The Art of You Part 7

Inspiration for "Jack Harrington" Borrowed from Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/HughJackman

Inspiration for “Jack Harrington” Borrowed from Facebook.
https://www.facebook.com/HughJackman

Another couple of days passed before I dared leave the bed again. I was bombarded with terrible headaches that made me feel sick to my stomach and more sensitive to light. Jack kept the lights low and the drapes drawn against the beauty that waited for them outside. I told him to get out of the hotel and enjoy himself, but he refused. I often wondered if caring for me was replacing being able to care for his wife. A ridiculous notion, I know. But he never left and was always there to bring me water and little bits of food.

Painkillers were given out like candy for the headaches and while nothing really took the pain away, it made it manageable. The effects of the sleeping meds stopped working so well and I began to have strange dreams and insomnia often. I felt strange sensations like bugs were crawling over my body making me itch and need to walk around and even shower several times a day. It was miserable, to say the least.

It was Thursday morning. I woke up and Jack was there smiling at me telling me to get up and about. We were going to the Pancake House for breakfast. I tried to object, but he halted me, not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

I took the time to look presentable, kind of halfway doing my makeup in the beloved 50s look. Jeans and a white tank top won out and I slipped my feet into my little white tennis shoes. I decided to tie a red bandana in my hair that covered the back of my head and tied at my crown.

Making my appearance in the front room of the suite, I saw a wheelchair waiting for me, sitting empty and lonesome, the foot rests down and ready. Slowly, I back away.

“No way,” I said shaking my head slightly. “I’m not going in that!”

Jack laughed. “Come on, Ruby. It’s the only way to make sure you stay upright!”

“No. Not going to do it. I will do it on my own, or not at all,” I argued.

“For the love! You are so stubborn! Fine. Have it your way then,” he said throwing up his hands in the air and moving the wheelchair into a corner.

“Thank you,” I breathed.

Grabbing my backpack with my camera in it, I started out the door. The dizziness was trying to grab at me and I kept talking to myself and telling it to knock it off already. I was about four slow paces out the door and Jack swooped me up in his arms.

Shocked, I squealed and struggled to get back down on my own feet.

“Nope, I can be just as stubborn. So if you aren’t going to sit in the chair, I am responsible for making sure you don’t fall down. That means I carry you everywhere you need to go today,” he chuckled.

“I will break your back! I’m too heavy!” I countered.

“I think my superhero arms will do fine. You are not heavy in the slightest so be quiet.”

People on our way out to the car stared, their heads rotating as we walked by.

“Everyone is staring,” I whispered.

“I know. Get used to it,” he smiled in response. “Guess you should have taken the chair then, huh?”

I groaned in embarrassment, but inside I was cheering. Who could say that the very handsome Jack Harrington carried them in his delightfully strong arms? Very few, I was sure.

This fantastical world that had spun around me began to feel comfortable. I cared for Jack, not because he was my angel in all this, but because he was a good person inside. He genuinely cared. He had seen me at my worst and he never relented.

The Pancake House was busy for a Thursday morning. We got seated promptly, but waited a while for our waitress to be free enough to make it over. We sat in our booth, the kids on one side of the table and Jack seated beside me on the other. It felt strange and natural at the same time. It was like a fairy tale that had come in and taken over my pathetic life and it made me feel whole again. He made me feel whole.

Finally we ordered and sat there joking around with each other and deciding what we would brave next. The food arrived in fairly good time and we dug in to the pancakes with butter and syrup, the crispy bacon and golden hash browns. It was the first real food in a week and I realized how I had missed the taste of all of it.

Jack’s phone rang. He stared at it a moment before answering.

“Jack,” he said in greeting.

I could hear the tone of the voice coming out of the speaker and into Jack’s ear. It sounded monotone and hushed a little.

“I see. What time?”

More hushed talking and I could hear him swallow and sniff.

“Thank you,” he replied and hung up the phone. “Excuse me, please.”

We all sat quiet as he headed for the restrooms. My heart sat high in my throat and my stomach turned. I wondered if it was the moment I had been dreading all this time.

Jack’s son excused himself and went to find his dad. I thought that both kids probably already understood.

When they returned to the table some time later, I could tell they had both shed tears. Their eyes were glossy and puffy with red rings defining their sorrow.

“She’s gone,” he said low. “She slipped away peacefully about an hour ago.”

I sat there numb. We had been seated about an hour before. Had she felt his happiness and let go when she knew he would be okay?

“I’m so sorry,” I said and patted his hand, fighting the tears of my own.

He sniffed again and ran his hand beneath his nose. “We all knew it was coming. We all said our goodbyes and we all knew she would be gone when we got back. That was the deal,” he rationalized.

The daughter folded her arms on the table and her head sunk down onto them where her shoulders shook with the force of her sorrow.

“We will be fine, guys. This was how she wanted it to go, remember?” Jack said with emotion thick in his voice.

Silent tears weaved their way down the boy’s face and I had to wipe a few of my own away. The wound from burying my own spouse was reopened and I knew the turmoil they were all feeling.

“Consequently, we will head back home tomorrow for the funeral,” he announced and then he looked to me. “I will drive you back home so I know you aren’t driving on the roads in your condition. Davis will follow and we will catch our plane out of Boise.”

I shook my head. “That’s not necessary, Jack. I will be fine.” I knew it was a lie, but the last thing I wanted was to keep him from doing what he needed to. “It’s a long drive down to a not so glamorous place,” I laughed weakly.

I felt embarrassed just at the thought of him seeing where I lived, in a run down little cottage that was the better part of 100 years old. I’d had neither the money nor the ambition to restore it. I could feel a sense of panic rising in me.

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way, Ruby. You are not driving home. You can’t exactly leave your car here and have Davis get it home for you later. You can’t exactly stay here alone and unattended either. Just please lower your guard for one minute and realize that I will win. I will always win,” he said looking me in the eye.

I closed my eyes and sighed. Lovely.

The world I had started to love, the one that was most unexpected but comfortable, all crumbled down around me. It was all a charade. None of it was real. Things were so amazing that I had almost forgotten about the wife half the world away. Who was I kidding? These kinds of stories only happened in books and movies. In real life, they just tease you and then disintegrate back into the nothingness from where it came. I would not only mourn the loss of my husband for years to come, but I would also mourn the loss of the man who taught me that there was more to life than tears.

I was quiet the rest of the day in anticipation of going back home. I missed my boys terribly but I knew I would miss Jack just as much. Perhaps he would write or email. Perhaps he might call on occasion. Given his status in life, I doubted it. I might be on his mind for a few weeks and then life would take over and I would disappear into the archives of his mind.

The Art of You Part 6

Loneliness happens.

Loneliness happens.

 

 

 

 

 

I heard him swallow hard in the silence of the bedroom. The tears were just pushing behind my eyes until it hurt. Why wasn’t he leaving?

“I’m losing my wife,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “There aren’t many people who understand what that feels like.”

My heart lurched in my chest and I rolled over to face him. “I’m so sorry…”

“Is it true? That you never get over something like this?” His eyes were pleading with me to tell him otherwise.

I sighed. “Some days are better than others, I suppose. You see, my husband died unexpectedly. I never got to tell him goodbye and I think there has just been no closure for me. I holed up for a long time, living on what we had left. I found it hard to function and think straight. I stopped taking pictures because that magic had left and the world was just ordinary and ugly. But it’s funny how life happens. I came up here to capture some shots to pay my mortgage and I have spent my time so far revisiting places I had gone with him and reliving memories that I could never experience again. The loneliness I have felt at times here is crushing. But you know, spending the little bit of time with you has shown me that life is still here, but it isn’t waiting for me to make up my mind.” I paused. ” So if she’s dying, why are you here without her?”

He looked like he was trying to gather himself up. “We are here at her request. To live life for her in her final days. I wanted to be there to hold her hand when she slips away, but that was my wish…not hers. I chose a place that was small and remote, where I had less of a chance of paparazzi showing up, and where it would be relaxed and low-key. And then I met you. The fire in you has shown me there is more to life than this blackness I feel. But I can’t seem to escape it.”

My dream flooded my head as he mentioned escaping the darkness. I remembered how no matter where we went, it always found us and destroyed everything in our path. I heard a laugh come out of me before I meant for it to. Jack’s head snapped up, sending me a rude look.

“I’m sorry, Jack. I didn’t mean to laugh out loud…and I wasn’t laughing at you. It’s just that I have been running from the darkness too. For a long time. It-well, it always finds me and I don’t know how to make it leave me alone. I don’t have any answers for you, but it seems we are more alike than we ever knew,” I smiled, reaching out my hand to pat his.

I thought he would cry or let go of even one tear, but he didn’t. He merely got up from the chair beside the bed and left the room. I was so emotionally spent at that point that the tears had subsided and I felt fast asleep.

I couldn’t tell where I was. The ground was cold, it was dark out, and all I could do was feel my way along a brick wall. A voice came to me. It was shouting for help. I kept inching my way along the wall in the dark hearing the voice grow louder. I recognized the voice and I stopped to listen more intently. I shouted back, “Jack!” There were more pleas for help that came through that wall. I felt the panic and I felt like jelly, as though I couldn’t move very well. I asked him where the door was. It was like he couldn’t hear me.

