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A Space to Start: Ella and Harry
Ella stepped lightly. She left little sign she was on the creaking steps. The old Queenslander sunbathed, its paint peeling in the gentle autumn sun. In the past, she had felt clumsy, and the tiptoeing movement and the fact that her presence hadn't disturbed the atmosphere in this place was satisfying. This day was important to Ella. She saw it as an important connection point between herself and Harry. She rang the brass bell and waited. She knew that she was beside his room as she stood on the stairs. She felt — one part of her felt — the smallness of the adolescent-style affectation. The other part was higher than that. With the knowledge she had now — the insight — she felt her own power rising from deep within her gut.
She also knew that he felt the electricity that existed between the two of them.
Eventually, the door opened.
He was tall. Really tall. And where the sun shone on the side of his face, he looked like some Germanic god of old. She felt the breath stop in her. His smile warmed her.
Then he spoke. "Why didn't you come up the back way?"
The casual depth in his voice was a camouflage for something else. Impatience?
Oh, familiar ones take that way, she rationalised, but she also pushed down recognition of a slap of types. Criticism. Now that she understood.
He must have read her hesitancy. His face lit in a broad smile of affection as he stood back to allow her to step onto the top landing.
He came towards her, and she felt the frisson of familiarity between them as their lips met briefly — not passionately — and they embraced lightly.
Everyone in the Heart Flow meditation group behaved this way in varying degrees. Some, more than others, made it a moment to then hold the other at arm's length and take the time for a full and searching stare into the other's eyes as well. This was to better see the heart of the other, but the stare was longer than was socially acceptable in her experience. Ella had taken a while to take this seriously and was not really comfortable, even now. It was a delicate point of connection for some of the more experienced members of the Heart Flow group. But she and Harry — yes, that was different. They really connected. Everyone in the group was aware of the energy between them.
Today, she was prepared to find out what? At the moment, all she could see was the dusty motes in the air around him and revel in his presence and attention. How wonderful to spend this morning together!
"I'm a bit apprehensive about today. I've never been to a psychic, or whatever she is, before," she said. Her voice felt a bit unlike her. It was a bit whiny, as though she were suffering hugely. In reality, she loved this moment in his house. She loved that she'd pressed the issue of the next spiritual encounter that they could share.
He smiled at her as though she were a bit of a secondary thought. "Oh, you'll be all good," he said with a touch of an accent. "You'll like Athena."
He turned then and led the way into his prayer space.
"Yes?" she said simply, pausing. How does he know everything so clearly? He seems to know everyone, and everyone admires him. She added, "I guess if Judy and Garth have included her in their light-filled shop, she's got to be good, right?"
He didn't answer her directly but was now facing her while gazing into the light. He was standing in the centre of his space with his arms slightly raised from his sides. The light flowed into the square room in the centre of the old Queenslander and through the stained-glass windows. Was there a trick of a stance like this so that he looked so majestic? The perfection of the shape of the room, the man with outstretched arms, and the glow of light — it was pure theatre.
Needing to fill the gaps of silence, she babbled on. "I've just never thought I'd be a part of that new age stuff really."
He rolled and lit a cigarette and then sat on the window seat to open a window and let the smoke out. Realising that she'd spoken this in a space where a Tibetan bowl sat on a fat cushion, she quickly added, "I guess you're a product of how you were raised."
"Mmm," he murmured, allowing the deep inhalation of smoke to exit in a cloud around his head like a halo. He never really revealed what he was thinking when she spoke. So much pain, so much hurt, she thought.
"But now, since India, you're the powerful one. The alchemist." Harry bowed a little in her direction, making eye contact.
His open admiration of her growing psychic powers was satisfying. It kept Ella eager for the attention. It was what had held them together since they'd met at the first retreat.
Ella glanced at her phone. She was a little anxious about the time, but Harry rarely hurried anywhere. The Heart Flow group mainly attracted women, so men enjoyed almost rock star status. At any of the gatherings, Harry arrived just in time or a little late, making an entrance, and all the women cooed at the sight of his height and the sound of his deep, resonant voice. And the men had a hurrah moment with him. It never seemed to matter that he was late. Everyone just made time for Harry. He would smile disarmingly and snuffle that time ran away when he was engrossed in "kid time." People would placate, and women would soften at the image of a father making premium time for his kids.
Ella knew, more than ever, that she was blessed to be admired by him. He had been into meditation and what she thought of as "new age spirituality" for years. It showed in his comfort with anything spiritual — crystals, horoscopes, and so on. Comfort yet a healthy disdain for it, if that was possible. She saw a person of discernment who was also lovably conflicted by his own humanity. He would frequently voice his fears and vulnerability with her and yet allow her to glimpse the greatness of his spirituality.
"I'm so grateful that you're available to take me to see Athena," she said, attempting a hurry-up of sorts. "I am, as I said, a bit apprehensive, so thank you."
