The Guidance
Author:Marley Gibson

chapter Three

When the last school bell rings, I borrow Celia's Segway—she's going to catch a ride home with Taylor after a science club meeting—and motor the few blocks to Divining Woman to see Loreen. She's been a godsend through this whole awakening thing, primarily because she went through it herself as a teenager. Now she's in her midthirties and is the owner of this cool metaphysical catchall-type bookstore on the Square in downtown Radisson.

The over-the-door bell clinks as I make my way inside. Spicy cinnamonlike incense dances in the air, along with the smell of sage, juniper, and vanilla. Each scent has a special meaning and is used to help center the mind and relax the body and soul. I should know; Loreen—horrible saleswoman that she is—has practically given me one of everything in the store these past couple of months.

The place seems empty though.

"Loreen?"

There are lit candles on the bookshelf. Surely she wouldn't go anywhere and leave those burning. I move to blow them out when I hear a rustling from the back of the store.

"May I help you?" she calls out. Rounding the corner of a table full of various tarot cards stacked up high, Loreen sees me and her smile broadens. "Oh, Kendall! It's you, sweetie. I'm with a client."

I muffle my laughter as I take her in. She's about Mom's height, with short, curly strawberry blond hair that just touches the neck of her novelty T-shirt, which reads "Ghosts Were People Too." "I'm sorry to interrupt. I can come back later."

"Pish-posh," she says, swatting at me. "I'm just finishing up a tarot card reading. You can sit in."

"I really sh—"

"No worries." Loreen pulls me through the store and slides the makeshift curtain to the left, revealing a small, round table covered with red crushed-velvet material and a Rider-Waite tarot deck spread out in the Celtic cross formation. An impeccably dressed woman in a smart navy blue suit and pink blouse sits at the table with her fingers laced together. "Evelyn, you don't mind if my protégée Kendall joins us, now, do you?"

"Why, of course not." The woman extends a slim hand forward, free of any rings or jewelry except a silver watch. "Evelyn Crawford. So nice to meet you, Kendall. Loreen thinks the world of you. As does my mother."

"She does?" Do I know her mother? I shake her hand.

Evelyn blinks at me. "Mother had you over to the house the other night, looking for Daddy."

The realization hits me. "You're that Evelyn! Mrs. Lockhart's daughter. Geez, I'm so sorry about your father."

The lovely woman forces a smile. "It was quite a shock. More so was the fact that the airline lost him. Terrible thing for a family to go through."

"Any news?" I ask.

She nods. "He's been sent to Memphis and they're driving him home. He should be back this weekend so we can have the memorial service." She takes my hand. "I'm so grateful for your help. If there's anything I can ever do for you, Kendall."

"Wanna do my physiology project?" I say with a nervous giggle.

We all laugh as I pull up a chair and sit next to Miss Evelyn.

She pats her perfectly coifed dark brown hair. "You'll have to come check out my house sometime. I swear, we've got ghosts," Evelyn says. "Honestly, Loreen, is there a residence in Radisson that doesn't have any activity?"

I think back on the soldier I'd thought was a street ghost. Mr. Lockhart had hinted to me that he was attached to his daughter's house. Perhaps he was right. Do I tell her I saw one of the spirits from her house? Hmm ... probably not on our first meeting.

"It seems like it these days. Kendall and her team have done about twenty investigations in the past couple of months," Loreen says with pride. "They wouldn't be solving—and debunking—cases without Kendall's psychic abilities."

I feel a blush coming on. "Well, that's not altogether true. Each member of our team brings something to the table." I want to give credit where credit is due.

"That's just fantastic," Evelyn says.

Loreen quirks her mouth to one side and I can tell she's got an idea.

"What?" I ask, my eyes wide.

"Why don't you try doing a psychic reading for Evelyn?" Loreen looks to her customer. "You wouldn't mind, would you?"

Evelyn shifts in her seat to face me. "Just the opposite. I'd love to see Kendall in action."

I bite my bottom lip as I think this through. I've only been practicing this on Celia—like she has anything to hide from me—and have never done it for a stranger.

"Emily's not with me right now," I admit.

"Who's Emily?" Evelyn asks.

I pop my knuckles to relieve the stress from dealing with Courtney earlier. This is exactly the type of mental focus and relaxation I need. "Umm ... Emily's sort of my spirit guide. I don't know much about her other than she died young—maybe twenty—and she wears what looks like a hospital gown all the time. Turns out, I've known her all my life. She used to be my imaginary friend until I was told to stop talking about things like that. Now Emily gives me clues to what other spirits are doing or thinking. Like I said, though, she's not with me right now, so I don't know how much I'll get right, Miss Evelyn."

