Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Wednesday's Words: Andean Adventure, Chapter 4




Did you miss Chapter 1? Get caught up now.

How about Chapter 2? Read it here

And you wouldn't want to miss Chapter 3: This is where it explodes




Chapter 4

The next morning when DeeDee made her way into the hotel lobby, she hoped she’d find Liam waiting for her, but he wasn’t. Not knowing what else to do, she took a seat on a small settee beneath the window and considered her options.

Anger flashed through her. She directed it at not only Liam for lying to her, but also Mom. DeeDee would never have been in this situation—barely clothed, starving, and sleep-deprived—if Mom hadn’t slipped her the Witching Well water.

But thinking of Mom reminded of her bag. On a whim, she pulled out her phone. Of course, there wasn’t any service. She switched it off to conserve her battery. Then, she turned her attention to the muffin. She tore into it and the crumbs melted in her mouth. She tried to remember ever feeling hungry or tired in her past dreams.

As her hunger subsided, so did her anger. It disappeared completely when Liam walked into the room. Their gazes met. He pushed his hat back off his forehead and strode her way. He swung the satchel he’d had around his shoulder off and dropped it onto the settee. He pulled out some clothes.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“For you,” he announced. “You’ll be a lot less conspicuous in these.” He straightened a smushed cowboy hat and jammed it on her head.

DeeDee’s lips curled when she shook out a pair of brown canvas pants and soft blue button-down shirt.

“If we cut your hair, you’ll look like a boy—although, a small one.”

She bit back any arguments she had, and said, “Thanks. What do I owe you?”

He grinned. “A map, but you can pay when we get you home.”

Home. The word brought tears to her eyes.

“Thank you,” she said again, but this time in a near whisper.

#

LiAM

When Delia returned from changing her clothes, Liam’s heart stuttered. She looked like Delia, but different. The missing breasts, of course, concerned him, but there were other differences, as well. The Delia he knew, brimmed with an almost frenetic energy. This Delia was subdued, hesitant. He’d caught flashes of the old Delia when she’d attacked Victor’s man, but, for the most part, this Delia almost seemed like a different person.

Had the head injury that had caused the memory loss also taken her personality? At first, he hadn’t believed her amnesia story, but now he wasn’t so sure. About anything.

She stood in front of him. “What do you think?” She smoothed down the front of her blue shirt and tucked it into the pant’s waistband. The clothes floated around her. She needed a belt. He could give her his own, but it would never fit.

“Maybe we could find a piece of rope or something to keep the pants from falling off.” She bent and rolled up the cuffs, showing off her slender ankles. “If my girls could see me now,” she chuckled.

“Your girls?” he echoed.

Delia straightened and refused to meet his gaze. “At the dress shop…where I…hmm…go.”

“Yeah,” he said. “You always look like a million bucks. This is definitely a different show for you.”

Delia took a deep breath, met his gaze, and smiled as if he’d paid her a pleasing compliment. “Shall we? The sooner I can get home, the happier I’ll be.”

He shouldered his knapsack and cast a glance at Delia’s bag. “You travel light.” He strode through the cantina, nodding at Mario behind the counter.

She matched her stride to his. “I didn’t know I was going on a trip.”

His steps faltered, and he turned to frown at her. “Really?”

She nodded. Her expression seemed sincere. “My most vivid memory is of almost being run over by your jeep. Everything before that is fuzzy at best.”

Liam held the door. “Tell me what you do know.”

Delia skipped past him, inhaling his warm scent as she did. “I know I live in São Paulo. I’m a writer—a novelist.” Her brow wrinkled. “I’ve met Hemingway.”

He stopped so abruptly on the boardwalk she bumped into him. She braced her hands on his back to catch her balance.

“You remember Hemingway, but not me?” he asked, disliking the hurt tone in his voice.

She backed away from him. “Hemingway—he’s out of the history books, right?”

Liam tucked his hands in pockets, fighting the jealousy he knew he shouldn’t be battling. “He is?”

“He’s a literary genius.”

“I didn’t know you thought so highly of him.”

Her lips lifted in a small smile. “He has all those cats.”

“Cats. Right.”

“And he drinks.” She made a face.

“You drink,” he pointed out, wondering if he needed to remind her of the night he had pulled her off the tables at that bar in Rio.

“Not anymore.”

His steps faltered. “Since when?”

“Since…” she waved at her sunken chest. “Since this. You must have noticed.”

“I did, but I didn’t want to ask.”

“I appreciate that, but it’s not a secret.” She hesitated before adding, “I had breast cancer.”

His face paled. “I’m sorry.”

“Me, too.”

His thoughts sputtered. She seemed so casual about her impending death.

“I’m fine,” she assured him.

“Fine?” No one with cancer could be fine. “That’s one way to look at it.” He’d always known her to be brave, but her cavalier attitude shocked him.

“It’s the best way to look at it.”

Cancer was a death sentence, and yet, she seemed completely unfazed. Maybe he’d underestimated her. She’d always been strong, but never spiritual. If he’d had to guess, he would have thought she hadn’t believed in an afterlife. He itched to ask her, but he couldn’t. He found himself grieving and missing her, even though she stood right beside him. “You’re different.”

“Thank you?”

He heard the question in her tone.

“You’re welcome.”

He pressed his lips together. “So, you remember breast cancer?”

She glanced at the front of her shirt with lips not quite smiling, but still twisted. “The visual reminder is hard to ignore.”

He nodded. “I guess I can see that.”

“I don’t want you to see it. The doctors did the best they could, but the scars aren’t pretty.”

