The Looking Glass – Part Two

Read The Looking Glass – Part One here.

Marie’s eyes fluttered open. She pushed herself up onto her elbows and looked around the strange room. Scrambling off the bed, Marie’s head felt as if it were spinning in circles. Lying back down, she needed to quell the nausea rising up from her stomach. The last thing she remembered, she was looking into her wardrobe mirror, when suddenly a pair of hands reached out and grabbed her. Waking up in this strange but familiar room, Marie had no idea what had happened to her.

Slowly, she rose from the bed again. Tears filled her eyes as she walked over to the mirror. The first time she saw this massive beauty in the window over at the merchant’s store, she had to have it. She fell in love with it. Now it looked to be so old. The frame had scratches on it, and the mirror itself had a grey film. 

Touching the mirror with the palm of her hand, she jumped back. Marie looked at her palm. It burned as if she had placed it on the hot stove in the kitchen; surprisingly, there was no mark. 

Looking up to the ceiling, she noticed a swirling object with what looked like rowing paddles. A gentle breeze came from the paddles as it moved around in circles. How was it moving?

Marie walked over to the window and pulled the sheer curtains aside. It was a beautiful day. As she opened the window, a blast of hot air swept across her face. Gone was the smell of horse manure. Looking down onto the street below, she realized it wasn’t dirt any longer, and strange, colorful objects lined both sides of the road. She looked across to the Collins’ house, but none of the children were out playing. Trees, once small, now towered over the houses on the block.

Hearing a loud rumbling, she saw one of those colorful objects rolling down the street.  A young woman, half-naked, was running down the road, pushing a small child in what looked like a buggy only smaller. The woman didn’t appear to be running from anyone.

Backing away from the window, Marie sat at the end of the bed. She felt one of her headaches coming on. Needing to find Mama and Harriett, Marie opened the bedroom door, stepping into the hallway. Though it looked familiar, the most significant difference, it was quiet. Not a sound was coming from the kitchen or papa’s library. The twins were usually fighting or arguing over something, and her father’s loud voice could be heard two houses down most days. 

“Hello?” Marie called out. “Mama? Harriett?” 

Where was everyone? She thought. 

Gingerly making her way down the stairs, she noticed the bright pictures hanging on the wall. She stopped at the bottom of the staircase and looked around. Colorful pillows adorned the white couch. The tables on either side had lamps, but as she walked over and peered at them, she couldn’t see any candles or device to put in whale oil for lighting. She noticed her mother’s breakfront along with a few other pieces from her house spread among the furniture.

The wall from the dining room into the kitchen no longer existed. A large marble-topped table with chairs around it stood in the middle of the floor where there used to be a sizable cast-iron wood stove. As she explored the common room with all the strange gadgets in it, she came upon a calendar stuck on the wall. The month of June written in bold, and all the squares were crossed out in red except for the last one, 30. But, it was the year that caught Marie off guard: 2019. Feeling faint, she needed her salts. Where was Harriett when you needed her?

Trying to gather her composure, Marie wasn’t able to comprehend the severity of her situation. When out of the blue, a beautiful cat jumped up on the kitchen island and rubbed her face on Marie’s arm. The cat’s collar had an inscription. “Chloe.” Marie read out loud.

“Oh, you poor thing. Are you hungry?” Looking around, Marie walked over to a large, grey box-shaped apparatus. It seemed to be a large icebox, similar to what they had in their kitchen only taller and opened from the sides rather than the top. Opening the door, she couldn’t believe how much stuff was in it, and it even had shelves. Reaching in, she pulled out a carton that said “milk” on it. She was impressed. The milkman always left milk in a cold case at their back porch, in glass jars. But there were no blocks of ice in this box, how did things stay cold?

She found two bowls on the floor and assumed these were for the cat. She filled up one of the dishes with milk. Jumping down from the island, Chloe lapped up the milk gracefully.

Though it wasn’t ladylike to explore someone else’s home when they weren’t around, Marie went back into the living room. On the piano were picture frames of people half-dressed with drinks in their hand, smiling big smiles. She had been taught not to smile in pictures; it wasn’t becoming. 

One image, in particular, caught Marie’s eye. A young woman, dressed in a beautiful ball gown, black hair hanging down in ringlets, bright, red lips, looking solemnly into the camera lens. It looked like Marie. They could be twins except for the hair color. But it wasn’t until she saw a piece of paper in a glass frame that read, ‘Southern New Hampshire University, Class of 2017, Jillian Montgomery, Bachelor of Arts, History,’ did she realize what had happened to her and possibly this woman Jillian. 

The mirror had transported her into the future. But how and why? Had this young woman, Jillian, taken her place?

Marie ran back upstairs to the mirror. She needed to get back. Could it be as simple as both of them staring into the mirror at the same time? Could touching the hot glass be the key to getting back? She didn’t know, but anything was worth a try.

* * * * *

The household was bustling with preparations for the birth party of the country. It was a huge deal. Young boys were already casting off fireworks outside, making the dogs bark and the children squeal. This year, the Montgomery’s were hosting the neighborhood party. Harriett’s husband was getting the smokers ready for the whole pig to be roasted for the celebration. Harriett was busy in the kitchen, preparing all the side dishes. Mrs. Montgomery was sewing up a new dress and petticoats for Marie. 

Jilly stayed in her room, half-naked most of the time, as she was always too hot to put on all the layers of clothing a woman was required to wear. She had a new appreciation for women who lived in this era. It was one thing to read about it in history and another to live it. 

She was afraid if she left the mirror, she might miss a chance to get back to her time. She saw her room once; she knew she would see it again.

 Jilly became aware Mr. Montgomery consumed his time with any news regarding the impeachment hearings of President Andrew Johnson. He supported the President and his ideas for the South. The men, who agreed with him, met in his study, going over the details of the day — their form of social media. Jilly would sit outside the door and eavesdrop on their conversations. 

Though Jilly loved politics, she was unfamiliar with what was proper for a young lady in the 1800s to say or do. When she tried to head off to the town library, Mr. Montgomery scolded her, forbidding her to leave the house without an escort. “There will be no Suffrage’s in my household.” He said in his loud tone.  

One young man, in particular, seemed to have a keen eye for Jilly. Charles had come around several times since Jilly had been there, on the pretense of the impeachment hearings. Several times Jilly caught his eye, and he would look away quickly, his face burning red. Jilly assumed Marie, and he would flirt frequently, and since Marie was past marriage age, maybe Jilly could help the romance along while she was there. She couldn’t remember who her great-great-grandfather was, but she knew Marie had gotten married later in her life and went on to have several children.  

Mrs. Montgomery knocked on Jilly’s door and opened it before Jilly could say, “come in.”

“My goodness, young lady. What is the meaning of this?”

“Meaning of what?” asked Jilly.

“You are sitting in your room, half-naked.” She scolded.

“I’m hot. How do you do it?” Jilly whined.

“Do what? Women have been dressing for centuries. What has gotten into you lately? Have you been reading those pamphlets going around about rights for women?”

“Why do we have to wear so many layers of clothing? Why can’t we be comfortable like the men?”

“Because it isn’t proper, that’s why. Now come here and try this on. I made it from cotton material I purchased from Mr. Crumbly. It may be cooler.”

Slipping the heavy petticoats over her head, Jilly rolled her eyes at Mrs. Montgomery, which she ignored. Next came the dress placed over the petticoats. Turning Jilly around to view her image in the mirror, Mrs. Montgomery placed her hands on either side of Jilly’s waist. “Once you get your corset on, it will push up your breasts and slim your waist…” Just then, another image appeared in the mirror. It was Marie, sitting on the end of Jilly’s bed, staring into the mirror draped in a bedsheet. 

Mrs. Montgomery gasped. “What in the world?”

“Marie!” Shouted Jilly. 

Marie’s image stood up, but as Jilly tried to run towards the mirror, she tripped over the long dress, falling on her face. “No…,” cried Jilly. Unable to untangle herself from all the cloth surrounding her. 

As sudden had the image of Marie appeared, it disappeared.

