Moondance; Celebrating Creative Women
The Soul Guardian

jj donahue

She sits now in her comfortable, overstuffed chair, it's hard for her to believe that she sat in the straight hard ladder-backed one before. And it's equally as hard to remember what she was thinking, or what she was feeling at that moment in time. She wishes that she could transport herself back for just one day to do over what was already done. But this is a place she can never return to, even though she often feels as though she never left. The memories that live inside her and haunt her are so real that she wonders if she really ever truly found freedom. They come back, one flowing into another. One memory must seep into the next like that so that she can remember what it was that caused this, and what happened before that, and what was the result of this. It's important to remember all the whys and because's as those explain the what was stuff.

She is away from the hurtful cutting words, yet they still live inside of her. They are there, little voices that tell her she can't do anything right. They tell her she's ugly, she's crazy, she's worthless and talentless. She is a lousy mother and a mediocre wife. No man will ever stay with her long. She is a piece of shit. They point at her and ridicule her, especially when she believes that someone truly loves her. You? They double over, laughing hysterically, letting her know what a pathetic fool she is.

She feels like an impostor. She gets up every morning and dons her glassine mask. Bravely she faces the world with the face that is not her own. She prays that no one will look beyond the facade, as they would indeed see the ugly shameful thing that lives below the surface. When this creature raises it's ugly head, they will all run, afraid of the monster that lives just under the smooth wrinkle free exterior that she has created.

She rarely tells her tale, mainly because she can't seem to find the right place to start. An abusive relationship is really just one of the results of an abusive life. To tell her story, she'd have to start at the beginning of her life, from her first memories, and frankly, no one has that kind of time. She knows that something will inevitably become lost in the translation. How can one explain the feeling of fear in words? How could she describe the panic, the feeling of insides of her stomach being twisted and knotted and pulled? How can she explain her actions, or her non actions, without making these reasonings sound like justifications?

No one else could listen to the story the way they would have to in order to understand - from where she stood - from where she fell to her knees and sobbed - from where she tossed and turned and lay sleepless, night after night - from where she watched, helpless, her body frozen, unable to act, as she allowed another to treat her and others she loved so badly. Could they imagine that there are times when your mouth opens but no words can come out?

Would they believe that sometimes your legs refuse to move, your feet cemented to the floor? Could they comprehend that another person could persuade you to believe that this prison sentence is a perfectly normal life, and that you are the crazy one?

On the Outside Looking In by Patse Hemsley

"On The Outside Looking In"
By Patse Hemsley

No, no one would believe that could happen. They would look at her and judge her, thinking her either a liar or a fool for putting up with that situation as long as she did. Then there would be those who would suggest that some of that stuff was perfectly normal, just a part of living with another person, a cross a woman has to bear. These people are the ones that would want to shut her up real fast. They are the ones in the same situation, and they don't want to hear that it's wrong and it's destructive and its abusive and that they must do something about it. They would start to feel that they must get out, that they must change. And when they realize this, but find they simply can't make a move, they will hate her. They will hate her for telling her story, for making them think, and for having the courage to leave. They will hate her for holding up the mirror to their own faces. They will hate her for being what they so long to become.

And so she stays silent, reliving the tale in her head from time to time. There are still so many times when she wonders if she made the whole thing up. She'll remember a happier time and wonder for a split second if she was to blame for all that transpired. Then the flood gates open and the whole story starts to wash over her again, reminding her of what she lived through, and confirming that she did the only thing she could possibly do, lest she go completely mad.

She would love to take a big thick eraser and wipe the board clean. To start fresh from the black, shiny new surface, with a new big piece of chalk, the surface on it still smooth, making a little squeaky noise as it moves across perfect white on perfect black. This new piece of chalk writes in only beautiful words, in the most artistic scrolling handwriting, the letters, big and bold and unafraid. The white of the writing, so enlightening against the black. New words on a blank slate.

Because she knows that the part of her that allowed the unthinkable to happen still lives inside of her, she feels an ever-present risk - that she might allow this to happen again. She sees the way she sacrifices so easily to others. A worthy trait, in some eyes, but to the person who would, who could abuse her again, she is a target, a perfect willing victim. That frightens her beyond words that part of her that is so much herself. Her own personality, her own vulnerability, which is so much a part of who she is - scares her the most. She knows she can't change it, nor does she want to, but she also remembers what was before and she doesn't trust herself to be able to be discriminating enough to let someone in, to trust someone, as she has not yet learned to trust herself.

