This is an excerpt from the fourth book in the Ashbrook, Montana series. The book is free for this weekend only. If you like what you’ve read so far, click the link at the bottom of the story and get yourself a copy. It goes back to regular price on July 24th.
Kate overheard someone whisper, “I think it’s Sam and Kate from the airplane. Maybe they’re making up.”
“You and I have a history. We have a common bond. You just met pretty boy this morning, and here you are almost kissing him.”
This was not Sam talking. Kate knew it. The Sam she knew talked about engines, fishing, and stunts he pulled with his friends. The Sam she knew pined for his wife that left him twelve years ago. The painful truth slapped her. The Sam she knew ignored her until another man showed interest. She was just a toy he was at risk of losing. To keep her resolve, Kate reminded herself of these things.
“And stop thinking,” he yelled. “You do that when you’re in a situation and you want to say the right thing. You’re not a mother right now. You don’t have to be logical. I’ll tell you the right thing to say. Say something like Sam you’re right, or what the hell let’s give it a go.”
She tried to think of something that would hurt him to make him go away. “Sam, you go outside to pee sometimes.”
“That’s your best argument? I hunt Kate. Pretty boy may know the right thing to say, but I know what to do.”
The intensity of his demeanor declined and brightened with revelation. “You’re playing hard to get. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”
“Where do you get these things from?” she asked. “I’m not playing anything.”
Satisfied with his conclusion, Sam said, “Well, kissy, kissy, huggy, huggy time with Luke is over. I will block every attempt he makes at taking you from me.”
“Sam!” Kate scolded, “That’s what dolphins do.”
The eagerness in his voice changed to that of a driven man. He pointed at her. “And, that is the Kate I want. The one who knows how to keep up with me.”
Streams of sunlight streamed through the branches of the tree behind the gravestone. One ray seemed to be pointing at the name: Jesse Duncan March 4,1978-July 11, 2015. Annie Duncan offered a sad smile in response. Nature was sending some sort of a sign. She wished she knew what it was.
One of the flowers in the vase was turned in the wrong direction. Annie bent down to readjust it to align with the others. It shouldn’t have mattered, but it for some reason unknown to her it did. She stepped away from the flowers to assess how they’d look from a distance. Pleased with the slight alteration, Annie gave them a nod of approval.
“Noah’s working at the clinic. They really needed another doctor. So everyone was happy about him coming back to town. But I suppose you knew that was going to happen.” She pressed her lips together. “You always told me that he wanted what we had. People say that sort of a thing all the time.” Annie threw a furtive glance at the car parked on the gravel path and took a deep breath. “Then again, you said you’d be back in time for supper.” Her frown was so deep she felt the dark cloud loom over her head. “I sold that four-wheeler as soon I saw Jesse eyeing it the way you used to. Like father like son.” Her chuckle was more from sadness than appreciation of the similarity. There was no way I was letting it take both of you from me.” Her anger dissipated as quickly as it appeared, “We’re using the money for a down payment on a pickup for him. You know he’s excited about that.”
She pulled a slip of paper out of her pocket. “Anyway, I came to tell you that once again you won. I should have known you’d argue with me even after you left. I didn’t believe it at first. But when Jesse and Noah started taking your side it took all the steam out of my boat.” It was as though her world was on mute and the sound had returned. Some birds in the tree above her chirped loudly. Maybe they were arguing with her. Annie’s eyes searched through the branches to find where exactly they were. The last thing she wanted was a present from above. Just in case she stepped out of the shadow into the sunlight.
When she heard the car door shutting she knew her time with Jesse was coming to a close. “I will love you always, Jesse Duncan. Nothing will ever change that.” The crunch of the grass beneath the footsteps counted down the time she had remaining. Annie took one last breath. “I’ll be by again soon. I promise.”
“Hey, Jesse.” Noah’s eyes clouded and cleared. He slipped his hand into Annie’s and fiddled with the diamond ring on her finger. “I’m sorry to have to cut this short. If we don’t leave soon we’ll be late for Jesse’s graduation.”
Annie nodded and pulled the slip of paper out of her pocket. She released her hold on Noah’s hand and noted how quickly the coolness from its absence discomforted her. “I’m bringing this back to you. To let you know you won.” She looked into Noah’s almond brown eyes. “And, I’m not mad about it anymore.”
A small smile formed at the corner of his lips. It was the same smile he gave her when he showed her the note the first time. Annie folded the note until it fit in the palm of her hand. It fit perfectly in the gap between the flowers and the vase.
With her task completed, she returned to Noah’s side and took his hand. They headed toward the car in reverent silence.
Noah stopped for one last looked at the grave. He whispered, “Thank you, Jesse. I’ll make sure to do right by her.” This time Annie gave his hand a gentle tug.
Her heart wasn’t as broken as she thought it was after all.
As hard as they hoped for a storm to save them from attending Dolph’s party, it never happened. In the meantime, they practiced looking at each other’s mouths when they spoke. This way if forced into a conversation with Dolph, they’d have a chance.
“I don’t think he’s going to do anything,” Caitlin encouraged and offered an alternative reason for the party. “Maybe he wants to introduce his fiancee.”
“Did you see him around any women when you were there?” Selene asked.
“Well, no,” Caitlin admitted.
“Why did the boys get most of the powers?” Selene moaned.
Her sisters raised eyebrows contradicted her statement.
