic courses through any mirrored surface. I held it in front of Ruby. “Ruby, can you hear me?”
“When you’re ready, I’d like you to open your eyes. Your memories will be unlocked once you look in the glass.”
Squeezing my hand, she slowly opened her eyes.
Blue Faythander light glowed from the mirror. An image formed of a little girl skipping through a maze of giant red mushrooms the size of houses. Lights the color of twinkling stars fluttered around her. She stopped by one of the mushrooms and held out a finger. A fairy settled on her finger.
The image faded.
When I lowered the mirror, I saw tears in Ruby’s eyes. “You remember?” I whispered.
“Yes. I remember.”
I left the apartment, my bank account still empty. I didn’t care. I’d never done this for the money. Seeing the look on Ruby’s face when she finally remembered the past, that feeling of real joy in knowing I’d helped someone who really needed it. That’s what I did it for. Come to think of it, I wondered if this was karma. Not a paycheck, but something far better. That thought stayed with me for the next three-and-a-half minutes, right before I hit the five-o’clock Houston traffic.