He blanched. “I wasn’t asking you to take off your shirt.”

“Good.” She changed the subject. “How are we going to get to São Paulo? I don’t suppose there’s a train.”

“No. I’ve hired a truck from a local farmer, Matias Alba. It won’t be pretty, or even comfortable, but it will get us there.”

“How will you get it back to him?”

“His daughter lives in São Paulo. She agreed to drive it back.”

“You must have had this planned for a while.”

“No, surprisingly, it all came together after I drove my jeep into that tree.”

“I’m sorry about that.”

“You really don’t know what you were doing in the middle of the road?”

“I really don’t.”

“Maybe it will come back to you.”

“That would be nice, but somehow, I don’t think so.”

“Why? Don’t most people who lose their memory regain it?”

She bumped him with her hip. “I’m not like most people.”

“So I’ve noticed.” 

Liam expected Delia to turn up her pretty nose at Matias and Silvia’s humble home, but she didn’t. Without a hitch in her step, she followed Liam through the gate and across the yard, wading through the chickens and saying hello to Matias’ great beast of a dog lying on the porch and beating his tail in a welcome.

The door banged open and Silvia appeared. Her eyes brightened when she saw him, and she opened her arms. He gladly stepped into her embrace. She smelled of warm tortillas and mate’. She pulled away from him but kept hold of his wrists. She studied his face.

 “How are you, my friend?” she asked in Portuguese.

Liam nodded in Delia’s direction. “Let me introduce Delia Fleur.”

“Call me DeeDee, please,” Delia said, extending her hand.

“DeeDee?” Liam murmured.

Delia/DeeDee ignored him. But then Silvia ignored Delia’s outstretched hand and pulled her into a hug.

“Silvia doesn’t speak English,” Liam told Delia. “You’ll have to trust me to translate correctly.”

“You brought a senorita.” Silvia held Delia close. “How wonderful,” she said after pulling away.

“Wouldn’t I be a senora?” Delia tugged her clothes back into place. “I mean, I’m almost sixty.”

Silvia shook her finger in Delia’s face. “You fooled me. She looks like a boy.”

“This isn’t a fashion show. We’re trying to outrun Victor and his men,” Liam explained.

“Ah, she’s in disguise, no?”

“Sort of.”

Silvia held open the door and waved them inside. “Did anyone follow you?”

Liam looked over his shoulder in both directions. “I don’t think so.”

“Unless this Victor can see through walls. You’ll be safe here.”

The stiffness in Liam’s spine eased a fraction. “Thank you. Is Matia’s around?”

“He’s gone to a cattle show, but he told me you were coming. You are to take the truck to São Paulo, correct? My Pedro will drive it back?”

“This is a very kind thing you are doing.”

“Not at all. You’re the one doing me the favor by providing my son with a way home.”

Silvia motioned for them to sit at the kitchen table. “You must be hungry. Let me make you something to eat.”

“We couldn’t impose.”

“Tis no trouble. I wish to get to know this chica.” She gazed at Delia with a speculative glee.

Liam, not wanting to mislead his friends, battled on what to say. Could he honestly say he wasn’t romantically interested in Delia? Maybe once, a long time ago, but now?

“You have time enough to sit at the table and chat, no? It’s a small thing to ask for repayment for the truck.”

“I thought I was doing you a favor?”

Silvia waved at the table impatiently. “It will only take me a moment to fry up a couple of eggs.” She bustled into the area that served as a kitchen and poured boiling water into mugs. A fragrant steam lifted in the air.

Delia took the mug and her nose wrinkled. “What’s this?” she whispered.

“You remember Hemingway, but not mate’?”

“You need to get over Ernest,” she said with a trace of impatience.

Liam took a seat at the table and pulled out a chair for Delia. Silvia busied herself at the counter, cracking eggs—one brown and one pink—into a bowl. On the stove, fat sizzled in a cast-iron pan.

“I’m watching my cholesterol,” Delia whispered.

“Your what?”

“I try to avoid animal fats,” Delia clarified.

“Well, I suggest not trying to avoid Silvia’s tortilla de patatas. It’s delicious.”

“Now, my friend.” Silvia placed a steaming plate before Liam and Delia. “Tell me about these villains who chase you and why.”

 

Monday, June 14, 2021

#MondayMotivation Plans and Course Corrections

 


“Think about taking a trip on an airplane. Before taking off, the pilot has a very clear destination in mind, which hopefully coincides with yours, and a flight plan to get there. The plane takes off at the appointed hour toward that predetermined destination. But in fact, the plane is off course at least 90 percent of the time. Weather conditions, turbulence, and other factors cause it to get off track. However, feedback is given to the pilot constantly, who then makes course corrections and keeps coming back to the exact flight plan, bringing the plane back on course. And often, the plane arrives at the destination on time. It’s amazing. Think of it. Leaving on time, arriving on time, but off course 90 percent of the time. If you can create this image of an airplane, a destination, and a flight plan in your mind, then you understand the purpose of a personal mission statement. It is the picture of where you want to end up—that is, your destination is the values you want to live your life by. Even if you are off course much or most of the time but still hang on to your sense of hope and your vision, you will eventually arrive at your destination. You will arrive at your destination and usually on time. That’s the whole point—we just get back on course.” Stephen R. Covey

For so many of us, COVID 19 derailed our flight plans. In 2020 the trips we had planned, the goals we had set, the for-sures and absolutely must-dos became well-I-guess-nots. And now, here in California, tomorrow we get to take off our masks. This is another opportunity to ask, how is this supposed to go? Is it just business as usual, because I'm not sure I know how to do that. Do we hug friends? Or do we ask, have you been vaccinated? And what if they say no? Do we hug them anyway? Do we still shake hands when introduced to someone new?

