Time meant nothing to me as I rocked my poor, ill Lenora in my arms. She was utterly destroyed, her life having gone down with Linc and Landon. She was adrift in a world that had no meaning for her anymore. She was drowning in the ocean and I couldn’t pull her back.
I am a selfish woman. This I know and am not ashamed to admit. It was centuries since I felt as though I could fully extend my love to someone, and it was all thanks to Lenora. She accepted me and somehow penetrated the shell I kept around myself for both propriety’s and sanity’s sake. I didn’t realize it happened until she’d held me close one day after recovering from her illness. “I never knew my mother or how it felt to have one, Ms. Blankenship, but she must have been amazing if she was anything like you.”
I’d been completely speechless. All I’d been able to do was hold her close to my heart for a long moment. “I don’t remember ever hearing such lovely words, child. I am so relieved you are well. You would have left a large void in my heart and life if you’d perished.”
My love and respect for Lenora grew stronger over the years. She was, for all intents and purposes, my daughter. Being part of her life taught me a lot about love and life that centuries of living hadn’t been able to teach.
There are moments in everyone’s life that define a person’s true character and spirit. Holding Lenora’s limp form was one of those defining moments. I straightened slightly so I could look into her still, pale face and felt the fever baking off her. I practically scorched my fingers as I smoothed the golden hair from her face. “You’ve been through enough, my child. I’m going to make it better, I swear this to you.”
A painful heaviness wormed its way into my heart as I lovingly arranged her on her bed. I opened the blinds so my Lenora could go to her rest on a warm breath of sunshine. I did what I could to make her more comfortable before leaving the room.
The elixir was colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It would also be undetectable in an autopsy. All I would need to do was put three drops on Lenora’s tongue, and her pain would be over within two minutes. Only in the direst of circumstances would the Vial of Death be called upon. There was no doubt in my mind that this was one of those circumstances. As much as I yearned to fight to keep Lenora with me, I knew it wasn’t what she would want.
A sob clawed its way from my throat as I corked the vial. I called Gunther’s name in a voice barely above a whisper.
“I am here, my friend. Ah, I see you are greatly troubled,” Gunther said. Hearing the concern in the voice of my mirror always reminded me of how concerned for me Gunther always had been in life.
“I am about to do one of the hardest things I have ever had to do aside from saying goodbye to you, my love,” I said as a tear oozed its way down my cheek. “My Lenora is going to die today.” I held the small vial in my shaking hand and bit my lip. “I don’t know how I can bear it. I want her here with me, but I think it would be kinder to let her go.”
“Do not act in haste, my dear friend. I know Lenora suffers greatly at this moment, but you must persevere with her. All will become clear in time, but you must walk the long mile with her if she is ever to find her way back from the labyrinth of despair.”
“I don’t understand. Gunther, I always hate it when you speak so cryptically.”
“I am sorry for this, dear Mathilda, but it is the only way at this time. In this matter, I cannot give you a black and white answer. Go to her and remain at her side. Above all, do not give up on her. All will become clear. Go now before it is too late.”
I hurried into Lenora’s room, hoping to see a marked improvement. Gunther’s words sounded encouraging, and I clung to a strand of hope that I could somehow pull Lenora out of this. What I really wanted to see was Lenora sitting up in bed and smiling at me, but I knew things seldom were that easy. When I arrived, I expected to see some improvement in her condition, but the opposite was happening instead.
Lenora’s pulse was weak and irregular and her breathing almost nonexistent. Her hand felt cold to the touch, and when I pressed on the beds of her nails, they didn’t pink up. There was a bluish cast to her lips, and she was pale as alabaster. I knew I wouldn’t be needing the elixir I’d just made because Lenora was on the brink of death without it. “I don’t understand this, Gunther. This is going against everything you just said.” I spoke the words aloud, feeling the hand of fear squeeze my heart once again.
“Maybe you are to die but not by my hand,” I whispered. I situated myself so I could wrap my arms around her. If she was going to die, I had no choice but to help her cross over and tell her it was all right to let go.
“Lenora,” I whispered as I stroked her cheek. “You were always such a beautiful person inside and out. You always had so much love to give, Lenora. And smart as a whip you are. You always made me so proud. I love you, my sweet child. I love you as my own daughter. You bring me such joy, sweetheart. I will cherish every day I had with you, It’s all right if you need to go. I will miss you forever, but I understand. If you need to, just let go, child.”
I held Lenora close and whispered her name repeatedly, telling her how much I loved her. Tears ran down my face as I whispered to her. Lenora let out a long breath and didn’t take in another. I knew she was gone, but I couldn’t let her go. Something told me to not break the physical connection. I stroked the golden hair I loved so dearly and whispered her name. “I’ll love you forever, Lenora. Now you can rest.” I took her hand and finally gave in to the grief I’d been clamping down on. I cried for Lincoln and for my sweet Landon, who would never have the chance to grow up and experience life to its fullest. But most of all, I cried for Lenora and what her loss would mean for me from here on out.
