Out of the Glare — Bring It: Chapter 15
Having received only a partial account of Aunt Claire’s story from Pam, I didn’t know what to expect. What I gleaned from fragments of conversations I had with either Pam or her aunt, her deceased husband had owned a grocery store chain and they enjoyed tennis, playing on a court in their backyard. From what Mr. Roberts said, Claire was wealthy, so my expectations were for a nice house in a well-to-do neighborhood. Of course, it would have accommodations for accessibility and there was a live-in care specialist Pam mentioned a few times who took weekends off, which worked out because Pam and her mother tended to Claire’s needs.
Before we reached the house, the truth was already clear from the posh section of town we were entering. Claire was extremely wealthy.
Once the guard at the community gate waved us through, I commented, “There are some impressive shacks out this way.”
Pam glanced at me, then chuckled. “Aunt Claire says she loves her neighbors, but most of them are snobs.”
“I think she gets along with everybody.”
“She does. It’s amazing, really. Anyway, her house is the biggest one out here — really it’s too big for her,” Pam began to explain in preparation for the reality of what was to come. “Mom and Dad have been trying to get her to move in with us for years, especially since my sister and now my brothers are away at college. But she refuses to sell her home. It’s truly one of a kind. Her husband built this house for her back in the early 40s when there was nothing else out this way. He died when Catherine was about two years old, so I never knew him. That was before Claire’s accident.”
Pam smiled. “Mom told me that at the funeral Aunt Claire lectured the whole family about being sad and crying. She told everyone that he just went ahead to find a good place for them to move into for the afterlife. It was what they planned to do, whichever one of them went first.”
“That sounds like her.”
“Doesn’t it?” Pam smiled. “I have rarely seen Aunt Claire feeling down. She has moods. Everyone does. But she never lets it take over.”
“She’s a unique individual.”
“She’s growing on you, isn’t she?”
“If I didn’t already know her, I’d want to.”
She reached across and took my hand. “I hope you’re ready for the shock.”
“When I was a little girl, I used to beg Mom to let me go over to Aunt Claire’s house. It was like an indoor amusement park. I’d stay all day if she’d let me, and I always cried whenever I had to leave and go home.”
As we rounded a corner, my jaw slackened. From the distance, even a half-mile away, at the top of a hill, I could see it, conjuring impressions of a palace atop Mt. Olympus. “Don’t tell me that’s where she lives.”
“You can’t possibly imagine what it’s like inside.”
“When I was old enough to really pay attention to its size compared to our house, she told me it was so that she had room for all our imaginary friends.”
“I had a few of those, too.”
“Why only a few?” Pam asked. “I had dozens!”
“I don’t know, I thought I had enough, I guess. I had one best friend. I think you only need one, kinda by definition. You know?”
“I had other friends, ones in the real world. My mom and dad told me Johnny was my best friend. Maybe he was at the time, but not always after. I don’t know if that makes sense.”
“It does. Real friends disappoint us sometimes, imaginary ones never do.”
“So, one of your imaginary friends was your best friend?”
“What was he like?”
“Maybe that seems strange, but a lot of my imaginary friends were female, and my best friend was a girl named Lucy — short for Lady Lucerne.”
“I don’t think that’s strange, just maybe a little unusual. But one thing I’ve learned is anything is possible.”
“Yeah, that was the way it was when we were together,” I said.
“Was she pretty?”
“Of course, she was. She had light hair, like yours but with a touch of red in it…”
“My hair used to be darker, a little red. I have some Irish in me. That’s why I have some freckles, I think.”
“I have some Irish in me too, just no red hair in the family.”
“You know Lucy is kind of my middle name.”
“I always hated my middle name.”
“Lucy’s a good name.”
“I’d be okay with Lucy, I think. I’ve always thought I looked more like a Lucy or a Meg than a Pam. But my full middle name is Lucinda. Of course, my mother insists on calling me by my full name. When she was really mad at me, she’d yell, Pamela Lucinda Roberts!”
“And you knew you were in big trouble.” I laughed.
“I’m glad you’re amused.”
“It was just the mental image I got of you hiding behind the boxes in the closet under your stairs whenever she called you that.”
