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Hansel and Gretel in February

Come May, Hansel and Gretel will bound and spin out from the wings to the center of a warm, lighted stage, and charm an audience with this beloved fairy tale by the Brothers’ Grimm.

But this is February, and it’s a cold and windy Saturday morning outside the drafty old studio. Benjamin is wearing loose pants and a baggy shirt. Kelsey is in leotards and a sweater. They could be kids hanging out at any mall in the country, but on this Saturday they are focused on Anne’s tutelage.

Anne has danced ballet on New York Stages. She has done Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty and Peter Pan and “every role in the ‘Nutcracker,’” she says with a wry smile. This spring’s project, though, is Hansel and Gretel — and Benjamin and Kelsey must master the opening movements on this blustery Saturday morning.

The first time or two, their movements are ragged and unsure. They smirk a bit when Anne reminds them that they are “not a romantic pair, but brother and sister!”

Gradually they assume their characters. They become the woodcutter’s children — skipping and playing, unaware of the dark times ahead. The movements are practiced in silence until Anne thinks the music should be added, and she starts a boom box on a table at one end of the dance floor.

Kelsey has worked with Anne before. On a particular sequence, Anne reminds her, “Kelsey, this is nothing but part of the Sugar Plum Fairy routine!” Benjamin is not quite as polished, but he knows the ballet principles — and his Tai Chi and martial arts training give him body control that he can adapt to the dance.

I am there at Anne’s invitation. I sit on a well-worn metal chair off to the side, but I soon realize that I am invisible to the three people. They are focused on the few square meters of stage on which they perform. Anne often demonstrates particular movements with practiced grace.

I hear snatches of her instruction. “Wait! Wait! Hips and shoulders in alignment! Don’t show your butt to the audience! Both feet flat when lifting, Benjamin!”   When the pair gets it right, I hear a “Bingo!” or “Hah!”

I suddenly realize that I am witnessing something special. I find a scrap of paper in my jacket pocket and a stub of pencil. I try to recollect what I have already seen, and begin taking notes.

There is a short break. Kelsey removes her point shoes for some adjustment or other, and I see that some of her toes are bandaged. I see a spot of blood. A box of Band-Aids is among the contents of her small duffle bag. Hansel doesn’t have to do anything en pointe, and Benjamin has worked in his socks all along.

The break over, he and Kelsey – warmed to a sweat now — are down to T-shirt and tank top as they resume the rehearsal.

Over and over, they do the same opening sequence. The music is added at almost every iteration now, as the piece becomes more polished.

I feel like clapping, but realize that I mustn’t interrupt the concentration of these amazing energies.

Next fall, Benjamin will return to classes at the College of Charleston and Kelsey will enter the University of South Carolina.

Before that, though – in May — there is Hansel and Gretel. Benjamin will be wearing lederhosen — those leather britches — and a snappy Tyrolean hat. Gretel will be in braids, and a Bavarian girl’s costume. An appreciative crowd in comfortable seats in a warm auditorium will applaud their skills.

But that’s a long way to go. It’s February and they’re in old clothes and leotards, in a drafty old studio, repeating moves over and over, before an audience of one — and waiting for Anne’s “Bingo!” to let them know when they’ve nailed it.

Hansel and Gretel in February

Hansel and Gretel in February

 

Hansel and Gretel in February was first published in “Senior Scribbles Unearthed,” a collection to Chuck Thurston’s columns and essays, available from Indigo Sea Press or Amazon.  A second collection, “Senior Scribbles Second Dose,” is also available.

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Sea of Destiny – Part 39 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverKyle wakes the next morning to find Vera gone, but she left a note telling him thank you for the night, asking him to call her. He makes his way back to the ship, with a horrible hangover, only to find himself confronted by Carmelita.

“Michael Kyle Scott!”

“Don’t call me Michael. Don’t ever use that name again. Okay? Never.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I’ve done something really stupid and self-destructive. Can we just drop it? Please? I just totally screwed up the best relationship I’ve ever had and that’s all you’ve got?” He

shook his head, trying to figure out where he left his aspirin. “If Emily ever forgives me, maybe I can put it back together.”

“Why wouldn’t she forgive you?”

“Because I got drunk and screwed another woman. The first time in thirteen months and it wasn’t with her. It was Vera something….”

“The company rep?”

“Yeah.”

Carmelita slapped him. Once his ears stopped ringing and his eyes quit tearing, he shook his head to help his vision clear.

“I deserved that.”

“You deserve to be horse whipped! How could you?”

“I’m asking myself the same thing.”

