I gasped and grabbed on to Jack’s hand as a tiger slowly descended on the fountain.
A big beautiful tiger!
“Kitty!” I squealed… again! What was with the squealing? “Oh, Jack!”
I wrapped my hands around the wooden stakes between us and the tigers.
“Look.” Jack pointed out another tiger to the right of the first one. “Over there.”
“Oh my god!” I proclaimed beneath my voice so as not to scare said tigers.
I looked up at him like I’m sure a child would look up at Santa and I kissed him.
Not like that, just… you know.
“Oh, sorry.” I laughed and pulled away from him. “Lost myself for a moment.”
“Lose yourself anytime, honey.” He laughed and hugged me, wrapping his arms around my waist from behind.
I watched the tigers move slowly, naturally in the setting. It was incredible, beautiful, I felt so freaking blessed.
Jack spoke softly beside my ear. “I’m guessing the Jag is safe now, isn’t it?”
He was smug, but not annoyingly so.
I couldn’t lie to him and make him sell the Jag anyway. Although it may have been amusing, and he’d still have the Vette… but no.
I laughed to myself, then turned to look at him. Gwil had joined us now, too.
“You guys have given me one of the best days of my life.” I reached out and took both their hands. “This has all been so unexpected.”
~ 1 ~
I turned back to the tigers, grabbing my phone and remembering to take a few photos. We even did a group selfie with tigers in the background.
I listened to the cast member telling other guests that the Anandapur Royal Forest has six Bengal tigers, all female, since male Bengal tigers fiercely defend their territory and female Bengal tigers will share their terrain with other females.
“See, women are better.” I proclaimed.
Jack came very close to my ear and whispered, “Maybe, but you don’t want to fuck a woman, so you’d be very unhappy in an exhibit like this one.”
I choked on both his language and what he said.
“You okay there, Sabrina?” Jack spoke with staged concern, this time loud enough for everyone to hear.
I elbowed him in the gut.
It was all good fun, but wow, for the first time since I woke up, I felt the zip of attraction, of arousal, of life and it was wonderful.
We stood there way too long, but I didn’t want to leave.
Eventually, though, my body made the call. But even before that, I was feeling a particular pull that had been way too long since I felt, and even longer since I answered.
“Guys, can you guys do me a favor?”
“Anything.” Gwil came back immediately.
“I wouldn’t agree that fast, you don’t know what she may want.” Jack raised a brow teasingly.
Gwil took my hand in his and kissed my knuckles.
“What do you desire, Sabrina?” Gwil made a theatrical bow.
They were amazing. I loved them,
And I was probably also drunk on magic.
~ 2 ~
“Well, first, I hate to admit it, but I need to sit down.” I admitted despite myself.
“Of course!” Jack scooped me back up and carried me down the few steps.
Honestly, they were shallow steps, and with his support, I would have made it down just fine. But I let him carry me.
Once I was settled back in the chair, the guys came around in front of me so I could see them.
“Do you want to stroll and talk, or is this a stand still conversation?” Jack inquired.
“No, we can move. All I wanted to suggest was, maybe you guys could set me somewhere and go ride Everest?” I bit my lower lip, nervous, hoping they’d take that the way I meant it.
They both stood in front of me and we were surrounded by the serene remnants of King Bhima Disampati’s old hunting lodge. It was a gorgeous space with a lush canopy of trees overhead, worthy of a wedding, and with very few people currently wandering about, it was as if the space transported you to nirvana itself. The energy was sacred, serene, and perfect for what I wanted.
“Without you?” Gwil sounded like a hurt puppy.
“I’m not trying to ditch you guys. I’m just getting a little tired. But more…” Here we go. “I’d like to pray for a bit.”
I knew they’d understand, but it was still hard to voice out loud. My relationship with God these days was strained, to say the least, but I was feeling better than I had since that night with Rafe, the night where my world went dark. And I was ready to talk to God again.
“Sabrina.” Jack uttered my name with a stunned resonance. “Yes! Of course! We… uh we can…”
He looked to one direction, then the other. Then he looked at Gwil, then me.
Gwil place a hand on Jack’s arm. “Calm down, Jack. She’s not about to spring a leak.”
I loved their friendship.
~ 3 ~
And I loved our friendship.
It had turned into such a beautiful day. I was wishing that Nora and Charlotte had come along, as well.
