This is Installment Four of the novel Rose and Justice. It includes Chapters II.i and II.ii. It is 4,138 words long. As installments are posted, links for each will be added under the tab labeled “The Novel” at the top of this page. Enjoy!
D.C. felt restless all the time. No one seemed to notice this; they just thought he was an antsy kind of guy. He had held 14 jobs in the first six years of his marriage until he finally landed a position in the Cullman Water Department. He hated it, but he had seemed to hate everything else he had done as well, so he made the water department a career. He had also grown tired of the endless lectures from his father about “being a man” and “providing a good living.” The security of working in city government held his father’s tirades off, and besides the benefits were good and he made enough to keep them about average in the Cullman social hierarchy. The problem was that D.C. hated average, hated Cullman, and hated just about everything else about his life.
The kids were o.k. After Daniel Christopher Carter, III, or D.C.3, had been born, Sandy seemed to be pregnant or nursing all the time. Mary Jo followed D.C.3 by 16 months and Clinton followed her by two years to the day. Then came the twins – Curtis and Carl. D.C. was probably the only man in the world who had slept with his wife a grand total of four times and had five kids. All four times, D.C. had been drunk. It was the only way he seemed able to show Sandy any affection at all. He was kind to her, she deserved at least that much, but she wasn’t much more to him than a casual acquaintance and the mother of his children.
God knows why, but Sandy adored D.C. She was a loving and supportive wife and never seemed to be too concerned about their non-existent sex life. She was really far too good for him, he thought, and therefore he lived with continuous guilt. He was a pretty good dad, but wasn’t in the running for any father-of-the-year awards. All in all, D.C. was pretty average himself, and he hated that most of all.
Mostly, he had never felt connected. Not to his parents, not to Sandy, not to his hometown, and not even to himself. He felt like the real D.C. Carter was out there somewhere waiting for him to join up and see the world. When he was a senior, a few of his buddies talked him into skipping a day of school and going to Birmingham with them. It was the only time in his life that he had ever been out of Cullman. In retrospect, it was also the only time in his life when he had ever felt alive. He had probably been the only man in America who wished he could go to Korea, but a bum knee from his football days made him 4-F. His life here was like living in someone else’s skin, someone he didn’t even like.
He showed up to the right functions, went to the right church, signed his boys up for summer baseball leagues at the Dixieland Ballpark, and went to his daughter’s ballet recitals. Most people seemed to like having him around, but didn’t go out of their way to make sure he was there. He really wondered if anyone would miss him if he were gone. He knew he wouldn’t miss anyone here. Sure, he loved his kids, but they never really felt like “his.” Not that he thought Sandy would ever fool around. He knew she hadn’t. His kids just seemed like strangers to him. And it wasn’t just his kids. He felt like he lived in the midst of strangers, even around friends he had known since kindergarten. Or, more likely, he was the stranger, and everybody else was right at home.
He had never fooled around either, though most wouldn’t believe that if they knew about his sex life at home. He’d had opportunities but never followed through on them. He didn’t seem to care enough to do so. Besides, every time he had ever had sex, it had been less than memorable and only increased his burden by one or two more mouths to feed. No, Daniel found his release in other ways.
Every now and then, not in a regular sort of way but when the mood hit him, he would awaken before anyone else, throw on some pants and a shirt, and walk into the woods behind their house. About a mile into the forest was a small bluff overlooking a cleared valley below. It was a peaceful place, completely isolated, and as far as he knew no one else ever came here. He would sit on the edge of the bluff and watch the sun rise directly ahead of him. He never consciously understood what happened here, nor could he have explained it if he did, but in this place, watching the eastern sky begin to fill with light, he felt less alone. The bluff at sunrise was the only place and time when he didn’t feel like a misfit to his own life. He would alternately watch the streaks of dawn run across the sky and close his eyes to try to see the something else he felt was also here for him to see. He retained just enough hope to believe that this couldn’t possibly be all there was, that a life experience as expansive as the early morning sky was available to him. And as he sat there, D.C. would imagine the other part of himself he knew was out there somewhere.
“How much longer?” Juliet asked with incredible regularity. The answer was always the same – “Soon enough.” Hal was vague in his answers, yet as precise as he could be. He didn’t really know much better than she how long it would be, although he knew it would be here much too soon for him. She felt stronger every day and knew so much more than she would have ever thought possible. She was ready. At least, she felt ready.
With each passing day and with everything she learned, she grew to love Romeo more and more. She ached for him inside and felt incomplete even with all the beauty and perfection around her. Sometimes her heart burned like it was on fire and she knew there could be no greater pain than living without the only one who could truly heal her ache. Hal was a comfort to her, but even he knew that he could only do so much. She would live with this burning until she could find her Romeo again.
