The Mirror JCayan
Rockets and Blue Lights
Turner, Joseph Mallord William
|Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Part II - The obsession
Kathryn entered her studio the encounter with the young girl Anna Hansin had affected her and their encounter remained in her thoughts. The impish child had made an impression on her, and as much as she tried, she was unable to explain her haunting disappearance. Kathryn removed her coat and placed it on the coat rack, she crossed the room and entered the alcove that was her kitchen.
The thought that remained foremost in her mind regarding her encounter with the child, was how was it that Anna managed to vanish as if into thin air. A cold shiver went down her spine and her skin immediately turned to gooseflesh. Kathryn recalled the old adage from her youth, one that her mother used a thousand times over. "Someone just walked across my grave." She ran her hands along the length of her arms in an attempt to quell the rising flesh.
She retrieved her coffee urn and made a fresh pot on an ancient hotplate, It sat near her small, discolored porcelain sink. Kathryn leaned back and closed her eyes, and immediately she recalled the deep azure eyes of Anna, that burst forth in brilliant streams of light and color in her mind's eye. Kathryn felt no concern over Anna's mysterious disappearance, for internally she somehow sensed that Anna was safe and secure.
When the coffee completed brewing, she poured the black liquid into a mug and walked into the room, sitting down on her blue sofa. She placed the mug on a wooden milk crate that served as her coffee table and began to clear her thoughts.
Feeling a moment of artistic inspiration, Kathryn rose and retrieved her sketchpad, and immediately began to sketch Anna's face. Hours later as the sun began its slow descent and darkness began to fill the room, Kathryn completed her charcoal sketch of Anna Hansin and paused to admire her handy work. She was astounded by the image that stared back at her. The intense eyes so uniquely Anna's leaped at her as if coming to life.
She studied the sketch further and for the first time in fifteen years, she could see the life within her work. There was vibrancy to the child's image. And Kathryn, had managed to capture the smiling eyes vividly that revealed the very essence of an enchanting spirit child.
There was a loud knock on the door, which drew Kathryn's attention. Standing she crossed the span of the room and answered it.
"Who is it?" She placed an involuntary bite to her words.
"It's Mrs. Krenshaw, I'm here for the rent."
Kathryn's landlady, was the neighborhood mayor that made it a point to know everyone's personal business. Kathryn detested the uninvited invasion of her privacy, but made it a point to handle the inquisitive old windbag with a gentle hand. She opened the door to find Krenshaw, in her ritual food stained pink bathrobe and hideous furry open back slippers.
Krenshaw was a small obese woman in poor health with full facial hair that would have made any adolescent male proud. Her trademark Pall Mall cigarette, dangled from her mouth, the ash was an inch long. Krenshaw's loud wheezing and snorting sounds set Kathryn's teeth on edge, feigning a warm smile Kathryn nodded for Mrs. Krenshaw to enter.
Krenshaw entered the small flat and immediately began a general inspection of the premises. Kathryn found that the woman's overbearing personality was painful to endure and sought to be rid of her quickly. She retrieved the fifty dollars back rent she owed Krenshaw from her coat pocket and handed it to her.
"Here you go Mrs. Krenshaw, the rent I owed, as promised."
Krenshaw eyed the money suspiciously and held the two twenty dollar bills to the light. She inspected the paper money in her grasp intently and with great expertise. It was a bothersome ritual that Kathryn, was forced to systematically endure. The old windbag's blatant implications were insulting to say the least, as if anyone in his or her right mind would live in such squalor for the sheer joy of it.
"Sold a painting huh?" Snorted Krenshaw.
"Yes, I did and if you don't mind I need to return to my work."
"My aren't we feeling high and mighty now. You weren't sitting on your high horse yesterday when you was behind on your rent, where you duchess? Always the proverbial lady when you want to be aren't you?"
"I do apologize Mrs. Krenshaw. I didn't mean to sound so rude, it's just that I need to address something I started, and I'd like to strike while the iron is hot, if you don't mind."
"I see. Well have it your way, duchess. I was just trying to be neighborly is all."
"I know and I truly appreciate your kindness, but, as you can see I have some more work to do."
"Work, work, work, and no one buys your paintings, except that old hoity toity witch, Steinfeld. I now her kind, born with the silver spoon in her mouth and thinks she's better than the rest of us common folks."
It was all that Kathryn could take. The personal affront on Sarah's character from the miserable bitter windbag was uncalled for and insulting. She took a moment to breathe in deeply and in a low menacing growl whispered hoarsely.
"If you don't mind Mrs. Krenshaw. I have some work to complete. Have a good night!"