Suddenly, a bright light seared my eyes and there was my husband, standing before me. His face held such adoration and love in it for me. I tried to hold him, to feel him again but I couldn’t move at all.

“Live for me, Ruby. I want us to sit and talk of your adventures one day. You are breaking my heart as I watch you give up. For me, please live your life!” he said and pointed to something behind me. “When you need me, I will show you the way.”

I turned my head to see a door in the wall. Then it all went dark again but I knew my destination. I had to see if that door led me to Jack.

Commotion woke me and I heard many different voices beyond the bedroom. Tidbits of my dream still floated in my mind. He had come to see me! It had been the first time since his death that I had seen him and he looked so handsome and youthful. I closed my eyes, willing the dream to continue, but it did not. But I could still hear him tell me to live life for him. That was the wish of Jack’s wife too, that he lived life for her. Was it the way of it then? That they will live on through us? If we sulk about in the darkness and always try to run from it, they can’t live on. But if we make it full and happy, they can still feel that energy and it makes them happy.

I groaned, disgusted with myself a little. It was just a dream.

There was laughter in the other room. Jack’s laughter. It sounded different somehow. Maybe a little less burdened?

I gasped when the door opened and he stepped inside.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Good. I’m going to step out for a bit with the kids. They have missed me and are tired of Davis,” he chuckled, his dark eyes alight with mischief.

“Okay…” I said and it came out a garbled mess of sounds. Clearing my throat and plastering a smile on my face I added, “Good.”

“Are you okay?” he asked casting me a sideways glance.

“I’m fine.”

“If you need anything, here is my cell number. Call me right away,” he ordered and dropped the paper to the bedside table. Then, he was gone.

It was a crazy few seconds while I computed to myself that I was once again alone. Where I had begun feeling comfortable, I realized that I was still going at this all by myself. I had a sudden yearn to see my kids. I missed them. Seeing Jack with his kids and hearing them laughing made me jealous, just a little. I had left mine behind while I went out to take photos for a week. Granted, they were plenty old enough to take care of themselves, but I never should have left them.

And then I had another thought…since I lost him, I don’t really think I had been present with my kids. I was always hiding behind sorrow and living in the shadows. My actions had robbed them of a mother and I suddenly felt very guilty. I needed to go home.

I sat up slowly and climbed out of bed, a slight feeling of vertigo washing over me as I moved. After poking around briefly, I found my bag. The one that had been in my apartment. Puzzled, I bent to grab it when Jack blew back in the door. I froze and just stared at him.

“What are you doing?” he asked, breathless.

“Well, I decided I’m going home,” I replied standing up again. My palms began to sweat and I started feeling rather green in the gills. “What are you doing here? I thought you were headed out?”

I feared my voice sounded needy in a way, but he just blinked his eyes in disbelief. “I- My sunglasses. I left them on the table just there,” he said. “You can’t go yet. You are not fit to drive at all, Ruby. Let’s go tuck you back in so you can rest.”

I turned around again to take my bag and the lousy floor started to tilt beneath my feet, the room swirled about me and I fell to my knees, my hands bracing me against the movement.

Jack was by my side in a flash. “You okay?” he was asking me.

It sounded like he was talking to me through a door. And then it happened. I threw up all over the floor. I wished the floor would open up and swallow me whole. I wished at that moment that I would disappear and he would never see me again.

“Oh snap,” I groaned and the tears just fell. Tears of shame and embarrassment, not tears of grief or sorrow. “I’m so sorry.”

Jack just lifted me in his arms and carried me back to the bed. He brought me some water to wash away the taste of vomit from my mouth and handed me a pill from a bottle by the bed.

“This should make you feel a little better,” he smiled and smoothed the sweaty hair from my forehead. “It is I that am sorry, Ruby. But I think the clouds are coming on and we will just move our festivities inside for the day. Make it a movie day.”

I shook my head to the negative and my stomach began to lurch again. “You have fun things to go do, Jack. Take those kids out there and enjoy it!”

“We have all the time in the world. A few more days won’t hurt.”

“Don’t shut yourselves in because of me. Go! Have fun!” I tried to shout.

“But you are a part of our lives right now. I can’t just leave you when it was my car that brought you here…and not in a good way. You are more important than that.”

“I am just baggage. You have plenty already on your plate. You don’t need more,” I said slurring my words as the pill began to work.

“Good night, Ruby,” I heard him say before I succumbed.

The Art of You Part 5

Have the courage to be yourself.

Have the courage to be yourself.

 

 

I could hear noises, like voices muffled together as if I were swimming under water and people were talking above in the air. I had dreams that were bold and vividly colored. Some were frightening, some were not. I could hear myself try to speak out and I felt like I was screaming out loud. My body ached and my head was being squeezed tight. It felt like people were grabbing me, pulling me, and pinching me. Lines of fire ran through my skin like streams of hot electricity.

Fatigue came to me often and no matter how hard I tried, my eyes would not open.

And then it just happened one day. They opened. The light was excruciating, as if standing in the darkness and having fireworks explode like the sun in your face. I remember blinking to protect my eyes and slowly, the world began to materialize around me again. I felt stunned and unsure of where I was at. What had just happened?

“She’s coming around, Jack!” someone called out.

“Do you think she will be okay?” Jack’s accent bit into my ears.

The blood pressure rose and the memories of the night in The Narrows came flooding back in. What in the world was he doing here?

“She is healing well. Thank the Lord there were no broken bones or internal bleeding,” an unknown voice piped in.

I tried to speak and sounded gravelly and dry.

A cup was pressed to my lips and I sipped eagerly to wet my parched throat.

“What happened?” I managed in a whisper.

Closing my eyes against the pain of the light, I could hear his voice speaking to me. “Well, Davis here hit you with the car. I’m terribly sorry about that. I swear it was all an accident.”

The panic in his voice was evident. Perhaps he was afraid I would sue him or perhaps he was more afraid I would embarrass him.

“But you’re going to be just fine!” he added quickly.

“Oh,” was my soft reply.

I allowed my eyes to open a crack and the white light all around contrasted sharply with Jack’s dark hair and eyes, the black shirt on his body. It turned his skin pale and showed stubble where there hadn’t been any the last time I saw him. He looked like an angel sent to help me and since I was helpless it only made sense that I let him.

As I was drifting to the brink of sleep again, a thought popped into my mind. Where were the kids? And just as I thought it, a panic of my own thundered in my ears and I tried to get up, which resulted in the room spinning and the light splintering my brain. What about my kids?

I must have muttered something in my struggle because Jack put his arms over my shoulders and gently pushed me back onto the pillow, hushing me.

“I was able to let your kids know what happened,” he said with a slight grin holding up my cell phone.

I let out a groan and relaxed. I was sure they would think the stalker had killed me. And in all realities, that was what happened!

“How long have I been here?” I asked.

There was a pause and I thought I heard Jack suck in a deep breath before he answered. “Just about three days, in and out. The concussion knocked you out and a doctor here was available to keep you medicated so your head could heal.”

“I’ve missed three days of working?” I tried to sound angry and ended up sounding lazy and pathetic. So I shut my mouth and let out a long sigh.

“Look, Miss Kramer…” he began.

“Just call me Ruby. I’m sure formality is out the window by now,” I cringed at the thought of seeing me anywhere near naked.

“Ruby, don’t worry about anything. I have everything under control. You just need to focus on getting better,” he said and placed his hand on the crown of my head. The pressure of it felt safe and I drifted off to sleep again.

It wasn’t until the next evening that I felt more awake and less sore. Without the sunlight, I could open my eyes without my head killing me. Jack helped me walk to the bathroom to do my business even. He tried to come inside, but I refused. So he agreed to wait outside the bathroom door in case I fell. I thought about locking it anyway, but I suppose I didn’t want to tempt fate.

What was the strangest of all was that I wasn’t in the hospital. I was in a hotel room. I could tell because of the smell. There was no kitchen, but it was more of a suite. Jack had mentioned a doctor tending me, so perhaps I was moved here after they knew I would be alright.

I was never one for using a toilet where anyone could hear me. It was mortifying to say the least. And knowing he was right outside the door just made me blush with embarrassment. But the bladder wasn’t going to hold on any longer, so I sat and let go, my head falling into my hands in defeat.

Jack acted as though nothing had even happened. I slowly emerged from the bathroom and he smiled, helping me to the couch. I’d had enough lying around.

“Can I get you some tea?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Sure, that would be nice. Thank you.”

Minutes later, he sat beside me with a steaming cup of a sweet smelling tea for me.

“Where’s yours?” I asked taking the cup between my palms.

“Still steeping,” he replied and went to get it.

I sipped gently and the warm liquid flowed down my throat and warmed my belly like a blanket thrown over my shoulders.

He sat again and we both sipped quietly, an awkward silence building.

I cleared my throat. “So why here?”

He looked at me intently then, almost suspiciously. But he licked his lips and answered, “I wanted to escape my life.”

I reeled back as though he had slapped me just then. “You? Escape?” I asked incredulously.

He laughed and set his tea on the short table before us and sighed. “Sometimes life just gets to you and you need to get away from it all. Cameras, autographs, rehearsals…” his voice trailed off like he meant to finish the sentence and other thoughts grew to be in the way.

