Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Part Five: Cafe Latte Conversation

I’m starting to freak out.  Am I losing it? Or is this just some kind of phase I’m going through?  I’m not sure if any of it is real.  Okay, Markus, get a hold of yourself.  You’re not crazy . . . yet.

In school today I can’t focus at all.  Class after class the only thing I can think of is my angel and all the strange experiences I’ve been having.  And Val’s been asking me nonstop about what happened last night.  I don’t know for how long I can fend her off.  It’s weird enough that I lived, or maybe dreamed, another person’s life.  But how do I explain that I felt I had lived the life of Helen, a woman!  Too weird.  Should I go to the school counselor?  Better not.  I don’t need things getting any more complicated than they already are right now.  I see Val waiting at our lunch table.  I can see the questions in her face before I even sit down.

“Markus,” Val started in right away, “You’ve been dancing around my questions all morning.  Last night you were so excited to tell me about it.  Why all of a sudden you’re avoiding it?”

“Well,” I started hesitatingly, “It’s pretty weird and, honestly, I don’t know how you’re going to react to what I experienced last night.”

“Markus, I’ve known you since middle school… since the day you moved in for Pete’s sake.  Who else could you trust?  Besides, I know you’re weird and I’m okay with it.  So, are you going to tell me now or what?”

It’s hard to argue with someone who knows you so well.  And she’s right. Val and I have shared everything these past years.  I guess I can be honest with her about having been Helen in my dream.

“Ok Val,” I sighed, “But after classes meet me at Java Lava for a coffee and I’ll tell you all about it there.”  

“Deal,” Val said. “But you’re buying since you’re making me wait.” 

After school I head over to Java Lava which is Val’s and my favorite café and hang out spot.  We go at least twice a week.   Java Lava is a cool artsy place with paintings from local artists on the brightly colored walls.  It has an industrial look with concrete floors but at the same time it’s so cozy too.  But most of all, they have the best frappacinos in town.   

Val was there waiting for me on one of the overstuffed chairs in the corner.    Now I’m nervous again.  How do I start this conversation?  Oh heck, I’ll just jump right into it.  So I sit down and spill the whole story of how I experienced a year in the life of a woman named Helen who lived in the 1940s.  Val sat there listening carefully and quietly as I gave her every detail from where Helen worked to how she met Frank, got married, and was killed in a car accident with her new husband.  When I finish Val is still sitting there across from me.  That should be a good sign. I think.   

“Well,” I say, “That’s all of it. That’s what I experienced while I was out cold on the Binyamin’s living room carpet.  So, what do you think Val? Tell me.”

“Markus, that’s the most romantic story I ever heard,” she finally said. “You know I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories.  Why do you think I cry like a baby every time I see Titanic?  But this story of yours was so beautiful.  It really was.”

“Val, whatever, but this is really freaking me out!”

“I think you’re lucky to be having these experiences Markus.  I mean, it sure beats the heck out of my boring life!  But, well, yeah, I can see how it is weird and kind of freaky too,” she said.

“But as nice as you find the story, Val, I’m sure it’s all just in my head.  It has to be.  I mean who are these people?  Helen and Ruth.  Their friend Alice. And Anna, Anna Van Ordt.  Or Anna Hooks, actually, after she got married.”

Suddenly Val went white.  She tilted her head slowly and fixed her eyes right onto mine.  I can see her jaw dropping before me. 

“What Val?  What is it?”

“Hooks!” she says.  “Anna Hooks?  Markus, that’s my last name and, you’re not going to believe this, but my grandmother is Anna Hooks and, Markus,” she leans in close, “Before that she was . . . Anna Van Ordt!”

Now this just can’t be.  I can’t speak.  I’m stunned beyond words.  Val’s face too is frozen in disbelief.  I’m also starting to get a bad feeling.  I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like the feeling I got yesterday when I was at the principal’s office.  And I felt it as Helen in the car right before she crashed.  Then, something even more weird happens.  I look out the window and across the street and my jaw hits the floor.  That black suit.  That red tie.  It’s Eiden.

“Val!” I said in a screaming whisper, “Look across the street.  It’s him, it’s Eiden!”

“Where,” Val asks swinging her neck around to see out the window behind her.  “What, you mean that guy in the red tie?”  

“Yes! Val, that’s him.”

Across the street Eiden was looking at us.  Then he smiled, waved and started to walk away.  The further he got down the street better I started to feel. What the heck is going on?

“So that’s Eiden?” Val asks bringing me back to the moment.  “The new guy?”

“Yes,” I said. “And every time I see him I get weird feelings.”

“You’ve had a lot of weird feelings lately Markus. Anyway, just pay no attention to that creep.  Now, what about my grandmother?  Markus, she’s Anna Van Ordt Hooks.  And this Helen you’re talking about I’ll bet was one of her friends.  Markus listen, next week we’re going to drive up to see her.  Why don’t you come with us?”

“Gee, I don’t know Val. It might be kind of awkward going on your family outing.”

“Are you kidding Markus?  My parents have all but adopted you.  You’re like family to us and so you should come meet my grandmother anyway.  You can talk to her, ask if there really was a Helen and a Ruth and an Alice.  Maybe you could find out what the heck’s been going on.”

“Well, maybe it would be okay,” I answered.

“Good, then it’s settled. Besides, we’ll have a fun time up by the lake where my grandma lives.”  

“Yeah,” I say, “It’ll be fun I guess.”  Only now I’m getting super curious about my friends from back during the war. What happened to Ruth and Alice. I hope Val’s grandmother knows something.

“Markus,” Val says leaning over the table to get closer.  “I can’t stop thinking about that Shimbala legend, the one Mr. Binyamin was telling us about.  Do you think there is a connection between that and what you’re going through?  Today during my free period I looked that legend up.  I found some articles about the basic story, but nothing as detailed as Mr. Binyamin told us.”

“Oh yeah,” I say, “The legend.  I forgot about that. Well, I don’t know Val.  I mean there could be some connection.  We need to talk to Mr. Binyamin again and get more about that story.”

“So I’m guessing we’re going to give our new neighbors a visit tomorrow?”

“Yes, Val, we will,” I said finally being able to smile again.  

“Excuse me,” the waitress said cutting into our conversation.  “Anything I can get you two?  We have a wonderful new caramel latte that you might like to try.”

As I looked up and listened to the waitress I find I can’t stop looking at her.  She’s so cheerful and she seems familiar too.  I feel a calmness coming over me like a familiar blanket.  I just had to ask her . . . .

“I’m sorry, but have you always worked here?”

“Oh no,” she said breaking into a smile.  “I’m new. In fact this is my first day.”

Then I must not have seen her before.  But there was something so familiar about her and, like most of the things happening to me lately, I can’t put my finger on it.  I’m starting to get really frustrated.

“We’ll try two of your new caramel lattes,” Val chimes in.  

“Coming right up,” the waitress says.  She then turns to walk away.  I keep thinking that I saw her when I was younger maybe.  Not sure and more than likely it’s just my imagination again.  

“So, what would you like to do now?” Val asks.

“Well, I’ve got some reading to do Val. I’ll do that now and when we finish our lattes then I need to get home and start that book report on “Tale of Two Cities” that’s due next week for English Class.”

“Yeah, you better catch up on that cause Mrs. Schneider takes no prisoners when it comes to her book reports.  And you seemed really zoned out in class today.  Here, take my notes home with you and copy them.”

“Val, you’re the best,” I said with relief.  “Great, here come our drinks.”  I don’t see the new waitress.


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