Kathryn's eyes turned a steel gray and her face lost all semblance of tolerance. It was obvious to the obnoxious rude Krenshaw that she had managed to cross the line and was now in treacherous waters. Fearing for her safety, Krenshaw abruptly turned to depart, albeit to her ignorant behavior, the ash from her cigarette fell and landed on the clean floor.
Kathryn rolled her eyes in disgust and slammed the door loudly on Krenshaw's back without further adieu.
It was ten days later when Kathryn and Sarah met for their ritual lunch. Kathryn's spirits soared over having found employment at a local bistro as a waitress. The pay was lousy, but her meals were free and she was able to keep the wolves at bay.
Since her encounter with Anna, Kathryn's life seemed to take a turn for the better. And although she wouldn't admit it, she began to think more and more of the young girl. She found herself walking the various paths along Central Park, in hopes of meeting the vibrant child once more. More importantly, Kathryn wished to show Anna the multiple sketches she created of her in pastels.
Sarah studied Kathryn's face intensely there was a dramatic change in Kathryn, which pleased Sarah. Unable to contain her curiosity any longer Sarah decided to delicately broach the subject.
"Kathryn, you are looking absolutely stunning have you met someone?"
It was an unexpected query that startled Kathryn, she hesitated slightly, before responding. Kathryn was concerned that Sarah would misunderstand her, so she chose to word her reply carefully.
"It isn't what you think and please don't take this the wrong way. I did meet someone about two weeks ago, a small child. She is the most captivating loveable imp that I have ever met and for some odd reason I can't seem to get her out of my mind."
Sarah was stunned by Kathryn's open confession. It was the least thing that she had suspected to hear. For naturally, Sarah assumed that the vibrant glow on Kathryn's face was placed there by a newfound love.
"Really? A child you say. And what exactly is so unique about this child?" Sarah eyed Kathryn suspiciously.
Kathryn flushed slightly before responding.
"I can't explain it really, but there is something almost mystical about her and completely...her voice trailed off.
"As if? You were saying Kathryn." Sarah was forced to regain Kathryn's attention.
"I'm sorry Sarah, please excuse me. I really don't know how to say this, but it's almost as if she doesn't belong in this world. And the oddest thing happened. I was helping her look for a lost glove and when I retrieved it and turned around, well she…she had simply vanished."
"Vanished? Sarah asked incredulously. Kathryn, have you been nipping at the cooking sherry where you work? So tell me, where exactly did this ghostly encounter occur?"
"It was in Central Park two weeks ago just shortly after I left your gallery. I was sitting on a bench enjoying my lunch when I heard a child crying. I stood and followed the cries and that was when I found her. She was standing by a tree. I went to her, and asked her if she was lost, and then I took her by the hand and led her back to the bench. I wiped her tears and offered to share my lunch with her and that was when we began talking. She's very friendly and quite intelligent as children go. And well, we remained talking and that was when I learned that she lost her glove. She was concerned that her mother would be upset with her for losing it, so I offered to help her find it. We stood and walked back to the area where I found her and when I turned around, well…. she was gone. It was as if she disappeared into thin air. One minute she was right behind me and the next minute she was gone. I know it sounds crazy, but there's no way she could have disappeared so quickly not without my noticing it."
"I see and just how old is this mystical young ghost?'
Kathryn chuckled slightly before responding. "Seven and three quarters."
"Kathryn, I can't help, but to feel some measure of concern. You’ve been in, well how can I say this delicately without offending you. You’ve seemed out of character of late, a little more than your usual brooding self. I know that things haven’t been easy and I just want to know if everything is all right with you?"
"I'm telling you Sarah that I met her. Her name is Anna Hansin and she lives a few blocks away from the park. Look, I still have the glove that I found."
Kathryn retrieved the small red glove from her pocket and placed it on the table, as if its very presence was all the proof she required in establishing her credibility and perhaps proving her sanity.
"And take a look at this." Kathryn reached for her portfolio and removed the pastel sketches that she had drawn of Anna and passed them along to Sarah.
Retrieving her eyeglasses dangling around her neck, Sarah was astounded by what she saw. For the first time since she had known Kathryn, Kathryn had managed to capture the inner essence of her subject and the soul that lied within the child smiling back at her.
The rich soft pastels were darker in shading along the natural lines of the face, which added to the incredible beauty of the child. But, there was more. It was the rich azure eyes, staring back at Sarah that held her in a spell, and stole her breath away. It wasn't just the color magnificently shaded; it was the essence of the child's life that spoke in volumes to her. Sarah could not help but to be moved by the haunting allure of the smiling eyes staring back at her.
