The Shadow of a Soul

Copyright ©2002-2022 by MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved.

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Chapter 11: Eleven-Eleven


The time caught my attention and I flashed back to the time and temperature the day we arrived.

Exactly one week had passed since our arrival in Texas.

As I thought about that, I realized that It seemed like so much longer.

Of course, waiting to hear about Mom's job caused it to drag out, filling each minute with anxiety and dread.

Waiting for the fracture to open so Enoch could get through hasn't made it move any faster, either.

On the other hand, Enoch and I spent the majority of the time since Thursday, when Joe Bob and his brothers had visited, in a dream state together, so that sort of balanced things out.

But fast or slow, wanted or not, Monday arrived, right on schedule.

* * * * *

"Try to cheer up." My mom said as she drove.

"I don't want to leave." I said simply. There's no reason for me to give a long, drawn out speech. I know what I'm feeling. She knows what I'm feeling. All that's left is to remind her that I haven't changed my mind.

"We don't always get what we want." Mom said simply.

Yeah, that's the motherly wisdom that I've come to depend on. I glanced into the back seat where Enoch was watching and gave a slight eyeroll to show how impressed I wasn't.

"Well, if you can't be happy, at least try not to rain on everyone else's parade. This is a big day for Emmylou." Mom continued on.

"Yeah. I'll keep a lid on it." I muttered despondently.

"Get ready to jump out. The gate's up ahead." Mom said suddenly.

{I know where the gate is!} I thought to myself irritably. I hate being so crabby about every little thing. It's not me. But I can't help it.

As she pulled to a stop, I hopped out of the car and ran ahead to open the gate for her.

Even though it was almost noon, the heat wasn't nearly as bad as usual. The sky was slightly overcast, although from the look of it the possibility of rain was somewhere between slim and none.

As soon as Mom drove through the gate, I closed it behind her, then hurried to get back into the car.

Considering the pissy mood that I've been in lately, I suppose I wouldn't blame her if she decided to drive off without me. I kind of deserve it.

* * * * *

Of course, Grandpa and Grandma were happy to see us, welcoming us with open arms.

The underlying anxiety and sadness that I was carrying didn't go away, but the smiles and hugs that I gave them weren't entirely an act.

As soon as that was done, I made a point of announcing that I needed to go back and say 'Hello' to Allie.

The fact of the matter was that I needed to guide Enoch back to her room so that he could visit with Allie and George.

Mom seemed a little bit put out that I didn't immediately 'stand to' and start helping with decorating for the impending birthday party.

Too bad.

Doing things to please her isn't really way up high on my list at the moment.

I might have lingered back in Allie's bedroom a little longer than was absolutely necessary, but it was nice to see Enoch having the opportunity to talk to someone besides me. And, I have to admit, visiting with Allie and George was nice for me, too. They're good company.

* * * * *

When I finally returned to the living room, there was an entire list of things already planned for me to do. Most of them had to do with lifting, standing on a ladder, and stretching.

No big deal.

I figured that if I just kept on working and kept my mouth shut, that I'd be able to make it through this thing.

About fifteen minutes into hanging the banners and garlands for Emmylou's birthday circus, the sound of Mom's cell phone caught my attention.

An almost paralyzing feeling of dread swept over me at the sound.

Right then, right there, standing on a ladder in my grandparent's living room, all I wanted to do was break down and cry.

With agonizing slowness, Mom excavated the depths of her purse trying to find her cellphone.

It took me a moment to realize that I had frozen in mid motion. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to slowly back my way down the ladder while Mom answered the phone.

Mom had a puzzled look on her face, then she looked at me and said, "It's for you. Someone named Boyce. He asked for you by name."

"Oh! Good!" I said as I put down the decorations that I had been intending to hang and accepted the phone from her.

She looked at me curiously, almost willing me to explain to her who 'Boyce' was.

I'm not ashamed.

I have no reason not to tell her... except, maybe, to piss her off.

That's reason enough for me.

So I took her cellphone and stepped out of the living room and out to the covered porch at the front of the house, so I could take the call in private.

