Soul Gazer Chapter 2

Read Chapter 1 here

One more semester, all that’s left of her college life.

As she finished her workout, Kaila’s mind drifted back to her insecurities and newly blossoming fears.

She would be a graduate, entering the real world as an adult. She’ll have adult things to worry about. A job, paying rent…being happy. She thought going off to college was the scariest thing she’d ever done. She was wrong and this new chapter of her life didn’t even require moving to another state.

But could she really say if she’d stayed in Indiana she’d feel any different? Would she have found her life’s calling if she’d stayed home? No. She would’ve found what was expected of her. Married, kids, the whole nine yards. But she wouldn’t have been happy with that either.

Grabbing the bar on the underside of the starting platform, she maneuvered herself so her back was to the wall and stretched her sore arms. Taking a few deeps breaths, she raised and lowered herself, kicking her legs gently under the water. Through her goggles she saw everyone else already out of the pool.

Last again,Kaila thought as she placed her goggles on the pool edge. It wasn’t because she was the worst in class. She liked swimming. The longer she could forget about the rest of the world the better. But everything ends and reality always came back.

She watched the other students drying off, getting dressed, and a few even taking advantage of the spa to ease their sore muscles. Two unfamiliar figures caught her eye, standing next to Pam, the teacher or honestly the one who had to be present.

She’d never seen the two before, clearly they weren’t students, but they didn’t look like professors either.

One wore a brown suit, matching his hair and bringing out the green of his eyes. He did most of the talking, throwing an occasional smile at Pam. It clearly did the trick as Pam laughed and placed a hand on his arm.

The other man leaned against the wall, barely paying attention to the two. His blonde hair was obviously not natural and even his clothes, which were baggy and oversized, seemed unnatural on him. He wore horn-rimmed glasses, but even those were most likely for show.

Why were they here? Were they looking for someone? Everyone else was already out of the pool…were they waiting for her?

As if hearing her thoughts, the man with blonde hair raised his head and his eyes met hers. Her heart skipped a beat and she nearly lost her grip on the starting platform. His eyes were a beautiful golden color and she knew they were real, the one real thing about him.

A smile spread across his lips and she felt her face blush. She turned away in an attempt to hide it, but she heard laughter from the wall. A flush of embarrassed anger filled her and she turned to face the pool edge. Placing one hand on the edge of the pool and squeezing the bar of the starting platform, she took a few deep breaths then tried to pull herself from the water.

This always ended up being the hardest part of the class, trying to figure out how to climb out of the water without looking like a complete fool or beached whale. There wereladders, but they were on the opposite side of the pool from her warm towel…and meant getting out directly in front of the two weird men.

She didn’t need them seeing the bruises on her legs from her many attempts at climbing out over the past few weeks of the class. Most people became concerned when they saw them, but she considered them badges of honor, reminders she’d succeeded more times climbing out than giving in and swimming over to the ladders.

She pulled herself from the water with shaky arms, kicking with her legs to gain more height. Her muscles were weak, sore, and made her body feel thousands of pounds heavier. Managing to pull herself halfway out of the water, her grip on the starting platform slipped and she fell back into the water with a loud splash.

Hovering under the water, she prayed no one saw her miserable, failed attempt to climb out, even if they heard it. Maybe she could stay under the water forever. Would drowning really be that bad? It couldn’t be worse than the embarrassment of popping out of the water.

Her lungs made the decision for her. Her survival instincts were far stronger than her bashfulness. She kicked her legs and broke through the surface, taking a deep lungful of air. She wiped the water from her eyes and grabbed the bar again, freezing when she saw a pair of black shoes next to her goggles.

Slowly looking up at the owner of the shoes, her eyes widened when she saw the man with golden eyes smiling down at her.

Holding a hand out, he leaned down. “Would you like some help, Miss—?”

She tore her eyes from his gaze to his hand before taking it. “Kaila. Yeah, thanks.”

Pulling her out of the pool with surprising strength, the man managed to avoid getting any water on his clothes. He stepped back giving her space.

Grabbing her towel, she rubbed her face before wrapping it around her shoulders. Noticing the man standing, watching her, she hesitantly met his eyes. The golden orbs moved up and down her body, surveying her. She felt like he was taking notes in his head about her and she fought the urge to lower her towel, covering as much of her as she could.