And so, she is alone. The most alone she has ever been. She is the most comfortable with herself, and she is the most herself she has ever allowed herself to be, and yet, she is terribly alone in her selfness.

She dared not let anyone close, lest they see her soft mushy center, and want to disturb it, or to grab it and own it and suck it from her.

So when she let someone inside, she was frightened beyond belief. She wanted to open up and let this wonderful warm caring person inside, but she was scared. Scared to become trapped again, scared to become hurt, scared that this perfect someone would meet the imperfect person who lived inside her, the one that is ugly and stupid and worthless. She was so afraid he would see the part of her she hated the part of her she hid the part of her that was created by a jealous man, in another time.

She wanted to kill this part of her, the creature that grew inside her, planted and cultivated by the man who wanted it to grow into a being so large that it would entwine around the other parts of her, the parts that she loved, and suffocate her.

She tried to kill the hideous beast with all kinds of weapons - poison, swords, starvation. She cared little for herself, letting her self go, hoping that in the process she would weaken the creature, but to no avail. The hateful man was still feeding the monster, the pathetic spineless being, though her. His words, the memories, filling her mind, ciphering through her veins to feed the insatiable beast. There were times when she felt the creature eating her up as well, and she knew she would have to stop this. She would have to fight.

After what seemed an eternity of wrestling with and trying to kill the beast that wouldn't die, she realized she couldn't fight this enemy alone. In struggling to kill the creature she abhorred, she had weakened her true being. She knew she had to cultivate the real part of her, the part she loved, in order to make that part grow strong to battle the repulsive impostor that had found a home inside her soul.

She had never fallen in love before. Even when she thought she was, she secretly knew she was not feeling the emotional surrender that others had described to her. So she simply convinced herself that she didn't love this way, that she didn't feel love in this way. She told herself that she was incapable of becoming enraptured with another.

But, the truth is that she longed for this emotion. She desired to fall into passionate love with someone more than anything in the world. Her adolescent reveries were filled with fiercely romantic encounters, involving a faceless man who would speak to her in prose and poetry. He knew her as no one else, save herself. He wrapped her in an unending love that she never doubted. He promised to come to her one day. Here, she could be open, she could surrender, and she could release her passions, and reveal her desires, but only here.

In her real world, however, she remained numb as she allowed another to poison her, to damage her and now she was afraid of letting someone see her as she is, scared, vulnerable, fragile, wounded. She didn't deserve to feel this way or have someone love her like this.

During this time, when other men found her attractive, she would make sure to become less so, wanting to push them away. If they found her personality appealing, she would go into a shell, and stay there until they lost interest. This is how she protected her heart, guarded her soul from intruders who might try to capture it and own it as another did before.

But one day, she looked into the mirror and she decided she was tired of hiding behind the mask, of locking up the emotions and dreams of her youth. She longed to lose herself, craved to love with abandon and so one day she let someone inside. She let him enter the place that she held sacred, secret, where all her precious belongings, where all her precious longings were kept. With the faith of a child, she opened the door and invited him in. She let someone in and he gave strength to the part of her that needed to fight off the poisoned part of her, the ugly troll who lived in the basement of her being - the creation of the man who once lived in her world, the one who wanted to destroy her.

The wonderful new friend she invited into her world spoke to her in words that her soul craved. She felt like a sponge, soaking up all of his beautiful language, holding it inside her. These words nourished her and healed her and made her strong enough to no longer listen to the words of the ugly being that wanted only to defeat her. The queen no longer acknowledged the troll who she banished to the dungeon.

At first her newly invited guest moved cautiously, carefully picking through the unlocked trunks of memorabilia, the albums full of snapshots, including the ones she hid from others, the ones that showed her eyes with that far away look that distracted smile. He searched though the memories, for clues, digging for buried treasure. She wanted him to dig, encouraged him to, want him to unearth the buried dreams, hope, and fantasies of her youth. She let someone into the place she let no one venture before. And now he was there. And he would never leave. She knew that no matter what happened on the outside, he would forever live inside this world he would forever be the person who discovered the secret that longed to be found out, and for this reason alone, he would always be hers.