Staring at the mirror in disbelief, Mrs. Montgomery asked, “What is going on here? Who was that? Is this some type of trick mirror?” 

Wringing her hands, she slowly walked closer to the mirror. “I told your father it was a bad idea to buy something from Italy, those savages.” Blessing herself with the sign of the cross, she helped Jilly up from the floor.

“You’ve changed since we purchased this mirror for your birthday. What’s going on? Has this mirror put a hex on you?” Mrs. Montgomery blessed herself again. “Oh, dear God, please.” She sat down on the bed and started fanning herself furiously. “I must tell your father about this at once.”

Tears streamed down Jilly’s face. Her chance to return to her time, ruined by her clumsiness. Removing the new dress and petticoats, Jilly handed them back to Mrs. Montgomery. Gathering up the material, Mrs. Montgomery left the room in a hurry to find her husband. 

Jilly suspected she would have the mirror removed, thinking it contained an evil spirit. 

Jilly could not allow that to happen. If the mirror went back to the store, her hope of returning to the 21st century would be lost forever. She refused to live her great, great grandmother’s life.

* * * * * 

Marie saw her mama with the girl from the pictures in the living room. What had they both been doing in her room? The image gave her hope. She just needed to be quicker about responding next time. In her heart, Marie knew there would be another time. She would have to be ready. 

That night both young women, trapped in different time periods, cried themselves to sleep.

The Looking Glass – Part One

It had been a while since Jilly had gone antique shopping. Mr. Billings had left a message telling her he had acquired some pieces she may be interested in purchasing. As she dressed that morning, she was excited to explore Mr. Billing’s new finds in his second-hand store. Jilly was a history buff. Not only did her house contain her great-great-grandmother, Marie’s antiques, but she also enjoyed wearing vintage clothing from different periods. Her friends always complimented her on her unusual outfits. 

Looking in the hall mirror, adjusting the bangs of her straight hair, she was pleased with the reflection staring back at her. Her pale white skin contrasted her black hair and thick, black eyebrows. She didn’t have to wear much makeup except for red lipstick. 

“Be a good girl, Chloe,” Jilly called out to her calico cat as she walked out the front door.

Jilly didn’t live far from Main Street, where Mr. Billings store was located. As she strolled past the old buildings and Victorian-style homes, she marveled at the beauty of the town’s past architects. 

A small bell hanging from the doorway dinged as Jilly opened the door to Mr. Billing’s antique shop. She took a deep whiff through her nose. Ahh, the smell of the past, she thought. It intoxicated her. She had to control her giddiness as she walked down the aisle towards the back of the store.

“Mr. Billings? It’s Jilly. Are you back here?” she said as she walked the length of the store, turning her head from left to right, glancing at all the turn-of-the-century glass and tables.

An old man, bent over from the waist, assisted by a brass handled cane, appeared in the back doorway. “Ms. Jilly. What a pleasant surprise. Have you come to see my new treasures?”

“I got your message and couldn’t wait to get down here.”

“Follow me, I put them all in the back corner of the store as I wanted you to have the first pick.”

Shuffling out from behind the counter, he slowly worked his way over to the newly acquired antiques.

“Look at this mirror,” he exclaimed. “My guess is its early 1800s, and except for a few scratches on the wood, it seems to be in perfect condition.”

Jilly walked over to the full-length mirror sitting in an ornate wooden frame.

“I would have to agree, Mr. Billings. The early to middle 1800s.” As she examined the beveling and oxidation around the edges, she walked to the back of the mirror. “The wood backing also solidifies the age, and the ornate frame looks to be from the Victorian age. I’ll bet this was made in Venice. Mr. Billings, I’d say you scored on this piece.”

A smile crossed the old man’s lips. “Are you interested in buying it?” he asked Jilly. “I’ll give you a good deal.”

Jilly continued to look the piece over. She removed the wooden plank from behind the mirror. The reflective silver mercury backing was breaking down and had oxidized. Nothing unusual about that, as it happens over time, causing random cloudy spots around the edges. The old glass also had a distinctive gray cast to it; another indicator it was not a reproduction. She turned to ask Mr. Billings how much he wanted for it when out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a faint image in the mirror. Jerking her head around, she stared into the mirror. “Did you see that?” she asked the old man.

“See what?” 

“Nothing, it was probably just a shadow from the street. Yes, I am very interested in this piece, I just don’t know where I’ll put it. My house is already looking like a museum, according to my boyfriend.” Jilly smiled when she thought what Matt’s reaction would be once she added this to her collection.

Mr. Billings thought for a moment. “Tell you what, I’ll have Daniel deliver it this afternoon, and you can take your time finding the perfect place for it. If you can’t find a place for it, I’ll pick it up, no charge. If you decide to keep it, I’ll trust you’ll give me a fair price.”

“Deal,” Jilly said, shaking Mr. Billing’s hand.

Jilly was excited about her new, almost purchase. Once Daniel delivered the mirror, she was able to go over it in more detail. She had him place it in the corner of her bedroom; after all, it was a wardrobe mirror.

That night Jilly dressed for bed. She called Matt to say goodnight but didn’t mention the mirror. He would see it soon enough. During the night, Jilly was restless. She tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable. Her dreams were weird too. But she couldn’t remember enough of them to make sense of it all. 

In the morning, she showered and dressed. She noticed each time she passed the mirror, she felt a strange sensation as if an electrical current were going through her body. It wasn’t in her mind as she could see her hair standing on end. She also had an eerie feeling she was being watched. 

It was while she was making her bed, she felt the first jolt. The floor looked like it was buckling, and the walls started to sway. Is this what an earthquake felt like? Holding onto the bedpost, she waited for the floor to stop moving. Glancing over to the mirror, she saw her reflection change. A young woman was staring out at her. Hands reached out beyond the mirror. Frightened, Jilly jumped up on the bed and slid up toward the headboard. The hands reached out again, this time grabbing onto her bare feet. Jilly squeezed her eyes shut and let out a scream no one heard.

When Jilly opened her eyes, she was looking up at the ceiling. Her light fixture and fan were gone. The paint, a different color on the walls. She slowly sat up and realized she was in her bedroom, but the furniture was different. White curtains draped down from the four posters. Glancing around the room, the mirror she had gotten from Mr. Billings store wasn’t in the corner any longer but next to the bedroom door and looked brand new. She could hear people talking downstairs. Who was in her house? Could be her neighbors checking on her after the earthquake? Hearing a horse neighing, she went over to her bedroom window. 

The streets were all dirt. Several horses and buggies were trotting along the widened road. “What the hell?” Jilly was horrified. The smell that emanated up from the street made her nauseous. Holding her nose closed, she backed away from the window. So much for the smells of the past, she thought.

“Marie. Marie? Let’s get cracking.” She heard a voice calling from downstairs. Not knowing who this person was or who Marie was, Jilly headed downstairs to find out why these people were in her house.

As she walked down the stairs, she saw portraits hung on the stairwell wall. These were not her works of art. Did she somehow sleepwalk and enter the wrong home? No, she had been up for hours before the earthquake. As she made it to the kitchen doorway, she noticed several small children slurping on soup. A black woman, with kind eyes, looked up from the hearth. “Ms. Marie, your mother is in a frenzy. I suggest you get upstairs and change into your church clothing before she sees you.”

“Are you speaking to me?” Jilly asked, placing her hands on her hips. “My name is Jilly, and I’d like to know what you all are doing in my house?”

“Oh, Lordy, where are my salts?” the black woman said to no one. “Come on now, whatever your name is today, we gots chores to do. I don’t have time to deal with this today.” The woman grabbed Jilly by the arm and walked her up the stairs. “Now git in there and change,” she said as she shoved her into the bedroom. “And please, try not to upset your mama today.”

Confused, Jilly’s thoughts raced through her mind. If this is a dream, you need to wake up. NOW! Pinching her arm, she cried out from the pain. Walking over to the mirror, she stared at her reflection. She didn’t recognize the night dress she was wearing. In fact, she remembers dressing that morning prior to the earthquake or whatever it was that brought her here. Placing her hand on the mirror in hopes it would take her back to her bedroom, nothing happened. Jilly sat on the bed. Think. There must be a way to get back. I mean, if the mirror was able to transport me here, it can transport me back. Until she was able to figure it out, she was stuck. 

