TIME: Part 2
Adam was exhausted by visiting his parents and when he got home he went straight to bed. He flopped face down on his futon. Percy tried to curl up by his head.
"Go away, cat," Adam picked him up and tossed him over to his laundry basket of dirty clothes. Percy decided that it was an acceptable alternative and curled up there.
Shortly thereafter, Adam sank into a fitful sleep. He woke several times during the night and once got up to mediate for a half an hour. The sun was beginning to rise when he drifted off again…
…He got up in the dark and found a robe by the bed. He pulled it on and it fit. As he wandered into the hallway he noticed it was fluffy white terry cloth, with the initials of some hotel embroidered on it. At the end of the hallway, he could see her in the kitchen making coffee. She had her back to him and all he could see was her long red hair and a matching terry robe. He walked straight down the hallway to her, slipped his arms about her waist and buried his face in her hair.
"I love you," he said.
She was just turning around when he woke up.
The sun was glaring in through the curtains. The clock read 9:00 AM .
"Shit!" Adam said. What happened to his alarm? He was late for work.
He didn't think about the dream until he was on his bike heading for work, weaving through the traffic, ignoring the various driver's curses. Her again. The redhead. He'd said he loved her. Who was she? Why was this happening? He'd better do some energy work when he got to the office, maybe set up an auto suggestion so he didn't encounter her on the astral again.
It was already a record hot day when he got to his office building, and the front doors were propped open. He rode his bike directly into the lobby and managed to coast right through the open doors of an empty elevator. He contemplated riding off the elevator into his office but figured he probably would hit someone then.
Francis met him at the receptionist's desk when he arrived.
"Oh, good, you're here. I tried to reach you at home and there was no answer. There's a message from your father. And here's three from Stephen, and Michael is out of the office today; he's got the flu." She was following him to his office, thrusting the messages at him, one by one.
"Thanks, Francis, you're a pip," he said, and walked into his office and closed the door. He'd no sooner stashed his bike in the corner when there was a timid knock on the door.
Francis, unlike his secretary Pat, hadn't quite got the meaning of a closed door yet.
"So sorry to disturb you, Mr. Marbanks, but here's a copy of today's meeting agenda. I thought you might like to see it before the meeting, which is, and I probably don't need to remind you, in twelve minutes." Francis smiled apologetically.
"Thanks, Francis. I did need reminding. I'll see you in twelve minutes." Adam took the minutes, closed the door and sat down. Six minutes to meditate and six to read the agenda. He could be thirty seconds late to the meeting; they couldn't start without him since he was running them now.
Six minutes managed to just get him focused on the here and now, so he postponed his plans for extensive energy work until the lunch hour. He scanned the minutes, and then remembered his messages. Paul and Moira were already gone, but he'd left a complete message:
"Hire the Three Housepainteers to do a) the interior of the Ballard House b) the exterior of the Colvos house and c) if Stephen approves, the Seattle offices."
Adam glanced at the messages from Stephen. Two had been taken off the voice mail that morning, from subject's he'd talked with Stephen about the day before. The third was in response to a conversation that he'd had with Paul, okaying the Seattle office painting. Well, that came under new business, Adam thought, and added a note on his meeting agenda.
He gathered his papers and his calendar and headed to the meeting. It was pretty routine; listening to people give their reports, brainstorming solutions to problems people brought up. He mentioned the office paint job to the group and it received a collective groan.
"How long is it going to take?" someone asked.
"I don't know. Why?" Adam answered.
"Can they do it over a weekend or will it cut into our work week?" someone else asked.
"I see. I'll try to get them to schedule it for a weekend, they can probably do that. Also, I'll make it for a time that the majority of people are on vacation. Probably August -- that way the least amount of you will be disturbed."
"Great, I just came back from vacation," someone griped.
"I'll talk to the painters and let you know at the next meeting." Adam stuffed the messages into his shirt pocket. “Now, about the Vancouver project ..."
When he got home that night, he stopped at Neela and Jam's before going into his house.
"Adam, my man, how's it hangin'?" Jam greeted him at the door.
"You've been talking to my dad," Adam shook the messages at him.
Jam laughed, his head thrown back and his white teeth showing. "I'm a businessman. Your dad is good business for me."
"He sure is. He wants to book you through Christmas, it looks like." Adam glanced at the messages.
"Well, is that so? Let's talk about scheduling. Come on in," Jam said. "Neela! Get a beer – no, make that a root beer -- for Adam. We're talkin' business here, woman."
Neela laughed and joined them in the living room. Even though she wasn't showing yet, she walked as though she were pregnant. It was more her newly discovered awareness of the life growing within her than her shape. She sat down next to Jam on the sofa and rested her hands on her stomach.
"Ain't nothing there, yet, honey." Jam said, gently.
"Oh, it's there, you felt it kicking." Neela smiled. "I'm just not fat, yet." She grinned at Adam. "This is wonderful. I can eat anything I want, and I haven't gained any weight. My midwife says it's all being burned up makin' this baby." Of course, Neela had a few extra pounds on her when she'd first discovered her pregnancy; just now it was no longer fat.
Adam smiled back. "But this means you can't paint, right? Something about the paint fumes?"
"Well, I do prep work and cleanup and stuff like that." She said, leaning back against the sofa cushions. "I let Jam and Annie do the inhaling." She laughed.
The three looked at Paul's request and mapped it out. The interior work next door could wait until September, the office would begin in August and the Colvos house would begin next week. Then Adam said his good-byes and quickly exited the domestic scene.
Adam spent the night on Colvos the day before they came out, so he could be there for them the next morning. He knew when they arrived, he could feel their consternation at discovering the fifty steps down to the house. He dashed up the stairs to meet them.
"Hey man, that was a pretty good sprint up those stairs." Jam said in awe upon meeting him. "I didn't know you were in such good shape."
"Yeah, since you're in such good shape, why don't you carry me down those stairs and carry me back up them tonight?" Neela said, eyeing the steps with aversion.
"I'll carry you." Annie joked. "What are friends for?"
"You're in luck because nobody has to carry anybody. The tide's out, so you can drive right up on the beach. Dad has a little parking area down by the front deck, so if the tide changes before you're done, you don't have to move the truck." Adam said. "I'll be happy to show you where the beach access is."
"Sounds good to me, but when does the tide come in? How will I get my truck out at the end of the day?" Jam asked.
Adam checked the little tide schedule in his pocket. "It looks like the tide comes in mid morning and will just be going out when you need to leave. The timing is perfect. Tomorrow's low tide is a little later in the morning. Then it looks like the next one won't be low enough to drive on this beach, but you'd at least be able to unload people and then go park on the road. That means tomorrow everyone would have to hike up the hill at the end of the day."
