With a little help from her fairy godmother, Nikki Baker got it all: the boy and the kiss. But dating the hottest guy in school comes with more than magical butterflies, and wading through the gossip, lies, and betrayal has her mind doing backflips in The Trouble with Prince Charming.
With a little help from her fairy godmother, Nikki Baker got it all: the boy and the kiss. But dating the hottest guy in school comes with more than magical butterflies, and wading through the gossip, lies, and betrayal has her mind doing backflips in The Trouble with Prince Charming.
My Thoughts about The Trouble with Prince Charming
Usually, when I review middle-grade books, I have children in mind, and I try to read through with their perspective. But when King asked if I wanted to review The Trouble with Prince Charming, I said yes for me. If you can’t tell, I wasn’t disappointed.
King wraps this fun story together with such incredible humor; I hardly stopped laughing. Perhaps walking down memory lane caused some of that, but most of it came from her writing abilities.
The story isn’t exactly new. An average girl has snagged Prince Charming and still struggles to fit in. When she does (if she truly does), she looks back at her life and realizes what it’s really all about. It’s a coming of age book set in a humorous background where fair godmothers exist. Who doesn’t love this trope?
In The Trouble with Prince Charming, Nikki’s godmother only makes a couple of appearances, but she’s there when Nikki needs her. I liked it this way. After all, the story of her fairy godmother is over. This story is about Nikki and the boy. What makes Prince Charming Prince Charming, anyway?
Squeaky clean, this is a book I highly recommend to everyone. If you don’t generally pick up indie books and pass by this one, you’re missing out. The Trouble with Prince Charming comes with a best-seller quality and an indie price tag!
The Official Blurb
Sixteen-year-old Nikki Baker finally has everything she’s always wanted: confidence, popularity, and the hottest guy at Forest Hills High. Thanks to her fairy godmother’s help, happily ever after is hers for the taking. But being at the top of the food chain is a dangerous place to be. Gossip, lies and betrayal lurk at every corner while she struggles, holding onto a boyfriend everyone wants for themselves. Expectations run high with a guy who’s used to getting what he wants, but Nikki’s not so sure she’s ready to meet his demands. She must decide whether to trust her own heart, or rely on the fairy godmother who got her there in the first place.
Purchase The Trouble with Prince Charming for Kindle or in print on Amazon, or read it on Kindle Unlimited.
Everyone has reoccurring dreams, but Louie’s weren’t reoccurring, not exactly. You see, Louie’s dreams always had the same setting, but instead of repeating, they continued.
Everyone has reoccurring dreams, but Louie’s weren’t reoccurring, not exactly. You see, Louie’s dreams always had the same setting, but instead of repeating, they continued.
Nick Clausen is no ordinary horror story author. After having 30 books traditionally published in Denmark, he decided to independently publish them in English. And unlike some foreign books, his translation of Dreamland reads as if it were written in English first.
My Thoughts about Dreamland by Nick Clausen
After attempting to read a couple of books written by authors who speak American or British English as a second language, I stopped considering most of them for review. Language is a tricky thing, and certain nuances can’t be learned. But when I received Clausen’s review request, I decided to consider it. 30 traditionally published books is no small feat, and he promised the book had been proofread by a native-English speaker.
The book sounded interesting enough: a boy visits his dead father in Dreamland. Besides that, a lot of my ancestors came from Denmark. I can even tell you where to find it on a map, so it’s like Clausen and I are family or something. OK, that might be taking things a little far. Either way, I decided to review the book.
It didn’t take long for me to immerse myself in the story. The main character, Louie, is a twelve-year-old boy who has strange dreams. They’re strange because they always happen in the same place, but they aren’t always the same. He eventually figures out that the man in the blue suit is his father, who died when he was one.
In time, Louie discovers that Dreamland isn’t only about desires and hopes. Nightmares also come from Dreamland. And as his two worlds merge, catastrophe lurks around the corner waiting to strike.
I quite enjoyed the translation of Dreamland. The words and story remained vivid, and though there were one or two places where I giggled at an error, there were much fewer errors in Dreamland than what I regularly read in books written by native speakers. I call that a win!
The story kept me well-entertained and supplied me with moments to stop and think. Then I could feel both for Louie and for his mother.
Had I realized Clausen wrote horror, I may have stayed away from this book; however, Dreamland has very little horror, in my opinion. In reality, it seems more like suspense and paranormal. I have no problem with either of those.
I enjoyed Dreamland and easily recommend it to those who enjoy suspense and paranormal, with a tiny bit of horror thrown in.
The Official Excerpt
“Dreamland is merely a small part of the dreamworld,” his dad said. “All around us is this. I call it the outskirts. That’s where nightmares come from.” Louie stared out into the wasteland and felt a growing discomfort. “Something lives out there,” his dad went on, his eyes searching the horizon. “Once in a while, they come close enough to the border to be glimpsed. And if you listen carefully, you can hear their voices.” Louie held his breath and listened. The silence on this side of the edge was deep and calm, only interrupted by bird song now and then. On the other side, a cold wind howled. “Do you hear them?” his dad asked. “I only hear the wind.” But as he said it, he realized the wind was the voices. It was a chanting choir of faint fragments; whispering, giggling, alluring. “… hi, Louuuuie …” “… how sweet he is …” “… come out here …” “… we’ve been waiting for you …” “… visit us, Louuuuie …” They kept saying his name. The sound made him shiver. The voices seemed to rise and fall with the wind, but at the same time, it seemed like they came from inside his head. There was something drawing, almost hypnotic about them. Louie wanted to step closer, just so he could hear them a little more clearly … “Louie?” Dad’s voice pulled him back, and he looked up. “Don’t listen anymore. If you listen for too long, you end up taking the bait. The reason I show you this is so that you can understand where the voice you heard is coming from. It’s the creatures out there who have been trying to reach you through your dreams.” Louie stared out into the darkness and tried to see the creatures. He thought he saw a group of glowing, wavy figures in the dark. They stood side by side, twisting in a hypnotic dance. He stepped a little closer to his dad. “What do they want with me?” “They want to drown you in bad dreams until your mind breaks down. They will try to lure you any way they can. They will lie and tell you anything to make you follow them. And if you do …” Dad caught Louie’s eyes. “There’s no way back if they catch you …”
Ella lived a normal, happy, single life. But all that changed the day her car refused to start, and she found herself inches from death.
Ella lived a normal, happy, single life. But all that changed the day her car refused to start, and she found herself inches from death.
Author of several books, Rimmy London keeps us entertained with sweet romance and romantic suspense novels. Pulled Under, book one of her romantic suspense duology, sends your heart reeling as you fight the urge to look over your shoulder. I discovered Pulled Under through a Facebook group and purchased it for $.99.
