JP was watching the lessons between Kota and her wife as they sat in a quiet spot among the trees. The lanky woman had to promise to remain quiet if she wanted to join them. The shaman from the Whitefeather Clan wasn’t happy about an outsider listening in but knew that forbidding her to join them from time to time would alienate him from Cierra.
“You don’t need the necklace to jump. It’s merely a prop for you now. You only needed it at first to discover the path. Think of it like a map, if you will.”
The young shaman woman looked at him in shock. “I don’t need it? And what if someone else had it? Could they use it too?”
“Doubtful. It takes a special person to even tap into the next world. I’m a shaman and couldn’t use it because it isn’t within my abilities. Why don’t you try it?”
Cierra stood there nervously for a moment and hesitated in removing the fetish. She hadn’t taken it off since she first received it from the old man at the convention nearly two years earlier. She handed it to JP to hold and listened to the man’s instructions.
“Do you remember how you first learned to use it?”
“It’s the same way without it. Concentrate on your destination. Focus on--”
She had disappeared from his sight before he could finish.
Cierra felt the familiar sensation of the jump and opened her eyes just as the sound of locked brakes and skidding stones told her that she had just made a monumental mistake. She tried to jump to safety and all went black.
· * * *
JP waited for her lover to return but after several minutes she began to get nervous. It wasn’t like Cierra to be gone like that. She would have returned right away even if she had spotted something that she wanted to investigate.
“Where is she?” JP asked unreasonably of Kota. The man had no way of knowing.
For once the self-confidant man looked confused and lost.
“Damn it, if anything happened to her you’re a dead man!” she promised, pacing around the small clearing.
Cierra felt the passage of time but only for a few seconds at a time. She was aware of pain, sounds, and unfamiliar surroundings but nothing clearly. She would fall into darkness again and was haunted by memories of others.
When she woke long enough to realize where she was the shaman felt panic. She was clearly in a hospital room but where? She tried to figure out how she had gotten there but the memory just wasn’t there.
She carefully turned her head and looked around her. A woman gasped and Cierra saw a nurse in a bright smock looking at her. The woman stepped closer and asked how she was feeling. Cierra was too thirsty to even speak and the woman offered her a drink, accustomed to the symptom from being asleep for so long.
After drinking her fill she leaned back, exhausted.
“You just relax. I’m going to speak to your doctor, Ms. White.” The nurse left the room, closing the door behind her.
Cierra had almost fallen asleep again when the door opened and a man in his sixties wearing green scrubs came into the room.
“Well, Ms. White, I see you’re finally awake. You gave us all quite a scare but you’re doing fine now.” He studied her with his eyes as the nurse began taking her vitals.
“Well, young lady, it seems you popped onto a two lane highway from out of no where and the driver clipped you. He had almost managed to miss you but he had panicked. He had locked his breaks and his old car didn’t have ABS.”
“Hurt.” Cierra managed to get out, she felt it getting harder to remain awake.
“I’m sure you do. We’re giving you some pain medication to make it more tolerable but we had to do a lot of repairs on your leg. It was badly broken and we put in a plate and pins to hold it together. You also have some badly bruised ribs and some bad scrapes. We realized you were pregnant and took all precautions in examining you.”
“Is fine. The tyke rode out the accident a lot better than her mother did. You’ll probably be here at least another week. After that, well, I guess it’s up to the authorities.”
Cierra wondered why they had any say in it but at the moment was too tired to argue. She closed her eyes and fell back asleep.
The doctor motioned the nurse out of the room where they met with Major Winthrop.
“Is she awake?”
“She was for a few moments but fell asleep again. Between the shock to her system and the medication she’ll have trouble remaining awake for a day or two.”
“Keep me informed,” he ordered the physician. The major had his hands full keeping away the reporters, nuts, and curiosity seekers. Someone in the hospital had let someone know that the Shaman had been brought into the emergency room and all hell broke loose. He walked down to the outer perimeter of the sealed corridor and waited for the irate woman to tear into him again.
She was some hotshot female lawyer demanding that she be allowed to see her client. Apparently she had in her possession a notarized document giving her say over Cierra White’s medical treatment. He didn’t know that the form had been filled in when Cierra had been dating Hallie. She had wanted to avoid being hooked up to life support if she was beyond reasonable hope. Cierra had no family and Hallie had been her only choice when she had made the decision.
“Major, I demand you let me see my client. You can’t hold her prisoner when she hasn’t committed a crime.”
“She isn’t a prisoner, Ms. Preston. We are just concerned with her safety. We don’t believe the local police would be able to handle this.”
“That’s all well and good but the fact remains that I’ve been denied access to her. You are treating her without my consent.”