Walking over to the enormous armoire, she opened the doors and found two dresses. One black dress with a large metal hoop and a corset hung on one side and a simple, cotton dress with another corset hanging on the other side. She chose the black dress, assuming it was her church outfit. 

As Jilly reached for the dress and corset, a woman rushed into her room. “Come on, dear, I’ll help you with your corset. Harriet is busy with the younger children. What’s gotten into you this morning? Are you having one of your headaches again?” Jilly stared at this woman’s face to see if she recognized her. She was a natural beauty. Her full lips and thick eyebrows looked familiar. The woman turned her around and began lacing the corset strings. 

“No, mama. I had a bad dream, I suppose.”

“Well, never you mind. Dreams are just that, dreams.” As the woman pulled on the cords of the corset, Jilly thought she was going to suffocate with how tight this woman was pulling. “There. That should do it. Come on, finish up. We don’t want to keep your papa waiting.” With that, the woman swooshed out of the room.

Standing in front of the mirror, dressed in all black, she adjusted her large, taffeta hat. Looking at her image, she slowly put her face closer to the mirror as if she were sharing a secret. “Please, help me. I need to go back to where I came from, but I need you to show me how.” Suddenly, her room, the room she came from, appeared in view. There was Chloe, on the bed bathing herself as she lay in the warm sun. “Chloe,” she called out. The cat stopped licking her paws and looked up. Jilly knew the cat heard her.

“Marie, let’s go,” a voice from downstairs called up to her.

Between the hoop skirt and tight corset, Jilly found herself extremely uncomfortable trying to keep up with everyone as they walked to church. The air was humid and hot. The little girl who had been sitting at the breakfast table came over and grabbed her gloved hand. As they walked down the dirt road toward the town church, Jilly decided to ask a few questions to see what year she was in. “Do you know who the President is?” The little girl looked up at Jilly. “Of course I do. We learnt it in school.”

“Well, tell me.” pushed Jilly.

“Why, it’s Ulysess. S. Grant.” With each word the little girl spoke, she paused as if his name was a sentence. “Papa says he’s the man we need to fix things after the war.” The little girl let go of Jilly’s hand and started skipping in front of her, singing, “Here we go round the Mulberry Bush, the Mulberry Bush…”

If Jilly remembered correctly, Grant was elected in 1868. And from all the American flags hanging from the porch rails, and the stifling heat, she suspected it was around the 4th of July.

(Part Two in three weeks!)

This is 2020

Photo by Monte Dolack

I didn’t get a chance to write a last blog for 2019 or to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Let this post suffice as if I did.

In 2019, our family faced many changes. We put our house up for sale in CO and made a move to GA. Best decision we’ve made since we’ve been married. My husband’s kids weren’t too keen on us moving but oh well. Let them believe I’m the heartless bitch they continually say I am. We moved to better our lives. If they want to stay in CO, more power to them. We aren’t getting any younger and live on a fixed income. We prefer to enjoy our final years on earth rather than be miserable.

I get it. I’m a realist. I hate when people try to sugar coat stuff that shouldn’t be sugarcoated. So, I don’t sugarcoat stuff. I can be blunt too. But, in my defense, would you rather have a friend who blows smoke up your pie hole or someone who will be honest with you? I know which one I prefer. I apologize now if I hurt your feelings, but know it wasn’t intentional.

Our little ten year old granddaughter came to visit over Christmas. We paid for her flight to the tune of almost $1,000 (but, we’re okay when we spend that kind of money on them.) Prior to picking her up at the airport, I had started making a batch of cookies (lemon ricotta) my hubby’s favorite. When we returned from the airport, I proceeded to finish them. My granddaughter asked me what I was doing. I told her I was making cookies for grandpa. I was putting a special ingredient in them so he would follow my every command. This was how I controlled her grandpa so he would do whatever it was I wanted him to do.

Her eyes got big. “Really, Grandma?” she asked. “Yes. I’m surprised you didn’t figure it out for yourself,” I told her. She just looked at me. Of course, my husband was trying to get my attention and mouthing to me, “Don’t tell her that…” I laughed, hysterically, like a mad woman. “What do you mean don’t tell her that, she has a right to know how I get to control your thinking!”

By this time, she knew I was joking and laughed along with us. But in all reality, if his kids were to write a screenplay, they would cast me as the wicked witch who puts shit in their father’s food to control his mind. See, they don’t believe he can think for himself or make a decision on his own. It’s all because of me. I totally get the Megan Markle/Prince Harry move. Tallyho and good for you!!

My husband’s son, who I’ve written about before, is still autistic but not getting the help he was getting prior to our move to GA.

We found out he stopped taking his meds. He claims for only 6 weeks, but we suspect longer. He’s being taken advantage of by at least 2 of his 4 sisters. But we warned him and he chose to stay behind rather than be on his own, living HIS best life. He hasn’t seen a doctor in over seven months and he has no friends because he moved away from them when he went to live with his sister.

But you see, this is why we moved to GA. To live happily ever after, because damn we deserve it. No more are we going to play the martyr. We tell it like it is and we live it the way it is. No more apologies. Ask our advice, we’ll give it. Choose to ignore it, then it’s on you. Selfish for the first time in our lives and God it feels good!

According to Chinese Zodiac, this is the year of the Metal Rat. Since I’m a monkey, it says it’s a very lucky year for me. I’ll take it. I spent most of 2019 finishing up our novel, The Purple Lily with Christine Hartwell. Since she is experiencing some eye trouble, I finished up the rough edits and we hired a professional editor to help us with content and formatting. The novel is currently in the editors hands. We have roughly 62,000 + words and 226 pages. Our next step is to find a publisher.

I started writing for Coffeehouse Writers in 2019 and continue to do so this year. I can tell you, my writing is getting better and I absolutely love when I sit down at my computer to write my next piece, how easy it has become. My mind is constantly thinking of new stories to write and I couldn’t be happier; not only my personal life, but in my writing career. My writing career, for the first time, has a chance of blossoming.

Thank you for following me, reading my ramblings, and liking it. If you read something you like, please share it. The best compliment you can pay a writer is sharing their work with others. Stay tuned for my next Coffeehouse article, “The Looking Glass.” A time travel piece I’ve had rolling around in my head for some time now and finally got it down on paper. I’ll publish it here once it’s live on Coffeehousewriters.com.

So CHEERS to 2020!! Life is great compared to the other alternative! And if you aren’t feeling it today, you may feel it tomorrow. Never give up!

If Only

As the old woman sat on her porch in her rocking chair, she contemplated her life.
She didn’t do it often, because it brought her much sadness. But at the same time, happiness, so deep, it caused her heart to ache.
It was a warm afternoon for the season. The only sound the woman’s old ears could hear was the pine trees whispering to themselves as they swayed in the gentle, warm breeze.
Staring up at the vast, white, fluffy clouds with their backdrop of sky blue, she reminded herself how lucky she was to have such a fruitful life.
If only…
What had been done was done. The past was the past. Nothing could be changed. How poetic.
If only…
As a young mother, she wasn’t ready. And though she hadn’t been prepared, she did her best. Love and trust. They grew up together.
It reminded her of baby birds leaving the nest, never to come back home again.
She wondered if mama birds ever missed their babies. She supposed no one will ever know because the mama still sings her song deep in the forest.
If only…
The children would remember some of the happy times, rather than the negative. But experience comes with age.
Her mind took her back to the beaches in the summer, BBQs with friends, game nights, zoo visits, movie night, pizza, monster rallies, bedtime stories, singing along in the car, dancing in the living room. The old woman sighed.
A calm came over her as the warm sun hit her face. She smiled. Shifting in her chair, she reached for her glass of wine and took a sip. The sweet, tart flavor filled her mouth, and she slowly swallowed it.
No one will ever know it isn’t 5 o’clock because she’s alone.
No point hanging onto the negative.
Regrets? Of course, but one must move past it, or they will never be happy in life.
Forgiveness. Forgiving herself.
She sighed a heavy sigh again.
If only…
As the sun set slowly over the horizon, disappearing into the trees, a more cooling breeze brushed past her. She realized she’d been traveling.
Where did she go? Feeling the loss in her soul but the joy in her heart, she picked up her now empty wine glass.
She knew where she had gone.
Lifting her weary bones from her rocker, she shuffled into her cabin. Tomorrow would bring another day of memories and “if only’s…”

Operation Lady Justice

Here is my latest article from CoffeeHouse Writers:

IMG_2233

Photo by LC Ahl

TRIGGER WARNING: SEX TRAFFICKING, PROSTITUTION

I can remember, as a young girl, I wanted to go to college and become a teacher. However, I didn’t just want to teach in a regular school. I wanted to help children on Indian Reservations. My empathy for Native Americans is a strong one. My mother, who is part Native American, was put in an orphanage when she was seven.