“I would never have thought someone like yourself would ever know about a tiny little place like this. It is paradise though.”

Jack has a wistful look to his face and he nodded.

“This is my paradise,” I whispered.

“I can see why,” he smiled and clapped his hand on my knee.

“Where are your kids?” I pressed.

A shadow seemed to fall over his features. “They are just- uh- in the next couple of rooms,” he replied with a shake of his head toward the rooms. “They are at an age where they want their privacy and nothing here had larger suites, just adjoining rooms.”

“Oh, I see. You should go take them out to do something tonight. I will be just fine and I think you are due.”

He shook his head to the negative. “We played hard a few days and they have been enjoying the beach out there. They recognized you, you know. From the rocks where they were jumping.”

“Why didn’t you jump too?” I asked him cocking my head to the side.

He laughed loudly and he sounded so free. “Well, someone had to stay with the boat to keep it from floating away.”

I figured there was more to it than that. Perhaps it unnerved him as much as it did me.

“I didn’t think anything could bother someone like you,” I laughed back with him.

“I’m just a person as you are, Ruby. There are things I like and things I don’t. If I cut myself, I bleed just as you do. Sometimes I wish I were still just a face in the crowd,” he replied sobering and I felt a cad.

“I’m sorry, of course you do. I just meant…” but I wasn’t sure what else to say. How did I really mean it?

“I see you and what a free spirit you are, unowned by contracts and money…free to look as you wish and dress in what you like. You have no pressures to fit in a certain stereotype and I love that about you. What I admire is your ability to step out and be who you are in your red lipstick and flowers in your hair, rocking the camera when you sit poised and ready to strike.”

His smile of sincerity made me take pause and my cup lowered to my lap.

“I just see art in everything. The camera helps me notice the magic that is always around. Most people just don’t see it that way. The camera helps me bring little things like drops of water to the forefront, I suppose. Sunsets are such a cliché thing to photograph, but the right one at the right time could take someone’s breath away,” I said still staring at him, barely breathing. I wanted to tell him that he took my breath away, but I wasn’t sure if it was his looks that attracted me or his public figure.

“That is a magnificent talent to have,” he said softly. “I think I have forgotten to notice little things like drops of water.”

I got up and found my backpack. I prayed the camera escaped without injury as I pulled it out. “I’ll show you,” I smiled. “What do you see?”

I pointed at a vase with dried sticks and branches in it. There was a heavy round rock that had been polished to shine and be a focus of the room.

“I see décor.”

“Okay…” I got down on my belly, a hard thing to do since I hurt so badly, but I did it nonetheless. Carefully, I aimed the lens at the rock, zoomed in to where I wanted it and snapped. Then I turned the camera on its side and rocked it backward toward me a bit. Focused, zoomed out, focused again, and snapped.

Gingerly, I picked myself up and made it back to the couch. I hit the review button and the photos showed up on the little screen.

“You see décor, but I see a planet sitting in your hotel room. See the stripes and striations of the rock under the polish? The shadow just right on the other side? And this one is just a testament of Mother Nature, with the clay vase of the earth and salvaged limbs from a tree that give a sense of peace just having them in the room. It is all magic. Life is art.”

He smiled then as the wheels of his mind started turning. He let out a small chuckle. “That is amazing,” he breathed.

I stood and walked a few paces from him and he looked at me in wonder. Suddenly, I spun as fast as my body would allow, pointed the lens at him and snapped. He looked relaxed and calm, with a lamp shining on one side of his face, leaving the other in shadow to be a mystery.

Showing him the photo, I pointed at the screen. “This is the art of you. No poses, no pretend. This is just you.”

The look on his face was pure shock. I had shown him a side of himself that he hadn’t seen before. In the fast paced life of fame, he had forgotten who he was.

Gently, he took the camera from my hands and pointed it at me. Immediately I shielded my face from his view. “Oh, no you don’t,” I laughed. “I take the pictures. They don’t take me.”

“Now Ruby, I let you take a photo of me…well, actually several of them. It’s my turn,” he said sternly.

“I have no makeup and I look awful!” I declared.

“Come on, hands down.”

Slowly I lowered my hands, a grin of unbelief on my lips. Here I was, in Jack Harrington’s hotel room where he wanted to take a photo of silly old me. I thought of the look on his face when I exposed him on camera and introduced him to the guy he was. My body softened and I was so happy to be there at that moment.

I heard the shutter snap closed and I dreaded to look at myself. He hit the button and my face, forties wrinkles and all, stared back at me. But the light was fully on my face from where I was sitting and washed me out a lot, erasing some of the age in my face. It took me back to a time where I had taken photos of myself for my husband. Photos that I was proud of in that they captured the beauty that came from me, inside out.

I glanced back up at Jack, tears glossing my eyes over. “I’m tired again. I think I will go back to bed. Thank you for the tea.”

I stood to go and he grabbed my wrist. My head snapped back to look at him.

“What did I do?” he begged an answer.

I pulled my arm back. “You did nothing, I promise. I just struggle sometimes.”

He followed me to the bed. “Tell me…”

I just wanted to get into bed, bury my face and cry a little bit. “I don’t want to.”

“You will feel better, that’s my promise,” he kept on.

I slid into bed. “I lost my husband some time ago. There are things that remind me of him sometimes and I can’t help but feel his loss. It is like an instant feeling of loneliness no matter how many people are around.”

“My picture showed you that?”

“The grief never stops, Jack.”

The Art of You Part 4

Loving the Rockabilly style...

Loving the Rockabilly style…

 

 

 

 

 

For dinner, I went for a different look than earlier in hopes I wouldn’t be recognized. I spent time brushing on foundation to make my skin youthful and creamy, a dab of blush, a dusting of powder, attention to my eyes with shadow and liner, my treasured falsies topped off with mascara and penciled brows. I applied the stay put red lipstick I so loved and pinned a flower in my hair above my right ear. Satisfied, I shrugged into some slim fitting jeans, pumps and a red checkered shirt that I tied around my middle.

Digging through my bag, I found some pearl clip-on earrings and a choker along with my white sunglasses. Slinging my backpack over my shoulder, I left the apartment.

Just minutes later I walked through the doors that would lead me to the amazing aroma of cheese and chili powder. I could taste it already and my mouth watered like crazy. The host asked if I was waiting for anyone and I shook my head and smiled at him.

“Just one then?” he asked with a thick Spanish accent.

“I’m afraid the lady will not be staying. Darling! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” that man’s voice said behind me as he grabbed my arm.

Perhaps the panic on my face showed and perhaps not. I didn’t have time to evaluate the host’s expression before I was pulled out of the restaurant and back out onto the main street. When clear of the double doors, I halted and ripped my body back out of his clutches.

“What do you think you are doing?” I demanded with hands on my hips.

“My apologies, Miss Kramer, but I am to deliver you elsewhere,” he replied cool and calm as ever.

“Yeah, well I don’t think so. I have no idea who you are, but I don’t know you and I’m going nowhere with you. Now back off, I’m hungry. You are coming between a starved woman and her food. I would suggest you just leave me alone,” I sassed him.

The man chuckled at my attitude and ran a hand through his dark hair. “So sorry, but I think you really need to come with me.”

And with that, he reached out and grabbed my arm again. “It will all go much easier if you don’t cause a scene, Miss.”

“I will not go with you and not struggle. You aren’t going to kill me without a fight!” I bellowed at him.

There were some strange looks from the people walking by us. The man nodded politely at them. “Play practice, everything is fine, folks.”

And they believed him! They all smiled and nodded with stars in their eyes as they beheld an “actress”. Then, he guided me away and into his fancy black car.

Once he had shoved me in there and closed the door, I frantically tried the handle to open my door but it wouldn’t open. Growling in frustration at the invention of child locks, I tried the automatic windows that did nothing.

The man slid into the driver’s seat and started the car. The engine was near to silent and I tried the window again.

“Please stop,” he said as though I was insulting him.

I glanced up at him looked at me through the rear view mirror. “This is how women come up missing or dead! They are bullied into cars by strange men!” I fired out.

He simply shook his head and laughed as though I were trying to be funny.

The car lurched forward and took a short spin not too far the other direction from where I was staying. I knew this place! It was a historical hotel that had been around for an impossibly long time, Shore Lodge.

The man pulled into the lot and parked, coming around to let me out. Grabbing my arm quite snugly again, he led me to the door where we were shown to the dining area of The Narrows. I was held all the more tightly until we came upon a table overlooking the lake. The fading light of day was dissolving into shades of mandarin and teal through the windows.

I flicked my gaze to the lone person at the table and my mouth fell open.

Jack Harrington was staring me down as the sun was setting in this small mountain town. An uncomfortable heat flushed my face and despite the use of it, my deodorant was useless. I could feel my heart hammering in my chest and my mouth went instantly dry. What did he want with me?

Waving his glass of wine in the air, he smiled and said, “I like the Rockabilly look. Suits you well. Please, have a chair.”

I could feel the shakes coming on and the man holding my arm peeled his fingers away from my sweating skin. Jack merely nodded to the man and he left. Timidly, I sat and set my bag on the floor, then folded my hands neatly in my lap.

“You look like an artist,” Jack grumbled.

“What does that mean?” I piped up indignantly.

