5.45am, Wednesday, 1 February, thirty-three hours in
Time for the pair to head to the Bun. Going-for-coffee exuberant, Diana bolted out of the driveway. Quads, not caring for the exertion, responded, “Gotcha!” knotting abruptly, the powerful front thigh muscles transforming to vises, seizing her legs and crashing her to the frozen ground, Diana’s arms partially successful in protecting her head from the asphalt. The crack knocked her to the near side of unconsciousness adding vertigo and nausea to the cocktail of powerful leg cramps and a forehead gash.

Diana’s hands, one on each thigh, fruitlessly tried to massage away the charley horses.

Ivy knelt, took hold of Diana’s left foot, and slowly bent it at the knee, stretching and holding the extensor muscle taut, counter-intuitively in the direction opposite the spasm. After a ten-count she asked Diana if the cramp had gone. “Not yet,” Ivy tightening the stretch, holding it for another thirty seconds, releasing it slowly.

She worked the other leg in the same way saying, “That crack on your head needs attention, as well.”

“Inside. Help me up, please.”

On her feet, Diana took Ivy’s hand, nodding ‘thanks’ to her. “I’ll skip the walk to the Bun. Let’s hobble around the driveway a time or two before we go inside.” She took the white silk handkerchief Ivy offered and held it to the gash. “It smells of apple blossoms, like the one under my pillow.”

“It is the one under your pillow, washed and ironed.”

“Please tell whoever did it, ‘Thank you.’”

Back upstairs Ivy got a pair of pajamas to replace Diana’s jeans, they torn at both knees. “If you’re not going out, you may as well get comfortable.” Diana went into the bathroom while Ivy went for a first aid kit.

On her return, Ivy found Diana sitting on the edge of the bed, her pj legs rolled up past her scrapes. Ivy washed and dried the wounds – all they needed. After close examination Ivy determined that the head gash required nothing more than a dab of antiseptic lotion and a large Band Aid. She added more wood to the fire and stoked it, and left the house telling Diana she’d return in a few minutes. Diana settled into one of the chairs by the fire and closed her eyes, maybe even dozed.

Fifteen minutes later, Ivy walked around the chair handing Diana a cup. “A Buttery Bun double-cortado, straight from a microwave reheat.”

“Ivy! How great! Thank you so much. You walked two miles to fetch me coffee – talk about above and beyond.”

“No problemo, my dear. But who said anything about walking? Don’t forget who I am.” Propping Diana’s legs up on the footstool, Ivy moved a side table and lamp a bit closer. “I have to do an errand this morning and I’ll be gone until lunch. But you’re pretty close to being yourself now and I think you’ll be alright without me.”

“I’ll be fine. Anna will help me if I need it; or her relief. After this morning’s debacle I’m going to sit all day. I can use the solitude to deal with the buzzings in my head.”

Ten minutes later, hearing an automobile pull into the driveway, Diana got up and looked out the window, seeing the car swallow Ivy and drive away; and seeing her protection, two local police officers, walking the grounds checking windows and doors as they passed, leaving footprints in the two inches of new snow that overnight transformed the bleak outdoors into a luminous fairyland.

Turning away from the window, she continued the household census: Anna’s relief, “What’s her name?” thinking, at the entry desk now, and two other invisible staffers in the house somewhere, on the hunt for soiled linens. Indoors and outdoors, everything quiet except for some seasonally-voiced chickadees singing their two-note soulful winter warning against the cold. Sweet.

Diana closed the door to her room, sat in the left-side rocker, closed her eyes, rested her head, and embraced the stillness. She exhaled and brought the still-hot cup to her nose. Through the evanescent mist of sweet steamed milk, she breathed in the coffee’s woody, spicy, and earthy tones and took a large sip, relishing the characteristic bitterness that permeated the rich, smooth foam, the piquancy drawn from the thirty acids that provide coffee with both its structure and jolt. She tracked the charge from when it entered her bloodstream to when it reached her brain, the euphoria-inducing chemicals well-appreciated by the coffee-addicted,

She set the cup on the side table and closed her eyes, resting her hands on her thighs. Her breathing slowed and her thoughts thinned. She typically centered herself as the first step toward meditation. But today she had basic ideas to work through, so centering herself the goal, however modest.