I was floating somewhere between time and space. There was no sense of being. I don’t know where and when I felt someone holding me and speaking my name. “Mathilda,” I tried to say. somehow recognizing who it was. “Don’t cry. It’s nice where I’m going. I’ll be all right.” Somehow, I knew I was going to be with Linc and Landon, so I didn’t fight the floating sensation. I knew I would be taken to where I needed to go.
Time seemed to work differently because the next thing I knew, I was in a beautiful place where all kinds of colors shone off the water. I gasped at the sheer beauty of what I was seeing, for I had never seen such a wondrously magical place. I sighed in contentment as the waves crashed against the surf and a gentle breeze lifted my hair. If ever I needed to go somewhere to gather inspiration for writing a book or a piece of music, I would have to look no further than this heavenly spot.
I whirled around when I heard my name spoken so very softly, as if spoken by an angel. Standing before me was every member of my family I’d ever lost. There was Grandda, who looked young and fit, and the smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye reminded me so much of how he’d always been in life. Standing beside him was my grandmother, Anne. She was so beautiful. It was from her that I inherited my blond hair and blue eyes. My father, Patrick and my mother, Maggie were there. My father was a tall, strapping man with dark hair and sparkling brown eyes. My mother was tall and slender with long red hair with the same eyes that both my grandmother and I have. Next was my beloved Linc and my beautiful little boy.
I gasped and let out a desperate cry as I flung myself on them. I wept for joy as loving arms encircled me, and I was held by the people I’d lost throughout the course of my life.
“Ma! Da! I wish I could have known you,” I choked out. “I never knew you, but I missed you anyway.”
“We’re so sorry we left you, darling,” my mother said in a beautiful Irish lilt. “I take full responsibility for that. I beg your forgiveness.”
“I was in good hands,” I told her, squeezing her. “Grandda and Mathilda took very good care of me.”
“I knew they would,” my father said, giving me a gentle kiss and wiping my tears.
I was then passed off to Grandda, who held me so tight. “I missed you so much, Grandda. You were the best grandda anyone could have ever had. I love you forever and missed you every single day.”
He tilted my chin up with a finger so he could look into my eyes. “And I have missed ye, my beautiful Lenora. I knew I could leave ye in good hands. I’m so proud of ye, my talented, beautiful girl.”
I was then hugged and kissed by my grandmother, who gave me the most tender of smiles. “You’re so beautiful, Lenora. How I wish I could have held ye just once before I left the physical world.”
“I wish I could have known you, but I’m here now, and we’ll have a lot to make up for,” I said.
She shook her head and pulled back to take me by the shoulders. “This is only a short visit, I’m afraid.”
“Short visit? But…”
“There are others you need to see first,” Grandma said, giving me a slight push. The next instant, I was enfolded in the arms of my husband and son. Everything I’d been feeling since their devastating loss bubbled over, and I held on tight, never wanting to let them go. I kissed Lincoln’s face over and over and sobbed desperately as I crushed Landon to my chest.
“I’ll love you always, my Lenora,” Lincoln whispered as he stroked my hair. “Nothing can ever take away what we had and meant to each other. Always remember that.”
“I will,” I said, framing his face in my hands. “Oh, Linc, my beloved! I have you back. I have you back and I’m never letting you go again.” I held on tight and rested my head against his chest. “Just hold me. Hold me and never let go.”
He did as I asked but only for a few moments. His fingers were on my face and wiping the tears from my cheeks. “I have to let you go, Lenora. Your time isn’t up yet. There’s still work for you to do.”
“Not without you,” I said, feeling a bolt of panic shoot through my very being.
Lincoln kissed me softly. “No, sweetheart. I can’t come back with you. You must go back.”
“He’s right, Ma,” Landon said, his arms encircling me. “You’re needed more than you know right now. You have to go back.”
“I can’t leave you again,” I said, squeezing Landon close. “Not again.”
Lincoln held us both, and I never wanted this moment to end. “My love, there is no choice. You’re destined to do great things, things that could even mean the survival of the universe. Your unique talents are needed greatly.”
“There is no life without you, either of you,” I protested.
“Yes there is, Ma,” Landon said, kissing me. “You’ll see that one day. First, you’ve got to stop blaming yourself for what happened to us. It wasn’t your fault. It was nobody’s fault, Ma. It just happened.”
Lincoln kissed me softly and stroked my cheek. “It’s true, sweetheart. You must believe that. You must promise you’ll stop beating yourself up over this. You’ve got to go on, Lenora. Always remember how much we both love you, but you’ve got to go on. I want you to be happy.”
“You’ll be OK, Ma. Really, you will. I’ll always watch over you, and I really will be your angel.”
