Monday, August 21, 2006
EXCERPT: The Aura of Love
The Aura of Love
Kathy J. Marsh
Kathy J. Marsh
Remy’s powerful attraction to a man so different threatens to destroy everything vital to her. While she’s fighting to stay in control, someone unknown is revealing everything about her community, especially the secrets they want kept. But the secrets are out, and when the couple discovers the traitor’s identity, they feel compelled to take action.
The Beings Amongst Us
It sits somewhere in the east Caribbean, its exact location unknown. The Island, as it’s called, looks just like any of the surrounding ones to those able to see it. The lush vegetation snaking across its surface…unseen. The white sand of its beaches as each grain emerges from the green, yet clear waters…unseen. Its mountains, its hills, its grasslands…unseen.
The inhabitants of this island use their extraordinary powers to veil its very existence.
If you could see beneath its veil, you would find beings of a dark hue that look remarkably like their human relatives. Their houses, their schools, their theaters, their beaches would convince you they lead ordinary lives…working, playing, learning…just like you and I. The blue or purple auras, surrounding each individual, would be the only indication these beings are vastly different.
If you could see beneath its veil, the view would not reveal the tension between the blue and the purple. The tension created by the past oppression of the purple by the blue. The tension created by the lingering prejudice of the blue, the lingering mistrust of the purple.
This is the story of those beings, known only to themselves as Auralites. Do they exist? I’ve been told they do, right here among us, their colorful auras visible only to them. True…false? Reality…fiction? You decide…
As Remy reached the end of the story, her hand clutched the magazine so tightly a small tear appeared beneath one finger. The ice-cold fear winding its way through her body was overwhelming, a paralyzing force. Arms, legs, lungs…frozen. Ohmigod! Who could know? She took a ragged breath while attempting to grab the others’ attention, but she accomplished only a nearly soundless grunt.
Four months earlier
Remy Renee, her purple aura aglow in the late afternoon sun, turned and waved to her assistant. Legs moving like pistons, she walked toward the off-island bookstore in Charlotte. Her shop, Urbane, was in the building adjacent to the store, and she’d left a little early to ensure her errand wouldn’t interfere with that evening’s plans.
She raced into the bookstore and skidded to a stop. Delighted, she gasped when she spotted the new Pandora Page novel prominently displayed. Reading was a favorite pastime and Pandora was her favorite author, one who always drew her into the magical place that was Pandora’s imaginary world. Remy had been waiting months for the release of this next book in the series, which continued the antics of the ever-entertaining vampire, Monsaire.
Just managing to contain herself, Remy plucked a book from the seemingly hundreds on display. She fingered the cover, smiling, before she flipped it open to read the inside flap.
An unexpected chuckle escaped her. Remy looked up, trying to stifle her grin, hoping her outburst had gone unnoticed. Oh great, she thought as her glance lit upon some fine man openly staring at her. Oh well…c’est la vie. Shrugging, she returned to her reading.
The next sound from her couldn’t be described as a chuckle, but instead, a straight-out laugh. Remy didn’t even try to pretend she wasn’t cracking up as she looked up to find the same man smiling at her now. She ducked her head and decided to sit at one of the tables in the café. Still smiling, she said to herself, Damn, leave it to me to make a fool of myself in public.
“Hello,” said a voice with a remarkable Barry White-like resonance. “So, you enjoy Monsaire…he’s a trip, isn’t he?”
A few seconds ticked by before Remy, wrapped up in the synopsis, realized he had spoken to her. She looked up and the thought, Fine as damn wine, floated through her mind. Too bad he’s got that blue aura happening.
But aloud, she said, “Oh yeah, always. He cracks me up.” She laughed. Just thinking about the vampire made her grin.
The man raised one eyebrow and waved a hand at the chair across from her, in essence asking if he could sit. A smirk bubbled up, and it was all she could do to keep it from making an appearance. Um…um…um, could he be any smoother? Surely, he’s not trying to hit on me. Naw…he must just be one of those aurals who likes to talk to others. And since he obviously likes Monsaire as much as I do, I guess I’m it. So, she gave a half-cocked nod and a nonchalant wave toward the chair.
“I’m Jace, and you are?” he asked, taking the seat across from her.
“Remy.” She tapped the book’s front cover. “I really hope this one is as good as the others.”
“Yeah, it’s really a good book.” He leaned back in the chair and directed a smile her way, his hands resting on the table.
U-m-m…uh, he really needs to get a patent for that smile. With that thought, she couldn’t help smiling back.
“Can I get you something to eat…something to drink?” His chin-length locs swayed with his head’s movement as he turned to look at the menu board attached to the wall.
