Hope wigged her feet to the rhythm. As usual, her aunt Hallie’s house was filled with music.
“Are scrambled eggs ok?” Hallie asked.
“Sure thing,” the girl nodded. “Eggs are delicious. Besides, anything’s going to be tastier than uncle Vito’s protein shakes and salads…”
Hallie laughed. “Uncle Vito sure knows how to feed a kid. I bet you’re looking forward to your mom and dad’s cooking again, huh?”
“I dunno.” Hope shrugged.
“Well they’re coming back soon, at least try to make it look like you’ve missed them when they ask.” Hallie winked.
Hope pondered Hallie’s words. Truth to be told, she hadn’t really had a chance to miss her parents yet. It wasn’t that she didn’t love them, but while they were away on their trip, Hope felt like she was having an adventure of her own, staying with all the different relatives a couple days at a time.
This was the final stop before they returned, and Hope was pretty excited about it. Aunt Hallie always seemed so effortlessly cool. The little girl could only hope to be like her one day, when she grew up.
“These smell real yummy.” Hope sniffed the plate eagerly.
Hallie was amused. “You think? They’re nothing special. Clearly you’ve been on Vito’s protein and veggie diet for far too long… Tell you what, how about we have something that’s not even remotely salad-like tonight?”
Hope giggled. “I’d like that.”
“So what would you like to do on this fine morning?” Hallie asked.
“I don’t know, what would you normally do?”
Hallie blinked. Ever since she’d left DJing behind, she’d been at a loose end. She was making enough money off music royalties to live comfortably, but her life had lacked direction. Not that she was going to tell her niece that…
“Well, I like to start every morning with a bit of a dance,” Hallie told the girl.
“Ooh, I like that!”
So they spent the next half hour or so shaking to the tunes and laughing. Hope could most definitely picture a worse morning… and so could Hallie.
They’d passed a good chunk of the day in the park across the street – of course Hope wouldn’t miss out on a chance to play pirates for a while.
Hallie was actually having a blast. She’d always enjoyed spending time with Hope of course, but who knew looking after the tyke on her own would be so much fun? It felt strangely rewarding.
After Hope’s newest pirate cruise, they decided to give fishing a go to get a pirate dinner – apparently Hope was a more skilled angler than Hallie was. Probably thanks to all of her pirate experiences, Hallie joked.
“How about we stop by aunt Sera’s retreat?” Hallie suggested. “It’s on the way home, so we should go say hi.”
“Yeah! Maybe I can swim in the lake again!” Hope beamed.
They found Seraphina in the yoga pavilion with a handful of guests floating about.
“Oh, hi!” She greeted them. “You’ve missed the class!”
“That’s alright,” Hallie smiled. “I’m not too flexible anyway.”
“That’s why you need to go to the class,” Hope joined in.
“Very true!” Sera nodded with a chuckle.
Hope was no longer paying attention to the conversation, she spotted a man with a very comfy looking dressing gown and slippers.
“Aunt Sera, can I get a pair of slippers and a robe too?” She begged. “We can play dress up!”
“Of course you can Hopey,” Sera laughed. She figured the girl was too adorable to ruin anybody’s zen experience. “Let’s see if I can fetch something your size…”
Hope checked herself out in the mirror. She was pleased with the attire.
“Don’t you look snazzy!” Sera joined in.
“You’ve got a matching one!” The girl squealed.
“I figured we’d be robe buddies.” Seraphina grinned.
Darn Carly, she thought. Her cute kid was going to give her baby fever at this rate…
“Ooh, we need to document that!” Hope exclaimed, pulling out a phone to take a photo.
Sera was caught by surprise, but she tried to relax into a smile.
“Look at us all robed up,” she said softly, trying not to get even mushier over the photo.
Needless to say, with very little success.
She wouldn’t fight it. She couldn’t wait to have a little Hope of her own.
Of course, that was a lot easier said than done. She shook her head, laughing at herself. She couldn’t even keep a man, let alone find her soulmate and start a family…
Maybe someday. For now, meditation would have to do.
While Hope was bonding with her aunt, Hallie took a bit of a walk around the grounds. She’d not really explored the retreat yet. She was impressed with Sera, who would have thought that she of all people would have created this place for contemplation?
She noticed a man floating in the gazebo.
Hallie had seen Yenn levitate during meditation before, but something about the scene in front of her made her feel drawn to the man.
Perhaps it was the setting. Or maybe it was just how peaceful he looked. Even now, Hallie rarely ever felt completely at peace.
She hadn’t even realise how close to him she’d gotten and that she was probably gawking until he greeted her.