“Oh, Landon!” I whispered, stroking his hair.
“Besides, Auntie Mathilda needs you. If you go, she’ll be all alone and won’t ever let herself love anyone ever again. She needs you just as much as you need her.”
I was once again hugged and kissed by my parents and grandparents and then, Lincoln was holding me again. “I’ll wait for you, my Lenora. When your time comes, you’ll be in my arms forever and will never have to be apart from me again. You’re going to be all right. I’m always with you. Remember that.”
“Lenora, my sweet child. How will I bear this? I’m going to miss you every day of my existence. I hope wherever you are, you found what you were looking for.” I jolted as I heard the faraway voice coming from behind me.
“Mathilda!” I hadn’t realized I’d said her name aloud, but Landon’s next words confirmed it.
“You see, Ma? She needs you. She’s crying because you left her.”
I knew Mathilda loved me, but she never struck me as the type of person who actually needed anyone.
Landon seemed to pick up on my thoughts. “It’s true, Ma. You changed everything for her. If you don’t go back, she won’t continue her work, and both of you are needed there. She needs you so you both can complete the mission you’re supposed to do.”
The ocean began to shimmer before me, and Lincoln and Landon didn’t feel as solid in my arms. I felt myself being pulled away. I fought it with everything I had but to no avail.
“Don’t fight it, Ma. it’s going to be OK. You’ll see. I love you so much, Ma.” Landon blew me a kiss and smiled the most angelic smile at me.
“I love you, Lenora. I’ll always love you.” Lincoln’s voice was fading, and I could no longer touch him. He put his arm around Landon. “We’re all right, my love, and so will you be.”
They were gone an instant later, and I found myself lying on a warm bed. I felt someone’s arms around me, and I knew they were Mathilda’s. I could feel the love and strength in them. She was speaking my name softly and crying. My head was pillowed against her chest, and her capable, nimble fingers stroked my hair.
It felt like a rhinoceros was sitting on my chest. I tried to breathe in, but all I could do was gasp weakly for air. I felt my muscles contract, and my body gave a huge jerk. I was being laid back against plump pillows, and Mathilda’s fingers were at my throat as if feeling for a pulse.
“By the ancients!” she exclaimed. “She’s coming back! Lenora, child, it’s Mathilda. Can you hear me?”
I tried to move my hand, but I felt so terribly weak. I took in another gasp of air, this one a bit larger.
“That’s it, child. Breathe for Mathilda. You can do it.” She took my hand and squeezed it hard. I tried once again to move my hand and was able to weakly curl my fingers around Mathilda’s. “Yes, that’s it! I’ve got you, Lenora. Come back to me, sweetheart.”
I squeezed her hand, finding it easier to move with each passing moment. I breathed in again and realized I was still very ill. When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was Mathilda’s face. Tears were coursing down her cheeks, but now, she was smiling widely. I licked dry, cracked lips and tried to smile a little. “Hey, Mathilda,” I rasped.
“Hey yourself,” she said, smoothing my hair. “You die on me and all you can say is ‘Hey,’?”
This time, I was able to muster a grin, but I didn’t have the energy to sustain it. Then, the truth of what she said penetrated my groggy mind. “I died? I wasn’t sure. I mean, I thought I might have but wasn’t sure if it was just a dream. The last thing I remember was getting up to go to the bathroom and then…nothing.”
“You died, child. You were clinically dead for almost four minutes,” she said, squeezing my hand again.
I was silent for a moment while having an inner debate with myself on whether or not to share my experience with Mathilda. Then, I realized that if anyone could understand, it would be Mathilda. I tried to take in a deep breath but produced a hacking cough instead.
Mathilda chanted a spell, which alleviated some of the tightness in my chest and patted my hand. “Just rest now, sweetheart. We can talk later.”
Mathilda got up, but I pulled her back. “No. I need to tell you now.”
She held back a moment and then came back to perch on the bed. “What is it, sweetheart?”
“I saw them. I saw them all,” I said, then told her what I’d experienced. “They said I would be all right and that we have some mission we have to do together that might be needed to save the universe. Landon said…he said…that you needed me.”
It didn’t take my empathic senses to discern the play of emotions that crossed Mathilda’s face. She didn’t say a word until she pulled me into her arms to hold me tight. “First of all, it’s true. I do need you, Lenora. I love you so dearly, child, but as it turns out, I need you as well. You were always the bright spot in my life. I suppose I didn’t fully realize how much I needed you until you died in my arms just a bit ago. I knew if I had to let you go, I would because I couldn’t stand to see you suffering so. But oh, Lenora, I don’t think I ever could have gotten over it. You had me so scared.”
“I’m sorry,” I said regretfully, squeezing her closer.
“Don’t be sorry. The important thing is by some miracle, I have you back.” She kissed my cheek and patted my back when I coughed again.
