Fire and Ice ~ Excerpt

Once in the basement, I realized it was dark and cold down here. Even just thinking about it made me shiver with goose bumps. It was probably just as cold outside. Maybe I should have worn gloves.

There was just one small mouse trail leading down the hall past the stairs and past the pantry to my cousin Trinity's bedroom and bathroom and another large room. This whole basement was nothing but piled things, hoarded over the last 70 years. Some was junk, some was treasure, some were useful and some were useless, but each thing did have a story behind it. Unfortunately, I would never hear half of these stories because of a few reasons: No one is really allowed down here unless we are getting some canned food from the storage pantry, or we are coming to tell my cousin Trinity it is meal time. She has the one bedroom and bathroom down here all to herself. All this grandparents don't want it disturbed. So it's down here, out of sight, out of mind and no one has any permission to be rooting around in it. And last, they always say they're too busy and they wouldn't know where to start.

But me....I'm on a mission....I'm willing to break the rules in order to learn the truths and stories behind my family. To know more about who I am, where I came from, where my mother and her parents came from.

Even after all these years with my grandparents, they've never once pulled out a photo album or a slide projector to share that part of their life with me. They very seldom talk of the past, almost as if it's improper.

My gramps has told me the same couple of stories about when he served in the Merchant Marines. It was very useful for me in school when a history teacher asked us to write a report about one of our grandparents. I was obviously the first student to complete my assignment while everyone else complained about having to hang out with their boring old grandparents.

About fifteen minutes later, I was carefully pulling down an old apple box from a shelf. It wafted air towards me that smelled so peculiar and musty. The top of the box was coated in a fine layer of dust.

I lifted the lid off to reveal scores of small long rectangular boxes that read Bausch and Lomb on the sides. The first thing that came to my mind was eye drops. These weren't anywhere close to eye drops.

The lids were black and the main box part was red.

I paused momentarily as I heard the faint noise of a car door slamming. My heart thudded faster.

If someone was here they should walk through the front door right now. I listened carefully and then heard the car drive away.

It must have been one of the neighbors.

If someone did come through the front door, what the crap was I going to use as an excuse for being down here? I was getting a can of peaches?

Whether or not I could put all this stuff back as I'd found it and quickly find a can of peaches was the question. I gave it a quick second thought and went ahead and grabbed a can just to be safe. It was the only excuse I could use. I opened one of the small boxes. Inside was a black hard old plastic-like tray filled with small thin cardboard squares. What was this? I hadn't seen anything like it before.

I tipped the box to its side to dump out the tray in my hand. I quickly pulled out one of the small white squares. It appeared to be a photo slide. I held it up to the basement window and what wintery daylight I had. I strained my eyes to see.

Too bad I didn't have a lamp down here to hold these up to. Better yet, where is the machine that projects these things onto a wall or screen? My eyes swept the area.

Why on earth would someone store things without or near the proper things to make use of them?

I nodded and sighed. My grandmother, of course.

My attention went immediately to a young woman in a black cap and gown, long hair almost reaching her waist. Was this Aunt Judy? It looked like it. She was absolutely beautiful.

Next to her on each side were two other women in the same cap and gown. One had short dark hair and the other had medium blonde hair. All were smiling.

These must have been her friends at college graduation.

I turned the slide over in my hands and then sideways to view some print on the cardboard.


Judy graduated from Idaho Falls High School. The caps and gowns were black for the guys and white for the girls. So yes, this must have been college graduation. She went to Arizona State University though, and their gowns were maroon and gold. Oh wait, she did attend college somewhere else before that. I bit my lip trying to think.

I returned the slide to its numbered spot and pulled out another.

That's right. Brigham Young University in Rexburg, Idaho came to mind....but back then it was known as 'Rick's college'. I held another slide up to the light.

I continued going through the slides one at a time, forming my own opinions about the figures, faces and locations I saw.

But it seemed no matter where I tried digging or snooping- I still wasn't finding what I was looking for. Sometimes I never knew what I was looking for.

Who cares? I've kind of got all the time in the after day of being left alone while my grandparents were gone. I actually probably spend 95% of my time alone in this house. Sometimes it becomes so lonely that I throw myself into a obsessive streak of some kind, like plastering new magazine pictures to my walls or organizing stuff in the closet by color.

Like always, a deep envy of my mother began to burn because of her parents and the experiences she was provided. It made me angry and depressed that I did not have the opportunities she did. I was not given everything like my mother was. I always had to work for what I wanted.

I paused when I came to a slide with a blonde little girl in it.

"Angie...." I breathed sadly. I studied the expression on my mother's face. She didn't seem very happy to be standing next to her sister for college graduation. I wonder why? She must have been ten years old. Maybe it is true that my grandparents favored Judy instead of her.

I put the slide away and plucked one after another.

There was one with my aunt, my grandma and my mom. Then one with my aunt and my grandpa. The usual family shots with the new grad, especially with Judy being the oldest and the first to graduate from college.

I put the tray back in the box and put it aside as I grabbed another box of slides and began inspecting those.

Disneyland. My mom had the opportunity to go to Disneyland as a kid? How unfair.

On one of the slides in grandma's handwriting it said "x-mas 1952."

Strange though, it was the only slide in that tray written on and of that Christmas.

Obviously a tray was not just one set of photos from the same event. It was a variety of occasions.

Was that a coffin?

I cringed. My grandmother was the only person I knew that took pictures of dead people at their own funerals.

I soon discovered after a few more slides that it was my great grandmother Annaliese Colter, my Grandma Cecil’s mother.

I took a deep breath. I'd had enough of being in this depressing hole and looking at a childhood I deeply longed for in a much simpler time of life. I put things back as I found them and I carefully stepped around the piles of stuff back to the path that led to the stairs. I made my hobo spider inspection as I went; ready to fend off the furry beasts that lurked in this basement with a big whack from my shoe.

I climbed the stairs and went to the kitchen. I was in the mood for some more cocoa.

I opened the fridge and stared at all the weird jars and butter containers that held mystery contents. I had already combed this area of the fridge the other day. It looked the same today.

I grabbed the milk, my preferred hot cocoa mug, a spoon and the Ovaltine.

While the mug of milk warmed in the microwave at its usual minute and 35 seconds, I stared out the kitchen window. I was bored out of my mind.

I tapped the spoon against my lips thinking.

After the microwave beeped, I stirred in my cocoa and stood at the back patio door watching the big flakes come down as I sipped.

"'s not even Halloween and look at all this white stuff..."

By this time it was noon and I went over to the phone to call Skylee. She should be awake by now.

After ringing eight times I hung up. I guess she is still sleeping. Lazy bones.

"I guess I will go do some more research down in the basement." I sighed.

This time I started in the room directly under the stairs.

There were a bazillion glass baby food jars along with Miracle Whip sized ones and every other kind of jar you could think of. I touched one. A film of dust coated the jar and came off on my finger. I bet those hadn't been used in years.

I began pawing through an old box full of shoes. They looked like they had to have been from the 1940's. After realizing these had been on other people's feet, I decided to move on.

I tilted a bedpost frame off to the side as though it had been placed strategically like a gate in this pathway to keep others out from wandering further into this junk hole.

And then I saw it.

A beautiful, mahogany hope chest probably the size of a tub sat partially hidden in the far corner of the room behind a built in clothes rack pole that lined the entire wall.

I had to kind of heave it forward out from underneath a temporary clothes line that ran the whole length of the back wall which consisted of dresses and suits from the last 40 years.

The chest had intricate carvings of flowers and strange mythical fairytale-like letter characters on it. It had different swirls of chipping gold paint on some things and aged silver paint on others. There was a metal casing that wrapped all the way around the chest where it would mostly be touched so as to prevent wear and tear. The metal was very dark, rusted in some places but had an amazing swirly, detailed pattern.

I went to open it but it wouldn't budge. I inspected the back and discovered it had this giant heart shaped lock on it. The lock itself was beautiful. It had engravings in some kind of symbol language. I didn't have a clue what it said. I knocked on it and then instantly wondered if this was something my grandfather picked up while in port at one of the many places he visited while serving in the Merchant Marines. He did have a small jewelry box sized chest upstairs on his dresser that was made out of camphor wood and came from Manilla in the Philippines...somewhat similar to what lay before me.

"This is going to be fun..." I said stumbling to my feet in the mess of things. I went into Trinity's bathroom and dug around in some drawers until I had retrieved a few bobby pins.

Once I was back at the chest, I began picking the lock. After just a minute, I wondered what I was doing wrong. Usually I am pretty slick at this kind of stuff. I pulled the bobby pin out, and inspected the lock some more.

Ah ha.

This was an exquisite type of lock. When I pick locks, it's almost like I can instantly see inside the lock and know just what spots to hit. This one was much different than any other locks I'd worked on.

I carefully put the bobby pin in my teeth and pulled off the little rubber safety ends that prevent scratching.

Spitting them out like blackberry seeds, I continued my thief-like efforts.

"Just right..." I said smiling.

Finally the lock made this satisfying click.

As I delicately opened the chest, a musty smell and an invisible cloud of dust wafted to my nose.

"Man...When I'm old, I hope my basement doesn't smell like this." I grumbled wrinkling my nostrils trying to prevent from sneezing.

Yellowed crunchy newspaper clippings scattered the top of the pile of treasures. They were of accomplishments like grade school plays or community activity pictures or simply just the newspaper honor roll from school. The name Judy Brighton appeared in all of them. Obviously this chest was Judy's. I wondered why it was here at grandma and grandpa's house and not with her at her home in Arizona.

A little wooden toy was off to the side. It looked to be a once beautifully and colorfully painted mother duck with three baby ducks attached behind her all on wheels in a perfect little row. The red string that was attached to the mother duck, probably for a toddler to pull, was unraveled and frayed from use and age. The paint was also scratched up and faded.

It's a pity they don't make toys this kind of quality anymore. It must have been her favorite.

I even discovered an old metal crayon tin by Crayola that was filled to the brim with knick knacks like a few pretty marbles, some notes, a ribbon, a pink quartz rock and some other things.

As I slowly examined one treasure after another, it was like I was having a lifetime worth of memories twinkle through my mind as though having a 'life flashes before your eyes' moment.

Again, the envy was present in my heart. It was heavy and thick like fog.

I was eager to find out the larger treasures within the chest. There at least had to be one or two.

My fingers buried deep into the unknown. Then they fumbled across an exterior shell in similar texture as the hope chest. I grasped it between my hands and pulled it to the surface. It was a miniature hope chest with yet another heart shaped lock.

It was a little smaller than a full grown cat and it had different markings and pictures with gold and silver paint.

I was baffled about the locks. Nothing else had padlocks on them in this house. We weren't even allowed to have locking doors. What was up with this whole secrecy thing? What was so important that it had to be locked and kept safe from this world?

I grabbed the bobby pin again and poked and turned until it broke.

I seized another of the pins.

"Maybe I need the rubber ends..."I mumbled refusing to pull them off with my teeth as I had done with the previous bobby pin.

I almost had it. I could feel it. The pin was stuck and I just needed to turn it a bit harder. As I did, the third pin snapped like a twig.

I was getting frustrated.

My eyes sought out a better tool than bobby pins. I instantly recalled seeing a long rat tailed metal comb in Trinity's bathroom drawer.

Within the blink of an eye, I pilfered the comb and was back to picking the lock.

Instantly the comb bent and no effort at all had been used. I stared in amazement at the comb. With all my might I tried my hardest to bend another part of the comb end myself.

It severed with my force. Crap. Trinity was going to kill me.

I stuck the remaining pieces of the comb in my back pocket for later discarding.

"What on earth can I use to pop this baby open?" I questioned out loud. I chewed my lip trying to think.

My mind visually recalled pictures of sharp long objects that we had in our house or the tool box in the garage.

Light bulb moment: We have an ice pick.

I rapidly went and snagged the ice pick out of the kitchen drawer upstairs and once more attempted to unlock the miniature chest.

I tried to pick that damn lock for almost 15 minutes.

"Maybe if I just stab it through the heart like a vampire..." I whispered tight lipped with anger.

I drew the ice pick back and aimed carefully. If I missed, I was going to pierce my hand.

I slammed the pick down into the lock and it instantly began burning in my hand just as quickly as a searing stove lights up. I dropped it like a hot potato.

"What the hell is going on?!" I complained loudly and completely puzzled. "There is no explanation for what just happened!"

My sudden outburst made the quiet room seem very creepy.

Within that same moment, I had this feeling that I was prey to some vicious animal lurking and hiding in the room. The rhythm of my heart sped up instantaneously.

I slowly scanned the room with my eyes... The feeling was almost evil.

Just then the cordless phone in my back pocket rang and scared the holy piss out of me. I shrieked.