“Hi,” he said in a deep voice, slowly descending back on to the stool.
“I’m sorry,” Hallie muttered quickly. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“Not at all,” he shook his head with a smile. “We’re at a public retreat, after all. Anyone’s welcome to go about as they please. I’m Lorcan, by the way.”
“Oh, you’re Sera’s yoga instructor.” It dawned on Hallie. “I’m Hallie. Sera’s technically my niece, but… it’s a long story.”
“Seraphina’s mentioned you.” He spared her the explanation. Hallie wondered how much Sera may or may not have told him, but she was grateful she didn’t have to recount the story of how she found herself an orphan being raised by the Bloomers.
“In any case, sorry for staring.” She said, about to leave him on his own again. “It’s just, you looked so serene…” I couldn’t help but feel jealous, she wanted to say.
He tilted his head, studying her face for a moment.
“Would you like to chat for a bit?” He asked. “I’m a decent listener. Besides, it’s almost a part of my job spec.” He laughed.
Hallie hesitated for a split second, but then she nodded. They sat down by the pavilion, soaking in the late afternoon sun.
“I don’t really have anything to vent about, to be honest.” Hallie said brightly. “I’m quite happy now, really.”
“Never said you weren’t,” Lorcan replied. “You don’t have to be unhappy to feel uneasy. Though I can’t help but notice you said you were happy now.”
“I’ve been through a few bumps,” Hallie admitted. “I feel better now, but I wouldn’t mind a bit of that peace you’ve been exuding. I guess I’m still trying to find myself.” She laughed awkwardly.
“Aren’t we all?” He asked. “And for the record, I’m not a particularly peaceful person.”
“Are you kidding?” Hallie laughed. “You’re the definition of zen!”
“That’s just training,” Lorcan shrugged. “The honest truth is that I’ve always been really hot-headed by nature. Still am. I just don’t let it get the best of me anymore.”
Hallie’s eyes lingered on his scars.
“You seem to be managing more than fine.” She told him. “I’ve never had much of a temper problem. I just…” She stopped herself, embarrassed.
“I just feel like I don’t have much of a purpose.” She said finally. “I… I no longer make new music, since DJing felt empty. I still haven’t figured out a way how to contribute to Newcrest. My parents are long gone, so I’m not anyone’s daughter, and I’ll never be a mother… Wow. Sorry. That was oversharing…”
“Wouldn’t ask for an honest answer if I didn’t want an honest response,” Lorcan encouraged her. “I still don’t see how any of those things would make you not have a purpose.”
If your heart’s no longer in making music, it might just mean it wants to go somewhere else.” He said. “You’ll always be your parents’ daughter, no matter if they’re dead or alive. And as for being a mother, is that something you want?”
“Well, I’d like to give a kid the childhood I’ve lost when my parents passed away…” Hallie said, thinking of her beautiful day with Hope. She hesitated. “But, it’s not that simple. I don’t know if Sera told you that I’m… that I don’t…”
“That you’re an ace?”
Hallie stared at him blankly.
“That you’re asexual,” he clarified. “She didn’t exactly say that, but I gathered as much from what she did say.”
“Huh.” Hallie wasn’t sure what to say. She’d known for all these years, but at the same time, she didn’t. It seemed that he’d given her the answer she didn’t know she was looking for.
“It’s just a label anyway,” he shrugged. “All that matters is that you’re comfortable with who you are, what you want, and what you don’t want. There’s no point in feeling bad for not wanting something, whether it’s getting intimate, making music, or building a specific lot. You do know there’s nothing wrong with you, right?”
Hallie’s mind trailed back to that night in Oasis Springs, when she saw the ghosts of her parents. She still wasn’t exactly sure if it was real or not. But there was a person made of flesh and blood sitting beside her and telling her the same things the ghosts had said. That she was fine the way she was.
She could just hug him, if they hadn’t only met less than an hour ago.
“Thank you,” she managed.
“No need to thank me.” Lorcan said. “You’ve made these invisible walls trapping you somewhere you didn’t want to be. I just pointed out they were there.
“But now that you know those walls are not real, go do what you really want.” He continued. “You mentioned something about giving someone their dream childhood? Whatever it is that you want to do, you can. There’s nothing stopping you from having a purpose.”
Hallie thanked him again, and they’ve said their goodbyes. It definitely wasn’t the last time she’d be visiting Sera’s retreat and seeking his advice, she knew as much already.
It wasn’t till much later that day when she’d realised that even though she’d told him so much about her innermost feelings, she still didn’t have the slightest clue where he saw his purpose or what his story was.