One Mind-Chapter 12

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 12 (v.1) - To the Other Side

Submitted: June 20, 2016

Reads: 238

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Submitted: June 20, 2016



Chapter 12

Stella opened a drawer to put away a pen one weekend when she noticed a deck of playing cards.  Picking them up, she smiled, reminiscing about how she and Lenny, newly married and unable to afford other amusements had found a simple solace in Bridge games.  The two would play for hours at weekly tournaments at the community center at the edge of the city, teaming up, laughing and just being.

Stella distractedly began to close the drawer again when she paused.  The games were still held at the center, as far as she knew.  Attending a Bridge game, given the circumstances, would be seen as a way to channel her grief.  Joining the weekly game might give the appearance of normalcy while also diverting suspicion, thus allowing her to develop a plan, a next step.She announced her plan to Edward at dinner the next Friday night.  He looked mildly amused. 

"Bridge?" he said incredulously, "You’re leaving to play Bridge in the middle of this mess?"

  "Or maybe despite it." said Stella defiantly.

"Sorry, but you don't strike me as the bridge type, especially the Community Hall Games.”Stella momentarily hesitated, wanting to tell her son the truth, yet knowing she couldn’t.  Risk and honesty, two sides of the same card as far as she was concerned, was a game she could not play if she wanted to keep the small family she had left intact.

  "You know young man, I did have a life before you and your sister.  In that life I played bridge."

  "Whatever," said Edward, "I have a history report to finish.  Have fun at 'Bridge,'”

There were no cars on the road as Stella headed out, none that were obvious anyway.  Her protectors were more subtle these days, placing her under surveillance without her hopefully noticing she was under surveillance.  At least that's what those who did the watching, hoped she’d believe, which is exactly why she didn't.  Stella headed left, then right for several miles, until she reached the hall.

When Stella opened the door to the community center that night,  it was as if nothing had changed.  The tables and chairs were set up as they always had been with a longer snack and buffet table on the furthest end.  Instantaneous recollections floated back from before, when it was only she and Lenny and they were on the rise.

She could tell by the stares though, that this was not her past life.  Here was a different time and a different place.  Stella saw several workmates at a table, noting how quickly they placed their bags on the empty seats next to them, diverting their gaze when she walked past.  Stella didn't need to see their eyes, their actions had said it all.  The suspicion oozing from these participants in the hall and hanging in the stale air said more than words could ever hope to.

The message was clear. Bridge was for those who belonged. For those who had every day, organized, calm lives.  Lives which would never involve runaways, missing persons or questions and certainly not lives that involved headlines. 

It was not so much that she wasn't wanted here, Stella guessed, as that she was feared.Even a suspicion of this “Other,” illness might be enough to make the Bridge players outcasts too. Association with an “Other” family, especially one known to be under active scrutiny, could bring investigators and protectors into these card players orderly lives, to question and watch them. Protesters who could make their perfect existence a living nightmare.  

Damn them, damn them all!, Stella thought angrily.  If she had to survive without them, she would.  Stella, determined to show them they were not in charge of her choices, stomped politely down the main aisle to the food table, fueled by the mistrust and disgust surrounding her.  Words like insolence and arrogance and bold beyond belief echoed in whispers throughout the hall. Stella reached the food table with a firmness and solidarity she hadn't felt in years

  Stella took a paper plate and began filling it with every food she could find, dropping each with an indomitable plop onto her plate.  Making a statement with each thud of food. Stella belonged here, she fit, she was equal and she was demanding to be acknowledged.

The march back to the door was slower if that was possible than the march to the table.  Stella made sure of it, she was determined to make it that way, making them face their own, adamantly denied prejudices.  A revolution was taking place here tonight, everyone in that room felt it, though no one would speak of it.  Stella reached the exit with her head held high, slamming the main door loudly as she left. 

The rush of cold air felt good against her warm face, a place where a mist of anger and humiliation had finally surfaced.  Finding a park bench, she sat down stoically, placing her bag next to her.  The bench Stella noted was placed somehow in the shadows of the building, much as she too felt lost in the shadows of life.

Stella glanced out glumly at the remnants of the old city ahead which were surrounded by a chain link fence.  This was the city before their city.  The city which had sat there empty, like a slowly rotting corpse, for as long as Stella could remember.  

Stella had often wondered why the current governance didn't knock those buildings down, take over the land and expand the current city's boundaries.  She remembered Lenny mentioning that the idea had been casually tossed around at several council meeting once or twice but it had never gone past that.  The costs of the environmental impact and air quality studies alone would be prohibitive, he had added, and could go on for years, not to mention the actual expense of the demolition and hauling away of the refuse. 

Stella looked out on the former city under the shadowy night, wondering if there was a more somber reason for this fossil's existence.  Maybe the city was left standing there as a threat alone.  A reminder almost to the weak and those who considered speaking out.  Maybe it was meant to send one message, this is what once was, what could be again, if you don't cooperate.  If you didn't listen to the group.  

Stella walked closer to the fence, curious.  The old city, now that she had noticed it, had all at once become mysteriously interesting to her. Maybe rather than this place being an ending, she thought, it was her beginning, her next step. The more she stared, the more Stella became instantaneously aware that this is where her soul was beckoning her to travel.