“No thanks, I’m cool. So you’ve already read the new book?”
“Yeah, a friend got me an advance copy. You sure you don’t want anything?”
“An advance copy? Wow!” Remy tilted her head, studying his face. Ohmigod, I think this is Jace Williams! How could I have missed that? I know I’m unobservant, but damn!
“You’re Jace Williams, right?” she asked, her voice cool and calm. And though inside, her excitement jumped up and down like a basketball, not one bounce slipped through.
“Uh-huh.” He averted his eyes, looking down at the table while his fingers tapped a beat on its surface.
“Aw man, I just love your books!” In spite of herself, Remy couldn’t contain her excitement, and a little of it rolled right into her voice.
He looked up at her and a smile tugged at the corners of his lips. “Really?”
“Oh yeah, I think they’re great!” Arrogance transformed her face as she became Versai the witch, the main character in his books. Her voice an octave lower, Remy uttered Versai’s signature line, “Hate me ’cause I’m me.”
Waves of laughter erupted from them both, growing to a state of near hysteria before they controlled themselves.
A couple of hours rolled by as they discussed books, sports, music, world events, and a myriad of other subjects, their similar tastes creating an air of familiarity. The remnants of the most recent batch of croissants and iced teas littered the table between them.
“So, do you work off-island?” Jace twisted one of his locs around his forefinger.
“Yeah, I’m a designer/seamstress at my shop, Urbane. It’s right over there, see?” she asked him, pointing through the plate glass storefront.
“Oh yeah…I see it. Have you worked in Charlotte long?”
“Um-huh. The shop’s been in my family forever.”
“What about on-island?” He lowered his voice as he asked about the island where they, as Auralites, lived.
“Yeah, every other Saturday morning, I volunteer at The Island Center, teaching disadvantaged children.” She popped the last bit of her croissant in her mouth. “Good Lord, these things are good! What about you?” she asked, sweeping each crumb into a napkin. Making a tight ball of the rectangular paper, she sat it on the table.
“Well, I do most of my writing on-island, but my brother and I own some property here. I’m actually off-island quite a bit promoting my books and stuff.” Jace leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “So…would you like to go out sometime?”
“With you?” Shocked, stupidity flew from her mouth before she could stop it.
Remy had never been confronted with this particular situation. No blue coven guy had ever asked her out. The distrust created by the past oppression of the purple by the blue was lessening, but not to the point where inter-coven dating was smiled on by either coven. Realizing her tendency towards bluntness, she was unsure how to phrase her inter-coven dating policy. Remy hesitated, not wanting to destroy the unexpected camaraderie with the Jace Williams. So, she began by saying, “Well, I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. You’re probably talking to somebody. I didn’t see a ring, so—”
“Huh? That’s not it—” Remy realized her faux pas as she watched relief flood his face. Aw, crap. I should have just let him think that was the reason.
“So, what is it?”
“Um…well,” she paused, frantically trying to think up some innocuous way of stating her position. “I’m not really into…um…inter-coven dating.”
Jace leaned against the back of his chair, his chin resting in the palm of his hand, one finger curled against the end of his mouth. “Really, why is that?”
Remy gave up her attempt at subtlety. “Well, I’m not actually a militant.” She smiled, still trying to soften the edge of her statement. “But, I’m very proud of my coven. So, going out with me might be problematic for a guy who’s not purple.”
“In what way?”
“You’re not gonna let this go, are you?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Okay then,” she continued, nodding. “There would probably be times when I’d say something that could be taken as offensive to a blue guy, such as yourself. But it would be the truth as I see it, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t bite my tongue when expressing my opinion.” She shrugged as she finished talking.
“And you shouldn’t have to. However, it sounds like you’re assuming your opinion would automatically differ from mine.”
Suddenly distracted, Remy heard Jace say, “So, do you think—” but she heard no more because at that exact moment, a purple guy entered the café area and grabbed every bit of her attention.
To the humans in the store, Remy and Jace were just an African American woman and man. But she could see that wasn’t the case with the purple guy. It was all too evident that to him, Remy was a purple Auralite and Jace wasn’t. The guy stared at the two of them, his face expressionless as he ambled to the counter.
Remy glanced at Jace, noticed his mouth still moved, though she had no idea what was being said. She threw a furtive look at the purple guy, now leaning against the counter, his head turned towards them. A frown began to form on the guy’s face and Remy thought, Oh no, I hope he’s not gonna try to start something. The guy stared, his frown deepening. Damn, I’m gonna have to get outta here so he won’t start no shit
Picking up on Remy’s sudden preoccupation, Jace turned, wondering why her attention was no longer with him. He noticed the guy, his aura and his _expression. Aw man, not this again.