My Thoughts on Pulled Under:
It’s been a few books since I’ve struggled to put one down. Some of my recent choices begged me to stop reading. In fact, I’ve contacted a couple of authors and explained my decision to not publish a review.
Just a little aside: If you write a book, take the time and spend the money to have it edited professionally.
The minute I picked up Pulled Under, I was pulled in. The action and mystery start in the first chapter. And London’s writing entered my mind like a breath of fresh air. Easy to read, strong, and well-edited, this book never caused me to shake my head in despair. Thank you, Rimmy London.
Ella works for a company that uses her more like a secretary than the financial adviser she was hired to be. And it’s a bit frustrating, but as most of us would, she sticks it out, determined to show her boss she can handle anything thrown at her… including his car keys. That’s what he throws at her when her car doesn’t start.
It doesn’t take long for Ella to start wondering what kind of company she works for, especially when Givanni, her boss’s nephew and the company’s CEO, starts hanging around and saving her life.
In time, Ella ends up in Italy where she meets Givanni’s family and his ex-fiance, all while pretending she’s his.
This wild ride is one everyone can enjoy. Sauve Italians, supermodel-like ex-girlfriends, and a down-to-earth country girl. I enjoyed every minute of reading Pulled Under, and the proof is in my unfinished housework!
The official blurb:
Pretending to be in a fake engagement might fool his family, but it doesn’t convince others. And they’re coming…
Ella is left fighting to keep them together in a world that’s falling apart.
Givanni, the company CEO and nephew to President Ginetti, seemed the genuine good guy. But there was something hiding behind his emerald eyes.
When Loriel borrows her new boss’s car, it nearly costs her life. Now, she wants to know why. But her determination to uncover the truth only pulls her deeper into a world with a level of crime she didn’t believe existed. And she’s quickly in over her head.
But, suddenly bound for Italy pretending to be in a fake engagement is going to be hard. Everything quickly becomes tangled until her heart isn’t certain what’s real or fake. And even while pondering their relationship, it’s clear that Italy was less of an escape than they thought. Because facing a group as powerful as the Italian Mafia is impossible.
Bruised and defeated, they’re faced with a future where they might not make it out alive, let alone together.
From before the Great War to after, Julia Wright yearns for romance, but romance often leads to hardship.
From before the Great War to after, Julia Wright yearns for romance, but romance often leads to hardship. With two young boys born out of wedlock, she soon realizes it isn’t romance she seeks but love in The Queen of Moloka’i.
The Queen of Moloka’i, written by Kirby Michael Wright, is based on the true story of Julia Wright, the author’s grandmother. Winner of the 2018 Redwood Empire Mensa Award for Creative Nonfiction, Wright’s story-telling brings this creative memoir to life.
My Thoughts on The Queen of Moloka’i
The Queen of Moloka’i contains the story of Julia Wright, a teenager during the Great War who reached womanhood as the roaring twenties approached. At sixteen, Julia finds herself pregnant by an Englishman who promises to send for her but abandons her instead. Then, a rebound relationship leaves her pregnant a second time, and she finds herself with two young boys and no husband.
Julia loved life and dreamed of settling down with someone willing to love her in return. Chipper, a boy she’d admired as a youth, returns from the war divorced and interested in her. And soon she finds herself living in the country while trying to prove herself capable of a cowboy wife’s life, without her children and still unmarried.
This book starts by running through a bit of genealogy. We learn of Julia’s mother an grandmother and their marriages. Some details are given, but not much. We do learn that Julia’s grandmother was Hawaiian which, during Julia’s lifetime, was not the desired bloodline for someone looking to be successful. However, Julia’s Caucasian appearance usually allowed her to mix with either cultural group.
The story of Julia is quite impressive. In the early 20th century giving birth outside of marriage painted an unwanted picture, and Julia experienced two such pregnancies. The way her family handled the situation tells readers about their love for her and each other.
At the same time, I really got the feel for the way men treated women. Julia’s independence brought smiles to my face, even as I wished she could find more.
I found the story interesting but realized quickly that the writing suffers from what I call itinerary syndrome. Most of the sentences started the same way and were similar in length. To me, it felt as if I were reading bullet points. Eventually, I found myself noticing this style-choice less. Especially, once Julia and Chipper found themselves working on a ranch. I often found myself wondering if the writing-style was intended to imitate the patterns of speech found on the islands, but having never been there, I couldn’t say for certain.
I also found the dialect features Wright included difficult, yet fun. I liked reading written dialect and hearing what people sounded like. There is a good amount of native Hawaiian in the book, and a glossary is found in the back. Those reading digital copies may struggle flipping back and forth more than those reading print copies. For this reason, I suggest print copies over digital, which I almost never say.
The Queen of Moloka’i reads like a memoir, but Wright informs readers that the storyline has been changed in some places for literary purposes. Though I believe the majority of the story remains factual, It would be nice to know what isn’t.
Overall, I found this book to be a worthwhile read. Those who enjoy creative nonfiction books will probably enjoy it quite a bit.
Sarah daydreams about the Resurrected Christ and the multitude and discovers her own miracle.
Sarah, holding her mother’s hand, stared at the marble Christus. The hands spread wide, welcoming her closer, the facial expression gentle. Her tight curls bounced across her head as she leaned back and gazed at the large statue. She wondered at the shiny white surface. Sunday school stories of Jesus calling for the children, children like her, sowed a simple peace in her heart. Her mother squeezed her hand.
“I’m going to look at the pictures on that wall. Stay in this room.”
Sarah nodded, resting her hands at her side, careful not to touch the velvet rope that separated her from the Christ. Her focus landed on the soft hands, where carved marks of the nails rested, then to his feet and side. Her heart thrummed in her chest, soft but apparent, as she wondered what it was like for Thomas to feel the nail prints in his hands and the sword print in his side.
As she focused on the statue’s palm, the marble appeared to change, white darkened, a warm golden tone taking its place. Sarah’s eyes widened, but recognizing the signs of a daydream, she remained in place.
Seconds later, she discovered herself surrounded by people. Children rested on fathers’ shoulders. Babes cooed in mothers’ arms. Clothing of every color blurred as it pushed past her, yet happiness and peace filled her soul. Those around her fell to their knees, heads bowed. But she remained, staring into the soft eyes.
With his finger and a wink, he motioned Sarah toward him. Her slippered feet carried her closer. His strong arms ensconced her, bringing her face to his eye level. He smiled. After the gentle hug, he held his hand in front of her, and she reached her fingers toward it. Pulling back slightly, she eyed him from the side.
The mark swallowed her finger as she lightly caressed it. The softness of the skin nothing like the hardness of the nails that had pierced it.
“You could have stopped it, saved yourself?”
He nodded, a twinkle in his eye.
“But you didn’t.”
He leaned toward her ear and whispered more. A smile rushed across her face, and she wrapped her arms around his neck before he placed her back on the ground. Moments later, she joined the crowd, the cool ground contrasting the warm feeling coursing through her.
