2021 RAVYNN BRADLEY
Ravynn was tired.
Tired of the fights with her estranged husband, Matt, who grew drunker by the day. Tired of the secrets and lies, all of which were her own doing. As the days and weeks and months went by, she came closer and closer to The Day, and in turn she withdrew more and more from everyone she loved. She could see no way around it. No one would understand. She didn’t entirely understand it herself, but she readily accepted it.
Since that inauspicious night when she was thirteen and narrowly escaped the end her parents suffered, Ravynn was on borrowed time. Knew she was never supposed to leave the water that night. Knew the Woman on the Water who came to her meant to take her home. Where she belonged. But fate stepped in that day in the shape of a young man by the water’s edge. He’d witnessed the whole accident unfold and swam out to save what he thought was a drowning girl in need of rescue.
She hadn’t needed rescue that night, nor did she now. Ravynn sighed, the past and present interweaving and enswathing her in their weight. She grew tired of the same conversation that led to the same fight.
“Let it go, Matt. Please.”
“How can I? It’s not right, not healthy. Maybe it’s not my place anymore, since we split, but… if you won’t talk to me, at least call your brother.”
She shook her head in the negative, not willing to budge, unable to give an inch.
He paced the bedroom floor roughly, and Ravynn was certain he would wear footsteps into the carpet. He tried to reason with her yet again. “But you two always… you know… you always…” His frustration tripped his tongue and he couldn’t complete his thought. That was always a tell that he was on edge. The problem was, she couldn’t pull him back; he had to do it himself. And lately, he rarely succeeded. She knew most of it was her fault. She couldn’t give him what he needed most- answers. His drinking was half the reason they were newly divorced, and of course, her secrecy the other half. It would be so much easier if she didn’t love him, but she did. Always had.
Ravynn hugged the journal to her chest, keeping her secrets close to her heart.
Matt paced harder across the floor. “I just don’t understand that journal.” He stopped long enough to shake an accusatory finger. “Those entries don’t make sense.”
He curled the fingers of his right hand into a fist and covered his mouth with it, as if to hold back his words. It didn’t work. She heard him mumble, “What is— who are the ninety-nine?”
She peeled the corner of the journal back in frustration and rolled her eyes. “Nothing Matt. You don’t need to understand. Just- let- it- go. Please, honey.”
Terms of endearment had long since gone between the two of them, and yet old habits died hard in stressful times. She bit her tongue and hoped he wouldn’t notice.
He tipped his head back to stare at the ceiling, searching for either the composure or the words to continue. He groaned and looked down, unyieldingly into Ravynn’s eyes, and at that moment, she felt his heart break. Felt it more than she should have. More than any human should. It had been that way since she was thirteen, like some sort of switch had been flipped and she had been activated, her sense more alive than ever before. Plus, more senses.
He didn’t speak, but the look he gave her told her everything. She read his heart. It called to her, imploring, “I can’t do this anymore,” clearly as if Matt had spoken the words aloud. “I love you so much but it’s killing me. Eating me up inside. Chasing me back down into the bottle, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to come back out.” His eyes searched hers for something. They were so desperate, staring at her. The weight of them straining on her heart. She was stuck. She was reading him, and it took all of her energy. The vibrations came off him in unsteady waves, pulsing at her in uneven beats that she could tactilely feel, like heavy raindrops beating on her skin. The connection, the love between them had always been too strong.
The minute fragments of him which used to be whole skittered about within the vibrations like wild, untamed animals. Frightened. Weakened. The fear poured out of him so expeditiously it assaulted Ravynn’s senses and challenged her ability to stay standing. She raised her hands in front of her body, as if to fend off an invisible onslaught. Ravynn saw now that Matt not only feared for her, but he feared her. “Maybe she’s sick,” she read those frenzied thoughts. “Her father was schizophrenic. Maybe she is too. How did I miss the signs? I should tell Ray.”
Ravynn didn’t think before she spoke, “Don’t tell Ray.”
The fear she sensed congealed in the air between them. Like some heavy, emotional sludge made real that she couldn’t pull herself free of. Instead, she pulled her arms in tight, stroking her own shoulders. “I’m not sick.”
Matt recoiled, either from her words or from the emotional turmoil undulating through the air. He staggered and stepped backward, until his back hit the wall. His eyes welled up with tears, and all she could sense coming off him now was dread. Pure terror. No longer love, worry, or hurt.
“What?” he asked. His voice cracked. “How?” He tried to take another step back, but his heel kicked the wall, a solid reminder that there was nowhere to go.
Ravynn didn’t answer him. As much as it pained her to watch him struggle, she could do nothing to assuage him.
He reached to the side, fumbling for the door handle, as if poised to make a hasty retreat. “Explain,” he beseeched her. “Explain the journals. The events. The dates.” His eyes were wild, they raced about, searching her face and trying to find the woman he knew somewhere within.
