Immortal Reborn - Arianna's Choice, page 6
It was on a hot, humid night there in Egypt that Alexandria, then only eight, learned her life would take a drastically different path than the one which she thought lay before her. She was lying in her bed, reading The Chronicles of Narnia, when she noticed the air off to the left side of her bed begin to shimmer. She felt the familiar tightening in her chest and shortness of breath that came when she knew her world was about to shift.
Not taking her eyes off of the air, Alex carefully laid her book down on the bed and placed her hands on either side of her so that she could push herself into an upright position slowly. When she was two or three, she would have called for Wallace and Conner – even her parents – but not anymore. She tensed all over and tried to ready herself.
A soft hush came over the room. Alexandria could not hear the sounds on the street near the house her family rented, nor could she hear the clock ticking on her bedside table anymore. Her heart sounded loud enough in her ears to wake anyone in the house, but she knew no one else could hear her distress.
The air seemed to move in waves now around the room, almost as if it were water moving along a shoreline. It was not moving any objects around the room, only congealing and coalescing into something far thicker than air should be. Alexandria had never seen the atmosphere become so charged, and she wondered if it would feel any different to touch. Hesitantly, she reached out her left arm and let her fingers skim the edge of the nearest swirl.
Instantly, her body was thrown back on the bed, and she found that, in her mind, she was no longer on the bed, but standing on a beach looking up at a sky filled with stars. She drew in a long, shaky breath and saw it puff out in front of her face as she exhaled. Turning completely around, Alexandria beheld no lights from civilization in any direction. The sounds of the waves lapping and night birds competing to be heard over a din of insects were the only ones her ears could detect. Rather than just wait to see what was coming, she felt compelled to speak.
“Hello,” Alex called out tentatively, wary of how shaky and magnified her voice sounded.
Though she perceived no new sound, Alexandria knew without a doubt that if she turned around again, she would see someone standing right behind her.
“Don’t be a coward,” she thought to herself. “Just turn around and face this.”
To her surprise, a warm, melodious laugh filled the air around her, stripping away Alex’s fear. The laugh manifested itself into a voice that instantly reassured and welcomed her.
“Oh, Alexandria! You have never been, nor will you ever be, a coward,” said a man’s voice.
She turned and found herself staring up into eyes so vivid and blue that they almost seemed clear. A face of perfection smiled down at her with distinct dimples and curly locks of golden hair.
“Quite the contrary, my dear,” he said. “You are more powerful and formidable than any warrior who has ever lived. I do not think that your character would ever allow you to run from any challenge you encounter. You are, in the simplest of terms, extraordinary.”
Alexandria was stunned, and after opening and closing her mouth several times, she could not help but speak the thoughts that were burning their way through her mind.
“You can see me? And you can hear my thoughts? But how? No one has ever noticed me before?”
“Well,” chuckled the stranger, “I sincerely doubt that anyone has ever failed to notice you. I am quite certain that you are frequently noticed and the topic of much discussion.”
At this last comment, Alexandria’s cheeks flamed scarlet, and she lowered her eyes. She knew that people whispered about her constantly, and she noticed complete strangers openly gawking at her far too frequently for her own sense of comfort. Alex knew that she had nothing to be embarrassed about, but she still felt tears pricking her eyes despite her desire to keep them at bay.
The golden man stepped forward and placed a finger delicately under her chin. Then, ever so gently, he raised her young, wounded eyes up to meet his. In a voice that seemed barely above a whisper, he said, “No, no, sweet child. I am not making fun of you in any way. If my words seemed too sharp, I most humbly apologize.”
“You must know that most people find you to be such an enchanting and beautiful child that they are in awe just a bit. But I do not think that they find you lacking in any way.”
“Thank you, sir,” Alexandria breathed out as she cleared her throat.
“Let us sit for a while, shall we?” the stranger asked, and when she nodded her agreement, the two walked over to a large piece of driftwood that lay beached on its side.
At first, Alexandria looked to the stars for some small reassurance that there was still something familiar and known about the place in which she now found herself, but beyond that, she could not stop herself from turning to concentrate completely on the gentleman at her side. She had been taught again and again not to talk to strangers, and she certainly knew that she was never to leave with an unknown adult. But Alex wondered if those same rules of safety, which her parents and brothers had drilled into her time and time again, applied in a world apart from her own. She had never had reason to consider it before that night.
