When Ariana Abrams decided to leave Indiana to change her life she never realized that she would also be trying to save the world. Ariana had a difficult life growing up and when she decided to head to Arizona to attend Arizona State University she hoped she would make friends, find a home and maybe even start a romance. What she encountered would change her life course and possibly alter the fate of the world. She and her seven new friends discover their lives are intertwined in ways none of them had suspected. Their connection encompasses both past lives and current destinies. Working together to increase each of their natural psychic abilities, each of them will become more than they ever dreamed and together they hope to become unbeatable.
Joan L. Scibienski
e x c e r p t
The wind rose in the west, forcing the waves to break fiercely against the rugged shore. Ariana stood absorbing the intense energy and smiled. She loved this small inlet that led to the sea. The energy she felt in this place filled her and elevated her mood. Today, however, Ariana’s mood needed no improvement. She was excited, expectant. It was time.
Ariana turned and began her walk toward the spiral towers of Meria. How she loved this planet, this city and especially her life! As she walked slowly toward her fate, she thought about her life. It had been a good one so far. Her abilities had manifested young and rapidly. She exhibited none of the struggles most of the younglings endured. Her path was clear to her from first sight. She would be a great healer and teacher. As her abilities began to appear, first empathy, then sight, her strengths became evident to the others as well. There was no hesitancy on Ariana’s part, no confusion. Each new task was approached surely and well. Each new ability was mastered easily. Now in her 18th cycle of life, she was ready to be assigned her function, her purpose and path. She was sure she would be assigned to the healers and she was glad. This knowledge gave her joy as she clearly saw her life unfold in her mind. She would use her healing abilities to nurture and love her people and her planet. She would help those that were struggling to find their inner calling, their path. She would also help the younglings to learn to use their abilities. She would teach them to reach into their cores and discover their truth. She would help them define their abilities which would in turn, show them their path. There should be no struggle in this exploration of the self, only joy. She knew that she could teach them. This was her destiny. She felt wonderful because this was all she ever wanted.
Ariana entered the red hall and breathed in the emotional substance of the building. Fear, excitement, anxiety, happiness, all permeated the structure. The intense feelings did not surprise her. This is where all citizens of Meria came to hear what the elders had decided would be their path, their fate. It was in this building where her planet’s occupants learned who they would be and how they would contribute to their people and to the All.
Mother Tehan entered from the south corridor and smiled, “Ariana, we are glad you have come. You received your message that it was time, we presume?”
“Yes, Mother. It came as I was absorbing the storm.”
“Ah, the Combined Mind has answered your desire then. You have been desiring to know your path?” Tehan asked.
“Yes, Mother,” answered Ariana, “I am afraid that patience has not come to my inner being yet. Although I work at it, it eludes me.”
“You are still young, little Ariana. Are you sure you are ready?”
“Mother, I have known my calling since I took first breath. I have learned all that the Teachers have to teach. It is time.”
Mother Tehan looked closely at Ariana and asked, “Yes, but by your own words you have not learned patience. Could there be other things you have still to learn? Perhaps obedience, selflessness and sacrifice? Remember our people have had to learn the hard lessons of ego, hubris and too much desire, traits you have in abundance. If history has taught us anything, it is that these qualities begin to define a culture and that culture will then wreak destruction. Our planet is only recently recovered from the devastation our ancestors brought upon it and each other. What will happen, Ariana, if your wishes are not the wishes of the Elders? Will you do your duty without understanding why? I wonder.”
Embarrassed by the truth of the mother’s remarks, Ariana bowed her head and said, “Then, Mother, I will have to work harder to overcome my faults and do what is necessary.”
Mother nodded then said, “You have been blessed, child. I hope you will believe it. The Elders are ready for you now. Come this way.”
Ariana could feel her stomach react to the Mother’s words. What’s wrong with me? she thought. This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is what I desire. It is time to finally be a recognized healer, not just a student. It is time. I have to stop being a frightened youngling!
Mother Tehan headed toward the north portal. As she and Ariana walked the hallway, it began to glow. Ariana knew the soft light was controlled by their body heat. She could feel the energy transfer creating the phosphorescence which lighted the walls. She knew that the others could not feel what she was experiencing. It was more proof that she was uniquely advanced as an energy empath.
“There’s the ego again,” Mother said. Ariana had forgotten that one of Mother Tehan’s abilities was telepathy. “When will you learn control, as is customary of adults?”
Before Ariana could muster her answer, they reached the end of the hallway. The wall in front of her began to open upward. As she motioned Ariana forward, Mother Tehan said, “You must enter alone, Ariana.”
Again, Ariana’s stomach betrayed her outer calm. She breathed deeply, centered her mind, bowed deeply to Mother Tehan and entered the circular room. Instantly, the door whooshed shut, taking with it Ariana’s breath. Unreasonable fear gripped her. Why, she thought, What do I know that I am not allowing myself to see? I must still my thoughts so that I might have full access to them. She forced herself to focus on the room. It appeared to be an ordinary room, no different than many she had entered throughout her life. She knew the ambient colors changed according to her energy, her aura. Right now it was a muddy blue. Fear was manifesting within her normally clear blue and violet aura. She adjusted her energy by focusing her attention on the peace and love within her center and was gratified to notice the room colors adjusting as well. It became a pale clear blue shifting at times into lavender. Wonderful, she thought, Perfectly appropriate colors for a healer.
Ariana focused her attention to the other aspects of the room. The temperature was cool, but not cold. The light appeared to be natural lighting, though there were no windows. The walls were perfectly smooth with no apparent openings. The strangest thing about the room, however, was that it was completely empty. No furniture. She could feel no energy aside from her own. She wondered if she was in an antechamber. Are they watching me right now, she wondered. Is that why I feel so anxious? Relax! Quiet yourself. Breathe and let go. . . She began to focus on her breath. In. . . out. . . in. . . out. . . slowly. . . relax. . . in. . . out. . . slowly. . . relax. . . She continued to focus more deeply on her breath. In. . . out. . . in. . . out. . . slowly. . . relax. . . in. . . out. . . slowly. . . relax. . .
She jumped. The sound seemed to be coming from everywhere, but she soon realized the voice was really in her mind.
Yes, she thought.