“We’ve been over this, Matt. You know I can’t.” her words came out glacial and apathetic. Even to her ear, it made her cringe. It had to be that way.
He snarled, ‘I know you won’t! It’s madness! You know that, right? Most of these dates and events you’ve marked down haven’t even happened—”
“Not yet, they haven’t.” She regretted it as soon as she said it.
His eyes grew incredulous. He leaned forward, but still gripped the door handle as if it were a safety line. He swallowed hard, and Ravynn could see his Adam’s apple bobbing roughly before he began again. “What? You think you’re Nostradamus? Some sort of prophet? What?”
His face scrunched up in disgust as if he had tasted something appallingly bitter. The one look hit her like a slap across her face, and she turned away to stare out the window instead.
“You should have never read any of it in the first place,” she said while staring out the window at the redwood tree beyond the window.
Full night had snuck upon them while her attention was elsewhere. Lazy long summer days often took so long to pass by, the sun making its leisurely stroll across the sky to finally set completely. The darkness outside now crept in through the windowpane and into her. The tree stood oddly still, as if it didn’t want to upset the delicate balance between the contentious couple inside.
Ravynn felt the need to open the window, to reach out and touch the tree to see if it were alive or made of stone. She knew without moving, without testing the air outside that it was heavy and dead. Like everything held its breath, waiting. Perfect earthquake weather, she thought as she glanced out on the dimming horizon. People always said that about nights like that one. In reality, Ravynn knew there was no such thing as earthquake weather.
“But I did read it!” he exclaimed.
Instead of engaging, which was futile, she walked straight up to him and reached out to remove his hand from the doorknob. “I need to check on Amelia,” she said as calmly and unwavering as the tree outside.
“She’s in bed. Just went down. Leave her be,” he said, his hand recoiling, falling away from the knob at the slightest brush of her hand.
Matt stepped out of Ravynn’s way too brusquely, giving away his odium. With one fluid movement, Ravynn moved through the door, forcing herself not to look at him, not to see the fear that was plain on his face. In less than a breath she was across the hall, pushing her way into Amelia’s room, where the six-year-old slept soundly.
“I saw today’s event. But today is almost over— and nothing. You need to talk to someone,” he called out softly. “No earthquake. Not even the slightest tremor. Nothing.”
Ravynn didn’t have time for her anger. “The day is not done yet,” she said simply. Not waiting for a response, she closed the child’s door behind her and climbed into bed with her daughter. Wrapped her arms around the child and cradled her protectively, careful not to wake her.
It started slowly, barely detectable at first. Ravynn kissed her daughter’s forehead and tucked a pillow against her other side. Ready, she thought.
Tiny figurines on Amelia’s dresser began to jitter and skitter across the surface. They shimmied like they were at a dance, excited movement gripping them all. A few fell to the floor, already tired from the din, as the earth let out a low groan as it shifted beneath.
Matt raced through the door, eyes peeled open in terror and awe. Ravynn met his gaze and reached out a hand, beckoning to him, all the while remaining unfalteringly neutral. Amelia’s lamp jumped over the dresser and shattered into pieces on the hardwood floor. It reminded Ravynn of the shattering relationship between her and Matt. What once was whole.
Amelia startled awake, but her mother cooed at her and wrapped a hand behind her head and pulled her closer. Matt curled up next to them, pushing the pillow back against the headboard. All the while, he stared at Ravynn. Calm, composed, knowing Ravynn. She reached out her free arm to him, over Amelia, but he didn’t take it. He held still, searching her face. The look on his face broke her heart, but there was nothing she could do about it. So, she held tightly to her daughter as the earth slowed back to stillness.
Tomorrow would be new day, but the day after… well, that would be The Day. She knew it. She wasn’t quite sure how much of the journal Matt had seen, but if he’d read it through, he too knew what that day would bring.
RAVYNN leaned on the precipice of night, waiting for The Day to come. She had known about this day since after the car crash when she was thirteen years old. After that tumultuous night, she could see things more clearly. Things she knew normal people couldn’t see. No, she wasn’t sick like her father, Matt was wrong. She was more like her mother and grandmother than anything else. Amelia had shades of it too, and even her twin brother Ray, but he was too stubborn and blind to see that he could be special as well.
The entry had been correct in her journal foretelling the 6.0 earthquake from the previous day. That would be nothing in the grand scheme of things. So much more to come. Tomorrow morning would bring another larger quake, just off the coast of northern California. What would follow…
Under Another Sun. Ravynn held onto that thought and the image of the Woman on the Water that had been imprinted on her mind since she was a teen. The longing in her heart she felt every day afterwards kept her focused and kept her sure it was all very real. She had missed her window then. But tomorrow? It would all be different. Change was coming.
