Brain Storm

Info Smokey125
04 Nov. '16
Brain Storm

Originally published October 2016 as Smokey Saga #68

*****

A Match Made In Limbo

Saturday, August 27th, 2016, 7:45 p.m.

Each day, Hannah Amelia Finnegan tried to work up at least one genuine, beautiful smile, for all the good things in life. Some days the smile came harder than others. But yesterday’s and today’s had been many, pure, and effortless.

Her gorgeous, smart, perfect girlfriend Mara had earned herself a sweet bonus at MD&M Enterprises, and elected to celebrate by taking Hannah to Fisherman’s Bay for the weekend. They’d enjoyed two simply splendid days swimming, sailing, strolling, dining, playing games, relaxing, and of course their favorite activity of all, just the two of them, behind closed drapes. The day before, they had checked in, thrown the curtains shut, dropped their bags, and didn’t even unpack them. They just got right down to frisky business. Mara tirelessly and generously gave Hannah the first monstrous orgasm. Hannah was so ecstatically grateful, she insisted on returning the favor. Post-sex, they rested up, did a little unpacking, and adjourned for a delectable early supper.

So far today they’d slept in, eaten, slathered each other in sunblock, walked outdoors paw in paw, done some swimming and shopping, trod the boardwalk, sat on a bench, shared some ice creamy kisses, and returned to the room. It was a bit after 7:30 p.m., and now that the maid had made the bed, it was once more ready to ravage. They didn’t often have sex consecutive days, but this was after all a special occasion. Mara had slipped into the bathroom to pretty herself up, and so Hannah was left for the moment to do as she would. She didn’t care for makeup as it gave her acne, and Mara’d convinced her she was beautiful as could be without it. She slid open the screen door and sat on the balcony to gaze down upon fellow frolicking vacationers.

The content, relaxed Hannah wore her daily smile with ease, though from day to ordinary non-vacation day, her personal worldview was bittersweet. Hannah, as well as her mother and uncle, suffered from clinical depression. She wanted and tried to be as happy as she could, but the condition rendered her less able to focus on the good in her life. She took medication, but her mood was chemically elevated only so much. She needed good nights’ sleep, to look after her health, and to take impeccable care of her relationship. Mara Kim Bronson was her world. The girl meant everything to her. Before they met one fateful afternoon at K-Mart, Hannah never knew she could be so happy. She’d fallen in love a few times before, but learned the hard way how it felt to have her heart broken. But Mara was different. She was beautiful, caring, funny, strong, charming, and she rocked Hannah’s world in bed. Last night was no exception, nor hopefully was tonight to be. Making love couldn’t eradicate her depression altogether, but certainly was a delightful diversion.

Hannah and Mara had their first encounter and date four years before, in October 2012. The relationship was just what the proverbial doctor ordered. Considering herself quite mere and plain beside Mara, Hannah didn’t know what she’d done to win her. A truth such as Mara becoming enamored of her for who she was, seldom occurred to Hannah. She felt amazingly lucky. Before meeting Hannah, Mara was engaged to be married to another woman. But her would-be bride proved unfaithful. Her grieving period was frankly brief, and she tried always to look forward, never back. Public outings were something of a game for Mara, seeking to meet girls at opportune venues. Her chance meeting with Hannah was akin to that of an old situation comedy. Pushing through neighboring aisles in the 52nd Street K-Mart, they turned in one another’s directions, and bumped carts with a krish!

At the time, the girls reacted almost as polar opposites. Mara giggled, “Oh—oopsie-daisy!” and apologized with a friendly smile. Hannah, looking down in her pessimistic mood, was quite miffed—at first. She was about to yell at her new acquaintance to watch where the hell she was going…until she saw her face.

Angels sang. Chimes rang. Hannah’s heart slammed with a clang and a bang. She left the store with a cart of bagged groceries and digits in her pocket. She couldn’t remember the last time she walked all the way back to her car with a giddy grin plastered on her.

Three years, countless dates, hundreds of kisses and a few dozen orgasms later, here they were. Hannah’d entered her 30s in ’14, Mara earlier just this year. Hannah didn’t mind getting older so much, but was becoming disenchanted and discouraged with her body. She knew once the bra came off, her boobs were drooping, as now per the norm. She wasn’t burning fat as efficiently anymore, collecting a little extra plump. She fingered the stretch marks on her waist and tummy, wishing she could make them disappear. She was less than sure just what about her Mara found so attractive, but…there must’ve been something.

She peered down over the sand and bay, adding up wishes. She watched the seagulls, wishing she could fly so elegantly as they. She took in a game of volleyball between two teams of beach bunnies, wishing she was that beautiful. She wished she could achieve decent vision through contacts, instead of having to wear her big, wonky glasses. At least they weren’t required for torrid, wild Mara-thon sex.

But her biggest wish of all dealt directly with Mara, as it turned out. There was no disputing it, Mara Bronson was a goddess. It bore reiterating, the woman was wonderful, angelic, and a fox. There was only one thing that could make her flawlessly immaculate. It was, however, a kind of nagging, noticeable one thing.

Mara never nagged. Hannah came closer to doing so, by wanting to know what was on her mind. Much as she asked, Mara virtually never shared with Hannah what she thought about. And were Hannah to be honest, it drove her a bit crazy. Physical intimacy was brilliant, but Hannah dearly craved the accompanying emotional closeness. And knowing what Mara was thinking once in a while would go a long way. Every time she asked, Mara gave her a smile, scrunched up her pretty nose and said, “Nuttin’, honey.”

She supposed it was possible Mara just wasn’t great at expressing her feelings, or that there just weren’t many to express. But Hannah found this hard to wrap her mind around. They’d gotten to know each other pretty well in the four years, and yet…

Hannah didn’t even care if it was something about her. Maybe Mara was trying to spare her feelings. Even so, if there was something she wasn’t doing right, or could to improve their relationship, she’d like to know. Perhaps she should give this question a try. Perhaps—

“A-hem.”

Hannah turned to see a gloriously naked Mara, made-up, hair-flipped, hand on hip, smiling seductively at her. Her heart re-hastened.

Yes, okay, we’re done thinking for now. Let the good times roll and the games begin.

*****

Tryst Me

Saturday, August 27th, 2016, 8:03 p.m.

Mara knew and understood Hannah was self-conscious about her body. And Mara’s own body consisted of sweet bones a-plenty. So their recent routine was such that Hannah climbed on in and slipped under the covers, while Mara quenched the lights. Hannah was treated to the view as Mara walked naked, the subtle bob of both her 37Ds and her ass cheeks with each step. Her smooth, shapely gams sweeping past one another in perfect pattern. The magnificent way she idly lifted one foot behind her as she reached for the lights. Her finesse and excellence disarmed Hannah so much, she forgot to take off her clothes.

Mara turned back. “You can go ahead and get naked for me too, sweetie.”

Oh! Right. Hannah placed her glasses on the nightstand, then shimmied under the covers until she worked her bra and panties off, slipping them down the side. Watching them drop to the floor, Mara benevolently beamed.

“There’s my cue,” she purred. She slid in beside, like a second letter in the same envelope, taking Hannah’s hands to kiss them one by one. The first letter laid its arms tenderly around the second, and drew in close for the opening kiss. Four rich, velvety lips meshed together, two of which were tinted in a tasty artificial flavor. Mmm, Hannah smiled. She’s wearing her root beer lip gloss. She knows I love that. And they were off and running. One soft, mesmerizing kiss followed another, as the girls’ tongues and taste buds too got involved. Hannah’s eyes fluttered shut and her other senses took over. Mara’s exotic perfume tickled her nostrils and suffused Hannah with aromatic heat. She was already enormously turned on. She extended her arms to maximum reach around Mara and squeezed extra tight, encouraging Mara to do the same. Their gams mingled and intertwined as well, tangling the sheets into a mess.

Hannah gasped out of the current kiss. “God, I love you so much,” she paused long enough to rasp out, before launching right back in. She didn’t allow Mara much of a chance to say it back, but it was okay. She didn’t have to. Hannah knew how true Mara’s devotion was. They snuggled aggressively, melding and mushing tits, paws grasping, fingers digging into raw flesh, as sweat generated in a dozen regions. Hannah often wished she and Mara needed do nothing but lie about and have beauteous sex.

