Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 20

Dressed in a business casual outfit, Stacy trotted towards the front door. Barbara and Frank were eating cereal in the living room, and Frank inquired, “Where are you off to so early?”

“Another interview,” Stacy replied. “This one is at a record store, so I’m really hoping I do well on this one!”

Just then, the phone rang, but they all ignored it. Barbara chimed, “Good luck!”

Before Stacy could reply back, Hadeon’s voice rang out on the answering machine, “Stacy, pick up! We need to talk!” Stacy strolled over to the phone, picked up the receiver, and immediately hung up. She deleted the message and complained, “I’m getting tired of getting his calls!”

“You should tell him that he’s not allowed to contact you, just your lawyer,” Barbara suggested.

“I did, and he won’t stop!” Stacy exasperated.

“We’ll take care of it later,” Frank assured her. “Don’t let him make you late for your interview!”

“You’re right! Bye!” Stacy waved good-bye and left.

After the interview, Stacy dejectedly walked by the downtown park. She saw the bench with Charlie’s memorial on it, and all of the memories of Nick came rushing back. She sat down and caressed the placard. She whispered, “You knew him better than anyone, will he ever forgive me?” She stared at it as if it would give an answer, but she only heard silence. She tried hard to move on, but she missed him immensely! Suddenly, a rock band began to play, and it took her back to the day they met. Tears began to roll down her cheeks, and she ran away from that spot.

When she got home, she still felt pretty melancholy. Both of her parents had left for work, which didn’t bother her because she didn’t want them to know she was still hurting. As she picked up the mail off the floor, she considered having a drink to raise her spirits a bit. She sifted through the mail as she walked towards the table with the answering machine on it. She saw a blinking light indicating that they had a new message, and she sincerely hoped it wasn’t her ex-husband. When she pushed play, to her great dismay, Hadeon’s voice rang out, “Stacy, listen, I’m in-!” She pushed delete and returned her attention to the mail.

She came across a letter that practically made her heart stop- it came from the recording studio in Nashville that she remembered from when she worked with her husband’s firm! She wished that when she opened it that she would see an invitation for an interview, but she didn’t want to get her hopes up. To her delight, the man who ran the company told her that he enjoyed collaborating with her a lot but Hadeon, not so much. She read that he was thrilled to have an excuse to dump him and intended to hire her as the their new marketing executive! She didn’t even need an interview, he already liked her! It took a long time for it to sink in; not only did she get a job, but she got her dream job! When it finally did hit her, she screamed from excitement!

She had to reread it to make sure she got the facts absolutely right, and after she confirmed it to herself, she noticed there was more said after the offer. He had a request, and she frowned trying to figure out how she would do it. As she mulled it over, she noticed the calendar, and once she saw what day it was, she knew exactly what to do. She put the envelope and letter in her purse and ran out of the house.

Stacy somewhat nervously opened the door, and when she didn’t see anyone backstage. She heard some kids talking on stage, so she knew he must have been around there somewhere. She had no idea where, but she saw his truck outside, so she knew for sure he was there somewhere. As she navigated her way around props and equipment, she suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. She thought it had to be him and turned around eagerly. When she saw who it really was, her face went pale as if she had seen a ghost! “Hadeon!”

Hadeon tightened his grip on her shoulder. “No escaping me now! We have to talk!”

Stacy freed herself from his grip and growled, “We have nothing to talk about! I told you, it’s over!”

“We’ll get to that in a minute,” Hadeon responded coldly. “You stole my client!”

“Oh!” It never occurred to her that Hadeon would talk to her about business, but nevertheless, she didn’t let him intimidate her. “He wasn’t happy with you! Besides, I haven’t even told him I accepted the job! Obviously, he meant to dump you whether I took the position or not!”

“You had no right to take my client!” Hadeon shrieked. Some kids that came backstage all stopped what they were doing and stared. “Let’s do this outside.”

“No!” Stacy refused. “I’m not going anywhere with you! You’re not even supposed to be talking to me! If you have something to say, call my lawyer!”

“I didn’t come all this way to talk to a lawyer!” Hadeon grabbed her arm and began to drag her out.

“Stop it!” Stacy shouted while trying to free herself. “You’re hurting me!”

Hadeon ignored her, but well before he could reach the door, someone punched him! When he hit the floor, Stacy saw it was Nick! She felt a spark of joy at his presence, but she saw the hardened look on his face, and as Hadeon stirred and tried to get up, she could tell Nick was ready to attack him again. She put herself in front of Nick’s path and told him, “Don’t! He’s not worth it!”

Anger still bubbled beneath the surface, but Nick acquiesced. At that moment, Frank and another police officer burst into the room. Frank gazed at Hadeon crumpled on the floor and Nick’s infuriated expression, and he declared, “Obviously, this was self defense.” Hadeon groaned knowing that arguing would pointless. Frank and the other police officer picked him up, and while the femal officer cuffed him, Frank confronted Hadeon in an almost euphoric manner, “When we got the BOLO, I was hoping I’d get to be the one to catch you! Hadeon Bancroft, you’re under arrest!”

“For what?” Hadeon sneered. “For hitting her? That’s fine, I can afford the bail!”

The police woman informed him, “Actually, you’re wanted under federal charges.”

“Why?” Hadeon sharply reacted.

“Tax fraud,” Janet revealed. Stacy ogled at her incredulously, and she shrugged. “It was just a hunch.” She turned to Hadeon and educated him, “You’ll be in prison for quite a while, buddy! And since you’re still married, your wife will take custody of all of your assets, including your apartment and your business!”

Hadeon’s face fell completely, and Stacy smirked very pronouncedly. Hadeon pleaded, “No! Not my business! Please, anything but my business!”

Stacy stepped towards him, handed her arms, and gave him an icy look. “Sign the divorce papers with contest, and then I’ll sign over all my rights to your business.”

“Done!” Hadeon promised. Frank read him his Miranda rights as he and the other officer carried him out. He tried to look back but he couldn’t. Stacy watched him leave, and it slowly dawned on her that it was over, Hadeon was out of her life forever!

Stacy turned to Janet and gave her a hug. “Thank you so much! I can’t believe you were willing to help me after…”

Janet didn’t need to hear the end of her sentence to know what she meant. “It was the right thing to do.”

Stacy felt elated at her luck! Her abusive husband would finally give her the divorce she longed for, and she had the job of her dreams now! The only thing that made her heart sing was… She turned to Nick, who watched them sheepishly. She longed for him to come with her, but she figured that was a long shot. Still, she had to talk to him before she called her new boss to accept the job. She requested to Janet, “Look, I know you’re here to see Nick, and I wish you all the happiness in the world, but can you let me say good-bye?”

Janet agreed by nodding, and Stacy gingerly went up to Nick. She forgot how beautiful his eyes were, and he looked so handsome in the outfit he chose for the performance! All Stacy wanted to was leap into his arms, and that really made this process so much more difficult! “I got a job at a record company in Nashville. In my cover letter, I talked about a success I had in developing a talented musician in Makawee. He said he’s interested in auditioning you.” She reached into her purse and pulled out her new work’s business card. Stacy started tearing up, but she went on, “I really do think you’re a talent musician, and now you have a chance to become famous! At the very least, it’s a little money in your pocket. I hope that makes up for what I did! I also hope you can forgive me enough to give it a chance!”

Stacy couldn’t bear to look at him anymore and hung her head. She was about to leave when he gently picked up her chin so that they made eye contact again. He seemed at a loss for words, but she could tell he had a lot of gratitude for her. He finally murmured, “Thank you!”

Stacy smiled knowing he didn’t harbor ill feelings for her anymore, but she saw Janet waiting, and it broke her heart. “Well, have a good life!”

Before she could get far, Janet called out, “Wait!” Stacy wondered what else she could possibly want to tell her, but she guessed it probably was some kind of thank-you for getting him work. To her surprise, she turned to Nick and announced, “I’m breaking up with you!”

“What?” Nick and Stacy said in unison.

“Why?” Nick asked her.

Janet answered, “Because we’ve been together for over seven years, and you’ve never once looked at me like that!”

“Janet, are you sure?” Nick apparently needed verification of her sentiment.

She confirmed, “I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life knowing your heart belongs to someone else! Besides, I want someone to look at me like that! You have the chance to live the exciting life of a rock star, and I have the chance to find someone who wants a boring life in Makawee! You don’t want that, trust me, it’s okay!”

Nick hugged her gratefully. “I’ll have all of my rock star friends do their taxes with you!”

“You better!” Janet somberly laughed. “Bye, Nick!”

