Monday, August 06, 2007

Excerpt: Where Souls Collide

Where Souls Collide

by Stefanie Worth


May 9, 1990
St. Louis, Missouri

“Daddy’s dead!” Navena came running through the kitchen, back screen door slamming in her wake. “I saw it, Mama. I saw it.”

Then she fainted at her mother’s feet.

“Not my husband! Not today!” Audrey Ann Larimore spun toward the window above the sink.

Outside, the wind hissed. Silence pierced the air. There were no strains of “God Bless the Child” that always accompanied her husband’s work. No click-chop whirring from his manual push mower. Audrey Ann hopped gingerly over Navena’s sleeping body and ran toward the backyard.

Hurdling the porch, skipping down the stairs, sprinting across the freshly mowed grass, she screamed into the suffocating afternoon, stopping, exhausted, at the yard’s edge where the mower and her husband both lay still. She knelt beside him and prayed.

In a little while, she’d call her pastor and the sheriff. But, first, she had to deal with her daughter’s psychic sense, which had grown too powerful for an eighteen- year-old to manage. And she had to undo it now, before her husband’s body left Larimore Manor and before Navena awoke.

The air chilled her, despite its heat. Muggy breezes shoved the willow tree branches at the yard’s edge and tousled her shoulder-length brown hair. She ran one hand down the other sleeveless arm to smooth away sudden goose bumps and returned to the house.

Quick thinking accompanied deliberate steps as Audrey searched her ancestral legends for an answer. I should’ve known this was coming. Pity I can tell futures for everyone except my own family.

Desperation and sadness attempted to overtake her. Still, she continued her dogged trek, maneuvering around the pantry’s jars of fruit preserves, vegetables in bushels, canned milk, and bags of sugar and flour. She crossed the kitchen into a narrow hallway, and opened the seldom-used door that led to the attic.

There, she removed a favorite quilt from the guest bed and dug through her sewing box to find her good shears and leftover cloth from the first dress she’d made Navena. Then she turned her search to an antique hope chest. Inside, Audrey soon found a red satin box and a container of her daughter’s childhood keepsakes.

Gathering all her items, she made her way back to the kitchen, detouring into Navena’s room to pluck an old-fashioned rag doll from her bed pillows. “Come on, Vee.”

Dropping her finds on the kitchen table, Navena’s mother held on to the quilt, returning quickly to the willow tree and Navena’s father. She tenderly wrapped him in the handmade bedcover and ran back inside.

Afraid that time might undermine her efforts, she quickly carried Vee to the sink and held the heirloom up against the light of the kitchen window for one final look. Handcrafted by a slave ancestor generations before, the doll’s spotless white pinafore, curly yarn hair,
black button eyes, and cocoa-brown face represented the Larimore spirit—strong, smart, and sovereign. Each mother since Vee’s creation had lovingly and faithfully passed the doll to her own daughter. Doing so ensured continuity of their legacy.

“I wouldn’t break the chain other than to save my child.”

Without hesitation or remorse, Audrey Ann Larimore laid the doll on the kitchen counter. She placed the tip of the shears at the hem of the doll’s pinafore and cut quickly upward through her body, dividing it into slightly uneven halves so that the heart remained intact.

Yes, doing this would change her daughter. But Audrey had heard stories of Larimore women who’d lost their minds under the weight of their gifts. Not all futures are filled with joy, and tragedy takes it toll on some seers. No child should have to predict her own
father’s passing, she scolded herself. She would spare Navena the aftermath if she could.

“In time, when the moon calls, you will remember that you are one.” Taking a half in each hand, she moved toward the dining table and sat down.

She emptied Navena’s keepsakes onto the surface, spreading them out for better viewing. Then she opened the red satin box, removed a spool of thread, and wove one end through a large embroidery needle.

For the doll’s heart-bearing half, she rustled through the collectibles and selected items symbolic of her daughter’s abilities: a four-holed button resembling the doll’s own eyes, a dried ear of corn, a stray three of hearts playing card, and a page torn from Navena’s
Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. The Man in the Moon stared up at Audrey as if asking for a reprieve from his imminent sentence.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Mama whispered. “I can’t believe you’re eighteen. I swear it was just this morning God answered my prayers for a child.” She sighed and lifted a wrist to wipe one sentimental tear from her cheek.

Using a kitchen knife, she pierced the corn to create a small slit. Starting with the “moon,” she laid the “eye,” then “ear” and “hearts” atop it, and wove the items together
with the thread. Making sure the doll’s heart remained unharmed, she lifted Vee’s larger half and wove both ends of the thread through her hand, tied off the string, and started on the other body half.

Rustling through the keepsakes once more, she selected another playing card. This time it was the joker, dancing beneath the word “wild.”

Because in the right circumstances, anything is possible, Mama reassured the doll half and herself.

Lastly, she chose a bird feather crudely glued to a ballpoint pen. She smiled at Navena’s long ago attempt to make a quill-type writing instrument. “This should help in case you need to draw up a plan of your own.”

As with the other half, Navena’s mother used the thread to bind the pieces to each other and then to the doll’s hand. She then gathered the disjointed doll and skirted each half in Navena’s dress cloth.

Nearly finished, she glanced at her daughter, still in a faint on the floor, to be sure she had enough time. “I love you.”

One last rummage through the keepsakes turned up a bottle of red nail polish, thick from nonuse. Mama painted an “N” on the heartless doll half and a “V” on the other. It seemed unfair that the doll with the heart, “V,” also received the gifts—empathy, prophesy, sensory perception. However, true power required great heart. That left “N” with wit, wisdom, and a need to search for what she lacked inside.

Mama returned the assorted items to their respective containers, placing the “N” doll half among Navena’s keepsakes to make sure her life continued on its current path—minus the Larimore gifts.

“V” went into the red box. Mama tied it with a string and headed back to the attic. Navena’s gifts were safe here—locked away beyond the reach of her memory and use—until she was instructed to call on them once more.

“Eventually, Navena, you will be whole again and have all that is yours.”

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