Sunday, October 13, 2013

My addiction to glass

I have always had a fascination with glass bottles. New, old, used, pristine, it really doesn't matter. I am not a collector of a certain type of bottle but rather let the shape, texture, labeling speak to me. I have my favorites, hand blown greenish glass, most of which hail from Mexico. Then there are the solid, standard wine bottles that have that fun indentation in the bottom that reminds me of a cheat in a card game....taking some of the contents of the wine space and the consumer doesn't even notice. I love these bottles empty. It's like exposing their intent. And of course there are the antique bottles with or without labels that are made of what????? and held what?????? I am an addict.

It is my love of glass that lead me to working with the glass in my art. I have for many years been engrossed in mixed media endeavors. Combining elements that most folks would think at first glance would never go together in a piece is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever tried. Textures of hard, soft, scratchy, smooth, cold, warm are the essence of my heart's passion. Combining opposites or complimentary elements is a very calming endeavor for me.

And this is how I came to where I am today.

At the beginning of my addiction, I was a strong, able, cunning player in the game of life. The shards of glass that occasionally brushed my skin never even gave me a glimmer of what their very presence was to do to me, myself and I. While creating, I would take the occasional mishap as serendipitous to the piece on which I labored. Cleaning up the happy accident only meant I had more to play with for another try at the perfect juxtaposition of elements. And the blood that "happened"? I never gave it a second thought. It was just a byproduct of my art and my collection and my addiction.

But the glass changed me, to my very soul. Let me be specific as to the beginning of the end for me.

I had taken a side trip to one of the many so called "ghost towns" that litter the back roads of my area. My original intention was to get to an urban center where I could go to some thrift stores and look for glass but this particular road less traveled just called to me as I drove down the frontage road to the expressway. After only a few miles down this bumpy and dusty road, I was both thrilled and lulled by the adventure and the scenery. Huge cottonwoods, gnarled with age and drought, topped by wild yellow leaves waved a friendly hello from the red clay mesas as I poked down the winding dirt road to the small town of Forgotten. The wind had picked up and the tumbleweeds were playing a game of chicken with me as they rambled across the road at frequent intervals. I was so engrossed in the moment that when the road suddenly turned to the south and there in front of me was the main street of a very dead little town, I was shocked back into reality.

Old clapboard structures intermingled with tumbled down adobe buildings faced a main road that was only one and a half car widths wide at the widest. The town was sitting in a bowl created by the sandstone cliffs narrowing as it met the mountain stream. The stream which must have been the life source for this village in times past ran between the one row of buildings and the cliff face. Ancient trees grew on the bank and the whole scene looked like something out of a western movie. So much so, I could almost see buckboards lined up outside the general store along with horses and mules tied to the hitching post. I almost rubbed my eyes to clear the imagining from my head when I heard a man's voice talking to me.

"Howdy". The voice certainly was a startling jolt.

I said hi, in a faked casual voice as my heart raced and he seemed to be enjoying the fact he had just made me jump a foot in the air.

"Are you lost? We don't get many visitors out here."

I explained it was one of those follow the end of your nose adventures. He seemed to understand just exactly what I meant. I asked if there might be a restroom anywhere that I might use.

"Sure, come on down to the gas station. We have water, a bathroom but no gas. Hope you don't need gas. No one ever gets here for gas. Only the occasional brave heart like you or someone who has lost their way back to the highway." He turned and I followed him to the gas station.

After having used the facilities, which were rustic to say the least, I asked if there might be anywhere to look for shards of glass or pottery and explained that I was an artist and wanted to include some history in my next piece. He was very interested in helping me and offered to show me some bottles that he had found in and around the area through the years. Most of the glass had come from the pharmacy that had been down the street as well as some from what had been a pleasure house back in the day. The saloon had offered up some shards from out back of the building. And then he opened the door to the back room.

There in front of me was a dream. Crates, boxes, barrels and shelves of glass of every color and description imaginable. Whole bottles lined the shelves of what I could only guess were twenty, ceiling to floor, drool inducing hoards of wonderfulness. The crates, boxes and barrels were filled to the brim with broken shards. I had made it to heaven. I just knew it. I could almost feel the excitement oozing out of every pore of my being.

The man showed me his treasure trove and I was so deeply engrossed in looking I must have zoned out because suddenly I became acutely aware that he was just staring at me, staring at the glass. I apologized for my rudeness and asked if he might be willing to sell me any of his pieces.

"Oh hell no! Honey, I couldn't take your money for junk like this. If you do see something that you'd like just take it. It's yours."

