After Marissa announces that Brian has to dance naked to summon the Peddler, the teens and their parents, organize a meeting of the Circle members so they can discuss the ritual and make plans.
They carried the platters outside. Chase’s parents had just arrived and Cliff joined their fathers on the screened lanai. Chase’s younger sisters, Katie and Lucy, went to play with the baby. The boys were heading back to the kitchen when Marissa’s family knocked. They were just greeting the boys when the first of the Louisiana contingent arrived. Andre and his parents came up the sidewalk with his girlfriend, Louisa. Sweet and his parents pulled up seconds later. Louisa’s parents drove up at the same time as Ginnifer and her mother and father.
Each of them had brothers and sisters, all of whom were younger. They joined Chase’s sisters in the yard. They fussed over the baby, taking turns carrying her. Brian didn’t have to make good on the bath offer. Louisa and Ginnifer did it for him. They kept the baby off the ground afterward, so she didn’t need another one.
Once dinner was ready, they took places at the long tables the men had set up in the backyard. The dogs lay down at the head and foot of the assembly, alert and happy, hoping for scraps. Dishes passed around the table as everyone took what they wanted. Laughter and happy chatter filled the air. Although they had come together for a serious reason, none of them wanted to miss out on catching up and enjoying each other’s company.
“I feel happiest when I’m with all of you,” Maribelle declared. “This is the best group of people I know.”
“I agree,” Miles said. “Which makes our reason for being here the more serious.”
“Wait, you know what this is about?” Brian asked.
“Sure, son. We talked this over with the Barretts a couple days ago. We just hadn’t set a date until Jordan called and said we needed to meet tonight. Now, what’s up? I hear that Marissa had something to tell us.
She blushed a fiery red when all eyes turned on her. Jordan opened her mouth to take over, but Marissa shook her head.
“I’ve got this.” She squared her shoulders, sitting up straighter. “I’m not the Dreamer,” her eyes flickered over to Brian. “But I get things. Flashes and images, mostly. Sometimes I hear a voice.” She gestured vaguely to her right ear. “Anyway, we were talking today about the Harvest Ball and the witch trials in 1713. And—the Peddler.”
Finding it hard to continue, she ducked her head. “Anyway,” she muttered toward her chest. “I got this—impression—I guess you’d call it. I know we have to summon him to help us. And it has to be Brian. And he has to dance….” She couldn’t make herself say the words.
“Naked,” Brian blurted. “And I want to know if that’s accurate. And I want to know why me? And, more importantly, why naked?” he asked loudly. Angry and embarrassed, he found control difficult. The tables shook slightly, the earth trembling under them.
“Son,” Miles Casey said gently. “We’ll figure this out. Some of our older rituals had to be conducted in the nude.”
“Why? Can’t I at least wear a loin cloth? Cause I don’t want—everything—on display.” He gestured vaguely in the area of his zipper.
“I’ll do some checking.” Miles Casey thought it prudent to hide the smirk he felt twitching his lips.
“But why Brian?” Jordan asked. “Couldn’t any of us perform the same ritual and have the same result?”
Cliff Finley shook his head. “I’d have to do some research, but I’m pretty sure it has to be him. A variety of reasons, not the least of which is, he’s the Dreamer.”
Brian rolled his eyes, putting his head on the table, nearly in his plate. “Did I mention that I really hate being the Dreamer? That I hate all of this? Why can’t I just be some normal, stupid teenager who makes mistakes and decisions that don’t involve people getting killed—or buried alive—or dancing naked?”
He felt a touch on his hand and calming assurance filled him. He sat up to see his baby sister. She leaned from Jordan’s arms. Her little spit covered hand wrapped around his finger as her dark brown eyes met his. Sometimes, she seemed so much older than six months. She reached for him and he took her, holding her close. Her hands embraced his face and she put her forehead next to his. Closing his eyes, joy filled him, shoving aside the scary thoughts. He knew that he could do whatever was needed. He had the best family and friends in the world. He could handle it—even if it meant dancing naked.
“None of us wanted this,” Dr. Beauchamps, Andre’s father said softly. “Each of us fought against it, denying our powers, wishing for someone else to take the burden. None of us had to face what you’ve faced, Brian. No one else at this table knows exactly what you’re going through because none of us have been in your shoes. I know it isn’t easy—we all do. We fight our inner battles every day just to keep going, trying to act normal. I am telepathic, you know. If I allow myself, I can read the minds of every person here. It takes unimaginable control to keep all your voices away.”
“I have visions,” Marissa admitted. “And I’m not exactly telepathic, but I get flashes of images and I see things about people. I know when they’re good at heart or when they’re mean. I can also tell when they’re sick or in pain. That’s why I’m learning to heal.”
Andre cleared his throat. “I see auras, like Jackie. And I feel strong vibrations of emotions. I can tell what y’all are thinkin’ without you sayin’ a word. Like Marissa, I know sickness, as well as every emotional combination there is. Hearing voices would be worse, but this is disconcerting enough. We aren’t trying to belittle what you’re feeling, Brian. We’re telling you that we know what you’re going through. Our challenges are different, but no less annoying and painful.”
© 2017 Dellani Oakes