"Kathryn, this is, this is incredible. You captured the child's being and brought it to life. What did you say her name was?"
"Anna, Anna Hansin."
"Hansin? I once knew a Hansin family, but surely, this can't be her. The Anna Hansin I knew, would be about 23 by now, I imagine. Still, this is stunning work and as you say Kathryn, you have finally found your mark. It's a remarkable improvement over those dark brooding seascapes you're usually drawn to. This drawing speaks of life and the promise of that mystery, the kind of mystery that only a child would know."
"I’d like to do a portrait of her if I could. But, I need to find her and speak with her parents. You know, get their permission to have her sit for me."
"Well, good luck in finding her Kathryn. My, but I do love your work in this one."
Sarah continued to admire the beauty of the simple pastel sketch in front of her and she could not help but smile. The two women consumed their lunch idly gossiping of the latest trends in art and the drama surrounding the eclectic world they lived in.
As part of her daily ritual since her encounter with Anna, Kathryn headed in the direction of Central Park. She chose a different path that eventually led her to an outdoor ice skating rink. Kathryn stopped and leaned against the wooden fencing surrounding the rink. She stood and admired the merriment of the skaters as they skated by.
She marveled at the joy for life that sprung from such a simple form of entertainment, and wondered silently if Anna knew how to ice skate. She heard someone calling her name, it was a small lyrical voice not yet fully grown. Kathryn turned around and caught Anna as she flung her self into Kathryn's arms. A pair of white figure skates hung from Anna's shoulder.
Kathryn shook her head in disbelief. For surely this could not be the same child, she had met several weeks earlier. The child that she held in her arms was about thirteen years old and at least two and a half feet taller than the seven-year-old Anna she first met.
"Kathryn there you are. I've been looking all over for you."
Kathryn stared in astonishment and was unable to form an immediate response. She found herself gazing into the same icy azure eyes she recalled from their first encounter. For surely there was something occurring that far exceeded anything, logical she could think of. As an artist, her trained eye paid astute attention to detail, and she was able to ascertain that it was the same child. The symmetry of the face could not be denied.
"Anna. Anna Hansin?"
"Of course silly who where you expecting?"
Whatever was happening to Kathryn was not of this world. To her, it belonged in another plane or dimension and for some unexplainable reason, it was connected to her. For the girl that she was hugging was in the start of her adolescence and not the small child that she had met ten days earlier. Kathryn swallowed deeply and tried to inflect as little surprise as possible in her face.
"My.. but you have grown. I thought you said you were only seven years old?"
"I am not!" Anna replied indignantly. "I'm thirteen and a half."
Kathryn's eyes widened, the flecks of gray disappeared as her mind tried valiantly to resolve the complex riddle that was Anna Hansin. A riddle that was proving to be her greatest challenge.
"Anna, what happened to you that day. Where did you disappear to?" Kathryn tried valiantly to maintain an even level to her voice.
"What day Kathryn? I haven't seen you in the longest time."
"You know, the day that I helped you find your glove."
Kathryn retrieved the glove from her pocket, as if its mere presence would add validity to her statement, and put an end to the strange occurrence unfolding before her. Anna snatched the glove from Kathryn's hand and stared at it intently. Her eyes focused on it, and a warm smile touched her pouty lips, as she recalled vividly the past memory.
"My glove. Oh Kathryn you found my red glove that I lost all of those years ago. Mother was so angry with me that day and I got into so much trouble. You found it and kept it all of this time. How very sweet of you."
Anna reached over and kissed Kathryn on the side of her face. Her breath was warm against Kathryn's cheek, evidence that the adolescent was made of flesh and blood and not a figment of her imagination. However, Kathryn was unable to make any sense of it and wondered if she was slowly beginning to lose her sanity.
"Anna. What have you been doing all of this time?"
Kathryn was hoping to establish by what nature Anna Hansin existed and what if any secrets did she harbor.
Anna stared deeply into Kathryn's eyes and suddenly Kathryn was assaulted with a starburst of colors that exploded in her mind. She suddenly felt light headed and teetered dangerously towards unconsciousness, nearly losing her balance.
"Kathryn! Kathryn are you all right."
Despite Anna being only an inch taller than Kathryn she possessed a formidable strength and was able to keep Kathryn from falling. Anna gently assisted Kathryn to a nearby bench where they sat in silence for a moment, as Kathryn regained her composure.
Kathryn studied Anna's face and a wave of fear rose in her chest, which she quickly tried to quell. She watched as a wrinkle of concern covered Anna's soft features, and Kathryn could not resist reaching out to touch her face, to determine if Anna was real or not. Kathryn's voice was low and hoarse when next she spoke.
