StatCtr

PELLA SERIES - Chapter I - The Awakening


“To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep—
To sleep—perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.”


Shakespeare



CHAPTER I

AWAKENING

Elissa Cassandra Duncan

A gust of wind rushes the damp cold air into my bedroom through the open window causing me to shiver under my blanket. I crack my eyes open just slightly trying to orient myself. My hand automatically goes to the pillow next to me.  Empty.  Where is Alexander?  I must have fallen asleep and he must have carried me to our bed.  The air is damp and chilly which brings me back to my senses; I sit up straight immediately and glance around franticly.  I notice an alarm clock atop a side table which displays 3:14 a.m. in dim green color.  An alarm clock?  Damp and cold air?  My eyes look for the ornately carved walnut Swiss wall clock hanging over the wood paneling. I strain to hear its comforting, repetitive tick tock. No sound, except a distant whooshing. Why am I not feeling the warm, dry licks of the desert air?  I scramble out of the bed in the dark as panic courses through me. Where the hell am I? What place is this?  


“Alexander?” I whispered softly at first.  Outside of my own harsh breathing, there’s no answer.  No sound except the soft noise of the billowing sheer curtain’s whisper in the wind.  My eyes dart back and forth trying to find my bearing in this foreign place.    

“Baby, are you back yet?  Alexander?” I whispered into the dark in a fervent tone, my panic’s growing. Realization dawns on me: Alexander might be at home, but it is I who isn’t there.  Tears start streaming on their own volition as fear has risen in me.  I clench my teeth as if that would help, but of course it doesn’t. Something is very wrong.  Strength drains out of my body as if an unseen force just sucked an essential part out of me, leaving me a limp shell.  I collapse onto the floor.  I try to stand up, feeling my way around.  Dim moonlight seeps its way through the open balcony door and I crawl towards it automatically gasping for breath, trying to get a feeling of where I am.  I can see the soft distant haze of the dawn in the eastern sky.  I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand, and rub them with my wrists as if to dig them out of their sockets to see a different reality, but the effort is completely wasted, because I’m still here.  

The silhouettes outside look different, foreign.  Trees are tall and lanky, and hilly landscape is a strange contrast to the large expanse of open fields I was expecting to see.  My breathing increases, my heart beats like the jungle drum rapidly, my hands shaky, I hold onto the stone railing on the balcony and look westward hoping to see the Roman stone road winding down to the stables and the cowboy house, the Casa, but all I can see is the faint glimmer of a large body of water.  My heart sinks. It’s the ocean...  I gasp a lungful of air shakily, buckling on my knees once again.  I’m filled with utter despair.  It had only been a dream.  Alexander was just a dream.  How can that be?  I held him, I kissed him; I could describe every curve of his smile, every strand of his hair. When I close my eyes, I can still feel his caresses, touch, kiss, and that unwavering gaze that looks at me, through me, penetrating, desirous, and lascivious.  The way his voice rise in a husky tone when we’re alone, making my entire body stand to attention, curling my toes with desire for him. I would know that voice anywhere, wouldn’t I?  How could love be a dream?  My knees buckle under me, and I roll into infant position on the floor, hugging my knees up to my chest, sobbing.   

When my tears run out, I feel completely spent and empty.  I stumble my way into the bathroom, and glance at myself in the mirror.  I look pathetic; red swollen eyes, my nose running, color flushed all over my face, my hair disheveled, and tops of my boobs showing over my tank top doubled as my pajama top. I run the water as cold as possible in the sink and wash my hands with soap, apply the suds all over my face, and scrub hard as if to scrub the dream out of my head.  I fill my palms with cold water and splash my face with it over and over again. I smooth my hair back. When I look into the mirror again, I’m half decent.  I have to get out of the house.  I have to shake the feeling of being a stranger in my own life while my dreams are becoming my reality, trying to take over my existence. I have to reaffirm my life here and now, and can’t let my dreams overtake me like this. Surfing for a while will clear my head and give me a chance to gather my wits. Or perhaps running would do... Yes, I think I’ll go for a run, and watch the sunrise over the spewing arch.  

It is still too early and the air is chilly, but I need to get out and shake this feeling of uneasiness.  I open the double doors of my balcony as well as the adjacent windows as wide as possible.  The balcony and the windows overlook the ocean, allowing the briny, humid, and cold Pacific air to rush in.  I turn my stare into the twilight of the eastern sky.  The sun would be rising soon which would mark the end of my dream of Alexander, and the beginning of a different existence.   

I’m Ellie during the hours I’m awake, a brand new college graduate.  But in the last two weeks, my sleep’s been carrying me somewhere else to a different time.  Ordinary dreams have been evading me as if I’m now remembering memories of a time when I was someone else. Oh crap! What if I’m going crazy?

“Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” I admonish myself pacing my room, taking deep breaths. I stop in my tracks... These dreams started again two weeks ago after three years of...nothing! I thought I was rid of them. Why now? For the last two weeks I’ve been dreaming about a man I’ve never met in my life. Last night’s dream was by far the most intense, so palpable, felt so real, I’m still shaking with its intensity and it is scaring the hell out of me. What a way to start my twenty-first birthday!   

My subconscious shakes her head with pity – ‘poor sap is pining after someone who only exists when she goes to sleep,’ she says tutting. I shut her up. Alexander! That name stirs passion and yearnings in the depths of my soul. Dreams about a man I’ve never met with unbelievable blue eyes, so deep, one look at them could get you lost in the depths of his soul, shoulder length dark wavy blonde hair, half curved smile, lean, and always in well-worn riding boots. My heart pains as if someone took an irreplaceable piece of me and left me empty.   

Tears stung behind my eyes, and I refused to let them out again. This is ridiculous! I’m not going to cry for someone my mind created. But then, two nights ago... The dream felt so real, so scary, and left me so horribly empty. My subconscious butts in again saying ‘keep thinking about it and your ass will be dragged back to the shrink!’   



I check the clock on my night stand. It is finally 5:28 a.m.  I change into my running shorts, put on my jogging bra, and top it with one of my well-worn white cotton t-shirt with the cutoff collar; the one Sarah hated because she said that ‘it positively diminishes our social standing!’ not because of the collar I ripped off but because it was not purchased at Neiman Marcus. I put my running shoes on, tie them up, and do a few stretches. I then pull my hair into a pony tail and tuck my iPod into the right side of my jogging bra, and my smart phone accompanies my left boob. Stella, the only real mother figure I have in life, the nanny who raised me since infancy indelicately calls my iPod the “boob Pod” after she observed me a few times shoving the iPod into my bra. The memory makes me smile.   

I come down running to the foyer where I meet Andrew, my uncle’s butler who had just retrieved the morning paper. “Good morning Miss Ellie,” he says, bowing his head slightly. “Will you be joining your uncle for the breakfast this morning?”   

“Yes, I’ll be back in an hour Andrew,” I say as I run out.   

I place my dark sunglasses even though the sun isn’t up yet. I fix my ponytail catching a glimpse of my reflection on the glass and wrought iron entry door, give my ponytail a tug and pace myself towards the steps that lead down to the beach for my morning run. Running is extremely therapeutic. I solve most of my problems while running, riding or surfing. It is strange that my mind likes to multi task, and it functions best when I’m doing more than one thing.   

I love the sunrises, it renews me inside; aids me to start fresh. I run down the whitened steps made of driftwood planks counting one hundred and seventeen of them. The tide is low; perfect day to run to the spewing arch. When I reach the bottom of the steps I remember to turn my boob Pod on, and shuffle it to my favorite song, and put it on repeat turning the volume up. Keeping my pace steady, I start listening to the Kings of Leon singing Closer”. Somehow this song speaks to the depths of my soul. I’ve listened to it many times, but the moment the crimson lights of the sunrise reach over the mountains painting away the darkness, an image of Alexander coming behind me and kissing my neck calling me “angel,” invades my mind.  



When the Kings of Leon start singing, Do you think of me? Where am I now? Baby where do I sleep? Feel so good but I’m old, 2000 years of chasing’s taking its toll, I feel the wind knocked out of me. My eyes darken, I try to catch my breath in short gasps, my body heats up clenching my groin, and the realization of Alexander’s non-existence leaves me with an empty feeling and weakened knees. To steady myself, I lean down trying to catch my breath, my hands clasping my legs right above my knees. I can’t let my dreams cross into the daylight hours. I hear someone’s steady footsteps running and sidling up next to me.   

 (Closer - by Kings of Leon)

“Already exhausted?” asks a husky male voice in a sophisticated tone tinged with a slight accent I can’t place.  He’s not Californian.

I find myself staring at a pair of Ecco running shoes which my friend Melie described as, “The price tag will induce motion sickness and severe wallet cramping in runners! My eyes slowly rise over the well-defined, Roman-God statue like calves. His well-toned legs are barely concealed under his running shorts which hang low on his hips in such a way to showcase his flawless hips and waist. I think Rose and Melie would just drool over his loins of Apollo, not that I’m not myself at the moment. His biceps and forearms are sporting thick veins, and for some reason I imagine him as a sword wielding warrior of the past, and shake my head to clear my thoughts. When my gaze reaches his face, it’s shadowed as a silhouette against the orange canvas of the dawn painted in the eastern sky. But I can distinguish the waves of his short dark hair. That husky voice uttering just two words, calls to me like a litany. Even if I had single digit IQ, I could easily tell that this man is sex on legs.  

My brain and mouth lose connection for two whole minutes and I blatantly stare at the specimen of a man before me unable to take my gaze away, or blink for that matter. I swallow and finally a few of my synapses fire helping me to be coherent enough to string a few words together.  


