The day Amadeus and Erica came to visit me was the start of a wonderful friendship. After that, they called regularly to see how I was doing. We talked as often as we could, and I received permanent tickets to any of Amadeus’s concerts and recitals I wished to attend. They visited me at Mathilda’s whenever possible and I promised to come to Aurora Skies to visit. I’d always been such a huge fan of Amadeus’s, and now, I had the honor and pleasure of being a friend to both him and Erica.
Mathilda spent many long hours helping me sharpen my magical abilities. I grew to understand my newfound abilities and even discovered I had one more. I realized I was also telepathic. Mathilda and I found this out one day as we sat crocheting while enjoying some relaxing music from one of Amadeus’s CD’s. //Rain all week. I swear, we’re going to need a lifeboat soon.// I thought Mathilda spoke these words aloud. When I answered her back, her head snapped up, and she cocked an eyebrow at me.
“I didn’t say anything, child. I was just thinking about all this rain,” she said.
“But…I could have sworn…” I shrugged and went back to my crocheting.
A little while later, it happened again. //Hmmm, what to have for lunch. Maybe just some soup and grilled cheese. Nothing too heavy.//
“Soup and grilled cheese sounds fine to me,” I said.
Mthilda put down her work and fixed me with a look. “Lenora, I didn’t say anything. I was just thinking abut what to rustle us up for lunch.”
“But, Mathilda, I could hear you loud and clear,” I said, completely puzzled.
She propped her chin on her hand, and I could almost smell the bacon sizzling as she lost herself in deep thought. She had this funny expression on her face when she spoke again. “Lenora, this is going to sound like a strange request, but hear me out and humor me. I want you to think something. It can be anything, but just think something at me.”
“Think something…at you?” I asked, reaching up to scratch my head in confusion.
“Yes. Just think of something in your mind,” she instructed.
The first thing that popped into my mind was the beginning words of this song Linc and I loved so much. I’d heard it the first time when Linc and I were engaged and picking out music for our wedding.
//Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.
When our time has come, we will be as one.
God bless our love…//
I sang the song in my mind and nearly fell out of my chair when Mathilda sang it back to me aloud. My crochet hook slipped from my fingers and fell to the floor with a metallic clang. “What the hell?” was all I could croak out.
Mathilda just grinned and laughed. “Lenora, I do believe you are telepathic, my dear girl.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover yet another new ability. We’d been making a lot of tests recently and discovered that I was able to use more of my brain than most people could. This combined with my being a witch was making me manifest these talents and to sharpen them at what I thought was an alarming rate. I was enthralled but quite scared, I must admit, but Mathilda couldn’t have been more pleased. “You are the Chosen, after all,” she’d told me one day after we put in a hard day’s work of making tests and practicing.
“Oh, Mathilda, this is intense,” I said, rubbing my temples. “This could lead to some embarrassing and awkward situations.”
She just laughed again and reached over to touch my hair. “It’s like any of your other abilities. You just need to learn to control it. I’ll help you.”
“It’s strange,” I said. “I’d feel like a voyeur. I mean, I’d be able to hear what others are thinking and feel their emotions, but they won’t be able to talk to me in that way. You’re the only one I know of who can do such things.”
“I’ll help you learn how to close it down when you need to, child. You’re in good hands with Mathilda. Don’t worry,” she said, smiling at me.
“Oh, I know. It’s all just so…new. I mean, there has to be some master plan or something, right? Why else would this be happening?” I asked.
Mathilda handed me my crochet hook, the broad smile still on her face. “Of course there is a master plan. In time, it’ll become clear. There’s always a reason why things happen.”
I spent two years in Mathilda’s constant company learning and rediscovering myself. Every day I missed Linc and Landon, but the pain of their loss wasn’t quite so raw. However, birthdays, holidays, and special days that were meaningful to only our family were terribly difficult. Sometimes I felt I took three steps back after moving forward two. Mathilda just told me it was part of the grieving process and to just allow myself to feel the emotions I needed to feel at a particular time. She kept me busy with work and studying to help keep me focused. Mathilda always seemed to know just what I needed whenever I needed it.
One morning, I was cooking breakfast for Mathilda and me while thinking hard about an idea that had been germinating for the last few weeks. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt there could be something to it. I decided to run it past Mathilda to see what she thought. She came into the kitchen to talk to me while I put together the omelets. “Oh my! Something smells delicious in here,” she said as she put a steaming mug of coffee beside me.
“I felt like omelets this morning,” I replied.
