CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

 

 

'Petra couldn’t Protect her from the Wolf.'

 

 

It was this unrecognized feeling of overwhelming shame that led Lyla to track down Petra in desperation of healing. She knew she needed to discard this unidentified heaviness she carried, this mask she wore to hide her fundamentally flawed belief system. Petra had been open to letting Lyla back into her life…like true friends who will always be there for each other, despite time and distance creating gaps in communication.

 

The older woman had sensed Lyla’s innate shift from the perceived self assurance she’d owned as Genevieve, to once again feeling blinded to her direction, lost in vulnerability. She had heard it in her voice over the phone, felt it’s vibration edge towards her and fill her with a sensation like trying to catch a bubble floating in the air without popping it. Lyla, she knew, instinctively, could slip back into her former destructive eating disorder if her ambition to find herself went without direction, or worse…in the wrong direction. 

 

She could also sense the young woman’s spirit encircling Lyla, almost surreptitiously, as if afraid of rejection. Petra intuitively perceived that, to Lyla, love of ones self was precariousness in nature, unreliable, able to disappear without leaving a forwarding address. Lyla still lacked an anchor to her true essence. What she lacked…was her soul.

 

So Petra, once again, tended to Lyla with generous energy of love and all the wisdom of sentiment. She would take her the most serene, magical, spiritual place in nature she knew. It was her special place. The place where she had performed many Shamanic healing ceremonies, the place where bonfires and drumming lured you into the other worlds. It was secluded enough that she could almost guarantee they would be alone.

 

The warmth of the sand still infused with the sun’s energy was felt beneath their bare skin. It tingled caressingly and Lyla wanted to roll around in it like a cat but was just too relaxed to move. Peta and she lay next to each other on the broad beach that connected the rugged cliff face to the edge of the tides. They had ventured far down the Great Ocean Road to this isolated stretch of coast line, where they knew they could be naked and undisturbed. 

They lay bathed in the magnetic pull of the moon, spreading their fingers out against the Southern Cross twinkling above them. For a long time they hadn’t spoken. Petra had been right of course when she’d mentioned to Lyla….that what was missing was the self assurance she had felt when she had been ‘Genevieve.’  She missed the perceived power, the sense of control over her life even though it had not manifested in real experiences. She missed what had existed beyond the seemingly intangible, and beyond the invisible...the fleeting essence of connection to something ethereal, that she would feel after a ‘session’. 

 

That ‘consciousness’ she had felt, Petra had explained was anything but ‘connection to something outside of herself’, instead she extolled Lyla for allowing herself to feel a place of authentic connection within herself…to herself. 

 

Petra insisted that Lyla had again become lost, tossed by the winds like an uprooted sticky vine clinging to whatever would accept her fronds, only to have them ripped off again with the next gust. Peta explained that she had discarded this connection to her authentic self when she discarded ‘Genevieve’, but that it was as real as she was here now.

 

It was still within, Lyla just had to learn to embrace those feelings again as Lyla. So Peta spent a good hour guiding her through breathing exercises. She had ‘muscle tested’ and applied her Reiki in attempt to cleanse her sorrowful, heavy energy, and reconnect her to the ‘source’ as she called it. Whatever ‘It’ was. 

 

Petra tried to bestow her ‘New Age’ wisdom on Lyla, take her on a spiritual journey and infuse her with a gentle self appreciation by bringing her awareness to the miracle of how her body had healed with time and grace. She talked of spirit guides and elders, of ancestors and power animals. Lyla silently wasn’t being gracious at all though. How could Petra possibly use this invisible energy, these ‘imaginary’ people and animals she always insisted were all powerful and unconditionally loving to help her? Peta had always been ‘out there’ way beyond her time. 

 

Lyla didn’t respect Petra’s spiritual gifts or understand the significance that she had mastered a practical ability to heal. Petra’s energetic healing abilities were 'honed' and she was determined she could help Lyla, although Lyla still was too frightened to face the truth behind her surface problems. The problem was not whether Petra could help, the problem was that Lyla didn’t believe she could be helped…by anyone, even though she so desperately wanted to heal. Lyla didn’t believe she was capable of the changes that seemed overwhelming, daunting and yet necessary. She didn’t even know what it was she truly needed. 

 

Was it courage, strength, understanding, clarity, forgiveness? She was so detached from herself again as to be clueless. Peta was still a ‘working girl’ and Lyla couldn’t prevent the disbelief that if she really could tap into this elusive power, honestly align herself and others with it, then why wasn’t she doing so to make a better life for herself? 

