Authors: Julia London
Tags: #Romance, #Adult, #Contemporary
Exhausted, her body aching deep in the marrow and covered with a three-day grime from schlepping across the mountains, Rebecca Lear could only pray that she did not stink as bad as she feared. More importantly, she hoped she would not break down and actually eat tree bark, but it was becoming a monumental struggleshe had never been so ravenous in her life.
On the bright side, she was feeling remarkably transformed.
Enough that she managed to give it one more umph, hoisting herself halfway up the rock ... only to slide helplessly back down again, unable to make the final push. Dammit! Tears burned in her throat; she wanted nothing more than to lie down on a bed of pine needles to die.
She was the last of seven women, her Partners in Transformation on this Journey to The Vision, and the last to climb this rock, cleverly disguised as a boulder. All the rest
of them were up there in a spot that Moira, their Transformation Guide, said was heaven on earth, seated around a crackling campfire, probably roasting marshmallows. Or meat. Jesus, she was hungry!
Dammit, if they could do it, then she could do it, by God!
Rebecca rubbed her hands on what had once been a perfectly pressed pair of khaki cargo pants and eyed that goddamn rock.
When her younger sister, Rachel, had first suggested the six-track Transformation Strategies for Womens Changing Lives seminars to help Rebecca cope with the aftermath of her divorce, Rebecca thought it sounded ridiculous, and had politely declined to enroll herself in Track One: A peaceful and spiritual communing with the beautiful and wild nature of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, where the vision of a new life plan will emerge for the transformed.
Not that she didnt appreciate the sentimentshed be the first to say she needed some sort of transformation after what shed been through. But shed never really been into sports, and God knew packing out was definitely not her thing, either, which she had explained to Rachel, who had (at the time, anyway) agreed. Naturally, she was quite surprised (when her older sister, Robin, showed up a couple of weeks later to pick up her son, Grayson) to learn that she had been enrolled nonetheless, was the proud owner of a plane ticket to Denver, and her gear was already assembled. Her sisters thought this was a very cool birthday gift for her. Go get yourself transformed, Robin had said cheerfully, foisting the seminar documents on her. Come back like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider.
While she had no intention of coming back as Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, it had been clear that Grayson really wanted to go with Aunt Robin (Shes cool, Mom!), and Rebecca figured she had nothing to lose at this point. Except a manicure appointment. So she had accepted her gift, personal reservations duly noted, and toddled off to Denver, where she met her six Partners in Transformation, all women of various ages and backgrounds sharing a common need to be transformed from a bad situation to a new beginning.
Then entered the fearless Moira Luting, who cheerfully announced that theyd be pushed to their physical limits to clear their mind, body, and spirit so that theyd be completely free for The Visioning. And lest they doubt her, Moira quickly demonstrated that she meant what she said: Three days of crawling, climbing, hanging, and swimming in ice cold streams had almost killed the group of women, none of whom had ever done anything more strenuous than a treadmill.
The funny thing, at least for Rebecca anyway, was that it worked. She did feel free. And alive! And she had come too damn far to let something like a little okay, big rockstand in her way!
So she gathered up all the grit she had left and jumped again. Her knee slammed into the rock wall, but she caught a ridge at the top of the rock and struggled and scraped to hoist herself up. Somehow, she made it, rolling off the other side and landing on one foot and one knee in the little clearing where the campfire was burning.
A howl yes, an actual howl went up from the others as she gained her feet, and frankly, it wasn t bad for a former beauty queen, even if she did think so herself. This was her highest plateau yet, and although she was completely spent and near to starving to death, Rebecca felt nothing at all like the weak and fragile socialite beauty queen she had come to expect from herself. She felt like ... Lara Croft, Tomb Raider!
There we are! Moira sang in her lilting Irish accent, cheerfully noting Rebeccas presence. That makes seven, then! So! Good evening, ladies! she said to them all as Rebecca half loped, half fell into their midst. How are we feeling? Alive? Rejuvenated? A wee bit transformed, perhaps?
Rebecca was feeling transformed, all right, and glanced up at the pristine dusk sky. A few stars were beginning to twinkle at them through the pines, stars that looked close enough to reach up and touch. It was gorgeous at the top of the world!
Not everyone was appreciating the transformation or the scenery, however. Im dying, Moira! Leslie, an outspoken alderman from the northeast, moaned, her fists balled up in her stomach for dramatic effect. When do we eat?
Moira flashed a mischievous grin, planted her fists on top of ample hips, stacked like two beanbags on thick, muscular legs. There now, I know youre quite exhausted, love, but that is precisely the point, isnt it? In order to transform to a newer, better, stronger you, we must tear down all the old insecurities and misperceptions, mustnt we, for it is only then that we can build up new and fresh!
