As a ‘stay at home’ mom, nobody would’ve guessed that this particular human being was infinitely special. She looked normal enough; fashionable glasses, auburn hair always done up in a bun, a heart-shaped face, and woodsy brown eyes. At age thirty-eight, Abigale Newell was still a knockout. Her husband, Douglas, only ever knew that she was the world’s perfect wife and mother.
Perhaps too perfect.
When Douglas would arrive home, always late in the evening, the house would always be immaculate. His dinner was always ready, his suit was always laid out for the next day and, remarkable as it may seem, Abigale remained with a pep of energy every night. Throughout college, where he met her, she always had that little spark that never seemed to fizzle out.
Of course, Abigale, it seems, was never above her own eccentricities. She would cry over the morning newspaper sometimes. It was always the worst on Mondays. During her two pregnancies, four years apart, she was battling with, what Douglas thought, was very heavy post partum depression. Needless to say, it was difficult counseling her through those troubled times. Douglas, the good husband that he was, was always there for her through those rocky moments.
Not only was the daily news always on her mind but it was apparent that Abigale was determined for her two girls to be well-mannered with good heads on their shoulders. Lyra, her youngest, was a good-standing girl who always did well in school and would one day be a successful photo journalist. Courtney, however, never stopped her shenanigans and had a deep affection for a boy that Abigale never approved of and always questioned.
On a day like every other, a Friday, in the month of June, Abigale pretended to look hurried and flustered. Just as she always had countless times before.
“Courtney,” she called to the top of the stairs, “ get down here right now! This one woman standoff has got to stop!”
Courtney was always late for school. Abigale could’ve fixed that with a jerk of her neck, but didn’t want to. Teenage girls needed their reluctance in effort to maintain their normal life, or what was deemed a somewhat normal life to prying eyes. Yes, Abigale had a good secret or two. These were the same secrets she concealed from her family on a daily basis. But, every once in a while, the lovely Mrs. Newell couldn’t help but flex her talents.
No one was in the kitchen.
She double-checked, splitting herself into two people. Her double walked to the doorway connecting the kitchen to the dining room, took a few looks around. When all was clear, her second self walked back to her, like a trained dog, and melted back into her.
Her husband would be up soon and he would be hungry. Lyra was in the bathroom and, from what she could hear, Courtney had just hit the snooze button on her alarm clock. Good girl, Abigale thought.
The radio on the counter clicked on without anyone touching it. Radio static buzzed for a moment as Abigale squinted her eyes, trying to catch a perfect song in that great big cloudy mist. She found one and mentally tuned the radio into that particular station just in time to hear the beginning of a golden oldie. She really was a remarkable woman.
Marvin Gaye came alive lightly through the speakers and started chirping away with ‘ain’t that peculiar.’ With Abigale in the kitchen every morning around this hour, it always was just that; peculiar.
Bread sailed out of the cabinet and both slices jumped into the toaster.
Eggs crashed against the pan and the stove set itself.
Fresh slices of ham took their familiar pathway to the second pan where the bacon and hash browns were arguing over which one would have the privilege of jumping into the pan, as if it were a private swimming pool. Of course, bacon and hash browns don’t have a personality. Abigale created personalities for them just to further amuse herself in her daily routines.
“Now both of you stop that right now,” she whispered.
They both looked up at her, then, with an ounce of chivalry, bacon backed away so that hash browns could have their fun.
The newspaper exploded into the kitchen and several articles swirled around a controlled tornado of news. The toast popped out and she stole a slice to chew on as several articles zoomed up to her, begging to be read. Whatever she didn’t find interest in, she said ‘next’ almost dreamily.
Her chair slid away for her, as usual.
“Why thank you.”
Suddenly, she heard footsteps.
“Psst!” she said to the tornado of news, and soundlessly the articles gathered into the shape of a full newspaper and calmly came to rest in Abigale’s outstretched hands.
Lyra peaked around the corner. Her dark brown hair was unkempt and her stuffed panda was in the nook of her right arm. Even as young as she was, she always seemed to be getting younger, almost shrinking.
“Thought I heard noises, mom.”
“Well, it’s just me poking around.”
“I could’ve sworn . . .”
Douglas entered, already a smile on his face.
He picked up Lyra and gave her a strong hug. “What? My little baby swears. I don’t think so!”
He tickled her playfully.
“No, daddy,” she said through fits of laughter. “I thought I heard noises.”
“It was probably your sister.” he put her down and she scurried to a seat next to her mother. “Speaking of which, Courtney! Get your butt outta bed! Join the ranks of the living!”
After he called up to the rooftops, he made his way to the coffee pot where a nice fresh cup was ready for him. “Now that was fast. How do you do it, dear?”
“As quietly as possible.” She chewed on her toast as she looked back to her paper.
Douglas had the charm and wit of any man but bared a striking resemblance to a young James Garner. And that was perfectly alright with Abigale.