“Excellent choice.” She sipped her coffee and then looked at me over the rim of her cup. “Lenora, is something troubling you? You’ve been very quiet these last few weeks. Is it the depression?”
“Oh, no. I feel Okay. You worry too much about me,” I said.
“It comes with the territory, child,” she said. “Still, there is something on your mind. Want to talk about it?”
I stopped mixing and left the whisk in the bowl before turning to her. “Actually, I do. See, I was thinking about what we’ve been doing the last two years and about this master plan and mission we’re supposed to be a part of. There has to be some sort of order as to why I have the abilities I do. It all still doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m being pulled in this certain direction, almost as if I’m holding a divining rod. What if I’m supposed to use all this knowledge and ability I have in the healing arts? I mean, you’ve often told me I have healing power in the music I play, sing, and write. More than once, you’ve said I cured a tension headache by just playing my guitar, right?”
“You know there’s magic in music. We’ve talked about that before. Then, take the empathic senses. It could come in very useful if a person isn’t coherent and can’t indicate where they’re hurting, but I’d be able to tell because I can feel it. We can’t forget about the telekinesis. Wouldn’t it stand to reason, for example, that it might work on the heart? What if someone’s heartbeat is way out of rhythm? I’d be able to focus on the heart muscle and regulate the rhythm just by the will of mind. While doing that, I could heal the damage and keep regulating the beat until the heart can pick back up on its own. The psychic abilities could play in there too. Mathilda, I think I’m onto something here.”
Mathilda set her coffee cup down slowly and just studied me for several long moments. “You feel very strongly about this, don’t you?”
I nodded and met her gaze with my blue one. “I know there’s more to all this than that, but what if learning the healing arts and using my abilities in that area is part of what I’m supposed to do? I don’t mean I’d want to hang out a shingle or anything. I haven’t thought that far ahead. I just feel I need to have this knowledge in my arsenal and to know how to focus my abilities in that way. Isn’t there some sort of certification the Witches’ Council has, and don’t they sometimes send out specialists on an as needed basis? I mean, that’s part of your certification, right?”
“Yes, correct,” Mathilda said.
“Mathilda, will you help me?” I asked her.
“Yes, of course,” she said, taking my hand and squeezing it. “You know I will. You certainly have the compassion and personality for it. One can be certified and have the knowledge, but it takes a special person to handle the personal side of it. I am gifted in the healing arts, but sometimes I am too crusty and jaded to offer the amount of compassion or delicacy a situation may require. You, however, have so much kindness and compassion to share and would be perfect for it.”
And that was how another journey began. I spent an additional three years under the tutelage of Mathilda. It was hard work, but I loved it. I passed my certification with flying colors and became a consultant and a high ranking member of the Witches’ Council.
Five years after the death of my husband and son, I finally felt strong enough to strike out on my own. When I told Mathilda it was high time I got out of her hair and got a place of my own, she pulled me into her arms and held me tight. “Oh, sweetheart, you don’t have to go. I love having you here.”
“I know you do and I love being here, but I can’t use you as a crutch forever. I need to try to discover this courage and strength Grandda always said I have, you see. I’m going to take the proceeds from the sale of our place in Hidden Springs and move to Riverview, I think. I like the quiet surroundings, and it’s a nice little community.”
“Oh, Lenora, are you sure?” Mathilda asked me, holding my shoulders and peering into my face.
“It’s something I have to do. Please understand,” I said.
“Oh, child, I do. It’s just that I’ll miss you so. I’ve grown accustomed to having you here,” she said, embracing me again.
“You know you can come visit me anytime,” I told her.
“And the same goes on my end.” We held each other for a long time just enjoying the closeness of our relationship. “At least let me help you move.”
“Help needed and appreciated,” I said.
I found the perfect place in Riverview. it wasn’t too large, but it was smaller than the house I shared with Landon and Linc. It had an old-fashioned feel with beautiful hardwood floors. I bought all new furniture and little touches like throw rugs to make it cozy. I loved lighting a fire in the fireplace and then playing the piano or writing my books as the warmth and crackle of it relaxed me into a peaceful feeling.
Day by day, I was coming more and more to terms with losing Linc. I missed him every single day, but I could now talk about him without wanting to cry every time. It wasn’t so easy with Landon. As hard as I tried, something in my soul just didn’t settle well. More than once, I got the crazy feeling that Landon was trapped somewhere he didn’t yet belong. I had this nagging sensation in my very being that Landon was still somehow meant to be with me.
