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“Are you happily married?”

I sucked in my breath through my teeth. He was so bold with his questioning, asking me things I didn’t want to think about.

“I think so,” I answered and looked down at my thighs.

“Are you happy in life?”

I bit my lip and slowly shook my head, no. I wasn’t happy in my life.

“I’m not either,” he said. “I never have been since I hurt you. Since I lost you. I want to feel that happiness again and I need you.”

He continued on like this for a while, saying his promises and declarations of love and other lovely things. If I were a stronger woman, a good and righteous woman, I would have told him to forget it. I would have left him in that park and I would have gone right home to my loving husband and I would have continued living the life I carved out for myself.

Alas, I did not do that and I am sure you knew that was coming.

I didn’t go home to Karl. I went with Ludie to the hotel room where he was staying (as he had been performing in England until a few days ago) and we made passionate love until I absolutely had to go home.

It wasn’t a so-called “one night fling” either. This lasted for the next year. I was out of the house every other day, pretending I was going to fabric stores or meeting new friends or just exploring and all the while I would meet Ludie at the hotel, and eventually, as he found theatre work again in the city, his house. I was a woman living two lives and though I was happier in Ludie’s arms, I still felt miserable in both. I was the opposite of an honest woman. I had no idea if my parents were alive anymore but if they weren’t, they’d be rolling in their graves.

It was amazing what fifteen years of growth and life would do to a person, however. Though he was still self-centered and short-tempered, I detected a sense of peace in him that I hadn’t seen before.

“You’re amazing, you know that,” he told me one night as we lay sprawled across the sheets of his bed.

I blushed as he still had the ability to bring color and heat to my face and smacked him lightly with my hand. “Oh, stop that.”

“I’m serious,” he went on, reaching for my hair and brushing it out of my face. “You are. I’ve never met anyone like you in my entire life.”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about since I was as ordinary as everyone else.

“You have this…way about you. I can feel you from across the way, like you give off this energy. It’s…a sadness.”

I looked at him sharply. Sadness?

“It’s a like you have so much life and potential somewhere deep inside, some greater purpose that is dying to come out. But you don’t know what it is or how to reach it. So it festers in this blue pool. I think of blue when I think of you Pippa. Blue, cooling, calming, like the sea, like your eyes. It soothes me to be with you.”

“What do you think I’m meant to do?” I asked quietly. It felt foolish to even humor his ramblings. What could I, at 35-years old, offer the world anymore? What was my purpose if it wasn’t to be a great actress, if it wasn’t to have children?

“I think you’re meant to save people,” he said. His eyes flashed with something like pity. “Let’s start with me.”

That night I cried for the first time during our love making. It was like the damn burst in my soul and I wept for the love I felt and the life I never had.

A week later I was leaving the public library with a stack of books about makeup and fashion design, feeling strangely inspired for the first time in years. Ludie had gone to Gotland to see his sister and I spent the last few days keeping busy, waiting for his return. It was winter and dark out at three in the afternoon, so I was acceptably cautious as I left the library and made my way to the nearest tram station.

This is why when I sensed someone walking behind me, I didn’t turn to look. I kept my eyes forward, my head high. There were a few people on the street but they were hunched to the cold and it was dark as anything. I was paranoid but in this situation I thought it would suit me well.

Wherever I walked though, the presence followed me, until finally I had to spin around and glare at whomever had appointed themselves my stalker.

I saw a shimmer of wavering air and then before my eyes, it became Jakob.

My books went crashing to my feet, sending the snow everywhere.

Jakob was a few paces away and staring at me hard. He looked exactly as he did all those years ago, still a teenage boy, but the expression on his face had changed. His eyes were cold, his smile, what was left of it, was tight.

“Jakob,” I said. I looked around to see if anyone was about, anyone who would catch me talking to myself.

“Follow me, Miss Lindstrom,” he commanded with a soft voice. He walked past me and headed in the direction of a nearby alley. I picked up the books and followed him, feeling as if I had no choice. I was scared but enthralled and let myself go with the strange pull he had over me.

We entered the alley. It smelled of urine and snow and cold pipes. It was dirty and narrow and a dead end and the flakes that fell from the sky disappeared quickly into the darkness. Only a rusted fire escape filled the area, hanging a few feet off the ground.

This would be the perfect place to lose your life, I thought to myself and eyed Jakob carefully. I never thought the boy could or would hurt me but the grim expression on his face didn’t do anything to dissuade my fears.

He didn’t say anything any first, he just stopped in the middle of the alleyway and let his eyes roam all over the bricks, his head cocked slightly as if he was listening. I knew better than to interrupt him, so I kept my mouth shut and licked my dry lips anxiously.