 “Uhm, no,” I manage to say finally, clearing my throat. I try to collect my wits without feeling lost, “I was just stretching.”   

“Oh,” he replies simply looking at me with a serious face. I can finally see the contours of it clearly, and I think he is trying to look nonchalant. His voice has something deeper, as if he is yearning for something, with recognition, like he knows me.   

“Do you mind if I run with you?” he asks and the voice has a caressing effect on me; making me immediately think that this man can do things to a woman with his voice others can’t manage to do with their hands! My mouth is slightly open and I am having trouble getting words out of it. He looks at me expectantly with the intensity of his penetrating gaze, looking through me, assessing.

Oh shit! He’ll think I’m mentally retarded, or maybe that’s the initial reaction he gets from every woman which I assume it gets progressively worse, just like I’m behaving right now. His presence is immensely captivating. Even though his gaze is hidden behind his dark sun-glasses, I feel its burning ferocity, permeating through my skin, heating me up, and giving me shivers all at the same time. This man could make love with one look, or two words and make a woman come, buckling her at the knees without even touching her.   



I dip my hand into my sports bra in a bid to turn the volume down of my boob Pod as his eyes follow my fingers, and he gives me a suppressed, crooked smile that calls to something deeper in my groin, “my iPod,” I mutter quickly.


“I see...” he murmurs, absently caressing his lower lip with his index finger, drawing my attention to his mouth. “That explains why you couldn’t hear me,” he says excusing my dumbstruck behavior.

“Yeah, well...” I reply, with another less than intelligent response. “I’m sorry... I, uhm, I like to do my morning runs alone,” I say finally stringing a half coherent sentence while dismissing him. If I remain here, I’ll end up making an even bigger ass of myself in front of this seductively attractive man.      


“I’m Alex,” he says in an enticingly assertive tone as if he didn’t hear me just dismiss him, extending his hand to me expectantly. His proximity is putting all my senses into overdrive; his tall, lean, angular, fluently muscular stature, and short, dark, wavy hair encasing his well-chiseled face spectacularly. And those eyes hidden behind a manly pair of expensive jogging glasses still manage to pierce through me with a scorching force.  Everything he has on, although delightfully few are screaming with class, and expensive taste--unlike my collar ripped white t-shirt purchased from the $5 or Less store by the pier in downtown Santa Barbara. Sarah, my contrived mother would approve his expensive taste, I think grudgingly. I notice that his t-shirt is off his back and conveniently tucked behind his shorts, underlining and emphasizing his well-worked out abs covered with sheen of sweat. I feel the heat rising in me despite the cool ocean breeze. I try to hide my blush to no avail. The slight quiver of his lips gives his amusement away making me pout.  But, my years of engrained manners take over.


“Ellie,” I murmur as I reach out to take his proffered hand. The second the tips of his fingers touch mine, I feel a fiery spark and a jolt that courses from him into me, making my throat dry. I feel as if I dipped my hand into hot burning coals wrist deep, and find myself gasping for air, and immediately and forcefully pull my hand back from him. If he didn’t reach out to catch my forearms lightning fast with both his hands immediately, I would have been knocked on my ass into the sand, but instead I’m now flush with his body so close not even air would pass through between us. I feel his breath hitch, and then he inhales deep, shaky breath as if to absorb my scent. I think he just whispered my full name, “Elissa Cassandra!” with a yearning sadness in his voice. Or am I just imagining things?  

I try to pull away unsteadily, bewildered, clutching the collar of my cut-out t-shirt tightly above my chest, as if he shocked me with a thousand Volts of electricity. Shaking and confused, “Excuse me?” I stutter, still unable and unwilling to move away from his proximity. He acts as if I didn’t treat him like the bubonic plague.  Then his hands slowly move up on my shoulders, holding me back to keep me on my feet steady.

“Ellie, are you alright?” he asks in a concerned yet husky voice. No, I’m not! Why am I behaving this way before this gorgeous man? I try to collect myself, and briefly close my eyes to escape the captivity of his gaze behind his glasses. Even then I feel the pull, the magnetism he has on me. ‘Steady! You act like you’ve never seen a man before!’ my subconscious chides me.

“No...I mean, yes, I’m alright. But, before that... Did you... did you say something?” I say blinking several times. Oh God! He’s going to think I’m crazy! Hell, sometimes my subconscious thinks I’m crazy!


“Oh, that...Ellie,” he says in that cultured tone, “is it, short for something?” he asks smiling but his tone is unmistakably commanding. He looks at me cocking his head to one side, bending his knees lowering himself to my five feet seven inches height and trying to capture my gaze with those penetrating eyes hidden behind his sunglasses.   