The Savior called for the people to come forward, and Sarah watched as, one by one, men and women, the young and old got to their feet and stepped forward. A warm smile and welcoming arms greeted each one as they received the personal time they desired with the Savior, just as she had. Their fingers touched his hands, feet, and side. Some women cried as they kissed his feet, wiping away tears with the hems of dresses. Men unabashedly wept as they embraced him.
Time passed slowly, but children never fought and babes never cried. Adults talked of miracles and knelt in prayer. No one pushed or shoved to the front. Patience and love intervened, the procession one of reverence.
When the last returned, the Savior called the sick, disabled, and those otherwise in need of healing. The man standing next to her lifted a woman in his arms and carried her forward. Standing with his arms outstretched, Jesus motioned all the afflicted forward.
Pebbles poked at her knees as Sarah knelt on the ground, and she brushed them away. She suffered no ill but thought of her father, who lay in a hospital room ravaged by cancer. Even as young as she was, she knew the harsh treatment he received left him weak for days at a time. Just as he felt a little strength return, it was always time for another round. Prayer after prayer had been said on his behalf. Her mother wept every night for his relief. For her own, too. Tears came to her eyes as she watched the Savior lay his hands on the afflicted, healing them one by one.
As the last of the afflicted leaped from his bed, Jesus instructed the people to pray. Together, they bowed their heads and lifted their voices as he knelt a distance away.
“Hosanna, blessed be the name of the Most High God,” cried the people.
Tears streamed down Sarah’s face as she joined them. Though people often assumed age affected one’s ability to recognize God, she knew the truth. She might not understand everything, but she understood he loved her. She understood he loved those who hung him on a cross. She even understood he loved that mean guy who lived down the street and shouted at her every time she stopped to look at his pretty flowers.
When the Savior returned, warmth from her heart rippled through her arms as he spoke to the crowd. The day had passed, and the people still focused on him, but their eyes appeared tired, and their shoulders drooped with similar strains. Tears filled his eyes as he scanned their faces.
“You’re tired. Rest.”
No one moved. Sarah’s own heartbeat strengthened. She didn’t want to leave either. It couldn’t be time.
Brushing a tear from his eye, Jesus called for the little children. Parents carrying babies and holding the hands of their little ones helped them forward. Boys and girls sat on his lap, and he held a babe in each arm. Sarah’s lip quivered when he called her to join the others.
As she stepped forward, a bright light opened above him. People dressed in white, as beautiful as the Savior, surrounded the children, blessing them. One took her by the hand and walked with her.
“Child, you do not have a wish for yourself, do you?”
Sarah shook her head, eyes wide.
“But Jesus whispered to you. What did he say?”
“Not to worry. That everything would be okay.”
“Have you been worrying?”
Sarah nodded, her lip quivering again. “My daddy’s sick.”
“Do you know who Jesus is?”
“Can you tell me what he did for you?”
“He helps my sins go away, and he died for me so I can return to Heavenly Father.”
“Do you think he can heal your daddy?”
Sarah bowed her head and studied her feet.
The angel squeezed her hand, then lifted her chin, encouraging her to answer.
“If it’s the best thing he can. Mama says it depends on God’s will.”
“That’s right. It’s time…”
The daydream faded at the sound of her mother’s voice.
“Sarah. It’s time to go.”
One more glance at the Christus in front of her and Sarah hurried to her mother.
“Where are we going?”
“To the hospital. Daddy had a scan today, and he wants us to hear the results with him.”
“What’s a scan?”
“The scan tells us whether or not the cancer is gone.”
She tugged on her mother’s arm, trying to run faster. “It is. It’s gone.”
Her mother pulled her back and crouched beside her. “We don’t know that Sarah. Most of the scans haven’t been great.”
“He’s better. I know it.”
“I hope you’re right, but if you’re not, it’s okay. God will take care of us and Daddy.”
“I know. He already has.”
Biting her lip, her mother rose from the ground and clasped Sarah’s hand. Tears floated in her eyes.
The quick drive to the hospital soon delivered Sarah and her mother, and they hurried to her father’s room.
“Where’s the doctor?” Sarah eased onto the foot of the bed with her mom’s help and stared at her dad.
“I’m right here.”
She turned in time to see the doctor walk into the room.
“My daddy’s better right?”
The doctor raised a brow, then quickly furrowed them. “Well. Let’s take a look. The last scan showed an increase, correct?”
Her parents both nodded.
A picture of her dad’s insides appeared on a lighted board, and the doctor pointed here and there, talking to her parents. Their faces crumpled, and Sarah stared from one to the other.
“He’s better, right?” A little butterfly entered her belly even though she’d been so sure.
Arms wrapped around her as her mother picked her up and swung her in a circle. “He’s better!”
She eyed her daddy. “You feel better, right?”
The room broke out with laughter.
“No, pretty, I don’t feel better yet. Cancer and my treatments hurt me a lot, but the doctor says my cancer has gone away.”
“I know that.”
Lifting her to stand next to her dad, Sarah’s mother met her gaze. “How did you know?”
“Jesus told me not to worry.”
“He did, did he?”
Her father poked her side, and she giggled.
“When did he tell you that?” her mother asked.
Sarah looked at her. “Today, at his statue.”
Tears swept into her mother’s eyes. “She stood by the Christus the whole time.”
Danielle wants nothing more than to win the Young Composers Competition, but at what cost?
The eraser gouged the paper, bits of dirty white scoring joining the rubber crumbs on Danielle’s lap. Another measure that hadn’t worked the way she’d intended. Notes—full chords—flew off the page faster than they landed. Only the piece’s title space remained empty on the entry form. Two thousand dollars would go a long way toward next semester’s supplies. She had to win, but she still had no entry.
Ignoring Abigail as she slid into the chair across from her, Danielle ran her fingers over the tiny keyboard used to compose her assignments and supposedly her piece for the Young Composers Competition, a university-run contest. A raucous chord pelted her eardrums, and she dropped her hand to her side as her head hit the table.
“It can’t be that bad.” Abigail scooted her chair around and gazed at the crumpled staff paper. “They really should make gentler erasers.”
Danielle stared at her friend, who crinkled her nose.
Abigail shifted in her chair. “Don’t feel like it. Besides, I’m not as good as you think.”
“Sure. Tell you what,” Danielle pushed the keyboard to the right, “I’m gonna give this to you, and you can write mine.”
“No. You’re doing great, but you should try an F instead of an E.”
Danielle’s cheek dropped to her waiting fist as she returned to the keyboard, a dull pencil between her teeth. If she could come up with a melody, the rest might fall into place, but her mind, usually filled with unwritten melodies, continued to fail her. It wasn’t empty. It was a traitor, filled with Bach, Mozart, and the chiming notes of NBC. If only no one recognized My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean. She might have a chance then.
