All New Next Week: Chapter 12: If You Can’t Dance, then you Won’t Live (excerpt)

Brandi grabbed Roger’s arm as the judges glanced in their direction, giving them nods of approval. It had been months since she had last taken a step in Mrs. Redman’s class, but here, after a few deep breaths she relaxed her shoulders and leaned into her partner. Trying her best to think about the music and the costumed people who seemed to belong more to this time period than them. Roger leaned closer too, as if trying to suppress a giggle. She gave him a furtive glance, demanding silence. Seriousness.

Shrinking into himself, he glanced nervously at his feet, while she attempted to guide them. “I take it, you’ve done this before?”

“Yes,” Brandi said, clearing her throat as his hands moved from around her neck to capture her shoulders. She stiffened. Her eyes going into the space just above his head.

He relaxed as they switched positions. “Good, then I don’t feel so stupid, about standing where you once stood,” he said, as if offering her some new joke.

Brandi frowned, wondering if he was trying to tell her something about what had happened to him, and how he had ended up being her guardian. But the distant expression on his face told her otherwise. Besides, he was the guy who read about baseball for fun. She had seen him do it during English class, when he suspected that no one else was looking. Now though, she suspected that he didn’t know anything about music. Or any of the musical greats. She shook her head, thinking briefly about Teresa, her eyes following Roger. There was no other way to explain their connection. Especially since the last trip she had taken, like this, had happened while she was sleeping. Her brow wrinkled. Was this some sort of astral projection? she thought, hearing some old 60’s music start up.

“Don’t worry. It’s only the monkey,” Roger said, making some weird gestures with his hands. “Watch me. Or follow the crowd.”

He smiled as a group of women beside them squealed, their arms going up and down as they moved from side to side. He grabbed Brandi’s hands. “Come on.”

For a few seconds, Brandi watched him, wondering which one was more ridiculous – the group of screaming women at their side or Roger, who was actually acting like a real monkey. She made a face, forgetting herself. Slowly, letting out the air that had collected in her lungs, she copied his movements. Her body loosening up on its own. Was this really what the 60’s had been like? she asked herself, trying to remember some of the crazy dances her mother had shown her after her dance sessions. There had been the pony and the swim, if she remembered correctly. Her mother, she was almost certain, had been even more adept. She glanced at Roger. A guy like him would have nothing on the pony, she thought, moving closer.

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Chapter 11: Houston We Have a Problem

The hummer stopped in front of a quaint two-story house with slanted styled windows, and although the blinds were partially closed, Brandi could still see the streams of coloured lights that seemed to pierce through the shades. Getting out of the car, she did her best not to stare at the strange faces of the other teenagers while the other two girls made their way towards the entrance. All the while, Brandi tried to figure out if Jason was just some random guy that Teresa had picked up in the public library, her only other regular haunt.

Taking a moment to scrape some chewing gum off her shoe, she watched the other girls go in, suddenly feeling apprehensive, knowing that if her mother ever found out she wouldn’t get away with some petty chore like washing the dishes, which was something she was almost certain her mother could do in her sleep, as her hands moved along the counter sometimes almost aimlessly when she talked. A habit that Brandi was almost certain had started with the new job at Marshall’s and Luxley’s. One of those more trendy places, where she couldn’t afford the salad, with her meagre allowance of twenty five dollars, if she remembered to take out the trash, help with the cooking and do her homework.

But looking around this lush environment with its miniature gnome, decorated lights and outdoor foliage, she was sure that although these parents may have cared with keeping up appearances, their kids didn’t mind too much about hanging out, going places, and having fun, whenever the need arose. Teresa flashed her a smile at the door, as if she could tell what Brandi was thinking and then ushered her inside.

Brandi took a deep breath after crossing the threshold. Wondering why she was getting a serious case of the heebie-jeebies, when she had already assured herself that everything was going to be fine. Unless of course, the house was somehow telling her that she shouldn’t be there. She frowned, deep in thought, wondering if she was the one who was thinking all of this or if her brain was flying solo. She shook her head and passed a hand over the pendant, as if to reassure herself that everything was fine.

A girl wearing a bit too much mascara gave her a kooky grin, as if she was mysteriously checking herself out in front of some invisible mirror and Brandi shook her head, explaining to herself that that was definitely not possible. Then the girl raised her eyes and walked away, leaving Brandi to stare into space, somehow speechless about what had just happened, as Teresa motioned towards at her.

“Wait here. I’ll get us something to drink.”

