Do you ever feel as though someone is watching you when you are presumed to be alone; like you have an angel or ghost, or some sort of presence nearby causing invisible tension in the air? Well, Zara has been that “presence” for many people over the last few years, her job is to observe different lives and pass on information to higher-ups so they can decide if subjects deserve good or bad Karma. Zara has trained for this job for many years, but suddenly loses interest in following the strict rules of the Universe when she finds a way to escape to other worlds through her dreams. Zara not only breaks the rules, but ends up breaking the bounds between worlds, causing major conflicts when people of alternate realities now occupy one single plane. A teenager named Stacy is one of many lives affected when she is forced to meet her torment.
Introduction to Stacey (CH.2)
On the verge of tears, Stacey lay on the bed in her room; she often battled an inexplicable feeling that resided in the deep crevices of her chest, causing her to ache with gloom; only periodically did she let it consume her, but she always felt it in some form, even in the greatest of moments. Now was one of those times that Stacey was overwhelmed with guilt, sorrow and pure unhappiness. Unable to pinpoint the exact source, Stacey felt as if her sanity was evaporating into thin air. After all, she was a beautiful, intelligent girl who was once assumed by most to have the brightest of futures.
Her boyfriend, Brock, was the nicest guy she had ever had the pleasure of meeting– tall and athletic with a low-cut fade and waves atop his head that were shiny and defined. Stacey always imagined growing old in his arms experiencing the most healing form of love anyone could conjure up; many times, little faces that shared features with them danced into her dreams. Their future son would have Brock’s broad shoulders and thick lips, while their future daughter would have her smile and charisma. Yes, she could see the beautiful life that she would share with the man that she loved; all she had to do was the right thing and let destiny take its course.
Interestingly, she grew up knowing and believing in exactly what the “right thing” was. As a child, she was not the most obedient nor was she innocent for long. Manipulating others was something she grasped at about 3 or 4 years old. Though she had faults and at times even a murky tongue, kid Stacey was generally morally balanced. Firmly believing in doing what was right, she found herself getting close to those that were rejected by the popular crowd in school. If she could help someone in any way, she lunged at the chance. Learning how to be an effective listener early on, she found that many people participated in conversation selfishly—only to be heard and felt. Luckily, empathy was her gift.
Now, she longed for someone to be that for her; she itched for someone to feel whatever it was bothering her and perhaps, explain it. More times than not, Stacey inadvertently sabotaged the good things in her life; it was as if she were having an out-of-body experience. To her right was the path of the righteous; the decisions and route she was expected to go with. That direction was full of laughter and joy, some trails and tribulation, but nothing too extreme or incapable of polishing her character so that it shined as the sun. Her left consisted of the path of a careless sinner; bad decisions made with worse consequences. While in this lane, she could see what was happening, but couldn’t feel it initially. Only temporary satisfaction fueled this side of the journey, and she was beginning to make this choice often. Unfortunately, Stacey could not see the error in her ways, only the unhappiness that resulted.
As Stacey lay on her back, she turned her head and gazed at Brock’s gaming system. Not per usual, they had a fight about thirty minutes prior. Stacey had been with him since she was fifteen, meeting their freshman year of high school. Then, by only sixteen years of age, Stacey found herself on her own with no parental support; she had been kicked out of the house due to not meeting her parent’s expectations of what she should be doing and when. Her school grades were slipping tremendously, and she was initiating major verbal confrontations with both parents. The final nail in the coffin, was when Stacey told them she was pregnant with Brock’s baby. Armand and Shawn, the married couple of 30 years, saw no other solution than kicking her out of their home. Stacey and Brock had been living together in a single bedroom apartment ever since, four years later.