“The ability to talk to dead people is not a power. And if you think about it, in the end, everybody gets that.”
Her tone was so matter of fact it struck her sisters as being quite humorous. They fell into a fit of soft giggles until the contagious mirth had everyone in the back of the wagon laughing.
One time when Angelica was worried about a disagreement between Selene and Marjorie damaging their relationship, their mother chose to let the girls pursue their own resolution and offered Angelica some wisdom. She said, “Ninety percent of the things we worry about never come true.” Instead of allaying her fears, Angelica worried about what she overlooked.
When they arrived at the party, she found that all of their worries were unfounded. Several wagons and horses hitched to the front gate of the farm hinted at the enormity of the party. Further in, they saw more than 100 people milling around the farm. Several women wore what could best be described as pantaloons or puffy pants with legs that ballooned out from the seams. Others had their hair up in bows and wore variations of gingham and calico longer dresses. While the girls looked down at their steampunk outfits, Selene stated the obvious. “I think we won’t have any problems with people bothering us.”
“I feel better,” Peter exhaled the breath he didn’t know he was holding. “I mean not that you don’t fit in.” He waved his hands in front of him. “Erase that comment from the record. I mean to say, I feel better with all these people here. It means we may not run into Dolph.”
As if mentioning his name summoned his presence, Dolph appeared from the middle of a group of men dressed in long sleeve shirts and black leather vests.
Peter’s eyed hardened, and he growled under his breath, “How does he do that?”
Selene pushed to the front of the group and as they practiced. She thanked Dolph for the invitation and showed him the biscuits. “Where can I put these?”
Dolph pointed to a buffet table inside the entrance of his barn. He said, “I’ll walk with you,” and led the group of friends to the barn stopping every couple feet to introduce them to the nearest person. Every time any of them tried to sneak away, Dolph ushered them back into the group.
“He’s trying to make it hard on Dan,” Demetrius whispered to Eugene. “When we leave people are going to ask Dan about us.”
After that, Demetrius tucked his glasses into his pocket and added bits of information that hinted they were visiting cousins from out of state to whoever heard the introduction.
One of the girls cooed at him, “You have the most amazing green eyes.”
Caught off guard by the compliment Demetrius thanked her. She was wearing beige pantaloons and the headband meant to keep her hair in place matched the bow on the front of her blouse. “If you aren’t going to be here long, and my father isn’t here to hear me be so bold, I’m going to spend as much time with you as I can. She nodded her head in the opposite direction. “If you want I can show you something from around the garden.” Demetrius swallowed hard, squeaked a response of ”Yeah, sure,” and allowed himself to be led away from the group by her.
“That was disgusting,” Selene whispered in Brian’s ear. Except he didn’t hear her because a girl wearing a blue gingham dress waved at him. She rewarded his wave back to her with a shy smile and slowly turned to walk in another direction while looking back occasionally to see if Brian was following her. He left without mentioning to anyone else where he was headed.
Caitlin remembered watching shark week on the Discovery Channel. The fish huddled into a circle while the sharks swam into the group and picked off fish like they were taking a bite out of an apple. Like the fish in the video, they helplessly awaited the fate certain to come. She grabbed hold of Eugene’s hand. “You stay with me. Do you understand?”
He forcefully pulled his hand away from her and said, “I’m not a baby, you don’t have to hold my hand.” In the instant he let go of her, a girl with wavy red hair approached him. Waving a pair of pliers in front of her, she said, “I heard you’re the one who can help me.”
Like a moth to the flame, Eugene went forward. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I can help you.” He threw Caitlin a cross look. “Some people around here know I’m smart.”
A stunned Caitlin stood there with her mouth agape as Peter was dragged away by a muscular girl.
Selene pat Caitlin on the shoulder. “You should be used to this by now. It’s going to happen a lot.” Caitlin tried to walk away, and Selene pulled her back by the arm. “Oh no, you don’t. You’re not leaving us alone with the stalker.”
“I thought I should get used to being alone,” Caitlin sniped back. Expecting the situation to escalate, she was surprised when Selene’s temper softened. “I meant that as a word from the wise, not to you personally. They say we are fickle, but it’s the boys who are that way.” She rolled her eyes and pointed at Damien who was following a girl like she had him on a leash. “Look at how easily our heroes left us to fend for ourselves. Penelope told me we girls were going to have to stick together. I didn’t realize she meant this week.”
With the agreement that they were not to go anywhere alone, the girls broke up into groups of two and three. First, they sampled the variety of foods on the buffet table. Andrea commented that the only difference between the party they were attending and a party from their time was the clothes. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same. People nibbled on sandwiches and sweets while a band played country songs their fourth-grade teacher taught them. If people weren’t talking, they were singing along with the band. In the corner, a small group of people danced a two step. Scattered around the barn people talked, drank and made merry.
Not knowing anyone made enjoying the party difficult. After a short amount of time, they were ready to go home. As if he sensed their disinterest, Dolph’s brother tried to engage them in a game of horseshoes. They played three rounds and Andrea won all three. After that, Duane grew disinterested in the girls and went off to be with somebody who was more fair competition.
Dolph tried enlisting their help with cleanup. Selene and Andrea responded to his attempts with icy glares that were so intense he stepped away from the group. Speaking like he was a rodent trying to escape the jaws of the lion, he said, “You know where to find me if you need something.” Before they had time to ask anything he bolted into the crowd of people.