"I'd rather hike down and be driven up," grumbled Neela.
"Well, that's the day after tomorrow. The tide doesn't get low then until the end of the day. Here, you want this? I've another down at the house." Adam offered Jam the tide schedule.
Neela, Jam and Adam got back into the truck, but Annie stayed out. She didn't mind the jog down to the house. She was already scraping and sanding by the time the others drove up.
Neela saw her and started in. "Lazy!" she joked. "You so lazy, don't do nothing around here except eat chocolates and watch talk shows."
"Yas'm," Annie drawled. "I's lazy, I is. One lazy white chick."
Adam showed Jam the laundry sink where they could rinse the brushes, pointed out the bathrooms to Neela, and gave them carte blanche to the kitchen. Then he hoisted his bike over his shoulder and went up the fifty steps to bike to work.
"Mm, mm, that boy's in good shape." Jam whistled, ladder in hand.
"Super man," Neela said, squirting a hole with caulk.
"Super-de-dooper man," Annie said, taking a good look, and went back to scraping.
After Adam returned that evening, Jam knocked at his door. "Hey Adam, let me ask you something."
"What's up?" Asked Adam.
"Well, this thing about tides and all, it's a hassle, and look, this one the day after tomorrow isn't until 11:00 AM and that's it. Now, we're all set up, so we don't need to transport ladders, but we do need to transport Neela." Jam said.
"And Annie." Adam said.
"Annie could run up and down those stairs fifty times and not feel a thing, but Neela ain't no Jackie Joiner Kersee." Jam chuckled. "And I think this PG thing is pooping her out more than she lets on."
"I see. Well, do you guys want to camp out there until the job's done? That way you can make full use of daylight, instead of packing up in the afternoon." Adam read Jam's thoughts. "I'll be coming out on Friday. My aunt is bringing her family up for the weekend, and I need to get the place ready for them."
"You got it," Jam said. "Thanks, Adam. I'll go tell Neela!" He hurried out of there calling, "Neela! Neela! We get to stay here at the Colvos place."
On Friday, Adam got to Colvos a little later than he'd planned, as one of the ferry boats was out of service and the schedule was delayed. It was about seven and he saw that the Three Housepainteers were still there, but Jam was loading up his truck. He was hurrying because the tide was coming in. Adam trotted down the stairs with his bike.
"Hey guys, how's it going?" Adam asked.
"Almost out of here. Neela's rinsing brushes right now and -- Annie! How's it goin'?" Jam yelled up.
Adam looked up to see Annie hanging out a window, finishing the trim under the eaves.
"Almost done, hold your horses."
"My horses will have to swim if I hold them much longer," Jam yelled back.
Adam watched Annie try to reach her final section, and not quite make it sitting on the window. Then he saw her get up and stand on the window ledge, which was two stories off the ground, and holding on to the window, lean over to finish the corner.
"Jeez, woman, don't you know about gravity?" Jam said, taken aback.
"I know a lot about gravity. That's why I can do this." Annie yelled down. She finished the corner and, with the grace of an acrobat, swung herself back into the bedroom window.
She came down stairs and met the two men outside. "Where's Neela?"
"I'll go get her." Jam dashed up the stairs and into the house. He re-emerged a few seconds later, his hands full of buckets and brushes. "She's in the bathroom, dangit.".
As he threw the buckets into the car, Neela came out and went running down the stairs. She stopped before she reached the bottom. "Oh no!" She looked at the beach.
The other three looked at the beach. In the few minutes that had elapsed since Adam came home, the tide had advanced several feet. That meant it would be impossible for the truck to safely reach the access road, which was probably already engulfed.
"That's okay. You can stay the night again," Adam said. "Just help me pick up in the morning."
The foursome went back into the house. A bag of groceries sat on the kitchen counter.
"Hey, this turned out to be a good thing." Annie pointed out. "We were in such a hurry, we would have forgotten the groceries."
"It would have taken you hours to get off the island anyway," Adam said. "A boat's down and the line is up past the real estate place."
They dug into the bag and pulled out an assortment of vegetables and tofu. Neela marinated the tofu in soy sauce while the others chopped vegetables. Neela did the main stir frying while people tossed their particular vegetable in. Adam found some sparkling white grape juice in the fridge. A half hour later they sat down to what Jam described as a ‘scrumptious repast'.
"Hey, if we're gonna spend another night, I gotta do some laundry. Anybody else got anything to go in the wash?" Neela said as they were finishing dinner.
"Me. Unless I want to skip wearing underwear tomorrow." Annie licked her fingers. "My shirt smells bad, too."
"Ladies, I'm still eating dinner," Jam said, more to Annie than Neela, but both women laughed.
"So do you want to stay stinkin', my Jam, or should I throw your clothes in the wash as well?" Neela asked, getting up. Jam nodded and waved her away.
Annie got up, grabbed her backpack and headed to the laundry room with Neela. Jam turned to Adam.
"I hope you don't mind how the ladies made themselves at home this week. They loved staying here," Jam said.
"Nah, it looks in pretty good shape, actually." Adam looked around. They'd obviously straightened up before he got there, since they'd intended to leave that night. There was girlish laughter in the laundry room.
Jam rolled his eyes. "I've been living with that all week. I'm praying for a son."
Adam smiled. He couldn't imagine spending a week camping out with two women. Or two anyone, for that matter.
The women reappeared. "Hey, it's time for the X-files." Annie made a flying leap for the sofa. She grabbed the remote and clicked on the Fox network.
"Girl, I can't believe you waste your time with that show," Neela said. "Though I have to admit, the guy is cute."
"Hey, Neela, the truth is out there," Annie said. "Don't you believe in all this stuff?"
Adam and Jam joined the women in the living room.
"Do you?" asked Jam.
"Well, some of it," Annie answered. "Like the psychic stuff, of course, but the weird mutant beings in the sewer, no, and some of the alien stuff I do."
Jam rolled his eyes. "You believe UFOS come down and get people?"
"No, but I do believe in UFOS and aliens. I just think that if a civilization is advanced enough to create interplanetary travel, they wouldn't come to a planet and abduct people. Unless, of course, they don't think we're intelligent. Like the Europeans with the Africans, you know." Annie said.
"So aliens are slave traders?" Neela asked, clearly thinking her friend was wacko.
