Kenny [fiction]

Changes, Part 2

Lenny Stevens has a new name and personality.

Kenneth “Kenny” Jeffrey Douglas, 15

Kenny

He, as Lenny Stevens, is the second person I created. He buddied with Dave Evans (now, Dave Conrad) in high school until I wrote him as an adult for a short story called “Dragon Slayer.” He went through some name changes before I settled for Leo Nash, a tall and lanky schoolteacher at Ridgewood High. I changed his name back to Lenny Stevens when I rewrote the story for The Green Crystal Stories, an episodic book about Vree Erickson. Now, I have changed his name to Kenny Douglas for no other reason than I grew tired of his name.

*

Looking For Gold (A short story featuring Kenny)

On a July Saturday, Dave Conrad rode his green 10-speed Schwinn Super Sport bicycle ahead of Kenny Douglas’s blue one as he led the way to a place where he believed they could find gold. They both wore white T-shirts, blue jeans and tennis shoes, and Dave wore his blue high school baseball cap. Kenny caught glimpses of the white letters FE letters on the cap every time Dave turned to see if Kenny was still behind him.

They headed north on Ridge Road, uphill and down, and then uphill and steep for almost a half-mile. The one o’clock sun was hot on Kenny’s back and shoulders while he pumped his bicycle’s pedals to keep up. Near the top, Dave crossed the road, dismounted his bike, and carried it over a large ditch and into a hayfield. Kenny followed along a path that looked like a deer trail, walking his bike behind Dave until they came to some woods. They left their bikes there after Dave removed coiled rope from his bike, and went the rest of the way on foot, into the cool shade and a swampy outcropping to the edge of a rocky cliff. Twenty feet below, water trickled from the hillside, fell and splattered on rock, and fell again to Myers Creek far below.

“If there’s gold,” Dave said, “this’ll be a good place to look.”

Kenny helped Dave with the rope, tying his end to a young hornbeam tree that Dave had called an ironwood. Dave harnessed his end to his legs and shoulders. Then, when both boys were certain the knots were good, Kenny helped lower him to where water trickled from the side of Myers Ridge. Dave dug around at the wet ground, pulled up rocks, examined them closely, and tossed them away. After ten minutes, the process became boring to watch, so Kenny returned to the hornbeam tree to make sure his knot held strong.

Past the tree where the ground turned swampy and muddy, a red squirrel inspected the inedible raw leaves of a small patch of skunk cabbage, likely looking for the plants’ hard, pea-sized seeds to carry back to its nest. That’s when Dave called Kenny back.

He hoisted a grinning Dave who proudly displayed a three-inch chunk of bright yellow rock. It was cold and heavy when Kenny held it.

“Do you think it’s real?” he asked.

“My dad’s tester at home will tell us for sure,” Dave said before he blew into his bright red hands. His eyes were wide as he looked at the gold, then down at the cliff and back at the gold. “Should’ve brought gloves,” he said before taking the rock away from Kenny.

“What are you gonna do with it?” Kenny asked.

“Melt it and maybe make a bracelet for my mom. I’ve been reading up on how to make jewelry.”

Dave pocketed the rock, then took off the rope harness and helped Kenny into it. Kenny kept his feet against the cliff wall while Dave lowered him to the trickling streams of falling water. The water’s icy bite kept Kenny from digging long. Within minutes, he held his cold, red hands to his mouth.

“Pull me up,” he called out. Then, “Wait.”

He reached into the farthest stream on his right and extracted a long, conical piece of green crystal rock from the soft erosion. It was as long as his forearm and shaped like an icicle. He held it by the thick end and brushed away sediment from its smooth, glassy surface, rubbing his hand over the polished object and enjoying the warmth where it tapered to a point. He waved it like an orchestra conductor’s baton at the air next to him.

“Whatever it is, it’s manmade,” he said when Dave pulled him up.

“How do you think it got down there?” Dave asked, taking it by the narrow end and swinging it like a baseball bat.

“It must be old to have passed through the ground.”

“Tomorrow,” Dave said, looking determined, “I’m going down there and look for more gold.”

Kenny frowned. “Wouldn’t it be better to look in Myers Creek? The gold’s high density will have caused most of it to sink to lower ground.”

“The creek is pretty deep. We’d need a way to stay at the bottom and dig. We could rent some tanks at Myers Lake, but I’m really low on cash right now.”