Please sit, the voice instructed. She looked down, then around the room again. She still saw no furniture. Before she could ask where to sit, she received an overwhelming desire to sit on the floor right where she stood. She sat and immediately felt relaxed, her body and mind instantly at peace. She closed her eyes and smiled as she clearly saw and felt her memories, experiences, feelings and desires run rapidly through her mind and body. She felt happy but somehow detached. It was as though she was reading about her life, not remembering it. The last memory, sitting on this floor, flashed in her mind and her consciousness was brought back to the present. Now she was not alone. Standing against the walls that surrounded her were the Twelve Wise Ones. She had not felt them enter or sensed their energies. This was very disturbing. She always felt shifts in energy.
Ariana, do not trouble yourself with worthless thoughts. You are here to receive your path, correct? questioned the eldest of the Wise Ones. None of them had names. They had no use for them. They were no longer individuals, they were one mind.
Yes, Elder, Ariana answered, centering her thoughts.
Sensing she was ready, the Wise Ones began. Throughout the generations, since the Dark Times, we have been the guardians of the other humanoid planets. As we are the donors of the genetic material that seeded these planets, we feel this responsibility keenly. It is our greatest purpose, our ultimate mission and Meria’s Path. Only the most exceptional younglings are tasked with the responsibility of monitoring and helping these planets. Few of our people even know of this responsibility and connection, or that there are others like us in the Universes. Historically, all we did was observe these planets. Very occasionally, we stepped in to help promote change. There are myths of our existence but as time has progressed, they are considered to be stories without fact. We are glad of this as the less that is known of our existence, the better for our purposes. Those purposes are to allow these planets to evolve naturally toward consciousness, their own version of consciousness and humanity, not ours. It has been hundreds of years since we were physically present on any of these worlds. However, it is now necessary again. Without our interventions, not only will the entities on this planet called Terra destroy their own home, but through their actions, there is a possibility that many other worlds will be destroyed. We cannot allow this. We must again have a presence on Terra and that presence will be you.
Ariana gasped. She was astonished, appalled. What of my dreams for my life here? I’m to be exiled from the planet I love? What is this new world? Is it primitive, violent? She began to feel panic, an unknown emotion. There was nothing to fear on Meria. Panic never happened. She had no idea how to deal with it.
I will not be a healer? Tears filled Ariana’s eyes.
Not on Meria, came the answer.
But I think that I am afraid. I want to disobey; to run away. Please reconsider. I am not the one for this assignment, she begged.
The Wise Ones filled Ariana’s mind, We do not make this decision without much work on our part. We have been observing you since you were conceived. We have been monitoring your gifts, your insights and your grasp of energies that cannot be taught. You are not only a fine student but also an instinctual savant. Many of your teachers have reported that you possess instincts far beyond any that they have seen since before the Dark Times. We believe that you are of the original stock. This is the original DNA used to seed these planets. As you know, we are changed. The Dark Times altered our DNA so that we only possess limited abilities, some more than others, but still greatly limited. Our original DNA was damaged irreparably. Yours, however, is not, giving you access to all the abilities the Ancestors possessed. You feel energies within the planet, through rock, water and soil and also with humans and animals. But not only can you feel them, you have the power to manipulate them. You have the power to either destroy or bring them back to normalcy. We even believe that you may eventually have the ability to create from nothing but air and change what is normal to exceptional. You can access the corners and adjust the threads of all energy. You do these things naturally and without doing harm. You are not reckless, but you do what must be done almost without thought. You will do well. You must understand that the learning you have been doing on Meria has only been preparing you for what you must do to help Terra. The journey you are about to begin is your true path.”
Ariana was amazed at what had just been said to her. She had never fully understood that her abilities were unusual; she just thought she was good at what she did. She understood that her dreams for her life on Meria would not come true now. She also understood that only in this way would she ever be able to completely realize her potential. She knew she was afraid. She also knew that she could do what was asked of her. She straightened her back and rose to her feet.
When do I leave?
“Push! Just one more push. I know you’re tired, but we’re almost there. I can already see the head. That’s it, that’s it! Congratulations Mrs. Abrams, you have a beautiful little girl.”
The smiling nurse placed the blanket-wrapped baby into Anna Abrams’s arms. “She weighs eight and a half pounds. She’s 18 inches long. A beautiful, chubby little one. What are you naming her?”
Looking down at her new infant daughter, Anna replied, “She looks like an Ariana. Yes, Ariana Joanna Abrams.”
The nurse smiled at the mother and child, “That’s a beautiful name. It’s too bad Mr. Abrams wasn’t here with you.”
“He’ll be here later. He’s working. He came to our older daughter’s delivery but didn’t see a need to be with us today. His business needs take priority,” Anna said. “It might have been different if she was a boy, but as soon as we discovered she would be a girl, he lost interest.”
“His loss,” whispered the nurse. “You have a beautiful, healthy, very alert little girl and that is a blessing whether he realizes it or not.”
Ariana twirled her dark lock of hair around her finger. “When was the first time I thought about committing suicide? Well, that’s kinda hard to answer. I can’t remember feeling comfortable with my family, ever. I never felt like I fit in or was wanted. I always felt like an extra finger or toe, useless, but too hard to get rid of. The family already had a daughter, Lisa, my older sister. She and my mother were inseparable. She had been an only child for six years and my mother’s constant focus for that long. My mom had no living family and my dad was never home, so Lisa became her life. I think the only reason Mom got pregnant again was to give my father a son, but whoops, no son, just me. The son came two years after me, so there was the complete family. The son for my father, Lisa for my mother, and oh, by the way, this other one, me.”
“I can understand why you might feel lonely,” the therapist stated.
“More than lonely, I felt unwanted, useless, and unnecessary. I wasn’t the beautiful, talented one, which was my sister. I wasn’t the namesake, the boy, every father’s dream. No, I was the chubby one. The one that even my parents wondered about. I am not artistic or tall, lean and beautiful, nor have I ever done anything that my parents could brag about. How could I be one of the Abrams?”
The therapist said, “These things may be true to you, but you are highly intelligent, empathetic, perceptive and caring. Those are wonderful traits.”
“So you say,” Ariana replied scornfully, “but no one else seemed to appreciate those qualities. This will probably sound weird or convince you I’m really crazy, but when I was a kid I was so lonely I had invisible friends. They weren’t kids, but adult friends who played with me, loved me and protected me. They taught me how to sense when my Dad would be in a bad mood so that I could stay away from him. They helped me to understand the energies around me, like how to feel how the people around me were feeling, about me, life, whatever. They showed me how to modulate my own energy so that I blended into the environment and would not stand out.” Ariana looked down at her feet and said, “Does that sound as weird as I think it does?”
