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Fantasy Fiction

Norris Chandler arrived promptly at 1:30 pm to pick me up for our meeting with Jason Paul, the guru of stained glass. When he rang the bell, Victor hopped up from the couch to get the door. “Hi there! You must be Norris, please come in. I’m Victor, nice to meet you.” 

“Pleasure to meet you, Victor.” Norris shook his hand eagerly. “Grace has told me good things about you.” 

“Likewise, Norris. I hear you know someone that might be able to recreate the stained-glass window at my parents' house?”

“Yep. Jason Paul. If he can’t do it, then it can’t be done.” He looked to me as I approached. “Don’t forget the photograph, Grace.” I tapped my purse and gave him the thumbs up. “Victor, would you like to come with us?” 

“Wish I could Norris. Unfortunately, I have another appointment. You guys have fun.” Victor kissed me on the cheek and waved as Norris and I headed for the car.  

It was only a twenty-minute drive to Jason Paul’s house. Norris and I were chatting away about historical preservation society matters when he suddenly stopped mid-sentence. 

“Wait. Stop. Grace Parker, is that an engagement ring on your finger?” His tone was playfully accusatory. I laughed and blushed.  

“It is. It was Victor’s grandmother’s ring.” 

“Well congratulations! It’s stunning, the ring I mean. When did that happen?” 

“Last week when I got home from our meeting actually, Victor surprised me.” 

We soon arrived at Jason Paul's house. His stained-glass studio was in a huge barn out back but our meeting with him took place at his kitchen table with cups of tea and lemon cookies. Jason was an eccentric looking man, tall and skinny but with muscular arms. He wore jeans, cowboy boots, a white t-shirt and a vest. His black hair was thinning on top, but he had a long thin ponytail and a handlebar moustache. His brown eyes danced with excitement as we discussed first Norris’ stained-glass project and then mine.  

Jason studied the photograph Wanda had loaned me. “Beautiful.” He said quietly.  

“Do you think you can recreate it?” I asked and held my breath. If he said no, I was doomed. Norris had said Jason is the best and if he can’t do it, it can’t be done. Jason grinned ear to ear. 

“It will take me some time but yes, I can make this for you.” 

I exhaled in relief. We discussed the potential cost which wasn’t an issue for me. Jason scanned the photograph into his computer including the measurements on the back. “I look forward to working on these projects for you both.” 

Norris and I thanked Jason and then Norris drove me back home. Victor greeted me at the door and waved at Norris as he drove away. I gave him the good news about Jason being able to do the window. He was thrilled. 

“How did your appointment go?” I asked. 

“We have an assignment.” I nodded and took Victor’s hand.  

**** 

We had just finished putting a classic Winnie the Pooh border up in the nursery at Rita’s house. Standing back to admire our handiwork, I was pleased. The border was perfectly straight and there was no bubbling. Victor looked pleased as well.  

“Someday we will be doing this for our own baby.” Victor said. I don’t know what my face did, but it clearly did something because Victor’s face fell flat. “You-- don’t want to have a baby?” He looked crushed and it shredded me inside. 

I sighed heavily. “On the contrary, I would love nothing more than to have your children Victor but, with me being a sorrow eater, I don’t think it’s going to be a possibility. You don’t know what happens when I take all that sorrow in, how it crushes me inside. No pregnancy could withstand that.” I shook my head sadly. “Exposing a child to all that sadness—and who knows what all the poofing would do to a baby.” 

Victor reached over and tucked my hair behind my ears. “I noticed you said children, plural. How many are you thinking?” 

“At least two. I always told myself I would have at least two so they would never be lonely the way I was as a child.” A tear slipped from my eyes. Children now seemed an impossible dream and I was filled with a sense of loss and of resentment that the powers that be had taken that from me.  

“I was thinking three of four.” Victor smiled and wiped the tear from my cheek. “We will find a way Grace; I know we will. Don’t give up our dream just yet.” 

I nodded and smiled. I wanted more than anything to believe it was possible, but I just couldn’t see how. Victor had hope and I wasn’t about to take that away from him no matter how unlikely I thought it was.  

**** 

We were in the car headed to the annual fourth of July party/family reunion at Victor’s parents’ house. Victor rattled off a list of who was usually at the family gathering. I just smiled and nodded. There was no way I was going to remember all those names, especially when I had no faces to go with them.

I love seeing Victor excited and happy. He seems so different now than the guy that first appeared to me over a year ago. The first time I met him, I thought he was sad and a bit dark. I don’t see him that way anymore, now he’s the light of my life and the husband to whom my soul is thankfully bound although, no one knows that little tidbit aside from our friend Rita. 