 

Lyla’s judgement was harsh and inaccurate and neglectful of the fact that Petra was just human too with possibly blockages to this proposed emotional and spiritual freedom on some levels herself. She was ignorant that Petra’s path had deliberately been chosen so that she could evolve beyond her own limitations.

 

Afterwards when Lyla sat up, both of them mesmerized by moonlight illuminating the slumbering ocean, turning into a sheet of onyx glass. There was no doubt Lyla had never felt such an intense longing, but for what she still wasn’t sure. Nevertheless, she did feel filled with a peace for the first time in years. Could it really be possible that this feeling of safety, of love was infused in her by what Peta had done with her  ‘energy work,’ her gentle yet firm touch again through massage? Was it the moon, and it’s illusion of being suspended, as immovable as a stone in the ocean, or all of the above? She didn’t know. She didn’t want it to end. 

 

It felt like some kind of reconnecting of her heart to her essential being. It felt like she had literally called out silently, with intent and with love, to her soul, and her soul had begun to answer her.

 

As they dressed and walked across the sand to the steep path up the cliff, Lyla turned to look over her shoulder one last time at the motionless sea. An intense yearning, to know herself, to belong....somewhere, to not feel dead inside, to let go the constant feelings of being afraid, began filling her with a warmth that flowed in with a foreign sense of gratitude.

 

It was appreciation, a stranger had landed on the shore with the tide, and stepped out onto the sands with arms outstretched in acceptance of who she was, right there, right now. She was Lyla, and she was given permission to love herself. With every arduous step up the cliff stairs that had been forged roughly through nature and compounded by man,  Lyla felt the peace spread out within her, but by the time she reached the car, this peaceful acceptance had begun to blend with a feeling of subtle dread, such as the feeling sometimes when you arrive home but just don’t want to go inside.

 

The next day, peace would be almost forgotten, all that remained was a memory of it’s suggestion when Lyla was back in her empty, seemingly purposeless life. All she could feel again was the desperate need to be ‘rescued’. The ‘magic’ of Petra had disintegrated with the passing of midnight, like Cinderella’s finery. 

 

Shame and fear remained attached like Siamese twins. Shame was Lyla’s cloak fashioned from despising the ‘type’ of woman she had become and the accompanying feeling of worthlessness. She had not felt such degradation since before embracing the pseudo empowerment of working as ‘Genevieve’. She had protected herself from the emotional impacts and covered the wounds of the former attempt at her life, but now just being herself, just plain old Lyla, she felt weak, exposed and overcome with regret that she had seduced and sought immoral empowerment through affairs. 

 

It occurred to her however that Petra had indeed opened something within her. Alongside the shame was a shadow. The shadow was timid and elusive, could be felt yet not grasped. The shadow was a whisper as well. Both seen and heard at times without invitation, and slippery like trying to catch a fish in the river with your bare hands. 

 

The shadow represented acceptance, of the duality and a sense of being ok with it. Lyla did what Petra had instructed and just allowed herself to ‘sit’ with these 

feelings, own them and use them to get to know herself instead of recoiling in fear or contempt. When she did so, she began to realize she really had been given a second chance at life….and it was up to her to embrace it…regardless of feeling worthy or not. So Lyla did indeed just accept her feelings and begin to groom her psyche with acceptance…..regardless, just to see what happened. 

 

Then, one day during lunch at work, she was introduced....to him, and Lyla inadvertently chose a path where everything changed…….outwardly.

 

 

They were introduced at a private club during the traditional three hour liquid lunch that those in the stockbroking world of the early 90’s enjoyed. The air was thick with cigar smoke, the chauvinism thicker still. The smooth, free flowing  scotch never had the time to breath into it’s full richness and no one ever really knew or cared who paid the tab. 

 

The cell phones were the size of children’s shoes and outrageously expensive but you could still hear multiple shrill cries over the raucous conversations. Some of the most consequential deals were conducted during these lunches, by inebriated middle aged advisors so sloshed their words were as unsupportive as their stance. Signatures of those with client funds to throw around competed with the alcohol rings stained on the napkins. Agreements like these were then sealed with a gentleman’s handshake and a jovial thump on the back. Deal done!

 

Unabashedly it was the ‘Gordon Gecko’ shirt and suspenders that kept Lyla’s attention after the initial introduction. Brian wasn’t typically someone she’d take an interest in but there’s no denying there was a certain something. She wouldn’t exactly call it chemistry...more like seeking punishment. He was aloof, conceited and it worked on her like a charm. It’s all she needed to initiate a challenge.

