Romance Fiction posted March 26, 2023

This work has reached the exceptional level
The journey of a young woman's clairvoyant awakening.

Working Title

by Amanda Black

A First Book Chapter Contest Winner 
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

 Chapter 1

Campbell Sawyer tightened her grip on the steering wheel as she drove cautiously though the deserted streets; a task made more difficult by the fact that a blanket of thick snow was rapidly obscuring the streets in question. And then, of course, there was the fact that she was actively crying her eyes out.

Stupid! She scolded herself as she wiped at her face in frustration. You were going to break up with her anyway and now you’re crying because she was with someone else? Please!

She reduced her speed further as the reflection of her headlights bounced back at her from the thick puffy snowflakes that fell in curtains from the black sky.

It was already late and at this rate, it was going to take her an hour to get home. She glanced at the clock on her dashboard; 9:39PM shined back at her in glowing blue digits. Damn.

She had worked a twelve-hour shift today and was scheduled for another tomorrow.

Seven to seven, three days per week. It was a good gig all in all, except for when you decide to break up with your girlfriend in the middle of your three-day stretch only to find her having dinner with that bed hopping skank, Hillary Jennings from endoscopy.

She had almost convinced herself not to go over to Megan’s tonight. It had been a long day at the hospital, and it could have waited until the weekend when they’d planned to spend the day together. But she just couldn’t let it go another day.

She was determined to rid herself of the dread of an impending breakup and the guilt that she knew would follow. So, in the middle of her shift, she had made a decisive resolution with herself while making notes in the EMR of an adventurous twelve-year-old who had broken his leg in a daring jump from a homemade bicycle ramp in his back yard.

Tonight. She would do it tonight.

She’d gotten off work later than expected when one of the night shift nurses was late in taking report and she’d nearly gotten snagged for a code blue that was called at precisely the moment when she was about to swipe her badge to leave. The charge nurse had waved her off and only after checking that she wasn’t needed did she actually leave the building.

As she’d rushed to her car in the parking lot her brother called to tell her that he had a box of things for her that their father had dropped off at his place for her to pick up.

“Can I come get it tomorrow, Danny?” She’d asked as she thumbed her key fob to unlock her car doors.  She blew out a breath and watched as it fogged in the cold air then dissipated.  “I kind of have something I need to do tonight.”

“I’m going to Portland tomorrow and Dad was adamant that you get this stuff as soon as possible.” Her brother said.

Danny and Campbell were twins and aside from having very similar core values, they were as different as night and day.

While he got their mother’s auburn hair and striking blue eyes, in combination with their father’s handsome features, she had the coloring of their father with thick blonde hair and eyes as green as jade, along with their mother’s delicate and feminine bone structure.

Their height too, was strikingly dissimilar; Campbell was petite and barely reached 5’4” while Danny was tall and strapping, hitting 6’1” if he stretched a little.

“Well why didn’t he just drop it by my place then? He knows that Mrs. Tidwell would have held onto it for me.” She said testily as she climbed into her car.

Mrs. Tidwell had been a friend of their family for years. She was Campbell’s landlady now, but she had been Campbell and Danny’s fifth grade teacher and had grown close to their family when her sister had married their uncle the year that they started middle school.

“He was on his way to Harry’s to watch the Chief’s game and my place is closer to his than yours. Hell, I don’t know Bell, just come get the damn box, would you? Then I can tell Dad that the package has been safely delivered and he won’t have to hound me throughout the course of my entire business trip.”

She groaned in frustration. “What’s so fucking important about this damn box anyway?” She demanded as she flipped on the heater full blast. She could feel the beginnings of a headache building up behind her eyes.

“Jeez testy much Bell?”

“I’m sorry, Danny.” She sighed then affected a lilting drawl. “Please kind sir, would you mind terribly, if I asked what’s so important about the contents of the box in question?” She said sarcastically.

He chuckled good-naturedly then grew serious. “I think it’s some stuff of Mom’s that he wanted you to have.”

