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Over 15 years, Rene had watched young women work at University Café, a store aptly named. Initially, she had begun as a silent partner, her family fronted some money to get started and what seemed to be a wise investment came along with her partner Herbert.
At the start of her marriage, she'd intended to be a stay at home mum. When her first pregnancy fell through she fell into depression. Letting him make all the financial decisions while she took care of the cleaning and shopping. In recent years, he'd begun flirting with other women, sharing the wealth just a little too freely.
Now they struggled to make ends meet. Rene, forced to start working at the shop, refused to let the staff know she was part owner. How embarrassing for her, to be working there in the first place? The looks she would receive, if people knew she was married to that greasy womanizer, unbearable.
Girls, always girls, he never hired young men to work the counter. He liked them thin and blond, always dismissing them a year before their studies would finish. How many had he slept with she wondered? Over the years he had many close calls. If not for her father being a lawyer, they would have been closed down after the first incident.
Each one of those frilly little ladies showed more interest in boys than in study. Their faces were so similar and the attitudes identical.
Oh, the tears they would shed, as the boys moved on to serious partners at the end of their studies. After watching the play unwind over and again... Rene knew for a fact, they all got what they deserved.
More recently however, the dry hard woman had become fixated on a staff member with a difference. Perhaps it was her husband's lack of attention? He'd not even attempted to pick her up. In fact, after a few introductory months, she may have been invisible.
Initially, Rene noticed the young girl's keenness. Constance would turn up a full hour early for work. Never mentioning it, never asking for overtime or time off.
Never a job left undone and never needing to be told twice. Her work ethics were like that of a 30-year-old. Yes, she could relate to that child from day one.
At home, Rene had entered heated arguments. Always, her grease ball of a husband, wanted the child fired. It was one of the few arguments she'd actually won! After that day, for several months, she was capable of anything. Perhaps, just perhaps, she'd kept her for that very reason.
Approximately six months ago, the poor little child started suffering a typical breakdown. On first observation Rene was sure the issue was boy related. Constant crying over a boy and shaking at the thought of 'him', typical symptoms for a child her age. At that point, experience should have forced her to ignore the cries and fire the incompetent brat – but she didn't.
By chance, walking behind the building, she'd noticed several students engaged in a conversation. As Constance walked past the group, made from a healthy mix of both boys and girls, they discussed how little money her family had.
“She's all bones cause she never eats.” One of them had commented. Rene went cold listening.
Every night at dinner, Rene recalled the event. Her eyes would look about the house her family had paid for and with new enthusiasm, she'd point a fork at her husband Herbert. “Tomorrow you fill that girl's bag with food, do you hear me? You look after her or you're out!”
While the threat could easily be carried out, he'd treat it as hollow. Then be sure to fill the unwanted brat's bag with food the next day.
Deep down he knew who really owned the business and the house. He would remind himself 'When you've got two wives and a mistress you don't want to rock the boat.'
There was no doubt Rene had grown attached to the child, if only she'd open up more. Sure the kid was happy to work and always made excellent tips but didn't she have any friends? At all? Surely someone must be an ear for her? Rene found herself distracted at work and probably aging horribly from worry.
Today something deeply disturbed Constance and Rene knew it. Directly asking her would only drive the timid creature away. It was difficult to help someone so internally focused. She could stand next to her all day, pouring coffee and learn little to nothing about any issues. No, there would have to be a more subtle approach.
She only had a few more minutes, till shifts-end, to find out what's wrong. Or wait until tomorrow? No, not tomorrow, this wouldn't wait. What if she didn't come back? What if she quit? What if it was something that arrogant husband of hers had done?
“Constance, can I ask you a favor?” An idea formed quickly in her mind and she exploded without hesitation.
“Sure Rene, what's up? Need something from down stairs?” The most common reason people asked for a favor was stock control – horrible job. If she wanted something picked up it had to be quick. Carrying large boxes of stock up those slippery stone stairs, took longer when you wanted to leave.
“No! No no, no. Um, you know I take a class in the afternoons, after work. It's a group thing, you know?” She'd never mentioned it before. Never needed to, but perhaps it was time to extend an olive branch.
“You need me to cover for you? I...” Constance wanted to say no. In recorded history, there hadn't been a day worse than this one. All she thought about, for the past two hours, was leaving.
