Just the Beginning by Denise Evans

Grace drove up the bumpy dirt road, curiosity filling her mind. When she finally pulled into the driveway, she had to take a deep breath to brace herself. "Lord, let me just get into this house,” she mumbled, climbing from the car. She didn't have the time or the energy to be social, but her mama had raised her right, so she plastered a smile on her face and walked around to the back of the car.
Just the Beginning
Just the Beginning by Denise Evans
"Hello! I'm Grace, David's niece," she yelled, spying a man working in the yard. The man working in the yard didn't speak right away. “Well, maybe he didn’t hear me,” Grace said with a shrug, and popped the trunk to remove her luggage. "Hola, my name is Manny.” The sudden sound of the man’s voice made Grace start. She turned to look at him. “Please to meet you. I'm here to finish your uncle's basement." He wiped his hands on the front of his jeans. Grace noticed there were wood cutting tools and molding laying around. "Okay. I’ll stay out of your way while I’m here, then." Her own, slight accent seemed to stand out more following his. She closed her trunk and set her alarm. "How long will that be?" He turned and watched her walk towards the front door, passing right in front of him. She glanced over her shoulder. “About four days." She didn’t miss his admiring glance and her curiosity spiked, almost causing her steps to falter. She held his attention, more than a little intrigued, but quickly brushed the feeling away. She was tired and wanted to rebuild her defenses. That was why her uncle’s place was perfect. It was located deep in the mountains – no neighbors for miles. During her visit she planned to do nothing more than reconnect with her inner self and rebuild her wall. Manny watched her go, unable to stop himself from staring. She was her name, graceful in every way. Though she must have been tired from the drive from the city, she hid it well. She wore white Capri shorts and a yellow T-shirt with matching tennis shoes. She was cute – there was no doubt about that. "Okay, see you later," he called as she entered the house. As soon as she was out of sight, he took out his cell phone. “Hola. Si, she is here. Yes, I know what to do. I will keep you posted. Adios.” The two story cabin had four bedrooms and four and a half baths. There was an unfinished basement that was going to be an entertainment room, with a bar, small movie theater, and a place to play cards. Her uncle had built this place for family and friends to use to relax and have a good time. And that was exactly what Grace intended to do. She had just finished earning her bachelors in business administration while working full time at the local library. School and work full-time had taken a major toll on her. Then, once she graduated, the library had laid her off. That was a month ago. She had applied to a couple of places and was still waiting to be called for an interview. Tired and stressed from trying to find a new job, her defenses were low. She couldn't block other people’s emotions and stop them from assaulting her own. As she drove away from the city, she’d felt less pressure with less people around. That was why Uncle David’s cabin was the best spot to reconnect. As soon as she entered, she could tell that her uncle had everything set up for her. There were fresh fruit and flowers on the table and she would bet her left foot that her favorite wine was in the kitchen, too. A smile spread across her face. Uncle David always knew what she needed and provided it. Upstairs, there were two rooms on each side of the hallway. She passed the first bedroom on the right and noticed the door was cracked. She shook her head. That was strange - her uncle usually kept all the doors closed. He believed that an open door was an open invitation. Instantly, the stress and worries gripped her again. She reached for the knob and felt a comfort as she pulled the door shut. Pushing the thought aside, she opened the door to her own room – the last on the left. Once inside, she instantly started to unwind. She unpacked her clothes, bathroom toiletries, and her books. One book was a London novel and another was about regaining and maintaining balance in life. A wave of tension caused her to think back on the three hour drive from the city; she could still feel the chaotic emotions like dozens of fish stuck in a small bucket. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and pushed those emotions away. After a few moments, she went to the bathroom and washed up. Then she stretched out across the bed. Finally, she thought. Calmness. Two hours later, Grace woke up to her stomach growling. She glanced around to get her bearings and her stomach rumbled again. Right on cue, she smelled delicious food cooking. Thoughts of her uncle being there made her happy and she quickly went to go downstairs. She stopped in the hallway and glanced down at her favorite college shirt, sweatpants, and fuzzy socks. Usually she would never let anyone see her in her relaxing clothes, but she didn’t care because she was comfortable and it was just her uncle. Before she made to the top of stairs, she noticed the first bedroom