Laying on the bed, she thought about how silly the fight between her and Brock was compared to all the adversity the couple had overcome together. Suddenly, she felt an eerie sensation; almost as if someone was in the room, but clearly no one was there. She sat up and stared at the blue light on the tv that indicated the power was on; if she hadn’t been mistaken, the light seemed to blink every few minutes or so. It wasn’t supposed to do that, and then without warning, the television turned on by itself. Occupying the screen was a beautiful woman, who appeared to be in her mid-twenties. She had a curly red bob and in Stacey’s opinion, the woman shared facial features with her; both had full lips, long bushy eyebrows and hazel eyes. The woman stared at the camera, as if she could see right through it into Stacey’s room. Then she spoke in a raspy voice, “I am watching you Stacey. You seem to be heavily guarded right now, but one day I will get you. I will make you pay for all the foolish decisions you made, mark my words.”
A man who appeared to be around the same age with hazel eyes and a smooth, dark low-cut also appeared on the screen next to the woman, “What are you doing Salem? I told you there are rules; I will come up with a plan! Turn this off now!”
“I can’t turn it off Chris! I don’t even know how I got the portal work. Usually I can only get into her mind through audio—” Just as abruptly as the strangers appeared, the screen blacked out back to its original state.
Alarmed, Stacey began to scream to the top of her lungs; the pitch was almost high enough to break glass. Brock rushed into the room and knelt at her side, attempting to calm her down and find out what happened. It took several minutes for him to get her to stop screaming, and when she finally did, she sobbed until one of her grey-colored contacts popped out. “I know I’m-I’m, not crazy. W-why are they after me Brock?” She stood and headed to the bathroom for contact solution.
“Who’s after you? What are you talking about Stacey? Are you hearing voices again?” Brock prayed that it wasn’t what he thought. For the last few weeks, every now and then Stacey would mention to him that she heard voices in her head. At first, he laughed it off, figuring that she was just trying to get his attention—he had been working 3 or more hours overtime every day. But this was the first time the ordeal had escalated this far. Now, he wondered if his high school sweetheart was suffering from a mental illness.
“Yes, I’m not just hearing voices though. I’m not crazy; this time there were two of them and it wasn’t in my head. I saw them on the tv; they took over the damn smart TV! She said that she was coming for me. What are they going to do to me? How can I even defend myself if they’re gonna come out the TV?” Stacey returned to the bed.
Brock sat on the floor where he had been kneeling beside the bed. He didn’t know how to answer that. Nor did he know how to help the woman he loved. She was clearly having some sort of mental breakdown, but what could he do? Maybe I can convince her to go to a doctor or something; she needs a mental evaluation. “I think I know someone who can help Stacey, but you have to keep an open mind.”
Stacey didn’t like how that sounded; she knew Brock very well. They had basically been growing up together for the past few years, and she was always five steps ahead of his thinking. She just put her head down and resumed crying in response, knowing he thought she was crazy and would want her to see a doctor, and that all they would do is drug her up and keep her confined, leaving her open and vulnerable for attack. The thought of reaching her demise due to no one believing her made her livid. She jumped up screaming, “I WILL NOT GO TO A SHRINK! THIS IS REAL BROCK! I AM IN DANGER; WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN TO ME?” She grabbed one of the controllers to the game and threw it at the TV, causing the screen to crack.
Struggling to suppress his anger, Brock drew in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “I’m only trying to help Stacey; you need help, and breaking things that took forever for us to afford won’t help you.” He stood up. “I need some air. Just think about it, ok?” He cautiously approached her and kissed the top of her forehead before exiting the room and then the apartment.
Could he possibly be right? What if this is all in my head? Stacey fought back tears. What an experience it was to possibly have your own mind against you. My dad always told me never to trust anyone, not even him. Did he mean to include myself in that? How is it that I can feel so strongly about certain things until a little time passes? I know that I can trust God. But what if he never knew me? I am waiting to hear from him, but what if he can’t hear me? What if I am not chosen. Do I have a disease? Is my mind ok? For the most part I feel fine, until I feel… too much. I don’t understand these emotions, and this confusion is so loud. Rubbing her temples, Stacey could feel the onset of a migraine approaching. She decided to trust what Brock was suggesting; maybe he saw something that she couldn’t, and seeing a professional was the best option. If nothing else, she could combat the cerebral attacks of the hazel-eyed girl with whatever medicine was prescribed; she hoped so, anyway.
