Chapter 1 Part 2

Chapter 1

Part 2

James knew he was in trouble when his mother called him the next day and woke him up from a dead sleep.

“James Donovan Duke” Uh-oh, whenever a sentence started with his whole name it didn’t bode well “what are you doing with your life? And why are you still asleep?” it was barely 7 am and last time he checked he was doing a great job

“Good morning mother, how are you?”

“Don’t change the subject young man, I’m fine thank you dear”

“Mother, it’s 7 am on a Saturday I’ve had a long week working my eyes out”

“Exactly! When was the last time you had a vacation?”

I spent spring break weekend with you and my brothers and sisters at the ranch.

That’s not what I mean and you know it. You’ve been working too hard for too long, take a vacation, meet a nice girl, fall in love and give me grand-babies, I’m not getting any younger and neither are you” she stopped to take a breath and James got up and made his way to the kitchen and poured a cup of steaming coffee.

“Mama, I don’t know what to tell you, but I am not in the frame of mind to look for a wife any time soon”

“That worries me honey”

“I apologize for worrying you, but there’s nothing to worry about, it’ll happen when the time is right. As for the vacationing I cant afford to leave just yet, we have a few books coming out next month and the work is satisfying yet time-consuming”

“Well, promise me you’ll take a vacation when you’re done?”

“I promise mama, and I’m coming over for dinner tonight, save me a place?”

“Always honey, I love you”

“I love you too, Bye mama”

He ended the call along with his coffee and took a shower, turning on the music on his way. Kip Moore’s Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck blared through the speakers across his apartment, the perks of working so hard it paid off.

He got dressed and left a note to the housekeeper that he wasn’t going to be needing dinner tonight on his way out.

***

Jade rushed into work at the Bookstore-slash-coffee-shop she worked at for three days a week, she felt the edge of the darkness closing in on her but when she took a lungful of the smell of fresh bagels and cinnamon tea it retreated, waiting in the corners for her to let her guard down.

Structure. The foundation of her new life, she needed it to survive the daily battle of doubt and insecurity that threatened to swallow her whole. It wasn’t enough that she was physically far from her past, she woke up in a cold sweat with nightmares that were the before part of her life, the pain was still there so was the fear that it all will catch up with her and drag her back into the abyss.

She put her things in the locker and checked herself in the mirror, dabbed lipgloss on her lips and flipped her long ponytail over her shoulder. Satisfied, she opened the store up and smiled to the elderly couple who entered like clockwork every morning.

“Hello Mr. And Mrs. Diamond, how are you this fine morning?”

“Wonderful Jade, you look lovely dear” Mrs. Diamond smiled warmly and Jade felt calm settle over her.

“Thank you, we have a lovely selection of croissants this morning and Jeremiah made blackberry and lemon marmalade to go with them. Would you like some?”

“Oh, yes that sound divine” Mr. Diamond replied as he helped his wife of 45 years into her seat “And some Chamomile tea dear”

“Right away sir”

She placed the order with Jeremiah who was placing the fluffy soft pastries on the counter to take care of the customers and moved to the book side of the store, turned on the computer and checked her email, She loved her job, it was exactly what she needed every day. Peace, pastries and Books.

She had a few inquiries about her new jewelry line but not the email she was anticipating. Jade was a jewelry maker, and every year the Jewels & Art community hosted and exclusive fair. She was fortunate to be one of the newcomers last year at the fair and was able to feature a few pieces. This year when she handed in her application and samples she was hoping to get an exclusive invitation which would mean her own booth and a bigger sale. She dreamed of owning her own boutique someday, until then she sold online and through referrals, this fair was going to be her big break, becoming known in the jewelry world and leaving her mark. They were scheduled to send her a reply this week she already started on the collection with the “Build it and they will come” mind-frame.

****

The door tinged as someone entered the shop, Jade looked up into the deepest blue eyes and something tingled inside her. She had to take a breath before speaking.