A waiter in a smart looking uniform came to the table. “Drink, ma’am?”

“Water,” I replied not looking at the man.

“Please bring an extra glass just in case,” Jack said to him breaking eye contact with me.

Jack cleared his throat. “What I mean is, you have that creative flair that is evident in how you decorate yourself.”

I could tell he was a tad uncomfortable sitting there with me. All the other tables were empty around us…within earshot, that is.

I sat back in my chair and folded my arms over my chest.

“Look. I asked my employee to bring you here to discuss a thing or two,” Jack said running his index finger over the rim of his wine glass.

“I don’t know what you are talking about…” I tried to laugh it all off.

“What I am talking about is the way you show up everywhere I go and take pictures of me and my kids while we are trying to enjoy ourselves out of the spotlight. I deal with your kind all the time, believe it or not. There wouldn’t be a single photo of me to be found if it weren’t for people like you who steal every private moment from me,” he complained and then sipped his glass.

“For your information, Mr. Harrington, I came up here to take some beautiful shots of the wilderness. It wasn’t my fault that you photo bombed a lot of my pictures. I’m not following you, but you are sure having me followed. I have every right to take pictures of what I find interesting,” came my volley.

He cracked a smile. It was just a glimpse of one, but the lines around his mouth deepened just a bit. “You have a lot of spirit, Miss Kramer, I will give you that. All I want from you is the card that sits in your camera there. You have photos of my kids that I don’t want anyone else to have access to. They didn’t have a choice in their life and it is my job to protect them.”

I heard little else after my name. “Have you completely checked me out? Are you kidding me? That’s how the two of you know my name, isn’t it?”

His look turned apologetic. “Welcome to my world, Ruby. Now, I will take the card.”

I stood up. Where was that glass of water? Grabbing my bag, I held it up in the air and shook it Jack’s direction. “This is paying my mortgage this month and the month before and the month before that. I would never give it over to you, but I won’t sell your shots. That’s the best I can do for you.”

With that, I stormed away expecting his henchman to grab me and tie me to the chair until I relented. But no one chased me down and I even looked back to see Jack casually sip his wine as he watched me leave and place a cell phone to his head.

I couldn’t believe what I had done. For once in my life I had stood up for myself. That one moment showed me I didn’t need to be the push over I had spent my life being. Just because he has money doesn’t mean I am his doormat, I reasoned with myself. And I agreed.

It was significantly cooler out when I burst through the doors and into the parking lot headed for the sidewalk. I was still starving and bound for Chapala’s again when all I saw was a bright pair of headlights blinding me. I froze and shaded my eyes as the grill tagged my legs and I screamed out loud, my body rolling over the hood and smashing into the windshield. The car screeched to a stop and I rolled back down over the hood and onto the asphalt where everything went black…like ripping the cord to the television from the wall.

The Art of You Part 3

The view from the rocks toward the ponds.

The view from the rocks toward the ponds.

I crunched into an apple as I turned down the main drag and made a left at Notch 8 and on out to Ponderosa State Park. I paid the fee at the toll booth and the black and white striped barricade lifted for me to pass. I gave the short gal a wave of thanks and then followed the familiar road through the campground. Instead of taking a left to go where we had always met for family reunions, I stayed straight. That road led me to an area where the trees were so tall and thick they blocked out the sunlight and cast the area in shade.

Not really sure where my destination would be, I came up on a curve in the road that sloped slightly downhill. There was a make-shift parking lot to my left littered with cars. Images flashed through my mind. This was the cliff-jumping site.

“Oh my…I haven’t been here forever!” I breathed being swarmed with memories of sun drenched rocks and kids squealing in fun while jumping into the cool waters below. I even jumped once as I held tight to the hand of my husband.

He was so patient with me that day, I was decked out in a wetsuit to stay warm, the heat of the day making the water enticing. I stood there frozen with fear. Natural bodies of water just freaked me out. I loved looking at them, not a fan of being in them. So my legs were shaking as I sat perched on a rock about eight feet up, if that. I practiced plugging my nose and holding tight. The anticipation of the butterflies all the way down about made me sick. Little kids, maybe four and five years old, wanted to go and they waited for me to just jump. I could feel them mocking me, a grown woman, who was so afraid to take that one step off the edge.

I laughed and stepped to the side and they climbed up the face of the rock and just plopped right in. We waited for them to make it out of the way and I finally jumped. I never let go of his hand. Not even the strength of the water when we hit could tear us apart. I bobbed to the top and saw him there waiting for me, a smile stretching his face from ear to ear with pride.

“I’m proud of you, baby!” he laughed and swam behind me as I shook all the way back to the stability of the rocks.

I jumped once more that day, still holding tight to him. However, the other hand slipped from my nose and it felt like an ice pick had been driven up my nose. That was enough of that.

Shaking my head free of cobwebs from the past, I grabbed my backpack and stuffed the camera inside. It was a bit of a hike…okay, I’m lying. It is not a hike, it is a rock climbing adventure to get back in there. Having wised up years ago, I discarded my flip-flops and started wearing some little tennis shoes for that trek.

Slipping over rocks and hefting myself up the crags, I made my way to the cliffs. There were a few people here, hence the cars in the lot, but not so many that it was crammed. It was only Thursday, after all. Probably the best day to be back there. I fought to catch my breath and sat on a rock under the one tree that miraculously grew there. The shrieks from the kids jumping from fifteen and twenty feet filled the air and I couldn’t resist the urge to snap some photos as they left the solid ground and fell through the air to hit the water below them. I smiled fondly. My husband was not afraid to jump. He went twenty feet up and would take the leap again and again.

I imagined him perched up there with the others, the water running from his close cropped head of dark hair and the steady drip of droplets that fell continuously from the hem of his swimsuit. He would be talking openly with those up there and I could hear him laugh, just happy to be in the sunshine out in the middle of God’s country.

That stubborn lump came to me again and I cursed inwardly at myself. Perhaps this was not the right decision. Perhaps I should have stayed away and let the ghosts be ghosts.

I could hear music and I diverted my attention to an incoming vessel. It was the white boat with the yellow stripes and red canopy from the morning. They had music blaring so loud I had no idea what it even was.

My camera snuck to my face and I peeked to see who these people were that disturbed my peaceful moment.

Involuntarily, my finger depressed the shutter in surprise. There he was, his kids jumping off the side of the boat and into the water. They swam to the rocks and climbed the natural staircase passing me as they went to the platforms.

Just to be certain, I put my eye to the camera again and there he was, manning the ship, laughing and cheering his brood as they gathered the courage to jump. And then, he looked right at the camera again.

Feeling so flustered, I turned away from him and took shots of the two teens making the plunge. I heard a sharp squeal and then two distinct splashes below. Jack erupted into cheers and clapping, the sun bouncing off his dark glasses.

The kids broke the surface again to the sound of their dad cheering them on. I heard them call out to him and he laughed saying something about having to watch the boat.

I snapped as many photos as I could while he was so in his element. Every time his kids jumped, I focused on his reaction and for a while I just held the shutter down. When I saw him put a cell phone up to his ear and send the evil eye my way, I decided it was time to go.

The climb back left me breathless again. The adrenalin flowed from the encounter with Jack so my hands and knees were shaking and like jelly. I slid behind the wheel of my car again and sucked a few breaths before I turned the key and pulled out of the dirt parking lot. But I didn’t go right and head toward town. I turned left. Another car followed my lead.

Around the bends in the road I sped, watching for deer and other animals along the way. I rounded the lake a bit until it opened up a bit for marshy areas and ponds that stood still as glass.

“There it is,” I said out loud to myself and pulled the car to a stop.

Ahead of me and off the road was a congregation of great boulders of different sizes. The car following stopped as well, but they never got out of the car. With my camera around my neck, I started climbing until I stood at the base of a cliff. The very cliff I had climbed so many years before. I didn’t make it to the top, but I gave it my all. My husband had made it all the way. He gave me the strength to even try.

But more than that, I turned back toward the cars along the road to see the pond sparkling in the sunlight and the tall firs surrounded it casting shadows over the smooth surface. It was quiet here. I just sat on the warm rock and randomly captured the rugged scenery around me.

A man came my way, struggling over the rocks in some places. I fleetingly wondered if I looked as silly as he did. But he didn’t come dressed for the occasion either. Loafers and jeans were not climbing clothes.

He was huffing and puffing when he reached where I sat and I looked up at him.

“Hello,” I said politely.

The man looked up at the height of the cliffs above. “Howdy,” he replied not looking at me.

“Such a gorgeous day,” I added to make conversation.

“It is,” he said. “What is a woman like yourself doing out here alone?”

I noticed a foreign accent in him but his statement alarmed me. I suddenly became uncomfortable and stood to step down from my rock and skip one to another.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he called out.

“You reminded me that I need to meet with someone back in town!” I called out hoping he believed my bluff.

I thought I heard him growl up there but I didn’t care. When I reached my car, I looked back at the rocks and he was coming back down. My heart sped up and I gulped at the air. What if he killed me? No one would find me. My kids would be left alone. Suddenly the gravity of my situation caught up to me and I turned the key. When the engine roared to life, I flipped an easy u-turn and started back to town. The sun was setting, the man was still following me, and I was freaking out. I didn’t know they had creepers in a small mountain town!

