Casting Out the Others

Single FlameUntil now, Elyse has been unaware of something very important about Lucie. She’s always known that something was “off”, but she could never quite figure it out. And now that she knows what it is, she wants to set things right. But… is what she’s doing right for Brendon? And… does Elyse even have a right to try to change things, or should she just leave them as they are?

Mood music.


Aunt Hayley’s library consisted of two long shelves filled with books crammed together alphabetically by subject, from Alchemy to Karma, Physics to Reincarnation, Sociology to Zen. As we scanned her entire collection, she made sure Claire and I understood the books were references only, for the sake of her own knowledge and learning. In other words, just because she had multiple books on Druidic rituals, it didn’t mean she actually practiced them. She preferred to think of everything in her collection as a series of “textbooks” — merely tools that came in handy in times like these.

Claire and I eyed each other sideways, letting our nerves get the better of us. I felt a chill run down my spine when Aunt Hayley spoke again.

“Ah. Here’s the one I was looking for,” she announced, blowing odd, glittery dust off to top edge of an over-sized hardback book before handing it to me. “This was actually one of my college textbooks… from one of my Lit classes… so-n-so years ago,” Aunt Hayley winked at me teasingly, not wanting to reveal her age.

How appropriate, I thought. A literature book.

“Have you learned about the ‘others’ yet?” she asked me. I had no idea what on earth she was referring to.

“Which ‘others’?” I asked her with a blank expression.

“Hmm, well… that was the focus of this particular class I took. And it didn’t really make sense to me at the time either, until I studied it further. But… if you think about it, you can probably come up with a number of your own examples of what it means to be an ‘other’. For instance, in a lot of fairy tales and classic literature, there is group that happens upon another group of persons or things or existences that don’t quite fit in with the original group.”

Uhh, that would be me, I guess, I thought depressingly to myself. Aunt Hayley ignored my internal processing and merely continued her literary lecture while I mulled it over, “Maybe it’s a forest-dweller in medieval times… someone who chooses to live alone in the woods rather than in a settlement. Or… hmm, maybe I should give you a more modern example. Since you girls are dancers, I presume you’re familiar with the movie Oklahoma!?”

Claire and I nodded in unison. Thank goodness Claire was here to balance out my lack of awareness with a modicum of understanding.

“Well, it’s a very basic example,” Aunt Hayley noted cheerfully, ushering us into the foyer near her staircase. We stood in darkness with only a faint glow of candlelight flickering intermittently onto our faces from the living room.

“In that story,” she continued purposefully as Claire and I tried to keep up, “there are ranchers and farmers. Generally speaking, they look alike, behave similarly, they eat the same kinds of food, they both work hard from sun up to sundown, they live in the same territory… yet, the ranchers consider the farmers to be their rivals, and vice versa, because they are not part of their own group.”

“Oh. I guess I can understand that concept,” I told her, “but I’m not sure how it relates to Lucie, Brendon and I. I mean… I get the fact that Lucie and I are on opposite sides of this situation, but —”

“Yes, you’re right. But that’s only a small part of this story. The larger part is that this isn’t just about you versus Lucie. She and her family are an entire ‘other’ group unto themselves. And they’ve always been that way, for centuries.”

“Centuries?” Claire and I repeated as though we were Aunt Hayley’s backup singers….

. . . .

…. “I think I’m getting a little confused now,” Claire stated, to my great relief. Aunt Hayley’s explanation was starting to make my head spin, too. It was comforting to know I wasn’t alone.

“Okay, ladies… I’m sorry if I’m going around in circles trying to explain this. I just wanted to prepare you to hear the truth. And I will tell you this as directly as I can.” Aunt Hayley paused as Claire and I looked at her in anxious expectation.

She began simply, “Lucie has power over Brendon because every ounce of her being believes she has it. It’s not something she has to work on. There’s no wishful thinking involved. It’s just who she is. Things happen for her… things come true for her… because she has the innate power to make them happen.”

“Wow. So, how on earth are we going to counteract that?” Claire spoke the thoughts I had gotten lost in. I felt suddenly very hopeless again and wanted to crawl under a rock, somewhere no one could ever find me again. I didn’t want to have to deal with any of this. I didn’t want to interfere with Brendon’s life. But—

“Well, the upside of this is that fairy tales have happy endings for a reason — to remind us that good conquers evil,” Aunt Hayley finally finished, “True love will always win out over deception. And, I believe that’s what we’re dealing with here.” In one sweeping movement, she directed us to her front room, inviting us to take our seats around her coffee table, sitting on over-sized floor pillows.

“True love’s kiss?” Claire interjected romantically, pulling the words out of the air as though she was one of the tapered candles breathing out a faint wisp of smoke that could redirect our thoughts. The impossibility of her statement had the opposite effect on me. I knew the difference between what was real and what was fantasy.

It was Aunt Hayley who responded — and I couldn’t believe what she was saying, “Yes, but it doesn’t even have to be a kiss. It just has to be the shared, mutual feeling of true love,” Aunt Hayley confided, emphasizing the word ‘true’. “I think the reason Brendon is struggling with Elyse is because he knows something isn’t right with Lucie… he just can’t control it, or her, yet. Still, he has enough awareness of it to be able to break free from her every once in a while… but it’s been making Lucie a bit desperate, which can only mean there are worse things to come. Unless, of course, we do something about it.”

“How can that be? If she has all that innate power, how can Brendon break free from her at all, let alone over and over again?” asked Claire.

“Well… if his feelings for someone else are stronger, no ties can bind him — ever — particularly not to someone he doesn’t truly love,” Aunt Hayley looked at me then and lit a votive, placing it at the center of the table. Then she grabbed my hand and gestured for me to hold Claire’s to form a connected triangle.