“Maybe we could inspect some of the sinkholes around here.”

Dave’s eyes widened again, but not in a good way. “Are you crazy? Some of those holes are infested with rattlesnakes.”

“I’m not saying we go inside. I’m saying that the ground around the hole may reveal more gold. After all,” Kenny puffed his chest while he displayed his retained knowledge from science class, “virtually all the gold discovered so far is considered to have been deposited by meteorites which contained it. And since gold was found inside Myers Ridge, don’t you think there’d be more of it showing where the ground has broken away?”

“Well, I’m staying away from sinkholes. You never know when the ground’s gonna collapse.”

Kenny agreed.

Dave gave back the long stone, then undid his end of the rope and began wrapping it around his left elbow and shoulder. Kenny untied the other end from the hornbeam tree.

Later, back on their bikes and on the road, they rode toward Dave’s house, picking up speed past a couple of dairy farms, some cow and horse pastures, and an abandoned barn in a field of teasels, wild grasses and ragweed. A vehicle had indented the grasses there. Dave stopped.

“My Spidey sense is tingling,” he said when Kenny pulled up alongside him. Kenny chuckled at the comic book reference, and then stopped short when the long stone he held vibrated.

He dropped the stone and rubbed his hands together.

“That was so weird,” he said. But Dave’s attention was still on the barn.

There, a blue sedan at the barn backed up and turned around.

“Hit the deck,” Dave said. “Don’t let these guys see us.”

The boys jumped off their bikes, threw them into the field, and then dived for cover among daisy fleabane and a large clump of purple and yellow New England Astor. Kenny pressed close to the ground and hoped the handlebar of his bike would go unnoticed by whoever was inside that car.

The driver stopped the car for nearly a minute when it reached Ridge Road. Dave and Kenny were ten yards away and a horsefly had found the back of Kenny’s sweaty neck. He clenched his jaw as it bit into his skin and sucked his blood. He waited no more than thirty seconds after the car pulled away to slap at the fly and rub at the welt it left there.

“Where are you going?” he asked when Dave scrambled up and headed toward the barn.

“This doesn’t feel right,” Dave said. “Come on. And hurry.”

Kenny returned to the road and fetched the long stone. It looked lighter in color and no longer vibrated. He caught up to Dave at the boarded up double doors of the barn.

“No one does this unless they have something to hide,” Dave said.

They pulled the boards away and entered a musty smelling barn that changed quickly to cool dampness and became darker the farther in they went. They passed an old manure cart covered with burlap. The stone seemed to pull at Kenny’s hand toward the cart. A thought came to him that he should look inside it. Then, as though he had read Kenny’s mind, Dave returned to it and pulled away the empty burlap sacks.

A young girl was inside, bound, gagged, and very frightened. When she was out of the cart and her restraints and convinced that Dave and Kenny weren’t going to harm her, she let Dave carry her to his bike where she rode on the handlebars to his house.

She was 7-year-old Laurie Burnett, last seen at a soccer game at the city park, kidnapped from Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Burnett. Her parents had received a ransom note earlier that week asking for $250,000 in exchange for the girl’s safe return.

Three days later, the police caught the criminals after Laurie identified them as associates at her father’s medical office.

Dave and Kenny became town heroes and received a thousand dollars each from Dr. Burnett. Dave melted his gold and made his mom a pendant shaped in the initial of her first name. And Kenny put the long stone on top of his tall bedroom dresser with his collection of other stones and old coins, forgetting about it until the day lightning almost killed Dave’s uncle and cousin.

*–*–*

Shangri-La [poetry]

Beyond the valley sunsets,
through a nestled paradise for dreamers,
beside a crystal lagoon where the deep and green go,
my laughter embraces the wonders here.

My heart beats warm where waters flow
from a sparkling waterfall;
I bathe away the devil
and drown him in the quick;
I slumber on stardust seldom ever seen
and fly on the backs of angels.

My slumber grows warm
like lovers on soft sand;
I sing my heart’s desire
a melody in the shining of the forever full flower moon.

Only dreamers ever travel here,
and the ones who want to dream forever
never want to leave;
so close your eyes and join me now
in a Shangri-la.