“You say you’re falling in love with Emily, but go out and get drunk and fool around with another woman? The girl had cancer! You’re a total heel, Kyle. I don’t even want to see you right now.”

She started out the door, but he called her back.

“He’s my father!”

She turned, looking at him. “Who?”

“The priest. The damn priest was my father—is my father….”

“The healer? Father Michael?”

“Michael Kyle Scott, Senior.” He said each name slowly and distinctly.

There was a long, echoing silence as Carmelita digested that information.

“Does Emily know?” she asked quietly.

He shook his head. “I didn’t find out until afterward. He told me he wants my forgiveness. I don’t think I can do it, Lita. I don’t think I have any of that left in me. Obviously, I didn’t deal with the news terribly well.”

She didn’t say anything, but her expression agreed with him and then some. “What about you and Emily?”

“How am I going to tell her about this? I don’t mean about my father.”

“I know what you mean.”

“I have to tell her. I can’t just disappear out of her life. How do I tell her?”

“I don’t know. There’s no good way to say it.”

“Is she going to hate me forever?”

Carmelita didn’t say anything, looking away. Kyle’s eyes filled with tears. He’d cried more in the last four days than he had the last six months. Everything hurt, inside and out. He couldn’t breathe properly. Just thinking about how angry and hurt Emily would be when he told her about Vera made him want to puke.

“How could I do this to her? This is what he did to her! I’m a horrible person, Carmelita. I’m the worst kind of man there is.”

“You’re getting yourself all worked up, Kyle.”

“Maybe I should just hurl myself off the side of the ship.”

“Now you’re talkin’ crazy. What you did was lousy, but if I’d been through what you’ve been, why I might do something similar. Yes, it’s rotten and it stinks, but there are worse things you could do.”

“Like what? Kill her dog? Rape her cat?”

Carmelita faced him, arms crossed, full lips pressed tightly together. “Lying about it.”

She slammed the door behind her, stalking down the hall to the elevator. Kyle threw himself face first on the bed wishing that a hole would open and suck him to the bottom of the ocean. Lying there, castigating himself, he heard the phone ring. He didn’t want to answer it, but if it was Emily, he needed to talk to her.

“Hello?”

“Kyle? Oh, thank God.” It was Thad West.

“Hello, Doctor. How’s our favorite patient today?” He tried to sound lighthearted.

“She’s great. I’ve got a few tests to run to be sure, but I’m convinced she’s on the mend!”

© Dellani Oakes

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Sea of Destiny – Part 38 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverAfter healing Emily, Father Mike gives Kyle some news he wasn’t expecting to hear. It isn’t good news and sends Kyle into a tailspin. By some quirk of Fate, Kyle has finally found his long, lost father—the man who left when he was a kid. The story he tells greatly upsets Kyle.

He left the room, resisting the urge to slam the door. On the way down in the elevator, the pain hit. It felt like his heart was exploding, but he knew it was the anger and grief he’d been holding in for the last twenty-six years. He couldn’t break down and cry in public. He wouldn’t embarrass himself like that. He wanted a quiet place to get drunk and forget the man who had given him life.

He couldn’t bring himself to call the man his father. Maybe one day, but not today. Stumbling out of the elevator, he nearly ran over the young woman from the tour company. She caught him, helping him stand.

“Mr. Scott, are you all right? Is Emily okay?”

“Emily’s fine. The priest did what he promised. She’s healed.”

“That’s wonderful! But you don’t look well. What’s wrong?”

“Is there somewhere we can go for a drink? I need a drink.”

“Sure. Come this way. There’s a lounge. We can have a couple drinks and I’ll take you back to the ship.”

“Thanks. I can’t remember your name, but you’re a real peach.”

She smirked. “Thanks. My name is Vera. Let’s get that drink, Mr. Scott.”

“The name’s Kyle. So, Vera, how long have you worked for the company?”

They laughed and chatted through the dinner hour, sharing quite a few drinks. By 10:00, Kyle was very drunk and Vera was nearly as bad off. Kyle was amazed at how witty she found him. He didn’t think it was just because they were drunk, he was really being very charming. Vera loved to dance, so they took advantage of the dance floor in the lounge and he used his skill to seduce her. By the time the bar closed, she had invited him back to her place.

However, since it was obvious that neither of them could drive, they took a room at the hotel. Completely forgetting his children, his late wife and Emily, he took Vera to bed.

* * *

Kyle woke the next morning with the mother of all hangovers. Vera was gone, having left a note for him beside the bed.

“Had a fab time last night! You’re a great dancer and even better in bed. Call me next time you’re in Cozumel! Vera.” Followed by her phone number.