But her thoughts non-cooperative, hovering over the mystic process. Many times, Dee followed centering with meditation, her extended religious experience. Meditation, at those times, the goal. But some rare times, Dee used meditation as a step towards transcendence, the complete-spiritual and partial-physical withdrawal from the human plane, that plane an illusory world where nothing is what it seems. Like the illusion of matter: a mass, once thought to be solid, now known to be a conglomeration of electrical charges. Mystics strive to transcend this illusionary world to free themselves from its constraints and more easily enter the only real world – the world of the spiritual, the communion of saints, a plane few living mystics ever reach.

Although this thought sequence not where she wanted her focus, she knew better than to arrest her ideas. Experience taught they will bounce around in their confines creating enough distraction to prevent meditation, to even prevent centering. Better in the long run to let them play out, like this thought dealing with Dee’s experience with plane-shifting. 

Already twice in her young life, Diana’s achieving transcendence presaged the most exalted of spiritual experiences within Christian mysticism: radiance, called into the presence of God, an experience shared with few humans in the history of mankind, notably Sts. Catherine of Siena and Francis of Assisi, the spiritual brother most dear to Diana’s heart, despite that he the model of deprivation and gentleness and she, a first-rank practitioner of both hedonism and violence.

DreamWeaver proudly accepted her first radiance as both the end of her childhood and her initiation into the body of mystic-warriors dedicated to combatting evil. She marked that moment by changing her name to Diana. Can Diana mark her freedom from heroin addiction in the same way?

Although both mileposts, radiance occurred at a defined moment. Whereas, although she is no longer taking heroin, neither is she free from the effects of it.  

Far too skinny. That thought a softball. She loved food and with her appetite already returning, her good weight will follow.

Debilitated. Another creampuff. She’d be out of recovery in a couple of days and, first thing, she’d get back to her weight-lifting regime, competitive basketball shape to follow soon after.

Drug addicted. Hardly. Certainly, never psychologically; and breaking physical addiction much easier. She’s hardly missing heroin now, after only a couple of days of not using. Caffeine a great find. The walk, the social aspect of the café, the taste, the jolt. Wow! Against all that, the heroin draw diminishing by the hour, any vestige of the addiction just an insult fading into an unpleasant memory. Reminded, she reached for her cup, taking another sip of her new ally, returning the cup to the side table, closing her eyes, again.

Thou shalt not have strange gods before me! Wow! This thought a hundred-plus mile-per-hour fastball with a pop. This thought, attention-grabbing: Diana conjuring up an image of, or perhaps actually seeing, a black-outfitted, ski-masked inquisitor, slow-approaching but inevitable, he, oxygen-sucking, life-extinguishing, readying to ask her why she so welcomed succeeding injections. This thought terror-building, panic-inducing, Diana gasping for breath like a goldfish on a rug. The inquisitor-executioner will seek either an explanation she too confused to intelligibly deliver; or at least demand a confession she unwilling to entertain lest she too easily be forgiven. Diana knowing the moment of reckoning certain, but knowing she too fragile to face it at this moment.

But still he came, certain to press those and other questions to which she yet had no rational responses. Unless fleeing a response, in which case her answer brilliant: leaping from the rocker to her feet, popping the concentration balloon, spinning a one-eighty, looking frenetically around to certain herself that no one followed, holding on to the bureau to stay on her feet. No one in pursuit, no one in the room, she calmed, slowed her breathing, bent to reach her coffee, taking one more look around before draining the cup with a long sip.

Drying her eyebrows with one finger and that finger on her pajamas, steadying herself on the furniture, empty cup in hand, Diana wobbled around the room, again stopping at the window, again sucking in the landscape, thinking, Wouldn’t that cop be surprised to see divine justice meted out on his watch, explaining to his captain, ‘A large white thing, like an angel with a sword, floated into the second-floor window. I called out, Stop! Police! It didn’t. I rushed into the house with my gun drawn and up to her room and found her just like this.’” Diana turned away from the window and the absurd mental cartoon faded.

Standing in front of the rocker Diana shook her head, thinking, “Is it safe?” She set the empty cup on her bureau and walked to the fireplace, adding another log to the fire before returning to again face the chair. Both hands on the rocker arms, she leaned in, took a deep breath, and one-eightied, sitting with an inelegant thump. Her hands again clutched the rocker arms and her body again leaned far forward, poised to bolt if the executioner reappeared. Only after several moments did she rest her head on the back of the rocker again, close her eyes again, and, reassured by the fire’s warm crackle, return to her contemplations.

Thinking, “Okay. Now I’m damaged goods. Life as I have known it ‘Gone in Sixty Seconds.’ So now what? Can’t undo the deed – would that I could – and suicide not who I am. So now what?”