Nick and Stacy watched her leave, and suddenly, they knew they were alone together. They looked at each other knowing all of the ties that held them back from being together were now gone, and it took a while for that to absorb. Stacy saw a look of longing on his face, and her heart beat wildly. All of a sudden, he ran to her, and she willingly fell into into his arms! His face met hers, and Stacy could hardly believe he wanted this moment as much as she did! They kissed each other passionately, and it just felt so natural and peaceful that they could hardly believe they waited this long to do this! They took a breath, and, without words, they told one another that they loved each other!

Barbara peeked backstage and hissed, “Psst! Nick! You’re on!”

“Come on!” Nick took her hand and ran to the stage. She started to object because she hardly had any musical talent, but she relented because she trusted him so much. He took her on stage and greeted the crowd more enthusiastically than anyone she had ever seen! She swayed to the music as he played, and the lyrics were simple enough that she could sing along with the chorus. As their faces pressed together while they looked out to an adoring audience, she thought that she could get used to this! After all, this was only the beginning!

The End

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 17

Quick, hide behind the door!” Nick whispered. Stacy didn’t understand why, but she knew he must have had a good reason for having her do it, so she complied. “Take this too!” He handed her his guitar as he picked up his notebook and pretended to study notes.

Seconds later, an old security guard came in and surveyed the scene. “What are you doing?”

“Who? Me?” Nick feigned confusion. “I’m just studying feedback that I got from my team.”

“Who else is here?” the security guard questioned.

“No one,” Nick fibbed. “Oh, you probably hard me on the phone with one of my colleagues. I don’t wanna give away too much about her personal issues, but she’s going through a lot right now.”

Thankfully, the security guard seemed to have bought that explanation. “Well, don’t work too hard now!”

“I won’t!” Nick waved as the security guard left the room. Nick acting like he had to go over his paperwork until the security guard roamed out of earshot. When it seemed as though the coast was clear, Nick got up and double checked down hallway both ways before he motioned for Stacy to follow him. “Come on!”

They quickly and quietly tiptoed down the hallway, and as soon as they exited the building, they exhaled in relief. Stacy’s heart had raced from worry of getting caught, but now that they were safe, her curiosity demanded to understand the situation that had just passed. “What just happened?”

Nick explained, “The boss has random security checks throughout the month to make sure no one misuses the facility. Don’t worry, he rarely comes around, so we’ll be fine.”

“Maybe we should figure out another place to practice, just in case,” Stacy suggested.

“Yeah, we should figure it out soon,” Nick agreed. “He usually only comes around once or twice a month, so we have some time. Maybe by the time he comes around again, I’ll be out booking some gigs!”

“I’ll start looking for a venue for you to perform at too,” Stacy assured him. As they walked to the truck, Stacy told him, “Sorry I didn’t get to tell you much about my story.”

“Actually, your reaction said a lot.” Nick smiled sympathetically, and Stacy returned one back.

On Wednesday, Stacy had the day off from work, so she went back to the library and borrowed the Nashville phone book. She sat down at a table and took her notebook and pen out of her purse just as she did last time, but this time, she opened up the phone book to the record label section. She felt pleased to have found a number of places that she could apply to. She came across one that she recognized as a client of Hadeon’s, and the memory it brought up repulsed her, so, at first, she skipped that one. After a moment, she remembered how nice the man who owned the recording studio had been to her and all of the exciting stories he had about working there, so she decided to include it on her list. She wasn’t sure if she would actually apply there or not, but she felt too guilty not to at least consider it.

When she came home, she saw that her parents were doing the dishes, so she offered, “Can I help?”

“Sure, I could use a break!” Frank handed her a towel and zipped out of the room.

Barbara rolled her eyes and shook her head but didn’t say anything to him. As she handed Stacy a dish to dry, Stacy conversed, “How was your day?”

“It was going fine until the principal put me in charge of the end of the school year show!” Barbara grumped. “It’s so hard coordinating the different grades! And they wanna find an entertainer for the older students. I don’t know what they like!”

“I know a singer who could use a gig…” Stacy brought up.

“Really?” Barbara chirped. “Let me know as soon as possible if he can do it!”

“I’ll let you know as soon as I know!” Stacy promised.

Before she left for her next shift, Stacy stuffed a dozen envelopes with her resume. She went through the list she made the other day and addressed each envelope except for the one. She hesitated on the recording studio that Hadeon had as a client. She figured with her ex-husband taking care of their marketing needs that they wouldn’t have any interest in hiring her in that capacity. She qualified for a secretary or administrative position, but then she worried that she might run into Hadeon on occasion, which would create such an awkward atmosphere! Not to mention potentially danger if he decided to pick a fight with her again! She wondered if there would even have been a favorable opinion of her anymore, especially if her ex-husband revealed his slant on the incident to them. She decided to skip it and only stamped sealed the envelopes of the other leads she found.

At work, Stacy passed by the cash register and saw Gloria talking to a woman with her preteen daughter. After a second glance, she realized she recognized the woman at the register. “Lola?”

“Stacy?” Lola acted incredulously. They shouted excitedly and gave each other a hug.

Gloria inquired, “You guys know each other?”

Lola told her, “Yeah, Mom, we went to high school together!”

“What a small world!” Gloria remarked.

Lola addressed Stacy, “What are you doing here? Last I heard you were married to a successful business man and living fabulously in Nashville!”

“Oh, I left him,” Stacy confessed. “He was a jerk and I’d rather be alone and broke than stay married to him!”

Stacy expected Lola to react sympathetically, but she actually had a look of longing in her eyes. She made sure her daughter didn’t hear her when she said, “You’re so lucky! I wish I could leave!” As she spoke, Stacy noticed a gnarly scratch on Lola’s arm. “It’s hard when a kid is involved. I gotta do what’s best for her. I couldn’t risk her living on the street.” As Lola spoke, Stacy discovered a number of other nicks and bruises throughout her body, and her heart sunk as she realized what that probably meant. “Even if I got a job at a store or something, I wouldn’t make enough to support her. And since my father’s gone now, we took Mom in too. Where would she go?”

Gloria exclaimed, “I told you, don’t worry about me! We’ll figure something out…”

The two of them suddenly grew silent and painted smiles on their faces. Stacy found that odd until she saw a man in a nice suit walk in their direction. She saw an Emporia badge and figured out that he must have been an executive of some sort. He stood in front of her and pompously introduced himself, “Drake Tanith, regional manager. You must be new.”

“Yes,” she responded while trying to hide her nervousness. “I’m Stacy, a recovery agent.”

“Welcome, Stacy!” He turned towards Lola, who greeted him with a kiss. “Darling, I don’t see any clothes. You said Elaine needed clothes!”

“Sorry!” Lola practically trembled as she apologized. “I got caught up talking and-!”

He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her close to him. “Go wait in the car!” He pushed her away rather forcibly. Lola scrambled to get her purse and dashed out of the store. Gloria returned to helping a customer as if none of this bothered her as Drake met up with Pat and began talking about numbers.

Stacy stood in shock of what she just witnessed. She and Lola had such similar lives in high school, but she felt Lola had always been a little ahead of her and she actually envied her. Lola outranked her on the student council and got better grades too. She always attracted the cuter boyfriends and even got into a better college. It was heartbreaking to see how much Lola had been defeated by this man! She wondered how her life had taken such a drastic turn, and she realized that domestic violence could happen to anybody! Suddenly, it occurred to her that this abusive man was now her boss! Once again, she found herself working in the same environment she had just escaped from, and it was simply unacceptable! She marched up to Pat and Drake, threw her badge on the ground, cried out, “I quit!” and stormed out without saying another word!

She had felt so much fury throughout her way home, but that soon turned into panic. She now had no way to pay for her divorce, which she feared could hand her an expensive bill at any moment. She became wrapt with worry, and she knew she knew she had to find another job immediately! When she got inside her house, she saw her list of music industry places to apply to in Nashville and remembered that she hadn’t applied to that last one. She still had a burning rage for violent men, and she felt so furious that she got an ardent motivation to attempt to steal Hadeon’s client and addressed her last envelope to that company!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 16

Stacy came home from work and immediately took her shoes off. After she released a breath of relief, she called out, “Mom?”

“In here, Sweetie!” Barbara responded from her bedroom.

Stacy walked over to her parents’ bedroom and saw her mother working on the computer. She inquired, “Whatcha doing?”

“Making a quiz for my kids,” Barbara replied.”Sentence diagrams. You wanna try it?”

Stacy peered over her mother’s shoulders and tried to do the test, but she came up blank. “Wow, I don’t remember doing this at all! Did I learn this?”

“Of course you did!” Barbara laughed. “I made sure you aced this subject too! It wouldn’t give me a lot of credibility as a teacher if you failed anything!” Stacy also laughed, and then Barbara conversed, “So, how was work?”