door was open again. She reached out to close it and a soft touch swept across her outreached hand. She tried to focus on the touch as she closed the door, but the smell of the food grabbed her attention again. Manny was singing quietly to himself and cooking when Grace came into the kitchen. He knew the moment Grace woke up and when she stood in the doorway to watch him. She didn’t know that her thoughts and emotions reached out to him. It felt like a soft caress. He glanced over his shoulder. “Hola, did you rest well?” Grace admired a man that could cook and for him to sing in tune was a plus. Almost as if he could hear her thoughts, Manny glanced over. She smiled back at him. “Yes, I did. I just came down to grab a little something to eat.” She reached into the cabinet and grabbed some pretzels. Before she could even open the bag her stomach growled again. She clutched her stomach out of embarrassment and quickly looked at Manny to see if he had noticed. She relaxed when he didn’t react. Without looking at her, he continued to stir the pot, smiling at her attempt to hide her embarrassment. “You don’t have to do that. I made enough soup for both of us. It goes well with the wine that’s on the table.” He nodded towards the table that was set for two. Her interest was once again piqued. She tried to build her wall against it, but it crumbled. I really need to work on my walls, she chided herself. Looking from the table to Manny, she gave up and sighed. “I would like that.” "Sit, then, and I will serve you. This is my mama's recipe. She used to say that food feeds the soul." She sat down. "It smells great and I do believe that saying is true." He put the bowl of food in front of her and poured the wine. She nodded her head in thanks and took a spoonful of soup. A slight moan escaped her before she could stop it. She looked up and saw the delight in Manny’s and quirk on his lips. Grace shyly looked up. "Oh sorry, I haven't had a homemade meal in a long time. You really know what you're doing." Gratitude and desire swept over her. Grace looked down at her food and wandered why his emotions were reaching out to her. She knew her defenses were weak, but she didn't think they were so weak she couldn't block anything from him. She shook her head and frowned because she found herself liking the idea that he was interested in her. Conversation over dinner was pleasant. They talked about their education, work, and hobbies. "It is hard for me to believe that your hobby is pottery," Grace said with a smile, playing with the rim of her wine glass. "Why is that?" Manny asked stretching out his legs. Grace tried not to focus on how strong his legs looked. The wine relaxed her just enough. Looking up, she answered, "Well, you do carpentry. I thought you would do something else. Something with guns." She laughed because she knew how stereotypical that sounded. "Yeah, but it relaxes me. There is something about the feeling the clay in my hands and through my fingers. Being able to mold and shape it into something beautiful." "I can understand that. Maybe I need to get a hobby like that." Her dream job was working in solitude; working alone, with no one else around and no other emotions to deal with. "I would be happy to show you how to create something with your hands," he told her as he cleared the table. Grace stood up quickly to take the glasses to the sink and lost her balance. Manny caught her and the glasses before she dropped them. "Wow, amiga slow down," he said, rubbing her shoulders. She was unable to stop the sensual shiver from going through her body. The only response from Manny was a small smile on his lips. "Um… Thank you. I must’ve drank a little too much." Holding her hand to her head she looked down and stepped sideways out of his hands. The wine made her already low defenses practically nonexistent. Her mind wanted nothing emotional, but her heart still hungered for it. "Maybe a bit. We will watch that next time." His smile was devastating to her already quickened pulse. She noticed the longer she looked at him, the stronger the pulse became. The wine, she told herself. It was definitely the wine. Grace breathed in deeply and looked around the room, trying to focus. "Sure, thanks for dinner." She headed toward the stairs. It had to be the wine and even then, it was probably all in her head, but when she walked away she felt lust stroke her spine and travel downwards, as if tugging her back to the kitchen. Trying to ignore it, she paused halfway up the stairs and glanced over her shoulder. Manny was watching her. Now Grace knew she had drunk too much, because there was no way that he was attracted to her. However, Manny was enthralled by Grace. She was not only beautiful, but could hold a conversation on variety of subjects. In getting to know her, he was also learning how to help her. Turning around, he continued to clean up and realized that they had drank a whole bottle of wine. He shook his head. No wander she almost tipped over. Every time that she received the message his emotions were giving out, he knew right away. She would get this surprised look on her face and he could almost see the wheels in her head turning. He