“I thought we weren’t supposed to look him in the eye,” Caitlin cautioned her friend’s boldness.
To which Selene winked and said, “Apparently, like a lot of people, he doesn’t know how to handle angry eyes.” Her broad smile assured her friends she hadn’t been enchanted by Dolph.
Deciding for the group it was time to go home, Selene went after the first boy in the group she could find. Nicholas was off in a corner with a girl discussing a book. Since she hadn’t seen the book, Selene guessed it belonged to the girl. She stood beside Nicholas for a couple of minutes and waited for his attention. When that didn’t work, she used her nice voice and whispered in his ear, “We’d like to leave.”
Without turning to look at her, Nicholas said, “Okay, I’ll catch a ride home with somebody else.”
Selene’s face dropped. Changing tack she tried her mean voice. “Nicholas, it is time to go now.”
Waving her away like she was a fly, Nicholas said, “Fine then go.”
“Really, go without me.” Nicholas, who seemed annoyed with the conversation added, “It’s not like we don’t know where we live.”
“But it’s going to be dark soon,” Selene whined.
“Then we’ll head out in the morning.” He shifted his position so Selene was looking at the back of his neck.
Caitlin opened her mouth to joke and repeat what Selene said to her earlier when Eugene left her stranded.
Selene held her finger in the air as a warning. “Don’t even think about saying it.”
The girls tried to hide their bemused smiles which resulted in the five of them laughing.
They found Dan and Ella who seemed ready to go home too. Dan speaking with paternal wisdom said that enticing the unwilling boys to return with them to the farm would cause an unwanted scene and the best strategy was to let them return home on their own.
“Look at it this way,” Ella consoled. “This might be our last chance for girl time before you leave. I say let’s take it.”
Author Note: Dolph’s plan of divide and conquer seems to work every time. It’ll be interesting to see how the girls try to gain the upper hand.
Thank you for reading this chapter and let me know what you think of the story.
With Selene safely returned and everyone packed and ready to go, the group of unlikely friends waited not so patiently for the storm that opened the time portal to arrive. It wasn’t that they minded helping Dan around the farm. As a matter of fact, it was quite the contrary. Dan’s expressed gratitude of whatever they completed was so strong he had them believing they were the best at whatever it was they did.
One time Ella asked Peter to shine Dan’s boots before he went into town on an errand. At the time Peter thought nothing of it. He brushed the mud off the heels and polished the top and sides while trying to recall a story Mrs. Almstead mentioned in passing. She’d tell them stories from ancient Greece like she’d been there. With the new eyes, Peter wondered if perhaps she was originally from a time period that had long passed.
After placing Dan’s boots on the rack, Peter went off to find his backpack. Occasionally, a book he hadn’t read, appeared in the front pouch. He hoped the one with the story, he only remembered in pieces would make its way to him.
He was at the top of the stairs when he heard Dan’s reaction. “Look at the shine on these boots!” Uncertain of the tone behind Dan’s response, Peter stopped between two steps.
Smiling broadly enough to show his gold capped molar, Dan said, “I can tell by looking at them you put a lot of effort into them.”
“Thank you.” Peter didn’t know why he thanked Dan. Maybe it was the level of gratitude or the sincerity behind the compliment.
Rubbing the side of the boot in appreciation of the softness, Dan said, “These boots are so nice, I think we should have a proper visit into town.”
Peter’s eyes widened in shock. Rubbing their hands on the towels tied around their waists for makeshift aprons, Selene and Andrea came out of the kitchen to discern what changed Dan’s mind about them keeping a low profile.
After Damien gave Dolph a lightning bolt to the chest, the Dan thought it best that they travel to town in small numbers. On those visits, he encouraged Demetrius to use his talents to convince people that they had a dream about some interesting visitors.
Dan turned to the girls, “Remember you’re cousins from afar stopping by to visit on your way to another destination.”
Before he had time to change his mind, the girls bolted into the kitchen to inform Ella of the change in events. From the room where he was wiping off his boots so they’d look nicer too, Peter heard muffled voices of excitement, doors shutting open and closed, and Dan’s reminders of conversations they may want to avoid.
Mutually amazed and disappointed, they took in the sights of the town. The boys only ever returned to the farm talking about the mercantile, feed supply store and the doctor’s office. They failed to mention that further down the road there was a drugstore/pharmacy with a window that boasted having a soda fountain. A tailor was on one side of the pharmacy and a shoe cobbler on the other side.
Across the street, a saloon boasted having the best whiskey this side of the border. Above the saloon, several windows displayed vacant signs. Ella explained the saloon doubled as a boarding house for travelers. Beside the saloon, a bakery with a large window displaying loaves of bread, cookies, and pies was on one side of the saloon. Ella pointed at a diner to the left of the bakery that was full with a lunch time crowd. “Dan took me there on our first date.” Smiling at the memory, she added, “Our parents sat at the table beside us.”
When they stepped inside the drugstore, the girls decided the logic behind Dan giving each of them a shiny nickel. The cost of a glass of soda was exactly five cents. While Dan went to the supply store with the boys, Ella and the girls sat at the red and white tiled counter top to sip their sodas and discuss their plans for the afternoon.
Andrea was the first to notice people stopping to look at a flyer tacked to the door before they walked into the drugstore. Their pleased smile and excited conversations prompted by the announcement ignited enough curiosity for Andrea to leave her soda and read it for herself. Her eyes widened and her mouth formed a little “O”.