Gaining quick composure, I looked at the caller ID. It was Skylee.

Even though it was just my friend on the phone, I didn't feel completely by myself.



"Yes?" there was still a nervous edge in my voice.

"You ok? You sound like you've crapped your pants or seen a ghost or something." Skylee said.

I took a deep breath.

"No...Just come get me. I'll explain when you get here. And hurry" I pleaded.

"Ok..." she said confused. "I'll be there in about ten minutes. I just finished getting ready."

The phone clicked as she hung up.

I swallowed nervously. I still felt strange, and the air was colder than normal.

I grabbed the small hope chest in determination to find out what was inside. Then I quickly left the basement.

Within ten minutes, I had left my grandparents a note, and quickly got everything together to leave, especially if I might be spending the night at Skylee's. Driving on these roads in

this kind of weather can be very scary.

Chapter 4

"So what the heck is going on?" Skylee asked as I buckled my seatbelt.

"I barely knocked and here you are dragging me back out to the car as quick as can be and all hushed like church mice."

We both had melting snowflakes in our hair, eyebrows, and shoulders. Big fluffy flakes were still coming down. There was almost a foot of snow by now.

"I didn't want anything or anyone to hear us." I said carefully eyeing her reaction as she tried to determine if I was being serious.

"Anything?" she repeated quizzically.

"Look at this." I breathed pulling the chest out from underneath my coat.

"Ooh....pretty......" Skylee said immediately forgetting my warned statement. She reached for the chest and touched the intricate carvings as she examined it in her hands.

"What's with the lock though?" her eyebrow was raised. "It's almost as cheesy as plastering TOP SECRET on a diary..."

"I know, but I didn't put it there. I found it that way in another huge chest just like what you're looking at that also had a lock on it. It was in the basement in the room under the stairs hidden behind a bunch of old stuff."

She looked at me oddly and then suddenly thrust it out to me.

"Is this some kind of sick joke? Do you have some freaky creature in that thing?!" she interrogated as I took the chest back from her.

" haven't the slightest idea what's in it. I was able to pick the first lock with a bobby pin within minutes. Then I tried the same thing with this one and I broke two bobby pins, a metal rat tail comb which mysteriously bent with just a tiny bit of force. AND- AND-," I said shaking my hands to emphasize the craziness of all this as I pulled the comb pieces out of my back pocket to show her. "And yet I can't physically bend it with my hands. Instead, I break the stupid thing...and it was Trinity's!"

Skylee gasped. "She's going to kill you when she finds out!"

"I know!" I exclaimed, my eyes wide, both of us knowing the wrath of Trinity.. Heck, I'd be mad too if someone broke something of mine if it was taken without permission.

So I don't even want to be around when she gets back from wedding planning with friends and notices that her comb is gone.

Still listening, Skylee pulled out of the driveway and smoothly maneuvered her clutch and gearshift in the car to begin driving.

"Go on..." she urged.

"And then- get this- I get an ice pick and spend fifteen freaking minutes trying to pick this mean little beast" I said batting at the tiny padlock.

"It's so cute though." Skylee mused.

"I know..." I said sort of confused. "But get this, when I finally decided to jab the lock, the ice pick turned flaming hot in my hands and I dropped it, cursing. What causes that?!? My wild imagination? Look, I even have the burn to prove it!" I said showing her the seared mark on my hand.

She quickly took a look while I continued on, "And then this creepy uneasy feeling just emerged in the room, like something evil was watching me, ready to pounce. And that's when you called..." I said my voice quieting down after getting all hyped up again.

"Did you grab the bible?" Skylee said grinning.

We both burst out laughing.

Back in the day when Skylee first moved into her newer and current house, she swore she had a peeping tom issue with her strange neighbor. The husband and the wife were very, very bizarre.

Regrettably, no one but Skylee ever saw him. One night when she was home alone, the pervert appeared at her bedroom window and scared the living hell out of her. The only thing she could think of was to flee to my house, grabbing a baseball bat and the bible on her way out. Upon arriving at my house she was chanting "As I pass through the valley of the shadow of death..." and apparently had been doing so the entire drive over. Surprisingly, she's never had a problem ever since.

"So what do you think is in that thing?" She asked quickly eyeing it in my lap.

"This thing is called a chest. It's a miniature version of its homing beacon. Calling it a thing is such an insult. It's so beautiful and almost mesmerizing. And as I said earlier, I don't have any idea." I replied while tilting it at different angles as I inspected the carvings more intimately.

"Well, whatever it is, it's," she searched for the right words so as not to be insulting again. "It's very mysterious and intriguing." Skylee finished.

"Completely." I breathed, still compelled.

As I was inspecting it, I noticed that the engravings were arranged in such a way that when viewed from a certain point of view, they combined to create a larger image, like a mosaic.

The end result was a young woman in a blizzard. She was dressed in Egyptian clothing.

In a strange way, she was holding her hands up in front of her face, literally shielding herself from the storm. I was suddenly aware that I never took the time to see what the carvings on the bigger hope chest were. I was instantly curious, but at the same time I realized that you would have to stand far away from the big chest to see the mosaic, which would be difficult with all the other junk in the room.

If the atmosphere in that basement hadn't been so wicked feeling, I would almost beg to go back and inspect the larger chest.

At a stop sign, I showed and explained my discovery of the image with the young woman in blizzard to Skylee.

"Maybe there's a roadside emergency kit inside," she said. "I think we're going to need one."

I looked up and saw a snow drift that had covered the road in front of us. Suddenly there was a huge wind gust, and this massive blur of snow. We heard a crack in the distance. At once there was a pounding shake that vibrated the car and shattered the backseat's left small triangle shaped window. Skylee and I both screamed as it happened. The gust of wind settled a bit and the haze of snow cleared briefly enough for us to see that an old cottonwood tree had cracked and fallen across the road behind us. We were south of town on the outskirts near the rich, sprawling country club district. There were no neighbors around for miles. The million dollar homes and the few remaining farm houses were spaced far apart. And even if there was a house nearby, typically, everyone goes back into town to see movies, go to dinner or go shopping at the stores at the mall. There wasn't the slightest chance of help.

"Did you know that was going to happen?!" I exclaimed trying to catch my breath.

Skylee shook her head 'No' as though she had hypothermia chills. Her eyes were really wide and frightened.

I wasn't even the older one here and yet I was more calm and collected.

"Well, let's just back up and drive....uh...." my words trailed off as I surveyed the area. Snow bank-like drifts had built up on both sides of the road. Unless you had a hummer or a truck, you weren't going anywhere.

I stared again in front of us at the giant snow drift. It was lower than the snow drift banks on either sides of the road, but still pretty high. It all looked fairly fresh, so maybe we could just drive through it.

"I guess we could try to plow through the snow drift." I suggested with uncertainty obvious in my face.

"Plow!? We need a snow plow! We are NOT a snow plow! We are a little Honda Accord!" Skylee yelled, freaking out even more.

"Calm down!" I yelled back at her. "If I have to get out and push, I will." I offered more softly. I didn't really want to comply with my shiny new promise.

The soft playing music of the radio caught our attention. Michael Jackson's Thriller. We both started laughing considering the circumstances. And for crying out loud it was still October, almost Halloween. So it was fitting for this time of year. But the weather was totally out of the ordinary.

Skylee, who finally came back to earth, also turned around in her seat and studied the situation.

"Well, I guess we could back up as far as possible to the tree and try to gain speed before diving into that stuff...." she said trying to sound casual about our snow drift attack plan.

"Sounds good! Although, I don't really think we have a choice." I blurted out, not really knowing what else to say.

Skylee backed the car up as close as she could to the tree. With everything that had happened today, I almost felt like the tree was going to come alive like a Lord of the Rings scene and pound the car to smithereens.

"Seatbelts?" She asked.

"Check." I said.

"You don't have to pee, do you?"

"Negative." I said trying not to giggle.

"Should we have a countdown or a drum roll?" she asked being both serious and silly.

"Skylee, we're not the NASA space rocket or Jay Leno." I said in disbelief to her sudden humor.

She laughed anyway.

"Ok, lets prepare to die!" she said as she hit the accelerator.

Our squeals started low and quickly worked their way up to screaming.

"Brace for impact!" She yelled.

It wasn't like hitting a cloud or hitting a car. It was like having your face shoved into a couch or pillow by a mean older brother. And to make things even grander, the airbags went off and the car stalled.

Skylee's voice was muffled, but I was able to make out her sentence clearly.


Skylee used a pen to stab down her airbag and then proceeded to start stabbing at mine for me.

"HEY! HEY! Give me that thing!" I yelled as I grabbed the pen from her before she ended up stabbing me. After getting our airbags to deflate, I was expecting to open my eyes and see that we had made it through the big snow drift.

Unfortunately, we were probably only half way through.

Skylee started the car and tried to drive. The front wheels spun. She pressed her foot harder to the accelerator. They only spun faster.

We both went to get out to survey the damage, but realized the deep snow drift had blocked off any chance of us opening any of the car doors. So we resorted to the moon roof window.

Once out, I realized it was going on 2pm, so daylight was somewhat prevalent, but with the heavy snow, we only had about half of the normal daylight. It would be getting dark in another two hours. I looked to the south and saw dark scary looking clouds. It looked like an even bigger snowstorm was headed out way. I've never seen weather like this in my life.

From what we could see, the car was stuck. We had totally underestimated the size of the snowdrift. The tires were buried in a ton of fresh, sticky snow.

"We need gravel or something for traction, but there's no way we're going to find that unless one of us digs like a dog under all this snow!" I said frustrated.

"Oh yes...YES! Great idea, Claire!" Skylee said running to the driver's side and she popped the trunk.

"A spare tire is not going to help any....or wait...maybe a shovel might help us dig our own graves in this freezing situation." I droned wondering if my dear friend was stupid.

"No, but we do have a 50 pound bag of dog food! It should work just as well as gravel for traction!" Skylee let out little fits of laughter like some mad scientist at the brink of a discovery.

My furrowed, confused forehead immediately cleared up.

"You know, I think kibbles and bits might just save our lives today!" I cheered. Although, it was actually the really expensive Royal Canine brand. That bag probably cost her at least a fifty dollars.

It killed me to do it because we were wasting precious money, but we dumped the dog food behind and in front of each tire. Then we put the car in neutral and pushed the car backwards enough until all the tires were on the dog food. And we chose to push it backwards since it was downhill and back through the path we'd already made.

I stayed outside the car in case pushing was necessary while Skylee did the driving. Pushing a car in snow wasn't exactly my first choice, but because I don't know how to drive a stick shift, I had no choice. The snow was collecting deep on the roads now. If we did get out of this freezing nightmare, it would still be scary to drive the rest of the way to Skylee's house.

"If I put my arm out the window, push!" Skylee called to me from inside the car. "And here, this song is dedicated to you!"

She blared her stereo and from out her window and the broken window I could hear the DJ of the radio station, "According to the weather station we have received a foot and a half of snow already. So here's a dedication to all you listeners." And then the classic Christmas version of "It's the most wonderful time of the year" came on. I began cracking up.

Skylee put the car in gear and tried getting the tires to move without my help. And then she sadly raised her arm out the window. I pushed with all 113 pounds and five feet and two inches of me.

We did this again and again. Then we had to dump more dog food. Then again and again and again.

Thank goodness the snow slowed down. An hour and a half later as the darkness was creeping in, and with 2 cups of dog food left, we finally got free from the snowy grave. By now, the snow was half as deep as the snow drift we tried to get through.

As the darkness began to fall around us and I was pleading with the big man upstairs to please let us get home safely, that dreadful, evil feeling began to suffocate me. It made me want to cry. I didn't say anything as the feeling started moving in, but by the time I gave my last few heaves against the car, I yelled to Skylee that I had a bad feeling and we needed to hurry. She nodded in return and I seemed to sense she felt it too.

And I love that about Skylee. We can sometimes feel each other's vibes.

I'm telling you, we're more like sisters than best friends.

As I hopped back into the car, Skylee looked at my jean soaked legs and felt pity for me.

"Don't worry....I will live. I 'm taking a long hot bath when I get to your house...and you're loaning me warmer pajamas if I need them and your fuzzy robe." I assured her.

"Do you want your European seltzer in a crystal glass or an organic mug? How about the room temperature being a specific degree with your requested list of amenities and furniture being arranged to your liking? Dork! Of course I would give you whatever you need." She said rolling her eyes.

"You know, there are movie stars and singers that request, er...demand that type of garbage. I read about it in People Magazine one time." I told her matter-of-factly.

"Hmpf." She said in a high tone. I laughed but quickly felt we needed to go.