And just because we're mostly vaccinated in my neck of the woods, it's important to remember that in many parts of the world the virus still rages. What can we do to help?

Which brings me back to the flight plan. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What do you want your life to look like? Because in the grand scheme of things, a year of sitting at home and waiting for the world to heal can also be a time of reflection, a time to re-engage with the people we love the most (the ones inside our homes)--and with our own flight plans. A time to discover who we really are and who we want to be.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Wednesday's Words: The Andean Adventure, Chapter 3


Did you miss Chapter 1? Get caught up now.

How about Chapter 2? Read it here


CHAPTER 3

Liam Hastings. Who was he? Why was his English so good? Hasting… that didn’t sound like a Latin American name. Did she get a thrill from his touch because he was an ancestor? And wasn’t that what Mom had said, it was common to run into your ancestors after drinking from the Witching Well.

“Please tell me how you and I met, Mr. Hastings?” DeeDee asked.

“You honestly don’t remember?”

“I honestly don’t,” she said.

“The governors Ball?”

She shook her head.

“You poured a bottle of wine over my head?”

She couldn’t stop herself from smirking. “That can’t be right.”

“It wasn’t, but you hold yourself to different standards of right and wrong.” He chuckled. “This puts you at a disadvantage Delia. How does it feel? Uncomfortable?”

“Absolutely,” she said with all honesty. DeeDee didn’t really like to travel. Time travel especially held no appeal. She preferred being in her own space with her own things surrounded by her own people.

But maybe that’s what had gotten her into trouble. Maybe that need to feel secure in her own a little bubble filled with only people she loved and trusted had gotten her into trouble. Because at least two of those people hadn’t been trustworthy. As she so often did, she mentally cursed her ex-husbands and drove them from her mind. They were of the past. She didn’t need to dwell on them. And yet here she was locked in the past forced to confront not just her own mistakes but those of her grandmothers.

Where was the fairness in that?

Fairs are for pigs and horses, DeeDee reminded herself of one of Mom‘s old saying. Life isn’t fair. And she had this handsome man standing in front of her to prove it. Maybe she could hire him to take her to São Paulo.

DeeDee tightened her fingers on her bag strap, grateful Mom had sent the bag and yet, still angry she’d been sent here in the first place. “I have some gold coins.” She didn’t even know how much they were worth in today’s dollars, let alone in the 1940s.

Liam rested against the bar and crossed one ankle over the other. “Keep your gold, Delia. I am happy to help a friend in need.”

DeeDee leaned forward and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “What I really need right now is a restroom.”

Liam chuckled and pulled away from the bar. “I don’t think you’ll like it, but I can show you where you can find such a thing. But I suspect you’d rather find a room. Let’s see what we can do about that.”

DeeDee started after Liam, but as she did, a man slinging a guitar bumped into her. Her bag shifted off her shoulder and landed on the floor beside her. A few things slid out.

As Liam bent to help her scoop up her things, they knocked heads.

“Ow, sorry,” Liam said.

For a moment, DeeDee saw stars. She rubbed her forehead, wincing and massaging the tender spot. “You have a hard head.”

“So I’ve been told.” Liam gathered up her belongings, but he briefly froze when he spotted the map.

Despite the pain, DeeDee noted his fleeting interest.

Liam fiddled with the clasp on her bag, secured it closed, and handed it to her. “You need to keep that safe. There are a lot of…” he sought for a word, “desperados around here.”

Was he talking about her bag in general, or the map in particular?

#LIAM

That night, Liam scouted out Bryce in the cantina. Once he located his friend lounging at a card table, his face screwed with concentration, Liam beelined across the room. Liam and Bryce had met in The Great War in a hospital. They’d forged an unlikely friendship during their long confinement.

 After several toe-tapping minutes, the longest poker game known to man ended.

Liam jerked his head to the open doors. “I need to speak to you. Let’s take our drinks outside.”

Liam pushed through the crowded bar, ignoring the senoritas’ flirty gazes and full, pouty lips. He breathed easier in the cool night air. Music floated through the cantina windows. An owl winged overhead, and cicadids songs played like maracas. Liam turned down an alley and double checked to make sure they were alone. “She has a map.”

Liam trusted Bryce the way some trusted their brothers. Liam didn’t have a brother. And thanks to Victor, he didn’t have a mother or a sister, either.

Bryce folded his arms in a protective gesture over his heart. “I assume this is about Delia.”

“You saw her, too?”

“I did, but…she looked straight through me as if I wasn’t there.” Bryce drew a line in the dirt with his toe. “I’ll admit, her blatant disregard was hard on my ego.”

“She’s claiming amnesia.”

Bryce cocked an eyebrow. “Do you believe her?”

Liam’s laugh sounded bitter even in his own ears. “Would you? Wait. None of that matters. What matters is she has a map.”

“A map?” Bryce echoed. “To—”

Liam nodded before Bryce could ask the question. Even out here in the dark night, they had to be careful.

Bryce softly swore. “How did she get that? I thought the only one was lost in Donegal’s fire.”

Liam stared at the dark jungle edging the town, wishing he could find answers in the shadows. Although Liam hadn’t seen Victor or any of his men since the attack in Osorno, vigilance paid. The miles between there and here couldn’t protect him. Any one lingering in the cantina could be in Victor’s employ. Liam shivered, despite the warm night air.