"No, but if they do borrow people to experiment on them, it must be because they view us as having the intelligence of lab rats. And with the way we're treating this planet, I'm not surprised." Annie turned her attention to the show. The episode was about vampires.
Halfway through the show, the male lead had an affair with the female vampire. Annie started yelling at the television screen.
"AIDS! AIDS! I don't care if the actress is your girlfriend. That vampire's been sucking blood all over the country!" Annie was shaking the remote at the TV.
"Single girl, hit a nerve?" Neela asked, laughing
"She needs to wear a dental dam." Annie said, ignoring Neela.
"Haven't heard of one of those," drawled Jam.
"Well, you know like a mouth condom? To cover her mouth!" Annie suggested.
Jam looked at Adam. See what I've had to live with? Jam's thought came across to him.
Adam nodded and widened his eyes. Although he had friends they were office related, so there was a little more formality around them, with Adam being a Marbanks. He'd really not witnessed this kind of banter between friends; even at college he'd kept to himself.
"Well, I am so glad I don't have to worry about that stuff." Neela said, snuggling up to Jam on the couch. "Do I, Sugar?"
"Not a bit, Honey Pie." Jam gave her a kiss.
"I get cavities just listening to you guys!" Annie groaned.
When the show ended, Neela and Jam went upstairs to the master bedroom. The other bedroom in the house had been turned into an office and there wasn't a bed in there. Annie had been sleeping on the couch but she insisted that Adam take it, and she spread her sleeping bag on the far corner of the room. Adam went to use the bathroom and when he came out he was surprised to see Annie sitting in a chair by her sleeping bag, meditating. Not wishing to disturb her, he sat on the couch and meditated himself. As he turned within and focused on himself, he was aware how clear the energy in the room was. She'd done whatever she did to cleanse the room, and sent Neela and Jam's energy up to them in the bedroom. He also noticed that, though she was aware of his presence, she was totally focused on whatever she was doing, and he had a surprisingly easy time with his own nighttime routine. He was used to either meditating totally alone or behind the closed door of his office. At the office he was constantly dealing with people's curiosity about what he was doing. If they thought of him, he felt it. His eyes were still closed when she finished. He heard her bend over and touch the floor, and slip into the sleeping bag. A few minutes later, he bent over and touched the floor as well. He glanced over at her after he'd turned off the light, and all he saw was a sleeping figure bathed in moonlight, and a dark head of hair in a braid snaked over the pillow.
The next morning Adam was surprised to see he wasn't the first one up. Annie's sleeping bag was rolled up by her backpack. The shower was going. He rolled of the couch and padded into the kitchen to start some coffee. Then he went back and sat down and began his morning meditation routine. He was still in it when he heard her come downstairs and go into the kitchen.
"Ooo. coffee." Annie whispered to herself.
Adam, still meditating, did a quick glance into the kitchen. He froze when he saw Annie. Her back was to him, and her hair swept up in a towel, but she was wearing a terry cloth bathrobe. She turned around. No emblem on the front.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to bother you," she whispered.
Adam shook his head. "You didn't."
She looked down at herself. "Oh, I hope you don't mind, I borrowed this robe. I went to sleep in my coveralls and I couldn't stand the idea of putting them back on again."
Adam shrugged. "I'm sure Mom won't mind."
Annie smiled. "Well, I'm going to see if my clothes are dry in the laundry room." She tiptoed off down the hall.
Adam went back to his meditating, but he found himself totally distracted. He wanted to get up, run to the laundry room and tear off Annie's towel to see what color her hair was. Then he remembered that last night it had looked black. He relaxed and was able to focus within.
Then Jam got up and came down stairs. "Hey man, what's up?" He went in the kitchen for coffee.
Adam decided he'd done all the meditating he could for the morning and went into the kitchen himself. Annie came back in, barefoot and in a tee shirt and shorts. Her hair was still wrapped in a towel.
"Good morning, gentlemen, and I use the word lightly." She greeted them and got herself a cup of coffee. "What ferry are we heading for?" She asked Jam.
"Haven't the faintest. Whatever one is before Adam's relatives get here and after Neela gets up." Jam said.
"So Adam, when does your aunt get here? Hey, Adam's Aunt, get it?" Annie said. Jam didn't but Adam, who'd had a recent assignment in the '60's laughed.
"Oh, she's driving her family up from Portland but, knowing her, she got them on the road at the crack of dawn -- so they could be here any moment," Adam said, only half joking.
Annie peered at the ferry schedule posted on the refrigerator. "Bet you she won't be on one earlier than eight forty , so she'll be here after nine something. We can be outta here by then."
"She's the only one of us that can read that schedule," Jam said, "I couldn't figure it out."
"They take some getting used to ..." Adam found himself staring at Annie's terry cloth turban.
"Hey, look at this tide chart, though!" Annie said, sharply. "We gotta get the truck out of here." She looked at Jam in his bare feet and boxer shorts. "Give me the keys, I'll do it."
He tossed her the keys. "Go for it."
Annie caught the keys, grabbed her stuff and fled out the door, towel still on her head. She got the truck out in the nick of time.
Meanwhile, Neela came downstairs in one of Jam's tee shirts, carrying the bed linen.
"Hi, Adam. I figured you'd want me to strip the bed, since we've been sleeping on these sheets almost all week. I'll throw them in the laundry room." Neela disappeared down the hall. She reappeared a few minutes later in her own clothes. "Jam, honey, when's the next ferry?"
Adam looked at the schedule for them, "in about twenty minutes. You can make it if you leave now."
Neela looked at Jam. "Let's do it, okay? We can get breakfast on the ferry."
Jam shrugged his shoulders. "You're the boss. Are we cleaned up enough, Adam?"
Adam nodded. "Go, with my blessings." He intoned; secretly glad to have time to himself before his relatives arrive.
"Neela, we gotta do the stairs, the tide came in." Jam turned to Adam. "Outta here. Thanks for the job, man."
Adam watched as they went up the stairs. About half way up, he could see Annie at the top of the stairs in the shadow of some trees. She yelled to Jam and then tossed him something. Jam turned to Adam at the bottom of the stairs.
"This is your folk's." Jam yelled, and tossed him the damp towel that Annie had been wearing.
Adam caught it and stifled the urge to race up the steps. He looked at the towel, but there were no telltale strands of hair. He shook the thoughts out of his head and went back into the house.
The next weekend Adam rode his bike to Mt. Rainier . There was a trail he liked off of route 7. He did what he usually did, which was to ride his bike a few miles into the national park, chain it to a tree, then hike ten more miles into the woods. He found the spot he was looking for, and sat down on a rock.
