The God will not be seen
Unless the ear catch fire
The God will not be heard
Unless the tongue catch fire
The God will not be named
Unless the heart catch fire
The God will not be loved
Unless the mind catch fire
The God will not be known
— William Blake
In the Ether
During the Age of Isolation most people were born into the faith of their parents. Their family or culture told them this is what God looks like, this is how he acts and this is how you should act and everyone went along with this and believed with no questions asked. But I was a different kind of human, I was more curious than the others. I had this hunger, this agonizing desire to find the facts out for myself. I was never satisfied with someone else’s experience of God. I had to either disprove He existed or experience Him myself. There could be no in between for me.
I searched through religious books, mystical writings and even anti-theological works looking for the truth. With each book, more questions arose than answers. Why was I here? What was the purpose of all this suffering? Why did these so called gods in these books act more like egotistical men than divine beings? Why did the god of the Bible need a sacrifice in order to forgive sin? I could forgive others without a sacrifice—wasn’t that true grace—forgiving without payment in return?
And if evolution was true, then why didn’t the evolutionary process kill out the human emotions that didn’t serve humankind? Selfish emotions like greed, power and lust set humanity back instead of forward.
So maybe the truth was somewhere in the middle. And maybe, just maybe that truth had been hidden from the masses.
The famous writer Aldous Huxley once wrote, the trouble with fiction is that it makes too much sense. Reality never makes sense. Mr. Huxley was correct, especially in my case.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I would, after falling in love and getting deeply hurt and learning that things weren’t really as they seemed, find the answers to all my questions. It was there, in the Bible belt, of all the places, that I would find my strange truth, my reality…and God.
My great discovery occurred in my freshman year in college, back when I knew something wasn’t right with me and the only way I could cope with it was by denying anything was wrong at all. I guess it was easier for me to go blind to it all rather than try to explain the unexplainable. It was easier to search for the truth in books rather than going within and doing the hard work.
I remember, I stood out among the humans—I was different—I could never conform to their ideologies. But come to find out, a lot of my problem was myself. I was cynical and judgmental during my human years. I had amnesia—no memory of my divinity. I was lonely, and most of all, I was desperate to know unconditional love. It tickles me to look back at my journey. It was a true evolution of heart, mind and soul.
My transformation began the day I moved into the dorms—the day I saw him…
The Guy in the Corner
My room, the way it reeked of Pine-sol, the way the sunlight beamed in through the unadorned windows, was still so fresh in my mind. I could see myself standing there in our dorm room with my wild hair and crazy look, holding up my first college shirt I had just bought that morning on campus.
I had the choice between a red T-shirt and a white one. I wanted black, black was my signature color, black represented all that was me back then, but black wasn’t an option OU’s school colors were red and white.
I knew there would be a lot of changes that year, and that was okay, I could handle anything college life threw my way. I was a tough girl. And, I was pretty dang proud of the fact that I, the girl unofficially voted in high school as Creepy Em and most likely to flip hamburgers for life, not to mention, become a zombie serial killer, had made it to a university.
“You did it, Emma,” I said out loud as I held up my new University of Oklahoma T-shirt. “Now, just four more years, and you’ll be free of Oklahoma forever— and hello New York!”
I wasn’t interested in going to New York City to be a Broadway star, a model, or to have some high paying fancy job. That wasn’t me at all.
Actually, it probably would have shocked my former classmates if they knew I had my whole so called creepy life all planned out since I was a little kid—my plan was pretty simple and not really creepy at all; I would get an entry level job at the UN, take grad classes at night, hopefully, at The New School, and work my way up the old career ladder and help change this screwed up world. Easy peasy.
This had been my dream for as long as I could remember—to bring peace to our planet, end these stupid neanderthalic wars and to distribute resources evenly. No one would starve on my watch.
My new roommate, Laurel Sparks, came back into our room. I put my T-shirt on the bed and looked at all the work to be done. Our dorm room had two bare beds, four very blank walls and a bunch of moving boxes.
“Here ya go.” Laurel handed me a box knife she’d borrowed from a friend down the hall.
“Thanks,” I said, and cut the tape on the box. “Did your parents leave?”
“Yes, finally.” Her voice was a little nasal and way too dramatic for her mature, model-like face. “Emma, I swear, you are so freaking lucky you don’t have to deal with parental bs. She still treats me like I’m thirteen!” she let out a frustrated moan. “My mom would not stop nagging me about her stupid curfew—this whole Heart Ripper thing has her all freaked out.” Laurel turned to look over the stuff on her bed. “She just knows if I’m out one minute after ten pm I’m going to end up lying on the street with my heart ripped out!”
“Yeah, I’m real lucky,” I said ignoring her last words and imagining what parental bs would be like. When I cut the second box open, the knife sliced into my middle finger. Laurel was deep in a box and didn’t notice. I put the red finger into my mouth as fast as possible. The copper taste was nasty, but I had to do it. The cut was way too deep for a Band-Aid. I probably needed stitches but because I loved hospitals as much as I loved wearing a tight bra, and because my little secret would have probably freaked out all the doctors, a trip to the hospital wasn’t an option.
I pulled my finger out of my mouth and the blood sucked back up and the skin healed back to normal as if it had never been cut.
“If this is my mother, I swear…” Laurel looked at the number on her musical cell phone. “Oh good…” she took the call.
I pushed the Origin of Species between the Bible and the Avesta. I tried to ignore her conversation, which was kind of hard since she was just a few feet away.
“What, they’re at Boomer’s right now?” Laurel said into the phone. “I haven’t seen them in like forever.” She paused. “What? You can’t…oh, come on, Paige…please…I don’t want to go by myself…all right. Yeah…okay…see ya tomorrow.”
She turned to me. “So, Emma, some of my old friends are at Boomer’s Café right now. By any chance, would you be interested in coming with me?” Her eyes grew big and then she said the line that would have baited any normal girl. “They are like the coolest, hottest guys on the planet!”