Suddenly, Jace’s mind was awash with images of the times—too many to count—he and his lifelong friend, Darius, had been subject to this type of situation. At school, in the hallways, and especially on the playground, the scurrilous little rugrats wouldn’t leave them alone. The two of them—one blue, one purple—seemed to be viewed as some aberrant form of entertainment, even in their own neighborhood. It always started with the looks, then the name-calling, sometimes ending there, but often ending in flying fists, blackened eyes, and fat lips. However, the kids’ cruelty only served to strengthen their friendship.
Jace flexed his muscles, an unconscious gesture. I thought I was through with this kinda crap, but here goes.
“I’m sorry,” she said, having seen him flex, “but I gotta get going. I’ve got somewhere to be and I’m gonna be late if I don’t get a move on. It was nice meeting you, Jace. Bye.”
Without another word, she scurried from the bookstore to her nearby Charlotte dwelling. Those Auralites that worked or owned businesses among the humans kept homes off The Island, or “off-island” as they referred to it, with addresses and phone numbers that matched social security numbers, tax forms, etc. Keeping humans unaware of their existence was their number one priority.
Entering the comfortable abode, she checked her voicemail and her email. Nothing demanded her immediate attention. So, breathing a sigh of relief, Remy disappeared. Only a column of warm air remained where she had stood moments before.
While Remy checked her email, Jace appeared outside Delicious, an on-island restaurant, and immediately scanned the area for his friend. Seeing no one he recognized, he crossed the boardwalk and sat on a bench near the building.
He loved this place, not just for the food, but for its locale, too. Delicious sat in the middle of an area known as The Strand on The Island’s west coast. Dedicated to relaxation in its many forms, this area personified the Auralites’ sense of security when on The Island. This island was one where no human had ever set foot, one where no human would ever set foot as long as it was protected by its veil.
At one end of The Strand, one could rent water sports equipment. While at the other, one could enjoy the rides and games of The Blast, an amusement park. The Strand was home to many restaurants, cafes, and dessert bars. They stretched along the boardwalk, which ran the length of the coastline. Stairs, built at regular intervals, gave access to the ocean for those aurals who wanted to use them. Piers extended into the water, providing a clear view of swimming fish, colorful stingrays, or a leaping dolphin or two. Others could buy soda, ices, water toys, and such from the various vendors scattered about. Many chose to relax under the large festive umbrellas that shaded the tables and benches found along the piers.
Soul food smells wafted from the eatery, tickling Jace’s nose and making his mouth water. The sun, peeking through the palms as it began to retire for the evening, warmed his face.
Thoughts of Remy’s full lips danced through his head, giving rise to a smile as he relaxed, his long legs crossed at the ankles and stretched out in front of him. His reverie and the aforementioned smile were cut short when he felt the air warm and watched his boy, Darius, materialize.
Darius’s family had moved next door to Jace’s when the boys were both six. They had become fast friends then, and were still tight now, thirty-five years later. Many nights, Darius’s home had provided Jace needed refuge when he had found it impossible to stay in his own.
“What up, man?” Jace greeted him, a grin spreading across his face.
“It’s all ’bout you, boy,” Darius Dixon, encircled by his purple aura, responded. He was a tall, slim man, with dark brown eyes, long lashes, and cornrows that created an intricate pattern atop his head. Dressed in pale green, he’d tucked matching shades in his shirt pocket.
Supposedly, this meet was to discuss the upcoming announcement of their newly-created organization, but it was really all about the grub. The Powers to Purples Foundation, fondly called P-square, had been created to give scholarships to underpowered purple Auralites for intensive training in the use of their powers. In the not too recent Auralite history, the purple had been kept from fully developing their powers by the blue. Things were changing, and Jace and Darius were doing their bit to help. Jace handled the meet-and-greet and Darius, a Financial Planner, handled the cash.
“S-o-o-o, I met me a honey today,” Jace said after the food was eaten and the foundation business concluded.
Darius cocked his head, moving his brows upward while a slow smile made its way to his face. “’Bout time. I was about to give up on you, man. Tell me more,” he said, pushing through the restaurant’s door.
“Aw man, she was s-o-o sweet.” Using their term for a damn good-looking woman, Jace couldn’t contain his smile as they walked down the boardwalk adjacent to Delicious. “Her name’s Remy. She’s a designer/seamstress off-island and her shop, Urbane, is in Charlotte located in that shopping center at the corner of Fairview and Sharon. You know where that is, right?”
“Yeah. So, you say she’s sweet?”
