Lena's nightmares didn't come up in conversation again for the rest of the day. The girls spent their time talking about the latest celebrity breakup, who was dating who in school, and the most recent rumors that were spreading about their peers. They gave each other makeovers with facial masks and cucumbers over their eyes, which Lena had never understood. Did the cucumbers actually do anything?
Just as the nightmares were the furthest thing from her mind, while they were waiting for their nail polish to dry, Lena's mom called up the stairs to beckon them for dinner. As they headed down the stairs, they waved their hands frantically in the air in an attempt to speed up the drying of the polish.
As Serena and Lena sat down to dinner with Lena's parents, she suddenly remembered why they had stayed up in her room all day. Things were unusually and awkwardly quiet, and her parents kept looking at her like they expected her to have an emotional breakdown right there at the table. Due to this discomfort, the girls ate as quickly as they could, put their dishes in the sink and headed back upstairs.
"What's up with your parents?" Serena asked once they were back in the confines of Lena's room.
"I… kind of freaked out when I saw the news report on Leanne…" she replied hesitantly. Just the thought of it sent an involuntary shiver down her spine.
They were silent for a minute, and Lena found herself staring down at the floor, unable to look Serena in the eye. Finally, her best friend spoke.
"Do you want me to sleep on the floor or with you?" They usually slept in the same bed, as Lena had a queen, but tonight was different. She didn't know whether she'd feel more comfortable with Serena next to her or not. Then again, the thought of Serena sleeping next to her made her feel strangely for some reason. It never had before.
"You can sleep with me if you want. Just… Don't be surprised if I kick you if I do start… Dreaming again…" she said, unable to mention her nightmares for what they were.
Serena nodded. "Okay. I'm going to get ready for bed then. We don't have to go to sleep immediately though." With that, she went through Lena's drawers and grabbed a pair of pajama pants and a tank top and headed into the bathroom. For a moment, Lena stared after her in confusion, wondering why she had grabbed some of her clothes. Then, she recalled that Serena had only decided she was staying the night after she'd already gotten there.
Lena quickly changed into some pajamas as well and climbed into bed. She glanced beside her at the second pillow, where Serena would shortly be resting her head, and felt very strange. It was as if she was nervous to be in close proximity to her best friend. But why on earth would she worry about being near Serena? They had had sleepovers numerous times before. What was different now?
It must be my nightmares. I must be afraid of them, she thought, dismissing any other possibility. It was bad enough she was dreaming the future, she didn't need to be having…
At that moment, Serena opened the door and Lena nearly jumped out of the bed in surprise. She was grateful to her for jostling her from her thoughts. That had been one thing she didn't want to ever admit.
Serena climbed into bed as well beside Lena and propped the pillows so she could sit up. "You okay?" she asked, noticing her friend's troubled face.
She nodded too quickly. "Yeah," she said, forcing a smile. She wished her stomach would calm down. She could tell Serena saw right through her answer, but to her relief, didn't mention it.
"Okay. Let's see if I can do this. Don't tell anyone, but I have a friend who practices witchcraft. I think she calls it Wicca. She's taught me some stuff and it's interesting –" Lena cut her off.
"Wait, wait. You don't mean to tell me you actually believe in witchcraft?" she hissed, hearing her parents come upstairs and go to their room. "Give me a break!"
Serena glowered at her. "You know, according to the teachings of Wicca, a lot of the morals aren't too dissimilar from Christianity. And, just so you know, I'm not the one dreaming of the future. Melin could probably teach you some things."
"So what, are you telling me you're a witch? What about church? What about God?" The thought of her best friend being a witch on top of her nightmares was almost too much to bear. If her parents knew, they'd never let her speak to Serena again. Of course, if they knew about her nightmares, her fate would be much worse. So much had happened in just the past few days and she felt about ready to explode from stress.
Serena sighed. "Lena, I've never really been a Christian. It never fit. My parents make me go to church and they don't know that I don't believe in God. I'm sorry I never told you, but they're not God-fearing either. They argue all the time and I'm pretty sure my father's… having an affair. So is my mom. Isn't that one of the Ten Commandments? 'Thou shalt not commit adultery?'"