Skylee had to get the last word though. "$50 worth of dog food and free Claire, slave labor is cheaper than a tow truck!"

"I knew it." I grumbled, referring to the pricey dog food. But Skylee loved her pets and always felt they deserved the best.

As soon as we walked in the door I headed for the bathroom. Skylee would set everything inside the bathroom on the counter for me without peeking.

I soaked for at least an hour in the tub, staring at the chest on the counter off and on while pondering the events of yesterday and today.

The snow, Scott Meyer's staring contest, the picture of the blizzard on the chest, the freaky falling tree, the horrible evil feeling, the bizarre padlocks and the searing hot ice pick, played over and over again in my head.....and Sean.......

These things ate at me as I tried to understand who and why.

Normally Skylee and I stay up really late talking about every kind of thing you can imagine. I would love to talk with her tonight about the last two days, but as tired as I feel, I wasn't sure either of us will be able to stay awake.

Skylee's voice and a small knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. I was so tired that I didn't even jump in surprise.

"Are you coming out anytime soon? And I assume you're spending the night. The snow became heavy again when you got in the tub. We have about three feet of snow now according to the radio. I am not driving anywhere in the next 24 hours. So if you want to go home, you're walking. And hurry, dinner can't hang out too much longer without burning."

I smiled. I loved my Skylee.

I drained the tub and as I was reaching for the towels my arms screamed with pain. My arms and thighs burned with the slightest use.

As I was pulling the shirt over my head, I opened the door to ask Skylee where my robe was. Before I even got the chance the robe was right in my face. It was fresh from the dryer. How thoughtful.

"Let's eat." She said as I was slowly walking down the stairs to the kitchen.

"And let's not forget the box thing," she said as she re-traced my steps back up to the bathroom to grab the chest.

"CHEST." I corrected.

"Yes, well...I want to stare at it and inspect the carvings a little better while I eat."

"So where are your parents tonight?" I asked Skylee.

"The Parents went to Vegas for the weekend and Tyler is at my aunt's house with Kurt."

"Oh." I mumbled as I slurped more tomato basil soup.

" You should call your grandparents and let them know where you are." She said shoving the phone to my head. "And make sure they made it home alive after driving to Montana. I can only imagine the snow they got there."

She put on the speaker phone and I could hear the phone ringing. She'd already dialed the number. Now I had to lift my head with energy I didn't have.

"They aren't supposed to be home until like 9 or 10..." I murmured. "And I already left them a note."

"Notes, smotes." Skylee chimed.

Just then my grandmother answered. What a pleasant surprise. Here it was only 6-6:30 pm.

She went on to tell us how the pass was closed because of all the snow and they had everyone turn around. What was strange was that there was no snow anywhere else in Montana. Not even a flake.

When my grandma said that, Skylee perked up like a dog does upon hearing noise. Skylee began inspecting the chest.

The whole time my grams babbled on I just kind of said "Uh huh. Uh uh." In blurred, tired language.

And then my grandma asked, "Claire? Are you drunk?"

Skylee burst out laughing.

I forced myself to wake up a little and talk like a normal SOBER human being.

"No grandma. I am just really tired. Skylee and I are drained because we had to push the car through a huge snow drift on the road. It was horrible. And I feel like I am going to fall asleep at any moment. I have been up since 10:30."

"You sound much better now. That is terrible. Was there anyone there to help you?"

"Nope. Just us girls." I said like a trooper. I almost felt like Rosie the riveter, the lady from the poster ads in the 40's during World War II, where she has the handkerchief holding her hair up and her sleeves rolled back and the one arm up in strength and encouragement to the other women folk.

"Well, get some rest dear. Call us in the morning when you wake up and we'll see how the roads are then. Enjoy your sleep over. Love you."

I was starting to zone out again, and Skylee smacked my arm. I winced in pain. Skylee was mouthing the words "I love you too" in which I said them quickly in order to shut both of them up.

Skylee clicked the phone off.

"WELL..."Skylee said loudly as though making an announcement. "Wouldn't it be weird if this little box had something to do with the strange weather?"

I had since placed my head back on the table with one arm against the ear closest to her to drown her out.

"CHEST." I mumbled falling asleep. "And no....that's absolutely ridiculous."

"Whatever. And I think we should now try to break the lock, pick the lock, whichever, and if worse comes to worse, we'll bust this sucker open and find out what's inside."

"That's nice. I'm going to bed." I announced quietly. "I just have to get myself there...somehow." my speech was becoming more slurred as the minutes went by.

"Maybe a little fairy will come and lift your fat butt up with every bit of strength she has in her pixie wings and she'll tuck you softly into bed." Skylee joked. She was obviously bored and wanting to stay up and hang out and figure out what was in the 'stupid box'.

"I hear her...the fairy." I said playing along with the joke. "'s lovely she looks...and my what big arms she has." I said smiling as a little bit of drool drizzled down the side of my face. I only drool when I am extremely tired.

"You're pathetic. Here...let's get you into bed." Skylee sighed, giving in. She put one of my arms over her shoulder, which didn't work out too well considering Skylee is two inches taller than me. It was more like I was trying to grab an invisible rope with one side of my body. It was kind of a blur to me, but Skylee tucked me into bed.

I shivered upon entering the bed. "Skylee...put some blankets over me..." is the last thing I remember mumbling.

I don't even recall sleep coming or when I fell asleep. But the dreams I had that night had been amazingly vivid and almost frightening because of the colors, fragrances and sounds within them.

Somewhere in the mess of everything I recall Skylee forcing me to sit up and giving me something pink and sweet on a big spoon. Medicine maybe?

Very strange indeed.

Chapter 5

The dream I had was so life-like.

An attractive woman came to me. I could only see her face as the rest of her body, if she had one, was a shimmering trail of mist. Her face was so stunning that I could not look away from her, but I had to really focus because she came and went like a spirit, appearing and disappearing into thin air in all sorts of places around me, behind me, above me or beside me. For some reason it reminded me of a radio signal with a bad static connection. She'd be clear for a few seconds and then start to get fuzzy and eventually go out like a light. But her voice, the mostly calm and soothing tone was hypnotizing me and it was continuously heard even when her image did fade out. I was literally standing in one place...or maybe I was floating? Or was I swimming? It honestly appeared like in the movies where the underwater mermaids have their long hair swirling softly about with the currents of the oceans. Hell, I don't really know what kind of atmosphere I was in....but I kept turning in the direction of her voice, trying to see her again as she spoke to me. I was practically spinning in circles, suddenly jerking my face both left and right....but when I did see her face again, it's like a peaceful feeling comforted me. The first thing that comes to mind in how to explain that feeling, is exactly like when you put a fresh, clean, warm towel around you.

From a distance, her hair was a dishwater blonde.....When she came close though, it was like I could see the strange highlights in her hair. The translucent ones weren't exactly white....but they were similar, almost like each hair seemed like little clear flexible strands of glass. She also had beautiful slivers of silver and gold throughout the rest of her tresses. When she came even closer, I could see reflection of different National Geographic type photos- beautiful sunsets one moment, and then the next moment it was the most exquisite field of purple tulips; Or then it became a gorgeous blue sky with fluffy cotton ball-like clouds drifting along in the breeze. No matter what her tone was, the picture in her eyes were always pleasing. Even the black ones. I distinctly remember seeing a desert monsoon sky, raven black as could be, only slightly being lit up from the purplish lightening.

Her skin was sort of frosted like a car window, mainly white with a blueish cream and it had little specks of blue glimmer....almost like she was cold eternally. Not cold in a bad, evil way...but just blue because that is how her kind has been created I guess.

Her nose was extremely slender and her lips were full, lit with colors from one moment to the next just like her eyes. One time she got so close to me, I almost reached out and touched her lips because they were nothing but texture of things of that same color. For one second it would be nothing but amethyst stone, then they became a deep purple was like looking through a children's story book where different fabrics or simulated things are put on the pages for the child to learn the differences through sensory touch and sight.

And she smelled sweeter than anything I can ever explain. It was like all the best smell put into one that was somehow light, airy, fresh and invigorating. Again, it was just so pure.

She Sparkled. It was like she was the cleanest thing to ever pure, so breathtaking.

There were colors emanating from all around her. Emotions seemed to control the colors she projected like an aura., Her color casted off red when angry. When she was serious with heeded urgency, like when she was trying to get me to listen and understand her, the colors casted off blues and grays. As the colors washed over me I felt everything she was feeling. As her feelings changed, the temperature changed as well from burning hot to icy cold. The sensations ambushed me and took over any type of physical or mental moves I tried to put forth until I felt like a I was drugged heavily with happy gas from the dentist's office but I could still feel sensations in, on and around my body.

On top of her own personal fragrance, the air also had very distinct and unmistakable scents, causing my mind to flash to things, places, and people in my life when I had smelled them before. The scents corresponded with the colors of her aura. And it wasn't just one flash per colored aura, it was countless. And then it's like the pain began to start. I was confused because I thought she was good, some kind of goddess or angel to bring peace and comfort and now she was inflicting discomfort and sadness?

Now if she was angry, I'd have flashes of deep red blood, hot steam, my yelling mother, and it just kept going. Eventually it started to hit me like someone beating my head. My body would start to ache or my eyes would burn. The whole experience was unbelievably potent and real. I had never dreamed like this before in my entire life. At first when the dream was lovely, I thought to myself how unfair to be cheated of such a delicacy of dreaming that my body has been totally capable of giving me all this time whenever I fall asleep. Why now? But then once the dream started to have the menacing and painful flashes, I suddenly knew why our minds only let us dream so far....without certain sensory details....because the really bad ones become ten times worse with the odors, the sounds, the colors....I can only imagine the numbers of deaths from actual heart attacks brought on by realistic nightmares.

These flashes in my head made her message almost impossible to follow.

"You have the power to choose to be the new caretaker. Only YOU. This decision is yours and yours only. No one else can help you choose." She explained.

"What do you mean?" I remember asking foolishly. This is where I felt as though I was being drugged.

What made it even more difficult for me was that, even though I could clearly see her lips moving in a constant pace, her voice often pulsated on and off. It was as if we had a bad connection.

Occasionally she would make comments as though she'd been through this before.

"Your kind never changes and you only progress to become more and more difficult. Why is it so hard to understand?" she seemed to plead with me in a baffled, yet an all-knowing tone.

At this point in my dream, it was like I was on the outside of my body doing the serious thinking, but at the same time I could feel the drugged 'me' fighting to speak and feeling discombobulated. "Who are you? What is your name? Where do you come from?" My outer, sober mind pleaded- in which I'm not even sure it truly came out of my mouth. Maybe I was dreaming that I said something in my dream?

My drugged mind didn't seem to want to stay on one page and push further for one answer and one question at a time.

"Listen child!" She urged causing both my sober and drugged mind to just stop entirely. "We do not have much time. The Vayeeoh (I have it spelled right when they are at the cabin) are working hard to alter my message. They are the evil ones...please try to refrain from them interfering with us. I know you are strong enough to do that- to block them."

"The higher powers have sent me regarding your place in this day and time. If it is to be, you must remember to blend in. You will know what to do in order to survive."

"You must be cautious in all your doings. Any type of reckless activity will be like a window to them to find you and take what it is they want."

"Do you want to open this chest?" She bluntly asked.

"Yes, and I have already tried." I choked out helplessly.

"This is not a decision to be taken lightly child. The chest will only open when the person trying to open it is confident in their decision. Any doubt and it will not open." She explained, "No one except you and the caretakers that will follow in your foot steps will have the chance to open it. If the chest should happen to fall into any other hands aside from the current and future caretakers, unfathomable experiences will plague this world, along with all other worlds, and life will be destroyed. It is an excruciating war that has been taking place silently for nearly four centuries."

I stared at her in disbelief as another flash hit me. The flashes were getting stronger, she- the dream lady was right; it was almost as if someone were trying to confuse me.

"Child, if you should happen to choose not to take on this great responsibility, the chance will be given to someone else and other means will be made to keep the chest protected. Do not feel pressured to say yes as it is perfectly ok to refuse. Gook luck and be well." She finished and with her last words came a flurry of quick flashes. The flashes contained images that included old witch hangings, large segments of fire, and a blinding bright light.

Like coming out of a trance and the hypnotist snapping his fingers, I awoke as though escaping from a nightmare. I sat up straight in bed and sucked in a huge gasp of breath. Goosebumps covered my flesh again and my body shuddered. I was covered in a cold sweat.

I shielded my sensitive eyes from the intense daylight that was streaming in through Skylee's basement window.

Suddenly Skylee's alarm came on and in one quick movement she shut off the alarm with a hard whack of the hand and sat up straight in bed. She grabbed a thermometer in one hand and in the other felt around quickly to find my face and shoved it in my ear that was closest to her. Her eyes weren't even open. I was surprised she didn't recognize that I was sitting up.