“I think it won’t be long now.” Hal’s answer finally changed.
“Why? Why do you say that?” Juliet became excited and started shaking Hal’s arm.
He smiled. “Because the light is starting to shine from you. You will hear from the light very soon. I think, perhaps, it’s time to see the alchemist.”
Hal had told Juliet about the return process. When a being was due to return by order of the Light for continued learning, they were sent back to a group of Beings they had known in previous incarnations in order to continue the work they had already done together. After being contacted by the Light, the being would report to the return tunnel and wait for further instructions. In these instances, you were pretty certain about the world you would return to and the people you would know. But, if you were choosing to go back, you had no control of where you would end up. You could simply show up at the return tunnel and request a trip, trusting that wherever you ended up would work out. But, that was much like playing a huge Roulette wheel, and Juliet wanted to give herself a little better odds. To accomplish this, you had to visit the alchemist who would work the appropriate magic to get you into the best place and situation for achieving your desired goal.
The path through Mystic Wood seemed to go every direction. Up and down, left and right, circles around immense primeval oak trees, angular turns with mountain on one side and ravine on the other. For awhile they followed a river that was singing an ancient Celtic song. Juliet looked for another source for the music, but Hal confirmed it was indeed the river.
Large boulders rounded by years of river wear formed a natural stepping-stone bridge that Hal and Juliet used to cross the water and move deeper into the wooded mountains where the alchemist was said to live. The alchemist was a master of transformation and must be consulted for a voluntary return trip. Shifting from Here-spirit-being to Earth-human-being required a bit of magic. Most beings never met the alchemist. Even Hal had to ask directions from a seraphim who lived near the edge of Mystic Wood.
Juliet felt as if they were just going in circles, though she was too disoriented to be certain of even that. Suddenly Hal stopped.
“There it is,” he spoke more to himself than to her, and then, as if trying to remember. “From the gray-speckled boulder, 12 paces along the path, 90 degree right turn and six paces to the patch of clary sage, turn three complete circles, look directly over left shoulder and walk seven paces toward the first mountain laurel bush you see, left turn four paces, right turn three, bend down between the two large elderberry trees and wait.”
Hal seemed to have ended up about two small steps away from where he began. Juliet watched him with questioning eyes. She wanted to trust him completely, and she did in her heart, but this was beginning to test the strength of that trust. Hal remained crouched in his spot like a large toad.
Just as Juliet was beginning to think she might need to take over the task of leading them out of there, a small moss-covered door opened in the ground beneath Hal. It had been invisible just the second before, perfectly camouflaged by the intertwining of mossy tendrils. A small man about six inches tall with emerald green knickers, a blousy shirt of creamy eggshell, a plaid vest, and a black velvet jacket emerged from the door by way of a ladder and stepped gingerly out onto the mossy carpet. His mop of curly hair fell around slightly pointed ears.
Hal straightened up, but remained on his knees. He didn’t seem to be the least bit surprised to be addressed by such a small person. He cleared his throat. “Good day. My name is Hal, and this is Juliet. We wish to see the alchemist.”
“Of course you do. It’s about the only reason your kind comes into the Mystic Wood anymore. We used to be overrun with Beings like you, but then most of you stopped vibrating at our frequency. My name is Bernard Oxley Millwright IV, and I shall show you the way. Follow me.” Bernard turned briskly on his heels and, as he did so, revealed two neat, tightly folded wings tucked close to his back.
Juliet was delighted by this little man and enchanted by this place. The Eternal Here had flowers and trees and dirt, but this place seemed earthier, somehow, more moss, more mushrooms, more mud. “Is this . . . is this earth?” She just knew it couldn’t be so, but didn’t know what else to make of it all.
Bernard Oxley Millwright IV looked at her over his shoulder, but kept walking as he talked. “Earth? Sure, why not. It’s all earth if you get right down to it. There really isn’t a here or there or earth or not-earth. There are just different speeds of vibration.”
“So, when you say that you used to be overrun with Beings like us . . .”
“Yes, well, apparently it used to be much easier for Beings in the human form to visit us. We would make friends and sit and talk along the banks of the Singing River. Then it seems the ones who couldn’t make the leap from human vibration to Mystic Wood vibration began telling those who could that they were a bit off in the head, as it were. Fewer and fewer humans came to see us. The last one I saw was a little girl, and that was many, many moons ago. She told me herself that her mother had told her I wasn’t real. I asked if she could see me, and she said yes. I thought she believed me, but then I never saw her again.” Bernard stared off into the woods and became misty-eyed for a brief moment. “At any rate, humans will come back to us one day. I’m sure of it.”