“Is she following you?” Bryce’s tone carried a barely masked trace of hurt.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Liam said. “She surprised me as much as she surprised you if that’s what you’re asking.”

“She likes to keep you on your toes.” Bryce sucked in a deep breath. “You know if Victor find out she has a map she’ll be a mark. You have to warn her.”

Liam, relieved the conversation had finally turned in the direction he’d been waiting for, said, “I was hoping you’d volunteer for that.”

Bryce splayed his hand across this chest, letting Liam know he wanted to say something. But after a moment’s hesitation, Bryce nodded, accepting Liam was right. “Yeah, you should probably stay away from her.”

This was what was best for Delia, but he also knew Bryce’s intentions weren’t entirely altruistic. Bryce had been in love with Delia for years, even when Liam and Delia have been together. But Delia, ever oblivious, hadn’t picked up on Bryce’s overtures. Of course, Bryce never confided his feelings about Delia. Why would he when Delia had been, for a brief moment, completely smitten with Liam?

But then Ma and Tessie had died and Liam had to return to the ranchero. Liam had to believe Delia wasn’t completely heartless, but her lack of compassion and understanding had shocked him.

Bryce was speaking. Liam, who had zoned out, zeroed back into the conversation. He didn’t have the luxury of giving into his emotions.

“What would you do with it if you found it?” Bryce asked. “I know, for you, it stopped being about the treasure a long time ago.” Bryce lifted an eyebrow. “Are you sure at this point it’s not just that revenge?”

This thought had concerned Liam, as well. The last thing he wanted was a Count of Monte Cristo complex. “It’s not so much what would I do with the treasure. It’s about what I don’t want Victor to do with it. He’s powerful enough, as it is.”

“I get that,” Bryce replied. “Who knows who he has in his pocket already? What has Delia gotten herself into?”

“She knows what he’s capable of…what he did to Ma and Tessie. To make matters worse, she’s not being very careful. I’m probably not the only one who saw the map in her bag.”

“Where is she now?”

“I got a room at Lottie’s.”

Bryce smirked.

“Two rooms.” Although they were adjoining.

“Did you make sure the doors have sturdy locks?”

#

DeeDee took in the bed with an iron headboard. It dominated the cramped space. A wooden dresser topped with a silvery mirror occupied one wall. A rocking chair stood in the corner. One shuttered window interrupted the unadorned plaster walls.

Sighing, DeeDee ran her tongue over her teeth and missed her toothbrush. Earlier, she’d found the communal restroom at the end of the hall. She sank onto the bed, and it groaned beneath her weight. She decided to ignore its complaints and pulled out the map.

She’d noticed the way Liam’s eyes had lit with surprise and eagerness when he seen it. He must know about the legend. But the real question was, what did he think that she knew? Maybe she should just give it to him…In exchange for a trip to São Paulo?

Of course, if it had been his Jeep she’d seen smashed, he didn’t have any more transportation than she did. And it wasn’t as if in this 1940s era she could just rent a car. She wasn’t even sure if women could even rent cars back then…er…now…After all, women weren’t even allowed to have credit cards until the 1970’s. Probably, most women didn’t even know how to drive in the forties.

After stripping off her clothes and hanging her one nightie over the chair propped in the corner, she flopped back against the pillows. The linens smelled of bleach and something she couldn’t recognize.

The gleam in Liam’s eyes had told her the map had value. Just because she didn’t believe in the Lost City of Caesars didn’t believe there weren’t others who did. Maybe even others who would kill for it. Thinking of the gunmen who had fired at her and Liam, she shivered and snuggled deeper into the covers. To be safe, she tucked the map into her pillowcase. Then, on a whim, she padded across the room and pushed the dresser against the door.

Feeling only slightly better, she jumped back in bed. Again, it complained. In fact, the night rang with unfamiliar noises—singing insects, chattering birds, the cheerful sound of the busy cantina. Even though the moon edged close to the zenith, no one, it seemed, was ready for sleep. Still, as DeeDee nestled into the pillows, she couldn’t help wondering if, maybe, when she woke she’d find herself tucked into her own bed.

She’d always had a good imagination. Her concepts and designs had helped her dress shop flourish. At the Fashion Institute, Margo Kilter, the leading designer, had called her gowns “ingenious and inspiring.” Back then, DeeDee had been pleased, but also a little embarrassed. Sure, looking one’s best was important, and a lovely dress could elevate a mood, secure a job, lure a man—not that she thought it should—but inspire?

No, inspiration belonged to sermons, maybe a great commencement speech, and life-altering conversations. Not dresses. Still, she loved being a designer and a seamstress. Maybe she could do that here? The gold coins Mom had provided couldn’t last forever. She’d have to earn her way home, somehow.

When I wake up, I’ll be home, DeeDee promised herself. She fell asleep dreaming of Connecticut snow.

Hours later, after the music from the cantina below had faded into the night, DeeDee heard another noise. One outside her window.

She’d locked the door and barricaded it with the dresser, but she hadn’t even checked the lock on the window. In fact, because of the heat, she’d left it open. Should she open the shutters?

As silently as she could, DeeDee slid from the bed. Despite the steamy and warm air outside of the sheets, DeeDee shivered. She slipped her nightie back on. Her gaze darted around the room and finally landed on her bag. She snatched it up and positioned herself beside the window.

When the shutter creaked open and a man stuck his leg through, DeeDee swung her bag and hit him in the face. He scrambled backward, and DeeDee ran across the room, grabbed hold of the rocking chair, and charged.

