She jolted awake, panting and sweating. Amber/Angeline reached over and rubbed her leg soothingly. “It’s okay,” she whispered, “We’re almost there.” Luna glanced terrified behind her. Trusting her mind was something long since past, and the thought of not seeing those angels behind her, that this was all a dream, made her feel as though her stomach had been filled with glass shards. There they were, slumped over in slumber. Lacey had her thumb in her mouth, as she always did.
Amber turned into an almost hidden driveway, surrounded by large pine trees. The sun was now fully abreast in the sky, and the clock confirmed it was just after 7:30. They pulled up to one of the largest mountain homes Luna had ever seen. It had to have at least 6 bedrooms, with an expansive wrap around deck. They each grabbed a sleeping girl, and walked to the large porch framed with rocking chairs. Luna was baffled at the dichotomy between the simple suburban home and the expansive mountain mansion. Amber must have sensed her confusion, sighed and shook her head.
“Dan had more than one life. The one with me covered up everything else. He is…was a very connected man…a very…he was not a good guy.” she stammered, tears welling in her eyes. Luna felt a familiar flash of anger, as she saw a tear slide against the fresh bruise on Amber’s face. “Let’s not talk about that piece of shit anymore.” Luna said brusquely, and Amber nodded in agreement. Inside, the home was breathtaking. Everything was a warm, rich wood, with a massive fireplace, and overstuffed seating. The kitchen housed every modern comfort and necessity and frankly appeared to have never been used. Amber gestured towards the stairs, to take the girls to bedrooms. As they climbed, Luna still marveling at the sheer size of the home, Laurie curled her arms around Luna’s neck. Luna immediately felt overwhelmed by love. In that split second, Luna questioned how she has been able to exist for any moment beyond when those girls were taken away. The pain of her past came rushing back to her with a tsunami force, and all of the air left her lungs.
Gasping, Luna put her head in her daughter’s hair and inhaled deeply, as tears flowed like rivers. “I love you baby, I love you, I’m so sorry…” she whispered as she placed her into a king size bed next to her sister. Amber asked Luna if she wanted to rest or chat. Looking at the deep circles under Amber’s eyes, Luna suggested that Amber go rest. She nodded, showed Luna her room, and told her she’d be just down the hall. Luna kissed her on the cheek, and Amber grabbed her face with both hands, “Thank you. Luna, you saved me.” Amber said fiercely. Luna smiled, kissed her forehead, and said, “I would not be so sure of that yet. It might be you who saves me…” They smiled sadly at one another, and Luna headed to the steps.
In the kitchen, Luna rooted around to find the fixings for a cup of tea. She was pleased to see how many supplies were already in the kitchen, and indulged herself for one moment to think everything was as it was supposed to be. It is rare for her to actually feel safe and comfortable, so she relished it. As the kettle was heating, she went to the car to retrieve her journal. She needed to understand both her nightmare, and what the angry man had said to her before falling asleep. Almost as if on queue, he began speaking. She was surprised at his soothing cadence, for once.
“You need to understand that, even though this is meant to be, you have to be careful.” he said. Continuing, “I love you, baby girl, but you make everything so much more difficult than it has to be. You need to start accepting your mind, or you will end up getting everyone killed.” Luna’s eyes widened in fear as her heart picked up speed. “What do you mean?” she said aloud, not concerned to be heard. “You still do not even know who I am. You have no idea.” Just then, the little boy’s voice chimed in. “Remember!” Luna closed her eyes, and the room transformed. She was in her bedroom, staring at her husband’s back. She kissed him, and rose to go check on the kids.
Walking through their hallway, she peered in at Lucas, sleeping on his stomach with his knees curled under his chest. He looked like a tiny ball of baby, and she smiled at the sight of him. He’d only recently started sleeping through the night, and her frail mind was grateful for any amount of consistent sleep. She peeked at the girls, who were snuggling together in Laurie’s bed. The light of the rising sun framed them like halos, and Luna allowed herself to feel how much love emanated from her babies. She went to the stairs to fix herself coffee. Looking at her phone, she was 3 missed calls from Aaron. She snuck outside to call him back, checking to make sure her husband was still asleep.
