She lay in the middle of the room surrounded by chaos. The silence screamed at her after the echo of the slamming door. She remained that way for several minutes, ears pricked, listening for the rattle of the door handle. Sometimes he came back right after and if she stayed on the floor she didn't fall so far. She looked at the pieces of their life scattered and fragmented and she realised that this time there was not enough super glue to put it all back together, you can only smash a fragile ornament so many times before the glue trails transform it into a grotesque caricature.
As she lay there hoping that the silence would stretch out a full night, she felt something cross over inside her. Her fear loosened and dissipated and in the very same instant she felt her resolve tighten. Slowly she began to move towards standing, the pain only slightly lessened by the decision she had made. She went to the bathroom and washed without looking too closely.
The flight bag didn't really seem adequate, but she knew the suitcase would weigh her down if she was running, so she allowed herself to take only what would fit into the small bag. She felt detached from the process and marvelled at how easy it was to ignore so many possessions. The pleasure of making more chaos as she emptied drawers and cupboards brought a smile to her bleeding lips and she whooped at the thought of his face when he returned.
Her bag was only half full when she decided it was time. She did not look behind her as she stepped over the threshold and down the steps into the street. She saw curtains twitch from the corner of her eye but she was intent on breathing the cool damp air.
And she started walking....
Part 2 -RavenwolfThere is a soothing calmness that comes with early mornings. A parallel world, devoid of human inhabitants opens up, with all its wonders. A bluebird taking a bath in the morning dew. A butterfly drying its wings on a window ledge. A blackbird looking for small worms and insects. Every sound a part of a wonderful symphony of noise, that we misname silence. But Claire was too excited to notice. Her face hurt. Her heart was pounding and her legs felt like lead. It was weird. She had waited for this moment to come, she was resolved that she'd stick to it. But, The house seemed to draw at her with a force of gravity similar to that of a big black hole. She knew with each step, it would grow lesser and lesser. And that too scared her. The only sound she could hear was her temples pulsating. She had only made a 100 yards when a loud cry made her stop. Someone was calling out her name. "Claire! Hey, Claire!" It felt strange. Like it was somebody else's name. A little voice inside her head whispered to her: "Don't stop. Whatever you do, keep going. You have no time to lose." But it was too late. She had stopped and turned round to greet her neighbour. Myrtle was a loud, but relatively friendly woman that lived a few houses down the street. A doting mother of two kids, a housewife, a great cook and a chatterbox. "Morning! You're early today! Going somewhere? Don't forget about the party this evening. You must come, both of you. John's really looking forward to it. Everybody will be there, I have even made a special cake. It will be smashing."
As usual Myrtle was too polite to notice the fresh cuts and bruises. Or to comment on the half full travelling bag. She acted like noting was out of the ordinary. The words, the mindless chitchat felt to Claire like a cobweb was spun around her, tighter and tighter. She could only the feel the panic in her body rising, paralysing her. The only clear thought in her head was: she must get away. Now. She mustn't turn back. Not this time. She could hardly breathe.But Myrtle wouldn't shut up. Wouldn't listen. Like big bulldozer. She just went on and on. Then a little voice inside Claire's head screamed: "This is no time to be polite! Wake up! Move!" She took a deep breath and interrupted her neighbour, saying simply in a dry voice: "I'm leaving. Goodbye." Before the woman could say anything Claire turned around and started walking down the street again. She couldn't hear Myrtle calling after her. She looked straight on, as if she knew that one look over her shoulder would turn her into a pillar of salt. The bus stop was empty. But she didn't have to wait long for the bus to arrive. She got on. The bus driver looked at her funny. Must have been her face. As the bus drove away she suddenly felt relieved. The house's gravity had dissipated. The sun shining through the window was beginning to feel quite warm. She would have to think things over, make plans. But, she could do that later. She murmured to herself: "One step at a time. One step at a time."
Part 3 - BabaThe bus rumbled on, hissing and clanking as it stopped to pick up and discharge passengers. The wounds on her face had begun to throb and sting,and Clair knew that he would never let her go this easily. Myrtle would tell him that she'd gotten on the bus. Knowing Myrtle, she'd even tell him the bus route. She scanned the streets as the bus rumbled on, and saw the soft green of the city park ahead. She pulled on the cord to signal a stop, and made her way to the door,surprised at how stiff and sore she was. The door hissed to a close and she walked down the path into the shelter of the trees. Claire wove deeper into the park, trying to remember the happier days of her adolescence when she and her friends had often come here to find peace. There-yes, this was the place. She lowered herself carefully down on the moss. The warm sun dappled her skin, and she felt her heart open to the energy of the trees. She let the pain and horror of the day's events filter down into the earth, to be cleansed, and when she felt at peace, she opened her bag...