Hal and Juliet followed Bernard in silence for a few more minutes until he stopped at the base of the sudden rising of a hill. He turned to Hal, “Reach down to just in front of where I’m standing.” Hal reached down for the ground, not at all certain of what he was reaching for. “There, do you feel it? There’s the handle. Now, pull.”
Hal pulled up a much larger door, but one hidden invisibly in the mossy ground the same way Bernard Oxley Millwright IV’s door had been. Inside the door, they could see steps descending into the hillside and nothing beyond that.
“There you are. Good day to you.” Oxley fluttered his wings for the first time, shook a few drops of dew from them, and then lifted off the earth and flew away with his arms crossed in front of him and his feet crossed at the ankles.
Hal and Juliet watched him with their mouths slightly open, then Hal came back to the moment. “All right, then. I guess we should go see to your future.”
Juliet led the way. They stepped through the doorway and descended 13 steps until they reached a large room which, although sensibly should have been a cave, was lit by the natural light of several large and inexplicable windows. The only furniture in the room was a roll-top desk against the back wall, several long wooden tables, and bookshelves from floor to ceiling on two walls. The tables were littered with open books, scales, mortars and pestles of various sizes, vials of bubbling liquids squatting over candle flames, and smudged sheets of aged parchment scattered about.
Beside the desk was a t-shaped perch on which sat a large Snowy Owl. He seemed unreal, but then moved his head slightly and Juliet realized he had been watching them from the moment they entered the room. The owl’s eyes were golden and unblinking and watched the two Beings in a such a way that Juliet knew there was a keen intelligence behind them.
Hanging from the high ceiling were orbs of various sizes hanging from mobiles and spinning and circling each other. There was a large yellow orb with nine or ten smaller orbs circling it. And there were other yellow and bright white orbs circled by countless smaller ones, every size, every color, forming an entire universe on this ceiling of this almost invisible cave.
This place was different from anything else Juliet had seen Here and felt quite certain she was not technically still Here. It felt strangely familiar, as if she were seeing for the first time a place she had visited yesterday.
From one wall hung a considerable tapestry woven with the design of an astrological chart, except that rather than 12 signs there were 40 or 50 at least. Next to the tapestry was a giant gong on a stand.
The air was hazy with candle smoke and incense. The smell of patchouli and dragon’s blood mingled in the expansive room and permeated the wood of the furniture. The alchemist rose from her writing desk as Hal and Juliet approached. She greeted them with a warm smile. “I am Maria Claricy. And are you Juliet?”
Juliet was surprised beyond speech for a few seconds, but then found her tongue. “Yes. How did you know my name?”
Marie Claricy twitched her nose and crinkled her brow as if this was an odd and silly question and the answer all too obvious. “The runes told me, of course.” She turned to walk away, then looked back over her shoulder. “Well? Are you coming?”
Juliet turned to Hal who gestured her forward to follow Maria Claricy. She trailed the alchemist across the huge hall that seemed to grow bigger the more her eyes were able to take it all in. Juliet studied the woman in front of her as they walked.
Maria Claricy looked surprisingly young for someone so versed in her craft. Juliet would have expected a decrepit crone leaning on a crooked walking stick, a large wart on her nose and missing teeth. Maria Claricy was the polar opposite. She had long blond hair, mounds of it, loose strands interspersed with random braids, billowing about her shoulders and down past her waist. It seemed more than a head of hair; it seemed a visible, touchable aura that hovered about the upper half of her body. Her clothes were layers of fluttering diaphanous purple and gold scarves tied and draped and twisted over a tie-dyed shift of deep blues, greens and reds. She fluttered as she walked, her scarves like gossamer wings moving through the air. Bangles and bracelets of silver and amethyst clinked on each wrist and from each bare-footed ankle.
From out of the hidden depths of her hair and across her forehead lay a silver chain with a single white Selenite stone resting directly above and between her vivid green eyes. She smelled of lavender and rosemary and pine. Her energy was warm and gentle, open and accepting. Being in this room and in her presence felt like being hugged by the earth, and for a moment Juliet remembered her former home and all of its splendor.
Maria Claricy led Juliet to a small round table near the astrology tapestry. In the center of the table was a large crystal globe. Beside it sat a calico cat and a set of worn Tarot cards. Maria Claricy shooed the cat off the table and motioned to a chair on the opposite side for Juliet. When both women were seated, Maria Claricy clasped her hands together, her baubles tinkling around her wrists, and smiled broadly. “So, now, tell me about this return trip you’re wishing.”
Juliet was still a bit overwhelmed with the trappings of the laboratory. “Do you believe in all these tools of divination?”