Lena stared at her. How could she have never known that Serena was keeping a secret too? It was overwhelming to think that her best friend, who she'd met at church, didn't believe in God. "So, what do you believe in?"
"I'm not really sure," Serena said nervously. It was strange to see her best friend, usually so confident, so unsure of herself. "I like the Wiccan teachings, but I need to learn more from Melin and do some research on my own before I say I actually believe in it. But that's not why I brought all this up."
"Why did you bring it up then?"
"Melin taught me how to meditate. To focus your energy and clear your head. It helps during… well… spells. I figured maybe if you meditated and thought only of Leanne that you'd dream of her and have a clearer image of what's going on." Serena's voice was hesitant, as if she wasn't sure how Lena would take this information and suggestion.
Lena had to admit, she wasn't taking it well. "You're telling me you want me to do a spell? You want me to do witchcraft? I'm a Christian!" she practically cried.
"Lena, please, you're parents would kill me if they knew," Serena said, her eyes begging her to stay quiet. "I'm not asking you to do a spell, just a meditation. What could it hurt? You're not betraying God if you try to help someone, are you?"
Lena thought about it for a moment. Her father had always preached about loving thy neighbor. Maybe Serena was right. Still, she couldn't wrap her head around doing something quite like this. Clear her head? She had so much going on in it. How on earth could she ever clear it enough to only think of Leanne? So much more was racing through it like Nascar.
"Okay," she said finally. "How do I do this?"
Serena threw the covers off of her and slid in the bed to face her, cross-legged. "Face me," she instructed. As Lena did, Serena grabbed her hands, sending a shiver through her. Was this the strange feeling she was getting whenever she was near her lately? Was she picking up on this witchcraft stuff?
Serena closed her eyes and spoke in a low tone, a tone that Lena had never heard before from her. A tone that made her stomach flip upside down. "Now, clear your head of everything. I hope I do this right. Melin led me through a couple, but I don't know how I'll do with leading one. Anyway, picture yourself in a dark room. You're sitting on the floor and no light is coming in from anywhere. You're sitting cross-legged, like you are now, but you're alone. You have no worries, no fears, and no emotions. You're just there."
Lena listened to her and did what she said. At first, it was very difficult to erase all of her worries, but as she pictured herself sitting in this black room, eyes closed, and listening to Serena's calm and soothing voice, she slowly found herself drifting away. She didn't even notice that Serena had stopped talking, probably to meditate herself. When she did speak again, her voice was barely more than a whisper, and it almost didn't register in Lena's mind to listen.
"Think of Leanne. Her face, her blonde hair, and her blue dress. Ask her where she is, but don't say it aloud. Just think of her."
Leanne's face began to swim in front of her eyelids, but she remained calm in her meditation. Had she been more alert, this fact would have terrified her in itself. Leanne wasn't smiling as she hugged her teddy bear to her.
Where are you, Leanne Murphey? Lena asked her silently. There was no response, but the little girl gave her a small smile.
After a few more minutes of sitting in silence, Lena staring at Leanne's sweet face, Serena began to draw her out of it. "All right, now come back to me, Lena."
At the same time, the girls opened their eyes and looked deep into each other's. Lena felt amazingly calm and collected, sitting there with her hands in Serena's. Her eyelids felt heavy and her body felt relaxed. "Wow," was all she could manage to whisper.
"Are you ready to sleep now?" Serena asked, seeming relaxed herself.
Lena nodded slowly and they let go of each other's hands. They slid under the covers and, though she had originally didn't think she could move so much after such an experience, managed to turn out the lamp beside her bed. She laid her head on her pillow and closed her eyes. To her mild surprise, she felt herself drifting off almost immediately. She felt Serena's arm slide around her waist, something her friend had never done before.
As she slid close to Lena, she whispered, "Everything will be okay. I'm here."
Lena didn't even have the energy to respond. She fell asleep in comfort.