Aunt Hayley said a quick, solemn prayer and spoke again, “I want you both to close your eyes and focus on seeing the light of the candle burning in your minds. Focus on its bright, flickering teardrop shape. Take note of all of the colors of the flame — blue supporting a hint of orange, enclosing a vibrant, warm golden yellow, purified by a hint of white. Now imagine yourself illuminated in the fullness of the light. Envelop yourselves in its warmth. Think of the things that make you most happy. Experience them again. Let those thoughts unravel and erase any and all negativity that may be within you and without you now.”

The soothing tones of Aunt Hayley’s voice sank into me and led my confused, bitter, undone thoughts to a restful space in my mind. I could see exactly what she was describing. I could feel the positive energy breaking me out of the heartache I’d been feeling for weeks. I started drifting off through rolling gray clouds, until sunlight finally broke through and washed over me. It took me a moment to realize the warm, familiar place I was standing in. I leaned backward against the hard, bronze base of Caesar Augustus waiting for Brendon to join me there as he had so many times before. I didn’t wait for him long. He appeared in an instant and, when I saw him approaching me, I moved away from the statue, walking deliberately toward him to meet him halfway. It felt so good to see him again. I didn’t want to waste a minute longer without him—

“Elyse,” Aunt Hayley spoke through my thoughts. I opened my eyes to find her smiling warm and motherly at me. Claire, though, had only one eye open, surveying the room to see if everything was okay. “I have a small garden out back. I’d like for you to go to it and take my kitchen shears with you — you’ll find them on the counter by the stove — then go outside and find a rose that speaks to you. When you do, clip it from its stem and bring it back inside. Can you do that, please?”

“Umm, sure,” I hesitated, knowing it was pitch black outside.

“There’s a full moon tonight,” Aunt Hayley read my mind. You’ll be able to see exactly which rose you want. And don’t worry. Claire and I are only a moment away. All you have to do is call out our names if you need us.”

I frowned, wondering why they couldn’t just come with me. I was getting a little spooked and didn’t want to be by myself. But I got up as Aunt Hayley had directed and walked toward the kitchen, determined to be brave and trusting. Still, I looked back over my shoulder at the two of them sitting together on the floor. Claire had already reached into her bag to pull out her Blackberry and check her messages. Aunt Hayley smiled again and whisked her hand at me, shooing me out of the room.

“You’ll be fine,” she told me, “See you back here in a few minutes. Remember to take your time.”

I nodded and wandered into the kitchen, shaking. I immediately began looking for the kitchen shears to hurry things along. Just as Aunt Hayley had said, they were waiting for me by the stove. I picked them up and turned the doorknob easily. Finding Aunt Hayley’s patch of roses only took a moment, too. There was one long row of several varieties planted along the edge of the house.

I sighed wondering how I would ever be able to choose from so many options… shades of yellow, red, white, purple and pink. They were all beautiful, all speaking to me, all asking to be chosen — each as innocent and sweet and deserving as the bouquet of little girls I taught to dance each Saturday morning. But Aunt Hayley had told me I could only pick one. And so I looked again. Closer and closer.

By the time I had finished scanning my options, there was no contest. Only one blushing pink rose stood out amongst the rest — half-open, half-closed, entirely stunning. Each of its petals curled softly around the next, forming a lush spiral of pale crimson hues — each one darker and more lovely than the one before it.

As I took the rose delicately into my hand, I heard a small cry, like a soft, weeping, musical sigh, escape on the late autumn breeze and when I looked closer into the spiral of petals, it seemed as if there were words handwritten on each one of them, just for me. Poetry, or lyrics, maybe. Romantic, entrancing thoughts… but they disappeared as quickly as they came, and the next sigh I heard was my own. I didn’t want to spoil such magic, but I had come here tonight for a reason, and I must see it through.

I clasped the kitchen shears tightly in my hand, made a wish that our plan would work and that from now on I would bring only good things to Brendon. In an instant, without even realizing it, I had snipped the flower’s long stem. It felt like such a shame. I had just ended the life of one of the most beautiful, ephemeral objects I’d ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes as I cradled the rosebud in both hands, ashamed of myself. I kissed it goodbye, and then blew another kiss to the full moon above me before returning inside.

As I closed the kitchen door, I noticed a solitary black crow sitting on a nearby branch as though he had been watching me the whole time. He flashed his wings at me and let out a single “caw,” then flew away. I closed the door and wiped away my tears before returning to Aunt Hayley and Claire who were still sitting where I’d left them, ready for my re-appearance.

“Perfect choice,” Aunt Hayley said approvingly as I reclaimed my seat. I tried to hand the rose to her, but she wouldn’t take it. She just shook her head and advised me to inhale its fragrance deeply. I took in the scent and held it inside of me as long as possible. I let its sweetness fill me up and permeate my thoughts until I felt as though I had escaped to some far-off place where nothing could harm me.

Aunt Hayley asked me to remove each petal one by one, placing them individually around the candle, so that each petal would be brought out into the light. It seemed like a sad, strange, destructive process to me, but if it would help Brendon in any way, I wanted to do it for him. I didn’t want to let him down. Again.

When only one petal remained, the one which had been at the center of the once-full bud, Aunt Hayley instructed me to offer it directly into the flame — but first, I must speak my heart to the light. I shook my head, frustrated and scared. I didn’t want to say anything out loud, because it hurt me too much to feel it at all. Saying it out loud would make it that much more real, that much more unattainable, that much more painful. But Claire clasped my hand in hers and whispered, “It’s okay, we already know; just say it and get it out of your head. Free yourself… for your own sake.”

I nodded to her at last, took a deep breath, gathered my strength together and finally let the words that were written all over my heart — the ones I’d been keeping to myself for so long — fall out of my mouth…..



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