Authors: Jess Bowen
She couldn't think of anything that could be causing her mother such distress, other than her impending move and her birthday the next day, but her mom had said that it wasn't anything Phoebe would think of, so those couldn't be it, right?
Phoebe finished the last bite of her breakfast and took her plate to the sink. She washed it slowly, trying to find some hidden meaning behind her mother’s words, but she was mystified. She would just have to put it out of her mind for the time being. Her mother moved from the table and began straightening things here and there. Phoebe felt a wave of emotions muddled together from her mother as she moved through the room. Her mother got to a row of toddler pictures and stopped. The sadness crushed Phoebe with its weight.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” she asked. Phoebe almost choked on the air she forced out of her lungs.
Elizabeth turned quickly, her pleasant smile firmly fixed into place once again. “Nothing, my dear. You’re just getting so much older, and I know you’re leaving soon.” Her voice cracked at the last word, though her smile still remained while she absentmindedly rubbed her right arm where Phoebe knew a tattoo marked her. Phoebe had never understood the mark. It looked like an ordinary grizzly bear, lying on its side like it was sleeping, but there was also a ring tattooed around each of her mother’s wrists, something silly she said she’d done on a whim.
“You should probably get going; I know you like to get to the beach early,” Elizabeth said, never breaking her calm façade.
Phoebe watched her for a moment more. Her emotions were carefully reined in, and Phoebe couldn’t sense anything to cause alarm, so she agreed. “I’ll have my phone if you need anything,” she said, reminding herself to grab it off the charger. “I won’t be far.”
Her mother nodded silently, and Phoebe walked over to give her a hug. Her mother kissed her on the cheek again and sent her out of the kitchen. Phoebe couldn’t tell if her mom couldn’t speak, or just didn’t want to. She ran upstairs to get her cell phone and grab her bag that carried her wallet and notebook. She slung the bag over her shoulder and made her way back downstairs. Phoebe passed by the key rack—she wouldn’t need her car today as it was too nice out—and opened the front door.
“Love you, Mom!” she called before stepping out the door.
“Love you too, baby,” her mother called back.
It was only a fifteen-minute walk to the beach. In no time at all, Phoebe was sitting on a wooden lounge chair as she wrote in her journal and stared out at the activity on the beach. It was her favorite place to be. The sound of the waves was more soothing than any other sound in the world, save maybe the rain. She even trekked out here every day that she could during the many long, cold winter months.
She pulled out her journal to record her thoughts from that morning and the evening before. It was something she did every morning. She was almost obsessive in a way, wanting to document every moment of her life. Before getting started, she flipped back a few pages in her journal and read the entry from a few mornings earlier:
What does it mean to live forever? To be immortal can have several connotations. There are those who can live on through words, stories, and actions. They continually entertain us, inspire us, make us laugh and cry, perhaps even scare us, and, at times, contemplate the meaning of our own, seemingly insignificant lives. Yet how often are we asked to consider the possibility of an unending life? Maybe not one that continues because of the endurance of important or notable deeds or even inspiring words, but a life that simply never ends.
She looked up at the shouts of a group of boys nearby as they played with a Frisbee, and watched them. She didn’t really watch the whole group, just one boy in particular. Phoebe had seen him so many times at this beach that it was easy to pick him out from the others. He was a little over six feet tall, average build, shortly cropped brown hair, dark eyes, and a tanned complexion that told her he obviously spent a lot of time in the sun. Her skin wasn’t white, but it wasn’t that dark, either.
He was reasonably attractive, maybe even dateable material for someone else. But that wasn’t why she watched him. There was no boy that had ever caught her attention in the way this one did. She had been on dates many times, but she had never given any of those boys a second thought. They held no interest for her. Not to mention that after a date with her next door neighbor two years ago, she wasn't sure she ever wanted to be near another male again; she didn't want to think about that right now—or ever.
But this boy fascinated her. She could feel his every emotion almost as if it were her own, like they had some sort of connection. Phoebe felt protective of him, like she would have felt for a sibling if she had one.