You know that should have been music to my ears but instead I was so conflicted. If I had my way, I would have loaded up as much as my old car would hold but I didn't want to appear to be greedy and horrible so I kept my obsession to a bare minimum. And believe me when I say self restraint was more than difficult. I walked the shelving rows. Taking down bottles that were of colors that I had never seen. I only took a few. And one in particular just seemed to sing to me from a shelf that was right in front of a window. It must have been the light coming through the soft pink aged glass that made me want it so very badly. The bottle had no top but by its shape, it most certainly had been a perfume bottle. It was just lovely, so beguiling, so entrancing.

As the man walked me to my car, carrying a crate filled with my haul, he thanked me for coming to Forgotten and giving him an opportunity to visit with someone. I thanked him for his generosity and I was on my way.

Little did I know that the good he had done was the worst I would ever endure.

I became obsessed with the bottles and shards I had gotten in Forgotten. It was all I thought about. I began working in at a frenzied pace on one project after another. Each and every time I broke the glass, I bled and cursed myself for my clumsiness. None of the pieces were coming together. It seemed as if the harder I tried to put something together the more of a mess I made and the more shards of my beloved glass I had in my fingers. The more blood I spilled the more frantic I was to complete a piece.

I had used all the bottles except for the perfume bottle. It was one of those things that most artist do, put back the best for later. Only now it wasn't the best, but the only and I frantically began to pull the pieces of cloth, wood, lace, buttons, paint, dye and the precious pink bottle to my workbench for a dry placement of my design. I carefully lifted the bottle to place it into the piece when it exploded in my hands.

Honestly, that is the last thing I remember until I woke up in a hospital. I was under such heavy sedation, I couldn't move and I kept asking the nurses what had happened but they didn't answer me. They acted as if they couldn't hear me. They acted as if I was mute.

I drifted back into a deep sleep.

The next thing I remember is looking into the face of the man at the gas station in Forgotten. He was rubbing a cloth over my forehead and eyes. "Ya see honey, I couldn't have taken your money for this old junk. But I knew you'd be coming back to us. You all always do. Right?" And the others in the bottles all agreed.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bad Alice and how she got her name...............

It not really that hard to figure out why a young girl with a granny who was beloved by millions and known all around the globe for her trip down the rabbit hole into Wonderland would want to be different than her Granny or Alice the Second, her mother. Alicia was third generation Wonderland and proud of it but it also weighed her down.

Both of the older woman were pillars of propriety and appropriateness. They also were super examples of "good Alice's". That in and of itself would explain the juxtapositional take on life for a sweet girl named Alicia.

When she was but 7 she heard someone explaining that Bad actually means Good "really cool and happening" and that's when she began calling herself Bad Alice. Because, she thought she was cool and certainly wanted to grow up to be a trend setter and happening kinda girl. And she also wished to herself that her Mom Alice II had seen fit to name her Alice III. Alicia would have loved that.

But as time and adolescence came upon her, the idea of Alicia calling herself Bad Alice gave her some self doubt, trust issues and a tussle or two with her conscience. It was at this time that the stories that Granny Alice and Alice II talks of the real adventure to Wonderland and the terribleness, began to make sense to Alicia. Something life changing had happened when Granny Alice and Alice II had been called back to Wonderland to see what the Red Queen was up to and to make a video diary of all they saw. Unfortunately, they had just barely made it back to the Real World, but had to leave the video diary behind.  They were always looking for burrow mail from one or another of their friends back in Wonderland. Perhaps looking for the chance to get back to Wonderland and retrieve the film canisters.

It was those talks of what could have been and what should be spurred this young do-gooder to want to see for herself how she could make a difference in the case of the Red Queen's plague on Wonderland.

Since she was old enough to go to the burrow to check for an envelope, a sign, something, Bad Alice had had that as one of her daily chores and today was no different. She took the "long cut" down by the stream and sat on the low branch of the willow tree and stuck her toe in the water swishing her imagination into gear with every dip into the cool calm water. She dreamed of what Wonderland must have been like, way back when Granny Alice had met the Mad Hatter, had tea with The Dormouse, The White Rabbit and got to see the Cheshire cat.

Bad Alice was in mid swish when she saw a very young and very sweet white rabbit wearing a checkered vest lope by her. It took her a moment to realize that this was the very day that she and Granny and her Mom had been waiting for.......she jumped into the water, up the bank and rushed to the burrow to see if there was in fact a note from.....who?

And there it was. All polka dotty and was addressed to The Alice's. Along with the note was a package which included a map of Wonderland, directions to a meeting place and a picture of the person that the one of the Alice's was to meet.

Bad Alice's feet flew down the path to the house. She burst into the front room and with much less decorum than usual announced in a very excited voice that the Wonderland letter had finally come.