The golden-haired man was also looking up at the stars, but a slow smile spread across his face.
“Alexandria, I can promise you on my life and all that I hold dear that you are in no danger from me. Not on this night, nor on any other.”
He slowly turned his head down to gaze at her, and she knew within her very core that this man would never harm a hair on her head. She was very safe, and though Alex could not explain it, she even felt love emanating from him.
“I forgot that you can hear my thoughts,” she said. Scrunching up her nose and shaking her head at him, Alex asked, “How are you doing that?”
He laughed, and the sound pealed gently across the air between them.
“You can do it too, you know. I am surprised that you have not started reading my thoughts to find out the answers to all of those questions racing around in that little head of yours. Why don’t you give it a try? See if you can tell me my name, little one,” he encouraged her.
“You’re joking, right? I cannot really read your mind,” scoffed Alexandria.
“Oh yes, my dear, you most certainly can. It is a talent not easily mastered, but one that I think you will find comes with relative ease to you. Go on, concentrate. What is my name?” he pressed gently.
Alexandria slowly pulled the salty air into her lungs and stared into the man’s warm eyes. She began to hear and feel a pulsing within her ears and, at first, she thought that it was her heartbeat echoing too loudly. But then Alex became aware of the difference in the new pulse from her own. She was hearing his heartbeat and feeling the rhythm. Her breath began to keep time with his body’s current, and she started to feel pulled in by that flow.
Alex could sense the fact that he was slightly hungry, and that the hairs on his arms were beginning to rise. She knew that his left ear itched and that he wanted to scratch it, but that he dared not lest he interrupt her concentration. His eyes seemed to urge her onward, and Alex felt her mind reach out like a slowly twirling ribbon. It gradually snaked away from her and found a similar ribbon of thoughts within him which hers could travel along.
She gasped as her stream of consciousness began to flow along his. Alex saw him walking with a billowing robe and sandals on along a road that looked quite ancient, pausing to look back at her with his hand outstretched. Then she caught a glimpse of him by a doorway to a small, thatched home in a lush, wooded area beckoning her inside. Finally, she heard a woman’s voice call out to him that their evening meal was prepared and laugh as he scooped her up for a kiss. She whispered, “Ganymede,” as he held her.
Alexandria pulled back, and shock flooded her system. She was panting as if she had just run a race with Wallace and Conner, but the man was still smiling down at her with no sign of exertion whatso
“You’re Ganymede?” Alexandria asked, almost reverently. She reached up to push her long, golden hair out of her eyes.
He slowly nodded his agreement.
“Very good, Alexandria. I am indeed Ganymede, and I must say that I am quite impressed. You took a very direct route to ferret out the information you needed. You did not waver, only traveled along a memory strand of mine until you ended with what you sought. In fact, you accomplished that little task so quickly that it makes me wonder.”
“Wonder what?” asked Alexandria pensively.
“Wonder why you have not tried that before,” replied Ganymede. “Have you never once taken a peek inside someone’s thoughts to hear what they were contemplating? Never once been tempted?”
Alexandria would have thought that he was joking had she not just plucked information directly from his mind and felt the accompanying sensations of capturing that information.
“No, sir,” she said, shaking her head to confirm her innocence. “I’ve never even known that any of this was possible!”
He tilted his head to the side and furrowed his brow at her.
“Any of what, dear one?” he asked.
“Any of what’s been happening tonight,” breathed Alexandria. “I have never talked to anyone in any scene from the past I’ve been trapped in, and I have never, ever listened in on someone’s thoughts. That would be wrong, wouldn’t it?” asked Alexandria, not knowing if she was giving him the answer that he sought, but hoping that the truth was the correct path to take with Ganymede.
And for just a moment, she saw a twinge of sadness in his eyes as he refocused on her face.
“I am sorry that the remembrances make you feel trapped, Alexandria. Although, now that I think of it from your perspective, I am sure that you have been very afraid on occasion haven’t you?” As he asked this, Ganymede reached out one hand to her, offering her his open palm. She laid her hand in his and felt warmth spreading quickly from his hand into her arm, then chest, and before she could draw another breath, the feeling had spread to her toes. Her eyes widened at the sudden contentment she felt.
