In the early days of July 1996, tepid weather filled the Northwest. A fine mist-like rain fell, descending so gently you’d enjoy its wetness and be glad summer had arrived. Towering evergreens, rich foliage, blooming flowers—it was fertility you could smell. You need not be way out in the woods, for this green lustre was everywhere, even in the neighbourhoods, such as Eastgate, a small hamlet nestled in a valley below Cougar Mountain. Nearby, a large interstate freeway spewed its traffic with a constant roar of engines.
A man is walking down one of the streets. He looks around taking in more than a local, though there was a time he lived nearby. Passing one house he thinks, “My cello teacher, Mr Buckner, lived there.” This visitor is of medium build, carrying a small pack, close to middle age and his name is Arthur. He just completed a decade of living in Los Angeles trying to break into acting with little to show for it. This walkthrough the old neighbourhood is a soul searching journey. Ahead of him are familiar buildings where a sign reads “Eastgate Elementary.” Beginning with kindergarten, he looks in an empty classroom and sees the tiny tables and chairs for the tiny people of whom he once was. He remembers his teacher, Miss Spring. “I was in the play kitchen with the others, something happened. I got all the children excited, they were jumping up and down all around me. We were having such fun, but Miss Spring put a stop to that, told me I was never allowed to play there again. I still don’t know what I did wrong.” He wasn’t fond of her. In fact, when he was still a little boy, he and his mother were shopping at Penny’s and they ran into Miss Spring. Little Arthur refused to say hello to her. His mother was embarrassed by his behaviour.
He continues his tour—next, the first-grade classrooms. Arthur remembered a year of discoveries and developments: learning to read and write, some arithmetic, and finding talent for the arts in drawing and dancing. Why, he used to dance every morning in front of the class to the record player, until the day he noticed no one was watching anymore. He stopped and walked back to his desk; the performer had lost his audience.
He moved on to the second-grade building and remembered more arts, painting this time, and “The operation! Having my tonsils out. After that, my weight problem began, when they started calling me fatso.” Not a nice realization. Next, third grade, and a historic announcement coming over the intercom by the school principal. “President Kennedy has been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.” “Our teacher Miss Graves instantly broke down and cried in front of the whole class. All I knew was a serious and terrible thing had happened. The flag went to half-mast and schools closed for several days.”
He came to fourth grade where he remembered a strict teacher, Mr. Anberg, who gave lots of homework. “Yes, he was tough.” Arthur thought, “but he was also fair.” And in that same year—there was the big earthquake in Alaska, felt all the way down the west coast. “It was before school started, I was talking with a classmate when the building started shaking. The whole floor vibrated and the earth made a loud groaning noise, like there was an angry behemoth right under my feet.”
Fifth grade was a popular teacher, Mr. Brand, who was very patriotic. “I remember Doug Parker was fooling around during the Pledge of Allegiance. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of, blah, blah, be-blah, blah, be-blah,” Brand was outraged. “Doug, how dare you make fun of our flag!” “Poor Doug, always in dutch.” The brand was a chess enthusiast and once Arthur played him. Brand, after blowing his nose, accidentally deposited a huge booger by the chessboard. It was gross and hard for Arthur to concentrate on the game, but he didn’t mention it, as he was a bit afraid of Mr. Brand.
He’d walked the entire length of the school and last came sixth grade. Remembering that year and the teacher, Mr. Pischan, there were many unpleasant memories. One in particular stood out: the time Pischan tested his student’s fitness racing around the field. Arthur, who’d become very overweight by then, was afraid to run, he knew he couldn’t keep up with the others, so he hid in the back of the group avoiding his turn. Hid that is, until Pischan spotted him and called him out, making him run by himself in front of his classmates. He’ll never forget the look in their eyes as they watched him struggle, his blubber shaking, his mouth hanging open gasping for air. He was the freak, the sweaty little fat boy. Pischan made him run it several times as punishment for hiding. Arthur was sad as he looked in the dark classroom. “Wasn’t there anything good about that year?” he asked himself. From the darkness came forth an image, the face of a young girl. “Arthur, don’t you remember me?” “Anna!” he thought. His first serious crush, when puberty began and sexuality blossomed. “Oh my God, how could I forget her? I was mad about her, infatuated. She was so beautiful, magical, she had such energy and presence. I could never tell her how I felt. I was too shy, the shy fat boy.”