And there it was, the ultimate Trump card. Their mother had died in childbirth but the way that their father had kept her alive through stories, pictures and loving memories had made she and Danny feel as if they had always known her.

“Alright.” She conceded. “I’ll be there in twenty.”

“Great.” He said, “Then I can go on being the favorite son,”

“Only son.” Campbell chimed in.

“And you can get a chance to visit your favorite brother before he leaves town for two weeks.”

“Only brother.” She said again.

“Semantics.” He shot back. “You know it’s true.”

“What that you’re my only brother?” She asked sweetly.

“That I’m your favorite brother.”

“Got that right jerk-face.” She said fondly.

He chuckled. “And that’s why you’re my favorite sister; you’re impeccable use of endearments.”

She smiled with affection, “See you soon.”

“Alright, love you.”

“Love you too.”

She hung up and let out another sigh. The dreaded break up would have to wait.  

As she drove to Danny’s she made note of the deepening grey clouds that hung low in the sky. She had a vague memory of the weather forecast playing on the television in the hospitals lobby and a mention of a snowstorm tonight, but she was in such a rush that she didn’t pay it much attention.

She let out another exasperated breath and hoped that the skies would hold back the snow until she finished with her unpleasant business and was safely back in her own house.

When she got to Danny’s she made the mistake of telling him of her plans to see Megan and break things off. He tried to talk her into putting it off in favor of hanging out with him to drink beer and watch the rest of the Chief’s game.

“Hell, Bell!” He said using one of his favorite expressions where she was concerned. “Her heart will be just as broken and pathetic in a couple of days. Stay here and watch the last half with me.”

“Jeez Danny, do you have to be so callous?” She knew he didn’t care much for Megan, but his comment didn’t help her growing guilt.

He shrugged, “Hell, Bell! It’s the Chiefs!” 

“Damn, Dan! She answered in kind, “Mahomes will be just as spectacular in the next game.” He gave her a conceding nod. “Why didn’t you just go to Harry’s with Dad if you wanted to watch the game?” She asked.

He gave her an incredulous look. “My TV’s bigger.” He said, as if the answer should have been obvious, then smiled at her and winked. “Besides, I had a mission to attend to remember?” He said picking up a box from the floor next to his couch shaking it at her.

She took it from him, and he looked at her expectantly.

“What?” She asked.

“Aren’t you going to open it?” he asked.


“Yeah, I’m kind of curious to see what’s in it.” He said as he sat on the couch and opened a fresh beer. “Mine had a book of baby names with ‘Daniel’ circled about a dozen times along with a few pictures of Mom while she was pregnant with us and a bunch of stuff from when we were babies.”

“You got a box too?” She asked taking a seat on the arm of the couch, intent not to sink into Chief’s country with him.

“Yep, you should have seen some of the other names that were circled.” He said taking another swallow of beer. “Your favorite brother could have been an ‘Ethan’ or a ‘Ben’.” He said affecting an exaggerated shudder.

She smiled then opened the lid of her box, peering inside. There was a knitted blanket that she recognized as her own from when she was a child. Danny had a matching one in a different color.

Her father used to tell her stories about how their mother had worked for months on the two blankets before they were born. They were endearingly imperfect, and she loved that about them.

 There was also a small, old looking envelope, inside of which was a locket of her hair from when she was about three. There were several pictures of their mother most she had seen before but one she had not.

The picture showed her mother, smiling broadly at the photographer, holding a snow globe near her face that looked as if it had just been shaken, its tiny snowflakes frozen in motion as they turned and swirled about the globe.

There was a small metal placket screwed to the base of the globe that read ‘Winter’. It was her middle name, and she recalled the stories their father used to tell about their mother loving winter above all other seasons.

As she gazed at the photo, she swore that the snowflakes in the globe began to swirl and turn before her very eyes. It was a surreal moment that tugged strangely at her memory but never came into focus. She blinked and the movement ceased.

She shook her head slightly and then dug deeper in the box pulling up the very same snow globe that was featured in the picture with her mother. It was heavy and ornate and seeing it now, in person, she could see all the detail that wasn’t in the photo. It was beautiful.