"What are you doing?!" I cried.

I startled her more fully awake.

"You're awake? You're awake!! And you're alive!" She cheered. "Wait, do you still have a fever?" She asked instantly shoving the thermometer back in my ear.

"OW!! You're pushing too hard!!" I exclaimed.

"You're completely normal! 98.6! How!? Does your throat hurt? Do you have a cough? Chills? Are you thirsty?"

I stared at her like she had lost her marbles. "What are you talking about?"

"What am I talking about?! What do you mean 'what am I talking about?!'"

She stared at me. I shrugged my shoulders in total confusion.

She spoke quickly and very animated, using her hands. "Last night, you had the most awful fever I have ever witnessed. At about 5am this morning when I was about to call your grandma to see if we should call a medic, you started slowly cooling down. So every hour I'd set my alarm and check you over and over again."

She was scratching her head in disbelief and then decided to shove the thermometer in my head again.

"Stop it!" I said pushing her away.

"Claire! You have no idea what you put me through last night!" She cried.

"Your fever was through the roof! At 10pm it was 100̊. I gave you some medicine but it kept going higher! I made sure you were swallowing it and not spitting it out, and I even checked the expiration date! I was about ready to make you overdose on Tylenol and Motrin because by 1am you were right at 104̊. It kept crawling one point of a degree every half hour until 4:30 when you were 104.7̊. Then you started talking, and even screaming! Claire! You never talk in your sleep! It was bizarre! Then by 5am it had gone down a whole degree and continued going down a degree every hour.... And now here you are," she quickly glanced at her clock. "Ten in the morning to be exact and you're completely normal. And you're covered in gross amounts of sweat!?" she somewhat questioned and then quickly decided to shove the thermometer in my ear again.

I fought her off of me.

"I just want your temperature!" She squealed and then she fell off the bed onto the floor.

"Ouch." She whispered.

"Sorry, but I don't like things being shoved in my ears. The only exception is a q-tip!" I explained.

"And I'm fine! I'm all here!" I said emphasizing by pulling my hair and t-shirt to prove it as Skylee climbed back onto the bed.

I suddenly remembered bits and pieces of my dream.

"What was I talking about in my sleep?" I asked, my words being very hesitant and spaced out.

I wanted to see if what she was going to tell me and what I remembered would match up.

"Well, at first you distracted me from opening that freaky box around ten last night because you were calling for water. Then you went into talking about colors, and asking who someone was. You said she was beautiful. You randomly would shout, whisper or even just plainly speak words like yes, blood, ice, snow, sunset, roses, Mom, and you wouldn't shut up about the blindness, the migraines and not being able to see. What the hell did you dream about?"

"I'm not quite sure...." my eyes searched the room for answers.

Skylee looked at me with a "duh" expression, having expected an answer of some amazing dream.

"Look, you get some sleep, I'll go take a shower because I feel like swamp slime. I'll even make some breakfast and come wake you up when it's ready. You obviously look tired after taking care of me all night—which—thank you by the way." I blurted out so smoothly.

Skylee looked at me strangely again but gladly put her face back into her pillow. I grabbed her makeup box and climbed the stairs. On my way to the shower, I noticed through the back patio window that it had stopped snowing. I even detoured around the furniture to look out the window. The snow had completely covered the trampoline which would mean like four and half feet of snow!

Until the plow crews made their rounds within the city, I wouldn't be going anywhere. And grams and gramps would have to come get me in the truck. Was all this ridiculous amount of snow here because someone was trying to protect me? I suddenly wondered if I was going even more crazy.

"Nah..."And then I got into the shower. Hot baths and showers always helped me sort out my thoughts.

I didn't even bother turning on the radio, usually a must when I'm in the bathroom.

I spent such a long time in the shower—shaving my legs, exfoliating with a creamy aloe body scrub, brushing my teeth, humming songs—that when I was done I almost felt like I needed to procrastinate a little longer. I wasn't done thinking. Usually by now I would have organized all my thoughts.

Sighing, I grabbed my towels. I dried off and clicked the bathroom fan up a notch to clear up some of the steam from the mirrors and began the makeup regimen.

Still waiting on Skylee to wake up, I tackled some laundry and then made the breakfast. As the last pancake came off the griddle, I checked again on Skylee. She was still out. I know I promised to wake her once I finished breakfast, but thanks to me, she had a rough night.

I spiffed up the kitchen, right down to disinfecting the yucky kitchen garbage can.

After just finishing with the can, Skylee's voice startled me.

"You honestly don't have to do that....." She kind of giggled as I put the freshly lined can back in its corner.

"Sorry." I replied. "I just didn't want to leave it a mess after I cooked...and I know how you hate kitchen duty, so I figured I'd give you a break."

"Smells good. What did you make?" she asked, still sounding pretty tired.

"Pancakes. Let's eat." I smiled.

I snatched the pancakes from the oven and Skylee pulled out the yogurt cups from the fridge.

"Did you mop the floor, too?" she noticed as her feet felt kind of squeaky clean against the tile.


Once at the table and taking in a few moments to study the elaborate yogurt cups, she began; " we have this freak incident yesterday. You totally drain yourself trying to save us. Then you get this insane fever and sleep like you've never slept in your life. THEN, you get up early, clean the kitchen spotless, wash my clothes and make a breakfast like this?" she asked completely and utterly out of ideas from my behavior in the last 24 hours.

I let her flounder in a few moments of silence before I said anything, the whole time smiling politely.

Upon putting two pancakes on her plate and pouring her a cup of juice, I answered simply, "Yup."

She sat back in her chair after drizzling some syrup onto her pancakes and slowly took one pancake bite after another while giving me this peculiar stare.

"We've got to open that chest." she said shaking her head like there was no talking her out of it. And for once she got the name right, calling it a chest instead of a box thing.

I smiled as I took a drink of my juice and looked out the window at what the weather had done. My smile was also deeper because I knew what the dreams meant. I finally knew what everything was about....and I just now decided I was going to open the chest. I'd had all morning to myself to think things through and I felt I was ready.

Chapter 6

I glanced toward the window and my smile faded instantly.

Skylee seeing my face change, turned to look where I was gawking to see what was the matter.

"It's starting to snow again!" I cried in astonishment. "I'm never going to get home!"

"Oh my....the flakes are increasing as we speak..." Skylee mumbled in awe.

"You better eat like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter...if the power goes out- you're going to need that energy...and it might just be the last warm thing you enjoy for awhile!" Skylee said with that odd, nervous-looking grimace.

We both exchanged worried looks.

In all my life- I'd only experienced a power outage once in cold winter weather. It was when I was 12 and I remember it being absolutely horrible because the house was freezing and I had a fever and was coming down with something. The bad memory caused my mind to flood with dread.

"We have plenty of food.....blankets....heck....we can snuggle up like bears if we have to." Skylee assured me.

Skylee finished all her breakfast, mine was only half eaten. And I hated throwing good food in the garbage can.

Out of old habit I had begun clearing the kitchen and loading the dishes. Before I knew it I was daydreaming out the sink window staring at the fluffy snowflakes.

"You ok?" Skylee asked, brining me back to the present.

My eyes rapidly focused on the chest in her hands.

"I'm fine." I calmly replied. And oddly enough, I did feel calm.

"So what do you suggest we break this thing with? I tried everything I could think of last night."

Suddenly, like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to the junk drawer in the kitchen, about 5 steps from where we were standing. I'm not sure what brought me to it, but I couldn't help but trust this feeling I was having. Within seconds of shuffling through a bunch of old pens, I found what looked like a key that you would use to open a cheap diary lock.

At the same moment, flashes of the key's past rushed through my brain. Trust me, I thought I was really losing it since I was now seeing memories from a key's point of view!

"A luggage key? Do you really think that's going to open this, you crazy lock-picking pro?" Skylee asked frowning. "I would think we'd use some golden laced pin or some scientifically brewed metal key..."

As I closed the proximity with the chest and myself, a warm feeling slowly moved through my body and was very warm but soothing.

Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. What usually takes three seconds to get to the chest felt more like five minutes.

As the key entered the lock I heard faint whispers coming from many different people inside my head. Great, now I was hearing voices. What next- that I believe I have magical powers?! That I can fly?!

I casually glanced at Skylee to see if she had heard the voices as well. She was glued to the key in the lock, her suspense thick and eager. If she had heard the voices, she was not making it known. Was I going crazy?

The voices were saying things like, "Welcome." Or "that's right, just as simple as that." Or "Remember- honesty, integrity and truth..." That final line really caught my attention because the voice that said it was not that of the lady in my dreams last night. Who else knew about what I dreamed of last night?

My breath seemed heavier and I gulped anxiously.

Knowing my locks, I could feel the grooves of the interior of the heart shaped pad lock just through the touch of the key. I felt it move in a way I could not even force my bobby pins or my ice pick.

Knowing it was about to open, I sensed I needed to search the surrounding area and make sure it was safe. It felt as if something was going to be unleashed, and I was very uncomfortable with Skylee being so close.

"Umm...maybe you should back up a little. If this thing explodes I don't want you getting hurt." I calmly said to Skylee.

"EXPLODES?? Do you honestly think this old chest is going to explode?" Skylee retorted, like she thought I was going insane.

My eyes darted around the room until I was pleased that we would have a clear escape and that nothing was on the floor to trip us. While I was scanning I glanced at the window and saw that the weather had turned into a total blizzard.

I did not have a very good feeling about all this. It's like I suddenly got cold feet....that I literally had the whole world on my shoulders.

Finishing the last fraction of a centimeter turn, the lock handle popped up.

Skylee gasped.

"Skylee- we're not pirates." I smiled with one eyebrow raised.

"C'mon! Open it up!" She squealed excitedly, fanning her hands.

I carefully slipped the top of the chest back.

"Fabric?! Clothes!?" Skylee said disgustedly, "All this excitement over some old clothes? And you thought it was going to explode." She snickered.

In the chest laid a neatly folded article of blue cloth. It was the sparkly itchy material you would have worn in the 1960's for being a television game host or to the prom.

I reached into the chest and pulled it out and then I held it up against myself as if I was looking to see it in the mirror. To the floor fell a silky full body blue slip.

"Wow. Is that vintage or what?" Skylee croaked.

"This was my aunt's prom dress in high school." I breathed touching the twinkling attire.

"How do you know?"

"I just do..."

"Hold that happy little thought. I have to pee." Skylee said darting to the bathroom.

I peeked over into the chest.

Carefully reaching in with one hand and plucking aside a pair of matching shoes, I pulled out an envelope.

Before opening the envelope, I noticed a couple of photographs. I picked them up with my other hand and inspected the cheery faces of my aunt Judy and her prom date. They were standing in the entry way in my house. The floor was green linoleum with the walls having this dirty wash to them. There was the usual pose, then the shots of him putting her corsage on, and her putting his boutonniere on. There was even one as he helped her get into the car. She had the usual 60's bob flipped out via curling iron and wore long white satin gloves.

I decided to shake out the dress. The gloves fell to the floor. They must have been tucked inside the dress so as to protect the silk.

I went ahead and opened the envelope.

On a yellowed piece of paper was Judy's neat cursive handwriting.

It read:

December 1968


I know you are stubborn until you learn from your own mistakes.

But there cannot be any mistakes. You must trust me.

Continue the honesty, integrity and truth throughout your care of this item. Don't ever take it off.

(Yes, it's ok to shower with it on.)

Judy Brighton

p.s. you will know what I am talking about the first time you put it on.

This is ludicrous. Judy is in her 50's! How could she have written a letter specifically to me, describing exactly how stubborn I am especially with this letter being dated 20 years before my birth?! My mom was only 7 years old when this letter was written. How could Judy have possibly known about me and who I am?!?!?!

I heard the toilet flush and panicked. Skylee could not see this. I stuffed it down my bra as fast as I could, envelope and all.

"I can't wear a dress night and day...especially this awful, scratchy stuff...and how the crap would you shower with a dress on?" I half mumbled to myself as I touched the fabric again.

Ironically it was just my size.

"You don't have it on yet? You're the only one skinny enough and the right height to try that thing on." Skylee said bounding up the stairs. "Come on. It will be fun. We can even do your hair and dress you up like you blasted from the past. You know- the crazy blue eye shadow and stuff?" she said trying to convince me.

My mind was spinning.


The tone in my voice had emptiness to it. If I was going to have to wear this thing twenty-four seven I was not in any hurry to put it on. But how could I explain that to Skylee when she was so excited about it?

"Oh wow! Look at these shoes! Darn...too small for my feet. Here- try them on." She said already grabbing one of my legs and yanking my shoe and sock off. She did it so suddenly I almost fell over.