“Thank you for letting me comfort you, little one. I know that this is a most unusual night for you,” he said, letting his eyes roam over her face.
Alexandria slowly took her hand from his and, feeling less alone in all the madness she had experienced in her short years, she asked, “Are you my guardian angel, then?”
Ganymede chuckled. “Something like that, Alexandria. Something very much like that indeed.”
He looked at her with the same love and sadness that she sometimes glimpsed in her own parents’ eyes when they did not realize that she was watching them talk about her. Though they cherished their daughter, they were uncertain of her future in the world, and they worked diligently to shield her as much as possible.
Alexandria had become so accustomed to holding everything in that she was actually eager to continue her conversation with Ganymede, even if he was just a figment of her imagination. Funny, she thought, that the one person who would understand was someone only she could see.
“Are you here to help me with the things that I see?” she asked, praying that he could relieve the fear and anxiety she lived with each moment of each and every day.
Ganymede looked back up to the stars as if they would give him the right answer. “Yes, Alexandria, I am here to help you. Though not in the way you mean. I can give you a choice tonight, and you must think long and hard before you make it, my dear.”
“A choice?” She held her breath, afraid to wish for the impossible. But Ganymede could read her silent pleas, and again Alex noted the twinge of sadness in his eyes as he looked at her.
“Yes,” he breathed out as if it cost him something to speak the words to her. “You can choose to be just as you are today, a young girl, maturing, who will continue to learn and grow into the abilities that are meant just for you; or you can choose to put those gifts to the side for a time and live without them.”
At first, all Alexandria heard was that she could lay down the burden of seeing into the past and be like her brothers, untroubled and carefree. She could go to a real school with other children, and not have tutors keeping her sheltered at home. Her parents would not have to worry about when and where she would lose her focus and try to explain the odd occurrence away as seizures or epilepsy.
“Normal,” she thought to herself. “I could just be a normal kid!” But slowly, the latter part of Ganymede’s offer filtered into her thoughts. “For a time,” he had said. Rather than speak aloud, Alexandria simply thought her question while pointedly looking into Ganymede’s eyes.
“If I take a break from all of this, when do I have to start again? Will I have a choice, or will it suddenly hit me when I am in a school surrounded by other children, or a public place with people all around?” she asked him within her mind.
Ganymede shook his head and said, “You will never have to do anything that you do not want to do, Alexandria. But taking away a vital part of who you are does not come easily, and it can only be held at bay for so long. Imagine, for a moment, that I told you I was going to take away Wallace’s mischievousness or Conner’s inquisitiveness – their exuberance for life. Can you picture the lads they would be without those traits?”
The thought of her brothers altered thusly made Alexandria shiver. She knew that without those qualities, both boys would have the light within dimmed to the point that she would not know them as her brothers anymore.
“No,” she spoke aloud sadly. “And I would be that different too if I could not see into the past, or look inside people’s thoughts?”
“Yes,” Ganymede shook his head, “you would seem very different to your family. Not so different that they would not love you or care for you, but they would always wonder what had changed and how that change had come about. But even their fears could be laid aside for a time if you so choose to have a respite from all that you are currently enduring. You would be letting part of you lie dormant for a time, but it would always be within because your abilities are truly a part of who you are, Alexandria,” Ganymede said gently as he reached forward and tucked a loose lock of hair behind her ear.
“Is it bad to say I want it to stop, even if only for a day?” she asked, hoping that her question was not making him think less of her or disappointing him.
Alex thought it odd that she wanted to please Ganymede so, having just met him, but she really did want to make him happy. And at that thought, he smiled widely at her with an internal light that she could feel vibrating all around her.
“As I should have told you before – you cannot disappoint me. I am very proud of you, Alexandria, and I know your answer now as well. You shall have a nice little rest from all the voices and faces that intrude upon your days until you are a little older and more prepared for what is to come. And,” he added, “more mature for a choice that you will be called upon to make. I must admit, though, I am worried that the time spent away from who you are will make it all the more difficult for you in the future. But I am willing to concede that you need a break. For now, at least.”