Anna’s face faded and was replaced by a longing, a powerful arresting need to know where she was. “I only knew her that one year and then she moved to another neighbourhood, another school, she was gone. Where did she go? Where is she today and how is she?” The last question imparted another feeling: she needed help, something in her life had gone terribly wrong. He dwelt on this sixth sense, then sighed, smiled at her memory, the memory of his first love. His whole mood changed, no longer sad, but glad, even happy. He walked away rejuvenated.
Several weeks later, after returning from his vacation and back on the job, the memory of Anna continued to haunt him. Should he really try and find out how she was? He wondered and wondered until he realized it was important to him and decided to do something about it. He went downtown to the Los Angeles Main Library and started looking through their articles and books on finding missing persons. His next stop was the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica Boulevard and their huge ancestry archive. Then one evening he called the Seattle Public Library and spoke with someone in the records department who found a phone book from the year 1967 with her father’s name and address. It was a start. The last name was not common, Ornez, so this would help. He was working the night-shift at a city recreation facility and, using their phone, made long distance calls to people all over the country with the same name.
“Hello, I’m trying to reach Anna Ornez. She may be married now with a different last name. Is there anyone in your family by that name? She’d be about 40 and lived for a time in Bellevue, Washington.” He made these calls for weeks with seemingly no luck, though, not knowing it at the time, one of the calls did hit pay dirt: Anna’s uncle, who phoned the father about the message left on his answering machine.
“Someone’s looking for your daughter,” but the father didn’t tell Anna.
Another vacation was coming up, Christmas. Arthur, still determined to find her, decided to go back north and resume the search in the same neighborhood she’d lived. In Seattle, his friend, Tim, met him at Sea-Tac Airport. Then they drove to Eastgate and began canvassing door to door. Tim waited in the car while Arthur went knocking, asking if the neighbors had lived there in the 1960s and did they remember the Ornez family. Everyone he spoke with were more recent arrivals, except one. An elderly woman came to the door. Yes, she vaguely remembered the family, but she didn’t know them. However, her nephew was a private detective, even a somewhat famous one, for he had been involved tracking down clues against the serial murderer Ted Bundy during the trial. She gave Arthur her nephew’s business address and phone number.
A few days passed. Arthur had a nice visit with Tim. Seattle was so pretty with all its colored lights during the season to be jolly. It was edifying for him to reconnect with his home-town. The next leg of the journey would be farther north, across the border, to stay with his parents in Canada. Before he boarded the Greyhound, he had just enough time to do one more thing. He stood across the street from an old triangular shaped six story brownstone where the investigator’s office was. “Should I go in and talk with him?” He hesitated. Then, stepping off the curb, crossing the street, he entered, taking the elevator to the second floor, he saw the sign on the door “Bannon Investigations.” He opened it.
“Is Mr. Bannon in?” he asked the receptionist.
“Just a moment, your name please?” She picked up the phone.
“Arthur Wells, I was sent by his Aunt Emily.”
Bannon soon appeared. He looked like an ex-NFL linebacker in a shirt and tie.
“Oh, yes, Aunt Emily. Gosh, I haven’t talked to her in quite awhile.”
An uneasy note of guilt was in his voice.
“Why don’t you come into my office.”
Arthur followed him.
“What can I do for you?” Bannon asked.
Arthur explained about Anna and his efforts to find her, showing the details he was able to collect on a small piece of paper. Bannon looked at it, then said.
“Well, what do say we have a look?”
Next, they were sitting in front of a large computer. Bannon typed the information and pressed the enter key. Columns and rows of data began spilling down the black screen.
“My guess, the father would be in his 60s by now,” Bannon said.
He parsed the list. Then it happened—bingo!
“Here’s a Sylvester Ornez, 66. That’s gotta be him. There’s two addresses, phone numbers, one in Iowa and another listed in Texas along with the name Betty Ornez, probably an ex-wife.”
“May I have both?” Arthur asked.
Bannon jotted them down and passed the paper to him. Bannon got up and left the room, making it clear the freebie was concluded. Arthur thanked him for his help and left to catch the bus.
The visit to his parents was overshadowed by coming down with a virus. He spent most of the time horizontal in the back bedroom. The immobility gave him the opportunity to mull over the search so far and decide on the next step. The relatives arrived. With a big snowstorm hitting, they were all held captive for several days in his parents little cottage. It was more than cozy, but everyone remained civil and once the roads were cleared the relatives departed. Arthur recovered enough to make it back Stateside by the end of the week. He was staying at Tim’s for a few days until his return flight to L.A. The first night he phoned the Texas number for Betty Ornez. The sound of the ringing on the receiver was interrupted by a click and a woman’s voice coming on the line.