“What do you think?” inquired the therapist.
“I think it does, especially because of how other people reacted when I told them.”
“What other people did you tell?”
“When I was young, I tried to make friends with some of the kids in my neighborhood. It was hard because my family was Jewish. Everyone else in the neighborhood was Christian. That may not sound like a problem, but it was. Lots of people are still prejudiced. But there was one girl, Gloria. She was kind of an outcast like me. We got really close. I trusted her so much I told her my secret. But she betrayed me and told everyone else in the neighborhood. They laughed at me. They called me the Weirdo Witch. When my father found out he was incensed. How could I have embarrassed the family with such crazy nonsense? I got beat real good that night. But the beating didn’t hurt nearly as bad as the betrayal by a girl I thought was my friend. Once again I was rejected and had no friends. Even my brother tormented me for years.”
“Was there no one you could talk to?” asked the therapist.
Ariana smiled and seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. “My German grandmother, my Oma. She lived with us for a while. She really loved me. When she heard about what had happened, she came to my room and held me while I cried. She told me that in the old country many people had the ability to talk with spirits. She called these spirits guides or loved ones. She said that dead relatives often stay around to help those of us that are still alive. They protect us. She thought perhaps that was what I was experiencing. Oma said she would help me to understand how to use my abilities better.”
“How did she do that?”
“She told me that the Jews had a mystical heritage. That many Jews, especially the women, had special powers. These powers helped them survive. They even have a book called the Kabala that tells of some of these mysteries. She said that I should not be ashamed to be special, but that I should also not share this with anyone but her because most people just don’t understand. Then she said we would play games that would help me to hone my powers.”
“Yes. She taught me to use playing cards to see the future. She would ask me what I sensed from my environment or from people we met. She would give me clothing, jewelry, things, old things, to feel and tell what I saw or felt. Always, always, she was loving and encouraging.”
“Your Oma was kind to you,” the therapist responded.
“She was the only one that was. I was so lonely, but also too shy and wary to even attempt to make new friends.”
“Yes, it is hard to live in an environment where you feel you do not fit or are misunderstood,” said the therapist. “All of us need to feel loved and accepted.”
“You asked when I first thought seriously of suicide. The first conscious time was when I was 10. My Oma had just died and I was devastated. I was in my bedroom holding the stuffed elephant that she had given me for my birthday when I was called to dinner. I wasn’t hungry so I begged my mother to please just leave me alone. That enraged my father. He came screaming into my room ordering me to get to the dinner table now! He grabbed the elephant out of my arms and ripped it into pieces. He grabbed me by the hair and dragged me into the hall. I was crying hard, not so much because of the pain, but for the destruction of Peanut, my elephant. It was the last tie I had with Oma.
‘I’ll give you a reason to cry!’ my father screamed as he began to hit and kick me. ‘Get up and sit at the table and eat everything or you’ll really get it!’
With my mouth bleeding, one eye blackening and a severe pain in my left ribs, I cleaned my plate, asked to be excused and went back to my room. I didn’t know how to kill myself, but I really wanted to die. I decided I would find a way. You need to understand that this was not the first time my father beat me, it was a weekly, sometimes daily event, but it was the first time I didn’t have Oma. There was no one who cared if I lived or died, so why should I live? The next night I crawled out my bedroom window and went to a house down the street that was under construction. It was a two-story house. I decided throwing myself out an upstairs window would accomplish what I desired. I was wrong. I succeeded in breaking my leg and drawing the attention of the neighbor, but failed miserably at killing myself. Hospitals then either didn’t think a 10 year old would attempt suicide, or my dad made up some story that was awfully convincing, because they patched me up and sent me home. I was such a loser, I couldn’t even die,” Ariana exclaimed in obvious pain.
“How did your family respond?”
“It was strange. Dad didn’t hit me or yell at me, instead he took me to a child psychologist.”
“How did that go?”
“Actually, it was great. My counselor befriended me. She listened to me and didn’t judge. Back then I was into flowers. I wanted to plant a flower garden, but Dad wouldn’t let me. Our house was professionally landscaped and maintained. What would the neighbors think if I wrecked its perfection? The counselor took me to a flower show, then to a nursery. There she bought me seeds and containers and showed me how to create a container garden. I loved it,” Ariana explained, showing no emotion.
The therapist waited, but Ariana did not continue.
“What happened?” the therapist wondered out loud.
“It ended when the counselor asked to see my father during a session. She explained to him that the problem wasn’t me. It was him and his violent behavior. He grabbed my hand and pulled me off the couch and out the door. When we got home, he emptied my garden into the garbage and never mentioned the counselor or counseling again.”
The therapist raised one eyebrow but never changed her expression. “That must have hurt; twice he destroyed something you loved. Was he violent with everyone in the family?”
“Did your mother ever attempt to stop the violence?”
“Not really,” Ariana answered. “She was being beaten, too.”
“Did the violence ever end?”
“The physical violence ended when I was 18 because I threatened to report him to the police. After all, what would the neighbors think? The verbal violence continues, but I don’t talk to my family much anymore. I don’t think they mind very much. My father once told me that he wondered if his real child was switched with me at birth because there was no way I possessed his DNA.” With a smile Ariana said, “Actually, I hope he’s right. I want nothing from them. My mother mostly ignored me and once I heard her admit to her best friend that she wished I’d never been born because she didn’t need or want three kids and certainly didn’t need another girl.”
“That must have hurt.”
“Not really. I think I knew that even before I heard it. I felt no loving emotions from my mother. No positive emotions anyway, just sort of an apathy toward me.”
“What about your relationship with your sister and brother?”
“There really isn’t much of one. My sister is six years older and pretty much had her own life. My brother is barely two years younger which is probably why we fought like cats and dogs. Probably to deal with the abuse in our family, he became angry and mean. He took that anger out on me and small animals. He knew no one would care. Going away to college was the best thing that has ever happened in my life.”
“You like it here? You feel like you belong?”
“Before leaving for school, I thought about killing myself again. I was terrified of going to college. Another big place with lots of kids who would be mean to me. It was another place I would probably fail and piss off my Dad.”
“What made you change your mind?”
“My invisible friends,” answered Ariana, “they reminded me that no one knew me here and that gave me the opportunity to recreate myself, to become the person I’ve always wished I were.”
“And who is that person?”