           “Short for Ellie,” I reply brusquely. What is it about him that makes me react this way? My body responds to him in such a way that as if I’m not the one in control of it. I think my IQ dropped by fifty points since I laid eyes on his face less than twenty minutes ago! I finally manage to return his smile, trying to be casual. “Guess, I’ll see you around, Alex?” I say in an unintended tone of question, he nods, expectant.   
  
“I have to finish my run” I add quickly, and his hands slowly and reluctantly retract from my shoulders and strangely, the absence of our connection makes me feel bereft. Just as I finish my words, my smart phone vibrates inside my bra, chiming “Droid!” Could I make even a bigger ass of myself before this god of a man? I feel mortified, turning redder than the communist manifesto! He smiles fully this time showing perfectly straight dazzling white teeth emphasizing his kissable lips and says “your chest is talking,” pointing towards my bra.   
  
My hands automatically go up to my face, covering my eyes in humiliation.  

“Text message,” I murmur barely audible and am ready to give what for to whoever sent me the message. Of course I am not going to dip my hand into my jogging bra again and get the smart phone out in the presence of the most handsome guy outside of my dreams I have ever laid my eyes on.   

“Ciao...” I find myself saying without raising my eyes to look up at him wishing the ground would swallow me up and make me disappear as I pick my pace up to run my regular course.  

“Ellie!” he calls me in a contrite voice jogging after me easily catching up. “Forgive me. I really didn’t mean to embarrass you,” he says in an apologetic tone.  I slow my pace down.

“Apology accepted,” I say looking ahead, continuing to run, and he easily keeps up with me. In fact I think he can outrun me several times over.

“In that case, may I continue to run with you as a proof of your acceptance of my apology?” he asks in the sweetest, most cultured intonation, yet in such a way that I couldn’t mistake the hidden demand in it, neither could I deny the request. How can anyone pack so much passion, so much sophistication, and so much controlled demand in one single sentence?

“Sure...” I reply barely audible.  Even though my gaze is fixed on my destination, the spewing arch, I can feel his smile.

 "Are you Italian?" he asks, puzzling me. 

               "No, I'm Californian. What made you think that?"

               "The way you said 'ciao'. It sounded completely natural..." he responds contemplating.

               "I don't know why I said that. It felt like the right thing to say," I reply, and feel his scorching gaze on my profile.
"Do you jog here every morning?” he asks, possibly as a conversation starter.


“I don’t get a chance to jog every day, but sometimes I come here to surf, depending on the waves, of course,” I add with a smile, still looking ahead.

“Are you a student?” he asks.

“I’m happy to say that I’m no longer a student. I just graduated from UCSB with my Masters. But, enough about me. I’ve never seen you at this beach before. Did you just move into the neighborhood? Are you a student?” I ask probing.

“Why? Do only certain people utilize this beach?” he asks teasing.

“At this hour, yes. Only certain people come very early, and if you were to come here regularly, you would know that. Only those who love the quiet, running and the bewitching hour of the sunrise come this early. You get to recognize the faces. Just one other guy who runs as early as I do,” I say finally turning my face looking up at him as I continue to run. He says nothing, looking ahead, and it looks like his jaw is clenched. Why? Did I say something to offend him?

“But, you still didn’t answer my questions,” I state to change the topic.

“No, I didn’t,” he responds politely, but flatly.

“No, you didn’t answer, or, no, you didn’t move into the neighborhood, no, you’re not a student?” I probe further.

He finally gives a pleasant boyish laugher. “Actually, all of the above. No, I didn’t answer your question, no, I didn’t move into the neighborhood, and no, I am not a student. I’m in town on business,” he replies and I feel a pang of sadness inside me. That means I won’t get to see him again. Why would I feel sad about not seeing a stranger?


“Business, huh?” I ask.

“Yes, business,” he replies with a smile like he’s privy to an inside joke, without giving anything away. “Where are we running to?” he asks curiously.

“To the spewing arch... It’s the best place to see the sunrise,” I reply.

I make haste and run out of the sand. I follow a pathway up on to the hill and find the way that winds to climb up to the arch.

“Do you have to climb?” he asks puzzled.

“A bit,” I reply smiling.

“Don’t you think it’s dangerous?” he asks his face taking a serious expression.

“You don’t have to climb if you find it dangerous,” I reply shrugging.

“Not for me...” he says chiding, “It may be dangerous for you. It’s a big drop from the arch, not to mention the nearly hundred feet of sixty or even seventy-five degrees of angle at some places you have to climb through.” Rubbing his hand on the surface of the rock he adds with wide eyes, “This is sandstone, it’s quite soft, and your foothold can easily crumble under your feet.  And the tide is rising,” he explains concerned.

“I know, but I’ve done this three times before. It doesn’t happen often which is why I find it thrilling, sitting atop the arch as the sun and the water rise. It’s magical!” I whisper fervently. I’m letting him in on one of my secrets. Why is he getting so uptight?  He narrows his eyes, and looks at me without saying a word, studying me.