“Hello, my name is Arthur Wells. I am trying to find a woman I knew in the sixth grade. Her name was Anna Ornez.”
“Anna! Yes?” she exclaimed.
“Do you know her?”
“Oh yes. She’s the daughter of my ex-husband.”
Arthur explained his search. Betty was very interested. She agreed to pass on a letter to Anna, which Arthur would write. Enclosed as well, would be an envelope where he’d put his return address, but leave blank space where Anna’s address would go. This way, after Betty had read the letter, to make sure his intentions were honourable, it could then be mailed on, keeping Anna’s whereabouts secret unless she wished otherwise.
On the flight back to L.A. he thought over what he had learned about Anna. She’d moved to Europe at the end of ninth grade. She completed the rest of her public schooling in Germany. She then attended the University of Heidelberg for a year until her parent’s divorce and she lost their tuition support. Later she met an American fighter pilot while skiing in the Alps, who she eventually married and then moved back to the States. For a time she lived in different towns near whatever Air Force base her husband was stationed. Then they settled in Florida where he tried to get into the airline industry while she attended Florida State University. He was now an airline pilot and she the mother of an eleven year boy. Arthur thought this over, “Well, she’s married. It might not be a good idea to contact her. I mean what are my intentions?” He was trying to let this go, not take it any further, but something kept nagging at him, some feeling, he must follow through, even if to no avail. So he composed the letter that would change the course of his life. He finished, then addressed a large envelope to Betty Ornez, putting the smaller envelope inside, unsealed, containing the letter to Anna, and mailed it.
Three weeks later the letter arrived at Anna’s home in Georgia after Betty kindly forwarded it on. Anna was picking up her mail from the box by the driveway. Looking through the delivered items she noticed an envelope with two different sets of handwriting but did not open it. Instead she put it on her kitchen counter where it remained unnoticed by her husband and son. She would walk by and glance at it from time to time, reflecting on the two samples of handwriting, one, feminine script for her address, the other, masculine, printed in block letters for the return address. Anna sensed this letter would have an impact and she wasn’t ready to read it. So it was left unopened for three days.
Her husband was out of town piloting a flight to New York, her son at school. She was dressed in a plush pink housecoat with fluffy matching bedroom slippers. Walking by, she picked up the letter and went into her living room where colorful paintings of abstract landscapes adorned the walls, mood lighting created a subdued illumination, while soft music played on the stereo, and a gas fire glowed below the mantel. Sitting in a comfy padded leather armchair, she opened the letter and began to read.
“Dear Anna, we were in the same class back in sixth grade. You may not remember me, but I certainly remember you. That school year was not a pleasant experience for me, but you were certainly the best and most important part of it. Recently, I visited our old classroom and an image of you came to me. Besides your beauty, I remember your amazing energy and style in the way you moved with such directness, such certainty of knowing where you were going and what you wanted. I used to watch you from afar, as they say. I was too shy to tell you how I felt.” The letter went on for several pages describing what he had been up to in his life and he hoped to hear from her and about her life. After she’d finished reading, her hand holding the letter slowly slipped into her lap. She sat still. Looking up she smiled, a sad smile. Tears began filling her eyes until they ran down her cheeks. She cried, long, full, and deep.
There was a time Anna and her husband, Jed, lived in another house, in a neighbourhood not far from where they resided now. This other house contained some very disturbing memories. She’d quit her job as a successful real estate saleswoman. Jed was making so much money as a commercial pilot, she felt her income wasn’t necessary. However, when he was away on his flights, she took to sleeping in longer and longer, eventually, she even stopped washing, until her hair hung in greasy strands. She became extremely depressed. Life seemed hopeless. When Jed returned, she would always clean herself up and play the perfect housewife, but when he left, the depression would return and each time it got worse until one day she woke up and wasn’t sure where she was. She looked around, things seemed so dark, yet it was in the middle of the day. She got up and tried to make it to the hallway, the light seemed to get dimmer and dimmer, darkness closing in. She called out.
“Why is it so dark? Why?”
She went down the stairs to the living room hoping to find more light, but found only more darkness until she cried out.
“Someone please help me. Please help me.”
