An excerpt from the novel by Ann Ulrich Miller (Finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards, 2015)

by Ann Ulrich Miller
© 2010 (all rights reserved)

from Chapter 18


After we returned to the lodge, more cars had arrived for the second day of the holistic fair. By ten o’clock I was swamped with business in the gift shop. Clover dropped in to see me and said she wanted to talk, but I was too busy to take a break. She left because she had a massage to give. By noon, things started to slow down and I recalled that I had signed up for that energy healing workshop at one o'clock. I planned to close up at twelve-thirty and grab a sandwich before it started.

I was rearranging some stock on some high shelves when I heard a man's voice call from the doorway. "Hello, Juniper."

I turned around and almost fell off the step stool. Mike Rollins stood there, staring at me with a stern look on his face. "Oh, my gosh!" I muttered.

A smile finally spread across his square face as he stepped completely into the shop and looked around at the merchandise. "So this is where you wile away the hours," he said cynically.

"Mike," I said, "what are you doing here?"

"Aren't you glad to see me?" The smile on his face disappeared.

"Well, I didn't expect you to ... why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

"You mean you're surprised?"

"I am that."

"You're not happy to see me, are you, Juniper?"

I shook off my shock and stepped toward him with an attempt to be cordial. "I'm sorry, Mike. Where are my manners?" I went over and gave him a brief hug.

"I've come to drive you back to Kansas," he stated.

I stared at him in disbelief. "I don't think so."

"But I thought you called and told me to come get you." He looked baffled. "There was a message on my answering machine last night. I got in my car and drove all night."

I noticed he did look tired. "No, Mike, I did no such thing. I didn't call you."

"Well ... some woman called and said you were too upset to call yourself, but that you wanted to go home, and you wanted me to come right away." Mike looked confused as well as annoyed.

“No,” I said. “I don’t know who called you, but the truth is ...”

"Look, Juniper," Mike interrupted in an impatient voice, "it's time you gave up this mystical game you're playing and get a life. You're coming back to Great Bend with me this afternoon."

I frowned at him. "I'm staying right here. I've got a job and friends here. I don't want to live in Kansas. I'm afraid someone has sent you on a wild goose chase."

Mike stared at me in surprise. "You're not the Juniper Sutton I once knew," he said. "You've changed."

"Maybe I've grown a little," I told him. "I'm learning so much by being here."

"You mean you've been brain-washed," he challenged. "Juniper, do you know what this place is?"

"Yes, Mike, and I'm very happy here."

"It’s a new age cult ... a coven of witches ... a loony bin for gurus and mystics."

"Stop!" I shouted. "It's none of those things! The Rainbow Majestic is a light center. Healers come here to work."

"You've turned weird on me, Juniper. These people are all crazy. I need to get you out of here."

"I'm not leaving, Mike. You can't make me."

The man was getting more perturbed by the minute. I knew part of it was the fact that he was tired after driving long hours to get here.

"Mike, listen," I said in a calmer voice. I grabbed a piece of rose quartz off the shelf and walked over and placed it in his hand. "You're stressed out. What you need is some sleep. I don't want to fight with you. I just want you to understand that I'm not your property. I'm not going to marry you. I'm a light worker now, and my place is here ... at the Rainbow Majestic."

He stared at the chunk of pink rock I had placed in his hand, puzzled by it. I had impulsively given it to him in hopes the stone's energy would calm him. Just then, I saw Cyril Jorgensen in the hallway outside the door, peering in.

"So this is the gift shop." The elderly man gazed around with a smile. "Very nice. Are my books in here?"

Mike stared, not knowing what to say. I nodded at Cyril. "They are," I said.

A moment later, Wes stepped into the shop, clutching his keys. "Ready to go, Cyril?" Wes shot me a smile.

The old man moved slowly these days, and now shuffled around the shop, bent forward a bit. "Mind if I pick up a little trinket for Celeste?" he asked.

"No, go ahead," said Wes. His eyes fell on Mike, then back to me. "I'm driving Cyril over to the hospital to see Celeste this afternoon," he explained.

"How is she doing?" I asked. Mike just stood there, gripping the rose quartz.