“Suit yourself, then,” I say shrugging, and start climbing. I reach out and grab an outcrop on the sandstone, grasping it tightly, and pull my weight up, putting my right foot in one of the cracks I locate.  I locate another foothold and place my left foot firmly onto it, and then I reach with my right hand to another handhold. I manage to move about forty-five feet climbing steadily on the rock when I get to a point where I can’t locate another close foothold for my right foot and I place my foot on the surface of the flat rock hoping to use the forty-five degree angle which is relatively flatter than other surfaces on the rock. Just as I lift my left foot off its foothold, I mistakenly let go of my left hand as well and my weight pulls me down, making me slide on the rock for about ten feet before I can catch a handhold.

“Agh!” I stifle a scream.  

“Fuck!” Alex mutters his epitaph at the bottom of the rock and I hear him scrambling to climb rapidly to reach up to me. His invective surprises me more so than almost falling off the rock.

“Hang on!” he orders.

“I’m alright! Just scraped my leg a little,” I assure him.

He’s by my feet in less than two minutes, placing both of them into sturdy footholds and guiding me from below helping me to get to the arch. Shaken but safe, I manage to climb up on the sandstone and finally reaching the crescent shaped arch carved by the Pacific Ocean’s relentless beating of the rock.

“It’s your lucky day,” I say smiling at him when he finally seats himself before me mirroring my position like riding on a saddle atop the arch. That way I can see the sunrise in the east over the Santa Ynez Mountains, and watch the rising tide on the west.

“Normally, it’s impossible to watch the sunrise sitting on the arch because either the tide is high, or the weather isn’t accommodating. But the tide isn’t that high right now, and the weather, well, you can see,” I say opening my arms. “It’s a day stolen from heaven! Aside from the scratch on my leg, this sunrise is as good as it gets,” I say. I feel his steady gaze on me, without saying anything. Is he mad at me? “And I’m sorry...” I mutter blushing, looking away.

“What are you apologizing for, Ellie?” he asks in a low voice.

“For scaring you when I slid off a little,” I say chagrined.

“I don’t scare easily,” he says as a matter of factly, “and I’m all for taking chances, but if you’re not prepared, you shouldn’t be rock climbing.”

“Oh, but this is basically bouldering! Not rock climbing.” I protest.

“Bouldering is if the boulder,” he says emphasizing the word, “is done on rocks that are less than fifteen feet high! This is about forty maybe forty-five feet high. And you had no gear. Granted that the climb is on a steady angle, it is still dangerous without the right gear. Don’t you care for your own safety?” he asks pointedly. 

“I do...” I say gazing ahead at the rising sun in a low voice.

“Why did you do it then?” he asks in an emphatic whisper, his fiery gaze behind his sunglasses steadily on my profile making me flush, and heating me up and searing me inside.

“Because, I needed it!” I say curtly.

“Need? Need to fall off a giant rock?”

I turn my face to him, and lift my sunglasses off and look at him, angrily.  “No. You wouldn’t understand it,” I say then turning my head back to the rising sun over the mountains and listening to the steady, constant, comforting waves of the Pacific is behind me. His gaze remains on me, but he says nothing. I sigh.

                “It gives me a euphoric awakening. Keeps me here and now... The experience... It separates the day from the night for me...” I say, and he looks puzzled. I give a small smile, but my eyes remain sad.

                “It’s more emotional, and spiritual than just physical, although it’s a part of it. It lets me focus. Helps me to close off everything outside,” I say, and the sun finally fully peaks its head over the mountains.

                “But, you didn’t seem focused. You were distracted,” he observes. I shrug without an answer.

                I turn the other side, and watch the rising tide. “We better keep moving. The tide will get higher pretty soon,” I say rising to my feet unsteadily. He quickly rises on his feet to steady me.

                “I’ll help you down,” he says. And it’s not a request.


                Once we are down on the flat ground, I turn around, “thank you, for saving the day,” I smile.

                “You’re leaving?”

                “Of course, I have to drive to LA today for a job interview. I need to get ready.”

                “Can I walk you back?” he asks, and when he sees my puzzled expression, he adds, “just to make sure you make home safely,” he adds with a small curl of his lips.

                “That’s very kind of you, but, I’ve walked this road on my own daily for years. I’m sure I can find my way safely,” I reply dryly.

                He extends his hand again, and when I take his extended hand, I feel the same jolt of electricity coursing through me. I quickly pull my hand back and hold it in my other palm.

                “It really was a spectacular sunrise,” he says as if his has another meaning. “Beautiful company, exquisite scenery,” he says softly.

                “Thank you. I...uhm, better get going. Nice to meet you, Alex,” I say not knowing what else to say.