The cold plastic-like shoe slid smoothly over my foot. A perfect fit.

The shoe was a small sparkly looking sandal type pump, the plastic was translucent. On the middle of the foot was a snowflake looking broach that sparkled as well.

I was amazed the clear plastic had not discolored from all these years of sitting in a dingy old basement.

Right as I was about to take all the prom attire to the bathroom, Skylee noticed the old fashioned looking pictures.

"Oh how sweet." She sarcastically crooned.

I shut the bathroom door and set everything on the toilet seat. I quickly dressed, all the while Skylee talking to me loudly from the kitchen.

"You're aunt looks hot! But her date looks like he blipped out of the movie Austin powers..."

Her date was a little retro looking with some strange necklace, a cream turtleneck and a funny haircut, I thought. My mind was still in thinking mode so I didn't comment verbally out loud.

As I struggled to pull up the zipper of the dress something dawned on me.

Prom isn't usually until the spring. You would not wear a dress like this in December in Idaho. And the pictures of them getting into the car- there's grandpa's manicured lawn in the corner of the picture with grandma's flower bed.

Without any luck with the zipper, I shoved the shoes on my feet and amazingly cleared the six small steps to the kitchen area speedily.

"Let me see those pictures." I said snapping them out of Skylee's hands.

I suddenly noticed the warm feeling returning now that I was near the chest again.

"Hey- what's the big deal?" She complained.

"Is that a green lawn?" I asked, trying to confirm my theory.

"Why? Do you think it looks like pink fur?" Skylee retorted, all smart aleck.

I pursed my lips and scowled at her.

Why would Aunt Judy write a letter dated December if she didn't go to prom until the spring?

What did this letter have to do with her prom?

I flipped the picture over. On the top back section it was dated May 1969. But I had gone through all known pictures in the basement or the entire house for that fact of 1969 for sure. That was the year my grandparents built and moved into their new house. It was a year after my great uncle Kermit died. They did not take very many pictures those two years.

"You look pretty slick. Let's go do your hair and makeup." Skylee jived.

I looked out the window. It was still a white out. I felt the heeded urgency again.

"I promised my grams I would call her. I still haven't done that yet." I said biting my lip.

"You're so going to hell." Skylee laughed as we both started looking for a phone.

I called grams and assured her I would be fine staying at Skylee's another night if need be. We had plenty of food, bottled water, blankets and as Skylee put it, "cuddle up like bears" if we absolutely had to.

Grams recited the entire weather report to me and the newspaper article about the previous day's snow storm. She insisted on headlining the whole ordeal with how the city still had not even tackled neighborhood streets, but were only working on the main veins of the city and, "if this weather keeps up, these poor little kids won't have a Halloween."

Skylee became impatient and pretended she had a watch and was tapping the face of it as though we were late. She then went on to use her hands as though she was putting on mascara and then swirled her hands above her head to emphasize 'fancy hairdo'.

I tried my hardest to keep from snickering and closed the conversation as politely and soon as possible with lots of gooey "I love you too's"

Leaving the chest on the kitchen table, with the gloves strewn over the edge of it, Skylee dragged me downstairs and played beautician while we listened to the stereo. The warm feeling disappeared as I gained distance from the chest.

We kept changing radio stations because so many of them thought the weather was simply comical and declared today a Christmas music day and we were tired of hearing about the snow.

Even Skylee's window well was pretty much filled up to ground level with snow. It looked kind of creepy being snowed in like this.

I tried to hurry Skylee along just to get the foo-foo session over with.

By the time she was done, I had this unique little beehive hairstyle that was completely plastered with hairspray and my makeup consisted of the deep eyeliner with lots of blue shadow. She even used lip liner (which I detest) and lots of blush. I looked ridiculous.

I stood up and did the catwalk, even twirling in circles for Skylee. She still wasn't happy.

"You're missing some earrings or something....I almost want to pluck the broach things off the shoes and glue them to your ears." Skylee said thinking, her hand on her hip and her other hand holding her chin.

"Nylons?" she suggested.

"Not in a million years." I said, teeth gritted.

She shook her head and let out a big sigh. Then her eyebrows perked up.

"Maybe there's something left in the magical chest?" she suggested sarcastically.

We ventured back upstairs to the kitchen only to discover still blizzard like weather conditions outside.

"Sheesh...this is serious....maybe we should turn the radio to a news station..." and with that she clicked the radio on.

The highway was closed. The state troopers were urging people not to drive anywhere unless in an emergency situation.

I fumbled with the chest, flipping the lid open and closed while listening. I decided to be funny and shake it like a wrapped present.

Something actually jingled inside. Skylee and I met eyes instantly upon hearing the sound.

"What is up with this thing?" Skylee asked sitting down at the table with me. She had been standing over by the radio adjusting the antenna so as to not get static.

I shook the chest again. I opened the chest. Nothing was inside. I shook it once more and opened it once more. I even inspected the lower sides and the bottom. I knocked on them. The bottom half sounded hollow with something in it.

I was starting to wonder if I could pull a rabbit out of this thing.

I looked closer at the velvet lining of the inside of the box. There was the tiniest smidge of a ribbon edge that appeared if not inspected thoroughly would seem like just a bit of spare lining accidentally overlapped or messed up in the production line.

With what nails I had, I pinched the little piece of velvet and tugged.

Another whole compartment opened up.

Like camouflage, I grasped a mouse pad sized velvet jewelry box in my fingers.

Skylee and I exchanged glances simultaneously.

I quickly flipped the top open to reveal the most spectacular necklace I have ever seen in my entire life.

Skylee's mouth hung wide open.

"That's exactly what you need to finish the look." Skylee said dazed.

The necklace was on a silver chain, heavy enough to withstand constant wear, yet dainty enough to be considered feminine and pretty. Just the chain itself sparkled in the kitchen light.

The actual heart of the necklace was a snowflake made of opal. Each little arm on the snowflake was incredibly fragile looking. The snowflake was about the size of a quarter.

The center of the snowflake was a pearl, swirled of both black and white.

"Is that a pearl?" I asked, needing to confirm that it was indeed a pearl.

Skylee grabbed it out of my hands and put it between her teeth. I gasped in horror as she bit down gently on the pearl part.

" is....." she said pulling the necklace out of her mouth. "No damage, see? Here- let's put it on you." She offered since it was in her hands.

As soon as she clasped it shut around my neck, I was overpowered by the craziest feeling in my stomach like that of when you free fall but imagine it five times worse.

It was a very good thing I was sitting down and that the feeling came and left within a split second, because I would have fell over.

Judy's words from her letter leapt out to me finally making some sense.

P.S. you will know what I am talking about the first time you put it on. Don't ever take it off.

(Yes, it's ok to shower with it on.)

"You know what? I never saw this necklace on your aunt when we looked at those pictures." Skylee said.

"Now that I think about it...I didn't see it either." I agreed.

Skylee grabbed the pictures and began inspecting them.

"Hmm. I guess I over looked it somehow......Oh my gosh! Claire! LOOK!" Skylee said hitting my sore arm and dropping the photograph. I winced in pain and looked out the window in the direction she was pointing.

It had almost completely stopped snowing like someone had snapped their fingers. I had to go to the window just to check how small the snowflakes were. I opened my mouth in shock once I too, confirmed the truth. My eyes then focused on my reflection in the window.

While doing so, the area around my neck had a tingly sensation. The chain was long enough to sit comfortably on my collarbones, but not long enough for me to pull it out in front of my face to analyze it more closely.I was mystified.

Images started to flashed in my head. The symbol of the snowflake in different styles kept duplicating.

It felt like centuries of important information were being shown to me. People, places, and times all went through my head as I tried to make some sense of what was being shown to me.

At the end, the horrible evil feeling surfaced again. I understood that this was only for me to see and understand what this thing was that I was going to have to deal with. But this time I had a mental picture to go with it. The ghastly images I saw were so disturbing that I probably looked like I had seen a ghost.

Faces with dark hollow eye sockets, the same intense cold surrounding my whole body, some incredibly strange language kept being repeated. It sounded so threatening. The feeling and the images disappeared and many voices in unison seemed to chant, "Don't ever take it off."

My skin rippled in goose bumps. It was all real. Or maybe I was hallucinating! Oh my gosh what did that fever do to my brain!? I wondered.

I couldn't comprehend what I had just mentally witnessed, but the neurons in my brain seemed to keep firing like explosions, allowing me an answer here and there, connecting the dots in various areas....

I had to call Judy.

Chapter 7

After doing our own personal photo shoot with an old Polaroid camera of me in my newly acquired Halloween costume, I took another shower to erase all the makeup and hairspray. And precisely as instructed, I showered with the necklace on for fear of what would happen if I disobeyed. I have always been one to fear consequences and therefore follow rules exactly.

After my quick shower, we sat down to watch a movie.

We pulled out our snacks and popcorn and just had a glorious afternoon. For once my mind was able to rest and enjoy the laziness of something uplifting and comical.

Every now and again during the movie, I would suddenly realize my hand was resting over the necklace that lay hidden beneath my shirt. A small, short panic would accelerate my heart, but it passed quickly because everything felt okay.

Right as the movie finished, grams called to inform me the roads were safe again having been plowed and Skylee's parents happened to walk in the door at the same moment.

Skylee offered to take me home now that she could drive her parents Dodge Truck.

I gathered all my things, including the chest, and went outside to face the cold weather, and snow.

The drive home revealed the main streets to be plowed to perfection but the neighborhood ones were still a mess.

Skylee and I had a perfectly normal conversation and anticipated the coming Monday at school. All along I couldn't help but think about the future and what I was in for. Was this all for real or was I just really gullible?

Once Skylee pulled up to my house, I noticed the always shoveled driveway. Thanks to gramps, no one else ever had to shovel. Then a fear overwhelmed me at what might be lurking in the basement.

I convinced myself that I was being silly and that there was nothing down there to dread. I took a deep breath and thanked Skylee for letting me crash at her house.

"No...thank you for keeping me sane so that I didn't run into any Red rum circumstances." She pressed.

We both burst out laughing as I hopped out of the truck. I turned around and said bye before I slammed the truck door shut and headed for the house.

Once inside and having shut the door, I stood there for a moment and stared down the dark staircase. It still felt somewhat creepy and my desire to see what was on the larger chest wasn't important enough to get me to go down there and find out. Plus, everyone was home and I couldn't go snooping around with those circumstances. It would just have to wait another day until I was more courageous and the house was empty. I put my hand to my pendant and just kind of rubbed my fingers over its intricate edges; making sure it was still there and reassuring myself that everything was ok. After a few moments I went ahead and strolled into the kitchen and I visited shortly with the grandparents while munching bits and pieces of leftover dinner before getting ready for bed, all the while keeping an eye on my backpack which held the small chest.

On my way out of the kitchen I was greeted by Trinity.

"Hi onion breath." She sneered in her usual friendly hello.

I sneered playfully back at her without a response.

"Did you cut your hair or something?" she asked abruptly pausing in front of me.


Then she sniffed at me.

"Dude- get away!" I laughed, recoiling from her nose.

"There's something different about you..." She said trying to place her finger on it.

"There is nothing different with me, you're just weird, Trinity." I said quickly brushing past her and to the safety of my bedroom.

Once secured behind my door, I dumped the backpack on my bed and I grasped the pendant again which had been hidden the whole time underneath my shirt. I then made a beeline straight for my bathroom mirror. I stood there scrutinizing every little detail of the necklace wondering if Trinity could really sense something atypical about me. Would others be able to sense something different? My heart started pounding and my mouth became dry as the what-if scenarios of dangerous situations played through my mind. What kind of bad things or creatures could be out there trying to get this pendent and why? What had I gotten myself into? I honestly don't know what the hell I am doing. What if I'm incapable? What if I let everyone down and I'm killed?

But who is everyone? I didn't even know who the higher powers were or the caretakers before Judy. Am I supposed to have flashes of them in my head?

I suddenly just kind of collapsed in a heap to the floor. An upright heap though; one that was desperate for more answers. I was also at the brink of crying, my eyes blurring with wetness. I put my head between my knees and just practiced calm breathing to quiet my stressed out contemplations, and the first few tears fell from my eyes onto the cold tiled floor.

I can do this...I have to. I finally thought to myself.

After a few minutes of positive thinking and self encouragement, I regained my energy and got ready for bed. While trying to wash my face, the necklace kept getting in my way and became kind of annoying. I finally just grabbed the pendant and swung it around backwards on my neck. That solution remedied the situation and I was able to finish scrubbing my skin and bring my bedtime routine to a close. This was not going to be easy.