“Oh, God. What have I done?”

He showered, then realized he had no fresh clothing to put on. It was pretty wrinkled and he’d spilled something on his jacket that looked like it had left a stain. He walked back to the ship hoping that the morning air would clear his head, but it was already hot and humid. It only served to make him nauseous. He returned to his cabin while Carmelita and the children were at breakfast. Taking another shower, he dressed in clean clothing and ordered breakfast to be served in his room. He was just finishing when the family arrived.

“Cindy, you take them up to arts and crafts,” Carmelita said after one look at Kyle.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I wanna see Daddy,” Mindy protested.

“You can see him later,” Randy responded. “Come on, munchkin. I’ll race you to the elevator.”

Their voices faded down the hall. Carmelita slammed the cabin door, hands on hips. Every line of her body radiated fury.

“Where the hell were you?” she bellowed.

“Don’t, Lita. No third degree. Give me a second for my head to stop spinning and I’ll tell you.”

“Don’t give me any lip, boy. Your kids were frantic when you didn’t come in. I thought little Mindy was gonna have a conniption this morning when you didn’t show up at breakfast.”

“I’m an irresponsible, insensitive prick. Okay?” He yelled. “Are you happy now?” He stopped yelling because it hurt his head. “Emily’s fine, thank you.”

“I know that already, Thad called last night. She woke up and was asking for you.”

“There were complications afterward.”

“With Emily? Is she okay?”

“She’s fine. The complications were with me.”

“You got drunk.”

“Yeah. Very drunk. I danced awhile and I’m pretty damn sure I got laid. Considering how my back feels, I overdid that too.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Sea of Destiny – Part 37 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverThe healing complete, Father Michael has to recover his strength. Although it seriously tests his faith, Kyle has to admit that Emily looks better. He can only hope and pray that she truly is healed.

“I’m not the one you should thank. Your Heavenly Father is responsible for this, not me. I’m just the conduit.”

Kyle dropped to his knees, praying quietly, giving thanks to God for Emily’s healing. He knew she was well, he could feel it. Underneath his joy, something lurked. There was the matter of payment that the priest had mentioned.

“You told me at the mission there was something I must do for you.” Kyle rose, his eyes wary.

“Yes. Gentlemen, I beg your indulge once more. I need to speak to Kyle alone.”

“Certainly, Father.” Pablo bowed respectfully, leaving immediately.

Sighing heavily, Dr. West followed him. Once the door was closed, Fr. Michael focused on the door for a moment before turning back to examine Kyle’s face.

“Before I begin, you have to promise not to lose your temper or raise your voice.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because what I have to say is going to make you very angry.”

“If you’ve done something to hurt Emily….”

“No. No, son, nothing like that. If I had the strength to move right now, I’d take you outside, but I don’t. You have to promise.”

“Is it something I can talk to you about tomorrow?”

“No. This is the last you’ll see me.”

“For Emily’s sake, I promise.”

Nodding, the priest accepted the statement. Taking a sip of his wine, he tried to get his troubled thoughts aligned before he began.

“I have a story to tell you. It began, oh, about thirty-four years ago when I was a young man. I met a beautiful woman. She had hair like spun gold and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. I fell into those eyes, drowning in her beauty. Then I did something very bad. I took that woman to my bed before we were married and she got pregnant. Both of us were Catholic. Determined to do the right thing, I married her. She gave me a son and we named him after me. I loved that child more than I had ever loved his mother. I was fond of her, but my son was the light of my life.

“A few years later, we had another son. By this time, the marriage was in trouble. We were so young when we married, barely eighteen, that we were completely different people by then. My wife and I had a horrible argument. We were furious with one another. I stayed out most of the night drinking with my friends. When I got home, she threw me out. I took a few possessions with me and left. I never went back, never explained, never apologized to my wife or my eldest son. He was seven at the time.”

Kyle’s lip trembled, tears fell from his eyes. His breath came in shuddering gasps as he heard the story. He said nothing, keeping a lid on his tumultuous emotions as he’d promised. He waited for the priest to finish, denying what he knew in his heart was the truth.

“I had our marriage annulled. There were grounds since we were coerced into marriage by her pregnancy. A short time later, I entered the seminary and became a priest. When this mission opportunity came available, I asked for it. I wanted to put as much distance between myself and my old life as I could.” He stopped, laughing weakly. “And then you walked in my study and my old life came back to haunt me with a vengeance.”