I even went so far as to wondering if we shouldn’t all plan a group trip after the new year.
“Okay, let’s uh… well, let’s keep moving I guess and then we’ll split up.” Jack was supercharged with excitement as we continued the Trek.
“But let’s not miss the beauty of this, either.” Gwil inserted, taking the position of calm head.
As we continued through an archway, we saw frescos painted along the weathered remnants of the still standing walls.
“This first one is the king … see how he’s got the bow and arrow?” Gwil pointed at the painting, then pointed further down the trail to where you could see more. “These other three maharajahs have peaceful symbols telling us that it was these three who were more enlightened and helped turn the hunting lodge into the animal preserve it is today.”
I looked at the paintings, they were simple, but captivating.
“I love this!” I reached out to run my hand over the face of one of the maharajas, and I felt my hand tingle.
“There’s an ancient coral tree.” Gwil pointed out a tree off in a corner, strung with ribbons, and fabric. “The villagers hang scarves and garland as offerings, and the bells represent prayers that have been answered.”
I looked closer to see the bells and my heart swelled.
“This is the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced.” For just a second, the bitterness of my missed safari tried to push in, and I pushed it right back out.
Suddenly the archway opened into a half circle viewing area where we could once again see the tigers.
Eventually we came to a courtyard where we could see antelope and get some fresh water from a local source that assured us it was potable.
~ 4 ~
We continued on over a bridge, and I noticed numerous flags hanging overhead.
“What do these represent?” I asked, looking back at Gwil and Jack.
“Those are prayer flags.” Jack answered. “The square and rectangular shapes are used to promote wisdom, strength, compassion, and peace.”
“That’s lovely.” I was happy with that answer, but Jack had more facts to insert.
“As the wind slowly unravels the fabric, the threads are carried to heaven and then the blessed remnants rain down to the benefit of everyone in the village and those who visit here.”
“Oh my God, that’s beautiful!” I exclaimed, holding my hands over my mouth, honestly fighting back tears and the swell of emotion I felt as I envisioned the people so lovingly adding their prayer flags to the space, blessing us all with their faith and their traditions.
“There’s the Banteng.” Jack pointed to the left at some cows down below the bridge at the edge of the water.
“Here on the right is where King Bhima Disampati was killed by the very tiger he was hunting.” Jack pointed at a decaying fresco that entailed that story.
“Wow, fitting end.” I smothered a chuckle.
We rounded another corner and entered the bird aviary that Gwil had been so excited about throughout the day.
“I wish Charlotte and Nora were here.” I smiled wistfully and looked over my shoulder in time to catch Gwil shoot Jack a pointed look.
I put both my feet down, stopping the chair, andI turned to look at them.
“What’s up?” I pointed my finger at both of them because I didn’t know which one was guilty.
“Nothing. Pick up your feet.” Jack tried to move forward and the chair to hit my heels.
“Ouch!” I pressed my lips together and shot him a death glare.
~ 5 ~
“Well, don’t derail the momentum.” He pretended to be fascinated with the overhead flora.
I stood up and turned, but then got dizzy and grabbed the chair for support.
“See, now look what you’ve done.” Jack accused.
“I didn’t do this!” Gwil’s defense made me understand he was accusing Gwil and not me.
I sank back into the chair. Jack came around in front and squatted down to be at eye level.
“Are you okay?” He ran his thumbs over my knees. His tone matched the look of concern in his eyes perfectly.
“I hate being weak.” I wanted to cry, but that would be insult to injury.
“Honey, you aren’t weak. You’re compromised for the time being. There’s a difference.” Jack tried to bolster my confidence.
“It sneaks up on me. I forget and then I can’t make it up a flight of stairs, or I can’t keep my eyes open a moment longer and I’m forced to remember all of it.”
He reached up and brushed my cheek with his fingers.
“I promise you, it won’t be like this forever.”
I reached up and took his hand in mine.
“Thanks.” And I meant it. Today had been better medicine than I knew possible. Jack had always been like that for me. He knew what I needed even when I didn’t.
It did not mean, however, I had to cut him any slack.
“Now, please tell me what’s going on. I’m paranoid enough already.”
Which was true. They were all keeping secrets from me until I was, quote-unquote, strong enough. And I hated it.