As she plucked notes, Abigail would call out composers. Ritter, Beebe, Wolfe. Contempt churned within Danielle, and she struggled to keep her eyes from narrowing. “I wrote that.”
Abigail alto voice intoned the next few notes, and a visceral growl howled from Danielle’s throat.
“Maybe you should take a break.”
“No time. I need a melody.”
Abigail stood up. “I have conducting class. Will you be here a while? Watch my other books?”
“Sure, why not?”
Abigail patted Danielle’s shoulder as she sauntered out of the room.
Danielle glared at her third piece of destroyed staff paper and pulled out another sheet. When the staves started dancing, she pressed her forefinger and thumb against the corners of her eyes. The blank page with ten groups of five straight lines taunted her. Of course. Beethoven’s Fifth.
Danielle flung her head backward and stared at the fluorescent light above. Two thousand dollars slipping through her fingers because the only melodies floating through her head weren’t her own. She needed some kind of inspiration. Something never heard before to help set her mind at ease.
Her gaze fell on Abigail’s books. Underneath Vocal Solos for the Intermediate Singer and Music Theory III, was the notebook Danielle had seen her friend scribbling melodies in day after day. A peek wouldn’t hurt. The carpet massaged the bottoms of her bare feet as she shuffled to the other side of the table and opened the notebook. Flipping through the pages, she landed on one and grabbed the keyboard. She played through the eight-bar melody and shrugged. It wasn’t bad. One after another, she played through Abigail’s scribbled notations. Some had been for Music Theory, others appeared to be for herself.
Another page turned, and Danielle’s eyebrows crumpled as she worked to decipher the notations under the giant X. Carefully, she placed her hand on the tiny keyboard and played the first few measures. A warmth eased into her chest, and she continued. In the middle of the page, a line from Handel’s Messiah entwined with Abigail’s melody. I Know That My Redeemer Liveth. The famous oratorio’s line had often been used in other pieces, but not like this. Danielle closed the notebook.
Nothing spoke to her as much as what Abigail had written. The notes had floated off the page into the air with such tenderness. Sure there were a few rough patches, but not many. She eased the book open again.
A copy wouldn’t hurt. She only wanted to consider it as she worked on her own composition. Abigail wouldn’t mind that at all. Pencil in hand, she copied the melody onto her blank page. The dancing lines disappeared, and countermelodies with harmonies drifted through her mind. She left them off the paper but mentally grasped at them, noting the ones she liked, and the ones that scratched painfully at her ears.
The paper slipped into her folder as Abigail swayed into the room humming the waltz the classes used to practice conducting. Danielle joined in the humming for a moment, then smiled.
“I take it things are better now.” Abigail gathered her books.
“They will be. I hope you don’t mind, I looked at some of your melodies.”
“They’re not much to look at.”
“That’s not true, but it was hard to ignore the big X across the one.”
Abigail groaned. “That was a bad day.”
“I guess so.”
That night, Danielle lay on her bed with her personal keyboard. Full-sized keys made such a difference. Still, the only song in her head was Abigail’s. Unwritten vocal parts now added more warmth. Ignoring it was impossible.
Several sheets of staff paper fell to the mattress as she prepared for what was unavoidable. Chord after chord soon adorned the page. Eraser marks wore some areas thin, but only a few. It was as if the song had always existed in her mind, just without the melody. She worked through the night, unable to rest. Once she finished it, she could put it away and work on her own piece.
When her roommate came in, she donned a set of earbuds and continued her work. Complaints of the annoying light eventually sounded, and she switched to the softer flashlight on her phone. She’d heard of composers finding themselves unable to stop but never imagined it happening to her. By morning, dark circles had formed under her eyes, and her hand, now stiff, cried out in pain with every movement. But she held a choral piece worthy of at least some sort of accolade. She had to show it to Abigail. Maybe they could enter the Young Composers Competition together.
A hurried frenzy ensued as Danielle grabbed clothes from the basket of unfolded laundry near the end of her bed. The only item given care as she got ready for the day: the composition. With her backpack strapped to her bike, she pedaled toward the music building. She and Abigail both had Class Piano—the perfect class to show her what she’d done with the melody.
The soft clacking of students practicing on the digital pianos while wearing headphones welcomed her to the room, and she looked for Abigail. Where was she? Abigail never missed class, and not a single tardy bone existed in her body. It didn’t matter today, but entries for the Young Composers Competition were due at the end of the week. Danielle shrugged. She’d be back in time.
When Abigail didn’t show up the next day, Danielle started inputting the song into the computer. While some notation software worked with a keyboard, recognizing notes and rhythms, hers didn’t. Mouse click by torturous mouse click, she prepared the manuscript. By the second day, simple words that fit with the line from the Messiah accompanied musical notations.
It was due.
If Abigail didn’t show up today, Danielle would lose her chance. She’d already adjusted to losing a thousand dollars of the prize money by entering with Abigail. Something about that didn’t seem fair since she’d done all the work except the melody—the melody Abigail described as a bad day. But what happened if her friend didn’t appear? In three days, she hadn’t answered phone calls, texts, or emails. Danielle had tried everything to contact her. If she didn’t come…
Abigail’s seat in choir remained empty for the fourth day in a row. Scores were due by 3:00 PM. Ten minutes. Danielle’s chest tightened painfully. She couldn’t let this opportunity pass her by. She pulled out a pen and froze, holding it above the co-composer line. In the process of writing the harmonies and countermelodies, some of the original had changed, and Danielle had done all of that plus the words. Two thousand dollars. She could win. Abigail showed no interest. Setting the pen down, Danielle slid the composition and the entry form into the manila envelope.
The older gentleman looked up from his desk and held out his hand. Danielle placed the envelope in his palm but didn’t let go.
“Are you planning to keep it, or to enter?” He asked pointedly.
She swallowed as she released the pages. “Enter.”
“Consider it done.”
She exited the theory professor’s office and leaned against the wall, clenching her eyes shut. Air rushed into her lungs, her eyes flying open, and she dashed out the door to her bike. She needed to tell Abigail what she’d done, but what would she say? No, she couldn’t tell Abigail. She’d left her name off the entry form. What did it matter? She probably wouldn’t win anyway, then no one would know.
The winners would be announced in three weeks. The week of Easter. How fitting that her composition accompanied such a holiday. She tried to swallow, but her muscles refused. If she won and Abigail heard the song, Danielle had no hope of absolution. The thought of expulsion struck her. Was that in the rules? She pushed the thoughts from her mind. Abigail didn’t care about the contest. She had no interest in it, or she would have entered. She’d said as much herself.
