I was just visiting Gloaming Gap for the summer and only beginning to get my bearings. I’d done that thing that people do when they want to meet people — at least the way I’d been raised, churches were safer than bars. And there I sat, my first Sunday in town, looking around the nearly empty room and wondering what denomination I’d wandered into.
She was there, alone in the third pew back on the far right side. Approximately my age from the looks of it, skirt to her ankles with a peasant shirt, her tawny hair was tied in a complimentary cerise scarf – the color of her aura. This was the brightest aura I’d ever seen.
The woman spent the entire service scribbling furiously in a notebook. I was fairly certain that the sermon I was hearing was not worthy of such note-taking and watching her fervor was fascinating.
After the service was over, she caught me slipping out of the church. She stood just an inch or two taller than me, about 5’7”? She was not thin, but not by any means overweight, and as she took my hand, her emerald eyes were clearly searching me over for something that she apparently found.
She nodded in approval and without a word walked away, leaving me holding the scribbled pages from the service, her aura lingering slightly, as if studying my own in the same way as she had scrutinized me.
For the next four days, I carried those sheets with me everywhere. Those sheets changed my life. They confused me, they astounded me, they made me realize why I was here. But if I showed them to you, they’d be nothing more than the gibberish they were to me when I first opened them.
I tried for days to decipher the squiggles and lines, things not even recognizable as actual words. And in the middle of it all, one random string of words: “Upside-Down Virgin Slutty Mary Skinny Soy Cappuccino on the Rocks – To Go. Try the decaf.”
When I realized I didn’t understand something that felt crucial to the direction of my summer, I decided I had to find her again. I couldn’t. It was like she’d ceased to exist. No one seemed to know who she was. Every query was met with only blank stares and apologetic smiles.
“You don’t know her name?” they’d ask.
“She didn’t give it to me. Only this.” I’d show them the gibberish and they’d shake their heads.
“Sorry, Lovey. Can’t help you.”
“Okay, thanks anyway.”
My morning routine began to include sitting at the back table at Crystal’s Coffee Shop and watching the locals filter in and out, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. I’d been here a week and I was obsessed. I realized it was more than just the cryptic message which she’d gone out of her way to give me. It was she herself. I had to find her, and not just for the explanation.
And then it dawned on me. I could always try to order this… beverage? My stomach churned at the thought of what a strange concoction like this would taste like, but I was desperate.
I wandered casually to the counter and waited for the barista to notice me.
The name tag said “Bella” followed by a fanged smiley and a stake through a heart. I’d have guessed she looked to be in her early twenties. She leaned against the counter with her back to me, hunched over her phone texting like a fiend. I cleared my throat.
“What can I get you?” she snapped to attention looking almost ashamed.
I faltered, suddenly worried that this young girl would think I was completely insane. “I’d like… an… Upside-Down Virgin Slutty Mary Skinny Soy Cappuccino on the Rocks – To Go… Uh… Half-caf? Wait… no… Decaf, I guess?”
She just stared at me in semi-disbelief before she threw her head over her shoulder and hollered toward the back nearly bursting, “Oh MY GOD! CRYSTAL!!! What do I do now?!?”
I backed away slowly, eyeing the distance to the exit. I was pretty sure I’d messed up big time and I wanted to get out on my own terms rather than waiting for the owner to throw me out or call the men in white coats to drag me out.
A short, plump woman who reminded me of everyone’s grandmother came running out of the back, a look of panic across her face.
“Crystal, it’s her!” the barista indicated me with an awe that stopped me in my tracks.
The panic melted from Crystal’s wrinkled face and a relieved sigh escaped her ruby lips in a way that made it sound like she’d been holding her breath for decades. The genuine smile that reached her clear sapphire eyes assured me that my presence was a good thing. A simple gesture, pushing her white hair behind her ear, revealed strands underneath which still hinted at its once autumn hue, a darker shade than the hair of my mystery woman.
She stumbled over herself to get around the counter and squeezed me tightly to her ample bosom, literally glowing with an aura that I’d seen only once before.
“My sweet girl!” she babbled, finally letting go of me and bustling around to seat me and showering gifts and attention on me like I was the queen of England. “We’d nearly given up. Thought you’d never come. Honestly, started to think you were nothing more than an urban legend or fairy tale passed down from the old country!”
“Umm…” I stuttered, as lost as I’d been before.
“Well, here I am babbling, when I have an order to fill.” She stood and beamed at me for a full minute in silence. It became unnerving how similar it felt to another woman’s stare.
Finally, the same nod of approval came and she turned and walked away, the shimmering aura lingering behind her as if it were loathe to leave me.
Another paper had been left in my hands, and I sighed in frustration. Another puzzle was the last thing I wanted now.
“She’s waiting for you, Lucy. She’ll wait forever, but I think it’s been too long already.” Crystal’s voice echoed after her as she left.
I stared after her in shock. I’d never introduced myself to her – never even met her before today. How did she know my name? My credit card would have given her Amber L. McEvans.
The barista leaned across the counter, amused. “Lucy is it?”
I nodded dumbly.
“Well, Crystal is never wrong, and neither is Jade. You might want to check it out.” She gestured toward the paper in my hands. “That one won’t be as difficult. You’ve proven yourself already.”
The scribbles on the page were more legible: “My granddaughter confirms. Come to me, Love.”
And I knew why the aura had lingered. There had been recognition.
I hopped in my car and chewed my nails in anticipation, pushing the speed limits and counting the seconds to the church.
She sat in the same place, and I knew she’d been there for over a century waiting for me to return. I practically ran to her and she stood to catch me.
The kiss brought her back, and she merged into me. Two pieces of one had rejoined. She was free to leave the church with me now, and I knew I’d never take her from this town.
Jeannine Burkholder is a stay at home mom of two and resides in Lititz, PA. In her “copious amounts of free time” she fancies herself to be a writer. You can find her on twitter @jacksvalentine and read more from her at http://www.nean-laughingatthemoon.com.