The sound of a car driving by, brought Stella back to her current reality. This venture couldn't happen tonight, there might be protectors watching. It would happen though, Stella thought firmly, she knew it would happen indeed. 

After Stella had made her decision that night, she began firmly putting the building blocks of her adventure in place, week after week.  She started by carefully observing everything about Bridge night as the weeks passed.  She followed closely her protectors scripted dance of following the unfollowed, noting how often they drove by, when they came and when they left.  These drive-bys, once her new Bridge routine became established, eventually slowed to almost nothing.  Stella would sit and she would walk, always searching for an opening to the other side.

It wasn’t what Stella expected to find in the forlorn city that intrigued her.  From everything she knew, there was nothing in there to find.  It was the thrill, the escape that beckoned to her.There seemed to have developed inside her an unquenchable well of adventure which would never be satisfied unless there was newness, risk and purpose to her existence.A need for this challenge grew as the new routine, even the march to the food table, all began to dull.

An entrance to this mystical abyss appeared one night, almost by surprise.  Stella found herself sitting on her favorite bench once again, thinking about what her life once was and what it had dissolved into now, when a steady rush of tears, came crashing through the open floodgates of her eyes.  Tonight the accumulation of sorrow her soul had felt over the past several months embraced her lungs in gasping breaths. 

Stella knew the torrent had to come, she’d felt it threatening to emerge on more than one occasion.  Then, she’d been able to push it back through the power of her eyelids, always keeping it in check.  Now though with no one to stay composed for, she became unglued.Withdrawing all that had been saved up in her emotional bank account since this whole mess had started and spending it all, right then and there. Stella waited until the torrent of droplets stopped on their own, dwindling slowly to a trickle.  She finally fished for tissues in her bag and wiped her eyes. 

Feeling stalwart once again, Stella went to the trash receptacles to dispose of her tissues.  She had begun to turn away when she saw the yawning space in the fence behind the receptacle. Apparently those who had constructed it had run out of fencing and hastily placed the trash dumpster in front of it to hide their misjudgement.  It was a place where sections of the fence seemed to be reaching out to one another but could not join their limbs. With this one discovery she knew it was time to put her plan into action.

  The night of her first step over, a fierce terror began to grip Stella as she went out her front door.  She glanced back at her gangly teenage son intent on his homework and smiled, wondering if anything would ever be the same after tonight. 

This fear continued to follow her as she drove to the hall with Stella ignoring it throughout.Fear did not stop her these days. Instead it fueled her as it challenged her with it’s taunting and teasing, daring her to continue. 

For fear, Stella had discovered, was there to hide something.  There was a jewel to attain, a treasure chest to acquire, but in order to collect that gem, one must have the fortitude to battle past the fear first.  To keep battling the despites, the obstacles, the hindrances, to finally reach the inevitables in your life.

Once at the hall, Stella quickly dispensed with the formalities of the night.  The march to the food table which had seemed so defiant at first, tonight was something to get out of the way, a preview of the main performance.  Even those watching yawned in bored amusement at the idiocy of it all.

Before long Stella was back on her park bench with her plate full of food.  A half an hour later, a governmental car drove slowly by, with Stella glancing at them discreetly, as they patiently drank their coffee.  A smile crossed Stella’s face as the thought crossed her mind, that maybe she should wave at her benevolent benefactors, letting them know she knew they were watching her, waiting for her to make the smallest out of the ordinary movement.The driver stretched, then the pair drove off, apparently finding nothing exciting about a bridge game.

Stella waited five minutes longer, then glancing at the empty dark road again, she pushed the receptacle forward slightly.  Squeezing behind it, she climbed through the unplanned doorway in the fencing. Once across, standing in the dark she thrilled at her actual escape. She relished the new feeling of stepping outside of herself. Stella certainly hadn’t felt this excitement in her old life.  For the first time in a long time, she felt she was actually living, feeling a new awakening inside of her. The moon blinked at her, surprised at her resolve.

Stella looked around at the old city which had been staring back at her for all of these weeks.  It was spooky, this world outside a world, yet it spoke to her. While this place wasn't dirty exactly, it was cold and hollow, she thought as a shivery wind reached it's fingers down an empty street in her direction.  Stella wandered, curious about this relic of a world she'd never seen. 

Trash hopscotched along in front of her, almost directing her footsteps, as Stella followed it’s path, the moon adorned houses winked at her wanderings.  Remnants of those who once lived here, of their old lives, still clung to these skeletal remains, like clothes hanging on a line, long forgotten.A slight wind blew through some tattered curtains which looked like they had been there for years. 

Factories stood waiting for workers who would never return.  A round dark tarp costumed a rusty machine from a collapsed shed, Stella suspected.  Exaggerated shadows of these unknown objects all danced a ballet around her.

These silent cavorting dancers were unexpectedly broken up by a shadow which seemed to be a smaller, lighter shade of dark.  A dancing leaf almost, which seemed to be blowing through this graveyard of discarded archives. This leaf suddenly hesitated and jerked, panicked and then began running as if suddenly seeing a wolf from a fairy tale, a little girl knew she must escape the forest.

The leaf continued, by skittering around the corner but for some reason Stella hesitated, almost laughing at the thought of not wanting to spook a shadow.Knowing that someone existed here, for now was enough, Stella thought, as she turned to walk back to the fence and into her stale existence.

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