My grandparents were both alcoholics, as was my great grandmother. They lived in the hills of Altoona, Pennsylvania. Whenever the three adults would get drunk, they left my mother and her three brothers to fend for themselves. The kids hunted squirrels for food and frequently did not have a warm coat to wear in the winter.

My grandfather worked deep in the bowels of the earth, shoveling coal. One cold winter day, he came home to find all four children out on the front porch of their tiny shack. My great grandmother and grandmother were entertaining men inside, and the children had gotten in the way. He had no other choice but to put them in a Catholic charity home.

All four children were separated, and it wasn’t until they became adults did they reconnect with each other. Their life was tough growing up in the Catholic orphanage. The nuns were cruel, and because they were half breeds, it entitled them to a brutal lifestyle. They were beaten regularly, had their heads dipped in scalding hot water, and their bodies scrubbed down with stiff-bristled scrub brushes. They became slaves to the nuns, mopping floors, cleaning toilets with toothbrushes, and endless amounts of laundry. There was no playtime — no toys or dolls for my mother, or toy trucks for her brothers.

Life was hard. They lived in poverty and hopelessness. My mother wonders where her life would have ended up if her aunt had not rescued her. Shortly after moving into her new home, it became evident the reason her aunt came for her. She became their slave. Taking care of the household didn’t just mean cleaning; it included cooking. She went to school, but when they told her she would have to earn money to wear a bra or to buy sanitary napkins for herself, she dropped out in the ninth grade.

She started working at a local creamery. She met my father, a handsome Italian man who wore an Air force uniform. They knew each other two months when my father proposed, offering her a better life in New York. She took it.

When I first came across an article about Native American women and sex trafficking, it wrenched my stomach. The more research I did, the more it disturbed me. This problem had existed since the 1500s. When the Europeans came over and drove the American Indians off their lands, they were pillaged and raped; captured and enslaved; massacred.

I couldn’t believe it was still going on today in every aspect — my bubble burst. A friend of mine works with Dakota youth on an Indian reservation in South Dakota. I became involved in helping raise money for Indian children and their schools. However, I was shocked to learn the exact statistics of what happens to their young girls in the 21st century. It was how I met Lisa Brunner.

Lisa Brunner has been an active advocate in the sex trafficking of Native American women for many years. She lives on a reservation in the Dakotas. She is educated and wants to end the violence perpetrated against her sisters. The young girls in Lisa’s tribe look up to her and see her as a role model.

Lisa travels all over the world to meet with other advocates and government officials discussing ways to end the violence against Native American women. In the summer of 2017, Lisa, along with her seventeen-year-old son, found themselves in Oslo, Norway. A summit hearing was held to discuss the success of the Nordic Model.

The Nordic Model, also known as the Sex Buyer Law, decriminalizes prostitution and criminalizes the act of buying people for sex. This plan is implemented by Sweden, Norway, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Lisa told me the following story from her trip, “As a Native American woman, I normally do not feel safe traveling alone, so I bring my seventeen-year-old son with me. One day, after the summit talks, we decided to take in some sights in the city of Oslo. We found ourselves in a little town square with cobblestone streets and outdoor cafés. Walking by one of the cafes, my son and I had noticed three large men sitting outside, two black men and one white man. As we approached, I could feel their eyes devouring every part of my body, making me very uncomfortable. We decided to go to a different café across from where these men were sitting.

While enjoying our lunch, a young girl from Nigeria was walking with her mother and older sister. The weather was beautiful, and they seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. They were engaged in a conversation, laughing and smiling as they walked along the cobblestones. It didn’t take long for one of the black men to get up from his seat and walk over to the young girl who looked to be around fourteen. As he joined the three of them, his attention was on the young girl.

I noticed he was rubbing his hand up and down her back. My stomach churned while watching this brazen act, and I began to feel nauseous. Her body language told me she was not comfortable with this man touching her. I could see the fear in her facial expression. I overheard him say to her, ‘Are you for sale?’ Pulling away from him, the young girl reached for her mother as she vehemently told him she was not for sale.

All three women scurried out of the area. Walking back to his friends, laughing, I overheard him telling them, ‘I guess she’s not for sale.’ I, myself, was visibly shaken by witnessing this encounter, as was my son. He told me then, and there I was not to go anywhere without him.”

The statistics speak for themselves on the horrors these women face on a daily basis. One in three Native American women are raped; six in ten are physically assaulted; and the murder rate for Native women is ten times more than the national average. Native Americans have the highest dropout rate from high school. They have the highest homeless, runaway, and thrown away youth in shelters than any other group nationwide.

Native Americans have the highest percentage of children involved in the welfare system; most young girls have been sexually assaulted or abused by someone in their family. The majority are either drug users or become drug-addicted. Many young girls believe it is a “career choice” for them because their mother or grandmother were prostitutes. The most significant cause of all this is poverty and history.

Native women in Duluth, Minnesota, are incredibly vulnerable to being lured into prostitution. Generations of them have sold themselves to survive. Mary Annette Pember, a writer with Indian Country Today, told a compelling story about three generations of Native women who have sold themselves out to prostitution to survive. Mary and her mother, Ruth, are two Native American women who survived the life of a “boat whore.” The citizens of Duluth fear to talk about it, and feel it might infect them somehow, so they sweep it under the carpet saying, “boys will be boys.”

“The story of the boat whore has been like a queer kind of natural disaster that visits destruction on the powerless yet holds them responsible,” says Pember.
The story of Mary starts from her birth. She was one of 21 children conceived through her mother’s liaisons with seamen. Her exposure to the “life” was an accident. She was 15, broke, and homeless, standing on the street with a girlfriend when a Pakistani man approached them. He invited the girls onboard his boat, and thus began her life on the ships. She would meet seamen in Duluth and accompany them back to their quarters. Mary would have sex with them and other crew members in exchange for food, money, drinks, and a place to stay. Most times, she remained on the ships as they sailed from port to port. Life on the boats was a nonstop party, claims Mary. The seamen treated her better than her white foster parents.

Things changed after September 11, 2001. Mary found herself being pimped out by an older white woman and her husband, who owned a bar. She says she drank all the time and took care of the bar’s customers in exchange for food, lodging, childcare, and alcohol. She desperately wanted out of the life of prostitution. It wasn’t until Mary got very sick and put into a nursing home that her time as a prostitute ended.

Mary, 51, now lives in a small but comfortable house overlooking the shimmering, clear waters of Lake Superior. Advocates say that Mary’s ability to normalize her life as a child prostitute is common among Native girls frequently exposed to sexual abuse and violence.

The research concluded by Minnesota’s Indian Women’s Resource Center reported Native girls and women who exchange sex for food and shelter don’t consider the acts to be prostitution. They imply doing what they have to do to stay alive, engaging in survival sex.