Now was the chance Bad Alice was waiting be asked by the two woman she admired in the whole of the world to go back to Wonderland and get the video diary and expose the Red Queen's wrong doing. And Granny Alice and Alice the II did just that.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Splendor House

This story was penned for Magaly Guerrero's Witches in Fiction - to the bone April 2013

Chapter 1

There was a mass of  cups, plates, glasses, cigarette butts and beer bottles everywhere you looked in the crowded parlor of the old Victorian style parlor of the boarding house run by Ms. Eleanor Firth. Too many worn out overstuffed chairs, dying houseplants and many too many stains and burns were the result of the neglect on a daily basis in this run down brownstone, and last night's blow out multiplied the wear and tear by 300%.

Penny Robel woke to the sunlight streaming into her 2nd floor flat and sat up slowly. Had last night really happened?. For that matter what exactly had she brought into her bedroom this time? By the look of her room, she knew the answer. She had lapsed into another one of her drunken sex driven dives into the very core of her insatiable lust. She felt his ultra hairy leg before she even turned to look at what or who was still in her bed.

She peeled herself from the soiled sheets and slipped her feet out onto the cold wooden floor, made her way to the bathroom trying not to wake whatever his name was.

As she closed the squeaky door and heard the latch shut she felt the same rush of disgust and fear flow through her body and down her legs. "What the hell had she done this time?" And what would be the payment for this little burst of sexual playtime. Last time she had awakened like this with a stranger, it took 31 stitches and a lot of explaining to Ms. Firth about the shambles that were left in Penny's room.

She wasn't just a sex junkie, she was a blackout drunk and the combination of those two things usually left a mark and another mea culpa if not payment for damages. Missionary position moan and groan sex with the obligatory sigh were not her forte. She was a freak and a mean ass drunk. She loved sex and the rougher the better.

She had to pay for medical bills for the last guy she "lured" home. They had enjoyed each other with three stops on the way home before they hit the front door to the brownstone. He hadn't expected for her to bite quite as hard or as viciously as she did. But what he really hadn't expected was that she would not only throw out his back, but almost wrench his hips out of the socket. And for that little romp, she was still making payment to the doctor.

And now there was the matter of whoever he was in her bed in the next room. She wondered what had transpired the night before. Her pounding head gave her no idea. Her still aching crotch did however.

She took a shower, put on her bathrobe and returned to the scene of the crime.

To her amazement, she was alone. Some of the overturned furniture was right side up and there was a hand written note on her dresser.

She picked up the paper and in terrible handwriting it read, "oh my gawd, you are amazing. As soon as I recover, I'll call you."

That was it. No name. She hadn't looked at his face. She had not a clue who had been in her bed last night. She only knew he had obviously enjoyed himself.

And like so many times before, she set herself straight to cleaning up the mess she had made, got dressed, and went downstairs for breakfast or whatever meal the rest of the boarding house was partaking in. She heard the dishes rattling and smelled something good to eat wafting up the staircase as she descended.

Just as she came to the main floor landing, she was met with the sight of the mess that sprawled out before her in the parlor and then Penny woke up. Only this time she wasn't where she had awakened in her dream.

Chapter 2                                                          
Penny slowly opened her eyes, almost afraid to look around the room. This was the 4th time this week she had dreamed about these wild sexual, disjointed and disturbing things. And she was ever so glad to realize that she was still in her own safe little suburban house, alone. Each time the dreams became more real, more vivid, more intense and more depraved.

She might have been able to shirk off the last three, but she had a name and location now and after work today she would investigate and see what she could find out about this Dr. Firth and an urban brownstone boarding house. She hoped there would be a link to something and that she could do something to make these dreams depart.

Penny had never been what you would call afraid of sexual play but these dreams didn't have the playful, stuck on a deserted island with Johnny Depp or swept off her feet by Channing Tatum kind of feel. This was down and dirty, almost hurtful and hate filled sex. She never saw a face only the intense deep blue eyes of whoever or whatever she was having sex with. And she had never been involved with that kind of sex or for that matter had any interest in what, she felt was raw, brutal sex. This was unsettling and seemed more real that the sunlight that came into her kitchen window as she stood at the sink and rehashed last night's dream of debauchery in her mind. And what came to mind was those eyes. Not really human looking but not any other beast she had ever seen in real life. She shivered.

She was sure she needed to make a doctor's appointment and perhaps call her former therapist and see if she could make an appointment with her as well. There had to be some organic or some latent memory that was making her feel this way and dream of things she didn't have a clue about. And she must sit down at her computer and look into Dr. Firth whoever that was or if it was a real person. But for now Penny pushed these thoughts to the back of her mind, she had to get ready for another typical day at the cafe.

