“This story has just come into the 24 hour news room. An Amber Alert has just been issued for 17 year old Haley James; she reportedly went missing at the South Side Mall sometime around midday Saturday. The girl’s parents are offering a 2,000 dollar reward for any information regarding her whereabouts. Please phone the police immediately.”
I will always remember that day and I know why they will never find me. It started simply enough as most incredible stories do. As she stared coldly at me with her perfect serrated smile my mind drifted back what seemed years though only eight days had passed.
Screeching and jeers filled with air from all sides. The mob moved and writhed from space to space never satisfied. Emotions surge and broke over the smallest of incidents and the adults didn’t try to stop it. It was the mall on a Saturday afternoon and the teenagers ruled this place of social anarchy.
That’s how I saw it anyway. I hated coming here, especially on a Saturday. I usually came on idle Tuesday afternoons when no one would make fun of me for making a beeline for the bookstore. I ignored the American Eagle and avoided Hollister like the plague and it didn’t go unnoticed by the manipulative little demons that make up the rest of the teenage girl population.
My mother insisted we had to go that because school would be starting and she only ever got me on the weekends. My parents divorced when I was five and I lived mostly with my dad. I had three more weeks of freedom before I would be subjected to never-ending torture. My mother was slender and perfectly dressed as always despaired of me and my complete lack of style. I liked peasant skirts and white tee shirts spattered with paint in an artistic way and Doc Martins. Not to mention I refused to diet and become a toothpick for her approval. I liked looking healthy and alive.
“Well once we get you a decent wardrobe you’ll see just how much fun high school can be. They were the best years of my life. You spend too much time in your bedroom with those silly stories of yours.” She had said sneering. It occurred to me that her face was nothing more than a pretty mask hiding a lot of ugly.
“First off if the years of high school are the best years life has to offer then that is depressing on a grand scale. Second, I doubt anyone would classify Stephen King or any of the other things I read as “silly” His stories are awesome but they lack whimsy.” I replied. My mother simply rolled her eyes and dragged me into the nearest clothing shop. I let her choose the clothes and showed my usual total lack of interest. She snapped at me and finally after the fifth store fixed me with a glare.
“Go, go. Go to that stupid little bookstore. I know your sizes.” She snapped and I bolted out the door and down the mall to what I considered to be a little slice of heaven.
The bookstore in the mall is an odd one. It’s not one of those big chain stores but a small intimate one. The front of the shop had always snatched my attention ever since I came with my dad when I was little. It is a twisting wood and stained glass front. The glass didn’t depict any picture just geometric pictures that swirled around and gave me a sense of euphoria no matter how bad my day was.
I entered on this particular day and noticed that the owner, a beautiful woman with silver hair and sharp blue eyes, had switched the incense from the usual scent of sandalwood to something that was cool like lavender but not quite. It made me think of the moon for some reason. I sneezed three times in a row and waited for some to say god bless you. There was no one around. I liked the store best when it was empty and I could search the stacks without bumping into anyone or having to say “excuse me” to people on cell phones.
“Hello?” I called just to see if the owner was in the stacks where I couldn’t see her. I loved talking to the woman though I never knew her name. I always meant to ask but once we began talking I would forget. She looked really young though her hair was silver. When I asked her about it she said it had always been that color. She always asked me questions wanting to know more and more about me. I liked that she would actually listen to me for once, more than my own mother did. I guess you could say I had a crush on her.
As I paced the stacks wrapped in the crisp scent of the pages of unopened books I heard the strangest sound a faint whispering sound that shivered up my spine. I wandered back deeper into the store the sound increase and warping until the whispers were all I could hear. I looked around the store hunting for the source of the sound and trying to hear what they were saying. The more I forced myself to focus on what they were saying the more it eluded me. I saw a door at the back of the store and wandered over to it the whispers growing more and more agitated.
“Is someone there? Hello?” I called hoping to see the woman come out. No one appeared and I considered walking away when that scent of oceans and distant moons drifted over me. I stood there swaying the whispers rushing around me feeling as though I stood at the crosswords of something so monumental it couldn’t be expressed in my mind. I stared at the crack door filled with a soft light, not the horrible fluorescents like out in the mall. I pulled it open to a beautiful study filled with hundreds of books and walked in without thinking.
If I had paused to think about it I would have realized that the room I was in was far too large to fit into the South Side Mall. I would have questioned the strange whispers that swirled around me and the smell that was keeping me from thinking clearly. Those things never crossed my mind. All I could feel was my sense of childish wonderment at where I’d gone to and how in every facet it was perfect for me.