If she stayed, there would be no time and a half. The boss never gave overtime, just a regular flat rate. “Okay, how long? I can stay an extra hour.”
The look on Rene's face was pure pain. 'How can she think I would ask her to stay?'. “Actually, my class is being canceled today. I'm very upset but the teacher won't hold a class unless eight or more people are there.”
Seldom did she tell an outright lie but she continued without pause. “One girl canceled, so the whole group has to suffer.” The teacher would run a class with only one person, a few biscuits, and a coffee but how else could she invite Constance?
Constance was refilling a dispenser when she froze, stood and examined her hands for a moment. The veins were a deep purple and she was certain they didn't normally stand out so far. 'Did she just invite me out? Mustn't know I have no money.' “Sorry but I really have to get home and study.”
“Okay, okay” it was a reflex action, by nature she wouldn't push. For a few moments, the air sat still, both worked slowly with time filling jobs. “It's just, well it's all been paid for. I'll give you a lift home after. I know it's a big favor.”
Again she waited for a reply, with nothing forthcoming she continued. “It's all paid up, if you like just once, if you like every week.” This would be her last try, if the kid wanted an olive branch it was being held way out.
“No.” It was hard and fast. “Sorry, seriously, no, I can't. I've got to get home.” Constance hadn't been invited to anything in over a year. The idea of going somewhere without Mr. Dowr and with no notice, terrified her. Internally she'd admit to needing the distraction.
'I should just give up.' Her mind dwelt on Tim's earlier stunt. Three weeks ago, she'd turned down a cup of coffee with her mysterious admirer. Today they finally built up the courage to talk. His name: Adrian, the perfect name for the perfect person.
Each half wink and curl of the lip had etched itself in her mind, the moment was magical. Their conversation lasted almost a minute and she could tell he was going to suggest meeting up again. Then Tim came in, that mongrel.
Somehow he just knew, 'why did he have to ruin everything?' The bag of coffee dropped from her hand, spilling out over a recently mopped floor. “Ah!” a tear dropped into the mix as she knelt to clean her mess. Constance's memory was jolted by the accident, in that moment Tim's plastic flirtations were forgotten.
“Rene? Is it too late to call up? Oh, how long is this thing?” She'd made up her mind, if the offer was still available, Rene would have her extra class mate.
“Oh my. You're not going to regret this, thank you so much. If I can do you a favor sometime, well.” Why the shop's owner had a compulsion to thank her was a mystery, even to herself.
Now, to get everything ready, she had to scoot out back for a moment and make some calls. Rene really did believe that 'treating this girl' was a gift to herself. In a way, by taking that poor child under her wing, she was making up for ruining her own spoiled upbringing.
In the car, Constance began trembling. She couldn't help herself, the more she tried to control it the worse it became. Her head ached, her shoulders stabbed at her like small knives in the upper back and her legs twitched. This was a far nicer car than she'd imagined.
Her father's minivan now seemed homely and a little oily, this car must have been new! The plastic molding had no cracks or dust and there was a place for cups. Even the passenger side had air bags, true luxury.
She tucked hands under thighs and tried not to get too comfortable. 'How can a waitress afford something so expensive?' Constance tried to calculate how many hours it would take to earn a new car.
“Can you turn the radio on for me? I like to listen while driving.” This adventure into helping out a child had been a mistake. If Rene could think of a way out, she would.
She'd never helped anyone like this before and pushed selfish thoughts into the background. 'If we don't get there soon she'll vomit, I can't have that in my car.'
The console had a remarkable array of buttons and dials, finding an 'on' switch wasn't easy. “Hey, what's this class all about anyway?” The question had been rolling around since she'd said yes to going but there hadn't been an opportunity to ask.
“Oh it's a bit of exercise, you know yoga?” Everyone knew about yoga, didn't they? She continued with the assumed 'yes'. “Well we start with stretches, you know, then we'll do a bit of meditation.”
“So, I'm just going to do some stretching and sit? I don't do meditation but I guess I can try.” Before any answer was provided, the car turned into the parking area of a small community hall. Five other vehicles were already cued up nicely near the main entrance.