“How did you know that’s where I hid?” Pam looked askance at me.
“It’s the perfect place, exactly where I’d hide.”
“My hiding place?”
“No, your middle name.”
“I go by it already. Remember, I told you that.”
“Elliot’s your first name. I remember. You never told me the full story, though, just your sister and you decided on Brent.”
“Yeah, and I’ve gone by Brent since I was twelve. It went with the middle initial my parents gave me.”
“Your first name isn’t bad.”
I laughed. “I don’t hate my first name. It just sounds very old to me and left me with few alternatives.”
“People could have called you ‘El’ — all except for my mother, of course.”
“Yeah, well people might think I was using the initial ‘L’. That could stand for a number of things.”
“A guy named Lucy,” Pam teased, and then laughed.
“Please, no! Already I know one Larry. He’s enough”
“Sorry about that.”
“I think I was afraid other kids would call me ‘Loser’, as the ’L’ stood for that.”
“Never! You’re the champ!”
“Now I am.”
We turned into the driveway. Two large gates parted to allow us entry.
“She’s waiting on us,” I said.
“She’s always eager to get going on Sunday.”
We pulled up close to the front door, which was standing open already with Claire emerging. I opened the passenger door and stepped out as she greeted me with a smile. “Brent, you came!”
“I wouldn’t have missed it.”
“I thought you’d at least show Brent the house,” Pam suggested.
“That takes too long. There’ll be plenty of time next Sunday.”
“Next Sunday? Did I miss something?”
“I may have mentioned our plans to play tennis next week.”
“It’s a wonderful idea! Why, after Pam is done humbling you, I have friends who have children who play tennis. You can learn from them.”
“Pam’s that good, is she?”
“She’s the best, a true natural.”
Pam said nothing.
“Anyway, there are plenty of children around who play.”
“By children, she means grown-up children, late twenties,” Pam explained.
“They still live at home. To me, that makes them children,” Claire said. “I have a tennis court and a pool. Nelson and I used to love taking a relaxing swim after playing. In the summer, I swim. But in all these years, I have yet to figure out how to play tennis from this chair. Still, I enjoy watching other people play.”
Pam smiled. “This court is better than the one at school.”
“I resurfaced it four years ago because both Catherine and Pamela were playing a lot — the boys played, too — just not as much,” Aunt Claire explained. “I wish you’d never quit, honey.”
“I know. But I had to.”
Claire nodded but sighed. Then, she looked up at me, changing the subject. “If you’re ready to do this, I know I am.” She reached out one of her arms to wrap around my neck as I lifted her from her chair and set her in the front seat of the car. She gave me a quick peck on the cheek before I let her go.
After putting the wheelchair in the trunk, I climbed into the back seat. Pam restarted the car and circled the front fountain. As the car approached the gate, Aunt Claire clicked a remote she kept attached to the strap of her purse. “So, I hear you’re the champion, now.”
“Of my league anyway. Remind me to show you the trophy.”
“It’s in my room,” Pam explained. “It’s supposed to be a castle for my faeries.”
“I’m sure they love it.” Claire turned her head and winked at me. She had to know about me, about the magic inside. I had an aura, after all. How could she not see it?
“I’ll have to chase the faeries from it to bring it downstairs,” I said.
“Well, they’ll just have to understand. Faeries can be pushy, you know. You always have to set them straight,” Claire explained.
Pam smiled patiently and then explained. “We have this ongoing debate over faeries.”
“Pamela loves them. It’s a matter of preference, I suppose. I think they’re lazy, riding around on the back of dragonflies all the time.”
“Yeah, what are their wings for?” I commented.
“Exactly!” Aunt Claire laughed. “I think Brent and I see the world in the same way.”
“Maybe so,” I allowed.
“Well, I suppose you could argue that people have legs, but we still used to ride horseback,” Pam said.
I raised my brow. “I hadn’t considered that. That’s a good point, though.”
“My faeries told me that,” Pam said.
I started to laugh but realized both she and Claire were serious. Why wouldn’t they be? Fairies were real, just they hadn’t been seen out in the open for a long, long time.
