Sunday, May 28, 2017

From the Forest

Amanda followed Todd into the woods. Unlike last time, she was the one who couldn't catch her breath. It seemed that the woods were darker than last time.

Probably the time of day, she thought, but even in the sun, it seemed dark and cold.

She had to stop and rest at a tree. After a moment, she realized it was the same tree that Trisha had rested on.

Todd walked over to her.

"Are you going to make it okay?" Todd asked. He sounded worried.

Amanda nodded. She couldn't understand why she wasn't feeling well. She knew she had to go on.

They did finally reach the top. Amanda walked to where she could see the lake and stood right where she dreamed that she was naked, holding a case.

The case. She could feel it's coldness pressed against her chest. She glanced at a tree stump that was only a few feet to her left.

At that moment she heard voices. She couldn't exactly make out what they were saying. She walked towards the direction that they seem to be coming from.

"Amanda?" Todd said

"You hear that?" she had to speak over the voices. They were getting louder.

Todd stopped and listen for a moment.

"No," Todd said. There was a hint of panic in his voice, "What? What do you hear?"

Amanda could make out some parts of speech now. It sounded like four or five people planning, but none of them were actually speaking to the other. Sometimes the voices overlapped.

"We need to go," Amanda said. She glanced at the stump, only to have the memory of a rock, flying by her head. A migraine seemed to come out of nowhere. She palmed her temple and looked towards Todd. Behind him, three men appeared and before Amanda could say anything, one of the men hit Todd in the back of the head.

She tried to keep control. She could feel some sort of energy well up inside of her. Then someone grabbed her from behind and everything went white.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hesitation

Todd looked up into the woods for a few moments, and then he looked at Amanda who was also looking up into the woods.

"It's something you have to do," he said, "I don't think it could be put off anymore."

Amanda didn't budge. It was no longer the fear of the unknown, but the dreaded sense of being in grave danger that made her freeze.

"Amanda," Todd said, and Amanda slowly looked at him.

"I know," Amanda said. "I know. I just have a feeling that something is about to go horribly wrong."

Todd looked at her for a moment. "I don't know what's going to happen either. I'm afraid of what might happen if you got back your memories. What if based on those new memories you don't want me back in your life anymore?

Amanda gave him an odd look. "Why would I not want you in my life?"

"Well, we are the sum of our memories, right?"

Amanda looked him in the eyes.

"New memories sometimes override the old ones, she said quietly. I don't think any memories will change my mind about you."

Todd cupped her head in his hands and kissed her. Then he put his forehead on hers.

"I sure hope so."

Todd sound strained and on the verge of tears. For a brief moment, Amanda felt fear. It was the same fear that she felt when she encountered the blue lady. Then it was gone.

Todd got up and pulled Amanda to her feet.

"This must be done," he said, and he turned towards the forest. Amanda sighed and followed.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Second Thoughts

The drive seemed longer than last time. Amanda was exhausted but couldn't sleep.  Todd was also quiet. Both of them were anxious about the trip.

The sun filtered through the trees then glare through the driver side window, then move through the windshield. Then it would move back and hide behind the mountains as the car turned the curves.

When the sun hit the windshield again, and Todd readjusted the visor for the umpteenth time he scoffed.

"I should have gotten sunglasses!" he said, annoyed. Amanda chuckled in agreement. At least she can take her eyes off the road to get away from the blinding light. Todd could not.

They finally reached the parking spot. Todd got out of the car, but Amanda hesitated. Part of her knew that she had to go. However, Amanda was afraid. She had a feeling that her past involved a lot of pain. Pain that she did not want to experience, again.

However, she was concerned that if she didn't learn about her past now, things are going to get much worse.

Todd opened her door.

"You are not having second thoughts now, are you?" He asked.

Amanda turned and swung her legs over onto the dirt.

"It's just," Amanda said then trailed off. She really couldn't put it into words precisely what she was feeling.

"I guess everyone is afraid of the unknown," Amanda sighed, "I'm not sure if I'm ready to face it yet."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Preparations

"Are you awake now?" Todd asked.

"Um," Amanda was a little confused. She looked at Todd for a moment, then finally sat up.

"I guess." She couldn’t figure out where she was. She looked at Todd, trying to remember why he was there. She thought he was gone.

Todd sat next to her and put his arm around her. She leaned on his shoulder. After a moment, She remembered what was supposed to happen.

