“Let’s go with four Tablespoons per bag,” Miriam said, laying a stack of small white drawstring bags on the table. “Usually I do two Tablespoons, but I think these are four Tablespoon times.”
“What is this stuff again?” Aveny asked, peering into the large blue bowl. It looked like it was filled with grass seed.
“Now that,” Miriam answered, “is pure magic.”
“Also known as…” Aveny prompted.
Miriam laughed. “Ground kava root.”
“What’s kava?” Aveny asked, running her fingers through the mix.
“It’s a plant,” Miriam explained. “In Hawaiian it’s known as ‘awa.’ They say it was brought to the islands by the gods Kane and Kanaloa. Today it’s still an important part of ceremonies and is used in daily life, as we are using it here, to calm anxiety, relax the body, and sharpen the mind.”
“How’s it taste?” Aveny asked.
“Worthwhile,” Miriam replied, a twinkle in her eye. “Some things we eat because they taste good and other things we eat because they are good. This is the latter.”
Aveny sighed, her head resting in the open palm of her hand.
“Don’t worry,” Miriam said with a laugh, “We’ll chase it down with some delicious chocolate Haupia pie, how does that sound?
Aveny perked up. Miriam’s chocolate haupia pie was a slice of heaven.
“You know,” Miriam continued, “Every time I make kava, I think about my ancestors.”
“Yeah?” Aveny prompted, filling and tying each bag.
“Yeah,” Miriam said with a smile. “Being adopted, I didn’t get this stuff handed down to me. I had to learn it on my own.” She picked up one of the bags and dropped it into a cup of hot water. “You’re having to learn some things on your own too. I’m not sure who is reaching out to you or what you’ll find, and I know it’s hard but it’s worth it.”
Aveny smiled, “Thanks Auntie M.”
Miriam squeezed the chocolate hued liquid out of the bag and passed the cup to Aveny. She took a sip and shuddered.
Outside, Luca, Brecken and Tali crashed through the backyard with a couple neighborhood kids. They were playing out some sort of life and death scenario involving trees, stepping stones, monsters and lava, and – of course – sticks.
Aveny yawned. The previous night’s horrific vision still hovered in the back of her mind. “I just wish I knew what they’re trying to tell me,” she said with a sigh. “And after that horrible dream last night, I have more questions than ever.”
“Don’t trust her.”
Aveny startled, sloshing her kava and nearly spilling it down her shirt, which she now realized was on inside out.
“Did you say something Auntie M?”
“Nope,” Miriam answered, now busily stirring haupia on the stove. “Why?”
Aveny inhaled deeply. “I just … it’s crazy … I thought I heard it again – that voice.”
“Mmmm,” Miriam hummed. “Maybe the kava’s kicking in. Good sign to go to bed. You, my dear, need some sleep.”
Aveny shook herself. Maybe she was falling asleep already.
“Yeah, ok. I’m going to take a nap. Thanks Auntie M.”
Aveny walked into her bathroom, closed the door, set her cup on the counter, and splashed some cold water on her face. The brisk, bracing sensation helped bring her back to reality.
She looked around for a towel. Out. She grabbed a wad of toilet paper and gently patted her face dry, before chucking it in the garbage and turning toward the door.
“Don’t trust her.”
Aveny stopped, her hand on the doorknob. Goosebumps rippled across her skin, popping up like freckles in the summer sun.
“Don’t trust her.”
This was not good. Hearing disembodied voices in a dream was one thing, but in daily life? This was certified insanity. And she’d already been certified insane once.
But I’m not crazy, she reminded herself. I know I’m not crazy because Brand’s not crazy and Miriam isn’t crazy and they’ve seen everything.
Lines from Alice in Wonderland suddenly played across her mind.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Brand wasn’t crazy, was he? And Miriam? They weren’t all crazy, right?
No, she thought. They weren’t. That was for sure. But Brand and Miriam also weren’t hearing voices, now, were they?
Aveny looked at herself in the mirror. Her rosacea was starting to rise and small dark bags stood out beneath her eyes like puffy half-plums. Sleep. That’s what she needed. Sleep and then a good long swim.
As she crawled into bed, she thought again of her grandfather’s words – the ones that had come to her the day she hit the deer. You can’t go around it – you have to go through it.
She pulled the covers up to her chin and stared at the ceiling. Ok, whoever you are, she thought. If you’re going to talk to me in the middle of the day, and maybe make me go insane, and maybe even make me throw myself off a cliff, you may as well do it right – so talk to me now. Tell me – who shouldn’t I trust?
For a long moment, she heard only Miriam’s happy humming emanating from down the hall.
And then she heard it: two words.
“Who is your mother?” Aveny spoke aloud. The words echoed around the room and jostled her into the present. She was deep in it now. Her outburst felt laced with lunacy.
But she wasn’t flinching and she wasn’t going back.
“Who are you?”
Whatever demons these may be, they were seriously unreliable.
“Answer me,” Aveny hissed into the void.
“What was that dear?” Miriam called from down the hall.
All else was silent.
“Nothing, sorry Auntie M,” she called back, embarrassed at her own outburst.