Selene ran to her side to read the information and shared the reaction of the other patrons. She said, “As much as things changed, they remained the same. They announce events the same way we do. It’s a party. And the entire community is invited.”
“We can pretend like we never saw it,” Andrea said quickly. “Or maybe the storm will arrive and it will be a nonissue.”
“Why wouldn’t we want to stay away from a party?” Caitlin sided with Selene.
Seeing the sides were rising against her Andrea gave Ella a pleading look.
“How about we let Dan decide.” Ella said, “He’ll know how to handle the matter.” In an effort to calm Andrea she added, “He’ll probably say that since he didn’t see it, we’re not obligated to attend.”
For the entire ride home the girls bickered about the wisdom in attending the party. Marjorie sided with Andrea. True to her nature Angelica remained silent on the matter. They were wound so tight by the matter Dan said he heard them squabbling long before they got to the door of the house. “Imagine riding home from town with it.” Ella shook her head. Despite the complaints, the gleam in her eye said she was glad to be surrounded by the activity of the girls.
Dan’s face wrinkled with consternation explained the implications of the invitation. “This is a big deal. It means a couple things. First, Dolph is opening his farm to the community which means he’s staking his claim. He plans on being in Arcadia for quite some time.”
“Hasn’t he been here all along?” Nicholas asked like the answer to the question was obvious.
“No, he hasn’t. Demigods with dream transfer skills have the ability to travel through time. They tend to keep to themselves so they don’t interfere with events. It’s kind of obvious when a person has a house and what not and then one day all of it is gone.”
Different shades of confusion crossed the kids’ faces.
“Basically Dolph has closed the portals and has decided to live here permanently. He’s not moving to any other time.”
“That explains how he knew about the movies from our time!” Eugene exclaimed.
The information Dan shared started making sense to Nicholas. As the bits of information came together in his mind, the words to the next question formed, “Is it possible he knew us, way before we ever met him?”
“And the answer to that question is certainly,” Dan answered.
“How do you know all this?” Nicholas asked, “It isn’t in any of the books I’ve read.”
Dan placed his finger on his chin. He looked to Ella with an expression that asked her permission to share a secret. She nodded and said, “I think they can handle it.”
He began with a question. “Eugene, do you have the note I wrote before you went to Dolph’s”
Eugene pulled the note out of his pocket. “The part where I said, ‘Looking forward to seeing you over dinner?’ was a protection against Dolph. I made you see yourself with us that evening so he couldn’t deceive you into thinking you wanted to stay. You don’t have to look people in the eyes to get them to see what you want them to see.”
“You’re like me?” Demetrius asked.
“Used to be.” Dan placed his arm around Ella’s shoulder.
“Aww, don’t say it like that honey.” Ella rushed to his side.
The sound of a horse galloping in the distance distracted them enough to halt all reactions to the new information that answered questions like how Dan knew to expect them, and how he knew about the labyrinth. As Dan walked towards the front of the farm to meet the rider, Peter wondered the extent of their patron’s skills.
The rider reached into his pocket and pulled something from his pocket and handed it to Dan. They shook hands and the rider backed up the horse and left the way he came.
Dan’s somber face warned of them of what they didn’t want to know, but were going to hear anyway. He said, “It’s an invitation from Dolph, he wanted to make sure we knew there were no hard feelings.”
“In other words, he took away our excuse for not attending.” Ella clucked her teeth. “That man is a pest.”
“There’s still the chance of a storm happening before then,” Andrea suggested.
Everyone looked up to see the blue cloudless sky above them.
Her voice thinned conveying the struggle to muster the hope she wanted to feel, she added, “We can always hope.”
Authors note: That feeling when you know you’re going to walk into something you’d rather not. We can only hope the friends figure out Dolph’s scheme before it’s too late…. (dun da da)
I hope you’re still enjoying the story. Leave me a note to let me know what you think so far.
The pounding of the door and clank of the latch securing the door ushered in the darkness that somehow amplified the sound of the events on the other side of the door.
Damien’s voice broke the tension. “Posse of misfit country kids two. Weird stalker dudes one. We’re still winning.”
“When did they get the one?” Peter was ready for an argument.
Without missing a beat, Damien said, “When they got all of us to step into 1915.”
Eugene’s matter of fact voice joined the conversation. “Technically, that was your fault.”
A misty green glow began in the middle of the room and spread like a mist. With the light, they were able to see Andrea snickering in the middle of the mist and the boy’s mouths forming perfect circles.
Oblivious of their reactions Andrea repeated what she found so funny. “Posse of misfit country kids.” A yellow tint joined the green and illuminated the small room where they sat. “That’s the best description of us I’ve ever heard.”
Angelica didn’t know if it was the light, or if the stress had finally got to her. Whatever it was she found herself tickled along with Andrea. One by their expressions changed from awed to amused.
Eugene threw his arm over Damien’s shoulder. “For the record. I’m glad you made us get off the bus. We will never forget this time in our lives.”
“Really?” The relief softened Damien’s rugged stance.
“Yeah. But I’m still going to give you a hard time for as long as we live.” Eugene smirked.
“I can dish it out. So I’m good with getting it back.” Damien threw his arm around Eugene’s shoulder.
A swirl of color sparkled through the mist changing it from a greenish yellow to a soft mauve. “Since we’re living one of those touching moments of truth, does anyone feel comfortable mentioning Andrea has turned into a human glow stick?” All heads turned in the direction of Peter who was pressed up against a wall in a poor attempt to avoid being touched by the light.