Guys? She wanted me to go see some guys? Did I look like a girl who was trying to bait a guy? By the expression on her face when she met me I thought she got the memo announcing my disdain for the mainstream culture. I was not a conformist. There was a reason I grew my long blonde hair out into dreadlocks and died the tips pink and black and had piercings and dressed like I was in mourning half of the time and a tomboy the other half—it kept the guys at a good safe distance. I had no interest in attracting a guy, or checking out guys, or having a boyfriend for that matter. Screw the guys. Let’s spend our time on something important, like fixing this insane world.
Besides, there was so much to be done. I looked around at all the boxes and scratched my head. I didn’t have time to play. I had to finish unpacking. There was my class schedule that I needed to go over. Someone had messed it up, and I didn’t get in any of the classes I had signed up for. And, I still had to put my new volunteer schedule on my calendar. Plus, there was this month’s UN statistics report. I hadn’t had any time to go over it. Oh, then there was the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, I just bought the eBook last night, and it would take me a whole forty-five minutes to read all 400 pages. “Laurel, I should stay here. I really have a ton to do.”
“Oh come on, Emma. Please, don’t make me go by myself.”
I had a feeling Laurel got her way often.
“Please,” she pleaded as she took my hand in hers. “I will be indebted to you forever.”
I hated it when people used guilt on me because for some crazy reason it always seemed to work. If someone needed me I usually had to help—it was like encoded in my DNA or something.
I put my hands up and surrendered. “Okay, all right, I’ll go.”
“Thank you, thank you so much!” She jumped up and down, grabbed some clothes and ran into our bathroom. Her head darted back out the door. “Hey, you’re more than welcome to borrow some of my clothes.” A hint that she couldn’t deal with my outfit.
“That’s okay,” I hollered back. “I have a new shirt I want to wear.”
I changed into my ‘OU’ T-shirt—despite that it wasn’t my signature color—and some really cool red and white Siberian cut-off cargo shorts I had found at a thrift shop the other day. Laurel walked out of the bathroom. She wore high heels with shorts. I repeat, the girl wore high heels with shorts. This was a sign—a very bad sign that I had just been recruited for a night of hell.
Twenty minutes later, we walked into Boomer’s—the ultimate hang out in Norman, Oklahoma. I had heard about it growing up and always wanted to check it out. They supposedly had the best chili chees fries in the world.
Red brick walls surrounded us in the eclectic style café. Students, mismatched sofas, and tables of all sizes that supported laptops dotted the whole place.
The delicious smell of coffee beans nearly knocked me over; I had a serious weakness for this smell, but as soon as the bean high came and went, these awful feelings hit me from out of nowhere—everything from hate and anger to joy and excitement coursed through my chest. Then my stomach grew nauseous. I looked around for the bathroom sign, but before I could get away, Laurel grabbed my hand. A loud group of guys in the back had caught her attention. Pulling me in that direction, Laurel yelled, “Oh my god! Logan! Guys! I heard you were here!” She finally let go of me and ran with her arms opened wide to a table of four huge guys that looked like NFL players drafted from a Nordic country. “It’s been what, a whole year?”
I was so focused on what was going on inside my body that I tripped on something and stumbled. My hand landed on the back of a chair before I hit the ground, and I was able to recover.
My heart beat hard, so hard it hurt.
Irritation consumed me; I became pissed, pissed off at anyone that dared to look at me. As if they needed to invade my space with their stupid stares. Jerks.
The sudden wind gust outside distracted me and everyone else in the café. I looked back out the windows before noticing Laurel and her giant friend in front of me.
“How’s the little woman?” The guy asked Laurel as he swallowed her up in his massive arms.
He let go of her and Laurel followed his glance to me.
“This is my new roommate—Emma Taylor.” Her eyebrows rose and the dramatic tone she used when she said my name was like she was secretly saying, just wait, I’ll fill you in on my crazy looking roommate later. “Emma, this is Logan Dilbeck, the finest quarterback to ever walk the Sooner campus…well, since the days of Aikman!” Laurel played the tease part all too well, and Logan proudly owned her ridiculous compliment.
The corner of my mouth went up in a half smile. It was really all I could do. His He-man presence was aggravating.
“Emma!” Logan said in a cheesy playboy-like voice. He looked around at the guys at his table. “Boys, I do believe my green-eyed goddess has arrived.” The guy in the OU baseball cap smacked Logan’s hand and belted out a laugh. “Good one, man. Good one.”
“Darling,” Logan said, “What took you so long to find me?”
My eyes rolled at the jerk.
“Nah, I’m just messing with ya, kid.” He winked.
Laurel noticed someone across the room, and then said to me, “I’ll get our food. What do you want?”
I gave her the No, don’t leave me here with him look but she didn’t catch it. “Chili cheese fries,” I said in defeat. “And a Cinnamon Dolce Latte.”
Laurel took my money and went over to some girls by the counter and gave out hugs. It was going to be a while before we ate. The night of hell was in full swing. Yippee.
Logan slid his plate onto the tall bar-table next to me. “Go ahead, sit.” He motioned to the chair in front of him.
The exit sign above the door called me.
“Come on.” Logan tilted his head and his voice softened, “I was just messing with ya earlier. How about we start over?” He extended his giant hand. “Hi, I’m Logan Dilbeck, sometimes known as the world’s biggest smart ass…Come on, don’t be a hater.”
I kind of smiled and then sat down with him. “It’s all good.” But I wasn’t really good at all. I was nervous and fidgeting. Maybe I was getting sick or something.
“Didn’t I just see you in front of Ellison Hall?” he asked.
“I was reading out by the fountain earlier, but I don’t remember seeing you.” I shook my head a little confused. “There was hardly anyone around.”
“We were out playing ball…and you caught my eye.”
I pulled a dreadlock behind my ear and looked back at Laurel, hoping she would shut up and rescue me.