“You do believe me, don’t you?” I asked her. “I mean, about…what I saw?”
“I do,” Mathilda said without hesitation. “You are not the first to have this kind of experience. I hope what you saw and got to experience can help you someday make peace with what has happened.”
A tear rolled down my cheek as I snuggled more into Mathilda’s embrace. “Landon told me I mustn’t blame myself for the…the accident, that it was just something that happened. Linc said he wanted me to be happy, that they were all right and I would be too. I wanted to stay with them so much, but I couldn’t.” I took a tremulous, wheezing breath. “Reckon the bottom line is that whatever winds up the universe and puts it to bed at night isn’t through with me yet.”
“Thank the ancients for that,” Mathilda said, rubbing my back.
“This mission,” I said thoughtfully. “Do you have any idea what it means? I have to believe I didn’t imagine it. Everything I saw, felt, and experienced was so vivid. There has to be something to this. I’m sure of it.”
Mathilda settled me back against the pillow, and I reached for her hand as a worried frown crossed her features. She remained silent a long while. I was about to question her again, but then, she spoke. “Often times, there are predictions about the so-called end of times and the destruction of the world, even the universe. Most of them are bogus, as you know. I don’t hold much stock in such things normally.”
“Yes, I know,” I said. “Times are bad, but would they ever get bad enough that the world could end?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
“But you believe me?” I asked.
“Yes, I do, child. I know what you experienced was real, and because you’re so sure of this, I tend to believe there is something to this. Were you given any kind of timeframe?”
I shook my head.
“Well then, whatever happens could come tomorrow or at any time. I suppose if we’re meant to do something, we’ll be given direction as we need it.”
“You have no clue about what it could be?” I asked her.
She patted my hand and shook her head. “I’m afraid not, sweetheart. I’m immortal, but I am not omniscient. We’re going to have to take it as it comes. You just have to promise me not to check out on me again.”
I grinned at her. “Well, seeing as I’m just too mean to die, I guess you’re stuck with me.” I coughed again and groaned. “Dammit! If I had to come back, I could have at least been sent back not feeling this way. I feel like hell.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Mathilda said, then kissed my forehead. “It won’t be for long. I’ll have you fixed up in no time.”
“But you’re still worried,” I said. “I know you try to hide it, but I can feel it.”
She hesitated before speaking. “Your lungs have been severely compromised, and there is some damage to your heart. Now, I can fix this, but you’re going to have to take it easy for a while. Remember, I warned you that if you had a relapse from this curse, it would be worse as you aged. This relapse combined with your emotional upheaval would have been too much had you not been returned to me. I want you to remember something else. You’re going to heal emotionally, but it’s going to take a long, long time. You’ll have good days and some very bad ones. I want you to just take each day as it comes, and always remember I’m here. I’ll always be a beacon for you when you need it.”
“I love you, Mathilda,” I said.
“Oh, Lenora, child, I love you too. Thank the gods you are still here so you can hear me tell you. Now, I want you to get some rest. I’ll be close by,” she said, tucking the covers around me and kissing my cheek.
Mathilda was right. I had many dark, dreary days where I could barely pull myself out of bed. The loss of Linc and Landon sometimes still felt as fresh as the day it happened. I would have bouts of deep depression where I couldn’t even muster the strength to change out of my night dress. Often, I’d sit on the floor in a daze or lie flat on the couch and let the tears slide down my temples and into my hair. No matter how often it happened, Mathilda was always there to console and comfort me. She’d get me to relive funny moments with Lincoln and Landon so I could begin to think of them with laughter instead of tears.
With each passing day, my sense of humor returned little by little. As my emotional state began to slowly heal, my body became stronger. One day, Mathilda hugged me tight after I teased her about always calling Landon her nephy-pooh. After she wiped the tears of mirth from her eyes, her arms came around me. “My Lenora is getting her spark back,” she said.
“I suppose it’s still more of a fizzle, but I’m trying,” I told her. “It’s hard sometimes, Mathilda. It’s so hard. There are still days when I don’t think I can go on. Then, I think about visiting them briefly in the afterlife, and that helps keep me going. Having you here to help me also makes all the difference in the world.”
“I’ll always be here for you, Lenora. You know that,” Mathilda said, pulling me closer.
“I know, and I’m so thankful,” I said.
Mathilda and I worked on magic together, and again, I became her student. I learned about dueling and magical combat. She taught me even more advanced magic than I already knew. Once again, I soaked it up eagerly, which pleased her greatly.
One day, I started to feel very strange. Mathilda had some visitors over that day, and as I helped her clean up the wine glasses and straighten things up, I began to hear voices and see things I knew I wasn’t looking at with the physical eye. As I touched things these people had come into contact with, more was revealed. I was somehow seeing into their lives as well as feeling with my empathic senses. I gasped and let go of the refreshment tray I was carrying. I expected it to crash resoundingly to the floor, but instead, it hovered in mid air. I told myself to let it go very gently and set it down on the table. It obeyed my command, and somehow, I knew I’d moved it by the sheer force of my mind.