She adored sex. Everything about it: flirting one another into the mood, the foreplay, their bodies warming, the splendid combination of bodies, fitting together as perfectly as puzzle pieces. Then of course the glorious pleasure sizzling over, as her starved erogenous zones were granted the oral/manual/pedal love they so desired. Mara Bronson was the greatest thing that’d ever happened to her life, in just so many aspects, and sex was no exception. Mara was magic, marvel and magnificence in one superb package. Deep inside, Hannah believed Mara was too good for her, and deserved someone as grand and vivacious. But she felt the unmistakable devotion returned in Mara’s every kiss. It wordlessly let Hannah know she was on secure ground, that her beloved wasn’t going anywhere. Sometimes Hannah kissed her just to let her know how much she meant to her. Sometimes she kissed her in hopes of leading to more. Sometimes she kissed her for the sole reassurance that Mara reciprocally adored her. Her lips neither deceived nor disappointed.

Another reason making love was amazing was that Hannah’d always been fascinated by the hot feelings of pleasure and lust in her loins. She didn’t appreciate or care for the bad rap lashed upon the overly sexual by the more prudish. It was as if the outside world indicated to her that gentlemen well in touch with their libidos were perverted animals by nature, nothing more. And that women were not even “supposed” to like sex, so logic dictated that those who did were whores. She thought this unfair on both ends, to say nothing of unrealistic. There couldn’t be that many real prudes out there. There were seven billion people on Earth. Procreational or recreational, somebody liked something about this act. Nobody asked to be born, but these holier-than-thou types had apparently forgotten that hadn’t it been for sex, they wouldn’t even be here. It was okay not to be crazy about it, Hannah reasoned, but uncool to shame those who were. She spent a lot of adolescent and adult happy time under the covers with her hands where it mattered. She didn’t know how much her folks approved, but if she was born with a healthy, busy libido, no one could fault her for it.

Not until she grew up did she realize this whole anti-sex agenda was a giant farce peddled by religion and the entertainment industry. Religion had already maligned Hannah—and Mara—for the unforgivable sin of being gay, so any credibility in that institution was shot. She’d not chosen to be a lesbian but vice versa, so it didn’t matter what anyone thought. She finally decided not to concern herself with all this righteous malarkey. She loved Mara Bronson, Mara loved her, they both loved sex, and if anyone else didn’t like it, tough.

Which brought her back to today and back to Fisherman’s Bay, together with Mara in the big fluffy bed of room 540 of the Barefoot Queen Inn on 43rd Street and Fisherman’s Avenue. A fantastic booking choice, as lying in Mara’s generous arms, swapping sweet love, Hannah herself felt like a barefoot—not to mention blissfully naked—queen. Their shapely curves deliciously contoured into one another. Hannah closed her eyes and saw the heavens open. All four nipples stiffened into their companion breasts, setting off small initial fireworks. The prerequisite moans and whimpers followed, rising in intensity. Mara sifted her fingers through Hannah’s frizzy auburn locks, petting and massaging. Hannah dutifully reciprocated.

Hannah and Mara made love with a steady increase in heat and passion—excepting only the brief pauses their engines took to re-rev. Their mutual engrossment was such that they couldn’t slow down if they wanted to. Even better, they shared a regimen of either one taking charge when ready. Each reserved the right, at any point, to bring the foreplay to a speeding halt and shift headfirst into the main attraction. They often exercised the right simultaneously. Today, the honor would be Hannah’s to seize. And seize she did.

Mara felt her cherub snatch her snatch. Her eyes snapped open and she shrieked through the kiss. Hannah grinned, taking her reaction as the compliment it was. She loved the feeling of storming Mara with such force, coochie in her clutch, having her literally in the palm of her paw. It made her feel important and powerful, as a person normally dismissed as insignificant. Another wonderful gift Mara gave her on a regular basis. Mara broke the kiss and tossed her head back.

OHHHHHHH!!” she roared. Hannah giggled to herself, relishing the view. Lust radiated through Mara at her girl’s firm touch, face twisted in sizzling goodness, as Hannah smoothed her dampening womanhood between her fingertips. “OHMYGOD!!

Hannah leered at her, holding on to one of her tits with the other hand. “I take it you approve,” she hollered over Mara’s cacophony.

Mara answered with her actions, pulling Hannah nearer, arching her back to push out her proud 37Ds, urging Hannah to have her way. Only too happy to oblige, Hannah dove in, swishing her own 36Cs across Mara’s tummy. Her feet and toes caressed and rode Mara’s legs. Seeing success soon to be reaped in her endeavors, Hannah found her way inside Mara, and lovingly began jilling her off.

Mara vainly shouted the Lord’s name several more times. She squeezed Hannah ever tighter, almost crushing her in a bear hug as uncountable fingers thrusted into her cunt. Her soaked, swelling, blotchy red cunt…oh, did Hannah know how to make her happy. How to please her like only a woman could please another. Hannah gripped Mara’s lower leg between both of hers, humping with her own wet, happy, hungry pussy. Mara felt herself being carried up another plateau every few moments, but she’d yet to see the full extent. Hannah closed her teeth on Mara’s rock-hard nipple, and thumbed her equally stiff crimson clit.

Mara erupted. She clamored like a child throwing a tantrum, but instead singing Hannah’s praises like a canary. Hannah smiled with vast satisfaction, doing her best to keep up with rhythm and accuracy. Mara trembled to hold back from cumming prematurely, limbs shaking and twitching. Her hair pasted to her head. Her eyeballs rolled back, her nostrils flared, her mouth dribbled. Here came the stars, as Hannah kept plunging and jilling, burrowing further up and in to reach her g-spot. Mara knew she couldn’t withstand it much longer, and Hannah had a pretty good feeling too, judging by her screams.

Hannah was catching up in her own arousal, but she had Mara furiously blazed. Her brain was on fire. She yelled, she caterwauled, she cried, she swore. She dripped like a spent candle, her overworked heart slamming her in the chest, gratuitously tangible against Hannah’s chin. Her grand explosion was imminent. She shot effortlessly through the reaches of time and space, end over end over end, obstacles bouncing off her like rubber. She could divide the act each time into blue, red and white heat. God, she loved being an American. The heat was as bright as the blinding passion, about to send her rocketing beyond oblivion. Abruptly, before she knew it, it was too much. She couldn’t take it anymore. It was time.

Han, I’m cumming!” she dynamically announced. “Oh my GOD I’M CUUUUUUMMIIIIIING!!

Yes! Hannah celebrated. Mara loved making this declaration when it was upon them, and hearing it made Hannah’s life. She sank her teeth the last bit, and pumped Mara’s bubbling cauldron as if actually trying to sprain her wrist. Mara’s legs lurched, shook, and locked for the impact. She felt herself blasted through the brass rings one by one, spewing and squirting over Hannah’s arm and the mattress. Her paws remained around the nape of Hannah’s neck, grabbing her by the hair, holding her vigorously tight. Hannah was glad to cooperate. A little tough womanhandling was a small price to pay for bending Mara to her will and culling her dry like a vacuum.

The monstrous orgasm tuckered them both out. Once it died down, Mara dropped practically dead on her pillow. Hannah held on, gingerly vacating Mara’s swollen maroon pussy, and turning her attention to her own. Mara’s cum felt good mingling with her own automoisture. She gazed at Mara’s now angelically slumbering face, so calm, so tranquil, so restful. Hannah adored her just so much, she thought, rubbing her own wet cunt. She wanted to kiss her, but not to accidentally wake her back up. Fifteen to twenty minutes later, she worked herself into a lovely climax as well. She lay motionless beside Mara. She’d no interest in getting up to use the john, or for any other reason. She could use a nap herself. Her eyes fluttered closed as the sun slid completely below the horizon.

Hannah smiled as a final conscious thought floated through her mind.

Hee heeI hope the maid appreciates the little present we left her.

*****

Shoot!

Sunday, August 28th, 2016, 12:18 a.m.

Friday morning, Mara’d gotten the two of them up bright and early, to get their luggage in the car, and beat the brunt of traffic. After one day of excitement and play, they got to bed at a semi-reasonable hour. Saturday morning, Mara’d again gotten them up bright and early, this time to pick up the fun where they left off. The second day of frolicking culminated in the latter of as many amazing lovemaking romps. This time they fell right to sleep, and could’ve dozed for eons. However, Hannah was not to be so fortunate.

A rough quarter after midnight, Hannah whimpered in her sleep, quivered, and flailed her limbs. Her subconscious had taken her back in time to a much more fearful era in her life. She was being terrorized by a horrific nightmare, and needed out. She went into panic mode and forced herself awake, shouting, grasping her chest, bolting up to a 45° angle. Her burst of fright awoke Mara just enough to assess the situation, and instinctively throw her arms around the frantic Hannah to comfort her, petting and stroking.

It’s okay, honey, it’s okay,” she rasped, sprinkling her face with tender pecks. “You were sleeping, you just had a nightmare. Shhh. It’s okay, you’re right here with me. You’re okay now, sweetie, everything’s fine. Shhhh.”

Hannah’s saucer-wide eyes darted rapidly, aimlessly, as she tried to control her breath. “Oh my God, Mar, it was awful! You…” She felt dread grip her just remembering it.