Green Crystal, chapter 19 [fiction]

In this last chapter, it’s now June 29, 2013 and Lenny Stevens is on his parent’s front porch, trying to become a better artist by painting Sara Taylor’s portrait; she reminds him of Vree Erickson, though she is seven years younger. Lenny pines to have Vree back; the hope that she could return by magic glimmers in his eyes and he believes it could happen if he paints an accurate portrait of Vree. But to do so, he needs to practice … a lot. Discouraged by his lack of skill and troubled that Sara is attracted to him, he stops painting for the day and, upon her encouragement, tells her about the magic green crystal that Vree had found in the sinkhole of her backyard, how she became frightened of it, and that she threw it back before vanishing mysteriously. Sara kisses him before leaving for the day. Lost in memories and troubled thoughts, he sits on the porch with a shard of Vree’s broken mirror (a piece he took from her bedroom when Mrs. Erickson allowed him inside one time) and watches twilight turn to night, long after his mother calls him in to eat; he falls asleep and dreams about Vree.

Cracks In Time

We choreograph the crystal’s dance of light and color to mirror the dance of Creation.

Chapter 3 of 3: June 29, 2013

It was almost four o’clock that Saturday summer afternoon when Lenny Stevens picked a housefly from a mound of oil paint on his canvas. The north end of his parent’s front porch was now part of his makeshift artist’s studio. Heat blistered the air despite the shade and an electric fan blowing a cool breeze from one of three card tables. A young girl in a yellow summer dress reclined on a lounge chair covered in multicolored satin pillows. Her hair was the color of fine gold, her cheeks ruby-red, her smiling eyes like sapphire pools. She glowed of extraordinary purity like a summer sunset in a garden of carnations and lilies.

Well, maybe not the latter, but Lenny liked the poetic way it sounded and how much saying “A summer sunset in a garden of carnations and lilies” reminded him of Vree Erickson.

His newfound model, Sara Taylor, was nine—“Nine-and-a-half,” she’d told him—almost seven years younger than Vree and him. But she owned a beauty similar to Vree’s that he desired to capture on canvas—the way he should have done the first day he had met Vree. Yet the very thing he desired to paint distracted him, filled his heart with a want to have Vree back, to see her lounging on the chair instead of Sara.

The daughter of the woman who owned the bookstore downtown raised a delicate eyebrow and curled up a smile at the corner of her mouth.

“My parents say I can invite you to dinner tonight,” she said. “I hope you like Chicken à la caléndonienne.”

Her voice was the light tinkling of wind chimes in a gentle breeze; the very voice that had sung to him five weeks ago about his amateurish paintings of Vree being absolutely beautiful and emotional and heartfelt.

“With practice you’ll get better,” she had told him. “You can practice painting me, if you’d like.”

Now, anxiety passed over his face.

“Who am I kidding? Vree was the artist. No matter how well I try to paint her image, it won’t bring her back.”

Still, the hope that Vree could return by magic glimmered in his eyes. She had been his true love, the only girl in Ridgewood who had ever been able to reach inside and steal his heart. Being with Vree had made everything in his life seem perfect.

He sucked in a deep breath to help settle his anxiety.

“Chicken à la caléndonienne,” Sara repeated.

“Chicken à la caléndonienne?” Lenny said with a voice like a steel breeze from winter’s coldest hour. “What’s that?”

“Chicken baked in butter, parsley and lemon juice. It’s good.”

It sounded good but Lenny dared not admit it. He said, “Hmmm,” instead and adjusted his paint-splattered smock. Then he took a long flat paintbrush and spread white oil paint across his palette. The milky hue merged into a puddle of yellow, crimson and blue paint until he was certain he had the right color. He approached the large easel with its canvas positioned at eye level, dashed a shaky stroke of color across the fabric, and studied again the face of the young girl he was painting.

He saw it then, it was a look in her eyes: puppy love. He put down the brush, tossed his palette and other brushes on a card table and told Sara the session was over.

“Patience, she reminded him as she rose from the love seat.

“Yes, patience and practice, patience and practice,” he huffed, and then backed down as soon as he saw her amorous face peer at him.

“You’re a really cute guy, Lenny Stevens, and you have talent to be a great artist someday.” She smiled.

“I’m too old for you,” Lenny said.

Sara’s smile remained. “When you’re twenty-five and I’m nineteen, our age difference won’t seem like a big deal.”

“I have a girlfriend.”