Saying aloud, “Hide? Dumb. Pray? Heck, no! Just ran from that: can’t face His anger or disappointment, or worse – His forgiveness. I sucked in those drugs. Will not let myself off that easily.

“So now what? Like right now, what?

“That’s easy enough. Finish recovery. A no-brainer.”

Diana got up and stepped slowly around the room, one full rotation, thinking, starting a second turnaround but stopping at the fire, thinking, “And then? Recovery over, and then?”

Another easy answer, saying aloud, “Leave here. Go home.” She started walking again.

Thinking, “Home? To Winslow Homer’s straw hat, jeans, and bare feet? Small town inquisition: ‘Were you raped? How many times? How many men? Did you get their numbers? Will you share them?’”

She shook her head saying aloud, “No. Thank you,” and resumed walking.

Thinking, “I deserve punishment but hanging around nosy Tyngsborough town, facing the intermeddling classmates and staff at Tyngsborough High? That’s beyond the pale.”

And aloud, “A definite ‘No!’ as in ‘Not going to happen.’ I could return home a recluse. Home school myself. Have only the girls as visitors. Become a mystic-contemplative.”

Sitting in the rocker now, back and forth, thinking, “No. A recluse? Not me. My family, my girlfriends, and their families must always be nearby.

A contemplative? Not with all this anger in me – this need for retribution. I’ll remain the warrior, pursuing a mission to expose Plan B. Different now, maybe – me, tarnished; weakened, perhaps. I need to reassess. I need time, space, and anonymity to sort all of this out.”

Standing, pacing, talking aloud, speaking slowly and clearly, “I need a city, a big city – big cities notorious for providing time, space, and anonymity. Boston. I like Boston. Been there several times. Nice feel. And near enough to Tyngsborough to make my parents happy.

Thinking, “And Aunt Clara’s workshop is there.”

Walking, talking aloud, “Better and better. Perfect, even. I’ll get my own apartment. In the center of town. No cozy, nosy neighborhoods – too much like a small town.”

Looking out the window, thinking, “I’ll finish out the school year from my new apartment. No one at the school will object. Not to me, the extra-credit marvel; the A+ queen; the nationally-recognized genius. Time for Diana to draw on her accumulated academic good will.

“Mom and dad will be sad, but not for long. It wouldn’t be any different from my going away to college. A little sooner maybe, definitely. But anyway, I’ll still be close.

“The girls. My dears. We’ll have to work something out, but we will not be separated,” shaking her head to emphasize.

Pacing, saying aloud, “An apartment in Boston,” lightly touching each piece of passed furniture. “Never going back to Tyngsborough. What a key idea. Not for a day, not for the time to pack my things. Mom will pack for me. Diana, the Bostonian.”

Saying softly, “Diana? Am I Diana?”

She walked to the window again, looked out again thinking, “No. Not Diana. I don’t feel like Diana anymore. DreamWeaver as a child; Diana at radiance. Now, fallen, I’m someone else. Mary Magdalene, perhaps. Cute.”

She tossed her head, saying aloud, “Get serious.” She turned and picked up the cup from the bureau. Empty. She set it down and took up the folded handkerchief under her pillow, dabbing her top lip with it, clenching it with her left hand.

Thinking, “A new name for a new life, like Diana for DreamWeaver. Tossed from grace doesn’t have quite the same cachet as being admitted to God’s presence, but both are life-altering, in need of an appropriate name.”

And aloud, “Not a fancy name that draws attention. Something simple, basic, like a single-digit number. A single syllable name. Di? Hardly. D?” She paused. “D’s good actually: simple. Spell it with two ees. ‘Hello, I’m Dee. I am Dee.’ Pounding her chest, ‘I am woman.’ Pausing, saying, “I like it.”

Thinking, “Who is Dee? As in, ‘Where does she come from? What is she? Where is she going?’”

So much decision-making left Dee too tired to detail her new persona except for her silent determination to continue “the one constant that nothing will ever change, nothing before now, not now, not ever – the constant that began before infancy and toddler side-by-side play, that continued through pre-school, grammar school, and the first two years of high school: Stella, Laini, and Lori-Baby, the three girls sharing my every joy, pain, and intimacy. Dee, like Diana before her, DreamWeaver before her, and before DreamWeaver, even, as an unnamed microscopic protoplasmic dot, Dee starts her new life with three inseparable intimates.

And one implacable enemy. Gloating, he.