The man, teetering on the window sill, fell backward. DeeDee watched him sail to the ground below. Would a fall from a second story window kill him?

The door opened and the dresser screeched across the floor. So much for locks.

Liam strode into the room, his eyes wild.

DeeDee stared at him. “I thought I killed you.” Relief that he was still alive and that he hadn’t been the one to break into her room—although, that was exactly what he’d just done—sang through her.

“Not me.” He reached her side in two long strides. Peering over the edge, he watched the man scramble to his feet and hobble away.

DeeDee placed her hand on her heart to slow its beating. “Who is that?”

“You don’t know?”

She shook her head. It felt light and unsubstantial. Was that due to adrenaline, lack of sleep, the Witching Well water, or the fact that Liam stood beside her in the moonlight with an unbuttoned shirt barely covering his muscly chest?

Stop it, she told herself. For all you know, he’s your grandfather.

“Neither do I,” Liam said, “but I have a guess who might have hired him.”

“How do I know it wasn’t you who hired him?”

“You don’t,” he said in a hard voice.

DeeDee thought about going after her intruder, after all, he was hurt, she could probably catch up with him and demand some answers. If he spoke English.

 “Do you think he was interested in my map?” DeeDee stepped away from the window and stood behind the chair. She jabbed her finger in the air between her and his chest. “You seemed interested in my map.”

His eyes narrowed, but he didn’t deny it.

She lowered her voice. “How about you take me to São Paulo, and in exchange, I’ll give you the map.”

“I don’t even know if it’s authentic.”

“Neither do I. That’s a risk you can take. Or not.”

His gaze left her face and settled on her flat chest. She read the bafflement in his expression, but she decided not to comment on it. This wasn’t really the time to discuss her double mastectomy. She hugged herself and jutted out her chin.

“I don’t trust you,” he said.

“Nor I, you.”

“But I’ve never given you reason to distrust me.”

“And if I’ve ever given you such a reason, you can rest assured, I don’t remember it.”

“That’s hardly a comforting argument.”

“Life doesn’t come with guarantees. Will you take me to São Paulo or not?”

“I could hire someone to take you.”

“No, thank you. It’s you, or no one.”

“Why?”

“Because you speak English, for one thing. And, for another, and the most pressing, if I give you the map, you have no incentive to make sure I get to São Paulo safely.”

He blanched. “Do you really think I would leave you stranded here on your own?”

“I don’t know you, remember?”

“So, you say.”

DeeDee stamped her foot. “I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. I have no recollection of our ever meeting before.”

He studied her face before his gaze slipping back to her flat chest. She knew he wanted to ask, but she let him wonder. She had more questions of her own. “Where’s Claudette?”

“Claudette?” he echoed.

“You remember your niece?”

Her legs gave out and she sank onto the bed. “Niece? I thought De—” she caught herself, “I’m an only child. How can I have a niece?”

He grinned. “Good question. I always wondered that myself.”

DeeDee sucked in a deep breath. “Well, where is she?”

“She’s attending school in New York.”

“Are you her father?”

“No!” Her question appeared to stun him. “When I met…you…Claudette was already at boarding school.” His shoulders braced and she wondered if he’d come to a decision. Without a word, he paced to the window and slammed it shut. Secured the shutters.

DeeDee longed to whistle in relief, but she didn’t. Nor did she stop and analyze her confusion. She couldn’t be attracted to Liam—even if he wasn’t her grandfather, he was still years younger—or older? Than her. Besides, no matter who was using what calendar, he was a contemporary of her grandmother. He didn’t belong in the twenty-first century—where DeeDee longed to return.

“If you hear anything, just call,” he said. “I’m right next door. We’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

Monday, June 7, 2021

#MondayMotivation: When You Encounter Holes in the Road

 


We had a crazy experience this week. On Friday, we went to Lake Arrowhead in search of property. (We’ve been trying to buy a lot there for several months now.) We were in an area where a gated community is being built. The listing agent gave us the gate code, so we were alone in this property of several acres. There was a large pile of dirt in the middle of the road. This, of course, did not deter us—but it should have. Boom! What we didn’t know, or couldn’t see, was there was a crevice that was about 2.5 wide and about 8 feet deep running across the road. I’m not sure how we made it to the other side. That was miracle #1. Somehow, we crossed this gulf and now we were stuck. Larry went to scout around and shortly returned with 2x4s he found on this side of the road. Miracle #2. Using a rock as a hammer and wood shards as pliers, he repurposed the nails and created a bridge shaped like a capital I. Still, when he tried to drive on it, the wood would shift. I had nightmares of the car ending up nose down in this ravine. Of course, I’m praying…and after about a nail-biting 20 minutes, a man in a white truck stops to help. Miracle #3. He was MUCH braver than me. With one foot in the dirt at the edge of the hole and one foot on Larry’s bridge, he held the wood in place while Larry drove the car to safety. Even now, days later, I get panicky just thinking of it. 

People say troubles come in threes, but so, it seems, does miracles. What do you think? Have you seen troubles or miracles come in threes?   

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Wednesday's Words: The Andean Adventure, Chapter 2

 On Memorial Day, we went to the movies for the first time in ages. 15 months? Pre-pandemic, we went to the movies three or four times a month. I found the whole experience sort of surreal. A nearly deserted parking. An almost empty lobby. No lines waiting for tickets or popcorn. There were maybe three other groups of people in the seats--so maybe twenty people in a room built for hundreds. We saw Cruella. I really liked it, except we had brought six little kids and it really wasn't a kids' movie. I was thinking it would something along the lines of A 101 Dalmations--and sure, there were dalmations, but they were attack dogs...still, the kids, plied with popcorn and M&Ms, had a good time.