"Oh, right," Amanda said and sat up. "I need to grab my stuff so we can go to the lake."

She could barely see Todd in the early morning light, but she thought she heard a quiet sigh of relief.

Her phone had the clock screen saver running, so she was able to grab that first. She turned on the brightness and set it up on it's built in stand as a low-level light. Then she grabbed her bag.

Todd watched her for a moment and got up and walked over to her. Amanda could feel him trace across her upper back until he reached her other shoulder. Then he moved his hand to her upper arm and pulled her in close.

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Todd asked quietly.

There was a familiarity on how he held her, his breath on her temple, and his quiet, hushed voice that triggered something. She was suddenly hyper-aware of her surroundings. Her phone's screen seemed to hum, the energy from the sun as it started to peak from the horizon. Even the house's wi-fi seemed to buzz in the air.

She pulled partly away from him and turned herself so she could see his face. It took a moment to not only make sense of what happened but also to gather her thoughts so she could give him an answer.

"I have a feeling that if I don't find out my past soon," Amanda said after a moment, "My past will catch up to me and something bad will happen." It was the best explanation that she could give. She couldn't remember her entire dream, but she did remember a sense of urgency.

Todd grabbed her other shoulder and now was facing directly at her, looking intently.

After a moment, Amanda had a feeling that can only be described has someone rummaging inside her head.

Amanda blinked, and the feeling was gone.

Todd nodded and sighed. He leaned forward and kissed her on top of her forehead.

"Well, then," Todd said, "I guess I'll have to get my bags, too." With that, he went into his room.

Amanda stared at him leaving. The anger and frustration bubbled up again. Something about seeing the back of Todd as he went irritated her. She took a deep breath and finished packing her bags.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dimmer Dream

Amanda saw Margret happily talking, but she couldn't understand what she was saying. It was as if she was speaking another language. It reminded her of her original dream. She can hear the syllables, but she couldn't make out the words.

She turned to Todd. He watched her intently as if he was waiting for something to happen.

She turned back to Margret, and she wasn't there anymore. The entire house was gone, and a forest replaced it.

Amanda knew at that moment she was dreaming, but she had no control.

The trees extended endlessly to the sky. At first, Amanda thought that she was by the lake, but as she looked around, she only saw trees, and they all looked the same. At that moment, a feeling of loss and a sense of panic set in but she wasn't sure why she was afraid. She knew that she couldn't stay in that spot any longer.

She started to run, but the more she ran, the denser the woods became. Soon it was too thick even to move in. The trees grabbed at her clothes. She can feel the branches start to pierce her skin. She had lost hope of surviving, but at least she can stop the trees from hurting anyone else.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a silver ball. She knew that it would be the end if she activated it, but it appeared that she had no choice.

She pressed an indentation in the ball, and it separated in half and started to click. She looked up to see an opening in one of the stumps of the trees. She clutched the now clicking device in her hand and crawled through.

She stood up to face the same light orb she saw in previous dreams. Except, this time, it was much smaller and dimmer.

She looked carefully at the light and saw that it was inside a clear box. In the corner of the box was a thin slot.

"What key?" Amanda asked, remember the last time.

"You have it."

Amanda, a bit startled, looked up to see the blue lady, except she wasn't glowing anymore. In her normalcy, she looked like Amanda.

No wonder she looked familiar, Amanda thought.

She looked down at her hand that clutched the device. It was still clicking. When she opened her hand, however, it was a flat, rectangular, crystal object. It pulsed a white light with the clicks. She knew that it fit into the slot and it would open the box.

"I don't know if I want to," Amanda said. She realized that she was afraid of letting the energy out. It was there for a reason.

The woman looked at her with empathy. "I know you don't want to deal with the life that you forgot, but you must stop running and face it. The problems from your past will make you stronger. I know you have the strength to deal with them. You must trust your instincts."

"But what if I don't want to see my past. What if I live in this ignorant bliss?"

"If you choose not to release the energy, this light will die, and you will die with it. Without this energy, you won't be able to face the new problems."

"What new problems? How long do I have?" Amanda asked.

There was no answer. Todd woke her up.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Good Night

It was a long day. The car did finally show up. Todd and Amanda went out for dinner and to check on local attractions.

Later, the four of them sat in the family room and reminisced a little about the past.

Amanda mentioned on how she got the laptop.

"My social worker gave it to me on one of our weekly meetings," Amanda said. Her social worker would take her out for ice cream once a week to discuss random things.