“Oh, my gosh!” I gasped. “Holy shit! Mathilda!”
She was at my side in an instant. “Lenora, what is it? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost?”
I goggled at nothing in particular. “Well…um…it wasn’t a ghost, but it was…something.” I quickly told her what happened and then focused on the tray, which I lifted by ordering it with my mind. “Mathilda, what does this mean?”
Mathilda led me to the couch and then sat down beside me. “I believe you are manifesting new abilities to add to the ones you already possess,” she explained.
I shook my head. “I don’t understand.’
“Once again, the illness brought on by the curse has opened the door. You developed your empathic senses after you were ill the first time. You became ill again, and now, you are exhibiting psychic abilities as well as telekinesis. I cannot know for sure until we explore this further, but I believe this to be a very telling sign.”
“Telling? How?” I asked.
“I believe this to be an aid in this mission you are to undertake,” she said simply. “We should study this further, but I believe there is more than meets the eye. In fact…”
She pulled me to my feet and led me to her secret room where she pulled huge tomes off the shelves. “Your grandfather left these volumes in my care and asked me to show them to you when I felt you were ready to see them. As you will soon discover, you come from a very long line of magic.”
As I poured my attention into the huge volumes, I discovered my family’s ancestors dated back to ancient times and were a huge part of Druidic magic. “Spell casting is one thing, but as you can see here, there is much, much more than simple spell work,” Mathilda explained.
It seemed that each ancestor had some sort of ability all their own. Some could control the elements while others had the gift of throwing fire. It wasn’t all sunshine and light either. Many of my ancestors used their gifts for good, but there were others who allowed it to turn them to the dark side.
“As you can see, groups of them could come together to aid in a situation or even hinder it,” she continued.
“This really is unbelievable,” I said, looking up from the tome I was currently perusing. “What does this have to do with me?”
“Lenora, can’t you see it? You are the only one to be manifesting more than one of these abilities. These abilities are coming together in one person, and that’s you. We need to study this and there are tests we need to make, but I believe this is only the beginning of what you are going to be capable of doing.”
I felt as though the floor had been yanked from under me. “I never asked for this. I lead a pretty normal life until it all went down in that airplane. I just used magic for the little things like keeping Landon’s lunch warm until he ate it. The empathic senses just kept me more connected to my family. Mathilda, I’m not meant for anything else except writing my books and messing with music. I was once someone’s wife and mother, but now…oh, Mathilda, can’t we tell these forces they’re flying the wrong broomstick?”
She laughed for a long moment and shook her head. “It doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid. In fact, I’ve got it right here in black and white. You’re the Chosen.”
“Chosen? For what? Surely, it can’t say ‘Lenora Atherton, the Chosen’ or some strange thing like that.”
“Well, not quite,” Mathilda said, smiling. “Here, read this and then tell me I’m wrong.”
I looked at the page she pointed to, and as I read further, I discovered what looked like an ancient prophecy.
“On the third day of the third month at the eleventh hour, a girl child shall be born and will carry the mark of the Chosen upon her person. She shall lose what she never knew but will gain strength and knowledge from an elderly one. A curse shall befall her and illness come, but great power will be left in its place. Love shall find her, but tragedy shall mar her life once more. Once again, illness shall attempt to stamp out the light. Love shall conquer the darkness, and the Chosen shall utter the sacred words.”
Tingles ran down my spine as I read the words, for I knew I carried a strange birthmark on the back of my knee. It was in the shape of a sphere with a sort of staff inside. When I was little, I once asked Grandda about it, but he quickly changed the subject. After that, I never really thought about it too much. Everything else this prophecy, or whatever it was, said fit me to a tee.
I laid my head on the table and heaved a befuddled sigh. “This is a lot to get my head wrapped around. Why wasn’t I told about this before?”
“Liam asked me not to tell you until the time was right. Neither of us wanted you to live your life wondering when certain tragedy would strike. You would not have been able to fully enjoy what you shared with Lincoln and Landon if you had known from the start,” she said simply.
I could see the logic in that. I’d have been so worried about keeping them safe that I’d have spent all our lives trying to lock them away in a proverbial bubble. “I didn’t ask for this, Mathilda.”
“I know, darling, but sometimes we are compelled to face and do things we didn’t ask for. This is one such thing, Lenora.”
“So, what happens now?” I asked her.
“The end of the prophecy says you must speak aloud the sacred words,” she said, turning to another page in the book. “You will know you are the Chosen for sure once you speak these words. Go on. Read them.”
“From East to West and North to South,
I utter these words from my mouth.
I claim this birthright as my own.
Through time and space I shall undertake
This title placed upon me for my ancestors’ sake.