Inside the globe, two nondescript people stood, hands clasped together and leaning backward as if they were spinning together, dancing in the snow. They were surrounded by stands of tall pine trees and when she shook the globe the tiny bits of snow sprang to life, churning up from below and dancing merrily among the two figures. 

She ran her fingers along the lettering on the placket and felt a sudden wave of sadness wash over her at never really having known her mother. But that wasn’t really true. Their father had made her real for them. And she remembered having such a strong sense of her when she was a child.

She felt her brother’s eyes on her, and she looked up, meeting them with her own. He gave her a tender smile.

“I miss her too.” He said quietly.

It was such a strange thing to say, given that they never actually met her, but it didn’t feel strange because she knew what he meant. They did now her. Somehow, they knew her.

She returned his smile and then placed the globe back in the box.

“Well,” she said, rising from the arm of the couch, “my fate awaits me.” He got up as well and pulled her into a hug. “Wish me luck.” She said as she returned his hug, pushing up on tiptoes to reach him.

“My break ups are never easy.” He said as he released her. “Why should yours be?”

She laughed and shoved him back down to the couch.

“Enjoy the game.” She said, “I’ll see myself out.”

“Call me and let me know how it goes.” He called as she made her way to the door.

“Want to revel in my misery, do you?” She asked over her shoulder.

“Misery loves company.” He said smiling. “Seriously,” he said, “good luck, Bell.”

“Thanks Danny. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

And with that she was out the door.

She placed the box on her front passenger seat and securing her seat belt she began the long trek to Megan’s. It was already 8:00pm and it would take her at least 25 minutes to get there. Judging by the snow that began to slowly descend from the sky, it may take longer.

She contemplated calling but dismissed the idea knowing that Megan would suspect that something was wrong if she said she was making an unplanned stop at her place. She didn’t want to go through any pre-breakup before the breakup.

“Just rip it off like a band aid.” She told herself.

When she arrived at Megan’s nearly 35 minutes later, being slowed by the snow that had now begun to fall in earnest, she noted that there was a car that she didn’t recognize in the driveway.

It was curious, but not alarming. Megan, who was also a nurse, was going to school part-time to become a physician’s assistant and she sometimes had study groups at her house, although she really hoped that wasn’t the case tonight. She didn’t want to break up with Megan in front of a group of witnesses. Although, when she found out who was there, she wished that it had been a study group.   

As soon as the door opened and she saw Hillary standing there, the lights turned low inside the house, she knew what was happening. Hillary’s reputation preceded her, and she was dressed to annihilate. Megan had emerged from behind her with a shocked look on her face.

“Bell? What are you doing here?”

Campbell stood there, shocked, her mind trying to catch up with what she was seeing.   

It wasn’t that it was over; it had been coming for some time. It was the betrayal.

Yes, it was true that they weren’t right for each other, but she had thought that their relationship was at least monogamous. She felt so used and disrespected and though she had gone there to end things, she legitimately thought that the breakup would be amicable and that she and Megan might remain friends.

She liked Megan, a lot. True she wasn’t in love with her, but she’d always respected her and genuinely thought she was a good person.

Now, well, now she was just confused. Could she have been so wrong about her?

“Is this what I think it is Megan?” Campbell had asked incredulously. “Are you sleeping with her?” Megan had the good grace to look contrite and embarrassed as Hillary excused herself to the living room.

Megan had stepped out onto the porch closing the door behind her as if she were still trying to hide what was so painfully obvious.

Campbell was nearly speechless. She stood there staring at the woman she thought she knew as she shivered in the chill of the winter night.

So, Megan was having an affair. She may have been able to forgive the indiscretion had Megan not blamed her. Blamed her for crying out loud! It was Campbell’s fault that Megan had been unfaithful? Just how the hell did that work?

“Let’s just face it, Campbell.” Megan had said, assuming a defensive posture. “I was never good enough for you and you couldn’t give me what I needed.”