Loreen pats my hand. "That's okay, sweetie. Try it on your own. You don't always have to rely on Emily."

She's right. I have to keep developing my own intuition, and I can't always depend on Emily as my CliffsNotes to the paranormal realm.

I clear my throat and sit up straight. "Okay, well, first I'll need something personal of yours."

Evelyn reaches down, gets a very large Louis Vuitton bag, puts it on the table, and withdraws a matching tan and gold wallet. "Will this work?"

"Sure." I think so.

Miss Evelyn hands over the wallet, and I turn it over and over in my palms, feeling the soft leather and listening to the change rattle within. I breathe deeply and try to see the contents. Many quarters, a lot of pennies, and a stack of five, no, six Benjamins. Wow. I didn't know anyone walked around Radisson with six hundred dollars burning a hole in her pocket. Must be nice.

Must. Focus.

Then Loreen screws up her face.

"What?"

"That's nice that you're seeing what's in the wallet," she says. "But you need something with some metal in it to help you pick up on Evelyn's energy—like jewelry or keys."

"Oh! You're right. What was I thinking?"

"Here, dear," the woman says. "Try this."

She hands over a heavy knob of various keys that jingle and swing from a double-C Chanel chain.

"That's more like it," Loreen says. "Keep going."

I start my breathing and concentration again. Immediately, I pick up on the vibrations of energy from Evelyn Crawford. In my mind's eye, I see it all so clearly. "I'm traveling down a long path, lined with tall cedars on either side. A large white house sits at the end of the drive. There are—one, two, three—four large columns on the outside, and the shutters are painted black."

I hear a sharp intake of breath. Evelyn's, I assume. "That's my house. On Crow Lane."

"Oh, right, near Mrs. Lockhart's."

The woman nods. "Mother and Daddy live in the carriage house on the south end of the property. Well, I suppose it's just Mother now," she says with a sniff.

Loreen pats Miss Evelyn's hand and signals for me to continue.

I mentally wipe away the fog and cobwebs of the image to try to describe further what I'm seeing. "There's a woman on the porch in an old-timey dress."

"How old-timey?" Loreen asks. "Be more specific about the style, Kendall."

"Right," I say. "She looks like an extra from Gone With the Wind, with, like, an apron and petticoats and a parasol. She's a babe, too," I tack on with a laugh. "She's got this chestnut brown hair that's piled on her head in all of these crazy curls and twists and stuff. Man, that must have taken hours!"

"Kendall...," Loreen fusses.

I peek with my left eye. "Well, it's true."

Suddenly, it's like I'm leafing through a family-history book. Information flies at me. Words scroll by, telling their story. Conversations dotted with laughter and arguments, colored with tears. There is much passion in the house surrounding this beautiful antebellum-times woman. I'm absorbing it as quickly as possible, hoping to remember every tiny detail in order to share. After a moment, I force the sequence to stop so I can relay what I've seen.

Opening my eyes, I look at Miss Evelyn. "This woman on the porch. She's related to you?"

"Possibly," she says.

"I'm hearing the name Larry. No ... Harry. No ... Airy?" I shake my head, tossing my hair about with frustration. "Why can't I get this?"

"There's a p sound that I'm getting," Loreen chimes in.

I nod my head. "P-P-P..."

"Could it be Parry?" Evelyn asks.

"Yes! That's it. Not Larry or Harry. Parry. Is that a name in your family?"

Evelyn's smile brightens. "It is indeed. My great-great-grandmother. She was—"

My hand lifts to stop her. "Please. Don't tell me anything. Let me see what I can get." I concentrate again, squeezing the keys even tighter in my fist. "I'm getting an A name and I'm getting"—I listen for it, waiting for the sound to come to me—"Ada? The name is Ada," I say with much confidence.

"Amazing," Evelyn shouts out. "How did you know that?"

It's sort of hard to explain. I could see Adam Bostwick from my calculus class up at the chalkboard. He'd written "No m" over and over and over again for me to see—which leaves Ada. Not that Adam ever did that in class, just in my vision. I can't really tell Evelyn how I came to learn the names. "I just knew" seems the easiest explanation.

Following several more minutes of deep breathing and concentrating, I see this Ada Parry standing on the front porch, speaking to many people. "Ada was important in Radisson. A lot of folks really liked her and thought she was smart and pretty and the kindest person ever. Took good care of her sick father ... and her little ... sister?"

"All true," Miss Evelyn says.