Adam wasn't sure how many hours he'd been meditating when he heard voices. About four people, coming down the trail. Since he was off the trail several feet, he felt confident they would pass him by.
They stopped instead. "Wait, I have to go here." A familiar voice said. Whose was it?
"You just went." An unfamiliar man's voice said.
“No, not go, I mean, go -- you guys stay here, I have to check something out."
Adam heard a rustling in the bushes and he opened his eyes to see Annie step out into his area.
"Wow, this place feels great!" Looking around, she saw Adam. "Omigawd! Adam!" She was wearing khaki shorts and hiking boots with thick socks, a red sleeveless T with a windbreaker tied around her waist. Her backpack was slung over her shoulder, and it was full. She had an oversized Mariner's baseball hat on, backwards.
"Fancy meeting you here." Adam managed to say.
"This place feels great! What are you doing?" Annie took a tentative step towards him. Then three other people barged in through the bushes behind her, nearly knocking her over. "Hey, guys, I told you to wait."
There were two men and a woman. One guy was tall, with shoulder-length black hair and a beard. The other guy was shorter with brown hair and a mustache, and the woman was the same height, and looked Korean-American. The tall guy grabbed Annie around the waist and lifted her off the ground. She squirmed out of his grasp.
"Cut it out, Theo." She said, pulling her shirt down. "Guys, this is someone I know."
"Having a little trailside liaison behind my back?" Theo sidestepped a swift kick from Annie.
"He's Neela and Jam's neighbor," she said, her eyes flashing. "Adam, this is Theo, an overly familiar acquaintance, and Sam and Suzi; they live upstairs from me." They nodded. "This is Adam, he's an architect."
Theo looked Adam up and down. "Gonna build here in the forest?" he asked.
Adam smiled disarmingly and shook his head. "No, I come out here to commune with nature."
Theo was about to have a field day with that one, but Annie jabbed him hard in the ribs.
“We'll be going now, Adam." She practically pushed her friends back towards the trail. As they left, she kind of waved her hands, not in a good bye, but in a sweeping motion, as if sweeping their energy back to them.
Adam smiled and waved. Then he closed his eyes and, to his surprise, their energy was gone. Annie had removed it.
In late August, on a Friday afternoon, the Three Housepainteers descended on the Marbanks Architects' offices. Fortunately, most of the office was on vacation the following week, and most of them had taken off early. Neela, Jam and Annie prepped the empty offices first. It was after 7:00 PM when they got to Adam's office, and Annie walked in. Adam was still there, sitting with his eyes closed.
"Shoot! I'm sorry. I'm always walking in on you!"
"Oh, that's okay." Adam said, his eyes still closed. "I'm almost done."
"I'll work around you," she whispered, and silently began to pull furniture away from walls and cover things with drop cloths.
One of the things that Adam noticed as she worked around him is that she studiously kept her attention off him. He couldn't feel her aura. Then she was right by him and he still couldn't feel her aura. He opened his eyes and looked over at her. She was standing three feet away, her back turned towards him. He reached his hand out and felt towards the edge of her aura. About twelve inches from her body, he stopped and she wheeled around.
"I felt that!" she said, more of a statement than an exclamation.
"You know about energy." Adam sounded like Mr. Spock.
She looked at him. "And so do you."
They stared at each other, and then Jam walked in.
"Neela wants to know
if you're finished in here.
Oh, Adam," Jam said. "We
didn't know you were still
"We're putting in a couple more hours until the sun goes down. We'll start painting tomorrow and try to be mostly done by Monday. There's this note from someone named Francis who wants the conference room painted and dry by Monday morning." Jam was looking at a pink piece of paper.
"That's my administrative assistant," Adam said. "We have staff meetings in there on Monday mornings."
"No problem, we'll paint that first." Jam left the room.
Adam grabbed his bike before Annie threw a tarp over it. "Well, I'm going now." He put on his helmet.
Annie looked at him and, on impulse, went over and knocked on his helmet. "It suits you." She smiled into his face.
Adam was taken aback by the sudden movement. "Uh, thanks." He turned to go.
"Do you hike by yourself often?" Annie asked, before he left the room.
Adam stopped. "Yes. All the time."
"Isn't it dangerous?" She said. "Theo says you're supposed to have a buddy."
Adam paused before answering. "I'm very experienced and very careful. Is Theo an experienced hiker?" He asked.
She laughed, and touched his arm. An electrical shock went up to his chest. "God, no, he just thinks he's an expert on everything."
Adam shifted his body so he could pull his arm away without seeming abrupt. He suddenly felt very agitated, and wanted to leave as soon as possible. "Uh huh," he said, edging towards the door.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she murmured, pulling back.
"Why?" Adam said, feeling confused.
"I didn't mean to -- I mean..." She stepped back. "I know you're a very private person, and I've seen you cringe when Neela puts her arms around you. So, I wasn't thinking just then, I'm sorry I touched you." She held her hand in her other hand, as if keeping it away from him.
"Is it that obvious?" Adam asked, hoping Neela didn't know that he cringed.
"Oh, no, I just ... notice things." Annie shrugged, looking down.
Adam stepped forward and deliberately touched her arm. He immediately felt warmth radiating from it. "It's okay, Annie. It's just me. I'm a loner, and I tend to be overly sensitive." Then he realized he was still touching her arm, and he pulled back. "I gotta go."
"Oh, yeah, I didn't mean to keep you. Go, go." She practically pushed him from the room.
Adam gratefully headed towards the elevators.
The Three Housepainteers had a couple of exterior paint jobs they had to do in late September on the days it wasn't raining, so Adam's house got rescheduled to October. Then Seattle had an Indian Summer, and they booked more outside jobs, so it was early November when they got around to Adam's house. Neela was now eight months pregnant, at least, and barely doing anything except sitting around telling people how to do things. When the painting began, Jam delightedly banished her to their own house, and Annie and he methodically worked their way through the place. They were usually done for the day when Adam got home.
One day Adam came in early. Jam met him outside, on his way to check on Neela.
"Hey Adam, we're almost done in there for the day. Annie's just finishing up one of the rooms," Jam called to Adam from his front porch.
Adam waved and went inside. As usual, he checked out the energy of the place. He'd grown used to finding it always was clear, since Annie was probably cleansing it. Today, probably because he was early, he still detected a little of Jam's energy. Where was Annie? Then he heard someone humming a classical tune. It sounded like Bach. He followed it to his bedroom, and there was Annie, kneeling on his futon that was covered by a tarp. He was surprised by his reaction at seeing her in his room, on his bed. He was a very private person and was always uncomfortable with invasions to his space. What was surprising to him was that he wasn't bothered by seeing her there. He heard Jam coming back into the house, so he quietly went back out to the living room.