What struck me most, though, was the preview of Disney's Jungle Cruise. Several weeks ago, I decided to move the location of my Andean Adventure to the Brazilian rain forest. That action film looked suspiciously like my own book. This is not the first time something like this has happened to me. Shortly after I had written Beyond the Hollow, (since retitled as Timeless) a book set in Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow, the TV show Sleepy Hollow came out. After I had written two and half books in my Rose Harbor series, Debbie Macomber came out with her own Rose Arbor series which was also set in a small fictional, coastal Washington town.

I don't know why these things happen, but since this is my third rodeo of coincidences, I'm okay with it. So, yes, my current work in progress will probably seem a lot like Disney's Jungle Cruise, but I don't it involves time travel and I know it doesn't have my characters, or voice, or most other things.

Anyway, here is chapter two of The Andean Adventure. (But since I moved it to the rain forest, I'll probably come up with another name. If you missed chapter one, you can read it here.)




Frustration rippled through DeeDee. Now what? Take cover from the gunfire? But that had seemed to disappear along with her rescuer. What about the man wearing the boots? DeeDee scooped up her bag and picked her way back to where she’d seen the boots, silently praying the driver was still alive, although, she didn’t know what she’d do if he was. It wasn’t as if she could carry him to civilization. She wasn’t even sure she’d be able to get him back into the jeep.

Did she have a cell phone? And would it have reception in this jungle?

Knowing Mom must have packed her bag, she almost didn’t want to even look in it. But, of course, she did. She rifled past the granola bar, a packaged muffin, an unopened water bottle—no wonder the bag had been so heavy—and found two sealed envelopes. One had her name written on it in Mom’s handwriting, the other was addressed and had a foreign, ancient looking stamp and postage stamp in the corner. She found the cell phone and checked for service.

Nothing.

She tucked the device back into her bag and waded through the weeds. She approached the boots with a hammering heart. She let out a whoosh of relief when she found the boots were just that. Boots. No bleeding or bruised driver attached.

After only a moment of internal debate, she slipped on the boots. They rattled around on her feet, but she cinched the laces up as tight as she could make them. Glancing around, she spotted a hat and what could be a jacket. The hat rode low over her eyes and she had to push it back so she could see. The jacket reeked of tobacco and beer. She didn’t try it on, but held onto it in case the night turned cold.

Nonsense. I’ll be home before dark, she told herself. But even in her own head, it sounded and felt like a lie. Next, she turned her attention to the smoking jeep. Whomever had been driving it had taken the keys.

Who was that man? And how did he know her name?

DeeDee wandered to the side of the road and leaned against a split rail fence. A curious pair of llamas trotted over to watch her dig back into her bag. The two envelopes stared up at her. She selected the one with Mom’s handwriting on it and pulled out a handwritten note. She ignored the other folded papers.

Darling Dee,

I have no clue where this adventure will take you, but I wish you love. If your journey is anything like mine, Celia’s, or Joel’s, you may have the good fortune to bump into one of your ancestors.

DeeDee blew out a breath. Of course, Mom would assume the Witching Well water would cause her time travel, but DeeDee didn’t believe the time travel stories. Oh, she might believe the water from the Witching Well had some sort of hallucinogenic properties such as the old legends claimed—even the modern-day scientists agreed this could be the case. And sure, something had happened for Jason and Celia—they’d both drank from the well and had fallen in love in a fast and furious way. That much was true. But what happened prior to that was nothing more than a flight of their imaginations. Sometimes the lines between imagination and lunacy are shadowy.

DeeDee had seen her friends’ aging parents lose their grip on reality, and now it was happening to her mom. Mom had been the rock to which DeeDee had to tied her boat. A safe shelter in DeeDee’s turbulent and stormy life. DeeDee had fallen into one early marriage with disastrous results, and after years of struggling in a parent/child relationship, she finally realized she had tried to create a father figure out of her husband.

It hadn’t been fair to either of them. It had been a mistake. When she tried to find her own feet and voice, Brace had left. The second marriage had been fast and furious resulting in beautiful children but very little else. Thinking of her family and home, DeeDee blinked away a sudden tear.

She picked the letter up and resumed reading. The sooner she solved this puzzle, the sooner she’d return home.

 Of course, I wouldn’t presume to predict where the universe may send you, but I have a dearest wish you’ll get the chance to meet my mother.

She was a remarkable woman. You are much like her—brave, strong, witty, and passionately kind. But whereas you have been blessed with a responsible streak, she had a much more adventurous spirit. As I’m sure you are aware, any virtue taken to an extreme can become a vice.

My mother lived an untethered life, flitting from one wild adventure to the next. One of her, some would call, hairbrained passions had been the search for the Lost City of Caesars. Somewhere, somehow, she’d gained possession of this map that I’ve included in the bag.

I went to the library and had a nice librarian help me with a little research. Do you know Mattie? Such a nice lady. You’d like her. When you get back, you’ll have to get acquainted. I’m sure the two of you would be great friends. She runs a local book club that you’d probably enjoy if you ever took the time to do anything other than work.

But I digress.

Mattie sat with me and helped me pull up some information on the legend of the Lost City of Caesars on the World Wide Web.