"Anna, please explain to me what is going on here. I …I don't think that I understand."
" I don't either Kathryn. But I did miss you terribly and I'm so happy to see you again."
Anna hugged Kathryn tightly to her and Kathryn found she was unable to breathe. She tore herself away from Anna's embrace and cradled her head in her hands, Kathryn felt the penetrating headache as it struck her severely and rendered her helpless.
"Anna, I need you to help me understand. Where have you been all of this time?"
"Why at home and school of course. My..my.. Parents sent me away."
"Away, away where Anna. Where did your parents send you?"
Anna stared into the horizon, her mind was focused on something far away and unobtainable to Kathryn. Anna shook her delicate head slightly and managed to dispel whatever possessed her. The blank far away stare in her eyes was gone and replaced with the icy stare she seemed to possess.
"I rather talk about something else, Kathryn, if you don't mind. What do you have there?"
It was evident to Kathryn that it would not be easy to derive the answers she so desperately required. It was possible that what Anna spoke was the truth and that Anna was no clearer in understanding what was going on than she was. Deciding to forego the current line of questioning for fear of distressing Anna, she quickly changed the subject.
"Here?" Kathryn pointed to her portfolio and applied an unassuming teasing smile.
Anna's face brightened and she smiled broadly. Her eyes glistened with anticipation and then she rolled them in a sarcastic manner, as if she found Kathryn's playful teasing intolerable.
"Of course what else do you think I'm speaking of?"
"Well why don't we have a look, shall we?"
Anna squirmed in her seat, a reflexive action to her anticipation and youthful glee. Kathryn carefully removed the first pastel sketching from the pad and passed it to Anna. Her steel gray eyes turned a soft warm blue, as she watched Anna's face for a reaction.
"Kathryn! Is this really me?"
"Well it isn't exactly a painting, but I was hoping you would like it nonetheless."
"It's so beautiful. Is this how you see me Kathryn?"
"I guess you can say that, but it is a good likeness of you, don't you think?"
"Oh, yes it is. Are there anymore, may I see them?" Anna's words came out in a rush causing Kathryn to laugh.
"If you like." Kathryn proceeded to remove the sketches she made of Anna, and handed them one at a time to her, paying close attention to Anna's features and reaction.
Anna frowned and a slight dark light crossed her eyes. She turned to Kathryn questionably, she frantically searched the seven drawings of herself looking for something. Concerned Kathryn nudged her playfully.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, I guess they're all right, but why is it that I'm so young in all of them?
"Well, I guess that's the last image I had of you."
Kathryn could not help, but to note the look of disappointment in Anna's eyes.
"I see." Anna whispered quietly.
"Are you terribly disappointed, Anna?"
"Well, just a little. I mean..It isn't very nice of me to say is it?"
Kathryn was charmed by the pure honesty and innocence from Anna and placed her arm around the child's shoulders hugging her reassuringly.
"Well, I hope you don't think this will be the only picture of you. I still have a portrait to paint of you, you know."
Anna's face lit up and a wide beautiful smile touched her pouty lips. Her smile was infectious and Kathryn could not resist smiling back. Their eyes locked and their inner beings touched, leaving them both with an unexplainable ease that they could not readily understand.
"Really? You will!"
"Of course I will. I promise."
"Oh Kathryn, I love you so much."
Anna hugged Kathryn fiercely to her, crushing the sketches between their bodies in the process. Kathryn was slightly embarrassed and quickly sought to release herself from Anna's firm grasp. A strange and unexplainable occurrence threw Anna in to Kathryn's life, and whatever forces were taking place, it saw fit that the two of them would not necessarily be privy to its reasoning. Kathryn was slightly alarmed and yet at the same time she was deeply intrigued.
"Would you like to keep these?" Kathryn ran her hand along the wrinkled sketches and smoothed out the lines that formed along the thin paper.
"Of course. I made them for you."
"I've never received a more beautiful gift in my life. Thank you Kathryn. You’re so very kind to me."
As was the custom in her interactions with Anna, Kathryn was astounded by the sheer honesty of Anna's words. For as hard as it was for Kathryn to explain, she found that she was extremely fond of the child, could not help being captivated by her contagious exuberance for life.
"Shall we take a walk?"
Anna bobbed her head up and down and quickly stood handing Kathryn her ice skates to carry. Kathryn merely stared at them for a moment, and shook her head from side to side, laughing silently at being turned into Anna's pack mule.