“She is smart, funny and friendly. She has lots of friends, is involved in tons of activities and maybe even has a boyfriend.”
“How’s that working out? Do you have any friends yet?” the therapist asked.
“Here or at home?”
“I was always shy and after Gloria, distrustful. I didn’t go out of my way to make friends. My parents probably wouldn’t have wanted me to bring them home anyway, so I basically kept to myself. No one here either. I guess I should say not yet.”
“What about your roommate?”
“I think she hates me. She told me that I’m not her ‘kind.’ I’m not sure what her kind is: Christian, Arizonian, beautiful, dumb? All I know is she moves the furniture around when I’m in my night class so that I have something to trip over when I come to the room in the dark. She also told me she is going to torture me to get me to move out of the room. She’s an amateur compared to my Dad and brother. I can handle it,” Ariana answered with a smirk. “Maybe she’ll move out and I’ll have the room all to myself.”
The therapist nodded and asked, “Ariana, why did you begin counseling?”
“Because now I have the opportunity to begin the new life my invisible friends told me about, one that isn’t about my family or my past. I’m scared and I know I need help,” she said.
The therapist looked at Ariana deeply for a few moments before replying with a nod, “Making that kind of change takes hard work and is often very painful. Many people leave when the going gets hard. Are you a winner or a quitter? Are you willing to commit to the process no matter where it takes us and how difficult it may become?”
“Yes, definitely. I can’t live my life anymore.”
“I will need to see you twice a week, once a week for our private sessions and one weekly group session. Can you arrange that?”
“Yes,” was Ariana’s immediate reply.
“Group is Friday night at seven p.m. at Kiva Hall, Room 112. For our private session, is next Tuesday at two workable?”
“Like I said, I’ll make it work.”
Standing, the therapist smiled and walking Ariana through the door, repeated, “Friday at seven.”
As Ariana walked back to her dormitory, she thought about this place she had chosen to make her new home. She wanted something very different from Indiana. Ariana had spent many days researching possible colleges and was actually surprised that her father had agreed to her final choice. However, no matter how much she had read about Arizona, she was not prepared for what she would find. Leaving Indiana and hopefully the pain of her childhood behind her, Ariana’s first in-person view of Arizona was as her plane approached Sky Harbor Airport for its final descent. She couldn’t comprehend the scope of the city she was seeing out the window. It was huge and spread out in all directions, stopped only by the mountains that surrounded the valley.
After almost three months of living in Arizona, Ariana realized she had adjusted well. Maybe it was because she had isolated herself from the surrounding city. Her university was a small, encapsulated community within the bigger city of Tempe, Arizona. She liked the campus. It was so different from Indiana University. Where she lived now, buff-colored buildings coordinated perfectly with the rock landscape. The last building designed by the world famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright sat proudly on this campus. Gammage Auditorium is a large round performance hall designed by the architect to look like outstretched arms. The building is to provide a “Welcome to A.S.U.,” explained Mr. Wright. No matter what Mr. Wright hoped, the students referred to his building as that gaudy, awful wedding cake.
Ariana did feel welcomed here. She had noticed the variety of students and that they were actually quite friendly. There were no rows of exclusionary fraternity or sorority houses separating the Greeks from the dorm kids. Frat kids had dormitories just like everyone else. Ariana actually felt comfortable for the first time in her life, and now, she had committed to another person that she was going to create a new life, a new Ariana. She felt like her future was a positive one.
Humming to herself, Ariana entered her dorm.
Ariana walked toward Room 112 in Kiva Hall trying to suppress her anxiety. She hated new experiences, especially those that involved other people her age. In the past, she had struggled to find friends. Ariana took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and thought, I can do this. She felt her resolve strengthen when she remembered why she committed to coming to this meeting in the first place. I want to change my life.
Ariana was early to the meeting. This was not unusual for her. Punctuality was essential for living in the Abram’s household. She was expecting to be the first one there. That suited her well. It would give her time to orient herself to the meeting space and maybe relax a little. Room 112 was at the end of a long hall. As soon as she began the walk down the hall, her anxiety increased tenfold. Ariana had an overwhelming feeling that she had done this before, made this same walk and that it had ended badly. She knew this was a ridiculous thought because she was new to Arizona State. She had been attending ASU almost three months yet had never been at this end of the campus before. She worked to convince herself that this was an ordinary hall in an ordinary building. There was nothing sinister here at all. Even though the building was terra-cotta red, a very stupid color for a building, she thought, it was not an unusual color for buildings in Arizona. Inside, the walls were a pleasant blue, almost lavender. She knew those colors were used to relax people, Nothing weird there. So why did the strange unease persist? Her Oma would have called this Déjà vu, the phenomenon of having a strong feeling that an event or experience has happened before. Ariana had felt this before, but never as strong and never so uncomfortably. She wondered, Have I been here before? Perhaps in a past life? Ariana quickly tossed this idea away, deciding it was not possible because the building was only about 10 years old. What the heck is going on? She seriously thought about turning around, going back to the dorm and forgetting about starting her new life. No, I made a commitment and I don’t break commitments, especially one that I made to myself.
Ariana continued walking toward Room 112. As she drew near, the door suddenly opened, sending cold shivers up her spine. Get a grip! She blew out the breath she was holding and was startled when she saw a face staring at her from the open door. Ah, now I see why the door opened! What an idiot scaredy-cat I am, she thought.
“Hey,” said the girl who owned the face. “Whasup? You coming in or not? I’m Leesie, actually Leslie, but Leesie sounds so killer I changed it. Am I right ladies?” she said to no one in particular. The outgoing stranger continued, “Whoa girl, you look like a scared rabbit. Yeah, I’ve been told that I can be a bit overwhelming and sometimes a little cray-cray, but I’m not scary. I’m really rather harmless.”
Ariana stared at the elf creature standing in front of her. Wow, she thought, overwhelming is an understatement.
The extroverted girl was tiny, she was just barely four feet tall with a face that seemed too small for her large brown eyes. Her nose and mouth, however, were as tiny as the rest of her. Her black hair was cut short with little fringes surrounding her long, thin face. Her skin tone was so pale she was almost translucent. The blue veins near her temples shone through her clear skin making her appear sickly. Without discernable breasts or hips, she looked no older than 10. Her small frame weighed no more than 80 pounds. Ariana wondered, Am I in the wrong room? She looked again at the number. Nope, 112. Do I have the wrong date?