She and her best friend from college had opened a small but elegant cafe in the downtown area of their hometown after graduation. Gosh that seemed like ages ago. Well, you could say that 12 years was ages. In that time Penny had lost one religion, found a spiritual path, gotten married, divorced, moved 5 times, gotten a cat, lost her parents, and moved to the suburbs to distance herself from work. Yes, 12 years could be called ages.

She and Megan, her business partner and best friend had lived above the cafe briefly when they first opened the cafe but both had found partners of sorts and moved out leaving the space just as they had found it...a mess. Old crates that had never been unpacked from the former owner of the space were still stacked in the back room of the upstairs apartment number 3. The brick walls and original wood plank floor showed signs of the 150 year old history that it held. It was a crappy looking place now but when they had lived there, it had been at least in their minds, truly shabby and chic. Both she and Megan had thought about renting out the spaces after awhile but they had so much personal junk and stuff stored in number 3 that neither of them put the thought into action. Besides, they were also using numbers 1 & 2 for the storage of dry goods from the cafe, and the items left by the owner. Thought had never come to action.

But today, the cafe was closed as it was every Monday and Penny and  Megan had agreed that today was the dreaded start to clean out the mess day. Neither of them were "all in" on this task but they needed to address this mess sooner not later.

After all, it was their building and they could and should take advantage of this opportunity.

Chapter 3
Their building, that always had a strange sound to it. 

Splendor House was the name recessed in the concrete plague that was part of the keystone brickwork over the entry door. The girls had never even contemplated another name for their cafe. It just seemed to fit the whole lovely old space. They jumped into making it theirs. After some digging about in old directories at the city offices and the library as to the name, they found that Splendor House had in fact, had many other incarnations. At first, as a home to a well to do family in the mid 19th century. Then it had been a mercantile store, a doctor's office, a boarding house and then the man from whom they rented had used the whole building as a warehouse for his import export business.

Megan and Penny felt like it was meant to be. Downtown was on the rise again and they loved the area. Sure it was a little off the beaten track but they were enthusiastic and knew the area having grown up not far from here. They had always loved to cook, entertain and yearned for a way to put their degrees in marketing and interior design to work. A chic, happening cafe seemed to both of them to fit the bill. And so Splendor House Cafe had been born.

When the owner of the building had come to them 10 years ago and asked if they would like to buy the building, the two were thrilled. Especially since he was willing to sell it so far under market value. They had asked him if he wanted any of the things stored in the loft area or in the basement but he had declined saying he really didn't have the time or the inclination to sift through old memories. He had been an importer of goods from all over the world and had lost interest in this building long ago.

So the girls had scoured the basement for any and all valuable items and made enough from the sale of the antique furniture and found treasures to keep them solvent through the next year or so. By then the cafe had hit its stride as one of the downtown hot spots for breakfast and lunch.

They had tried to do dinner dining once a week and called it Date Night at Splendor House, but after months of having to eat the special of the night for days on end, they gave up their idea of dinner at the cafe. It was difficult to get customers for dinner when most went back into the suburbs after work. But the steady morning and noon trade had afforded them a good living and a regular customer base that made Spendor House a intricate part of the downtown scene.

Just as well that the dinner thing hadn't worked out. Neither of the girls really liked the feeling of the old building after dark. They attributed that to being country girls and not savvy in the way of the people that wandered downtown after dark. But the others who worked for them let them know it wasn't outside of the building that was the problem but inside the building. They had even had wait staff quit because they said they saw ghosts on the stairs to the basement and in the kitchen area. Customers remarked about sightings in the hallway outside the bathrooms. One of their favorite cooks had had a so called encounter with a ghost and even needed some medical attention. Megan shared that she thought the cook had been at the cooking sherry and that is how he had gotten injured. Neither of them had ever felt anything during the day and personally brushed it off to urban legends.

But because of the gossip and at the urging of staff and friends, they had invited a Ghost Hunter to come into the building to do an investigation into the paranormal activities. They mostly did that for the publicity although his report was a little unsettling. He said there were several cold spots near the staircase and that he wasn't even going to go any further than the open area in the upstairs because he just didn't feel like he could handle it. The poor man left with a glazed look on his face.

Word of the investigation's findings got them on the haunted tour of the downtown area and increased their business tremendously. So, for the two, it was a win-win situation. Somewhere inside Penny's heart she knew she should have acted upon the Ghost Hunters findings but she also felt incapable of doing so. Many of the girls friends insisted on doing more about the haunting but neither of the girls would.