“I believe in energy. And evvv-rything is energy.” Maria Claricy drew out the word with great drama. “I could use the wag of the cat’s tail for divination if I so chose. But when I use the Tarot or the runes, I am able to combine my energy with the ancient energy of countless oracles, alchemists and seers who have done this work before me. So, why re-invent the wheel?”
“How are these things going to help me get back to Romeo?”
“I have no idea. Once you,” Maria Claricy continued, “tell me what it is you want to do, then I’ll know what kind of magic we will need.”
Juliet paused. She wanted to be sure she remembered every detail Hal had coached her through. “I need to return to earth, the earth-plane, to meet again with my true love, Romeo. He is there now. I must return to that plane before he returns Here. So, Hal and I have determined a meeting place. St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. I need to go to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, and Hal will direct Romeo to request the same location for his next trip.” Juliet paused, and then added more softly, “He’s been looking for me for 400 years and I’ve . . . been asleep.”
Maria Claricy sat back in her chair and crossed her arms. She studied Juliet’s face intently, as if trying to decide something, then suddenly leaned forward and looked deeply into the ball. “You do understand there is no guarantee you and Romeo will meet in this next incarnation. We can put you in the same vicinity, that’s not a challenge at all, but once you have both become incarnate your paths may cross or may not completely at the fancy of destiny’s wind.” Maria Claricy studied the crystal ball as she spoke, not really looking at Juliet or seemingly aware of her at all. “Ooh, knife wound. You must have hurt deeply.”
“I still do,” Juliet whispered.
Maria Claricy glanced at Juliet quickly, then back to her crystal. “It seems that St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, is a bit of a resort area. There are year-round inhabitants, but not many. Metropolitan areas are so much easier. Of course, if you’re not picky, I could probably get you in the mainland city of Brunswick with no problem. Your first choice is not impossible, mind you, just fraught with more obstacles.”
Damn Malcolm, Juliet thought. “What kind of obstacles?”
Maria Claricy lifted the crystal and sat it aside. She pulled out a bag of runes and tossed them two by two on the table, studying the runes’ symbols and direction intently after each toss. “Well, there is a greatly reduced chance that you will actually know the family into which you are born. They may not be in your soul group. Sex?”
“Um, excuse me?”
“Sex. What sex would you like to be?”
Juliet wasn’t ready for the question, but tried to adjust. “Female, please.”
“As suspected. You do know I cannot guarantee the sex of the person you are trying to meet, nor can I guarantee that you will be female, although I will do the best I can.”
Maria Claricy swept the runes off the table and back into their pouch. She turned to a bookshelf behind her, opened a drawer, and pulled out a scroll of yellowed parchment. She opened the scroll and spread it across the table. “This is a list of women on St. Simon’s Island of child-bearing age. Those who are married, involved, getting serious, or having an affair are noted as such. Do you have a preference of anyone on this list?”
Juliet studied the paper closely, not sure what she was looking for. “I’m. . . I just don’t know.”
Maria Claricy leaned forward and placed her hand tenderly on Juliet’s arm. “If you knew anyone on the list, then you would recognize a glow from the name, even if it is different from when you knew them.”
“Well. I guess any one will do them.” Juliet gave a tight-lipped smile and shrugged slightly.
“Oh, don’t make it so easy on me. I would normally love this situation where I could slough somebody off on one of the lesser desirables. But, I like you. And 400 years is a very long time to wait.” Maria Claricy’s smile was that of a beautiful young maiden and a mother all at the same time. “I can see you haven’t heard from the light yet, but your glow is getting strong. It should be any day. I’ll begin working on the spell and you let me know the instant you hear from the light.”
“Is that it?” Juliet asked.
“But, one question. If the person I’m trying to meet and I end up the same sex in this next life, will it create a problem? I mean, if one of us isn’t . . . you know, . . . open to that?”
Maria Claricy reached across the table and took Juliet’s hand in her own. It was electric, form on form. The energy was completely different from when she had touched Juliet’s arm earlier. “My beautiful girl, we’re all open to that. Trust me, if you are able to find the person with whom you share a true love, you’ll adapt. Anything else?”
“Once I hear from the light, how soon can I leave?”
“It’s best if you wait a complete nine earth-months. You may override at any time, of course, but that’s very risky. After seven earth-months, you’re pretty safe.”
Juliet and Maria Claricy rose and walked arm-in-arm slowly back toward Hal. They had quickly formed a bond, much as a mother will bond with her child upon first sight. Before leaving, Juliet hugged Maria Claricy for a very long time and with a very tight squeeze. “You will help me, won’t you? You will help me feel all put together again, won’t you?”
“Oh, my dear. I will do my part, and you will do yours, and Romeo his. And then there are the stars. But, I will do my part, of that you can be certain.”
© Deborah E. Moore – 2011