“It was my pleasure, Ellie,” he says in a husky tone, his voice caressing my name. I turn without looking back and start jogging towards home. I can feel his penetrating gaze behind me, looking at my back forlorn, despaired, and as if I left him bereft of something he starved for. Who is he? I yearn to know.   

I plug my ear buds again, and turn my boob Pod on. Kings of Leon is singing Closer on repeat:

Stranded in this spooky town,

Stoplights are swaying and the phone lines are down,

This floor is crackling cold,

She took my heart, I think she took my soul,

With the moon I run,

Far from the carnage of the fiery sun....”


The sunrise on the arch coupled with a fiery song awaken something in me I can’t name, something that calls deeper in my soul, farther than anyone had ever reached. That feeling deepens the pain and emotional aches rippling from the depths of my being I didn’t know existed. What the hell is wrong with me?   
  
“I am so frigging sick in the head! Maybe Sarah’s shrink is right,” I groan, and run faster. I make a wide loop around the beach inhaling the salty and briny air. I climb on the back of the hill at a jogging pace, and make my way home through the back road. I run into the house from the back entrance used for deliveries, and make my way up the stairs getting into my room trying not to run into anyone.   

I run into my bathroom turning the shower on. I take my boob Pod off and wrap the ear buds around it. I then take out my smart phone to check the message. It was Melie.   


*I’m in love! Call me a.s.a.p.!!!*  


ASAP my ass! She deserves a time-out for the untimely embarrassment for three hours at least. I know it wasn’t her fault, but still, even the unintentional embarrassment in front of a hot guy deserves a three hour time-out in my book. I take off my clothes and pull the scunci off my ponytail, turn the water as hot as I can tolerate to loosen my muscles. My shower is large with a seamless glass enclosure. I wet my hair and shampoo it. Smells of lilacs fills the shower. It is my favorite scent. I close my eyes, tilt my head back and let the water run the suds run out of my hair. I can feel the suds lazily making their way down on my back. After lathering the sponge with freesia body wash, I am ready to scrub my arms. I hold my right arm up to run the sponge and there I notice two fresh pinpricks under my arm only about an inch apart on my side at the base of my right breast. I look at it curiously. Those marks weren’t there yesterday. Insect bites maybe, but two of them at the same time? It’s quite strange that I didn’t feel any bite earlier.   

As if on cue, blood peaks out of both of the pinpricks, stays there within their tiny meniscus for a moment, and then lazily run down through my side on their own tracks. It’s mesmerizing. I touch the slowly oozing blood to see if it’s real. My fingers are smeared with crimson streaks of blood. It then starts trickling out of the pinpricks in a slow but steady pace for a minute. I put my fingers on the tiny holes. Surprisingly, I could feel the pulsing under my fingers. I press the holes a little harder. Shower water from my back dilutes the blood and run it down the drain turning the water pink. When I move my fingers away from the pinpricks, the blood starts trickling steadily again. Out of morbid curiosity, I hold my left hand underneath the holes cupping to see if the blood is running steady enough to be pooled.   

Sticky and slippery dark crimson blood courses its way down, some of it making into my left palm, and some still manages to mix with the shower water and running down on my side. It finally coagulates and stops and I bring my palm containing the tiny puddle of blood up closer to my eyes. I dip my index and middle fingers of my right hand into the pooled blood. Bringing the now bloodied fingers up to my eyes to closely examine them. The blood courses slowly down towards my right palm as I hold my hand up. It courses purposefully in such a way down the pad of my palm heating up my skin as it courses its way down my right hand. It’s an odd tingling sensation which starts heating up when it reaches my wrist, and it marks around my slight birthmark, filling, painting and darkening it. When the birth mark heats up, it makes me feel as if I’m getting branded with a hot iron, burning, I automatically shake my hand and let the water wash out the blood immediately. I will examine the holes in the mirror when I get out.   

I scrub myself and get lost in my thoughts. I let the water run on my head, and then turn my back to let it run on my back tilting my head up slightly. That’s when I see the bloody handprints on the shower wall! Bloodied fist marks imprinted on the glass wall and the fresh blood is trickling down to the shower floor. As my eyes get wider, I see a fist landing on my shower wall with such a force, it appears to have left another bloody fist print, then another, then another then another. “No! Alexander! No, please! I whisper automatically, my hands covering my mouth to mask my horror. But the fist marks appear to be landing relentlessly over and over and over again. No sound. Just the impact... Blood trickles down mixing with the shower water. I bite into my hand trying to smother a scream which comes out anyway. Two people run into my bathroom simultaneous, but upon finding me still in the shower, they turn their backs in embarrassment, and just don’t pass beyond the bathroom door. I continue to scream, but for a different reason now since I am mortified with the unexpected company in the bathroom.

Sarah, the woman I have a hard time calling ‘mom’, and Uncle Gabriel stand by the bathroom door awkwardly, their backs turned to me, and Uncle Gabriel shielding his eyes with both hands manages to mutter, “I’m terribly sorry. I thought something was wrong!”