Three weeks had never dragged on so slowly for Danielle. Each day the clouds surrounding her darkened, especially when Abigail’s pleasant smile greeted her with kindness. Time after time, Danielle attempted to tell her friend of her iniquity—her plagiarism. But a lump always formed in her throat, and she bit her lip until the opportunity passed. Shared classes with Abigail attacked her senses; fiery darts clung to her soul. Finally, the day came, and Danielle rushed to the theater.
Most of her classmates had already entered the auditorium, and Danielle scanned the room for Abigail but didn’t see her. As others settled into their seats, she thought about the process. Judges invited a small group of students to learn the winning compositions, which could be choral or instrumental.
When Dr. Caltrez approached the microphone, Danielle took her seat and exhaled. She didn’t see Abigail anywhere.
“Welcome, students and faculty to the annual Young Composers Competition. We received over two hundred entries this year. Our judges, comprising Joseph Goodwin with the Mountain Madrigals, Judy Houston with the Littlemonte Orchestra, local composer Venice Royce, and myself, have poured over your work and are quite impressed.” He cleared his throat. “But, as must happen every year, we’ve narrowed it down to three winners.”
The third-place winner was announced.
Danielle swallowed, but her mouth felt dry, leaving her throat without relief. Her hands slid around her middle as she tried desperately to still her shaking body. The work she’d put into the project had to count for something, but… She couldn’t think about that. She had to focus on the present, not the past. Not her theft. She rocked back and forth. Some people clapped. Most copied her swaying motion with their fingers crossed.
Abigail isn’t here. Abigail isn’t here.
The second place winner was announced. She let out a little sigh. Two down. Abigail isn’t here.
“Before we announce the first place winner, I want to tell you why this composition won. This piece includes a countermelody that functions beautifully within it, and the harmonies entwine with each other as if individual melodies, each voice standing alone, yet supporting one another.”
It was hers. Danielle knew it; it was hers. And her countermelody and harmonies were the reason. She deserved…
“But this composition works well because of how the melody integrates rhythm and the known with the unknown. “He raised his eyes and scanned the crowd, his gaze falling on her. “Our first place winner is My Redeemer by Danielle Needles.”
A painful thumping beat against her sternum as the curtains opened. She’d won. No, Abigail had won. It was Abigail’s melody, her rhythm, her use of Handel. But Abigail didn’t know. Besides, Danielle reminded herself, she’d changed some of the melody, making it her own.
The piano played the short introduction, and Danielle closed her eyes, focusing on the harmonies. As the altos took over the melody, her eyes opened. That voice. Abigail stood on stage, tears running down her face as she focused on Danielle.
Danielle sank further into her seat as nausea set in. Not only did Abigail stand on the stage with knowledge of her depravity, but she’d known for days and said nothing. She’d attended rehearsals, learned the music, and had every opportunity to turn Danielle in, yet she hadn’t. The tears running down her friend’s face proved she cared. Why hadn’t she made an accusation? The pit in Danielle’s stomach deepened.
As the song ended, and the room erupted in applause, Dr. Caltrez invited Danielle onto the stage to accept a plaque. Each step promised to throw her to the ground. Her mind collapsed inward as she considered her unworthiness. Nothing could make this better. The pain of her fraud beat in her chest, her feet, her mind. Who would carry her when she fell?
Dr. Caltrez held out his hand, but she kept hers by her side, her head bowed.
“I can’t accept this.”
The aging professor leaned closer. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
A rhythmic tapping sounded on the black floor of the stage, and Abigail appeared beside Danielle. Her friend grasped her hand with a smile. “Dani, take the award.”
The words were soft, but they echoed through Danielle’s mind as if shouted.
She met Abigail’s gaze. “I can’t.”
“You can. I want you to. Accept it.”
Tears pooled in Danielle’s eyes, then fell to her feet, and she reached out and shook Dr. Caltrez’s hand, thanking him. Turning, she flung her arms around Abigail, hugging her.
They walked off the stage together, and in the wings, Danielle clasped both of Abigail’s hands as tears traced lines down her own face. “The money’s yours. The whole award should be yours.”
“No. You took a piece of me and created what I couldn’t.”
“But I stole it.”
Danielle shook her head. “I could have added your name.”
She nodded again.
“I didn’t. Abby, why aren’t you mad?”
Abigail met Danielle’s eyes with a steady gaze. “How can I be forgiven, if I don’t forgive?”
“What forgiveness do you need? You did nothing wrong.”
“Maybe not this time.” She smiled softly. “Just don’t do it again, okay?”
Later that night, Danielle marveled at her friend’s grace, trying to understand her kindness. She’d provided mercy without thought of justice. Dust floated off the book as Danielle blew on it, then took it in her hand and turned to the marked chapter. Only one person had lived capable of honoring both justice and mercy. He’d chosen to serve both. Slipping to her knees, Danielle uttered the words prodding her heart: Though unworthy, he will forgive me. I know that my Redeemer liveth.
Mt. Lemmon is the tallest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains, which overlooks the Tucson Valley.
Growing up on either side of the metro Phoenix valley, my husband and I are still surprised we hadn’t visited Mt. Lemmon previous to 2018.
Mt. Lemmon is the tallest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains, which overlooks the Tucson valley. I snapped this picture of the range while speeding down Valencia Road on the way back to our hotel. Moments later, we passed the Boneyard at Davis Monthan Airforce Base.
Tucson lies in the eastern portion of the beautiful Sonoran Desert and is green much of the year. Sometimes I find myself wondering at how different this area of the Sonoran Desert is to the dust bowl I live in, especially with how close we are. My husband points out it comes from the elevation and precipitation differences. Tucson is roughly 1,300 feet higher than our home, with an elevation of approximately 2,500 feet, and receives roughly 4 inches more rain per year. (US Climate Data)
If you haven’t guessed, this past weekend, my husband and I traveled to Tucson for a little getaway. Living between Phoenix and Tucson makes the travel easy, and we have enjoyed visiting the area for several years. Many of our trips have included visits to the Pima Air and Space Museum and the Titan Missile Museum. Within the past three years, we’ve branched out to caves and mountain drives.
In September, when we first drove up the Mt. Lemmon Highway, I knew we had to return. Often. Luckily, it wasn’t hard to convince my husband to drive the curvy road last Saturday.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Mt. Lemmon is the change in elevation. The mountain climbs from the Sonoran Desert, filled with saguaros at 2,500 feet, to a height over 9,100 feet at the top. (A Guide to the Mt. Lemmon Highway)
Flowers coat the desert floor. As you can see, the brittlebush is in full bloom, adding a beautiful yellow hue. Here’s another picture with some blooming ocotillo and purple cane cholla.
I’ve always loved when the ocotillo sprouts leaves. Unlike many desert plants, the ocotillo blooms consistently. Their leaves, on the other hand, only appear when water is available. Otherwise, the cane-like plant lives off stored chlorophyll. The desert always amazes me. (Munsey)
As the saguaros thin, the road travels through a grassy area, and you can feel a difference in temperature. I suspect it isn’t quite as green through the summer. But no one can argue with the allure of the outcrops of rocks, desert grasses, and scrub oak.