knew he was pushing it when he let his attraction seep out and stroke her. When she tried to build her wall he sensed her effort, but it was flawed. Now, if only he could figure a way to make her talk about what she felt. Inside her bedroom, Grace tried to shake off her amped up emotions. She was uncomfortable with the attraction because she had not been in a relationship for a while. Although her body was ready, her mind was not. She didn’t want to deal with anything that remotely involved a relationship. Tomorrow, she was going to work on building her wall. Manny would not get close, she promised herself. The morning light peeking through the blinds woke Grace the next day. Outside energy called to her as she stretched and dressed quickly. Walking down the hall, passing the first bedroom, thoughts of Manny crossed her mind. She wondered what time he would start working. She didn’t know what she was going to say or do around him. Although she had slept well, Manny was still in the background. She had tried to get away from him so fast the night before that she realized she’d just went to bed without seeing him to the door or helping him clean up . Looking around the kitchen, there wasn’t a spot that was dirty. No dishes, cups, pots, or even trash. Smiling, she already knew two things she was going to say to him: ‘Sorry for not helping with the cleaning’ and ‘thank you for doing it’. The sun felt so refreshing and warm outback. She found a nice spot to sit that faced the rising sun, perfect for meditation. In front of her was a small lake stocked with fish. Her uncle liked fishing and used to take her every summer. With happiness all around her, she opened her book and read the lesson for the day. Then, laying the book aside, she cleared her mind and imagined a white light coming down and cleansing her body and soul. Her mind now blank, she visualized building a brick wall. With each brick she laid, she said a positive affirmation. The wall was about waist high and 6 feet long when she felt warming sunrays at her back. She paused because the warmth reminded her of what love felt like, unconditional love. Her wall began to crumble. She opened her eyes, still dazed, shook her head, and slowly looked around to see if someone was there. She stood up, looked across the lake, and still saw no one. To calm her nerves, she took a deep breath and muttered, "Grace, you’ve got to get a hold on yourself." She decided to walk back to the house and figure out what had happened to her wall. Then she entered and saw Manny standing in the room that faced the lake. Manny knew exactly when Grace had woke up because she did not shield her emotions. He wondered if she knew how or just felt like she didn’t have to. He was happy that she had slept well and seemed quite happy to start her day. He stayed out of sight while she went down to the lake to meditate. This gave him time to watch her and to get a good feel of her abilities. When she slipped into her meditative state, there was a white orb surrounding her. His eyes widened in disbelief at what he saw. He was positive that she had no idea what was around her. As she continued, the orb grew and become thicker. Astounded, Manny let his emotion reach out to her. When it touched the orb, it popped like a bubble. She abruptly came out of the meditation, shook her head, and her confusion shot back to him. Noticing her coming back, he quickly poured some water in a coffee cup and made it back to the window right before she opened the door. He gave her a friendly smile, "Buenos Dias. How was your meditation?" Shocked by his knowledge of her meditation, she stumbled with her words. "Uh… Kinda productive. How – how did you know what I was doing?" "I know because I do it myself," he answered and handed her a cup of herbal tea. "When you meditate, what do you focus on?" He studied her over the rim of his cup. She looked into her cup. "It’s kinda weird, but I build a brick wall." She didn't want to explain more to him because most people wouldn't understand. She barely understood it, but knew what she had to do. "That’s exactly what you’re doing?" Confusion swirled out of him. Looking up Grace asked, "What did you say?" She felt the confusion, but figured it was her own. "I have some experience with meditation. I do mine in the morning and also at evening. I would like to meditate with you and help you build your wall." Hope wrapped around her waist and tugged her a little towards him. "We’ll see. Thanks for the tea." She put her cup down and went to her room. The feeling of hope that came from him was nice and she liked it. The rest of the day, Grace relaxed by reading her London book, giving herself a mani & pedi, and taking a nap. She woke up to the sound of pounding on the wall. She waited for it to stop, but when it didn't she followed the sound downstairs to the basement. There, she saw Manny, with no shirt on, hammering something in the wall. For the first time in a long time, she was memorized. The copper color of Manny's muscular back had a sheen of sweat glistening over it and she liked it. Manny knew when she entered the room because he felt her interest fall upon him with a touch of sexual