Shades of Passion - By Virna DePaul


THE MAN CAME TO BETH just when she needed him most.

Just when the pain of existence became too sharp to bear.

She looked into eyes that morphed into rich landscapes, green hills and golden sunsets that stretched far beyond the back of his head, going on for an eternity.

Those eyes beckoned her, promising an end to her suffering. Tempting her with not just peace, but infinite joy. Love. Acceptance.

Only there was love here. Hope.

Hadn’t someone told her that? Someone she trusted? Believed? Hadn’t she said the world was beautiful?

The man held out his hand. In his palm lay a pink satin ribbon. “The world can be beautiful,” he said. “Depending on which direction you travel.”

I’ve traveled so long, Beth thought. I’m tired.

“I know you’re tired,” the man said. “Come with me. I’ll carry you. I’ll let you rest.”

His voice matched the hypnotic beauty of his eyes. It was a deep rumble that resonated throughout her body, enveloping her in a comforting hug the same way her mother’s arms used to wrap around her. But her mother, her champion, was gone now. Cancer had taken her. It had eaten away at her insides and left Beth alone, with only her father for company. She didn’t want her father. She didn’t trust him.

There was another woman, though. Another woman who fought for her. Wasn’t there?

Beth struggled to remember, but her vision tunneled, focusing her attention on the long length of ribbon in the man’s hand. She reached out and stroked it. It felt smooth. Soft. And when Beth pressed the ribbon against her lips, the memory of her mother’s kisses made her weep.

“You’re not alone,” the man said. “I’m with you. Part of you. Part of everyone. I’ll bring you to your mother. She’s waiting. All you need to do is trust me.”

Beth’s tears dried up, and her grief turned to resolve.

Trust me. Trust us. Trust me.

The man’s visage blurred. Morphed into one of a female with blond hair and green eyes.

I know her, Beth thought. She’s helped me. She can help me again.

I’m part of everyone, the man had said. I’m part of you.

Which meant Beth wasn’t alone. Not anymore. And she never would be.

Not if she trusted him.

Following the man’s instructions, Beth held the ribbon between her hands, then looped it around her throat.

“It will hurt at first,” the man warned.

Beth hesitated. Where had the woman gone?

“Don’t fight it. It’s like being born again. You’ll close your eyes and sleep for a time. But when you wake up, I’ll be there. And so will your mother. You’ll finally be happy. No one will hurt you ever again.”

“I hurt,” Beth whispered. “I don’t want to hurt anymore.”

So she did what the man said until she couldn’t breathe. Until she felt pain. Until she felt fear.

But just as he promised, it didn’t last long.

I’m being born again, she told herself as the darkness closed in.

And this time, the world will be beautiful.


SIMON GRANGER’S FATHER had always measured a man’s worth by his ability to man up. Didn’t matter how tired or angry or sick or sad he was—a man did what he had to. Otherwise, he was worthless. No, less than worthless. He was nothing but a bag of bones taking up space.

That’s why, the day after his ex-girlfriend Lana Hudson was murdered by a serial killer, Simon showed up for work just like always.

Now, six months later, he still worked. He testified in court. Occasionally he even socialized with the other members of the Special Investigations Group, a division of the California Department of Justice.

He did what he had to. No complaints. No excuses.

But this...

This was harder. Much harder.

So hard that he’d put it off.

So hard that he wasn’t sure he could actually do it.

But his father’s voice prodded him.

Don’t be a wuss, Simon. All that counts in this world is a man’s actions. Do the right thing and it doesn’t matter what you feel. You, the man, what you do—that’s what counts. That’s what’s real.

As usual, playing back his father’s words spurred him into action. This time, he didn’t stop until he stood by the grave site. He studied it with an odd combination of regret and relief.

It was in a good spot, in the shadow of a willow tree, covered with the thick green lawn that sprawled across the cemetery grounds. The place emanated peace. He could almost feel Lana standing beside him, her hand on his shoulder, a soft smile on her face as she thanked him for coming.