I enjoyed a pretty quiet life for the next two years in Riverview. I wrote my books but also got a job at the theater where I composed musical scores and directed live shows. I also continued my work with the Witches’ Council and consulted on many cases where death would have happened without my unique abilities. I kept that part of my life out of the public eye as much as I could, for I never wanted my powers to become the topic of some sleazy talk show. I used my gifts to help people, not to gain notoriety for myself, and that was how I wanted it to stay.
Although the years passed, my appearance and body didn’t change. It always seemed odd to me that I didn’t age like other people. Mathilda said it was a side effect from all the magic and potions that had been pumped into me both times I’d been ill from my curse. Unless something unforeseen happened, I would live for several hundred years before finally succumbing to natural causes.
Dating wasn’t a huge priority for me, but I did indulge in a few short-lived relationships. Linc will always be a tough act to follow, and the very few men I was involved with just didn’t measure up. Many didn’t go past the first date while others lasted a couple months. Most of the time, it was I who ended things because I just couldn’t pretend there were feelings there that I didn’t have to give. There was one relationship that got a little sticky. For about six months, I was involved with a man named Shane Clayton, who thought we had something permanent in the making. He wined and dined me, and he was a skilled lover. However, the fireworks were absent at least on my end. I ended up breaking it off after finding out he was married. One thing I am not is a home wrecker. For me, married men are off limits.
One night while having a glass of wine, I was venting to Mathilda over the phone about Shane’s deception. “Ah well,” I said as I finished the story. “I guess I’m just meant to be alone. I had my one great love, and I’m content with that.”
“Oh, darling, I think you’re wrong about that. Someone like you isn’t meant to be alone. You have so much love to give, Lenora. I know there is someone out there for you.”
“I had my someone, and he’s gone now,” I said resignedly.
“Linc wouldn’t want you to be alone,” she said. “Listen. I was watching TV this evening, and they announced a casting call for ‘The One.’ What if you applied for that?”
Unfortunately, as she was voicing this utterly ridiculous, insane thing, I was in the middle of swallowing a mouthful of wine. A great burble of laughter arose, which caused me to swallow hard. The wine went down the wrong way, and I broke into a fit of undignified coughing and spluttering.
“Lenora, dear, are you all right?” Mathilda asked.
I finished choking and pounded my chest. “I’m fine. Mathilda, would you mind repeating that? I don’t think I heard you correctly.”
“There’s a casting call for ‘The One.’ Go online and fill out an application. Maybe that’s your avenue.”
“Oh, good lord!” I said, flopping dramatically onto my couch. “You can’t be serious.”
“Where’s your sense of adventure, darling? What have you got to lose? You could end up winning the prize and gaining it all.”
I started laughing hard. “Mathilda, do you realize what you’re saying? Do you know how many girls are there fighting for love of some stranger they’ve never met? No thanks. That’s not my scene.”
She wheedled and cajoled, but I stuck to my guns. “Mathilda, I love you and I’d do anything for you, but there is no way I’m going on that show.”
When we hung up, I didn’t think any more about it until one day, I got a huge manila envelope in the mail. I frowned as I looked at the return address label. “Sim City Productions,” I said aloud as I ran my finger over the words. I opened the envelope and took out the sheaf of papers. Then, my eyes got huge as I started to read. I’d been accepted to appear on the upcoming season of “The One.” There were two major problems at work, however. First, I hadn’t even applied to appear on the show. Secondly, I didn’t even want to appear on the show. As my brain began to process all this, I came to the one and only conclusion as to how this came to be.
Clenching my jaw, I picked up the phone to dial Mathilda’s number. “Hello, Lenora darling.”
“Don’t you Lenora darling me, Mathilda Blankenship. You’ve got some explaining to do.”
“Explaining about what?” she asked calmly.
“Don’t play dumb with me,” I snapped. “How the hell did I get a summons to appear on ‘The One’ when I didn’t even apply? I sense your handiwork in it, so talk.”
Mathilda just started to laugh, which further pissed me off. “Oh, that.”
“Yes, that,” I barked.
She continued to laugh. “Do you realize you sound just like a mother? I guess I’d better go stand in the corner.”
“Yeah, well, old habits die hard, and you’ll do more than stand in the corner when I get my hands on you. Now spill it.”
“Well, sweetheart, it’s very simple. I filled in the application for you.”
“You what? But…but…” I was incapable of saying anything else.
Mathilda laughed again. “I did it for the very same reason I made you practice your lessons until you got them perfectly. I knew this is the right thing for you to do, and I did it for your own good.”