Stacy sat at the foot of her parents’ bed and told her, “They moved me to women’s formal, and girls are already beginning to shop for prom. They try on hundreds of dresses on and don’t hang any of the rejects up, but if I spend too much time in the dressing room, I get yelled at. Then, when I put them back, I couldn’t find the exact spot where the go-backs went, and they got mad because I took too long. I just started finding racks with similar colors to the item I had and just put them there. Close enough! That was my first time in that section; they could get speed or accuracy, not both!”

Barbara remarked “That’s probably why the girls’ dresses were so messy on your first day there.”

“True,” Stacy agreed. “But if someone went back and fixed what I mixed up, I wouldn’t get mad. So, why did I get yelled at?”

“Don’t overthink it,” Barbara advised. “Some people’s actions just aren’t rational and you’ll hurt yourself trying to make them sound reasonable!”

Stacy tittered, and then she yawned. “I’m gonna go take a nap.” As soon as she got up, she saw the mail come through the slot on the door. “Correction, I’m gonna get the mail, and if nothing is for me, then I’m gonna take a nap!”

Stacy stooped down and collected the letters on the floor. She didn’t expect to get anything, but she saw something from the IRS with her name on it. “Oh, I guess my mail forwarding went through. I forgot about my tax return!” She handed her mother the rest of the mail as she opened hers up. When she saw the check, she reacted pleasantly, “Nice!”

“you should treat yourself,” Barbara suggested. “What is something you want but couldn’t get before?”

The next day, Frank escorted Stacy into a divorce lawyer’s office. The waiting room was fairly small, but it had a very nice set of furniture. Stacy and Frank sat on the opposite side of the room from a couple that didn’t talk or make eye contact with each other. The only sound came from the secretary, who had been typing up something on a computer. Stacy softly said to her father, “Thanks for coming with me!”

“No problem!” Frank told her genially. “Thanks for getting me away from my honey-do list!”

“No problem!” Stacy chuckled.

“Miss Alyson?” the secretary summoned. “Mister Dorsey will see you now.” Frank and Stacy got up and went through the door next to the secretary’s window.

Mister Dorsey had a cozy but posh office, and the man himself had a nice suit but a very relaxed demeanor. He looked about her father’s age, Stacy thought, as he read over her file. When he finished, he stated, “I don’t understand.”

“What do you mean?” Stacy inquired.

Mister Dorsey elaborated, “You signed a prenup and could collect a decent settlement from him. You could even argue for alimony, but you want nothing from him?”

Stacy explained, “I want my independence! I don’t want anything in my life that he could take credit for! Anything he gives me would give him a reason to claim ownership over me! I want a clean slate, totally free of any ties to him! I just wanna break free and move on with nothing to remind me of him except for a few bad memories!”

Mister Dorsey seemed a little surprised still, but he accepted her explanation. “Well, this should make the process pretty simple.”

“You would think so!” Stacy muttered. “But my husband doesn’t want me to go. There’s no love for him left in me, but despite that, he still doesn’t want to let go!”

“He’s still in love?” Mister Dorsey asked.

“I don’t think so,” Stacy answered. “Not for me anyways. He’s in love with himself and his ego. He doesn’t want the stigma of a divorce, especially one where he was in the wrong and his wife left him ’cause he messed up!”

Mister Dorsey probed, “If you don’t mind me asking, what did he do that was so horrible?”

Stacy admitted, “He hit me.”

“Wow!” Mister Dorsey reacted. “Then for sure it’s over!” Stacy smiled gratefully knowing that he understood. “Good for you for having the courage to leave after that! I can’t tell you how many women choose to stay and take the abuse!”

“Really?” Stacy replied. “It can’t be that many!”

“Oh, there’s hundreds!” Mister Dorsey informed her. “Across the country, there’s thousands! You’re lucky you got out when you did! So many women who go through it don’t recover.”

“That’s true!” Frank agreed.

Stacy found that incredibly sad. It felt so horrible to think that so many women put up with it to the point of no return! She mulled over different ways that she could help victims of domestic violence, but Mister Dorsey interrupted her train of thought, “Okay, I’m going to send someone to serve him your petition for divorce. He’ll have his lawyers go over it, and they may file objections to it. If that’s the case, we’ll have to go to court. The whole process should take a few months.”

“That’s fine.” Stacy had already figured it would take a while, and she kind of counted on it so she could have more time to save up to pay the funds.

Mister Dorsey slid his card across his desk. “Give me a call if you have any questions. Until then, we’ll keep you informed of any updates.”

“Thank you so much!” Stacy stood up and shook his hand. Frank did the same before they left.

The next day, Stacy met up with Nick at his work again. He brought his guitar and played her the song ‘Motor Run’ again. It had a classic stadium rock type of beat, so she could see it becoming a chart topping hit for sure after hearing it. She tried not to get too turned on by his singing and the possible motivation behind his music, but it became very hard to keep that thought hidden! When he finished playing, she complimented him, “Whew! That’s hot!”

“You really think so?” Nick seemed pleased that she thought highly of his work.

Stacy gave him a half-scolding look. “Have I lied to you yet?”

Nick smiled. “I hope not!”

Stacy smiled back, but then she said seriously, “I was thinking… Maybe your next song could help raise awareness of people in abusive relationships.”

Nick contemplated this notion. “Not a bad idea. Would you mind if I wrote about your experience?”

“That’s fine,” Stacy complied. “I was talking to a divorce lawyer, and he told me how there’s so many women out there who go through the same thing I did. I thought I had gotten myself in into a rare situation, but apparently not! It’s sickeningly common, but if I felt alone in my experience, lots of other women must feel like that too. I wanna do something to help!”

“No one should feel alone, especially on a thing like that! Hmm… something about not being alone…” Nick thought out loud. “It could help people who haven’t gone through it reach out to people who have.”

“Exactly!” Stacy relished how they got on the same wave length about her idea.

Nick pulled out his notepad and readied himself to start writing. “Okay, tell me the story of everything you went through with Hadeon.”

Stacy took a deep breath and thought back to the beginning. She suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion, and tears began to well up. She didn’t understand why, she thought she had gotten past that point and could talk about it. “Hey, it’s alright!” Nick assured her. He stood up and gave her a hug. She found him intensely comforting as she began sobbing onto his shoulders, and, for a moment, everything seemed right in the world…

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 14

No way!” Stacy exclaimed as they made their way towards Charlie’s memorial. They were heading towards the bench she sat on to listen to the live music that comforted her when she needed it, and it seemed like an incredible coincidence to find Charlie’s memorial plaque on it! She ran up to it, and saw that the golden letters read: “In memory of Private First Class Charles D. Morgan.” Stacy told Nick, “I’ve sat here so often, and I had no idea that…”

Stacy had trailed off, but Nick seemed to understand where she was going with that thought. This bench made it possible for Stacy to have heard Nick perform that day, and so, in a way, Charlie had brought the two of them together! Of course, Stacy had no idea where their relationship was heading, but she thought that this memorial bore a good sign of things yet to come. Nick smiled bashfully, and then he suggested, “We should get started.”

Nick took his guitar out of the case, and Stacy used it to prop up the sign she made. Nick stood on the bench as if it were a stage, and people began to take notice. As Nick began to play, people stopped in their tracks. The longer it went, the bigger that this crowd grew. Stacy felt pleased that they all seemed to enjoy as deeply as she did. A couple of people were even brought to tears! When he finished, his audience clapped and even whistled. Many people put money into his guitar case, and a few even came to voice their appreciation for his music. Nick looked elated, and Stacy beamed with pride.

When Nick hopped off the bench, the two of them celebrated their victory. Nick cried out, “That was incredible!”

“You did great!” Stacy complimented. “I think they would’ve stuck around for another song if you had one!”

“Actually, I have been working on another song,” Nick revealed.

“Really?” Stacy reacted incredulously.

“Yeah,” Nick confirmed. “It’s been over a decade since I’ve felt compelled to write one, so when the old instincts kicked in, I had to do it!”

“What’s the song about?” Stacy inquired with immense curiosity.

Nick hesitated, and his face twisted as if he were debating how to phrase his answer. He came up with, “It’s totally different than Charlie’s song. This one is more fun. It talks about how a guy feels about this woman he met.”

Stacy tried not to blush upon hearing that. She supposed he could have wrote something about Janet, but she hadn’t inspired him to write anything in seven years. Stacy came along and encouraged him to purse his passion, so it seemed logical that she stirred up his creative side and became the focus of her song! He didn’t say it had any kind of romantic tone to it, but based on how he said it, she inferred that it had an amorous theme to it. If he wrote something negative about anyone, she felt certain he would have told her that more plainly. She knew though she could only speculate so far and would have to hear the song to know for sure. “When can I hear it?”

