Home for Amalgam Publishing and its regional anthologies. A blog for readers, writers, thinkers, and artists of all kinds juxtaposed with the musings of an northern Californian independent author and literary consultant. Seeking frothing-at-the-mouth fans.
I am delighted to have an excerpt from Amy McGuire's novel, The Heart's Discovery, on the blog today. If you would like to find out more about Amy, visit her website at: www.shesanauthor.com.
strolled into the front hall of the Mendez home, arm in arm with her best
friend Claudia. Both girls were dripping
wet as they stepped lightly onto the trail of thick towels stretching from the
front door to the bathroom. A flush of
pleasure darkened fourteen-year-old Anjaline’s exotic complexion, a gift from
her Spanish mother and the father who was sadly a distant, childhood memory. I guess Señora Mendez remembers the mess we
made last year. She smirked and stripped off her sopping socks and shoes.
“We won the battle with Helena and Enrique at
last!” Anjaline punched the air above her head.
“It doesn’t feel like a victory when I got as wet as them. Look at me! I resemble a drowned rat!”
Claudia made a face and began vigorously rubbing her ebony hair.
Anjaline grinned and grabbed two more plastic bags full to
bursting with colourful water balloons. “I don’t
know. I think you look like Cleopatra.” Reaching for a tissue she dabbed
unsuccessfully at Claudia’s streaked mascara.
With a horrified gasp Claudia spun to the mirror. Satisfied her
skin was once again blemish free she surveyed the room, her hands on her hips.
“With all these balloons we’re ready to start our own war. I don’t know how you
talk me into filling them ahead of time every year. It would be so much more
practical to fill them as needed.”
this time I think you’re right. It’s going to take a couple hours to use them
all up.” Anjaline stopped for a minute to set down her
bags and give her dripping hair another rub with one of the plush towels. The
expression, ‘opposites attract’ fitted them perfectly. Although born
just shy of a month apart and of similar appearance, the two girls couldn't be
more different. All through grade school Claudia had been the level-headed one,
helping Anjaline, the constant dreamer and more adventurous of the two, out of
trouble more times than either cared to count.
chuckled, bringing Anjaline out of her reverie. With a regal toss of her head
she extended a make-believe scepter to her friend. “I’m not Cleopatra, but for
today I am queen of the water balloon
fights. Come on, Anj. We have a city to overthrow.” With a tiny
smirk she added, “We better make the best of this while the Quito authorities
are looking the other way.”
nodded and scooped up her bags with a flourish. “Lead on, my Queen,” she said,
girls pranced out the door and giggled all the way down the narrow streets,
eager for another round with their current nemeses.
thousand feet above sea level, Quito's climate was
warm all year round and one of the favourite traditions of the city’s bustling
youth was the annual water balloon fight. The practice of throwing water
balloons at locals and tourists alike during Carnaval was
prohibited downtown in the old city by the Quito authorities. However, much to
the delight of the young people, as long as no one complained no such rules
existed on the outskirts. Anjaline and her friends were
happy to exploit the opportunity provided by the lax rules and eager to enjoy
the warm February day in Ecuador's landlocked capital.
For the evening festivities all the school age youth arrayed
themselves in their most colourful dresses and shirts. Each year they made
their own masks and slipped them on as the sun dipped at last beneath the
Spanish Baroque-style cathedrals and ushered in the coolness of dusk.
Excitement made Anjaline light-headed when at last she and Claudia rushed
through the front door of the Mendez home and hurried into their party clothes.
She barely suppressed a giggle. Quito threw the best festivals anywhere, in
her opinion and this evening would be no different.
Claudia zipped up the back of Anjaline's deep green gown in front of the
bathroom mirror Anjaline smoothed out her gown, her heart pounding. When their eyes met in the reflection she
grinned. “Someday I'd like to be Reina. Imagine! For a whole year she gets her picture in all
the papers, boys knocking on her door to see if she’ll date them and she gets a
scholarship to Unidad Educativa La Moderna in Guayaquil-”
so long as you didn't get a swelled head. Ever since my sister Rita became
Reina of Quito she's been acting all snobby. She's impossible to live with. You
have no idea. She keeps going on and on about how she's
one of the youngest queens ever, having almost
finished grade nine and how only seniors get the honour. Bladdity blah blah.” Claudia sighed and
turned back to the room but not before Anjaline caught her friend’s disgruntled
mind wandered as she fixed silver hoops in her ears and stared dreamily at her
reflection. She loved the food, music and dancing at
Carnaval but none of it compared with her favourite part of the day; the
Festival of Fruit and Flowers. As part
of the festival, a massive float sailed down the main street carrying the
'Reina' or Queen of Quito. The choosing of the Reina
reminded her of the story of Cinderella her mother read to her as a small
child. It would be so romantic to becrowned 'Reina', even if only
for a day.
abruptly from her dream by Claudia’s hand on her shoulder, Anjaline laughed.