“She looks like a competent adult to me nor is she in danger of being hooked up to life support. Your authority over her is invalid unless she is incapable of speaking for herself.”
Hallie knew he was correct but she wasn’t about to give up now. “Then she’s awake? I want to see her.”
“She was awake for a moment and fell back asleep. The doctor said she would be mostly asleep for the next few days. Why don’t you go home and--”
“And come back and find her gone? Forget it Major, I’m not about to let that happen. Now, are you going to let me see her or shall I go to the reporters outside and tell them she’s being held prisoner by the military?”
The Major counted to ten then did it again for good measure. “Very well. Follow me.” He spun on his heel and escorted her to Cierra’s room.
Once inside the room she demanded that he leave them alone. He protested but she scathingly reminded him that she had been searched for weapons already. He huffed and left the room.
Hallie looked down at her ex lover and bit her lip. It had been almost two years since she last saw her. Cierra’s hair was longer and although Cierra had been attractive before, she had never been this buff and tanned. She was still very good looking in spite of the bruises and scrapes.
“Cierra, sweetheart?” Hallie placed her hand on Cierra’s shoulder.
Cierra opened her deep brown eyes and looked at her for several seconds before signs of recognition appeared on her features. “Hallie?”
“Yes, it’s me. How are you feeling?”
Cierra moaned. “Like shit. Why are you here?”
The lawyer sighed. It wasn’t exactly the happy reunion she had hoped for but at least she wasn’t told to get the hell out. “I heard you were here and had to see you. Just because we broke up doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.”
Cierra sighed. She was just too tired to fight. Besides, she was glad to see someone other than the medical staff or military. Maybe she could see other people like Jim or Mabel.
“They’re going to let me have visitors?”
Hallie frowned. “I doubt it. I had to bluff and fight my way in.”
“Fuck, I want friends to visit too.”
Hallie swallowed hard. The comment meant she wasn’t counted among her friends. She now had to rethink her idea of asking Cierra for another try at a relationship. Well, she couldn’t blame Cierra for feeling like that.
“Let me see what I can do. Is there anything else I can do for you?” She looked down at Cierra and noticed she was once again sound asleep. She walked out of the room quietly.
The Major was looking at her.
“She’s asleep again. I’ll come back later this afternoon. She mentioned wanting to allow friends to visit.”
“Too dangerous. Anyone can claim to be a friend.”
“Well, perhaps I can get a list from her this afternoon. Then you can restrict them to only those people. Is that acceptable?”
The uniformed man sighed. “I suppose if I refuse I’ll be made out to be the cruelest officer since Captain Bly. Fine, bring me the list and I’ll have the names checked. Until this afternoon, Ms. Preston.” The man signaled a corporal to escort the lawyer from the secured area.
· * * *
JP was frantic. It had been two days and Cierra hadn’t returned. Kota, being a wise man in spite of his jackass tendencies had kept out of sight. A pall had settled over the village and people quietly and worriedly did their chores although their heart wasn’t in it.
After pacing for hours and punching a few innocent trees, JP entered the home she shared with Cierra and wept. She hadn’t left since and her friends were worried about her. Jenny brought her food but it remained untouched. No one could console the woman who feared the worst.
JP gripped the fetish in her hands and prayed constantly, her medicine bag clutched to her chest. She was convinced if she prayed hard enough that she could bring Cierra back to her. She rubbed the black stone and suddenly remembered what her spouse had said about them. She got up and looked around the house until she spotted an empty pot. She took a small hammer and managed to make a small jagged hole on one side of it.
“What was it that needed to be inside?” she muttered. She recalled cornmeal and…then she remembered, turquoise dust. She didn’t have any but the jeweler did. She left the house in a hurry and knocked frantically on her door. The woman saw the desperate need in JP’s face and asked what she could do for her.
“Turquoise dust, do you have any?”
“I might. I was just working on some--” JP rushed into the room to the desk and spotted the gravel and dust on the tabletop. She scooped it up onto her palm and rushed from the building, not even thanking the dumbfounded artist.
She returned to her home and sprinkled the dust into the bottom of the pot. She didn’t want to go to the kitchens but recalled that she had cornmeal in her medicine bag. She opened the bundle and sprinkled it into the pot too. She looked around and found a place that overlooked their home and placed it there.
JP took the cord off the fetish and carefully placed the stone inside and covered the top with a cloth. Now surrounded in turquoise and fed, the fetish would now look over the family.
Now that she had arranged everything, JP felt a little foolish. It was just a stone.
She crawled into their feather bed and held Cierra’s pillow in her arms and wept.
Continued in Part 8
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