Wes stepped toward me and pulled me aside toward the doorway, so he wouldn't be overheard. Today he appeared overly caring and deliberate in his actions -- quite the contrast from his aloof behavior yesterday. "The nurse called Rosalee this mornin'. Celeste's not doin' too good, I'm afraid. Cyril's finally agreed to go visit her."

"How serious is her condition?" I asked.

Wes put his arm around my waist and spoke softly. "She had another stroke early this mornin'."

I sighed and glanced back at Cyril, who was fingering through some items in the jewelry display case.

"Who’s that guy?" Wes whispered in reference to Mike.

"A friend of mine," I whispered back, then added, "from Kansas."

Wes nodded knowingly, then said, "I wondered, because he looks kind of rattled. Are you okay, Juniper?"

I looked him in the eye. "Yes, I'm fine, Wes."

"I'm glad." His blue eyes looked into mine, but this time I was immune to their spell.

"Clover came by earlier," I told him.

"She did?" He raised an eyebrow.

I folded my arms and nodded. "I think you two are going to be very happy."

Wes stared at me in a troubled way. "Juniper, what are you sayin'? Didn't the other night mean anythin' to you?"

"Nothing happened that really meant anything," I said quietly.

Wes looked disappointed, but recovered quickly and bent over and kissed my forehead -- right in front of Cyril and Mike. Then, he smiled at me. "I'll be back for the dance tonight," he said. "Just make sure to save one for me."

A prickle of longing rippled through me. I hadn't expected Wes to start flirting with me again. Had something gone wrong between Clover and him?

Cyril cleared his throat and ran a crooked hand through his white hair. "I've found just the thing for my lady," he announced and placed something small on the counter.

Mike stepped aside and watched as I took my place behind the cash register and rang up a little silver angel Cyril had picked out to give to Celeste. While we were making the transaction, I heard Wes conversing with Mike.

"You're Juniper's friend from Kansas, I hear."

Mike nodded. "That's right ... Mike Rollins."

Wes extended his hand. "I'm Wes Andrews. You here for the holistic fair?"

"I'm here to drive Juniper home," said Mike.

"I see." Wes didn't act surprised. He waited while I wrapped the angel in some tissue paper and handed it to Cyril. "Well, nice meetin' ya, Mike. Come on, Cyril."

The elderly man turned and slowly started to walk out of the shop, but he stopped to face Mike. Kansas had been mentioned and now Cyril began to tell Mike about how he'd been born in that state. To my relief, Wes managed to steer Cyril out the door, and then the two of them left.

My emotions surged. First, the shock of Mike showing up and demanding that I go back with him to Great Bend, and then Wes coming in, planting a kiss on my forehead ... I was not focusing well on anything at the moment.

"Who's that Wes guy?" demanded Mike.

I looked at Mike in surprise. "Oh, Wes is the groundskeeper here. And Cyril Jorgensen is a great metaphysical author and teacher ..."

"I don't care about that right now, Juniper," he interrupted. "And why did you give me this rock?" He plopped the rose quartz down on the counter. "Can't we go somewhere so we can sit down and talk over a cup of coffee?"

I explained to Mike that I was getting ready to close the shop and go get a sandwich. "But I only have a couple of minutes because I've signed up for an energy healing workshop," I told him.

"A ... what?"

I quickly ran my sales totals while Mike ranted and raved. I paid no attention to him and finished my task, then pulled the cash drawer out and we left the shop. I locked the door and Mike followed as I led the way to Aunt Rosalee's office. We passed the front desk, where Gena stood up and watched as we walked by. There were still a lot of people milling around in the halls and great room. The dining room was filled as we passed it.

Aunt Rosalee was running some photocopies off when we arrived at the office. She noticed Mike and smiled. "May I help you?" she asked him.

"Aunt Rosalee, this is my friend, Mike Rollins from Kansas," I said.

She pointed to her desk in the inner office and I took the cash drawer in and set it down.

Mike stood at the door, one hand braced against the wall. "So you're Rosalee Sutton," he said.

"Yes, I am." The machine continued to spit out copies.