Part 4 - NokomisFrom her bag, Clare brought forth: an envelope of salt, seven feathers from a blue jay, a small beeswax candle in a jar, a vial of spring water, a piece of tattered golden brocade which had been roughly trimmed into a circle. Kneeling down slowly and sitting back on her heels, she placed the brocade on the ground in front of her and smoothed it out, then carefully positioned her offerings on it. Then from another place, she drew out a slender length of elder wood, wrapped in dark green velvet. Was it Clare's imagination, or was it suddenly quieter in the grove and just a trifle warmer? There seemed to be a light warm current running through her, one which quieted her rapidly beating heart anew, calmed her racing breath and caressed her aching muscles. Around her, the grove seemed to be humming. She looked down sadly at her makeshift altar. "I should do this properly," she thought. "I should get up now and cast a circle properly, call my spirit guardians, but I am alone, and I am so tired. I shall have to do everything right from this sitting position - if I try to get up now, I will fall and hurt myself. She closed her eyes and began to breath deeply, in and out, in and out, sliding gently into a relaxed and meditative state. When her body had relaxed, she focused her mind and sent tendrils of consciousness down into the good dark earth, making contact with the energy at the heart of the earth and drawing it up into herself. In the quiet darkness behind her closed eyelids, she began to picture the grove around her, rebuilding it in her mind, tree by tree and leaf by leaf, stone by stone, blade of grass by blade of grass. At last the grove was complete before her, and still her eyes were closed. She was ready to cast her circle. Part 5 - Prairie Star Claire had always been drawn to circles and she dearly loved this sacred ritual of encircling herself with her loved ones. It brought her much strength to remember the people in her life whose presence she could depend on for their enduring love, support and, most importantly, friendship. Her "circle of love" was the one thing she trusted with every fiber of her being to help deepen the sense of peace and blessed assurance that she was grateful to already be feeling. From past experience, she knew that her circle of sisters would help her to find her voice and discern what step to take next. "One step at a time," she reminded herself. "One step at a time." The first person Claire invited to join her circle was her mother. Claire caught her breath and took a moment to notice that the ache in her heart was still there. "My goodness," she said out loud as she took in, again, how much she still missed her mother. Before Mama's death Claire never doubted that her mother believed in her with a confidence and a fierceness that sometimes surprised even Claire. It didn't matter how far away she went, what she did or even who she married. "Mama was an anchor through many storms," Claire thought to herself. Claire knew deep in her heart, below that awful ache, that her mama still loved her unconditionally and was supporting her in this very moment. Claire's grandmother was next. Claire didn't realize until much later what a gift it was to have Mimi, Daddy's mother, living right next door to her childhood home. Claire always knew that whenever she needed, or even just fancied, a little extra time and attention she could always go to her grandmother's house. There waiting for her was one of the best hugs ever, lots of kisses, a kind and wise ear, and a cookie. Mimi's cinnamon stars were Claire's absolute favorite. Mimi told her often that she baked them and kept them on hand for her namesake, her darling Claire. Thoughts of Aunt Betsy never failed to bring a smile to Claire's face. She smiled again remembering her many summer visits to her aunt's farm. During their time together, Aunt Betsy taught Claire about many things. Things like fishing in the creek and how to make the best blueberry jam from the bushes that grew along the back fence of Aunt Betsy and Uncle Ed's farm. Aunt Betsy's wonderfully delicious and decadent blueberry jam was known throughout the county. There was nothing better on morning toast or a wedge of pound cake after supper. Claire smiled again as she asked Aunt Betsy to rejoin her very special circle. Denise, Claire's best friend from adolescence, completed her customary and comforting circle of love. The two young women had spent many hours in this very spot in the park sharing laughter and tough times alike. All of which simply served to strengthen their bond. Claire valued the deep connection they had to one another, whether they were together or not. It was almost like they were sisters born into different families. In fact, that's what they called themselves...sisters. With all of her faithful companions gathered 'round her, Claire lit the candle, rested her weary body against a tree and took some deep breaths. Grateful to have found this desperately needed quiet respite for a just a moment in time, she sighed as she lifted her heart to heaven...