I unloaded my overnight bag and sorted everything back to their original places. Dirty clothes in the hamper, clean ones in the dresser...But then came the small chest. Where should I put it? Should I hide it? Yes, that would probably be the best for now until I figure out more of what I'm supposed to do and what's going on. I went ahead and buried it in the far back of my closet with some other stuff covering it entirely.

And then like usual, I double checked my school assignments and agenda to make sure I wouldn't be getting some surprise pop quiz or realize in class tomorrow that I'd forgotten a paper that was due.

Once in bed, I tossed and turned for at least two hours. I wanted to take the necklace off and study it closer, but I decided against that idea. Instead I let my fingers trace over its grooves and smooth edges. I did eventually get a compact mirror and held it up so that I could see the pendant better.

In the shadowed lighting, the necklace took on an even different view, sort of echoing the darker side of what this piece of jewelry truly did symbolize. The feeling wasn't too eery, but it was close enough to the same feeling you get when you're in a cemetery and the sun has just set.....

I took a deep breath, realizing my heart was beating faster than normal. I was getting myself worked up over nothing.

"It's a necklace. It's a necklace. It's just a necklace, Claire." I told myself bravely, but at the same time feeling a little silly because I was talking to myself in the dark about a necklace.

I put the compact mirror away and turned down the already dimmed lights until they clicked completely off and the darkness surrounded me. I could hear my heart beating...I was aware of each breath of air I was sucking in and letting out.

I was tired, yawning and the whole bit and yet I couldn't turn my mind off. I wanted desperately to talk to Judy, but I needed to wait until the house was empty so there were no listening ears or someone accidentally picking up the phone to use it while it was in use with me.

While trying to fall asleep, I decided to create a list in my mind of what questions I would ask Judy. By the time I got to question 47, I gave up and began thinking how I'd phrase each question. I then went through and made the speech that I would present to her if she would try to deny any of this. My speech supported my theories, with evidence and my thus far experience. No matter how I reworded the speech, I sounded crazy. And then it was like the warm cozy feeling began to radiate from my chest. It made me incredibly drowsy and within minutes I fell asleep. I last remember a soft woman's voice telling me "Rest now. You have experienced enough for the time being."

I recognized the voice as that of the floating spirit-like woman from my previous night's dream. And I then I was out.


I awoke the next morning feeling strangely refreshed and while getting ready I recited the prior night's thoughts and speech I was still perfecting. The phone happened to ring while I was snagging some toast and juice and it was confirmed my grandparents would be driving again today to Bozeman, Montana. They wouldn't be home until around 8 or 9pm since they were getting a late start.

Trinity had night classes at Idaho State University this evening down in Pocatello, a 45 minute drive from the house.

My much needed phone call to Judy to verify my sanity could be just moments away...if I were late to school.

I vetoed that idea knowing that Mr. Miller would notice my absence (The school vice principal and also my biology teacher) and would phone grams on her cell. That's kind of what happens when you live in a small town. Everyone knows everyone else and sometimes people work multiple jobs in order for the city to run smoothly.

Although I wanted to stay home, I knew I'd get my butt kicked and my personal conscience would never let me forget the guilt of slightly breaking the rules.

Making sure my necklace was hidden below the neckline of my shirt, I blew a pretend to kiss to gramps and headed out the door and drove to school.

I found Skylee and Lacey with their usual pack of friends. It was good to see that Lacey survived her personal alcohol fest. Honestly, she drove me crazy at times, but life wouldn't be life without Lacey.

Success and achievement floated in every particle of air throughout the school campus from Friday night's game. Everyone was so excited about the football win and people had their Sunday weather experiences ready for storytelling. Some people tried out sledding and snowboarding at the local parks, while others hibernated indoors and had Christmas fests with old time movies.

I think out of everything I heard, Skylee and I had the best experience of them all. I kept my lips sealed though.

When the warning bell rang, I headed to my honors English class with one thing for sure- I would not be able to focus today.

My friend Jules kept passing me notes with little animated drawings.

"Everything ok?"

"Yeah...just a lot of stress." I wrote back.

It was somewhat true. I always get a little overworked when lots of things happen. Some kids take it with a grain of salt, me- I just can't handle big things. 'Stress' could be my middle name.

Not wanting to be caught passing notes, we quit writing after a few sentences to each other when our teacher started to become suspicious. She was the note hating teacher. I loathe her class. The first day of school, she assigned four hours of homework. It sucked to be me that day. But- I will have to compliment her on one thing: She always plans great multi-cultural week events and activities. I always look forward to the Chinese food, being one of the many different restaurant culture experiences she brings in for students who choose to purchase lunch at school that week.

At the end of class, Jules passed me another note which I saved until I would sit down in my seat in my second hour.

On the way to class was a whole different story.

I was minding my own business while heading to my second class and I'd thought I'd be smooth and slip around someone who stopped in their tracks to visit with another friend right in the middle of the winding stairwell. As soon as I cleared the person... WHAM! I was going down and he was coming up. I smashed into Scott Hall and everything I had went to the ground, including myself since my backpack was so heavy with books. He was merely tousled by the impact.

"OH! I am so sorry!" I exclaimed, knowing perfectly well who I had just collided with. I was afraid he'd lash out to me or be uncivilized like Skylee had claimed him to be and on the inside I was frantically praying for the situation to stay peaceful between us.

As he bent down to help me pick up the mess I had created on the stairs he glanced up at me and focused on my neck.

"It's ok... really, it was my fault. I should have been watching where I was going." He quickly replied, a small grin tugging at the ends of his lips.

I glanced down to see what the heck he was looking at and realized that he was staring at my necklace, which had apparently surfaced above my shirt during our collision. I very quickly grabbed the pendant and shoved it underneath my shirt.

I glanced back up again and found that he was now looking straight at me and right into my eyes. I couldn't help but notice how gorgeous his eyes were. They were intense like sapphires with flames of emerald and tourquise...they were so alive and vibrant and they even sparkled. Our faces were so close that I could feel his breath which smelt of freshly brushed teeth.

He had this smirk on his face and, if I didn't know better, I would have thought that he was actually happy about running into me.

As I cautiously but swiftly grabbed my books from him and stood up to continue on my way, Scott rudely grabbed my arm, jerking me back to the floor so I fell and ended up sitting on one of the stairs. In that same second, something came whirling past my head. I glanced over Scott's head to see what it was and saw one of the football players now holding a football.

"Hey! WATCH IT! There are other people in this stairway!" Scott yelled up the stairs to the guy that had thrown the ball. The guy just shrugged his shoulders and mumbled "Sorry, Scott."

I picked up my books again and jolted down the rest of the stairs. Before I turned the corner, I glanced back just once to see if he was still there. He was anchored to the very spot we collided watching me like a hawk. Within a half a second, I had fully disappeared safely down the rest of the stairway and onto the first level of the school. I stepped off to the side of the hallway out of the way of traffic and just leaned up against a wall for a moment to catch my breath and analyze what just happened.

I had just ran into Scott Hall and he was actually really nice to me! He even saved me from getting hit by the football?! That is totally not something that I would have expected for my first encounter with this supposedly horrible guy. But why was he staring at my necklace? Skylee is SO not going to believe this.

My legs felt a little shaky and somewhat trembled as I continued on the way to my second class. My emotions were jittery like I had just gotten my first kiss or something. I was relieved when I was able to sit down.

Class began all too soon and I sat there numbly trying to sort through all the firing thoughts in my head.

Out of habit I reached into my pocket for my Chapstick. My skin brushed against the note from Jules. I pulled it out and scanned her one liner sentence.

"Where on earth did you get that gorgeous necklace?!" Her tidy handwriting questioned. At the end of her enquiry, she had a cute little sketched necklace that seemed to bling from sunlight.

My hand instantly went to the necklace. It had surfaced outside of my shirt again and I quickly put it underneath my shirt once more. Was I allowed to let others to see it? Did I need to glue it to my skin so it would stay hidden beneath my shirt? I knew I would have some serious questioning at lunch from Jules. What if she wanted to try it on? What was I supposed to say to that? She would for sure think I was a wench if I said no.

My second hour ended with no collection at all to my thoughts and feelings.

I needed to call Judy. I needed to talk to Skylee and Lacey and ask questions about Scott Hall's current and past behavior. I thought I knew who he was and is, but his eyes and his actions today seems to plea that what I thought was wrong.

I made up my mind during my third hour class that I would skip lunch with my usual lunch buddies, Jules, Jessa and Hailey and hunt down Skylee instead.

Wherever Skylee was, I'd find Lacey. Normally they left the school ASAP in Skylee's car, so I'd have to be quick. I figured my best bet was to go find Skylee's car and just wait there for them. But that was a hefty guess whereas she would be parking in one of two student parking lots on each side of the school. I picked one.

My plan worked.

"Is everything ok?" was Skylee's first response to finding me at her car.

"Yes, all is good. I just need a change of routine. Mind if I tag along?" I asked.

"Nope. Hop in."

Luckily it was just Lacey and Skylee today so I could be as free as I wanted with my questions about Scott.

While driving to Wendy's, I asked at least 20 questions. The girls answered them in between conversation about a recent class they just shared. It was kind of annoying, the whole two conversation thing, but at least it kept them distracted and they didn't catch onto what I was stewing about.

"Where did you guys first meet Scott?" I questioned.

"No, I thought Jennifer graded your paper. Um, Sky, where did we meet him?" Lacey spoke. "Wasn't it at one of the Erickson parties?"

"No. We met him swimming over at the Dunes...Don't you remember that day with Gage, Matt and Victor? It was that same day we met those friends of Jim's and went bullet biking."

"Oh, Yeah. Yeah that was when we met him." Lacey said.

"And no, Jennifer wasn't the one who graded my paper. Erica graded it."

"And exactly when was that?" I asked a little frustrated they hadn't named the month.

"Are you sure it was Erica? She wouldn't purposely mark your paper up like that. It's Jennifer who has that thing against you." Lacey continued.

"It was June of this last summer." Skylee kindly answered me. "And what thing does she have against me? I've never pissed her off."

"I don't quite remember who was involved but Jennifer went sour against you in tenth grade because you became friends with some guy she liked. Don't you remember?"

"Huh." Skylee snorted in a stumped kind of way as she tried to remember.

"When you guys hung out together did he ever talk about his personal information like family, where he lived, etc.?" I asked.

"Sky, there's a spot." Lacey said pointing to another car as it was just driving away from where it previously parked.

"No, he never asked us over to his house because we mainly hung out with people on this side of town; people that attended Idaho Falls High School, not Skyline High School." Lacey answered me.

"Okay Lacey, I now recall when Jennifer had that fit. It was in gym class. Remember how you were willing to take a few punches at her for me and Mr. Willis put all three of us in detention for a week because of fighting?" Skylee said.

"Yup. She was a total wuss, too." Lacey agreed.

"You know- come to think of it...Scott never once mentioned any of his family." Skylee said as she locked the car and we proceeded into Wendy's.

"So is he an only child or something?" I asked.

Skylee and Lacey both shrugged.

"We just know he's loaded. I think that was part of the reason he left Skyline...People gave him a hard time about all the money he had. I remember him once mentioning his SHS friends were shallow." Skylee said as we got in line to order.

"What are you getting Lacey?" Skylee asked.

"I think I'll just get a jeans are getting a little snug."

"Oh whatever you freaking twig!" Skylee said elbowing Lacey.

I personally agreed with Skylee. Lacey always made such a fuss about her figure when really there was never anything to worry about.

Skylee bought my lunch. I opted for a cheeseburger with fries and fry sauce.

Once we had our orders and were seated, I continued with my questions.

"Does Scott even hang out with anyone from Skyline now that he's at IF?"

"When we were friends he didn't. I don't think much has changed." Skylee said as she dipped her fry in her frosty shake.

"Who does he hang out with now?"

Skylee instantly gave Lacey this 'look' and Lacey began giggling.

"His best friend is Cade Hendricks...someone that Lacey has kind of been seeing." Skylee began explaining. My face instantly froze.

"He's really hot. He's on the football team with Scott." Lacey said dreamily.

I sighed. I knew Cade. I've also had the privilege of observing him since elementary school. He is a complete jock...playing a sport every season and he can be sort of an idiot when he gets carried away with his friends. And now I find out he is coincidentally Scott's best friend? And here we have this triangle of Skylee having liked Scott, then Scott going for Lacey, and now Lacey with Scott's best friend and now Scott acting all overly nice to me?! This was just getting better and better.

After every possible question I could think of asking the girls, I really didn't find out much new information about Scott Hall. It was pretty redundant on what I knew.

Later, around the middle of fourth hour, I felt so overwhelmed with my all my thoughts; I almost felt I was going to have a panic attack. I asked for a drinking fountain break and took a long walk to the opposite end of the school to go to the furthest fountain I knew of.