Besides, after the investigator left, the sightings seemed to subside. The only other comments were made by the owner of the building just to the rear of their property. He asked why they always had the light on all night in the upstairs of the building. He thought maybe they had left it on and wanted to let them know because of the added cost they might incur from forgetting to turn off the light. They had thanked him, check the lights every night before leaving and he still insisted that the lights were on but it was their problem not his.

The most Penny ever did about the "ghost" problems was to buy an evil eye charm at a shop down the street and put it up at the entrance to Splendor House Cafe. She was not committed to all that witchy stuff that some of the others in her Tuesday drumming group ascribed to. She laughed a little when she thought of what they might want to do if she had asked them for help with the ghost situation.

Chapter 4
So Penny met Megan in the cafe around 9:30 am. They had moved up to the apartments and begun the "look see". They were both overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that they encountered in the 3 apartments of the upstairs space of the building.
Megan begged off the process about 1:45 pm to join her husband and kids for a late lunch at the park. Penny continued poking around the space and getting an idea of the amount of real work that it would take to get this space into usable real estate for them.

Even one rental apartment in this area could easily pay their entire mortgage on the building and since Megan was expecting another baby and thinking of buying another house and Penny wanted to redecorate the cafe, they were getting serious about the possibilities of the upstairs area.

Penny finally got into the back apartment, number 1 around 3:00 pm and was amazed at the number of boxes, crates, bins and even some steamer trunks. She had forgotten all about these items. She wondered out loud even, why she and Megan had never poked around in here or ever had an interest in opening  the crates. Certainly, like the basement finds, there could be some valuable items to sell or use.

As a matter of fact, these trunks could be reused in the cafe in the new Parisian theme she had in mind. And the crates, oh with some well chosen antique looking items she could complement the exposed brick walls of the cafes bar area. So with that in mind she started looking for whatever wonderful items there were to be had.

Penny pushed her way into the farthest corner and used her handy dandy look alike Swiss army knife to pry open the first wooden crate that appeared to be the easiest to get to. Nothing really interesting in the top layer. Penny found an oriental vase and lots of excelsior, which gave her the willies. Mice liked to snuggle into the straw looking fluff and Penny wasn't exactly a fan of rodents. The thought of a mouse running up her arm or leg made her shiver.

She was about to put the lid back on the crate when she noticed the tip of a parcel wrapped in leather in the bottom of the musty smelling crate. Upon careful examination, Penny found it was soft leather and tied up with red string. It was so light that when she picked it up, it felt as though it would fly. The feel of the parcel was almost exhilarating to her. There really wasn't enough room to take a good look back here in the shadows, so she tucked it into her jacket pocket, replaced the lid and made her way to the front room of the flat.

When she reached the top of the stairs, she felt slightly dizzy as though she were a little tipsy. It must be that she was more tired than she thought or maybe it was the dust in the room. But whatever the reason she made a decision, rather than stay upstairs, she went down into the closed cafe to make herself some tea. While the tea was brewing, Penny sat down in the booth closest to the back door.

She was shocked back into the present when she realized it had grown dark outside, and the tea had gone cold. Realizing that she must have blacked out again, she found her purse behind the counter, got out her cell phone and called Megan to let her know how awful she was feeling. After speaking to her friend she sat back down. And the next thing she remembered was Megan touching the back of her neck and waking her. She also realized that she wasn't as she had been when she sat down. Her shirt was unbuttoned as were her jeans and she had that ache in her nether region as though she had had sex and had a vision of those eyes again.

When Megan dropped Penny off at her house around 6:00 pm, they exchanged hugs but no more details of the upstairs or the aftermath downstairs. Penny chose not to worry her friend until she could get things straight in her mind. Penny thanked Megan's husband for driving her car home. They all agreed that there would be no more solo excavation of the upstairs and made their plan to clean out the upstairs of their building in a week or so. They also agreed that Penny needed to keep her appointments with the doctor and therapist in the week to come because Megan was very concerned about the way Jenny looked.
After promising that she would do so, Penny went into her house and locked the door securely behind her.

Chapter 5
As Penny closed and locked the door she once again felt crazy and more than a little out of control. What was happening to her? How could she feel this way when she knew damn well she had locked the doors to the cafe after Megan had left for lunch with her family. No way anyone got in the building. And yet.

Had she taken her clothes off in the cafe? Had someone been there all along?

She ran a tub of hot water and took off her clothes, stared hard into her bathroom mirror and saw the bruises on her hip bones and breasts. She had bite marks on her body. And her body hurt as though had been thrown around like a rag doll. Her panties were missing. And she was afraid she had been molested, but how?