Leaning close to her, the man placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re going to be fine. You’ll be someone amazing.” With that, he walked away.

Standing, frozen to the spot, Kaila slowly turned her head, her eyes following the man as he joined Pam and the other man. The green-eyed man gave him a confused expression before glancing at her.

Quickly looking away, she felt a single tear roll down her cheek. She placed a hand over her mouth, holding the sobs back. Suddenly, she was seventeen years old again sitting in her room.

*            *            *

“Kaila?”

She turned away from the doorway, pulling her knees up to her chest. “Go away. I don’t want to talk.”

Her father stepped into her room, closing the door behind him. “We don’t have to talk. We can sit.”

She fell onto her side, holding her knees tightly. She felt her bed lower as her father sat down. He didn’t touch her and she was sure if she looked at him he would be facing away from her.

They stayed that way for several minutes before the dam broke. Tears rolled down her cheeks and sobs shook her body. She buried her face in her pillow, a burning sensation in her throat as she fought from crying out loud. She gasped for air and the sounds finally came.

Minutes passed, perhaps even hours, she didn’t know. Her throat hurt, her chest hurt, her eyes hurt, even her arms hurt from squeezing her legs tightly. She didn’t know when the hand on her side was placed there, but she appreciated the comfort.

“Ready to talk?” Her father’s voice held no judgment. Honest care and love filled each word.

“What am I going to do? Who am I going to be?”

“Ah, your mother mentioned colleges again, didn’t she?”

She shook her head. “We talked about where we see ourselves in ten years at school.”

“And?” It wasn’t a demand, only a simple gentle encouragement.

“I couldn’t answer. I don’t have an answer. I don’t…can’t see myself in ten years. Everyone else had something to say. I thought about lying, but when my turn came I just…sat there…silent.” She rolled onto her back, staring into her father’s eyes. “What am I going to do? Who am I going to be?”

Taking her hand in his, her father pulled her into a sitting position. He wrapped his other arm around her and hugged her. She listened to his heartbeat. Feeling more tears well up in her eyes.

“You’re going to be fine. You’ll be someone amazing.”

 

*            *            *

 

The last thing she expected was pain as something slammed into her left shoulder. Her eyes widened as the unknown object hit her with enough force to push her back. The ground disappeared from beneath her feet and time slowed.

She managed to glance towards the two strange men. The green-eyed man’s expression reflected her shock. The man with golden eyes was running towards her, but it was his hand her eyes locked onto.

Something was there. Something in his hand, but at the same time nothing.

Hitting the water brought a gasp from her lungs, one last attempt at life before the water swallowed her.

Hidden Danger Chapter 2

Read Chapter 1 here

Fresh snow fell. Missy put on her backpack and purse and left the docks, stopping at the top of the path leading back to the cul-de-sac. To the right was an opening to the sewer. Beyond that was a creek leading into the lake and a small bridge connected the two sides on either side of the creek.

She crossed this bridge and up another path to a different part of the neighborhood. She followed the street until she reached a block of houses far larger than the others. She passed numerous three-story houses, gates surrounding the properties.

She stopped in front of the largest house in the neighborhood. It was four stories including a basement. On the second floor, a large balcony covered the porch and front door. The yard, usually a beautiful garden, reminded Missy of a cemetery in the winter night. Statues of angels normally surrounded by vibrantly colored flowers most of the year were instead covered in snow.

Winter was when Bixby Deshler moved into the house nearly thirteen years previously. The house remained empty and dark until Bixby moved in. Neighbors didn’t even know the house had been sold until the first moving truck arrived. They watched movers bring in the furniture noting how all of it was new, freshly brought pieces except for one. A large cabinet, the dark stained wood worn from years of use and wear, was carried carefully. It was old and clashed with the new furniture.

For his first year in the house no one saw a single person come and go. The only signs of life were lights inside and the care of the garden. If Bixby did ever leave the house no one knew when.

The children of the neighborhood hadn’t taken long to start rumors about the mysterious Mr. Deshler. Even his name sounded like a mystery. It always reminded Missy of the name of a character from an old cartoon.

They started out as common childish rumors. He was a crazy, old man who hated people. Then he became a widower who killed his family for the insurance money. Next he was called a devil worshipper who spent the days cursing those in the neighborhood. Finally, he was called an evil wizard, courtesy of a particular children’s series released the same year he moved in.

