Suddenly Kylie had started talking to herself. She would call out in her sleep, cry all day at nursery school, speak in unknown tongues to people May couldn't see.
The psychologist May had eventually taken her to had remarked on the timing: that Kylie had begun having visions right after Emily Dunne -- Kylie's great-grandmother, solid presence, rock of the family -- had died. At the same time, Kylie had come to realize she was essentially fatherless. She felt abandoned by most of the adults in the universe, the doctors said. Seeing the dead body had been her breaking point, the catalyst for seeing ghosts. She wanted a family, and the visions provided that.
May could understand. Having grown up in an extended, loving family, she wanted family too. Besides, she worked in the most charmed profession in the world, with a legacy of magic from her grandmother and great-aunt.
But what if Kylie was schizophrenic, and not clairvoyant?
"She'll go," Kylie whispered, holding her mother's wrist, "before she gets to kiss her father. She'll leave if I don't pay attention--"
"Kylie," May whispered, her voice breaking. "Let her leave." If she wasn't so exhausted, frustrated, scared, and alone, she told herself, she would stand firm and tell Kylie in no uncertain terms that there was no one there, no one wanting to kiss her father, no baby angel hovering over the seats in business class.
Martin Cartier had his legs stuck out in the aisle, and every time one of the flight attendants passed, they braced themselves on his seat back as they stepped over. Two hours into the flight, he was being a jerk, blocking their way, but he couldn't help it. He had tried sitting slouched, straight, and sideways, but any way you cut it, the plane was too small.
Not just because of his size, which was considerable, but because of his energy. His mother always used to say he had a blizzard inside him, and Martin thought that might be true. He felt as if he'd swallowed a killer wind, with enough power to flatten cities and bury towns, that if he used it on the ice, he could destroy the other team. Martin's energy flew out his elbows and hips, slamming his opponents into the boards, bloodying the ice and sending people to the hospital.
Right now, the energy made him squirm in his seat. He felt prickles on his scalp, and once again he looked around. The flight attendant had closed the curtain, but peering through a crack, he saw the little girl staring at him, her pretty mother bending over to whisper something in her ear.
He played defense for the Boston Bruins, and they called him "the Gold Sledgehammer." "Gold," because of the name Cartier, and "Sledgehammer" because of the obvious: He always won his fights. He'd been named an All-Star ten times, won the NHL MVP twice, led the league in scoring twice. He was a tough and stalwart defenseman, winning the Norris Trophy two years running as the league's best blue-liner.
He wasn't mean, but if he drew aggression, he packed heat in his stick and fists. Fearless to his bones, he attacked back fast. He was known for drawing the opposing team's leading scorer into the fray, blooding him, and getting him sent to the penalty box. Wherever Cartier played, fans came in droves.
"Um, excuse me..." a female voice said.
Martin looked up. An attractive passenger was standing over him. She wore an elegant black wool suit with black lace showing under her jacket, and she had perfect legs in sheer stockings. High heels. White-blond hair curved over her long-lashed green eyes, and her lipstick looked red and wet.
"You're Martin Cartier," she said.
"Oui," he said. "That is true." It was only April, and already she had a tan. She wore large diamond stud earrings; the heavy gold chain around her neck had smaller diamonds in every link. She was talking about last night's game, which she had watched in her Toronto hotel room. Martin pretended to listen politely, but instead he found his attention drawn back to the woman and daughter several rows behind him.
Copyright © 2001 by Luanne Rice
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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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