She saw darkness all around her now and collapsed in a corner, tucking up her knees, burying her face against them, she began rocking back and forth. She felt as though she’d fallen into a dark pit. Anna never knew how long she remained this way before Jed arrived. Instead of taking her into his arms and holding her, he started shaking her, trying to get her to snap out it.
She was hospitalized for several days, then transferred to a clinic where she received psychiatric treatment. It took a year for her to return to a more normal life. Then one night she and her husband went to dinner at another couple’s home who’d just become parents. Anna was so taken with their baby that, later, driving home, she told Jed she wanted a child of their own. She thought a baby would give meaning to her life and save their empty marriage, but now as she sits in her lovely living room, surrounded by all her lovely things, the tears coming down, she knows it wasn’t the answer.
The next day Anna called her mother and told her about the letter, who replied.
“You see, what I always said when you were growing up. He saw it too! It’s been so long since we’ve talked, really talked. I felt I’d lost my daughter. You sound like you are coming back to life again.”
“Mother, I’m sorry, I’ve not been myself for so long,” Anna replied.
“Yes, you’re under the thumb of that tyrant husband of yours,” said her mother.
“Well don’t forget you were the one who talked me into marrying him.”
“Yes, and I regret it every day. I misjudged him.”
“Mother what should I do? Should I write this man back?”
“I could never have an affair or anything like that.”
“Never, say never, my dear.”
A month and a half had passed since Arthur mailed his letter. Still, no word and he thought, “Well, it was an idea, another of my crazy ones.” He’d just returned from shopping, carrying two bags of groceries; he stopped at his mailbox and opened it. Among the correspondence, there was a letter, it was thicker than the others and it was from Anna. He was so excited it was all he could do to just to get up the stairs with the groceries. Still, he was able to discipline himself enough to get into his apartment and put the goods away before opening the letter. It was a wonderful letter, full of interesting bits of news about her life, mentioning her husband briefly, but more about her son, TJ. She told him she hadn’t cared for the sixth-grade teacher either. It was friendly, not flirtatious, but not passionless either. One thing for sure, she was very glad he’d reached out to her.
They began corresponding, like pen-pals, and slowly but surely a courtship began. Eventually, the first phone call came. She called him. This led to more calls and soon they’d established a weekly schedule to talk and more importantly, a deep rapport. They played games on the phone, serious games. One of their favourites was Time Travel. They would imagine being back when they were much younger and if they’d met, say in Europe, and what might have happened. Each time she challenged him with a new scenario. He really had to win her over, win her on the phone. They both played their roles so well and the outcomes brought them even closer together. Then one night Arthur made a discovery about Anna and her powers. He mentioned a dream he had recently. Why it came to mind, he didn’t know, but it was the first time he thought it through and described it.
“I was in a subway station walking down some concrete stairs. I’m not sure where this was. I don’t think I’ve actually been there. As I went down the stairs I began to stumble and fall, but not hitting the ground, I kept spiralling around until arriving at one of the floors where I saw this girl standing behind a tall young man with long black hair. She was looking at me with such hateful eyes, but he was smiling at me.”
All of a sudden Anna shrieked.
“Oh my God! That was Mark!”
“Mark?” asked Arthur.
“Yes, my boyfriend from high school. He was older, very good looking. We knew each other in the U.S. My dad worked for his dad and when we moved to Europe, so did his family. I was that girl standing behind him!”
Anna didn’t want to talk about it. She was very disturbed and seemed to know more than she was telling.
A few days later the phone rang and Arthur answered. It was Anna, but she sounded different. In her voice, there was an unusual tone, almost a bit angry or evil.
Arthur said, “What’s the matter?”
She gasped and said. “You can tell!”
“Tell what?” he asked.
There was a pause, then she said. “I’ll explain later. I’ll call you tonight.”
That night they were on the phone as Anna tried to explain why she’d acted the way she had.
“Arthur, something happened to me when I was a child, about the same time we knew each other in school. I lost my innocence. It was taken away. My father used to climb in my bed at night and have sex with me. I didn’t want him to, I tried to tune it out, completely. One time I went to a church service with a girlfriend and her family. I prayed my father would stop. I prayed and I prayed.”