“Tell me,” she said, releasing the smile and letting a frown crease her brow. “I want to know what happened to her.” She sat on a metal stool next to the card table cluttered with paint tubes and brushes, picked up an art book and rested it on her lap.

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 19 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 18 [fiction]

When Vree Erickson magically passes through her mirror to her friend Dave Evans’s bedroom, she knows the entity is still alive inside her and wants Dave dead. There, she stands up to Angelina, the entity from the crystal powerful enough to destroy her and everyone she holds dear in life.

Cracks In Time

We choreograph the crystal’s dance of light and color to mirror the dance of Creation.

Chapter 2 of 3: December 31, 2012

Dave Evans surrendered the gaze of his deep blue eyes to one of wildness mixed with flight. The air around him had become thin and dry, as though an unseen storm had sucked the very oxygen from the sunny sky over Myers Ridge.

“Bottom of the seventh. We need some runs,” Parker Evans said before he called out three names of the players scheduled to bat. His ragtag team sat on lawn chairs along third base. The hot chocolate in the red and white Igloo water dispenser on the middle chair had gone cold during the fifth inning. The snow in the backyard had turned to slush and the game was winding down. So was their day of fun.

“Cheer up,” he said to Dave before he took his spot as coach near third base.

Dave’s gaze wandered again to the barn and the small girl standing there. The afternoon sun seemed to spark Krissy Tyree’s long, soft brown hair. A halo of green surrounded her, but it did not diminish the brightness of white funeral dress she wore. Dave practically hugged himself from a chill gripping his back. He thought about telling someone about the ghost, but quashed the idea when she glared at him.

On the field, the dead girl’s dad, Huritt Tyree, laced a hit over the second baseman’s head. The forty-something man could have had a double in his younger years. He stopped at first base and clapped, cheering for Becky Jones to bring him home and tie the game. Dave tore his gaze from Krissy and watched his neighbor from Russell Road lace a hot single past third base. The slush kept the yellow softball from going far and several players slipped and fell while running to it. Huritt took advantage of their mishaps and advanced to third, landing on his backside when the plywood base slipped from under him. Laughter erupted from everyone but Dave. He felt Krissy’s icy stare on him and remembered the day he had killed her.

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 18 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 17 [fiction]

2012 is winding down and the murdering entity of the green crystal that Vree Erickson found in a sinkhole in her backyard still possesses her. Determined to rid herself of the entity, she returns the crystal to the sinkhole.

But when she magically passes through her mirror to her friend Dave Evans’s bedroom, she knows the entity is still alive inside her and wants Dave dead.

Now Vree finds herself standing up to the entity powerful enough to destroy her and everyone she holds dear in life.

“Cracks In Time” is a short story and the fifth installment of the Ridgewood Chronicles and The Green Crystal Stories—a riveting story propelling Vree and her friend Lenny Stevens deeper into mystery.

Cracks In Time

We choreograph the crystal’s dance of light and color to mirror the dance of Creation.

Chapter 1: December 31, 2012

The vengeful entity’s name was Angelina. Her goal was to enact vengeance on those people marked in green. She who had possessed Vree Erickson had been born from mysterious magic power of a green crystal found in a sinkhole in Vree’s backyard. The crystal’s power had saved Vree’s life — her mother’s, too — but it had also used her to kill. And for everyone Vree saw cloaked in a green aura, she feared for their lives.

Angelina’s power over Vree was strongest when she possessed the green crystal, which is why she had thrown it and the smaller one that she had taken from Uncle John into the sinkhole in her backyard. And now, after a geological inspector had authorized her parents to fill in the hole, Angelina’s presence inside her had quieted, hopefully gone altogether and back inside the crystal it had come from.

Filling the hole three days after Christmas had also stopped the electrical disturbances from inside the earth affecting cell phones, wireless internet service, and satellite TV on Myers Ridge. Even cars and trucks were able to travel the ridge once more without stalling. Life seemed to have returned to normal, but the nightmares for Vree continued. Angelina had made her nothing more than a machine harboring a virus programmed to persecute and kill people guilty of petty crimes such as arrogance, disrespect, injustice, and deception. Not being in control of her mind and body still terrified Vree.