The color slowly dimmed until they were once again enveloped in the darkness. “Good job!” Damien scolded. “You went and offended the fairy.”
A sadness overtook Angelica. Normally she used logic to keep her feeling on an even keel. However, the sadness was so strong, Angelica found herself succumbing to it. She sniffed back her tears. “Haven’t you learned anything since we’ve been here. It’s an act of poor taste to point out other people’s differences.”
However, if they considered Peter’s actions before this adventure that is exactly what he did. He was the one who asked the teacher if she was pregnant when she wore a dress that made her look a little bigger than the day prior. One year they had a student named Michael Mason. He was personable, smart and the kids loved having him in the class. It took less than a week for him to fit in with the group of friends—some of which had known each other since the nursery school at their church. When he was at a desk, to the person passing by, Michael was like the other eleven children in the class. The differences came out at recess. Michael had to wear braces on his legs. No matter how hard he tried to keep up with the boys, he always trailed the group. In an effort to try and be fair, Peter pointed out the obvious. “Michael is never going to be able to keep up with us. Either we need to choose a different game, or some of us have to slow down.”
Angelica’s face still burned with embarrassment at the memory. It was the beginning of her observance of the dance of communication. A crestfallen Michael avoided the boys at recess. Damien and Brian shunned Peter or stated rude comments. A confused Peter didn’t understand how a statement of concern was capable of causing so much conflict. “Why are you being jerks?” Except he used a more colorful word than jerks. “I was only saying what anybody with two eyes saw.”
“It’s the way you said it,” Brian held his hands in the air in frustration.
Their teacher reading Brian’s body language intervened and helped guide the boys through to the resolution. In the end, after mumbling about trying to do something nice getting him in trouble, Peter promised to try and be more mindful of his words. The other boys committed to taking the needs of the entire group into consideration before choosing an activity.
“Why am I always getting in trouble for stating the obvious? A problem can’t be fixed unless you address it.”
Marjorie spoke up.“Are you saying Andrea being a fixable problem?”
Peter began his defense. “For the record, I didn’t know she was a fairy. And in the movies, people who glow in the dark have been around some radioactive materials.”
A red glow pulsed in the middle of the room and moved in Peter’s direction. Andrea’s voice held an even vibrato tone. “If you don’t shut up, I’ll show you radioactive materials.”
Boom! Boom! Boom! The door rattled from the knocking. Guessing from the color change in the room, it was enough to calm Andrea. The sound of everyone catching their breath followed by silence amplified the atmosphere of anticipation.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Dan said, “It sounds like someone is knocking on the door. You kids stay put.”
“What if it’s those two guys?” Demetrius whispered.
A bright light from the outside world temporarily blinded them.
A familiar voice made it easier for Angelica to endure the glare. “I hope you weren’t having an early Selene is gone celebration.”
Author Note: Finally we know what Angelica can do! I hope the student that asked me to create her will be pleased. If you can, leave me a note to let me know what you think of the story so far.
Until the next post…this Saturday
Never finishing anything, Angelica flitted from one activity to the next. Waiting for Selene to return was almost more than she could handle. Usually, she was even-tempered when it came to watching matters resolve themselves in the ebb and flow of communication. The majority of conflicts were an immediate result of miscommunication. A person says something and rather than clarifying the recipient of the information reacts. And the back and forth begins.
Except, the problem between Selene and her father were a result of silence. The truth about Hade’s life away from his daughters came to light revealing he had another wife, in another realm. Learning the bitter winters that caused their arthritic grandmother’s bones to ache and the deadly ice slick that ended their Uncle’s life was a result of this second marriage was more than Selene wanted to comprehend. In her mind, their father’s crime of passion cursed their mother’s life.
One time Marjorie tried using logic to bring her around. “Technically, the length of the days are controlled by the tilting of the earth towards the sun. It’s always cold in one hemisphere. I seriously doubt it’s our father’s fault the world isn’t flat.”
The explanation did little to dissuade Selene from classifying their father as the family pariah.
A roll of thunder in the distance perked up the somber group of friends. Nicholas, the first to reach the window, said, “A storm is approaching from the east.”
Angelica didn’t bother to look up from the sewing project she attempted. Ella taught her to make a flower by closely stitching a series of x’s. The right colors combined in the right pattern formed a whimsical pattern that looked like a sunflower. As far as Angelica was concerned, The amount of time it took to recalculate the pattern wasn’t worth the momentary distraction. Unless the storm was a tornado, there was no point in paying it any attention.
It was as though her thoughts materialized. “The clouds are forming a funnel!” Nicholas marveled.
At this point, Peter joined the conversation. “Maybe it’s a portal to get home.”
“You can go ahead.” Marjorie didn’t bother looking up from the word search puzzle on her lap. “I’m not going anywhere without my sister.”
“Well that ends that discussion and begins another,” Damien huffed. “We need to make an agreement always to stay in close to each other.”
“Uhm, guys.” Nicholas stepped away from the window. “The cloud is getting closer.”
Brian joined Nicholas beside the window and whistled. “Does anybody remember what we’re supposed to do in the event of a tornado.”
“Get under the table and cover our heads?” Nicholas answered.
“That’s an earthquake.” Damien groaned.
Ella hurried into the room. Her eyes were wide and her voice was tight. “We need to go to the root cellar.”