Sigh. “Do you, uh…remember Amber Boswell?”

Mara tried to think. “Your…personal archenemy-bully-tormentor-whatever else you used to call her?”

Hannah nodded, fingering her neck. “Sh-she…she was there. I-I don’t remember how it started or whatever, but…I-I was going through this weird, like, circular house, just…y’know…doing random stuff you do in a dream, and…and…”

She paused to inhale. “…All of a sudden…there she was. Right in front of me. No prelude, no foreboding, nothing. So I’m staring at her through my P.O.V., and…she grabs me around my throat and starts choking me. Just…totally expressionless. Her face doesn’t move. Nothing. And-and, my…my P.O.V. gets all shaky and blurry as I’m going down. All I can hear’s myself groaning. I’m about to die. And I can’t get her hands off me! And the whole view fills up with blood, like in that game Doom! And I c—…I j—…”

Mara saw she was getting worked up again. She repeated her calming gestures.

It’s okay, sweetie,” she whispered between kisses. “It was just a dream. We’re on vacation, and I love you. You’re completely fine.”

Hannah blew out a frustrated breath, lowering her voice to a mutter. “I knew I should’ve brought my teddy Care Bear.”

Mara snuggled close to her. “Use me for your teddy Care Bear. Pleasant night’s sleep guaranteed.”

She nestled in nice and close, but Hannah remained sitting up. She was too petrified to go back to sleep. Hugging Mara for comfort or not, she knew she’d slip right back into the nightmare. She just knew it. She’d made this mistake before. Her eyes wanted so much to just close again, but her brain couldn’t allow that to happen. She sat further up, giving herself a few light smacks in the cheeks. She had no qualms evaluating that this was patently unfair. She never fell asleep with Mara’s split-second immediacy anyway, and had already underslept two nights in a row. Thank goodness they were on vacation, and she could sleep in as late as she wanted. Mara could get up and have some solo fun if she wished, but she had to let Hannah get her beauty snooze. Still, even with no one to blame, she felt unjustly wronged. All she wanted right now was sleep. But, if she couldn’t have that…

Mar?

Mmnh?” her barely conscious girlfriend uttered.

Hannah stared straight ahead at the wall, hugging her knees, letting a few seconds pass.

“…What’re you thinking about right now?

Silence. Hannah slowly turned to look back down at her.

“…Mar?

Mara gave a slow, quiet snore. Realizing she’d fallen asleep, Hannah turned back to the wall with an equally soft scoff.

What’re you thinking about, Mister Wall?” she murmured.

She still wasn’t ready to return to Dreamland. She located her glasses and exited the bed, staggering first to the fridge for a bottle of water, second to the bathroom. She crossed back through, found her jammies, slipped behind the drapes, and out to the balcony.

The Fisherman’s Bay balmy night air greeted her at a gentle 75°. Hannah had to admit the breeze felt lovely. Mara knew how to show a girl one hell of a vacation, that was for sure. She sat in the lounge chair, and now that it was safe again, shut her eyes.

Breaking waves continued to slap the shore, but as logic dictated, no one surfed or swam them after dark. The volleyball court and spots around the sandcastles were vacant. The outdoor activity was dead until morning, as status quo. Hannah chuckled. Ironically, she could go down there right now and have the entire twilit resort to herself, if she wasn’t so darned tired. And if she knew how to have fun by herself. But besides being a tricky thing to do, one-on-one time was less than desirable when she could be spending it with Mara instead. Mara made virtually all aspects of life nicer. If only…

If only she’d tell Hannah what was on her mind once in a while. Hannah was genuinely interested and curious. To her, sharing such feelings was a form of emotional intimacy. Not to be gotten wrong, she had no complaints on the physical end of things whatsoever. Mara was a phenomenal lover. This was the regard in which Hannah couldn’t ask for more. It was exasperating that she had to fixate on this, and not just be content with mindblowing sex. But such was a symptom of her damn clinical depression, being veritably unable to enjoy life’s niceties without also focusing on the drawbacks, or how to conquer them.

She thought of some more “if only”s to add to her list. If only she could cut loose and have some fun without minor annoyances getting in the way. If only she could be more outgoing with strangers, and predict how they’d react to her cordialities. If only Amber Blinkity-Blank Boswell had left her alone in school, and left her subconscious alone tonight. Hannah chose her to privately blame, because she could keep it to herself, and because it made her feel better. The bitch, intruding on her soothing slumber like this. Hannah decided to get back in that bed, hold Mara like tomorrow wasn’t coming, and dream sweet, heavenly dreams until today’s smile turned up.

She rose from the lounge chair and turned to go back inside. But not quite before something caught the corner of her eye.

Hannah looked briefly back, as a reflex, and executed a legitimate double take.

She could hardly believe it. From the top left of her field of vision, across the entire painting of the night sky hurtled a shooting star.

An actual shooting star. Or…a meteor, technically, Hannah pondered. Whatever the scientific definition, here it was, before her eyes. She’d never seen one for herself, in the flesh. It seemed to be moving in slow motion, on its gradually descending arc. There wasn’t time to run inside and get her camera. But there was time to make a wish.

Hannah’d never before believed in such flights of fancy. And she expected no fantastic results to come of it. But as fate seemed to have arranged, she’d been awakened here tonight, where otherwise she’d have missed it. And what had she to lose?

What the hell, she smirked. This is pretty awesome. Let’s have a little fun.

It was nearing the edge of her sightline. She figured she had to be quick before she couldn’t see it anymore. So keeping her eyes glued, she took a deep breath, and whisper-sputtered out the words.

I-I w—…I wish I c-could r-rea—…”

Hurry up, Hannah, hurry up! It’s almost gone!

I wish I couldread M-Mar—…minds!

She’d meant to wish she could specifically read Mara’s mind. Her lips fumbled the ‘m’s. But she got out the last word before it vanished.

Wow, she thought, letting out the rest of her deep breath. That waspretty wild.

She slid the balcony door back open, retreated through the curtain portal, and climbed into bed, announcing her return with a single kiss to Mara’s lips. They curled into a warm, half-conscious smile.

“*Mmmnice.*”

Hannah opened her eyes.

That was…strange. She thought she’d just heard Mara’s voice, but it didn’t look as if her lips moved at all. What was more, while faint, her voice sounded…different, in a strange way. Sort of…echo-y, almost. Or…

Oh, never mind. I’m just tired, that’s all. Let’s get some sleep.

So she did.

*****

Makes No Difference Who You Are

Sunday, August 28th, 2016, 10:54 a.m.

A good nine hours later, Hannah again woke, this time from a wonderful night’s rest. She was slightly dismayed to see that Mara was no longer in bed with her, but now so refreshed and at peace, she didn’t worry. If she knew Mara, there’d be a strategically placed note as to her whereabouts. She sat up, stretched, and reached to the nightstand for her glasses, meds and water.

My goshdid that really happen last night?...Did I actually see a real shooting star?

She knew she’d dreamt that awful nightmare, no doubt about it. But now in the literal light of this new morning, the star/meteor was harder to discern. She gave it a little thought swallowing her tablets, washing them down with purified H2O, before shaking her head.

Oh well. She nabbed the TV remote and aimed, to indeed see Mara’s note, taped to the set. She got up to detach it and read.

Hey sweets! it said. Hope you slept good! Sorry about your bad dream. I’m out for a walk slash jog. Be back probably around 11:30. Have breakfast or do whatever you want! Don’t miss me too much, I’ll be back before you know it! Love you super lots! M

Hannah smiled as she finished. It was scrawled in Mara’s flowery hand on BQI stationery. Hannah much preferred correspondence in Mara’s graceful penwomanship, even with the occasional illegible word. It was more personal and friendlier than electronic messaging.

Hannah checked the clock. 10:57. Okay, this gave her just over half an hour to kill by herself. Oh, yes, this reminded her. She’d wanted to drop into the gift/convenience shop beside the lobby and pick up some juice and candy. She got dressed, pocketed her key, slung her purse over her shoulder and strode the empty winding halls till she reached the elevator. No waiting. She pressed L. One floor down, a fellow occupant got on, a young chap in his mid-20s carrying a duffel.

“Goin’ down?” Hannah asked, pointing to the floor.

“*Yup.* Yup.” He seemed to need a minute to remember his next destination. Hannah looked back up to watch the numbers. Huh, that was a little funny. His “Yup” sounded like it was in dual stereo.

“*Oh, right, gym’s on 2.*”

“2?” she asked, half-listening. “’Kay.” She pressed it for him.

“*…Does….she know where I’m going?*”

Only when she looked back up did she notice him staring at her. “Huh?” she asked.