Closing my eyes against the morning glare from the sun, I could easily detect Claire’s glow. Pam’s was almost the same reddish-orange hue.
“I figured you knew about us,” Claire broadcast to my mind. “Wolfcats see through most layers of deception, especially whenever you’re close enough.”
Pam adjusted the rearview to look at me. “After last weekend, I told Claire that you taught me a lot of things about magic, some things I didn’t know yet.”
“She told me about your nightmare and seeing and hearing the morning sounds,” Claire revealed. “Long before that, I had a feeling you knew about your own gifts.”
“I’ve known about being a wolfcat for a while, just I always resisted it, until recently.”
“That’s normal, I think,” Claire said. “Not good for you, but normal. You make a fine wolfcat, though.”
“I was waiting about telling you…about everything,” Pam said. “I needed to make sure that it didn’t make a difference.”
“Why would it make a difference? It’s part of you and I love you.”
“I know, but this was before last weekend.”
“See, you had nothing to worry about.” Claire patted Pam’s arm.
“But how are her parents not?” I asked. “I mean they aren’t magical, even in the slightest way.”
“They’re as normal as humans can be — those who have the gene, that is,” Claire said. “Both have it, just it skipped their generation. And that was some of why both their parents did not approve of their marriage.”
“They wanted to ensure the grandchildren wouldn’t be witches,” Pam said.
“I’d think it would be the other way around,” I said.
“Some families embrace the gifts. Others don’t,” Claire said.
“So, the twins aren’t, but Catherine is?”
“Catherine and I had an awful time trying to get Pamela not to use her powers in front of Theresa and Theodore. But her brothers know about them. They’re good at keeping secrets.”
“And we’ve helped them a few times with our magic,” Pam said.
“Catherine’s magic is understated, compared to Pam’s.” Claire explained. “She never had a problem after I explained things to her. When she was four, she acted like she was six.”
“I didn’t cause any problems either.”
“Not many, anyway,” Claire corrected.
“At least I waited until I was with Catherine or you.”
“That’s true. When Catherine was a little older, she helped me guide Pamela. Most witches begin to display their powers around the time they’re old enough for school. Some like Pamela start a little earlier.”
“I could levitate things when I was five,” Pamela boasted.
“I guess wolfcats start feeling the differences around age eight or nine. But — I don’t know where I get my heritage. None of my relatives are wolfcats — at least not that I know. I haven’t felt much like a wolfcat until this past year.”
“Because you had no one to bring the magic to the surface,” Claire said.
“Until I met a wolfcat,” I said.
“Dawn, his previous girlfriend, is a wolfcat.”
Claire sighed as if releasing great pressure. “Well, I’m glad everything’s out in the open now — at least between us. It will be much easier.”
“Easier for what?” I asked.
“For what both of you have ahead.”
“And that is…?”
“The reason you met, of course.”
Both Pam’s eyes and mine met in the rearview mirror. And by that, I knew she was as much in the dark as I was.
“So, Pamela told me your mom has been trying to get out of the shopping experience all week.” Claire decided to change the subject, however abruptly. “Do I need to call Alta from the house?”
“No, she finally resigned to going, but it was a tough sell all week long.”
“Doesn’t she realize how much fun it will be?”
“My mother is set in her ways, I guess.”
As the car turned onto Pam’s street the morning sun’s glare flashed through the windshield again, this time blinding me. With my hand I shielded my eyes, I saw things a part of me knew were real, except another part of me was certain they could not be. For several moments — I’m not sure how long — I felt like I was drifting on unseen currents between worlds. Then, just as abruptly as it has begun, Pam’s voice startled me back to reality.
“I said we’re here.” Pam reiterated as she had already fetched the wheelchair from the trunk.
I opened the door and stumbled out.
“Are you okay?” Pam asked.
“Yeah, yeah. Just I-I don’t know. I tripped or something.”
Turning, I opened Claire’s door and gathered her up into my arms to gently return her to the means of her mobility.
“Is everything okay?” Claire asked and she grasped my arm.
“Yeah. Just I’m still getting used to all the new wrinkles of being a wolfcat, I guess.”