Then the vision morphs. "I see she's very sad, though, while she's talking to a Union soldier. He's powerful, 'cause he's got a lot of bling on his shoulders."

Loreen snickers. "They didn't call it bling back then."

I scrunch up my nose. "I don't really know rank and stuff, but he's got to be one of the guys in charge. He's not General Sherman, is he?" I ask Loreen.

"I can't see what you're seeing, sweetie," Loreen tells me.

Evelyn points a finger in front of her. "Ada was around when General Sherman and his troops were here. She and several of the ladies in town did all they could not to fight the Yankees; actually, they rolled out the red carpet and welcomed them like the fine Southern women they were, hoping Sherman wouldn't burn Radisson as he had other towns," she explains.

Celia had told me a similar tale. In fact, the mansion that she and her family live in was the mayor's house back during the Civil War. And it was a woman who kept Sherman from burning it to the ground. Girl power, baby! Even back then.

"I think this guy is a major or something. At least, that's the impression I'm getting. He's dressed in Union blue and he's got that little cap on."

It's at this moment that the keys literally heat up in my hand. At first, I think it's just my palms sweating over the on-the-spot reading. But no. It's not just a warm sensation. The keys suddenly seem fiery against my skin, scorching so much that I have to let them drop to the floor. That's when I see the face of the Union soldier, and the look in his eyes nails me to the seat.

"Kendall?" Loreen prods. "Are you all right?"

I turn to her, sure that my face is ashen. "I swear, he looks familiar to me."

"Have you seen him somewhere in your investigations?"

I bend down to retrieve the keys, which are a normal temperature now. He could be one of the soldier apparitions I saw in the Radisson cemetery a couple of months ago. Heaven knows, they all sort of look alike to me with their scraggly beards and war-worn faces. There's just something so, so ... sinister about him. Talk about the heebie-jeebies.

My right eye begins to twitch, and my stomach hurts like I ate dinner too late and then went straight to bed. The nausea rolls around, making me dizzy, when I begin to hear the sinister laugh that I heard last night at the Lockhart house. Is that same ghost appearing in my current vision just to mess with me, or was he actually around during the Civil War?

"Kendall, you've gone pale," Evelyn says. "Maybe you should stop."

"I guess I kind of overdid it or something," I say weakly. I don't want to scare Evelyn if it's only a spirit mucking around with me. But it did seem like this soldier was in that time period.

Loreen hands me a bottle of water. "Very good, Kendall. You'll get better and better with more practice."

I give Evelyn her keys back. "Thanks," I say to both of them. "I'm sorry I couldn't get more."

"No, that was very impressive," Evelyn says. "You got my great-great-grandmother's name, Ada Parry, you described her house—which is my house—and you knew she was involved with Sherman and his troops. Very impressive indeed, young lady."

Gulping the liquid into my parched throat, I smile and again say, "Thanks."

Miss Evelyn returns the keys to her bag and stands up. "Well, I should get going. Loreen, it was a pleasure, as always. Thanks for the advice."

"I'll be praying for you, your mom, and your sister," Loreen says.

Nodding, Evelyn turns back to me. "And Kendall, if you want to visit my house, I have a lot of memorabilia from Great-great-grandmother Ada. You're welcome over any time."

This may be just the research I need to nail down who this laughing soldier spirit is.

"That's totally awesome," I say exuberantly. "I mean, thanks."

She smiles at me, a brilliant white smile. "That's okay. I have a teenage daughter. I'm used to the lingo."

I listen for the tinkle of the front-door bell to let me know that Loreen and I are alone, and then I sprawl out on the chair. "God, that was exhausting. And I barely got any information!"

I feel Loreen tug on my hair. "You're still learning, Kendall. I'm so glad to see that you're testing new things and trying to help people with your skills."

Suddenly, the rush of anxiety over the Courtney situation floods back. My apprehension picks up, as does the crazy rhythm of my overanxious heart. I'm short of breath, and I can't stop replaying the ridiculous scenes with her over and over, like it's some sort of sick DVR recording that won't delete from the queue. Her words are like pinpricks, each one taking a nip at my psyche, at my soul. It's like being pecked to death by baby ducks. Evil, devilish, bitchy baby ducks.

Loreen reaches for her ceramic teacup and then takes a seat on the couch. She folds her jeaned legs up underneath her and looks at me worriedly. "Tell me what this Courtney person has done to you," she says.

I love that I don't have to bore her with a lot of the backstory of my high school drama. She simply knows it.