As if she read Ariana’s mind, the pixie smiled, “Nothing wrong here babe, right time, right place. Friday night group therapy. And yes, I belong here, too. My looks are a type of camouflage, a defense mechanism to keep all the handsome hunks away. Looking prepubescent works well, don’t you think? I’m actually just skinny, not young. I know I look 12, but I’m actually 15, precocious and in college early because I’m really, really smart,” she said without taking a breath. “And because I’m 15 and in college and because I’m as weird as I am weird looking and smart, I’m here now for group. Come on in,” she said, opening the door wider.
Wow, Ariana thought. Instead of being completely creeped out, the huge word torrent from the tiny person behind the door had actually taken Ariana’s mind off herself and helped her to relax. Ariana walked into the room and was relieved to see four ordinary walls and industrial blue carpet on the floor. Folding chairs were arranged in a circle. She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, but this was a relief.
“Hi, I’m Ariana. I’m 18 and I’m also weird I guess, ‘cause I’m here, too,” she said to Leesie with a grin.
“Oh, you don’t have to be weird to be here. You can be angry, suicidal, confused, psychotic or just plain neurotic, too.”
Well that’s comforting, Ariana thought sarcastically. Instead she asked, “How many kids come to group?”
“Counting you, 13. Creepy, huh?”
“No, actually 13 is a nice number,” answered Ariana. “It represents structure and foundation, things that are solid and long lasting, like traditions. It was my grandmother’s favorite.”
“My favorite is three,” stated Leesie. “I collect things in threes. My birthday is a three, I was born in March, the third month, and I’m the youngest child of six children, a multiple of three, of course. There are six guys in our group, three of which are hunks, #reallyweird. There’s one guy that’s really screaming but you’ve probably got him locked seeing as you’re pretty beaut yourself. Don’t worry, I’m not leaning lez, but you will definitely draw his attention.”
Ariana was shocked. She had never considered herself particularly attractive. Attractive was her sister, the perfect five-foot-eight, size two. She had thick auburn hair and long legs, a former Indiana 500 Festival Queen. Ariana never felt she could compete with her sister. At five foot five, she thought of herself as short and chubby though she was just a size six. She considered her mousy brown straight hair so awful she just left it alone rather that struggle to give it some style.
It was confusing for Ariana to hear Leesie’s compliments. She exclaimed to the tiny teenager, “What are you talking about?”
“You, girlfriend, who else is here? You, with the long, smooth, chestnut hair, big blue innocent eyes and that luscious Sofia Vergara body. What, you don’t own a mirror? Or are you just one of those women who likes playing dumb?”
“I just don’t spend a lot of time looking at myself in mirrors, or trying to look pretty. I don’t even wear makeup,” exclaimed. Never would she have thought of herself as attractive.
“What? The dudes in high school didn’t fall all over you?”
“I went to an all-girl private school. I really haven’t had much to do with boys. I have a brother, but he didn’t bring friends home, so my experience with boys is rather limited,” she explained. “If I’m so hot, why is it no boys have noticed me since I started school here two months ago?”
“It’s your vibe. It says, ‘Stay away or I’ll take off running!’ I’ve seen you on campus. You walk with your head down and your hair covering your face. You’re obviously intent on reaching your destination without being noticed and approached. That’s it, you make yourself unapproachable,” Leesie explained. “It’s like you’re scared or angry or something.”
“You’ve been watching me?”
“Yup,” smiled Leesie. “We have Econ together. You wouldn’t notice me, that head down thing, but you’re hard to miss. You put out a really bizarre vibe. Anyway, I am an observer. I intend to be a writer one day, so I observe everything and everyone. There’s nothing that goes on at this campus that I’m not aware of. I pride myself on that. And because I’m kinda hyper, I don’t need much sleep. It gives me more time to do research about everything and everyone.”
Ariana stood still, trying to ingest this new piece of information. “You know, that’s kinda creepy. Like stalker creepy,” she said.
“No, not really. I’m not fixated on one person or thing. I want to know something about everything,” Leesie argued.
“Well, to me, it’s a bit strange. But who am I to judge strangeness? That’s definitely a definition that’s been applied to me several times too,” laughed Ariana.
“You’ll fit in well in group then,” Leesie smiled, “that is if you want to. By the way, if you have room in your intense, busy life for a friend, I could use one right now. Just sayin.”
Ariana smiled back, “I’d like that. You’ll have to teach me how, though. I’ve never really had a friend before.”
“See, you are either really, really freaky, or a consummate liar,” Leesie teased. “Let’s grab a seat, it’s almost time for the meeting. I think I hear the herd in the hall.”
Ariana heard joking voices followed by rowdy laughter coming from the hall. As the door opened, she saw three guys laughing and punching each other.
“So it’s on?” asked the dark haired one. “After group we adjourn to my room for the Assassin’s Creed mega marathon where I’m gonna beat some serious ass.”
“So you say,” laughed the tall blond. “You said that about Call of Duty, too, but who holds the undefeated record of wins? It ain’t you, bro.”
The third boy stood looking intently at the girls, either that or his serious, old-guy glasses just made him look that way. Ariana thought, He seems to be the odd man out, a bad match with the other two.
Ariana smiled at the bespectacled boy and said, “Hey.”
Instead it was Blondie who noticed Ariana. He smiled and said, “Hey back! And who might you be?”
Leesie leaned into Ariana’s ear and whispered, “That’s one of the hotties I was telling you about.” Turning to the boys, Leesie answered, “Hey back at you. The newbie mental is Ariana. Ariana, this is Matthew, Zach and Aiden; the Three Stooges.”
“Hello,” Matthew said, giving Ariana his most radiant smile. “What brings you to the loony bin?”
Ariana felt frazzled. She had never been this close to three boys before, especially being asked questions by a very hot, sexy one. She knew he was waiting for her to say something, but she was afraid that whatever came out of her mouth would be stupid. Luckily, Aiden jumped in and said, “You know, you don’t look like you’re cray-cray.”
“Whoa, dude,” Zach exclaimed, punching Aiden on the arm. “Talk about a lame come-on line!” He turned to Ariana displaying his own brilliant smile and said, “Pardon my uncouth friend Aiden. We don’t let him out of his cage much so he doesn’t know how to talk to a pretty girl. I’m Zach and the other lame-ass is Matthew. Please don’t confuse us. I’m the cool one. Matt’s the tall one and Aiden’s, well, Aiden can’t be described in one sentence.”
