Meghan's training at the Academy is coming to an end. Everything is going great as she comes closer to graduation. She is engaged to be married and the wedding is near when she hears some disturbing news that makes her rethink her future.
In class the students are learning to catch dreams and fly with the speed of light. Meghan soon discovers her special talents and that she is much stronger than she thought. But unfortunately that doesn't help her as she faces the truth about her own death, which will be revealed to her at the end of the year.
Endurance is the third book in Willow Rose's Afterlife series about a young girl's life after death.
The two-story brick house was set back from the street on a wooded lot. I stood for a long time under one of the trees and stared at the house. I knew I had to go in, but I hesitated. I didn’t know what I was doing there, why I had come, but I knew that something horrible had happened in this particular house. Don’t ask me how, I knew it. I just did.
I tried to be still inside. To keep my calm. But my heart was pounding. A neighbor drove by, looking at the house quickly and then looking away. This was the kind of house that only outsiders and kids would dare to stare at.
I floated around the house and looked in a rear window. I could see all the way through to the light in the front yard, past silhouettes of furniture. The scent of jasmine was heavy in the air. I remembered having read once that jasmine was supposedly as calming to people as a prescription tranquilizer. If it worked on spirits, I didn’t know. I didn’t feel any calmer.
A latticed porch ran across most of the back. The seal of the police department stretched across the porch door. I put out my hand and pushed myself right through the locked door and into the kitchen. I stopped at the breakfast table. Pictures of a happy family around the table flashed before my eyes. The smell of pancakes and freshly brewed coffee. Laughter and even quarrels at the table. These walls had seen a lot. The first step of a baby, the kiss from a husband who just got promoted, a young mother crying from lack of sleep, a child getting a band-aid on her bruised knee.
The thermostat clicked and the air conditioning went on, causing me to feel a tickle of fear.
I turned my head and looked at the kitchen door. Plywood covered a broken window. He entered that way, I thought to myself. Whoever it was had put his hand through that window and entered. As the thought came into my mind I suddenly saw the gloved hand in front of my eyes and the glass shattering all over the floor. The fingers snaked through the hole and reached for the lock. I heard the sound of the door silently opening and saw a pair of black shoes on the wooden kitchen floor.
When I blinked it was gone.
I floated through the living room and found the stairs. The steps did not creak underneath me because I didn’t touch them. But they had that night. By the weight of the intruder. It was like I could still hear them. Like the sound had never left the house.
Now I was in the doorway of the master bedroom. The room had a coppery smell of blood that made my stomach turn. A pool of dried-up blood covered the middle of the wooden floor next to the bathroom door. I blinked again and saw a man come out of the bathroom whistling. It was dark, but the killer could see him in the faint light from the bathroom. He had taken off his shirt and now he took off his watch and put it on the nightstand. Then he went toward the dresser. It was almost time for bed. His wife was already under the covers, waiting for him to turn off the darn light and stop that whistling so she could sleep. She had to get up early, like she always did.
Her eyes were closed as the killer crossed the room and grabbed her husband. He barely made a sound before his throat was cut.
I gasped and blinked again. The daylight was back and the bloodstains were all that was left. I wanted to get out of that house as fast as I could fly, but for some reason I stayed. I felt like there was a reason for me being there.
The bloodstains on the floor, on the bed and the walls were screaming at me. I couldn’t get the screams out of my head. I flew back in the corridor and stayed until my head was quiet. Pictures kept flashing before my eyes. The killer had cut the husband’s throat and then stabbed the wife in the bed. Right in her stomach as she tried to rise and run for help.
Then what? I looked at the door to the next room. I swallowed hard. Had he gone in there next? I pushed the door open and gasped. Bloodstains covered the pink heart-shaped rug on the floor of this room. It belonged to a teenage girl by the look of the posters, makeup and mirrors. A series of rapid pictures entered my head like a small movie. Quick footsteps toward the door. The door being kicked open. An empty room. Fast steps toward the bed and the killer reached down to grab a hand. Then someone was pulled screaming out from under the bed. It was a girl.
I blinked again and it was gone. The scream remained in my head. My heart raced. I thought I heard voices everywhere. People fighting for their lives, struggling to keep death out. A mother crawling on the floor to the room next door, trying to save her daughter while her own life was running out. My stomach hurt from all the pain in this house.
Who were these people? Why was I here? Who was the girl?
Far away from the scene, in a completely different realm, I woke with a start. I lay flat on my back, breathing like had I been running for my life. I sat up and realized I was still in my bed at the white castle.
I closed my eyes tightly and tried to remember what the people in my dream had looked like. I had only really seen the husband, but even his face was just a blur to me. It was impossible. All the dream had left me was a feeling of horror I couldn’t escape. It was in my body and it felt like a constant chill, as if an ice cube was sliding slowly down my back.