This picture may not seem like much, but that large tree that looks like some sort of pine tree is an Arizona cypress. In fact, Mt. Lemmon is home to one of the largest Arizona cypress trees, which has a diameter of 76 feet and is 93 feet tall. (A Guide to the Mt. Lemmon Highway)
Fun fact: cypress trees are conifers but not pine or cedar trees. Moreover, true cedar trees are not native to North America, and the well-known Western redcedar is actually part of the cypress family. (Gillespie)
Most of these pictures were taken on our way down Mt. Lemmon. I had my phone out and snapped a few on the way up, but very few turned out as good as the ones on the way down. Some of this had to do with the weather.
We’re Arizonan’s. When it rains, we dance, or in this case, roll down our windows, and then take a break at Windy Point Vista. The short-lived storm made our day all the better, so of course, we stopped again as we headed back to Tucson and I took more pictures.
I teased my husband about drinking from the puddles. The water was fresh enough, and it may have been okay had it not been for all the people and dogs exploring the area with us.
I also needed a picture of the gnarled tree. Doesn’t everyone take pictures of gnarled trees? No? Well, I do.
A few minutes after leaving Windy Point Vista the first time, we pulled into the Palisades Visitor Center. We like to stop in and look at some of the displays they have about the Coronado forest and the history of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Local artist, Jeanne Hartmann, is the ranger that has visited with us both times we’ve stopped. This time we purchased one of her small watercolor prints called Lemmon Lookout.
We can’t wait to take our daughter to her June art show in Summerhaven; the small resort town lies a little further up the road.
After climbing through the Ponderosa pines, we saw a light skiff of snow along the road before finding ourselves at the southern-most ski resort in Arizona, Ski Valley. As you can see, the ski season is over.
As we ate at the Iron Door restaurant, we enjoyed our seats next to the fireplace. I only wish I’d stood back and taken a picture, but I didn’t; however, I found one online.
We sat at the middle table and hungrily finished our half sandwiches/half soups followed by a to-die-for mountain berry pie with a crumble topping. Below is a picture of our view while we ate.
The extra warmth kept us toasty, while the occasional crackle added to the ambiance. Do you see how I caught a spark as it escaped the logs? I impressed myself, even if it was an accident.
After lunch, we strolled across the street to the ski resort where the ski lift runs year round. I was on a mission. The fudge shop. My German chocolate dessert melted in my mouth perfectly and included a caramel and walnut center. If my husband doesn’t eat his mint chocolate fudge soon, he’ll miss out. I’ll definitely be visiting there again.
We ended our upward travel when the road closed just before reaching the observatory. As you can see, the view was a bit obscured by young aspen and dark clouds. Though, we did find restrooms and picnic tables. In fact, there are picnicking and camping facilities along much of the highway. And I’m already planning a day of writing and lunching surrounded by a lot of evergreens. I might even bring my family along.
On the way down the mountain, I started snapping pictures, most of which you’ve seen. Of course, I made sure to snap one of the snow for my girls who love it much more than I do. When Love Is Lostcharacter Deb and I share that characteristic.
As we reached the desert again, my husband surprised me by pulling over and inviting me to take some up-close pictures. Some of those are posted above, but not the flowers. This year the wildflowers bloomed in abundance, many surviving much later than usual. We both love the brittlebush, which blooms every year.
Sadly, I was unable to get pictures of the firecracker bush growing out of the rock or the beautiful pink blossoms I believe I’ve identified as penstemon. We watched the road closely trying to find the rosy petals to photograph, but it wasn’t until the next morning that I located the flowering plant in a patch of dirt along a busy road. Unfortunately, I was unable to take a picture. Luckily, anything can be found online.
A little pink prickles my heart, especially when seen with globemallow, like I often saw this particular blossom.
While exploring, we also stopped in Summerhaven and purchased some peach jalapeno jam. I haven’t tried it yet, but can’t wait to experience it. We also picked up some prickly pear jelly to share with the kids. My youngest daughter recently told me she didn’t remember it. Since it’s one of my favorites, I couldn’t resist.
I feel so blessed to live where I can access the wonder that Heavenly Father created for us. As a terrible gardener, I will always prefer visiting the natural gardens of the world over trying to plant my own.
Meagan attends church every week, but hasn’t liked attending Easter services for years.
The flowing, deep green grass carpeted the landscape in front of the church, and the white steeple hadn’t changed since last week. Birds still sang, and fragrant purple flowers drooped from the top of the Mountain Texas Laurel planted near the doors. Meagan breathed deeply, hoping the sweet grape-scented aroma would find its way through the car’s vents and into her lungs to help her racing heart slow. It didn’t.
She watched as Palo Verde blossoms floated on the gentle breeze and rained down on young girls, wearing full skirts with ribbons at their waists, as they passed. Meagan wore bright white hats for such days when she was a child. Now she donned a simple dress she’d purchased several months previously. Comfort played a considerably larger role in her life than it had then.
As the digital clock on her dash flickered to 8:58, Meagan pushed her door open and laboriously climbed out of her car. Another beautiful Easter morning. But enjoying Easter had been difficult for many years. That was the day Pastor Seth focused on forgiveness of sin, and her—their responsibility to also show mercy.
Some things were just too hard to excuse. Why imperfect beings had to forgive made sense, but she didn’t want to listen to it again. Not this year, or the year before, or three years before that. Yet, each year, Meagan lumbered out of bed, got dressed, and drove to the church. Several families appeared only for Easter services. Not her. She attended every week, and couldn’t bring herself to skip the one Sunday a year she wanted to.
She shook her head as she reached for the door handle and stepped inside. It wasn’t as if she’d suffered abuse or lost everything at the hands of someone else. No one had destroyed her reputation. But she still struggled. Peeking into the chapel, she eased into the back corner where escape was more manageable. A few stragglers stepped into the room behind her, and she studied her hands as the passersby waved at others in the congregation. The prelude swelled then slowed to a final chord as Pastor Seth stood. Meagan exhaled and lifted her head.
“What a glorious Easter! Brothers and sisters, today we come to worship Jesus Christ and his resurrection. On such a day, communion becomes that much more important, but before we partake of that sacrament, I want to share a poem I recently discovered by Joseph L. Townsend.”
Rev’rently and meekly now,
Let thy head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee.
As the pastor’s calming voice intoned the poem, Meagan willed the words to flow over her. Jesus had suffered, not only on the cross, but during his entire ministry. All kinds of people followed him, but only a few listened. Many followed to deride him and spew hate. Thoughts of the five thousand swirled in her mind. The crowds gathered, trailing him after he learned of John the Baptist’s death. But instead of sending them away, he turned to them, healing their sick and afflicted, then feeding them. His prayers to the Father waited until he’d finally found himself alone.