Leslie wasnt buying it. Moiii-ra! she wailed again. Come on, when do we eat?
Well fill your belly full, I promise! But first, I have a special treat for you! she said eagerly, stomping over to a canvas bag. The boys will be here with our food in about an hour, at which time well feast on fresh river trout, asparagus in cream sauce, squash and peppers and shallots sauteed in a buttery rum sauce, fresh new potatoes . ..
They were all moaning and clutching their stomachs now as Moira withdrew a long stick, polished to a sheen and adorned with bird feathers. She straightened up, a broad grin across a broader face. But first, well have our first visioning, she said excitedly. Who can remind us all what we talked about in the orientation before embarking on the Journey to The Vision?
Most of the women were still lost in the dream of food she had created; no one answered. Rebecca couldnt vouch for the others, but she was so exhausted she could barely remember her name.
The first step on a journey to your vision of personal growth is what? Moira prompted.
To strip away the old so we can build the new? June, the housewife with self-described empty nest syndrome, suggested.
Thats it! Moira proudly exclaimed. And then what, June? Can you recall for us what the next step is?
Er . .. detoxification?
Yes! Everyone, look around you now weve stripped away the old, have we not? Not one of you has any of the trappings she came with, does she? And the last three days of physical exertion has wrung you dry of impurities, both in personal chemistry and thought, eh?
The women around the campfire looked at one another, noses wrinkled, nodding solemnly.
Its true. I feel really beat, but I feel better than I have in a long time. This from chubby Teresa, who had cried all through Day One.
Thats marvelous! So who among you then can tell me what happens after detoxification? Moira asked, and glanced eagerly from woman to woman until the flight attendant Cindy asked timidly, The visioning begins?
Moira liked that answer so much that she threw her head back and howled at the moon. Literally. Because that was what they had learned was the first step toward transformation, howling at the classroom lights during orientation. Wolves howl to show supremacy. Women in need of transformation howl their victory over shortcomings and insecurities. And just because they felt like it, apparently. To wit: Moira howled until she had run out of breath, at which point she lowered her head and beamed at the lot of them. That is exactly the right answer, Cindy. We do the visioning, she said, and dropping down to one knee, she held out the stick so they could all see it.
This, she said reverently, is our talking stick. Whoever holds the talking stick will speak her vision. Who will be the first to hold it? she asked, then startled Rebecca right out of her wits by thrusting the stick toward her. Rebecca Lear?
Rebecca instantly reared back and looked frantically around the group. She was a convert to transformation, but still! I, ah ... Id rather not go first, Moira, if thats all right with you.
Real -ly? Why wouldnt you? she asked pleasantly.
I, ah ... Im not really ready to, ah ... Vision. Ing.
I knowthats why I chose you, Moira said, then surprised Rebecca by tossing the stick at her so hard that she had to catch it or be bonked in the face by it. Now you have the stick, so theres no point in arguing, is there, love?
Really, Id rather
Oh come on, Leslie snapped. Were starving here! Were all going to have to do it at some point, so suck it up and go first, or well never eat!
The expressions on the other women told Rebecca they saw it the same way as Leslie. And if she didnt do it, they looked as if they were about one step away from spearing and roasting her right there. Reluctantly, she came to her aching feet.
Splendid! Now hold the stick like this, Moira instructed her, indicating she should hold it to her chest. Feel the power it gives you.
Rebecca didnt feel anything but the exhaustion and hunger that were making her dizzy.
Nowsome among you have never had the opportunity to speak. Others among you may speak and feel you are not heard. But not here, ladies. Everyone will hold the talking stick. And when you hold it in your hands, you will have the power to envision the course of your future. Your Transformation Partners will assist you by helping you to look beyond your current boundaries. And were ready to help you find your vision, Rebecca.
Oooh-kaaay, Rebecca responded uncertainly.
Why dont you begin by telling us a little bit about yourself? Moira suggested. What brought you to the Transformation Strategy Seminar Series?
Oh .. . Rebecca could feel the heat begin to creep up her neck. Umm, my sisters gave it to me as a gift -
Could you go back a little further, love? To the beginning?
Of your life.
Oh God now?
What year were you born? Eloise, an ad agency executive, called out.
Rebecca sighed, looked up at the purple dusk sky. Okay. I was born in 1972, in Dallas. I have two sisters, one older and one younger.
What did your parents do then? Melanie, the quiet one, asked.
Ah, well... Dad was in the freight business when I was little. And then he started his own company, and we moved to Houston. She paused there, not knowing what else to say. Mom and Dad fought all the time? She mistook Buds teenaged lust for love? There was a hole in her that had started then, and now it was so big that she didnt know how to fill it up?