I began plotting where I would go if the man kept up his pursuit. Maybe I could make it into a place to eat before he would get to me. Maybe I could go inside the main house back at my apartment. Surely the owners would protect me from people like this guy.

I was able to leave him at a stop light and I knew it wouldn’t stay red long so I hurried as fast as I could to my apartment. As I pulled into the driveway, I grabbed my camera and unbuckled the seat belt. Then I bolted for the stairs taking them two at a time. I cursed myself for fumbling the key as I tried to slip it into the lock. Finally it obeyed my rough commands and I burst through the door, quickly closing it and locking it tight. I left the curtains closed and instinctively ran into the bathroom slamming the door and locking it too.

Then, I slumped on the toilet, setting the camera on the counter and let my forehead fall into my hands. I was breathing like I had just run a marathon and I closed my eyes against my fear.

I couldn’t just stay in the bathroom, and I knew that. I needed dinner and I wanted to feel free of weird people. Okay, weird guys. What if he was waiting until I ventured out again?

The feeling of being utterly alone crept into my bones. It was the same feeling I had when I buried… well, you know who I’m talking about. I was surrounded by people as I was then too, but I was alone. While I took solace in being by myself these days, that awful feeling of panic shed a new light on the subject. For once I wished I had just one friend I could call.

My phone. I needed to send a message to my son. If anything happened to me, he would know where to tell people to begin looking.

“Not to worry you, but there is a strange dude following me. If I disappear, let the authorities know that I was in McCall in a studio apartment on the lake not far from town. I’m turning on the GPS so they can track my signal. I’m fine, just being careful” was what I wrote.

Less than a minute later, my phone rang and a panicked young man was near to shrieking on the other end. I talked with him a spell and calmed him down. Reassuring him I was safe, he finally let me hang up and I made sure I turned the tracking on.

The shaking had ceased and my breathing was normal once more. I ventured out of the bathroom but peeked warily about to make certain I was still alone.

No one there. So I decided to change my clothes and head down the street for some Hispanic food. There was a great place with a view of the lake just steps from where I was. With any luck, Mr. Stalker wouldn’t be there too.

The Art of You Part2

Parade America 169

 

 

 

 

 

 

He looked straight into the lens of my camera. I was several hundred feet away from the man and he still saw me. I gasped and turned in the opposite direction.

Now I had heard of these movie star types from Hollywood that loved coming to Idaho. And why wouldn’t they? There is a little of everything here. I mean, you walk ten steps in any direction and scenery changes from urban to rural, from mountains to desert, from prairies to bluffs. Everything is here in this little state except the ocean, so we have lakes instead. Wildlife is abundant and recreational land is generous.

I suppose it had just shocked me. It isn’t everyday that a man you see on the big screen, one who wins award after award and lives the big life just shows up on a boat dock in a small removed town. He just seemed so…out of place.

And were those his kids? My head screamed at me.

I let out my breath after finally realizing I had been holding it for a while. That was my cue to head back to my little apartment.

There was no way I was about to stow my camera now. If I could get a great shot or two, it would be worth some dollars for my collection. Nope, that baby was staying out the rest of my trip.

I passed the grocery store and stopped in for a salad and water. Of course, I wandered the aisles a while and chose a few things that probably were not the best for me. I didn’t really care that much.

The first thing I did was race out to the balcony and act as though I were just watching the scenery, but I was combing through all the people to see if he was still out there or if he had just been a figment of my imagination. There were no bodies on the docks in the marina any longer. I put my camera up to my eye and brought the beach into focus. I didn’t see him at all.

Fearing I was crazy, I walked back inside and pulled the drapes. I lowered the Murphy bed that sat snug in the wall until it sat firmly on the floor. Grabbing my camera and plopping my body down on the soft mattress, I hit the review button.

There he was. I could not have been crazy. There was no denying that this was the very sexy, very handsome actor I followed on the screen. Jack.

I sighed and dropped my camera to the mattress. I had one photo of him and it wasn’t the best. I knew I could do better. These pictures could pay my mortgage for several months!

I sat there and plotted in my head when I should wake up, where I should go first, and how I could track Mr. Movie Star down. He would never know I was there, my lens was that good. Except that he seemed to know when my camera had been pointed at him earlier, but that was purely a coincidence.

I laughed out loud at my own stupidity and fell over backwards on my pillow.

“Just work twice as hard, Ruby. You don’t need his photos,” I told myself.

The evening went by quickly, compliments to the television. I ate my salad on the balcony as I watched the sun set behind the mountains. Every few minutes I would snap another shot as the colors developed above the tree line. The surface of the water became like diamonds, glittering and sparkling at me. I shivered when the breeze tickled my skin and the heat from the sun dissipated for the day.

Leaving the sliding door open and closing the screen, I surfed the guide for a movie. I figured I would look to see if one of Jack’s movies was playing. There were a couple on, a superhero flick that was about over and a mushy romance of star crossed lovers. I plugged in the channel and sat back to enjoy the next couple of hours.

Taking out my phone, I sent a text message to my boys: Made it safe and sound. Love you guys.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when my phone buzzed a few minutes later: Cool. Luv u 2.

I smiled and plugged the thing in to charge.

I was running away. Finding it near impossible to move, I kept struggling just to put distance between myself and whatever was following me. It was just black. Just empty. It had no shape or identity, but I was quite afraid. Out of nowhere, a voice shouted out to me and grabbed my arm. I screamed and was moved roughly to the side as the blackness devoured everything. I looked over at the man who grabbed me and it was Jack. He spoke to me and I couldn’t understand his words. It was like he was speaking a different language. We slipped into a building, dark and deserted. He was still talking to me, his mouth moving and nothing coming out. I tried to read his lips but I just nodded in agreement instead. A loud crash sounded and he shouted out to me, taking my hand and running with me again. The blackness seemed to find me no matter where I went or how much I tried to hide from it. But every time it sought me out, Jack would grab my arm and take me down another path to another hiding place.

It was still dark when the lilting sound of the waves filled my head and I woke up. I wondered briefly where I was at and then it all came rushing back and my breathing returned to normal. Grabbing my phone, I hit the button on the face and it burst into light searing my retinas. I blinked to relieve them and focused on the time. It was only four in the morning. The sun wouldn’t even be peeking for another hour and a half at least. So I rolled over and closed my eyes in hopes that I would sleep again.

But alas, I merely tossed and turned until the sky began to lighten. That was when I slid out of bed and hopped in the shower. I dressed quickly and towel dried my hair a second time, letting it fall where it wanted to in the casual pixie cut that adorned my head. It was a lazy cut, but easy when being casual and fun when I wanted to be fancy.

It was then that I looked at myself in the mirror. Who was that old woman staring back at me? How could I have possibly changed so much in such a short amount of time? The youth in my features was being replaced with deeper lines around my eyes, rounded cheeks and a slight redness to my skin. Of anything, my eyes stayed the same, large orbs like the green of the ocean, twinkling and bright when I was happy, dull and dropping when I was sad. They hadn’t been very bright for a long time…so long, that I had forgotten what they looked like any other way than sad.

I sighed. All I could do was plaster my face with makeup. It was an improvement, but it would all sweat off by noon. I shook my head.

Feeling like I could start my day, I decided to head to the beach and snag some pictures of the sunrise.

I walked around to the Mile High Marina’s boardwalk and stumbled my way down the dock floating in the water. The sun was rising, the golden light of morning washing over the lake, the sand on the beach changing colors from a blue-gray to orange and then to gold. There were large puffy clouds drifting over the horizon that looked like vanilla pudding against the morning’s blue sky.

Closing my eyes, I breathed deeply of the fresh air, still just a tad chilly. Nowhere else on the planet could it possibly smell so clean. A boat’s motor roared to life somewhere in the maze of docks behind me and to my right. I spun in surprise, but I couldn’t tell which boat was going out. The waves started sloshing as the boat’s engine disturbed its calm.

Shoving my camera to my eye, I focused in on one boat and then another and another, until I saw a little movement aboard one vessel. Slowly, it started to back out of its resting place. It was a large boat with fancy yellow stripes on it that ended in smart swirls of happiness. There was a tall canopy of red over pristine white seats. As they came out of the no-wake zone, the boat suddenly lurched forward, the water crystal sheets coming off the bow, the sun catching the droplets in mid-air like jewels.

I heard myself laugh and set the camera to the action setting. Then, I pointed the lens at them and held the button down, listening to the sound of the click, click, click of the shutter as it took one photo after another.

It felt like the small town gave a stretch and a yawn and the inhabitants slowly began to crawl out into the glory of the summer morning. Butterflies fluttered about and the occasional bee buzzed by. I basked for hours before deciding I would go for a drive.

The Art of You Part1

Sunset on McCall

Sunset on McCall

So, I have refrained from writing anything for a while now. However, I had this crazy dream last night! So, I woke up and recorded some main ideas on my phone’s note pad. After work, I came home and decided to put some thoughts down or I would just go nuts. That’s what happens when you are a writer. The story chooses you, not the other way around. So without going into detail about my dream, I am posting this beginning part before I go work on my school work. Should be pretty interesting! (The places are real, the people are fiction. FYI.)

The Art of You Part 1

I’m Ruby.