Matt had been skeptical and hesitant when she’d invited him over. Invited him to spend the night even. It had been weeks since the divorce and he’d last slept in his own house, his own bed, with his own wife. His voice sounded leery over the phone, but he’d accepted.
Ravynn felt guilty for playing on his feelings like that, but she needed to see him one last time. Needed him to be there with Amelia when she left. Her mouth had said all the right things that morning, and Matt believed her. She put on her happy face and grabbed her new camera. It was time to go back work, after all, she’d told him. Too long had she leaned on him and neglected her art and her work.
Matt had been all too agreeable and eager for any sort of improvement on her part, she knew it. It was selfish, undoubtedly, but necessary.
The sun had set upon a tumultuous day, and darkness disguised the mess it had left behind. Everything felt still and calm and right as she kissed Amelia goodnight. The girl was already asleep when Matt leaned in and tucked the blankets up high under her chin the way she liked it. Ravynn slowly laced her fingers around his. He froze at first, as if his fingers didn’t know what they should do. She rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand and his softened, letting his fingers intertwine with hers. His hand felt so very warm around her cool digits. His strong hands had always given her comfort, and she felt it now. Slipped her thumb in between their hands and caressed his palm, rough and calloused from years of manual labor.
She waited there, just holding his hand, letting him ease into it. He turned his head to look at her and she could see the millions of questions on his face, in his eyes as they searched hers. Pulling on his hand, she urged him to turn and face her. She grabbed his other hand and held it too as she stared into his eyes. She wanted to soak up this moment, capture it, take a picture that would last in her mind forever. “Come to bed with me,” she whispered. Her heart wanted to drink him in one last time.
His lips parted as if to speak, but nothing came out. She could both hear and see the breath catch in his throat as his chest rose but did not fall. As if he were holding his breath, afraid of what might come next. He shook his head, face a mask of confusion before he spoke, “I don’t understand.”
“Just for tonight, Matt. Come to me.” She could feel the corners of her mouth tugging downward, and she forced a smile. “Come with me.” She didn’t wait for an answer but turned to leave the room, giving his hand another tug to follow. At first, he didn’t budge, but then finally followed her across the hall.
Inside, she shut the door behind them, stared up into his face. Lifted a finger and traced the crow’s feet outside his eye. Ran her finger and across his lips, as if to shush him before he could protest. Her hand moved to his temple, then up into his hair, stroking the salt and pepper hair back away from his face. The gray grew in faster the last few months, but she didn’t care. She thought it made him even more attractive.
Again, she tugged his hand, moving them closer to the bed, and this time he protested. “What are you doing? What are we doing?” He took his hand back from her and placed it still at his side.
Although she hadn’t wanted to read him, she ended up doing it anyway. The confusion radiated off him like a furnace, pushing its heat out toward her. The fights were too fresh, the wounds still too open and raw. The journals, their unnerving accuracy of them rattled Matt to the core. The fear in him remained.
“Make love to me?” Her body pressed in close to his, keenly aware of his trepidation. His hand stayed at his side.
“You know I love you, Ravy. And I always want you, but…” he shifted his gaze past her, no longer looking at her.
“Just tonight,” she pleaded softly.
He shook his head in the negative while his hand came up to stroke her arm very lightly.
She pulled him closer, and sat on the edge of the bed, him leaning over her. She crawled onto her knees and put her arms around him. “Come hold me then.” She looked up at him hopefully. She pulled him into bed, their bed. Clothes still on, above the blankets, he tucked his arm under her. Put her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. Every time she spoke, he could hear and feel the beats pick up. She kissed his chin, his bottom lip, his mouth. His breath came out unsteady, shaky, and his body was rigid, unwilling to trust and give over to her. She couldn’t blame him. She buried her face in the crook of his neck and breathed him in. Always loved the way he smelled; he never wore any cologne. Natural. Pheromones and sweat mixed, intoxicating her. She wanted to inhale him and hold onto it forever.
She ached to make love to him one last time, but she’d broken him, and nothing could be done about it. She breathed softly on his neck as she kissed him and felt him quiver and sigh. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. There they slept, in each other’s arms all night.
In the morning, she woke too early. Anxious to begin her day, her journey. Full knowing what she must leave behind. Rolled out of Matt’s arms and gazed out the window as the sun hinted its pinkish glow from behind the clouds and over the horizon. The clouds swept across the sky in a single brushstroke.
A rustle of blankets behind her brought her attention around. “Come back to bed?” Matt’s voice was groggy.
“Can’t. Into the shower. Then off to work. You know.” She gave him a smile. Her body blocked the sun from Matt who was shrouded in sleep and silky morning shadow.
“You can.” He lifted the blankets and held them out as a welcome. “Let’s start over. Crawl in together. Start right now, Ravynn.”
“That’s what I’m doing, Matt.” She walked across the room to the bathroom. Left the door open, lingered a moment while her eyes drank him in. “I do love you, Matt.”