I am a firm believer that life can turn on a dime. We often chug along on our merry way, live from day to day without incident, and take for granted that those we love will always be there. Death touches every life eventually, and it had already touched mine at a young age with the loss of my parents. I don’t remember them, so I didn’t feel the loss as I would have at an older age. It was the death of my grandfather that acquainted me with true grief and loss. Never in my wildest imaginings did I ever think death would touch me so soon after and in such a profound, devastating way.
I’ve always had someone in my life to love and protect me. First, there was Grandda after my parents’ death. Mathilda then became a constant support of love and guidance. Finally, Lincoln stole my heart and cherished me every day we were together. He was my saving grace when my grandfather passed. When Landon came, I had someone to take care of, and I stepped into that role almost effortlessly. In some ways, I’ve led a sheltered, protected life but never was smothered. I was dearly loved every day of my life. I don’t consider myself weak, but I’ve never had to go it alone and long for love I could never have. That was never in the cards until a plane trip would forever change the course of my life.
The conference went over without a hitch, and Mike was very pleased with the reception my workshop and speech received. Mathilda and I made our exit as soon as was appropriately possible, and we teleported back to my house. We were exhausted and decided it was best for Mathilda to spend the night and we’d get a good night’s sleep before teleporting to Orlando early the next morning.
I was going to call Lincoln once I changed back into more comfortable clothing and let him know when to expect us but then saw I had a couple voicemails from him. Their flight had been delayed due to some unforeseen repairs that needed to be done on the plane. The time on his second message was during the banquet, saying the plane had been fixed and they’d be taking off five minutes later. “I’ll call you when we land. I love you, Lenora.”
“Love you, Ma,” came Landon’s voice at the end. I smiled, put the phone away, and checked the time. They would be in the air now and wouldn’t arrive for another few hours.
“Time for a glass of wine and bed,” Mathilda said, handing me some. It was always second nature for her to help herself in my kitchen because of our close relationship.
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” I said yawning. “Linc called earlier to tell me the flight was delayed because of needed repairs. Sounds like they didn’t have much fun today.”
“I suspect not,” said Mathilda, sipping her wine. “Oh, Ariadne, am I tired!”
“Right there with you,” I said, then groaned in pleasure as I took a hefty sip of wine. I sighed as I set my glass on the coffee table and stretched my legs out on the couch. I closed my eyes as a wave of weariness came over me. As I started to drift, I felt Mathilda pulling an Afghan over me. “Thanks,” I murmured.
She kissed my cheek and smoothed my hair in a motherly gesture. “No problem.”
The next thing I knew, my heart was squeezed in a vice of terror. I was in a sea of screaming and crying people and free-falling. “Linc! Landon!” I called. They were here, I knew it, and I had to get to them.
“Brace! Brace for impact!” came the forceful command from a voice I didn’t recognize. “Heads down! Stay down!”
Oh, dear Ariadne! We were going to crash! No, that wasn’t right. I was home on my couch. This I knew, and yet, I was on a plane that was plummeting to Earth at a dizzying, deathly speed.
“Oh, please, no!” I screamed. “This can’t be happening. Linc! Landon! Oh, Ariadne, please!”
“Dad, I’m scared. I’m so scared!” a little boy, MY little boy, cried.
“I know, son. So am I. So am I.” I was somehow beside them now. They sat hunched over on themselves in a bracing position.
“We’re going to die, aren’t we?”
“I…I don’t know, Landon, but…I think so.”
I screamed and screamed. I was paralyzed, unable to move a single muscle. I don’t know where my labored indrawn breaths ended and my terrified screams began. I was with them, and yet I knew my physical body was back in my living room with Mathilda. The only thing I was aware of was that I was feeling my husband and son dying.
“Ma. She won’t understand. Dad, I want to be with Ma. I’m so scared.” Landon’s voice was choked with sobs.
A sob tore from Lincoln. “So do I, son. I want more than anything for us to be with your Ma where it’s safe. In time, she will understand. We have to believe that right now. All we can do now is try to make her feel our love.”
“I love you, Ma. You’re the best mom ever. I don’t want to leave you. Wherever we are, I’ll wait for you,” Landon choked out.
“I love you, Lenora. I’ll love you always. Don’t ever forget that. Landon, I love you, son.”
“Love you too, Dad,” Landon whispered.
An eternal scream ripped from my throat and then I knew no more.