“Oh, sorry,” I said. “Didn’t notice.”
“You a freshman like Laurel?” His sea green eyes sparkled, and his muscles bulged out from his blue and white striped polo making it hard for me to focus.
I nodded. “You?”
“Nope, I’m a sophomore.”
Realizing I was staring at him longer than needed, I quickly looked away.
“So, where ya from?” He fought to keep the conversation going.
The sound of a chair scooting out from a table distracted me and that’s when I noticed the guy in the corner. I came back to the conversation and remembered Logan’s question. I hated this question. I’d moved ten times since being in foster care. “I’m not really from anywhere. But the last place I lived was Edmond, it’s just north of Oklahoma City. So you went to school with Laurel?”
I glanced back at the guy in the corner. He had a book in his hands, but he wasn’t paying much attention to it because his eyes were on me—I think. He smiled, and I looked away unsure if that smile was meant for me or for someone else.
Logan leaned in to get my attention; he placed his elbows on each side of his plate with his hands clasped together. He grinned. “Yeah,” he said, as he pointed at the three guys at the next table that could have passed for his brothers. “We’re all from Tulsa.”
The guy behind Logan with the baseball cap tapped Logan’s arm and began talking to him. I used the distraction as an opportunity to check out the guy in corner. For the first time the corner guy wasn’t looking at me, and I could really examine him; he sat with his back up against the brick wall and read a book titled ‘Pythagoras’ it had a subtitle but the words were too small to read. His dark hair was short, a little messy on top but the slightly highlighted mess was definitely flattering. The two guys at his table looked similar, like they were related to him, maybe older brothers. They played a game of chess as the corner guy read his book. The guy that held my interest took a sip of his espresso and his eyes found me again.
“Sweet cheeks.” Logan called out to get my attention. “I’m over here.”
My head whipped around and a threatening tone came out of me, “Don’t ever call me sweet cheeks!”
He glanced back at his buddies. “Dudes, this year’s gonna rock.” They all laughed and howled like crazy people.
“Listen,” Logan humbled down a little, leaned in and lowered his voice to give me some wise advice. “I see you checking him out.” Logan shook his head. “Don’t go there, not with him, of all the people, not him. You don’t want that road.”
“I’m not checking anyone out, okay!” I shot back. “Drop it!” I felt my face blushing.
“Okay, Logan, do tell.” Laurel handed me my plate and sat down with her attention on Logan. “Who you dating?”
“No one at the moment.” Logan looked over at me.
“Me, too.” Laurel sighed, and waited for him to respond.
Logan didn’t take Laurel’s bait but instead began talking to his friend with a buzzed haircut. Laurel’s ego was obviously bruised by the way her shoulders fell. I felt bad for her. I didn’t understand why Logan would brush her off. On the outside she was ideal—tall, athletic and beautiful. And on the inside just as shallow as him—they would make the perfect couple.
I listened as Laurel and Logan talked about old parties and vacations. I felt totally out of place. The experiences they talked about were things I could only dream of. I had never been skiing at Whistler or sailing around the Saronic Islands.
Logan’s friends at the table next to us were loud and obnoxious. I was ready to go—I wanted to get back, put my music on, finish unpacking, get caught up, and write another letter to the UN about helping the African Witch Children.
A little later, the four football players walked us out to Laurel’s car. They began to talk about Homecoming, but I ignored them and walked away; I was too busy looking up at the night sky, the moon had all my attention, until I was interrupted.
“It was nice to meet you,” Logan said. The street lights created shadows on his face, making it hard to see his eyes. Before I could respond, he spoke, “Look, I’m sorry I got a little carried away in there.” He nodded toward Boomer’s. “I get that way when I get nervous.” He stuck his hands in his pockets and a surprisingly humble tone came over his voice. “Meeting you kind of blew me away.”
I was not expecting that. Of course, I had to forgive him. Like helping others was part of my DNA, compassion and forgiveness were just as much a part of my weird genetic makeup.
“Logan, we’re cool.” I said. “Don’t worry about it.”
Logan handed me what looked like a business card with his name and number typed out on one side and a tacky picture of him on the other side. “Give me a call if you ever wanna go out some time.”
“Why do you have a business card?” I asked.
“For times like this—saves me from having to hunt down a pen.” He winked.
“Okay,” I said, amused. “So I take it you give out your number often?”
A car door slammed, interrupting us. We looked over to find two dark-haired men staring straight at Logan and his friends. The two guys stood next to a black shiny sedan and sized up the football players. As if on cue, Logan and his three Viking-like friends stepped in front of Laurel and me, and created a wall.
I peeked around the giant human barricade. One of the two men glanced down at me and whispered something to his friend and then looked back. The two guys turned to go inside, not taking their eyes off of me the whole time.
“What was that all about?” I whispered to Laurel. She looked to be just as curious as I was.
Once he turned around, I asked, “Logan is everything okay?”
“Yeah, they were on the team until I got ‘em cut… they’re still a little hacked off at me.”
Logan’s friends turned to talk with Laurel. All of them took turns glancing back at Boomer’s like they were waiting for the guys to come back out. There was no horsing around like before—it was tense—there was like this negative energy that lingered in the air. Something was up.
I said to Logan, “But why were they staring at me?”
“They’re guys and you’re a good looking chic—do the math!”
“I don’t know what that was, but I do know that wasn’t checking me out.”
Logan traded looks with one of the guys then continued. “So, back to what I was saying, give me a call sometime—we’ll grab some coffee or do dinner or whatever.”
“Sure,” I said, still full of unanswered questions.
The whole ride back to the dorm Laurel went on and on about Logan and how he was the most popular guy at her school, and how she had had a crush on him since her sophomore year when all four of the guys had transferred to Holland Hall in Tulsa.
“Can you believe how big they are?” she asked, taking her eyes off the road to see if I agreed. I glanced back and forth at the road to get her to keep her eyes ahead of us instead of on me. Her driving was really freaking me out.