“You're jealous, that’s all. Tell you what; if
we ever tied for Reina I'd step down and give you my
place.” She grabbed Claudia's hand to drag her out into the noisy cobblestone
streets but was stopped short at the touch on her arm. She turned to look into
the face of her closest and dearest friend.
squeezed her arm gently and smiled through ebony eyes welling
with tears. “Same goes, Anjie. Same goes. Look
at me. You're turning me to mush.” With a laugh she swiped at the tears and
shook her head.
chuckled and dragged her down the street toward the music, colour and general
cacophony swallowing Quito’s old city. “Come on, Queen Mush. Let's go find your boyfriend.” The sharp
pinch on her arm caused her to yelp and pull away. Not wanting to be pinched
again she carefully hid the laugh rising to the
is not my boyfriend,” Claudia
muttered, a ghost of a smile fluttering around her lips and shining in her
eyes. Yet the blush spreading across her heavily made-up cheeks was proof she
hoped he would notice her someday soon.
crowd parted for a moment and Anjaline spotted her cousin. With a chuckle she
grasped Claudia’s arm and steered her in his direction. “Maybe not yet,” she mumbled.
cousin José Rodriguez stood off to the side with a group of his peers, tall and
naturally tan with onyx hair falling into dreamy brown eyes. He smiled as the girls approached, his gaze
tracking Claudia. Anjaline coughed to disguise the laughter exploding from her
chest as Claudia gave him a brilliant smile and his ears turned pink.
ladies. Care to join me for some food, festivities, and fun?” His eyes twinkled
with good humour.
practicing alliteration for the test you’re re-doing next week, huh?”
Positioning José between herself and Claudia, Anjaline threaded her arm through
his and indicated her blushing friend should do the same. She hoped she wasn’t being too obvious.
always been a smart-aleck.” José smirked down at Anjaline who grinned and
wiggled her eyebrows.
“That’s smart-Anjie. And don’t you forget
it.” She winked and José roared with
laughter. Shaking his head he picked up the pace to guide them into the
the girls’ delight, José had saved a place for them near the head of the
parade. Here they had the best possible
view. Soon they were in the thickest part of the exuberant crowd and
conversation became all but impossible. The scent of llapingachos and fritatas
filled the air; the mixture of hot, fried potato and sizzling pork attracting
them as well as their fellow revellers to conveniently placed roadside stands.
At Claudia`s insistence, José bought one frittata for each of them and the friends
happily devoured them, grease dripping down their chins.
ever-present shadow of massive monasteries decorated with silver, gold, and
fine wood carvings little boys rode high on sturdy shoulders. Wide-eyed little
girls clung to bright, flowing skirts and viewed the parade sailing by.
Tourists rubbed elbows with each other, standing on the feet of a population of
people who had called Quito home since being granted their own Audiencia with Spain in the late 1500’s.
A cheer rose from the crowd as ‘Taita Carnaval’ or ‘Father Carnaval’
appeared. Amidst pomp and fanfare on a
float covered with bottles of peach wine, oversized hibiscus, blackberries and
giant loaves of bread, he tossed pouches of candy and toys into the
street. Anjaline chuckled softly to
herself when José dashed into the mass of bodies and returned, holding a teddy
bear aloft. As he pressed it into her
arms, Claudia squealed and pressed a kiss to José’s cheek. He winked at Anjaline and she pretended to
sneeze. If she laughed now, she knew
Claudia would be mortified.
time Anjaline had composed her features Taita Carnaval had passed by, and the
other floats flowed by with a swirl of bright flowers, colourful flags and
confetti. Locals dressed in glittering
figure-hugging costumes and exotic head dress strolled behind and a multitude
of drums sounded everywhere. Anjaline
stood on tip-toe to catch a glimpse of her school’s acrobatic team and clapped
her hands. One girl she knew only a
little waved and she waved back, her heart bursting with pride.