Together they walked into the building. An aromatic mix of herbal tea and incense flooded the entrance. “Now I hope you don't mind, I called Sonya the instructor and she's brought an extra outfit. Should be your size.” Spread out thinly in the main meeting room, three groups of people busily entertained themselves with small talk and cookies.
Constance found herself surrounded by women all wanting to shake, kiss or hug her, for the supreme sacrifice of saving their group. It was all an agreed act, everyone knew they had to make her feel welcome and needed. Polite questions filled the air.
“So you found the place? Oh I'm Sonya, this is Mandy and that's Maris, Jillian is pouring tea...” Only Sonya's name sunk in, she spoke with experience and seniority. It took Constance some time to determine the lady's age. She was clearly much older than the rest of the ladies but had an unbelievable air of youth about her; all without makeup.
Once physical contact was established, pain and stress began pouring like an invisible river from student to teacher. Softly, the instructor's eyes looked straight through the young girl. A gaze Constance couldn't return, she looked at the woman's lips in an effort to maintain a sense of normal.
In the room's corner, a shadow seemed to be moving. The blackened image of a man stepped around the edge of Constance's sight, quietly and quickly entering the room. Then – gone again. The distraction was enough to snap her focus from the breathtaking lady she'd just met. Eventually, she backed away and turned to Rene. “I, I'll get ready.”
“Oh take your time honey, we'll be waiting for a few more people and you know. How bout you make yourself a quick drink and settle in?” A towel and outfit was handed to her. Only slightly visible between pants and top, the price tag showed Constance how expensive the outfit had been.
'Did they go out and buy me an outfit? What's going on here, am I some kind of charity?' She left the tag on, these clothes were not hers and she had no intention of coming back for a second group class.
Deep down inside, an instinct told her to run, get out of here before it's too late! Her stomach wished an inner voice would demand they leave, she'd obey that command. Heck, if anyone suggested she leave the whole night would be over.
'I'm not going to walk out but this is too much.' Tea tasted nice and the cookies were delicious. She'd grab a second and nibble it slowly.
Eventually, nine people in total made it on time, each one had been introduced with progressively less enthusiasm. It was clear to the tight long standing group members, that this new girl had no personal interest or desire to attend their session.
Today she'd been tricked, Rene wouldn't make the effort again. Next week she'd have to find her own way, perhaps she'd get a lift if she asked nicely. Why Rene had bothered was now something everyone was trying to work out. Whispered conversations and darting eyes, made the topic of discussion more than obvious.
“Okay! Let's all make a little space and get started. Um, Constance was it? If you like just go slowly and don't push yourself too hard.” It was obvious to Sonya that negativity had begun infecting the group. The sooner she regained their focus the better. Faster than normal her background music started and stretching began.
The group session was going well. For half an hour, they twisted and bent into progressively more complicated shapes. Constance monitored the instructor, 'Amazing, I think I’m more flexible than any of these people. I'm better at those twists than the instructor, that’s for sure.'
Throughout the routine, only their instructor spoke. Her rhythmic voice explained and justified every muscle and all movements. Occasionally telling light jokes. Almost at her own expense, she managed to induce a sense of calm. At the same time, complimenting each person's individual efforts.
Over and again shadows stepped between focal points, taunting Constance with their ability to avoid direct observation. She tried to keep her mind centered on the exercises but as her head turned in rhythm with the group, a feeling of being watched grew. Images from the long walks home flashed into memory, replacing her own sight.
Gut feelings reminded her of time gained near the woods. Those shadows were there too! She saw them at school, work, even the shops. Her own personal nightmares, haunting every darkened corner. 'Am I the only person who sees these things?' She asked herself the same question every time.
The group session wound down, Sonya had them laying back breathing deeply. How this was an important part of physical exercise was beyond her. Obediently, she had followed every step to this point, no harm in completing the event.
Deep in Constance's mind, two conflicting thoughts wanted to explore the current optical illusions. Her eyes closed as she lay back and sunk deep into relaxation. Only Sonya's voice kept her own inner voices subdued. She listened to the lady's sound, soothing the group and encouraging them to relax every muscle.
“Feel your muscles open up, let your body relax. Breath in slowly, hold it, breath out. That's it, at your own pace now, just relax.” Meditation, always the final step in their session. The instructor spent over an hour, every night, developing new scripts to relax her group.