I am the Chosen.
I shall fight for truth and light
And I will always seek what is right.
I claim the power.
And now in this room I stand.
I pray the spirits, hear my command.”
My hands began to glow, and my voice took on a sort of echoing, magnified quality. I raised my hand and spoke the last lines.
“I, Lenora the Chosen command
The power I seek, come forth to my hand.”
I know it will sound cliché when I say thunder crashed violently and the lights flickered, but that is exactly what happened. I was hit with a force I can only describe as a form of electricity. My nerve endings sizzled, and I felt parts of my hair standing on end. It was over almost as quickly as it began, and I blinked dazedly at Mathilda. “What now?” I asked her, feeling completely stupid for one of the few times in my life.
“We work together, you and I, and we see just how far your abilities can go,” she said simply. “But first, you need your rest.”
I still tired easily, so Mathilda prescribed a daily rest period for me, which she saw to that I obeyed. I was too keyed up to actually sleep this time, so we read together and talked like the old chums we were. I found out a lot about myself, but I also learned much, much more about Mathilda.
I knew she’d been a mother several times over but we never talked specifically about any of her children. They’d long since been dead, and Mathilda hadn’t been married for over a hundred years. However, I received a huge shock when she told me about her dauhter, Alina.
“She was so sick, Lenora, and seeing you so ill reminded me so much of my last moments with her.” Mathilda told me how an angry mob on a witch hunt was after her and Alina and that she’d had to send Alina through time to save her life. Alina had been dying of small pox but Mathilda had been able to lessen the symptoms so Alina’s body could heal itself and not be contagious to others. Medieval times were harsh and people tried as witches were killed brutally. Mathilda went on to tell me that Alina was in present day time but that something went wrong with the portal when Mathilda protected herself from being arrested. Alina could be anywhere in the multiverse. “Even Gunther would have an impossible time locating her because there are endless parallel universes she could have ended up in.” She explained that being immortal, she couldn’t die but Alina could. If she’d allowed herself to fall into their hands, they would discover this, and Mathilda could not allow the secret of her immortality to be exposed.
My heart truly went out to Mathilda. I wasn’t the only one who had lost someone so dear, and I could both see and feel Mathilda’s pain and worry for this Alina. “You would love her, Lenora. I’m sure of it,” Mathilda said. “I will consider it one of my greatest accomplishments if I ever find her and we can reunite.”
“If I can help you find her, dear Mathilda, I will,” I promised vehemently. She’d always done so much for me, so if I could offer my meager gifts for the search, I would without hesitation.
Mathilda hugged me for a long moment and told me there was more. It was a good thing she was hugging me because I would have ended up on the floor otherwise. I knew Mathilda was no ordinary witch but never did I imagine her telling me she was a goddess.
“A goddess in training is more like it,” she said, grinning a little. “I have to prove I’m worthy before I come into full goddess-ship”
When I grew thoughtful, Mathilda took me by the shoulders and locked gazes with me. “I know what you must be thinking, so let us get this out here and now, OK?” I just looked at her, which she took as a sign to continue. “You are likely thinking that since I have this…power, why didn’t I bring Linc and Landon back? Why didn’t I save Liam when it actually would have been in my power to do so?”
I thought for a moment, choosing my words carefully. “Even gods and goddesses have limitations to what they are allowed to do. There must be a set of rules to follow so the cosmos doesn’t go haywire.”
She nodded sadly, then took both of my hands in hers. “I’m sorry, Lenora, but I was not permitted to interfere with Liam’s dying or stop the plane crash. You have no idea how I wanted to but I was strictly forbidden by Ariadne herself. I want you to know that I never took any joy from seeing you suffer so. If I could have found a way without harming the universe, I would have, Lenora. I swear that to you on my immortal life.”
This was a so much information to take in and I’d have to get used to seeing Mathilda in a different sort of light. One thing I did know was that she, too, was greatly affected when we lost Grandda. She loved Linc and Landon as her own, so I knew she would have never taken any twisted pleasure in seeing them or me suffer.
I squeezed her hands tightly, my gaze never wavering from hers. “Goddess or not, I know you, Mathilda, and I know you would have made it right if you could or were permitted. I have every faith in you and trust you implicitly. This…bombshell doesn’t change that.”
She held me tight as we talked some more. I learned that she had worshipers, people who asked her for help and that Gunther was often an indirect part of it. “I wouldn’t want to interfere with your work. You have more important things to contend with than watching over the likes of me,” I told her.
“Watching over the likes of you is part of my work,” she said, gently tapping my forehead with a long, slender finger. “Where you and I are concerned, nothing has changed. I’m still the same person you’ve always known me to be.”
“So…do I need to do some sort of ritual or something if I want to ask something special of you? I mean, should I sort of pray to you now? And how does Ariadne fit into this?” I asked, confused.