“How’d…you…”

She stared back, curious at his sudden confusion. A moment later, his expression cleared up.

“*Oh, my duffel.*”

Hannah’s eyebrows sprang as her mouth dropped open. She was watching this time. She heard the reverb in her mind, in the same voice, but his lips…didn’tmove.

They did, however, move on his next statement. “Oh! You must’ve known I’m going to the gym ’cause I got my duffel bag.”

He seemed oblivious to her abrupt shock. Before Hannah could close her mouth or decide how to react, the elevator reached 2, and her companion got off. She watched him head away, utterly freaked out. There was no way that had just happened. Hannah was not crazy. She knew what she’d heard. The guy’d said some words to her, like normal, but…unlike normal, she’d clearly heard his voice while he was not talking! Or…or was he…a gifted ventriloquist, maybe? Just…practicing?

The elevator hit the lobby and let her off. That would explain it, she thought. Had he been throwing his voice, that’d account for the strange reverb in the tone. That…must’ve been it, she shrugged, en route to the gift/convenience shop. There was no other explanation.

But only once she let this thought go did she detect something else just as amiss.

There were a couple dozen folks working, checking in or lounging about the lobby. And now in the midst of them, Hannah found her mind buzzing with a couple dozen different echoing, reverberating voices. Even though…

…Hardly anyone was actually speaking!

WHAT IN TH??! She was promptly dumbstruck, and quite close to terrified as well. Something had gone seriously screwy here. All these people couldn’t possibly be ventriloquists…unless there was some kind of convention in town…

Oh, never mind that nonsense, Han, she tried to tell herself. This is way bigger. This cannot be happening. It’s not like I can r

She froze in her tracks.

Through all the thoughts bumping around in her mind, she remembered now. She took herself back to just after midnight.

The shooting star.

She went into a level of shock that put her elevator shock to shame. Her entire body began to shiver, garnering a share of lobby occupants’ attention. She heard some of their thoughts change, as they gazed at her, just as her elevator acquaintance had moments ago. They were, she realized. They were wondering if she was okay, what was going on with her. She heard them. She heard them all.

She could read every…single…thought…of every person…in this lobby.

Ohmy

She finally managed to piece it together. That was right, that was her wish. She’d goofed it a little, wanting only to read Mara’s mind, but phrased it in wish form to simply “read minds.” In other words…everybody’s mind.

Good God, it came true.

She’d wished on the shooting meteor, and her wish had indeed come absolutely true. There was a reason, she now saw, people told her that wishing on a shooting star was an exceptional promise. Understandably, she was incredulous. She could hardly have formed her own thoughts, even if there weren’t a hundred others invading her brain. The wish had come true.

Not that this was necessarily a good thing. Again, she recalled, she’d fumbled it as it came out of her mouth. And she now realized the degree of that fumble. Just a couple words. The alteration of a few little words made the difference between one person’s thoughts…

…And every person’s thoughts!

She covered her ears. But this accomplished nothing. It was their thoughts in vocal interpretation she was picking up, not their actual voices. This was quickly growing overwhelming, especially as more and more people entered the lobby, to check in for their stays. Her mind was on its way into overload. She had to get away from here. She dashed for the convenience and gift shop.

To her relief, putting distance between herself and the throng of lobbygoers, the voices faded and fuzzed away. This phenomenon, she processed, was akin to using wireless headphones, retreating from the source of sound. The further she got, the weaker the connection. Okay, so now at least she had a clue as to how to deal with this. She opened the door to the gift shop and let it shut behind her. The remaining thoughts from out in the lobby clammed to muffled murmurs with the closed door between them.

Whew. Of course, as she opened the door, she heard a new train of thought: that of the lady behind the counter minding the shop.

Oh, gosh. Well, this was obviously more bearable than the mental commotion from the throng in the lobby. The door jingled above, and the shopkeeper looked up to see her.

“*Oh, great. A customer.* Good morning, ma’am, how are you?”

Yep: same voice, clear distinction from thought to speech. This would actually be cool if it wasn’t so spooky. Hannah played normal.

“Uh, I’m…fine, thanks. Doing fine. You?”

The woman stated she was also fine, but simultaneously, Hannah heard the real truth.

“*Oh, aside from the raging bitch hormones in my birth control pills, just goddamn peachy, thanks for asking.*”

Oh, dear. Hannah quickly reminded herself that the woman didn’t know she could read her mind.

“Oh, that’s…good…” She began combing the racks and refrigerators.

“*No condoms my ass. I’d like to see Bill nag me for a friggin’ kid without the goddamn baby batter. I swear, if he starts up with me again today, I am gonna rip his nuts off and shove ’em down his goddamn throat!!*”

Hannah whirled back around on her. This time she couldn’t divert herself so easily. “Oh my God!” she squealed.

The shopminder looked back up at her with a surprisingly calm—if suspicious—demeanor.

“Miss?...What’s the matter?”

What’s the matter?? Did you hear what you just thought?! “I…I…uh…think I better go,” Hannah quickly decided, marching back to the door empty-handed, saying a small prayer on the way out for Bill.

As she pulled the door back open, once more flared up the thoughts from the lobby. Hannah didn’t like this. She literally had voices in her head. A lot of them. She was beginning to get very scared. She scurried in the opposite direction, down the hall that led to the first floor rooms and indoor pool. She didn’t want to go swimming, or be around anyone else right now. She couldn’t seem to turn this unwanted power off. She just needed to get back to her room, wait up for Mara, and try to sort this out with her. She found an elevator, got back to the fifth floor and hastened to their room. She dug out her key, and had to try twice to gain access.

A quick breath. “Okay, now just take it easy,” Hannah told herself, pacing back and forth. “I’m by myself, it’s quiet, now I can think.”

Knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock. “Housekeeping!”

Sigh. “Do not disturb, please!” Hannah called.

“*No skin off my ass.* Have a nice day!”

Sheesh. “A’right, where was I…”

Her cell rang.

“Oh, for crying…” She checked the display. Beep. “Yes, mother?”

“Hi there, snickerdoodle!”

“Hi Mom…”

“Soooooo, how’s it goooiiing? How’re you enjoying your triiiiiip?”

“It’s-it’s fine, Mom. We’re fine.”

“And how’s your frieeeeeend…um…”

Hannah rolled her eyes.

Mara, mother. Her name is Mara. And she’s not just my friend, she’s my girlfriend.” Why can she never remember that?

“Oh, yes, yes, isn’t that nice. Y’know, I remember when you were little, you always played with action figures with the little boys ’cause the little girls’ stuff was too ootsy-cutesy for you. Then when you were a teenager, you didn’t wanna play with boys anymore.”

“Yup…yup, I’m gay, Mom. Bona fide lesbian.” No need to mention it every single one of the four times a day you call.

“Well, my little macaroon, I won’t keep you; I know ya still got a boatload of fun to have. Just wanted to say I love ya to pieces, kiddo.”

“Thanks, Mom. I love you t—…”

Hannah’s voice suddenly tapered off as she thought of something.

“…H—…hey, Mom?”

“What’s up, buttercup?”

“Uhhh…what’re you, eh…what’re you thinking about right now?”

“Well, wh—…heh! Why, ginger snap, what sort of funny question is that?”

“Just…I’ll-I’ll explain later, Mom. Just…just please humor me. What are you thinking about?”

“Weeeeeell…hm. Funnily enough, I actually just found myself thinking about that one May your Aunt Francine and me went shopping together, and we got each other those summer frocks. And we brought ’em home to show you, and you liked ’em so much you wanted to try ’em on, remember? And you were growing into my size, and your birthday was coming up, so I just decided to give you mine? You remember that, cinnamon bun?”

“Oh yeah…yeah, now that you mention it, I do…gosh, that thing was beautiful, wasn’t it? Wonder if I still have it…”

“Oh, Hanny, it always looked so much better on you anyway.”

“Aw, mother, stop.”

“Well, it’s true. What made you ask?”

“Huh?”

“What I was thinking. What made you ask what I was thinking about?”

“Oh…o-oh! Right. Well, I…uh…I guess I was just in a kinda…I dunno, pensive mood, for…some reason or other, Mom. Y’know, we talk a lot, but we don’t always open up about what’s on our minds, like some mothers and daughters do. I guess I was…just curious.”

“Huh. Interesting. Well, cookie bear, we can certainly be more expressive if you’d like.”

“I think I’d like that, Mom. Well, I’d probably better get going now.”

“Right. Well, keep having fun, kid. We’ll see ya next time we see ya.”

“Thanks, Mom. Talk to ya again in…oh, three hours or so.”

“Love ya, sweetie cakes! Buh-bye!”