The two walked deeper into the park and on various occasions, Kathryn found herself being led b y the hand by Anna, to observe birds nestling or to feed a squirrel the endless supply of peanuts that Anna carried on her person. Anna even managed to convince Kathryn to join her in licking icicles from a low-lying branch, their noses red and numb from the frosty treats.
Their conversation covered the subjects that Anna excelled in, in school, and much to Kathryn's surprise, she discovered that they both had a secret love and aptitude for the sciences. Without Anna ever realizing it, Kathryn had managed to maneuver her closer to the area where they first met.
As they neared the patch of trees Anna suddenly froze in her tracks and refused to budge. Her features were locked in fear and her eyes took on a look of desperation. Anna's lower lip began to tremble and her complexion turned an ashy white.
"I…I have to go Kathryn."
"Very well, it is getting late. I'll walk you home and that way I can ask your parent's if they will let you sit for me."
Anna's eyes widened and she swallowed deeply, her small budding chest rose up and down, and she clenched her jaw in an attempt to keep the fear at bay.
"Anna is something wrong?" Kathryn walked towards Anna, who stepped further away the closer Kathryn moved towards her. Kathryn ceased her advance for fear of frightening Anna any further.
"I….my parent's aren't home Kathryn, but I'll ask them. I'm sure it will be alright."
"Anna, you're a young girl and I think that it would be wiser if I can speak with your parent's directly."
Anna shook her head indicating no, but she was unable to voice any words. She slowly began to back away from Kathryn, putting a good distance, between her and the tree where Kathryn had first discovered her.
To Kathryn's surprise, Anna suddenly turned and ran away from her, dropping one of the sketches in her haste. Kathryn dropped the skates she held and took pursuit, amazed at the speed and dexterity of the young girl that she chased after.
They neared a blind curve and Anna increased her speed, drifting further from Kathryn's view. As Kathryn rounded the corner she collided with a man walking his dog, and became entangled with the dog's lead and fell unceremoniously to the ground. The dog yelped out in pain and his master insulted her for her reckless behavior. Before Kathryn realized it, Anna had disappeared from her sight completely.
Kathryn returned to her apartment and threw herself into her bed. Her head was throbbing relentlessly and she chastised herself for letting Anna elude her once more.
Kathryn revisited the day's events and the happiness that she felt while in Anna's company. It forced her to agonize over her past life. Of all the wasted years she spent in self-imposed exile. They were empty years, years in which she failed to breathe life and embrace it for what it was.
The image of her father came to her. The strong weathered face she remembered and loved so dearly. The slow warm drawl to his voice and the strong hands that held her high in the air, the powerful arms that carried her to bed and then safely tucked her to sleep. The tender way that he would sing an old lullaby, long forgotten, until she fell into a sweet slumber.
There was so much time lost, so many years that could never be retrieved. The years of pushing those that loved her away and denying to herself that it was what she did best. The fear and guilt of not being able to return home, of never finding the courage to try.How long has it been? She found she could no longer make out her mother's face, or the contagious smile of her younger sister, Peggy.
The years of isolation came crashing to a powerful crescendo with a force that her self-denial was unable to stave off any longer. For as much as Kathryn, refused to admit it, she feared being alone most of all. The connection to the haunting child served to feed her hunger to rejoin the living and Kathryn wondered if Anna was a restless spirit sent to torment her.
"Was Anna a spirit sent to make me pay retribution for all of those lost years, for the love that I systematically drove away from?
The love of a mother and sister that she callously shunned, and a father whose death left her empty and lost. How many times had she refused to surrender to love, to the weakness that comes with it? She felt cursed, and that somehow Anna was sent as punishment, a punishment for all of the injustices that she created by closing her heart.
Kathryn cried out her father's name, and it echoed into the quiet stillness of her room. Whimpering, she begged for his forgiveness. That he could forgive her for wasting the precious life that he fought so hard to give her.
Captivated and forced to feel by the elusive child that haunted her, she cried and gave thanks for the void that Anna's presence seemed to fill. For it had been so long since she remembered what it was like to be a child. To see the world through unbiased eyes, and to pay homage to its beauty and exquisite splendor.
Kathryn remained that way until the tears ran their course and there were none left to flow. She felt an oddness touch her heart as it began to heal. The feeling was new and unfamiliar, one that emanated forth and wrapped itself around her in a soft embrace. The fatigue of her breakdown overcame her and she fell victim to a dark and tranquil sleep. Her features became smooth and relaxed, as a soft smile danced on her lips and the image of dark azure eyes encased her in their warmth.