Who were those people? Had it happened for real or was it just my imagination? I had never dreamed anything this vividly before, not even in my nightmares about my parents that had haunted me ever since I died and came to the Academy. Come to think of it, it was the first time I had dreamed about anything else than about my parents looking for me in the forest. Why was I suddenly dreaming about something else? Why now?
I put my face in my hands blocking out the dormitory with my heavily sleeping classmates. I tried to hold on to that picture of the husband in the dimly lit bedroom, tried to hold on to his face. Was it at all familiar to me? Had I known him?
But it was like trying to hold on to water. It slowly slipped out. All the details of his face disappeared. If I only had the chance to see his eyes, but there hadn’t been enough light for that. Was there something else that I could recognize? Something in the house maybe? Did I know these victims? Or did I know the house, the neighbors or maybe even … the killer?
I lowered my hands from my face and opened my eyes again. Acacia, Mai and Jackline were still sleeping. Next to my bed I had piled all of my books, ready for the first day of school. The third and final year at the Academy was ahead of us. That final year where we would graduate and finally get our file, finally get to know who we used to be on earth and how we died.
One book was open. I had read from it before I fell asleep. Dream a Little Dream of Me: What a Spirit Should Know about Dream Catching, Volume 1. An old lady in the picture stared at me and I closed it. Dream Catching was one of the new classes we had to take as third-year students. I looked forward to that. Was it what I read in the book before bed that had caused me to have this strange and horrifying dream?
I got out of the bed and flew to my favorite spot in the windowsill. I stared out of our tower. The sun was about to rise behind the big forest. I had been told by our riding instructor that a unicorn lived in there, but he was the only one who had ever seen it. I still hoped to one day grab a glimpse of it.
The rainbows surrounding the white marble castle glittered as the sunbeams hit them in the sky. Soon all the magnificent colors in the yard returned by the warm touch of the sun as the day was about to begin. From where I was sitting I could peek into the Butterfly Garden and see the flowers stretching in the dim morning light making long shadows in the moist grass. Butterflies in all colors started their busy day flickering around.
As I looked at the beautiful scenery there was one thought I just couldn’t get out of my head. Could that young girl in my dream have been me? Was this the way I had died?
Mick met me at breakfast as usual. Ever since we had become engaged we had kind of become the school couple. The ones everybody talked about and knew who we were. It was a little difficult for me to suddenly become this public person. I liked to be anonymous and just blend in. Mick however enjoyed the attention. He would stop and talk to people all the time no matter where we were. People asked him about the wedding plans, and he smiled and took his time to chat. On the other hand, I just smiled and blushed when someone asked me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in my own upcoming wedding, I just … well I think I just thought it was a little premature. Things happened a little too fast for my taste. Mick pressed me about setting a wedding date and I kept postponing it. Right now I had enough to think about. My last year of school was a big deal to me.
“So, first day of school, Meghan?” Mick said as he approached my table.
I didn’t look up. I stared at my bagel and felt like it was looking back at me with that one hollow eye. I felt nauseous and had no appetite at all. The pictures from the nightmare were too close to even think about food right now. Every time I tried to pick up my bagel from the plate I could taste that coppery smell in my mouth. Mick sat down next to me and poured himself some hot steaming coffee from his hands. “Are you excited?”
I looked at him and caught his beautiful blue eyes. He looked great as always. Picture perfect with his blond hair pulled back and his sparkling smile. “You haven’t even touched your food. Is something wrong?”
“I’m not hungry,” I said.
Mick looked at me with worried eyes. “Uh-oh, something must be up. You always have an appetite.”
“I just had a bad dream. That’s all.”
“The same old one with your parents?” He sipped the coffee.
I grabbed my cup between my hands and sipped as well. It tasted great, as it always did. Hazelnut. Mick knew exactly how I liked it. He worked in the kitchen and prepared the food for all the spirits at the Academy. I had no idea how he did it. He made it appear through his hands somehow. But it was always perfect. And always what people wanted at that exact moment.
I shook my head. I hesitated to answer. I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell Mick about it. Telling would mean I had to relive it all and I really didn’t want that. But I couldn’t lie to Mick either.
“No, this was a new one,” I said and hoped to end it here.
Mick nodded. “What was it about?”
I sighed. Then I decided to tell him everything. I hurt inside while I was telling it, but it also felt good to talk about it, to get it out. I felt like I had actually been there. The smells, the sounds, and the emotions. It was all so real to me. When I was done, Mick stared at me. He hadn’t touched his coffee all this time.
“That was quite a nightmare,” he said.
I drank some more of my coffee. I waited for the caffeine to kick in.
“The worst part is that I have no idea what it meant. Why did I dream this right now? Who were these people? Did it really happen?” I said and added, “I think it did. It was so realistic.”
Mick drank again while he stared pensively into thin air.
“Why should it mean anything?” he said and shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t know. I just feel like it does.”