“How about Friday?” Nick inquired.

“Ugh, no,” Stacy replied dismally. “I have to work the next two days. Are you free at all this weekend?”

Nick regretfully informed her, “I gotta do all of the odds and ends around the house that his nurse won’t do doing the week, like taking care of the yard or doing repairs around the house, stuff that usually takes all day. I guess we’ll have to wait ’til Monday.”

Stacy piped up, “Do you want some help this weekend?”

Nick looked stunned that she would even consider that notion. “It’s a lot of hard work, and Dad is usually pretty grumpy. Janet won’t even come over to help anymore.”

“I gotta deal with grumpy customers at Emporia all day,” Stacy assured him. “I can handle one more. Maybe if you had some help, you can actually finish quicker and have some free time this weekend!”

“Wow, that would be great!” Nick looked touched at her offer. “Yeah, that’d be great! Thanks!”

“No problem! I’m happy to help!” She grinned at him, and he very gratefully gave her a hug. Stacy relished this moment as she had the last time he embraced her, but neither of them lingered for very long. When they broke apart, they headed back towards his truck. “It might not be such a chore. Sometimes these things are fun if you work with someone who makes it more entertaining.”

“That’s true!” Nick acknowledged. He and Stacy happily chatted as they got into his truck. At some point, Stacy noted that she had planned to search for jobs that had more of a future than Emporia that weekend, and now she may not have time. She remembered the last time she had doubts about her time with Nick and quickly vanquished that thought. Besides, she absolutely had to hear his new song!

The next day, right after Stacy clocked in, she ran into Gloria in the break room. Stacy greeted her, “Heading home?”

As she clocked out, Gloria responded, “Yeah, I gotta babysit my granddaughter. So, in other words, I’m leaving work to do more work.”

Stacy commented, “Wow, you’re a grandmother? No way!”

“I get that a lot!” Gloria chuckled. “I had my kids young and so did my daughter.”

At that moment, Ava popped her head in and growled, “What are you doing? If you clocked in, you can’t hang out in the break room!”

“She was going over the proper clock in procedure,” Stacy fibbed. “Apparently, I did it wrong the other day, and I thought it was important information to learn.”

Ava glared at her as if she knew Stacy had made that story up, but she couldn’t prove it, so she dashed out of the room without saying another word. Stacy and Gloria walked out too, and Gloria asked her, “You’re closing tonight?” Stacy nodded. “Good luck!” Gloria parted ways with her at that point, which left Stacy with so many questions. From her tone, she knew it couldn’t be an indication of anything good, so she sighed and headed towards the sales floor.

Later, at the end of the evening, Stacy folded a stack of tee shirts in a zombie-like trance. Ava came by and sharply probed, “Weren’t you working on that display two hours ago?”

“Nope,” Stacy replied sarcastically. “We were so busy today that I’ve only had time to work on this table once!” Ava eyed her suspiciously, but before she could say anything else, Stacy’s watch beeped. “Ah, saved by the bell. See you tomorrow!”

Stacy began to head to the break room, but Ava stopped her. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“Uh, home…” Stacy didn’t understand Ava’s motive for asking her that, but she knew it couldn’t have been good.

Ava corrected her, “When you close, you don’t get to leave until you’re dismissed. Every department has to be clean before you can clock out.”

Stacy felt shocked at this new policy. They certainly didn’t implement this rule when she worked here before, but maybe it had something to do with her being a minor at the time. Her parents certainly wouldn’t have let her work too late when she was in high school! She became indignant that a workplace could keep their employees past their scheduled time, but she couldn’t argue because she needed this job to pay for her divorce. She did think of one issue though, which she voiced to Ava, “It won’t take too long, will it? I only ask because I take the bus, and the last bus of the day leaves at nine-thirty…”

“It’ll take as long as it’s gonna take!” Ava spat. “If you wanna catch your bus, you better clean up fast! Go to the shoe department, they need help.”

Stacy anguished from losing the feeling of getting to go home, and the pain got worse when she stepped off the escalator and saw the state of the shoe department- it was in total disarray! Shoes and boxes littered the floor, and many items looked like they were mismatched or missing. Stacy groaned. She had done a lot of standing around since there weren’t many customers that day, so her legs were very sore. Plus, once again, she didn’t have time to finish her lunch. Her stomach panged for food, and while she began putting shoes in boxes, she inwardly griped about how small of a lunch break she got. Suddenly, that gave her an idea…

Shortly before nine-thirty, Stacy made sure to pass Ava on her way out. Ava raged, “Hey, you can’t leave! I haven’t dismissed anyone yet!”

Stacy pointed out, “I didn’t have a lunch, so I have to leave before I hit the six and a half hour mark or else you guys will get penalized, right?”

Ava grew positively livid, but instead of yelling, she talked in a very menancing tone, “Okay, you can go, but next time you close, you better take a lunch!” Stacy swiftly turned away from her without promising her anything. She thought of the sheer audacity of her getting angry over Stacy breaking a rule she knew nothing about, but she didn’t stay on that thought too long because she was fighting the clock to catch her bus. All she could think about was getting out of there as fast as she could!

She raced outside, but before she could get close to the bus stop, she saw it take off without her! She felt very defeated, and she sadly dragged herself over to a pay phone so she could call her parents. She put in a dime, but when she tried to dial, nothing happened. She had the machine return her coin and tried again. When the same thing happened, she couldn’t understand why it was acting like that and after such a long day, the last thing she needed was a broken pay phone and no money to catch a cab. She took a deep breath to calm down, which made her finally notice the sticker that indicated that it costed a quarter to make a call now, and she cried out in frustration.

After she found a quarter and made the call, she got a hold of her mother. “Hey, Mom! They made me work late, so I missed my bus. Can you pick me up?…Thanks! See you soon!” Stacy sat down on a nearby bench to wait for her parents and tried to decompress. She heard some music blasting from a nearby restaurant, and its catchy tune made her cheer up a little. She then thought that maybe Nick was right, maybe it she should go for a career in music!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 9

Nick’s good looks may have made her nervous, but when it came to marketing, she felt significantly more confident. Hadeon may have been a terrible husband, but he had a genius for his craft. The one good thing about him getting overly obsessed with his job was that he dragged her along for everything, so she learned a lot. She took out a notebook and pen from her purse and already wrote down some notes. ‘You said you had a band in high school. What kind of songs did you do?”

Nick recalled, “We wanted to be the next Rolling Stones, but our songs were a little more age appropriate. We wrote one called ‘Homework Rebellion,’ for example.” Nick laughed at his memories. “Teachers hated us, but the other students thought we were bad asses!” Nick grinned at the nostalgia that came to him right then.

Stacy grinned too, and then she observed, “So, you guys wrote your own music! How much of that did you personally contribute?”

Nick told her, “It was a group effort, but our best stuff came from me and Charlie. He was our drummer and my best friend. We worked on our music a lot more than our schoolwork!” He smiled fondly as he reminisced, but he soon started to frown. “I wish we paid more attention in school! Maybe if we had, we could’ve gotten accepted into college and Charlie would have avoided the draft…” He could tell Stacy wanted to follow up about that, so he elaborated, “After high school, Charlie and I both wanted to move to the city where we could get discovered, but we were both broke. We both took up jobs here at Gilmar’s, and we got through the awful work days by dreaming about what our lives would be like once we made it big. We kept the band going for a while, but eventually, with all of our different work schedules, the band drifted apart, so it was just me and him still working on our music. Charlie and I always thought we would form a band and get famous before we got considered for the draft, but, obviously, that didn’t happen. Charlie got drafted and sent to ‘Nam. I begged them to draft me too, I wanted out of this town so bad! In our letters, we still dreamt about making it big when he got back. But then, one day, Charlie’s mom called me and told me… Charlie wasn’t coming back!” He got choked up at this point, but after a moment, he lamented, “I wish we hadn’t focused on silly dreams so much! If we had a back up plan, maybe Charlie wouldn’t have…”

“It’s not your fault!” Stacy reached across and pat his shoulders comfortingly. “The draft went on ’til seventy-three, so Charlie could have gotten drafted after graduation.”

“That’s true,” Nick acknowledged.

“My mom always said everything happens for a reason,” Stacy narrated. “My ex-husband ran to Canada after high school. He claims he was a conscientious objector, but truthfully, he was just being a coward. But if he didn’t chicken out, he wouldn’t have blown away his trust fund, which forced him to move into his uncle’s garage in Nashville. He started his business there, and ten years later, it’s one of the most successful businesses around! Maybe Charlie had to go to Vietnam ’cause they needed a hero.”