We arrived at Victor’s parents’ house midafternoon. Other family members had already started to arrive. The wide front porch was all decked out in patriotic banners. Victor carried our overnight bag, and I carried the fruit salad. We were bombarded with greetings and introductions for me as we walked in the front door. Victor took our bag to the room we would be staying in upstairs while I made my way to the kitchen to drop off the fruit salad. I found Wanda there making a huge pile of hamburger patties. 

“Oh! Grace, I want to hug you, but my hands are covered in meat! I reserve the right to hug you later.”  

“Can I help with anything?” I asked. Wanda nodded and pointed to a few onions by the cutting board. 

“Mind slicing a cople and dicing one for the burgers and dogs?” I didn’t mind at all and happily chopped and sliced away. The onions brought tears to my eyes. I felt someone tug on the hem of my shirt. I looked down to see an adorable girl of three or four looking at me with great concern. 

“Are you sad? You cwry-ing.” She had the slighted little lisp. 

“Well, hello there. No, I’m not sad. The onions make my eyes water, that’s all.” I doubted she understood but she seemed satisfied by my answer and gave me a big grin. She was wearing a red, white and blue romper and her black hair was in tiny little pigtails. She was the cutest thing I had ever seen. Victor’s brother Thad peeked around the corner.  

“There’s my munchkin!” He scooped the girl up in his arm. “Hello Grace. I see you’ve met my daughter, Maya.” The love on Thad’s face was evident. Maya put her little arms around her father’s neck.  

Victor strolled into the kitchen. Maya’s face lit up and she reached for him. “Uncle Vi-tor!” Thad passed his daughter over to his brother with a smile. I finished up with the onions and washed my hands. Wanda, whose hands were finally meat-free, grabbed me for the promised hug.

“Ronnie and I are so happy that you and Victor are going to be married.” Wanda beamed. “Have you set a date yet?” 

“We’re thinking in the fall. Not sure yet.” I was watching Victor and Maya. He was so good with her, so natural. He looked up at me and winked. I smiled.  

Wanda patted me on the back. “Ronnie and I are looking forward to more grandbabies.”  Wanda doesn't do subtle.

I caught my breath and made some lame excuse to leave the room. I don’t even remember what I said. 

The afternoon was spent mingling with Victor’s family members. Aunts, Uncles, cousins; I wouldn’t be able to remember all those names. I was sitting in one of the rocking chairs on the porch when Cousin Susan, whose name I DID remember, came and sat in the chair next to mine. She looked at me with sympathy. 

“It’s a lot, isn’t it? I feel like we should all wear name tags to these things.”  

I laughed. “That would be helpful.” 

“Well, don’t let the clan overwhelm you. None of us bite. Well, maybe little Joshua but he’s teething so we give him a pass.” I tried to remember which couple Joshua belonged to; was it Edward and Marie or Cade and Catherine? I should have taken notes.  

When evening rolled around, most of the family headed downtown to watch the city fireworks display. Victor and I stayed home with Wanda and Ronnie and helped them clean up. While Victor and Ronnie were working outside cleaning the grill and such, Wanda and I worked inside. Wanda asked me to sit down with her for a few minutes.  

“Grace, I know what you are.”  

“Um, I’m sorry?” I swallowed hard. 

“I know about your---- extracurricular activities.” Wanda didn’t look upset, in fact, she looked quite pleased. I thought back to my conversation with Rita, how I had made the mistake of thinking she knew something she did not.  

“Wanda, I’m going to need you to spell it out for me.” 

“I know that you’re a sorrow eater.” She was smiling. I gasped. Wanda reached over and patted my hand. “It’s alright dear. The only thing I’m not sure about--- does Victor know?” I nodded. “Is he your guide?” I nodded again. My mouth didn’t want to function, so I said nothing. Wanda’s smile spread even wider. “Oh! I’m so glad!” 

“How do you know?” I finally managed to speak. 

“I think we better call the boys in so all four of us can talk.” She went to the door and called Ronnie and Victor in. We all sat around the kitchen table where Wanda and Ronnie explained they had been aware of sorrow eaters and guides for many years.  

“Victor, do you remember how I used to babysit for all those different people when you were younger?” He nodded. “Those people were sorrow eaters and/or guides. If they needed a babysitter while they were on assignment, they came to me. I’m retired now but I still help now and then in a pinch.” 

“Why didn’t you guys tell me before?” Victor asked. 

“Son, we didn’t know you were a guide and it’s not the sort of thing you can just tell anyone.” Ronnie replied. “Thad doesn’t know either so be careful what you say in front of him.” 

“Then how did you figure out that I’m a sorrow eater?” I was confused. Victor looked like he was too. 

Wanda went on to explain how the powers that be sent signals to her when a sorrow eater was near and that I had set off her alarm. Oddly she could not sense guides which explained why she didn’t know Victor was a guide. Due to her many years as a sitter, Wanda and Ronnie now have a sizable group of friends who are sorrow eaters and guides. The possibility of meeting others like us thrilled both Victor and me.  