“I know, they’re huge,” I said.
“They’ve been that big since I met ‘em. Can you imagine how all the other guys in our school felt compared to them?” Laurel giggled and then continued, “We used to call them the Chippendale guys. I think Logan is the cutest out of them all but then there’s something about Nate—he’s such a troublemaker, and Miller, he’s so mellow and laid back, and Trey.” She closed her eyes a second. “Oh, Trey,” she sighed. “He’s like got this whole gladiator thing going on—it drives me insane.” Her eyes got big. “I think I’m in love with all of them.” She glanced at me before making a turn. “So who do you think is the hottest?”
I could not believe I was engaging in such a conversation.
“Um…Logan, I guess.” I looked out the window. “Did you notice they look like brothers?”
“I know, isn’t that the coolest thing ever!” Laurel said. “But actually, they’re cousins. And they are like, really, really tight—they do everything together.”
I looked back out the window, deep in thought, then mumbled, “Don’t you think it was weird that they jumped in front of us like that when they saw those guys?”
Not to mention the two guys that stared at me. If they were mad at Logan why would they stare at me like that?
“Yeah, that was really strange, but Logan and his cousins have been known to play some pretty weird pranks on people, so I wouldn’t think much of it. They’re probably just messing with our heads knowing them.”
Laurel went on, and my thoughts drifted off to Logan and then back to the guy in the corner.
First Day of Class
“Wake up,” my eight year old sister cried out as she shook me. Two pitiful eyeballs stared out from her freshly made bald head. Her face was dirty and disturbingly thin. “The sirens are going off,” she said, “Sarah, the dogs are barking. Formation! Now! Come on, or you’ll get beat again for being late.”
“No,” I said in a weak voice. “I can’t move. I’m too sick, Esther. Please, just let them kill me. I want to die.”
A tear ran down her dirty cheek creating a fresh clear line of skin. “Sarah, you’re all I have.”
I didn’t think it but I felt the thought—there was no way I could leave her alone.
Esther and I walked out of the dingy room holding hands and suddenly we were standing together in a lavish Egyptian palace. Instantly her attire went from drab grey colors to pure white. Gold jewelry generously draped her neck and a black sleek wig sat on her head. She ran, fell at my feet and said, “Emma, you gotta wake up, you have to remember who you are! They’re going to find you!”
My eyes opened to search the dark room. The girl in my dream was not there. She wasn’t real. I don’t even have a little sister named Esther, and she called me Sarah? I closed my eyes again and drifted back to sleep, but this time, instead of the holocaust dream with Egyptian influences, I had a nightmare about the inquisitions. I’ve had these dreams for seven years now.
My nightmares were a bit like taking LSD while in a world history class, every event, every era and every culture seemed to make it into my strange colorful night stories.
This dream was different from the rest of the inquisition dreams though, instead of a woman being tortured, it was a girl, she was around fourteen, and she begged me for help. The dreams where they actually spoke to me and asked for my help were the worst of them all. They actually thought I was their god.
Needless to say, I intentionally stayed awake the rest of the night. I wrote a few songs and listened to my music so that they, the night stories, would leave me alone.
The next morning I sat in English 101; Professor Ford was definitely going to be a hard one to follow. He spoke in a monotone voice that was painfully slow. “Class, we have an exciting semester ahead of us.” He slowly pushed his wide brass rimmed glasses up the ridge of his nose and continued talking, which reminded me of my new nose ring, so I played with the tiny silver hoop to help combat my boredom. I let out a big yawn, then glanced around the room and noticed two of Logan’s cousins in the back of the class. They weren’t paying much attention either.
The time seemed to stretch on and on in English. I wondered if this was how all my college classes would be. I did my best to pay attention as I could not afford to get a bad grade. But by the end of the class, I was a zombie.
I put my earplugs in before walking out the door and blasted my music. I needed something to help wake me up before the next class.
Ellison Hall was by far the most attractive structure on campus. Most of the red brick buildings here were modern, but this building was older. Two strong massive towers stood on each side of the entrance with ‘Ellison Hall’ carved in stone above the gigantic white doors. An enormous fountain gushed in front of the building, and stone benches circled the perimeter of the fountain’s pool.
I made my way over to the doors.
When I finally found room 104 there was a line of people trying to get in the door. There were maybe two or three hundred people here. I hadn’t realized philosophy was such a popular subject. I made my way up the stairs in the stadium seating and found a chair in the middle of the third row. Large and small huddles of students were spread all over talking; some whispered and some laughed, while others gossiped and carried on.
I stopped tapping my pen on the table top when the room fell completely silent. Every eye was on him. The corner guy walked in with three other people. The students could have been looking at the other three people, but I doubt it because there was like this spot light on him that made him stand out.
After he spoke to the other three people, he put his brief case down next to the podium, turned and hung his black suit jacket on the chair near him and then rolled his sleeves up before taking a paper off of a table. He sat the paper on the podium and put his hands on his hips next to his black leather belt and looked around at all the students.
It was like Zeus himself had walked in—his powerful presence commanded everyone’s attention without him even speaking a word. The class was so quiet, so focused on him that nothing existed outside of this room. Standing there like the leader of an army, he spoke, “‘When the mind’s eye rests on objects illuminated by truth and reality, it understands and comprehends them, and functions intelligently—but when it turns to the twilight world of change and decay, it can only form opinions, its vision is confused and its beliefs shifting, and it seems to lack intelligence’—Plato four hundred twenty-nine to three hundred-forty-seven B.C. E.”
I leaned forward and rested my face in the palms of my hands.
He stopped talking and then walked a few steps in front of the podium while still holding on to it with one hand. “Hello, everyone, I’m Ethan Blake, I’m the head Graduate Teaching Assistant, and myself and the other assistants here will be temporarily filling in for Professor Harding until he recovers from his accident.” He continued. “I want to welcome you to Philosophy one-o-one. We have a great semester ahead of us—” He suddenly stopped talking as if something disturbed him, and he looked around searching the room. His bright golden brown eyes went back and forth over each face until he stopped on mine.