Ariana opened her aura by extending her inner energy outward. Now she could get a feeling for the boys’s auras. Ariana felt herself relaxing. The energy coming from all three boys was not threatening. It was light and playful and put her at ease. Zach’s energy was funny and sweet. Aiden’s was more thoughtful. Matthew’s was the most intense of the group. He was very complex, she noticed. She pushed deeper and discovered what was below the surface was very different than his assured outer façade. Matthew’s smile faded a bit. Instantly, Ariana pulled back her energy.
“My Cheyenne grandpa says that probing someone without their permission is very rude,” Matthew remarked with a hint of criticism.
Ariana was shocked; he knew what she had been doing. That had never happened before.
“Oh, ah, I am so sorry! No one has ever said anything about that to me before. It’s just something I do sometimes to help me become comfortable in a new environment. I didn’t know it was noticeable,” she stammered.
“It’s an invasion of my privacy,” an irritated Matthew replied. “Just because no one else has felt it, doesn’t make it OK.”
All Ariana wanted to do was run away and cry. Just then, Leesie exclaimed, “Hey, what’s going on? Rude is having a private conversation when other people are standing right in front of you and don’t have a clue what’s happening.”
“Never mind,” Matthew said, walking away.
Zach looked at everyone and shrugged. “Our Matthew is also the moody one. Never can tell what will set him off.” Taking Ariana’s hand, he bent over, kissed her hand and said, “I apologize for my temperamental friend.”
Calmed by Zach’s kind gesture, Ariana replied, “No, he was right, I did invade his privacy. But so that I don’t do it again, I’ll let him tell you about it,” Ariana stated as she turned to find two seats in the circle of chairs as far away from Matthew and out of his direct line of sight as possible.
Leesie followed behind Ariana, completely confused and perplexed. “What happened?”
Ariana said, “Maybe I’ll tell you later, but not now, OK.”
Soon Ariana could hear other voices in the hall. Students began to trickle in two or three at a time. Shortly, everyone was seated and Ariana could feel the group sizing her up. She tried to ignore their looks by starting a conversation with Leesie.
“What now?” Ariana asked.
“Well, the therapist will probably ask you to introduce yourself and tell everyone why you’re here.”
“Oh great, just what I need right now. Forced to be the center of attention when all I want to do is be invisible,” moaned Ariana.
“See, therapy is working already,” Leesie teased.
“Okay everyone, let’s settle down. It’s time to begin,” announced the therapist. “I’m glad to see that everyone is back and I assume, ready to do some work. As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, we have someone new tonight. Try to be kind. Ariana, please introduce yourself and tell us what you hope to gain from the group.”
Here we go, thought Ariana, “Hi, everyone. I’m a freshman who still doesn’t know what or who I want to be when I grow-up. I’m from Carmel, Indiana. I’m not sure what I’m looking for from the group, but I know I hate what my life has been ‘til now and I’m looking for change, direction, kind of a rebirth. So I’m here, ready to work. I want to see where it takes me.”
“So being in a group of losers and mentals is your idea of change?” asked a goth girl sitting across the circle.
Ariana thought a moment before answering, “Considering that except for classes, this is the largest group of other kids I’ve ever been with, yes, this is a change. I’ve never had friends,” Ariana smiled at Leesie, “until now. So I really can’t judge what everyone in this group is or is not, nor would I, as I have experienced judgment and hate it. You don’t feel like losers to me, maybe instead, we’re all just a little lost.”
“Bullshit,” exclaimed Miss. Goth. “You can’t really expect us to believe that crap you just said can you? Dafug!”
The therapist turned to the girl dressed head to toe in black and asked, “Wendy, where is all the anger coming from?”
“Why are you taking the new girl’s side?” Wendy snapped back.
“There are no sides here,” explained the therapist, “just observations. What’s going on with you right now?”
“I hate liars!”
“I think we can all appreciate that, but that doesn’t answer my question,” responded the therapist.
“She just made me mad saying she’s never had friends,” Wendy continued, “A girl that looks like her has gotta have a lot of guy friends. Yeah, girls might be jealous, but the guys would wanna piece of that. It’s just such an obvious lie it pissed me off.”
“So, because she’s pretty you assumed that she had to be lying?” questioned the therapist.
A plain, overweight boy sitting next to Matthew jumped in, “Yeah! You judge the new girl by her looks just like you say people judge you. What’s up with that?”
Wendy extended her middle finger to him as she replied, “No one asked you, Josh. You’ve probably got the hots for her or something. Gonna protect the pretty new damsel in distress?”
“Or maybe you’ve got the hots for her yourself?” a girl sitting on the other side of Ariana stated with an angry smirk on her face.
For Ariana, this intense level of anger usually accompanied a beating. The negativity in the room overwhelmed her. She tried protecting herself by pulling in her aura, but it was too late. Although she realized Matthew would feel what she was doing, she began to fill the room with the energy of peace and love. She visualized a tranquil scene in her mind; she imagined waves gently meeting the edge of a sandy shore. She sent this vision, with all its stillness, into everyone’s minds. She extended safety and love by allowing her blue energy to surround the circle and especially surround the girl called Wendy. Ariana could feel the room calm.
“Okay,” the therapist interjected, “this isn’t accomplishing anything useful. Wendy, we were talking about your anger.”
Wendy now appeared deflated, all the air taken out of her anger as she replied, “I really don’t know what just happened, but I don’t want to be mad anymore. I’m always mad, always jealous, always feeling like life sucks and everyone hates me. So I guess I attack as some kinda preemptive strike.”
“Yeah, like some strange kind of shock and awe. Act like a badass; no body’s gonna mess with the badass,” a pretty black girl with dreads agreed.
Wendy looked at Ariana and said, “You are just so like I could never be. What you said didn’t make any sense. I just couldn’t handle it. How can someone that looks like you, feel like me, alone and lonely?”
“Maybe because sometimes, everyone thinks the same way you are thinking, Wendy,” suggested Matthew.
“Why didn’t you have friends?” one of the other girls asked Ariana.