“Good morning” He beat her to it

“Good morning, how may I help you?”

“I’d like a cream cheese everything bagel and cinnamon tea please” James was a regular, but the woman behind the counter was new.

“Would you like it Toasted?”Jade inquired as she sliced the bagel in half

“Sure, Where’s Jeremiah?” he asked looking around

“He’s taking the bookstore shift today, he makes the best pastries, including this one”

“Yes, I have breakfast here almost everyday, You must be new, I’m James” he gave her his best smile and she felt its intensity all the way into her bones.

“I’m Jade, delighted to meet you, I’m usually at the bookstore side, Jeremiah will take over the business after his parents so he’s familiarizing himself with all its aspects” she studied him under her lashes as she wrapped his bagel, he was tall, much taller than her average 5’4’’ and had the body of an athlete, lean and sturdy. His shirt was soft and stretched across broad shoulders. Jeans that encased strong long legs. She looked up as she handed him his order, his hands brushed hers and she felt the oddest tingle and noticed how his face was one to be painted and hung in a gallery. All strong angles and high cheekbones, dark eyebrows and even darker eyelashes framing beautiful eyes that she could drown in, inky heavy black hair all mussed up as if begging to be run through with her fingertips fell over the side of his forehead and made her think of starry warm nights and whispered nothings.

“It’s very nice to meet you too Jade, She brought her attention back to the task at hand and smoothly said: “that’ll be 5 dollars and 45 cents” as if she wasn’t cataloguing his face like an idiot

“Here’s six-fifty, keep the change”
“Thank you, have a wonderful day”
“You’re welcome, you too” James said hello to Jeremiah on his way out.

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I Believe

I Believe…

She took the last drag of smoke the cigarette could give before dying out then flicked the stub onto the cold concrete pavement under her feet and crushed the final memory of what was her release onto the sidewalk, adding yet another ugly mark to the imperfect work of underpaid workers. She wasn’t noticeable; a random street-person wouldn’t give her a second thought. Yet she managed to make a lasting impression on those she contacted; it was her eyes, the intensity in her gray-blue green eyes burned with fire she knew she possessed.  Her ability to blend into the background stemmed from the power of standing out. Crossing the street she headed to the comic book shop. She used their mailing address from her summer job days, and never thought to change it. Upon entering she was greeted with the smell of comics, the sweet blend of ink and paper. Glossy editions of this era and worn out special ones from the early days of the industry were displayed making her itch to buy them all.

“Morning Luther” she greeted the heavily eye-lined guy behind the cashier

“Hey Jade! Good morning to you too” he gave her his brightest smile.

It still managed to fascinate her how Luther never grew old. She was equally fascinated that when she applied for the summer job he gave it to her no questions asked. All the other places gave her a look that said: “You’re kidding right?! Why would we hire you? “

Despite being immortal Luther gave her the push she needed to grow up. Being a girl in today’s world meant either being a dependent or an independent you could never be in the middle unless you fought tooth and nail for it. Plus, it was hard to shake off the years of “You can’t do it” drilled into her head.

By giving her a job at his store and introducing her to the world of comics; Jade learned the most important thing she never knew before: Expression through art.

At home expression was through raised voices and physical violence.

Feelings were trampled on and belittled, you were told what to feel, never given the chance to know your own mind.

As if every day were the continuation of a war that started years ago waged over a couple of dirty dishes and a messy bed.

Conversations never start at a regular tone unless in sarcasm, they start at level six and grow with bitterness and anger until it no longer is a conversation; it becomes this psychotic blend of violence that had no reason to appear.

The people in her life were separated into two categories: the ones who accept her and the ones who scarred her.

The problem lies in that the abusers are none other than her family and the accepters are the people she chose for herself.

This is not a pity story. It’s a life story of a lady who found her voice.