awareness. It was hard not to react physically and emotionally. He wanted to respond to her, but he knew that her wall was not at the strength that she wanted. Her receptors were growing stronger and she needed stronger defenses. He wondered when she would speak instead of just standing there watching. After a few moments, he decided to make the first move by stepping down off the ladder and pretending to look for something in his tool box. Casually, he looked up and acted surprised to see her standing there. "Hola. Was your siesta good?" he asked, turning to her and pulling his shirt on. "Yes. Your banging that woke me up." She didn't mean to sound snarky, but she had to do something to fight her attraction to him. "Sorry, I have to get this AC unit in here," he said, smirking. He knew exactly what she was trying to do and knew it wasn’t going work. "No problem. Can I get you a—”She was thinking a towel so she could wipe him down, but she quietly clenched her mind against that thought. "—drink or something? I’m about to make some sandwiches for lunch." Grace fidgeted under Manny’s stare. She had built her wall, but there was something off with it because it kept crumbling. Manny smiled "Si, it would be great to have lunch with you.” "Okay, it'll be ready in about 20 minutes." Grace retreated quickly, berating herself over her thoughts about Manny. By the time she started on lunch, she had locked away the image of a shirtless Manny. Instead, she focused on making turkey and Swiss on rye bread with a pickle spear. She found some Lays chips and Sun chips, not knowing which one Manny preferred and put both out. As she finished pouring some sweet tea, she felt a sense of appreciation come over her from behind. She slowly put down the pitcher and, without looking, she asked, "What would you like to drink?" He answered while washing his hands, "Whatever you’re having is fine." Not sure what to talk about and hating the silence, Grace asked, "How long have you been working in your field?" He felt her uneasiness as he looked down at his plate. "I've been doing this for at least 20 years. Mi padre trained me." He looked up at her. "Tell me, what do you want to do now that you're finished with school?" "Not sure. That’s one of the reasons why I’m here. I have to find my balance and focus." She bit into her sandwich and tried not to stare at Manny and his brown eyes. Once she finished chewing, she continued, "I just finished my degree and I’m looking for a full-time job." "I do remember you talking about that last night." He picked up his tea and drank a bit. "Will you meditate with me this evening?" He took another long drink and sent a feeling of comfort her way. "Sure. Maybe you can teach me something." A playful smile crossed her face, mirroring her feelings, and from the reaction she received, she knew Manny liked it. She felt like she could relax around him and not be so guarded. Manny was enjoying this side of Grace and sensed that she was finally relaxing. "I think I can. We can start about six. Wear something loose and relaxing. I'm not sure how long we will meditate for. It will depend on how deep you want to go." Grace felt a little bit out of her mind trying to guess if what he said had a double meaning. She shook her head. “I don’t understand.” Looking up, she saw an emotion flicker across his eyes. She took a deep breath. "We’ll see. Can I take your plate?" She stood up and held her hand out. Don’t get caught up with him. He’s just like any other guy. He handed his plate to her and began to clean up the chip bags and drinks. He felt Grace disconnect and decided to go finish his work as there was nothing else he could do. "Lunch was great. If you need me, I’ll be in the basement.” In the basement, he began to form a plan on how he was going to help her. He didn’t know much about her, but his thoughts of her comforted him. Grace finished in the kitchen and washed a load of laundry. She decided she needed to relax before she mediated with Manny. After running a lavender bath, she settled into it and read a couple of chapters of her romance book before she started to feel sleepy. She laid her book to the side and focused on the rhythm of the pounding in the basement. Her eyes closed and she imagined her brick wall. Reaching down into the bucket that held the cool mortar mixture, she savored the smooth silkiness of it between her fingers. Taking her handful and spreading it over her bricks she chanted, “I am stronger.” Images of Manny were pushed to the back of her mind. Right away, Manny knew Grace had slipped into her meditative state. She obviously didn’t realize that the way she meditated opened her mind instead of closing it. He tried to stop the mental connection, but it was useless. Again, he saw her 5’2 frame in an all-white sundress, surrounded in a white light, bending over and standing again. He listened to her chant and enjoyed watching her. Before he knew it, he was behind her and caught himself bending with her and reaching for her waist. He froze and snapped out of the meditation. He rubbed his hands down his face. “Mio dios, Manny – you have to control yourself.” Grace again felt warmth behind her. She turned a complete