Shortly after, Courtney, the bushy blond-haired wonder, appeared in the doorway, sneering at everyone as she sauntered over to the fridge, pulled out a canister of peanut butter and walked back to her room. She never ate breakfast with the family. Her attitude was, who would want to?
At 7:50am, both little darlings were dressed and ready, backpacks packed. Abiagle watched as they scurried onto the bus and set off for school. As she stood there, watching the bus leave, she was almost tempted to split herself into two again and have her double chaperone the kids to school. But, if she was to be considered normal by the neighbors, she was just going to have to suck it up and worry along with the rest of the world’s mothers. If they could do it, so could she.
She closed the door behind her and headed for the kitchen. Her husband was still there, sipping his coffee and staring out the back window. She snuck up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist.
Peeking over his shoulder, she saw what he was staring at, a male Painted Bunting perched on their fence. It had a red breast and hints of blue, yellow and green on it’s backside. To anyone else, it was a simple colorful bird, nothing more. But for Abigale, it was a signal. A predestined signal that would only come along when it was that time again. Abigale, try as she might, tried to wish the bird away. Sadly, that was one little trick that wasn’t in her bag. She hated that Painted Bunting about as passionately as she hated world war.
Although, she did feel fortunate to be able to get the signal to let her know it was time.
Her husband knew something was wrong.
“Abigale, you’re hurting me.” he said.
Forgetful, she unhooked herself from his waist. He started breathing in big puffs as if he just lost a wrestling match. He looked at her awkwardly then set his cup down on the counter.
“That’s one grip you got there. Pilates teach you that?”
She giggled, a tear creeping out of her eye, then it oozed right back in. Of course she would tell him, she’s told him countless times before. Each time that she did, she’d wipe the memory out of his head. There was never a right way to put it, and so far, it was always met with hostility.
“I’m not normal, Doug.”
“What is normal?”
“No, I mean, there’s something in my genetic code. A defect that allows me to control things with my mind. If I will it, it happens.”
He moved closer to her, playing along with what he thought was a game. “How much power do you have in that beautiful little head of yours?”
“You know when every woman has her period, how she can say that she can just destroy the planet?”
“Sometimes one time too many,” he chided playfully. “But yes.”
“It’s so dangerous. It works.”
“Real as reality.”
Douglas looked around, nodding in agreement. Obviously he was skeptical but still in a good enough mood to carry on with the game. “Then tell me, darling, how come the world is still spinning?”
“I enjoy it too much to want to destroy it.”
“But you can literally destroy it?”
“Not here. Another one.”
“Pluto? You’ve destroyed Pluto?”
“It’s just a big rock of ice. Not really a planet when you think of it. Just a ball of ice in an orbit. No life there. Don’t worry, I checked.”
“Pardon me, but isn’t that a tad far fetched?”
“I can prove it to you.”
The phone rang.
Abiagle clicked her tongue and the signal went on speakerphone. “Jerry, so good of you to call. Douglas will call you back. He hasn’t found the fishing line yet but he promises he’ll get to it. Say hi to Margot for me.”
Douglas was staring at the speaker, utterly amazed that it came on without her pressing the button.
Then, like a delayed punch line to the end of a joke, jerry said. “Oh. Yes. Fine. Um. Yeah. Bye.”
Again, Abigale clicked her tongue and the call ended.
Douglas, blinked, his eyes were searching for something inside his own head, almost like he was thinking something over. Had this happened before, many different ways?
Somehow, his mind was telling him to believe rather than stray, that he had had far too much experience with powers beyond belief to be doubtful now.
“So instead of using your powers for evil, you’ve decided to live a life with me.”
“Yes. It’s calming.”
“So why the long face?”
“Every time I am able, a Painted Bunting stops by our house to give me the signal. Mother nature is my correspondence. She’s telling me that it is time.”
“Time for what?”
Abigale approached him, leaned forward and kissed him. The kiss was so passionate and ever so tasty. The sheer power of the kiss was so overwhelming, Douglas couldn’t help but close his eyes tightly. When he opened them, they were standing in their bedroom. The door moved with the will of Abigale and closed behind them.
Downstairs, the radio came alive once more, this time it was squealing, then exploded in sparks.
Toast popped out of the toaster, windows banged open and shut. Electricity was surging through the house and the furniture trembled. After a while, everything was calm.
It was done.
And instead of being happy about the whole ordeal, abigale was sad. Her husband was there to comfort her, “Did I hurt you?”
“No,” she sniffled, “It’s not that.”
“Then what? What has you so upset?”
“Come on, it doesn’t work that fast.”
“It will though.”
She stared at the clock on their nightstand and squinted hard to make it rise and levitate. It defiantly objected. To her, it was a blessing and a curse. Meant to trade one joy for another.
“My power is gone,” she said softly.
Douglas felt ashamed. “How can that be?”
“It was supposed to be.”
“How long will you be powerless?”
Her look lingered on him longer than expected. She placed her head in her hands, whispering the answer, “Nine months...”