Have you ever wondered about those bizarre coincidences and the times when truth seems stranger than fiction? When the Universe Called invites us to reconsider those ‘accidents of fate’ and the power we all have to actively create our own world, if we can learn how to use the power of the Law of Attraction.
In Maggie Denhearn’s spell binding debut novel, Big Pharma collides with metaphysics and the power of the universe, through the mystery and intrigue of corporate corruption. Five Vancouver Island women, drawn together by the Law of Attraction and led by Brina, the peculiar local coffee-shop owner, who has the disconcerting ability to be able to read their thoughts, join together to defeat the threat posed by Big Pharma magnate, John Frost. But will their newly found powers of manifestation be enough?
|Publisher:||Toplink Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)|
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When the Universe Called
By Maggie Denhearn
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Maggie Denhearn
All rights reserved.
Early Monday evening, April 14, 2014
It was in the way she made him a cup of tea that Maria suddenly realized that her husband, Luke, and Charlotte were having an affair. It wasn't anything tangible that she could put her finger on or that would make sense if she tried to explain it to anyone else. He and Charlotte were work colleagues, so it was conceivable she would know how Luke took his tea. But it wasn't that. It was something in her manner, the familiarity with which she went about a task so mundane that most of us would barely notice the ritual. Yet Maria did. It was her job as director of communications for Mayor Andy McDowell to notice human behavior, the minute details that would give him the edge over his opponents. The slightest flicker in the eye or change of expression could reveal a lie or a weakness. She could read people. And it was something in Charlotte's coy smile and the way, with her head slightly tilted downward, she glanced up at Luke, her face ever so lightly flushed, that gave them away. Luke in turn smiled with his eyes as he took the cup from her with the same look of affection that he used to give Maria, but which she hadn't experienced for a good while now. Like a memory resurfacing from long ago, that look reminded her of how long that affection had been missing between her and her husband.
At that moment it all became crystal clear to Maria. The late night phone calls, the going out at all times of the evening — it could only mean one thing. Luke had been behaving oddly for months. How had this not occurred to her before now? Maria had stopped asking him where he was going and what he was up to. Inquiring inevitably led to conflict neither of them were any good at navigating. She had assumed he was preoccupied with work and had been too caught up in her own to give it further consideration. He had never been forthcoming about his job, so the fact he hadn't been confiding in her about it when something was up did not seem any different than usual. The evidence before her of having completely misjudged the situation was now irrefutable. The realization that he had been cheating on her came like a swift blow to her stomach, and she had to stop herself from bending forward and gasping. Numbness overtook her, her whole body losing sensation. She nearly dropped her cup of tea, no longer able to feel it in her fingers. Very slowly placing the cup on the countertop, she used both hands to steady herself on the kitchen sideboard. The sudden rage she felt was a paralyzing force. In her mind she was shouting and screaming at them both, hurling the tea across the room and sending a wind of fury whirling around the kitchen. But she was unable to move.
Maria began to scan her memory for other signs in their marital life that were more profound, more indicative of infidelity, but she could honestly say, at least at the level of her conscious mind, that she had not until that moment even conceived of the idea that Luke might be unfaithful. Indeed, if someone had asked her about anything that might possibly jeopardize their relationship, she had always thought that an affair would be the least likely for either of them. Yet how could she have been so blind? She had been so convinced that it was just worries at work that were causing him to be distant that she'd not stopped to entertain other possibilities. Now she reflected, his edginess seemed to have started around the same time the car started appearing. Always parked in the shadows a little way down the street, it was black or dark blue, one of those cars designed to be inconspicuous. The windows were tinted, so it was impossible to see who was in it. She wasn't quite sure what had prompted her to notice it, but it would appear at the most peculiar times. It didn't belong to a neighbor. She'd checked. Maria had taken to surreptitiously looking out of the bedroom window every now and then when she was home to see if it was there. She'd mentioned it to Luke one time, but he had dismissed her concerns about their being watched, had told her she was being paranoid. Had Charlotte been spying on them? Was she stalking him? Maria had never actually seen Luke get into the car. It wasn't for want of peering out of the window when he went out on some pretext or other. It had to be her. Maria felt queasy and like a complete and utter fool. She, who prided herself on her ability to evaluate other people, could not even read her own husband. The jarring sound of a metal spoon dropping onto the stone kitchen floor jolted her out of her thoughts, and she glanced quickly at Luke and Charlotte. No tender looks were being exchanged, no furtive smiles, and yet, there it was, an unmistakable connection. It was as though they had a neon sign above their heads flashing We're Having Sex.
Luke glanced across at her. "Are you okay, Maria? You look really flushed." He bent down, picked up the errant spoon, and put it into the sink. Maria noticed how his hand shook as he did so.