She would tell them stories design to deepen the state of relaxation and encourage them to explore their inner selves.
Today she'd have them imagine a camping trip. “I want you all to mentally create a country path, you're walking down it. The ground is soft beneath your feet and you see flowers growing on either side.”
For the group's majority this was a simple exercise. Each week, by reflex, they would enter a deep state of relaxation. The images would fill their minds quickly and easily. They knew the rhythm. When a story repeated – grumbles and complaints would subtly fill the air.
“In the background, a subtle sound of soft trickling water and a cool breeze reminds you that a familiar stream is not far away. Walk down the path until you see the river.” Most journeys began with a path and a river. She'd lead them into an area, then let them have independent exploration for several minutes.
Today's young newcomer viewed the whole experience as odd. 'How could these people think this was hard to do?' She imagined the world as requested and pictured the sky while listening to birds. An entire world grew around her mind. Sight, sound, and smell.
“Walk over to the water's edge, look into it, see the pebbled resting on the bottom. Crystal clear water. A fish swims past and you imagine you could reach down into that water and pat the beautiful creature.” This particular path-working was one she'd created some time ago. Sonya picked it for the high domination of water images.
Her belief and training suggested water was linked to emotions. Perhaps, if she did a good job, that new young girl would open up to them all about her troubles. “See your reflection in that water, look at your face.”
Within the mind of Constance, upon request, rivers flowed upstream. She walked on the water and followed it down off the planet's edge.
Standing on a stream, in pure darkness, she looked toward 'her' Earth. All this imagining was easy. 'Think I’ll do this for a living, good money to make up silly things.'
Her imagination found the well-scripted story predictable and tiresome. Constance found it easy to follow the soft spoken requests and simultaneously create her own story. 'Last night's dream was an odd one'. Was that a deep sounding thought that reminded her of last night's dream? She was too relaxed to notice.
While most people could argue, that a daydream is triggered by fantasies and desired from the previous night's sleep, Constance had noticed a very different connection. If she lay in bed, creating her own stories, there would be no dreams that night. One would always overcome the need for the other.
Now she found herself struggling to recall cryptic moments from last night's dream. It had been a truly odd one. Only the feelings it left resided in her body but if she could focus on those emotions long enough? 'A parking lot!' Yes, the first glimpse of her dream came jumping back.
Somewhere in the far corners of her mind, was an old dirty parking lot. A few cars loitered the area. Poorly painted white lines, defined the area's perimeter and something else. What wasn't she remembering? The whole scene became a still shot in her mind.
“... now just let yourself explore the area ...” Sound advice came from her guide who scrolled through a memorized script; believing everybody now moved about a shared environment.
Dusty cold air surrounded her as the parking lot became a new reality. 'I was leaning, I think I leaned on a light pole. Yeah that’s it.' Now, as several light poles appeared about the run down city lot, the scene was complete. Some lights worked, others were burned out many dreams ago.
'Dreams ago? I know this place. How can I have this dream?' Deep breathing soaked the parking lot into her memory. The image became more real than anything she could ever recall. At this point there was no desire to explore the area, just lean on the light and enjoy the minute.
'Oh wait!' She stood up from the pole and look at the ran-down cars in her lot. 'I've been here, I have this dream all the time but it's always different.' Her eyes twitched at thoughts swelling to the surface.
A soft-spoken thought echoed, 'Then what, what's different? Then what? What's different?' The repetition was annoying.
'I remember, it's always the same, always. It's never different.' She lied to herself. The feelings varied between each dream and she knew the reason. A shadow stood in the corner of her sight, she turned to face it.
Nothing was there, just another light pole. 'All the dreams are different but it's the same. I remember this place and it's always the same.' Faster than thoughts bubbling to the surface of her mind, Constance moved about the lot, trying to capture more than a glimpse of the shadow.
“... slowly the path winds up...” A voice struggled for focus.
'Forget this nonsense, you need to start focusing on the lady. She wants you to walk up a mountain now. End the dream.' Her masculine thought interrupted; the deep voice that always aimed for common sense.
'Then what? What's different? What's next? What's different? Then what?' That thought formed a rhythmic pattern, that if ignored, may pester her all evening. 'Then what, … what's different, … then what, …' the rhythm forced her attention.