Today his head was not in the game. He was unfocused and kept dropping passes. He was uneasy. Phoebe continued to watch the boy inconspicuously between scribbling lines in her journal. She watched the other boys tease him for being so out of it. Phoebe had a burning desire to talk to him. She’d had this desire for quite a long while, but for some reason she couldn’t justify it in her mind.
What was she going to say? Hey, I watch you a lot and I know everything you feel, and I was just wondering if you were okay with that. If that didn’t get her arrested, it would be a miracle.
She had so far been smart enough not to mention her special ability to any of her friends, because she was sure that would have caused a fair amount of gossip. Although, she wondered, if she was carrying a secret like this, how many others were as well? Could there be more people out there like her? What purpose did this gift have? She had to hope there was something to give it meaning.
Phoebe watched the boy for a while longer. His friends gave up on passing the Frisbee to him, and he stood off to the side. Her phone buzzed, and she hastened to answer it. She glanced at the caller ID.
“Hey, Kate,” she greeted as she flipped open the phone.
“Hey, you want to hang out around the shops today? I don’t really feel like anything else,” Kate replied.
The shops would be perfect since they were only a block away and Phoebe had promised her mother she wouldn’t go far. “Yeah, sure. You going to pick up Carmen on your way?” She, Kate, and Carmen had been friends since kindergarten.
“Yeah, I’ll grab her. Meet you in twenty!”
“Okay,” Phoebe said and snapped the phone shut. There was no need to ask her where to go; they always met at the same spot.
Phoebe finished writing her last thought in her journal and stuffed everything in her bag, then got up off the wooden chair and started toward the sidewalk. As she walked, something hit her calf.
She turned to see that the Frisbee had bounced off her leg and was now lying on the sand beside her feet. A quick glance as she turned revealed that the boy she’d been watching was headed in her direction to gather it up. With anxiety building, she thought quickly. Should she stay and talk to him? Or should she just walk away? Conflict played within her, and she wondered why this was such a big deal. It was just a person coming to retrieve a Frisbee.
Phoebe leaned down to pick up the Frisbee and heard his footsteps getting closer, so she turned and waited. Time seemed to move forward in slow motion as the boy jogged over to her. She noticed that his face was shaped much like hers with nearly the same hair color. His eyes were dark, though, a dark, earthy brown. He smiled as he got closer, and a wave of déjà vu hit her like a ton of bricks.
She knew him! There was no doubt about that. Yet, just as she had forgotten why her nineteenth birthday was so significant, she couldn’t remember how she knew this boy.
“Hey, sorry about that. Lousy aim,” the boy said as he arrived in front of her.
Phoebe felt a wave of embarrassment, but she couldn’t tell if it was his or hers. She felt she must have looked like an idiot as she stood there staring at him. “No problem. No harm done,” she replied and smiled.
Confusion. Phoebe felt it and saw it in the boy’s eyes as he stood directly in front of her. Then she noticed something else, something that completely diverted her attention from his face and emotions altogether. There, dangling around his neck, was a charm exactly like hers.
“Your necklace,” she gasped, pointing to it. “Where did you get it?”
He looked down as if he had forgotten he was wearing it. “My mother gave it to me several years ago. Why?” he asked innocently.
Phoebe’s brain was frozen in shock. “Because I have one exactly like it, and my mother gave me mine as well. She said it was a symbol of the power inside of me, but I never did figure out what that meant.”
She knew she was talking way too much; who cared about this seemingly ordinary piece of jewelry? She reached up and pulled her own necklace out. As it lifted free of her shirt, she saw…
, she thought,
it was just a glint from the sun. Charms don’t glow
The boy’s eyes narrowed, suddenly suspicious. “That’s exactly what
Phoebe realized she was leaning forward, toward him. She was on the edge of something clicking into place, something she was missing. She just needed the other piece of the puzzle and couldn’t find it. She felt his emotions—he was intrigued—but at this moment, she very much wanted to know his thoughts. Feeling impatience seep into her awareness, she glanced around him to see his friends calling out, waving him back to the game, in addition to catcalling and nodding in her direction. Boys could be so obtuse.