* * * * *

"Hello, Boyce?" I asked cautiously.

"Am I speaking to Mark or James?" Boyce asked carefully.

"Yes. This is Mark."

"I just called to let you know that your test results have arrived." Boyce said seriously.

"Okay. Is everything alright?" I asked hopefully.

"We don't give out test results over the phone. I just wanted to let you know that the results are in, so that you can make arrangements to stop by, whenever you have the time." Boyce said professionally.

"Oh? Okay. That shouldn't be a problem." I said as I thought about how I could arrange that.

"Good." Boyce said happily, then asked, "Can I speak to James, if he's there? He has this same number listed as a contact number."

"He's not here right now, but he'll be here in an hour or so. I can tell him then." I said seriously.

"I'd appreciate that. If I don't see or hear from you in the next few days, expect for me to call back." Boyce said frankly.

"Yeah. We can probably get a ride in, tomorrow. But I won't know until I talk to my cousin about it." I told him casually, then continued, "Either way, I'll pass on the message to Jim Bob when he gets here."

"Thank you. I'll see you then." Boyce said warmly.

"Bye." I said, then hung up the phone.

I took a moment to look at the barren, desolate landscape under the slightly overcast sky.

After growing up in lush, verdant green, it was a definite contrast. But there was no doubt that it had it's own dark, almost violent, beauty.

Finally, when I couldn't put it off any longer, I went back inside the house to continue my afternoon of lifting, climbing and stretching.

* * * * *

I don't know if they go to this much trouble for everyone's birthday, but they sure seemed to be going all out for Emmylou.

I was surprised to find that after all the banners, garlands and streamers had been put up all around the room, they had another 'treat' in store for me. I got the singular honor of blowing up balloons!

Lots and lots of balloons.

I mean, yeah. It makes sense. I wouldn't expect Grandpa to do it. Grandma and Mom were busy in the kitchen probably cooking enough food for an army... and considering Joe Bob's family... um, yeah.

So it was left to me to blow up two or three dozen balloons. I can't narrow it down any closer than that. Things got really fuzzy there, for a while.

* * * * *

So, as I was sitting there, trying to recover my breath, looking over my handiwork, I once again heard Mom's cellphone ringing.

I felt a little surge of panic at the sound but, honestly, I didn't have the energy at that point for much more.

I remained seated and listened as carefully as I could for her side of the conversation.

The most that I could do is hear that she was talking, but I couldn't make out a single thing that she was saying. That is, until the 'shriek' erupted.

With that singular ear piercing, cringe inducing sound, I felt my heart sink.

I was sitting there, stewing in my anguish, waiting for her to come in and happily announce what I had already been able to deduce.

"I got the job!" Mom called out joyfully.

Fortunately, she was talking to Grandma or Grandpa when she said it, so I was free to escape down the hallway... to Enoch.

* * * * *

"What's wrong?" Enoch asked as soon as he saw me.

"My mom got the job." I said as I fought to contain my tears.

"Maybe it's not as bad as you're thinking." Allie offered half-heartedly.

"You're right. It may be worse." I said as I lost the battle and felt one of my tears falling down my cheek.

I was never as thankful as I was in that moment for Enoch's ability to give me a 'real' hug.

I felt as if my world were slipping away from me. Everything that I wanted and everything that I loved was on the verge of being taken away.

Enoch pulled away enough to look me in the eyes and calmly said, "We'll find a way. I promise."

I knew the situation we were in. I was very aware of reality. And yet, against all reason, I believed him.

* * * * *

I stayed there, in Allie's room for a while longer, until a ruckus rose up in the living room.

Mom was right about one thing, it wouldn't be fair for me to ruin Emmylou's special day. So it was time for me to put on a happy face and do my duty as a member of the family, even though my heart was breaking.

As I walked into the living room, with Allie on my arm, it was immediately apparent that Emmylou was the center of attention.

From the look of the dress that she was wearing, it was obvious that it was the new dress that she had been promised.

She looked absolutely lovely.