I sat in one of the comfortable living room chairs and listened to the ticking of Lenora’s grandfather clock. It was a peaceful, mild night, and the ticking of the clock lulled me into a deeply relaxed state as I savored the taste and aroma of my wine. As always, Lenora did a fabulous job with her seminar and speech, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
My eyes soon closed as I went into a meditative state, for it wasn’t often that I truly slept anymore. I opened them, brought back to attention, on hearing a soft sigh from where Lenora lay on the sofa. I covered her over with a crocheted Afghan and tucked it snugly around her. Her eyes fluttered once, closed, and she smiled sleepily. “Thanks,” she said.
“No problem,” I said, running a hand over her golden hair. I kissed her cheek and just looked at her. “Lenora, what are we going to do with you? You should have gone to bed, child. Well, I suppose you’ll make your way there eventually.”
“Hmm?” she said, stirring slightly.
I hadn’t realized I’d spoken aloud. “Nothing. Go back to sleep.”
She let out a soft snore, and then, her breathing became deep and even, signaling deep sleep. I sat back in my chair and shook my head, grinning sheepishly. I had never expected to love her the way I did, but she engratiated her way into my heart the first time I saw her. She’d been so very ill, close to death, and it pulled at my heartstrings. There was something about her that made my normally somewhat detached, untouchable nature crumble.
Life could be strange, especially mine. Most people measure their lifelines in decades while mine lay in countless centuries both behind and ahead of me. I am, for all intents and purposes, immortal, having discovered the secret to eternal youth eons ago.
In my many centuries of existence, I feel as though I’ve seen it all and done the rest. Most would kill to possess the secrets I know, especially that of immortality, but I can honestly say that sometimes immortality is a curse. It’s heartbreaking to watch loved ones age and die while I stayed eternally young and vital. I have been married several times and have had to watch my husbands wither before me. Some of them have even cursed my very existence. I have even had to watch my own children become old and die. I finally came to the conclusion that it is better for me to remain alone and unattached. I’ve tried to live by that for a long, long time now, but sometimes, as in the case of my love for Lenora, it’s impossible.
As much as immortality is a curse, there are many blessings. I am not confined to one lifetime of learning. I have always yearned for knowledge, and I take full advantage of the opportunity to learn. I am an extremely accomplished witch, excelling in many brands of magic. I have obtained degrees and recognition in fields of interest in anything from science and medicine to fine arts. I am quite talented as a teacher and have mentored many people over the centuries. My help and advice is often sought after, and I try to help wherever I can. Often times, I find that a solution isn’t easy to come by. Sometimes there can even be a high price to pay in gaining a solution to a problem. Life is, indeed strange.
I am a woman who needs to remain in control. Most of the time, I keep to a strict pathway, but that isn’t always possible. Loving Lenora and Liam wasn’t in my game plan, but a game plan is seldom set in stone. Liam had a vast thirst for knowledge that made him a pleasure to work with and mentor. He had a zest for life that most people would envy. He had a solid, strong character that he passed down to his granddaughter, who he loved fiercely. Lenora and Liam are two of the few people I have ever claimed to love during this modern age. Then, I grew to love Lincoln as well, and Landon stole my heart the first time Lenora put him in my arms to hold. It just goes to show that even the toughest of shells can crack when just the right stimulus is applied.
Now, having curled up on Lenora’s other sofa, I was giving way to the sensation of floating away on a layer of clouds when the air was pierced with a scream I will never, ever forget. My eyes popped open and snapped to the sofa were Lenora was sitting bolt upright, screaming, and looking as though the hounds of Hell were dragging her asunder.
“Oh, please, no!” she wailed. “Oh, Ariadne, please!”
I knelt in front of her and took one of her clenched fists in my hand. I tried to pry her fist open, for I knew her palms would be bloody from her nails digging in. However, it was like iron and I couldn’t budge it. Instead, I rubbed the back of her hand and spoke sharply in an attempt to get her attention. “Lenora, it’s Mathilda. Speak to me, child.”
Her only answer was another cry of despair. She fell forward, and I caught her to keep her from hitting the floor. I pulled her into my arms and began rocking her. “Lenora! It’s Mathilda. I’m here, darling. What is happening? What are you feeling?”
“Linc! Landon! Oh, Ariadne, we’re going to crash!”
I gasped and felt my heart seize. I drew back enough so I could look into her pasty, anguished face. Her blue eyes were wide open, but she wasn’t seeing me. I shook her firmly, and her head lolled. “Lenora, look at me. You’re here in your living room with me.” Her inhalations were labored, and she was now sobbing uncontrollably. Her pulse was galloping like Seabiscuit nearing the finish line. For the first time in a very, very long time, I was horribly and unspeakably frightened.
I gathered her in and resumed rocking her in my arms. Her physical form was here with me, but she was locked in a world of terror, away from where I could reach her. I knew for certain that world was an airplane that was falling to Earth, and that plane held what Lenora loved most. She was feeling them die.