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 17 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 16 [fiction]

Kismet

“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells

Chapter 5: December 25, 2006

The patter of bare feet on wood floor brought Addison from her slumber. Seconds later, a child’s voice whispered in an ear, “Merry Christmas, Mommy.”

She reached out from the blankets and pulled the girl in bed with her.

“Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday,” she said as she cuddled the child close to her bosom.

“I want to open presents,” the child said.

“Me, too,” a husky voice said.

Daniel rolled over and hugged his wife and daughter. For a moment, Addie saw a whirlwind of light around them. The image faded like gossamer memories slipping away like fog in the lamplight that Daniel brought to the room. She peeked at the clock: 6:03.

“Okay,” she said to him. “You take Sara downstairs and I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.”

Daniel rolled from bed, scooped up their excited three-year-old daughter, and snatched his robe from the closet door.

The house phone rang next to the bed. She let Daniel answer it downstairs as she rose and stumbled toward the bathroom. In the hall, she bumped against a stand and knocked her blue diary to the floor. A photograph fell from the pages as she picked up the book. The photograph was of Sara at the hospital on the day she was born.

Addison took a pen from the stand and wrote the day’s date on a blank page. Then she wrote, Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to my baby girl who means the world to her mommy and daddy.

Just then, Sara and Daniel called for her to hurry. She picked up the photo and tucked it away in the back of the book, and then hurried headlong in the rush that was Christmas and birthday presents shared with a loving family.

~ ~ ~

Across town, Catherine Johnson’s latest dream troubled her. She propped herself on elbows and looked around the bedroom that seemed familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The room seemed longer, rectangular, and its four windows seemed wider and spaced further apart — but that could be from the play of dim morning light trying to pass through her curtains. The bedroom suite was still the one she had purchased after Nate’s death seven years ago, and the cream carpet still had the stain where she had spilled some wine one night when she made love to a date that ended up a brief sexual encounter.

She fell dizzily back to her pillows and thought of going back to sleep. She was tired, much more tired than she had ever been before. As she warmed again to the blankets covering her, footsteps outside her door caused her to stir.

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 16 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 15 [fiction]

Kismet

“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells

Chapter 4: April 15, 1988

He was on his back. For a moment, Daniel thought he was floating. Then his head cleared and he saw that he was beneath some pines, on a dry mattress of grass and pine needles, sprawled on his back, his pack pressing uncomfortably against his spine. He rolled over and realizing he was holding his breath, gasped for air until his breathing became normal. A faraway whoosh came from automobile tires passing over blacktop nearby. He brushed himself off and set off looking for Addison.

~ ~ ~

The news was fifteen years old but current to the people of this time. Daniel put away the newspaper. When he looked from the rear booth and across the diner, the teenage boy sitting at the counter had to be Tom Matthews. The girl at his side was definitely Addison Johnson, destined to become Addison Matthews, and later, Addison Taylor. She and Tom would graduate high school later this year.

Daniel sipped at his coffee and waved for his check. The bleached-blonde twenty-something cashier-slash-waitress nodded. She spoke to Tom and Addison who were on their way out after finishing a basket of fries and two milkshakes.

He watched Addison leave with Tom and kiss him goodbye on the sidewalk. He observed her cross the street, her red hair blowing in the April wind. When she was out of sight, he took from his jacket pocket a small but fat blue book and began to read.

Catherine’s Diner was slowly filling with Ridgewood’s elderly shuffling in for supper. A young, red-haired woman came from the kitchen and placed a slice of apple pie on his table.

“I didn’t order this,” he said.

“On the house,” she said. “I’m on my break and noticed you sitting here all alone, looking like you lost your best friend.” She studied him with beautiful green eyes. “Where are you from?” She sipped at the Pepsi she had bought along through a straw. “I’ve never seen you before.”

“I’m from someplace far away.”

“How far?”

“I was born in Minnesota, a long time ago.”

She smiled. “How long ago was that?”

He shrugged. “Enough to make me feel very old.”

“I don’t think you’re old.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Usually to someone your age, I’m considered ancient.”

“I’m different than others my age.”

He agreed. “And how old is someone your age? Twenty one?”

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 15 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 14 [fiction]

Kismet

“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells

Chapter 3: April 26, 2003

“Ugh. I think I swallowed a spider.”

Daniel pulled a small, brown leaf from his mouth and pushed the hanging branches away from his face. Drops of water sprinkled down on him and he shivered. “Wait up a second, honey. I need to readjust my pack.”

