Chapter 7

 “Don’t touch her!” Tali screamed, attempting to wrench a toy cat from Luca’s hands.

“Then give me my book back!” Luca exclaimed, scrambling to reclaim a paperback in hers.

Aveny started to intervene, but was gripped by the overwhelming sense of Déjà vu. It washed over her, almost disorienting in its intensity.


Surely, she’d witnessed innumerable childish arguments before. She’d probably seen this exact same disagreement play out this exact same way a thousand times before – but somehow she knew that wasn’t it.

What was it?

She tried to replay the scenario in her mind, searching for familiar themes that could have triggered the sensation. But she could barely hear herself think over the battle unfolding before her.


Both children started at her, alarmed. She wasn’t generally a yeller. This meant the occasional shout was met with the alarm of a recently detonated nuclear bomb.

Calmly, but firmly, she added. “Book and cat are mine. Go to your rooms.”

Tali wailed as she stomped through her doorway.

“Can I read in my room?” Luca asked.

“Yes,” Aveny replied, looking bemusedly at her studious eldest son, “but not this.”

“Ugh!” he protested with a grunt. “It’s not fair! I had it first!”

“And no reading at all if you throw a fit,” Aveny cut him off.

Luca emitted a muffled groan and trudged exaggeratedly into his room, blocking her out with a slam of the door.

Aveny regrouped. Thin wisps of Déjà vu still hung in the air and she was desperate to recollect them. She’d never felt anything like this before and, after being stood up in her dreams for the last several nights, she had to solve something.

She replayed the event back through her mind.

Was it the space?

She looked up and down the hallway, but knew intuitively that it wasn’t.

Was it the kids?

This too felt like a dead end.

What could it be?

She went over everything again – from start to finish. She had been working on her computer in the office, when she’d heard Tali yell “Don’t touch her!” 

This, struck a small flame of recognition.

Don’t touch her!

She knew instantly – it was those words. “Don’t touch her.”

But why those words?

Aveny’s mind flashed to her dream on the beach, her own hand reaching toward the woman, the voice that halted her. But the voice had only said “Don’t,” not “Don’t touch her.”

Was that all it was? The Déjà vu’s intensity made her hesitant to write the experience off as an elaborated memory of a recent dream.

And then she remembered something else, the words flowing into her head as easily as if she was hearing them for the first time. “Don’t trust her.”

Where had she heard that before?

And just as suddenly, she knew. The phrase was woven into the background noise of her dreaming mind – repeated over and over again as she slept. For how long? Days? Weeks?

She wasn’t sure. But as surely as a lifetime recalled after a long interlude of amnesia, she remembered those words.

She also remembered the voice that uttered them – the same voice that stopped her on that imagined beach. “Don’t,” the voice had said.

And it had been saying the same thing in infinite variations ever since. “Don’t trust her.”

“Don’t believe her.”

“Don’t listen to her.”


“Dear God, don’t.”

Aveny almost leapt with the conquering joy of finally figuring something out. But then the meaning sunk in.

Don’t trust her?

Who? The woman?


The cryptic message seemed almost taunting in its vagueness. She was no closer to figuring out what was happening than she had been before. Perhaps she was even farther.  

“Mommy!” Tali cut in. “Can I have my cat and the book? I’m teaching her to read.”

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