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I stood there, leaning on that broom, for a very long time.

CHAPTER FIVE

Jakob was on my mind for the next couple of days. He was right about my head always being in a dreamland, only this dream was about him. I couldn’t figure him out, who he was or where he came from. Why was he so cryptic, so vague? What did he mean when he said he would help me?

My memories of the girl in the lake and those tearing wolves came flooding back and that was the sole reason I never told anyone about Jakob. I knew there was a slight chance that it was all in my head, or perhaps I’d seen something that was only meant for me. I also knew that Jakob could have also been a living, breathing boy who came in off the street searching for warmth. He could have been any of those things and it was the not knowing that anguished me.

Finally, after the last performance of The Importance of Being Earnest, I saw Jakob again. The snow was building throughout the day, but the evening still went well. Anne was swept away on a date by one of her new suitors, and I had no problems taking another cab home.

After I was done cleaning up, I locked up the theatre and bundled a scarf around my neck, preparing for the cold walk to find the nearest cab. It was lucky that when the snows came, the derelicts in the neighborhood were inside, hiding from the minus temperature and I felt a lot safer walking short distances.

I was just coming off the last step and onto the snow-dusted sidewalk when my boot slipped and I began to pitch forward. I knew I’d hit the snow hard but hopefully it would be soft enough to break my fall.

I never did hit the ground. A hand shot out from behind me and grabbed hold of me, lifting me up to my feet.

I gasped. It was Jakob. He grinned at me in his boyish glee and stepped back.

“You almost fell.”

“Where did you come from?” I gasped. Never mind the fact that he just saved me from possibly hurting myself – I knew when I walked down the steps there was not a single soul in sight. There was no earthly way that he could have been hanging about to save me.

“Around,” was his answer.

“That is not an answer, young man,” I said, taking a step toward him. I was no longer afraid. “Where did you come from?”

He watched me carefully for a few seconds, a bit of the sparkle leaving his eyes. Then he shrugged at some internal dialogue he was having with himself and pointed to an area at the side of the theatre, between the building and snow-covered bush.

“From the bushes?” I asked dubiously.

“No, look closer,” he said.

I squinted my eyes, unsure what he was saying. He took my hand in his and raised it so I was pointing at the area.

“Do you see the waves?”

I didn’t know what on earth he was getting at. What did he mean by waves? All I could perceive was a building, a bush and snowfall.

And then, as if my eyes adjusted themselves, I saw it. I saw the waves. The air in front of the bush danced and jostled, like I was looking at the reflection of the scene on the surface of a waving pool of water.

“That’s where I come from.”

“What is it?” I whispered, sure that I wasn’t supposed to be seeing this magical thing.

“The Otherside.”

I took my eyes away from the hypnotic dance and looked at him. His grey eyes glowed in the light of a yellow streetlamp.

“Can I go there?” I breathed.

He chuckled and turned his back to me and started to walk along the sidewalk into the city.

I ran after him. “I was serious.”

“Pippa,” he said, but didn’t say anything else.

“Who are you? How do you know me?” So many questions were begging to tumble out of my lips.

“I told you, I’m Jakob. I’m from the Otherside. From the Thin Veil. And I know you because I’ve been watching you your whole life.” He said all of this like he was listing off his favorite comic books.

“The Thin Veil?” I stammered and stopped walking. The words sounded familiar but I had no idea why or how.

He stopped too, the snow whirling around his slight frame. He didn’t seem the slightest bit cold.

“You’ll freeze if we don’t keep walking. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe until you get a cab.”

“How?”

He walked off and I followed again, my boots kicking up the snow. My legs were starting to go numb.

“How what?”

“How…everything,” I said. “What are you?”

He looked at me over his shoulder and smiled. “Jakob. Pay attention.”

“Are you dead?”

“It doesn’t feel like it.”

“When were you born?”

“A long time ago.”

“Can I go to the Thin Veil?”

Now it was his time to stop. He placed his ungloved hands on my shoulders and shook me ever so slightly. His grey eyes looked deep in mine. It was odd sometimes how boyish he looked, just like any 14-year old kid, then in the next minute it’s like he would grow a million years inside.

“You can but you shouldn’t.”

“What’s there?”

“Others like me. But they aren’t all like me.”

I paused to wipe rogue snowflakes out of my face. “Ghosts?”

He wiggled his thin lips around and his eyes roamed in the empty space above my hat.

“Something like that.” He tugged at my arm. “Come on, let’s keep walking, it’s not safe.”

I was eager to get out of the cold but I looked around at the empty streets. “But there’s no one here.”

“That you can see,” he said just as the lights of a car flashed in our eyes. Jakob raised his hand and for a second I thought how foolish that gesture was. How could the car see him if he was a ghost?

But the car stopped and it was indeed a cab. The door opened and a man stuck his head out. “Excuse me miss, do you need a ride?”