She wonders if this is how all women feel when they truly fall in love. Isn't this what all women who have never truly loved long for? Isn't this what all people want and fear the most? A person who will live in your soul, will love you and know you so well, that you know they will never leave, that you will never exist without a tiny bit of them inside you always affecting you at moments when you least expect it?

Ah, but how to live in the day to day world, when someone lives and breathes within you? She only knows her own story, sensing that she is unlike most, telling herself, however, that she, in fact, lives the life most yearn for that she allows herself to become obsessed, to become the object of obsession. She feels that most people wish they could release - surrender to this oblivion of adoration, but often deny themselves this universal desire. When immersed in this type of love, time and distance matters little. Time is measured only by the moments spent together, the time in between these moments she uses to do the necessary things in life to physically survive her emotional survival dependent on the time spent with him. Away from him, she is still with him and he with her. He lives in her heart, and sometimes she places her hand over it, warming him, feeling his warmth radiate through her skin and clothing.

A love like this - a true love - allows you to fall in love with yourself as well. She feels beautiful, charming, witty. She feels like a goddess, worshipped and adored. She remembers years of helping him keep watch over her heart, making sure no one came close enough to touch it, damage it, but truthfully she was afraid someone would discover it's true essence - that someone would discover her secret and release her passion. And she knew if this happened, she would be a lost woman, lost to the insatiable passions of her soul.

To others she seemed to give of her heart freely, however, she was so intense, that one little bit of her love given to another, seemed like a surrender of her whole heart. Little did they know the true capacity of this woman's heart, how deeply and completely she could love. She in fact, never knew this herself, until of late, and once realized, she immersed herself in this giving over of herself to another.

Geography separated their physical bodies from touching as much as most lovers do, and yet, distance was not something that they felt. They were closer than couples joined in matrimony, closer than those who live yet a mile apart. There is no closer one can be if one lives inside another, if one has gotten under another's skin, and flows through their lover's veins, pumped through with the beating of a captured heart.

Journey Entry, April 15, 1999

Ambrosia. Food of the gods. Delectable, sweet. He calls me his ambrosia. I long to feed him, nourish him, satisfy his craving. I want to be the taste he experiences before he is satiated, his mouth watering in anticipation. He holds this taste in his memory now, his taste buds remembering, his senses filling with the taste and the scent and the desire of me.

Very soon now, the table will be set and everything will be laid out, everything in place anticipating the arrival of my dinner guest. I will invite him to feast upon the food of life, of lust, of love, and to gorge upon it, filling up on the stuff of which he has dreamed, the sweet delicious taste of my soul, a meal which has been a lifetime in preparation for just this moment.

I will hold my breath, and take in only shallow, necessary air until my love is within reach, until when I inhale, I will be breathing him in. At that time, I will take deep breaths, in and out and fill my lungs with him, fill my self with him, and try to become as close to being him as I can possibly be, to let our essence be as one. To onlookers it will become almost impossible to tell where one of us ends and the other begins. Our names are to become linked together, to be spoken of together, so often, that we will appear to merge into one being, our differences only aspects of the one essence, which is us.

Sometimes when my hand touches my face, I feel his bone structure. My skin takes on the feel of his, and I wonder if he feels this soft caress. Do my hands touch his cheek as I touch my own? Does he feel my hands linger over his naked body, sending the same thrill running through him as my hands run over my own, creating the same sensation within myself? Have our souls already joined, months before our bodies will unite? The soul does not concern itself with time and distance. The heart does not need phone lines to communicate.

When I cannot communicate with him, I know that I am filling his thoughts with mine. I know as these words appear on the page, they are being sent to him, as if by wire, and received by the part of him that knows, the sixth sense that was created for lovers such as us - lovers who were fated to be, time and geography only tiny ripples in the ocean of destiny. Storms in this sea welcomed as they are created only by great passion, and only prove to push our hearts and souls closer to the same shore.

Damn time. It is creation of our own making to mark the passing of days, and it moves so slowly now. That moment sitting way off in the distance, visible but not yet within reach and I look cautiously around, ever watchful for any obstructions of our course. I pray for a journey free from delays or setbacks, as I move closer to the end of the wait for the beginning of my life.

