Authors: Dara Joy
Joy, Dara - High EnergyHigh Energy
"Men? Boil them in oil!"
"You don't mean that."
"Cut off their—"
Zanita grinned at her friend Mills. "—lying tongues."
"I was going to say lying tongues."
"Okay, so I wasn't. Anyhow, I am through, through, through!"
Mills sighed dramatically. "Haven't I heard this before?"
"I mean it this time, Mills." Zanita slammed her palms down on the kitchen table
for emphasis. "I have had it!"
"Really. Was it any good?" Mills tried to hide her smile in her coffee cup.
"Will you be serious? I'm trying to have a discussion here."
Mills sat back in her chair. "Is that what this is? And here I thought you came
all the way over here for a good old rant-and-rave session."
Zanita threw up her hands in disgust. "That too!" She looked dismally down into
her mug. "It certainly wasn't for your coffee."
"Watch it. Everyone loves my coffee. Just because you happen to prefer brew a
spoon can stand up in doesn't make you a reliable critic. And we are getting off
the subject—something you are remarkably good at, Zanita."
"Well, what did you expect?"
Mills raised an eyebrow. "Lucidity? Rationality? Perhaps a modicum of
"All right." Zanita looked her square in the eye. "It wasn't."
Zanita slumped in her chair. "It wasn't any good."
Mills peered at her friend as if she had just come off Mars. Since people often
wore that expression around her, Zanita chose to ignore it.
"I did." She exhaled. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Then why did you bring it up?" Mills gave her a smug look.
"Okay, okay." Her friend knew her too well. No big surprise. "It was just so…
Mills blinked several times. "Blah?"
"You're looking at me like that again."
"Like I come from the mysterious face of Mars."
"Sorry." Mills leaned forward in her chair. "But we are talking about Rick,
aren't we? Your current paramour?"
"My last, late paramour." Zanita ran a hand distractedly through her short black
curls. "And why are you so shocked?"
Mills leveled her a look. "I shall count the reasons." She ticked her fingers
off one by one. "First, as I recall, wasn't it you who said you would never get
involved with anyone again after Steve left you with nothing to remember him by
except a mountain of debt?"
Zanita closely examined the flowers on the wallpaper to her left. "I guess that
was me," she mumbled.
"And wasn't it you who waited two years before going out again with anyone
Zanita peered at the intricate pattern on the tile floor. "I guess that was me
Mills nodded to emphasize Zanita's admission. "And wasn't it you who's been
dating Rick for three months, telling the poor guy, who happens to be crazy
about you, that you want nothing more from him than a platonic friendship?"
Zanita drummed her fingers on the tabletop. "So what's your point?"
Mills zoomed in. "What made you suddenly sleep with the guy?" she bellowed. "And
it's a little hard for me to believe a man like Rick would be 'blah' in bed."
Zanita hiked her shoulders. "I don't know why. Maybe I was curious."
"Curious? What kind of a reason is that?"
"I don't know!"
"I can understand passion, or a mad, wild fling, or even good old-fashioned
horniness, but curiosity?"
"Get off my case, will you?"
Mills felt instantly contrite. "I'm sorry, Zani, it was just so unlike you. You
weren't turned on in the least?"
Zanita grimaced. "No. And despite what you believe, 'blah' describes the
experience perfectly. It was all over very quickly."
Mills lowered her voice to what she deemed a serious tone. "Did you… ?"
"No." Zanita ran her index finger around the rim of her cup; she was about to
make a terrible confession. "Mills, I've—I've never."
Mills eyebrows shot up. "Not ever?"
Zanita sunk further into her chair. "Nope."
"Not even with Steve?"
She sighed. "Not even with Steve."
Both women were silent for a few moments, the absolute seriousness of the
subject demanding the proper respect.
Zanita took a gulp of coffee. "Do you think it's me? I don't think it's me."
Mills was outraged. "Of course it isn't you!"
The two friends sat in silence pondering the dilemma.
Finally, Zanita broke the silence. "Well, what is it, then?"
As was Mills' habit when she was deep in thought, she took a large sip of
coffee, then slowly lowered her mug to the table. Zanita knew she wouldn't speak
until the sound of the cup hitting the table had faded away. At that precise
moment, Zanita could count on Mills having an inspiration.
Here it comes, she thought; the woman's a genius.
Mills looked straight at her and pronounced, "It wasn't right."
Zanita's violet eyes blinked twice. "That's it? It wasn't right?" She dropped
her head to the table. "Jeez, Mills, give me a break."
"Think about it."
"No." Came the muffled reply from the tabletop.
"Think about it. With Steve, subconsciously you never really trusted him—for
good reason, I might add—so you couldn't… let your guard down, so to speak.
There was always something missing. As for Rick—"
Zanita lifted her head slightly from the table. "Please, no more psychobabble, I
Mills continued unperturbed. "With Rick, there was nothing. No passion. No lust.
Ergo no fulfillment."
Zanita sat back up. "You really think so?"
"Yes. Zanita, I've known you practically all my life. When you're in doubt about
something, you always hold back. You withdraw into yourself."
"I do?" She thought about it a moment. "You're right. I do. I never realized
"On the other hand, when you feel strongly about something, you jump right into
it, head first, no holds barred."
Zanita's tone became distinctly cool. "Are you saying I leap before I look?"
"Drop the affronted act. Face it, girlfriend, you are not by nature a person who
is concerned about the end justifying the means."