Ariana wasn’t sure what to say so she decided to be honest. “I grew up in a family that didn’t want me and never let me forget it. My sister was truly beautiful. A beauty queen and a model. I was often reminded that I was lucky to be smart because, according to my parents, I was the fat and ugly one in the family. I threw myself into my education. Books became my friends,” she said calmly. “When I was young, I tried to bring a friend home. She was a sweet, shy, black girl that was living in an all-white neighborhood. I was a shy, Jewish, white kid in a Christian neighborhood. We were a perfect match except for one thing, my parents. They informed me that having a black friend was out of the question. The next friend I made betrayed a confidence to everyone in my neighborhood. I became on outcast, continually teased and bullied. After that I decided having only books for friends was safer. As far as boys are concerned, I went to an all-girls school, no guys. Except for school and home, I went nowhere.”
“Wow,” goth girl Wendy said, “That sucks. Sorry I called you a liar.”
“What was the big secret that got betrayed?” Matthew asked.
Ariana looked at the therapist. The woman’s voice expressed her kindness as she said, “It’s up to you, Ariana. If it makes you uncomfortable, then don’t, but holding back won’t help you grow or learn to trust.”
Ariana took a deep breath, “I told her about my invisible friends.”
“That’s not weird. A lot of kids have invisible friends. I had an invisible kitty,” Leesie offered.
“My invisible friends were adults that protected me, taught me and loved me,” explained Ariana.
“Oh, okay, that is a little weird. But it’s not like you told this girl that you murdered baby birds or anything,” Leesie declared matter-of-factly.
“I guess a bunch of 10 year old kids wanted a reason to hate and torture me. They used my secret and it worked. Throughout elementary and middle school I was called a looney and weirdo. It just reinforced what my family kept telling me; I was worthless, strange. I didn’t belong anywhere. I withdrew. My safe place became my bedroom, away from anyone my own age,” Ariana explained.
“I know exactly what you mean, not fitting in anywhere,” a very feminine, Hispanic boy agreed. “People are accepting of gays and lesbians now, but those of us that believe we are in the wrong bodies, transgendered kids, aren’t comfortable anywhere. My parents hated me. What kind of Mexican-Catholic family has a boy that wants to be a girl? They took me to the Priest who tried to exorcise the demon out of me. When that didn’t work, he molested me, to show me how to be a ‘real man.’ ” Pausing to catch her breath, she continued, “I also secluded myself. What I didn’t expect or plan to have happen was by having nothing else in my life but on-line school, I got great grades and a scholarship. Now I’m here working to transition to the woman that I am. Oh, I’m Tara and I’d love to be your friend, Ariana, if you aren’t too creeped out.”
“Thank you, Tara. I would love to be your friend and I could never be creeped out by someone wanting to be their authentic self,” Ariana said.
“Anyone else want to comment on judgment?” the therapist asked.
“Yeah, I do,” a girl named Gail piped up. “Everyone judges. You can’t get through life without judging. Isn’t it normal?”
Zach spoke up, “I think everyone has preconceived notions and opinions, that’s just our society. Lots of those opinions aren’t even ours from direct experience. Instead we accept whatever we’ve been taught. Some of those things are necessary, but many are hurtful and as we grow up we need to reexamine those beliefs, become a bit introspective. Then we can decide which of them we want to carry forward and which we want to leave behind.”
Who is this guy? Ariana wondered. Her first impression of him was that he was the class clown: cute, but not a lot of depth. Whoa, have I misjudged him? She laughed to herself, realizing the irony of her thinking given the evening’s conversation. This guy deserves a closer look.
“If we shouldn’t use judgment to figure things out, what then?” a thin, caramel skinned boy to Ariana’s left asked.
“How about discernment?” asked the therapist. “Discernment is a type of judgment but with understanding. It’s the idea that we should really try to see a situation clearly by using our intelligence.”
“But why do people hate anything different from themselves?” Wendy asked. “Like who decided that blue hair is weird? Or that tattoos and piercings are okay depending where on your body they are. On the face is bad, on the body okay. Everyone should be het and want to get married and have two kids and if you don’t then you are selfish, just to name a few things that have happened in my life.”
The therapist waited to see if anyone in the group would answer. She broke the silence, “Sometimes it is as simple as fear. People are more comfortable with others that look and act like themselves.”
“And share their beliefs, are in the same economic bracket, social group and approximately the same level of intellect,” offered Aiden. “As a matter of fact, people with superior intellect are often considered bizarre. Now they’ve labeled some of us with Asperger’s Syndrome. Once we’re labeled, others think they understand us and that makes them feel safe.”
The therapist said, “It sounds like it bothers you to have a diagnosis. You see it as a label?”
Aiden just looked at her, offering no response.
“Isn’t everyone labeled?” Ariana asked. “Tonight I’ve been labeled as ‘killer.’ Matthew and Zach might be labeled ‘hotties’ and Wendy is labeled ‘goth.’ None of these terms does more than describe our outer appearance. None of them says anything real about us as people. Labels are used for identification, not for real information.”
“Too true. But some labels create more problems than others. For instance, if someone is labeled as ‘slow,’ people will treat that person as inferior,” Aiden answered.
“Sometimes I think this would be a better world if everyone was deaf and blind,” Wendy grumbled.
“Our Wendy, always the bright ray of sunshine!” Matthew said sarcastically becoming more aggressive. “I’m really sick of listening to your negative attitude.”
“And your empathy is remarkable,” said the African American girl.
“Just sayin’ what everyone’s thinking,” Matthew quipped.
“Please speak for yourself, Matthew. Everyone here will only talk about their own feelings and impressions, nobody else’s. Remember the rules,” said the therapist.
“I think he’s right. I seem to live in a very dark place in my mind. Nothing looks good. I can’t remember the last time I was happy,” Wendy said as she started crying. “I’m just flat, all greys.”
Sitting next to Wendy was Rhonda, a very tall girl with bright red hair. She put her arm around Wendy’s shoulders. “I think I know how you feel. Nothing seems to change and every experience just reinforces all the past hurts and disappointments. I’m not going to tell you what to do, but what helps me is to write. I write down all my angry thoughts. I put all that pain on paper.”
“I do that too,” agreed Ariana, “then I burn the pages releasing all that negativity. It’s quite cathartic.”
Leesie who had been uncharacteristically restrained, chimed in, “I draw. I’m working on my own comic. It’s sorta like Sin City, dark and violent. But working on it helps me release negative tension.”
A very meek looking, quiet girl sitting next to Ariana gathered her strength and shared, “I wear long sleeves and long pants all year. It’s not because I like sweltering in the Arizona heat,” she said shaking her head. “It’s because I’m a cutter. I used to cut myself to let the anger out. Now I design tattoos that represent my fear, anger, any significant experiences. I have them tattooed all over my body. It works for me and I think it’s probably less destructive than cutting,” she announced with a weak smile.