“He was a hero!” Nick remarked. “I still wish he didn’t go! I miss him!” He paused and added, “Do you love him?”

“Charlie?” Stacy puzzled.

“NO,” Nick clarified, “I mean, do you still love your ex-husband?”

“Oh! No.” Stacy searched inwardly to verify her initial reaction. “After what he did, there’s no going back.” She could tell he wanted to ask what he did, so she revealed, “He hit me!”

“No!” It took a while for Nick to absorb this, and when he did, his fists tensed up. “That bastard!” His expression softened when he turned back to Stacy. “How often did he do that?”

“That was the first time. Honestly, in more than five years, he’s never done that!” she told him. “I left ’cause if he did it once, he’ll do it again and I’m not gonna walk on eggshells for the rest of my life just to make sure I don’t make him do it again!”

You don’t make him do it again?” Nick cried out. “You aren’t responsible for his actions! Even if you pissed him off, that’s not an excuse! Unless a woman holds a gun to his f’ing head, there’s no excuse to hit a woman! Ever!”

This visibly moved Stacy. She had her hand on her heart, and she was near tears. His logic flowed with her initial view on the matter, but that manager as well as her own doubts on the situation made her question this. She often wondered if it had been her fault or if she had been wrong in same way on the matter, but Nick was completely right, nothing she had done deserved his abuse! She felt heartened that she had an ally who backed her up on this. “I had an interview at Stereo Hut the other day, and the manager made it seem like it was all my fault!”

Nick immediately commented, “Well, we’re never shopping there again!” Stacy gave him an appreciative smile, and Nick emphasized, “I mean it! I’m not gonna go into a business that thinks that you had a perfectly happy marriage and, for no reason, you decided to destroy it and run away from paradise!”

“It’s true! That was exactly how he acted!” Stacy laughed in the ridiculousness of the topic. “Our marriage wasn’t paradise, thing were getting bad for a while. I thought eventually we’d work through our issues, but I don’t think he thought anything was wrong. I felt miserable for a long time, so eventually, if he hadn’t hit me, I would’ve had enough. At some point, you gotta consider your own needs ’cause your happiness matters!”

“Yeah…” Nick hesitantly agreed.

“Your happiness matters too,” Stacy reminded him.

Nick sighed, “This is different! This is a huge risk!”

“No, it’s not!” Stacy respectfully disagreed. “You’re playing music. If you make it big, you’ll be really happy. If you don’t, you’ll still enjoy the process. It’s not like you’re enrolling in the police academy like my dad did. He risks his life every time he goes on patrol, but he does it ’cause it’s what he loves. If he picked safety, he would be completely depressed his whole life! Imagine him going from graduation to retirement like that! His work is dangerous, but he’s lived his life without regret. The only thing you need to worry about is living your life with regret!”

“Okay, so I’m nos happy working in the factory,” Nick confessed. “But I do have a family to worry about. This isn’t fun for me, but they’re taken care of. What if this music thing ends up hurting them?”

Stacy almost pointed out that it seemed unlikely that this could hurt his family, but then she realized, “Wait a second, this is about Charlie, isn’t it? Last time you set out on this path, you lost someone important to you. You’re pursuing this ‘normal’ life ’cause you’re worried if you take a chance again, you’ll lose someone else!”

Nick mulled it over and came to the conclusion, “Yeah, I guess it’s true. I mean, that’s part of the reason anyways. I spent most of my adult life trying to squash the urge to sing and play to an audience, but I can’t help myself, it always resurfaces. Like earlier in the month, we went to visit her grandparents and I snuck away ’cause I saw a recording studio nearby. I had a great time, but it was selfish. Janet had to take time off work right near tax day ’cause her grandfather’s dying and it was his birthday. I should’ve been there for her more! I mean, her grandfather did throw me out, but still…”

“He threw you out?” Stacy responded. “What do you think you were supposed to do? Just wait outside for hours?”

“She ended up not staying that long,” he remarked. “She went looking for me and couldn’t find me. She talked her grandfather into letting me come back, but when I disappeared, that blew it. I shouldn’t have ran off, but I didn’t think he’d invite me back, the guy hates my guts! I went for a walk to blow off some steam, and I saw the recording studio there, and it was just calling me! I thought that after spending all my time helping other people, I deserved to see it! I work all day, spend all night with her, and help my dad on the weekends, I never get to do anything for myself! So I thought, here’s my chance! It felt great! Well, until she found me and we fought.”

“That’s the argument I had with my husband before we split!” Stacy related. “I was late for something I had to do for this big party, and I was wrong for doing so, but if I got to do what I wanted to do more often, that wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t regret what I did, and I guess he felt like I should live only to please him. I was tired of living like that.”

“You have a point,” Nick admitted. “I may have went about it the wrong way, but it wouldn’t have happened if I just made a little more time for what I love. Music isn’t gonna leave me no matter how hard I try! My family may not understand it, but if I don’t do it and keep spending my life trying to make everyone else happy except for me, I’m gonna lose it! I gotta do this! I keep worrying about something happening to them, but what if I don’t and something happens to me? I hope nothing happens to them, of course, but I’m committed to this!”

“Good!” Stacy nodded in approval.

Nick took a deep breath and released. “Wow, this conversation got real deep!”

“That’s ’cause we’re talking about music, and, for you, that’s your heart and soul!” Stacy affirmed. “I mean, I’m no shrink, but I hope you’re comfortable opening up to me. It’s gonna help me help you develop really meaningful lyrics and melodies. It’s not gonna make your pain go away, but it’ll help it become something beautiful. Like, losing your best friend, that’s a great topic for a song!”

“I did make a song about it,” Nick disclosed. “I took a song we wrote in high school, ‘Pay Attention,’ and I slowed down the tempo, changed it into a ballad, and made it about Charlie. Instead of making fun of teachers, I talked about how we get so distracted in our own lives that we don’t savor the time we have with people who matter most to us. If you don’t pay attention, you could miss out and you may not ever get another chance! Back then, I didn’t know how else to react to his death other than music. I was still in the habit from when he was alive.”

“That song sounds amazing!” Stacy exclaimed, and then she requested, “Can I hear it?”

“That was so long ago!” Nick reacted. “What makes you think I even remember it?”

Stacy gave him a playfully reproachful look. “You heard the song ‘Run to You’ once, and not only did you remember every word but you taught the music to that band! You have an amazing memory! So, let’s hear it!”

Nick relented, “Okay, okay, I’ll do it!” Stacy waited with mounting anticipation as he mentally prepared himself to sing…

Heaven’s Headquarters

“How did I get here?” Ethan, a man with silky brown hair, green eyes, and a slim physique, realized he fell asleep on an elevator. He doesn’t recognize this elevator, which has ornate, gilded walls, and he’s mystified as to how he ended up inside. Last thing he remembered, he was walking down the street. He suddenly realized that the elevator had no buttons! The elevator kept going up, and Ethan had no idea where he was going, so he started to worry. Suddenly, the elevator stopped and the elevator doors opened. Ethan stepped out cautiously.

Ethan walked into a reception area and looked around to figure out where he was. The walls and floors were cloudy white. There wasn’t much else there except a lot of doors and a pearly, circular desk at the center. A perky, blonde secretary popped up behind the desk and watched Ethan. Ethan, not knowing what else to do, went up to the secretary, who had a name plate that read: Hailey. Before Ethan could ask her anything, Hailey chirped, “Welcome to Heaven’s Headquarters! Please fill out these forms.” She slid a white clipboard with a couple of crisp papers on it to to him.

Ethan felt totally confused. He had no clue where he was, and yet this woman seemed to have been expecting him. “Forms?

Hailey simply explained, “Yes, to show us what would make your eternity the ideal level of blissfulness.”

Ethan started to think that he either got too drunk at dinner or else someone had slipped something into his drink. Either way, he thought that maybe he had blacked out and had booked some spa getaway in his haze. That didn’t seem like a smart idea, so he tried to clear this up with Hailey, “Look, I’m not sure how I got here, but I gotta leave. I got work in the morning, so-.”

Hailey interrupted him, “Work? No, you don’t work in Heaven. It’s your time to relax.”

Ethan got a little annoyed by this. He knew that companies often had their secretaries try to save their sales, but she didn’t seem to get it, he really didn’t have time for this. “Relax? I got a big presentation in the morning. So, can you-?”

“Listen,” Hailey looked him square in the eyes and talked in a very serious tone at this point. “you’re not going back to work. Or your home or anywhere else. You’re dead.”

Whatever response he had expected to hear from her, it wasn’t that! The ease he felt from what he thought was a logical conclusion to this situation had vanished, and if he hadn’t booked a luxurious hotel in a drunken haze, then he didn’t know what else would bring him here. The fact that she mentioned that he was dead now sent him to a panic. “Is that a threat? Are you holding me hostage?”