DeeDee dropped the letter into her lap. Incredible. How long had Mom been planning this? It must have been a while. This wasn’t some spontaneous I’m angry at my disapproving daughter and I want some sexy alone time with this bum off the street thing. No. Mom had gone to the library and enlisted some poor civil servant to help in this elaborate delusion. With another disgruntled huff, DeeDee plucked the letter back up and continued to read.

Darling, I know what you’re thinking. And I know how angry you’ll be. If I were there, you’d undoubtedly call me interfering, presumptuous, and meddlesome. And all of those things are true.

It’s also true that we humans have no control over where the water from the Witching Well may take us, but I do believe the Universe loves us and only wants what’s best for us. I can’t say what surprises lie in store for you. That’s part of the magic. But if, by any chance, you find yourself in Latin America, I hope this map may come in handy.

Much love,

Mom

Anger bubbled in DeeDee’s gut. The emotions mingled with something else—something easy to define. Hunger. Mom might be a lunatic, but at least she’d packed a granola bar. Dee dropped the letter back into her bag, and pulled out the snack along with the other envelope.

The yellowing paper felt brittle beneath her fingers. Her grandmother—this impetuous, shadowy memory from DeeDee’s past—had touched this very envelope. The knowledge sent an odd trill down her spine. She pulled out the paper. It was a map drawn with precision and care. Mountains. Rivers, a town called Punto de Parada.

Dotted lines marked the way, but did they represent roads or trails? DeeDee glanced around at the thick foliage threatening to spill over the fence. It wouldn’t take long for the jungle to engulf anything man-made.

How old was this map? She turned it over, searching for clues. Not finding anything, she carefully folded it, tucked it back in her bag, and unwrapped the granola bar.

A llama edged closer. DeeDee turned her back to the creature, bit into her snack, and contemplated her next move. Should she try and follow the map? Or just try to return to Connecticut? If she could find the Witching Well, and drink from it, would it take her home? Or somewhere else? This place wasn’t optimal, but at least she wasn’t hanging with dinosaurs, trapped in a concentration camp, or surrounded by lions. Things were bad, but they could always be worse. She slid the llama a warning glance when he got too close.

Curious and no longer hungry, she brushed her fingers off on her nightie, plucked the other envelope from her bag, and began to read what Librarian Maddy had found on the Lost City of the Caesars.

An expedition led by Gutierre Vargas de Carvajal in 1539 ended in shipwreck while attempted to pass through the Strait of Magellan. Rumor has it one of the captains and 150 men survived and found refuge in the Andes with native tribes. Some thirty years later, two men appeared in Concepción claiming to be among the survivors. They claimed other survivors had settled in southern Chile in a land full of treasure. A number of unfruitful expeditions were organized in the 16th century to find “The City of the Caesars,” but most ended in tragedy. Many died sailing the stormy seas off the Patagonian coast.

While many explorers and treasure hunters have died, the legend still survives. It is said “the enchanted city cannot be discovered by any traveler... for every time a traveler comes too near, a thick fog rises up between him and the city and the rivers change course to bear the traveler away...” Still, those brave souls who dare are able to see from afar the gleaming domes and towers made of silver and gold. Those who live there are the very same who constructed the buildings, because there no one is born and no one dies. The day the city becomes disenchanted is the day the world ends.”

 

Despite the map in her hand, DeeDee wasn’t interested in lost cities. She was much more interested in getting herself unlost. Not knowing which way to go, she took the road downhill. Why climb if it wasn’t necessary? The boots knocked around on her feet. The dirt road wandered past a few ramshackle farms with hungry goats, knock-kneed cows, straggly cats and surly dogs. No humans. She hadn’t a guess as to where she was or even when she was, but the Spanish-speaking man had given her a clue as did the weather. At home, it had been snowing. Here, it was sunny and warm. So, she was probably somewhere on the Southern Continent. The monkeys, as well as the palm trees swaying above her head, suggested she was somewhere closer to Central America.

Now, decades after graduation from high school, she wished she had paid more attention in her Spanish classes. Of course, she didn’t know if she was in a Spanish-speaking country just because one man chose to speak Spanish.

Who had been shooting at him, or, scary thought, had they been shooting at her? All the unanswered questions rattling around in the back of her head spurred her forward.

DeeDee forgot her resolution of sitting and waiting for the delusion to pass as the sun sunk lower toward the trees. Spending the night alone in the jungle with gunmen shooting in random directions pressed her toward what she hoped would be civilization. The longer she walked the pastures between the ramshackle farms shrank. She took this as a good sign that she was getting closer to town or a settlement of some sort.

After hobbling in her too-big boots and offering up silent prayers that the tiny prick in the back of the heel wouldn’t become infected, DeeDee eventually found a town…of sorts. Wooden buildings. Donkey pulled carts filled with vegetables and sacks of grain. Men and women and draped in bright colored cloths and blankets. Most appeared to be indigenous to the area, but there were a few of clearly European dissent.

She knew from her days of being infatuated with the musical Evita that after World War II many European settlers flocked to Latin America. Now, she hoped she wasn’t going to run into bands of marauders. Memories of Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark filled her head. No matter how much she’d loved the movie, she had no desire to recreate Indie and Mariam’s flight from the Nazis.

That won’t happen to me, she promised herself. This is my delusion. I can decide who comes and who goes. She should be able to cast the starring roles of her own delusion.

But, if she remembered correctly, that’s not how it happened for Mom. Supposedly she had met Hans 60 years ago and then he—in typical manly fashion—had quickly disappeared.

DeeDee had long learned life rarely follows a well-thought-out agenda. What was that cliché? Make plans and God laughs?