Click. Wow, thought Hannah. Fascinating. She clearly could not hear her mother’s thoughts over the phone. She could seem to read the minds of others in close proximity, and just to a certain distance. Apparently, her newly acquired power was only useful when face to face. Earlier in the presence of all the guests and employees downstairs, it’d seemed far too much. Now back in her room by herself, having talked to her Mom had settled her down and cheered her up. Delea Finnegan had that effect with her sweet manner and even sweeter pet names (despite her own clinical depression). Hannah thought she could better assess her situation now. She seemed to be saddled with this clairvoyant gift, courtesy of that shooting meteor, whether she liked it or not. She figured she might as well try to make the best of it. She was just about to check the clock when she heard the door click.

Gasp. Mara’s back! Here it came. The manifestation of what she really wanted. Hannah straightened up, faced the door and smiled.

“…Hannah-Hannah-bo-Bannah,” Mara chanted, prancing inside. “Banana-fana-fo-Fannah, fee-fy-mo-Mannah...”

Seeing Hannah waiting for her, she finished with a flamboyant pose, gesturing with her hands.

“…Hannah! *God, her smile sweeps me off my jogging feet.*”

Hannah beamed, her big grin spreading ear to ear.

“*’Course, her teeth could be a little straighter…*”

Her smile shrank back just a hair.

“*…But I don’t care. She’s beautiful, she’s sweet, and she’s mine. And what does it matter whether her teeth are straight? We aren’t!*”

Hannah was about to agree, until she remembered again. Gosh, this was going to take some getting used to.

“So…how was your walk-slash-jog?”

“Oh! So invigorating. Girl, I feel like I could take on the world today.”

“Wow. Well, how about some lunch first? I could order up room service.”

“*Room service?* Room service?” There was that stereo duality again, Mara saying exactly what she thought. “Sweetheart, there are dozens of restaurants around here we’ve never tried, and some of ’em are only in Fisherman’s Bay! Room service’s all fine and good, but we can eat in bed with the TV anytime.”

That was a good point.

“That is a good point. A’right, why don’t we do this. Why don’t you go take a shower, and I’ll look up some of the places around here, dig up some Yelps, and see what happens.”

“*I suppose a shower and a change of clothes can’t hurt.* Sounds like a plan. Just hop in if you wanna get wet and soapy with me.”

Tempting as that sounded—and it really did—Hannah had a little work to do. Right now she was glad Mara couldn’t read her mind, because truthfully, she’d misled her a bit. She wasn’t so concerned with reviews. But if Mara wanted to eat out, and Hannah correctly understood the parameters of her power, she thought she’d better look for a restaurant where they could sit with some distance from fellow diners. She wanted to focus only on Mara and her thoughts alone. An unnerving thought of her own settled upon her.

Oh, Godam I gonna have to do this every time we go out to eat? Or go out anywhere? Is this mind reading thing gonna last forever? I didn’t have the opportunity to include a time clause in my wish. Oh, I’m not sure I like the looks of this.

“*I think I might rub one out in the shower.*”

Hannah’s brows leapt. She reflexively whipped her head up and gaped at Mara. Luckily, her back was turned, taking off her clothes.

“*Hee hee…I’ll think about Hannah giving me a handjob again, like last night. God, that was awesome. I don’t think she realizes how much I love her hands, how sexy they are. I wonder if I have a hand fetish. Should I tell Hannah about it? She might think it’s weird.*”

“Honey?” Mara turned to address her. “I might be a while in the shower; I think I got a little sandier outside than I thought.”

Hannah had to keep herself from laughing. Oh, you horny little fibber! But she couldn’t be miffed at Mara for tossing up this veneer to shield her dirty secret. Hannah believed honesty was sometimes the best policy, not always. She felt there were bad lies, and then more prudent lies. The lie Mara’d just told her—at least she presumed it was after hearing her thoughts—could be argued as prudent, the truth lacking discretion. She didn’t expect Mara to just come right out and announce, “Babe, I’m gonna go orgasm!” But she could euphemize and say something like, “Babe, I’m gonna go have a little private happy time while I’m washing up.”

She kept watching. Mara probably knew, because she spread her legs, bent over and picked up her clothes, giving Hannah a pleasant view of her bubbly tushie and her fuzzy wuzzy.

“*Here’s a little treat for ya. Like that, Han?*”

Yup. She was deliberately teasing her. Hannah nodded, answering her mental query. Mara slung her clothes in an out-of-the-way spot and slipped into the bathroom. A moment later, Hannah heard the water start running. She smirked, wishing Mara a happy climax, and opened her laptop to do some research.

She glanced down at her hands. She looked up in the direction of the bathroom, then examined her petite, delicate lady paws. She’d never thought much about them before, but hearing Mara think what she’d just thought made Hannah appreciate them a little more. She studied their tops and palms alternatingly, and began to see Mara’s point.

Hmthey are kinda sexy.

She gave them each a little kiss, and returned them to their task on the keyboard.

*****

Be CarefulYou Might Just Get It

Sunday, August 28th, 2016, afternoon-evening

A bit later, Mara emerged from the shower. She was stumbling a bit, but the grin on her face was unmissable. Hannah announced that she was taking them to Sea Shells, a seafood restaurant famed for fusing its crustaceous dishes with mouth-watering pasta. The lunch was amazing, even if the level of seclusion wasn’t. A few fellow diners’ thoughts—especially as they passed by Mara and Hannah’s booth—were more distracting than others. When Mara asked her if something was wrong, Hannah had to pause to decide how to answer. While she believed there were times lying was more appropriate than others, she wasn’t crazy about it. And yet, a quick apology followed by “My mind was somewhere else” remained a fine deal simpler than the truth. There was certainly enough time on the drive back home to launch in. But she also didn’t want to hurt Mara’s feelings. If Hannah explained that Mara shared so little with her she had to turn to the cosmic unknown, she’d risk making Mara feel bad.

She could certainly read her girlfriend’s mind as well, as she’d only wanted all along. But as far as Mara’s thoughts went, Hannah was a bit surprised, and frankly sort of…underwhelmed. She’d been with Mara four years, and while it didn’t change the way Hannah felt about her, it seemed Mara actually didn’t ponder in such profundity as Hannah might’ve thought. Hannah considered her own thoughts worldly and sophisticated, and supposed it just made sense that Mara’s were as well. Driving with her in the car, she caught snippets such as, “*Gosh, it’s pretty out here. I wonder what I’m gonna have for lunch? Hope it’s good. I like ice cream. Oughta get some for dessert, if not at this place then somewhere else. Hannah’s so sweet and cute, I love her so much. I’m having a great time. I’m really glad I took us here this weekend. Gonna miss it when we have to go home. Aw, what a cute dog in that car! Oooh, hot young ladies in bathing suits at 2:00. Nice. I really lucked out, though. I got the best hot young lady of all.*”

This last comment made Hannah’s day, as it did each time Mara’d told her before. She got neither tired of hearing Mara say (or think) this, or of reciprocating. She tenderly clasped Mara’s hand and told her she loved her. Perhaps it was less than necessary, she realized, to badger Mara about what was on her mind, or to wish upon the star for it. She couldn’t reasonably force access into the girl’s thoughts, and then be disappointed when they turned out not as anticipated. Hannah’s thoughts tended to fall more along the philosophical: what’s life about, what does it all mean, what makes us who we are, how strong are our feelings, why do we laugh, cry, fall in love, live and die. Perhaps Mara just didn’t think in such terms, and that was all there was to it. It didn’t mean she was less intelligent, or mentally simpler than Hannah. It probably meant she was just more carefree and happy-go-lucky. She didn’t suffer from clinical depression, after all. Hannah guessed it made sense her day-to-day thoughts were sunny and merry, if bluntly shallow.

But she shouldn’t assess to produce a negative outcome, even if her depression made her pessimistic sometimes. She could be an optimist when called for too. The upside to her condition was the ability, for example, to enjoy dreary or cloudy weather, cold and darkness, which most others did not. She liked being positive about certain things, even those which put her in a minority. Hannah’d never considered herself gorgeous, smoking hot or very sexy. She’d never been chased by boys in school (which in retrospect, as a lesbian, turned out to be a good thing). Mara, by contrast, would by many be considered the “hot(ter)” one in the relationship. She had her pursuers in school, and dated boys as a teen until realizing her nature. She enjoyed her own looks, and dressed and took care of herself like she meant it. She boasted milky skin, chestnut hair, and even looked like the grown-up child movie star with whom she shared her name. She truly was the light of Hannah’s life. Hannah couldn’t imagine a world without her.