circle and saw nothing, though. Before going back to the wall, she brightened her white by saying, “I am well protected” and focused back on her wall. Tepid water brought her out of meditation. She followed Manny’s request and dressed in comfortable clothing. Before she went down, she glanced out the window and saw Manny laying out a white blanket and two big white pillows. She turned away with a smile. Manny felt her emotions just briefly. He smiled and knew he had to take it slow because she had a lot to learn about herself, him, and their abilities. He grew up knowing what he was and had learned the responsibilities that came with it. There were many in his family like him. Grace’s abilities had only recently bloomed it seemed, which was very rare late in life. She had no one in her family or around her that shared the ability. Walking up to him, she asked, “Do you set this up all the time?” Her eyes swept over the simple, but elegant layout. “No, this is for you.” He smiled and pushed comfort towards her heart. “Thank you. I have feeling that you know more than what you show.” “Really? What else do you feel from me?” Manny asked, sitting down and crossing his legs. Grace didn’t know if she should tell him that she felt his admiration and attraction. Taking her time, she sat down and got comfortable by breathing in deep and putting her hands in her lap. “I feel that you like me.” It was somewhat close to the truth. “Now look who’s holding back what she knows.” Her eyes went wide. “Yes, you’re right. I do like you. The same way you like me.” Her mouth dropped open. She tried to recover from what he said as he scooted closer so that their knees touched. He grabbed hold of her hands. Her body temperature shot up and her breath quickened. “Keep holding my hands. Close your eyes and breathe in deep.” Without hesitation, she did as he said. When he sensed she was calm, he asked, “What do you see when meditating?” Grace breathed in deep. “I imagine a bright light coming down on me, cleansing and clearing away all negative energy. Then I start to build a wall and say positive things.” “Okay, go ahead and start there. You will know when I am there. Just try to ignore me.” “Yeah, right. How are you going to come into my meditation?” She opened one eye to look at him. There was a half-smile on his face, “Close your eyes. It is hard to explain, but I can. Let’s talk about that later and meditate now.” “I’ll try,” she mumbled. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Without much effort, she quickly went into a meditative state. She was building her wall when she noticed Manny's energy behind her. Shaking her head and rolling her shoulders, she tried to block him. The empty area in front of her, stack of bricks to the left, and bucket of mortar to her right. The first row of bricks appeared at her feet. He stood behind her, trying not to make her nervous. He knew she was uncomfortable because of her body language and the vibes that were radiating off her. He focused on his breathing and on her emotions and attempted to ignore his own. Her outer beauty in the conscious world was breathtaking, but her inner beauty, what he saw in mediation, was something more. Around her heart, he noticed some darkness telling him she had been hurt. Taking note, he matched his breathing with hers in 2, 3….out 2, 3. When she finally relaxed, he heard her. "I am stronger. I am capable. I am me." As she repeated Manny joined in and stood by her side. His baritone voice and her soft voice combined together into a calm and sweet chant. He watched her build the wall that was not strong because the method was wrong. She was stacking them on top of each other. He touched her shoulder to get her attention. She looked at him and he touched her in the middle of her forehead, the spot of the third eye, then touched his own. At that point she saw the same image in Manny’s mind in her own. Her eyes widened in disbelief and she was shocked with the connection. She stared into his eyes and in her heart, something shifted. Manny knew the moment their hearts connected. His emotions swelled and almost busted out of the barrier he was keeping them behind. He urged to touch her and was just about to when she broke the connection by turning to her wall. Grace didn’t know how to get rid of her wall. It had always just disappeared over time. She stepped to push it over, but Manny gripped her wrist. He was happy to help her. He stepped close behind her, put his hands on her shoulders, and rubbed all the way down to her hands. Her breath hitched and when he lightly squeezed her hands, she felt the warmth. In a few seconds, they stood there and watched the wall crumble. Grace looked over her shoulder at him. “You’re making my wall crumble.” It wasn’t a question. He smiled and pointed forward to the spot where her wall had been. She nodded, turned, and tried to focus. She was bothered that could make her walls crumble just by releasing what she guessed were his emotions. After a few failed attempts, her body felt like she had a ton of bricks on her back. Manny stepped back and sent encouragement to her. Her energy waves were unstable, telling him she was unsure if she