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Prelude

In the course of a human life there is often a defining moment, a glimmer of time when everything changes and there is no turning back. Nearly thirteen years have passed since my fateful moment, yet its power remains.

It was Chritmas Eve and approaching dusk when we arrived at a holiday party at the edge of the desert. Candles set in the snow along the stairwell guided guests up to a magnificent dwelling perched on a bluff, overlooking a nearly alien landscape that seemed to stretch for an eternity. Inside the festive entrance hall my husband removed my long white coat and smoothed wrinkles from the matching dress. Our hostess drew aside velvet curtains at the rear of the vestibule and motioned for us to enter a darkened corridor. The mysterious passageway, illuminated by the glow of Venetian chandeliers, led to a Sistine-like rotunda where the music of Mozart reverberted from speakers in the rafters.

In a shadowy corner, beyond where most of the guests congregated, I noticed a striking couple reclining on a burgundy divan. The man drew his hand along a willowy thigh and whispered in the ear of the stunning redhead. She turned to watch as my husband escorted me in the room, an enigmatic smile sweeping across her face, as if intended only for me.The woman's seductive companion followed her gaze, and in the dazzling instant his eyes met mine something inside me awakened and bound me to him in a way I cannot explain.

My idyllic life was shattered that night. Nine months to the day I gave birth to a son and suffered a disfiguring affliction. Desperate for a cure, I made a pilgrimage to St. Joseph's oratory, where the faithful are said to be healed. At the alter I made a vow: truth for beauty, a promise to follow my manifest destiny in return for an unmarked face. As my husband ushered me from the basilica, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a stained glass depiction of the Madonna and child. My cheek had begun to thaw - and now I had a price to pay.

The ensuing years brought a second child and the collapse of my marriage. I soon became little more than a shadow hiding in the remnants of my former life. The more I pursued truth, the greater the resistance - until I gave up any notion of seeking a rightful path. My shattered existence was invaded by a wild terror and escaping its embrace became my sole ambition.I was besiged nightly by dreams of cataclysmic events and empty houses where I wandered as a lonely specter. One night I experienced an exceptionally powerful vision. I stood on a cliff overlooking a whitewashed city encased in iridescent fog. A slice of light shot through the mist and a diseased woman appeared to offer a trio of golden spheres. The eyes of the charismatic man in the desert burned through her sunken orbs.

The dream left me with an unbearable desire for resolution. I knew it was a sign I must make the journey to see him again, if I was to survive.

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