“Uh-huh. We met in the bookstore right across from South Park. And she likes my books, man! We talked about all kinds of stuff. She’s intelligent and she likes sports and—”
“So, she’s sweet?”
“Oh, hell yeah! We got so much in common. She plays ‘Sim City 4’ and ‘The Sims,’ man. And she loves ‘24.’” Jace almost laughed. But he kept talking, telling Darius everything except what he knew his friend really wanted, which was Remy’s description. “It’s like she’s my soul mate or some shit. I think—”
“So, dammit, is she sweet?” Darius stopped, ending their stroll, and glared.
Jace cracked up, his laughter so infectious Darius’s scowl disappeared and he laughed with him.
“Okay, okay. She is, man. She’s short, about five-two or three with big pretty brown eyes and shoulder-length locs. She got the hourglass thing going on with a slammin’ booty. She had on some kinda blue outfit, man. It was like—” Jace tried to show Darius, moving his hands down his body to his knees as he continued, “I don’t know what the hell, but she was rocking it, man!”
“Y’all going out?”
Jace shook his head, grabbing a loc and twisting it around his index finger. “Nah, we were in the middle of an interesting conversation about that when this purple guy came in. She got all tense, sneaking looks at him like she thought I wasn’t gonna notice. She wasn’t paying no attention to me. I turned to check him out and he looked like he was gonna try and start something. And you know I was ready for his ass. Next thing I know, she got up and left. I mean, she was polite and shit when she left, but man, she was outta there.”
“Why she do that?” Darius’s eyes widened, but as comprehension dawned, they narrowed and he shook his head. “You trying to tell me she’s a purple woman?” he asked as they turned and walked down one of the piers.
“Yep, that’s exactly what I’m trying to tell you. And I ain’t trying to hear ’bout you not being down with the inter-coven dating thing, ’cause man, you know I don’t give a damn ’bout that. And I’m telling you, Darius, I think this woman might be worth whatever.”
Darius, the purple Auralite, and Jace, the blue one, had had hundreds of conversations on that very subject through the years. Jace thought the coven shouldn’t matter; it was about the man and woman involved. Darius agreed in theory, but was ambivalent about the reality. They both knew inter-coven couples. Some had made it work and some hadn’t.
“Works for you, works for me. Kinda sounds like it don’t work for her, though,” Darius said, reserving judgment until he met the woman, if things ever got that far.
“Uh-huh, I picked up on that.” Jace used a finger to tap the side of his head. “But I’ve been thinking, and I’m gonna—”
“Excuse me, but aren’t you Jace Williams?” This query came from a pretty woman neither man had seen approaching. Both had been leaning on the rail running down the side of the pier and both turned at the sound of her voice.
Jace smiled and nodded. “Yes.”
“I can’t believe this! I just happen to be reading your book! Would you autograph it for me?”
“Sure, do you have a pen?” he asked, and in the presence of a fan, his English became a little more formal.
“I got that and a whole lot more for you.” The woman took a step back, ogling him from top to bottom, her tongue slowly licking her lips.
He took the book and the pen she offered and scribbled his name. “Hope you enjoy the book.”
“I’d like to enjoy you, too.”
“Sorry, unavailable,” he said with a smile.
“Damn.” That was her last word on the subject as she turned and walked away, giving her ass an attention-getting shake.
Darius watched her sashaying down the boardwalk. “U-m-m, she’s sweet, man. Sure you don’t wanna hit that?”
Jace stared at that booty as the woman walked away. She swung it like a pendulum and it was almost hypnotizing in its intensity.
From her home in Charlotte, Remy auralated to the foyer of her on-island home. She rushed down the hallway, her feet tapping the hardwood floor, into her bedroom’s soft teal tones.
“I spent way too much time in that bookstore talking to Jace. What was I thinking? If I’m late for Kara’s first speech, she’ll kill me!”
As soon as she looked into her walk-in closet, she threw her hands in the air and stomped one foot, throwing a small hissy fit. “Oh damn, I forgot to stop by the cleaners! What to wear?” she sighed, hand on hip, eyes roaming frantically. “What the hell to wear?”
She rummaged through a multitude of dresses until her eyes lit upon the knee-length, sleeveless number she’d made last year. She decided the simple cranberry silk dress would do just fine.
The Jacuzzi started calling her name as soon as Remy stepped into the master bath, enticing her with the luxurious soak she’d envisioned when she’d left work early. She turned a deaf ear; a quick shower would have to suffice. Minutes later, dress, shoes, jewelry donned, and light make-up applied, she was ready to make her appearance.