Jam approached him. "Hey man, Neela has a big favor to ask you, and so do I."
Adam nodded, but said nothing.
"We were wondering if you'd be present for the birth," Jam asked shyly. "The midwife says it's a good idea for me to have someone there as a support person. We've asked Annie to be there too."
Adam smiled. "I bet she leapt at that." Somehow he could see Annie being enthusiastic about the event.
Jam grinned. "Oh, she whooped, all right. Anyhow, Neela's due about December 15th, so we're on call from the 1st on."
"Can do, Jam. I'd be honored." Adam shook his hand.
Annie came out of the room just then, with a big paint splotch on her nose.
"Hey, it's HoJo the Clown," Jam teased, pointing to his own nose.
Annie's eyebrows went up and her eyes crossed as she tried to look at her nose. "Oh, that was when I lost my balance and started falling into the wall." She wiped it off with a large cotton handkerchief she'd plucked from her coveralls. She looked at Adam. "Well, it's done in there but it won't be dry for a while. I'd sleep on the couch tonight if I were you." She gave him a grin and a nod and went to the laundry area to rinse her brushes.
In fifteen minutes, Adam had the house to himself again. He sat down and meditated, noticing that it was clear as usual. When had Annie done it? He hadn't see her doing anything. Maybe while she was in the laundry room? Then he proceeded with his own clearing and cleansing from the day's activities, but something kept nagging him. Finally he focused on what it was. He wanted to feel Annie's energy. But she always took it with her. He focused on identifying the emotion that came up for him, anticipating frustration, but found loneliness instead.
December 15th came and went, and Neela began to look like she was going to have an elephant.
"Elephants gestate for two years," Annie said. "So do whales." Neela nearly killed her.
It was early January when Adam was awakened by a knock on the door. It was Annie. She had a wool hat pulled over her head and a scarf wrapped around her neck. It was snowing.
"It's time. Jam forgot to get you before he went for the midwife." Annie shivered.
Adam slipped on his shoes and jacket, and stepped out into the wintry air. "Can't the midwife get herself here?"
Annie shook her head. "Look at the streets! I took the bus here, and even that was touch and go. Wish I had cross country skiis." She looked at the accumulated flakes. "Thank goodness Jam has four-wheel drive." Then she tugged on his arm. "Quick, let's not leave Neela alone."
The energy was charged as they entered the Johnson house. Neela was walking around in a suppressed manic frenzy, straightening things, getting things out of the refrigerator. Then she'd stop and hold her stomach and moan. Annie went over and stood directly in front of her.
"Look me in the eyes, Neela," she said. "I can help you through this." She took Neela's hands, and intoned in the same note that Neela was moaning. Neela opened her mouth and hummed the note back. Then the contraction subsided.
"Oh, Adam, I'm so glad you can be here!" Neela waddled over and gave him a sideways hug.
Adam was disturbed to notice she had a trickle of blood running down her leg.
"Neela, you're bleeding. Let's go to the kitchen or bathroom, somewhere you won't mess the carpet." Annie led her to the kitchen.
"Yeah, good." Neela was panting, "I can walk in here."
Adam stood by the doorway and watched. And grounded. As he did so Annie looked over to him.
"Good," she murmured. "We need an energy monitor."
Neela reached up and curled her fingertips over the top of the refrigerator. The she hung down so she squatted and moaned again. Annie slid herself in so Neela could see her face.
"Look at me. Concentrate. Breathe." Annie said with authority.
Neela laughed through her moaning. "You've done this before, girl, haven't you?"
Annie smiled. The contraction subsided. "Let's walk some more."
So Adam stood and watched while Neela walked, with Annie beside her, back and forth in the small kitchen. Once a contraction came on and they were too far from the fridge, so she leaned on Annie's shoulders and squatted and both women intoned a low "ooooooh"
Slowly the contractions increased, and Neela began to get anxious. Adam could tell the pain was increasing, too.
"Where's Jam, where's Jam?" Neela asked, but her focus was away from Annie and Adam. It was like she was somewhere else.
"He's coming, Neela," Annie said. "He's just driving carefully, because of the snow."
"I could use some of that snow right now!" Neela said. "Let's go outside."
"Let's go to the bedroom," Annie suggested. "Adam, bring us some ice cubes, okay?"
Adam brought a bowl of ice cubes into the bedroom and Annie gave one to Neela. "Suck on this."
"Mm. Mm. Good." Neela said with her mouth full.
Annie laughed, and sang the Campbell 's Soup song to her. Another contraction came on and Neela spat the ice cube out. It got stuck in Annie's scarf. Annie peeled the scarf off her neck.
"Adam, go be by Neela, I'd better go wash my hands." Annie instructed.
"Why?" Adam wanted to stay in the corner.
"Because if they don't come soon, you and I are delivering this baby!" Annie said from the bathroom.
Adam sat on the bed behind Neela as she leaned against him. She was moaning and squeezing her hands tight. Annie returned and saw them together.
"Good job." She nodded to Adam.
Adam was furiously grounding and trying to keep Neela out of his head. Annie knelt down and rested both hands on Neela's legs. Adam felt Neela's attention pull away from him and focus on Annie.
Annie spoke in a loud, clear, voice. "Okay, Neela, we can do this. Women have been having babies for millions of years. Your body knows how to do this, and I'm here to help you."
Neela nodded through clenched teeth.
"You've been doing a great job, Neela. Now PUSH." Annie commanded.
Adam felt the circulation cut off in his hands and Neela bent her head forward and pushed harder than she ever had in her life.
"Good one, Neela, good one. I feel its head." Annie had her hand up the birth canal.
Adam noticed a whole bunch of towels had been spread on the edge of the bed, and that he was sitting on plastic. The whole bed had been covered in plastic. Good idea, he thought.
"You know what, Neela, the water's never broken," Annie said. "I think I should break it now."
Neela groaned an okay, and a gush of liquid flowed out of her over Annie's arm.
"Here it comes, here it comes." Annie said.
Just then the front door slammed and Jam and the midwife came in the room.
"How dilated is she?" The midwife asked Annie.
"Uh, the head is about to crown." Annie said, looking up.
"Let me pull on my gloves." The midwife dropped down beside her. Annie removed her hand so the midwife could feel.
"Oh, Neela, its head is here!" the midwife said to Neela. To Annie, she said, "bring that bag over here. It's too late to boil water, just put some of that disinfectant in a bowl, and bring it in here."