Arthur listened and was shocked and moved by her story. He felt so sorry for her and his love and desire to help her grew to the bursting point. He also learned this trauma she’d experienced left her with a condition she suffered from. She changed personalities, switched suddenly from one to another. Just as she’d learned to split off from the experience she dreaded, her personality also split. It was shattered into many pieces, many alternate personalities. Each one handled certain situations and she had no control over this switching. No one in her whole family were aware of her condition. She kept it a secret. There was only one person she’d ever known who could spot it, an old girlfriend of hers, who always knew when she switched. At first they talked openly of these alters. One alter they nick-named: Dominique, based on the character in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountaine Head”, one of Anna’s favorite books. This alter was confident, tough, angry, and—she hated Arthur! She hated his warmth and love for Anna, since her role was to protect Anna from any man who desired her.
The sudden switching of personalities created difficulties in their relationship. And then a new development: her husband served her with divorce papers. It was his way of scaring her, getting her back into his bed again. The long distance affair with Arthur had completely changed Anna and she was now in active rebellion against Jed, sleeping in a separate room and oblivious to his feelings on the matter. Then he found her correspondence with Arthur and pretended he understood and even encouraged her to visit him, since they were getting a divorce. She did. The visit with Arthur went well, she was able to hold herself together without the personalities causing a problem, but the whole time during the visit, Jed had hired a detective to follow them and collect incriminating evidence for the divorce proceedings. Anna found out about this on her return home. The pressure built. It was a battle for her with a controlling, manipulative husband and her switching, which became more frequent.
Anna’s powers over Arthur’s dreams surfaced again. The night before she came to visit him a second time, he dreamed she was there in bed with him. As he rolled over he saw her in his arms, pulsating, like she was enshrouded in a glowing energy field. The next morning his phone rang and it was Anna.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing!” she screamed at him.
It was Dominique, the one who hated him.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
She hung up. Then called again in a few minutes and told him about her dream. It was his dream. When he picked her up at the airport he asked her about the calls and she replied.
“Do we have to talk about that now?”
She wore a sheepish look and hoped he would drop the subject and just head back to his apartment to make love. He did, but Arthur began questioning the situation he found himself in, and where a relationship like this was heading.
Arthur provided emotional support, mostly long-distance, all through her divorce from Jed. She wanted him to move to Georgia and help clean out her house, which she received as part of the divorce settlement. Anna convinced him he needed a change in his life, to get away from L.A., to start something new with her. He moved. It was a trying year, one which tested his ability to endure the emotional stress of her personalities and the limited employment options. Since he had no trade, other than his acting pursuits, he was a fish out of water. He also found out having a woman with so much more money than you is not the fantasy it’s chalked up to be. For him, it was a constant reminder he didn’t have the means to support her at the level she was accustomed, or even pitch in at that level. Still, he did his best to provide what he could, or as he used to say “Will work for food.” He helped on the daily errands, like driving TJ to school and back, and the household chores. Since she hated doing the dishes, he did them and joked about it with her son. “Dish Patrol never sleeps.” But mainly he kept her on track for the post-divorce downsizing agenda, since she had a talent for avoiding it. Every evening he would say.
“Let’s go downstairs and straighten some of those boxes, get a few things organized.”
“No, I can’t. It’s overwhelming. There’s just too much down there,” she protested.
She couldn’t face all the stuff she had accumulated in twenty years of marriage, but Arthur would gently take her hand and lead her downstairs, open a box or two, and begin. Soon she was in the swing of things, sorting and arranging. After a while he would look at his watch and say.
“Okay, that’s enough for tonight, we’ll do some more tomorrow.”
“No, I can’t stop now, there’s so much to do.”
“Exactly, and we’re not going to get it done in one night. So a little at a time, honey, nice and easy, everyday.”
Again he would gently take her hand and lead her up the stairs. Even though she owned many expensive and beautiful things, she had always complained about companies sending her catalogs with these nice things in them. Since her husband’s income was large she had the money and couldn’t help herself. However, one item really caught Arthur’s attention, an extremely expensive pewter dinnerware set.
He said. “Believe me honey, your name is on a special list. Anyone who would buy a pewter dinnerware set is on that list.”
After four months of this daily clean-up routine they had all her possessions organized and she held a garage sale which went very well as collectors and neighbors came by to purchase her unwanted treasures.
The summer came and they planned a trip back to Seattle, to where it all began. Arthur gave notice at work, an unpleasant job in the collections department for a large credit card bank. They packed up and TJ went for his summer visit with dad. Anna and Arthur drove across the U.S., visiting her parents in Utah on the way. Her switching varied, but it seemed every two weeks there was a major switch. During these longer intervals, when she was a particular alter who wasn’t easy to be around, Arthur felt cast in a bad boy role, as though he was responsible for her behavior. Given his habit of being hard on himself, he would wallow in a murky guilt. Then suddenly she would change to a nice harmonious alter. It was then he would realize she’d been in one of her longer switches all that time. He would ask himself why hadn’t he realized this? It was like he had completely forgot about her condition.