Mathilda kissed my cheek and patted my arm. “You can ask me anything at any time just as always, and you know I’d do anything in the world for you if I could, Lenora. Like I said, this doesn’t change our relationship. As for Ariadne, she is still the one who oversees everything in our world.”
“I bet you’d be just as good at the job as she is,” I replied.
“Always my staunchest supporter,” she chuckled.
There were so many more questions I had for her, like how was it that she couldn’t find Alina? Why did she not know more about this mission I was to undertake? How was I supposed to get on with my life without Linc and Landon?
“When I am personally invested in a situation or certain people I care for deeply, the way to the end result isn’t always clear. I think it will take someone else to find Alina, someone who is meant to find her and help her reunite with me. I do know that she is alive and well but it is not yet our time to reunite. As to your own life, Lenora, I can tell you this. What you have lost, you will regain in bountiful measure. I cannot tell you any more than that.”
I sighed and nodded in resignation. It was going to be hard…so hard…but it was something I was going to have to live with.
Sometime after, I was having one of my bad days so Mathilda put me onto the sofa, tucked a blanket around me, and just sat with me. However, she grew very mysterious during the afternoon and left the room to talk on her phone a few times. “What is going on?” I finally asked her when she came back in, a big self satisfied smile on her face.
She laughed and pulled my makeup bag from behind her back. “You’ve got a couple of visitors on the way, so I think we should get some color into your cheeks.”
“Oh, Mathilda, not today,” I said, sighing sadly. “Tell whoever it is it’s not a good day.”
She just grinned and started rummaging through the bag. “Now Lenora, darling, I don’t think you’d want me to tell the great Amadeus Landgraab to go away, would you?”
I shot up into a completely erect sitting position and gawped. “What did you just say?”
“Amadeus Landgraab and his wife are coming here in just a little while to see you,” she said, pushing me back down against the sofa pillows. “Now be a good girl and let Mathilda fix you up a little so he doesn’t mistake you for a vampire.”
“Oh my Ariadne, Tom, Dick, and Rodney!” I shrieked.
“Still the incessant fangirl,” she teased me.
Within ten minutes, she had me looking presentable. Soon after, the doorbell rang, and I heard a voice I have never forgotten nor ever will.
It was a good thing I was already sitting down, otherwise I might have fainted when Amadeus and his wife walked through the door. He was a handsome, lean man who commanded one’s presence simply by being in the same room with them. He had the most beautiful hands I had ever seen, which only added to his appeal as the incredibly gifted concert pianist he was. Amadeus Mozart Landgraab suited him in every way, and it was clear that he had lived up to that name long ago.
Erica Landgraab was a beautiful woman with compassion and kindness radiating from every pore of her being. She smiled at me and sat down beside Amadeus.
“I can’t believe you came to see me,” I said, feeling like a dork.
“It’s my pleasure,” said Amadeus in that melodic, strong voice that made at least seventy-five percent of the female population, human and otherwise, swoon. “Ms. Blankenship said you’ve been feeling poorly, and Erica and I were happy to come see you. I remember all those times you and your husband came to my concerts. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” I whispered and took a steadying breath. “I miss him every day.”
“My daughter, Theresa, also sends her condolences and wants me to tell you she enjoys your books very much. She is a big fan,” said Amadeus.
I smiled, feeling a small piece of myself slide back into place. “Thank her for me, will you?”
“Of course,” said Amadeus. “Now then, tell us a little more about yourself. I realize we have talked on numerous occasions but it’s hard to have a real conversation backstage after a performance.”
He and Erica listened intently as I summed up my life. “And so, here I am trying to get it together and figure things out. I never dreamed I would lose…so much in an instant.” I was mortified when tears sprang to my eyes and spilled over. “I miss them every single moment of every single day. Landon…” Ariadne forgive me, but I covered my face with my hands and blubbered right there in front of my idol and his stunning wife.
“Oh, Lenora, you poor thing. You poor, poor thing,” Erica said, then surprised me by pulling me into her arms to hold me. “To outlive a child is any mother’s worst nightmare. Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”
“I miss them so much,” I blurted out on a sob. It was strange. As Erica hugged me tightly, I felt an instant connection to her as if her presence would remain in my life somehow.
“I know…I know,” she said softly. “But you know what? They’re always with you. They’ll always be with you, and there will always be little signs of how proud they are of you. You’ll get through this, Lenora.”
“I’m trying, but it’s so hard. Sometimes it just crushes me,” I admitted.
“Then let it crush you during those times. Allow yourself to mourn fully. It even helps to talk to them. As long as you keep them alive in your heart, they will never truly be gone.” Erica gave me a squeeze. “Sometimes it helps to remember a funny story they told or a crazy incident that happened. I know that can’t erase the pain, but it can help soothe some of it.”
“Here now,” Amadeus said, pressing a hankie into my hand. “Dry those pretty eyes and do what Erica asked. Maybe sharing something funny that happened will give you some good feelings.”