Another Mara trait was lots of different styles of clothes. Her closet was almost twice the size of Hannah’s, and the extra space was put beyond total use. She wore women’s clothes, men’s clothes, past fashions, present fashions, continental, domestic, imported…if it came in Mara’s size, she considered it. And she refused to be deterred should any naysayer tell her a garment was “not her color,” or did “not flatter her.” Those decisions were hers. She worked as a junior executive at MD&M Enterprises, and made more than enough money to support herself in her medium-sized apartment, where Hannah now stayed so often she might as well have been living there.

After a disproportionate amount of time cohabitating with her Mom, Hannah began spending more and more time at Mara’s until she’d practically moved in. They were, for all intents and purposes, up-shacked. Shared leftover funds went for fun expenses: extra apparel, miscellaneous purchases, dates and vacations. Sometimes she donated clothes if they didn’t fit her body or taste anymore. But for the most part, right there in her massive closet they stayed. Hannah had her own sense of style, but was a bit more partial to accessories. If she really wanted an “earful” of mental Mara matter, she could take her to the mall and let her have a field day.

After lunch at Sea Shells, they worked it off with a couple games of bowling at Fisherman’s Lanes, then headed back to the hotel for one more swim, one more shower, and finally got packed to check out. They had until Monday morning to leave, but did not have the day off. So they departed Sunday evening before it was very late, and enjoyed the drive home.

Hannah was a little relieved to find that those early nerve-wracking moments in the hotel were not representative of the complete mind-reading experience. Like they two, the majority of fellow vacationers had their minds off work and worries, focused on R & R. She even heard a couple young gentlemen look at them and think to the effect of, “Damn, she’s hot!” She didn’t know if they were referring to her or Mara, and while she couldn’t court a guy even if she wanted to, their flattering thoughts nonetheless gave Hannah’s self-esteem a little boost. And while she could do nothing about it, she felt sorry for the woman running the BQI gift shop. Thankfully—conditionally or otherwise—she heard no one else plotting to dismember their significant others.

Mara’s thoughts didn’t change much during the remaining activities or the ride back, but Hannah didn’t expect them to. Admittedly, she felt a little sheepish for fussing at Mara to share her thoughts up until now. She was starting to finally realize that when she asked what was on Mara’s mind, and her girlfriend just smiled, “Nuttin’, honey,” she actually kind of meant it. And now that Hannah could discern this, it was fine. What kept her a bit unnerved was not knowing if she’d be gifted or afflicted with this “power” indefinitely. A week? A month, a year, the rest of her life? She wasn’t sure if she could get used to it.

Both were feeling nature start to call halfway home, so Hannah decided to make a stop. Her mother Delea lived closer to Fisherman’s, and Hannah thought it would be nice to pay a visit. If she knew her Mom, she’d want to know every last detail of the trip, from packing their bags to…well, packing them again. And she could appreciate that. It was easy to sympathize with Delea because her marriage with Hannah’s father hadn’t worked out. It was slightly less easy when she called Hannah upwards of two to three times per day, often just to “touch base.” Much as Hannah wanted to say, “Mother, we’re still on the same base; as a matter of fact, the next pitch hasn’t even been thrown yet…” she didn’t. She just took a breath and moved the conversation forward. She got off on the next exit.

“*Why’s she taking this exit? This one’s not ours.* Where’re we going?” Mara wanted to know.

“Oh, I think we could stop and say a quick hi to my Mom.”

Mara paused. “*Your mother?* …Oh.”

Well, yes, my mother. Something objectionable about that?

And calling three or more times a day didn’t mean Delea always got an answer. Sometimes Hannah let it go to voicemail, or just turned the phone off. She could get away with this by saying the battery ran out. The downside to that option was turning it back on and seeing the notifications, which produced guilt for not taking the calls. Delea was skilled at inducing guilt, but this didn’t mean she enjoyed it. She’d tried to cut the proverbial apron strings when Hannah grew up and moved out, but her scissors needed sharpening. Hannah loved her Mom too, and maybe one day, if she had a child of her own, she’d get a handle on the whole clingy parental nature.

She couldn’t deny a bit of uneasiness, however, about being able (and not being able not) to read her Mom’s mind. It was nice knowing she could escape the power when on the phone. And she may’ve only been clairvoyant for eighteen hours so far, but were there a way to turn it off, she thought she’d have found it by now. She parked, exited the car with Mara and took her hand.

“Sweetheart, do me a little favor,” Hannah requested. “You know I’ve been a little, uh…out of it today. So if I act weird with my Mom at all…please just don’t read a lot into it.”

Mara agreed. Hannah gave her paw a squeeze of gratitude, let go, located the house key and opened the door. The first thing she heard with her ears was the TV. The first she heard with her mind was—

“*Someone here?...That’s gotta be either Hannah or Jim.* Yes?” Delea called.

“Hi, Mom!” Hannah announced. We didn’t happen to see Uncle Jim, but if we do, we’ll say hi.

“*Oh, snickerdoodle! What a nice surprise!* Oh, snickerdoodle! What a nice surprise!”

Gosh, that duality sounded weird, especially coming from her own mother. But Hannah supposed she’d better get used to it.

“Yeah, it’s us, me and Mar.”

Her mother hesitated.

“…Oh. *I hope they’re not planning to spend the night.*”

Really?...Well, they weren’t, but… “Yeah, uh, no worries, Mom, we’re not planning to spend the night or anything…” Hannah called as they passed by the living room. “We just wanted to drop in and see ya. But first we really both gotta hit the can. Long drive and all.”

Once through with this obligation, they returned to join Delea in front of the TV, and told her all about the trip. She was happy they’d enjoyed themselves, Hannah noted. Yet…for some reason, she detected a startling pattern. It seemed…every time Hannah mentioned Mara’s name, her Mom’s thoughts became…less amiable, somehow. This was unsettling, and something Hannah’d never have expected of her. She’d never had any visible problem with Mara before. Had she been expertly concealing it all this time?

“So what’re you watching, Mrs. Finnegan?” Mara asked her.

“Oh, just a Goldbergs rerun. *Nothing you girls’d probably be too interested in, Hannah’s friend. There aren’t any lesbians in it.*”

“Hannah’s friend”? Um, she has a name, you know, mother. And she’s my girlfriend, not just my friend. And, believe it or not, there don’t have to be lesbians in something for us to watch it. There was a number of disconcerting things Delea’d just thought. But oh well, she hadn’t said them out loud…Hannah tried to think of a way to get her points across without unveiling her power.

“Oh yeah? Well, Mom, I don’t think Mara and I’ve seen the Goldbergs before. We might find it interesting.”

“*Speak for yourself,*” thought Mara. “*I have. ’S kind of a kid’s show.*”

Hannah forced herself not to turn Mara’s way in surprise. Did she really just think that? That didn’t seem very much like her at all.

“Well, you girls are welcome to keep watching. *I’m sorry, but I don’t think I get the LoGo channel.*”

Again with this gay business? Now where had that one come from? It was becoming increasingly tough to pretend she didn’t know what her mother—and girlfriend—were thinking. Perhaps this visit wasn’t such a good idea. Hannah didn’t want to stir the pot, as it were, but she had to know if she were somehow interpreting things the wrong way. She didn’t think she could bear to have her Mom and girlfriend hate or even dislike each other.

“And…and-and Mara, you don’t really have to call her Mrs. Finnegan. I’m sure Mom’d be just fine with you calling her Delea.”

“*Yeah, I think I’ll stick with Mrs. Finnegan,*” thought Mara.

“*Mrs. Finnegan’ll be just fine, thanks, honey,*” Delea thought simultaneously.

This was getting scary. But Hannah was not about to accept the prospect that she’d two mortal enemies on her hands. She tried again.

“Hey, y-you know, Mom, Mar and I really like coming over to see you. It’s much better than talking on the phone.”

“*We do? Heh! Once again, speak for yourself, darling. I’m ready to go home anytime you are.*”

Hannah’s blood froze. She instinctively grabbed her own chin to keep her jaw from hitting the floor.

“Oh, babe, that’s nice,” Delea smiled. “*I wish I could say the same. About your friend, that is. I love having you around; you’re my daughter. Of course, your head felt like a bowling ball in that delivery room, and you destroyed my vagina, but I still love you.*”

She could not believe this. Well, she thought she’d let that last one pass, but…oh my God. She did not want to be right about this. She should’ve anticipated it in the car. She’d made the turn off en route to her house, and Mara’s demeanor changed. The entire trip, weekend and ride home up till now, she’d been absolutely delightful. Her thoughts had been nothing but happy, lovely and upbeat. Five minutes in the presence of her mother, the mind of her very same girlfriend, Mara Kim Bronson, was spewing utter venom.

It’s true, Hannah finished her own thought in abhorrent shock. My mother and my girlfriendcannot stand each other.

