Nothing she'd experienced, either blocking or embracing this gift, had taken her like this. Taken her away, taken her over. It made her helpless, when she'd promised herself she would never be helpless again.
Yet here she was, sprawled on her own patio in the rain without any memory of how she got outside. She'd been in the kitchen brewing tea, standing at the counter, the lights and the music on, reading a letter from her grandmother.
That was the trigger, Tory realized, as she slowly got to her feet. Her grandmother was her link to her childhood. To Hope.
Into Hope, she thought, as she closed the patio door. Into the pain and fear and horror of that terrible night. And still she didn't know the who or the why.
Still shivering, Tory went into the bath, stripped and, turning the shower hot, stepped under the spray.
"I can't help you," she murmured, closing her eyes. "I couldn't help you then, I can't help you now."
Her best friend, her sister of the heart, had died that night in the swamp while she'd been locked in her room, sobbing over the latest beating.
And she had known. She had seen. She had been helpless.
Guilt, as fresh as it had been eighteen years before, swarmed through her. "I can't help you," she said again. "But I'm coming back."
We were eight years old that summer. That long-ago summer when it seemed those thick, hot days would last forever. It was a summer of innocence and foolishness and friendship, the kind that combines to form a pretty glass globe around your world. One night changed all of that. Nothing's been the same for me since. How could it be?
Most of my life I've avoided speaking of it. That didn't stop the memories, or the images. But for a time I tried to bury it, as Hope was buried. To face it now, to record this out loud, if only for myself, is a relief. Like pulling a splinter out of the heart. The ache will linger awhile.
She was my best friend. Our bond had the deep and immediate intensity only children are capable of forging. I suppose we were an odd pair, bright and privileged Hope Lavelle and dark, shy Tory Bodeen. My daddy leased a small patch of land, a little corner of the grand plantation hers owned. Sometimes when her mama gave a big society dinner or one of her lavish parties, mine would help out with the cleaning and serving.
But those gaps of social standing and class never touched the friendship. Indeed, they never occurred to us.
She lived in a grand house, one her reputedly eccentric ancestor had built to resemble a castle rather than the Georgian style so popular during its era. It was stone, with towers and turrets and what you would call battlements, I suppose. But there was nothing of the princess about Hope.
She lived for adventures. And when I was with her, so did I. With her, I escaped from the miseries and turmoils of my own house, my own life, and became her partner. We were spies, detectives, knights on quests, pirates, or space marauders. We were brave and true, bold and daring.
In the spring before that summer, we used her pocketknife to cut a narrow slice in our wrists. Solemnly, we mixed our blood. We were lucky, I suppose, we didn't end up with lockjaw. Instead we became blood sisters.
She had a sister, a twin. But Faith rarely joined in our games. They were too silly for her, or too rough, too dirty. They were always too something for Faith. We didn't miss her temper or complaints. That summer, Hope and I were the twins.
If someone had asked me if I loved her, I would have been embarrassed. I wouldn't have understood. But every day since that terrible time that August, I have missed her as I have missed that part of me that died with her.
We were to meet at the swamp, in our secret place. I don't suppose it was really much of a secret, but it was ours. We often played there, in that damp green air, having our adventures among the birdsong and moss and wild azalea.
From Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts. (c) January, 2000, Nora Roberts used by permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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