Margret chuckled, "I'm not surprised. Was she the one who suggested that you go to the library to use the internet?"

"No," Amanda blushed. She felt sorry for disobeying even now, "That was me. I just wanted to get my book done, and it was the only way I could communicate with Todd about publishing."

"Well," Michael said, "You were always intuitive about such things. It's a shame we didn't see it then, but I'm glad that it worked out."

Then the conversation turned to them talked about visiting their daughter. Margret was so excited about her plans that Amanda didn't dare to interrupt. It was good to see her so happy.

Time flew by, and it wasn't before long that Amanda and Todd had to go to bed.

"We need to be up early tomorrow," Todd said, putting a stop to the conversation. "It's probably a good idea to go to bed now."

Amanda sighed and got up. In doing so, she almost lost her balance.

"Wow, I'm much more tired than I thought I was," Amanda said as squeezed the bridge of her nose.

Todd grabbed his and Amanda's phone and headed towards the bedroom. After Amanda had stabilized herself, she wished her foster parents good night. They responded in kind. Amanda couldn't help but noticed that Michael seemed concerned about something. Margret seemed sad.

Amanda brushed it off as parting blues and headed towards bed. She reached her room and saw Todd plugging in her phone. She had no idea on how she got into bed.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Second Chances

Amanda and Todd spent most of the morning on their phones.

Todd was on his, trying to find out what happened to their rental.  Amanda could see him struggle to maintain composure as the rental company sent him from one department to the next.

Amanda didn't want to bother Todd, and she was too nervous to go outside. So she spent most of her time on an image app.

Eventually, she got bored of it and contemplated getting her laptop out of her bag in the bedroom.

At that moment a car could be heard in the driveway and Amanda jumped up to check the window. The familiar gray sedan stopped just before the garage.

"Mom and dad are home," Amanda said, then realized that Todd was still on the phone. Without another word, Amanda walked over to the front door and helped them with their purchases.

"Look, we got you some items to take back with you," Margret said. She pulled out a few things including a gallon of maple syrup and buckwheat mix.

"Oh, wow," Amanda said, "Thanks!"

They talked about the differences between California and Vermont. Amanda had to explain that Los Angeles was not a day trip and that it takes more than 8 hours to get there, depending on traffic.

Todd, in the meantime, finally finished his phone call with a sigh of relief. "Well, that's taken care of, at least." He walked over to the kitchen where the trio was talking. "The car will be here in a couple of hours, I hope."

The topic then turned to the future.

"Dad and I found a motorhome we liked. It's not too big, and it looks perfect. We'll be talking to a realtor tomorrow after you leave," Margret said.

"Leave?" Amanda looked at Todd and then realized what they were talking about it. "Oh, I guess you actually planned on tomorrow, after all," Amanda said.

"It's a good thing, too," Todd said holding up his phone, "I don't think we would be able to get to the spot before dark."

Just then Todd's phone rang again. He walked back to the family room with his phone and sat on the Sofa.

"I'm just glad everything is working out," Margret said, "Our oldest daughter decided to talk with us again and invited us to go and visit her and her husband."

"The interesting thing is," Michael said, "it wasn't until we realized that we were too focused on what we were doing rather than accepting God's grace for what it was."

Just as Amanda was about to ask more questions, Todd walked up to the island and said, "Welp, looks like we are leaving tomorrow in the late afternoon. Stand just called, and his trip has been cut short." He saw the look on Amanda's face and quickly added, "We'll just leave earlier tomorrow. Like, just-before-sunup early."

Amanda was relieved and disappointed at the same time. She wanted to stay a little longer with her foster parents. Since they have changed so much, she had so many more questions.

However, she wanted to go back to where she by the lake. It had become an intense desire, almost as if someone was calling her there.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ghosting

Amanda stood near the bottom of the stairs staring at a spot in the woods. She recognized the woman and didn't know what to make if it.

She decided not to get the berries, and she went back inside.

"That was quick," Todd said looking up from his phone.

"Well," Amanda said slowly, not sure on what to say to Todd. Then she sighed and sat down at the table. Todd had already set plates filled with food on the table.

"I've been hallucinating again," Amanda said finally. That was probably the case.

"What about this time?" Todd asked. He didn't seem too concerned. He set his phone on the table and sat down in front of the other plate.

"I keep seeing this woman," Amanda explained, "At first it was in my dream, but then she seems to be everywhere. This time I saw her in the woods about where the berries are."