"Oh Karen, I'm so glad you're here." Neela sobbed. "Oh Jam, come here, baby."
Jam knelt beside her. "I'm here, baby. I'm here to catch our baby!"
Annie came back into the room and Karen turned to her.
"Do you see those metal scissor things?" Karen said to Annie. "Clamps. And those things beside it? Okay, put them in the bowl. I'll need them in a second. Here it is. Jam, get over here."
Jam knelt down, practically crying, and caught his son as he slid into the world.
Everything else happened very swiftly. The midwife expertly clamped the umbilical cord and snipped it. A metal bowl appeared in time for the afterbirth to come out. Jam and Neela were totally absorbed in the new life they had produced. Adam was still sitting behind Neela and Annie was standing. Adam looked up into Annie's eyes. I know what you are doing. He thought. Annie smiled and nodded.
It was early morning when Adam was able to go home and go to bed. He slept a couple of hours and then took the bus to work. No one else showed up, so he enjoyed several hours of solitude as he caught up on paperwork and did some drawings. Then he noticed it snowing some more, so he decided to leave early.
The bus he needed was three blocks up the hill, so he slogged his way up towards it. He was standing at the corner, waiting for the light to change so he could cross, when he heard a beep. Jam's 4x4 pulled up behind him, with Annie at the wheel.
"Want a ride, stranger?" she called, through the window.
Adam climbed in. "What are you doing out and about?"
"Oh, I had to drive the midwife home. Then I went home and took a shower. Then I thought I should return Jam's truck to him, but look at this," she said, looking up through the windshield.
"It's coming down all right," Adam said. "Thanks for the ride."
"No problemo." Annie smiled and pulled out into traffic.
They slowly made their way towards Ballard. Annie chose the Fremont Bridge because she thought it would be less icy than one of the higher bridges. The streets were deserted as they drove through Fremont towards Ballard. Then they saw a small car slide out of a side street and across the road. A van coming the opposite direction saw it, but couldn't stop in the snow. In slow motion, Annie and Adam saw the van hit the car sideways and keep going. The driver of the van hadn't been wearing a seat belt, because he shot straight out of the windshield and landed on his head by the side of the road. A dark pool began spreading on the snow around him. Annie made a U turn and pulled over near the car. A woman and her child were strapped in it, dazed.
Adam and Annie got the woman and child out of the car. The child was crying hysterically and Annie handed it to the mother. The mother was clinging to Adam and talking in a high pitched voice. Adam held her and grounded. He watched Annie walk over to the driver of the van and kneel in the snow. Without touching him, she held her hands over him. Adam watched as Annie gently, patiently, helped the man to leave his body. He watched while beings of light came down over the two. Annie raised her hands up and delivered the man's soul to them, and they left. Then Annie dropped her hands and looked at the body. No one was there. Then a police car drove up, and shortly thereafter the block was filled with flashing lights, fire engines and two ambulances.
Adam and Annie gave their statements and their phone numbers to the police, and watched an ambulance take the man away while the other took the mother and child. Then they climbed back into the 4x4.
Annie was shaking as she got behind the wheel, from cold and from emotions. Adam put his hand on her shoulder.
"Do you think you can make it home?" he asked, gently.
"I'll, I'll try-try." she chattered, and put the truck in gear.
At an achingly slow pace, she inched the truck towards Adam's home in Ballard. Adam kept his hand on her shoulder to steady her, but she kept shaking. After forever, they parked in front of Neela and Jam's. Annie stumbled up the snowy walk to their front door and rang the bell. No answer. She peered in the window, trying to see through the crack in the curtains.
"The lights are on. They're there but they're probably with their baby. Or asleep. I haven't slept myself since yesterday morning." Annie said, shuddering. “I'll slip the keys through the mail slot.”
"Come in, I'll fix you some coffee or tea or something." Adam guided her over to his place. "We'll phone them from my house."
Inside his front door, Annie started to totally lose it. Tears began streaming down her face and she began to cry in gasping, coughing, sobs. In the same way he had comforted the woman and child at the car wreck, he put his arms around her to steady and ground her. She held him tightly and cried into his chest. Although she was broad-shouldered, she was surprisingly slender. She felt small and vulnerable in his arms.
"It's not easy to help someone come into their body, and help someone else leave their body in the same day, is it?" Adam said gently.
Annie gave a little laugh in between her sobs, and nodded. Then she started a new round of hard sobbing. Adam just held her, and felt her ground, and felt her releasing the energy down through her feet into the ground. He noticed that today had triggered something deep inside her, beyond the regular trauma of witnessing someone's death. Oh, that's right, he thought, her husband had died in a car accident. But it seemed there was something more. Then he noticed tension in his own body from the day, yet it was more from witnessing the birth than witnessing the accident. He realized he had a lot of energy stored from the unusual circumstances of his own birth. As he was thinking about this, he casually rested his chin on Annie's wool-hatted head. He didn't realize that he was no longer concentrating on grounding her until he felt himself being grounded. Annie's sobs had subsided and she was silently holding him and doing the same thing to him that he'd done to her. He pulled his head back and looked into her puffy, reddened face.
"You okay?" he asked, releasing her.
"Yeah." She sniffled, stepping back. She wiped her nose on her sleeve. "You're skinny." She said.
Adam laughed, even as he felt his face flush and a wave of nervousness pass through his body. "Neela thinks so," he said jauntily, to cover up the feelings that were rising to the surface. "I'll put on some hot water. You go rest on the couch."
In the kitchen it occurred to him that if they couldn't get through to next door (because the exhausted new parents had turned off the phone) Annie might not be able to get home that night. It was still snowing outside, and he'd heard on the news that there was limited bus transportation through town. After some deliberation, he decided he'd offer his couch for Annie to crash on if she absolutely had to.
When he came out of the kitchen with a mug of tea he found Annie lying halfway down on the couch, legs still on the floor; she'd fallen asleep sitting up and had flopped over. Her mouth was open and she was emitting little tiny snores through softened lips.
Adam went over and picked her feet up off the floor, slipped off her boots one by one and straightened her out on the couch. He gently lifted her head and put a cushion under it, and paused for a few seconds while he fought the urge to take her wool hat off. He forced himself to ignore it, and went in the other room and got her a quilt. He tucked the quilt in around her and she murmured something. Then she smiled an angelic smiled and curled up in the fetal position. Adam turned off the lights and took the mug of tea for himself over to the chair by the window for a short meditation before retiring. He cleared the energy from the birth, and the feelings and thoughts that came up for him around it, and then cleared any residual energy around the accident from his space. Then he made a mental note to not have any unusual encounters on the astral. Since he'd been giving that tidbit of programming, he'd stopped having those disturbing erotic dreams. To finish, he bent over and touched the floor and went straight into his room.