A third and a much shorter person enters into the bathroom with her eye mask pushed over her head shoving the other two aside, muttering “nothing to see here,” and approach the shower grabbing the large bath towel holding it up for me.   

I turn the water off, still not able to take my eyes off the shower wall where the bloody fist prints first appeared, and now disappeared as if they have never been there at all. I’m still shaking, fearful that my dreams and my reality are overlapping. Stella wraps me up, handing me another towel for my hair.  

Sarah and Uncle Gabriel are still standing their backs turned to us by the bathroom door. “Coast is clear,” grumbles Stella.  

When I stop shaking, and wipe my eyes off with the back of my hands very unladylike, the steady stream of tears continues rolling down. But I still manage to notice that Stella is wearing two different color leg warmers, a pink one and a fuchsia under her cotton shorts, with an XL t-shirt that says “Born to be Wild”, and her silk pink eye masks with the embroidered words “Do Not Disturb” written which incidentally was the only thing pushing her curly graying blonde disheveled hair back which is hanging in two uneven pigtails. Her hands are wearing socks while here feet are bare.   

For a moment I forget what I had just experienced and ask her between sobs, “Stella, are you wearing socks on your hands?”   

“Yes!” she scolds me, “I didn’t get a chance to take ‘em off since I heard you scream bloody murder, and I fell off the bed. Just ran here! What did you expect me in, a ball gown?”   

But she still pulls me in a hug and tugs me out of the bathroom into my bedroom still pushing mom and Uncle Gabriel out of the way as if they were fixtures in her way.   

“But why?” I ask between my tears trying to distract myself.   

“Oh, every night I lather my hands with lotion, and put the socks on, and that keeps my skin smooth as a baby’s bottom. One of my beauty secrets,” she dazzles, “which reminds me, you didn’t shower in very hot water, did you? It’s bad for your skin, you know.”    

“Stella!” barks Uncle Gabriel exasperated.   

She turned around to him and says, “Well, it is bad for her skin. It loosens it. Just before you get out of the shower, turn the water to cold and let it run over your skin, ok? It completely tightens it. Two minutes tops. You’ll thank me when you’re older!”   

Sarah rubs her temples as if she is ready to explode with the biggest migraine headache she’s ever experienced. Uncle Gabriel clears his throat uncomfortable with the way the conversation going and gently asks, “Ellie, do you mind telling us what happened?”   

I’m not sure if I can share this with them. They’re definitely going to think crazy, hell, my own subconscious nod her head sadly, agreeing, but then Stella would never do that. Despite how small Stella is, she guides me on to my bed, seating me and hugs me protectively. I hold onto her, just completely spent.    

“I thought I saw blood on the shower wall,” I whisper.   

“Blood?” three of them ask at the same time.   

“Yes, like in my dream. Fist marks and blood.”   

Stella understands immediately, Sarah doesn’t and she finally says, “This is too much for me to handle. I am traumatized here! I think I will make an appointment with Dr. Newman.” She turns her back all flustered to leave to get to her room to arrange for that appointment. I sigh exasperated. I have to move out of this house, away from her, and soon. 

Stella shouts with authority: “You stop right there! Did you ask your daughter if that was ok before making an appointment with that creepy shrink? Ellie doesn’t like him!”   

“I’m her mother! I know what’s best! She needs help! I am traumatized with her...” she searches for a word that wouldn’t be as offensive and she finally settles on, “her condition!” accompanied by a face that looks martyred.   

“Miss Sarah…isn’t it convenient for you to declare yourself a victim in every situation? This one is actually not about you,” resonates Stella with a calm control I have not seen her in before. She then turns to my uncle. A silent conversation passes between the two. My uncle turns to my mom, escorting her out of my room. As soon as they were out of the earshot, Stella turns to me and asks,

“What clothes can I bring for you to wear today?” she asks, completely surprising me.   

“Oh, I can do that Stella, thank you!” I answer.   

“You know I like to spoil you s'il vous plait! But how about that? You get dressed, and come down to the kitchen to help me sort some green beans.”   

“Andrew doesn’t like us invading his kitchen,” I say trying to smile.   

“I’m sure our presence will be tolerable,” she says. “I’ll go change too. Meet me in the kitchen in 10 minutes.”  

“I don’t have a lot of time today Stella. I have a job interview in LA this afternoon. I have to get ready and drive.”

“Job interview?” she asks turning on her heels.

“Yes, you know I’ve graduated last week. I need a job.”

“You’ll have a trust fund when you turn 25!” she says.

“Which is four years away,” I say shrugging, “and frankly, I don’t want it. Sarah keeps bringing it up, that it’s her parents’ money. I don’t care for it. I think that’s why she keeps forcing me to go to her shrink. I don’t want to be certified crazy because she cares for the money more than she does for me. I need to make my own living. I need to move out of town, LA, New York, Paris, London... I don’t know. Just not here.”