I’m a girl from a small town in a small state but I love the big city and I love the ocean. I love looking at the world through a camera lens and showing people that magic does exist all around us everyday…you just haven’t seen it through my eyes yet. I love everything about the past and being a lady as my grandmothers were.

I love pin curls and fingerwaves, saddle shoes and crazy English hats. I march to the beat of my own drum, you might say. I cherish my Hollywood haircut and adore my tattoos.

More than anything, I love my kids. My sons have taught me to love and hurt, but they have brought me laughter and life’s lessons that I had hoped to spare them of. I’m the middle aged widow of a man that changed my life. He taught me one of the greatest lessons of all…to love myself as much as he did. I’m okay with being different now.

I’m a starving artist that makes my living with my camera, selling my perceptions of the world to those who fall in love with my eye and my flair. That’s right…I have flair. No, not little buttons pinned to my clothes, but a personality that is all mine and a way of thinking that defies modern ways. I’m a victim of days that have been gone for a long time and yet I crave the happiness that the images of yesterday bestow upon me.

I firmly believe I got in the wrong line in Heaven. I should have been born in the Middle Ages…or perhaps the roaring 20s…or even the hopping 50s! Here in the 21st century, I’m considered strange when I walk in the store with red lips, black and white hound’s tooth pants and a red sweater all topped with black pumps. I hear the snickers from young girls as I walk by and I snicker back at their baggy pajamas and slippers they wear to the grocery store. These girls aren’t maturing into women. They are simply a robotic by-product of our modern, lazy society.

There is a place on the map of the United States, a very small dot that is called Nampa, Idaho. My home is small, a bungalow style with three small bedrooms and a single bathroom. My youngest son, ready to turn 18 years old and my adopted son almost 15, are all that remain at home from our gigantic family of nine. I rarely see the others or the grandchildren. Family just doesn’t quite mean the same thing these days. People are so wrapped up in their own opinion so often that there leaves little room for things like love and loyalty. Respect is a thing of the past and the only time you hear “yes, sir” is in the military. Forgiveness is a long word that no one seems to know the definition of anymore. It has become such a give-it-to-me-now society that the only person in their view is themselves. How did we fail this generation so badly? Surely the extinction of the spanking didn’t do this. Maybe single parent households that rip through the world like an epidemic have helped?

I am to blame for my part in that. I asked for the divorce from my first husband. He begged me to stay more than once and I still turned my back. Now, I can feel the grudge my children hold whether they know it or not. Then I married into a large established family of five more kids over my four. I was the enemy there, perceived as trying to be a mother when there was already a mother in their life. I was given no credit for just holding it together since there were many times that I wished I would just fall completely apart. Perhaps then I wouldn’t care as much as I did.

Eventually, my smoldering, broken heart cooled and steeled against people. I stepped out onto the stage of life as me, having stripped off the layers that were false fronts and an effort to just fit in with others around me. When my husband died, I merely shut off. I mean powered down until I felt nothing. I wandered aimlessly through my life, always walking, always looking, always listening but never living or moving or seeing or hearing.

Photography melted out of the picture for a long while. I saw no beauty out there anymore. I didn’t care to stir up feelings with images for others. I detested posing families and watching them smile in unison while mine was shattered by death. It wasn’t until the collection notices started arriving and threats were made to levy my bank account that I finally blinked.

My fourth grandchild arrived in February. This was the first one I had any chance of knowing and having a relationship with. I loved my other three, but they weren’t exactly “mine”. In my heart, I was Grandma and I didn’t want it any other way. Once my husband passed, it seemed I became invisible. It was difficult at best to be a figure the children knew since they lived a state away from me. Money was tight for all parties so Facetime gatherings were the closest thing to giving those sweet babies kisses.

This new baby, a little girl with light eyes like her mother and red hair like her dad entered the world. She was the first child of my own blood to grace the world and I cried when I first held her and marveled at her beauty. She made my heart beat again. The world came at me fast and furiously…the magic returned. I wanted to see the things differently for that little baby.

That’s when I picked up my camera again. One day, I would be able to sit down with my photos and show her all the places I went and recorded so she would know them as I did.

So it came to be summer, hot in the valley but cool in the mountains. My favorite place to go for picture taking was a smaller dot on the map: McCall, Idaho. The weather blew in and blew out at such a pace that the same scenery never looked the same. Early in the summer, the tall grasses were deep green and sprinkled with tiny pink and purple flowers. The river was high, gushing and frothing in the beds, the spray creating little rainbows in the bright sunshine.

McCall is a mountain town that parents a ski resort and the Payette Lake that attract tourists year round. It’s a diamond in the world of Mother Nature with the vivid blue skies and tall creaking firs. The smell of warm dirt and pine needles makes me smile and the slight curling of a campfire makes me long for days when we would gather as a family in the state park.

The drive up from the valley is long and winding. If you venture up between Thursday and Saturday, the roads are littered with slow moving campers or people in convertibles enjoying the scenery. You can’t blame them for that. I had been up and down those roads enough that the scenery was noise. I wanted to get up the mountain and just be there. I didn’t care to follow at 20 miles under the speed limit and spend the whole day driving.

In light of knowing this, I decided I would leave the boys home and take a much needed road trip to my favorite place, renting a studio over the lake for a week. I packed my little car with my suitcase, threw on some shades and took off after hugging my sons. I set my camera bag on the passenger’s seat and gave it a pat and a smile. Without wanting to waste another moment, I made my way out of Nampa that Wednesday morning and on toward the highway that would take me up to paradise.

The invisible bands loosened from around my chest with every mile traveled away from home. Soon, I was singing to the radio…the local doo wop station. I was tapping my fingers against the steering wheel and bouncing on the brakes to the beat at the stop lights.

The highway was slightly congested and I had to step on the gas a few times to pass a car with the oncoming traffic lane. My heart thundered in my ears and my face grew warm every time I did it. It was more of a thrill than I had allowed myself to experience in three years. It made me laugh out loud a time or two.

Rolling into the small town of McCall, I took a deep breath of satisfaction. Too long had I stayed away living in the darkness of grief. I came right through the middle of town and made a left when I ran out of street. Just passed the tiny city center was a house that had the studio apartment above the garage. I pulled into the familiar driveway and slipped the keys into my pocket, humming as I walked to the front door of the house.

The master of the abode answered my ring and handed me the key to the empty residence, just waiting for me to fill some of the space. It was probably 78 degrees there at two o’clock in the afternoon. Quickly, I collected my bag from the back seat of the car and slipped up the steps where I unlocked the door and made myself at home.

I set my bag against the wall beside the door and threw open the drapes that covered the enormous picture window overlooking the blue waters of the lake below. Unlocking the sliding door, I stepped out onto the balcony. In the distance I could hear children’s laughter carrying on the summer air. I could hear dogs barking and waves slashing. There were the sounds of jet skis in the water revving the engine as it jumped haphazardly through the wake of a speed boat pulling a water skier behind. This was summer.

I couldn’t wait any longer. It had become a tradition of sorts to grab an ice cream at Ice Cream Alley when my husband was still alive. We would drop our bags and make our way down there, then sit on the rocks to people watch and bask in the sunshine. So, I shrugged into my backpack that contained my camera and took off down the street. It was only a few blocks away from where I was staying and I got there in no time at all.

Happy they were open, I asked for a cup of Rocky Road, paid the gal, and walked across the street to finish our ritual. I felt naked without him with me. A lump started to form in my throat and sadness tried to claim me. So I ate my ice cream.

“Wish you were here, my love,” I whispered low so no one would hear me. “I hope you are eating an ice cream wherever you are.”

A tear tried to gather in the corner of my eye and I stubbornly wiped it away before it could fall and shoved my sunglasses back on my face to hide the evidence of my weakness.

I watched the kids playing in the sand of the beach. There were babies that started bawling when their parents took them into the cool waters of the winter run off. A chuckle escaped me and I remembered a time when the boys jumped off a dock, made one pass between it and the one beside it and decided it was way too cold to enjoy. I could still see the photos I snapped of each of them when wrapped in their towel, the sun glinting off the drops running down their faces. I smiled a lost and far away smile. That felt so long ago.

To my right, there was a man playing catch with his lab and at my one o’clock there were toddlers playing in the fountain that would shoot out water when they would get close enough. They would shriek and run back, their diapers sagging with the weight of the water. One fell on his rear and I winced, imagining all kinds of issues from tears to explosions, but he just got back up and clapped his chubby little hands ready to go again. I just shook my head and gobbled another bite, random giggles escaping me.

Behind me, school aged kids were jumping from rock to rock and I could hear my husband saying one would slip and break their face open before long. I laughed and nodded my head in agreement. Silly kids…going parkour on the hillside.

Standing, I climbed the slight hill that led to a main sidewalk that stretched around part of the lake. I dumped my cup and spoon in the garbage then took out my beast of a camera. The long lens clicked into place and I aimed toward the sandy shore, depressing the button slightly to bring it all into focus.

A little girl, maybe three or four years old, came walking out of the shallow water, her face beet red as she screamed and screamed. Tears streaked her sun kissed face and her hair stuck to her skin in clumps sending trails of water down her cheeks. I could see her little pearly teeth and then her fingers went into her mouth and I snapped the shutter closed. Such a raw display of honest emotion from her. That little girl summed up how I felt inside and she had no idea. How I wished I could just lose it and cry that way and have it be socially acceptable to do so!