It seemed inconceivable. They’d spent plenty of time together before, and she’d never caught so much as a hint of this mutual disdain. Perhaps it had built up from virtual nothingness over the years, or perhaps they were both excellent at keeping it inside. Whatever the case, Hannah could see something awful had happened. Maybe one or two small things had come of it, but overall, this wish had been a terrible idea. Veritably nothing but trouble from the beginning. Curse you, shooting star, Hannah thought, even though she knew it wasn’t the shooting star’s fault. She was engaging in utter sadomasochism by this point, but she had to try one last time.

“…Y—…yeah, I mean…isn’t this nice? Just…just the three of us, all hanging out together, like this? I mean, I…I may not be able to speak for you guys, but there’s practically nowhere I’d rather be than with my two best girls right here!”

Geez, that sounded phony. Hannah couldn’t even convince herself of this one. Mara and Delea kept watching the screen, though their expressions altered a bit.

“*Han, ’re you on something?*” thought Mara.

“*Sweetheart, if you want something from me, there are easier ways to go about it than this,*” Delea chimed in.

Hannah couldn’t take it anymore. She felt her stomach lurch, about to literally vomit. She stood.

“And yet…w-we should save some of the fun for next time, of course. I, uh, guess we’d better be getting home, Mom. Mar?...Shall we?”

Mara had already stood up with her before she was finished. They exchanged quick goodbyes, headed out and got back in the car.

It was twenty to thirty minutes back home from Delea’s depending on traffic, which this evening was light. The girls spoke very few words the rest of the way. Of course, Hannah picked up each thought out of Mara’s mind, hardly one of which was so cheerful anymore.

Hannah sniffed back some pushy tears. “…Mar?” she finally said.

“Yeah?”

“…Do you like my mother?”

“*You kidding me?* Yeah, honey, of course I do.”

“Mara…”

“…What?”

“…No, I’m not kidding. Please don’t lie to me.”

It was Mara’s blood’s turn to run cold.

“Huh?”

“Mara…I have a confession to make. Do you remember that nightmare I had last night?”

“*…Yeah?* …Yeah?”

“Well, then you might remember I got up and went to the bathroom, and I didn’t come back to bed right away. I went out on the balcony for a little while. And while I was out there…I saw a shooting star.”

“Oh…okay…”

“And there was really only one thing I wanted, so I wished for it. I…wished I could read your mind.”

A sudden chilly silence settled.

“…What?”

“Yeah…well, I just meant yours, but the way it came out, it actually made me able to read everybody’s. And, uh…”

Her girlfriend’s tone sharpened.

“…Why?

“Um…well, because you never tell me what’s on it. I mean, I just want us to be close, and share our feelings, an—”

“W-wait-wait a minute here. Are…Hannah, are you kidding me right now?? I…I don’t happen to express my thoughts a lot, so…so, what, you thought you’d go behind my back and wish for me to? You-you don’t get what you want, so you have to invade my privacy now? Is that what you think of me?? Of our relationship?!”

Uh-oh. She didn’t need clairvoyance for this one. Mara was audibly very angry at her.

“Well…Mar, honey, I-I didn’t really expect you to react like this. I mean, I…I was in a troubled mood, and all those times I’d ask what you were thinking, just ’cause I wish you’d share it with me. But it wasn’t until today when it came true and I…I realize now that when you said, ‘Nuttin’, honey’…you meant it. I mea—not-not that I mean there’s literally nothing in your mind, I just…”

Mara shook her head. “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe you.”

“Okay, Mara, sweetie, you’re not in your right mind right now. A’right, I’m really really sorry I took you to visit my Mom. I never would’ve done that if I knew you hated her.”

“Well, shouldn’t you have known I hated her, you being a goddamned mind-reader now?!”

“Mara…”

“Don’t talk to me,” Mara snapped, glaring out the window away from her. “Just don’t even speak to me right now. Just drive home.”

Hannah almost instantly started to cry. This was really not the reaction she needed.

“Mara, I’m sorry! It-it wasn’t until after it came true that I realized what a mistake it was! Honest to God, you have no idea how much I regret this right now. I can’t turn it off! Believe me, if I could, I would’ve hours ago! It…Mara, please! This was possibly the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. And I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life! I mean, my…” She sobbed helplessly. “…God, sometimes I feel like my whole stupid life is its own mistake.”

Mara shook her head again, too hurt and mad to sympathize right now.

“Don’t try to make me feel bad for you with your self-deprecating manipulation, Hannah.”

Hannah’s heart abruptly broke, bursting with scorched, boiling blood.

“Manip—…manipulation?!” This remark cut and burned Hannah deeper than either of them realized. “Just one goddamn minute here, Mara Bronson! I know you’re hurt and mad. But now you just hurt me and made me mad. You honestly think I’d deliberately try to control or manipulate you to get what I want?!”

“*Well, that’s more like it.*” Mara took spiteful satisfaction in wounding her back. “*Now you know how it feels to be hurt like this.*”

“Well, gee, Hannah, I don’t really know, do I? You made the wish, right?? What am I supposed to think after that? If you’re already capable of this kind of deception, how do I know anything about you’s real?”

“O—…oh, my, God! How dare you say that to me?! Seriously, how do you dare?!”

Mara snorted. “Said the pot to the kettle.”

“Mara, you take that right the hell back, right the hell now!”

“Make me.”

“If we weren’t in this car right now I would make you!”

“Then pull over and let’s go! C’mon, right now!”

Hannah didn’t pull over. She didn’t have this kind of strength in her. She could handle one variety of fighting, but not another. She just stepped on the gas and sped home, trying to ignore Mara’s scathing thoughts in her ear the rest of the way. Mara’d begun purposely thinking hurtful things at her, now aware that Hannah could in fact read them. And if what she’d said was true and she couldn’t turn off her power, then Mara could aggravate and torture her with horrible thoughts all she wanted. Hannah was quickly losing the will to argue as well. This was good for Mara’s scorned ire. She genuinely wanted to hurt Hannah now, to make her feel excruciating emotional pain in the name of justice. She wasn’t sure when it would be enough, but for now, this was perfect to obtain her vengeful devil jollies.

Finally, Hannah got them to the apartment and parked. She took the keys out of the ignition, and Mara snatched them from her with one hand, rapidly opening her door with the other.

“Enjoy your car, sweetie,” Mara growled, exiting with an aggressive slam! Hannah didn’t fully realize what she meant by this until she remembered: the key to the apartment was on the same ring with the key to her car. And…Hannah gasped. The other one was in Mara’s purse. She had both apartment keys.

Oh God.

If Mara didn’t have a head start on her, and if she’d had the energy, she’d run after her to avoid being locked out. But she’d no stamina left. And could frankly use a little alone time right now. She sat in the driver’s seat, dropped her head in her hands, and bawled. One terrible wish, one confession thereof, and her relationship was falling apart. She didn’t know what she’d do if Mara wasn’t in her life anymore. Worse yet, she didn’t know what to do to amend things. She’d tried apologies, remorse, explanation…but nothing could penetrate Mara’s fury now. She’d gone too far—not by laying it all out for her, but by making the wish in the first place. She now wished she never tried to find out what was on Mara’s mind at all. Mind reading, she now saw, was not a power. It wasn’t a nicety, a privilege or a blessing. Just the opposite. It was a curse. And now it had possibly cost her what she’d treasured above all else.

She didn’t want to sleep in her car. One obvious option was to go back to her Mom’s, if she could work up the energy for the twenty-minute drive again. Even if Delea’d been hoping she wouldn’t want to sleep over…maybe she just meant Mara. She was so upset and anguished by the way she’d hurt Mara and vice versa. But her own mother would never treat her this way, locking her out of her own home. Maybe she should go back to her Mom’s…

Oh, wait. That was right, she couldn’t do this either. Mara had the keys!!

The old expression was right. Hell really didn’t have any fury like a girl scorned. Then again, Hannah was a girl scorned too. Did that mean she should also…oh, who the hell cared. She had to find a way to make this right. She’d made such a mess of things, now she had to somehow fix it and clean it up. She dug out her phone and checked the time. It was almost 8:30. The phone had a single bar left. All right, well, one thing she could do was charge it. She plugged it in, opened the car door, made extra sure not to lock it, and got out.

She wandered the sidewalk up and down the complex, trying to get her eyes to dry and her mind to focus. It was pretty nice out, still mid-70s, not too humid. All she could hear now were crickets. The logical first thing she thought to do was look for another shooting star. But the chances of that first one coming along were already slim. There weren’t a whole lot of other options. She traversed in one direction until she could no longer look back and see their apartment. For all she knew, Mara right now was destroying her things. Something she’d never do under normal circumstances, but…maybe she didn’t know the girl as well as she’d thought.

Some yards later, Hannah indiscriminately chose a patch of grass upon which to kneel, look up, and fold her hands under her chin.

