Her whimsical smile glows as she nods. “Yes, my name is Cynamon. You can call me Cyn. It’s less of a mouthful that way.”
I chuckle in agreement, thinking the name fits the body.
Now there’s a thought that seems familiar.
“What are they doing? Why have they gathered here?” People stand around smoking black objects, drinking amber-colored liquid I think may be the beer I smelled earlier. The aroma of meat fills the air, and my stomach rumbles in response.
“They’re tailgating before the big game today.”
“Tailgating? Big game?” I take a step forward, only to feel her hand lightly on my shoulder. I’m immediately stopped, all forward motion gone.
“Tailgating is where people gather to grill food and eat, have a bit of fun before a sporting event. The big game is the Midwest College Regional Championship football game. The Miners must win in order to be considered for the bowl game in Pasadena.” Cyn flutters her wings for a moment then wraps them around me. The scents and sounds of the tailgating disappear without a trace of existence.
“Why do you keep doing that?”
Her laughter is sweet and intoxicating and ignites my senses. “It’s the quickest way to get where we’re going.”
“And where is that?” Uncertain of what the answer may be, I hold my breath for a moment. My mind is blank except for little dots of light filtering through the denseness.
“To another piece of your past. Something that was the first love in your life. It was your only focus most of the time.” Cyn opens her wings, and I step out into a room full of men in red-and-white clothing.
Sweat and leather assault my senses. Big white numbers are on the back of their shirts, and I see the number 80 and the name Thomas. A spark of recognition jolts through me as a door slams and the younger, leaner version of me turns and looks through me. I turn to see what has caused this distraction, and my heart hammers hard in my chest.
“Coach Riley.” The younger, leaner me stands waiting for something to happen, as it always has when Coach walks into the locker room.
“Coach. How could I ever forget him? He was instrumental in getting me into a pro camp as a walk-on.” I can’t yet comprehend how someone so important to me at one time ends up being something less than a memory.
“You’ll have more of these moments, Lee. The further we uncover who you are, the more alive you’ll feel.” The wing fluttering up around me only means we are moving on.
“No!” I step out of its shadow then look into her eyes. There is compassion and something I couldn’t quite put my finger on deep in them. “Something’s about to happen; I can feel it.”
“You can feel it?” Cyn laughs lightly. “Wonderful. Okay, a few moments longer, and then we must be on our way.”
“Thomas!” Coach Riley’s tenor voice booms through the locker room like an exploding bomb.
“Yeah, Coach?” My voice mingles with that of my younger self. My heart thunders in my chest like a herd of stampeding horses. Coach had a way of doing that to me. I’m not sure whether it was out of respect or fear.
“Keep your feet true to the ground and eye on the prize, boy.” Coach weaves through the players, looking each of them square in the eye. His meaning is crystal-clear. Today means everything to him. It will be his last hoorah. Coach will be retiring from college ball after this season. The pros want his ability to move a team down the field, so he is headed for sunny California.
I rub my temples, the sudden flood of memories overwhelming. In the dark tunnel of my mind, a gray orb is moving slowly through the inky depths toward me.
“It’s time to go.” Cyn’s wings engulf me, and I feel my body lift as she whisks me away.
“Where are you taking me this time? I really wanted to stay with the guys. I miss their comradery.”
Cyn looks down at me, her eyes sparkling like diamonds on a pool of water. “A place where love grows.”