trumpets, panpipes and Samba beat drew both young and old into the festive
dancing. Anjaline tapped out the beat
with her feet as yet another float appeared, this one sagging under the weight
of fabricated Tropicbirds, Flamingos, Spoonbills, Nightjars, Motmots and
Toucans. Boisterous shouts rose from the bystanders and participants as several
dozen live Scarlet-hooded Barbets swooped down on the crowd. Their fire-red feathers flashed in the sunlight
as they rose and dived, their shrieks so piercing Anjaline had to cover her
last the ‘Reina of Quito’ float of arrived, it was piled high with oversized
apples, pears, blackberries, tropical fruit, exotic flowers and loaves of
bread. Rita perched on a narrow platform ten feet above several dancing girls
who wore exotic bird costumes in red and gold. Her massive red wings were outspread and she shimmered from head to toe
in a red and gold bikini. With a
headdress of gold foil placed in her ebony hair, she bore a striking resemblance
to the Scarlet Macaw. A thin band of scarlet tail feathers cinched at her waist
shook with her fervent movements.
must it be like to be dressed in such an exotic costume and adored by everyone,
even if only for a day? At choreographed intervals beautiful trills rang up and
down the cobblestone streets. Anjaline glanced in her friend’s direction. In light of the amazing presentation, might
Claudia have changed her mind? When the
other girl stuck her tongue out at Rita, Anjaline stifled a giggle.
glint of mischief in Claudia’s eyes she froze in horror and her gaze fell to
Claudia’s hand. How had she managed to
hide the contraband ammunition? Too
late, Anjaline opened her mouth but could only watch, helpless as a bright
orange balloon sailed through the air toward The Queen of Quito float. The
small water bomb barely missed Rita, bursting open on the ground a only moment
before the float’s front left tire ran over the broken pieces.
relief was short-lived. She intercepted
the icy stare Rita aimed at Claudia. A
small shudder rippled up her spine and she backed away. Without looking at her
friends, she melted into the crowd. When the policia discovered who had broken
the rules, they would pass out fines. Anjaline didn’t intend to stick around
and get into trouble.
behind one of the many chapels in the area, Claudia and José began to laugh
until tears streamed down their faces. Sliding in unison down the marble face,
they clutched their sides, rocking with muffled hilarity. Anjaline shook her
head and slid down the wall beside them, chuckling over Claudia’s actions and
the near miss.
you see the expression on her face? Oh, it was priceless!” Claudia swiped at
the mirthful tears and leaned back against the wall to catch her breath.
was quite possibly the stupidest and gutsiest thing I’ve ever seen you do,
Claudia.” José gazed down at her in awe.
rolled her eyes at the expression of open admiration on José’s face. “You know
Rita’s going to make your life miserable now, don’t you?”
grin was huge as she threw up her hands. “So she makes my life the same as it’s
always been for a few more months. This summer we’re all going to camp without
her and in the fall we’re off to Cotopaxi Academy. Guayaquil will be miles
away.” She wiped her nails on her bodice and chuckled, her eyes dancing as she
stood up again. “Besides, it was totally worth it to knock her down a peg or
two. I have never seen a more condescending, uppity queen. Ha!”
laughed as he stood and then helped Claudia and Anjaline to their feet.
Releasing Anjaline’s hand he grabbed Claudia to spin her around and planted a
quick kiss on her lips. Claudia blushed from the roots of her hair to the scoop
of her summer dress and grinned like a fool.
chuckle, José dragged them both up the hill toward the community feast. “I
don’t know about you guys, but I’m excited we’ll be going together to Cotopaxi
Academy in the fall. I’m glad your Papi agreed at last, Anjie.”
mean my mother’s husband?” Anjaline’s voice dripped sarcasm. She blanched when
she caught sight of the man in question moving at a rapid pace toward
them. She hoped he hadn’t heard.
Sutherland was six foot four, built like a wrestler and seemed to not only fill
a room but push others out. Heavy set with a ruddy complexion, shaggy red hair
and Scottish burr, he stood out from his Ecuadorian neighbours like a capybara
in a family of marmosets. The picture would have made Anjaline laugh aloud if
not for the seriousness on her stepfather’s face.
first, she thought she had been discovered as a co-conspirator in Claudia’s
petty action, yet the expression on his face was one of determination, not
anger. Her heart sank into her shoes when she caught sight of her mother,
cheeks wet, standing a few paces back.
Her stepfather’s gaze wandered briefly over José and Claudia before
settling on Anjaline with a grimness that made her stomach hurt.