Todd nodded a little as if to indicate that he understood. He didn't seem surprised at all.

"Did you try talking to her?" He asked.

"Well, no. Why would I do that?" While Amanda was glad Todd didn’t think she was crazy, the question surprised her.

"I was just curious," Todd said quickly, and he started to eat. After he had swallowed his first mouthful, he said, "Sometimes if you confront what is bothering you, it finally goes away, or at least that is what I read, somewhere." He winked at her.

Amanda about to tell him more but when she noticed that he was bothered by something she decided against it. Why should she add more to his stress by telling him that the real reason she decided not to pick berries is that she felt the woman's fear?

Friday, May 12, 2017

One More day

Amanda woke up twice, thinking that she was in a different room that wasn't her apartment or her old Bedroom.

A few times she got up to touch the wall in her dream state logic, to see outside. The window to the outside was only a few feet from where she stood. She would then become fully awake, realize what she was doing, groan then go back to bed.

When she woke up the third time, the sun was above the window. She could smell eggs and bacon wafting into the kitchen.

"Oh wow," Amanda said, "how late is it?" She saw that Todd was already awake, talking to Michael. Margret was dressed up in slacks and a blouse.

Amanda paused for a moment to be sure that she wasn't hallucinating. Margret was wearing makeup. The makeup was very subtle, so if someone weren't paying attention, or didn't know old Margret, they wouldn't have noticed it at all - Except that she looked good for someone who's past 60.

"It's almost nine thirty," Margret said, "We figured you would want to sleep in today."

In spite of the obvious changes the two went through, Amanda was still surprised at this. Her foster parents were sticklers on getting up early every morning, even on Saturdays. No excuses.

Margret put a covered pan of already cooked eggs and bacon on the island.

"Go ahead and serve yourself. Just be sure to put the dishes in the dishwasher," Margret waved at the food, "Dad and I are off to the farmer's market in town, and we'll be out doing errands until about two o'clock. There's food in the fridge for lunch. Todd has the Wifi password, so if you want to go online, you'll have to ask him for it."

With that, Margret walked over to the table, grabbed her purse and headed out the door with her husband.

"Well," Todd said after they left, "They certainly are a lovely couple."

"Have I described to you how they were before?" Amanda asked.

"Well, you did say they were rather conservative," Todd said, "They seem alright to me."

"They were 'ultra' conservative before," Amanda said, "She always hounded me about sleeping later than six thirty and the internet was evil. I mean, they're not entirely wrong if you go into the NSFW on 4chan, but it was difficult writing that first book. I had to do it at the library."

"Oh, that kind of conservative," Todd said.

"And she was wearing makeup," Amanda said and trailed off.

"She was wearing makeup?" Todd said and looked over his shoulder at the door.

"Well, you haven't seen her without -" Realizing how bad that sounded, Amanda stopped.

Todd snickered.

"Open mouth, insert foot," Amanda said laughing.

After they had calmed down, Amanda said, "So we are going to  the lake today?"

Todd sighed, "I've had problems with transportation. For some reason, we got lost in the system, and the rental that was supposed to be here didn't show up. So I have to sort that out." Todd saw the frustration on Amanda's face and added, "Stanley can't take us back for a few days. So we can go tomorrow."

"I just want to get it over with," Amanda said sullenly.

"I know, it's just as frustrating to me, but look at it this way," Todd said, "You'll get to spend a little more time with your family." He walked up to her and took her hands in his, "This may be the last time you will see them in a while. They are selling, and they will be traveling, and by what Michael said, it looks like they have quite a few stops to make before they can come to California."

Amanda nodded.

"Now I need to see if I can get our ride. If I can get it soon enough, we can go out for lunch instead of raiding your parent's fridge."

"I'm going to go for a walk," Amanda said. "There's a short private trail behind their house. I can check to see if there are any blackberries left we can have with breakfast."

"Oh, bring me some, please," Todd said, "I never had fresh blackberries before." He then pulled out his phone.

Amanda nodded and went out the back door. As she walked down the steps of the deck, she noticed a figure in the woods. It looked like a woman, and she looked frightened. Amanda blinked, and she was gone.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dinner's Served

"So, where's Stanley staying?" Margret asked as she grabbed the pot off the stove and brought it to the sink to drain. Amanda finished unpacking first and walked up to the island that separated the Kitchen from the family room.