“I’ll make a few calls and get some friends over here for brunch tomorrow so you can meet them.” Wanda offered. “Thad has to leave early tomorrow to take Maya back to her mother so the coast will be clear.” 

“Yes! Please!” I couldn't hide my enthusiasm.  

**** 

Victor and I had been awake half the night talking. Our excitement to meet other sorrow eaters and guides was immeasurable. We were filled with hope that they would be able to answer some of our many questions not the least of which was, could we have children? 

Thad and Maya left around 8:00 am. The brunch guests started arriving at 9:45 am. They all poofed into the dining room. Ronnie shook his head. “I’ll never get used to that no matter how many times I see it.” We later learned that everyone had their own term for poofing. Transporting, popping, blinking, zipping and so on.  

Wanda went around the table making introductions. Sasha was a sorrow eater, with her was her husband Carlos and her guide Ben. Cole was a sorrow eater; his wife Jenny is his guide. La’Treece was a sorrow eater, her husband Malcom couldn’t make it to brunch, but her guide Thomas was with her. Patricia was a sorrow eater, and her husband Dom was her guide.  

I could barely touch the pancakes, sausage and fruit Wanda had served. My mind was racing with questions. “This is amazing! We knew there were others but, we had no idea how to find any of them.” 

“Yep.” La’Treece said sticking a plump strawberry into her mouth. “Can we all just take a moment to salute the powers that be for making this all as difficult as possible?” Her salute was a middle finger solute. I couldn’t disagree. We all gave the middle finger solute and laughed. 

“It’s like being forced to join a club but hey, you aren’t allowed to know who any of the other members are.” Cole rolled his eyes. “I mean they could have at least given us a secret handshake or something.” 

“I’d settle for an instruction manual.” Patricia sighed. We all nodded in agreement. 

Everyone shared the stories of how they were introduced to their “gift”. Most of the stories were similar to ours. A guide came and told the newly gifted guide the deal and trained them; the new guide was then assigned to a newly gifted sorrow eater and had to break the news to them. As far as everyone knew, the teams were always made up of one male and one female although either gender could end up being the sorrow eater or the guide. No one had been able to figure out so far, how the powers that be chose their victims; it didn’t appear to be hereditary. Wanda had a theory it had something to do with having a giving generous spirit, she said we all had that in common.  

“No good deed goes unpunished.” Dom snorted.  

“Then there’s the healing thing. You should have seen the first time Ben told us how he could heal Sasha. I nearly beat the crap out of him, trying to hug up on my wife.” Carlos laughed. 

“Isn’t that awkward for all of you?” Victor asked.

“It certainly was at first.” Ben replied. “Once we were all on the same page about it just being a necessary part of the job, it was all good.” He and Carlos gave each other the thumbs up.  

“You two must have a million questions.” Sasha smiled sympathetically. “We’re all here for each other, we are a family of sorts. Ask us anything.” 

“You all have children, right? That’s how you met Wanda?” Everyone nodded. “You can have a successful pregnancy while being a sorrow eater? I just don’t see how, given the physical trauma.” 

“We have good news for you sister.” Sasha grinned. “It has been this way for all of us here so it must be the norm. As soon as you get pregnant and until you recover from childbirth, you won't get any assignments.” 

“That’s right.” Thomas confirmed. “As soon as La’Treece and Malcom conceived, my sorrow radar went blank. They have three kids, and it was the same with each pregnancy.”  

“I’m considering having a fourth baby just so I can get a vacation.” La’Treece laughed.  

“I didn’t even get any sorrow signals while Jenny was pregnant, so it works regardless of rather the mother is the sorrow eater or the guide.” Cole shared.  

“Obviously, I insist you let me be the sitter for my grandbabies.” Wanda said. 

I was elated. Victor grabbed my hand underneath the table. “I told you there had to be a way.” His eyes glistened with happy tears. Our dream of having a family was alive. One meeting over brunch had changed our lives.  

We all chatted for a couple of hours until the guests decided it was time to poof, pop, transport or blink back to their respective homes. We all exchanged phone numbers.  

I hugged Wanda and cried.  

“Oh, sweetheart. You don’t have to deal with this alone anymore.” She consoled me. “You gained an awful lot of family in one weekend, didn’t you?” 

I smiled through my tears. “Thank you, Wanda. Family is the one thing I’ve never had that I always wanted.” 

September 03, 2022 19:53

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1 comment

Karen Marshall
22:38 Sep 06, 2022

I'm overwhelmed by this story. Happy tears that Grace and Victor have a community now. So great!! Im really loving this story arc! I didn't know you had this all in you Melissa. Keep going :-)

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