“You’re supposed to be a goddess and you told me that goddesses aren’t allowed to interfere in such things. Besides, how can it be for my own good to go on that crazy show?” I asked her. The irritation was replaced by a sense of panic. Hell, I knew how Mathilda operated. She could always get me to do anything she thought I needed to do, and she was determined to see me appear on the show. Deep down, I knew she’d get her way.
“Ah, Lenora, don’t you know how it feels to just have this feeling that it’s the right thing to do? I feel strongly that you should appear on that show. I feel it in my bones. You know Mathilda is seldom wrong about these things.” The smile in her voice made me want to run screaming for the hills. “And besides, the cosmos won’t break apart from you appearing on a TV show.”
“You could be wrong once in your never-ending life,” I groused.
She laughed again. “I don’t think so, darling. What can it hurt? Even if you don’t win, you could come away with some fond memories and new friends. Do it for Mathilda. You won’t regret it.”
Well, what choice did I have? I was already under contract, and Mathilda wanted this so badly for me. She’d always acted in my best interest, so how could I stay mad at her? “OK, fine, you win. Just promise you’ll still love me after I completely and totally make a damn fool of myself.”
Her laughter rang in my ear as we hung up. I groaned and slapped my cheeks. Then, I marched into the kitchen to fill my wine glass. I literally chugged it, refilled it again, and chugged that one down, too. I drank the next few a bit slower but still managed to get on a nice buzz. I picked up the phone again, and when I heard Amadeus’s voice on the other end, I started giggling. “Hey, Amadeus.”
“Lenora,” he said, a hint of surprise in his voice. “You sound drunk. How much have you had to drink?” He sounded rather worried, which made me giggle some more. Ariadne forgive me, but I just couldn’t help it.
“Nah, I just have a good buzz on right now, but I plan to totally hang one on tonight. Get ready to howl because you’re not going to believe this.” After I told him about my upcoming reality TV show debut, he did howl.
“Hey, that’s great! Knock ’em dead,” Amadeus said.
“I’d rather knock myself into a coma,” I confessed.
Amadeus laughed, and then I heard his muffled voice as he covered the mouthpiece. I could tell he was relaying my news to Erica. When he came back, I could tell he’d put me on speakerphone so Erica could join in the conversation.
“Lenora, how wonderful!” she said.
“So I keep hearing,” I sighed. “Just tell me one thing. How the hell do I transfer out of this chicken outfit?” I downed more wine.
More laughter on the other end told me they were both enjoying this to the hilt. “Just go and enjoy yourself,” Erica said. “It could be the start of a new life for you.”
“We’ll be watching every week,” Amadeus promised.
“I think I need more wine,” I groaned, which made Amadeus and Erica laugh again. We talked more, and I continued my wine fest. I don’t know how many times I did a refilling charm on the bottle, and I lost count of how many glasses I put down myself. By the time our conversation was coming to a close, I was thoroughly tanked.
“Go to bed, Lenora,” Amadeus said. “You’re going to have quite the large head in the morning.”
“G’night,” I slurred. “I love you guys.”
“We love you too, Lenora,” Erica said, a smile in her voice.
“No, I mean it. I really, really love you guys,” I said, the last word ending on a loud hiccup.
“Good night, Lenora,” the two of them said together, a hint of laughter coming through.
I hung up, stifled a belch against the back of my hand, and slid to the floor, which is where I woke up, flat on my back, the next morning. Amadeus was right. I had a hangover the size of Kentucky.
As the days wore on, I was getting used to the idea of appearing on “The One.” I was even getting a little excited after a while, which I wasn’t going to readily admit to Mathilda. A couple weeks before we were to begin taping, I got the information DVD about this season’s bachelor.
His name was Caleb McIntyre, and he was a policeman who was getting over a bad marriage. He was a genius, a bookworm, and a self-proclaimed workaholic. He seemed like a good person and a nice guy, and I gathered from his looks that he was a vampire.
Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to people like vampires or werewolves. Mathilda and Grandda were the only two people I knew who had any kind of magical ability or supernatural origins. However, being a part of the Witches’ Council got me more exposed to unique types of people. As I looked at the DVD and learned more about Caleb, I had to admit he was pretty damn hot. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Author’s Note: Thank you to PiazzaGirl for allowing me to nab the picture of Caleb from her blog. You can find Caleb’s Bachelor Challenge there, which Lenora appeared in, and read her awesome story, “A Race Against Time.”
The song lyrics are from “God Bless Our Love” by Mary Chapin-Carpenter.