"I guess he's staying at a hotel," Amanda said, "You'll have to ask Todd."

"Stanley is on vacation. He wanted to come to Vermont this year to do some fly-bys. Something about getting some stock footage to sell."

"Ah, yes," Margret said, "It's a bit early for leaf-peeping season." She poured the pasta into a glass bowl. Then she grabbed the bowl along with the sauce and put it on the table. "He should hike in the woods. That's where the best pictures are at this time of year."

"Um," Todd said, "That pasta looks a little overcooked? I mean,  I never saw black pasta before."

"It's black bean pasta," Margret said. She grabbed a covered plate from the island and put it next to the other foods.

"Ployes?" Amanda asked.

"Of course," Margret said, "It's difficult to find a mix that doesn't have wheat, but I found it."

Michael walked in and set his ax by the front door like he always did. "Heating for the winter is a full-time job. I have to chop wood because heating oil is too high."

They all sat at the table. Margret was always a good cook, and there was plenty to eat.

The conversation turned to selling the house.

"You know, in the past few years since SRS changed over to CPS, they have been a bit wary of anyone who is religious," Margret said. "You were the last one we had, and even though our license is valid, they hadn't sent anyone to us."

"The house seems a little bit bigger than it used to be," Michael continued, "Way too big for a retired couple. I can't swing the ax like I used to anymore."

Amanda nodded but felt a little sad. She knew it was inevitable, but it was hard for her to fathom her foster parents to do anything but what they did.

"Recently, there have been some changes," Margret said, somewhat haltingly. She paused for a moment as if to pick her words carefully. "Well, we made a lot of mistakes in the past and recently, we reconciled with our kids."

Michael finished eating and took out an e-cigarette and leaned back in his chair. Amanda realized that no ashtrays and pipes were laying around the house anymore. He must be trying to quit, she thought.

"We also wanted to apologize to you," Margret said.

"To me?"

"Yes, we were a bit hard on you. I honestly don't know why," Margret put her head in her hand and looked at Amanda thoughtfully, "Out of all of the kids, you were the easiest. You kept your room tidy, and you never asked for much. Of course, we hounded you with that laptop of yours. If I knew what you were doing and how you would make a living with it, I might have backed off a little. Then again, I didn't know because I was blinded by fear."

"Well," Amanda said, "I was never angry with you, so you were already forgiven? But what were you afraid of?"

"My own shortcomings," Margret murmured.

It was quiet for a moment, and then Michael cleared his throat. "We have decided to sell the house because it was too big," he repeated himself. "So we are purchasing a Motorhome so that we can visit our kids. Our oldest daughter has invited us over for Thanksgiving."

"Well, that sounds fun," Todd said. The conversation turned to travel.

Amanda helped with dishes then turned in early. After taking off her shoes, she gets up, walks to the wall and stops. There was supposed to be a closet there.

Amanda looked around the room and remembered that there was no closet. Just a wardrobe, which was on the other side.

I must be exhausted, Amanda thought. Instead of getting pajamas on, she just crawled into bed and fell asleep.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Ride Home

"Amanda, it is so good to see you!"  Amanda's foster mom greeted her with a hug. Then her foster dad also hugged her. The pilot walked by with some of the bags.

"Oh, Ma, This is Stanley Winkler," Amanda said, "Our Pilot."

"These are my foster parents," Amanda said to Stanley, "Michael and Margret Risner."

As they greeted each other, Todd walked by to grab the last bags out of the plane. "And I guess you already met Todd."

"Well, only on the phone," Margret said. Todd put the last two bags into the trunk of the car.

"Everything is good to go," Todd said, and he got into the back seat of the car.

Margret leaned towards Amanda and said, "He is cute."

"Ma!" Amanda whispered harshly. She was glad that Todd was already in the car. Amanda looked a little nervously at Stanley who seemed to be too busy to notice. Relieved she got into the car with Todd.

It was a long trip. At first, it was small talk. Margret then told them that she and her husband were going to buy a new motorhome and they plan on selling their old house.

"When Todd called," Margret said, "We thought it would be nice to have you in your old room before we sell and Todd can have the guest room next door. Our kids have their own lives, now and we decided it would be better if we travel to see them, rather than the other way around."

When DCF placed Amanda in their in their care, her foster parent's youngest was already in college. Having a rather large house that sits mostly empty didn't seem to make sense. So Amanda wasn't surprised at this news.

It would be weird to be in her old room again.