Jules/C3 Chapter 3
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Jules/C3 Chapter 3
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C3 Chapter 3

My alarm went off at 6 am. On a Sunday.

“Nelly!” I groaned into my pillow. “Did you mess with my alarm?”

The culprit poked her head into my room, wearing workout gears with her hair pulled up high. In one hand she clutched a large coffee mug. “Surprise, I signed you up to be my reading buddy. We need to get going for the meditation hike, and afterwards, Matt is teaching me how to read oracle cards.”

“What do you need me for?”

“You’re my reading buddy, of course. As if I’d read the cards to myself – that’s just silly.”

I pulled the covers over my head while grumbling an incoherent reply. It was too early for words. Plus Sunday was laundry day; she should know better than to interrupt my routine.

“Come on! I even made you coffee.” Nelly pulled the blanket back down. “And if you get ready in fifteen, I'll buy you donuts from that corner bakery you're always raving about.”

My head perked up. Curse my weakness for sugary treats. “The double chocolate supreme?”

“They're having a two for one sale.”



The morning breeze was crisp with the brush of spring, carrying a fragrant mix of pine and grass. A small handful from Nelly's meditation group made steady trek through the woods, their footsteps drumming a soft beat against the staccato bird songs. I trailed behind while nibbling away at my treats. I briefly considered leaving behind a crumb trail should we get lost, but quickly squashed the idea. This donut was too delicious to waste.

“Are we there yet?” I called out, finishing the last bite and already growing bored. Sundays should be spent with fresh laundry or a good book, not hiking through forests in the middle of nowhere. A mosquito buzzed in my ear and I swatted at it, slapping myself in the process.

“Why are you hitting yourself?” Nelly asked, falling in step beside me.

“I'm turning into mosquito food. Take me back to the city, please. The donuts were not worth it.” I gave her my best pleading eyes.

She chuckled, shaking her head. “As if you didn't savour every bite. And it's just a little past the bent, we're almost there. I'm sure you'll find the scenery inspiring for your next drawing.”

“Inspiring scenery is not going to make my clothes wash themselves, you know.”

“You have the rest of the day to get them done.”

“They would’ve already been done by now.”

We continued bickering for the next several minutes while walking into a sloping meadow cut through by a stream. Boulders scattered across the grassy plains, and the bubbling water cheerfully greeted hikers who dipped their feet in to cool down. Overhead, the sky stretched endless and blue.

“This place is gorgeous!” Nelly squealed, spinning around with outstretch hands.

“Are you having a Julie Andrews moment?” I asked, bemused.

“Yes and it's Instagram perfect.” She pulled out her phone and tossed it my way “Snap me.”

I held up her phone and was about to click on the camera when the guide leader, Matt, approached us. With his tanned skin and tousled hair that framed sparkling blue eyes, he looked like a golden Californian surfer. No wonder Nelly had taken to this with full enthusiasm.

“Ladies, no devices allowed,” he called out. “This is a nature retreat. We're disconnecting from technology completely for the next couple hours.”

Nelly sighed exasperatedly before stowing her phone back in her purse. I shrugged, half entertained by the notion of my roommate going longer than an hour without her phone. It was practically an extension of her.

Up ahead, Matt hopped onto one of the boulders and waved for the group to gather around. “Form a circle around me, everyone. We're going to start with some light meditation,” his deep voice rang out. “There's another group joining us in an hour, and once they arrive, we'll partner up and start the oracle cards.”

Giving Nelly a nudge, I whispered, “Is this for real? Do these people really believe cards can decipher the future?”

“It's not fortune telling. The cards are only meant to give you guidance, kind of like a push in the right direction.” She must have seen the doubt on my face, for she continued, “You take away from it what you want. Give it a chance, Kat, just keep an open mind.”