And as I get closer with each passing moment, I see him more clearly visible ahead, moving towards me a little more, getting closer and closer, his promise radiating from him, glowing around him like an aura. I see him in the distance now, like a god illuminated by the sun on his back - my god who is hungry, craving for, traveling towards his ambrosia.

But for now I have only to wait, to continue to long for, to dream, to hope for the desires that always seem just inches from my reach.

She dreams of a day when she will ever be able to speak these words to him, the ones she enters in her journal, without the fear that they will scare him off, her devotion and intensity, felt as obsessive and unnatural. She sometimes feels she can tell him anything, and at other times, she is held back, her Soul Guardian whispering to her of her fears of abandonment, reminding her how much the heart hurts when broken and how very long it takes to heal.

She wonders if her love also feels this connection as deeply as she does. He tells her it is so, but she often wonders if any man is capable of loving as a woman, from the very depths of his soul, sacrificing all for her. Women gladly surrender to love, while men are often pushed into it. Pushed, under the guise of enticement, perhaps, but the feeling of being captured by love, rather than falling into it is common for men. They often claim to have had a spell cast on them, their actions not of their own choosing, their will not their own.

So she weaves her magic, the kind she needs no conscious effort to perform. A natural form of sorcery she summons up to bring her love closer to her. She speaks in hushed whispers, words that could almost be interpreted as prayers or chants, numerous promises made in exchange for his physical presence in her life.

He talks of his devotion to her and she bathes herself in these words, letting them wash over her, sinking into her pores. She listens as he tells her of the days to come, and promises her to be lying beside her before the next cold wind blows. Sometimes she believes him enough to mark her calendar or start to make room in her closet for his clothes. Sometimes, however, she hears the guardian's warning and notices the uncertainty in his choice of words. The "mays" instead of the "wills" the "hopefullys" and the "maybes." She hears him talk of his fingers crossed, hoping for all to work out to allow them to be together, but all she can think about the way his fingers caressed her face, tracing the outline of her lips, and her nose and her eyes as she slept on his chest.

She wants to cling to his words, but they are too precarious. She longs for the "I wills" or the "I promise tos" that she only hears if, on rare, occasions, weak moments, she begs and coaxes for them, and then, when he says them, they don't feel sincere. They seem forced and she feels her desperate pleas pushing him instead of allowing him to fall towards her, gracefully, willingly, into her arms that have been a lifetime open, waiting to receive him.

Sometimes this love wraps her up, warm like flannel, secure and comfortable, and other times, it feels like it's eating her up inside, leaving an empty hole in the pit of her stomach, and hollow ache that echoes with the voice of loneliness. She sees couples holding hands, or a man running his hand up the back of the woman standing next to him, and she feels the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand straight up, staining to feel the invisible touch of the man she adores.

Often in the morning, as she is waking, she hears his voice, as clearly as if he was in the room, so clearly and so plainly that it is the voice itself that wakes her from her sleep. She awakens, excited for one single moment, until she realizes that he is still so far from her, and that the voice she heard traveled across boundaries of time and distance. This makes her smile sadly with the bittersweet realization that this love is so strong that it connects them over hundreds of miles, and yet a love so far away that in her mind is the only place she will hear his voice.

She feels the days too much to bear sometimes, but she drags herself to her work, knowing it's better to keep busy and distracted yet only wanting to think thoughts of him. She wants to wallow in her sweet misery, lest she forget, lest he become less real. Holding him in her thoughts, she feels she can hold onto him. The longer they are apart physically, the more afraid she becomes that she will wake one day and find out she has imagined him. Occasionally, on bleak days, she looks into the mirror and she sees herself fading away, withering, as the wait becomes almost unbearable.

The limbo place in which she lives is full of somedays. Someday she will rent a larger apartment to share with him. Someday she will carve a Halloween Pumpkin, ask him to carve a Thanksgiving turkey, and together decorate a Christmas tree with the lights that will symbolize for her the illumination of the darkness that once was. Someday they will lay on a sunny beach, the sand warm beneath their feet, their passions stirred as they lay next to each other's scantily clothed bodies. Someday he will take her hand in his, and place a gold ring on her finger and take her from the Limbo place, rescue her from the somedays, and replace it with always and forever.