What would the disciples have heard if they’d been able to stay awake as he prayed in Gethsemane? Luke said he’d suffered in agony, an angel strengthening him. And the sweat—physical agony racked his body then, too, not just mental strife.
Bid thine heart all strife to cease; With thy brethren be at peace. Oh, forgive as thou wouldst be E’en forgiven now by me. In the solemn faith of prayer
Her head shot up at the mention of forgiveness. Was this Pastor Seth’s ploy? Again. What did it matter if she forgave? The women who had destroyed her daughter’s self-esteem, who snickered as she walked by, who taught their children to despise hers, they weren’t around anymore. Each of them had moved away. Her daughter’s broken heart elicited no effect on their lives. Emma, alone, endured the all-encompassing sting they’d inflicted. Meagan’s skin crawled every time she thought about it. Emma spread only joy, but even her smile buckled when the girls pointed at her wide eyes and large lips and laughed. In time, Meagan stopped bringing her to church—the one place she should have felt safe.
Still, the words hung in her mind. Forgive as thou wouldst be e’en forgiven now by me. What effect did her sins have on Christ?
Yet, he suffered. He chose to suffer for the sake of her salvation. The decision to forgive her came from him as he strove to do the Father’s will. Only he could do it, and he could have walked away. But he didn’t. He forgave her. He forgave everyone willing to follow him.
At the throne I intercede;
For thee ever do I plead.
I have loved thee as thy friend,
With a love that cannot end.
Be obedient, I implore,
Prayerful, watchful evermore,
And be constant unto me,
That thy Savior I may be.
Tears rolled down Meagan’s cheeks. How had she never considered the sliver of similarity between forgiving these women and the Savior’s forgiveness of her? He forgave her with no other reason than her happiness.
Tormented thoughts returned. Her forgiveness of those mothers, who called Emma names and encouraged their children to do the same, had no bearing on anyone.
She dropped her head.
“Today I want to focus on the second stanza. Bid thy heart all strife to cease, with thy brethren be at peace.” Pastor Seth drummed his fingers on the podium. “What does that have to do with Christ’s sacrifice?”
Silence pervaded the room. Children quieted, perhaps with help from their parents.
“All strife to cease…be at peace. Was the sacrifice only for our sins? I don’t believe so. In the third stanza, he called us his friends. What would you do for your friend? For your children?”
She’d done all she could. Called the mothers, written letters, begged the late Pastor Greg for help. Nothing worked. Miracle described her continued church attendance. If they had taunted her, she might have laughed with them, but Emma?
Pastor Seth’s glance passed by Meagan and the strength of his words filled her whole being.
“Forgive as thou wouldst be e’en forgiven now by me. These are words following statements of peace. I ask you, brothers and sisters, one thing: Do you feel peace after forgiving your offender?”
Meagan rose to her feet and wandered toward the door as the congregation finished singing There is a Green Hill Far Away.
Oh, dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
And trust in his redeeming blood,
And try his works to do.
Could she trust in his redeeming blood? Was that the missing piece to forgiving those women? She’d held onto the grief and pain for her daughter for so long. What if she allowed Christ to heal her? Could she forgive then? She’d never experienced a more hurtful situation. Most of the time forgiveness came easily because everyone made mistakes and usually the offense wasn’t intended. Those women had acted purposefully. But did they care?
Her daughter’s precious, little soul cried for weeks, months. And understanding wasn’t something she possessed. Sure, she’d forgotten and moved on, but Meagan hadn’t. Her heart pounded wildly in her chest each time a memory of sitting on Emma’s bed and holding her after such attacks appeared. The acidic misery she’d uncovered within herself when Emma announced the new nickname the children had given her still ran through her blood in roiling waves.
Maybe it didn’t matter if anyone else cared. Didn’t forgiveness mean setting aside the anger? If she gave up the anger, would the pain and anguish dissipate, too? The thoughts stayed with her as she drove home where Emma greeted her with a giant smile.
“Mama. I drew a picture.”
“You did? Let me see.”
Emma held out a picture, two people hugging each other. “That’s Jesus. He loves me.”
“Yes, he does. Is that you?”
“No. That’s you. Jesus saw you cry today.”
Meagan wrapped her arms around her daughter, now an adult. “Thank you for sharing your picture with me, Emma.”
The next week, Meagan jumped from the car, her feet leaving trails in the tiny yellow flowers still falling from the trees as she rounded the car and clasped Emma’s hand.
“I can make friends?”
“You can make lots of friends.”
“I like friends.”
Meagan stared at the steeple, bright and white, pure, like Jesus. Her heart had started to mend. The process continued, but she’d let go of some of the rage caused by Emma’s attackers. Now she watched, as her daughter walked through the same doors she had once before. No tears, no worry, just a big smile at the thought of making new friends. And she would, Meagan knew it.
Despite an abusive husband and rumors circulating through top society, Jane finds a position in the home of society’ finest, in The Governess.
Despite being thrown out of her precious home by an abusive husband and the terrible rumors surrounding her name, Jane finds work in one of the finest households in Berkshire in The Governess.
Noorilhuda, a debut author, has written a story filled with personal trials. Characters overcome grief, abuse, and gossip. The storyline carries through The Governess well, but it is one book with several areas that require readers' caution.
My Thoughts on The Governess
I picked up a copy of The Governess after receiving a review request from Noorilhuda through email that included dates the book would be free on Amazon.
Instead of a well-edited and researched story, I found the shell of a novel, that with a little work, could have been a wonderful read. Sadly, the editing felt non-existent. Lines of dialogue were clumped together in single paragraphs, one speaker on top of another. And without proper formatting and few dialogue tags, there are still some lines my mind has not assigned to a specific character. Though editing was the biggest problem, it was far from the only one.
Descriptions of orange trees and mangoes growing in the cold England climate immediately caught my attention, as did the use of certain words within characters' thoughts that were non-existent in during the 1830s, such as peeved. They stood out. Other times, words with similar phonetics were found instead of the correct words, reminding me of such phrases as for all intensive purposes.
Suggested as a clean book, The Governess mentions the main aspect of sex several times in one line zingers that sometimes come out of nowhere. The most memorable comes when John Lockwood is lamenting the death of his wife, which occurred more than five years earlier—the deed, which is described in one line quite crudely—is what comes to his mind instead of her true characteristics and his purpose for loving her. It struck me as odd. That said, there is no explicit sex scene or scenes that required skipping pages, just lines that I wanted to black out with a Sharpie.
The shell of the story is decent. A woman, accused of having an affair, who has been thrown out on her ear by her husband and society, becomes the governess to children of one of society's elite. Something much of society finds egregious. Moreover, the children's widowed father has an affair with a married woman who is also well-respected in society, despite everyone's knowledge of their fraternizing.