The room was round and books covered every wall from floor to ceiling. The plush carpet was a bloody red and the lamps set into the wall at intervals cast a golden glow around the room. Two soft looking chairs sat in the center of the room and two places had been set for tea. I felt such an intense longing to be a part of this tea party, to belong to this room.
A door in the opposite the one I had entered through opened and there she stood smiling carrying a pot of tea in her hands.
“Ah Hayley, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you for so long.” She said. Her long silver hair was loose around her and fell to the floor like silk, and it frame her rich blue gown perfectly. I ran a hand through my own curly hair, suddenly self conscious of my paint covered shirt and frumpy red skirt.
“Poor lovely girl, you’re so lonely aren’t you? Come sit with me.” She said gliding across the floor to the little gilded table. She smiled, and I noticed her teeth were serrated like a steak knife and a moment of clarity and fear pierced through the contentment. She knew and the moment I noticed my focus shifted and my mind felt like it had been wrapped in wool until I couldn’t remember why I was so scared.
“Hayley, are you alright?” She asked and it was as if I had never heard her voice before.
It sounded like a bell pealing in my ears and the wind rushing through the trees. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. I never wanted her to stop talking.
“Who are you?” I managed to ask. I needed to know who this amazing creature was. She smiled and it was dazzling.
“It’s not important is it? Why don’t you have some of the tea I made you.” She said handing me a cup. I drank the taste of the ocean and light filling my mouth. I reveled in the taste a moment before looking at the lovely lady.
“Can I please know your name?” I begged.
“Maura.” She replied.
I was ecstatic to know her and to have her know me, I mean really know me. I know, I know that it seems trite and stupid but at the time I really needed someone who heard me and understood and Maura seemed to.
We talked for over an hour about everything that pertained to me. She was gentle in her interrogation and I never noticed questions that should have scared me. Things about if I was to go missing would anyone care?
All I cared about was being with Maura. After a lull in the conversation she looked at me with a searching, piercing look.
“What if I told you that you were very special and not made for life out there? What if you were not meant for a life that is devoid of magic and beauty trapping you, choking you? It is a life I could take you away from. I could place you among the stars.” She said her voice rubbing against my mind the silk rubs on skin. I was entranced by the thought that she saw me as special and apart from other girls my age.
“If I asked you to come with me Hayley, would you?” she asked studying me with pale blue eyes that seemed to be laced with silver that shone.
I nodded dumbly, having been robbed of words. Her skin picked up a pale muted glow and I felt the cool light slide over my skin like water. “What a lovely glow you have.” I said. I couldn’t stop myself from saying the first thing that popped into my head.
“All the better to light your way, my dear.”
“What cool skin you have.” I said reaching out and touching her hand.
“All the better to cool the anger inside your heart, my dear.”
“What sharp teeth you have.” I said.
She chuckled at me as though I had stumbled onto a secret but didn’t know what it was.
“What are you?” I asked her. She dropped to her knees next to me her large eyes searching mine.
“I am a moon spirit and I need your help. I need someone special who will love me, someone like you Hayley. I need your help or I’ll die. I lost one of my stars and I need you to take her place and make the circle of 13 whole again. Will you help me? Will you be my star?” she pleaded.
I nodded unable to pull away from her voice, her eyes. She clapped her hands in delight. She stood and rushed around the table and pulled me to my feet clasping my warm hands in her cool ones.
“Then repeat after me. ‘I give my heart unto thee, with love and a will that’s free’.”
“I give my heart unto thee, with love and a will that’s free” I said softly.
She gathered me into her arms and kissed me. I felt cold fire burning me from the inside out. It licked through me burning away all thoughts, all cares until the only thing left, the only thing that ever mattered was her. I was scoured clean like a shell and she was the sea.
I was bewildered a moment by an intense white light that filled the room and slowly muted as I stared at it. My mind whirred and clicked aimlessly trying to place what it was and why I cared.
“What’s that light?” I asked softly.
“You, sweet Hayley, you’re my star. Jaden!” she called to someone. A boy that glowed like I did entered and looked at me, “Get her suitable clothes and settle her with the others. Make sure this one doesn’t run like the last one. We are going to be together a very long time Hayley.” She said all the love had run out of her voice leaving it cold and remote like the moon.
I was led away feeling hollow and empty, but I didn’t care. Her sharp teeth and sharper words meant nothing. I was truly like Little Red and the wolf had neatly devoured me but there would be no woodsman coming to save me, no happy ending. I didn’t care. I was a star now and I would do anything for the love of the moon.