“Oh boy!” Hailey sighed. She coolly hit a pager button on her office phone and spoke into it, “Peter, can you come to the Pearly Gates please?”

A handsome man with a nice suit and a clipboard in his arm appeared next to Hailey instantly. Ethan had to blink. He couldn’t explain how the man, who he could only assume was Peter, could appear from nowhere unless it was some kind of theatrical ruse to scare and confuse him. Peter glanced at Ethan and then regarded Hailey, “Who’s this? Let’s see…ah, Ethan Miller. I told you already that he is most definitely welcome here!”

Hailey calmly revealed, “I know, but he hasn’t accepted.”

Ethan, in addition to feeling a little scared, grew frustrated by the lack of answers. He had a right to know what was happening! He spouted, “Who are you?”

Peter smiled gently and introduced himself, “On Earth, I’m known as Saint Peter.”

Ethan rolled his eyes. He didn’t believe that was his real identity, and he resented the task he now had of figuring out who these people were. He remarked to Peter, “Saint Peter, huh? What are you guys, the mob or something?”

“Wow!: Peter seemed bewildered by Ethan’s response, but he kept his composure. “You weren’t kidding about this man! Better send him to the Big Guy.”

“Who? Where are you taking me?” Ethan decided he wasn’t going to let them take him anywhere and prepared to put up a fight.

Peter snapped his fingers, and Ethan instantly disappeared! Ethan reappeared in a huge office. It seemed to be empty except for the same cloudy walls and floors and a big, wooden desk with a computer on it. Whoever “the Big Guy” was, he wasn’t in the office right now. Ethan looked all around him in utter confusion “Okay, what the hell just happened?”

At that moment, a very tall, clean shaven man with gray hair and a light gray suit walked into the room. The man reproached him gently, “Sir, we don’t swear here.” Ethan jumped at his sudden approach. The man kindly instructed, “Go ahead and have a seat.”

A cushy chair appeared before the desk right behind where Ethan stood. He reluctantly took a seat. He needed answers, and he figured that they must lie with this man. “You’re the “Big Guy?”

The man replied, “I’m known by many names. A higher power, Nirvana, Inner Peace, Mother Earth (somehow)…but you probably refer to me as God.”

“Oh, you’re God? Yeah right!” Ethan wondered what was wrong with these people. They were either giving him their nicknames or else he had come across a very delusional cult.

The man seemed unruffled by Ethan’s disposition. He probed, “What makes you doubt me?”

Ethan couldn’t believe that this guy had really believed that he was God! He had to put him in his place, “God isn’t some businessman! He has a really long beard and a robe…”

The Big Guy chuckled, “You mean like this?” He snapped his fingers and, to Ethan’s astonishment, hechanged into Ethan’s description of God. “Yes, this look was all the rage when the Bible was written, but we’ve made some updates since then.” The Big Guy snapped his fingers again and changed back into the outfit he previously wore.

Ethan still didn’t totally accept their claims that he had died or that he was speaking to God, and he didn’t want to feed into that delusion. He had to try to get home. “Look, I don’t wanna be here, in ‘Heaven,’ I want to-!”

“No?” the Big Guy remarked. “Would you rather be in Hell? It’s not as fun as rock stars make it seem. Here, have a look.”

The Big Guy turned his computer monitor around to face Ethan. An automated voice greeted him, “Welcome to Hell Dot Com! I’m Jaime, your virtual host. Let me give you a tour!” The screen changed into a red office with a blonde man in a pepper-gray business suit sitting at a dark, wooden desk. “This is Lucifer’s Chamber! He decides how cruel of an eternal punishment a sinner gets.” The screen changed into a room with some fiendish monsters standing in front of some sharp rocks. The monsters smile and wave to the camera. “This is the physical pain and torture chamber where sinners go to receive a Hell of a lot of, well, pain and torture.” The screen changed to a completely empty room with a small green couch and a wide screen television “This is the viewing room where sinners are forced to watch their worst nightmares over and over again.” The screen changed to small, run down town. “This is Sinners’ Living, the living quarters of sinners. Their homes turn into whatever they would consider the most unbearable living conditions.” The screen changed to a door with the number 666 on it. “This is Area Six Six Six, where the most evil sinners go. It is so gruesome that we cannot display it on the web.” The screen changed to a room full of what looks like operators and telemarketers. “This is the communications room where our “devils” tempt ordinary people to commit a sin.” The screen changed to a picture of an empty reception desk. “That ends our tour of Hell Dot Com. We are currently seeking a Hell Secretary if you’re interested. See you in Hell!”

The Big Guy turned the computer off and swiveled it back so it faced him. Ethan now felt very much perplexed. Ethan supposed that the Big Guy thought that this presentation would convince him that he had died, but he wasn’t buying it! “I can’t be dead! The world couldn’t go on without me!”

“You don’t think so?” The Big Guy reacted. “Well, I can show you that’s not true either. Oh Joseph!” He pushed a button on his phone to summon him. A young man with a gray suit and a white tie, black hair, muscular build entered and looked to the Big Guy to await his instructions. The Big Guy directed Joseph, “Show Ethan his world without him. I gotta go. I’m helping my son throw a party tonight! Hope to see you there!” The Big Guy winked and disappeared.

Joseph grumbled, “Thanks a lot, now I’m going to miss that party!”

Ethan could care less about this man’s desire to go to some party. He didn’t know what they wanted with him, but it seemed like he had no choice but to play their game. He scoffed, “So, who are you? Saint Joseph?”

Joseph forgot about the party and pleasantly answered Ethan, “No! My name is Joseph Love. I was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.”

Whether it was real or not, Ethan grew curious about Joseph’s back story. “Oh, you got killed in battle?”

Joseph told him, “No, after we won, my friends and I had a party and I died there.”

“How’d you die?” Ethan asked him.

“I don’t know.” Joseph shrugged.

This notion triggered a thought, and again, whether it was true or not, Ethan was owed an explanation. “Wait a minute, how’d I die?”

“No one in Heaven is supposed to know,” Joseph educated him. “If they think about their death, they’ll never stop dwelling on it. Though the last thing I remember is swimming, so I think I drowned. But who knows! Anyways, you think the world can’t survive without you, huh? Who depended on you?”

Right away, Ethan came up with, “My fiancee, Diana Shaw. She’s in love with me, so there’s no way she’ll survive without me!

Joseph’s mouth twitched, but he hid his grin. “Is that right?” He snapped his fingers, and they both disappeared.

Ethan and Joseph reappear in a gourmet restaurant that is mostly full of delighted patrons. With all of these magical entrances and exits, Ethan now thought he was in a dream or having some kind of coma vision, so he decided to stop fighting the acceptance of whether or not this was real and just rolled with it. The only way he was going to get through this was to show these people that he told the truth about the world needing him to stay around. He inquired, “Can anyone see me?”

“Nope,” Joseph answered. “Where’s Diana?”

Ethan scanned the restaurant and sees her at a table. His heart fluttered when he gazed at her beauty. She was unlike anyone he had ever met before. Her strawberry blonde hair was done up in a bun and she wore a chic red dress, which made her look even more devestatingly beautiful. For a moment, Ethan wondered what she had been doing there. It took him a while to see that Diana was sitting with a very handsome man that he could only hope was a new boss. If he wasn’t invisible to them, Ethan would have confronted the man. All he could do was stand next to her, listening to her dialogue. Diana confessed, “This the first date I’ve been on since my fiancee died three months ago.”

Ethan stared at Joseph questioningly. “Three months?”

Joseph apologized, “Sorry, Heaven doesn’t have a real concept of time.”

The man admitted to Diana, “I have to confess when I befriended you at work, I always hoped that you would break up with your fiancee. I mean, he’s the greatest guy I know, but I had such a crush on you for a long time! I only hope that I can give you as much happiness as Ethan did.”

“I think you will.” Diana told him. “I have to make another confession. I loved Ethan with all my heart, but ever since I met you, my heart was torn between two men. I know that he would’ve wanted me to move on and be happy.” Ethan wished she could have seen the cross look on his face! She went on, “I could really see myself have a future with you. I think I could be falling for you!”

The man beamed upon hearing this, but he still felt like he needed to ask, “Are you afraid of moving too fast?”

“Ethan will always be a part of my past, but you are my future!” She reached across the table and stroked his hand, smiling lovingly at this man. He held her hand and returned her sentiment.

Ethan blew up, “That bastard! This whole time he was trying to steal my woman! I’ll kill him!” Ethan tried to strangle Frank, but his hands went right through him.