She took a long time in the bath trying to wash away the ugly that she felt.

Then she remembered the name Firth and the boarding house. Somehow she felt stronger as she dried off, dressed and made her way to the computer in the living room. Penny spent the next few hours searching for anything she could find on the name Firth and who that was.

She found two listings for Firth in her town. The first was a physician and the other the owner of a boarding house and seamstress shop. Penny found out that a Dr. Firth had been a "ladies" doctor in the early 20th century and had been run out of town when it was discovered that he was experimenting on his patients with unnatural substances. None of the woman made complaints, it was their husbands that had brought the problem to the attention of the authorities. The women patients seemed to be sex fiends after their treatments with Dr. Firth. It later came out that he had been "fiddling" with his patients and whetting their appetites for more than their husbands were used to giving. The woman also had new appetites that were unlady like and considered obscene.

Many of those woman committed suicide because of the disgrace brought upon them and their families. But it was believed that just as many had been murdered by their husbands. The rest had moved away from the disgusting incident. The whole community had been affected by the horrors of Dr. Firths debauchery. When the men of the town had gone to the clinic to run the offending physician out of town, they found nothing of Dr. Firth there. They all assumed he had left town in fear for his life.

When Penny read the address of the clinic she didn't want to believe it. The address was that of Splendor House Cafe.

She couldn't call Megan yet. What would she say? She had to talk to someone though. So she decided to call Mela. She had also grown up with Megan and Penny, was a good friend and ally.

Mela was at Penny's front door in 10 minutes. The two of them sat at the breakfast room table for the next 3 hours. Penny just let all of it out and didn't edit a word. She felt the relief of communicating this hellacious burden with another being. She felt the anger at having been molested and the fear of it happening again. Her fear of insanity and second guessing herself. And all she had learned about her building and a former residents. She shared all this and then was quiet.

All Mela could do was hold Penny's hand and listen at first. Then she asked questions and pondered how this puzzle fit together. Mela reminded Penny that there was another group of friends that most certainly would have an idea of how to look at this situation. Some of the members of their drumming group were a loosely woven coven of sorts. All solitary practitioners of the craft but each with a mind and heart to help her with what seemed to Mela to be a possession of sorts. Penny at first was very hesitant to have anyone else know that there was anything wrong because of how it might impact her business and how it might ....  And you mean make things better? questioned Mela.

Again the silence was all they shared. Mela promised that she would not divulge any of the details but did insist that these friends could at least help protect Penny from whatever it was that had abused her. To this Penny agreed instantly. This would need to be achieved by having access to the cafe so that they might clear the space and add their protections to the building.

Penny couldn't face going back there just now but told Mela to get the keys to the cafe from the pocket of her jacket which was on the hook behind the front door. But just as Mela got up to retrieve the key, Penny remembered she had left the keys on the counter and got them herself. Mela told her to hold tight and she would call everyone and set up a meeting for early in the morning. She would return the keys as soon as she was finished at the cafe and that Penny should rest. Before she left Mela smudged the house and Penny and sealed the doors against any outside forces. She also drew a protection rune on Penny's forehead, hugged her and left around.

Penny couldn't close her eyes to sleep so she sat and read until the morning light streamed through the window of her kitchen. She was startled when the phone rang and answered on the first ring.

Mela assured her that all that could be done had been done and that she had already left the keys in the mailbox. Penny asked how in the world Mela could have convinced those woman to meet her so early. Mela laughed and said that they had been meeting most mornings at 5:00 am for meditation and a run anyway and that this was not a problem for any of them. The group of friends were happy to help and would continue to send petitions of protection and healing for her. Penny was thankful and a little spark of relief washed over her.

Chapter 6
It had been exactly two weeks to the day of the attack at Splendor House. All had been quiet in Penny's world and she hadn't had any more terrible dreams.

Megan had insisted that Penny take the time off and just chill. Penny had gone to see her doctor and the doctor had declared her right as rain with the exception of being slightly anemic. And she had cancelled her appointment with her therapist. She still wasn't ready to go there and discuss whatever it was that had happened. Because in truth, she still didn't have a handle on what had happened. 

Penny still checked in with Mela and gave her updates as to her mood and it was nice to have someone to confide in that didn't think you were crazy. Mela was with Penny and she knew it. It's not that didn't trust Megan, of course she did, but Penny remembered how Megan had reacted to the cook's encounter with whatever it was when the ghost researcher had come to Splendor House. Megan had thought it was all on the cook, not a possibility. She'd wait to discuss the incident with Megan until the right time.