'Nothing!' Her eyes could see in every direction, all at once she looked down at the parking area.
There were no shadows now and there was nothing different. 'This dream is always the same, it's dull and boring and nothing happens!' Her mind was yelling inwardly at both conflicting thoughts.
'So end it.'
“... you start climbing the mountain ...”
Around the room, nine bodies lay in deep meditation, collectively focused on climbing a mountain. Their bodies flat on the ground with thin blue and pink plastic mats separating them from the cold floor boards.
“Thump, Thump, Thump” a rhythmic pulse shook the floor boards and traveled up their backs. It replaced each member's heart beat and sunk the group into a deeper trance.
Separated, by a few feet and a million thoughts, Constance lay alone. Her heart shaking the frame it called home. Beads of sweat formed on her upper lip and tears trickled from the corners of her eyes. 'I want it to end! I don't ever want to see this place again. I want these voices to stop!' Her hands vibrated from conflicting desires.
Deep, in last night's near forgotten dream, her body slammed back to earth. The ground was so much harder, than that of her instructor's fictional garden pathway. Small black stones left their imprint on her skin as she stood. 'How does the dream end?'
'You don't need to know, you need to just wake up. Let me take care of it.' For the first time she could recall, an inner voice suggesting it take control of the situation. How it proposed this could be done, was a mystery.
The rhythmic song stopped and more sensible questions replaced it. 'How does it end? What happens just before you wake up?'
With a force of will, she recreated the emotions just before waking up, then slowly pulsed that feeling through her body. Letting it grow and flood her mind, the parking lot faded away.
'Where am I, just before I wake up?' She struggled not to cough and gag on the question. Her body now covered in perspiration.
“... now just as you entered this place, in a nice safe garden you find yourself returning ...” In the background, Sonya began bringing her class to an end.
The group now entering an environment, they always entered, that symbolized the time to wake up. From there, everyone would slow. Then at their own pace regain self-control and begin to move about.
Typically, the older more experienced team members, would stand first. Quietly wander over to the kettle and turn it on, while fumbling about for a cigarette.
Incense sticks, designed to induce their meditative state, had long since burnt out. The sweet combination of tea and sandalwood ebbed away. Normally a natural process but today a strong smell of sweat dominated the air. It risked ending people's path-workings early.
A new environment formed around Constance. Still dark quiet and cold, something about this one was different, entirely different. Her mind focused on the image as it grew. 'What am I entering? Where am I now?'
Her inner voice of reason condemned the exploration. 'This is all your imagination, none of this is real you know? It's not part of the dream you had.'
'Then you have no reason to stop her, no reason not to let her explore deeper.' A victorious argument from the more caring thought.
'It's all the same, nothing is different.' The deep voice acted as her own, a creative tactic. 'It's still the parking lot.'
Constance found herself stepping back into the parking lot she'd left moments ago. Identical in every way. 'The dream, it ends like it starts. Yes, it does!' Now she could recall the dream's beginning and its ending. Always identical, always a parking lot.
'I have this dream so often. Oh, think I have it every week.' Emotions from other days sparked through her body. Each belonging to a different day and a different dream.
Now, subtle differences from each night, forced spasms of pleasure in her lips. Constance was dripping sweat from her hands, forming a puddle about her blue mat. Her body stopped shaking and began to pulse then almost bounce of the ground.
Now she recalled the dreams. Each one distinctly different:
In one, children are walking through the lot.
Another, the cars are replaced with swings. Cheap plastic and old rust.
Then, a dream of crowds being chased. They ran past her as she stood by the lamp post. 'Help!' Strong feelings of fear filled her as each person raced by.
All the dreams seemed to start and end in the same way. She's in a parking lot, something starts to happen, then she returns to the parking lot and just waits. Eventually waking up and forgetting the whole thing. Everything but a strong emotion that she allows to dominate her day's actions.
'What about the middle? Pick a dream, remember the middle.' Constance stood by her light pole listening to the inner voice beg for further exploration. She settled on last night's dream. Now, with both beginning and end firmly in mind, she could focus on the forgotten middle.
“No.” She stepped backward as a shadow moved between two cars.
