by Lawna Mackie
What not to do? Well, for starters, DON’T render yourself unconscious by falling out of your canoe while trying to grab onto a beaver dam. Secondly, don’t wake up in a world that outlaws strangers, and, above all, DON’T fall for a guy whose main job is to banish you from the world.
Meeka is searching for peace, a magical reprieve from the heartbreak of her past, perhaps even a dashing hero, and she finds it all – for a moment. The world of Enchantment she blunders into is certainly peaceful, until Meeka discovers her dormant magical abilities. Furthermore, there is a gorgeous knight in shining armor – Kerrigan – but he turns out to be a part-time dragon sworn to protect the intoxicating land of Enchantment, a duty that includes removing all foreigners, the fascinating Meeka included. To further complicate matters, sparks literally fly between Meeka and Kerrigan. An undeniable attraction continually forces them together in a riptide of unleashed passion, but evil forces are determined to destroy the dragon, take control of Meeka’s newfound powers, and use her as a weapon of mass destruction.
Distant thunder rumbled through the darkened sky. The black clouds churned and rolled across the horizon Meeka searched for a recognizable landmark. A momentary shiver of panic skittered down her spine. The trees on the riverbank bore no familiarity. She’d gone past her usual turn-around point.
Meeka glanced at the dial on her watch, “Damn, its way passed noon.” Annoyed she glanced around. “Where did the time go?” Exhaling sharply, scolding herself for forgetting to stay focused. Frustration boiled like the storm that gathered above her.
The wind howled, forming white-capped waves. Hungrily, they lapped at the sides of her wooden canoe. Common sense dictated a quick return to shore, it was too dangerous to be out on the water, still, Meeka couldn’t help the tiny wish the water would take her someplace far away from all her worries.
At the age of twenty-five she still fell in love with fairy tales. Perhaps the soft green moss, sweeping cedar evergreens, and rainbow-hued wildflowers were cleverly concealing homes of fairies and sprites. Peacefulness seeped into her soul.
Hidden far within the mountains, the winding stream remained secluded. It was her place, the one refuge in her dreary life. The air was infused with joy, the smell of warm earth and soft leaves. It was a welcome reprieve from the stench of stale alcohol and ashtrays.
Her stomach twisted at the memory of the early morning phone call from her parents. Their words slurred, it was readily apparent they were drunk...again.
Unable to stop her thoughts, she continued to let her canoe drift further down the stream while reflecting on her early morning mishap. In particular the screeching ring of the telephone, ruining what had appeared to be a very relaxing morning. In an instant her thoughts cascaded back in time.
For a split second her eyes closed. Anger and resentment clawed at her stomach. Her beautiful world disappeared replaced by the smell of cigarettes and harsh words. The scenario played out the same way every time, but sometimes it was worse than others, especially if her parents had been fighting. Heeding their calls lead her home, to a cluttered space filled with empty bottles, full ashtrays and hatred. Each time she lost a piece of her soul.
Meeka groaned in frustration opening her eyes. She picked up the receiver with a happy “Hello”. Her heart stuttered at the faint hiccup before a familiar voice filled her ear.
“Hello daughter,” her father slurred. “I hope I haven’t caught you at a bad time.” he hiccupped.
Meeka swallowed against the cotton in her mouth, her hands trembling. She wished her hands could slide through the telephone line so she could wrap them around her father’s neck. She knew the sound of those words all to well. Sad memories washed over her. He’d been drinking again and, for certain, her mom followed along.
It didn’t matter how many times they drank themselves into oblivion, Meeka could never rid herself of the painful memories. The cursing hurtful words never went away. It always left her wondering how they didn’t kill one another.
Most times he sounded so sweet trying to coerce her to come to them, but not this time. After the drunken binge, it seemed to be a form of redemption for them. She’d clean the mess, tend to her mother’s cuts and bruises and agree with everything her father said.
“Dad, I’m not going through this again!”
“Now daughter,” he sneered, “your mother and I need…”
“NO!” Meeka yelled, cutting him off unable to take it anymore. The emotional roller coaster ride they’d put her through would never end. It had to stop. “I can’t do this again. I won’t do this again. I’m through with the two of you always being drunk. I’m not coming over. Don’t call me again until you stop drinking.”
With tears brimming in her eyes, Meeka slammed the telephone down with shaky hands. How could they do this to her over and over? She’d had enough! If only she could turn her heart off and stop caring.
Sinking into the couch with her face buried in her hands, the sob escaped. But the phone rang again, forcing Meeka out the door. This was her way of coping…run away.
Escape. Go somewhere. Go anywhere! Just get away from them.
A gentle pressure brushed up against her long slender leg bringing her back to the present. Her feline companion Catz…her one true gift from God. A snow-white, fluffy cotton ball, with big bright eyes the color of sapphires and a little pink nose.