I give Loreen the 411 on what happened in the caf today and also how Courtney and I got matched up to work together in physiology in some kind of weird after-school non-High School Musical way.

"I'm telling you, Loreen. The things she has said to me. No one has ever talked to me like that in my life." I scratch at my eyelid, feeling the sting of a fresh tear that wants to escape. I won't let it though. "She's accused me of all sorts of terrible things, like being a fake and a liar. I'm not either. She said I stole Jason from her, but they were already broken up!"

"What does your intuition tell you?"

"Are you kidding me? That she's an effing bitch."

Loreen snickers. "Besides that."

Sitting up, I wave my arms about. "That she thinks I'm a ... a...freak. That I need medical attention. That I need medication."

Loreen shifts on the couch to make room for me. I slog over to her and collapse on the cushions, resting my head on a crocheted pillow. "This is more than merely some snotty-ass cheerleader at school with an eating disorder. This has to do with your mom too. Am I right?"

"You didn't have to be psychic to figure that out," I say with a harrumph.

There's a twinkle in Loreen's hazel eyes. "Two years of child psychology in college helped."

"It's just that Mom's still convinced that I have a chemical imbalance or a medical condition. She thinks I need medication as well, so to hear some shithead—sorry!—like Courtney say the same thing, it kicks my feet out from under me."

Loreen puts her tea down and takes my hand. "You know your mom has seen a lot of cases of people suffering in her career, especially when you lived in Chicago. Didn't you tell me she was an ER and ICU nurse before working in a doctor's office? Besides, you're part of her. She doesn't want her baby to turn out like those unfortunate people she wasn't able to do anything for. I can see it, Kendall. They were lost, confused, no friends or family. Sarah's only trying to protect you because she loves you so much."

In reality, I know this is the case. In actuality, I still have to go through the motions of making my mom happy by going to the doctor. I promised I would when she allowed me to begin ghost hunting. "I've put it off as long as I could."

"I know."

"Can you go with me?"

Loreen shakes her head.

"Yeah, that was a stupid question."

"I'll be with you in spirit though. And I'll send Reiki energy your way."

"What if..." I play with the zipper on my hoodie, running it up and down on the track. Then I glance at Loreen. "What if this battery of psychological tests shows that I'm a big schizo and I need considerable amounts of medication? They're going to poke and prod me and I won't be—"

"Okay. Enough of that. You're working yourself into a froth for no reason, Kendall." She shifts in the seat and stares off at a faraway place for a moment. Then she turns back to me. "You know, I underwent the same thing ... when I was younger. I was twelve years old, and my parents were scared shitless over my awakening, reacting in a crueler manner than Sarah is reacting to you."

"How so?"

"Well, they didn't believe that my headaches were from visions or that I was hearing things that they couldn't. They told me to stop pretending at first, but after a while, when I continued to tell them about the people and pets parading through our house wanting my help, my stepmother and Daddy were convinced I had a tumor. You know, that it was pushing against my brain and making me have these hallucinations."

Hand to my mouth, I say, "Oh, Loreen, that's so terrible!"

I can see into her mind, how she's living this over again. "I had blood tests and X-rays and you name it. They even had me so doped up on meds, I could barely function. I was hardly able to get out of bed, get dressed, and go to school."

That's just wrong on so many levels. "That's no way for a little kid to live."

"Certainly not. Or even an adult."

"What happened?" I ask anxiously.

"I refused medication and then eventually started keeping my visions and sightings to myself. I played the perfect teenager for them because I knew they didn't want to hear it." Loreen closes her eyes for a moment, and I hear a little catch in her throat when she begins to speak again. "I kept my true self hidden until I turned eighteen and left home. They never accepted me as I was ... as I am."

I reach over and hug Loreen tightly, letting a few tears slip out.

"Did you ever see them again?" I can't imagine leaving home and not going back.

"About ten years ago, I wrote them a letter, filling them in on my college studies and travels. I worked my ass off to pay for school, and I wanted them to see how I'd succeeded."

"You have."

She agrees. "One day, my daddy walked into the store and hugged me like I was still his normal little girl. We cried our eyes out and I could see he was genuinely remorseful for not supporting me more. It was probably my stepmother's influence over him. He was sorry that he didn't stand up for me when I got picked on by kids at school." She sets me away from her. "So you see, the world is full of Courtneys. They don't matter. Your family, that's what matters. And your mother loves you so much, Kendall. Humor her by going through the tests. You'll just prove yourself in the end, which I wasn't able to do."

"I'll do it, Loreen," I say with a sniff. "For you, for me, and for people like us ... everywhere."