The sun was starting to dip to the horizon a bit and it seemed that more people were flocking to the convenient little strip of sand. A slight breeze was picking up and I could hear flag clips clanging against masts on the boats that still sat in the marina ahead creating a rhythm of song. The beams of light were growing weaker and bounced off the metals of the boats tied up. I pointed my camera and zoomed it in until I could see people walking on the docks. Lucky dogs, I grumbled. It was a man and two teens, a girl and a boy. The man turned his face just so as I was about to pull my lens from them and I gasped in surprise.

“That cannot be…” I said to myself and clicked the shot just to be sure.

I looked again. “Well, I’ll be. That looks just like Jack Harrington. What is he doing out here? This is a long way from Hollywood.”

 

 

 

 

Medal of Defiance: Chapter 8

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I wandered that afternoon. I knew it would get dark soon, but I had no clue where I was in relation to where I had been earlier.

“Hey you!” I heard a voice call out.

I stopped and turned toward the sound. Then, I pointed at myself when I spied an older man a few houses away.

“Yeah you!” he called out again. “You look lost!”

The accent registered with me and I nodded. I felt numb.

“I am,” I tried to shout back in my best interpretation of the local accent. “My house…” I said motioning behind me and swallowing hard.

“You caught in the quake, lad?”

I merely nodded feeling so tired.

“You need a bunk?” the man called out to me still.

“That would be lovely,” I replied walking toward him.

“My wife, Evelyn, will have supper done soon now. Fill your belly and we can make up the couch. The name’s Foster, Foster Pembrooke,” he stated holding his hand out.

I took the offered hand and gave it a firm shake. “I would appreciate that so much,” I breathed. “I am Winthorpe…James.”

“Nice to meet you, lad. Come on in, rest a little.”

It was such a relief to be welcomed by someone. After many hours of walking, he was the one to extend his hospitality. There was a light in his blue eyes that I took an immediate liking to. He was a good man and I would be off the streets for the night.

“So you say there’s a problem with your house?” he asked me as we ventured inside his humble home.

“There is nothing left, I’m afraid,” I replied. “I saw men get buried in the wreckage out there and knew the remnants of my home were not safe. I just started walking…”

“You poor dear!” Evelyn exclaimed bringing a pot of fresh tea into the front room.

I liked their home. It smelled like a home should. Like bread.

“I appreciate your hospitality,” I rambled taking a seat in a rocking chair next to the window.

“You are welcome as long as you need a place to stay, laddie,” Foster said quietly. “You look like you’ve had a rough few days of it.”

I chuckled and rocked the chair methodically. “You could say that.” My head fell back against the wood of the chair and I sighed.

I thought about Jack and his meaningless death and I had to wonder if my decision caused him to be taken so early from this world. Now, I was not a religious man by any definition, but it did make me wonder. Did Jack die so I could succeed? Was there another force that knew he would be mutilated until he “talked”? My friend died a swift and merciful death, if there is such a thing…I took comfort in that.

“We are ready to eat now, Mr. James,” Evelyn said resting her hand on my shoulder and speaking softly as to not startle me.

I sat upright and looked around and smiled. I followed the missus into their meager dining area and took a seat at the empty plate that was set.

Evelyn sat at the table to my right, Foster right in front of me.

“We rarely have company, it is a nice change,” she smiled shyly.

Evelyn reminded me of the perfect wife. She was quiet, demur, and kind. I could imagine them sitting in this very room together with a gaggle of kids, everyone making conversation and laughing together.

I smiled in response to her remark.

“Shall we ask a blessing?” Foster asked without meaning to be answered.

As if it were routine, he reached out and took his wife’s hand and she bowed her head. Her left hand snaked out from her lap to take mine and Foster reached over the table to take my other. I obliged and bowed my head as Evelyn had.

The sound of Foster’s soft spoken voice filled the room and my ears, lifting a sense of hope in my chest. I admired the love he emitted for God and wondered briefly how anyone could possibly love someone they didn’t even know existed for sure. That feeling, that electrical feeling that passed through me at that moment almost made me envy the man.

The food was simple, cold meat sandwiches and roasted potatoes with a glass of frothy milk. It felt like their milk was much thicker than what I was used to. It stuck to my lips and coated my throat. The bread was fluffy and soft, but still warm from coming out of the oven. The sliced meats were salty and full of flavor. The potatoes were swimming in butter with their shining red skins. It was the best meal I’d eaten in a very long time and I went back for more.

“I can show you where you can sleep when you are done there, Winthorpe,” Foster said taking his plate into the kitchen beyond.

I stopped chewing long enough to look up and nod. I did feel better, but I was so tired.

Evelyn was already tucking sheets under the cushions of the weathered old couch in the front room when Foster and I emerged from eating. She fluffed a giant pillow and threw a blanket over the top and I nearly swooned with the pleasure of comfort extended to me by strangers.

“Would you care to wash before you sleep?” Evelyn asked as she worried her hands a bit.

I stared at the bedding like a wolf stares at a sheep and shook my head to the negative. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to just crawl in and rest,” I replied.

She laughed a merry sound. “I don’t blame you. But let me show you where the loo is if you need it in the night.”

Motioning me to follow her, I trudged along just thinking about those crisp sheets and soft pillow. Just down the hall and to my right was the bathroom, or the loo. It was a very tight room, quite small compared to the community shower I was used to at the base. There was literally a toilet, a sink and a tub. I could turn on the water of the sink and wash my hands while sitting on the toilet if I so wanted to, they were that close together. My knees, I imagined, would smack against the side of the tub across from the toilet if I dared sit on the seat. I suppose small was an understatement.

“It’s old…” Evelyn said quietly.

“It’s lovely, Mrs. Pembrooke. Thank you for letting me stay with you,” I smiled. I was pretty sure they were tired of hearing my statements of gratitude, but I didn’t care. That was what I felt at the moment. I was comfortable and safe with friends.

I waited until Foster took his wife in their bedroom before I took out my flat tab and plugged my ear buds into the jack. Quickly I opened up the program that was an all frequency radio and clicked through each station in hopes of hearing any communication about Jack…or myself.

A thick British accent hit my ears and my finger stilled a moment. I listened with intent as words like “monarchy”, “money”, “food”, and “resistance” filled my ears. The voices changed from time to time as different people spoke their mind.

“We must take matters into our own hands, boys! We got families to feed! If the monarchy won’t help us, we had better take it ourselves! I say we plan a time at the change of the guard. Some sort of distraction should lure them all there and we take the gates. Kill anyone who gets in our way, I say! Even if it is the king himself.”

“What if we take the princess with us? Show her a little something about what we are going through?”

“Wouldn’t be a bad idea there, my friend. I’m tired of being hungry and not having but one bottle of water a day. I want a place to sleep where I’m not on the bloody ground! My kids won’t be quiet and my baby is sick now. Perhaps stealing the princess is the thing to do. Maybe it would wake up that king who lies comfortable in his bed tonight.”

“When are we doing this?”

“I think we could manage on Sunday. We should be there by ten in the morning. Then, when the change takes place, we set off some firecrackers down the street. When the guards investigate right at the 11:30 time, we break through the gates. Get all our friends together. All of us are suffering right now and the castle don’t care about us at all. What do you say, boys?”

“Sounds like we have a plan, boss.”

“Naw…I’m no boss. We are a team. A team of citizens under the protection of a crown full of holes and now we are getting rained on.”

There were cries of agreement coming through and I knew this was bad. I had to get to the castle to warn the family of the danger lurking. Surely they weren’t the only ones planning an attack of some kind. Perhaps the king didn’t know just how angry his people were. One thing I knew, they would not take what I had worked so hard to find. Paige.

I abandoned the search of frequencies and tucked my belongings away in the satchel. Then, I allowed myself to drift off into a deep sleep where dreams held color and the sound of rebellion rang in my ears.

My eyes fluttered open early, as I was used to. The house was quiet and it took me a moment to remember where, and who, I was. The weak light was just beginning to filter through the picture window across from me. Although the heavy drapes had been pulled shut the night before, I could see its brilliance finding the crack between the panels and glowing against the darkness of the living room.

I needed to get to London. It was just that simple. I had to warn the royal family of the impending attack on them.

I sat up on the couch and rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands. Why did I care so much? Why was I willing to risk my very life to just marry this princess, much less show up to defend her family?

There was no way I could answer my own questions.

Slipping my feet into those fancy shoes, I grabbed my satchel. I had no toiletries at all so using the washroom held little interest to me except to use the loo. It felt funny even thinking that word. To me, it was one of those words that made no sense at all and it made me feel like laughing.

So nature’s call won out and I slipped into the tiny washroom and emptied my bladder. When I flushed, an awful noise rang out. It was like it came from under the house and was like a ship being crushed in the mighty weight of ocean waters. Quickly, I washed my hands and took no time to dry them. I had to get on my way, no Evelyn to talk me into staying longer.

Opening the door when I had finished, water still dripping from my hands, I ran into her. Evelyn. Her warm smile that morning made me freeze in my tracks.