Addison stopped and combed a hand through her short blonde hair. “We’re almost out of the woods,” she said and took out her canteen. “The hill’s summit is another hour. Then we can set up our tent and…” She let her voice fall away while she removed the cap and drank.

“God willing,” Daniel moaned while he adjusted the straps around his shoulders. “I’m getting too old for this.”

“Forty-nine isn’t old,” she said and looked into his blue eyes and winked. “Besides, you shouldn’t have worn so much, especially on a day like today.”

He looked down at the long khaki shirt and pants. “I can’t help it we’re having unseasonable weather today.” He pointed at patches of snow and ice lingering in the valley. “It’ll be cold tonight, though. It’s still April.” He took a mouthful of cool water and swallowed.

“That’s okay,” Addison purred. “I have you to keep me warm.” She turned and pulled at the pant legs of her black spandex shorts that had crept up her thighs. “Besides, this was your idea to paint the landscapes up here. So stop complaining.”

“Or what?” Daniel studied the tall, trim woman, stared at her youthful-looking face and felt his love for her quicken. She was thirty-three, but looked barely twenty-five. He wiped sweat from his forehead, then handed back the canteen.

“I love you, Addison,” he said. He tried to embrace her, but her pack got in the way. He leaned in and tried to kiss her, but she swatted at a fly buzzing her face. He decided to step back and blow her a kiss instead.

She pretended to catch it and place it against her heart. “I love you, too,” she said, putting away the canteen, and then embracing him and kissing him deeply. Daniel closed his eyes and felt a wave of desire wash over him. She gently pushed away and he let her go.

“Come on,” she said, pointing to the top of the rise. “Our destiny awaits us, master painter.

The loose stone and gravel slowed their climb, making Daniel eager to rest again. He looked forward to reaching the top and setting up their tent.

They lunched at one-thirty next to their packs on the face of the hillside. Looking down at the widespread valleys of Ridgewood, Daniel noted how years of wind, rain and snow had stripped away trees and other large plant life on some areas of the hill, creating patches of bare rock. Ugly to some, but beautiful contrasts of texture and form to the eyes of an artist.

Addison pointed down the slope. “I used to climb those rocks when I was a kid. My dad used to stay fit by climbing the hill.” She took a bite from a stick of celery and Daniel fetched a drawing pad and some pencils from his pack. He quickly sketched the surrounding landscape and Addison. She waited until he finished before she took a digital camera from her pack and went about photographing him and the landscape.

“Hey,” he called out while sketching more rock. “What would you say if I told you I may retire from the college after this year?”

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 14 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 13 [fiction]

Kismet

“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells

Chapter 2: December 25, 2000

Part 2 of 2

Addison’s bedroom was now a sewing room with a reading sofa in front of the far window. Daniel helped Addison there and laid her down. Then he unfolded an afghan draped over the back. While he tucked her in, Catherine and Kay entered the room.

“Is she okay?” Catherine asked as she went to Addison. “Aunt Peggy told us she fell ill.”

Daniel stood and straightened his jacket and tie. “A touch of the flu,” is all he said, though he sounded unsure.

“What’s going on?” Catherine stood and confronted him. “There’s an empty wheelchair downstairs where a woman once sat. Where is she? Why is everyone being so mysterious?”

“I don’t know,” Daniel said. He excused himself and hurried downstairs. The wheelchair was gone.

“Sara took it to her car,” Aunt Peggy explained. Then, “Is Addie going to be alright?”

“She didn’t vanish, if that’s what you mean. Other than that, I don’t know.” He ran a hand through his hair. “This is crazy. I just saw a woman disappear before my very eyes.”

Sara came in from outdoors and stomped snow from her boots. She looked troubled as Daniel approached her with a succession of questions and accusations.

“She isn’t to blame,” Aunt Peggy said.

“Not good enough. I want answers.”

“You read the diary.”

Daniel went to the bar next to the record cabinet. He found some scotch and drank from the bottle. He wiped his chin and said to Sara, “What’s your story? Why are you here?”

“Jane was my mother,” she said. “I recently found that out after some DNA testing.” She examined her hands. “I’m her flesh and blood. That’s the reason I’m here.”

“At the end of the diary, she claimed that she was Addie,” Daniel said. “How is that possible?”