could do it. Once she was confident, he sat down and watched her. He enjoyed the view of her. His mind wondered with all the possibilities and it was a few moments before he realized that Grace had turned around and was looking down at him. It had taken Grace four times to get started, but on the fifth try, she completed it. She had rebuilt her wall multiple times, each time getting faster and stronger. She was so excited at her progress that she bent down to hug him. But when she did so, she lost her balance and fell on top of him. Petrified, she tried to get up and apologize, but his arms held her tight. Manny didn’t know what to do. The instant their bodies made contact, his emotions went haywire. He held her to stop her from moving, making their connection closer and tighter. She pushed off of him and his emotions jumped like a spark. She felt his body’s excitement. That shocked them and instantly they were out of the mediation. Grace scooted away and stared at Manny with wide eyes. She did not want to acknowledge what was going on between them. She wasn’t ready, didn’t want to face it and risk getting hurt again. Liking him was barely ok, but feeling his body’s excitement and knowing that his feelings were genuine scared the crap out of her. She vowed to herself that she was never going down that road again. The thoughts of her last relationship made her angry at herself. Manny laid there with his eyes closed, savoring the feel of Grace. He felt every emotion that she was experiencing. His defenses were up, but taking a hell of a beating. He kept his eyes closed so that she could not see how he truly felt for her. He wanted to calm, comfort, and reassure her that he was nothing like the guys from her past. The two of them were more alike than she wanted to realize. She probably wouldn’t realize it for a long time. Slowly he opened his eyes, sat up, and stared into hers. There was pain and he knew she was stuck in a memory. He reached out to smooth her hair and she flinched. Grace shook her head. “Sorry. Thanks for the help.” She stood up, stretched, and decided to ignore what had just happen. She started picking up the pillows without looking at Manny. Manny didn’t know what to do. First, he was feeling a turmoil of emotion then…nothing. Just a void of nothingness. Dumbfounded, he picked up the blankets. They walked back to the house and he was still trying to figure out how she shut down her emotions. She hadn’t even built her wall. It was like a switch just flipped. She would barely look at Manny. “What time will you be back in the morning to finish the basement? I just want to make sure that I am awake.” More likely awake and out of sight, he thought. His hand stopped on the door knob. “Que? Be back? I won’t. I stay here.” Her shock zapped him and he turned to look at her. He opened the door for her. “You didn’t know that I was staying here too?” “No….no I didn’t… that was why you were here this morning?” she asked, looking around the room like something was going to jump out. Panic was rising inside. She squashed it to remain calm. “Si. Are you okay? Does it make you feel uncomfortable?” He put the blankets in the closet and walked to the kitchen to fix a drink to calm her. He chose wine because she was a bit frightened, but he didn’t understand why. He didn’t know what to do; he was supposed to be helping her. She was a lot stronger and had experienced more tragedy than he’d thought. Grace accepted the wine and downed it in one gulp. She hated that she couldn’t control her emotions. The wine did help, however. The storm of emotions swirling around her and in her head finally began to ebb. She took a slow, deep breath in and noticed Manny watching her. She replayed his question in her head. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? She had forgotten that he can read emotions too. That was the cause of fear. She didn’t want him to know she was attracted to him. “Well, umm…guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” She needed to get away. She took the steps two at a time. “Si, good night.” Manny bowed his head. He tried to control his emotions. Like hers, they were all over the place. Grace climbed the stairs full of confusion that she didn’t know if it was her’s or Manny’s. She paused by Manny’s door and pushed it open to look inside. The room had just the necessities. The bed was neatly made with a brown and white comforter, there was a dresser with a mirror, and pictures frames, and a comb. Two pairs of shoes were aligned against the closet. Grace wouldn’t have thought he stayed in the room if not for two things. One, the smell; it smelled just like him. Two, his energy was in the room. Grace didn’t understand how she sensed it, but she felt something. The energy was full of anxiety and a slight touch of attraction. Instantly she backed away from the door, bumping into the wall, and rushed into her room. Anxiety rose and curled around her chest. Al she thought about was how she going to get away. While yanking out her suitcase, another wave of tremendous emotion battered Grace, causing her to freeze in place as anger and punishment from her past lover rose. She had loved him with her whole heart. He