Brandi nodded, hoping it was a reference to water because she couldn’t handle anything heavy. In fact, one Christmas when uncle Ken had spiked the punch, without her knowing, she had unwittingly drank a mug or two after losing to Avery at a game of gin rummy. Sure, they shouldn’t have been playing. And sure, Brandi shouldn’t have been such a sore loser that she’d challenged her cousin to a second game that included a dare of the spiked punch; but then Brandi hated losing to Avery who she sensed had everything she had always wanted. A dad. A house. And some roots that she swore she would kill for. Not that she had ever gotten that far. Nevertheless, she had made a fool of herself in front of their dinner guests by puking on the Thanksgiving turkey and then burping all through the toast. She shut her eyes, hoping to dispel the memory that she had long since forgotten. Remembering how embarrassed her mother had been, turning her head after she had sent Brandi up the stairs, to Avery’s room, to sleep off the after-effects, as she and aunty Pam had gone down on their hands and knees – in their good dresses – to clean the floor and the lily white tablecloth.

Avery had barely looked at her then, as if to say that it hadn’t really been her fault and Brandi had been the one responsible. But Brandi knew better. Two years older than her, she felt, that Avery should have ’fessed up and accepted part of the responsibility because they had done what they did together. Come hapless soul or high water.

Now though, she pressed her back into the wall, wondering if there was anywhere that she could hide and take her medicine when Teresa handed her a bottle of cold water. “Thought you’d need it since it’s heating up inside here,” she said, casting a quick glance around the room.

Brandi watched her friend, taking in the kids slowly, as if somehow between the time of first seeing the girl with the heavy mascara and now, she had forgotten where they were. In one of the corners of the room, she spied Latoya, talking to some good-looking Asian guy who seemed to be a year or two older than them. She pointed, steering Teresa in their direction. “She knows people here?”

“Of course,” Teresa said, pushing Brandi’s hand down. A bangle with charms jangled on her wrist, as her lips formed into a tight line. “She was the one who invited us.” Brandi’s eyebrows raised as Teresa waved at some blond haired guy who was propped up by one of the open curtains talking to a group of athletic guys. “That’s Jason.”

Brandi followed her with her eyes, not really seeing the attraction as Teresa flickered her wrist again, and she took in the shape of the aikido charm and the kendo body armor. When had her friend started to collect such things? she wondered, feeling something change within her as she felt the faces of some of the other kids turn to appraise her.

She shrank back. Was their something wrong with her lip gloss? Or teeth? she wondered, moving towards the hallway mirror and taking a look. Teresa’s hand relaxed at the side of her dress and Brandi felt herself shift away, as if somehow she was being singled out. “Oh, he seems fine,” she said, nodding towards Teresa, who seemed to be waiting for her approval. “Maybe you should go, I’ll just find something to eat and take a tablet.”

Teresa looked down at her purse, as if not wanting to part with her. “I will…I mean we came together and I would hate it, if anything happened to you on my watch,” she said, scrutinizing the dance floor. “Besides, you don’t know anyone here.”

Brandi put a hand on her friend’s arm, reassuring her. “I’ll be fine,” she countered. “I mean there’s no way I can get lost in a small place like this.” She looked at Teresa, waiting for her eyes to offer some assurance.

For a little while none came.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Teresa said, turning away from her. “And I would hate to have gone to all this trouble and not at least spend some time with him.” Brandi smiled, watching her go. All too aware that in that department she was definitely flying solo. It wasn’t like there was anyone at school who had her back. Or any boy she felt that she could trust.

Jason’s face lit up when he saw Teresa. Brandi watched their short kiss feeling a tinge of jealousy, regret and doubt. Her mother had said that she wasn’t at that age yet, but watching Teresa and Jason go at it, she begged to differ. Her face turning into a scowl as she watched the night become even darker. She spun out of the room, her eyes taking in nothing in particular until she caught sight of a familiar red and blue baseball cap. And she almost smiled when the sound of a familiar piece of waltz music streamed through the room and she heard a unanimous groan.

A head popped up and Roger’s eyes appraised hers. “Funny, seeing you here. I would have thought that with a cold you would have decided not to come.”

In the kitchen, she dropped the bottle of water on the counter and unscrewed the cap, wondering if he was referring to the bizarre note that had gotten her caught in the downpour, or if he had sent some other sign that she was still unaware of. Brandi took a sip of water, as the music increased. Listening to it, she remembered the dance lessons her mother had sent her to, before they had moved into her father’s house. At first they had occurred once a month on Sundays. At around 10:30 a.m., the time when according to some of the other students Mrs. Redman, the dance instructor would give her husband his sleeping pills. But unlike them she hadn’t been too snoopy, because she realized that it had also been the only time her mother took a rest, because uncle Ruiz had agreed to carry her grandmother out.

Brandi looked up at the clock on the wall and saw that it was exactly 10:30, something turned over in her stomach and she broke out into a cold sweat. Her other hand reaching into her purse to extract the bottle of cough syrup that she had tried to nudge down.

Roger moved closer, peering at her face. “Is everything alright?” he asked. “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”

Brandi looked down, trying to steady her hands as she searched around the room for a spoon to pour out the cough syrup. “No, everything’s fine,” she said, moving towards the sink and opening a couple of drawers, as her breathing became a little uneven. “It’s just the music.” Her voice hung in the room as she removed a spoon, and took two tablespoons, ignoring the instructions. She looked out the window as if sensing some impending doom, and offered him a strained smile. “I think I’ve heard it somewhere else before.”

Roger took the bottle of cough syrup from her hand and held it up to the light. “You sure you’re not taking too much of this stuff?” he asked, taking the spoon. “Says here, the serving size is one teaspoon.” He pointed to the directions section, forgetting the can of orange soda he had been nursing a few minutes earlier. “Maybe it would have been wise if you weren’t here.” With a light touch, he smoothened the hair at her temples, taking her in.

Brandi took a step back, wondering why the space between them was suddenly getting smaller and smaller, as a dimple appeared on his cheek and the music in the background changed to the fox trot. I’m not supposed to be here, she thought, reading into his suggestion. Knowing that something about this seemed strange. And it wasn’t just the people outside there that she had no knowledge about. But this boy, here who seemed very concerned.

Brandi glanced at the dance floor, where Jason and Teresa sauntered across the room. Maybe they had talked, she thought, remembering her conversation with Teresa who hinted that Roger wasn’t her type. That they’d have nothing to talk about. His forehead creased and she wondered if that had all been a lie. Some tale to get her here. To have her make a fool of herself. “You don’t have to pretend to care,” she said, closing the bottle and stuffing it into her bag. “I can do many things on my own.”

Roger pulled back, and returned to the sink as if he had been insulted, and emptied his soda. “It doesn’t take much to care,” he said, his back stiffening against her. “But…when it comes to you, I have a job to do and I can’t back down.”

Brandi watched him, wondering why his tone seemed so edgy. Hard. When she was only trying to make him see reason. Because she didn’t need a guardian. And whatever it meant, by having the pendant, she would handle it on her own.

His eyes grew furrowed, as his fingers clenched into fists. “Haven’t you learned anything from being shot by that arrow?” he asked as she glared at him, wondering if he meant to embarrass her. Not caring how he knew. Or why it seemed so important.

“I am not your concern.”

“No, of course you’re not,” he said, putting the baseball cap on his head. “I was wrong, you’re just like your father. But sometimes the world doesn’t revolve around you.” She raised a hand to slap him, and he caught it, just as her hand reached the side of his face. He grimaced, shoving the purse aside, as he held her fingers down, by the sink. “Like I was saying, tonight is not a good night for creating new memories.”

Brandi stared at him, as if he was saying something that she could only partially understand. The scar above his right eye becoming even more prominent than it had been before as she looked directly at his face. When had he been injured? Why hadn’t she noticed it earlier? He relaxed his face.

He watched her, letting her arm drop to the side of her dress as his hand stopped right over the side of her dress where her scar was located. “Not everything is made visible,” he said, as if looking directly into her. She flinched and pulled away, feeling a sudden raw energy connect him to her.

She raised a finger and poked his chest. “You may know about my father but you know absolutely nothing about me.”

Roger stared down at his shoes, bowed and held out a hand. “But I can,” he said, leaning closer as he took Brandi’s hand and placed it on his arm. “If you allow me this one dance.” In the background the music changed again and they were both transported to some 60’s dance floor, where couples wore numbers and judges held placards. Looking around the room, Brandi let out a deep sigh. Houston, I think we have a problem.

Chapter 10 : Come Let’s Play!

Somewhere in the distance an alarm-clock sounded. Brandi rose from bed, rubbing her eyes as the sound increased; and then she pressed the buttons, until it became silent. Turning, she withdrew her hand and knocked over a wooden picture-frame, which contained the only photo of her parents in the house, as far as she was aware. The plastic screen thumped out and Brandi stooped to pick it up. Glancing down, on the far right, she noticed a young girl who had been hidden under the border of the frame. She squinted, peered closer because the woman appeared to be looking directly at her father, whose features seemed nonchalant. His back was stiff and head erect. She shook her head, moving closer to the light, thinking that the woman almost looked like Teresa. She shook her head, that would have been impossible. She shoved the picture and the dismembered frame into a drawer. Not believing in coincidences.

As she picked up her phone, which buzzed in her hands. It was already 6:30. Watching the text message flit across the screen, she opened the phone and read it. Be there shortly, T. She dashed towards the wardrobe, pulled out a few dresses that her mother had insisted they buy and then, she dropped them onto the bed. Moving between the space of the bed and the full length mirror, Brandi held up each of the five dresses that she had taken out, and modeled with them until she was down to two. A black dress that seemed to hug her waist and a blue sequined piece that seemed a bit more flashy. She laid the others aside and gave the final two dresses some space, hoping that after a quick shower, it would be easier to decide. All the while also telling herself that everything would be okay, although something else was telling her that it would be wiser to stay away.

But she ignored it. The concoction of cold medicine making her feel as if somehow she was now invincible. She felt her neck, knowing that the fever had already broken and rushed into the bathroom.

She wouldn’t need to think too much about tonight, she thought, her mind becoming hazy, as the cold water sapped her skin. She adjusted the knobs, knowing that at the party she would be nothing more than a spectator: observing couples. Besides, there would be nobody else from their school there, since there was no one called Jason in their grade. Or the one higher. She passed a hand over her abdomen, feeling a thin scar, where her mother had said the wound was healing nicely. But she removed it, because she couldn’t avoid the icky feeling that accompanied the application of the salve, which had somehow remained with her. And yet, it had been a life saver because the arrow hadn’t damaged a vital organ.

She shut off the water, dried her skin and returned to the bedroom, not wanting to think about it, because besides almost failing English, her knowledge of health class was even more iffy. She took her time to get ready, even though, she knew that Teresa would be there soon. It didn’t matter. She had time, she thought, casting a peripheral glance at the pendant.

At the bed, she bit her lip, and decided to go with the black dress and a pair of low heels because the blue dress seemed a little too flashy. As an after thought, Brandi wrapped a matching shawl around her neck and then picked up the pendant. How would she be able to wear it openly? she thought, not wanting to discard the extra abilities that she was almost certain it had given her. Besides, she didn’t want them to be locked away. Or hidden.

So, sending caution to the wind, she removed the shawl and fastened the clasp. The pendant dropped below her unflattering neckline, between an ample bust, as she adjusted the straps, hoping that the pendant’s necklace-effect would make her seem more mysterious, rather than questioning. Brandi slipped her feet into the low heels and walked over to the window to look out. But she wasn’t focusing on the Red Dragon sign that usually held her interest, even though it seemed to be spinning faster than usual, like some sort of homing device.

Instead, she wondered if the more upscale restaurant that her mother worked at, was more crowded. Perhaps even packed, as a slow wind picked up. She took a deep breath and wondered if she was making the right decision to follow Teresa. Or even to go to the party. And whether or not, she should be feeling so much doubt. She passed a hand through her hair, as if deciding, and then moved away from the window to powder her nose.

She had been in bed for most of the week and a little partying never hurt anyone, she assured herself, trying to get rid of a frown. Pouting, she added a thin layer of red lip gloss to her seemingly chapped lips, and brushed back her hair. When she was finished, she dropped the lip gloss and a few other essentials into a purse, before turning off the lights, going downstairs and then out the front door.
*     *
Once outside, she locked the door, pulling the shawl more tightly around her, she pushed the key down into the purse, where the bottle of cough syrup seemed to be fighting for a way out. Drawing a ragged breath, Brandi leaned against the door and shoved it down further, doing her best to zip it close as she heard the sound of a car’s exhaust backfire in the driveway.

Her face lit up when she laid eyes on the yellow hummer, and she saw Teresa’s head pop out through a side window. Her friend waved as the car came to a stop.

“Chica, your chariot awaits,” Teresa gushed from the end of the driveway.

Brandi squealed, moving closer. This was the first time that she had seen Teresa spare no expense and she wondered what was so important that it demanded such exquisite taste and lavish decadence, as her friend got out of the car and pulled her in. She gasped, realizing for the first time how beautiful Teresa was, with her hair up and her sparkly pink dress. A silent smile spreading across her lips until she saw two other bodies pushed into the seats opposite them.

There was Tracy Devers, a slim African American girl she recognized from band, who hardly ever spoke during class and Latoya Evans, her more outspoken cousin. Truth was, Brandi couldn’t stand Latoya, firstly because she talked too much and secondly because she had once ratted her out to Mr. Ono, their math teacher. He was one of the few teachers that Brandi respected. And even though at the time she had been trying to get out of a homework assignment, she could have easily completed, she had blamed Latoya for being sent to the principal’s office and almost getting a two week suspension. Since then, of course, she had sworn never to engage in idle talk with her. But then Teresa smiled at them and nudged Brandi.

“You two know each other, right?”

Brandi nodded, taking a shallow breath, everything inside her body telling her not to rescind, even as she stretched out a hand to them and smiled. “Tracy, Latoya, it’s good to see you again.”

“No,” Latoya said, her eyes steady. “I think the pleasure is all mine.”

Brandi watched, the green peacock feathers on her dress and hat light up in the dim glow of the car’s internal lights before the door closed. Tracy barely grunted and for a second she wanted to kick herself for enacting a truce; even if it was there only to keep Teresa happy, she assured herself as the car sped off and they were on their way.

Chapter Nine – the Trouble with Teresa

It was one thing when your best friend told you that she wanted to possess special powers. And another when you started to believe her.

Not that Teresa had been naive or gullible. Usually on April Fool’s she was the one person who failed to be duped. The old whoopee cushion trick could get no rise from her. Neither could the false messages of school closing or no homework. Because whatever it was she had learned to stare the perpetrator in the face and tell that they had been lying.

But with Brandi, it had been different. A bit of wishful thinking that she had been almost certain, would amount to nothing more than a few incidents of trust, here and there. Like at the restaurant. But that had gone wrong. Because the man with the red cap had made a few alterations and changed things. History.

She took a seat on the sand, slowly, trying to wrap her mind around everything that she had learnt from her mother; her fingers touching the sports bracelet on her arm. She was useless when it came to soccer. But aikido and kendo proved more versatile; showing up her skills and mental tenacity. Her ability to think ahead and more – something thankfully that didn’t require the movement of a ball.

“You have been chosen,” those were the words that her mother had uttered a year ago and although she had not known what it meant. Somehow, she now knew that she was different. But after that, her mother had mysteriously disappeared and Teresa had been trying her best to get another hold on her – to find out as much as she could from the town’s archives and the local library that seemed to possess newspaper print going back for centuries. She had gotten glimpses of her, a school girl making a row with an errant banker, who had decided to take away her family home. A lost love, who had been sent away and cursed because she refused to give up her powers. And then there were the suspicions of her as being a witch.

Teresa pulled her toes out the water and squealed. This should have had nothing to do with her, she thought, letting the charm bracelet echo in the wind. She didn’t want anything to do with Brandi Daniels, she thought, even though they had once been friends. Even though by the look of things, somehow they still were. She bared her teeth and bit into her arm, trying to tell the difference between what was real and what was fake. Because friends didn’t hurt friends. Didn’t turn on you and make you feel misplaced. Especially when it came to boys.

She closed her eyes, thinking back to the diner and how she had seen them together. Surely there was nothing going on between Brandi and Roger, she told herself, even though her mother had now filled her with some nagging predictions. They could be together, she seemed to be saying and there’s nothing that you can do about it.

Teresa closed her fist and beat the sand, hoping that the infected eggs had done the trick and tonight her friend would see to reason as the clock ran out. But then, she knew that like her, it would be hard for Brandi to face the truth and Teresa watched her arm go up and down. The sound of the bracelet filling her with an eerie sense of calm that seemed to relax her. She pushed strands of hair back and sat up, watching her reflection as though she was reading pages from a book. She should be tested. Or made to see…

Reason. Teresa looked into the water as though it was a huge cauldron and needed a spin. She still didn’t have enough strength for that, so she took a deep breath and formed a smaller pool in the sand – thinking about the party tonight and the possibility of going to the dance.

“Shouldn’t you be getting ready?” Stephanie asked, appearing out of nowhere. Teresa shrank back, not wanting to infuriate her. Shielding her eyes with her hands, she looked across at her, from her position further inland, watching as she ambled closer.

Her sister’s face didn’t waver and Teresa wondered how she could be so young, when she was supposed to have been a few years older. Standing up, she dusted her hands in her pants. “I was only clearing my head. Preparing myself for the task at hand,” Teresa said, her eyes down cast. “What’s the plan?”

“It’s all on a need to know basis I’m afraid,” her sister said, flashing her a warm smile. “And right now you really don’t need to know.”

Teresa bit her lip and looked down at her shoes, wondering why there was this need for secrecy when they were already joined. She thought of the pact they had made to rescue their mother and looked down at the scar on her arm, where the stray arrow had grazed her. Heat surged through her body just thinking about it because she was never one to make sacrifices for loved on, except that Stephanie had been insistent. Showing her the three witches who had bound her mother and would deliver her, if only she could deliver Brandi and Roger.

She pulled down the sleeve of her sweater, imagining the pink baby doll dress that they had already picked. Something to “die for,” according to Stephanie. But she hoped it wouldn’t go so far. Brandi had been a friend to her and this thing with Roger was probably nothing more than hormones, she told herself, thinking of how it had been with Spooner. How being with him had seemed to make all of her dreams come true.

“Snap out of it,” Stephanie said, splashing her with water.

She shrieked, gazing and uncurled tendrils of hair. “I said I would help, you don’t have to baptize me.” She said, got to her feet and grabbed her duffle.

“Good.” Stephanie yanked her by the arm. “It’s good to know that you’ve remained compliant.” Teresa gave her a peculiar look, like the one at the library. The day she had decided to show up, even after they had been separated for more than three. No, maybe just absent. Or missing.

“So that’s all you require of me?” she asked, watching the slim card with the picture of the luxurious hummer. “To act like a mode of transport?”

Stephanie shook her head in the affirmative, transformed her younger sister’s clothes with a slight twirl. “Yes, be beautiful and friendly, but get her where she needs to go.”

“All right,” Teresa said, as if she’d heard this many times before. “I’ll get Cinderella to the ball, you and the messenger do what you have to do to warn her – but it better not be like last time.”

Stephanie raised her hands in the air and smiled. “Surely you have forgiven me for that accident. And not tonight, there won’t be another slip.” Teresa looked at her as though she believed her. As though her friend’s life still meant something. And then she remembered her mother, surrounded by the three witches like with Macbeth as they promised him things. Perhaps, there was no other choice. No other way. She sighed.

Turning away from the thunderous waves, she watched as the stretch limo appeared and thought that she could keep her audience waiting, deal or no deal. Pact or no pact.

Thirty Minutes to a More Vibrant You!

In today’s fast paced world, we are told that whatever we give our focus to will take precedence. So why not make your choices even more efficient and effective by taking a midday cat nap, without the coffee. That way you can lead yourself to feeling revived for the rest of the day and produce work that would be good. Better. Or great. Instead of simply mediocre, because you were drained and your energy was sapped.

According to Tom Rath, the author of Eat Move Sleep in his introductory chapter of the book, labelled “The Basics,” you should sleep longer to get more done. Certainly back in college or university, it was easy to contemplate pulling an all-nighter because of some impending assignment or essay that needed to be done. Now, however with so much on our plate, it would be unwise to discredit the benefits of getting a full night sleep. Be it seven or eight hours long.

In fact, I have found that in addition to this, taking a few minutes off your day, say between 12:00 and 3:00, just to close your eyes, can provide an energy boost that restore some depleted energy. Set the alarm if you must. Turn down the volume on your phone. But whatever you do, make sure to close your eyes and tune out the outside world – for as little as fifteen or as much as thirty minutes – and see if you don’t feel mentally refreshed. Once again free to combat any problem, or overcome any obstacle and reclaim your day.

Two Steps towards Making Meaningful Progress!

Usually when you are doing something, your aim is to achieve your goal. However, sometimes this narrow-minded determination might pidgin hold you into getting a certain outcome, and this may prevent you from seeing other opportunities. In which case, it would be wise to set aside some prep time to reflect on your project. Are you doing the right thing, right now? Do you know what your next move will/should be? Or do you need to consult with someone else? Either way, making time available in your calendar can help you achieve your goal.

Reflect and Make the time available for what you want to do.

During this time you can make inroads by chunking down your big project into smaller more manageable sections. This for me would mean writing or editing a paragraph, page or chapter of a novel, short story or poem.

Or if you’re more of an acrobat, who has no qualms about handling a few projects at a time, using one of the ‘Heath methods’ mentioned in Decisive, you can handle 5 or six projects at once. The idea behind this of course, would be that any meaningful feedback that you get from any projects, can then be applied to all of them in turn. And in that way you will be able to create a great body of work versus just one project. Also by doing this, you will be able to get some distance from the various pieces of work; something that is need beneficial when rewriting or re-working ideas.

Yet no matter how you choose to work on your projects, nobody can discount the benefits of having a systematic approach. Make sure and set monthly goals for yourself, so that you will have something towards which you are striving. Penalize or reward yourself adequately. Say a cupcake or a movie, depending on the amount of work achieved. Or take away tv time, expensive dinners and parties, when you’ve slacked off too much, while bearing in mind that incremental change is good. And if you persist, eventually, in the end  it will make a whole lot of difference.

Chapter 8 : Egg Me On

     Out from school for a few days, Brandi reveled in the fact that she didn’t have to see Mrs. Jenkins or read anything else from her world literature text. Somehow her mother had smoothened things over with the principal, who she had said sounded concerned. Not that Brandi knew what that meant. Idly, she thumped through one of the Glamour magazines that her mother had started reading. Within a few minutes though, she deposited it back onto the desk, thinking that the clothes were too flashy to be hers and the language a bit elevated.

     One of her friends, her mother had assured her, had been given the task of bringing over her assignments. Brandi turned towards the tv screen, trying her best not to think about it, as she pressed the remote and waited for last night’s dvd to load. Suddenly uncomfortable with her current movie genre that included hits like the Amityville Horror, Nosferatu, Little Shop of Horrors and Friday the Thirteenth Part III, she had switched to Pocahontas today because she wanted to be entertained. Instead of, scared out of her whits.

     Alone now, only because her mother had chosen to go out to get another bottle of cough syrup. She adjusted her skirt and shifted her bra strap that was coming down over her shoulder, as she made a quick scan of the room and then fixed her gaze on the screen.

     Peering at the almost empty bottle on the table, near her head, she drained the remains as if it was the last bit of soda pop. Before taking one last sip of the lukewarm tea on the counter, her mother had almost sworn she needed along with daily doses of vitamin C. By the time, her eyes returned to the screen, the opening credits had begun to roll and she adjusted the pillow; her hands trembling momentarily as it reached out to capture the remote and she increased the volume. Hopefully her mother would be back soon, she thought, turning over to make herself more comfortable, because the chair was too lumpy.

     Still groggy an hour later, she got up to answer the doorbell and looked through the peephole. Her eyes hesitating over Teresa.

     She smiled and yanked open the door.

     “Did you have breakfast?” Teresa asked, over the sound of the door closing and the screeching sound on the tv.

     Teresa picked up the remote and lowered the volume; dropping her bag into the seat as it was a person and eyed her friend, with an almost nervous chuckle. “It’s not much fun with you gone. How soon are you going to get better?”

     Brandi inhaled, wondering why the room had suddenly started to spin as she reached out an arm to touch the sofa. “Soon.” She eyed the floor, realizing that she had forgotten her regular flip flops. The bunnies staring up at her. She frowned. Then eyed Teresa. “Shouldn’t you be in class?”

     “No.” Teresa gave her a slight shove. “Not when it’s so much later.” She pulled the curtain by the window, waiting for Brandi’s head to turn. For her to see the overcast weather.”

     Brandi nodded. Dropping back into the chair. As if all of this was normal. Teresa nodded her head and walked towards the kitchen.

     “Let me fix you something,” she said, pushing up her shirt sleeves. “What are you having?”

     Brandi looked down at her feet, as if seeing something. “Eggs,” she said, taking a napkin to wipe the perspiration on her neck. “If you know how to scramble it.”

     “Sure, over-easy,” Teresa said, nodding. “It was something her mother also liked.

     Enjoying the room’s ambience, Brandi relaxed into the chair as Teresa knocked over pots and pans, as she tinkered around in the kitchen, getting the utensils and the cutlery, without much difficulty. In the refrigerator, she found two eggs that she cracked onto the side of a bowl, before getting rid of the shell. Beating the mixture with a whisk, she added salt, pepper and a bit of cilantro. Then she put the skillet on the stove, added some butter and then poured everything in.

     It sizzled and she rushed around searching for a spatula to turn it over. Then she diced a tomato and added a leaf from a lettuce onto the plate along with two slices of bread. On the other plate she did the same, before cutting the large egg into two.

     “I didn’t know you could cook,” Brandi said, appreciating the smells that were coming out of the kitchen. With the mounting chores and the extra pressure to complete her homework assignments, she felt as though she was already over extended. Sure there were things that she still needed to learn but then she wasn’t sure where she was going to get the extra time.

     With her friend occupied in the kitchen, Brandi took the time to check the computer for Seers of the past. Prophets and prophesies. Among them, she found Nostradamus to be one of the most prominent names; even though she didn’t really know anything about his quatrains. All she knew was that different people had used it to explain different doomsday prophesies for things that had happened at different times. Brandi, however, couldn’t quite wrap her mind around it.

     Sure, there had to be some measure of truth, she thought. But then who was to be believed? Whose version could she trust as being the one true thing? She looked away from the screen, wondering if Roger had any thoughts about it as she heard Teresa milling around. Should she ask her?

     Explain things, she wondered, uncertain about how that would have changed things. Teresa had been her friend for what may have seemed like forever but she needed someone that she could trust. Someone that she could depend on. And although she wasn’t sure that that person was Teresa, she also wasn’t sure if it was Roger. After all, Nicholas had said that she could be manipulated. She closed her eyes, trying not to equate the addition of one with the subtraction of the other. Since she really didn’t know that much about Roger. And yet he had said that he could help her. Strengthen her powers. She wanted to believe him and yet everything with Teresa had been so sure.

     She closed down the screen, suddenly feeling dizzy. It was almost as if she was the one toy on the playground that everyone wanted to play with. And she had no idea about what to do. Who to leave herself open to – so that she could be claimed. She looked up and caught sight of Teresa, observing her.

     “Thanks,” Brandi said, seeming to prick her. Because there was no way that either of them was play acting, she told herself, watching Teresa who seemed to know too much about her. She felt stumped and strange as she rest down the plate and used a few drops of the antibacterial ointment to clean her hands. She smiled and then took a big bite, hearing a soft buzzing sound, as she tried to focus on he chewing because when the food went down there was no taste. She took a sip of her drink feeling slightly parched; trying to remember what real food tasted like, as she took another bite and nodded to her friend. “You should try the Red Dragons, maybe they would hire you.”

     Teresa looked at her with a strange smile. “Right, I’m sure they’d need some help with their chicken fried rice,” she said, taking a sip from her soda and taking another big bite of her sandwich. “I’m sure you could do the same if you tried,” she said, taking a sudden look at her before turning back to the tv. As Brandi fell. Faltered.

     It was then that the sound became more pronounced. Distracting. What was happening to her? she wondered, sitting up; her body feeling suddenly stiff as she assumed another position. And looked around to find that her plate had been cleared away. Taking a few deep breaths, she sat up on the couch. “Was I out long?”

     “No,” Teresa said, pushing her plate aside; her body moving up and away from the averted frame of the laptop screen. “You sort of fell down and I helped you to the couch.”

     Brandi blinked. She had fainted. Tried to swallow the saliva lodged in the back of her throat. “And did I eat the eggs?”

     “Some of it.” Teresa held up her empty plate and showed some teeth. “I did too.”

     Brandi watched her. Muscles sore. And rubbed her shoulders.

     “I got you some aspirin,” Teresa said, giving her two capsules and a glass of water. Taking a deep breath, Brandi swallowed and waited for the pain to subside. Then as if to change the subject, she cleared away the things and then flopped down on the seat across from the couch. “Are you going to Jason’s party, tonight?”

     “I’m not sure. I could be busy,” Brandi said, holding up an empty bottle of cough syrup.

     “What? Don’t tell me you weren’t invited,” Teresa squawked, taking the bottle and placing it on the coffee table.

     “No, of course not.” Brandi adjusted her hair after putting down the glass. “Besides, they’re not my crowd.”

     Teresa turned her head. “Not a problem. I’m going with Kenny. And I’m almost sure, he has a friend,” Teresa said, walking around the room in her imaginary dress. Slipping a hand into her bag, she extracted the assignment. “I’m sure you’d do your best to get this.”

     Brandi sat up; her feet barely touching the ground. “You wouldn’t do that.”

     “Sure. Why not?” She held out a hand. “Come on, it could be fun.”

     Brandi shook her head, stopping only when the figure in front of her started to become doubled. “This can’t be right. You’re thinking about going to a party with a guy who drinks like a fish?” She put a hand to the side of her lips as if thinking it over, and seeing it for what it was. Another bad idea.

     Teresa raised the paper up in the air again. “No, you’re just not thinking straight. And before you say no, remember that your mum doesn’t come home until late, so there’ll be no one to check up on you. And just this once, we could get wasted.”

     Brandi pulled back, capturing her hand, and gave it a squeeze. “Except I’m fighting off the elements, unless you’ve forgotten that I have a cold.”

     Teresa opened her bag and took out another bottle of cough syrup. “No, I haven’t forgotten.” She put the assignment sheet down. “And if you go, I’ll make sure that you don’t turn into a pumpkin and get home on time.” She stuck out her hand.

     “Deal?”

     Brandi waited, feeling slightly woozy. Forgetting the dream and the thing that had come to her like a premonition. Wanting only to impress her mother, as she glanced at the assignment sheet. “And where are we meeting?”

     “In the grove, under the almond tree,” Teresa said, helping her friend to sit up properly in the chair. “By seven but until then please take a rest.”

     Brandi nodded, holding onto Teresa, thinking how fortunate she was to have her as the door closed. Sitting there, she assured herself that she would be better soon, even though the pain in her side refused to subside. With slow fingers; she ran down the list of things she would have to do for her assignments as her eyes narrowed on the essay about heroes that was due in a week. She would need to make some headway, she thought, getting up. She carried the bottle of medicine to her room and retrieved the pendant from the small jewelry box her mother had given her.

     Holding it, she told herself that things would return to normal soon, so that she could with a little help from her eyeshadow and lipgloss. Make it to the party and still get home at a reasonable hour. Besides Teresa had assured her, and she had never known her friend to lie.