He answered on the first ring. “Luna, we need to talk. We need to talk now.” Luna sighed in frustration, “Aaron, you know he is home right now, so you know that is impossible.” Aaron grew insistent, “I want to see my son.” Luna’s heart sped up, “Aaron, please, not right now. I-”
“No, you stop, Luna. This is ridiculous. You know we were meant to be together. You are living a lie, and I can’t do this anymore!” Aaron interjected. “Aaron, he’s going to work in 2 hours, can this wait?”
“Fine, call me as soon as he leaves and I’m coming over.” Aaron hung up without saying goodbye.
Luna went in, started fixing coffee, and heard her husband’s footsteps on the stairs. She quickly inhaled and tried to erase her thoughts, paranoid he could read them. Her husband, Eric, was suspicious of her. This wasn’t new. Luna’s behavior is often erratic at best, and she was convinced that, if not for the kids, he would have left her a long time ago. As if reading her thoughts, Eric said brusquely, “We need to talk about the last few weeks. I don’t think you even remember what has been going on, do you?” Luna scanned her mind, apprehension creeping in. Eric continued before she could speak, “You are sleep walking again. I found you with your head inside the oven 2 nights ago. Last night, I slipped tranquilizers in your wine to see if it kept you in bed. I think it worked. Who is Aaron?” he asked stiffly. “I…I don’t..” Luna stammered, caught off guard. “When I pulled you out of the oven, you kept saying that Aaron needed you to do this.” Eric sighed, “It doesn’t matter. A few nights ago, you were outside naked in the bushes again. I just don’t know how much longer I can deal with this, Luna.”
“Eric…I, I don’t know what to say. What are you saying?” Luna managed. “I want you to leave, Luna. I just, I can’t do this with you anymore. Between the drinking, the suicide attempts, the disappearances, I just can’t live this way!!!!” Eric shot out, his anger unfurling. He composed himself, “I have to go to work, I’ll think about this and next steps and advise.” as if she was one of his clients. Eric went upstairs, and Luna began pacing frantically. She was confused, as she hadn’t heard voices since Lucas started sleeping. She did not remember the oven incident, and the anxiety and fear made her nauseous. Anger rose inside of her, after all she had done, and he acts as if she is disposable, a problem, a pest. She closed her eyes, and imagined how much better life would be if he would just die. She saw him in the bathroom, plucking his gun from his ridiculous hiding spot, putting the barrel in his mouth, and pulling the trigger. She smiled as she opened her eyes, as she heard a loud bang! emanate from the bathroom.
Luna gasped, and ran upstairs. She shoved the bathroom door as hard as she could, something was blocking it. Not something…someone. Squeezing in to the small gap, she saw Eric slumped over, a massive exit wound from his skull, brains and blood everywhere. The very gun she just pictured was dropped next to him, as blood began to pool. Luna bit her hand ferociously to stifle the scream. She didn’t want to wake the kids.
She shut the door, and slumped against it, trying to think. Sobbing, she could not fathom this was real, so she began slapping herself to wake up. Lucid dreaming was not uncommon for her. As the slaps rang on her face, she realized she was not asleep. She began tugging her hair and shut her eyes.
Luna opened her eyes back at the kitchen in the mountain home. She felt oddly calm, and checked her ring finger to confirm it was empty. Another time shift, she realized. Just then, she realized that the voice, the angry man, was Aaron. “Aaron?” She said aloud pensively, as a phone in the drawer began ringing. She went to it, and answered it purely out of curiosity. She was shocked to hear the voice she finally realized was Aaron in her ear and not her mind. “I’ll be there in about 2 hours. Fuck, I have missed you. Please go rest, baby girl.” and he hung up before she could say a word. Luna set the phone down, and went to the stairs as instructed. As she slid her hand up the railing, the little boy’s voice said, “See you soon, Mommy!” and Luna felt dizzy. The quiet woman reassured her, “It is all meant to be, dear one. Go rest.”
She slid into bed as she was told.