It was a week later when Kathryn finally ventured out and sought the companionship of other humans. As was her custom, she walked the few blocks to the Steinfeld Gallery and joined Sarah for lunch. The week spent in her solitude assisted Kathryn in the healing process and eased her long journey back to the world of the living.
She greeted Sarah outside of the building and clasped Sarah’s matronly form tightly to her. Gently holding Sarah by her elbow, Kathryn guided her in the direction of their favorite restaurant. Anticipating their monthly ritual and taking solace in being in her company.
Sarah immediately detected the drastic change in Kathryn and smiled inwardly. The dark brooding look that normally graced her face was gone and left the splendor of her beautiful blue vibrant eyes glistening with life. There was a spring to Kathryn’s walk and the dark circles underneath her eyes were missing.
In all, to Sarah's critical eye the woman who walked quietly along her side was the true Kathryn Janson. The one that should have emerged years before and had not wasted the years that she did. Sarah took comfort in knowing her friend was able to discover her inner child, and that the innocence that was taken away from her, so tragically fifteen years ago had returned. The death of Kathryn's father was a subject that Sarah had learned was unapproachable in their conversations and that it was the root to all of Kathryn's problems.
"So, have you had any further encounters with your young ghost?"
"She isn't a ghost Sarah, she's a little girl."
"Of course she is and what an incredible mind she has. There is something very special about her, I can feel it. However, I will confess that there is something strange about the whole thing and to tell you the truth, I feel foolish even speaking of it."
"Is there and what is that?"
"Well…I don't know how to explain this really, but she isn't seven anymore."
"Of course not she's seven and three quarters." Sarah added teasingly.
"No..not quite that either."
Sarah felt Kathryn tense slightly under her arm and she stopped abruptly, startlingly Kathryn. Sarah held her stern no nonsense look, it was one very familiar to Kathryn, and one that she desperately wished to avoid.
"Kathryn, why don't you cut to the chase and tell me what happened." It was more of a statement than a question.
"Honestly, I can't say I have an appropriate explanation for all of this. And I swear to you that I'm not losing my mind. But…."
"Well to put it plainly she's no longer seven, but thirteen and a half and is beginning to develop, if you know what I mean. I know this sounds insane, but I swear it's the same child. Only except, somehow, she's managed to age several years in just ten days."
"I see. Kathryn, there is someone I want you to see."
"I'm not seeing a psychiatrist Sarah, I assure you that I'm not losing my mind."
"I never said it was a physiatrist. It's someone else, a person who knew the Hansin's."
"You found someone that knows her parent's? But, how..?"
"Kathryn, you aren't listening to me. I said someone who knew the Hansin's. I thought that the name seemed familiar and well after your story, I did a little research of my own. I'm certain that we are speaking of the same people. Here is her number and I want you to call her and go make an appointment to see her if possible. Promise me that you will speak with her before we discuss this any further."
"Well can't you just tell me what this is all about?"
"I'd rather you hear it from her. After all she was more familiar with the Hansin's then I was and she can best tell you their story."
"You're being awfully cryptic Sarah. Why?"
"Kathryn Janson, in all of our years of acquaintance have I ever asked you for a favor?"
Kathryn felt abashed by Sarah's question and her face turned a bright crimson.
'Then will you please do this for me? For both of our sakes."
"If it means that much to you."
" It does and I believe that it is something you must know."
"Very well Sarah. If you feel that strongly about it, you have my word. I'll call her and make an appointment for next week if possible."
"Good. Now let's go to lunch, I'm hungry and getting cranky."
"You mean this isn't your usual disposition?"
The two women fell into an easy laughter that alleviated the tension that grew between them earlier. They entered the restaurant and sat in their usual table, where they ate their lunch and continued with a lighter topic of discussion.
Nearly a month had passed and during its course, Kathryn failed to keep her word to Sarah. Never once did she call the woman who knew the Hansin's. Each time Kathryn placed her hand on the telephone dial she tensed, and for some inexplicable reason, she was incapable of completing the call. There was an uneasy weariness that enveloped Kathryn, a foreboding that the action alone could well break the illusion of Anna.
It wasn’t that Kathryn feared the possible answers awaiting her, but more as if by doing so, she would lose the euphoria that Anna’s presence brought her. Kathryn feared being swept back into the dark abyss. She feared slipping back into despair that once consumed her, for she knew that she was powerless in retrieving those lost years.
The cold bitterness of winter was slowly dissipating and making way for the tender buds of spring. The trees lost the stark bareness that engulfed them during the cold months. Their branches reached upwards embracing the warm sun, and tiny green leaves mixed with pink and white blooms, sprang delicately from their arms. The signs of the continuance of life elated Kathryn, and she was in awe of the delicate circle unbroken, and how life continued with an unquenchable thirst for rebirth.