“Before you go to the feast,” he said in
English, “Your Mama and I need to talk to you. It willna take long.”
of impending doom settled onto her shoulders but she straightened her spine and
met his gaze squarely. Head thrown back, eyes narrowed she answered him in
Spanish. “Whatever you have to say to me, you can say in front of José and
Claudia. And you can speak so they can understand you.” With her rounded chin
tilted up, her hands placed on her narrow waist, and her legs spread wide she
met his gaze with a challenge.
the corner of her eye she caught Claudia’s confused expression. Yet it was José
who whispered in her ear, “Um, Anjie? It’s okay if Señor
Sutherland needs to speak to you. We’ll just—”
scuffed the toe of her shoe in the dust and tugged on José’s arm as the
Sutherlands moved up the hill. “Meet us at the feast!” she called out before
tucking her hand firmly in José’s and dragging him away.
of abandonment tightened Anjaline’s chest before she turned and followed her
stepfather. She glanced to her mother for some sign of what was going on, but the
older woman avoided eye contact. Something was deeply wrong.
Alone and Terrified
Anjaline shivered and
clutched her purse straptighter
against her body, wishing for the hundredth time her family had remained in
Ecuador. Right now she should have been
safe and warm, surrounded by friends and family. Instead, Anjaline had become lost after dark
in the woods in unfamiliar territory and the air was heavy with the scent of
approaching rain. Her mind flashed to
Gabriel’s lecture and her blasé reaction.
Furious with herself for being so foolish, she directed her anger at him
rather than give in to the bone-numbing fear.
She had hardly wandered off by herself to be rebellious. She didn’t know the area well, the darkness
confused her and well, her situation was his fault anyway, since she had been
thinking about him and not watching where she was going.
Who does he think he
is anyway, mi Papi?! Gabriel can’t be
much older than me and yet he acts like he’s so much smarter than me!Well,
I’ll show him I’m not just a city girl.
I grew up around mountains.If I follow this slope down I should be back
in the village before anyone thinks to search for me. Yeah.
That’s right. No harm, no foul.
With renewed purpose Anjaline turned back the way she had come,
careful not to catch her feet on a root in the pitch black. Her right foot was hovering in mid-air when a
low yowl sounded no more than three feet to her right. Her heart almost leapt out of her chest as
she swung her gaze in the direction of the sound.
The moon chose that moment, as the sun had earlier in the day, to
burst through the clouds. In the milky glow everything seemed to move in slow
motion. The soft light illuminated the trees, mountainside and a large, sleek
cougar finishing off a fresh kill. A
scream of horror built within her as the mountain lion crouched over the
deer. Muscles bunched as dark blood
oozed from between two-inch razor sharp fangs.
The large cat stared at her with deadly luminescent amber eyes, its red
muzzle making the scene even more nightmarish. The powerful animal studied her with an almost intelligent gaze. Her blood nearly froze in her veins.
After what seemed like years the cougar rose up with a lazy
swagger, its tail swishing back and forth.
Throwing back its head the cat let out an unearthly scream. She willed her feet to move. A flash of light blinded her and a clap of
thunder shook the ground beneath them. Anjaline screamed and covered her ears,
shaking in terror. Terror became action
as her self-preservation kicked in at last.
Even though her instincts screamed not to run she fled, adrenaline
pumping. Not once did she risk a glance over her shoulder to find out if the
mountain lion was still in pursuit. She
could not have seen the cougar anyway as the sky had now opened, drenching and
blinding her in the ensuing deluge.
The dirt beneath her feet
turned to slick mud, rivulets running over the smooth stones in her path. With the rain the soil eroded and her feet
became less sure until she began sliding with increasing speed downhill. She was grateful for the chance to
outdistance the cougar but as trees whizzed by she wondered in panic how she
would stop. She caught her purse on a
stray limb and almost choked to death before the strap tore and she continued
to slip downhill once again. The motion
flipped her onto her stomach and she continued her rapid descent head
She closed her eyes a moment to focus on breathing and began to
hyperventilate when she opened them again.
The giant cedar loomed out of the trees and seemed to hurtle toward her
at an alarming rate. Despite the
knowledge that avoiding the mammoth tree at such high speeds should be
impossible she screamed in desperation and groped in the mud for a
handhold. With a sickening crack her
forehead smacked into the unyielding trunk. Darkness enveloped her mind before
her limp body came to rest in the shelter of the ancient cedar.
On the second day of
camp, Richard Walker announced the preparation of a campfire for the senior and
junior staff along with their friends and family. All day Evelyn and Leah
chattered like excited squirrels. The
air became charged with anticipation. Each family set about making delectable
camp food. The Sutherlands supplied exotic flair with Spanish rice and fancy
Ecuadorian pastries Elena had created as a ‘thank you’ for the hospitality of
Hope Valley’s residents to her small family.
Anjaline’s mouth watered at the thought of the upcoming feast. She
could hardly wait for evening. She passed Evelyn and Leah, each carrying a tray
of uncooked hotdogs and buns. When the older girl spoke her ears perked up.