“I don’t know. But that makes you my father.” Sara sounded small and frightened. “Now I know where I get my blonde hair.”

“How am I supposed to believe something so crazy?” Daniel said to Aunt Peggy, who stood silently watching from the center of the room.

“I know how hard it is to believe in something so incredible,” Aunt Peggy said. “But Jane’s blood matched Addie’s. Even her fingerprints were Addie’s.”

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 13 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 12 [fiction]

Kismet

“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells

Chapter 2: December 25, 2000

Part 1 of 2

Addison stood at the far end of her mother’s Victorian-styled dining room and rubbed her eyes. They watered from the ever-present scent of potpourri. She glanced around at the blushing wall coverings with floral borders, and the three cabinets of Waterford crystal, china and porcelain along the long wall. Elegantly framed photographs of her police officer father adorned the walls, put there after he died last year.

She smiled at the only family portrait while she stepped closer to see a young and proud Nathan and Catherine Johnson surrounded by three adolescent daughters.

“Your mother was twelve when that picture was taken,” she said to the ten-year-old boy who had walked in and now stood next to her.

“How old were you, Aunt Addie?” he asked. He pulled at the stiff collar of his white dress shirt and stared up at the picture.

“I was seven, Alan,” she said while staring at the photograph and becoming lost in another time. “Aunt Valerie was your age. Hard to believe how fast the years have gone by.”

Just then, her nephew Jeffrey rushed past in a fury and shouted, “Aunt Peggy’s here.”

Alan ran to the front door while Addison held up a glass of cranberry juice in her right hand and whispered, “Merry Christmas, Daddy.”

She went to the window and saw Daniel’s black Grand Cherokee pull into the snowplowed driveway. Behind him, a white Cadillac entered the drive and parked.

“Who’s that in the Caddy?” her sister Kay asked from the front room.

Their mother stepped from the kitchen. “Get away from the window — both of you. Your aunt is bringing some guests.”

Addison remembered the diary. She had not read it.

Kay whistled at her mother when she entered the dining room. Then, “Holy cow, you’re decked out more than usual for Christmas. These guests must be VIPs.”

Addison looked at their changed mother dressed in teal velvet with opulent white lace. Pearls hung from her ears and around her neck. A delicate glow surrounded her. She was a woman unknown to them, out of the pages of a French fashion magazine.

“Never you mind,” Catherine Johnson said, “and hurry setting the table.”

“Was it a gift from Valerie?” Kay asked. “It looks good on you, Mom … promoting the bon chic, bon genre.”

Catherine ignored her daughter’s remark and clapped her hands. “Come on you two and help me get the table set. We need ten settings of the good china.”

“Ten?” Addison looked out the window. She saw Daniel’s blonde head on the other side of the Cadillac, at the back, helping someone to a wheelchair. “How many are coming?”

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 12 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 11 [fiction]

Kismet

“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells

Chapter 1: December 24, 2000

Part 2 of 2

“I think you should do it,” Daniel said when he climbed in bed and sat next to her.

“But I’m a director of nursing, not a bookstore owner. Besides, her store makes very little money.”

“We don’t need it — I make enough for both of us.” He pulled the blankets to his naked chest. “Besides, the direction the hospital is going, it’ll be a Band-Aid station in a few years and you’ll be out of a job.”

Addison slapped the bed. “The hospital’s future isn’t as grim as people make out.”

Daniel put an arm around her. “It’s in a perpetual recession. You’ve been laying off nurses since the day we met. It’s only a matter of time before your hours get cut as well.”

“Things are going to get better.”

Daniel shook his head. “When’s the last time you got a raise?”

“We have a salary cap right now.”

“Exactly.”

Addison frowned, then felt his body heat and cuddled close. He rubbed her neck, kissed her shoulder that had the dime-size freckle she disliked, all the while releasing the tension in her shoulders and back. She said, “I worked at Aunt Peggy’s store while going to college, pretending I owned the place on days she left me alone. In some of my notebooks, I drew sketches of turning the upstairs apartment into a tea and coffee room and a place for shoppers to sit and read.”

“Sounds to me like kismet — something that was meant to be.”

“That’s what Aunt Peggy called it, like I was chosen at birth by the retail gods to own her store.”