was her world. She thought she was his and he was hers. They were together for three years, had even started to talk about marriage. She was hurt from the lies and abuse. She felt anger now that she wasn’t able to love. There was an internal struggle with loving another and loving herself. Now she had met Manny and a small part of her knew he was different. She knew he genuinely liked her, but the pain of the past screamed in force. Sadness hit her and she fell to her knees, hunched over, tears falling. Anger and pain assaulted her mind and body with such force that she couldn’t stop the uncontrollable sobbing. Manny stood outside her bedroom door, struggling with whether or not burst in and comfort her. His emotions wanted to reach out, but he knew this was something she needed to go through alone. She had to deal with the past in order have the future that was there for her. She had learned to build her wall out of despair. Now she needed to use what she had learned. He leaned his forehead on the door and whispered, “Grace be strong. Build you wall.” It seemed like hours before Grace finally stopped sobbing and shaking. She thought of her white light and began to build her wall. The clutter began to clear and she felt lighter. Manny knew she was okay as he saw her light get brighter. Finally, he took a deep breath, stood up, and went to his room. Grace pushed her suitcase to the end of the bed and went to sleep. All the emotions were purged from her and she slept peacefully. Manny paced most of the night, trying to figure out why and how Grace had blocked her emotions and, most important, how he could help her. He replayed what had happened over and over again. The only conclusion he could come to was the pain and hurt was too much for her to handle and she had an overload. That was why the after effect hit her so hard. Until she learned how to handle emotions, everything would just continue to get worse. In the morning light, the bird song was peaceful and Grace stretched. She got out of bed and prepared for her meditation. She had no idea that her soul needed a release, in a way she needed to thank Manny, because without his help she wouldn’t have felt so confident. Grace knocked at Manny’s door. There was nothing, no sound. She turned the knob and peaked in. The room was empty. She felt that something was off, but just pushed it aside. Negative thoughts crept in her mind. I scared him away. He is going to treat me differently. He left me. Outside, in front of the lake, Grace went through the steps of what Manny taught her. She felt better and stronger mentally. During the meditation, though, thoughts and emotions about Manny were always there. She had started to feel something for him. Anxiety rose. The need to run was strong. Manny drove up to the house and noticed that Grace’s car was gone. He had went into town, thinking that she needed some space. Now, he planned to finally talk to her to about her abilities. He opened the door and felt the residual emotions of anger, sadness, and a sense of being lost. On the kitchen table was a note. Thanks for your help. Grace. Grace drove away from the cabin, her thoughts racing. She was torn in two; she wanted to stay and see what would happen, but because of her fear, she knew she had to go. Fumbling with her phone she dialed a number. She began speaking as soon as he picked up. "Uncle David, I wanted to tell you that I left your place early." "Why is that? I thought you were going to stay for a week." "No, I couldn't stay any longer." Tears swelled in her eyes. "Did something happen?" She shook her head, unsure of how to respond. "No...yes....I was fine until things changed." "Grace. You went up there to get your thoughts together. Of course a change would happen." "Uncle David, I did get part of my thoughts together. I really did – then there was Manny and everything focused on him.” "Manny? Who is Manny? Don't tell me you brought someone up there with you." Grace slammed on the breaks. "No. Manny is the carpenter you had working in the house." An ache started to grow in the middle of her chest. She was hurt and shocked that her uncle would ask. She pulled over to the side of the road. "Grace, there wasn't supposed to be anyone in the house. Everyone was supposed to be at home and furthermore, I don’t even know anyone named ‘Manny’." Grace grew irritated. "Stop playing with me. I know you sent Manny there to help me. And he did – I’m just not ready for anything or any type of relationship. So I left while he was gone this morning" "Grace. Honey. I am not playing with you – there wasn't supposed to be anyone there. I'm going to call someone to check out the house." He hung up before she could respond. Grace sat there with her thoughts. She didn’t know what to think or do. Instead of heading back to the city, she turned around to go back to the cabin. She got there before whoever her uncle had called to check on the house. Everything was as she left it. Manny's door was open and the room was empty. Her phone vibrated in her hand. "Hello Uncle David." She sat heavily on the first stair. "Grace, tell me about this weekend."

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