In the morning, he'd quite forgotten he had a visitor when he padded out of his bedroom in only his jockey shorts. He froze at the sight on the couch. Annie's hat lay on the floor, beside her crumpled jeans she must have taken off during the night. Her back was to him and, hanging off the edge of the sofa in an unraveling braid, was her hair. Long, dark, red hair. Shock hit him in the chest, and he backed into his bedroom. He pulled on his pants from the night before and threw on a sweatshirt before going back out. He stood for a moment staring at her, trying to recall exactly what shade and what length the red hair had been in his dream. All he could remember were the large, white breasts and he was thankful he couldn't see that part of Annie. He decided to stop thinking about it and do the next indicated thing, which was to make coffee and do a morning meditation.
Annie was still asleep when he came out of the kitchen, but had kicked off some of her quilt. He noticed she'd taken off her jacket and a plaid shirt, and was sleeping in an old tee shirt but he could only see her shoulders. He decided to quit staring and go sit down to meditate. The moment he sat in his chair he realized he'd made a mistake not going straight back into his room, but he tried to concentrate anyway. Every five minutes his eyes would pop open and check out the progress of Annie's unraveling braid. After about twenty minutes he decided to haul the chair into his room, so he stood up abruptly and banged his head on the Christmas cactus hanging from the ceiling.
"Ow!" he said loudly, waking Annie.
She started, not knowing where she was at first, and then relaxed upon seeing Adam.
"I must have really conked out last night," she croaked, smiling through raisin-like eyelids.
Annie got up, keeping the quilt around her, and shuffled to the window by Adam. He noticed she was only wearing her large tee shirt and socks. Lean, muscular legs showed from beneath the tee shirt, with a smattering of freckles. Adam hadn't recalled any freckles on the woman in his dreams, so he felt a little less nervous.
"It stopped snowing," Annie observed. Then she stood on her tiptoes to get a better look at Neela and Jam's next door. Adam noticed she was wearing little cotton underwear decorated with roses, before he pulled his eyes up to her face. "No footprints; they haven't been out since last night. Have you tried calling them?"
He shook his head. "I crashed shortly after you did. But we should call them to see how they're doing." Adam went over to the phone in the kitchen, to put some physical distance between him and Annie and dialed their friends' number. "No answer and the voice mail is full," he said with some surprise.
"Something's happened. I'm going over the fence." Annie dropped her quilt and dashed over to her jeans. She wriggled into them and pulled on her boots. "They always keep the key to the back door under the planter." She ran past Adam and out the back door with no coat on. Barefoot, he stuck only his head out the door and saw her heave herself over the fence, causing a mini-avalanche off the top of all the fence posts. A few minutes later his phone rang.
"They're not here, Adam." Annie sounded worried. "It looked like they left in a hurry. I'm locking the back and coming out the front door. Can you let me in?"
"Sure thing." Adam said, hanging up. When he got to the front door, Annie was outside, shivering without a jacket, and talking to the neighbors on the other side of Neela and Jam. She saw Adam and went running up to him.
"We've got to get to University Hospital . The neighbors said that an ambulance came yesterday morning and the whole family went there. There's something wrong to the baby but they don't know what." Annie went past him into the house and started putting on her shirt and jacket. "I've got to get their truck to them." She stuffed her hat on her head, her hair cascading out from under it. "You don't have to come, but it may help."
"Oh, yes, of course I'll come." Adam went to his bedroom for the rest of his clothes.
Moments later they were sliding through unplowed streets towards the University District. Adam was amazed how alert and present Annie had become in this crisis. She was able to throw aside any distractions and focus on the task at hand. She expertly drove them to the hospital avoiding several potential collisions with less careful drivers.
"The neo-natal intensive care unit, please," she asked at the main reception desk.
"NICU - sixth floor, take the elevators down the hall, to your left," the receptionist said.
Adam followed Annie as she strode down the hallway. He wondered if she'd been here before. "Maternity is on the same floor, across the hall." she said to herself. "If Neela was able to get checked in, she'd be there. But if the baby is really sick, he'd be in the NICU."
They got out at the sixth floor and went to the nurses' desk in the NICU.
"Is the Johnson baby here?" Annie asked.
The nurse looked on her list. "Yes, are you relatives?"
"Yes," Annie blatantly lied.
"Well, you can go in and see him, then. You need to put on gowns and scrub with disinfectant." The nurse instructed them, leading them to a large metal scrub sink.
After she'd left, Adam whispered to her, "How the heck are we going to pass ourselves off as relatives?"
She shrugged her shoulders and dried her hands.
They walked down the hallway and into the main unit. There were a dozen or more incubators, with teeny tiny infants inside, each one with wires and needles sticking in them, leading to monitors that gauged their progress. It was very quiet.
"Preemies rarely make any noise. I guess they save their energy for breathing." Annie whispered.
At the far end, there was one full-sized newborn, sporting a head of dark hair.
"See, you look just like him," Annie said. "Same thick hair."
They came to a stop outside the incubator. There was a sign on it, someone had written "Johnson Boy" in colorful markers, and had decorated it with stickers of lambs leaping off of blue clouds.
Neela and Jam's little boy had a tiny oxygen tube stuck to his nostrils. He was awake and chewing on his fist. He looked over at Adam, with dark staring eyes.
"Oh, my goodness, look at those big brown eyes!" Annie exclaimed. "Adam, how well do you know Neela, anyway?"
Adam poked her in the ribs. "Cut it out." He looked the baby over. "All I can tell is that he has a respiratory problem."
A nurse came up behind him. "I was here yesterday when they brought him in. He was turning blue, which is why they called 911. He has a minor infection, and we have him on antibiotics. Are you an uncle?" she looked at Adam.
Annie was suppressing a broad grin. Adam, realizing they'd be asked to leave if they weren't relatives, allowed himself to nod his head, although he never lied as a rule.
Adam and Annie stayed a few minutes longer after the nurse had left, and then went back towards the waiting area. That's when they noticed Jam stretched out in the NICU's waiting room.
"Hey, guys, you found us!" Jam said, waking up.
"Yeah, your neighbors told us you were here. We just saw your little guy." Annie told him.
"You did?" Jam raised his eyebrows. "They said something about only relatives."
Annie smirked. "We said we were relatives. I think the baby looks just like Adam, don't you?" she teased.
