In my mystery romance novel “Mystical Circles” I explore the interpersonal relationships to be found in the hothouse atmosphere of a New Age commune. This is a place where relationships and liaisons flare and flourish or fizzle out quickly. The group I describe is based in an idyllic farmhouse in the Cotswolds. It is a “closed environment” in the sense that all the people in the group spend a lot of time together, having to deal with all their emotions and feelings about each other, their conflicts, their doubts and fears. I also explore what people in these situations do about their baggage from the past. This particular group teaches its members to let go of their past. But is this, in fact, possible?
Extract No. 1 from ” Mystical Circles”:
For several moments then, they stood in silence, gazing at the Severn Vale spread out before them.
“Almost as good as the view from Beaumaris,” he observed wistfully.
“Looking across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia, you mean?” she said. “Beautiful.”
He regarded her warmly, clearly touched by her empathy.
“I might be a Londoner,” she said, “but I do appreciate the countryside. And I loveNorth Wales.”
“I’m so happy to hear that,” said Llewellyn.
A companionable silence fell between them, as they turned their attention back to the landscape. It was broken by the Welshman. “I wish there was more contentment among the others down there in the valley.”
“Yes, peace seems in short supply, doesn’t it?”
“It’s inevitable you’ve noticed, Juliet. I dread to think what you’ll have uncovered by the time you leave.”
She chuckled but made no reply. Her stomach still felt twisted. Craig… Craig… she thought.
“You probably wonder why I defended the group when we first met,” he said, “and I persuaded Don and you to come to Dynamic Meditation. It’s because I believe in the principles behind it all.”
“Maybe. But do those principles work out in practice? I certainly didn’t expect to find this level of frustration, anxiety and anger. I’ve found it in Oleg, Zoe, Sam…” She would certainly not mention Craig’s name.
“I don’t deny that,” Llewellyn said. “But, for my part, I’m convinced I’m in the right place. OK, we’ve all brought our hang-ups with us. And that prevents it from being paradise. But would paradise inspire me as much?”
“Surely it would.” She liked his grin. “It was good enough for Wordsworth, Keats and Tennyson, wasn’t it?”
“No. Poets need this imperfect world. What sort of effect d’you think La Belle Dame Sans Merci had on Keats? Hardly the ideal relationship, was it?”
“No,” she admitted. “I’ll take your word for it, Llewellyn.”
But what she really wanted to know was who wrote that letter to Craig.
Llewellyn didn’t say anything for a few minutes. Then he said, “Let’s talk instead about your part in this, Juliet.”
“Mine?” She was immediately on guard.
“Yes, you, of course, Juliet,” he said impatiently. “You’ve changed everything.”
She threw a glance at him, and stumbled over a tree root, which nearly winded her. “How so?” she said, regaining her balance. “I’m only here as a journalist, Llewellyn.”
“No, you’re not,” he said unexpectedly.
“Last night,” he added, “was a step in the right direction.”
“A step in what direction?” she asked.
“In the direction of getting to know you better.”
“I hope you haven’t misunderstood me,” she said. “I enjoyed reading and talking about your poems, but…”
“Come on, I want to know what you really feel; not just about the poetry but about many things.”
She shook her head. “That’s not in my plan, Llewellyn.”
Extract No. 2 from “Mystical Circles”:
“The tank? What’s that? And what happens in it?” asked Juliet.
Conversation halted. James, Craig and Sam all swivelled their eyes to her face.
“Let me explain, Juliet,” said Craig. “I teach my students to seek their answers in the unconscious mind. A tried and tested way of doing this is in the isolation tank.”
“How?” she enquired.
Craig wore an enigmatic expression. Opposite, Zoe threw her a sharp glance. “The answers will come,” said Craig, “as you float. The tank’s filled with a thick, warm saline solution. You climb in, close the lid, and you’re in total blackness.”
Juliet shuddered. “I should hate that.”
Craig gave a tolerant smile. “Many love it. They find bliss there. It all depends on your viewpoint.”
“Where is the tank?” she asked.
“In a cabin of its own. The former cart hovel. Halfway between the barn and the goose house.”
“Ah yes, I’ve seen it.”
Craig waited a few moments. “Some of my methods may appeal to you more than others.”
They regarded each other slowly. “I doubt it,” she said.
Extract No. 3 from “Mystical Circles”:
Edgar said, “You don’t like things getting out of control, do you, Juliet?”
She felt stung. How dare he? But relaxing her professional mask, she laughed. “I admit it’s not a nice feeling, Edgar.”
He regarded her with a sardonic eye. “You won’t continue here for much longer and remain in control.”
“But that’s exactly what I propose to do.” She had no desire for a battle of wills. But if he wanted one, so be it.
However, when he next spoke he used a softer, more conciliatory tone. “I understand how you must feel, Juliet. Desire for self-determination; that’s true of each person here. When we first come we all intend to stay in charge of our lives. Look at Llewellyn, for example.”
“Llewellyn? What of him?” Juliet felt her jaw tighten.
Edgar now slipped into a more bantering style of speech. “Well, I understand he’s thought of little else but you, Juliet, since you both chatted together in his room on the night before last.”
She gripped both sides of her laptop. So he was leaping to conclusions about her and Llewellyn. She stayed quiet, but her face burned.
His eyes remained on her. He went smoothly on. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed. Since you first came, he’s quizzed me about you several times. It’s plain he’s got his eye on you. Go for it. You can’t stand back for ever.”
Extract No. 3 from “Mystical Circles”:
She experienced a pang of wistfulness. The farmhouse looked very peaceful: a visual representation of everything Juliet felt a community like this ought to be. Loving, tranquil, harmonious…
And yet, here she was, being eaten up by all sorts of worries. Zoe, and her infatuation with Theo. The doubts over Theo’s background. Then the fact that she still hardly knew who Craig was, and what he was about.
Was he hiding something? What really lay behind his dysfunctional relationship with his father? And was it any business of hers anyway? But the answer to that, she knew, was yes. Because she cared about it – despite all her best intentions, she cared deeply. And she still hadn’t resolved the mystery of who wrote that letter to Craig. The writer clearly loved Craig, longed for him to come quickly, had felt guilty about him in the past, but had now been forgiven by Craig. Juliet wanted to know who that person was. She felt she had a right to know. And she wanted to be rid of this terrible feeling in her stomach whenever she saw Craig. Was it yearning? No, impossible! All she knew was that it was tearing her apart.
And then there was the question of Rory and his unpredictable outbursts of aggression. Juliet knew Rory needed to be locked up. But that wasn’t going to happen. Not while Craig, for some twisted reason of his own, allowed him to run loose in this community.