She entered the park in her usual fashion and walked towards the fountain that sat in the center. The haunting maids carved in stone formed its base and were poised in a circular fashion. They reached out to one another in a reverence for love and life. The etched faces of granite revealed a longing and desire for one another.
Their reflection in the rippling water was deceivingly euphoric, for in reality their forbidden love was melancholic. The embrace they longed to behold with one another forever eluded them, and the water that spewed from its center served only to disguised their pained longing etched in stone. The sound of falling water was ironically soothing, and belied the agony of the stone maids, denied their love and desire for one another.
Before sitting Kathryn swept the soft petals of pink and white blossoms that littered the bench, caught in the gentle breeze the blossoms drifted slowly in the air before falling to the ground and disappearing into the dark earth. The air was sweet and its rich flavor danced on her tongue. Lost in her own musings, Kathryn was startled by the soft lyrical voice that interrupted her pensive thoughts.
"Hello Kathryn." Its sound was not fully mature, but it held evidence of the richness it would eventually develop into.
Lifting her head and shading her eyes with one hand, Kathryn followed the soft haunting voice to the face of its owner. In front of her stood Anna Hansin and it was obvious to Kathryn that Anna was now at least sixteen years of age if not older.
The soft baby fat that once covered Anna's body was gone and in its place was the firmness of young womanhood. Kathryn stared into the dark azure eyes and was surprised beyond words of the surreal beauty in front of her.
Reflectively she stood and the brown paper bag that sat on her lap fell to the ground and was swept away in a gentle breeze. The sandwich Kathryn held firmly in her hand was forgotten, as she sought to stop the rapid beating of her heart.
Kathryn was forced to look upward at the tall beauty, who easily measure 5’ 9" or better. Anna’s body was strong and muscular, yet incredibly feminine. The small waist was tapered and perfectly formed, Kathryn found her eyes leveled to Anna’s full firm bosom and felt a warm flush engulf her face.
Tearing her vision from the full suppleness of Anna’s breast, Kathryn focused intensely on the dark azure eyes that watched her intently. There was a deep intensity in Anna’s stare and Kathryn fell captive to it immediately. Her body betrayed her and for the first time in her life, Kathryn felt the evident signs of arousal. Stunned by the implications of her primal lust she sought to gather her senses. She disciplined her wandering mind into believing that it was the artistic beauty of Anna that evoked the strong feelings within her. She swallowed deeply and fought to regain her composure.
Kathryn focused on the field of trees directly behind Anna's shoulder and cleared her throat before answering.
"I..I barely recognized you. Yo..you’ve changed so much in such a short period of time."
Kathryn was unable to disguise her marvel at the maturity of the beautiful young woman in front of her. The chiseled porcelain face was perfection in its purest sense. The full pouty lips prominent, and seductive, and alluded to hidden pleasures unexplored. The deep azure eyes bore into her possessively and captured her in their endless depth. But there was more to Anna’s eyes. It was as if Kathryn peered into a mirror, and the reflection of her restless soul stared back at her and pleaded her, to join in the warmth of Anna's aura.
Anna chuckled lightly, her pouty lips curled slightly upward into an amused smile. She moved towards Kathryn and stood perilously close, leaning gently into her.
"Oh Kathryn, it has been a while since we last met. But, somehow, I knew I would find you here today."
Kathryn was perplexed, yet her inner curiosity took possession of her and she longed to know Anna’s age. For whatever mysterious forces chose to throw them together, they wanted Kathryn to be a part of Anna’s full life cycle. And although Kathryn was unable to fully comprehend it, she came to accept that their paths were meant to cross.
"How long has it been?"
Anna smiled warmly before responding, a flash of light touched with desire crossed her eyes.
"Four years. You never seem to be able to recall dates very well do you?" Anna’s voice had a tint of teasing laughter to it, her eyes smiled and drove deeper into Kathryn’s
Kathryn remained staring at Anna, her mind quickly recalled their last encounter and she summed Anna’s age to nearly eighteen. She dispelled the shock from her system and managed a forced smile. Her strong mind tried to wrap itself around the mystery that she found her self swept into.
"No, I never was very good with dates. In fact, much to my own embarrassment I’ve been known to forget my own birthday."
"I thought as much." Anna stared at her and titled her head gently to the side. Her left brow rose slightly and Kathryn found the gesture beautiful, if not slightly condescending. Lowering her head slightly, a crooked smile touched Kathryn’s lips.