But for now her hand rests on the phone laying next to her on the bed, waiting for it to ring, willing it to ring, and then falling asleep, her hand still on the receiver after letting his voice lull her into contentment, or falling asleep with her hand on the receiver, still waiting for his call. She hates this place she lives in, this almost place, this soon place as it speaks of the uncertainty that lives in her heart every day. She fears cursing the future by counting on it too much, and yet her present is all wrapped up in him, so it's often difficult to think of the future without including him in it. Tears are so frequent they fall almost unnoticed, the lump in her throat a common feeling, the churning in her stomach just another sweet reminder of her desire. She wonders if this love is slowly killing her, eating away at her like a cancer.

And yet the thought of him no longer in her life is one she cannot bear to let linger in her mind. As this thought tries to sneak in, hiding in the shadows, she quickly opens the window and pushes it out letting the fresh air come in, bringing in positive thoughts, and unshakable trust. As she sinks now, almost drowning in the want and missing of him, she longs for the lifesaver of his words, reassuring her of his love and promising her himself and their future lives together. She prays to the God who has turned from her, casting her out like a bird from a nest, leaving her to fly or to fall to the ground. She prays to him to please, just this once, listen to her prayers, and see that all she truly wants is her love accepted, and his love given. All she wants is to be sure that he is feeling the same sweet misery, the loving sorrow of their separation. She needs to hear him confess all of her own secret frailties, and claim them as his own. She sits, thinking of him one more minute before she must get ready to go out into the everyday world with her brave unaffected face on while feeling the flutter of the wings of the fragile bird within.

The Soul Guardian stands, keeping watch, his armor shining brightly, sword at his side. He fears her next step. He hears her prayers that are too long in being answered and feels her impatience and frustration. He knows she feels abandoned, alone, and vulnerable. This is the way it is before the unthinkable happens.

She has begged, pleaded, cried out to God. She has bargained and promised and prayed. She has cried as her prayers remain unanswered and the feelings gnaw at her gut, creating a hole that simply must be filled. He speaks to her at night and reminds her of her most precious possession. He tells her of the importance of loving herself completely so she can love another in the same way. He continues to reason with her, even though she is not of a rational nature, her emotions swept away with the tide of desire she feels for this man.

Every once in a while he gets through to her and senses her strengthening her defenses, protecting herself, and regaining her composure somewhat. But it's not long before she once again dives into the ocean of longing and pines away shamelessly for the man in the distance.

Something has changed now, and he is bracing himself for the attack. She has stopped praying, hoping and clinging, to the belief she once had. She is starting to scheme, to think about that one precious thing that the guardian reminds her of as the one precious commodity that she can use to bargain with. He knows from the way her eyes have the lonely vacant look about them, the hungry look of a woman determined. A woman who is convinced that this desire she has is worth her entire being. Her soul.

He is there - an onlooker in the dream she has at night, this one fateful night when she, in a dream gladly hands over her soul to the man that she adores. The Guardian calls to her, his voice echoing in the darkness towards the place she stands in her dream. He cries out to her to hold onto herself, begs her not to give herself away. She looks to him, hearing his pleas, but smiles her head falling back lost in the ecstasy of this presentation, the final perfect sacrifice. She is now convinced that she just didn't give enough before, that this is what was needed, a total surrender. And with complete wanton abandonment, she surrenders her soul, as the Soul Guardian watches, tortured, never allowed to draw his sword without her approval as she was the owner of her soul, not he. But now, the soul was no longer hers, and no longer his to protect.

He watches, defeated as she bathes in the ravishment that overcomes her. He sits down, helpless now to do any more, feeling like a failure. He should have tried harder to convince her. He should have fed her with doubts and fears. But no, that wouldn't be fair or honest. He had to try the honorable way, and he did this as best as he could. She was a very hard person to persuade, her passions running deeper than any woman he had ever encountered. He was simply no match for her love or the capacity of her heart.

Something's changed now. She no longer feels the happiness she once did. The intensity has lessened somewhat and she feels almost a relief at this. At the same time, however, she feels an emptiness that is beyond explanation.