Mary worries about her daughter, who, at the age of 14, began her life with a pimp so she could have cute clothes to wear. No matter what she tells her daughter, her answer is, “look at you – you did the same thing!” Mary has gone from child prostitute to survivor, to advocate. Today, Mary focuses her time on spreading the word about the dangers of sex trafficking. She claims for a long time she didn’t care about anything but now feels she is getting her groove back.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to my mother if she had not met my father when she did. Would she have turned to prostitution eventually? According to the stats, it’s entirely possible. She could be considered a throwaway youth. She endured years of physical and emotional abuse, dropping out of school, and living in poverty.

For me, growing up and listening to the horrific details of my mother’s young life has caused me to empathize with Native American women. After meeting and speaking with Lisa, it has reiterated the need to educate people on this troubling problem. Do I think the Nordic Model would work here? I don’t know. Much research will need to go into such a program before implementing it in the United States.

President Donald Trump, last Tuesday, signed an executive order, Operation Lady Justice, a White House task force on missing and murdered indigenous women. Though this mostly invisible crisis has been occurring for decades, it has finally reached the eyes of policymakers. This new team will develop protocols to be used in new and unsolved cases as well as create a team to review cold cases.

We may not be able to change history; however, we can change the poverty status of all Native American Indians living on reservations. Let’s keep our eyes open.

The Nightmare – Part Two

dream-2864678_640

 

The Nightmare Part One

Victoria and Brad met by accident. She had been working on his mother’s political campaign. Hyped up over the historical event, Victoria worked day and night. 

It was during a train ride through the Midwest when Brad came into the dining car. It was past midnight, and Victoria, relaxing after a long day with a nightcap, noticed him walking to the bar. The handsome, single, Harvard graduate, who majored in Economics, winked at her.

“Long day?” he asked.

“It was but so worth it. Did you hear your mother’s speech today in Tulsa?” Victoria asked.

“I caught a little of it on the plane. I hear the crowd went crazy.”

“They did. I feel confident your mom may win this.” Victoria was beaming.

“I’m Brad, her oldest,” he introduced himself.

“I’m Victoria, her campaign manager.”

Their eyes made contact and lasted a minute too long.

“Mind if I join you?” he asked.

Victoria didn’t need to say another word. Brad sat down next to her.

The rest is history, as they say. Brad and Victoria spent the rest of the campaign together and fell in love. Their romance was a whirlwind. In less than a year, they were engaged. Six months later, they were married. Six months after they were married, her new mother-in-law lost the election over a nasty rumor. It was shocking to everyone, especially Victoria. The somberness in the Slater household was unbearable. 

Brad and Victoria were an odd couple. It wasn’t clear to anyone what the commonalities were, but it seemed to work. Underestimating her worth, as many women in Victoria’s shoes, she was infatuated with her husband. Whatever he wanted, she provided, both in bed and out of bed. Once, during an argument, he told her she was easily replaceable. She believed it and from then on, avoided making him angry. If she didn’t agree with him, she kept her mouth shut, like a dutiful wife. 

When Victoria found out they were expecting a baby, she waited to tell Brad. They never really discussed starting a family, and she was fearful of how he would react to the news. When she told Brad, she was pleasantly surprised by his reaction. Overjoyed, Victoria hoped it would be a new beginning for them.

* * * *

As Victoria lay strapped to the four-poster bed with candle holding, hooded figures chanting around her, she suspected Brad’s happiness about the news wasn’t because he was to be a father. This new beginning wasn’t the one she had dreamed of or was it? Maybe Brad wasn’t a part of this. Was he also chained up somewhere in this God-forsaken house, unable to reach her? Had they killed him? Sent his parents a ransom note? Her mind was racing with all types of crazy thoughts.

One thing she knew for sure, she needed to keep a clear, level head if she were to escape these lunatics. The lull of the chants seemed to calm her, though she couldn’t make out what language they were speaking. She decided to play along with them. Let them think I’m with them like I do Brad whenever he’s in one of his rages. Breathing deep, she remembered her yoga instructor teaching her about breathing exercises. 

As quickly as the chanting had begun, it suddenly stopped. Victoria could hear the wood crackling in the fireplace. “Who are you, people? What do you want with me? Where’s my husband?” She cried out in the silent room.

A bright flash of light blinded her for a second. All she could see was the color green from the flash. Blinking furiously to regain her sight, she heard a thunderous roar. The ceiling lifted away. The wind was howling. Though it was raining, she remained dry. An air bubble was protecting her. Objects were swirling around as if looking up into a tornado, reminding her of the Wizard of Oz. The noise was unbearable. Every muscle in Victoria’s body contracted to cause her to let out a guttural scream.

* * * *

Victoria? Was someone calling her name?

Can she hear me? A female voice said, though not recognizable.

Victoria wasn’t sure how much time had passed. Her joints were stiff from being kept in one position. She heard the whispering again.

“Any change?”

“Not since your last visit.”

Who were these people? Why can’t I reach out to them? Am I dead? Why can’t I move? Victoria wondered.

She heard a beeping sound. 

“Does this mean she can hear us?” The unfamiliar female voice whispered.

“Possibly. But we really don’t know much about what humans hear or feel when they’re in this state,” said the male voice. 

I can hear you, screamed Victoria but only in her head. 

“Look,” the female voice said, “The eye movement quickened. She must be able to hear us.” The beeping rapidly increased.

Frustrated, Victoria gave up trying to get their attention. Her last happy memory was driving down the road on a romantic getaway with her husband, celebrating their pregnancy. Pregnancy? I’m pregnant. My baby. What will happen to it if I can’t get out of here? They did this to me. The chanting. Oh, God, help me, please. Victoria pleaded in her mind. 

* * * *

Realizing the humming noise had halted, Victoria had no idea how much time had passed. Not bothering to open her eyes, she realized her wrists had been unstrapped. Her eyelids were stuck together. Once she was able to open her eyes, she looked around the room without lifting her head. She was disoriented and fumbled to sit up. 

How did I get here? She thought to herself. “Brad?” she yelled out. 

Looking down, she was naked. Shivering, she reached for the sheets to cover herself. Realizing she was back in their room, Victoria had no idea how long she had been there. She needed to find a phone. But who would she call? 

When Victoria swung her legs over the bed and tried to stand, she was unstable. Her head was pounding. Thankfully, the wet clothes, dry from the heat of the fireplace, were on the floor. Had she been dreaming again? Could it be this house? Maybe it wasn’t Brad who had planned this charade. Was she hallucinating? Hurriedly, Victoria dressed.

She tiptoed across the room toward the door, turning the doorknob. The door slowly opened. Peeking out into the dimly lit hallway, she looked down. Seeing the wall to wall carpeting splayed out down the long hall, Victoria could hear music playing and the low hum of conversation. The smell of food wafted upstairs mixed with fragrant flowers, invading her nostrils, making Victoria’s stomach growl. 

Making her way to the stairwell, she stopped at the first door on the left. The intensity of emotions flooded through her body as she reached for the doorknob. Victoria had to know what was behind this door. The door was locked. Breathing a sigh of relief, she slowly made her way down the stone staircase. When she reached the bottom step, she peered around the corner into the large living room. 

Spotting Brad at the bar, Victoria hesitated. She could break out or go over to where Brad was sitting at the bar. What if all this was a dream she made up in her head? Maybe, it was hormones? He’d say she was overreacting. Not wanting to see the cloaked people again, she headed toward the front door. The woman at the desk looked up from her paperwork.

“Ma’am, can I help you with something?”

“No, thank you, I just forgot something in the car. I’ll be right back.” Victoria opened the front door and walked out of the house. As she stood on the small landing, she took a deep breath. It had stopped raining, but it was windy outside. I’m free from the house, and no one tried to stop me. She raced down the steps looking for their car. Once she found their SUV, she pushed in the code, and the door opened. She still needed the key to get the car started and remembered they had a hidden one in the wheel well.

She raced around the car as the wind whipped through her hair, checking all four wheels. She heard someone call her name. It was Brad. It was dark in the parking lot, and she could only make out a shadowy figure approaching her.

“Stay back,” she yelled. 

* * * *

“Victoria, wake up. Wake up. You’re talking in your sleep again,” Brad whispered as he shook her shoulder.