Joseph stood next to him and reported, “A few things. First of all, remember you’re not supposed to swear. Second, you’re invisible, so he can’t see or feel you. And lastly, I doubt the Big Guy will let you into Heaven if you actually did kill someone. I know you’re hurting, so I’m gonna pretend I didn’t see that.”

Ethan still looked frustrated, but he knew that Joseph was right. He sighed, and then he remembered why he was there. “Okay, so maybe she’s move on, but my parents will be devastated!”

Joseph didn’t seemed convinced. “If you say so.” He snapped his fingers, and they disappeared from the restaurant.

Joseph and Ethan reappeared in his parents’ living room, a very neat and clean space with a lot of comfortable furniture. Mrs. Miller was knitting on her flowery couch with her orange cat curled up beside her and a faint smile on her face. Mr. Miller entered the front door with a broad grin. He announced, “Good news, honey! I got a huge promotion!”

“Oh really?” Mrs. Miller reacted merrily. “That’s wonderful! What’s your new position?”

Mr. Miller proudly told her, “You’re looking at the new manager of the Animal Buffet Pet Food factory!”

“Manager? Oh honey!” Mrs. Miller got up and gave her husband a huge hug. “Ethan would be so proud of you!”

Mr. Miller agreed, “Before he died, he kept trying to get me quit drinking and work harder. If only he could see his old man now! Now we can stop using his inheritance he left us to pay bills and really treat ourselves! Maybe we can visit Cally in France!”

“That would be wonderful!: Mrs. Miller rejoiced. “And instead of selling these blankets to supplement, our income, I’ll give it charity! Oh, I’m so glad we’re going to be alright! I dreaded what life would be like without him, and I’ll always miss my baby boy, but I’m so glad we will be okay without him! He is probably looking at us now, smiling.”

Ethan was frowning. “Now they don’t need me? They even said it! Ugh! My fiancee has moved on, and my parents are happier than ever with me being gone!”

Mr. Miller suggested, “Let’s go out to a nice restaurant to celebrate!”

Mrs. Miller reacted, “Wow, this will be the first time we’ve really dined out since Ethan died six months ago!”

Ethan turned to Joseph, “So, every time you snap your fingers, it’s been three months on Earth?”

“I guess,” he replied. Then he addressed Ethan seriously, “So, your fiancee and your parents can live without you. Are you ready to admit that the world doesn’t need you to go back?”

“No!” Ethan denied it. “My sister must need me! We were best friends-how could she live without me?”

Joseph laughed, “Let’s find out together, shall we?” He snapped his fingers, and they disappeared.

Joseph and Ethan appear at the end of a lecture in a large university classroom, and the professor spoke entirely in French. Joseph told Ethan, “Hold on, I can get subtitles.”

Ethan seemed a little relieved, but his mind was elsewhere. “Cally went to another country to study? She probably had trouble making friends so wanted to get a fresh start in France. She was really shy, I was trying to help her with that. She must be so lonely and miserable here!”

Joseph smirked. “Sorry to disappoint you, but she doesn’t look so sad.”

They found Cally pretty easily. She looked a lot like Ethan except she had golden brown eyes and curvy, womanly figure. She listened to the lecture with a lot of interest. After the lecture concluded, Cally gathered her things and walked out of the classroom alone. Ethan pointed out, “See, alone and miserable!”

Cally soon got joined by a handsome young, handsome blonde French man. “Bonjour Cally!” His subtitles read, “Hello Cally!”

Cally smiled big and greeted him, “Salut Jean! Ça va?” Her subtitles read, “Hey Jean! What’s up?”

The young man replied, “Oui, ça va. Et toi?” His subtitles read, “I’m good. How are you?”

Cally replied, “Oui, ça va. Où est-ce que tu vas?” Her subtitles read, “Yes, I’m good. Where are you off to?”

He shrugged, “Chez moi.” His subtitles read, “My house.”

Cally invited, “Je vais aller au café. Tu veux venir avec moi?” Her subtitles read, “I’m going to a cafe. Do you want to go with me?”

He emphatically replied, “Mais oui!” His subtitles read, “Yes, of course!”

As the young man and Cally leave the class together, Joseph pointed out to Ethan, “She asked a guy out. Sounds like she got out of her shyness!”

Ethan was flabbergasted by this development, but he wouldn’t admit defeat. “Hold on. Let’s see how well she does on this supposed date.”

They followed Cally and her date to a small bistro down the street from the college. The young man and Cally sat outside and studied a menu. Joseph sat down and lounged casually but Ethan watched them anxiously. Her date asked, “Qu’est-ce que tu veux manger?” His subtitles read, “What do you want to eat?”

Cally decided, “Un croissant et des thé.” Her subtitles read, “A croissant and some tea.”

The man laughed, “C’est toût?” His subtitles read, “That’s all?”

Cally replied, “Oui. Qu’est-ce que tu vas manger?” Her subtitles read, “Yes. What are you

going to eat?”

He told her, “Je pense que je vais manger un sandwich et un chocolât.” His subtitles read, “I think I’m going to eat a sandwich and some hot chocolate.” He motioned to the waiter. “S’il vous plaît, Monsieur!” His subtitles read: “Please, sir!”

The waiter promptly came to their table and asked, “Vous desirèz?” His subtitles read, “What would you like?”

As Jean repeated their food choices they just made, Joseph nudged Ethan. Ethan responded, “What? I’m trying to read!”

With a hint of mischievousness, he replied, “Just checking on you.” Ethan groaned and returned to reading their subtitles.

The waiter brought Cally and Jean their food, and as they happily munched, Cally inquired, “Qu’est-ce que tu faire avec ton vie?” Her subtitles read, “What do you want to do with your life?”

Her date answered, “Je suis acteur.” His subtitles read, “I’m an actor.”

Cally replied honestly, “Ah bon? C’est cool.” Her subtitles read, “Oh really? That’s cool.”

The young man asked, “Et toi?” His subtitles read, “And you?”

Cally told him, “Je veux être employée de bureau. C’est quoi mon frère a fait.” Her subtitles read, “I want to be an office worker. It’s what my brother did.”

He responded, “Qu’est-ce qu’il fait maintenant?” His subtitles read, “What does he do now?”

Cally revealed, “Il est mort.” Her subtitles read, “He is dead.”

Her date said sadly, “Je suis très desolé!” His subtitles read, “I’m so sorry!”

Cally didn’t seem upset by this. “Ne suis pas. C’est parce que de lui je suis ici.” Her subtitles read, “Not me. It’s because of him I’m here.” She paused for a moment, and then she confessed, “J’aime toi beaucoup!” Her subtitles read, “I like you a lot!”

This made the young man smile broadly. “J’aime toi aussi. Est-ce que tu es ma copine?” His subtitles read, “I like you too. Will you be my girlfriend?”

Cally gushed, “Oui, bien sûr!” Her subtitles read, “Yes, of course! Cally stood up and leaned close to her date, giving him a kiss. He gladly kissed her back.

Ethan was furious, and Joseph rubbed it in, “Wow, not only is she not shy, but she’s gutsy! She made the first move!”

“She’s using my death as a way to pick up men!” Ethan scathed. “Well, I guess she’s okay with my death too!”

“Ready to give up yet?” Joseph grinned and stared expectantly.

Ethan retorted, “No! Let’s go to my old work. They’ll miss me for sure! I just hope they didn’t move the company to somewhere that requires more subtitles!” Slightly disappointed, Joseph dully snaps his fingers, and they disappeared again.

Joseph and Ethan reappeared in a row of cubicles, and it was apparent that the office was in the middle of a huge party. People were dancing, drinking cocktails, laughing, and conversing animatedly. They wore much more formal attire than usual with the exception of nametag stickers. Joseph remarked, “Sure doesn’t look like they’re depressed!”

Ethan’s face fell. “We’ve never had an office party before! What’s going on?”

At that moment, the best dressed man there, Gregory, turned off the music. Everyone paid attention as he prepared to speak. “I just wanted to take a moment to remind you all why we’re here and we’re celebrating today. Exactly one year ago we lost a brave hero. Ethan Miller died tragically. He was certainly an asset in his life, but he proves to be an even greater influence through his death. His actions have inspired us to be the company we are today. Profits have soared higher than ever, thanksto his philosophy! So, let’s all have a toast!” He raised a champagne glass over his head. “To Ethan!”

The rest of the office raised their drinks and toasted, “To Ethan!” Gregory turned on the music back on, and everyone resumed the party. Ethan told Joseph, “Don’t even ask. I’m not ready yet. Just because the company doesn’t miss me and is more profitable than ever since I died doesn’t mean my coworkers don’t miss me.” Joseph looked skeptical but said nothing. He let Ethan listen to his coworkers chat.