The journalist, who would later write the anonymous tale entitled “The Beings Amongst Us,” lay in his bed, shadows from his flickering TV dancing around the darkened bedroom. His eyes moved frantically beneath his closed lids. In his somnolent state, he was amazed at and just a little frightened by the dream he was having.
His muscular body felt unbelievably light as, suddenly, it seemed he was pulled from his bed, from his house, and through the star-filled night. He was puzzled that the rushing wind didn’t freeze him or cause any difficulty breathing.
Bit by bit, the forward motion stopped and he found himself looking around at nothing. His heart did a stutter-step as he realized he was dropping like metal toward a magnet. As if his thoughts had been heard, his speed decreased to a less frightening rate, allowing curiosity to overwhelm fear. Straining, he peered below him.
He became aware of sound as an eerily-spoken narration seeped into his consciousness. The voice sounded like none he’d heard before. It seemed to come from no outside source, but to be inside his mind, his being. Abruptly, his vision cleared as though he had broken through some type of fog, a veil. He lost track of the narration, his mind staggered by the sights below him. The voice stopped, as if once again, reading his thoughts, his feelings.
He saw clearly the people below him, though his brain had trouble processing the information sent by its visual counterparts. His eyes closed for a moment, but the people looked the same upon their re-opening. His mind was a confusing jumble of thoughts, unable to make sense of the things he was seeing.
Each person seemed to have a colorful energy bursting through his or her skin, either blue or purple. Fighting to keep his equilibrium, he took a deep breath as a thought, something else odd about these people, skittered through his consciousness. The fingers of his mind reached for the thought, but it slid right through, back into his subconscious.
The narration began again, the voice oddly soothing. He relaxed, allowing the voice to calm him as he listened.
“The land you see below is called ‘The Island’ by the ones who live there. We are Auralites and the energy field that surrounds us is our aura.”
The journalist, his fear dampened and his curiosity heightened, asked, “Where did you come from? How did you get here?”
“Before we came here, we lived where you live. But now, we only work where you live. Not all of us, though. Some of us work on The Island.”
Questions, running amok in the man’s head, went unasked as the narrator continued.
“We moved to The Island in the early 1700’s because more and more humans were coming to the new land, the land you call North America. We were scared we would be discovered, entrapped, examined, and killed.”
Realizing there was a lull in the narration, the journalist collected his thoughts enough to ask, “Humans? You’re not human?”
“We weren’t scared we’d be discovered because of our auras, though. They are invisible to those who are not Auralites. We thought you might see us utilizing our powers or maybe you’d notice we didn’t age or get sick like you. Our biggest fear, though, came from our need to screen ourselves when we were in your presence. We could only do it for a short time because it took such intense energy, such a big use of our powers. And there were suddenly so many of you: roaming, shooting, riding horses. The dangers were everywhere and at that time, we had not made the medical advances we’ve made since. We did not know how to save ourselves from unexpected harm.”
When the voice stopped, the journalist was able to refocus on the Auralites below. What was it about them? His focus became more intense, the odd glimmer growing until it was a fully-formed thought. Each and every one of the Auralites was black, not one of them white. And they were all the same complexion, a rich, chocolate brown color.
His mind reeled from the information bombarding it. There were so many questions he needed to ask. Unheeded, one disengaged itself from the jumble in his head. “I don’t understand. If you can only be around us for a short time, how do you work with us today? Aren’t you still scared?”
“But today, our powers have increased and we have learned how to use them more efficiently. Being around you is no longer the energy drain it once was. But still, we have fear. So, we own our businesses and hire only Auralites. Our contact with you is minimal since you are only the customer. Although now, we can be with you undetected for hours, for weeks even. And a few of us choose to do that. Those are the ones who live among you as our undercover agents. They have infiltrated your institutions: your government, your businesses, your schools, your very lives. The information they send back to The Island about humans and human events is crucial.”
The questions flooding his head numbered in the hundreds. Though his previous question had been answered, the journalist had the feeling the narrator wasn’t responding to his queries but was telling the story in his own way. But that didn’t stop him from asking a few more questions. “Where are you from? Are you going to hurt us? What powers?”
As the words fell from his mouth, he awoke with a start. His voice resounded through his bedroom where the TV still cast its shadows. His adrenaline high, his breathing labored, his heart pounding, he sat up and reached for the glass of water on his nightstand. He took a huge gulp and then wiped the moisture from his forehead as he lay back on his pillow.
“Whew, that was quite a dream!” Feeling a slight crunch and hearing a light crackle, he reached behind his head. His eyes grew large as he saw the leaf fragment clutched in his hand. “What the hell?”
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