Finally he looked at me and that hard gleam returned to his eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t come by sooner.”

I was caught off guard by that understated remark. “I…”

“I don’t have too much time to explain Pippa,” he said. He took my hands in his and I was amazed at the strength and warmth of his touch. He looked past my shoulder and nodded. I turned my head and saw the end of the alley ripple and pulse, the door to the Thin Veil, the Otherside.

“I have to go back there soon, and it’s not safe to take you there right now. Not in your state.”

“My state?” I asked, my heart slowing down by a few beats.

His hands squeezed mine and he kept his eyes on me, serious and grave.

“Pippa, you’re pregnant,” he said. His words sounded colder than ice and as impossible as it was, I knew it was true.

I could barely form words so my lips moved soundlessly. I was pregnant. Most likely by Ludie, my one true love. I was finally going to have a child. His child. The notion should have filled my heart with joy, but though it was beating faster, wanting to drum in the possibility, the look on Jakob’s face made me pause, made me stifle the expanding feelings.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him. “Shouldn’t you be happy for me?”

He smiled and his eyes crinkled at the corners, but they weren’t happy at all. Once again he looked years older than fourteen and I had a feeling I was about to receive some very bad news.

“You are a special woman,” Jakob said and I was instantly reminded of what Ludie told me in bed. “And being special makes you at great risk for others who want to use you.”

I brought my coat in closer and stamped my foot impatiently. “I haven’t seen you in sixteen years. When I last did, you were talking about this Otherside. You told me you weren’t alive. I don’t even know who you really are or what you are. Please, don’t think you’ll get away this time without explain absolutely everything that you know. I deserve that much.”

“That could take some time and I don’t have time.”

“You have the time to tell me I’m pregnant!” I said, raising my gloved finger at him. “Now you’re going to finish telling me why I’m special, why I’m at risk. Why does it matter if I’m pregnant? It’s what I’ve always wanted.”

Jakob placed his hand at my stomach and a blanched at his touch. “The baby is not safe.”

My heart sank. Could this all be over before it has even begun?

“What do you mean?”

“You need to get rid of it.”

I was dumbstruck by his cruel words and searched his face for some sort of answer. He was not joking with me, his grey eyes were glinting like steel and his face was robbed of all its color.

“I will do no such thing,” I said quietly and made my gaze match the intensity of his.

“Please,” he said and his eyes darted quickly over to the Thin Veil and back. “I don’t wish to show you so you just have to believe me.”

“If you think I will give up this child growing newly inside me because you said so, you must be as crazy as you are dead.”

“You’re the one who will end up crazy,” he hissed at me. “Or dead!”

He let out a sigh, his breath failing to create steam in the frigid air and grabbed my arm. “Come on.”

He began to lead me toward the shimmering air. Panic bubbled up in my throat and I stopped my legs, keeping them locked to the ground. Jakob tugged again.

“You told me it wasn’t safe to go there,” I said. I started to shake all over, from the cold, from the fear, from the unknown.

“It isn’t,” he said, his grip tightening. “But you aren’t giving me much choice. I can explain things better over there than I can here. The ones that are looking for you are already on this side.”

For the second time that night, I was speechless. And scared out of my wits. But Jakob pulled at my arm again and I let him lead me toward the air.

It was fantastic up close. I felt like I was looking through a cool pond and instead of seeing the bottom, I saw the rest of the street, the snowy sheen of Stockholm, albeit filtered as if it were tinted with grey gauze. The air was constantly moving, rippling back and forth, and it sparkled too.

“What will happen to me?” I whispered, my eyes hypnotized by the sight that danced before me.

“Hopefully, nothing,” Jackob said. “But if you want the whole truth, you have to come with me.”

Then he walked forward into the air, which shimmied and stretched around him. He looked faded now, half transparent, as if he was close to disappearing completely. His hand reached through toward me, into my world again, and became solid. The snow fell and collected on his sleeve as he went for my hand. I took it gingerly in mine and then I was yanked forward into a shimmering wall of pressure.

The first things I noticed were a distinct lack of sound and smell and sight, like everything around me ceased. Then my eyes adjusted and sound filtered back in and my nostrils flinched with a vague scent of burning. It looked like I was back where I was, on the street, except it was completely empty, the snow had stopped falling and lay undisturbed at my feet. Colors were dull and de-saturated.

Jakob cleared his throat and I whirled around to see him standing behind me. His red hair was now a very dull shade of grey. His eyes remained the same.

“What do you think?” he asked and I saw that flash of little boy hopefulness in him. He wanted me to like this place, his home.


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