“Dad’s friend Shark Tooth Silvercloud and his wife Summer Rain are
coming tonight as special guests and they’re bringing two of their children,
Robin and River.”
“Who’s Robin and River?” Leah wanted to know.
Even Seth appeared interested and Anjaline assumed he longed for a
boy his age to play with. Anjaline
eavesdropped, not caring who noticed. Soon after her arrival she discovered if
anyone knew about the comings and goings of everyone in Hope Valley, it was
Evelyn. Some people might consider her a gossip but Anjaline understood the
younger girl paid attention to her neighbours. Who needed a newspaper when you
lived with Evelyn Walker?
Evelyn shrugged and set her tray down on one of the picnic benches
which had been placed in a circle around the recently cleaned out fire pit.
“I’ve never met any of them but I overheard Dad telling Mom and he sounded
excited. From what I gather, Dad and Shark Tooth used to be good friends but
the Silverclouds moved away years ago.
Now they’re back. I hope the girl is around my age. How I would love a
new friend.” She spun to retrieve hotdog fixings and her gaze collided with Anjaline’s
shocked stare. She had the grace to blush before ducking her head and melting
into the crowd of people carrying food to the meeting place.
Anjaline stood still, her mouth open in disbelief. She had been in
Hope Valley for only two weeks and without warning Evelyn tossed her into the
‘unwanted’ pile. She tried not to allow the tone of Evelyn’s words to touch her
but they cut deep. Tears welled up in her eyes as she clenched her fists to
hold them at bay. Someone nudged her from behind and she turned around with an
apologetic smile for Heidi Dettweiler. Ignoring the concern in the older
woman’s gaze, she rushed back to the house to be alone with her disappointment.
She had sincerely hoped for friendship with Evelyn but now it seemed Anjaline
had only been a place holder until someone better came along.
Her flight was interrupted as someone blocked her path and she
collided with a solid male chest. She overbalanced away from him and almost
landed on her backside. With lightning quick reflexes the boy caught her. He
righted her and she lowered her head in mortification.
“Sorry, miss. I didn’t mean to bump into you.”
When she raised her eyes her gaze fell on his deerskin necklace
strung with painted beads and a bear claw pendant. A bout of shyness paralyzed
her as she fixated on the unusual jewellery.
“I must have hurt you worse than I thought. You okay?”
Anjaline raised her eyes to his at last and blushed profusely at
his words. “No, no. I’m not hurt. And it was my fault. If I’d paid more
attention I wouldn’t have crashed into you.”
“Well, I should have been paying attention too.” He laughed, eyes
Embarrassment melted in the wake of his infectious laugh and she
paused to give him a discreet once-over. The teenage boy had muscular, bronze
arms, a thick black ponytail tied back with a piece of deerskin and a friendly
face. He also appeared to be the same
age as Gabriel. Her heart beat a little faster in his presence and she sighed
with feminine appreciation when he flashed a perfect smile. Mischief and
laughter shone out of onyx eyes a girl might get lost in if she were not
careful. Glancing away to break the spell, she coughed and turned to finish her
errand to her mother’s kitchen.
“Well, I guess you’re forgiven. Um, I should really go back to
work.” In spite of herself she grinned. The sun seemed a touch brighter with
this boy by her side.
“Let me help you. What do you need to carry to the picnic? I’ll
walk with you and help you carry any food or whatever. My dad said we’re guests
and aren’t allowed to bring anything, so I don’t have a thing to carry.” He
rolled his eyes but his lips trembled into a good-natured smile.
More than a little confused as well as flustered by the dazzling
smile Anjaline could not find words. Giving up she shrugged and started up the
hill. “Okay. Come on.”
With a chuckle the boy fell in step with her and grinned. “I’m
Robin by the way. I guess I should have introduced myself from the beginning.
You’re Angie, right?”
“Yes. Sorry. I should have
introduced myself.” She extended her hand, apology in her amber eyes. Her heart
fluttered as he held her hand in a strong, warm grip, a teasing glint in his
He brought her hand to his lips, kissed the back and straightened
with a twinkle in his eye. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Angie.”
Anjaline revelled in the attention and unable to help it, felt her
skin redden like a tomato. With a nervous cough she flexed her fingers and he
let go. “How did you know my name?”
Robin grinned again, urging her into a walk when he noticed her
family moving toward them with food-laden trays. “I got here by boat a few
minutes ago and Mr. O’Connor said the Sutherlands needed help, so I went
looking for them. I bumped into Seth and when I asked him where the Sutherlands
lived he nodded in your direction and said, ‘Go ask Angie. She’s one of them.’