After she’d treated him badly, she would then try to make it up to him by buying him something that either he needed or she wanted him to have. He thought it strange and a bit twisted behavior. He tried to talk her out of this guilt shopping, but as time wore on and since he felt some bitterness about enduring her ugly moods, he started going along with the stick and carrot scheme. Arthur felt himself sliding into what he considered corrupt and precarious financial territory. He could not compete with her divorce settlement, which included a large monthly alimony payment, as he was struggling to pay his own bills. Her gifts did come in handy, but as far as he was concerned it was his fall from grace. This just led to Anna paying for more and more. A stronger sense of duty to her was all he could provide in return.
After summer, Arthur and Anna decided on a plan. He would move back to Bellevue and live there, she would sell her house in Georgia and move to join him. It took a year for this plan to play out with many false starts and stops, but finally they were living in their old neighborhood. They didn’t live together all the time, as part of her divorce agreement, Arthur was not allowed to stay overnight in the house if TJ was there, so he rented a room a block away. Still, they spent most of their time together and worked on fixing up the older home she’d purchased. Arthur was employed at a large software company and he also enrolled in the local community college pursuing a degree in digital media design. Anna eventually went back to work as well. She found employment in the Bellevue School system and worked her way up quickly becoming the kitchen manager in her son’s high school. It was a productive time for both, but as the years passed, a feeling was building in Anna that Arthur wasn’t going to take their relationship any farther.
“Are we just going to go on like this?” she would ask.
“What would you rather us do?” he would say.
“Are we going to get married?”
“Let me finish school first and get working in my new field. Then we’ll make a plan.”
Anna and Arthur ‘s relationship lasted eight years. Arthur knew he couldn’t marry her, as was his initial intention. He wasn’t up to the task of dealing with her personalities and her expectations of him becoming a high-income husband. She realized he was not going to fully commit to her so she began an affair with a younger man at work. On their last evening walk together, Anna turned to Arthur and said, “You may do better without me.”
He knew their time together was running short and he replied.
“I may have just been a catalyst in your life to help get you out of that loveless marriage.”
“It wasn’t always loveless. Jed and I had our hopes and dreams too,” she replied.
Soon she made it clear to Arthur it was over between them. Then he saw her and her new lover, Teddy. They were getting ready for a ride on his motorcycle. Arthur was hurt, but for the first time he felt a duality as the relationship ended. Besides heartache, he was also relieved it was over. He was worn out and saw her affair as his way of leaving without hurting her. She felt she was showing him the door, and part of him, despite the sadness, was thankful she was. However, Anna’s powers were not through with him yet.
He had another dream, a very strange one. He was walking to the grocery store when he remembered it. Years earlier Anna and Arthur made a trip to Carmel, California. The dream took place in the motel room they’d stayed. In the dream Arthur was moving across the room towards Anna, who was lying on her side, naked on the bed, staring at him. Her eyes had a powerful hypnotic look. It’s as though she was compelling him to come to her, as though she was running the dream and manipulating him like a puppet. He came closer, closer, until he was about to kiss her. As he approached her, he noticed bandages taped over her genitals. Then he woke from the dream. Its significance was soon revealed to him.
In the evening he still liked to go for a walk, think about the day, unwind, and get some exercise. Anna no longer joined him, so now he walked alone. He would pass her house at night. That week there seemed something different about the way it looked. It was quieter than usual, less lights inside, nothing stirring. He wondered about this. Could she have gone out of town? Perhaps. A week later, on an impulse, he emailed her. Anna replied. She’d just returned from the hospital. Her son found her unconscious one morning on her bedroom floor and called the ambulance. Some of her internal organs were having great difficulty functioning and her body shut down. If her son hadn’t got help so soon she would have died. The doctors ended up performing a hysterectomy and she was now recuperating at home. Her bandages would be removed in a few weeks time. Bandages, thought Arthur, the dream. In a way he wasn’t surprised, her ability to send imagery to him in the way she did. It was just another example of her magic. A magic he’d been so attracted to, a magic which reached out that day he visited his elementary school, a magic that challenged and changed the course of his life.