Authors: Barry Chaison
“You’re a genius! Why didn’t I think of that? It’s so obvious!” I exclaimed, jumping up from my chair and pulling out my cell phone. My fingers shook nervously with each number that was pressed.
“Hello?” Marie’s sweet voice came from the other line.
“Marie! Hi, it’s Zoe! How are you?” I asked quickly, holding the phone out enough for both Annie and me to hear.
“Oh Zoe! It’s so good to hear from you. How’d you like the birthday present?”
“It was beautiful, thank you so much Marie. I’ve already hung it up in my room, right above my bed.”
“You’re welcome hon; it was mostly Annie’s idea though. We spent hours on the phone trying to find the perfect picture. I tell you, that girl just drives me crazy sometimes!”
Annie pursed her lips and rolled her eyes at the comment. She threw a hand out and signaled for me to pick up the pace and get to the point of my call.
“Yeah, she can be a handful,” I added, which got me a sharp punch in the arm.
“So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call? Is everything alright?”
“Actually…” I said, unable contain myself any longer. “I called because I have a question about my parents.”
“Oh,” she replied distantly. “What about them?”
“I was wondering if you ever met or heard my parents mention a Leonard Woodward? He’s one of my professors at ULV, and apparently was best friends with my dad a long time ago,” I stammered eagerly, as the two of us leaned in even closer awaiting her response.
We were met with nothing but silence on the other line.
“Hello?” I asked after a few seconds. I pulled my phone away to make sure it hadn’t shut off on its own. “Are you there?”
“Yes, I’m here,” she said finally.
“Oh, okay, I thought I lost you there for a minute.”
“Nope, I was just trying to think if I’ve heard that name before,”
“And?” Annie chimed in suddenly. I pulled the phone away from her and covered the mouth piece angrily. I shot her a dirty, frustrated look before slowly putting the phone back between us.
“What was that hon?” Marie asked.
“Oh, uh, nothing, just wondering if it rang a bell,” I said, still staring at Annie who mouthed the words “I’m sorry”.
“Not that I can remember dear,” she said rather shortly. “Your parents never really talked about their old friends. Sorry I can’t be more help.”
“Oh, well, thanks anyway Marie, I appreciate it,”
“No problem. Look Zoe, Mark is calling on the other line, I’ve gotta go. Take care and keep my daughter out of trouble!”
“Will do,” I moaned. “Take care.”
“You too, have fun down there and be safe. We love you.”
“Love you guys too, bye.”
As I hung up the phone, Annie looked just as dejected as I felt.
“Does nobody in this world besides Professor Woodward know anything about my parents?” I complained, snapping my phone shut.
I jumped up and all of the blood rushed to my head at once. I wavered for a moment, but stabilized myself. Everything hurt again, but worse than before.
“You should go lie down for a bit,” Annie said with a concerned look on her face.
“Maybe you’re right. My dreams seem to be the only place I can find answers anymore!”
I squatted down and hoisted my bag up from beside the couch and stumbled down the hallway into my room. Bright sunlight radiated through the open blinds, causing the room to be much warmer and muggier than I wanted. I tossed my backpack onto the bed, which made the springs recoil in agony, and collapsed right next to it. Any sick feelings that were brewing inside slowly waned and my mind was doing its best to organize everything that had happened during the day.
Even though my birthday was only days removed, it seemed like an eternity since there was any stability in my life. In the course of one weekend, my world had completely flipped upside down. My life was being ripped into two separate worlds. What made matters worse was that there were no answers anywhere to be found. Annie and Liam were getting frighteningly close, while Professor Woodward kept bringing up more questions than answers. There was only one thing to do to clear my head completely.
Drawing my gaze from the ceiling, I reached over and unzipped my backpack. After pushing a few notebooks and textbooks out of the way, I finally saw it. The ancient looking and massive leather bound book Professor Woodward had given me earlier in the day gleamed in the sunlight. I hauled it out and tossed my feathery light bag onto the floor.
I’d never seen any book like it. It looked hundreds of years old and yet was surprisingly still intact. I was instantly mesmerized as my hands caressed the smooth brown leather cover, which showed no signs of wear and tear. The bright sun intensified a beautiful golden weave border which flowed flawlessly around its outskirts. The silky white font was written in an old-English style, which added an entirely new dimension of age and respect. Even though there were no pictures or graphics on the front, the perfect blend of contrasting colors and its apparent durability made it a wonder to behold. As I flipped through the opaque, cream colored paper, the sweet rustic scent of aged paper and ink invaded my senses, almost instantly soothing my stressed mind. I snapped the book shut and finally focused on the fancy writing carved perfectly into the cover. My jaw dropped and the words resonated through my brain.
Truth or Legend? A Historical Analysis of Religious Spirits by Dr. Leonard Alan Woodward
After the initial stupor wore off, I carefully opened the cover and studied the table of contents. The elegant font that graced the cover was magnified exquisitely on the inside pages. There were so many different topics, it was impossible to pick where to start. Instead of choosing a random chapter, I flipped the pages until Chapter One: Ancient Beliefs appeared. I pushed my pillow up against the wall, leaned back and began to read.
The rest of the week came with welcomed relief and all of the drama seemed to subside with each passing day. Professor Woodward had continued on in class, business as usual, not making any slight reference to our previous meeting. He continued to treat me similar to every other student in class, and was his normal, interactive and passionate self. Even Liam had held true to his word. He kept his distance from the apartment, even with Annie being home much more than normal. His presence also went completely undetected around campus. My spirits lifted progressively throughout the week and I hoped he had just disappeared all together. For the first time in weeks, a Friday afternoon rolled around in relative peace.