Everyone froze in shock.
She clapped four times. “Now! Let’s go.”
“Demetrius! Stop!” Angelica implored as they ran out the back door of the house.
“Why do you think I’m doing it?” Demetrius yelled.
Angelica pointed at the funnel that touched the ground. Debris from the prairie whirled around the base of the ever increasing wind tower. “Because I wished for a tornado and there it is.”
“It wasn’t me.”
“Then who was it?”
As soon as he said it, Angelica saw two men in the distance. Unphased by the oncoming storm their eyes seemed to burn through the dust as they focused on the group of friends. Angelica pricked herself with the pin from her cross stitch and she dropped the cloth on the ground and joined her friends to run for cover.
Author Note: Thank you for staying with the story. I hope what you’ve read so far has piqued your curiosity. Because I skipped a couple weekends (sorry about that) I’ll post an update to the story on Wednesday
Persephone removed her cowboy hat to reveal her long, brown, wavy hair that cascaded to the middle of her back. Her violet color eyes sparkled like there were actual stars in them. Her beauty stunned Dolph and his brother into reticence. “If you ever need a place to stay, you know where I live.”
“That’s a fire neither of us wants to touch. And I’m not here to bandy with men. I have stepdaughter I need to visit.”
Caitlin slapped Demetrius on the shoulder. “Close your mouth already. You act like you haven’t seen a beautiful woman before.”
Persephone’s laugh was so smooth, Caitlin’s heart shuddered when the sound reached it. “Andrea’s stepmother?” Caitlin guessed.
Demetrius nudged Caitlin in the arm. “Close your mouth already.”
They walked with Persephone to find Selene.
Her presence changed the atmosphere enough to prompt several of the farmhands stop what they were doing to stand still with a mouth dropping stare. Aware of their glances, Persephone smiled in their general direction while following Caitlin and Demetrius to Selene.
“I’m glad you met Dolphino in person. Most people only see him in disguise.” She cast a backward glance towards Dolph who was in the middle of a conversation with Dan. With her brow wrinkled in concern, Persephone continued her introduction to the man hidden behind the glamor. “As a matter of fact, Dolph is a child of Morpheus. Morpheus visits people in their sleep and teaches them how to recognize dreams and make them a reality. Dolph broke rank and took the way of a dream killer. You see, he never recovered from the loss of his younger sister. She looked up to him like he was the king of her world and he tried hard to make sure she was always happy. When she died, he decided if he couldn’t have his dream life and survived, others should suffer the same fate as well.
“But he seems so nice.” Caitlin tried defending him.
“That’s how he works,” Persephone warned. “Most dream killers are obvious. They’ll make fun of you for believing in yourself, or they’ll tell you your dream is stupid, or you can’t do it. Those are the amateur dream killers.”
A vision of Mrs. Pryor flashed in Demetrius’s mind. All of a sudden, he understood the power struggle. He was trying to bring things to life, and she was right behind him destroying them.
“If you can get beyond them, Dolph steps in. He gets his power by convincing you that your dream in unimportant because there is a better one out there. So you go after this better dream, and the one given specifically to you goes unfulfilled, and the world is forever changed. The more dreams he kills, the better his crops, the healthier his cattle and so on and so forth. And the nerve of him for making that remark about my husband, even Hades lets me out to fulfill my purpose.”
They were at the front of the house when Marjorie and Angelica greeted Persephone who immediately addressed Selene’s absence, “She’s hiding in the kitchen. Really? Like a little heat is going to scare me away.” She strode through the front door like she owned the house.
A mass exodus of people including Ella didn’t bother looking back as they rushed out of the kitchen.
Ella’s sweet voice explained their presence on the porch. “We’re thinking they needed some privacy to talk to Selene. Perched close to the door with her ear tilted to help her hear better, Andrea tried eavesdropping. She quickly straightened because Selene argued, whined and pleaded loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Real fathers don’t lie to their children about something as important as a second wife,” she bellowed.
To her credit, Persephone’s voice never wavered. Her warning that a man who would imprison a woman until she agreed to marry him, had ways of ensuring his daughter acknowledged him.
Selene practically screamed, “I’d like to see him try.”
Persephone used facts and hints to sway Selene towards seeing things her way. “Do you really want to be separated from your sisters? You are already missing from Arcadia. He could take you now, give a plausible explanation and they would live on earth, and you would be stuck with Hades.”
Marjorie and Angelica held their hands over their mouths in horror. Angelica’s face paled, and she whispered, “We’ve been trying for almost a year to get her to talk to our father.”
They heard a foot stomp and “Fine.” Caitlin tripped over Andrea in a rushed to get away from the immediate area when they heard Selene stomp towards the kitchen door.
With the attitude still in her voice, she asked, “Ella, do you mind if I go talk to my father. It’ll be quick.”
“Take all the time you need honey.” Ella hugged her tightly before returning to the kitchen to begin the lunch preparations. She took one long last glance at Selene before returning to the kitchen and whispered, “I hope everything works out alright. I’ve grown attached to Miss Sassy.”
I close this piece repeating the advice spoken through Persephone. Guard your personal vision closely and protect it from those who interfere with them coming to fruition.
Make sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think of the story so far.