If it weren't for the slightest trace of 'baby fat' that was still rounding out her face, it would be impossible to distinguish her from an eighteen year old.

The bodice of the dress framed her ample endowments to their fullest.

In that moment, I decided that Joe Bob had his work cut out for him. If he wasn't very VERY careful, he was going to be a grandfather long before he was ready for it.

When she noticed me, I dutifully said, "Happy Birthday, Emmylou."

"Thanks." She tittered demurely.

Although she was acting shy at the moment, I could tell that she was thoroughly enjoying all the attention.

"We've got some more good news!" Grandpa announced, drawing everyone's attention. "Patsy just got word that she's been hired. So we have even more reason to celebrate!"

Cheers and well wishes flew around the room while I did my best to keep a smile frozen on my face.

When I noticed that Joe Bob Sr seemed to be struggling with a baby carrier, I hurried over to him and offered to help.

Their youngest, Garth, was somehow fast asleep.

Although he looked to be comfortable enough, it appeared to me that the baby carrier was a size or two too small for him. His head rested right at one end and his legs draped out over the other.

The twin girls were running around, making an ungodly amount of noise, caught up in the festive atmosphere.

The whole thing was nothing short of a circus.

When I spotted Jim Bob, standing off to the side, I made my way over to him and quietly said, "I got a call from the LGBT resource center. Our test results are in."

"What did they say?" Jim Bob asked nervously.

"They said that we'll need to go in and talk to them to get the results." I said honestly.

"Does that mean that there's something wrong?" Jim Bob asked in panic.

"No. It means that they don't give results out over the phone." I assured him, then added, "That's what they always do. It's nothing to worry about. I promise."

It took a moment, but Jim Bob finally seemed to accept my words.

"Do you think that Joe Bob could drive us into town tomorrow?" I asked cautiously.

"I think he has to work, but I'll ask him." Jim Bob said quietly.

"Well, if he can't, we can just wait until he has time. Like I said, it's nothing to worry about." I said to him with a sincere smile. It's possible that that was the first honest smile that I'd had all day.

"I talked to Lonny, yesterday." Jim Bob said quietly.

That surprised me, and I couldn't help but ask, "What did he have to say?"

"He said that he was sorry." Jim Bob said as he looked away.

"Do you believe him?" I asked cautiously.

"Yeah." Jim Bob reluctantly admitted, then added, "I still don't ever want to see him again, but I told him that I forgive him and that I'm not mad."

"Good. Holding on to the hate doesn't help you or anyone else." I said gently.

"I miss the way he used to hold me after we, um... you know." Jim Bob admitted shyly.

"I know. But one of these days you'll find someone else. And hopefully, the next guy will be someone that wants you just the way you are, not because you remind him of someone else." I said honestly.

Yeah, it might not have been the most sensitive thing to say, but I thought it was important to remind Jim Bob why being with Lonny was a really bad idea.

"How can I find someone like that?" Jim Bob asked helplessly.

"Right now, just work on taking care of yourself. It's too soon to be looking for someone else. When you're feeling like this, it's really easy to make bad decisions. It's called a 'rebound', and it's not something to mess with." I said frankly.

"Yeah. You're probably right." Jim Bob reluctantly admitted, then quietly added, "I just feel so alone."

Having visited Jim Bob's house, it was hard for me to imagine anyone feeling 'alone' in a place like that. But I understood what he meant, anyway.

"I know it doesn't feel like it, now. But every day it should get a little bit easier." I told him reassuringly.

"Have you ever been through something like this?" Jim Bob asked curiously.

"No. Not even close." I reluctantly admitted.

I couldn't resist his inquiring gaze and finally continued, "I'm just telling you what I've heard from other people who've been through things."

Jim Bob thought about it for a moment, then reluctantly nodded.

Mom's excited voice caught my attention as she was telling Joe Bob and Lindie, "I'm going to have to fly to Santa Fe tomorrow to 'process in'."

I felt another wave of dread overtake me at the announcement.

"Depending on how long that takes, I'm hoping that I'll have time to check out a few places and maybe find us a place to rent." Mom happily continued.