In the physical world, everyone's attention was now drawn toward Constance's shaking form. They gathered about her in a circle. Eyes darted towards the instructor and back, seeking explanation and a solution.
Gaining self-confidence, the shadow dared a pass right in front of her. It ran along the ground like her own shadow being chased by light. “I can't see you!” More than one shadow now filled the sides of her vision.
'Stop it, wake up!'
'No, what's in the middle? Forget the shadows, what's in the middle?'
Her head shook back and forth fighting the inner voices. She wanted so much to make them both happy but the shadows, one stood directly in front of her. “Who are you? Go away!” Her voice was a high pitched squeal, the words almost lost.
None of the strange creatures were part of her original dream, of that she was certain. 'Those shadows shouldn't be there, wake up!' The male thought begged her to end the adventure.
“What!” The shadows from her peripheral vision turned white. Were they white or did they have clothes on?
'Coats? We have coats on?'
'Wait a minute? Why would I think “we”?'
'We are all back now', “safe and sound”. Her instructor's soft voice penetrated deeply. Dragging her attention away from the horrible shadows.
In the 20 years, that Sonya had been working in the industry, she'd never experienced anything like this. Her mentor would warn about buried traumas coming to the surface but she'd always worked with seemingly normal people.
The sight of a vibrating sweating child, screaming and shaking her head, took her by surprise. Sonya rested her hand on the girl's shoulder, it was slippery cold and wet.
The second Sonya made contact, Constance's eyes pulled open. Her body clawed backward at the ground. On the far side of the room gravity changed its focus. Pulling at her, making her fly through chairs and a table.
Her body pressed against the back wall and tried to form 100 percent contact. Bulging eyes, stood out from her pale face, darting about the room. Nine women met her full eye contact, all deeply locked in place – no one dared blink.
“It's okay. You're okay now.” With palms faced outward, Sonya took gradual steps toward the timid creature. Her approach would have made a lion tamer proud.
“Yeah, c'mon shh” Rene's face held a look of horror. She'd brought this kid to the class. This was all her fault, if she'd left well enough alone, tomorrow would have been work as normal. “It's yoga, just yoga.”
The tense shaking turned into a subtle shiver while sweat still poured from her hands. As Constance began to calm down her instructor continued to move forward. “You'll be okay now, do you want a little tea? Maris, can you please lend us a towel?”
You could count on Maris to bring spare towels. She purchased the new outfit for Constance. “Oh yes, I think I've got a clean one.”
She quickly walked to her bag and pulled out a few small towels. “Pink? Oh, I've got a yellow one here, does she like yellow?”
With a few blinks, Constance became aware of her surroundings. 'These people are being really nice. Heck, I just ruined their afternoon.' She gratefully accepted the towel and leaned into Sonya – the first person to hold her in a long time. It had been far too long since anyone comforted her. Longer than she cared to admit. 'Don't let go.' She held back mixed tears.
“Do you remember what happened?” Her work colleague sounded genuinely worried. “You're okay now, it's alright if you want to tell us.”
“No, it. It was just the dream.” Her mind was racing. How the imagined world of dreams had caused such a physical and emotional reaction was beyond her.
'Don't insult the instructor.' Deep masculine thoughts, tried to help her calm the situation down.
“I mean, the things you were saying. I just imagined what you said and...” No way would they believe anything that actually happened. Just how close to crazy she was, depended entirely on how much of herself she shared.
“Shh, it's okay.” The instructor rocked slightly while holding her. It was an awkward situation for her but until that girl settled down and wanted to let go, she'd comfort her like one of her own children. “You know, when I'm describing those places... It's just a little distraction, to help you relax. Some people fall asleep.”
“Yeah, it's true, I sleep all the time.” Jillian had never managed to stay awake throughout an entire session. She found them a little dull and only participated because her family had always been involved.
Maris draped a second towel over her. The pink one. “Aha yep, she has the craziest dreams. Always telling us stories. It's great.” She half muffled a laugh, then pulled herself away. Best get refreshments.
“I saw... I see shadows.” This was the largest leap of trust Constance had ever attempted. A lump in her throat made it impossible to swallow as she reached for the tea. “Ah, yeah I think I must have fallen asleep.” She looked up at the caring Sonya, “Sorry.”