Opening her eyes, she had to adjust to the darkness of the room. Where was she? Victoria’s body was clammy, and her heart was beating fast.

“Who were you yelling at in your dream?” he asked. Victoria could tell he had been sleeping from the rasp in his voice.

Propping herself up on one elbow, she saw the four silhouettes of her dogs lying on the floor around their bed. Breathing a sigh of relief, Victoria told Brad to go back to sleep. 

Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she glanced at the clock on her nightstand. 3:33 am. 

Tiptoeing past the dogs, Victoria headed downstairs. Approaching the refrigerator door, she hesitated before opening it. Victoria’s dream was still vivid in her head. So, all of these events never happened? It was all a nightmare? Was she pregnant, or was that just in her dream too?

What could possibly have caused her to start having these horrible nightmares? 

As she opened the refrigerator door, she noticed a new carton of milk. Picking up the container, a small amount of residue was left on the glass shelf where it had been placed. Turning the carton upside down, she saw a small puncture the size of a pinprick on the bottom.

These nightmares all made sense now. Brad had been drugging her milk. They had never discussed starting a family. Brad thought she was to blame for the loss of his mother’s campaign.  

Finding his briefcase, she rummaged through it. In a side pocket, she found a needle and a vial. Searching further, she noticed the lining on the case was torn. Inside the lining was an envelope. Opening the envelope, there was the reason for Brad’s deception; a million-dollar life insurance policy.

The signs were there in the dream. Brad had been compassionate, reassuring Victoria is wasn’t her fault his mother lost the election. Brad had been pretending to be happy with the news of her pregnancy. 

Victoria stayed up to plan Brad’s demise. 

The following morning, Brad was surprised when he came downstairs to find breakfast on the table with coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

“I know I haven’t been myself lately, and I thought you’d enjoy a nice breakfast before meeting the guys for your golf game,” she said with a smile. Brad sat down at the table.

“Didn’t sleep well, I take it?” he asked her as he buttered his toast.

“No, I don’t understand why I’m having nightmares. The dreams are so vivid too. It’s as if I’m really experiencing them, a dream within a dream. Know what I mean?”

“I’m afraid not, I can never remember my dreams,” Brad said as he took a sip of his black coffee. Victoria could see Brad was enjoying every bite as he smothered his pancakes in maple syrup.

Taking another sip of orange juice, Brad faltered, trying to put the glass down on the table. The flute tumbled over. Dropping his fork, Brad looked over at Victoria. As he fell face-first into his plate, Victoria said, “RIP my love, Karma’s a bitch.” 

Picking up the phone, she dialed 911 to report her husband had a heart attack.

The Nightmare – Part One

Waking with a start, Victoria felt her heart pumping fast. Her skin, clammy to the touch, was sticking to the silk sheets. Sluggishly, she swung her legs over the side of the bed, cautiously standing up. Four dogs occupied the floor. It was dark, but she was able to make out their silhouettes. Tiptoeing over them, she headed downstairs for a glass of water, comforted by the familiarity of the room. Opening the refrigerator, she reached for the milk carton. She remembered her mother saying it helped with sleep. Pouring the milk into a coffee cup, she placed it into the microwave. She contemplated how a dream could disorient her state of mind so dynamically.

It was the same one every night. She and Brad, her husband of five years, would be strolling, in the warm sunlight, down a grassy path somewhere in the mountains. They would be laughing, talking, holding hands, and enjoying each other’s company. Brad would let go of her hand to pick up a heart-shaped rock and abruptly disappear. Victoria, panicked, would start looking for him, calling his name louder as the sun disappeared behind the dark clouds. The wind picks up, and it starts to rain. Thunder and lightning fill the sky. She still can’t find Brad. With blurring vision, she spots an ominous house in the distance. The closer she gets to this apparition, the more doomed she feels. She’s never able to get a clear view; everything blurry in her dream. By the time she reaches the front door, she’s soaked from the rain.

She knocks on the door, only to hear its echo from inside. The door squeaks open as she turns the doorknob. Stepping inside, she calls out to Brad, believing he has seen the house seeking shelter from the rain. The large foyer has a round, antique-looking table sitting in the middle of the floor. The large crystal cut vase with bunches of azaleas and white lilies adorn the center of the table. As Victoria looks beyond the jar, a large stone staircase comes into view. Inside of the house, ornately decorated with large mahogany tables, buffets, and red velvet-covered high back chairs, had thick cobwebs hanging vicariously along the beams. The gold brocaded drapes are closed, causing distinguished shadows playing tricks with Victoria’s limited sight.

Image by Momentmal from Pixabay

She wanders the house calling out to Brad. She heads upstairs. There is a long hallway, with wooden floors and oriental area rugs the whole length of the hall. There are three closed doors in her sight. Approaching the first door, she opens it apprehensively. The room empty, except for a crib, changing table, and a large stone fireplace. A fire roars to life. Victoria walks over to the crib and peeks inside. A small baby swaddled in a blanket appears to be sleeping. Placing her fingers upon the baby’s cheek, she withdraws in horror. Stone cold. Shocked, she runs from the room.

The second door inside has a massive four-poster bed, several dressers, and a makeup armoire. Victoria sees the same type of fireplace as what was in the baby’s room. A fire roars to life. The place is frigid. Victoria, now chilled to the bone, walks over to the four-poster bed, where she notices Brad’s mother and father covered up to the neck. She tries to wake them, to no avail. They, too, are cold to the touch. Screaming, Victoria runs from the room.

Down the hallway is another closed door. Fearing what Victoria may find behind this one, she hesitantly opens it. Inside, Victoria finds another four-poster bed, a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Like the others, the room is ice cold. Victoria, beside herself, wonders why she can’t find her husband. Why are all the people she loves lying dead in this house? Desperately wanting to wake up but can’t.

Hesitantly, she walks over to the bed, seeing an impression of a body under the covers. She leans over, it’s Brad. She screams and wakes to a wildly beating heart and clammy skin.

She never tells Brad about her dream; after all, it’s his parents as well as himself whom she finds dead. She confides to a friend about her nightmare. He tells her it just means they are going to live a long life. His explanation seems to alleviate Victoria’s concerns.

Several months pass. Her night terrors have faded. Victoria gets the news they are expecting their first child. Both are elated to learn they will be parents. To celebrate, Brad decides to take her on a romantic getaway. As a surprise, he tells her nothing about the mysterious bed and breakfast.

The weather is perfect as they drive up the windy, mountainous road. As the couple gets closer to the destination, dark storm clouds appear in the distance; thunder and occasional bolts of lightning crash down in front of them. The wipers, not able to keep up with the pelting rain, causes the view from the windshield to blur. Victoria begins to shake uncontrollably. Her skin becomes clammy from the humidity.

Brad turns off the road and heads down a muddy path filled with water-soaked potholes. The bouncing of the vehicle causes Victoria’s stomach to be queasy. Staring through the blurred windshield, she can’t seem to shake the ominous feeling in her gut. She can’t quite put her finger on it, but Victoria is experiencing Deja Vu. She’s been here before.

Putting the car in park, Brad reaches for his raincoat in the back seat.

“Please don’t leave me here,” Victoria says.

“I won’t be but a minute, I’m going to check us in, and I’ll be back to get you.” He kisses her on the cheek.

“I’m serious. DON’T leave me alone in the car. I’m afraid.”

“This pregnancy is playing tricks with your mind.” Brad tried to make light of it but saw she was distressed.

“Come with me then. Grab the umbrella.”

Together, they made their way up a long, stone walkway.

Large mahogany doors loomed in front of them. Brad’s knock echoed inside.

“No, no, no, I…I can’t do this.” Victoria was crying now.

“Come on, honey, why are you so frightened?”

“I never told you about my nightmare. This is the house in my dream,” she yelled over the howling wind as it blew her umbrella inside out.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I want us to get out of this rain,” he yelled back.

Victoria held her breath as Brad reached for the doorknob. The door screeched open. As they stepped inside, a large round table in the middle of the large foyer with a cut-glass vase sat in the middle with azaleas and white lilies. Soft jazz music played in the background. The lights dimmed low, and people mingled with champagne flutes in their hands.