Around that time, Missy and a group of the neighborhood kids (not friends, merely the only children close by enough that their parents forced them to play and occasionally they pretended to like each other) decided to break into Bixby’s house. They wanted to find proof he was performing black magic.

Missy was eleven years old when she first entered Bixby Deshler’s house. She and the other children entered through an open window. They searched the house for anything possibly related to black magic, but to no avail. Before they knew it, they’d gotten lost in the immense house. When Bixby found them, several had broken down into sobs.

Missy hadn’t.

She’d been separated from the group early and was exploring the large living room. She remembered how she’d been drawn to the old cabinet there. Something about the dark, aged wood stood out in the room of clean, bright furniture. The dark glass preventing curious eyes from seeing its contents, reflected her curious face back at her and she only longed to open it more.

The other children’s sobs warned her of Bixby’s discovery of the young intruders and she managed to hide in a small coat closet as he led the group out of his house. She debated whether to sneak out while the other children distracted him or wait until he went to sleep.

She didn’t have time to make a decision before Bixby found her. It had actually been an accident and the surprise in his face almost made her giggle.

“What have we here? A clever child or a mischievous pixie?” His voice was gentle and far too kind for someone finding a group of children who broke into his home.

She remembered how she felt no fear when she met him. “I’m not a pixie. I’m a little girl and my name is Missy Harper.”

Bixby laughed at her rashness. “Well, Miss Harper, my name is Bixby Deshler.”

“Are you an evil wizard?”

“No, but I’m a pretty good cook. Would you like something to eat before I call your parents to come get you?”

“Spaghetti, but only if you don’t call my parents. I can make it home on my own.”

“All right, but if you try anything, I’ll turn you into a frog.”

Both laughed.

It would be the first of many laughs. Missy found herself liking Bixby and wanting to talk with him more. The other children thought she’d been put under a spell, but Missy knew it was something else.

She didn’t have a name for it, but the closest word would be connection. She found herself visiting Bixby after school almost every day. Sometimes they would talk. Sometimes they would eat. Sometimes they would wander Bixby’s garden. And sometimes Missy would sit on the floor and do her homework whether or not Bixby was in the room.

On Missy’s thirteenth birthday, Bisby gave her a key to his house. He told her she was welcome any time and if he needed to leave town he wanted her to look after the place. She’d been very happy at his gift, but she gave him a condition. He had to meet her family. They’d been nervous and slightly disapproving of her friendship with a man in his early seventies.

Bixby invited her family over. Her grandmother, who’d been living with she and her father since her mother’s death, refused to meet him not out of disapproval, but because unbeknownst to Missy and her father, she knew she was going to die that night.

Missy’s father immediately took to Bixby after talking with him for only ten minutes. The two found common ground on the strangest things. She’d been surprised to learn her father was a closet antique lover. The two discussed at surprising length episodes of Antique Roadshow, boring the young Missy to tears.

When she and her father returned home they found her grandmother in her bed, having passed away silently in her sleep.

Bixby came to the funeral, keeping to himself and leaving a white flower on the grave. He offered any help he could to her father, but Missy stopped visiting him and they didn’t speak for six months.

Then she received a letter from him requesting her presence at his house. She almost ignored the letter, but he sent a second letter that contained a cryptic message.

Red Rover, Red Rover,
Send Missy Harper right over.

Missy made it to his house, though she couldn’t really remember how. She walked through the garden amazed at how, though he claimed to know nothing of gardening, his plants thrived unnaturally well.

Bixby opened the door before she even finished climbing up the porch steps. He beamed at her, a secret glistening in her eyes. He quickly led her to the kitchen and sitting on the counter in a large black and white doggy bed were two Doberman puppies.

He told Missy they were gifts for her, but he understood her father was allergic to dogs. Therefore he’d keep them at his house, but she had to promise to visit them as often as possible.

Missy immediately fell in love with the excitable puppies and asked their names. He told her he wanted her to name them. She named them Zelda and Link in honor of her favorite video game.

Bixby asked if she was doing all right since her grandmother’s passing. She told him she cried enough tears. Now sh only looked back with smiles. She showed Bixby her grandmother’s necklace.

He’d been very impressed by it, a mysterious twinkle in his eyes.