"No. Yes, I'm fine. I er ... I ... er ... just ... I just remembered I've forgotten to do something. I'd better write myself a note so I don't forget again." She couldn't look him in the eye, look either of them in the eye. She felt her cheeks burning even though she suddenly felt cold and shivery. She busied herself with finding her phone and made a big deal of seeming to write herself a note. It was hard to stop her hands from shaking, and there was no feeling in her fingers as she tried to type. All she could think was, He mustn't know I've found out. He mustn't know I've found out. She wasn't sure why. She wasn't in control. She wanted Charlotte out of her house, away from her husband, but her intuition was telling her to hold off, to wait before confronting him, either of them. Her friend Brina was always telling her to trust her intuition.
She should talk to Brina. That was it. Brina would know what to do. Oh Lord, what if she already knew? What if her running group, the WOECs all knew? The embarrassment! A wave of mortification spread over her. Luke glanced over at her then carried on talking with Charlotte as they moved into the living room.
Maria lingered on in the kitchen, trying to look as though she was busy with something, anything. Placing the palm of her hand on her chest, she felt her heart pounding. Sensation was returning to her body in patches in a way that made her feel like her body didn't quite belong to her. Usually the ever-changing scene from her kitchen window would soothe her, but today it provided little comfort. Breathing deeply, she looked out at the ocean, only twenty meters away. The wind was whipping up the water, the whitecaps hurling themselves onto the shoreline. Leaden sky merged with slate water so that it was impossible to see the horizon. Beyond the ocean line, the imposing range of coastal mountains was invisible, hiding behind a somber shroud, the desolation of an impending April storm desperate yet unable to break. She caught sight of an eagle swooping down to the dark ocean, plucking out a poor, defenseless gull that had been floating, trying to find its supper among the fish. She saw the gull struggle in the eagle's talons and could hear the distant screeching, to which the eagle seemed ambivalent as it soared up into the gray evening sky. How quickly life as you knew it could be over.
She walked over to the mirror above the kitchen dresser, strategically placed to reflect the light from the window back into the room, an optical illusion to make the kitchen seem bigger. She stared at her reflection; a middle-aged woman stared back. Maria almost didn't recognize herself. Her cheeks were crimson, and a single tear had escaped her right eye, slightly smudging her mascara. She had a startled look in her eyes that she'd never seen before. Every day she got closer to looking like her mother. One of her greatest fears was the invisibility that would inevitably come with age. And now she felt invisible to Luke. She had woken up to a nightmare. Only now that her life with Luke was in danger did she realize how much she had been missing him and how good they had once been together.
A painful thought flashed through Maria's brain. Had she made this happen? Brina had been teaching her about manifestation. She said that thoughts have power; that if you focus intently on something or think about it a lot, it can grow and eventually manifest, become reality. What if, by giving attention to her fear that she would one day be invisible, she'd accidentally made that fear come true? No, she refused to believe that. Wasn't manifesting about creating what you did want rather than the opposite? As she pushed the idea aside, the fury swirling around inside her was making her chest feel tight and compressed, ready to burst. Grabbing her cup, she slammed it down onto the kitchen floor. The sound of smashing crockery reverberated around the room. Tiny shards of pottery scooted across the floor as though they had suddenly been released from captivity. Luke hurried back into the kitchen, a look of alarm on his face.
"What the ...? Are you okay?" For a brief moment Maria wondered if she'd been imagining all of this, wondering if she was going crazy like her now-demented father. Luke eyed her with a look of nervousness. "What happened?"
"I ... My hands must have been greasy from the hand cream. The cup just slipped." She could tell from his look that he didn't quite believe her, but he said nothing and started picking up the pieces. Watching him, she felt more tears fighting their way to the surface, but she fought them back. This was not the time to show any weakness, not while Charlotte was anywhere near.
"It's okay. I'll make more tea." Maria turned away, knowing she wouldn't have the strength to keep up this charade if she met Luke's gaze. He finished clearing up the pieces and silently went back into the living room.
* * *
"What was all that about?" Charlotte fidgeted on the sofa.
"Nothing. Maria just dropped something." Luke studied his fingernails and kept an eye on the open door between the living room and the kitchen, watching to see if Maria would reappear.
"I'm telling you she knows — something at least!" Charlotte seemed to choke on the words, as she whispered across at him.
"I don't think so." Luke pretended not to be worried, but he was; very, but not just about his wife. There were details about him Charlotte did not yet know, details Maria did not even know. It was safer for both of them that way. Luke tried to sound casual. "I can't see how she could have found out about us. She'd have said something if she had."