Jack stood up and ran his hand up through his thick, dark, wavy red hair. He looked a little like that guy playing Archie these days in that show… what’s it called again? “When you first went into the coma—” Jack’s voice snapped my attention back. “Nora… she was really lost. She was…
~ 6 ~
inconsolable. She had all these decisions dropped on her and she was scared to death of making the wrong ones. We were spending a lot of time together because she and I, we knew you longest and best and…”
He sighed and closed his eyes.
“We had an affair. A hot, passionate, all-consuming, affair.” He admitted, then opened his eyes and looked straight into mine, awaiting my judgment.
My mouth opened and closed a few times, but no sound came out.
I’m like… Nora? I mean… wow. Like seriously, wow.
Nora wasn’t living in Florida when the incident that tried to take me out happened. She was still back in California. She moved because my mother appointed her my guardian, so she came here to be close. She and I grew up together. We went to school together and we were always good friends. My mom usually got permission to keep her over the holidays, which got her out of whatever foster or group home she was in. She was like a sister in a lot of ways, we were close, but also kept our distance in places.
Nora was steadfast, careful. The thought of her having an affair at all … and with Jack?
“I’m speechless.” It wasn’t judgment, I was just literally speechless. There were no words.
He got back down on his knees in front of me.
“I didn’t hurt her. I didn’t break up with her or anything. She actually dumped me.” He continued to defend something that honestly didn’t need defending.
We were sitting in this aviary, with plants and birds all around. I could hear water trickling somewhere. It was obscenely peaceful, like a church, making Jack’s confession, on his knees no less, start to feel a bit awkward.
“Okay, Jack, stand up. You guys are adults and I mean… it’s… like damn. I mean I never would have thought you two… does your wife know?” It was an odd question, but it popped into my mind and fell out my mouth before I could think better of it.
“It happened way before I met Amira.” He ran his hand through his hair again.
~ 7 ~
I narrowed my gaze on him because there was clearly more to this than he told me, but it was entirely possible he was hiding whatever else there was from himself and not me. So I let it go.
“Well, it’s no big deal, Jack. I’m glad you had each other. I have a hard time thinking of how life was for you all when I was out to lunch, but truly, I’m glad you had each other.” I grabbed his hand and swung it playfully.
Then a different shade of grief washed over me as I accepted, for the first time, the pain my friends had been in. It wasn’t as if I wasn’t aware. It was more that my pain had been so consuming, all I kept thinking was, you all don’t know real pain so wah wah wah.
Yeah, I can be a real bitch at times.
“I’m sorry I hurt you all so much.” For the first time, I was able to get past my own walls and see that time for how it must have been for them.
I could feel it, know it, how it was, how painful it was for the people who loved me.
“I’m so, so, sorry.” I was overwhelmed with emotion, but it was good in a weird way. It was appropriate.
“Honey, you didn’t do anything to us.” Jack put his arm around me.
“Yeah, what he said.” Gwil placed his hand on my shoulder. “I’d hazard a guess that this time now for you, is far harder than that time was for us, because we got you back. Do you know, underneath the uncertainty and trepidation we’re all knocking around in, do you know how thrilled we all are? How joyful? You are our literal Christmas Miracle, Bri. How many people are lucky enough to have one of those?”
Gwil teared up as he spoke.
Which made Jack and me tear up.
“I love you guys!” I extended my other arm to Gwil.
“I love you guys!” Gwil came in for the hug.
Jack completed our circle so there the three of us were, in an bird sanctuary, inside Animal Kingdom at Disney World, crying, hugging, and telling each other how much we loved one another.
And in my opinion, that was the real Christmas miracle.
~ 8 ~
Additional chapters can be found below.
The Memory of Magic ~ Samantha Lucas
I think a real spiritual life is a very tricky thing. I’m not talking religion, I’m talking the deeper parts of our soul where God rests. It’s so personal and so unique to each of us. I’m looking forward to delving in deeper to Sabrina’s spirituality. I hope it will be one of the true gifts of this series.
Come with me on a year long journey with Sabrina and her friends as they reevaluate the meaning of life, discover true friendship, and soul deep love.
This story is my gift to the world, to remind us all of hope and love and that even crazy dreams come true… if we have the courage to pursue them.
If you love the story, please share it with your friends and give me a like on social. And before you leave, visit our Artisan and Shop’s Page to see the latest from our beloved friends and creators.
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We’re nearing the end, I hope you’re loving this story and can’t wait for the next already. ~ Samantha