Her love draws closer, each day simply another X on a calendar, bringing the someday closer to arriving. She goes about her life, loving him still every single second, but feeling the love differently now. It doesn't seem to flow through her anymore, energizing her, feeding her with its life enhancing fluids. In fact, she starts to feel drained, and for the first time, wondering if the supply of her love has almost been exhausted. There seemed no end to the flow that poured from her heart before, but now she senses a limited supply. And she feels the need to ration it. His words still touch her, but she hears them now with different ears, the ones that hear what's not said, as well as what is - the ones that pick up on a subtle change in tone, the ones that count the number of times he professes his devotion, instead of just becoming immersed in the sound of this love song.

The words of the other man, the evil poison that for so long flowed through her bloodstream, affect her no more. She experiences no strong feelings either way. Her passion is reduced, the fire to ashes. She is numb. She aches instead of desires, she needs instead of wants. She can't seem to focus on the present any longer, her thoughts always to the future. Her whole life seems to have been suspended in time, frozen. That's how she feels now as well frozen, unable to function without her lover. She feels like an empty shell, with little interests of her own, wishing time away instead of savoring each precious moment. Even her thoughts don't seem like her own anymore. She finds herself censoring them as if someone else had access to them. She rarely writes in her journal, in fear that these pages will fall into the wrong hands and be misunderstood. Finally, one day, she rips every page of her journal into small pieces and casts it into the wastebasket, watching as small pieces of her past slip out of her hands, her private thoughts, her secret desires, all scattering about, mixing into one irretrievable collage of scribble.

Does he notice the difference in her, she wonders as she goes through her life in a dull trance, performing the necessary tasks for existence. No one else seems to see the hole that once contained the essence of her. If he noticed, he didn't let on. She is confused as to whether he has become cooler, or whether his same words don't have the warming affect they used to have. She can never seem to get warm lately, shivering as she wraps a blanket around her, her hands and feet icy to the touch.

Sometimes she tries to work on the painting she started at the beginning of their relationship, unveiling it, stepping back a few steps from the easel, brush in hand, palette ready, but she can't bear to look at the colors, too rich and deep for her eyes now, and she quickly covers the canvas with the cloth, and puts her supplies away. Her eyes are sensitive to these shades, the deep hues piercing them with their extremes, her eyes wishing only to look at cool temperate pastels. It seems her whole being is no longer able to absorb or to reflect upon heat, warmth or depth. An eggshell thin layer of ice is beginning to form around her heart.

The Soul Guardian watches, incapable of doing much but stand by, hoping that somehow she will see what she has lost. He sees the dull look in her eyes, her worn, drained appearance. Even her choice of clothes is different, the colors cool, or void of color at all. She eats only when hungry, never craving the taste of anything. Her heart doesn't skip a beat when the phone rings, and she no longer hears her lover's voice as she awakens. She has lost the ability to hear this voice, now, left only with her ears to hear. Her soul gone, she cannot pick up on the subtle vibrations that once connected her to the thoughts of her lover.

Her dreams we once filled with visions of him, from the most mundane activities to passionate lovemaking. Now they are stifled as well, as he appears to her in her dreams just as he does in her waking whirled, a voice on the phone, words on a page. It's as if she gave away hope as she gave way her soul.

She loves him so much, she wanted to give as much as she could. She truly wanted to give him her whole being. She didn't realize, however, giving this would mean to her. Some things are just too personal. Some things are not ours to give, but even more, some things are too much ours to give.

Her lover, feeling the gift of her soul, is taken aback with awe. He has never in his life had someone so devoted to him, who wanted him in this way, who was willing without even an exchange to give over a part of herself so easily.

While he loves the symbolism of this gift, he knows that this is not his to own. He knows she could do so much more for him, for them, if she continued to own her soul, if she continued to love him with the soul that belonged to her. He takes care of it, guarding the precious gift with his life, becoming as the Soul Guardian had once been. He wants to give this back to her, but he wants her to ask him for it. He hopes and prays that she will realize how much she needs this part of her and he wants her to realize that he is hers, that he adores her beyond limits, without owning her, or her soul. So, he waits, and watches, and hopes, and loves.

Meanwhile, she is starting to wonder if these feelings she has are a sign, a premonition of the unimaginable. She is starting to doubt whether he is completely honest, faithful, loyal. She questions if she is worthy of his love. She dares not think about their future. She hardly dares to think about the present. She starts to believe that her gift wasn't enough. She curses God. She calls him a trickster, and a tease. She tells him that he will no longer play with her. She is no longer his pathetic little puppet. If he thinks she is going to sit around and wait for him to answer her prayers, lonely and abandoned, well, he has another thing coming. There is the other one who would act, and act fast. Yes, he would need payment, but she is willing to pay. Nothing to lose, nothing at all.