“Why didn’t you ever call? You never explained to Chris and me. Not that he’d have understood, he was three. You left me to pick up the pieces of our lives after you ran away. She didn’t even have a job!” He wanted to yell and throw things, but he’d promised not to get angry. “I always wondered what I would say to you if I ever saw you again. I had all these pretty speeches planned about how sorry I was that I drove you away. I blamed myself….”

“It was never about you or your brother. Your mother was a beautiful, selfish and demanding woman. Nothing I did was ever enough. Then I got the call to become a priest, something I had put off, thinking it wasn’t for me. It became too powerful to put aside anymore. God was calling me to do this work for Him. When I quit fighting, everything worked out.”

“Except for us.”

“I don’t deny that, son.”

“I’m not your son. You gave up that right when you annulled your marriage to my mother, declaring me a bastard.”

“I’m asking your forgiveness, Kyle. I need to hear you say it.”

“You can keep on needing it, Father Michael, because I’m never saying it. I thank you for what you did for Emily. That was the miracle she wanted. For that, I’m grateful. But I can’t find it in my heart to forgive you. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go before I really lose my temper and break my promise.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Sea of Destiny – Part 36 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverAs promised, Father Michael comes to the hotel, along with his assistant. Pablo. He takes her confession, then begins the healing process.

Fr. Michael anointed Emily with blessed oil and chrism on her head, hands and feet. He prayed first in English, then Latin. Taking her head between his hands, he began to pray in a language Kyle didn’t recognize. His hands moved to her shoulders and down her body. Emily trembled beneath his touch, her breath coming in short, sharp gasps.

Kyle and Thaddeus moved toward her, but Pablo stopped them, indicating silently that she was all right. None of them said a word as Fr. Michael continued to pray. Emily grew flushed and began to sweat as the intensity of his prayers increased. Suddenly, she collapsed, falling back in her chair, limp and unconscious.

Fr. Michael stumbled, losing his balance. Pablo caught him expertly, laying him gently on the floor. Dr. West moved to take his pulse or check on Emily, but Pablo stopped him even more adamantly. He took them from the room, motioning that they must not speak yet.

Once they were in the study with the door closed, Dr. West showed his anger. “I have to insist that you allow me back in that room!”

“No, I cannot. And please to not yell. It is part of the healing process. They are connected right now, by spirit. If you touch them, break the connection, the healing will not take place. Your anger is bad, Doctor. If you cannot keep it under control, you must leave.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“Then I must insist that you remain calm. If Emily is to get well, you must.”

“If I don’t say anything and don’t touch them, may I go back in?” Kyle asked humbly. “I—I want to be with her.”

“Yes, of course. But you must promise, say nothing, and do not touch.”

“I promise. On my honor, I won’t interfere in any way.”

“You go in then. You stay,” he told Dr. West firmly.

Nodding, Thaddeus poured himself another drink. Scotch this time. Kyle went back in the other room. He sat on the love seat between Emily’s chair and Father Michael’s prostrate form.

Emily was still sweating, her face flushed. Father Michael was pale, his features drawn much like Emily’s had been. Dark circles had formed around his eyes. His body shook with tiny tremors. It was his hands that upset Kyle the most. They were darkly mottled, misshapen, swollen and a hideous shade of red. The sight nearly turned Kyle’s stomach and it was all he could do not to vomit.

He concentrated instead on Emily. Her color was returning to normal, her breath less shallow and ragged. Her cheeks and lips blushed with health, not fever. Her skin no longer had the waxiness he’d seen there the last few days. One last shuddering breath, she began to breathe normally, and he knew she was asleep.

Father Michael gasped, groaning. His body shook more violently terrifying Kyle. He left the room quietly, running into the study. Motioning to Pablo, he asked him to check on the priest with gestures. Pablo pulled him into the study, closing the door behind him.

“He will be fine in a few minutes. Depending upon now sick the person is, depends on how long he’s unconscious.”

“What’s wrong with his hands?”

“He must process what he takes from them. Not all healers do this, but it is Father Michael’s way. He will be weak when he finishes. May I order him some food?”

“Certainly,” Dr. West replied. “Whatever he requires.”

“Bread and wine. Some meat—grilled fish is best. I shall call now. He will be coming out of it when the food arrives.” He called room service, placing his order.

The food arrived moments after Fr. Michael regained consciousness. Dr. West met the waiter at the door, signing for the meal. Emily was still asleep. Kyle stood beside her, gazing at her helplessly.

“You may touch her now,” Pablo said as he helped the priest onto the couch. “Do not try to wake her, she will come around on her own.”