Three weeks later, Stacey found herself face-to-face with of one the most praised clinical Psychologists in Davidson county. Halfway amidst a psychological evaluation, she realized that this was in fact, a terrible idea; she could feel her favor in the situation slipping—she was failing this test miserably.
“Do you worry about your safety on a regular basis?” the Doctor sat stone-faced with a notepad and pen, taking detailed notes on Stacey’s responses.
“No. Well what do you mean by ‘regular basis?” she extended her neck in a half-baked attempt to peek at his notes, praying that he wasn’t planning on admitting her to the hospital.
“How often would you say you hear this voice—are there ever more than one? And how does this make you feel?”
“Ummm, it started off every now and then; I would say now, the occurrences are happening more regularly—nearly every day. So far, I’ve heard two different voices—one man and one woman; I’ve even seen them on the tv. I feel . . . unsafe.” She stared in her lap with tears welling in her eyes.
“I see.” More writing on the notepad. “How do you find yourself coping with these feelings? Any drug or alcohol use?”
“At first, I thought that maybe if I was high enough, I wouldn’t be able to hear it anymore; I tried to smoke them out. But it didn’t do anything; I still heard them.”
“What exactly did you smoke?”
“Weed. I heard that it might help.”
Shaking his head slightly, he continued writing. “Has either voice ever told you to bring harm to yourself or someone else?”
There was hesitation before answering this question. Stacey really wanted help, but she didn’t know if she should answer this one honestly. Could this stranger even really help me at all? “Well, sometimes she tells me to end it all before she does.”
“And by ‘ending it all’ you mean—?”
Her head remained down, “Kill myself.” She said softly, and then sprung her head up immediately after saying it; she saw him adding more comments to his evaluation. “But I never thought about listening to her. She’s mad at me for some reason—said she’s gonna get me back for all the bad things I’ve done.”
“What ‘bad things’ would she be referring to?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t done anything to deserve this! Maybe—” Stacey had something tapping inside of her head like a knock at the door. It was a set of memories that she subconsciously repressed.
Everything went black as Stacey lost focus of the present; suddenly she was sixteen again; Brock was sitting next to her in her room at her parents’ house with a curly afro protruding in all directions. She wore many dark braids that reached the small of her back and thickly-framed pink glasses. In Stacey’s hand was a white stick, stained with urine.
“How did we let this happen, Brock? We haven’t even decided what our majors will be in college; how are we going to be parents?”
He shook his head, nearly spilling tears with each rocking movement. “I— I don’t know Stace. I just don’t know. We used condoms every time; they said if you used condoms it would be safe. Maybe I misunderstood.” He held his head down, unable to refrain from crying any longer. “It’s my fault babe. I shouldn’t have pressured you.”
“Don’t cry! You’re gonna make me cry. Look, I need to tell my parents; they will help us through this. Well, they’ll probably hate you at first, but they’ll come around. I am their only child at the end of the day.” She tried to sound confident, but honestly didn’t fully believe what she was saying. Being the only child must count for something, right?
“Your dad is going to kill me! He already told me when we first met that if anything happened to you that shouldn’t—” Stacey cut him off.
“What you need to be doing right now is looking for a job. I will handle my parents.” She placed her hand on his wet cheek and allowed their foreheads to touch. “We’ll get through this! But you have to stay strong; after-all, you will be the head of our little family, and we need you.” The teenagers kissed.
The front door opened and shut with distinct force; it was Stacey’s dad, Armand, and that meant her mom would be home soon as well. Brock jumped out of his seat as his eyes grew to the size of golf balls; he wasn’t ready to come clean yet. He whispered, “Stacey! I have to get out of here right now. Come on, help me get this window open.” He lunged toward the only window on the opposite side of the room.
She reached for him, and spoke calmly, “Don’t worry, we don’t have to do this today. This situation is already messed up enough; I don’t need you to bail on me on top of it all. I’ll just wait to tell them another time. There’s no rush.”