"So, that means you’re almost eighteen, what a wonderful age."
Kathryn reflected on her own past and what and who she was at that age. Recalling that it was during her ‘dark period, the phrase that she coined to describe it. A lump formed in the back of her throat and Kathryn quickly swallowed. The long struggle in accepting the unexpected loss of her father forgotten. .
Anna noted the shadow of darkness that covered Kathryn’s eyes and placed her hand on Kathryn’s elbow, moving her gently to the bench. With a sweeping gesture of her hand, Anna indicated for Kathryn to join her on the bench.
"Tell me what you have been up to." Kathryn’s voice was low, her eyes seeking the familiar warmth of Anna’s.
"Well I start college soon."
"You do? And which school will you be attending?"
"It’s a small private Catholic college, you probably never heard of it."
"Try me, I might surprise you."
Anna smiled warmly before responding.
"They have an excellent program in the sciences and well my unc..I mean, my parent’s, always wanted me to attend. It’s Salve Regina College."
"Salve Regina in Newport Rhode Island?" Kathryn was stunned.
"Yes that is correct, so you have heard of it."
"Yes..yes.. I have. I grew up in Rhode Island you know."
"Yes, I guess I did tell you that, didn’t I?"
‘You’ve told me a lot about your life there and about your family. I wish I could have grown up there, its sounds so beautiful not like.."
"Not like what Anna?"
Anna’s mood suddenly turned distant and she turned her vision from Kathryn’s. There was sadness in her voice as the last words trailed off. "Nothing really. I guess it doesn’t matter any more. Anyway, they have an excellent science program and well I look forward to attending in September."
"It is a beautiful place and if I recall properly it has a scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean."
Kathryn detected the distance forming between them and mourned the loss of warmth. Trying to stir Anna from her quiet mood, she placed a tinge of excitement to her voice hoping to bring her back.
"My sister Peggy and I use to walk along the beach below the cliffs and stare at the lighthouse for hours. During the summer, our father would take us right past the front of it in his schooner. I could still smell the fresh salt air. We would continue all the way until the sun settled in the horizon. Then turn around just as we reached the outer banks. From the highest point in the cliff by Salve, you could see it you know, see the lighthouse."
"Yes, I know. It frightens me."
"No, the lighthouse. It looks so cold and brooding just lying out there on a barren patch of rocks."
Kathryn laughed and placed her hand warmly on Anna’s shoulder.
"You shouldn’t be afraid of it Anna. I can’t tell you how many countless lives that old house has saved. I remember some pretty tumulus storms the fisherman from our town found themselves in, and the only thing that guided them safely back home was that old house. When we were children my sister and I would lay on the beach and watch it's beacon cutting into the dark night. We took to timing it, timing how long it would take to sweep entirely around, it was twelve seconds if I remember correctly."
"I don’t like it, its cold and frightening and reminds me of.."
"Of what Anna?"
Anna began to tremble and stood abruptly her bottom lip tried valiantly to lie still. Kathryn watched as she swallowed the lump that formed in her throat, Anna’s eyes misted slightly and Kathryn could detect she was trying hard to reign in the fear that consumed her.
"Nothing….I.. Kathryn, will you visit me there? I mean if you can."
Kathryn swallowed deeply, the fear immediately rose in her chest. She felt a sudden chill creep down the length of her spine and found that she was unable to dispel it. The thought of returning to Rhode Island after all of these years frightened her. Yet, she felt compelled to ease the rising tension in Anna and wanted desperately to comfort her.
"I..I can’t promise you that. Its been so long since I left and well.."
Anna’s face dropped and a tear slipped from the corner of her eye, finding it's way down the length of her cheek.
"I…I understand. I have to go now Kathryn."
Before Kathryn could rise and stop her, Anna quickly turned and ran from her. The sight of the retreating figure saddened Kathryn and she wiped the mist from her eyes. She remained on the bench an hour longer languishing in the disappointment of their latest encounter plagued her.
Kathryn realized that it was significant and yet, she was unable to unlock the elusive mystery. The terror present in Anna’s eyes spoke of pain and displacement, and she felt a strong desire to hold and protect Anna. It was as if, this was the sole reason that they were thrown together in the first place, to lead one another back to humanity and the living world around them.
The very fact of Anna’s unexplainable growth from child into young womanhood defied logic. And Kathryn could not help being concerned over the troubled darkness that veiled Anna this time. In some inexplicable way, she found it natural to accept their strange and odd encounters, and that somehow their life threads would continue to intertwine this way, until the final answer would reveal itself.
Continued on part III