Kyle nodded his thanks, drawing a chair next to her. He sat vigil, waiting for what seemed like forever for her to wake, but began to think she wouldn’t anytime soon.

“She will sleep several hours,” Fr. Michael said. His voice was dry, rough. “She needs to stay here tonight and can go back to the ship at midday tomorrow.”

“Is she healed now?” Kyle asked anxiously.

Father Michael smiled at Kyle, his blue eyes glittering. “Yes, she’s healed. Your faith and hers will keep her that way. Never doubt, especially not right now.”

“She looks magnificent, so much better. I have no doubt she’s well. Thank you, Father.”

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Sea of Destiny – Part 35 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverOn behalf of Emily, Kyle goes to speak to the faith healer priest. After talking for several minutes, the priest seems willing to visit Emily at the hotel where he will do his best to heal her.

“Is she a believer?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Are you?”

“I’m trying. Faith has been a little shaky the last year. I want to believe, I need to believe. I need—something more. I’m not explaining very well.”

“On the contrary, you’re explaining extremely well. For me it was the calling to Holy Orders. I was married myself, had a couple kids. One day, I woke up and knew it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t what I was meant to do. I left and never went back. Cowardly of me, I know. I owed her an explanation, but I didn’t have the strength. By the time I did, it was really too late.”

“So, you’ll do this?”

“Yes, Mr. Scott. I’ll do this. Have Ms. Geraci at the hotel near the docks, the one her family owns, and I’ll be there at five o’clock. My evening service is at eight, but we’ll be done well before then.”

“Thank you, Father!” He shook the older man’s hands with both of his. “Thank you. Can I give you something for your time?”

“There’s one thing I need from you, son.”

“Anything.”

“Don’t be too quick to promise. I’ll tell you after I’m done.”

“Okay.”

Kyle thought it was a little strange, but he wasn’t going to argue. Grinning, wanting to dance and sing, he gathered up his family and took them sightseeing. Vera called the ship and gave Thad West the good news. He promised to have Emily at the hotel before four.

Riding an adrenaline high, Kyle couldn’t remember anything he saw in Cozumel. He was itching to get back to the ship to see Emily, but wasn’t about to break his promise to his children.

At 4:30, the company rep dropped Kyle at the hotel while Carmelita took the children back to the ship. He waited impatiently for the priest to arrive. When he did, Kyle took him up to her penthouse suite. The living room overlooked the ocean. He could see the ship in the harbor.

Emily was sitting in a recliner gazing out across the water. She had her prayer book and rosary with her. Soft music played quietly in the background. Kyle recognized it as Handel’s Messiah. He pulled a chair up next to her, taking her hand.

“You did this for me?”

“With Thad’s help, yes.”

“Why? You hardly know me.”

He kissed her tenderly, taking her fingers to his lips. “Isn’t it obvious?” His eyes held hers a long time.

There was a soft tap at the door. Thad West answered, greeting the men quietly. Kyle rose, smiling as he made the introductions.

“Forgive me for not getting up,” Emily said softly. “Thaddeus insisted that I remain in my chair.”

“Not a problem,” Father Michael said with a grin. “Pablo, I need the lady’s hands and feet uncovered. Mr. Scott, if you’d assist?”

“Sure.” He and the man he’d met at the mission helped Emily remove her shoes.

“There is a short service, a few scriptures read. Are you Catholic?” he asked Emily.

“Yes. Born and raised in the Church.”

“Excellent. Then I need not explain about the importance of the Host?”

“No. Father, may I have a moment for Confession?”

“Certainly, my dear. I anticipated the need. Pablo.” His assistant brought his purple stole, placing it around his shoulders. “Gentlemen, if you will.” He invited them to leave in no uncertain terms.

The three of them stepped into the study, closing the door behind them. Thaddeus offered them each a drink. None of them took alcohol, opting for Coca-Cola instead. Kyle was on edge. Something about Father Michael was familiar. He couldn’t place it, but there was a distinct vibe when the other man was around. Part of that, he knew, was power. This priest was decidedly a conduit for God’s healing. He had met a few people in his life who had spiritual gifts, and this man was stronger than any of them. Kyle knew that Father Michael could help Emily. But there was something else, an underlying, nebulous tingle he couldn’t identify.

They came back in after Emily’s confession and gathered around as Fr. Michael assigned each of them a scripture to read. The service itself was short, followed by Communion. Dr. West wasn’t Catholic, but Kyle and Emily were. Fr. Michael blessed the Host, placing it on their tongues. Afterwards, he began the Anointing of the Sick. It was a special sacrament that Kyle had never seen performed before.

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