He seems like a weird kid.”
Anjaline almost dropped her tray at his commentary on Seth and
stifled a giggle. She had never heard anyone refer to Seth in quite that way,
but supposed his description was quite apt. Words failed her as she shook her
head and held back a smile. With practiced ease Robin took the tray and began
to unpack the food onto a nearby picnic table.
Robin chuckled and invited her to sit on a bench beside him,
lacing his fingers behind his neck with a contented sigh. “I’m not quite sure
how we got to be special guests in this shin-dig but I’m glad I came. After
tonight I’m going to be a camper for half a session, so I’m glad I met a member
of the staff.” He winked at her and seemed about to say something more when
Richard Walker clapped his hands to get the attention of everyone gathered
around the fire pit.
Anjaline was left to wonder what he had been about to say as she
hurried over to sit with her parents, Leah and Seth. As soon as her father said
grace the food was passed around the tables and Karl Dettweiler lit the
campfire. The sun slipped with unhurried grace beneath the water and everyone
enjoyed the natural light show while munching on Elena Sutherland’s mango and
coconut tarts. Robin approached Anjaline’s table during dessert and she
welcomed him with a smile. She swatted his hand and laughed when he stole one
of her tarts. “So, tell me about your family.”
He grinned and bit into the mango sweetness with gusto. “Well, my
younger sister, older brother and I live in Coquina Cove which is about half an
hour from here by boat. My dad runs a
fish farm business. River is here because she begged our parents for one
session of camp and I’m here for one week because I’m training to work for my
dad and he can only spare me for that long this summer.”
Anjaline caught his tone and frowned. “You don’t seem too thrilled
with the idea.”
With a light laugh Robin lowered his voice so only she could hear
him, glancing up every once in awhile to ensure they were not overheard by
Shark Tooth. “Can’t slip anything by you can
I? But you’re right. I don’t want to work in fish farms forever. I don’t even
like fish. My dream is to someday run a business driving big boats in and out
of the cove with my brother. We want to design the perfect tugboat line for
treacherous waters like the tugs in Orca Cove and other coves in the area.”
Anjaline smiled and nibbled a pastry, remembering her own
rebellion toward her stepfather’s plans for her. “He’ll understand though, if you tell you him
your dreams, won’t he?” She glanced over at Shark Tooth who was in deep
conversation with Gabriel’s father.
With a rueful smile he shook his head. “My father is one of the
most stubborn men you will ever meet. Already my older brother, Jay is in the
business and he’s only seventeen. He doesn’t want to take over our father’s
business either. Our only hope is our older sister, Willow. She was married
last summer and is studying business in the hope of taking over when my father
Anjaline passed him the other half of her pastry as her gaze fell
on Robin’s mother. The woman was small and quiet, not the kind of person she
could envision being able to sway her husband in any way. “He doesn’t expect
you to work full-time while you’re in school does he?”
Robin smiled and licked his fingers, settling back as the final
rays sank below the mountains. “He would prefer I work in the business instead
of going to school, yes. I’ll be forever grateful Jay convinced him education
is important. I’ll only work weekends and evenings until I graduate high
school. Jay finished last spring so Dad was eager to take him on but I know Jay
already plans to attend college.”
The word ‘college’ caused Shark Tooth to raise his gaze and he
shot his youngest son a warning glare. The conversation was over, but not
Anjaline’s curiosity over this unique family.
The light had almost faded and twilight begun to set in when she
looked over at the table where Gabriel sat with his parents, Evelyn and River.
The intense look of hatred in Evelyn’s eyes made the tart Anjaline was eating
suddenly taste like sawdust. The glower
on Gabriel’s handsome face turned her stomach. Offering the remainder of her
tart to a pleased and oblivious Robin she turned away, her heart troubled.
The inevitable onset of night covered the sky in a blanket of
stars, the moon a bare sliver of white against the inky backdrop. As Anjaline’s
father added another log to the dying fire the picnic benches were moved closer
to it. Soon the men of the group began
calling for songs and the makings of s’mores. Sticks sharpened to slim points
were handed around, along with large bags of fluffy white marshmallows, graham
crackers and chocolate bars. Colin O’Connor brought out his guitar and began
tuning it. After a moment, one voice after another joined him in a camp song
about silver birches, beavers and moose. Anjaline released a contented sigh,
eager to forget her sadness for awhile in the magic of the peaceful night.