After eavesdropping, Armand swung the door open without hesitation. “Wait to tell us what? What’s going on?” Standing at six-foot-two with broad shoulders and swollen biceps, he carried with him a regal aura, commanding eye-contact and respect without a word.
“Hello to you too, Dad.” Stacey stealthily slid the pregnancy test under her thigh as she remained on her queen-sized bed. “Since you were listening in on our conversation, I’m sure you heard the part where I said I was going to WAIT to tell you and Mom.” She rolled her eyes, contemplating how she would pull off stalling her nosey father.
Ignoring her trivial attempt, he made eye-contact with Brock. “What are you doing in here with the door closed? I thought I made the rules clear to you.”
“Uh—you did, sir. I was actually just leaving if you don’t mind.” he attempted to slide by toward the exit, but Armand placed a hand on his shoulder.
“What’s the matter son? You look pale. Anyway, like Stacey said: what’s the rush?”
“His mom told him to be home thirty minutes ago. Plus, we need to tell you both at the same time. So, let him through Dad.” Stacey interjected.
“Your mom just called me; she should be pulling up any second. Go ahead, you two wait for her in the living room. I have a feeling that I need to fix us both a nice stiff drink.
Waiting for her dad to exit the room first, Stacey got up and placed the pregnancy test inside the closest drawer. Feeling defeated, she led the way to the living room; Brock looked as though he might self-destruct. What will Mommy think? She trusted me enough to fight with Dad about allowing Brock in the house and in my room. She trusted me. How can I even face her?
It didn’t take long for Shawn to pull into the driveway. Stacey’s parents concerted in the kitchen for a while and then met the teens in the living room with glasses in hand. Losing her resolve, Stacey’s posture changed when her mother entered the room. Brock was afraid of her father, but Stacey knew that her mother was the one to fear; she was the one behind all decision making—her word was final. She trusted me.
“Hi dear.” Shawn greeted Stacey with a kiss on the cheek. “Brock.” She nodded her head in his direction—her face stoic. “So, what is the meaning of this family meeting? You two have some information to share with us?”
“Ok! We are just going to jump right in this, huh?” Beads of sweat emerged on Brock’s brow. If he were playing poker, he would need to fold at this point; his face read of defeat.
Cutting her eyes at Brock, “I got it, babe.” Stacey cleared her throat and faced her Mother— with an occasional glance at her Father. “A couple of months ago, Brock and I decided to take our relationship to the next level,” she broke eye-contact and paused. “and what happened. Was.” Her mother tried not to show her disappointment, but her eyes began to tear up. “I’m pregnant Mom and Dad.”
Armand froze in his seat on the couch next to Shawn; he didn’t even blink. Shawn turned and leaned her head onto his chest, crying inaudibly. Erratically, Armand sprung in the air like the seat cushion had an invisible heating element from a stove-top turned on beneath it. He raised his hands, wide open in the air and marched into the kitchen yelling, “I WILL KILL THAT BOY IF I SIT THERE LOOKING AT HIS ASS ANY LONGER! MI ÚNICA HIJA! LO MATARÉ!
Recovering from startle, Shawn stared at the ceiling with a look on her face as though she were examining it and saw an imperfection— hand on her chest. With calculated movement, Shawn adjusted her glare on to her daughter. “Stacey Daneene Alvarez, how could you? After everything I said in your defense, how could you throw my words right back in my face? YOU HAVE BEEN HAVING SEX— UNPROTECTED SEX IN MY HOUSE?” she took a deep breath, reigning her volume down to a reasonable tone. “And let me get this right . . . you two plan on bringing a precious, innocent life into this world?” Combing through her burgundy afro with the tips of her fingertips, Shawn mentally grasped for the appropriate steps to take in this situation; she was drawing a blank. I refuse to have anyone in my home that I can’t trust, and I’m damn sure too old to be raising someone else’s newborn. Can’t fix this one, Shawn. She wants to be grown; let her go. But she’s my only baby. There’s only one baby in this room, and it is no longer her!