 

 

The hoot of an owl brought Missy back from her memories, her hands resting on the locked gate surrounding Bixby’s house.

She used her key to open the gate and walked into the garden. She crossed it quickly to the front door. She opened it and entered the warm house. Taking a deep breath, she sighed as the familiar scents filled her nostrils.

The sound of eight paws running on wooden floors brought a smile to her lips. She kneeled down to the floor and opened her arms.

Two Dobermans turned the corner and jumped onto Missy. Merry and Pippin were the sons of Zelda and Link who passed away just before she’d left for college. They were trained to only bark at strangers, but they could always tell when it was Missy at the door.

She laughed as the two dogs licked every inch of her face. She hugged them and scratched their necks. “I missed you guys, too.”

She stood and closed the door behind her. The house was dark and silent, but it was so familiar to her. The day she arrived back home she had immediately gone to visit Bixby Deshler, after calling to let her dad know she landed safely.

When Bixby opened the door and saw her, his familiar kind smile appeared on his lips. “Miss Harper, it’s simply wonderful to see you. I hope California is treating you well?”

Missy hadn’t answered him. She wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. She hadn’t realized until she saw him how much she missed him.

Bixby had trouble understanding Missy’s reaction, but he easily raised his arms around her. They stood in silence before he cleared his throat.

“Why don’t you come inside? This cold is doing neither of us any good.”

After making it into the living room and after a long game of catch-up, Bixby told Missy why he had her father call her.

“I’m going out of town for a little while, but just house sitting isn’t why I asked you to drop everything and come back.”

“You know I would have done it for that reason alone, but since my dad called me at 4 in the morning I imagined there was more to it.”

Bixby smiled. “I did ask him to call you as soon as possible. Anyway, back to the task at hand. I received a request from a very dear friend of mine. Well, to be more exact, my nephew.”

Missy started. “Nephew? That means you have a brother or a sister.”

“A sister if you must know. But that’s beside the point. My nephew is travelling and unfortunately has become very ill. He’s asked to spend several nights here, but I can’t postpone my trip. I need you to be here when he arrives and assist in any way you can.”

“You want me to play nurse?”

“No, nothing of that nature. He’s travelling with a friend and he’ll be taking care of him. I just need you to escort them to the master bedroom and keep Merry and Pippin away.”

Missy smiled. “That shouldn’t be too difficult.”

Bixby’s eyes darkened slightly, but his smile remained unchanged. “There is one other thing. If anyone comes to see my nephew please don’t let them in. My nephew is very private.”

“He isn’t really famous is he?”

“No. It’s a complicated story. If you need anything my friend can help. He should be arriving in a few days.”

 

 

Missy opened her eyes. The fire in the living room fireplace was slowly dying, but she felt hot air on her face. She lifted her head from the couch and saw Pippin had crawled onto the couch with her. His head was on her chest and at each breath she felt warmth. Merry was on the floor asleep, his back leg twitching now and then. He was probably chasing something in his dreams.

She hadn’t meant to fall asleep after starting the fire, but it was welcomed. Sunlight filled the room and Missy slowly sat up, stirring Pippin. He yawned and then hopped down to the floor, shaking his entire body. Merry lifted his head and watched his brother curiously. Pippin sat and stared at Missy.

She put her feet on the floor and rubbed her eyes. Her bags lay by the door to the living room and she debated whether to take them upstairs.

Loud knocking came from the front door. Merry and Pippin stood and growled. Missy stood. The knocking came again and Merry and Pippin backed away.

Missy slowly walked to the front door. She could see a shadow through the tiny window on the door. It moved slowly and Missy’s heart pounded loudly in her chest.

She opened the door quickly, blinding herself with the sunlight. After her eyes adjusted she realized there was no one outside. She took a few steps out and looked around. No one. The only footprints in the snow were her own from the night before.

“It’s a little early for ding-dong-ditch, isn’t it?” she yelled. She turned and walked back into the house. She closed the door and locked it.

She leaned back on the door and closed her eyes. She saw somebody through the tiny window. Or was she just seeing and hearing things?

Merry and Pippin walked to Missy and whined softly. She couldn’t have mistaken it. Both of the dogs reacted to the strange knocker.

She leaned down and scratched them behind their ears. She’d worry about it later. First she needed to feed these two.