Wendy could understand the tattooed girl’s pain, “I still cut and sometimes I purge. It helps me feel in control, if that makes any sense. I’m working on it with the therapist, though,” she said hurriedly, as if embarrassed.
“I think all of us have done destructive things. Isn’t that why we’re all here?” asked Matthew.
Ariana wondered what destructive thing Matthew could have done. His energy seemed so controlled and serene. Obviously the deeper layer she had started to penetrate in his energy was much darker than what he presented on the surface. I wonder what his real story is, she thought.
“Group and talk therapy is a way to purge destructive thoughts in a constructive manner and to help teach new coping skills,” advised the therapist. “Does anyone here feel that they are having immediate problems coping?”
Wendy, who continued to seem so much more at ease than she had at the beginning of the meeting said, “A little, but group does help me vent and that helps me cope. Sorry everyone for being such a whiner.”
The therapist smiled at Wendy and then, making a point to look at everyone in the room said, “Between groups, some of you may find very raw feelings come to the surface. Because many of you have a lack of people in your lives that you trust with these feelings, you may become anxious and want to act out in an unhealthy manner. Most of you have been in group now for almost three months and seem to trust each other enough to release these feelings here. I’d like to make a suggestion for the in-between times; reach out to one another. Often when we are helping someone else, we help ourselves. That’s one of the basic concepts of AA. They have used this approach successfully for almost 70 years. Get to know one another outside of group. I’m not talking about booty-calls, but using each other as support systems, friends. It’s just a suggestion.” Looking at her watch the therapist concluded, “Unfortunately, our time is up. I feel this session has left us a lot to think about and maybe even journal about,” she said with a smile. “I know that journaling isn’t everyone’s favorite task, but like some of you said, it can be quite cathartic. Well, until we meet again, be safe.”
The room exploded into motion as though someone had thrown open the cage doors in a zoo. Ariana was surprised to find herself surrounded by people. Their combined energy was almost too much for her. A whisper landed in her left ear. “You really should learn to shield.”
Ariana turned her head toward the whisper. She found herself staring into Matthew’s amazing aqua eyes. She was close enough to kiss him which disturbed her. She could see the mirth in his eyes. He was amused by her reaction to him, the smirk on his face revealing his feelings. Now Matthew was feeling her energy. Ariana found this exciting, both emotionally and physically. Even though she liked the feelings he was inspiring in her, she didn’t like that he was controlling the situation.
“What do you mean by shielding?” she asked, effectively stopping Matthew’s exploration.
“You’ve never learned how to shield yourself and your energy from other people? Boy, are you lucky your guides have been protecting you. Otherwise you never know what might have happened to you. You could have been having frequent mood shifts, like feeling happy, then driving for a few blocks and getting really depressed for no reason. Or feeling great physically then out of the blue you get a terrible stomach ache. Later you find out someone around you is feeling sick. Didn’t any of that happen to you?” Matthew asked with genuine concern.
Matthew’s words confused Ariana. Yes, she had episodes like what he described, but she thought it was because she was a sensitive person prone to mood swings. Her parents accused her of being a hypochondriac because of her frequent physical ailments that had no discernable medical cause. She was also sure that she had heard him say “guides.” That was what Oma had called her invisible friends. A sense of relief flooded Ariana’s body. He wasn’t ridiculing her. Matthew was telling her he understood what she was talking about.
“I have had the experiences you just outlined, but doesn’t every teenager? And did I hear you say guides?” she asked. “That’s what my grandmother called them. She told me they were my dead relatives.”
“No, not everyone experiences what we’re talking about. We need to talk later, though” Matthew said quickly. “You really need to hear what I have to say, but there are too many ears right now and I don’t want everyone hearing.”
Ariana had been so intensely involved in their conversation that she had forgotten Leesie, Tara, Wendy, Zach and Aiden were standing next to her waiting to talk. What kind of hold does this guy have on me? she wondered.
“Hey, what about us?” Leesie whined. “It’s not fair to have a private, whispered conversation in the middle of a crowd of friends, remember?”
Ariana smiled warmly, “Wow! Pardon my bad manners, but all this is really new to me. I know that sounds lame, but OMG, so many new people to get to know!”
“How about starting by finding out what dorms everyone is in?” suggested Tara.
“I’ll go first,” offered Leesie, “I’m in Barrett and because my roommate was a duster and went home to Momma, I have a suite to myself.”
“I’m in Manzanita,” said Wendy.
“Me too,” said Gail and Ariana simultaneously.
“Matt, Aiden and I are in Palo Verde East,” offered Zach.
Tara responded, “I have a condo right off Mill. No roommate either.”
“Is this becoming a clique or can anybody join?” asked the black girl with the dreads. “I’m Teja, pronounced TE ja not Teeg.”
“Don’t be hella-crazy, girl, everyone’s welcome,” insisted Leesie.
“Even us?” asked a soft voice coming from the very thin girl lurking behind Rhonda.
“Well ‘us,’ are you part of everyone?” Leesie asked. “If so, then join our new club.” Without a second thought Leesie christened the newfound friends. “Let’s call ourselves The Weirdxotics.”
“I hope we’re not leaving anyone out. I know I wouldn’t want to be the one in our group that wasn’t at least asked,” mentioned Rhonda.
Leesie agreed. She stood on a nearby chair and screamed, “Anyone who wants to join our new friendship group, please come over here so that we can acknowledge you and dub you an official Weirdxotics. Really, we are getting everyone’s phone number, e-mails and dorms so we can keep in touch and get to know each other better. If you’re interested great, if you’re not, that’s great too. No pressure, no judgment,” she said with a smile.
None of the others chose to come forward.
“Oh well,” Leesie said with a sigh. “It’s just us. Where are we going to celebrate our new alliance?”
“Let’s go to Fuzzies on Mill. They’ve got great fish tacos,” suggested Zach.
“I’ve never eaten fish tacos,” admitted Ariana.
“It’s decided then,” declared Zach. “Let’s introduce the newbie to fish tacos and other really hot Tex-Mex food. Baptism by fire!”
There was agreement all around and a chant of “baptism by fire” as the new friends began their short walk to Fuzzies.
Ariana’s head was spinning. She had friends! Here she was for the first time in her life laughing and bantering as though she was a regular person and now she was going to a place called Fuzzies for her first group celebration.