Her head moved to a position that her ears thought made them hear better and listened for a train. No train appeared to be coming. What had caused this unexpected wave of emotion? She didn’t know. The overwhelming sensation had abated, but the feeling of horror clung to her. It was not terror, but horror. It was not a feeling she felt often. It overwhelmed her and upset her. It was the second time she had felt it at this spot on the trail that ran along the train track she used as a short cut between her house and her brothers. She picked up her daughter Tabitha, who had started crying.
“What is that mommy?”
Dulcinea looked at her daughter. Her heart tightened and a little tear escaped her eye. Tabitha had felt it too. Yesterday she had thought she had made it up. Now she wasn’t so sure. She looked around. It was quiet. There was no train. No birds either. No rabbits or squirrels rustling in the bush. The feeling of being watched made her grab her daughter tighter and hurry on. Running seemed pointless as anywhere to run was to far. It seemed best to pretend that nothing was happening – to discourage a confrontation.
“It was just a stick, baby. I thought it was a snake too.” She said aloud, inventing a reason to be upset. Miraculously, Tabitha said nothing and stuck her finger in her mouth. As she walked away, the feeling left her. Maybe she had made the whole thing up.
She was almost in bright spirits when she reached the door of her brother’s, Jamison Lee. It was hard to shake the feeling that her spirits were so bright because she had just escaped something. She thought about the non-existent serial killer that didn’t live in her town. Had he recently killed there? Had he been watching her? Did she fit his profile? Did she seem vulnerable? Was she an outsider? She knew she wasn’t main stream, but she had never thought of herself as “that” different. Somewhere inside of her head she heard a voice say, “Nice girls don’t walk alone in the woods. Nice girls aren’t single mothers.” If this was her mind saying these things it was a betrayal of everything she believed about herself. Or… maybe she was just making the whole thing up she thought firmly to herself.
She had walked the same way at the same time of day more than she could count. She had created a pattern that, imagination running wild or no, she would not repeat. The path had been a staple of her routine. Before this week she had walked it many times in enjoyment. She was sad to lose it.
She knocked on the door of her brother’s house. He and his spouse Tyco had agreed to watch Tabitha so she could go out on her date. Tabitha escaped her grasp as just as the door opened so that she could bust in. “Uncle Jamie,” she yelled running past her uncle Jamison Lee searching for Tyco.
“We look nothing alike, but somehow being a couple has made us twins,” remarked her brother inviting her into his house.
“Thank you so much for doing this. I can’t stay. If I don’t leave now I’ll be late,” she said declining his invitation with a kiss on the cheek and a step backwards.
“Pick her up in the morning. Sometime before noon,” said her brother in goodbye.
Dulcinea continued her walk to her date. There was a new pedestrian overpass and now access to downtown was more readily possible. When they had originally put in the freeway it had completely cut off walkers from the town. Progress always seemed to be designed for someone else. She was pleased to be utilizing progress that seemed to benefit her. She felt reunited with community.
The mood of the path near the train track was wearing off and she was starting to get excited about her date. There were no expectations. She was just excited to be hanging out with a handsome man.
She had run into him while she was helping a homeless person find a church that was offering food and respite. Michael had been arguing with a neighbor of the church about the line of homeless people with shopping carts in front of the building. The neighbor was trying to sell his house across the street.
“Are you even zoned for this?” he had demanded of Michael.
“We are zoned to be a church. Helping those in need is the work of the church. What do you think a church is? A country club?”
“You know, I’m a Christian too!” the neighbor snapped and then stormed off.
Michael had sighed with frustration and then turned to Dulcinea to ask her if she needed help. Dulcinea explained her situation and waited patiently for Michael to explain the services to the homeless person – who then left them suddenly, alone together, heading into the respite of the church.
The absurd situation had made them comrades and after a brief pause of silence between them, he said. “I get it. I mean, if it were my yard, I would like it to be free of needles and human feces too. But helping these people didn’t bring the problem here. They were already here.” He finished turning to her with a sigh clearly eager to change the subject. “I’m Michael.”
Michael was a Christian. At first that had concerned her. The bible had a tenuous relationship with those gifted with magic. Sure, there had been magicians at Christ’s birth, but the book also gave instruction on avoiding witches and killing them when possible. In the bible magic was the soul property of prophets.
But Michael wasn’t a Christian of the “dreadful sort”. Which seemed to mean he asked more questions than he pretended to have answers to. She had even gone to church with him. When she had lifted her hands in prayer, she had felt power. There was magic in that old church. While it hadn’t made her want to “come out of the broom closet” to him, it had turned out that him being a Christian was not a show stopper.
She wasn’t sure what she would tell him or even how to broach the subject. I’m a witch? What did that mean anyways? For her, witchcraft wasn’t so much about a belief system or a deity structure. It was more like a language not everyone could speak.
Regardless, Michael made her feel good. It had been a pleasure to help him go through his closet looking for things to donate. They had found an old uniform of his. Michael had been a Mounty – of course he had. He was one of the good guys. She couldn’t help leaning into the feeling that this Christian Canadian was the Dudley Do Right to her Penelope Pit Stop.
She hated that analogy. It was too accurate and at the same time not at all who she was. She was perfectly capable of getting herself out of any jam she got herself in. However, it was undeniable she was always getting herself into trouble. Or that trouble had a way of finding her. Eglantine attributed it to her green eyes. “The lipochrome attracts magic, wild magic, unpredictable magic. It creates a vortex”, Eglantine had once explained. What ever the cause, it might be nice to have someone who’s hand she could depend on taking from time to time. It was exhausting figuring it out by herself all the time.
Dulcinea reached the restaurant and descended the stairs into the lower part. They would not be dining at the fancy restaurant on top, they would be eating at the bistro underneath – listening to the Celtic Rock Band playing in the corner.
Michael smiled when he saw her come through the door and stood up to pull out her chair. “How was the walk?” he asked her.
“Funny you should ask. I feel like I just walked through the worst cloud of evil,” she replied dismissively as she took her seat with a little chuckle expecting him to take it as a joke.
“On the path near the train tracks?” he inquired. The question caught her by surprise and she almost fell into her chair.
“Why would you say that?” she asked.