“That’s okay. Sometimes, I think if I wasn't talking, I'd put myself to sleep.” Clearly the comforting was coming to an end. Both girls worked their way to their feet.
“You had a dream about shadows?” Rene dragged the topic back where it belonged, curious about the response her teacher would provide. While she wouldn't tell anyone, most of her dreams involved odd shadow men. This may help her solve a few haunting questions of her own. Especially about her childhood and that, pregnancy.
“Well it's odd, I don't really remember.” Constance's stomach turned over. The thought of discussing events in her mind's dark corners frightened her. “Thank you all for this but I just, I think I need to sit down and relax for a minute.”
“Of course, I know a bit about dreams. Yoga is all about getting in touch with yourself and the universe.” Sonya knew the importance of showing experience when dealing with confused people. 'I'm so glad Rene brought her to me. I seriously underestimated Rene.'
They waited several minutes for the new girl to calm down. Watching, while she nibbled from a biscuit. Finally, Rene couldn't stand not knowing any longer. “So what does it mean then? When you see a shadow in your dream?”
“Well, they say it's all about the past. Like way back when you were little.” Just how do you explain such a sensitive topic? Potential abuse. They never fully covered it during the 'how to teach yoga' seminar. “Shadows are all about secrets. Things you keep, even from yourself.”
“But I don't keep any secrets from myself?” The shop owner slipped up, letting everyone know her inner thoughts. “Who keeps secrets from themselves?”
“Well if you were, you wouldn't know. Sometimes, things upset us so much, we try to forget. Then they come out in our dreams. Only, as shadows.” The instructor could tell this topic was causing more confusion and upset than anything.
With a quick change of approach she tried again. “I think sweetie, the best thing you can do, is keep a diary. Just put a pen and paper near your bed and write down your dreams in the morning.” It couldn't hurt. Right now her goal was to calm the situation down, change topics and guarantee she'd be back next week.
For the time being, Constance felt great. She'd bonded more with this odd group of old women than she'd managed to with all her class mates. That and the tea was really good, it must have cost a small fortune. “I'll try to keep one, see how it works.” She smiled a thank you towards everyone.
“Then next week I'll organize a special path-working, something just for this sort of thing. Actually, everyone should write down their dreams this week.” From her body language, people were starting to take the hint and back away. Cleanup had to be finished no later than... Well, no one really knew the deadline but cleaners would be along soon and they never hung around that long.
“Oh I'm not really a regular, sorry, I just... Well, I can't afford it.” The decision was made well in advance. She'd not be made into charity – more than once.
“Don't be silly.” This time Maris spoke. While both her parents had money, she'd made more of her life than any of her siblings. In her mind, once a person was vouched for, they were in.
It was her that paid for Constance in the first place, as a favor to Rene. The very thought of money being an inhibitor? Bad karma. “We don't pay by class around here, you're paid up for the remainder of the year and it's non-refundable.”
“Let's get you home. Forget about the cost, you're a friend.” With bags packed Jillian fumbled about her purse for keys. This sort of thing happens, she'd seen it before with her mother's group. “Which way do you live? I can give you a lift... Oh, oh, I can pick you up next week! That's if you don't mind Ren?”
The whole group was used to Jillie over committing, “Well it's okay with me, guess it's up to Connie?” Creating pointlessly short nicknames was something they all shared.
“Try to remember, everything happens for a reason. It's just yoga. We're all connected, you're with us for a purpose and your dreams have a reason. Besides, today would have been so dull without you.” Sonya's attempt at depth, had the reverse effect. To Constance, it smelt shallow and contrived.
“Yeah, okay.” Her eyes still darted about the room in search of shadows, none made their presence felt. “Ren?” The use of this shortened name didn't sit well. “I think, I'd rather you got me home if that's okay? Sorry Jillian, next week okay? I just know her better, you know?”
One day, perhaps years from now, part of Constance would look back on that moment. The moment she chose one lift home over another. From that point in time, looking through the thinning walls of space, she'd see a young girl moments away from destiny.
For the first time, she sat in a room and saw it full of friends. The inner voices and shadows in the walls saw only empty space and a student walking by herself – towards them. These shadows, from the back of her mind, struggled to be ready.