A man named John commented, “I hope this party makes Ethan proud!”

“You know it does!” Gabriel replied.

A younger man named Paul inquired, “Didn’t I replace him?”

“You didn’t replace him. No one could replace what he did,” a woman named Esther put in. For a moment, Ethan got his hopes up, but then she went on, “ But essentially you took over his duties when he was gone.”

Gabriel told Paul, “You were the only one that was not intimidated by taking his old cubicle. No one thought they could fill his shoes. Lucky you did! The company is doing so well now!”

“Thanks guys!” Paul swelled with pride upon hearing this. “Hey, John! Isn’t that the girl you like over there?”

John noticeably blushed, “No!”

“Yes it is!” Esther almost shrieked with delight. “Look at Sarah standing by herself. Go ask her to dance!”

“Oh, I couldn’t!” John dismissed the idea passively. Everyone could tell he really wanted to go for it.

Gabriel urged John, “Do it dude! Or someone else will!” Although he didn’t want Gabriel to flirt with Sarah, he was still really nervous. The others kept encouraging John to go ask Sarah to dance. He hesitated, but eventually they convinced him to go for it. They watched him from a distance. When she said yes, and they all cheered. As John danced with Sarah, the group changed subjects and talked about their favorite cocktails.

Ethan looked absolutely crestfallen. Joseph put his arm around either and leveled with him, “Your fiancee moved on. Your parents are doing well. Your sister turned out fine. Your coworkers are flourishing. Is there anyone else you want to see, or can we finally go back to Heaven’s Headquarters?”

Ethan inwardly knew that he was losing this argument, but he refused to believe the whole world had moved on without him. He didn’t want to die, so he decided to fight for his life. “I’m not a quitter! Someone in this town must miss me!” Joseph groaned but snapped his fingers to take them away anyways.

Joseph and Ethan popped inside a pub where they see a group of Ethan’s friends toasting to a victory with cocktails. Ethan folded his arms in annoyance. Joseph snapped his fingers and they disappeared.

Ethan stood outside in his old neighborhood. He noted, “I see someone bought my house!” He watched a mother load her infant into a car in the driveway where he used to live. The mother waved hello to the across the street neighbor, who was dressed in a suit and obviously leaving for work. One of his next door neighbors was working on a garden while the other watered his lawn. Ethan walked down the street and saw everyone getting ready for their day. They all seemed so untroubled, which made Ethan pout. Joseph snapped his fingers and they disappeared again.

Next, Ethan and Joseph watched his dentist smiling while working on a patient. Joseph shook his head and snapped his fingers to make them disappear.

After that, Ethan walked down a street that was full of shops and restaurants, listening to several conversations. When he realized no one was talking about him and everyone seemed to be in a pleasant mood, Ethan shook his head despondently. Joseph snapped his fingers to make them disappear.

Ethan then watched as travelers at the airport. People went to baggage claim, headed towards their gates, got food and drinks at a nearby coffee stand, and waited for their friends and loved ones on vacant seats. He desperately listened, truly hoping to hear one person mention him. Finally, one traveler asked another, “Did you hear about Ethan?” Ethan looks hopeful. When the traveler said he hadn’t, the first traveler revealed, “He’s directing a new movie in L.A.” Ethan was heartbroken to hear this. Joseph snapped his fingers to make them disappear.

This time, Ethan watched as the mayor gave a speech about public safety. The crowd appeared enthused. Joseph looked at Ethan, who is walked away from the scene with his head down. Joseph quickly followed him.

Joseph caught up with Ethan at a graveyard and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Sniffling a little, Ethan admitted, “I get it. I guess no one misses me.”

“That’s not true!” Joseph disputed.

Before Joseph could say more, Ethan ranted, “Clearly the world is better off with me not in it!”

“Don’t say that!” Joseph reacted with complete sympathy but genuinely disagreed with him.

Ethan argued, “It’s true! If it’s not true, then you wouldn’t have shown me all this!”

Joseph assured him, “You were missed! But you needed to die! I can’t tell you why!”

Ethan didn’t believe him. “Whatever. Maybe Heaven can cheer me up.”

Joseph gently asked, “You ready to go?”

“Can I have a minute?” Ethan requested.

“Of course,” Joseph relented. A cell phone in Joseph’s pocket rang, and Joseph exclaimed, “Hey, it’s J.C.!”

“Who?” Ethan’s curiosity perked up even though he was severely depressed.

“The Big Guy’s son.” Joseph answered the call. “Hey!” He paused while J.C. spoke, and then he reported, “Yes, we’re almost done. How’s the party? George Washington did what?” As Joseph talked on the phone, Ethan gazed forlornly at the graveyard. Suddenly, something caught his eye. He can’t explain why, but he was compelled to look at a statue with a huge angel on it. He ran over to it. Joseph kept chatting, not noticing that Ethan was reading the epitaph on the grave he was drawn to. “Sounds like a great party!” He paused again when J.C. asked him something. “Yeah. I’m watching Ethan! What do you mean, where is he? He’s in the graveyard and…oh shi-! Shoot!”

It was too late. Ethan read, “Here lies Ethan Jacob Miller, who sacrificed his body to save his sister’s life. Even in death, he encourages his loved ones to live life to the fullest. God rest this brave soul!” Ethan closes his eyes, remembering.

His memory flash-backed to Cally and Ethan coming out of a restaurant, laughing and conversing pleasantly. As they strolled down the street, a man came up from behind them with a gun and pushed them into a nearby alley. Ethan and Cally are pushed to the ground by the gunman. They stand up and face him. The gunman growled, “Hand over all your money!” Ethan handed over his wallet, but Cally did not move The gun man ordered, “Gimme your money too, you dumb girl!

Frantic, Cally sputtered, “I don’t have any money, so I didn’t bring my purse! I don’t have anything!”

The robber directed, “Give me your jewelry then!”

Tears forming, Cally cried, “I don’t have any jewelry!”

“Ugh! Quit playing me, bitch!” the mugger was losing his patience.

“I don’t have anything, honest!” Cally was now in tears. The gunman let out a roar of frustration. He aimed his gun at Cally and fired. Cally winced, expecting to get hit. Ethan threw his body in front of her and took the bullet! The weight of Ethan’s body knocked Cally to the ground. Cally howled, “Ethan!”

Someone on the street yelled, “Was that a gun? Call nine one one!”

The robber ran off as witnesses poured in to see what happened. Cally turned Ethan’s body around to face her. She looked at his wound in horror and is horrified to see Ethan’s labored breathing. Cally pleaded, “No! Ethan! Don’t die! You’re gonna make it! Hang on!”

In betwenn breaths, Ethan told her, “There are some things worth dying for! I don’t want anyone to be sad for me. They’ll show me they care by having fun and achieving their potential. Tell Diana not to become an old maid! Tell Dad to quit drinking and get ahead at work! Tell everyone we know to live life to the fullest! Cally, you’ll be getting a lot of money. Use it to go to school in France like you’ve always dreamed of! Don’t cry! It’s my time! I love you, sister! Tell everyone!”

Ethan stopped breathing just as the paramedics came. As they put his body on the gurney, through thick tears, Cally swore, “I’ll tell everyone! I promise!” She cried hysterically as the paramedics took her older brother away.

Back in the graveyard, Joseph came running up to Ethan, who was in tears. Joseph asked, “Are you okay?”

Ethan nodded and wiped away some of his tears so he could speak. “You were right, I needed to die! Everyone moving on was honoring my last wishes! I inspired them! I wouldn’t change a thing!”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Joseph inquired, “Ready to go now?”

Ethan stated firmly, “Yes.” Joseph was about to snap his fingers, but Ethan stopped him. “Wait! I got an idea.”

Ethan took over the empty reception desk at the entrance to Hell. He used his office phone to call the Big Guy. Ethan conversed,“Whew! What a busy morning! A group of Somali pirates’ boat went down, that’s a lot of paperwork! No really, I’m loving this! I get a lot of satisfaction sending evil people where they deserve to go! Oh, someone is coming, gotta go! Thanks again for everything, Big Guy!” Ethan hung up the phone and waited expectantly. A portal appeared and spat out the gunman who murdered him! Ethan smiled triumphantly at him. “Ah, Mister Gun Man! Thought you could out gun the SWAT team, huh? Wow, you’re a lot more evil than just murdering me! Please go straight to Area 666!” Ethan pulled a lever and flung him away. He then put up his feet and sighed happily.

 

 

 

 

 

War of the Mystics: Frozen

Attention Readers: the free version of my novel, which I posted a chapter at a time on my blog, is no longer available. However…you can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, Createspace, and eBay. So please, check it out and spread the word!!!