With a calloused heart, Shawn made her decision without even consulting with Armand; she felt there was no way he would disagree based on the conversation they had in the kitchen prior to the family meeting. “Well, since you felt it necessary to lie and deceive, just so you could participate in adult activity, I think it’s best that the two of you leave this house before your Dad kills him. You can come back tomorrow to gather your belongings.”
“Wait, excuse me?” She can’t possibly kick me out of our home when I need her the most. Stacey awaited clarification. Breaking the frigid silence of the room, Armand could still be heard somewhere in the house, yelling. Brock sat tranquil with tears in his eyes ready to drop.
“You want to be adults, have fun. But you can’t stay in this house. I want you out of here with whatever you’re taking packed and ready to go by tomorrow evening. Now please—”
“But Maaah! Please, we made a mistake.” Tears streamed down her adolescent face.
“Mrs. Alvarez, where will we go? My parents aren’t going to let me move my pregnant girlfriend in!” It hadn’t occurred to him that this case scenario was possible.
“Mistakes are only human, but Stacey you must learn that they too have consequences.” She looked at Brock with anger violently building. “And YOU, you want to cry now? You weren’t crying when you were disrespecting MY home and MY daughter by defiling her before you even started your first job, now were you? Get out of here, before I slap the taste out of your mouth, boy!” She rose, turned her back and marched upstairs to her room without any backward glance. The dumbstruck teens sat and stared at each other through tear-clouded vision, unsure of their next move.
Now the scene changed: Stacey was waiting in a dark alley in Murfreesboro, wondering if she was in the correct location; she came here to regain control of her downward-spiraling life. After being ejected from her home, Stacey and Brock chose to approach his parents with the baby news, and it went nearly as bad as it did with Armand and Shawn. Long story short, they were now homeless with a bun in the oven; which Stacey had no clue of how far along she was in the process. Luckily, Brock’s mom sent him packing with a month’s worth of funds for a room and keys to an old Volkswagen his family had on the market for months. Stacey made up a lie before leaving the motel room—she didn’t want Brock to present any doubt about her decision; it was already hard enough.
“Pssst! Psssssssst! Hey,” someone whispered trying to catch her attention. “Come back behind the dumpster. I’m not finna be out in the open with this, little girl.” Stacey saw a shadowy figure a few feet away. She walked swiftly, eager to get what she came for and leave.
An older lady dressed in a royal purple and yellow floral Mumu with a tall lavender headwrap made eye-contact with Stacey as she walked to where she was directed. Her name was Ursla. Known locally by many women of Nashville and the surrounding areas, she considered herself a witch and supplied anyone who asked with a suitable elixir to kill an unborn baby. Stacey heard about her from a classmate who was well versed in the process; now it was her turn.
“Before we make this transaction, are you sure this is what you want? In other words, no refunds or exchanges, child. Is this your final answer?”
Abruptly, Stacey extended her arm, fist clenching the $200. She moved as quickly as possible to avoid any time for rational, compassionate thinking. “Are there any special instructions, or what?”
Ursla shook her head with a mild smirk on her face as she accepted payment, “No, just take it and prepare for a powerful stomach ache. Preferably before bed; it’s not a quick nor easy process.” She paused. “I usually don’t do this, but I just wanna tell you that you’re doing the right thing. You a baby yourself, how you gonna raise one? I’m guessing you didn’t tell Mommy and Daddy since you here and not in a clinic.”
Holding her head down, looking at her feet Stacy replied, “My parents kicked me out; I can’t go by myself.”
“I see.” This information caught Ursla off guard. “Abortions don’t do nothing but suck your insides out anyway, usually damaging the parts and pieces needed to make babies in the future. You do want a kid one day, right?”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to cut the small talk and get this over with.”
Her eagerness made Ursla chuckle. “Ok, ok. Here you go. Just make sure you remember that this is not birth control, and though killing babies is legal (in certain capacities), that doesn’t mean you won’t pay for it one day. Mark my words.” She handed Stacey a small clear bottle and stood there to watch her run back to her vehicle. That poor girl literally has a world of trouble headed her way one day.
TO BE CONTINUED