Summer was in the thick of things; smack-bang in the middle of Waldmeer. The tourists had taken over the little town, as they always did at this time of year. The locals oscillated between threatening to run them over and reminding themselves that without the summer trade, the businesses would not survive. They cursed the noise, rubbish, traffic jams, and “obnoxious, selfish, self-entitled” city-dwellers. The long-term business owners pleaded with their fellow-locals to be patient and polite. They coaxed them along with, A smile costs nothing. They reminded them that the majority of the visitors would only be around for six weeks and then they would have their beloved town back to themselves. Mostly.
One group of critters who adored this time of year was the cockatoos. They virtually had a six-week food coma from the overflowing piles of rubbish. Yet another point of contention. The Council. Why don’t they collect the rubbish more often? What are we paying rates for? Oh, yes, it was a six-week grumble-fest. Luckily, the tourists were blissfully, if selfishly, unaware of it.
It wasn’t pleasant being in Waldmeer at this time of year. Also, Merlyn’s adopted dogs were becoming more restless and problematic in the tiny, rented unit. So, she decided to take up a residential offer from Prana Community. If she worked for the community and its outreach programs then she could live and eat there for free. No one in the community was paid but everyone was supported. They were, however, expected to devote themselves fully to the work for the good of all. It was communism at its most pure. Merlyn liked things simple and pure. Once again, this time with Bertie and Bella, she moved.
There was one more reason for Merlyn’s decision to move. Although summer and the tourist-invaders were well and truly in Waldmeer, Ben was not. He said it was the dogs. And the tiny flat. And the combination of the two. It wasn’t.
Esther stared at Ben. She knew it wasn’t appropriate or professional but she didn’t care. She reached over and placed her hand on his thigh. Ben didn’t pull away. He stared back at her. Esther’s dark eyes and long, black curls framed her perfect face perfectly. At that moment, she seemed about the most perfect a woman could get – beautiful, intelligent, professionally accomplished, and emotionally open to him. It wasn’t clear who moved first but, somehow, they ended up together, in the middle, lips upon the other. One little moment. One momentous moment. It would change their paths forever.
Merlyn woke with a start. She had trouble orienting herself. A rooster crowed grandly with the confidence that only the ignorant or innocent can have. She remembered that she was in one of the houses of Prana Community. It was an all-female house. The houses were divided into family groupings, single males, and single females. The whole thing seemed rather antiquated; as if it belonged to a fundamentalist Christian community, not an ashram. However, the community ran by the guru’s rules; not Bob Owens’s rules, but the real guru. The guru of the guru.
Hearing the early morning panting and shuffling of Bertie and Bella, Merlyn prepared herself to get up and let them outside. It was just a dream, she reassured herself. The more she told herself that that’s what it was, the less she believed it. The trouble was that the dream made perfect sense – Ben’s lack of interest in coming to see her, Esther’s interest in avoiding her, Ben’s uncharacteristic continued attendance at his psychology sessions, and, as much as Merlyn didn’t like seeing it, the natural, almost, inevitable pull between two people like Ben and Esther.
As Merlyn waited for the dogs to finish sniffing around the dew-wet grass, she watched the waning moon on the western horizon. On the other side of the sky, the sun would soon be up. No room for both. Last night’s dream wasn’t the first lucid dream Merlyn had had since moving to Prana Community. In fact, many new extrasensory abilities seemed to have awoken in her. It would have frightened her except that she was living in such a spiritually-supportive environment where the supernatural dimension was openly discussed and cultivated.
She weighed up the likelihood of her dream being a meaningless jumble of unconscious thoughts simply finding a mental outlet. Just as she didn’t know whether her dream was true or not, she also did not know, if true, whether it was prophetic of a future event or referring to a past one. Regardless, what could not be ignored was that the dream had confronted Merlyn with the conscious acknowledgement that there was a very real and palpable pull between Ben and Esther.
Merlyn knew that she couldn’t really be angry, although, other people would probably go on a rant about ethics and responsibilities. Technically, Ben was her husband. But what is the point of technical love? she thought. If someone loves us, don’t we want them to really love us, untechnically, with their heart, with their commitment, with their breath, with their perseverance?
“Come on Bertie. Here Bella,” she said as she stood at the back door of the single-female community house. “I guess we are in the right house, after all.”