Megan had made arrangements for a work crew to join them in the cleaning out of the upstairs of the building and today was the day. If they found things to sell they would store them in the basement until later in the spring. They were hoping that they would score again like they had with the contents of the basement and have enough money to fix up the upstairs and rent out at least two of the three apartments. And today was the day.

The weather had turned cold again after a couple of weeks of lovely mild weather and so as she prepared to leave her house for the only the second time in two weeks, Penny slipped on her jacket. Penny felt the something in her pocket and then remembered the parcel that she had found in the upstairs and put into her pocket. It had been in that pocket since that day she had had to call Megan to come and get her at the cafe. Only now the package seemed heavier than before. She pulled the leather bound package out and took off the string which almost disintegrated in her hands. Inside the package was a mask, or at least that is what she thought it was. The mask was made of bone of some sort, beads, glass and had fiber around the edges. It looked to be very old and yet it wasn't discolored or unkempt but had a sense of age to it. There was something playful about it. Penny even giggled at seeing and touching it. It looked very much like a dragons head or perhaps a tribal mask. She took out her phone, snapped a picture and put the contents of the parcel on the entry table. She wanted to show it to Megan and would find a place for it when she got back home.

And off she drove to the cafe and on to the dreaded clean up ahead.

But that was no to be.

Penny's car was found outside of a strip club in the next town about 30 miles away. Megan had been calling the police and everyone else she could think of when Penny didn't show up at the cafe for two days.

Megan had gone to Penny's house, looked through the windows. Penny's cat greeted her with a very hearty welcome and then disappeared back into the house through the cat door. When Megan didn't follow the cat inside, the cat came back out complaining and letting her know that she was hungry. Poor kitty. Megan scooped her up and took her home with her.

It was only by chance that one of the regulars of Splendor House, who worked downtown but lived in the neighboring bedroom community saw Penny's little orange car parked outside the sleazy strip joint. By the time anyone knew where she had been, she wasn't anywhere to be found. Megan called the police.

According to the investigating detective, yes, the bartender remembered a very pretty red headed woman who had wandered in the club two days ago. She had just sat there alone for about an hour. Then some really old man joined her and they left about the same time. But as to where she had gone, he didn't have a clue. But he was sure she had left with the old guy. And when the bouncer was questioned, he too confirmed the same story and added that the old guy had a car and driver. The license plate was from out of state and he was sure that the car was a rental limo.

So on to the limo rental the police had gone. Nothing much there, the name on the contract turned out to be a dead end but they had his picture on the surveillance tape. They ran the photo but he wasn't wanted or on any known terrorist list so, it came to nothing. Just another girl missing.

Megan and her husband just couldn't sit by and do nothing after they got the limited information that the police had given them and decided to follow up at the strip club and the limo rental themselves. They got nowhere at either place.

Megan also had a feeling that there might be a clue in Penny's house. The police had already gone in but found nothing out of the ordinary, but then they didn't know Penny personally. So Megan and her husband went into Penny's house looking for something, anything that might lead them to their friend.

On the hall table was a funny looking mask that Megan had never seen before, very unlike Penny's taste in decor and next to it was a sliver of paper torn from Jenny's daytimer with the name of the former owner of their building. Megan hadn't even thought of this man in all these years. She contacted the police with his name and they told her they had already investigated that lead but that the man was deceased, had been for 50 years.

The detective did say that they had a photo of the man that had rented the limo but they had no leads on his identity. The detective would sent the photo to her phone and she was to call if she recognized the man.

Megan and her husband were thorough in their search of the house, nothing was found out of the ordinary. Nothing except the strange little mask. Megan wondered where it had come from and why Mr. Rico Maravilla's  name was there too.

She didn't have to wait too long. The photo sent to her by the police was that of her former landlord, the man the police said was dead. And according to their records had been for 30 something years before he rented them the building.

Chapter 7
Are you alright my dear, asked Mr. Maravilla with great concern in his voice? Penny replied in the affirmative by shaking her head. She was so cotton mouthed that she couldn't reply verbally. And he tenderly added he hoped she was. My goodness you've been through so much in the past few weeks.  Be assured I am only here to help you.

Then Penny remembered what had brought her to this moment.  She had gotten Mr. Maravilla's name from the deed to the building. Then as though by decree, she just knew what to do. Penny drove until she knew to pull in to the parking front of the bar and strip club on Route 27 and waited.

While she waited, she called Mela. They had talked every day about this time and she didn't want Mela to worry. They talked for only a couple of minutes and no details of where she was, were given. Penny fingered the vial of dragons blood Mela had given her as they spoke. She tried to call Megan but decided not to leave a message. She'd try again in a little while.