People began to trace his stare to me, and low whispers crept over the room. I shifted in my seat and scratched my head, trying to look like I didn’t notice. I looked down at my T-shirt and remembered it was a little shocking for the people around here. It was black and in red said, ‘Religion = War.’ But by the expression on his face, I didn’t think it was my shirt that had his attention.
He finally looked away. “Where was I?” he said with a smile. “Yes, we are going to have a spectacular class together.”
It was very strange. He didn’t look at me again. It was like he was deliberately avoiding me now.
When class was over, I followed the crowd. As I was about to walk out of the door, he looked directly at me without searching, as if he’d been watching with his peripheral vision and knew exactly where I was the whole time.
Since I had no other classes, I planned on using the rest of the day to look for a job. Being that I didn’t have parents like Laurel, if I wanted any kind of spending cash, I would have to earn it myself. The State would give me a small amount until the age of twenty-one, but after all my charities and basic needs were taken out, there wasn’t much left over.
I got back to the room, and Laurel was lying on her bed reading a gossip magazine. Our place was now draped in shimmering pink and purple swags. My bed had plain mismatched blankets while hers had a pink silk comforter with purple and lime green pillows. Our walls were still blank, though.
“Hey,” I said.
Laurel looked up. “Hey, how’d it go?”
I flopped onto my bed. “It was good.” I let out a long sigh. “The guy subbing for my philosophy professor is a dream!” That was really weird to say. I had never in my life spoken about a guy like that. What was wrong with me? I was acting like one of them; a girl who drools over guys. Yuck! And what was weirder was that I really wanted to talk with someone about him. Stop my inner voice screamed.
Laurel sat up quickly. “Don’t tell me—you’re in Professor Harding’s class, and you got his TA, Ethan Blake?”
I smiled and hugged my pillow. “Yep, and I think he’s wonderful.” Who was this person speaking through me? This was so shallow, I knew nothing about him, but I was already claiming he was wonderful. He could have been the most evil guy in Norman, Oklahoma for all I knew. He could have been the Heart Ripper.
“Oh my god, you are so lucky.” Laurel admired me like I had just won the lottery. “I tried to get in one of Harding’s classes, but they’re all full. Blake was at Boomer’s last night with his older brothers. Did you see them?”
My eyebrows rose. “Yeah, I noticed.” I rolled over on my side and propped my head up with my hand. “So, what is his story?”
“He was at my sister’s graduation last year, and she gave me the scoop. She had a huge crush on him. I guess he spent some time at some famous school in France…I think it’s called…College…” She looked up at the ceiling, straining her memory. “College De France or something like that—oh and get this, he got his undergraduate degree at Harvard.”
“And he’s working on his graduate degree here?” That made no sense.
“Yeah, strange, huh. But I think his older brothers teach at OU…maybe that has something to do with it?” She stopped and thought. “I’m not sure,” she said, “but I don’t think he is dating…or married.”
“Yeah, I didn’t see a ring on his finger.” I thought for a minute and then it hit me. “I wonder if he’s gay.”
Laurel laughed. “Oh, that would suck!” Her voice became disgusted, “Seems like everyone is gay these days. It’s gross not to mention a sin.”
I ignored what was a very common and annoying prejudice here in the Bible belt—this was just one of the many reasons I couldn’t wait to get out of this place.
“Well,” I said, to clarify. “It would suck for me, because ever since I saw him last night, I can’t stop thinking about him.” I did not just go there. Someone save me from myself.
Laurel smiled. “Ah, that’s cute, you have a crush.”
“No. No. No… Yes,” I said sourly, “Me and every other girl on campus.” I smashed my head into the pillow several times and then let out a sigh.
I needed a distraction. I jumped out of bed to get started on my empty wall and picked up a poster of an angel cradling a little girl. I got the poster of the angel somewhere when I was a kid. I really didn’t know why I’d held on to it all these years as I didn’t believe in superstitious things like angels. But for some reason, it comforted me to have it looking over my bed—not that I would ever publically admit that.
“So I take it you didn’t leave behind a boyfriend?” Laurel said out of nowhere.
I contemplated dishing out my boring story. “Nope—I’ve never really dated.” I turned back to my wall and taped up a poster of my favorite band. Laurel was quiet, and I turned to see her face.
Her eyebrows shot up to the ceiling. “Ever?”
“Ever.” I shyly confessed.
“Wow, why? You’re strange…but not ugly.”
“Thanks, I guess…” I shrugged and jumped off my bed. “I never really found a guy that held my interest. And I’ve always had my nose stuck in some book. So, it’s kinda hard to meet someone when you’re always reading.”
She studied me hard as if I had just made some major confession that would rock the world. I could see the questions building behind her eyes. “But you have kissed a guy, right?”
I bit my lip and then painfully said it, “Nope.” I shook my head. “Never.” I didn’t want to see her reaction and got on my knees and pushed my cello case under my bed next to my guitar and keyboard.
“No, freaking way! How does a person make it to college without ever experiencing at least one kiss?”
I side-tracked her by asking about her relationships, and it worked. She forgot all about me. And I got an ear full.
I was completely cool with not having a love life or ever kissing a guy until today. Was there something wrong with me? Here I was in college, and I had never had a boyfriend.
“You know,” she said. “You are only going to be here once. If there is ever a time to be carefree and have fun, it’s now, because, after college, it’s old fogeyville for eternity.”
I stared at her processing her words—it was hard to admit but she had a point.
Finally we ended our love talk, and I scoured the job ads online. Retail: No. Fast food: No. Daycare: No. There was nothing appealing at all.
“Dang, I don’t want to work at any of these places,” I muttered out loud to myself.
“Are you looking for a job?” Laurel asked, with her magazine leaned against her chest.