Until the next chapter,
The last thing any of them expected was to see Dolph and his brother ride into the ranch, tie their horses to a post, and greet the group of friends with a familiarity that made the boys move to the front of the girls. Demetrius knew he was supposed to consider the man his enemy. Yet, his presence elicited the feeling of relief one feels when gathering with family over the holidays. In a different time and different place, Demetrius was certain they’d get along.
Dan extended his hand in greeting. “Nice to finally meet you, Dolph. What brings you this way?”
Dolph looked over at the group and momentarily stopped on Demetrius. He cast a quizzical glance as if he was trying to process something. “Does he feel it too?” Demetrius wondered to himself.
Seeing Caitlin beside Demetrius, his smile returned. “We came by to make sure everything was going alright with Caitlin. From what we can see it’s going well.”
Damien stepped to the front of the group. “You’ve seen she’s fine, you can go about your business kidnapper man.”
Dan lowered his voice thus removing any traces of emotion. “We treat everyone who comes to our home with respect.”
When Damien opened his mouth to argue, Dan placed his hand on his shoulder. “People make mistakes and we have to give them the chance to right them.”
“On that note,” Dolph began, “We wanted Caitlin to know if she ever changed her mind and wanted to come back with us, we’d be ever so happy.” He signaled towards his brother who changed his facial expression on cue from uninterested to penitent.
Caitlin’s face reflected the battle within her. She was torn between staying and wanting to make Dolph happy. It was clear she didn’t know what to say.
At the time when Eugene disregarded Marjorie’s advice and told Caitlin the consequences of staying behind, everyone questioned his wisdom. Her face stiffened reflecting the pressure she felt from the responsibility of impacting their future. Seeing the effect Dolph had on her Demetrius was forced to agree with his friend’s action. The only thing keeping her with them was the pressure from the consequences.
She searched the air for the right words as if they would appear magically. Her eyes focused on something in the distance heading towards the ranch. The intensity of the gaze compelled her friends to follow her eyes. In the distance, a trail of dust marked the path from where a long rider came.
Dolph and his brother turned around too. “Were you expecting company? We didn’t mean to interrupt. We can come back another time to finish this discussion.”
The conversation ended with the approach of the rider nobody claimed to know or expect. Dan took his position by the post to wait for the newest visitor and the group scattered into their individual activities of choice.
Caitlin waved her goodbye to Dolph and turned to leave.
“Please think about what we asked,” he pleaded.
“I don’t understand, that last time you said if I left I could never go back.”
For a moment their eyes connected. In that brief amount of time his eyes flashed and he said, “Those were angry words. I didn’t mean them. I’d think by now, you know how important you are to me.”
Caitlin’s demeanor transformed in front of Demetrius’s eyes. She breathed deeper and she couldn’t take her eyes off Dolph. It was as though the worries faded and she was in a place that only the two of them could see.
Witnessing Dolph use the skill, Demetrius finally grasped the power granted him. Pretending his glasses were dirty, he removed them and said, “It’s time for us to go in and get lunch ready.” Grateful that she was the type of person who made eye contact when she spoke, Demetrius fought to remain calm. It was a battle of the wills and they finally had something to level the playing field. He thought, “You belong with us not Dolph.”
Caitlin nodded her head in agreement. “We don’t want Andrea sabotaging Selene’s cooking.”
She smiled her goodbyes and headed toward the house.
Dolph rushed to grab her hand. “I know it is in your heart to forgive me and come back. People say things they don’t mean when they’re hurt. And I’m a big enough person to say I was wrong. After all, you forgave them.”
A sultry voice said, “Dolphino Suertino. I should have known you’d be here.”
Dolph didn’t have to turn around. He knew the woman by her voice. “Persephone, I see your husband let you loose again.” He tried masking the bite in his voice with a fake smile.
“He always does, it’s part of the agreement,” she cooed and blew Dolph a kiss.
Author’s notes: I love that feeling when you struggle with what you’re “supposed” to know and all of a sudden–it hits and a world is opened in your mind. Make sure to leave me a comment to let me know what you think of the story or to ask any questions.
Until the next posting
The season for student stories is beginning. By now, they are comfortable with their new personalities and things a child wouldn’t have said last week let alone six months ago pop out of their mouth….
Today I helped a student work through an argument he blew out of proportion. As we talked through it I told him that a sincere statement of making peace with the other student was necessary. So, as we walk the halls to the classroom I ask him if he knows what he’s going to say. He shrugs and grumbled something incoherent.
I can tell he needs encouragement. So I say, “It’s easy you just say something like ‘Yo about what happened earlier. I could have handled it differently. I’m sorry.”
He stopped in the hall and adamantly said, “I would never say ‘Yo.'”
That makes sense. I said, “Of course you wouldn’t I’m 50. You’re nine.”
That was the icing on the cake.
I pulled the other student out of class and before I had time to explain the kid apologizes. The friend expressed understanding and apologized. (This is all done without any coaching from me) They walk arm in arm to class and the first kid says, “You are not going to believe how old she is.”
And in that moment I learned the power of being old. It shocks kids into forgetting their grievances. If it wasn’t so funny my feelings might have been a little hurt.
Eugene stayed the night in the barn. Demetrius knew because he watched for him from the window. Thinking Eugene would eventually get tired and come in for the night Demetrius quietly planned the conversation in his head. The one where he could learn more about his skill and how to control it.
While everyone mused about what happened when Eugene and Caitlin were at Dolph’s farm, visions of Eugene’s visit came to Demetrius’s mind. In a matter of seconds, his friend changed from being tense to behaving like he’d been on Dolph’s farm all his life. What was it about the man that made a person change so quickly?