“You know, I could sell my artwork there. I think the locals would like not having to drive to the New Cambridge gallery to buy my prints.”

She pondered Daniel’s words, but still felt frightened. “I don’t know. The place needs a lot of work.”

Daniel shrugged. “We can use money from my savings.”

“Tom would never have allowed me—”

Daniel placed a finger against her lips. “I’m not Tom Matthews. What’s in the past is over and done with, never to be again. It’s just you and me and the future.”

Addison nodded; she still looked worried. “It’s the dead of winter and the wiring needs updated and the lights replaced, not to mention the walls need repainted and the floors carpeted. And those old curtains—”

Daniel chuckled. “Not so fast. It’ll get done in due time.”

Addison sighed. “But the hospital needs me. My nurses need me. This is flu season.” She ran her hands over his naked back and down his hips. She stopped. “I’ll break her heart if I say no.”

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 11 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 10 [fiction]

Kismet

“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells

Chapter 1: December 24, 2000

Part 1 of 2

Addison Taylor played again the message her husband had left on their answering machine. He would not be home until after midnight. Although the college at nearby New Cambridge was on Christmas hiatus between semesters, he had a lot of student artwork to grade before he could begin his vacation.

“No rest for the weary,” he had said when Addison called his campus office.

She heard exhaustion in Daniel’s voice, recognized the tired strain that comes from trying to meet deadlines.

“Make sure you eat,” she said. “I worry about you.”

“I will.”

“You better. I know how you get when you’re busy.” She listened to him shuffling through papers on his desk. She sighed. She knew she was keeping him from his work, but she had to force herself to say goodbye. She tossed her cell phone on her computer desk next to the wall mirror, glanced up at her freckled face, and then combed her fingers through her hair kept short and blonde with scissors and Clairol in the upstairs bathroom.

Who has time for styling salons? Certainly not me. Not now.

She fixed her pink sweater and white turtleneck collar, and then looked at her dispirited green eyes behind her glasses. Exhaustion hung from her lower lids, drooping down her cheeks and across the corners of her mouth.

The recent divorce from Tom Matthews had been long and bitter, and had kept her from the summer activities she normally did to relax and stay fit. Her exercise now was the steady battle with snow outdoors, last minute Christmas shopping, and the grind of trying to maintain a properly staffed nursing unit at the hospital. Even today, her CEO had sent another memo to cut more nurses’ hours. She leaned her head against her wood bookcase and experienced for the first time age creeping up at her within the stress and exhaustion she felt.

The telephone brought her out of her reverie. It was Aunt Peggy calling, wanting her to come by the bookstore and pick up a Christmas gift. By her watch, it was almost eight-thirty and Addison did not want to dress and go out into the cold night.

“I thought we were going to exchange gifts tomorrow on Christmas Day,” she said, hoping her aunt would change her mind.

“We are, dear,” the old woman said. “It’s just that … I don’t want to ruin the surprise. I’ll be at the store until eight. I could use some help closing.”

Addison shook her head. “If you wanted help at the store, why didn’t you say so?”

“I just did. See you in a few.”

Addison bundled up in her black fur parka and drove her snow-covered silver Volvo toward Ridgewood’s downtown district. With a population of almost eight thousand, downtown was small with two banks, a post office, a few diners and bars, and Peggy’s Good Used Books sandwiched between a hardware store and a pizzeria. The rest of the town’s merchants did business either along the south highway toward Alice Lake, or along the north highway and New Cambridge. Even she favored the stores at North Ridgewood Plaza.

She parked in front of her aunt’s bookstore and apartment, and delicately walked over ice and snow that slowed her progress. Still, light from stores and street lamps reflected like diamonds on every bit of freshly fallen snow and made it a pretty sight.

Inside her aunt’s old building, a tiny bell above the door announced her entrance. Warm and cozy, the place smelled of lilacs and aging paper.

She called out and announced her arrival while she hung her coat on the tree next to the door. A distant voice responded from the back, so Addison made her way through a tunnel of shelves and entered a room full of unwanted books and magazines the town unloaded in the rear of the store at night. Plastic bags, cardboard boxes, paper sacks and volumes of text littered the room’s tables, benches and floor. A fluorescent light flickered and buzzed from the drop ceiling installed twenty years ago. Brown stains on the ceiling tile marked places where rain and snow had seeped inside.

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 10 [fiction]”