Robin helped Leah and Seth to turn their sticks so their
marshmallows were a perfect golden brown before turning to help Anjaline do the
same. She was delighted with the easy friendship springing up between them and
smiled when he poked a marshmallow on her stick and showed her the technique
for the perfect roasted marshmallow. Anjaline wrinkled her nose as Robin turned
his stick with meticulous care and held it just over the amber coals until the
white confection all but fell off his stick. Noting her reaction he grinned and
popped the gooey mass into his mouth, licking his fingers in appreciation.
“I’ve never roasted marshmallows. I don’t understand what all the
fuss is about.” She made a face, unsure if she could stomach the brown mass
being set between graham crackers and chocolate before her.
Robin’s eyes widened and he smirked. “Trust me, when you’ve tried
one, you’ll understand. They’re extremely addictive. Roasted marshmallows are
the only food with the perfect combination of crunchy, gooey, warm and sweet.
Or you can take it one step further and make it a s’more. That’s good too.” He
popped a melting golden marshmallow into his mouth and replaced it with a jumbo
sized raw one before holding it over the coals again.
He passed her the next perfect marshmallow on a paper plate and
she popped the warm treat into her mouth, doubtful of his words. Her eyes
widened when the golden bubble melted in her mouth in a warm, gooey mass. The sweetness made her moan with innocent
pleasure. She grabbed a stick of her own and popped another marshmallow on, shoving
the stick into the coals. The marshmallow instantly went up in flames and she
pulled the stick back in alarm to blow out the blackened torch. Embarrassed,
she hid behind her hair and peeked through the strands for her friend’s
“Maybe you should let me make a few for you until you get the hang
of it,” Robin teased, a huge grin on his dark face.
She ducked her head, hoping he would attribute the red in her
cheeks to the warmth from the fire. The
night was magical and Anjaline forgot the loneliness of the past two weeks in
favour of enjoying Robin’s attentions and offer of friendship. The moon rose
high in the sky and Karl Dettweiler began telling stories. Anjaline let her
mind drift as Robin’s father blew on the coals again. The blue tinged flames
licked up the cord of wood like fire elves dancing with abandon in the cool
night air. She watched, entranced as tiny orange sparks spiralled upwards
through the thin silver smoke wafting out over the water. She wished for her
whole life to be as peaceful as this night. The knowledge of Robin remaining in
Hope Valley for a week lifted her spirits. Perhaps living in Hope Valley
wouldn’t be so terrible after all.
The days melted together and the valley hummed with summer camp
activities. The youth of Hope Valley threw themselves into their duties and
formed friendships with the campers. Though not quite a year old, Elijah became
a favourite among the campers; the girls in particular. Seth and Leah assigned
themselves to him as bodyguards though it became clear the little cherub never
needed any. Gabriel worked as hard as any other staff members but kept to
himself during free time, claiming some chore or project as an excuse.
Anjaline’s heart broke with the realization that Gabriel wanted
nothing to do with her despite rescuing her weeks before. Her stomach twisted
whenever she caught a glimpse of him, but she promised herself never to let him
become aware of how much his rejection hurt her. She concluded he had chosen
not to be her friend because she annoyed him. He must think of her as high maintenance
since her accident. She told herself she
couldn’t blame him. She had caused all Hope Valley a lot of trouble her first
day in the village. There was never a moment to speak with him alone, as male
campers constantly asked her for help with one activity or another and he kept
his distance. The disgust on his
handsome face caused her to rethink confronting him alone and she became
depressed whenever he was around.
Evelyn caused her own problems for Robin and Anjaline, following
them all over the valley during free time with a moonstruck expression on her
face. By the end of the week Evelyn’s adoring expression had become one of open
jealousy and Anjaline realized Robin’s unintentional rejection must sting but
didn’t know what, if anything she was supposed to do. Her friendship with Robin
seemed to make the younger girl angry but Anjaline had long since stopped
worrying about Evelyn’s mood swings and said nothing to Robin.
Determined to enjoy the summer, Anjaline spent every spare moment
with Robin. A warm friendship grew between them and when Anjaline said farewell
to Robin at the end of the week, her earlier attraction had changed to a
sisterly affection. Anjaline sniffed back the tears and clung to him when he
gave her a quick hug, wondering how she would survive the loneliness without
“Aw, Angie; don’t be sad, my dear friend.” Robin released her and
tipped her chin up to gaze down into her eyes.
“I don’t live far away. I’ll come and visit from time to time.”
Anjaline blinked away her tears and smiled, hope in her dark eyes.
Robin chuckled and hugged her again. “I promise. I’ll be back as
soon as I get a break from school.” He picked up his suitcase and walked down
to the waiting boat. “I’m glad we got a chance to become friends, Angie.”