DeeDee paused near a motley assortment of donkeys and horses tied to a split rail fence. They pawed their hooves and flung their tails in a greeting. DeeDee couldn’t read the words painted above the wide swinging doors of a wooden building, but she guessed it was a tavern because of the tinkling sound of a piano and unmistakable odor of alcohol.

She had given up drinking as soon as she’d received her diagnosis. It hadn’t been a hard transition. She’d missed coffee, though. She’d thought after she’d been declared cancer-free she would go back to her morning brew, but she found after such a long absence the headaches that inevitably accompanied the caffeine weren’t worth the price.

The tavern held no charm for her, either, but she peeked through the doors at the people gathered inside: men pressed up against the bar, women toting jugs of ale, elderly slouched around a table and studying a chess game. If nothing else, someone could tell her where she was, and more importantly, when she was.

Knowing that even by twenty-first century standards she was scantily dressed, DeeDee braced her shoulders and pushed through the open door. She joined the men seated at the bar and waved to the bartender.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Can you tell me where I am?”

The bartender, who have been wiping down a glass set it in front of her and cocked an eyebrow. He let loose a stream of Spanish.

DeeDee listened for familiar words before realizing all the Spanish words she knew were somehow food related. She didn’t even know if they ate tacos, enchiladas or nachos in this strange world, after all traditional Mexican food wouldn’t be necessarily prevalent in most of Latin America.

“Does anyone here speak English?” she asked. When the bartender looked at her blankly, she tried again. “Habla Española?”

 No. She’d just asked if he spoke Spanish. Habla usted Inglés? She tacked on por favor for good measure. The bartender took the rag that he had been using to wipe down glasses and flagged at someone across the room.

DeeDee looked over her shoulder and was only marginally surprised to see the man that she had met earlier coming her way. How had he gotten here before her? Hadn’t he run his jeep into a tree?

Even though he had left her alone with unseen assailants, she was glad to see him. He, at least, spoke English. And maybe he could answer some of her questions. DeeDee rushed toward him.

“Thank heavens an English speaker,” she said.

“How are you, Delia?”

She froze beneath his frosty gaze. How did they know each other? A foggy memory returned. Her grandmother—her namesake—had live somewhere in Latin America in the 1940s and 50s. Of course. Her thoughts stammered.

“How do we know each other?” she asked.

He blinked at her. “You have to be kidding me.”

“No, not kidding,” she assured him. “You obviously know me, but I haven’t a clue of how we met, or who you are.” She glanced. “I’m not even sure where I am or what’s today’s date.”

“Wow. So many questions.” The quirk of his lips told her he didn’t believe her.

“Lots and lots of questions.” She gave him what she hoped was her most innocent and least duplicitous smile.

“Well, I can’t promise any answers, he said.

“At least you speak my language,” she said.

He laughed and it was a warm deep sound coming from his chest. “You could say that.” He stuck out his hand. “Liam Hastings, at your service.”

She placed her hand in his. A thrill passed up her arm and she quickly dropped her hand to her side. Who was this person? Could he be her grandfather? According to Mom, Delia had never married. “I’m DeeDee Fleur.”

“I know who you are,” he said in a cold tone. “Although, I’ve never heard you call yourself DeeDee.” He cocked his head. “It doesn’t suit you.”

“It’s my name.”

“Not to me.”

“Listen, I know that this will sound crazy,” DeeDee said. “But can you tell me where and more importantly when I am.”

He gave her the same blank stare the bartender had even though she knew he understood what she was asking.

“Where and when do you think you are?”

“I’m not sure.” She touched her forehead. “I must have hit my head. I can’t remember…much.” DeeDee’s thoughts scrambled over her memories. Grandma had been a contemporary of Hemingway, but instead of enlisting in the Spanish War she’d fled to São Paulo. That’s where she was! She was in Brazil. No wonder the language didn’t sound quite Spanish. She’d been hearing Portuguese. Happy she’d placed at least one piece of the puzzle together, she settled her gaze on Liam. How did he fit into the equation?

She had no idea. Grasping Liam’s hand, she waited for the thrill. When it returned, it didn’t surprise her, but gave her a sense of ease. “You have to help me. I don’t know how I got here. In fact, I can’t even remember my own address. Do you know where I live? Could you take me there?”

As she spoke, A plan of sorts formed in her head. Liam Hastings had just confirmed what she had always been told—she looked a lot like her grandmother. Would Delia help her? Better question—would she even believe her? But looks couldn’t lie, right? DeeDee tried to remember what she had heard about her grandmother from Mom.

Delia had been far more interested in adventure than motherhood. Still, Mom had worshipped her mother, and that’s why she had named her only daughter after her. There had to be some warm maternal instincts that would kick in if DeeDee suddenly appeared on Delia’s doorstep. Right?

Liam Hastings threw back his head and laughed. “Girlie, we are miles from São Paulo.”

Would Delia help her secure passage, if not to Connecticut, than at least the Florida Keys? Of course, in her grandmother’s time, travel was a lot more complicated and difficult than it was in twenty-first century. She couldn’t just hop on a plane. Could she? What year was it, anyway? She had to ask.

Suspicion mingled with concern and flitted over Liam’s handsome face.

“You really don’t know?”

“I really don’t.” She tried to look as innocent as possible.

“1947.”

“Well, that’s a relief. The war is over.” Another thought occurred to her. “Who was shooting at you?”

“What makes you think they were shooting me? How do you know they weren’t shooting at you?”