She had many. All of which, her father told her, time and time (and time) again, were exceptional.
She was, her father told her, gifted.
And for this, he explained, time and time (and time) again, she should be proud.
But, even so, she could never tell anyone about them.
So she hadn’t.
As she crossed the street from the first block to the second, she felt it.
And smelled it.
These, too, were part of her gifts.
She sensed things. Strange things. Eyes on her. A presence. Mostly benign but recently (and upsettingly) there were some that seemed menacing. And she smelled things. Lots of things. Things others didn’t smell.
It was out there. She sensed its presence, smelled its smell. It was benign. It was even pleasant (immensely so), attractive (that was immensely so too) and it was familiar.
She sifted through her memory banks but she couldn’t find it.
Whatever it was, she knew it wouldn’t hurt her.
In fact, she had the strange, strong desire to seek it out, to turn to it – even to run to it.
Even though this urge was powerful (and surprising, she’d never felt anything like that before), she didn’t let on she sensed it. To do so would let it know she could feel it, which she could not do.
Her father had told her, repeatedly, she was special, exceptional and gifted. But without him telling her that for the last thirty-one years and knowing no one around her shared her “special” talents, she’d settled into the knowledge that she wasn’t special, exceptional and gifted. Instead, she was just strange.
And that was not a nice thing to know about yourself.
The presence was moving with her, tracking her and she ignored it as she did the many others she’d felt throughout her life (or, more precisely, since her parents’ deaths) as she carried on home. Then she saw her little farmhouse on its corner and smiled to herself. The sight of her home and the peace she always felt when she saw it allowed her to be able to set the alarmingly alluring sensation firmly aside.
Gregor (and Yuri), had both gone nuts when she bought her farmhouse. Well, not nuts, they were too polished to go nuts, but they definitely disapproved. Firstly, because, even though a rather nice (if colorful) residential area of the city had sprung up around it, it was a simple farmhouse. Sonia Arlington (as they told her repeatedly), did not reside in something as common as a farmhouse.
Secondly, because when she bought it, it was a wreck.
Luckily, Sonia was loaded. Therefore, she’d had it fixed up.
She walked up the steps and unlocked her door. The alarm beeped when she entered and she punched in the code. She dropped her purse on the chest in the entryway and, through the dark, she went directly to the plugs that would turn on her Christmas lights. Then she plugged them in, all of them and there were many, on both floors.
As she did so, the inside and outside of her farmhouse lit up and she didn’t have to look at it to know it was perfect. Just as if it had been decorated for a magazine (which, it had, her house was always photographed for the city’s monthly magazine, every year at Christmas, twice it had even made the cover).
Sonia would have preferred to decorate herself but, even though in her early years at her house she’d tried, she’d never had a flair for it and it always turned out wonky.
Her mother had had a flair for it. Cherise Arlington was the Master Christmas Decorator. Therefore, Sonia could not abide her own wonky efforts.
So she hired designers every year to come and decorate her house.
And it was always beautiful.
She walked straight back out the front door and down to her white picket fence to get her mail from the box that was fitted to the gatepost.
“Hey Miz Arlington!” she heard called from her side.
She turned to see the Lanigans getting into their mini-van, their two young boys, Jed and Jake, both standing outside and waving at her.
She’d known they were there, of course. She’d heard their feet in the snow Jay Lanigan had not (and would not, because it was football season and Jay Lanigan didn’t do much of anything during football season) shoveled from their drive. She’d also smelled the scent of their skin and hair. But as they were several doors down, she didn’t turn to them. To do so might expose her secret and Sonia guarded against that every second of her life.
“Hey there!” she called back, feigning surprise and waving then she saw Joanne Lanigan round the hood of the van. “Ready for Christmas, Jo?” she called.
“If you’re ready for Christmas, I’ll shoot you!” Jo yelled back with a smile in her shout. “It’s weeks away.”