“It’s just a feeling. Maybe it’s nothing …” I sighed again. It was always hard to explain a feeling to people. It was like explaining a color to a blind person.
“What feeling?” he asked.
“Well … It was like I was meant to see all this. Like someone wanted me to be there. Like I was supposed to see it, because someone wanted to tell me something … I don’t know.” I stopped myself. I was rambling, I thought. It didn’t make sense. “I’m sorry. I’m a little off this morning.”
“No, no, keep talking,” Mick said. “It makes perfectly sense to me.”
I looked into his eyes. Being with him always made me so happy. He always tried to understand me. I liked that about him. In that moment I wanted to kiss him, but I didn’t want all of the attention in the hall to be on us right now.
“What I’m wondering is if the dream was about me. About how I died,” I said with a low voice.
Mick nodded again. “I can understand why you would think that,” he said. “But how would that fit with the other dream you are having? The one where your parents are looking for you, where they don’t know that you are dead?”
I sighed and drank some more coffee. “I don’t know. That’s what I don’t understand either. In this dream the parents were both killed as well as the teenage girl.”
“Did you see her face?”
“No, I couldn’t see it. But she had brown hair that looked exactly like mine.”
Mick looked at me with a smile. “Have you ever thought about the fact that it might just be dreams? A product of your vivid imagination?”
“Well, I did spend the evening reading about catching dreams,” I said. “So yes, the thought has entered my mind.”
I couldn’t help smiling. Of course that was it. I was being foolish. It was only logical. Before bedtime I had read about dreams and how they affected people and how spirits could use people’s dreams to guide them in their lives, but also how the evil spirits, the Se’irims, often gave people nightmares to scare them from doing things and keep them from living good and meaningful lives by giving them fear in their hearts. It was only natural for me to dream about it afterward. Even the pictures in the book could have scared me enough to have nightmares afterward.
“There you go,” Mick said when he saw my smile. “Now eat your bagel.”
As he said that my best friend in class, Abhik, arrived at the table. Quickly he grabbed some breakfast between his hands. I was happy to see him. Last year he had been sick with a strange illness causing him to freeze inside a horrible nightmare. For months, he and some other students who had been struck by the same illness were taken away while the Angels and teachers at the school tried to figure out what was going on. As it turned out, it was caused by the demon Azazel who somehow had it in for me. But as I refused to bow down to him, Abhik was released from the illness and so was Jason, my human friend who was a drug addict for years. Jason was now free and doing good things on earth by helping other young people out of their addictions. I hadn’t visited him for a long time, since I didn’t want to hurt Mick’s feelings. He knew that Jason and I had a special bond. He knew that I still loved him in a special way. But our worlds were too different, so I had to let him go. I had to focus on my life here in the Spiritual Realm, while Jason was still in the natural. That was just the way it was. I had decided to be with Mick and I was sticking to that decision.
“What’s the rush?” I asked Abhik as he swallowed the breakfast in one bite.
I finally lifted the bagel from my plate and ate. I felt Mick’s hand in mine under the table. This is going to be a great year, I thought. I was not going to let some ugly nightmare ruin this wonderful year for me.
“Are you kidding me?” Abhik asked with his mouth full. “Dream Catching class starts in only five minutes.”
I loved the cover of this book, just like the last one!
I liked the third book in the Afterlife series by Willow Rose. Some of the questions that Meghan had in the first two books have been answered, but more questions come up that will need to be addressed. In this book Meghan becomes one of the strongest members in her class, and in the Academy's history. She learns some new skills and becomes the master of some of them. At the end of the second book, Serenity, Meghan has decided to pledge her love to Mick and give up any chance at a future with Jason on earth. In Endurance, she is looking forward to her wedding to Mick and also to the end of her training at the Academy. She finally gets to find out how she died and realizes that people are not always what they seem to be on the surface.
One of the issues I had with this book was again in the relationship between Mick and Meghan. To me, Mick seemed like more of a controlling boyfriend than the perfect match for a strong-minded girl like Meghan. Maybe it is because he is from a different time period when men were more controlling and that was acceptable and maybe he was just really trying to help Meghan because she had a lot going on and he didn't want to add to her workload at school or her stress. Meghan questions his behavior and rebels against it. She doesn't like to be controlled and she lets him know it. Their relationship gets pretty rocky and there is one part that I really don't like how it played out. I was disappointed in both of these characters and wasn't happy about their choices. If you want to know what I'm talking about, you'll have to pick up a copy because I don't want to ruin it for you. If you have read it already, and you know what I'm referring to, please let me know if you feel the same way or differently. I'd love to hear others opinions on this.
I hope there will be more in this series because I have enjoyed getting to know Meghan and her friends, Mick, Jason, and the teachers at the Academy. I am interested in finding out more about Meghan's past and also reading about what might be in store for her future. - Tammy