Mills stretched her arms out. "Meaning, you act first, then live with the
"So, Dr. Ruth, what does this all have to do with my problem?"
"Everything. When you meet a man who makes you leap before you look, you will be
"Well, I have nothing to worry about, do I?" she asked sarcastically. "We both
know there isn't a man in existence who could befuddle me in that manner."
Mills started giggling, saw Zanita's expression, and quickly placed a hand over
"What is so funny? You are supposed to be my friend."
"It's just that I suddenly got this mental picture of some man coming along,
tricking you into playing the shell game, and when you don't guess correctly,
throwing you over his shoulder and hauling you off to bed."
Their eyes met and they both burst out laughing.
"Talk about slight of hand…" This caused another round of laughter.
"Please—" Zanita gasped, holding her sides.
"The hand," Mills giggled, "is quicker than the eye!"
"N-now you see it—" Mills couldn't finish, she was laughing so hard.
Zanita groaned. "That's terrible."
Mills wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Oh, I needed that. Didn't you
say something about a seminar tonight?"
"Yes, thanks for reminding me—I need to get down to the student union at
Hampshire to sign up for it." Zanita reached for a cookie on the table.
Mills automatically joined her. "I hate these damn things."
"Then why do you buy them?"
"Because they're so good." She took a big bite out of the cookie.
"They are good—give me another one."
"Here, take the whole bag—please." She pushed the bag to Zanita. Zanita pushed
"No way. I couldn't stand to see them staring at me in the middle of the night."
"They never last to the middle of the night here." Mills sighed as she took
another cookie. "So what's the seminar on?"
"Psychic development," she mumbled around a chocolate chip.
"I didn't know you were interested in stuff like that."
"I'm not—I want to do a piece on this guy who's been going around telling people
he's a psychic healer. I've heard some disturbing things about him, but I
haven't been able to substantiate anything yet. I thought if I went to a
legitimate class on the subject, I could pick up some background information."
"The paper sent you on this story? They're finally letting you do some
"Not exactly. I'm doing this on my own."
"Is that wise?"
"I need to do this, Mills. I have to get off garden party assignments. All the
Chief ever gives me to cover is fluff. How am I going to get at the good stories
unless I take the initiative on my own?"
"Maybe he doesn't want you getting hurt. Stuff like that can be dangerous,
Zanita. We both know Hank is a nice old relic from a prior century, but he's
been around the block. Maybe he's looking out for you."
"Cripes, Mills, I'm twenty-seven years old! I don't need a curmudgeon of a boss
who acts like my grandfather."
"The curmudgeon is your grandfather."
"That's beside the point. He used to be a great reporter. In his heyday, he
exposed racketeers and gangsters. And a lot of political corruption. I cut my
teeth on his stories."
"That was a long time ago. I think Hank is quite content with his small-town
newspaper. And every now and then he does keep the selectmen on their toes."
Zanita drank the last of her coffee. "True, but I'm not content. If I can get a
story, I can go to a major market."
"You mean you'll have a legitimate excuse for abandoning Hank. He's put blood,
sweat, and tears into that paper. Sure, it doesn't have a large circulation, but
the people around here like it. What's more, they buy it. And you know why."
Zanita closed her eyes. "Because they trust what they read in the Patriot Sun."
She regarded Mills. "All the more reason for me to get this story. Old Mrs.
Haverhill gave this man lots of money because he told her he could cure her
stomach cancer with a healing. She died this morning."
"I don't mean this to sound cold, Zani, but the woman had an incurable illness.
She would've died anyway."
"True, but she didn't deserve to be bilked and lied to. He took terrible
advantage of her when she was in an extremely vulnerable position. It was
"I agree. But not all psychic healing is bunk. I've read that many medical
practitioners are incorporating the technique into their practices."
"Yes, which makes it even more important to expose the frauds. There are some
people who could genuinely benefit from it. If these people end up with a
charlatan, it's a tragedy."
"A double tragedy in most cases, I'm sure."
Zanita glanced at her watch. "I've got to run. Thanks for the tea and sympathy."
"You mean coffee and sympathy. Let me know how the class went."
Zanita nodded as she slung her enormous purse over her shoulder and headed out
About an hour's drive west of the city of Boston, the picturesque town of
Stockboro, Massachusetts, was surrounded by lovely rolling hills and green
pastures. This peaceful, verdant land had once hosted a small but significant
skirmish during the Revolutionary War, and the historical setting was the
perfect backdrop for an Ivy League campus. In the mid-eighteen hundreds, the
town leaders had planted the seed, and Hampshire University was duly harvested.
The community itself was an eclectic blend of intellectuals, jazz musicians,
artists, a smattering of bluebloods, surviving sixties drop-outs, and farmers.
All dyed-in-the-wool Yankees.
It was an interesting community, where locals tolerated all viewpoints, but were
extremely vocal about their own. Everyone was always up in arms over something—a
hold-over from Revolutionary days, no doubt.
Zanita loved Stockboro. It was a place where things always seemed to be
happening. Alive, moving, and vibrant, its citizens were active in the community
and cared about the town they lived in. In short, it was a perfect town for a
Despite what Zanita had said to Mills, she did not want to leave the 'Patriot
Sun', her greener pastures were right here at home. What she did want was for
the Chief to give her some meatier assignments. She knew all too well that she