He looked at her a moment, letting there be a pause as he sat in the window seat. One arm languidly rested on a bent knee as he dropped roll-up cigarette ash onto the windowsill. The other arm held his other knee. He exhaled slowly as he gazed at her.
She felt the snake charmer paralyse her. It was almost unbearable to stand the energy between them in that breath — or was it? She was so unused to a man admiring her. Thirty-three years of marriage to a man she'd married at nineteen. Her husband was nice but not too good at making her feel beautiful. Now she knew the feelings that were coming were sort of wrong, but she also knew they were sort of right.
After all she had been through with Harry in the Heart Flow group, the two of them were connected. Not in the usual way that men and women were connected, but in a deep, spiritual way. It was so deep that it had shown itself in visions of herself and Harry in the "beyond," as they called it in the group. It was the place beyond what was seen and experienced on the surface. She had been through so much fire. How could those visions, as strong as those of her childhood, lie? Besides, there was no physicality. It would have seemed wrong maybe. It was the only reason she stood in that space now. Perhaps.
Harry got up then, glanced at her, and walked over to the doorway. He delicately stroked and then pulled a piece of shiny green fabric from a hook, letting it slide over the door opening. His face softened as he turned and looked at her. "Remember India?" His voice was low and soft as he held her gaze.
She felt the wave of that place in time rinse her from the gut outwards.
Oceans of pain and silted life had moved in that space.
"Yes," she replied softly. "India. I remember." Ella quickly moved to fill the discomfort of the silence that fell. "There's another thing to talk about with Athena when I meet her: India."
"Yes, it was certainly a portal for movement."
After this statement, Harry exhaled heavily, as though he was almost unable to stand the energy between them. Ella felt it in the pit of her stomach. It was so amazing to feel how he breathed, and life flowed through her. That is what she told herself it was. She had written of it often, occasionally sharing it with him. Of course, she had timidly altered the words to cover the true depths of her emotion. It was in India that she had discovered so much. They had been together at the retreat.
"So much movement for this one since then," he was saying as he pointed a thumb to his chest and let it linger. His eyes checked to see if she was looking and then searched a far horizon through the window.
"Yes," she said quickly. Her whole intention was to pull his focus back into this room. "I see your progress."
His focus snapped back, but not in the way she'd have liked. "Oh yes. Progress." He smiled at his own sarcasm.
She felt the sweetness of the sting. "Oh well, it's —" He didn't let her finish and waved a hand in the air around himself.
"Look around you. There's crap everywhere. I can't organise a house, a job, or even dinner."
She looked around, noticing the piles in corners and the dust that had settled on them and the surfaces of books and old furniture. She thought she could see through all of that to the great man beneath. Her heart was soft as she imagined his struggle with depression, alcohol addiction, and rejection while parenting his boys. He had shared how his ex-wife had given him sole responsibility in her inability to cope herself. No wonder he couldn't work. At the retreats, it had become a major topic of discussion that Harry had shared with everyone. Ella thought that he told his life stories in such an endearing way — humble, mixed up, eager to do what it took to transform. He had shared more of these stories with Ella as they had become friends.
"You do an amazing job!" she declared, "Look at those wonderful boys of yours. They're a credit to your hard work. I mean, when you're growing children, the house is bound to come second." (How many times had she read that old chestnut herself?) "And, you know, there's your Uber driving. What an amazing job you're doing." She knew she was on slightly rocky ground since he mostly didn't work at this. He found it stressful.
His shoulders softened then. He snuffed in a self-deprecating way at these words of hers but looked slightly pleased. It made her heart glow with pleasure to see the power her words had on him. She knew that he'd hardly Ubered lately. He was often tired and down. As though reading her thoughts, he added sadly, "I'm just stuck. I even find it hard to get shopping for dinner done. I'm like a little worker dung beetle, pushing uphill." Harry used actions to illustrate the uphill movement. Ella smiled inwardly at his analogy. How very Harry, she thought. He smiled back at his use of words. Yes, he acknowledged with the smile, aren't my little sayings cute?
"Oh, I think you're doing a great job. Housework is overrated anyway," she said, her tone placating, her words filling all the gaps. "I have extra people staying at my place at the moment, and it looks like a tip half the time!" She thought of the horror of returning from work to the house at the hands of the friends and acquaintances of her daughters. Their frequent comings and goings made the place like a hotel. She found herself buying cards of new toothbrushes and toiletries every other week just to keep up. Nevertheless, she made a note to offer help to get him sorted if she could get clear.
He hadn't seemed to hear about what her plight may be. In fact, Ella felt that his own pain must stop him a lot from engaging in the story of others. He was puffing a cloud of cigarette smoke out the window and looking into the sky outside, maybe searching for answers, she thought. Perhaps for the best.