“Yeah, I need to make some extra cash.”
“Ah, providence.” Laurel jumped off her bed and grabbed a paper off the computer desk. “When I got back to the room today, I found these job ads under the door.”
I sat up as she handed me the paper. “Wow—talk about perfect timing.” What were the chances of that happening? There was only one job in the paper I qualified for, too, and ironically, it was a perfect fit for me. It was a part-time job at a local book shop. I immediately wrote down the information and called. A man answered, and we agreed to an interview at three p.m., just two hours away.
Laurel’s cell phone rang. I heard her let out a frustrated moan as I walked into the bathroom. It had to be her mom again.
“Hey Mom,” I heard her say with irritation.
I got ready; my thoughts were still consumed with this Ethan Blake guy—which was beginning to annoy me—it was like having a song stuck in my head. At one point, I caught myself staring into the mirror, deep in thought, and I said out loud, “Get out of my head.” Laurel heard me and thought I was talking to her, and I had to make up some bogus excuse—I told her I was making up lyrics for my song journal.
Laurel popped her head in the doorway. “They found another body with the heart ripped out. And this one was here in Norman.”
“No.” I gasped. “Seriously?”
She nodded, smashing her lips together.
“This is like, what, the twelfth one in the state in the last six months?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know, I lost count a year ago. My mom’s keeping up with all the details. And she’s like really freaked out now that the Heart Ripper is in this area. Thankfully she had her Bible study group praying for protection around us.”
“Was it a student?” I asked ignoring her superstition.
“Yep, so keep your head up, especially at night. That’s when he seems to strike.”
I wasn’t so excited about going to my interview now. I would have to walk or ride a bike to this place every day, and I might even have to work at night.
“So,” Laurel goes on. “A few of us are going to this concert tonight over at His Grace church, you wanna come? The music will be awesome.”
Ah, the ever inconspicuous we-want-to-convert-you-invite. “No, that’s okay. It’s not my scene.”
“We don’t bite.” She teased.
I smiled. “No, but I might.”
“Oh Emma, a little church could do you some good.”
“Jesus, maybe, church people, no thank you. Now, I have to get ready for my interview. So, if you don’t mind…”
“Oh, yeah, sure.”
At three, I arrived safely for my interview at The Book Shack as planned, and met with a man whose presence screamed retired General. And he reeked of wisdom; he had this old owl-like presence about him. No, it wasn’t his John Lennon glasses or his shirt that was buttoned up to his neck that screamed smarty pants; it was the vibes I got from him. I had a feeling he had more knowledge than all the OU professors combined. His name was Red Bull, and surprisingly, he gave me the job which was kind of a shocker because he acted as if he didn’t like me. Everything I said seemed to make him scowl. It was kind of like he was forced to give me the job or something.
My concern over my new boss ended when I saw a picture on his wall, and I knew then, I would have to get to know this Mr. Red Bull better. There was a photo of him and Ethan Blake standing in front of the great Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.
Plus, if working with him meant I’d get to read his books kept behind the locked glass doors by his office, I’d work for pennies. Some of them looked like very old and hard to find books. They covered the various types of laws that governed the whole planet—he had everything from the Divine laws to the Sovereign laws to the Maritime laws—these books looked worn and very used and then there were newer books next to the label Codes of Law. I would have to browse these books; knowledge like this could really help me when I go to work at the UN.
Later on that day, I got a call from my new case worker, Margo Montgomery. She sounded old, old enough that she should be retiring soon. Margo seemed friendly on the phone, but I was so busy looking out the window and watching the sunset that I had a hard time keeping up with the conversation. I did catch the part about her coming to meet me sometime after class.
The next day I got ready for psychology, tired yet again from the loss of sleep. We’d had another round of storms and the thunder had kept me awake the whole night. It was kind of nice though as I didn’t have to deal with any nightmares about the holocaust or the inquisitions.
Laurel was in this psychology class as well. She found some friends, and they all sat behind me.
“Emma, I want you to meet some people,” Laurel said.
I turned around, and Laurel introduced us. “This is Molly Long and Paige Davis, we all grew up together.”
Molly’s plain brown face smiled and greeted me with sincerity. A dorky giant fake sunflower in her hair made me instantly like her.
Paige half smiled and looked me up and down. Paige was so stunning I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her hair was a blaze of red that set off her delicate porcelain doll face. She clearly knew she was attractive with the way she smugly looked around at everyone like they were beneath her.
“Hi,” I said to both of them.
Laurel turned to the girls and explained how she knew me as I doodled on my paper while waiting for the professor to arrive. Then, I heard Laurel say, “Molly, what is up with that sticker on your notebook?”
“Which one?” Molly asked.
“The one with all the religious symbols—you aren’t going all New Age on us, are you?”
I did not want to listen to religious crap. Where was the professor?
Molly responded, “I’m promoting religious diversity and tolerance. That’s all.”
“Yeah—tolerance for lies.” Paige snorted.
“Well,” Molly said. “For your information, I’m a Buddhist now.”
Laurel’s voice became desperate, “What? Why? Do your parents know?”
“Yep.” Molly gloated. “My parents want me to explore…I just like some of the teachings. They make sense.”
I glanced back at Molly. It was going to get bad for her. You don’t go against the main religion here without getting hounded or ostracized in some shape or form. I had firsthand experience with this one.
I turned back toward the front of the room and then Laurel spoke, “Molly, I just don’t know what to say. How could you turn your back on Jesus and worship another god?”
Molly spoke, “I’m not turning my back on Jesus. It’s not like that at all—I’m still a Christian.”
Laurel and Paige argued with Molly about being a Christian and a Buddhist at the same time. They clearly misunderstood Buddhism.