I shrugged and turned back to the group. My skeptical nature made spiritual concepts an impossible notion. If it couldn't be quantified, then I didn’t believe it. This love for the orderly was contrary to the other half of me that yearned for all of life’s unknowns. I longed to travel and experience the immeasurable wonders there were to be discovered. It was with this hunger that I packed a bag and spent two weeks wandering the grass slopes of the Balkans. I was scared and lost the whole time, but exhilarated beyond words.

The group formed a circle sitting cross-legged on the grass. I settled next to Nelly with my back turned to the road from where we came. A cool breeze drifted past, teasing my hair and bringing whiffs of a blooming spring. Closing my eyes, I breathed in the crisp air and savoured the fading traces of a long winter. After six months of snow in the east coast, the cold deserved a proper farewell.

Matt sat down on the boulder and rested the back of his palms on both knees, motioning for us to do the same. “Close your eyes and breathe deep,” he began, his chest lifting in a large inhale. “Clear your mind by focusing on this moment. The grass under your feet. The wind against your skin. The sun on your face. The only thing that exists is here and now, and it's beautiful.”

I breathed in deeply as he instructed, trying to keep my mind blank and not on the other thoughts rumbling about. My previous attempts at meditating hadn't been very successful but Nelly was right – it was a lovely day to spend outdoors. And at the very least, I could take a nap while the rest mediated.

“Keep an even pace with your breathing and focus on emptying your mind,” Matt instructed. “If you're having trouble with that, try listening to the sounds around you instead of your thoughts.”

Hmm, helpful advice. I furrowed my brows, straining to hear the echoes percolating through the forest. A bird chirped off into the distance. I wondered if it was a mating call. Maybe the little fellow was hoping to find itself a partner. A second chirp joined in to form a calling song, and I mentally cheered for the would-be love birds.

If only human dating was so easy.

My thoughts began wandering and I shook myself, steering my mind back to the moment. Breathing deep, I focused again on keeping a clear head. The birds continued chirping in the hush backdrop, joined by the rustling of bushes as critters scampered by. After several quiet minutes, I began fidgeting as boredom crept in. Peaking one eye open, I glanced around the group of meditators deep in their concentration. Some sat straight up in lotus poses, while others dipped their heads back with relaxed postures. A few had abandoned the stance entirely and were reclined across the grass, the sun fanning across their faces.

Wait a minute, these guys were sleeping. I stared suspiciously at the steady, slow rhythm of their chests. Either they were deep in the zone, or the cheats took advantage of a prime napping opportunity.

Quite the brilliant idea actually, I thought as I laid down on the cool forest floor. What better way to pass an hour than to sneak in some shuteye. Tucking an arm under my head, I drifted away to the soft sounds of a fragrant spring morning.

A soft jab jolted me from my doze. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up to see Nelly next to me. “Nice nap?” She whispered conspicuously.

I nodded, glancing at the rest of the group still deep in meditation. Matt remained perched on his boulder, though he was awake and looking over at us. Nelly waved and he hopped down with a long leap, the taunt muscles of his legs stretching from the jump.

“Bet he never skips leg days,” Nelly sighed as he made his way over.

I glanced between Matt and my roommate, envisioning the two of them together. With their blonde hairs and athletic frames, they would make a striking couple.

“Did you two enjoy your meditations?” Matt asked as he reached us, the sun gleaming through the highlights of his tousled locks.

“Yes,” Nelly replied breathily. “I feel so relaxed now, but this one here,” she nudged me, “Decided to take a nap.”

I stuck my tongue out at the tattletale. Matt chuckled and motioned to another member lying on the grass.

“The new ones tend to fall asleep,” he explained. “It takes practice to maintain a conscious clear mind.”

“Hear that, Kat? You need practice.” Nelly parroted.

Giving her the stink eye I retorted, “What I need is another nap.”

Nelly and Matt laughed just as footfalls sounded from behind. Matt looked over my shoulders, a welcoming smile stretching over his lips. “Here comes Jules with the second group. Excellent, we can get started with the cards now.”

I froze at his words. There was no way – this was a big city and Jules was a common enough name, right?

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