Notes to reader from author (Kara):originally Claire had a vision at this point of the book as she went to get her drink of water. It involved something confusing, having to do with the far future...something that ties in with what is about to happen to her...It hinted of what has happened to her so far with the necklace. It was deleted for editing purposes and is being worked on being rewritten. Anway, to fill you in: she has the vision and then suddenly snaps out of it as she’s now standing in the hallway with the vice principal, Mr. Miller who is asking her what she’s doing in the hallway, just standing there wasting time.

"I uh...came out to get some water and got I am just here trying to regain my composure." I lied.

"You look sick. You're a good student and are always ahead of your studies....-you want to go home?" Mr. Miller asked. "Or do you want to go see the nurse?"

"I think I'll opt to go home." I said swallowing again.

"I'll mark and excuse your absence for the rest of the day. You better go straight home and get better." Mr. Miller said with a chuckle. He was a very cool teacher.

I feigned a smile and automatically let my feet do the leading. Before I knew it I made my way out to the old pee green truck. The engine came alive and I left for home.

It seems like that phone call to Judy would come sooner than expected without such hard effort.

Chapter 8

Walking in the front door, I was faced with the basement for a second time. I only gave it a split second thought and made a 'no' decision once again.

I grabbed grandma's address book and the cordless phone.

I curled up next to the living room fireplace like a cat and took a deep breath.

I dialed Aunt Judy's number and began chewing my lip because I was so nervous.

It rang at least seven times. Right as I was ready to hang up, Judy answered. Her tone was different than usual.

"Hello?" She said softly.

"Aunt Judy?.........It's Claire." I said, breathing a bit of hesitation.

"Go ahead. I can talk. I have been waiting for this phone call for nearly 35 years."

I just about peed my pants when she dropped that sentence.

I suddenly began to speak but my mouth kept spitting out only starter words like, "Why", "How", "I" and so forth.

She quickly intervened to get to the point.

"Did you find it?"

"The necklace?"

"Are you wearing it?" Her words were a little on edge.

"Yes....wait? So is it all true???" I stammered.

"Get bundled up and go outside between Jim Franklin's house and grandma's, out of sight from the far as the phone will let you go."

"But it's freezing outside!" I protested, looking into the cozy fire. "I thought I was nuts... you want me to have hypothermia!" I declared.

She lowered her voice. "I assume that you had some bad feelings when you found that chest in the basement ...correct? If you don't go outside, it will hear you and I talking."

The hair on the back of my neck stood up again. That horrible awful feeling was quickly remembered without argument.

I have only ever heard her speak this tone once before when I was younger and that was to grandma when my parents were having problems.

"Ok. Hold on a minute." I said.

I went and layered up, throwing on anything I could find as fast as I could. I even grabbed a quilt off my bed and wrapped it around me.

A little out of breath, I picked up the phone again and updated her as I went.

Once I was standing in snow up to my knees between my house and the neighbor's house, the questions built up inside me like a volcano and I had every bit of courage I needed to begin unraveling this mysterious situation...except that she beat me to it and shushed me , so I'd listen.

Judy took a deep breath.

"You have chosen to be the next caretaker of the necklace. You must do everything in your power, including possibly sacrificing your own life, to save the lives of others in order to keep the necklace out of Hephaestus and his people's possession." She explained in a very somber tone.

"Who?" I suddenly spoke out.

"Hephaestus." –

"Heh-what?" I ignorantly asked again.

"Heh-faye-stuss...." She repeated somewhat annoyed I wasn't catching on so quickly.

"We'll practice saying the name later. But we have to hurry. We have a lot of ground to cover... Anyway, Hephaestus is a god who is on the 'Evil' side. Originally, he made a necklace that housed a very precious and powerful stone. Part of that stone is currently in your necklace that you are wearing.

"Huh?" I said confused as I looked down at my pendent.

She continued on, paying no attention to me being lost in her complicated explanation.

And she didn't even give me room to butt in.

"Here is why the necklace is so important." She began; "Four hundred thousand years ago, there were these two gods who were in their second life, creating worlds and galaxies and principalities above and beyond their desire." Judy continued without a pause; "So you have Hephaestus and Ares who own and created this stone of Eternity....basically a rock a little bit bigger than a baseball. So think of Ares and Hephaestus owning 50/50 on some kind of stock on Wall Street to get an idea of how they shared the stone." Judy said in a somewhat lighter voice, trying to help me understand the concept of the storyline.

"Originally, Hephaestus was married to a goddess named Aphrodite, but Aphrodite cheated on Hephaestus with Ares. Thus from the love affair, Ares and Aphrodite produced a goddess daughter named Harmonia.

"Hephaestus was furious about everything. And unlike most other gods, Hephaestus was known as being lame. This, of course, gave him a grotesque appearance in the other Gods and Goddesses eyes. Because he was lame to begin with and became even worse after the love affair, Hephaestus's mother Hera threw him out of heaven in disgust, and he became even more bitter. Although he would perpetually own his rightful half of the stone, he was outnumbered by the god's and goddesses who stood behind Ares and therefore was not allowed to take with him his share because of the 'rule'. The rule being that the stone would always have to remain with the greater good, but no matter what, his share will always be his share.

"Because of Hephaestus's bitterness, he secretly cursed his half of the stone, so that all who possessed it once it was passed as a gift, would be brought misfortune and evil temptations."

"What a freaking jerk!" I blurted out. Judy went silent, not even amused at the fact that I was literally getting into the heart of this story. I went dead silent, my face blushing a bit from embarrassment.

"Anyway, the stone was kept in the same place- suspended above a beautiful fountain that was the center of heaven until one day, when Harmonia had grown into a beautiful woman and was taking Cadmus's hand in marriage. Cadmus is a God-Prince and owned cities and such. The marriage was pretty much an arranged one.

"Because Cadmus was marrying Are's daughter, him and Ares figured it proper to give Harmonia the powerful stone in the form of a beautiful necklace as an exquisite wedding gift made by Hephaestus.

Remember, her father is Ares, literally King. This marriage event was not your average happening. It was a once in a lifetime thing.

Hephaestus knew this day would come, therefore he told no other being about the curse so that until that moment when the necklace was put upon Harmonia, no one knew of his evil plan. This necklace is forever known as 'The Necklace of Harmonia'."

Cadmus and Ares lived to regret giving Harmonia this prized possession because their family was overtaken by extreme misfortunes, and their city by civil unrest. The precious stone that this necklace cradled is what contain the good and evil powers.

After the misfortunes Harmonia's family had to endure, she took the stone in the necklace and had it cut up and placed into different pieces of jewelry in order to break-up the evil that it held. By turning the one stone into many stones - the stones now only held a fraction of the power, and could then reside in this world 'harmoniously'. Although, each stone still contained different powers..."

"What kind of powers?" I butted in.

"I don't know what kind of powers the other pieces of jewelry have, but the one contained in the necklace you found has the power to protect itself and its caretaker with the elements of fire and ice." She answered.

"How can it possibly do that?" I asked

"That information will come to you soon enough." she answered quickly and then continued on; "Most of the pieces of jewelry were separated and given to people that have integrity, virtue and are genuine. The curse was also discovered that it can only be passed on to members of the same bloodline."

"Okay- so because we're related with you being my aunt and me being your niece, I was the next to receive it?"

"Right." Judy answered back.

"So who had it before you? Was it also your aunt, which would have been great grandma Annaliese or great grandma Ivy?"

"I can't tell you that. It would give away the next caretaker the necklace is to go to."

"But wait- I'm part of the 'secret club' now...why can't I know?"

"DO NOT refer to this as a 'secret club', do you understand me!?" Judy growled in the meanest dirtiest tone I've ever witnessed.

"Each caretaker is only allowed to know of the caretaker before them. We vow to pass on the necessary teachings and guidance for them to understand their responsibility. Then, when the next caretaker has been chosen, only the current caretaker can be aware of who it is shortly before the decision has been made and the responsibility is again passed and your vow begins in helping them."

I was confused. I kept my mouth shut though.

Judy continued; "However, a few pieces of the precious stone jewelry were stolen by the God Hephaestus. He was able to do so because of the circumstances Harmonia unknowingly placed when splitting up the great stone. Once the one stone was divided, each piece took on a modified rule. They will always belong to the two original creators- Ares, and Hephaestus. But because they were given to Harmonia, and then she gave them to others, they can be stolen and belong individually to one god if he tries hard enough to obtain them all. Ares has no reason to keep the pieces for himself on an individual level but Hapheastus desires in such dark ways to destroy all creations he helped put everything under his foot, leaving him the one and only God in charge. This is his idea of revenge against Hera, against Ares, against Aphrodite....

"Hephaestus's followers have been on a mission since then to reunite all the pieces to gain all the power of the original necklace. They do so by feeding on our mistakes. If one caretaker begins to lose even the slightest of their integrity, virtue or genuine traits , not just that person takes the fall- all of us previous caretakers take the fall, too. It makes us more vulnerable in being eliminated entirely from the game. But remember, this isn't a game. It's a war that has been raged for centuries. This is why it is important to understand that you MUST keep that necklace and yourself safe. If you happen to be killed, depending on whether or not you sacrificed your life for good or bad purposes for the power of the necklace, Hephaestus's evil followers will be able to slip in and take your necklace....and again- especially if you choose a selfish sacrifice. Thus he will be one step closer to having total power." she explained.

There was nothing but dead silence between us. Was I really hearing this bologna?

The cold wind sort of brought me back to realizing I was standing out in the snow on the phone talking about a soap opera of gods, goddesses, good and evil, a magical necklace and a bunch of rocks.

"Ummm......Yeah...." I said awkwardly, finally realizing how unreal all this sounded.

"Are you sure this is real?" I asked, hoping with every might that she was full of crap.

"Yes this is very real, and very serious. Evil can, and has, morphed over the years. It has become smarter in trying to gain the necklace and other jewelry for its own selfish purposes. When it does surface again and make its next strike, all of us caretakers, old and new, band together with the knowledge and experience that we have and quickly put out the fire. Oh, something else...You won't have to deal with this alone. There will be a protector assigned to you that will not only guard and defend you, but give you more information along your journey."

"Who is my protector??" I eagerly asked.

"I'm not sure. You will find that out soon enough as well." she answered quickly, almost like someone had walked into the room.

"Aunt Judy? Is everything ok?" I asked her

"Yeah I have to go soon, though . Greg just got home from work and he thinks I have gone for a walk."

"Ok, seriously- this isn't really real?" I said, going back to being incredibly doubtful.

"It's not nonsense, Claire." Judy shot back. "And I don't mind helping you. I just haven't slept well in the past few days because I have had a nagging feeling that something has been happening with the necklace."

"Really?" I asked her.

"Yes. You are also meant to learn most of the information about what you must do by your experiences with the chest and necklace. Anyway, you are hard headed and have to learn things that way anyhow, right?"

"Yeah....but usually it has nothing to do with risking my life..." I stated.

"Yeah, I know." She laughed. "You would be amazed at what you can survive." She replied. "Do you have any questions?"

"Uh...." It's like my mind had had indeed gone blank and I wasn't prepared to ask her anymore questions now. I couldn't remember all that I had rehearsed again and again last night. After all I'd heard, I half expected her to tell me everything else if there was an everything else part.

And then the questions began firing.

"When did you get the chest?"

"I was sixteen. It was January, shortly after my birthday." Her answers were short and to the point.

" long did you have to care for it?...Like as in wearing it?"

"Until I was 24....given that I just had my first child."

I counted silently on my fingers like a third grader. Math was never my best.

"I have to wear this necklace for almost a decade?" I faltered.

"Just say it is your favorite. That's what I did. And technically, I have had this for almost forty years. You get to 'somewhat' take care of it in its hibernation process- which is how you found it in the chest...not having been around anyone else's neck, safe and locked away from evil."

"So why can't it just stay in the chest, all safe and 'locked away from evil'?" I asked using quotation signs with my fingers even though she wasn't there to see my hand gestures.

"Because nosy people like you go digging around in other people's things." She snapped.

It was true. I had been caught red handed. My face flushed crimson.

"I plead the fifth." I muttered. She laughed a small laugh.

"Ok...what about the thing lurking in the basement? What's that all about? Am I going to be safe?!" I demanded.

"You're perfectly safe. The basement was an accident by your mom and Uncle Dennis. They were playing with the Ouija board and happened to open a 'doorway' I guess you could call it to a sect of evil. In a way, it can sense the power of the necklace."

"A what?!"

"An Ouija board." She answered.

"No, the thing after that."

"A doorway. So when you use powers that the necklace has given you"-

"I don't have any that normal? Is there something wrong with me? Am I supposed to get powers?" I interrupted, panicking a little.

