Part 29 Old Familiar Faces

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DRIVING AWAY FROM DR. STYLE'S OFFICE, I FEEL LIKE A FOOL. Every time I go there he opens me up, empties me out and sends me away without closing the hole. Though I hate the way I get all turned around from my father to Freddy, I know I must give some credence to what he said. The idea of going back to my apartment sounds drearier with every passing stoplight.

"Oh, fuck it," I say angrily while turning my car in the direction of Lake Shrine.

The Shrine is so hidden off the beaten path that most people have a hard time finding it. From the street, all that is visible is a white dome and small hotel surrounding it. Some people mistake it for a church or temple and drive right past it. It has been more than a decade since I have been here and driving up the main road, I find myself riddled with many emotions. Crippled with indifference, I park the car and walk up the road to the stark white retreat building.

The open aired lobby consisting of white walls and altars draped with modest beige and white cloths brings back more memories.

A face I have not seen in a long time approaches.

"Brenda? Is that you?" Henry asks, smiling warmly.

Henry is an old friend of my fathers from when I was a little girl. He is the keeper here at the Shrine and has been for many years. It is hard to imagine he is still working here after all this time, but yet here he is...Just looking at his sun hardened face brings back memories still etched so clearly in my mind. This is one of the places my father would take me to transcend without repercussion from my mother. My father would sign the old battered guestbook lying across the counter against the wall and I would stand next to him quietly waiting. Although I am sure no one under the age of eighteen was permitted to stay at the retreat, no one ever questioned my presence. I guess the rule was more discretionary as not every guest was treated the same. Something always told me Henry knew my father kept me overnight, yet he would do nothing to stop it. In fact, no one ever said anything to me—nothing at all. Still, to this day I wonder if Henry knew that my father and I had telepathy.

"Yes, Henry, it's me. I can't believe you recognize me after all these years."

Henry grabs my hand. "You have the same innocent eyes."

I laugh. "Oh, I'm sure they're not so innocent anymore."

As if he knew I was coming to stay, he hands me a pen. Maybe to some, but you're still the same to me, Brenda. It's really good to see you."

I grab the pen and sign the oversized golden book taking up half of the counter. "You still have the one from when I was little?" I ask.

Henry shakes his head. "No, we change them out every couple of years," he says, standing calmly. "I'm sorry to hear about Bruce, you must know how sorry I am."

My heart sinks. No one has said my father's name in quite some time. The mere mention of it by someone who actually knew him sets me in a lonely place. I look down and choke back the tears. "Yeah, still not dealing with it very well."

A much-needed hug from Henry calms my shaky words. I accept his gesture of kindness and bury my face in his shoulder. The smell of his garment takes me back to when my father and I would sit silently at the edge of the lake for hours with a class of fellow meditators while actually having full-blown telepathic conversations. We practiced our link and talked about everything. It was our special place. Now all that is left are the memories.

Henry releases me from his kind hug and nods his head. He grabs the pen and initials the sign in the book next to my name.

As is custom for staying at the retreat, I pull out a hundred dollar bill from my purse and hand it to Henry.

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