Her voice was a strangled cry as she began to beseech Ariadne’s help in Gaelic. When Lenora was a teenager and Liam told her the truth about what they both were, he’d given her a book of blessings in both Gaelic and English.
“I beseech thy wise countenance, Ariadne, Goddess of Magic, and ask thee to look upon me with favor and kindness…” I found myself reciting the words along with her, feeling utterly helpless as to what to do. I was frightened her heart would give out and I’d lose her. I needed to do something, but I didn’t want to leave her side.
Over the years, Lenora’s empathic gifts astounded even me. Rarely have I met someone as sensitive to a gift as Lenora is. Even so, with that sensitivity comes danger because of how deeply she feels the pain of others, especially those she loves. It’s a true and rare gift, but in this instance, I worried it might kill her due to the deep and abiding connection she shared with Lincoln and Landon.
Lenora gave an anguished cry as though her soul were being ripped to shreds. Then, she went limp, and I was sure she’d died in my arms. In that moment, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this cry signaled the instant of death for her husband and little boy.
“Oh, Ariadne! Oh, ye gods and goddesses,” I whispered. “What is to become of her now?” Tears rolled down my cheeks as I felt for Lenora’s pulse. It was still racing, but thank the deities, it was there. She was alive.
I held her for many long moments and chanted spell after calming spell to try to get her heartbeat and respirations settled down. I heaved a sigh of relief when she started to stabilize, but she still wasn’t coming out of it. I got her to the couch where I unclenched her fists and treated her hands where her nails left bloody grooves. I then wiped her cheeks, which were soaked with tears. I spoke soothingly to her as I stroked her hair and held her limp hand. “Lenora, child, it’s Mathilda. I need you to open your eyes and come back to me,” I said, trying to coax her back to consciousness. The longer she was out, the more afraid I grew that she’d drift away and die. I knew I’d have to find a way to hold her here, and if it didn’t happen very soon, she would pass from this life as Lincoln and Landon had just done.
My perseverance was rewarded at last when her eyes fluttered and opened slowly. A mewling whimper escaped, and more tears traced their way down her cheeks. “So…cold,” she whispered as violent shivers racked her slender frame.
I covered her over with the Afghan once again and fired a warming charm to ward off the chills. I knew there was no blanket big or warm enough to ward off the icy blast of a broken heart. “I’m here, sweetheart. Do you know where you are?” I asked her.
“Home. Living room. Mathilda…so cold.” Her teeth were chattering, and she couldn’t seem to speak above a whisper.
I reached for Lenora’s hand under the blanket. “I know, sweetheart. You’ve had a…” I bit my lip and turned my head away in contemplation. There were no adequate words to describe the horrendous experience she’d just had. “You’ve had an empathic episode, an extremely intense one.”
“Gone,” she whispered as more tears came. “Linc and Landon. They…they…” A vicious host of shudders shook her, and she let out a terrible gasp filled with the unbearable pain I knew accosted her.
“I know, sweetheart.” I swallowed hard and squeezed her hand. “We’ll get through this together. Darling, I’ll help you through this.” I kissed her brow and wiped her tears, but they were replaced by new ones.
I knew I needed to speak with Gunther and ask him to show me what I already knew deep down. My head told me they’d perished in the crash, but my heart held onto a slim straw of hope that they’d gotten out. I uttered a summoning spell to bring my magic mirror here. Normally, Gunther never left my house, but I couldn’t leave Lenora and there was no way she could travel.
I rose to my feet and turned to walk toward the wall where Gunther rested. Lenora’s hand tightened on mine and tugged. “Don’t leave me. Oh please, don’t leave me.”
“It’s just a few steps away, sweetheart. I brought Gunther. I need to find out exactly what happened. I’m not leaving you, I swear that on my life,” I said, squeezing her hand firmly and then slowly letting go.
“Gunther, please show yourself,” I said, standing before my mirror.
“I am here as always, my dear friend,” my faithful mirror said in return. “What information do you seek?”
“I seek knowledge of the fate of the passengers of Sim Airlines Flight 1489, which I believe to have crashed.”
It didn’t take long for Gunther to come back with the words I already knew. “Flight 1489 has crashed. There are no survivors.”
“Thank you, Gunther,” I said on a tremulous sigh.
“I am sorry I did not have happier news, my friend. Take courage in whatever format you can find it and be well.” His face disappeared into the enchanted glass, leaving behind the image of my own reflection.
I hadn’t heard Lenora get up to stand beside me. However, as Gunther’s face sank back inside the mirror, her low groan caught my attention. She swayed alarmingly and then hit the floor with a resounding thud.