"You will slowly gain your powers...maybe soon, maybe it will take time. Everyone is different. Anyway.."

"The Ouija board isn't still down there somewhere, is it?" I asked as I gulped nervously.

"No. It's been gone for years. But, the fact it was used, was just bad to begin with and has never been a good thing.

To some, the quija board is a dangerous item which, when not properly used, can cause an opening from the spiritual world to our world and allow malevolent spirits (at worst) enter through. Some believe that this board can be used to communicate with the dead or the spiritual world. You know perfectly well many have enjoyed playing with the board as an entertaining game to mess with friends or whoever. Whatever one believes, it is definitely something that has been in existence in some form for many years. There is something resembling a Quiji board that was found in China around 1200 B.C., known as fuji "planchette writing". Many other cultures had something similar they used for many reasons, such as predicting the future, announcing answers from gods or goddesses, etc. The board most know about today contains letters, numbers, 'yes' and 'no', or some have 'farewell' to close the quiji session. An item of some sort, almost like a pointer, is held by those who wish to use the board, and it is believed that the pointer will point towards an answer, letter, or number in which is told that a spirit moves to answer those who are asking the questions. There have been reports of stories or claims that after playing with the quiji, the place where the game was performed became haunted by whatever made its way through from the otherside." She explained in great detail. I didn't talk back to her that I already knew most of what an oujii board was, but I didn't want to piss her off.

"When you do receive your powers- you need to be mindful of when and where you use them. When you choose to use your powers, make sure things 'feel' safe. Do you understand?"

"So I only use them when I don't have that creepy feeling on the back of my neck?"


"Do I have to hide the necklace?" I asked jumping topics.

"No. Just wear it like any other piece of jewelry. If anyone asks to borrow it or try it on, explain that it's a family heirloom and you just received it as a gift from your great grandmother. It's very, very, very old and you don't want it to break. You'll be heartbroken if that happens."

I nodded. What a great cover. Why didn't I think of that?

"Can I ...tell Skylee?" I paused unsure.


"But"- I began.

"There are no buts' when it comes to life and death. You must keep it from her to protect her. If you love her, you will do what you have to in order to keep her safe."

I was heartbroken just at the thought of that- of keeping something so serious from my very best friend, my confidant, my support all these years.

Anger washed over me. This was a curse. The goddess in the dream wasn't kidding. This was serious and it would have been ok to say no. Why didn't I say no?!

"Is there any way to destroy the necklace?"

"What? Why would you think of such a thing? Do you want to get rid of it?"

"No...I don't want to get rid of it.... I just was curious if there is some way of it destroying itself in case I am attacked by Evil. You know- just an extra measure of safety?"

"You know....I've never thought about that." Judy answered me in her perplexed voice.

"Well isn't there some way we can find out?"

"'s not that easy. But...Hmm...Well, maybe I could do something. Tell you what- I will see what I can do and then I'll get back to you on that. It might take me a couple of weeks, though. Sound good?"

"Yeah. Hey- what is your power?" I asked being nosey. At the same time in my head I was repeating the question and thinking how stupid and weird it sounded. I mean- you don't just walk up to anybody and ask that kind of a question!

"Well......" She paused for quite a few seconds while I anxiously listened.

"You know, I don't know if I am allowed to tell you....just yet."

My face instantly wrinkled in an offended and bemused reaction.

"But why?" I spit out.

"Because it might affect what you get. We don't want you dwelling on what someone else had and being upset if you don't receive the same thing or things. Yeah I don"-

"Wait a minute- you had more than one power?" I said cutting her short again.

"No, I never said that. But I did say that caretakers can have more than one power."

"Oh." I said monotone as my mind raced through various thoughts.

"What do I do if grandma and grandpa ask about me wearing the necklace since you also wore it such a long time ago?" I solicited.

"The necklace has an ambience to it that whoever has been involved in seeing it before in another generation- they will forget and upon seeing it the second, third, fourth and fifth time- it will be as though it is their first. It covers enough generations so that pretty much after a hundred years, you're safe from those who saw it so long ago because they’ve died."



I looked at my watch. I needed to get in the house before Trinity got home from class and found me standing outside in the snow talking on the phone.

"You know, I had like 50 questions I was going to ask you and yet I can only remember the small handful I've covered tonight." I said with a small laugh. "But I do need to get going before Trinity comes home from her midday school class."

Aunt Judy gave a small laugh, too. "Hopefully I have answered most of your questions then?"

"Hopefully." I answered her back. Oh, hey- does he know? Uncle Greg" I asked.

"He has his theories...but he has no idea what I know and I haven't admitted or denied anything. I have let his imagination run rampant. He's always thought of it as my side hobby of some sort...or some fantasy thing I can't let go from my childhood."


"One last thing- why --- why is everyone pissed off at me like I'm some nuisance?" I blurted out.

"You're NEW. Ok, I have to go. Good luck. Contact me through your thoughts next time. It's cheaper and grandma won't notice it on next month's phone statement bill." And with that she hung up.

I was stunned. "Contact her with my thoughts?" I repeated. Maybe that is going to be my power?...or wait...she had said all previous care takers have the inter-connected ability to talk with one another....

And NEW? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Maybe because I'm new and they don't know if they can trust me? Oh, good brain is fried.

I sighed and trudged back into the house, this time going through the garage. I wanted so badly to have the answers...the right ones at least.

I hurried into the house and had a new found courage to take on and face whatever was in the basement. It was a great time to deal with it, now that I had a better, more general idea of things.

Normally, I would call Skylee and talk things through with her, but I had to stay silent on this. I loved her too much and couldn't take any risks.

If she ever did find out, she'd understand...hopefully over time.

As I shut the house garage door behind me, there, facing in front of me, once again, was the stairs to the basement. I realized I hadn't gone down there since I originally stumbled upon everything on Saturday.

I stood there for a few minutes at the top of the stairs and just listened to the slightest hum of electricity. The afternoon daylight was fading....the evening darkness setting in and the basement was nothing but a black hole. I was actually kind of scared to go down the stairs but the nagging feeling of wanting to see the outside of the larger chest was immense but the other half of me was warning me not to go because Trinity would be home in about ten minutes. I couldn't risk getting caught snooping around.

"Screw it." I said as I began descending down the stairs. I made sure that I turned on every possible light as I went. Within mere seconds I was in the room where the larger chest stayed and my hand went immediately to my necklace and I noticed it felt cold. How odd, I thought as my heart started to beat a little faster.

I forced my feet to obey my goal and I tried my hardest to ignore my feelings of uncertainty. I made my way around the piles of stuff and followed the little pathway to the far wall where all the clothes hung on the makeshift rack. The chest still sat where I remember leaving it, with my handprints on its outer layer of dust.

My hands reached further into the darkness underneath some clothes that had dry cleaning plastic protecting them and I pulled at the back of the chest, out from underneath the clothes rack.

I wanted to be able to see the entire chest- the front, the back and the sides. It creaked and literally moaned as I pulled on it. The sound it made as it scooted across the cement floor was unforgiving. I suddenly became scared as though I was going to wake the dead and they would come and find me and eat my brains out or something morbid like that. The hair on the back of my neck even stood up. Since it had originally been backwards with the padlock side facing the wall, I put all my weight into turning it around.

Once I had it the right direction, I quickly analyzed the moment and then changed positions so that I was pushing it forward instead of pulling it which seemed to use less energy. It slid a little bit smoother but it was still difficult.

Upon accomplishing the feat of pulling the heavy beast forward enough; I realized how much dust I rubbed off onto me from the garments on the clothes rack. I sneezed once, then twice. Finally after wrinkling my nose and using the inside of my upper arm to itch my face, I was ready to inspect the large rectangle of such elaborate and complex carvings.

In a squat position in order to be eye level with the chest, I traced over the lines with my dirty, dust coated fingers. The rushing feelings I had now compared to my first encounter with this chest were immeasurable. This time, I actually had an idea of what lay before me, what I was feeling beneath my fingertips. It almost seemed like a dull tickle of electricity was traveling from the chest through my fingers and into my body. It was exhilarating and intense.

I kind of pulled my neck backwards to get an overall look at the front of the chest. Unsatisfied, I stood up and stepped backwards about five feet which wasn't very easy considering the treasures and junk piles around me.

The picture I saw was just like that of a little girl's fairy tale. There was a knight leading a unicorn with the most beautiful Princess or Damsel riding the horse. My imagination kicked into motion without delay, helping me to see color instead of the dusty brown wood.

The Princess's hair was extremely long and wavy and to me it was deep reddish brown. Her dress was the profound cobalt blue with gold stitching... Scott's eyes instantly came to mind as I doted on the blue color.

The Knight was leading her up a mountain where at the very top stairs led into the heavens where Gods and Goddesses sat on thrones awaiting their arrival. The heavens covered the whole entire lid of the chest.

My eyes darted back to the princess and I realized she was wearing my necklace. She also had a ring, earrings, a bracelet, a hair comb, a brooch, and an ankle bracelet all like my piece of jewelry. The snowflake design was so tiny on each piece that it made sense why it had taken me a moment to recognize they were even there.

Hmm... So does that mean there are six other people out there like me in this same situation?

As I inspected the rest of the chest, I discovered the back side had five lines of a written message in the strange language I noted the first time upon seeing the largest chest. The engravings on the lock matched some of the carved characters on the backside. I bit my lip and flared my nostrils in slight anger that I did not have the answer as to what this strange language read. Was it a warning? Was it advice? Was it the names of the previous caretakers in the language of 'The Higher Powers'? Was it a message from the goddess in my dreams?

The upstairs front door suddenly slammed shut.

"Crap!" I squeaked. I needed a sheet or a blanket. I needed something! I jumped to my feet and searched frantically for anything to drape over the chest in order to hide it. The closest thing I could find was an old winter coat sitting in a box not far from where I stood and underneath that was an aged, ugly graduation gown. I tossed them both over the dusty wooden rectangle and quickly put some things in its pathway so that no one would be tempted to go to that side of the room.

Footsteps upstairs in the kitchen could be heard as I raced around the basement turning off lights. I finally hid in another room near the stairs that I knew no one would come looking for anything....especially me.

I waited. A few minutes passed. I waited at least another ten minutes. Finally Trinity came downstairs and went to her room. She shut the door and I could hear that she had turned on her bedroom wall heater. I quickly and quietly tiptoed around to the stairs and crept up them.

I casually went into the kitchen trying to figure out what to feed my growling stomach since it was late afternoon.

I sighed heavily and pulled out the one favorite pot that Trinity and I used to cook our angel hair pasta.

I went about making my usual spaghetti meal, 'The Seth Green Supreme'. It consists of freshly diced tomatoes, a bit of garlic salt, some olive oil and parmesan cheese. Skylee and I made it for the first time many years ago while we were watching a movie with Seth Green, which now instantly makes me think of Sean with his red, short, spiky hair.

Why couldn't I get him out of my head and forget about him? He's a 'bad boy' by society's standards. .I've never become attached to any of the other guys I've met through Lacey and Skylee like I have him....So why? Why him? Am I seriously just that obsessed about guys with red hair? I wonder if he's forgotten about me?

I finished making my meal with extras for later and sat at the counter and chewed vigorously while flipping through today's newspaper, trying to take my mind off of red haired guys- Sean in particular.

It would have been an average Monday except for yesterday's snowstorm. The paper was plastered in snow related articles and pictures of Sunday's wrath of weather.

Once I had finished and taken care of all my dishes, I went into my bedroom to try and sleep all this craziness off with a good nap. Instead it ended up the exact opposite with me wide awake, literally tossing and turning to block out the thoughts, the questions, basically what I call 'lists'. There's just so damn many things that go through my head, that they pile up like a grocery list... or a honey-do get the point.

After a couple hours of seriously laying there and trying to sort out my mental 'road pile up mess' my stomach was growling again and therefore I said "screw the nap" and left my bedroom.

Over the next 45 minutes, I busied myself in the kitchen making dinner with the radio up pretty loud and me trying to sing and dance as I cooked. And trust me....I don't sing or dance very well. This shows how desperately I wanted all this out of my head for at least an hour or two.

I greeted the grandparents that night and had dinner ready for them once they arrived home. They were grateful for an already prepared warm meal. Trinity this time had no questions about anything being different with me and I pretty much kept quiet and just quickly ate and then excused myself from the table. Since I made dinner, I knew I didn't have to do clean up.

I went straight for the bathtub and took a long hot bath while I thought about the day and my run-in with Scott. So strange that everyone else had this negative view of him but the way he acted towards me seemed almost "protective". I pondered until my skin had pruned like a raisin in the bath water. I then got out and put on some pajamas and headed to bed.