“You should probably get back to your game,” Phoebe finally said, although she hated to leave him. He was the missing piece to her puzzle. She just didn’t know what the right fit of the piece was.
If she could find the right question, the other pieces would fall into place, but she needed time to think about it. “What’s your name?” she asked. Maybe something as simple as a name would do it.
“Ethan Smith,” he replied, still staring at her charm, which Phoebe held aloft in her hand. “And yours?”
The name sounded familiar.
Ethan, Ethan, Ethan
…Dim memories seemed to appear, but they were so vague that she couldn’t get a hold of them.
“Phoebe Johnson. Will you be here tomorrow?” she asked, hoping she would have an answer by then.
“Yes.” His brow furrowed in concentration.
“Hopefully I’ll see you then.” She didn’t want to give him a definite “I will see you tomorrow.” Then he might have thought he had a crazy stalker on his hands, which probably wasn’t that far of a leap at that point.
Ethan took the Frisbee and started to jog toward his friends. Phoebe stood still for a few minutes longer before remembering she was supposed to meet Kate and Carmen. She put Ethan out of her head for now; she would have plenty of time to think about him later.
Phoebe walked back to her front door after the long day out. When Kate had said she didn’t feel like doing anything, that meant anything other than spending an outrageous amount of money on a new summer and fall wardrobe. Now that Phoebe was away from the three-way mirrors, her mind was already wandering back to Ethan. She tried to hold off until after dinner, but she couldn’t.
The necklace was the biggest puzzle piece. The charms were exactly the same. She had never before seen one anywhere that even resembled hers. That was one reason she liked it so much. The charm consisted of four strange symbols interlocked around a stone that changed colors. These colors shifted from silver, red, green, and blue.
She realized she had been standing at the door with her hand on the knob for almost five minutes when she felt a wave of curiosity pressing against her mind. She looked up and saw her neighbor peering over the hedge hesitantly. He was obviously wondering if she had lost the ability to move.
She waved at him and smiled before turning the knob, vowing to set aside her thoughts until after dinner. As soon as she walked in the house, the tension from her mother and father was enough to make her twitchy and nervous. Curious, she walked toward the living room, and the feeling intensified with every step. It made her skin crawl. She had reached the living room when she realized she didn’t smell any food cooking. Hadn’t her mom said they were having dinner? Phoebe’s father sat on the couch, examining the mantle on the other side of the room, while her mother methodically twisted her wedding band around her finger.
As they each realized Phoebe had returned home, the tension left the room and was replaced by oppressive sadness. Its weight pressed down on her, making her chest tighten. There was a small book bag at her father’s feet. The first thought that crossed Phoebe’s mind was divorce, but that was impossible. There weren’t two more happily married people anywhere. Phoebe wondered if she had missed a report of a war or something, which was the only reason she could think of that her father would leave. Her stomach clenched nervously, and her heartbeat quickened.
“Mom, Dad, what’s going on?” Phoebe asked. “Are you leaving or something, Dad?”
Her father didn’t turn to look at her. “No.” Phoebe’s relief flooded out the feelings of sadness for a few moments as her stomach unclenched. Then he continued. “You are.” Her heart flopped and then raced; blood rushed in her ears, and she felt like she had been punched in the stomach.
She frantically searched her mind for an explanation. Were they so angry with her for leaving in the fall that they were making her leave now? No. That didn’t even make any sense. Her mother and father had helped her fill out every college application meticulously, even ones that meant going across the country or even over to Europe.
“Please don’t kick me out. I’m sorry for whatever I did,” Phoebe pleaded desperately, scared, suddenly aware she wasn’t ready to leave them.
She didn’t know what she had done wrong, but she would fix it. Her father turned to look at her; his gaze alone held almost as much sadness as his actual emotions, and she understood why he had been looking away. It was heartbreaking.