“Me too, Robin.” Anjaline held onto the promise of his return as
he stepped into the boat and waved. A long summer and fall without friends
stretched before her. For the second time since her arrival in the valley she
missed her cousin and best friend desperately.
The last week of July Anjaline overhead Karl Dettweiler telling
her father about an upcoming visit from his fifteen-year-old nephew, Damian.
“That’s wonderful, Karl. How long will he be staying?”
Karl’s expression was grim. “Who knows? If the boy shapes up, he
may stay all summer and maybe even longer. I guess only time will tell.”
From her vantage point behind a tree in front of the dining hall,
Anjaline caught a glimpse of the love Karl had for his nephew before he turned
away. The news piqued Anjaline’s curiosity. She hurried to Seth’s house to tell
him and Leah but Evelyn was already there.
She stepped back into the shadows and forgot her plans to spend
the day with Seth and Leah. She had been burned the last time she eavesdropped
and almost abandoned the idea. Then
Evelyn mentioned Damian’s name and she remained hidden, straining to hear. In
her usual know-it-all way, Evelyn began to share the latest information she had
gleaned from her own eavesdropping on Karl Dettweiler and Anjaline’s father.
“So, according to Mr. Dettweiler, Damian has an older brother
who’s heavily involved with a gang and no longer lives at home. His mom
recently remarried but apparently the stepdad isn’t much of a father figure.
Mr. Dettweiler said Damian gets in trouble with the law an awful lot. His mother is really worried about him
because she found out he’s mixed up in the gang too. Damian’s mom is hoping time spent with his
uncle at a Christian camp will help him change before it’s too late. Apparently she thinks time away from his
so-called friends would also do him good.”
“When’s he coming?” Seth asked when she stopped to take a breath.
With a self-important toss of her head Evelyn replied, “He’ll be
here tomorrow and he’s going to stay for awhile.” She leaned in as if she had more to share and
Anjaline strained to hear.
“Mr. Dettweiler is trying to convince his sister to let him adopt
Damian, since he and his wife can’t have children of their own. Mr. Dettweiler
told Mr. Sutherland he hopes having Damian live here will give him a more
secure home life.” Evelyn tossed her
hair again, green eyes sparkling with excitement.
“I wonder what he’ll be
like.” Leah spoke from her position on
the grass, Elijah bouncing up and down on her lap.
“Don’t you all have better things to do than stand around
speculating about a kid who’s only going to be trouble?” Gabriel piped up.
Anjaline jumped and covered her rapidly beating heart. She hadn’t seen him until he spoke or
realized he stood so close to her hiding place.
She held her breath, hoping he hadn’t discovered her. Anjaline breathed a silent sigh of relief and
pressed further into the side of the O’Connors’ house when Gabriel glowered at
Evelyn and began to walk away.
Evelyn stuck her tongue out at his retreating back and called,
“You just don’t want competition, Gabriel Walker.”
Gabriel spun. From her
vantage point in the shadows, Anjaline read the suspicion in his eyes.
“Competition for what,
Anjaline shrank back at the venom in his tone, wondering why he
seemed so upset.
Evelyn shrugged and a knowing grin crossed her face. “I don’t think you need me to tell you,
Gabriel. It’s pretty obvious,” she
taunted before tossing her hair again and sauntering off with Seth, Leah and
Elijah in tow.
In spite of her bad experience when she first arrived, Anjaline’s
loneliness drove her to seek comfort in the mountains which reminded her so
much of home. Soon after discovering a
hidden berry patch in the middle of a clearing a little way up the ridge she
claimed it for herself. An open area
sheltered by trees with a view of the waves crashing onto the rocks far below,
it called to her imagination. No one
else came there and by mid-July the haven became her one place of perfect
solitude. Remembering the cougar all too
well, her first project was to create a larger clearing where no animal could
sneak up on her. She crept up the
mountain shortly after overhearing the others talking about Damian. She wanted a
chance to be quiet and think.
The only thing Anjaline knew about bad boys was how to avoid
them. Her parents never approved of
friendships with children ‘from the other side of the tracks’, so she had never
met one. She had to admit to being
intrigued by Damian’s story, especially since she had lost her own father at
the age of four. In spite of or perhaps because of, Gabriel’s warning to the
others she looked forward to Damian’s visit. Gabriel had lost all right to have
his opinions respected. His comment made
her all the more excited for the next day. She dangled her feet over the cliffs
and stared out into the bay with a smile. Since Robin’s departure, life had
become a little boring. If the stories about Damian were true, life in the
valley was about to become very interesting. For her, tomorrow couldn’t come