For all that, Luke knew his wife well enough to know that her behavior was out of character and that something was up. Was it possible Maria had found out what he had been hiding all these years? It seemed unlikely, and yet ... He felt himself blanche at the thought.
Charlotte looked at him but remained silent. He couldn't interpret her expression, and it was disconcerting. Usually he was good at reading people, but he hadn't yet managed to quite figure her out even though he'd known her for quite a few months. She had a way of arching her eyebrows that seemed to indicate she was about to ask a question, yet she wouldn't ask anything. She would just stare with those pale blue eyes that were like looking into the depths of a lake — deep and bottomless and with a whole life buried beneath that probably few people would ever see. He wasn't used to women who were quite so circumspect. Her head was tilted to one side, her hair falling down her back, her lips pursed as though she were holding something back. She seemed agitated this evening.
"What's up, anyway? You seem nervous."
She paused perceptibly before she responded, and she glanced away briefly before she did so. "What do you think? It's coming here! Why did you have to get me to drop off the papers here of all places? And with Maria home too." She was lying, he could tell. That wasn't why she was nervous. For now he decided not to push her. He was growing fond of Charlotte but certainly didn't completely trust her. He realized he had already let his guard down with her too much. He would have to be more vigilant. Now was not the time to let his feelings cloud his judgment.
"I couldn't wait. There's vital information I need to take to the conference tomorrow." It was his turn to look away. He'd been collecting information about the Consortium, and he had new evidence about its corruption he needed to share with Brina before he left for the mainland in the morning. He was careful enough to write everything down in his own code, just in case anyone else did take a look at the papers. It was careless of him to forget them at the office, though. It had been the lesser of two evils, having Charlotte stop by to bring them to him and risk her reading them, risk her seeing Maria. He was jittery, and it was causing him to make mistakes he couldn't afford.
* * *
As she waited for the kettle to come to a boil, Maria stared at herself again in the mirror. Time seemed cruel to her. That expensive face cream she had bought three months ago didn't seem to be having much effect on winding back the years. She still had good hair, though — a sleek, glossy brown, thanks to her gifted stylist, cut into a long, sophisticated bob. Short enough to look tidy and elegant when down, long enough to tie back when she was running. Smudged mascara notwithstanding, you could cover a multitude of sins with clever coloring and contouring of face powder and blusher, although apparently not enough to stop a husband from straying after a younger woman. She pulled a compact out of the top drawer of the dresser and began to touch up her face. It wouldn't do to show any vulnerability, let her mask slip, even if she didn't know who was underneath it anymore.
Maria listened to the buzz of their conversation through the open door, unable to quite make out what they were saying. Did they think she was stupid? Did they really think she couldn't see what was going on? Did Luke think so little of Maria that he would bring Charlotte home with him? She felt her fists clenching. Her thoughts started to turn murderous. He needed to feel the pain she was feeling. He needed to have every inch of his being hurting the way she was hurting.
Managing to unclench her hands, she switched the kettle back on to ensure the water would be properly boiled. Emptying out the cold, soggy tea bags from the teapot into the compost bin, she took three more bags out of the tea caddy and put them on the sideboard, ready to be added to the pot, after it had been properly warmed, of course. Holding on to the mundane, the normal, felt like the only lifeline. Making tea was a ritual instilled in her by her English mother. There was a right way to do it, and that was the Yorkshire way. Anything else was just, well, it wasn't tea. Vanna, who had recently joined her local running group, was the only one who didn't roll her eyes at her tea making habits, but then she was British. Maria could do with some brandy in hers. If she'd had cyanide, she was sure she'd have put it in Luke and Charlotte's. Being jilted for a younger woman was such an embarrassing cliché.
Another fear that seemed to have been plaguing her more of late had now come true. That jarring thought popped into her head again: Had she made this happen? Had her thoughts and fears created this situation? And was everyone laughing at her behind her back? Or worse, pitying her?
The insistent whistle of the kettle finally broke into her thoughts, steam billowing into the air. She swirled a little hot water in the teapot, poured it down the sink, added the tea bags to the pot, and then filled it to the brim with boiling water. She put the ridiculous pink tea cozy her aunt had knitted for her over the pot and put it on a tray to take back into the living room. She took out some clean mugs from the cupboard and put them on the tray, poured some milk into an equally ridiculous pink cow-shaped milk jug that her other aunt had given her, and put that on the tray too. She regarded the tray — very Martha Stewart. Luke and Charlotte would never suspect that she knew their secret. She could do this. If she knew how to maintain her composure with Mayor McDowell and all his maneuvering, she could do this.
Excerpted from When the Universe Called by Maggie Denhearn. Copyright © 2015 Maggie Denhearn. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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