Through the slow-moving story, the governess affects the household and changes within the home weave their way into the pages. A great deal about Mr. Lockwood's mistress could be left out. But other than that, the pacing is reasonable for the genre.
Though The Governess intended Jane to be the main character, I struggle to say that she is. I find John Lockwood, the widowed father, struggles most with inner turmoils and that he is the character who shows the most growth. Whereas Jane tends to stand her ground through every bit of turmoil. She shows strength despite her nasty plight. Most of her growth takes place in the backstory, enabling her to be the moral beacon in the Lockwood home.
Obviously, this is not a book I recommend. However, if you choose to pick it up, I hope the information found here enables you look past the errors and enjoy the storyline.
The Official Blurb
“You make it seem like the cross was yours to bear, alone, do you really think you are brave? Let me tell you, who the brave one is, it’s each and every member of your family who didn’t slap you silly the first time you went awry, the first time you brushed your children aside for merriment. It’s your children, Mr. Lockwood, they are the courageous ones. Not you, you are nothing but a coward. And all for what? For your own selfish needs and whims, your own desire to be alone and free. Free from pain, was it? Or do you really want to leave a debauched legacy? Well, are you free Mr. Lockwood? I don’t see any shackles on you; Are you free from the pain and happy, truly happy?……No passion is great enough for you to lose sight of what’s your duty, and the right thing to do. For that is not passion, but madness. You’re mad Mr. Lockwood, completely, utterly, mad.”
Thus begins the fiery odd relationship between Jane, the governess, and her employer, the widowed landowner John E. Lockwood. But Jane has her own crucible as well, and it's hers to bear alone. Find out what Jane, The Governess, is made of. After all, True Worth has no regrets and takes no detours. Should you?
A movingly passionate and introspective character analysis of lonely people living through emotional abuse, grief, and guilt.
After years of marriage, Drew searches for her husband while visiting her favorite mountain.
Drew took another step on the path. With the spring snow melted, the trail remained soft, and the usual dusty puffs that dirtied her socks were absent. At the sound of heavy, flapping wings, her gaze lifted to the sky, and she shaded her eyes with her hand in time to see a large hawk soar upward and out of the pine and aspen canopy.
How do you know it’s a hawk, not a golden eagle? White underside, smaller size, dark beak. The question entered her mind, the answer quickly following.
Where was he now?
The stream edged up to the trail, gurgling beside her. The heavy pack slid off her back with a thud, and she dipped the straw filter into the running water, drinking deeply. Though the straw filtered the dangerous bacteria and parasites, it didn’t change the flavor, and she’d drunk from much more loathsome sources. This natural spring and snowmelt-fed stream always tasted as if it were the source of heaven itself. Cold and delicious. Refreshing.
Rising to her feet, she swung the loaded pack to her back and continued. Three days she’d been alone in the forest. Plenty of food, a fishing pole, the entire stream at her beckoned call. Her sleeping bag kept her warm, and the modest tent kept the dew from coating her hair and bedding. The concern wasn’t for herself.
Lavender-hued flowers dotted the small meadow on her left. Wild irises. She’d spent a day photographing similar perennials once. He’d stopped the car at her behest and waited near the edge of a lake while she photographed blossom after blossom. Fine golden dots had accented the bright yellow center of each petal, just as they did now. It was then that he’d pointed at different long stems growing in the shallows of the water and explained their use.
Cattails, almost completely editable. Root, pollen, tender new leaves up to two feet. Watch for look-alikes. They will not have the brown pollen stems.
No cattails lived on this mountain. However, patches of watercress floated in the stream, and some fir and spruce trees touted new growth.
She had to find him.
His days had been so good recently that when he’d suggested a back-packing trip, she’d agreed. Two miles in, they’d discovered the missing frying pan. It had been her job to slide it into the pack after the previous night at the campground. Still, four miles of flat travel wasn’t that difficult for him. He’d spent his entire life traversing the wild. She hadn’t even flinched when he said he’d go back for it.
That day, the afternoon sun promised to shine for several more hours, and she continued forward, wanting to get camp set up early in hopes of cooking their dinner before dark. Using a backpacking stove with nothing more than a flashlight for dinner was not her idea of fun.
They’d camped on the mountain for decades, and neither worried about the other. Not usually. But when he still hadn’t shown up an hour after dark, she doused the fire and grabbed her flashlight. Worry had creased her brow as she considered the possibilities. How could she have forgotten the pan? With a wandering beam of light focused on the trail, she’d headed toward the parking lot, praying he hadn’t fallen and gotten hurt. Or worse.
Her legs ached from the fast-paced hike to the locked SUV, but she’d forced herself to keep going. Peering through the back window with the flashlight, she’d checked for the frying pan. Gone. She hadn’t passed him.
Head hung low that night, she dragged herself back to camp. Had it been day, she would have followed the stream back. He wouldn’t leave the water. But the flashlight didn’t give off enough light for night travel along the willow and tree-infested bank.
With no sign of him the following morning, Drew climbed from the sleeping bag and started up the mountain. What other choice was there? Five miles to the summit. Without the pack on her back, she’d reached the switchbacks quickly. The steeper incline had slowed her down, but not much. Scanning the forest yielded no results.
Tears pooled in her eyes then, but she’d refused to let them fall.
No reason to cry when things get hard. Just keep moving along. Everything will work out in the end.
Dusk had set in by the time she’d returned to camp. Ten miles with nothing to show. She’d dipped her straw into the stream, then pulled out a granola bar and wondered if she should save it for him. With the uneaten treat placed back in her pack, she’d gone to bed.
Now, she took another step and headed toward the parking lot, again. It was her best chance to find someone, anyone, to help her. No one had crossed her trail in three days. It was a first. The well-traveled trail usually brought a few hellos her direction. Not this time.
Something darted across the trail in the distance, and she stopped. As she squinted, a group of people came into focus. Her hands flew into the air, and she ran toward them, yelling for help. Within seconds, they were running too.
“My husband,” she panted as she looked at the young people standing in front of her. “I can’t find him. Please, I need your help. He has memory problems.”
“Mom. It’s me, Jackson.”
Her brows furrowed. “Jackson?”
“Yup. Do you remember me? Let me take that bag for you.”
The young man, Jackson, took the pack from her. It looked smaller. As he opened it, watercress and young pine needles bulged from the top.
“He’ll be hungry. Y-your father.”
His arm slid around her shoulders. “Mom, Dad died three years ago. Don’t you remember?”
“We brought you to your favorite mountain for a picnic, and you wandered off.”
“Yeah. Come on back; the kids are waiting to hear more about your adventures with Dad.”
“Well, he’s probably hungry, but I found some watercress.”