“But it’s Halloween, Mom,” my daughter Althea insisted. “Do you have to go to yoga today?”
I squatted in front of my six-year-old and removed a lock of her brown hair from her eye. “I promise I’ll be home long before noon. We won’t miss any of the parade. We’ll have plenty of time to get ready.”
There was a neighborhood parade of parents and kids in costumes later. I had promised Althea and her brother Jonah that their father and I would participate, and we would both wear costumes. I hated the idea of dressing up, always had, but I would do it for my kids. This year we would be zombies and the makeup alone would take an hour to apply on all of us. Thankfully, my husband Jake had an artistic streak, which made everything easier, not to mention us more authentic-looking zombies.
It was ten past nine and yoga class started at nine thirty. The studio was only a few blocks away from our apartment, but I liked to get there early and get a good spot. Jade, the instructor, was very popular and it was a Saturday morning. Class was bound to get lots of people participating despite that it was Halloween today. I knew for a fact that I wasn’t the only parent who could use some mindfulness and exercise this morning.
Jake entered the foyer then. He extended a hand to Althea, who remained before me, arms crossed over her small chest and a pouty look on her sweet face.
“Come on, honey,” he said. “Mommy will be back before you know it. How about you and I go make some pancakes? I need help with the mix.”
“Okay,” Althea said, the sourpuss face gone. She took her father’s hand and the two of them disappeared into the kitchen.
I got to the studio ten minutes before class started. I was already wearing my workout clothes, which consisted of loose pants and a loose top. Underneath the top I wore a sports bra. My boobs tended to flop around when I changed poses and it drove me crazy. I hung up my coat and got rid of my boots in the designated area outside the studio.
As I had expected, there were quite a few people in the bright studio already, all four of them seated on the floor. The spot next to one of the windows was still open, though. I smiled, grabbed a mat, blanket and blocks, then hurried over there. One of the women, a black lady in her sixties, spotted me and waved from the opposite side of the room. I mouthed a “good morning” and waved back. Her name was Yolanda and had come to class for as long as I had. We sometimes went to have a coffee after class. That wouldn’t be the case today.
I spread out my stuff on the shiny hardwood floor and took a seat. As I stretched a little, I caught sight of my toes. It was high time I got a pedicure. My feet looked scary the nails were in such bad shape. Well, that’s okay, isn’t it? I thought and chuckled to myself. After all, it is Halloween. Plus, I’ll be a zombie soon anyway. Zombies didn’t have pretty feet.
The airy space filled up in the next few minutes and soon there was a total of twelve people there. But Jade, the instructor, had yet to join us. The clock on the wall showed that it was twenty-eight minutes to ten. I turned to the man seated beside me, someone I had never really spoken to.
“Should we go out and ask the receptionist if she’s okay?” I asked.
He shrugged noncommittally. “If you want to. I’m sure she’ll be here soon. It’s not that late yet.” He shot the wall clock a glance. “Only three minutes past the start time.”
“You’re right,” I replied and felt like an overbearing housewife. Time to stop micromanaging, Courtney! Just relax and go with the flow. So she’s running late. That’s okay. You’ll still get plenty of yoga in.
My tendency to try to be in control of everything was the main reason I had taken up yoga. I needed to chill out, stop worrying so much. Everything would be okay.
Two minutes later, Jade did enter the room. I caught the gaze of the man beside me, who seemed to be telling me with his eyes, “See? She was just running late.”
I gave him a smile without teeth and then watched Jade as she hurried up to the head of the class, apologizing profusely to everyone along the way.
“I’m so sorry, guys,” the slender Asian woman repeated. “I overslept this morning. I don’t know what happened. It’s the first time in years.” She tsk-tsked and shook her head.
A drone of voices responded, telling her to relax and not worry about it. She was only five minutes late. Stuff happened. It was called “life.”
The soothing music soon streamed out of the hidden loudspeakers and we got started. Class flowed as smoothly as always, better even. I thought about how relaxing I found Jade’s voice, how good it felt to just let go and move. How at peace I felt as the class drew to an end.
Jade faced us all, seated in the Lotus prayer pose. She always ended class with some inspirational words, touching upon different subjects.
“It’s Halloween today,” she said. “The eve before All Saints Day, the day to pray for the dead, according to many religions. Many associate death with darkness and pain. Don’t. Always remember that life and death are illusions. We are in a constant state of transformation. When we die, all that happens is that we’re moving onto another dimension. We’re all one consciousness. I want to leave you today with my two favorite Eckhart Tolle quotes:
‘Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now. Always say ‘yes’ to the present. Surrender to what is. Say yes to life – and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.’ Namaste.”
“Namaste,” the class responded and bowed their heads back at her while in a prayer pose.
Feeling centered and relaxed, I gathered my stuff, said goodbye to everyone, including Jade, whom I thanked for another great class. Her greatest ever. Then I left the room. I used the bathroom, staying for a while. As I passed the reception desk later, I asked the girl there, “Do you know if Jade’s still in there?” I jabbed my thumb in the direction of the studio.
“Yes, she is.”
I wanted to ask Jade if she had read the latest Eckhart Tolle book, so I walked back there. Only three of the other yoga students were there. No sight of Jade. Hmm.
“Has anyone seen Jade?” I asked them.
“She just left,” a girl replied.
“Oh. Thanks,” I said. As I passed the reception desk, I said, “She’s not in there. They told me she just left.”
The receptionist frowned. “That’s not possible. I’d have seen her leave.”
“Oh, well,” I said and gave a shrug. It wasn’t important.
It wasn’t until I was walking back to the house that I checked my phone. The sound was off. There were a few missed calls and a bunch of text messages from my husband.
“Where are you?”
“Did you hear what happened?”
“Are you okay? I know how much you liked her.”
I didn’t bother to read what else he had texted and just called him back.
“Oh, there you are,” he said by way of answering. “I was beginning to get worried something had happened to you too. It wasn’t like you could be at yoga class.”
“What are you talking about?”
“So you didn’t hear then?”
“No, what happened?”
“There was an accident early this morning. A car accident. Someone died.”
A chill went through me. Who the hell died? Someone I knew?
“Jade Jackson, your yoga teacher. They showed pics of her on TV. I’ve been trying to reach you for the last forty-five minutes. I’m so sorry.”