“I’m getting breakfast on, Winthorpe. It will be just a few minutes, I swear,” she said kindly.

“What in the world was that noise?” I blurted out.

She laughed. “Sorry ‘bout that. We forgot to warn you that our plumbing screams. Especially in the morning.” Then she motioned me back in the washroom. “Shower, and dress. You will feel a little better.”

Feeling a tad defeated, I complied and retreated back into the cramped room that looked like something out of the classic Alice in Wonderland. I had to ask myself, “When did I eat the cookie?”

But I quickly stripped and started the bath pouring. I could smell toasting bread teasing my senses. My mouth watered.

It was odd, using a small bathtub. I couldn’t remember ever being in a tub in my life. Maybe a spa tub, but not a regular old bathtub. The thought of how many germs were actually invading my body as I sat in that water made my skin crawl. So I quickly soaped my hair and rinsed, using the bar of soap in the corner to wash my body. It came to rest over the tender area of my wrist. My alteration was healing nicely, but was still pretty angry.

My mind wandered to the real Winthorpe and if I had been found out yet. I drew a deep breath and had to believe I covered my tracks the best I could. But I also knew I had to put enough distance between myself and the RA so they couldn’t track me down. But if they did figure out what I did, I would be stuck in this country for the rest of my life, living low and sticking to the shadows.

When I could no longer stand it, I jumped out of the water and quickly dried. I did feel better being clean. I hated to put on the same clothes again, but I did. I had no choice.

I opened the washroom door one more time, looking both ways down the short corridor before I emerged.

“Breakfast is ready!” Evelyn called out.

I made my way back to the table where I had most enjoyed myself the night before. There was toast, a small stack of it, eggs that looked light and fluffy, sausages that were browned just so, and more of that delightfully thick milk.

Foster sat in the same place as before and appeared alert and excited. We prayed over the food once again and I felt that strange tingling sensation one more time.

“Did I wake you this morning?” I asked them, referring to flushing their toilet.

They both laughed. “No, not at all. We had been awake for a while before you woke. We just wanted you to sleep as you could get it. Sounded like you had a rough night.”

“It did?” I asked and dropped my fork a notch, eggs wiggling as my hand shook ever so slightly.

“It was a night of nightmares it sounded like. Crying about dead bodies and falling stones then yelling to Jack that there were guns at the castle,” Foster shook his head as he smiled at me. “Must have been a hell of a night for you!”

I poked my fork inside my mouth. I had said Jack’s name. Out loud.

“I never knew I talked in my sleep,” I grinned in response. “This has been an awful time for me.”

There was no way I was going to talk about Jack and who he was to me.

Evelyn’s hands fluttered to her chest in sympathy. “I can only imagine. I thank the Lord each day that the quake spared us.”

“You are most lucky. It is a war zone down there,” I said trying to be mindful of the information I had found before I went to sleep. My expression sobered and I pointed my fork right at the both of them. “Please listen to me…I know there are many who are devastated. Who knows what these poor victims will do when they have had enough. Please promise me that good people like yourselves will not offer lodging to any more strangers until conditions get better. I don’t want to watch the telly and see that you were hurt in any way. Promise?”

I was rather proud of my very British reference to the television.

But Foster and Evelyn stared at me as though it were my funeral and nodded their agreement.

“Just be careful,” I mumbled and continued to shove food in my mouth.

We ate the rest of the meal silently.

Across the Threshold Book Tour: Character Interviews

Blog Tour Banner

So today’s stop on the tour for the anthology, Across the Threshold, is an effort made by all of us involved. We devised a standard interview form with questions that all of our main characters were to answer. This should prove to be most interesting!

You can visit my website for the full story HERE!

Then, pay the other authors a visit and see how their characters answered all the same questions!

Medal of Defiance- Chapter 7

DO NOT BE ALARMED!

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I redid my chapters to be smaller, so we are on chapter 7 now. Still at the same place in the story though.

Chapter 7

 

Are you kidding me? I screamed at myself. Winthorpe? I could have sworn I saw a man named that one time on a really old movie…How would I ever get used to hearing my name being Winthorpe?

Briefly I scanned my history that I should know…My parents’ names, my siblings, and my date of birth. As soon as I thought I could remember Annie James, Henry James, and Matilda James, I clicked off my flat tab and shoved it in my coat.

This was it. I was on my way down the corridor, everything dear to me was packed in my pockets so that was not saying much about my pathetic life. I was about to embark on a new future. One that I hoped would change the world for the better.

Jack was waiting for me and looked nervous to me. I cursed under my breath at his rigid demeanor. That could alert someone that there was something going on. These people were very good at reading body language. So I quickened my pace to get him out of the courtyard.

I was handed a backpack for the day. I figured I could get away with taking the water and perhaps my rations that were inside.

“You need to relax, man,” I said as I approached Jack.

“I am relaxed! I’m just anxious to see what you got done last night! I just sat there in bed wondering how you would pull this off,” he laughed and clapped me on the shoulder.

“Your lack of sleep has you standing like a robot. Take a deep breath and let’s go.”

We took off for our post, once again heading for Ladymeade Parkway. We were silent until sure we were out of surveillance at the base.

“So, how did you do it?” Jack asked.

I laughed out loud at his eagerness. I stopped walking and he followed suit as I dug in my pockets. Drawing out my new prints, I took one out of the sleeve to show him.

“Here it is…I just have to glue it to my finger. It is clear, it works, and I only have to use it when I know I will need to be scanned,” I said.

“That is amazing, Wes. Truly amazing. I would never have thought to do that. What did you use?”

I gave him the run down of the night in the supplies closet and showed him my altered ID. It was angry and red when I drew up my sleeve but I knew it would heal in time.

We started walking again.

“My name is Winthorpe,” I snorted.

Jack just laughed until he had tears dripping from his eyes.

“Okay, that’s enough I think. Maybe I could just go by Thor for short. He is a legend from another place in the universe who fights to change his world. Do you think he would mind if I shared his name?” I chuckled.

Jack broke out into a new bout of laughter. “I don’t think he would mind at all. But I think Marvel would probably hate you.”

“Most likely,” I replied.

We stopped a spell at the house Jack was working on.

“Been nice working with you, Winthorpe,” Jack said struggling to control his laughter.

“Yeah, take care of that wife and kids back home. I’m glad I met you, Jack.”

Jack just waved to me and started climbing in the rubble. I took a mental picture of him before I turned and headed the distance to the house that would change my existence.

The ground started to rumble under my feet. I felt dizzy, like I couldn’t keep my footing. I could hear matter falling all around me and a scream rent the stillness of the air.

“Jack!” I called out.

Nausea gripped me and when the shaking stopped, I got back to my feet and sprinted to where I had last seen my comrade. I could feel my hands shaking, my breathing was ragged and I thought for sure I would pass out.

I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t hear him. It was like the destruction had just swallowed my friend up. “No, no! Don’t let it take Jack!” I mumbled as I made my way through the large stones and bricks that lie on the ground.

I could hear the dust settling as it fell through the piles of wood and stone, like rain on a metal roof. “Jack!” I yelled out picking up debris and throwing it into the street.

It felt like it took me forever to wade through the aftermath of the small quake. But there, not even too far beneath, was my comrade. My accomplice in this whole charade. He had been crushed, his bones badly broken and his head leaking colors I never knew existed in the human body.

I threw up and the tears came unbidden to my eyes. There was a moment when I didn’t think I could even breathe. This man was a father, a husband, a son…and my friend.

I knew I couldn’t touch him. But I fell to my knees and cried.

When I felt hollow and spent, I replaced the pieces of rock that used to be part of that home…the ones that most likely did Jack in.

Once I gathered myself up a bit and dried my eyes, I realized that my time had come. No one could know about any plan since the only one involved had just died. I scrambled down and ran. I ran fast and hard until I made it to where we had placed the man I would replace in this world.

With every limb of my body shaking, I slipped into what remained of Winthorpe’s home. Frantically I searched for clothes and at long last, I found most of a closet left standing. I stripped my body of my soldier’s clothes and slid my body into the soft fabrics of clothing of quality. If I had been more aware, I would probably have reveled in the feel of them.

There was a bag, a man’s leather satchel that I snagged and tossed all of my paraphernalia in it. Hurrying back to dead Winthorpe’s corpse, I set about the task of dressing him in my filthy uniform. I could smell the rotten smell of decay coming from his bloated figure and I fought back the vomit that threatened to escape me again. I had to exercise control over myself. I didn’t know how much time I really had.

Knowing that the dead man would more than likely fall apart if I dared to drag him, I picked him up and carried him to where I had dug him out.

“I’m sorry about this, chap,” I said with sincerity before dropping him back in the hole and filling it in with the rubble.

It was time to hide. Staying in the house would not be safe, not if another aftershock came through. I could be buried in there. So, I took the satchel and left, not looking back. As I passed around the back of the house, something shone at me in the dusty light. I bent and picked it up.

Carefully I opened up the leather folder that sported a silver insignia. It was Winthorpe’s wallet. I had the man’s wallet. How it ended up back there, I have no idea. But all I could keep thinking was that this was a plan from a higher power. This was my destiny. No matter how humans tried to control the outcome of anything, Fate would always step in and steer people in the right direction…down their path. There was no other explanation.