****

James couldn’t get the song out of his head as he arrived to work that morning. It was on replay

Now I’m knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowin’ wind thru my hair
Only worry in the world
is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise, there’s a fire in the sky
never been so happy
never felt so high
and I think I might’ve found me my own kind of paradise

He knew that he had reached the point in his life where he could take off and go to an exotic place and relax knowing he had no more worries. But he wouldn’t allow himself that luxury. He felt the responsibility of his success more than anyone, he knew what it felt like to be bone-deep cold and starving, the cruelty of the world hadn’t spared him anything. But it made him better knowing that nothing comes cheap and to get to the top you had to forget yourself and your needs.

Being the eldest of nine brothers and sisters wasn’t easy either. Being the one to protect them and their mother after their dad died of pneumonia when he was 35 wasn’t easy either.

So at the age of 15 he learned to appreciate the good he had. A loving family who were the strongest people he knew.

The burden of being responsible became a part of him, like one of his limbs; permanent. While kids his age went out, partied and reveled in their youth; James went to night school and then to college at the age of 17. His mind absorbed every bit of information it came upon, made connections and formed possibilities and ideas that woke him up in the dead of night so he would write them down then fall asleep again just to wake up a little bit later with another.

He took part-time jobs with his brother Oscar to help their mother take care of them. He would often work as an editor for his future college professors who would give him their papers and manuscripts. Or work at the library, digitalizing decades of old records and manuscripts. But it wasn’t enough to keep a house warm and ten bellies far away from hunger.

Books fascinated him. From encyclopedias to fiction he enjoyed them all. He was never without one. Once his mother joked that she’d have to find him a girl who loved books more than he did or he’d never give her a second glance.

The time he missed out on dating was more than made up for when he was in college, since God graced him with charm and looks, girls were always hanging on his every word and asking him for help with their studies, he enjoyed the attention but never let it distract him from his goals.

His mother, Evelyn, worked as a nurse and started taking extra shifts when his dad died, which was difficult since she gave birth to his baby sister Violet three months after he passed away.

Luckily her boss was sympathetic and allowed her to enroll Violet, along with Oliver and Noah into the nursery he owned three for the price of one in exchange for extra clinic hours. His mother was efficient and indispensable to the work force and proved worthy of her boss’s confidence in her.

By the time James turned 25 he had built a successful publishing house that published upcoming authors who turned out to be best-sellers, he had the gift of finding great writers who inspired. His mother became the chief nursing officer after getting her graduate degree with a scholarship funded by the hospital. His brother Oscar created a record label that specialized in finding unique voices that moved something within those who heard them. But that didn’t slow down or stop the family of sheer determination from making their mark in the world. They saved every penny the earned and put it in trusts for the younger siblings, built foundations that aimed to teach skills to the less fortunate, people who were just like them that needed the push to realize their inherent potential, and invested the rest by buying land that had promise. They lived modestly, never ostentatious. The only sign of wealth they showed was the worry lines that faded from their faces and the happiness the radiated to those around them. That and the property tax forms they filled, paid and sent for each piece of land they bought every 1st of January.

Now here he was, founder and owner of one of the biggest most successful publishing houses in the world. But that didn’t ease the restlessness in his soul.

A New Beginning

My love for words and how they flow, captured my senses with the first book my mother read to me and the lullabies she sang as I drifted off to the magical world of my dreams. I found myself between the shelves of bookstores and libraries and in the poems written by the greatest and the the obscure. Writing saved me, it was the constant in my life. It soothed my hurts and bandaged my wounds. It was my solace. I have kept this part of myself in the safety of my heart for so long that it wants to spread its wings and fly. I do not know the outcome and fear the unknown, but for the sake of growing and becoming a stronger person I shall set it free.

Lately I’ve been itching to write, no longer about myself but creating wonder so moving you could taste the sensations and emotions going through the lines. until these are no longer words you see but pieces of the puzzle that is the story .

I’ll be posting 3-4 pages every week, Monday at 10 pm.

I hope this journey takes us to a world where dreams come true and happy endings are real.

Best Regards,

L. A.