"Then you're the one who's responsible for conning Juniper into staying here." His tone had darkened.

Afraid Mike might make a scene, I quickly stepped back into the main room. "Mike and I are going to get some lunch," I explained quickly.

"I don't know what you mean," Aunt Rosalee said to Mike. "I haven't conned Juniper into anythin'."

Before any more could be said, Starla burst in from the hallway. Today she wore a teal pant suit and had streaks of teal paint in her black hair that draped her slender shoulders. "Rosalee, no one has seen Taffi. She's missed all her morning appointments and her handwriting analysis workshop is supposed to begin in half an hour." Starla turned to me. "Juniper, have you talked to Taffi today?"

"No, she never came back to the room last night," I told them. Now I was really worried. Where was Taffi?

Aunt Rosalee left the copy machine and picked up the telephone at Lance's desk. "Gena," she said after a pause, "call up to Taffi's room, would you please? I want to see if she's there."

Starla fretted. "I don't have a very good feeling about this, you know. Taffi was worried about something yesterday. It's not like her to just go off like this without telling someone."

I told Starla that the room looked as though it had been broken into last evening during Vlad Petrovsky's lecture. Her heavily made up eyes grew large and she shook her head in dismay. "This is not good."

All this time, Mike just stood there in the doorway, staring at Starla and saying nothing. Aunt Rosalee put the phone down and said, "She's not there." Both women stared at one another in alarm. "I say we give her another half hour," Aunt Rosalee finally said. "Maybe she left the lodge to ground herself. She'll probably show up."

Starla threw her hands up in the air in one of her dramatic gestures, then left the office.

I noticed Mike was fading from fatigue. "Aunt Rosalee, are there any rooms left for Mike to stay in? I think he needs to get some sleep. He drove all night to get here."

"I think we can arrange it," she said, at once forgetting that the man -- only moments ago -- had accused her of conning me. "I can always get Wes and Drake to double up in order to make space."

Mike was too worn out to argue, so I escorted him to the dining room, where we got something to eat and some coffee for Mike. I had tea. Then I led him to the front desk to get registered. I noticed that I was going to be late for the energy healing workshop.

Gena had just been on the phone with Aunt Rosalee and was expecting us. She seemed cheery and helpful as she took care of Mike. I excused myself to go to the lounge, where the energy healing workshop was being held on one side of the room, which had been partitioned off for that purpose.

The class had already begun and I slipped into a seat. I was surprised to find Nadine Leachfield at this workshop. I knew she had been to one yesterday, when I'd found Thelma watching Max in the kitchen. Later, when we had a chance to exchange a few words, Nadine told me she'd been to three workshops already. This surprised me, since she had hinted that the workshops were expensive and she couldn't afford to go to any except the free one given to her by Aunt Rosalee.

A little dark-haired Asian woman in her forties was the teacher. She called herself "Chi" and she demonstrated on each of the workshop participants how she used the energies around us and the electromagnetic fields of the earth to heal our bodies. She called it polarity balancing and also mentioned the use of Reiki as one of her tools.

I found the workshop interesting. When it was my turn to lie on the table and experience a treatment, I could actually feel heat from Chi's hands and the movement of energy shifting through different parts of my body. When the workshop ended after two hours, I checked with the front desk to see what room Mike was in, but decided not to waken him. Instead, I headed upstairs to Taffi's room.

Clover came out of her room just as I reached the top of the stairs. She beckoned to me, so I turned and headed over.

"I wanted to talk to you." Clover pulled me inside and closed her door. "You look stressed out. Here, sit down and let me, like … work on your neck and shoulders a little."

"You don't have to," I protested, but Clover ignored me and gently pushed me into a chair. She moved behind me, so she could massage my neck. It felt better than anything at that moment.

"What did you want to talk about?" I asked. "Vlad? Or Wes?"

Clover sighed, still working my tight muscles. "Juniper, I don't know what to do. I, like … thought I was doing really well with Vlad. He and I just sort of, like … clicked. You know what I mean?"

"Well, what happened?"

"Wes suddenly, like … started showing interest in me again. Now I can't make up my mind."