Campbell had shaken her head. Confused, she held up a hand.

“Let’s just take these in order, shall we? First, not good enough for me?”

“You know what I’m talking about Bell.” Megan accused. She affected a mocking tone. “Don’t use those answers Meg, it’s not right. You can learn the material yourself. Be an example to others, own up to your mistakes. Advocate for your patient Meg, don’t take the easy route. It’s alright if you fail this class, you can make it up next term.” Megan rolled her eyes. “Jesus! I felt as though I was dating a hall monitor for God’s sake! It’s not as if I had Daddy’s money to just retake classes at will!”

Campbell swallowed her anger over the comment concerning her tuition knowing that it was just an attempt to get under her skin.

“What, because I wanted you to be honest? I wanted you to be honorable and do the right thing? That’s somehow a bad thing?”

“You’re not my fucking mother Bell! You were supposed to be my girlfriend. You were supposed to support me and help me.”

“By enabling you to cheat and get over on the system?” She asked incredulously. “By making it okay for you to do that, to fall below your standards?”

“Your standards Bell, not mine! You never do anything wrong; you never break the rules. I was never good enough to be in your perfect orbit. Do you know how inadequate that makes me feel? I’m not perfect, and I can’t pretend to be!”

Campbell was shocked. Where was the kind caring woman she had known?

“I never wanted you to be perfect Meg. I just wanted you to try.”

“It never mattered how much I tried; you were always at me with your sanctimonious bullshit. I can’t do it anymore!” There was such distain in her voice, as if it had been building over the course of their entire relationship. How had she hidden it so well?

“Then why didn’t you just tell me Meg?” Campbell asked angrily. “Why didn’t you just leave me instead of letting me catch you here with someone else?”

Megan didn’t answer. She just stood there looking down at the ground. Finally, she gave a bitter laugh and shook her head.

“I guess this is just one more way that I don’t measure up huh?” Megan said.

“Don’t do that.” Campbell said wearily. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Megan shrugged. “I didn’t want to hurt you.”

Campbell nodded slowly biting her lip. “How long?”

Megan lifted her head and met Campbell’s eyes, but she remained silent. Only shaking her head slightly.

Campbell nodded again and then looked away, humiliated to feel the sting of tears in her eyes. She felt like such an idiot.

The rampant rumor mill in which she worked suddenly flashed through her mind and she closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger.

“Who else knows?” She asked quietly.

Again, Megan was silent.

Campbell looked up at her silence.

“What? Does the whole fucking hospital know Meg?” She asked angrily, pacing now in the small space of the porch.  “God, that place is so incestuous! Has everyone been talking behind my back; laughing at me?”

“God no, Bell! Everyone doesn’t know. Just Christy.” Christy was Megan’s best friend and worked in the same department as Campbell. “She hasn’t talked to me since she found out.” Megan said almost petulantly.

Campbell knew there was a reason that she liked Christy. It also explained why Christy had been giving her strange, sympathetic glances for the past two weeks.

“Okay.” She said slowly taking a deep breath, surprised by the hurt she felt. “And what about the other thing?”

“What other thing?” Megan asked.

“You said I couldn’t give you what you needed?”

Megan winced. “It’s nothing, it doesn’t matter.” She said clearly regretting her earlier words.

“It does matter.” Campbell said, anger bubbling up now. “What is it Meg? Was I not good enough for you in bed?”

“Bell, don’t.”

“No, come on, tell me.” She goaded. “You weren’t satisfied with our physical relationship?”

Meg was quiet for a long time, then finally in a quiet voice she said, “Not lately, no.”

Bell nodded. “Not lately. Okay. Then I feel it’s only fair to inform you that I was never satisfied with our sexual relationship.” She said vehemently. “Did it ever occur to you that you might be part of the problem Meg?”

And just like that, the venom came back into Meg’s voice. “Maybe if you’d wanted it more than once a week!” She accused.