“How may I help you?” A young woman comes up beside them.

“We have reservations, Mr. & Mrs. Slater.”

“Of course.” Walking over to the desk, she pulls out several sheets of paper. “Our computers are down at the moment due to the storm. Luckily, I printed out our guest log this morning before it hit. Let me show you to your room. Do you have any luggage?”

“We do, but we left it in the car. I wanted to make sure we had the right place. I can get it later once I get my wife settled. She isn’t feeling well,” Brad told her.

“I understand, sir, follow me.”

As they all walked through what appeared to be a large sitting room, with ornate gold drapery, they came upon a stone staircase. Victoria eyed it suspiciously. She grabbed Brad’s arm and held on tight.

Climbing the stairs, Victoria was sure the oriental rugs would be in the hallway. To her surprise, it was wall to wall carpeting. Rather than just three doors, there were ten doors, five on each side of the hallway.

Her fears may be unjustified.

The young woman walked to the end of the hallway and opened the last door on the left. She stepped aside so Brad and Victoria could enter the room. A four-poster bed was sprawled out on one wall.  A stone fireplace centered opposite the bed sat cold and dark. From where the woman was standing, she flicked a switch, and a fire started in the fireplace. The warmth of the flames heated the room quickly.

fireplace

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

“If you need anything, just dial zero on the phone. Dinner starts in an hour. Enjoy your stay.” She backed out of the room slowly, closing the door behind her.

“Are you going to explain yourself, or should I chalk it up to hormones?” Brad asked.

Victoria told him about her nightmare, in detail. He chuckled and pulled her into his arms. “Dreams, honey, nothing to worry about.” Kissing her head, “I’m going to get our luggage. Lie down and relax. I’ll be right back, promise.”

Victoria pulled the heavy comforter back from the bed and removed her wet clothing. Walking into the bathroom, she decided to take a bath before dressing for dinner. Lying back in the water, closing her eyes, Victoria couldn’t believe how silly she had been. Brad must think I’m nuts. 

When she awoke, the water in the tub was cold. How long had she been out? Why didn’t Brad wake me when he came back with the luggage?

Climbing out of the cold water, Victoria called out, “Brad, honey?” No answer. Grabbing a towel, she wrapped it around her shivering body. “Did you get the luggage, honey?” Still no response. She walked out into the bedroom, everything was just as she had left it. Grabbing her cellphone to check the time, she was shocked to see she had been asleep for an hour. Where was Brad, and why had he not come back with their luggage? It wasn’t like him to sit at the bar, knowing I was up here waiting for him. She picked up the phone on the nightstand and dialed zero. The ringing on the other end continued. No one answered. Gathering up her wet clothes from the floor, she decided she had no choice but to put them back on to go look for Brad.

Opening the door to their room, she stepped out into the hallway. Something was different. The room was the last one on the left, but the carpet was now the oriental rug in her dreams. Impossible. The lights were so dim, Victoria, unable to see clearly, felt her way to the wall. Using the wall as her guide, finding the stone staircase, the music that was once playing downstairs, could not be heard. All was silent. The adrenaline coursed through her body. This can’t be happening. 

Slowly descending the stairs, she began shivering. Tears filled her eyes, blurring her vision. Calling out, “Hello? Is anyone down here?” No music, no smell of food, no champagne flutes, no other people. Her nightmare. The cold was unbearable. Panic set in. Fight or flight syndrome echoed in her brain. If I’m not dreaming, I need to get the hell out of here. Heading towards the door, someone grabbed her arm.

“Not so fast, honey. We have some unfinished business to attend to.”

Victoria turned toward the unfamiliar voice. A black hooded cape was pulled over their face. Unable to make out who it could be, she tried to tear away, but they were too strong for her. She froze with fright. The figure hauled Victoria back up the stairs, pulling her into the first room. Just inside the door, she saw the crib and dressing table from her dream. But something was different.

Other black-cloaked figures were circling the four-poster bed, each holding a lighted candle, chanting. It was then she knew what they wanted: her unborn child, and Brad had delivered her to them.

distorted image of a person

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Heart To Heart

It had been a long night. I knew this day would come; there was no preparation for it. As we all stood around the hospital bed, holding hands, I saw a puff of smoke above me. I looked around at our family and friends. Their eyes closed. Was it inappropriate to shout out, “Hey, look at that?” I remained silent.

The prayer circle dispersed. Looking across the bed, I saw tears in everyone’s eyes. Each person leaned over my dad’s body and whispered something in his ear, patted his hand, and left. Could he hear what they were saying? The nurses had removed his hearing aids. I was skeptical.

Trailing behind, I leaned over to tell my dad, for the last time, “I love you.” I thought I heard a heartbeat. “Wait! Come back. He’s still alive,” I wanted to scream. The monitors told me otherwise.

My dad had suffered a massive heart attack. He had been in the hospital for four days. There was nothing the doctors could do for him. His heart was doing a bypass. A blockage formed, and he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. He wasn’t healthy enough for surgery. The hospital staff never told us he wouldn’t recover.

I sent for my kids; both lived in different states. It was a prudent move, just in case. I’m glad I did. Though they were there to see their Pop-pop, I was the only one in the room when he had his last attack.

He asked me to move his bed up further. His back was hurting. As I raised the bed, he instructed me when to stop. I sat back down in the chair I had pulled up next to his bed and held his hand. His eyes were closed in a drug-infused sleep. I studied his face.

Memories flooded my mind. I am dancing on my dad’s feet in the living room to a Frank Sinatra song, riding on his shoulders, watching him work on a car engine in the garage, taking me for ice cream, walking me down the aisle, being there for me whenever I needed him. Daddy’s girl. I wished I had been a better daughter.

When the monitors began sending out a siren, the door flew open, followed by a team of nurses. I stood up and asked politely to leave the room. As I waited by the nurse’s station, one came out to speak to me.

“Your dad needs more oxygen. We want to put a tube in him to help him breathe.”

“Is it life support?” I asked, knowing he had a DNR in his file.

“No, it’s just a tube to help him get more oxygen into his bloodstream.”

“As long as it isn’t life support and will help him get better, go ahead.”

When I was allowed back in his room, a breathing tube shoved down his throat. Not expecting this, I ran out, yelling at the nurses.

“This most definitely looks like life support to me, and we have a DNR on file.” No one paid attention to me.

I called my mother, who had just left the hospital. She had been by his side for hours, and had gone to change clothes, and get something to eat.

“Mom, something happened after you left,” I explained the events leading up to the breathing tube. “They think you should come back right away. I can notify the rest of the family.”

Sitting back down at my dad’s side, I held his hand. I apologized for the breathing tube. I explained it was to help him get better. I didn’t believe it; I knew. He did not react. His eyes closed. His chest was moving up and down to the hissing of the oxygen pumped into his lungs. He never said another word.

As family and friends entered the ICU room to pay their final respects, I moved towards the window. I knew he was gone. The fake breathing didn’t fool me. By the time everyone arrived, it was after 11:00 pm.

The doctor came in and whispered to my mom. Nodding her head through her sobs, the doctor approached the bed. He removed the breathing tube and placed a stethoscope to my dad’s chest; he listened. As he turned to leave, he patted my mom on her shoulder.

It was at this time, as we all held hands, saying a prayer, the puff of smoke appeared over the bed. I said nothing.

By the time we got home, it was close to 3:00 am. My son took the couch, my daughter, the air mattress. Exhausted, I crawled into my bed and fell into a deep sleep.

I dreamed my dad was standing on my porch, waiting for me. Opening the door, I saw a younger version of him, like the pictures I had seen when he was a young man. Handsome, with dark brown hair, and dressed in a suit from a different era, cigarette in hand.

“Hey, Luc, come on out and dance with me.” He reached his hand up for me to take.

As he guided me down the steps, I heard orchestra music playing.

“Daddy, I’m so glad you came to visit me.”

“Anything for my little girl.”

“So, how is it?” I asked.

“How’s what?”