Meeka stared down at Catz. The furry critter looked up at her with love and compassion. Catz always knew when she was depressed and, without fail, made her feel better.
“Okay, Catz. I’m done with crying.” Meeka sniffled, wiping the last of her tears away.
Goose bumps formed on her arms. Hoping the sun would come back and the storm would stay away didn’t seem to be working. The breeze blew a wisp of her unruly, long sable hair, from the confines of her braid. The loose strand annoyed her.
Over the edge of the canoe her reflection stared back. Her violet eyes, dark lashes, and tanned face were complimented by her sable hair. In her opinion her eyes were her one redeeming feature. Droplets of water falling from paddle distorted her image leaving a more accurate picture, unlike the beauty so many said she was.
Catz sat precariously on the bow pretending to navigate. Meeka laughed, certain the temperature change suited her friend “That’s better isn’t it Catz, cooler for you my giant snowball.”
The sky darkened. The grey clouds were quickly swallowing the small patches of blue. Earlier the blistering sun enticed her to discard the life jacket, something she would typically never do. The unusual heat sometimes made for some violent thunderstorms, but today she was hell-bent on pushing her luck.
In utter defiance Meeka look up to the heavens, “I’m not ready to go back yet! So there!” She pushed the unpleasant thoughts out of her head and searched her mind for a happy daydream. Resolutely, she focused on spinning a happy daydream, the shadows of her thoughts too heavy for the moment. What would it be like? Somebody who loved her, who she could love, she wondered.
Meeka snorted with cynicism. Even in a daydream, I can’t believe my knight in shining armor could exist. A fairy tale, that’s what she wanted. Hah! Didn’t everyone?
Shaking herself away from the thoughts, she glanced at the meowing cat before focusing on the shoreline. “Well, Catz I’m going crazy. I’m thinking about knights in shining armor. They don’t exist, yet here I sit trying to convince myself it could be possible.”
The stream narrowed. The trees were taller and their darker green branches now blocked most of the light from above. Inhaling, the scent of cedar and moss filled her nostrils. The rich earthy surroundings were weaving a spell around her, drawing her deeper into the moment. Licking her lips she could taste the sweetness of the berries that would line the forest floor. She closed her eyes falling for the magic of the moment, not wanting to pay attention to the black thunderheads above.
A low rumble of thunder drew her attention up. “I better turn us around.” Wincing at the soft sound of her voice, she couldn't shake the flash of guilt at disturbing the silence. Instead of picking up the paddle, she let the craft drift in the current. "It’s too deep here. We'll get out just around the bend, Catz, where the water isn't so unpredictable."
The forest beckoned mysteriously, the stream and canoe becoming more shaded with each gentle stroke of the paddle. Catz paced at the front of the canoe giving her a warning look.
CRACK! Thunder boomed through the valley and lightning flashed across the black sky.
The air hung heavy with the smell of rain, and Meeka’s face was abruptly wet. Catz howled giving a new definition to the phrase pissed-off, and swished elegantly under the covered portion of the bow.
The rain intensified, and a blue veil of water descended over her. Thunder crashed above her head, lightening streaking across the darkened sky like fire. Tendrils of electricity raced along her body like a lover's caress. “Okay, already, I got the message!” Through the onslaught of rain, she spotted a beaver dam ahead in the distance.
“Catz, I’ll take the canoe out there by the dam. We can take shelter under the canoe and wait for the storm to subside.” Note to self. Don’t be sassy with Mother Nature. The beaver dam loomed ahead, a squat wall of mud and wood. Meeka swallowed. Willows, driftwood, birch, and poplar were tangled to form a solid mass. A dark head bobbed in the water for a moment before vanishing from sight.
Stifling a screech, Meeka instinctively ducked at the slap of a wide tail on the water. The echo reverberated through her. Intent on getting off the water, she leaned over, the paddle slipping into the fast moving current. A hard knot formed in her stomach, the shadows gathered blocking the meager sun completely. How the heck did it get so dark?
Crouched on her knees in the canoe Meeka reached dangerously over the edge, stretching for a large log she hoped to grab onto. The sturdy piece of wood would help her get out of the boat.
A massive splash close to the canoe caught her off guard. She swung her gaze over her shoulder making eye contact with a giant beaver. With a gasp, the craft lurched to the side. The canoe swayed uncontrollably. It tilted–too far!
A strangled scream preceded the splash of her body hitting the water. Her flailing hands scrabbled for purchase on the canoe only to have it tip, landing next to her with a sickening thud. The current swirled around her legs, dragging her along. Unable to see in the murky water her forehead made contact with something extremely hard.Her limbs were bricks, too heavy to move. Her eyes closed, blackness beckoning her. She should never have taken her life jacket off. The world she knew went black.