And shortly after closing her phone Penny got out of the car, went into the strip club, sat in the booth at the back of the stage and waited. She wasn't sure what she was waiting for, but she was sure she had the correct time, place and heart to face this. She was more than ready this time.

In through the front door came a very handsome man in his early 40's, graying temples, dark complexion with chiseled features and a rugged good looking smile. He walked right up to her and seated himself very close to her and whispered in her ear, I knew that you would come back to me.

Penny recognized the face but it couldn't be. This surely must be her old landlord's son for he most certainly looked like Mr. Maravilla, only this man had the most amazing blue eyes. And yes, it was those haunting blue eyes. Just as the younger man began to whisper into her ear and stir something primal in her, she felt a hand on her shoulder from the opposite direction.  The dizziness ensued and she was once again swept away from the reality of the moment. She did feel herself walking towards the door and getting into a dark car. But that was all there was in her memory until this very moment as the older Rico Maravilla spoke his words of concern.

I have something I must share with you my dear. What I have to explain will answer all of your concerns.

They were sitting in what looked like the downstairs of the building that housed her cafe. Only this was furnished with stunning antique furniture and the styling indicated a bygone era. This was obviously a home. There were trinkets and furnishings  that were not American made but rather from foreign and exotic locales. There was a comfort in the arrangement of these trinkets and fabrics and masks on the wall. An ease that only comes with a polished appreciation of beautiful things.

Oh my goodness she thought, there's the funny dragon mask there among the others on the wall.

Penny turned to the staircase that lead upstairs to the sound of screams and muffled cries. She couldn't move but only reacted to seeing the younger Mr. Maravilla running down the stairs and out of the house.

Soon the room transformed to a wake scene. The casket was occupied by a pretty young girl who obviously had had injuries to her face and looked as though her throat had been slit. Then Penny looked back towards the stairs and the older Mr. Maravilla and a lovely older woman were coming down the stairs dressed in black and both were in tears.

When the couple reached the bottom of the stairs, Mr. Maravilla left his female companion and glided up to Penny, sat down next to her and told her the very sad and depraved tale of his family's shame. How Zailo, his son an only child had raped and murdered his own cousin that was staying with the family. How the shame would be on his family forever. How his wife had committed suicide because of the disgrace only two days after the scene that they now viewed and how he, in despair found his son, killed him, and then himself died only a few months later from grief and shame. This home, Penny's building, had all of the energy of the good and the bad of his family. It had never left.

They had built this home after arriving in America from Spain and named it Slendor House. He just could never let go of this place, none of his family could and had been here all this long time after death. Each time he had someone new come into the building to live or do business, the ghost and spirit of his horrible son had caused the downfall of said residents or owners. He had such high hopes for Megan and Penny but he also had fear.

He and his wife had for many lifetimes tried to protect the beings who lived or worked at Splendor House, but his son's depravity always found a foothold.

When he and his wife realized that his son was coming to Penny's dreams, his wife's spirit had entered the dragon mask so that when Penny found it, she would have the insight to ask for help from a bruja like his wife. But it was Mela and her group of friends who garnered his wife's help to Penny rid herself of the evil one. He also felt that the light was calling he and his wife home at last because his son had no real sway over anyone in this plane any longer. Mela and her group of pagan friends had formed a protection chain around Penny and Megan and Splendor House. Their continued efforts had weakened his son. And with the happenings of today, his son was now gone, banished and with that, he too disappeared right in front of Penny's eyes.

She was sitting in the cafe, alone. The quiet and peace of this moment was physically palatable.

The how is now told, the why is now answered, Penny had all the pieces to the puzzle  and it was time to get in touch with those wonderful people who had rescued her from her ghost experience. As she reached into her jacket pocket to retrieve her phone, she felt something else. It was the dragon mask. The object that had transformed all of this and healed a family's wounds, and helped to close the door on a very real touch with the other side. But how had it come back into her pocket?

Mela and the others of the drumming group, the women who had protected her would be so pleased to know they too had help from Mrs. Splendora Maravilla, a practioner of the craft, for whom the building had been named.

And so it begins..........

opening myself up to all of you who would come and read what I have written.

All of the stories are mine and mine alone. I don't expect that they will stay that way for long. After all I am a skeptic about how people obey the laws of goodness. But I will entrust your soul with that burden not mine.

So I will go through the rhetorical dance of saying that all that appears on this blog is my artistic property and so it is.

I will put all parts of a tale, yarn or story together as one posting. That way, you will be able to go back and find them if you so choose.

Thank you for coming to read what offerings there are here at Bell, Book and Candle drippings.

Make yourself comfortable and enjoy, Oma Linda