I looked at Jakob who whispered. “He can’t see me.”

“But-”

“Don’t talk to me, he’ll think you’re a nutcase.”

I nodded, shocked and walked toward the cab driver.

“Y-yes please,” I said. The driver gave me a wave to come over.

I looked behind me at Jakob.

He was gone.

After that incident with Jakob, I didn’t see him for a very long time. I didn’t see him until my life took an entirely different direction. I didn’t see him until after I fell in love.

The following Spring, when the cool winds swept in from warming climates and pushed the snow away, Frederick announced he was leaving the company. I knew Lisbeth was concerned at his departure because even though he was a pain to work with, his name did draw in the crowds. Everyone else was overjoyed, including me and even Lisbeth admitted it would be good to have some fresh, younger blood in the company. Because Frederick was at least ten years older than Anne, their pairings on stage were always a bit off.

One day I came into work for an impromptu meeting with the cast and crew. Lisbeth had settled on a more-or-less unknown actor by the name of Ludwig Ericsson. I was unprepared for the sight before my eyes.

Ludwig was tall, well over six-feet, with shiny honey-colored hair that dazzled under the lights. His skin was a smooth, tan-color that was only a shade lighter than his hair. Against the glow, his teeth shone white and his eyes were a beautiful clear blue.

I was speechless and could only smile like a fool when he shook my hand. His skin on mine made my nerves jump inside and it felt like we were the only people in the room. Of course, we were surrounded by everyone else in the theatre and he had to introduce himself to all of them. Still, it sounds silly now, but I felt his attention, even when he wasn’t looking at me. Something had just happened between us and I couldn’t quite articulate it.

Anne did though. Anne knew men like the back of her hand and she was always with a different one. Some of our friends would call Anne a “loose woman” behind her back, but I lived with her and I never saw any of her male friends stay the night (although she would sometimes stay out until the wee hours). Besides, it didn’t matter what Anne did as long as she was happy and I was more than happy to talk about Ludwig when she brought him up later that night. I wanted her expertise and advice for this new endeavor.

“He likes you,” she said with a smirk as she piled some boiled dill potatoes onto my plate. It was a late dinner, as was usually the case for us. The balcony door was open a little, shuffling a bit of cool air into the apartment but I felt all warm inside. The brandy I was slowly swilling also helped.

I blushed. I couldn’t help myself.

“Who?” I asked more coy than I normally dared.

“You know who. Ludie.”

I raised a brow. “Is that his name?”

“Ludwig is a horrible name,” she said between bites. “So Ludie it is. And you know he fancies you. I saw the way he held your eyes earlier.”

I brushed it off, not wanting to get my hopes up. I had noticed though, the way he kept looking at me throughout the night and was giddy that she had noticed it too.

“Well I am sure I just reminded him of someone.”

“Yes. A beautiful young woman. You be sure to watch out for him.”

Now I felt a bit concerned. “Watch out?”

She winked at me. “You might fall in love, Pippa.”

And I did. I think I was in love with him the moment his hand grasped mine. All these years later and I still feel that way. Some love doesn’t die, even when you do.

Naturally, I was not sure what Ludie really thought of me. Our first time together was fraught with nerves and embarrassment on my behalf.

It was before the rehearsal of Hamlet and the cast had to be in costume, which meant I was dressing them up and doing a light dusting of makeup.

I was as anxious as anything when I knocked on Ludie’s dressing room door. He and Anne were the only ones with private ones, while everyone else shared the men’s and women’s rooms. I probably would have preferred to have done him up in a more public setting as the idea of being alone with him was nerve-wracking but that was not the case.

“Come in,” he said. His voice was deep and rich and carried through the door with ease. The placard on the front still said Frederick. I was surprised he hadn’t taken it with him when he traded us in for a larger, more prestigious theatre deeper into the city.

I took in a deep breath and pushed my hair behind my ears. I had paid extra attention to my face that morning, making sure my lipstick was on neatly and not half off my lips as usual. I knew I wasn’t bad to look at and that I often had the attention of young men, but there had never really been any reason for me to look good. I had kept my head down and focused on work until I met the one man who made me focus on him.

I opened the door and stood awkwardly in the doorway until Ludie turned in his seat and grinned. Amazing how the parting of teeth and lips and the scrunching of eyes can act like a wave. It welcomed me and made me blush from the tops of my head to my toes. Oh, I was certainly a goner.

“Pippa,” he said warmly, keeping his eyes locked on mine.

I looked away as I closed the door gently behind me, feeling quite unnerved and hot. My chest began to steam under my dress. I kept my eyes on the floor, feeling scrutinized like a bug under a microscope as I walked over to him. I purposely wore flat shoes that day, not wanting to add extra height to me, even though he was much taller, but that did not prevent me from wobbling like a drunkard.

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