"You're leaving?" Jim Bob asked suddenly.

"It looks that way." I said quietly, unable to maintain a pleasant expression.

"But you just got here." Jim Bob said disappointedly.

"I know." I said as I, once again, had to fight down my tears.

* * * * *

The birthday party went on and on.

I did my best not to rain on anyone's parade, but I could only do so much.

At one point, Jim Bob pulled me aside and told me that Joe Bob had volunteered to drive us to the LGBT resource center the following afternoon, when he got off work.

The party seemed to drag on and on, until Grandma finally made the announcement that the food was ready.

I sat at dinner, with everyone else, but didn't participate in the conversation.

Throughout, Enoch was standing with George, across the table from me, right behind Allie.

That helped a little.

Whenever I would feel the despair creeping up on me, I'd look at him and reassure myself that we'd find some way to make it work out.

Although, it was becoming increasingly difficult to imagine 'how'.

* * * * *

After dinner, there was the ceremonial presentation of the birthday cake, followed by the obligatory opening of presents.

I suppose that watching Emmylou's happiness did serve to take the edge off of my despair.

I found myself watching, almost wistfully, remembering happier, more carefree times in my life.

I'm too young to be feeling like such an old fart. But, I feel what I feel. I can't help it.

* * * * *

Soon after the presents were all opened, I helped Allie back to her room, then spent some time talking with everyone back there.

They didn't have any sage advice to give me, but it was nice to have someone that I could talk to about it, without having to watch what I said.

Later in the evening, Beau found his way back and joined in the conversation.

Apparently, he could see both Enoch and George, now. Although he couldn't see them clearly, from what he described, he could make out a general outline, which was good enough for him and made him feel special.

It made me feel good to know that even if I had to leave, that Beau would be able to visit with Allie and George, and continue to develop his gift.

* * * * *

When we finally had to leave, I wasn't looking forward to the ride home.

Mom had already told me what she was going to do, and no matter what I said, I knew that I wasn't going to change her mind.

Even so, I had to try.

"Maybe I could stay with Grandma and Grandpa? I could help them out with things around the farm." I weakly offered.

"Your grandparents have got Joe Bob and his kids to help them. They've worked hard for a lot of years and have earned their retirement. They don't need to be raising another kid." Mom said firmly.

"What about Aunt Prissy?" I asked, and didn't even choke on the words. Yes, I was that desperate.

"No." Mom said firmly.

That was it.

The ride home continued in silence.

Enoch was silently watching, looking helpless to do anything meaningful.

* * * * *

As soon as we were back home, Enoch and I went upstairs to the safety and security of our room.

Without so much as a word, I immediately walked to the mirror to examine the 'crack'.

Over the past few days, it had opened considerably more, looking more like the backing of the mirror had been damaged, than a flaw in the glass.

"Move the mirror out of the way." Enoch said to me quietly.

I looked at him with surprise at the suggestion, but did as I was told.

"The mirror allows us to 'see' the opening, but we need it out of the way to be able to reach through it." Enoch explained.

"What do I have to do?" I asked cautiously.

"Go to where the mirror was, then try to reach through to me. I'm going to do the same from the other side." Enoch said seriously.

I immediately went to where the mirror had been standing, then started to feel around.

"If you make contact with something, stop. That will be me." Enoch said carefully.

"Okay." I whispered as I slowed my frantic movements, trying desperately to feel anything.

"I think I felt you. Hold it there." Enoch said slowly.

I froze in place, hoping beyond hope that he was going to make contact.

"Move forward, just a bit." Enoch said in concentration.

I extended my hand, ever so slightly, and nearly gasped when I felt something touch it.

"Yes. I can feel you." Enoch said happily.

"What do I need to do?" I asked cautiously.

"Move your hand to the left." Enoch whispered.

I carefully moved my hand, and he quickly said, "My left. Your right."

I moved my hand in the other direction slightly and felt the wonderful, glorious sensation of Enoch's hand slipping into mine.

"Yes. I have you." Enoch said with such a joyful expression, that I could tell that he was moments away from crying.