“Being dead.”

“Look at me. What do you think?”

“I think you look great. But why are you here? Shouldn’t you be on your way to see St. Peter?”

“He can wait a little longer. I wanted to come by and see my favorite girl first.”

I lay my head on his shoulder. I could hear his heart beating. I could smell cigarette smoke mixed in with the smell of his cologne. Sweet tobacco. I breathed it in. I didn’t want the dream to end — one more twirl, one more hug.

As he twirled me around one last time, he slowly faded away. Crying out, “No, stay.” I awoke from my dream.

Gray daylight streamed through my bedroom window. As I lay in bed, wanting to remember everything, I heard a rumbling. Were we having an earthquake?

Jumping out of bed, I ran into the living room. I opened the front door. My kids woke up.

“What’s the matter?” they asked.

“Listen,” I said.

Standing with the front door open, we heard it. Thunder. Loud bursts of rolling thunder.

I turned and smiled at my kids.

“He made it!”

Forever Seventeen

***TRIGGER WARNING***

The following deals with a True Crime murder

Bailey, Colorado – Park County

December 1, 2017

Seventeen-year-old Maggie Long, excited to be a part of the first concert at Platte Canyon High School, had forgotten something at home. After school, she drove the 20 minutes to her family’s ranch to retrieve it. When she pulled up the long driveway, she noticed a white van, an old beat-up Ford truck, and a brownish colored older model minivan blocking the garage door. Her family had been renting out their attic space to some people and probably thought the cars belonged to them. We will never know what was going on in her head that afternoon.

I didn’t know her personally but had heard much about her. She was on the debate team at Platte Canyon High School, where I had been a judge earlier in the year. She was good. A straight “A” student, a thespian for the local theater group, and everyone knew her. No one ever had a bad word to say about Maggie. She was an excellent role model for many of her fellow students and friends. Every year on her birthday, she would make hundreds of sandwiches, passing them out to the homeless on the streets of Denver. Many saw her studying at a table at her parent’s Chinese restaurant. You don’t run across many people like Maggie in your lifetime.

The following morning, I awoke to Facebook posts asking the public if they had seen Maggie. Pictures of her were attached to the post, and her sister said she was missing. There were numerous comments of concern and volunteers wanting to put a search party together. But the police said no, it wasn’t necessary, without giving anyone a reason.

When the students went back to school on Monday, there were grief counselors on hand for them. The parents were confused. Why grief counselors if Maggie was only missing? Did she have a fight with her parents? Did she quarrel with her boyfriend? The community still had no answers, and the police weren’t saying anything.

A week passed. The police came out with an official statement. A gag order was placed on all information on the case. Maggie’s burned body was found in her parent’s house. They had known all along and never said a word to the public. An entire week had gone by without a word about Maggie. The community, visibly upset and angry, wanting to know what happened to Maggie.

The details of that day are sketchy. Maggie went home to retrieve something she had forgotten for the concert. Upon entering her home, she interrupted a burglary taking place by three young white males. She fought with them. They ended up overtaking her, tying her to a bed. Speculation, she had been raped. During the burglary, the murderers stole jade figurines, a gun safe, several weapons including handguns and an AR-15 with over 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Loading up a white van, a brownish minivan, and an old Ford 150 pickup truck. They poured gasoline on Maggie and set her on fire. According to the coroner’s report, she had been burned alive.

When the renters called the police, the vehicles were still at the residence. The police or fire department had to have passed them as they approached the house. Unbeknownst to law enforcement, they allowed the killers to get away. Because their ranch set back onto acres of land and secluded from the road, there was only one way in and one way out. They drove out of the ranch gates and headed for Denver, in the dark. They are still on the run.

The community, shocked and horrified. Her friends, devastated. They wanted to know why the police withheld the information. They wanted to know why they hadn’t found the killers yet. Waiting over a week to disclose any information, law enforcement now wanted to know if anyone had seen anything. A tip line was set up. They questioned thousands of residents, going door to door, taking DNA samples from boys in the town fifteen and older. The police force called in the FBI and CBI. Roadblocks were set up by the ranch gates, stopping every resident going down the road passing out flyers featuring a generic sketch of one of the killers, along with pictures of what was taken from the house; they came up empty-handed.

Months passed, and they had no leads in the case. Maggie’s parents closed both restaurants they owned and left town. Rumors started to fly. One stated the family was targeted. They had been involved in illegal activities, trafficking Chinese people for some gang. All ridicules, all unfounded. Who could blame them for leaving town?

Maggie was to celebrate her eighteenth birthday that year on December 17th. Two weeks after her murder, her friends continued the tradition of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  They handed out sandwiches to the homeless, all in her memory. That June, she was an honorary graduate. Her sister accepted her high school diploma.

On the one-year anniversary of Maggie’s murder, the FBI and CBI set up another roadblock by the ranch gates. This time they had sketches of three males who may be involved. A website designated for tips as well as supplying information to the public. But again, the case still isn’t solved.

When another case similar to Maggie’s happened in Missouri, the police and FBI sent out a detective to interview the young woman, who had survived, trying to get a description of her perpetrators. They were, in fact caught, but the DNA sample wasn’t a match. Another potential lead lost.

My family and I have moved from the area, but it is still a hard pill to swallow for the community at large. An emptiness felt throughout the town when Maggie was killed, and a rage still exists about how the police department handled the case. The sheriff, who decided to start his retirement early, unbeknownst to the townspeople who paid his salary. Many believe if he had been around, the killers wouldn’t have gotten away.

The two-year anniversary of Maggie’s murder is approaching, and still, the police have no new leads. The entire community still mourns her loss. The three men in the sketch are still free and believe they have gotten away with murder.

The reason I am writing this story is the information needs to go beyond Colorado. These men could be anywhere. The more platforms that publish the story, the more eyes get to look for any similarities. One man is believed to have burn marks on one of his forearms.

Timeline:

On the day of Maggie’s murder, she was reported to have left school around 3:30-3:35 pm. She would have arrived at her home by 4:00  pm.

A local resident was driving down Deer Creek Valley Ranchos Road and recalls no unusual activity at the Long home. The 911 call came into police dispatch at 7:01 pm. The reporting party stated they heard yelling and items being thrown around. They also smelled smoke. The reporting party was the tenants who lived in the attic.

A local resident reported an older model, tan vehicle driving fast out of the Long Ranch, crossing over into oncoming traffic.

Fire department was called out at 7:12 pm.  Arriving at the residence, they discovered a one-story frame house with a fire in the garage.

By 8:00 pm the tenant was able to be removed from the residence. At 8:15, CBI was called out due to multiple fire ignitions. 8:45 pm completely extinguished fire when the coroner was called out to the scene. The family had gathered in the driveway, and no one was permitted to enter the premises.

Around 9:30 pm, Maggie’s sister posted a call for help to find her sister.

That evening, the concert went on without Maggie. Her friends, fellow students, and teachers were asking about her all night. It was unusual for her not to be there, especially since she was one of the organizers. When I see the timeline of events, it saddens me. To know, while she was suffering, others were enjoying themselves, listening and dancing to music. Was Maggie there in spirit? From 7 pm, the start of the concert, until it ended at 9 pm, Maggie’s spirit was among her friends; whispering her last goodbyes, knowing she would forever be seventeen.

There’s currently a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible.

See photos here

New Author Name

Be sure to check out my new author page on Coffeehouse Writer’s where I’ll be writing articles every 2 weeks and will have them published there as well as here.

I will also be writing under the name of LC Ahl for Coffeehouse. My next article will be published on Monday, October 14th and another one on October 28th…don’t worry, I will keep you informed!!

My next article is a true crime piece on the murder of Maggie Long in Bailey Colorado. I am writing it because her murderers are still out there and they need to be brought to justice. My hope is it will get into the hands of more people scattered throughout the US and possibly the world (through you, my followers). Maggie deserves justice!

Thank you to all who follow my blog! Be sure to follow and like my stuff on Coffeehouse Writers!! Coffeehousewriters.com check out all the other amazing authors work too!!