“*I’m sorry I haven’t talked to You in a long time. There’s…well, been a lot going on, Y’know. But You know everything, so…You know why I’m asking for Your help. And…Your hotline’s open 24-7, I appreciate that. And I know how merciful You are. I also know how much You’ve got on Your plate, but…well, that’s why You’re You. So…You know me, Hannah Amelia Finnegan. And You know that…well, I really screwed up big this time. I’ve had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way, but…oh, I really could’ve done without this one. Hell, I…oops. Uh…excuse my language. Anyway, the point is…overall, I’m a good person. I’m sorry for the bad things I’ve done, but…well, You know this, we’re not perfect. I should know too; I’m…not exactly Your best work. But I still try.*”

The first single tear in several moments slipped from her eye.

“*Anyway…I’m aware I don’t regularly stop by for a chat, like a lot of people do. But I didn’t know where else to go. I need some kind of assistance. I don’t know if You sent me that first shooting star, knowing I’d wish on it like I did. But if that’s my lesson, and I had to learn it, okay. Got it. So…if You can’t send me another one…maybe You could take my curse away Yourself? And bestow a real blessing on me instead? I understand You’re pretty good at that kind of thing. Please believe me, I’m so sorry I took my girlfriend for granted. I didn’t appreciate her like I should’ve, and it was so wrong of me to invade her mind. And…everyone else’s too. I, eh…I almost thought it was kind of cool at first…but it wasn’t. I don’t want this power; I just want to be like everybody else again. Can You hear me?...*”

She opened her mouth, as subsequent tears followed, and vocally continued her prayer. A breeze picked up around her.

“…Can You hear me? I don’t wanna be able to read anyone’s mind anymore. I…I just want things back the way they were. It’s okay if Mara and my mother don’t like each other. I just want them to love me again! I just want resolution! Please, I need Your help!...”

The breeze turned into a strong wind. Trees shook and whipped around her. Clouds above her swirled in dark blue. She shut her eyes.

“…This is all I’m asking for! I don’t need any superhuman ability from now on; I just want my life back! I’ll be good now, I’ll do better! Can You hear me??...I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate it before! I will now! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!!

The furious wind now whirled into a giant vortex surrounding Hannah, intensifying around her until she physically left the ground. The force of the whirlwind exceeded that of the gravitational pull, carrying her higher and higher, dizzying her in its mighty spin.

She could no longer speak, move or even breathe.

She could neither feel nor think, and had no cognizance of the abrupt hurricanic vortex with her in its grasp.

Faster and faster, more and more violently, the vortex spun, dangling her in centripetal space…

…Until finally…

…Her dazed eyes opened.

*****

Way Within

Sunday, August 28th, 2016, 11:43 a.m.

The distinctive ceiling tiles stared back down at her. To her left, she heard the shower running. Salty bay air and sunshine filtered in through the balcony window. She pushed up, waited for her vision to adjust, and looked around.

Weird.

“…Mar?”

She must’ve been in the shower. Hannah found and retrieved her laptop, and booted it up. 11:43 AM 8/28/2016 the readout informed her. She put a hand to her chest. Sunday morning. She and Mara were still on vacation. She gave herself a pinch. Whew.

WOWa nightmare…within a nightmare. Unreal! God, am I ever glad that’s over.

Still in her jammies, she got up and tried the bathroom door. It was unlocked. Hannah smiled. Today’s smile was among the easiest she’d ever achieved. She entered, and slowly pulled the curtain aside.

“Oh!” a startled Mara reacted, reflexively covering herself before noticing it was only Hannah. “Sweetie! Ya scared me!” she giggled.

It was all she heard. Mara’s beautiful natural voice, in perfect sync with her lips…and nothing more.

Tears of joy leapt to Hannah’s eyes. She stepped right into the shower with Mara, fully dressed in her pajamas, disregarding her soaped-up state, and hugged her as if she never wanted to let go.

“Wh—honey, what in the…”

Hannah planted kiss after kiss on her, indifferent still to the foamy soap or spray. “I love you so much,” she called just loud enough.

“S—…Hannah, sweetie, I’m washing my hair!” Mara chuckled. “And you’re still in your p.j.s! What’re y—…what is going on?

Hannah sniffled. “I am just so happy to be here with you right now,” she shouted. “I love you, Mara. Just please remember that. Nothing’s wrong, I’m not in trouble or anything, I just need you to do that for me. Don’t ever forget how much I adore you.”

Mara’s heart warmed. Whatever was going on here, she supposed it was…charming…if perhaps a little bizarre.

“Well, I…I love you too, Hannah…but, um…can I finish my shower?”

Hannah laughed. “Of course. I’ll tell you all about it when you get out.”

She left Mara to wash, chortling at herself. She must’ve just gotten back from her run on the shore. She picked up her phone.

Yup, first voicemail from her mother, right there waiting for her. Oh, MomI love you too. She was just about to call her back when something else flashed in her mind. She returned to the laptop, did a bit of digging, and dialed a different number.

“…Um, yeah, hi, is…is this Amber Boswell?...Oh, it used to b—…you’re married now?...Uh, well, you might know me. If I may ask, did you go to Juniper High School from ’98 to ’02?...Oh, okay, good. Well, I dunno if you remember me, but my name’s Hannah Finnegan. There’s no need to say anything, I just wanna tell you this. You…kinda…did some things to me back then that made me think of you as my personal archenemy, bully and tormentor. And, I mean, y’know, we were kids, we were in high school. And I dunno how much’s changed, or what your motivation was at the time. But, Amber…I just want you to know I forgive you. And I’m not holding any grudges. I wasn’t a bully, but I didn’t behave so perfectly in high school either. Y’know, we still might not be each other’s favorite people in the world, and that’s okay. I just kinda felt the need to explain that.

“…Uh-huh?...Oh, you…oh, you do remember. Well, that’s good; at least I don’t sound crazy…y—…really?...Well, gosh, Amber, I…I appreciate that…w-yeah, well, y’know, like I said, it’s okay…of course, apology accepted. Bygones’re bygones. All right, well…yeah, yeah, it was good talking to you too. Um…have a good day. I’ll talk to ya later…sure! Sure. See ya. Bye.”

Gee, that felt better than I thought it would. She called her Mom next.

“Well, hi there, snickerdoodle!”

“Hey, Mama bear!”

“Soooooo, how’s it gooooiiing? How’re you enjoying your triiiiiip?”

“Oh, best vacation ever, Mom. I’m so happy right now, I can’t even tell ya.”

“Aw, that’s fantastic, babe! How’s Maaaarrra?”

“Heh! She’s fine too, Mom. Just in th—oh! I actually just heard the water shut off. She just finished her shower.”

“Well, tell her lotsa love for me!”

“O—hang on just a sec, Ma, I’ll put you on speaker, you can tell her.” Hannah did so, and got back up to greet Mara at the bathroom door, calling inside. “Sweetie, my Mom’s on the phone! Go ahead, Mom.”

“Heeeeyyy, dollface!” Delea’s voice came through the speakerphone, addressing Mara.

Mara laughed. “Heeeeyyy, Dele!” she greeted back, toweling herself off.

“Well, cookie bears, I won’t keep ya from all that fun. Enjoy the rest of the trip, and feel free to come by whenever you want!”

“Thanks, Mom, we will,” said Hannah, returning to the living room. “We love you!”

“Love you too, moon pie! Both to pieces!”

“All right, I’ll talk to ya again any minute now…oh, and Mom?”

“Yeah? What’s the word, hummingbird?”

“Well, this might sound weird, but, uh…I’m really sorry if giving birth to me jacked up your vagina. Okay, bye!” Click.

“Hee hee…I love your Mom, she’s the best,” Mara called.

“Yeah, isn’t she?...”

Hannah flopped back down on the bed, and squeezed her teddy Care Bear. She felt almost as if a new phase of life had begun. She was still on vacation, and things might be different again tomorrow, but for right now, she couldn’t stop smiling ear to ear. It may have been a frightening chain of events, but Hannah’d managed to learn this lesson the easy way. Mara’s thoughts were her own business, as were everyone else’s. And Hannah now found that she couldn’t get genuine emotional intimacy by forcing her way into her girlfriend’s mind. And she’d never been happier not to have what she thought she wanted. She was purely happy with Mara just the way she was, physically and emotionally. And she’d never take her for granted again.

“So what do you wanna do today, Han?”

“Oh, hon, it doesn’t matter; anything we do together’s the best thing ever.”

“Aw! Aren’t you in an affectionate mood!”

“I am. I had the wildest, most elaborate dream. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

“*And then I’m gonna give you the handjob of your life, and take you on the shopping spree of your life.*”

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