I hesitated before I asked, "So what do you want me to do about it?" It sounded colder than I had intended it to.

Clover sighed again. "I just wanted to, like … talk it over with someone," she said, "and you're such a good listener."

"Are you in love with Vlad?" I asked.

"I don't know."

"Well, are you in love with Wes, then?"

"No ... yes! Oh, Juniper, I think I'm, like … in love with both of them." She halted the mini massage and sat on the couch, a glum look on her face.

"How do they feel about you?" I asked.

"I'm not sure. Vlad can have, like … any woman he wants. I'm sure he'll soon get tired of me."

"And what about Wes?"

She sighed. "It seems like Wes shows an interest in a woman only when there's, like … competition. You saw how he was around Vlad."

I nodded. I certainly had noticed how Wes behaved around other men. This morning -- in the gift shop -- had he considered Mike to be competition? Was that the reason he had paid me special attention? I didn't mention my own experiences with Wes to Clover. I thought it was better to say as little as possible about my own feelings when it came to men ... especially now that my attitude had shifted toward Drake. I hadn't been able to get him off my mind all day. Now I suddenly wished I could talk to him. Drake would know exactly how to handle my new problem with Mike.

"I heard Taffi took off," Clover said. "She didn't, like … show up for her class this afternoon."

This news disturbed me more. "Where would she have gone?" I asked, but Clover shrugged.

"Gena's ex-husband was on the grounds yesterday. Did you hear about that?" Clover asked. She had shifted from self pity to gossip mode.

"Her ex-husband?"

"Yes, Al Howard," said Clover. "I guess he, like … tried to see Gena."

"What did he do?"

"I heard Starla talking to Simone and her daughter about it at breakfast this morning," Clover revealed. "Gena's ex isn't, like … supposed to come anywhere near her, but they were, like … seen together out by the garden last evening -- just after Vlad's talk."

"But Gena was at the meditation," I recalled.

"She met Al during the break," said Clover. "Linda, Simone's daughter, was near the garden area, having a cigarette, and saw them talking. Apparently, Gena and Al didn't know anyone was nearby. Linda said they kissed, and then Gena hurried back inside and never noticed Linda sitting there in the dark."

This was strange information. Yesterday morning, Gena had come into my shop, upset because her brother-in-law, Roy Howard, had come into the lodge -- allegedly to cause trouble. If she was so repelled by her ex-husband -- so as to have a court order against him coming near her -- then why did she meet him in secret and even kiss him? It didn't add up.

I stayed and chatted with Clover a while longer. She soon changed the subject to the dance and what she was going to wear. Her dilemma over the men in her life seemed to dissipate as we discussed other things. Finally, I had to leave. It was getting late, and I wanted to freshen up before it was time to go to dinner and then attend the dance.

As expected, there was no Taffi in the room when I let myself in. Everything seemed to be in order, except that the answering machine was blinking. I went over to it and saw that eight messages had been left. I played all the messages back.

Each one of them was for Taffi, mostly clients wanting to know why she hadn't kept her appointments. One was Gena from that afternoon. There were no mysterious calls -- no one with a warning message. I left the messages alone, then freshened up and changed into my outfit that Clover had recommended for tonight's dance.

There was still a little time before dinner, so I reached for one of Cyril Jorgensen's books that I'd just started reading. As I opened to the page that was bookmarked, a small extra piece of paper fluttered out onto the carpet. I reached over and picked it up and noticed it had been folded in two.

Right away I saw that my name had been written on the outside of the note. The writing was in Taffi's hand, so carefully executed because of her expertise. But before I could open up the scrap of paper, someone knocked on my door. I thrust the note into my purse beside the bed, and then went to see who was at the door.


Read the book!


“In Rainbow Majesty, Ann Ulrich Miller has masterfully woven richly drawn characters, suspense, love and self-discovery into a captivating story. Readers for whom this is an introduction to spirituality can understand its presence in their own lives through the characters’ experiences, and already enlightened readers will applaud the clarity of universal truths throughout this greatly enjoyable book.”

Suzanne Ward, Matthew, Tell Me About Heaven and other Matthew Books





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