Jam's teeth flashed as he leaned his head back and laughed. "Man, that's the first time I've laughed in two days. I sure am glad you guys are here. Have you seen Neela yet?"
They shook their heads.
"I left her in the maternity ward. I came here to wait in case the baby woke up," Jam said. He had purple circles under his eyes.
"Well, we just left him and he's awake," Annie said. "Why don't you go see him and we'll go see Neela."
Adam and Annie found Neela across the hall in the maternity ward, sleeping in one of the rooms. Annie hesitated before waking her.
"I think it's okay," Adam whispered. "She'd want to see her baby."
Annie gently shook her friend awake. Neela's eyes teared and she reached her arms out to Annie.
"Oh, Annie. They say my baby's got to stay here for five days. Five days! I have to check out today. What am I going to do?" Neela asked, rocking back and forth.
"It's okay, Neela . We'll stay with you as long as you want. I brought the 4x4 if you or Jam need it." Annie patted Neela on the back. "Now, your baby's awake. You want to go see him?"
They helped her up and walked her down the hallway. The NICU nurse greeted them with a skeptical look. "So here's Mrs. Johnson, and are you guys really relatives?"
Neela didn't understand, but Adam spoke up, sounding insulted. "I'm the baby's uncle."
Neela got it and nodded, suppressing a smile. They all scrubbed and went down the hall to the baby. Jam was already holding the baby, with the oxygen tube leading back into the incubator.
"Here's the baby, baby." Jam said to Neela, and gently handed the infant over. When Neela took it, the baby began rooting with its mouth for her breast.
"They said I can't
nurse until he's breathing
better." Neela's tears
were returning. "They
said I have to pump."
"Go ahead and do it, we'll shield you. Your natural immunities in your breast milk can only help him get better." Jam and Adam stood behind the women while Annie helped the baby latch on to his mother's nipple. Then she stood with the men, feigning a casual conversation while mother and child blissfully nursed. An intern came on duty and started towards them, so Annie went over and began plying him with questions. She finally asked something that required him to go out and check at the nurse's desk. By then the baby was satiated and sleeping again. He was also wet, so Annie and Adam were able to observe, with amusement, Jam and Neela attempting to change a sleeping newborn's diaper without waking him.
Annie slipped her arm around Adam's waist and squeezed. "He's so cute. And his balls are so large!" Adam stiffened, so she let him go, and poked Jam's arm. "Must take after his Daddy, huh?"
Jam chuckled and Neela, smiling from ear to ear, nodded vigorously.
Adam caught Annie's thought before she hid it from him. Does he take after his 'uncle', too?
They ended up staying with the Johnsons throughout the day and then Jam drove them both home that night with Annie promising to return the next day and Adam promising to take the evening shift. Adam got home in time for a quick dinner and caught the ‘Star Trek: Next Generation' rerun on the boob tube before he sacked out.
He opened his eyes in the dark and noticed his arm was numb. There was a heavy weight on his shoulder, cutting off his circulation. He couldn't reach the light, pinned down as he was, so he bent his face towards his shoulder. He caught a strong scent of his shampoo -- but it wasn't coming from his own head.
"Uh, Annie?" he asked in a squeaky whisper, his heart pounding. The weight rolled off his shoulder, and he pulled his arm back. He used his other arm to massage the feeling back into it, and he inadvertently hit a breast.
"Ow." The weight beside him said. It then sat up in bed. Adam couldn't see a thing in the pitch darkness.
"Where am I?" Annie's voice was tinged with fear. "Who's there?"
Adam swallowed. He wasn't sure if he was in his own room or not. It felt like his futon, but he couldn't get any visual clues to confirm it. "Me." Adam said.
" Adam? " Annie exclaimed. Adam felt a hand reach out and touch him, realized he was unclothed, and pulled back. "Where are we? What are you doing here?"
"I don't know where we are." Adam tried to keep his voice calm. "And I could ask you the same question." He started to lean across her to find the lamp, and he felt her hands push his chest.
" What are you doing? " she cried, getting ready to shove him off her.
"No, no." Adam said, as calmly as he could. "I'm trying to find the light." His hand hit the wall. "Ow."
"That's because it's on the other side." Annie said, and slid out behind him to the opposite side. A short pottery lamp turned on, and illuminated the room. Annie was stretched out towards it, her long red hair straggling down her back. She turned and looked at Adam. He saw her full length, there were freckles on her arms and legs, but her torso was pale, and she had full, white breasts. It was her.
She, in turn, was checking him out, noting his lean, hard build, and the dark hair that covered most of his body. She smiled as she looked down towards his legs. "So it's true what they say about fingers and ears."
"What?" Adam was totally flustered.
"Never mind. You do look like your nephew, though. They're not planning to circumcise him, either." She grinned. "Now, how did you get in here?"
Adam looked about. He realized he must be in her bedroom. It looked like the same place he'd been in his last dream, where he'd walked down a long hall and met her in the kitchen. So he'd transported himself here, if he really was here and not having an astral experience. This was fortunate, because he could transport himself back. He turned his dark brown eyes to Annie.
"This is a dream," he said, as seriously as he could.
She looked at him. "Oh, yeah?" She sidled over and touched his chest. "I don't think so." She looked down at his nephew's resemblance and he realized what she planned next.
"Look, I'll prove it to you." He closed his eyes to concentrate. Nothing happened.
"That proves this is a dream?" Annie's voice was full of mirth.
He realized he'd become fully erect with her touching his chest. "Er, you've got to move away a bit." He said, pulling the sheets over himself.
"Awww." she pouted, and slid back a foot.
This time he was able to fully concentrate. He pulled his attention totally inward and focused on his starting point. He wasn't used to doing this alone. Usually the Universe transported him to and from assignments, and he never used the ability except to move through time. But he focused on his own bedroom and then felt his molecules increase in vibration. He heard Annie saying something as he disappeared.
Back in his own home he went straight to the shower and only turned on the cold water handle. He stayed under to the point of hypothermia. Back in his bed, he huddled under the blankets and stared at the moon outside his window. Why was this happening? He knew it was no longer a matter of her coming to him on the astral. Twice he'd been at her place. Why was he doing this? Was this a test by the Universe? Was his astral body out of control? Was it time for him to move on? There was no possibility of sleep in his addled state, so he got up and went out to his chair by the window. He went into a deep meditative state and made direct contact with God.
"Why am I seeing Annie on the astral?" he asked God, and waited for an answer.
All he heard was the full and deep sound of God's laughter in reply.