 

His name was bland, common. ’Brian’ had just returned from overstaying his visa in the US. where he had become besotted with the Amway movement and allowed the auspicious nature of its call to instill a desperate ambition in him. He was obsessive about getting back to the US somehow and was saving his money by living at home with his parents in a working class suburb far out of the city and using public transport. She had no idea he didn’t have a car or live on his own because in actuality he couldn’t afford it. Lyla had no idea he didn’t have two pennies to rub together and was really just ‘starting’ out like she was. His clothing was expensive, he mingled amongst the right crowd, knew the high-flyers and frequented the exclusive gentlemen’s ‘Savage Club.’ He sold a good story. He sported a convincing front.

 

Lyla didn’t find him typically handsome in the traditional way but he was appealing in a way she couldn’t quite pin down. She couldn’t call him alluring, in fact he was rather ordinary looking but something she couldn’t understand made him attractive to her. What was it? Was it his sense of conceit, his aura of arrogance that seemed to beckon her? 

 

When they started dating a pattern emerged. He never seemed to have any cash. He’d take out his debit card for even the smallest things which usually resulted in Lyla paying instead. This should have been a huge red flag. But Lyla was quickly hooked on the mystery. That seemingly undefinable quality she was attracted to had her blinded to the truth of this man so she couldn’t see the trap until she was snared. That trap was called…. ‘potential.’ 

 

Potential had a partner….assumption, and the pair presented her with an excuse every time her sensibilities about Brian tried to get her attention. Consequently it was the beginnings of a tumultuous relationship based on Lyla’s longing to feel safe, and the unseen undercurrent of self destruction. 

 

They would hire a car on some weekends and drive the Great Ocean Road to the secluded back beach towns where the surf seemed always perfect. They’d stay in the roughest of beach cabins at the local caravan park and sometimes sleep in the car just to be able to surf or boogie board. Brian was cheap. They split everything and he was eager to take advantage of ‘roughing it’ over comfort. He preferred to spend most nights during the week at Lyla’s luxurious apartment rather than at his parents. When she learned his mother was charging him rent for the nights he was at home, this should have been enough reason for her to bail on the quasi relationship. But she was still seduced and encouraged by the intangible essence surrounding Brian that she interpreted as ‘promise’.  

 

When one Autumn evening her room mate returned from a business trip to announce he was relocating, it seemed the natural thing to do was get a place with Brian. Within the month they had signed a lease together in an elite suburb at the edge of the city, adjacent to the gardens. From the outside Lyla and Brian looked the perfect ‘Yuppie’ couple. On the inside however, they both grappled with deeply entrenched issues of identity that kept them trapped in the invisible cage of an entirely dysfunctional and superficial relationship. Brian’s ego, miserliness and petty jealousies were caustic, and Lyla’s manufactured fortress against vulnerability and lack of self-respect prevented authentic intimacy from emerging.

 

Her naive assumption that Brian still had potential convinced her that he was worth the wait, worth the sacrifice of ‘dressing down’ both her physical presentation and personality to appease his resentful, self important nature that had emerged. Worth relinquishing a little more of the essence she was beginning to relax back into. Worth sacrificing her own potential for the milieu of perceived safety that she assumed translated as his tight grip on her expression as a woman. Worth giving up creative endeavors that had begun to feed her strangled spirit such as singing 

training which Brian ridiculed, found inconvenient and flatly refused to encourage.

 

Subconsciously, Lyla knew this was not the man for her. Yet consciously she felt trapped by an expensive lease and a paltry salary that she considered rendered her in practical terms, incapable of leaving. She couldn’t see a way out. Despite a 

 

 

multitude of girl talks, heavy with despair and enquiring conversations trying to elicit a solution sloshing around in Merlot, Lyla decided to stay with Brian. Stay until the lease expired. 

 

Like so many women, she failed to recognize the escape route that was concealed under the ‘lack of money’ trap. What she really lacked was........faith. Faith in her own ability to create from nothing, something that would sustain her. She was oblivious to her own resourcefulness. Nothing but fear and ignorance was to blame for her circumstances. 

 

Their relationship lacked honesty and substance from the very outset. More importantly, it lacked the essential ingredient of compassion. They became entangled in a Chinese finger trap....each of them at opposite ends trying to pull apart, trying to preserve their egos but the more they pulled the more stuck they became. 

 

And then, one Sunday morning, only four months before the lease was to expire and Lyla was planning to travel on a shoe string with her best friend, see the world working her way around, have the first real adventure of her life, she found herself horribly nauseas while cooking Brian’s breakfast. The fat in the frying pan made her stomach churn and the smell of sticky heavy bacon hanging in the air made her head spin. She tried to lay down, but it just made her feel worse. There was no way she would be able to go to work the next morning if she was this sick. So she  went into the urgent care clinic later that morning for two things, a certificate for work absence and something to settle the stomach bug….she came out….pregnant.