I couldn’t stand it any longer—this was my favorite subject—well, one of them anyway. I turned around to Laurel. “I swear, you guys are killing me.” I rolled my eyes. “Buddhists don’t worship a deity like your monotheistic religion. The Supreme Buddha did not ask to be worshiped nor did he call himself a god—he was a teacher. And anyone can be a Buddha—the word simply means awakened or enlightened one. Buddhism is more of a philosophy—a way of living—which is in fact in harmony with Jesus’ teachings. It’s even rumored that Jesus went to India during the unrecorded years of his life and he was influenced by the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha lived hundreds of years before Jesus and their teachings are similar. And, in some cultures, yes, they’ve turned Buddhism into a religion with rituals or maybe even worship, but for the most part, if you read the teachings of the Buddha, it is only a philosophy. So instead of judging other religions as bad or wrong, maybe you could try reading about them first.”
They all stared at me like my head had just fallen off, and then Molly gave me a smile and said, “Thanks.”
I turned back around, and heard Paige whisper under her breath who’s the lecture queen? They were quiet behind me until I heard Molly change the subject, “Laurel, are you going home for fall break?”
“I’m not sure,” Laurel responded with a slightly cold tone. “My sister wants me to go with her and some friends up to the lake house.” Laurel’s voice softened some as she forgot about Molly’s blasphemous confession. “But, if I do go home, you wanna ride together?”
“Sure.” Molly replied.
“I’m almost tempted to go to Dallas instead.” Laurel added. “I have a friend I haven’t seen in a while, and she’s throwing a big party that weekend.” I imagined her eyes getting big. “I mean a massive party with tons of guys.”
“Cool,” Paige said. “You get Logan there, and I’ll come.”
Hearing Logan’s name caught my attention.
“Well,” Molly ignored them. “Call me if you decide to go home.”
Paige butted in and told them how she might meet her parents in New York to do some shopping for the holidays. I disliked her even more now. I rolled my eyes and shook my leg, anxious for the instructor to walk in before anyone asked what I was doing over fall break, but of course, that didn’t happen.
“Emma.” Paige’s annoying voice made my teeth clamp together. I slowly turned her way. “Where are you going for fall break?” she asked.
“Nowhere—I’m staying here,” I mumbled. I turned back around and heard Laurel whisper, “She’s poor—she doesn’t have any family.” Then I could have sworn I heard her say, she’s nice but kind of weird.
I watched the doorway and tapped my foot.
Paige spoke again, “So what does a person without family do for the holidays and breaks?”
“Paige, that’s not cool,” Molly said.
“What?” Paige asked, innocently.
Without turning all the way around, I said over my shoulder, “I summon Satan to find stuck up snobs and together we devise a plan to ruin their vacation.”
The two other girls were quiet and then I heard whispers. I could feel their stares burning a hole in my back.
“Don’t be so sensitive, Emma—I wasn’t trying to be rude…Jeez. I was just wondering where you would go if you didn’t have a family. Is there like some State funded place you can go or does some charity provide you a dinner for the holidays? I’m genuinely curious how people like you live. I mean you all get to suck off my dad’s taxes. I have a right to know, right?”
I gritted my teeth. “Like you really care about people like me.” I countered.
“Uh, yeah,” she said, “I really do—my parents make huge clothing contributions to Goodwill every year.”
“You make Jesus proud.” I replied with obvious sarcasm. “You’re really helping the world, Paige.”
I was so disgusted by these rich religious girls, I wanted to throw up. They were clueless. I have spent plenty a Christmas and Thanksgiving with strangers who were just as fake as Paige and Laurel, and personally, I would rather be alone than be with the likes of them.
A tiny woman in her upper thirties with a long sleek black ponytail walked into the room. The sound of her heels clicking as she walked got everyone’s attention and the large class slowly became quiet as she made her grand entrance. She sat some books on a desk that was pushed up against the far wall and then put her hand in the right pocket of her pant suit. Her presence made me forget about the snots behind me.
“Well, how about these thunderstorms?” she said, trying to break the ice. A few people mumbled something about our crazy weather before she continued. “Welcome to Psychology one-o-one, I am Professor Lilith Miao. Miao is spelled M.I.A.O. and pronounced like the cat’s meow. If you feel compelled to crack cat jokes or make any variety of kitty sounds, plan on failing my class.” She walked toward my side of the room and looked straight at me.
“If you will take a syllabus, we can get started.” She slowly walked by each student and handed out a syllabus as she talked more about the class. When she came to me, she stopped, and in a very deliberate voice said, “Hello, Emma Taylor.” Her face was hard to read. “It’s been a while.” She tilted her head slightly as if she were bowing and said, “Namaste.”
“What?” I was confused. Why would she say that to me?
“It means the divine in me sees the divine in you.”
“Yeah, I know what it means…have we met?”
The intensity of her stare scared me, and I found myself not wanting to know how we met.
“Yes, we have,” she replied. Something changed in her eyes. Little purple swirls moved around in her pupil’s. It was as if something was swimming in her eyes. I assumed she had special made contacts or something. “I can teach you how to access the Akashic records, balance the polarities of good and evil. If you woke up now, Emma…you could change the world.” Someone in the hall got her attention, and she let out a defeated sigh. “But I know, like he said, it is your choice, not mine.”
She proceeded to the next person.
That was probably the strangest conversation I had ever been a part of in my whole life. What a nut job. I couldn’t recall meeting her before. The only thing I could think of was my volunteer work at the shelters; I had met a ton of adults through the shelters and at the charity dinners.
Professor Miao went over the syllabus, and then began discussing our first lesson. She had me on edge for a while but then after I watched her interact with some other students in that same creepy-stoic way, I realized it was just the way she was. Toward the end of the class my defenses were down, and I was back to thinking about Ethan Blake and that intense pull I felt when I was around him. I hated this new distraction, and I did my best to fight the thoughts and pay attention. But like they say what you resist, persists.
After Professor Miao ended the class, I followed the other students out of the room. I stood on the sidewalk looking at the school map, trying to find my next class. Thoughts of being lost and late infiltrated my mind. A panic attack was coming on.