Once again, Erica surprised me and took the hankie from my hand to dry my tears herself. I gave her a wobbly smile and apologized for my outburst. “You must be a wonderful mother,” I told her.
“That she is, love, and there’s no need to apologize.” Amadeus had a slight British accent that made me smile in spite of my sadness. “We got three pups. Tyrone and Theresa are twins, grown now, and Val’s ten.”
“Deus, for Ariadne’s sake! Theresa would be mortified by you calling her a pup,” Erica laughed.
“They’ll always be pups to me, even if Theresa’s just a witch,” Amadeus said, his eyes twinkling.
“Just a witch, indeed,” Erica huffed in mock indignation. I guessed this was an old joke between them, but I was intrigued by what they were saying.
“So…your daughter is a witch, and your son and other daughter…?” I trailed off.
“They’ve got their own furry little pal, same as me. Let’s just say the full moon is a real howler of a time,” Amadeus grinned.
Erica groaned but I laughed. Anyone in the supernatural world who was any kind of fan of Amadeus Landgraab’s knew he was a werewolf. This was why he never gave a concert or recital during the full moon. He was, in fact, the first werewolf I had ever met but never saw him in is transformed state. He was one of the wolves who kept his mind while in that state, but I imagined he could do some real damage if provoked.
I observed how Amadeus and Erica were with each other. It was plain to see that they were crazy about each other. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I felt through my empathic senses that their relationship went beyond love. It was as if he needed her in some way that went beyond the scope of a normal couple, and it was reciprocated by Erica. It was like they were one unit, two halves of a whole who weren’t complete without the other. I was curious about this and made a mental note to do a bit of research on werewolves later on.
I was brought back to the here and now when Erica touched my arm. “How about that funny story then?”
The grin sprang easily to my lips as I recounted how Linc orchestrated our being locked in the music room together. “I couldn’t stand his ass but that afternoon and night changed everything,” I said, concluding the story. “Time flies and we were so young back then.”
Amadeus and Erica smiled at each other as if saying, “Kids!” I smiled too, remembering the night Linc confessed his part in the fiasco to me. “Hold onto those good memories, Lenora. That will get you through this,” Erica said.
“I have something else that might help, too. May I borrow your piano?” Amadeus asked.
“I wrote this for you,” Amadeus said as he started to play. As it turned out, he wrote a song called “Sweet Lenora,” and when he began to sing – and damn, that man could sing – I closed my eyes and let the tears slide down my cheeks. It was a beautiful song that was sung from Linc’s point of view. It talked of our deep and abiding love and how he would always be with me even though he was no longer a part of the physical realm. From that moment on, he went from being my idol to someone I would forever be grateful to for doing such a beautiful and sweet thing.
The song was soon released for public listening, and all royalties from it went to the local Lions Club that Linc and I had belonged to back in Hidden Springs. They always did amazing work for those with visual and hearing impairments, and we were hooked when a local visually impaired woman came to a club meeting to talk about her new Leader Dog and how the beautiful Golden Retriever changed her life.
I blushed five shades of red when Amadeus asked me to play for him. “It’ll be like Peewee Herman playing for Liberace,” I giggled, covering my mouth.
Erica snorted in amusement and Amadeus barked out a hearty laugh. “Now, don’t give me that, young lady. We heard you play beautifully,” he said.
I guess I performed better than Peewee Herman because he said he loved it. I surmised he didn’t give out those kinds of compliments lightly. He watched every move my fingers made, nodding in approval as they glided across the keys.
“Well, Maestro, do I pass?” I asked half jokingly but a little nervous anyway. I mean, imagine me, Little Lenora Atherton, playing for the greatest and most legendary musician of our time.
“You’ll do,” he said. When I gulped and wipe a hand over my brow, his face broke out in a broad smile. “It was beautiful, Lenora. Truly, it was.”
I was a little bummed when it started to get late and Amadeus and Erica had to leave. “We will visit again if you would like us to,” Erica said.
“I-I’d like that a lot,” I said. “I be thanking ye for making this day a bit brighter for me. May the sun always shine warmly upon ye and may the wind always be behind ye.” My Irish accent thickened with emotion as I hugged them both.
When they left, Mathilda came back into the room to find a goofy grin plastered over my face. “Did that really just happen?”
Mathilda laughed and laughed. “It just happened, Lenora, every bit of it.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” I said. “I’ll be diddly-damned.”
Mathilda just grinned and handed me a glass of wine.
Author’s Note: You can read about Alina in my story, “Another World.”
As an active Lions Club member, I had to get my digs in there somehow. 🙂 If you ever run across a Lions Club member, please thank them for all the great service their club does but better yet, join a Lions Club so you can be a part of this awesome organization.
For more information about dog guides, visit Leader Dogs for the Blind.