“Maybe if you’d given me something to want.” Campbell shot back. She knew she was hitting below the waist, but she was too angry to care. “Sex requires give and take Meg, not just take.” Then she leaned in close, her voice low. “I hope your new fuckbuddy realizes the limits of your generosity.” With that she turned and strode toward her car.

“Fuck you, Bell!” She heard Megan call.

“When’s the last time you did that?” She called back before getting in her car and slamming the door. 

And so now here she was, driving back to her apartment in a fucking blizzard. How perfect.

By the time she drove away from Megan’s, for what she hoped was the last time, the snow had begun to fall in in abundance and the wind had picked up, flinging the fat flakes in every direction as she squinted through the windshield. She could barely see the road in front of her. 

She slowed as she approached a red light and had a moment of panic as her tires slid slightly in the slush. Her grip tightened once more on the steering wheel. She hated driving in the snow. She could feel the tension in her shoulders and the slight acceleration of her heartbeat. She wanted nothing more than to get home, take a hot shower and fall into the deep nothingness of sleep.

She wished that she didn’t have to work tomorrow. She hated that she couldn’t sleep in after such a shitty day. And she really wasn’t in the mood to deal with the entitled and sometimes belligerent people that found themselves in the downtown ER. The vulnerable, kind, and grateful patients that she sometimes encountered were becoming too few and far between.

If she were honest with herself, she wasn’t crazy about her job. The passion she once held for the profession had dwindled and the work felt more like a chore than a vocation.

She thought back to nursing school and how eager she’d been to learn about the wonders of the human body. She felt that the entire system was genius and she’d been fascinated with it. She remembered thinking that human physiology was clear evidence of divinity.

The actual job of nursing was much different than she’d imagined, and she soon learned that she was more interested in the learning than the working. Perhaps she should have gone into research.

She had to admit that she had gained extensive knowledge over the past five years through the experience of doing. She’d started out in a medical-surgical unit where she’d worked for a year before moving to the intensive care unit. She stayed there for two years when finally, she’d won the position that she’d been after since school; a nurse in the emergency department.

It had been so exciting at first, and there were still times when an interesting and engaging case came up. But generally, it had become redundant, and it just didn’t hold the same interest for her that it had in the beginning.

She felt herself falling into a hole of self-pity at the direction of her thoughts. Her life suddenly felt very bleak, and a cloud of depression fell over her. Her relationship was at a dead end, and she’d just had a sudden realization that she may be on the wrong path with her career.

She glanced at the box that sat in her passenger seat, images of her mother suddenly filling her head. She impulsively reached into the box and pulled out the snow globe, finding comfort in its solid weight. She shook it up and then peered into the scene at the two figures.

Campbell Winter Sawyer, who are you? She thought. What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Am I on the right path in any sense?

She stared into the globe as if it could give her the answers that she so desperately sought. She felt a response tugging at her as she gazed at the intertwined duo. A curious pulling sensation took hold of her and for a moment she was transfixed.

A reflection of green light suddenly filled the car, and she looked up to see that the light had finally turned.

She placed the snow globe on the passenger seat and slowly pressed the accelerator. Her wheels spun ineffectually at first before finally gaining traction and pulling her forward.

Despite the fact that she was driving through the back roads in an attempt to avoid the freeway, she was surprised that there weren’t any other cars on the road.

She slowly picked up speed as she neared a slight incline, worried that she wouldn’t make it to the top without the extra momentum.

As she crested the small hill, she realized that the other side was steeper than the one she’d just climbed. She took her foot off the gas and pressed the break slightly. She began to slide and let off the break immediately.

She was going faster now, and she felt control slipping away. She pumped the breaks a few times without success and suddenly she was going much too fast.

She felt the car sliding again and she tried to steer out of it. She over-corrected and suddenly she was sideways, spinning wildly across the road. Her sense of direction was completely skewed, and disorientation overtook her.

The car jerked abruptly and for a moment she felt weightless before she was violently slammed against the inside of the driver side door, once, twice. After the third time, she felt something heavy hit her head and then there was nothing, but blackness.       

A First Book Chapter
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