“Hey, what class do you have next?” Molly’s voice came out of nowhere.
“Mythology with Damon,” I said, staring at the map, hoping she would go away.
Molly looked over my shoulder at the map. “That’s in the same building as my next class. We can walk together if you like.” Molly’s dark coffee colored skin was flawless; there was not a zit or blemish in sight, and it wasn’t because she was wearing makeup to cover it up like Laurel and Paige. Molly wore nothing, not even lip gloss like me. She flashed a kind, bright smile as she smacked her gum.
I said thanks but still kept my guard up.
“Hey,” Molly said. “I wanted to tell you I’m sorry about Paige’s remark back there—when those two are together it’s usually not good—she was just trying to show off in front of Laurel and provoke you.” She giggled. “But, I don’t think she was prepared to end up the fool.”
“It’s all right.” I tried to ignore the sunflower that took up half the side of Molly’s head. “I’ve been dealing with girls like her my whole life.” Some of the suburbs I’d lived in crawled with Paiges and Laurels.
“Well, I feel bad. I should’ve said more.” Her dark brown eyes showed no hint of insincerity. Then she giggled. “I have a tendency to think of all the things I should have said an hour too late.”
“Yeah, I understand that.”
“Paige and Laurel are kind of going through an awkward stage.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“My mom says they’re unconsciously in conflict with their beliefs and that’s why they are so hypocritical—you know the whole party-girl act one minute, I love Jesus the next while playing holier-than thou. She said this is what happens when kids don’t get the option to form their own opinions and beliefs and inherit the views of their parents. At some point, their actions will end up clashing with their beliefs and they’ll have to face it someday—either by becoming their moms or taking their own path.” She shrugged. “Anyway,” she blew a bubble then popped it to get to what was really on her mind. “I think Paige is just jealous.”
I stopped walking, and my voice went up, “of me?”
“Yep, Paige isn’t used to competition like you—you’re not only witty but stunning.”
I snorted and laughed, then continued walking. “Whatever.”
“Uh, excuse me. Have you not looked in the mirror lately?”
“Yeah.” I took my glasses off and put them in my backpack. “And the same nerd that was there before looked back.”
“Whatever,” Molly said mockingly as she glanced at my hair. “You have this whole ethereal-gothic goddess thing going on. You have a unique face structure, large doe eyes and these long dreads—it’s just so cool.” She looked away, then back to my eyes. “There is just something very different about you—and I’m not talking about the hair—I can’t quite put my finger on it…”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed.” I rolled my eyes and watched a group of boys pass by. “I don’t exactly fit in here that’s for sure.”
“Heck, I don’t either.” Her finger pointed at the two of us. “You and I belong in a place like California.”
My eyes got big. “Like Venice Beach?”
Her eyes matched mine now. “Exactly!”
We laughed together.
Molly stopped walking. Her mouth fell. “Oh my god, did you just see that?”
“What?” I looked around.
Molly ran up to a girl. “Hello, you just threw your wrapper on the ground.”
The girl looked around at her friends. “No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did. I watched you. Go put it in the trash, it’s not but ten yards away.” Molly pointed to a trash can.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” The girl looked her up and down before walking away.
Molly came back over to me and sat her large bag on the ground and fumbled around inside it before taking out a small blow horn. She turned it on and put it to her mouth. “Hello everyone,” the horn squawked.
All the people around us and even maybe people a block away stopped what they were doing and gave Molly their attention.
“Molly, what are you doing?” I whispered.
She looked at me and said, “Emma, I have a few flaws. Better you know now, I guess.” Molly put the blow horn back to her mouth and spoke in a sweet musical tone, “I just want you all to know we have a litter bug in our presence.” Molly pointed to the group of girls walking away from her. “That girl over there…the one wearing a pink T-shirt and blue jeans, just threw her wrapper on the ground. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a dump.” She turned the horn towards the girl. “So please, girlfriend, pick up your trash and take better care of our planet.”
There was no doubt the girl was in shock from being publically outted.
Molly began chanting pick it up and soon everyone around us was chanting with her. The girl surrendered, totally humiliated and picked up the trash.
“Bet she won’t do that again.” Molly put her horn back into her bag. “Sorry, I’m just a little protective over the environment.”
“It doesn’t bother me.” I stared at her as if she was a celebrity. “In fact, you just went up a few points in my book.”
Out of nowhere, Molly said, “By the way, I was an orphan, too.”
The clouds parted and the sun shone through.
“Really?” I said.
“Yeah, I was adopted when I was four.”
Molly went on to tell me how her adopted parents found her in Ethiopia and how she had a multiracial family, which I thought was the coolest thing ever; her adopted father was an Asian business owner, while her mother, a successful artist with a gallery in Tulsa and New York, was from Iran. Molly said she got her artistic side from her mom. Her parents adopted her little brother from Palestine, and her little sister was from Ecuador, and they were all three raised in Tulsa.
The whole time she talked about her family I wondered if they might want to adopt me too. Then, I brushed the stupid thought away, who would want to adopt me and all my weirdness? Even my own mother, when she had the chance to get me from DHS, didn’t want me back.
Our conversation shifted, and we talked the rest of the way to class about causes close to our hearts—she was even interested in volunteering with me down at the homeless shelter. And when she told me her family had a charitable foundation that helped orphans and how they would spend summer breaks in places like Haiti or Sudan helping with the kids, my level of respect for her went through the roof. I had a new hero.
Come to find out, even though we were from two totally different social classes, and our religious beliefs were so different, Molly and I shared something in common. We both really cared about the poor, and we both had a mission to change the world for the better.
It was in that conversation I realized that maybe I was a little too judgmental of rich people. Molly was nothing like Laurel and Paige. She was more like me.
Thanks for reading Emma’s story. To find out what happens to Emma and what she discovers, grab a copy of THE LAST LIFE OF EMMA TAYLOR on Amazon!
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