She conjures the anti-god, the devil, whatever he is called. She figures even God has competition and she has a bargaining chip. She realizes that she gave her soul to her love, but surely that was a dream. She still owns it, didn't she? She can tell this dark presence to come claim her most precious possession, and no dream no Soul Guardian, no God, no one can do anything about it.

She plans to sell again the soul that's sold. The dream is vivid, and dark and forceful. Her dreaming world is black, and windy and threatening. She seems to sense or see the Soul Guardian in the background grasping his sword, still sheathed, and she becomes fearful. She wants so to run to him and have her protect her. But then, she thinks of her love and her desire and she becomes convinced that this, as frightening as it is, is the only way to guarantee her strongest wish will come true.

The horrible dark figure approaches and is in a fury. He demands to know why he was summoned to perform a deed without pay. When she explains that she indeed had something to barter, he laughs an evil, black thunderous ridiculing laugh.

"You stupid pathetic fool," he leers, "You have nothing. No soul. You didn't value it enough to keep it, and you didn't even value it enough to sell it for a price. You gave it away willingly and now you conjure up the likes of me???? You tempt me so." He snorts every breath long, deep, labored, like the last one before death. The Soul Guardian takes his sword out and grasps it. This one courageous act touches her. She knows he can do nothing in this situation, and yet, the demonstration of protection, gives her enough confidence, enough courage to turn back around and banish the horrible mocking creature and take herself out of this dark foreboding place.

Her cries of fear still ring in her ears as she awakens. She is sweating and breathing so hard, that when she realizes what has happened, she is confused for one second of the reality of it all. But then, knowing the truth, she starts to cry, not with fear, but with relief. She knows now what she must do.

She goes into the dream, willingly, prepared to accept whatever the consequences of her past actions. She will ask for her soul back, and pledge her love as much as ever, and hope that her lover will understand, and return the biggest part of herself back to her for her to share with him. Through the gray misty clouds of the dream she sees him approach from very far away she sees him and she wants and fears his approach she craves him but needs to ask for herself back to be able to love him the way she did before. He moves so slowly towards her, taking a small eternity to get to the point where she can even be absolutely sure it is indeed him. Her heart recognizes him from a million miles away, but her eyes take longer. It's overcast and misty and she isn't sure what she sees. She strains she squints because in the swirling mist she thinks she sees the faint gleam of metal.

A man approaches her. A man with the face of her lover, in the armor of her Soul Guardian and he has something in his hand. He moves toward her with careful steps, almost ritual in their preciseness. As he gets closer she sees that little glimmer in his eyes, and she knows that he understands that he always understood that she would not have to ask for her soul back, that he was giving it back to her without a word, without an explanation. She takes it and then she takes his hand in hers, and places it over her beating heart as she looks into his eyes, and her brown earth meets his blue sea and is washed away.

She awakes to the phone ringing and as she feels an incredible surge of bliss as she feels once again the woman that is herself, the woman that loves herself as completely as she loves another, and finally now, a woman that feels comfortable in this.

Her soul is once again her own, back to it's original condition, the ugliness washed away, melted away by the love of the person who held onto it for her, never owning it, but waiting for her to realize it's value and request it's return.

And she holds her breath, and then closes her eyes as she exhales deeply, feeling the sweet, slow descent of the first tear of happiness, caressing her check, as she hears her lovers soft sensual voice telling her he is on his way.

jj dedecko is a 41 year old woman living in central Massachusetts. She is an office manager by day, and writer by early mornings, evenings, weekends, and an occasional stolen moment at lunchtime. She recently completed a novel entitled, The Blue Whale, and is currently working on a collaborative effort, entitled Ambrosia, as well as a short story/novella/novel (not sure yet!!..gotta see where it goes!! ) entitled The Merrow's Song. Writing came easy for her all her life, but she found her desire to write during a workshop with Nancy Slonim Aronie in the summer of 1997, and thankfully, her writing and her life have not been the same since. jj's email address is:

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