“Will you decide when my abilities come back or is that for me to choose?” asked Alexandria, hardly believing that this could be happening to her.
“That will be for us both to decide, in time. I will be watching and waiting until you are ready to begin again.” Ganymede reached out a hand and gently stroked her hair.
“Will I see you again?” she silently wondered as a feeling of lethargy and tiredness spread through her limbs.
“Indeed, my sweet Alexandria, we will meet again. But I think that I have tired you out enough for this evening, and I would be remiss if I kept you away from your home much longer. Close your eyes now and sleep, little one.”
And though sleep was pulling her under quite forcefully, Alexandria tried to keep her
Alexandria sat up and looked around her bedroom. It looked the same as always; her lamp was still burning brightly, and her novel remained turned face down on the bed beside her. Only the gauzy curtains moving with a slight breeze made the room feel animated by something unseen. Unexpectedly, the door to her room opened and her eldest brother, Wallace, stuck his head in.
“Hey, you okay in here? I thought that I heard you talking to someone,” he said, letting his eyes roam around the room to make sure she was alone and safe.
Alexandria tentatively stretched her legs out and smiled. “Yeah, Wallace, I’m good,” she said shakily. “I just had a strange dream, that’s all.”
He angled his head, studying her more intently now, and then walked over to the side of her bed and sat down.
“Wanna talk about it?” he asked, hoping to tease some information out of her. It had become much more difficult for Wallace or Conner to get details from Alexandria in the last few years, and though he was ten years her senior, he usually could not browbeat anything from her once she had decided to close down. But to his surprise, Alex nodded.
“Wallace, I know you won’t believe anything I’m about to say, but I think I’m free,” said Alexandria as she raised a shaky hand to push her hair out of her eyes. She gave him a smile that lit up her entire face, and he saw such a trusting look of joy in her eyes that he dared not make fun of her statement.
“Well, I think that I need a little more information to go on there, kiddo. Free in what way?” he asked.
“Free of everything!” cried Alexandria. “I visited with someone tonight who gave me a way out of seeing into the past all of the time, and I can just be like you and Conner now,” she gushed.
Try as he might to follow her train of thought, Wallace seized on the one bit of information that any big brother would.
“What exactly do you mean when you say you visited with someone? Would that be a male someone, and how did he get in here?” Wallace could feel himself tensing up, and he was ready to walk over to the windows to test the latches, but Alexandria stayed that action by reaching over and holding his hand.
“Wallace, look at me,” she said quietly. Just as Ganymede had predicted, her family would question the change and be alarmed. Her mind raced feverishly to find the words that would both calm and reassure her brother that all was well and would hopefully continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
“What I am telling you is true. I had a… well, I guess you could call it another vision. I was here the whole time, but somehow I went somewhere else.” Wallace’s face indicated that he was trying to believe her but having a hard time. “I met someone who I think is my guardian angel. He promised that, for a while, I can just be a normal kid. No echoes, no memories from another time or place… just the chance to be, well… me. I know it doesn’t sound real but, truthfully, has anything with me ever sounded real to you?” Alex smiled tentatively, hoping that Wallace could sense the faith and happiness she felt through her words.
Wallace let out a long, slow breath and shook his head. Then he started to chuckle. “Well, if you put it that way, I’ll concede that you saw someone that I couldn’t have. Heck, squirt, if you say he was here, I will back you all the way. He really told you that you have an escape clause from everything?” Wallace sounded as though he still needed a bit more to go on, but Alexandria simply nodded. Her smile said it all, and he exhaled as he nodded in return.
Wallace shifted his weight and stood beside Alex’s bed. He reached over and smoothed her hair off of her forehead, then leaned in to give her a goodnight kiss. When he straightened, he had his usual lopsided, mischievous grin in place. He walked over to the door of Alexandria’s bedroom and paused at the threshold before leaving.
Alexandria knew that he had something he wanted to say, and she giggled inside as she waited for one of her brother’s quirky or witty quips. But instead, Wallace looked around the room one last time, and then back at her before saying, “I love you, Alexandria. All of you. Remember that, okay, kiddo?”
“I will. I promise,” said Alexandria, smiling up at him.
The door closed behind Wallace, and Alex settled back on her pillows for what she hoped would be uneventful dreams and slumber.