"I can touch you. You're real." I said in amazement.

Even though I never had a doubt, being able to verify his existence with my own senses just made the reality of it so much more to me.

"Try to pull me through." Enoch urged me.

"It isn't open enough." I said cautiously.

"Perhaps we can force it." Enoch said anxiously.

"I'll try." I said as I gripped his hand more strongly, then began to pull it toward me.

Since moving to West Texas, one freaky thing after another has happened to me.

But in that moment, when I was pulling Enoch's hand toward me, I saw something that made all the other freakiness seem bland and ordinary.

Right there in front of me, I could see myself holding a disembodied hand.

"Take my wrist for a better grip." Enoch urged me.

I held his hand in both of mine for a moment, then did as he had said.

"Pull, really hard." Enoch said seriously.

"I don't want to hurt you." I responded cautiously.

"Any pain I experience will be worth it, if I can be with you." Enoch said firmly.

"Okay. But tell me if it gets to be too much." I said anxiously, then began to pull.

More and more of his arm was able to come into my reality, but that was it. No matter how we shifted and turned, we couldn't get his shoulder to come through.

I don't know how long we pulled and struggled, but finally we ended up sitting there, both exhausted and disheartened, holding hands.

As weird as it seemed to be holding a disembodied hand emerging from empty space, it was also the most tender, wonderful thing I could imagine.

"In a number of days, the fissure should open enough that I will be able to pass through." Enoch said into the silence that had fallen between us.

"The way Mom's going, I don't know if we'll be here after tomorrow." I said regretfully.

As much as I wanted to be hopeful and happy, I needed to be realistic.

After a few more minutes of silence, Enoch quietly asked, "Is there nothing we can do?"

"I can't think of anything." I said honestly.

I could still see Enoch's insubstantial form, on the other side of the rift, while I continued to hold his 'real' hand in mine.

"What are we going to do?" Enoch asked anxiously.

"I don't know." I said simply, wishing that I had a better answer for him.

We sat like that for a while longer, simply holding hands, soaking in the actual, real, physical sensation.

"Assuming that we are able to find a way to get me into your world, what is to become of me?" Enoch asked quietly.

"You'll live with us." I said simply.

"Do you believe that your mother will accept me, with no verifiable evidence as to my origin or identity?" Enoch asked cautiously.

"I guess I didn't think about that." I reluctantly had to admit.

"So, when I cross into your world, it's possible that we still might not be able to be together." Enoch said slowly.

I thought about that for a moment, then said, "If we can't get Mom to listen and go along with it, then we'll try my dad. I don't know what we'll tell him to explain who you are, but I know that he'll do whatever he can to make sure that we can stay together."

"Do you really believe this to be true?" Enoch asked cautiously.

"The last time that I talked to my dad, he made me promise to tell him when I met a nice 'cowboy' so that he could meet him." I said with a smile at the memory.

"I am not a 'cowboy', I am an 'East coast dandy'." Enoch said seriously.

"Somehow, I don't think he'll mind. He just wanted me to know that when I fall in love, he wants to meet the guy, as a way to show that he accepts us and acknowledges that we're a couple." I said warmly.

"I think, from the sound of it, that I am going to like your father." Enoch said as he looked into my eyes.

I squeezed his hand, still held in mine as I said, "I hope you get the chance."

* * * * *

I don't know how long we sat like that.

Neither of us wanted for this new level of closeness between us to end.

Certain parts of my body had gone numb from sitting in an awkward position on the floor before we finally had to accept that we weren't going to be able to pull Enoch across the rift.

When we went to bed and entered our dreamscape, we were both silent.

We expressed our hopes, our worries and our disappointments through touch.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

Well, as is often the case, just when things start looking up, something comes along to blow it all to pieces

I hope Enoch and Mark can figure out some way to force the rift to open wide enough to pass through, and before Mark is forced to leave town. I know that is expecting a lot, but what else can we do but hope? I hope we don't have to wait too long before the next chapter comes out. I hate cliffhangers, don't you?

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher