I want to take a moment to apologize for not posting on a more regular basis. I realize I've been missing. Only, I haven't really been gone you know. I've been enjoying life. I've been busy. What does that mean exactly? In short, it means I've been working, spending time with my family and doing other things I enjoy with my free time.
One of the things I most enjoy doing is writing. It is one of my favorite forms of entertainment, relaxation and escapism. Perhaps you like to run, to ride on a motorcycle, to travel, to simply sit out in the sun. Maybe you like to read. Me? I like to write. Today, I'd like to share just a bit of my latest work-in-progress. Don't be fooled. This is an unusual story, a mixture of fantasy and historical fiction spanning the years from the 1600s to the present.
At the sound of her voice, Jhidhai turned from the window and stared. Sunlight silhouetted his lean figure but obscured his face in shadow.
The girl blinked and pushed herself up onto her elbows; the stark white sheet slid to her waist. Her eyes sported bruises, cuts marred her pale face, and long red hair hung limply from beneath a head bandage.
"You can see me?" he asked.
The girl, Claire, shifted a bit. The gentle beep of the heart monitor and the hum of filtered air flowing through the vents high in the wall were the only noises.
"Um, yeah... Where am I?" She licked her lips and looked around, but Jhidhai quickly worked his magic. The girl saw only an empty room with none of the machines or hospital charts.
"It's so cold. What is this place?" The beeping from the heart monitor increased.
Quickly, Jhidhai sifted through her memories and projected one to calm her. He stepped away from the window. From her angle on the bed, Claire could see a bright blue summer sky with a few wispy clouds. The sunlight brightened his features, and the girl realized he was younger than she'd initially thought, a young 20-something, not much older than herself.
"I'm sorry. You look familiar, but I don't remember your name. Do we have classes together?"
He shook his head and offered his hand, palm up. "Jhidhai. You said you were cold. Would you like to go for a walk? I think it's warmer outside."
Tentatively, Claire reached for his hand. She stood and stared at their fingers curled around each other. Then she smiled, tilted her head and looked into his warm brown eyes. "You don't look Asian."
"I'm not," he said, then tugged her hand and led her out of the room.
Because of the veil Jhidhai had created, Claire did not see the doctor approach the bed to check on his patient. He was pleased. Her vitals were strong, and she slept soundly, recuperating in peace.
Why Claire left with this stranger, she did not know. She knew only that she felt safe, like it was the right thing to do.
They walked down a long narrow corridor with paintings on the walls and headed toward a glowing red exit sign. Jhidhai pushed open the heavy door. Staring at the yellow and black lines on the metal bar across the door and the sign proclaiming 'emergency exit,' Claire was surprised. Instead of an alarm, she heard laughter, happy voices, gulls and waves of water washing upon the shore.
Claire knew this place well, and she smiled as she dropped Jhidhai's hand and rubbed her bare arms. Her bright green tank top brought her shining eyes to light and contrasted nicely with her long red hair, now pulled up into a high ponytail.
Jhidhai spread a pale blue beach blanket upon the sand in the middle of the crowd, and side-by-side, they sat upon it. The warm sand beneath dispelled the last of her chills.
"That's much better. Thanks," Claire said. She drew in deep breath. "What a beautiful day!"
As on most warm summer days, the fine white sand of North Avenue beach was covered by beach towels, folding chairs and golden bodies tanning in the sun. Claire giggled and pointed at a man who was tossing his little boy into an oncoming wave.
"My dad used to do that with me."
"You want to join them? We could go swimming."
"Uh, maybe later. I'm a little sore right now, don't think swimming is the best idea." Claire rubbed her shoulder.
"May I?" Jhidhai gently placed his hand upon the back of her neck.
Claire nodded and turned. "Um, weren't you wearing a business suit? You know, back there..." She glanced to her right, but there was no building. Instead, she saw only the familiar volleyball nets with games in full swing.
Jhidhai gently slid his palm down to the girl's shoulder, and Claire felt a warmth seep into her sore muscles. She tilted her head from one side to the other.
"That's much better. Thank you. Well, you look good in casual too. More relaxed."
"Relaxed, huh?" Jhidhai rested his arms upon his knees and squinted as he watched the incoming waves wash upon the shore. None of this made any sense. If the girl only knew.
She laughed, "Did I stutter?"
Despite his surprised, he was looking forward to getting to know this one. The last few had been exhausting to put it mildly. Perhaps his superiors had decided he was due for a vacation of sorts. For a few minutes, they were both lost in thought.
Finally, Claire broke the silence. "Jhidhai. That sounds Japanese, but you said you aren't."
He avoided eye contact. Instead, he stared at the sea of people, but he could feel her watching him. "What?"
"So how did you end up with a name like that? Are your parents into Manga or something?"
"No, I chose it myself."
"Oh, like a nickname." Claire hesitated. "So now what?"
"Um, I'm afraid you've lost me again." Jhidhai laughed nervously. He didn't usually speak with his charges or they with him.
Claire was not looking at the beach or the waves or the people or the clear blue skies. She stared intently at Jhidhai. "Come on. Give it to me straight."
Jhidhai turned then and peered into her eyes, surprised by the strength he saw within. The last time something even close to this had happened, it had not turned out well. He shook his head. His blond hair fell loosely over his eyes.
But Claire didn't stop. "None of this makes sense. Your clothes, the beach, this towel, you... I'm dead. That's what you don't want to tell me, isn't it?"
Jhidhai drew in a sharp breath but decided to answer with the truth. "No, you're not dead, but you've been hurt."
Claire waited patiently for him to continue.
"I don't know if you'll remember this conversation later or not, this doesn't usually happen, but all right. I'll answer your questions as best I can."
"Where am I then? I mean, I'm not really at the beach with you. I'm somewhere back in that cold building, right? Was it a hospital?"
"Yes, you were taken to the hospital, but you're going to be fine."
"I am? How do you know? Aren't you an angel, come to help me cross over?"
"No, I told you, you're not dead. And... You really think I look like an angel?"
Claire narrowed her eyes. "You're sure it's not my time?"
Jhidhai's warm laughter bubbled up from deep within his chest. "It's not 'your time,'" he made air quotes that brought a smile to Claire's face, "because if it were, I wouldn't be here with you right now."
"Well that doesn't tell me much. Okay then, what happened to me?"
"Now that's something I cannot tell you. You don't remember anything?"
Claire shook her head and furrowed her brow. "No."
Jhidhai thought about that for a moment. "I guess when you're ready to remember, you will. And until you wake, I'll stay here with you."
Claire took hold of his arm and leaned her cheek against his shoulder. "You're sure I won't die?"
"All right. If you say so."
S.L. Wallace is the author of Retrospection.