Regardless, Demetrius woke in the morning without his answer. Instead, he heard Eugene’s voice in the kitchen. “I don’t think it’s the stove ruining your biscuits.”
“It has to be. Selene insisted. I’m using the same recipe I’ve used all along, and no two batches have ever been the same.”
Then he heard Damien’s voice join the conversation. “Glad to see you finally decided to join us.”
“I do have an idea for a change that would reduce the wood you’d need.” Eugene completely ignored Damien?
“I’ll go draw up some plans.” He was still mad.
Demetrius remained on the other side of the wall. After witnessing the results of Damien’s short temper, he knew it was safer to have a physical barrier.
“Wait.” Selene’s step quickened. “You haven’t eaten breakfast. Take a biscuit and some fruit with you.” With Caitin’s return Demetrius noted a softness in Selene’s tone. She smiled more frequently and, except for Damien, she rarely used harsh words when speaking to people. It was as though a burden had been removed from her shoulders and she finally was able to relax.
Nobody had it in them to tell Selene that her biscuits were more suited to be a weapon than a source of nutrition. Eugene thanked. Demetrius guessed he probably placed it in his pocket because he said, “I’ll save it for later.”
He heard himself thinking, “I wish there were a way for Eugene to fix Selene’s cooking.” Sensing the potential for a blow up had diminished, Demetrius rounded the corner. Maybe he’d be able to go with Eugene to the barn.
“In that case, you may want to take some more.” Selene passed him the plate. Slowly placing two more biscuits in his pocket Eugene excused himself and went to the barn.
Over breakfast, the boys decided it was Andrea’s turn to try and find out what Eugene was up to. “He talks to you about everything,” Brian said.
“It should be one of us boys,” Peter argued. “We broke it. We should try to fix it. Nicholas, you’re good with words. You go.”
Nicholas gave them the I don’t know face. “I’ll try. What’s the worst that could happen.”
Watching with anticipation, the boys sat on the porch while Nicholas approached the door and knocked before entering. “Hey Eugene, it’s me, Nicholas.” Nicholas opened the door a couple of feet, and three biscuits came flying out above him like missiles. Unsettled by what had happened Nicholas slammed the door shut. Certain the door was closed he yelled through the wall, “You throw like a girl!”
He came back to the stairs. “Why did I listen to you. You said so yourself. Three days.”
The boys, waiting for another chance to remedy the situation went back to their odd jobs around the farm. Brian helped Dan’s wife irrigate the vegetable garden. He didn’t say anything to the boys about liking the task because it gave him time to be closer to the girls.
Damien, Nicholas and Peter’s project of building a fence around the house allowed them to stay close to the house, so should Eugene ever come out of his lair, in the words of Damien, “they’d be there to help him come to his senses.”
After lunch, Demetrius noticed Andrea slip into the barn with a plate of food. He waited for a loud noise, a scream something to signal the need for help. It never happened. Andrea was in there for the better part of the afternoon.
“Why does she get to go in there, and whenever one of us boys tries, we get a biscuit to the head,” Damien grumbled.
Through amused eyes, Nicholas said, “If you have to ask, you’re not ready for the talk.”
“You don’t think he’s nice because she’s a girl?”
They never got to finish the discussion because Eugene still with goggles on the top of his head and face covered in soot came out of the barn. Andrea’s face glowed with pride.
“No way,” Damien was aghast. “Eugene.”
“Shhhh, You’re getting worse than me,” Peter grumbled.
Andrea practically skipped to the house and Eugene followed after her. Within seconds Ella was on the front porch calling for Dan.
“Dan Adams!” She lifted her dress as she stepped down the porch. “Dan. I need to talk to you about something.”
“Eugene went from super nerd to Casanova in less than a week?” Nicholas was stunned.
Dan came from around the back of the house. Damien whispered about being torn. Part of him wanted to give his friend the dignity of getting in trouble without an audience. Another part of him had a burning curiosity that pushed him to edge closer to the house.
Dan quickly remedied the situation before the boys had a chance to do something they all would regret later. “Demetrius there’s something you need to see.”
Demetrius shrugged his lack of knowledge to his friends and joined the conversation.
Ella pulled some blue tinted sunglasses out of her pocket and handed them to Demetrius. The wire on the side was flexible enough to bend around his ears. “This may help with your headaches. Why don’t you try them on.”
As soon as he placed the glasses over his head, tension in the back of his neck disappeared. A fog lifted and the world around him seemed clearer. Demetrius found himself marveling at how vivid the farm looked through the glasses. “Has the grass always been that green?” He removed the glasses and the scene in front of him grayed. When he put them back on again, and it sparkled.
Looking at the ranch through new eyes, he asked, “Where did you get these?”
Speaking like a proud mother, Ella beamed. “Eugene made them for you. He told us Andrea helped with getting the glass color right.”
“They were working on this in the barn? I thought.” Demetrius cast a concerned look at the barn and then his friends who watched the conversation from a distance. “We thought.” He pulled on his earlobe. “What about the tractor?”
“Oh, that was just to give him something to recognize his skills. I already have a tractor.” Dan said. “Eugene needed to know that fixing problems was just as important as having the power to create them.”
Author Note: These kids keep me smiling. I hope they do the same for you. Keep in Touch and let me know what you think of the story so far.