Professor Woodward’s massive book rested heavily in my lap. Even though the writing was small and condensed on each page, I had made quite a dent in my progress. I was more than a quarter of the way through the book, with each page drawing my interest more and more. The book accomplished what all books are supposed to, it drew me in so much that I was able to leave reality for a period of time and engulf myself within a new world.
“Geez Zoe, have you closed that book at all this week?” Annie said, flipping through channels on the TV.
“Huh?” I asked, not lifting my eyes away from the book.
“Hello?” a faint voice called from somewhere far away.
“We’re in here!” Annie screamed.
“Was that really necessary?” I jeered, rubbing my ear.
“Hey!” Steph exclaimed.
I looked up and immediately noticed her red hair, which had rather quickly grown all the way down to her mid back. Her snow white teeth were shining beautifully in the light, as Hope slowly appeared at her side. But there was something new about Hope’s appearance. For the first time, she wasn’t wearing glasses and actually had her hair pulled up into a bun. The corners of her lips were extended up in both directions and she stared directly at me.
“Steph!” Annie cried, jumping up and giving her a big hug. “What are you guys up to?”
“Oh nothing,” she said slowly, turning her attention to me. “I just wanted to check in on our girl before her big date!”
Everything finally made sense as all three pairs of eyes fell on me, each face sporting a unique, but familiar smirk. Sighing unnecessarily loudly, I slammed the book shut and pushed it off to the side.
“What is this, some kind of intervention or something?”
“No, I wouldn’t say that exactly,” Steph giggled, looking sideways at Annie who looked equally amused.
“Yeah, we don’t want to talk necessarily, we have other plans,” Annie continued, returning Steph’s look.
“What do you two have planned?” I asked suspiciously, narrowing my eyes.
“Nothing, just don’t go anywhere, we’ll be back in a few minutes,” Annie said.
She turned her back to me and pulled Steph around the corner with her. After the front door slammed shut, it was just Hope and me. Hope stood there for a moment, before she slowly walked into the living room and sat down next to me.
“I can’t believe you’re actually going!” she said softly in awe. “I’m jealous!”
“Don’t be,” I replied. “I haven’t even met the guy, but if he’s anything like Liam, this night will be a complete disaster.”
“Good point,” she agreed. “Are you ready?”
“Honestly, I haven’t thought much about it. I’ve been reading this book all week, I kind of forgot about it!” I said, smacking the hard cover.
“I guess that’s a good thing right? If it were my first date, I’d probably be throwing up in the bathroom all afternoon!”
“Oh my god,” I said suddenly.
“What?” Hope said, jumping up in surprise.
“I’m going on a date…”
“Yeah, I know. Was I just talking to myself again?”
“No, but, what have I gotten myself into?” I said, my voice breaking. “I mean, I don’t know the first thing about dates! What do I wear? What the heck do we talk about? Is there some kind of etiquette I need to follow? Oh man, this is going to be a disaster!”
I leaped off the futon and paced around the living room. There was absolutely no way I was going to survive the date. I’d spent so much time during the week reading, I had completely forgotten all about the deal with Liam. To make matters even worse, it was a blind date, which only meant a night full of awkward silences and uncomfortable glances.
“Whoa, calm down,” Hope said. “Take a breath first of all, it looks like you’re about to start hyperventilating!”
“You’re right,” I said, resting a hand over my rapidly moving chest. “Deep breaths…”
“Don’t worry, Annie and Steph will be back any minute and I’m sure they have everything under control.”
“Annie!” I exhaled. “That’s it! At least she’ll be there tonight. She could carry on a conversation for hours!”
“You’re not getting out of talking tonight that easily,” Annie mocked, reappearing at the doorway of the living room with her arms folded coyly. “But we’ll worry about that later. Right now, you have a date with Steph and me in my room.”
“Oh no,” I sighed. “Please don’t tell me…”
“Oh yes,” Steph said at Annie’s side, holding a perfectly square pink box. I could clearly see the hundreds of rhinestones that were plastered onto the top. “We have an entire arsenal here to help make you look like an angel.”
I looked over at Hope with desperate eyes and my mind tried to think of any excuse to escape what was about to happen. She just looked back at me with an encouraging smile.
“I’ll be right there with you,” she said, placing a comforting hand over my shoulders. “It won’t be so bad. You look beautiful anyway, I’m sure they’ll just touch you up a bit.”
“Exactly,” Annie squealed, hardly able to hold in the excitement. “Come on Zoe, you’re going to love it!”
Annie’s room looked like a hurricane had swept through it. There was a massive pile of clothes stacked on her bed, and her closet was open with numerous dresses scattered across the floor. Steph was already in the room, standing at Annie’s makeup mirror, sporting a welcoming smile. The circular light bulbs that surrounded the mirror’s borders in all directions glared uncomfortably bright as Annie guided me over and sat me down in front of it. Hope stood in the doorway, arms crossed, leaning comfortably against the frame. She had a somewhat envious look on her face, but she still sported a lazy half smile.
“How long is this going to take?” I whined, as Steph and Annie started to gather random materials together.
“Just relax Zoe!” Annie said.
“Yeah, just sit back and let us do our thing,” Steph added.
For the next hour, Steph and Annie proceeded to dust my face with a variety of cosmetics. Slowly but surely, I could see the transformation reflect back at me in the mirror. First, they applied a small amount of eyeliner and mascara. Then, they powdered my cheeks with a sandy pink blush and followed it up with a pink tinted lip gloss. Once they finished, my hair became the next victim of their all-out assault on my appearance. Instead of keeping it down and straight, which was my preferred method, they pulled out the curler and proceeded to twist and bend my hair into what actually turned out to be relatively nice curls. The dark curls hovered over both shoulders and rested comfortably on my mid back.