"Well." He stretched so that his fingers reached up over the door lintel, emphasising his tallness and showing a piece of belly. "We'd better get going. Don't want to be late for Athena."
They were in the car.
"Thanks again for taking me," said Ella. "I know it won't take long." Ella was so pleased to have Harry captive for that time. She had arranged it so well, not fully realising the emotional blackmail in which she was indulging. It wasn't often she had a man who would be there just for her. "I just want to discover why these visions and dreams are so strong — and what that energy was about in India. If Athena points the way, I should be right to figure it out myself."
Harry was driving and exhaling smoke, a human steam shovel.
"Yeah, that was certainly strong for you."
She was warmed by these words, knowing the incredible tidal surge that had risen in her one night in India. It was unlike anything she had experienced before. She seized any moment of attention or recognition he offered, and that time in India had bewildered them both. They had both connected to it — she the one who had experienced it first, but he who had felt its strength and not understood. Ella knew that this area was one to continue exploring since time with Harry speaking about spiritual matters was always an area to continue exploring. But for now, Athena was waiting.
The shop smelt of white sage incense, and Ella saw that Judy had already noticed them — well, Harry anyway — and her and Garth's faces lit up. Judy wore a purple Indian dress, similar to the ones that hung in the centre of the shop. Her hair was tied back in a loose ponytail, and she wore crystal earrings that caught the glow of the leaded light lamps on the sides of the room. She stopped work on the store computer and came over to kiss first Harry, then Ella.
"How are you two?!" Garth galloped into their presence. Ella was a bit intimidated but also liked the "you two," coupling them together.
Judy's sharp eyes searched the situation, belying the carefree clothing she wore.
They all spoke for a moment of this and that. Garth had begun an enthusiastic oration about Gnosticism, and Ella complimented Judy on her dress and earrings.
From the corner of her eye, Ella caught a glimpse of something light coming from the dark corner of the shop. Athena.CHAPTER 2
Athena looked to Ella like a small blonde fairy, insignificant but not; fragile but not; familiar but not. In her searching into the world of the supernatural, mainly within the confines of Christianity, Ella had not encountered an Athena. She had been recommended by Harry.
"I met her the day I first came to meet Garth and Judy," he told her. "You know, she told me that my pain was through the roof." He looked into the distance, perhaps in pain, as she pondered what he meant by this. Most of the Heart Flow group tended to rejoice in pain. Pain was growth, apparently. Well, Ella had certainly felt the constant stabs of pain since she'd been part of the group. In fact, she was seen as a bit of a rarity, someone who had clicked straight into the ethos and ways of the group. After learning the meditation movements, her body and deeper senses seemed to quake with the vibration of the beyond, as Lee Koh and Barry called it.
"Well, everyone in the Heart Flow group has pain, right?" she joked in attempt to lighten the atmosphere. "But how did Athena know that about you?" When Harry shied away from answering this directly, Ella had persisted; she wanted to know more.
"She's intuitive," said Harry who was always mysterious and seldom explained himself.
Ella knew that the strange dreams, waking dreams, and premonitions of the past few months since India had to have some explanation. Father Dominic was not going to be able to cut it this time with his explanations of the movements of the Holy Spirit. Ella had shared most of the happenings with Harry, who had been fascinated by her insights. In fact, Ella felt so powerful when this gentle giant was in her thrall that she began, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, to speak out in a spiritual fashion. Harry bent his head towards her and listened — really listened. She knew, though, that he gave her his full attention. He was enthralled by what she said. She knew that her visions were real, but she could also make more of them to keep him on the spin. Ella also felt that she was powerful. Everyone said so. Now, she knew it was time to get to the bottom of her spirituality — and to totally involve Harry. To grow up and not to rely on the fear of excommunication or some such threat.
When Athena appeared, Ella was reluctant to leave Harry's presence, imagining him to be a safe harbour in the dimly lit shop. Harry, however, was deep in conversation with Garth and a young woman who had walked into the shop. She seemed charmed by Harry, as all women seemed to be. For once, Ella did not stand near him in a proprietorial manner. She was too nervous, and the fearful little girl rose up in her. Harry had not noticed.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Ella"
Copyright © 2019 Annabelle Glasse.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 A Space to Start: Ella and Harry, 1,
Chapter 2 The Seer, 8,
Chapter 3 The Home, 23,
Chapter 4 Meeting Lee Koh, 35,
Chapter 5 Lee Koh and the Retreat, 52,
Chapter 6 The Retreat Space, 60,
Chapter 7 Harry. Just Harry, 77,
Chapter 8 New York New York, 96,
Chapter 9 Connecting in the Beyond, 112,
Chapter 10 India, 116,
Chapter 11 The Last Retreat, 151,
Chapter 12 Athena, 164,
Chapter 13 Athena, Ella, and the Snow Queen, 196,
Chapter 14 How Ella Left All She Had Known, 225,
Chapter 15 The Baby, 241,