“But, honey, it’s your birthday today!” she says.

“Perfect time to grow up!” I reply smiling.

“You really want to move away?”

“Not only I want to, but I need to move away Stella. I need to be away from Sarah, away from this house. I need the distance. I need to find myself,” I say and her gaze widens for a second, but she conceals it immediately.

“Well then baby girl,” she says smiling. “Let me be your nanny one last time. You pick your outfit, and let me see if you look sophisticated, mature, and intelligent as a prospective new employee!”

“Okay. Thank you Stella. You’re the mom I never had... You'll always have a special place in my heart. But, I need to find myself and soon. I want to move next week,” I confess leaving her gaping, I walk into my closet.

  

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh Emine,
I am hooked already. Love Alex Pella.
You are such a clever girl.
You should be writing for a living.
With Smiles
Kathyxx (Australia)

Backsassing said...

I am loving it so far.. I hate to even ask.. Oh forget it I will just wait.. Alex sounds freggin dreamy! I did a double take when I read the "sex on legs" line:)

Anonymous said...

TOTALY HOOKED!!!! how often do you plan to update this story?? I am loving these characters already!!! nice pics as well! the weekend is looking brighter already!
Thanks you sooo much Emine!!!!

Susan (baltimore MD)

Krystal Bailey said...

Oh! I love this story! Thumbs up for their first meeting. The more interaction with Alex the better. I cant wait for more!

Heather Reed said...

Saw this as I was reading Walk in the Clouds! Love it after one chapter! Hope you update often! Thanks for all you write!

Eminé Fougner @ Cowboyland said...

Thank you ladies. I may be able to post another chapter sometimes later in the next week. I think I'm coming down with a cold. I might be a bit slow this week.

Jenfer said...

Emine,

Take care of yourself!! We can wait!

The Pella Series is looking good! :))

Love & Laters!
Jennifer

mzthang said...

Emine,

You never disappoint! I love it..... the pic of Alex doing the pull ups on the bar had me imagining myself hanging on to him while he does them (of course i'll be naked while hanging on.lol)

Looking forward to the other chapters. I already see that I dont like Elie's birth mother. grr

hugs from
already hooked in the Caribbean

Katherine said...

I'm a faithful reader of A Walk in the Clouds and love your writing from CG's POV. I just noticed this posting and now I'm intrigued! Is this an original story or another book you are re-writing from a 2nd POV? Love your writing!

Eminé Fougner @ Cowboyland said...

Hi Katherine,

This is the first chapter of the book I'm writing (original) not a POV of another book.

I was intending to post another chapter this week, but Christmas activities are keeping me extremely busy. I'll post two more chapters in the upcoming weeks, and the rest will come out in the book itself next year.

Nikolina Bujdo said...

I love it!
You're an amazing writer! :D

Andrea McBride said...

Seriously just found this on your site! I love it so far and you def got me hooked !!! I love it !!!

Penny Brueggemann said...

I'm hooked. I love what you have done with Christian's point of view and stumbled upon this by accident. I love your work!

Evie Hammond said...

Grrr -- why do women always feel they have to be polite, make conversation, etc.? A stranger comes up behind you in a deserted place, smirks at everything, persists in following you even when you've declined his company, plies you with personal questions but evades when you ask even the simplest questions of him... Not a great way to make a first impression. Of course she was going to be rattled when trying to climb, when she has a slightly creepy-though-handsome stalker staring at her and expecting her to fail.

He certainly should be friends with Christian Grey -- he shares many of his traits. Drawing extensive, negative judgments on the basis of little observation, trying to Dom her into cooperation with his unspecified agenda, unnerving her deliberately and then making a negative judgment when she's rattled by his odd behavior.

The agenda seems to be to shake her up to the point that she's actually going to fail in the ways he's expecting her to. All he has to do is offer to punish her for this, and I'll know he's the twin of CG.

I'm intrigued by the mysterious circumstances -- I can see why she'd so desperately need some solitude, which of course she was denied. Hope she makes good her escape to somewhere else.

Eminé Fougner @ Cowboyland said...

Hi Evie!

I find myself looking forward to your comments. Alex is the original megalomaniac (he's after all based on Alexander the Great) but give the story a chance. A lot of twists and he actually has a reason to be the "stalker". He has to in this case. You'll see why later...

Allie B. said...

After reading all you have written on fifty, I finally decided to read Pella....especially after his cross over into Christian's world. I am excited to see where this goes.

apurvad said...

im loving it...when will u be updating i can see comments from 2012..but no new update

Joan Goldman said...

OK you have me hooked to this story as well.

Shawna Albers said...

Hi,
I actually am a late bloomer to the FSOG series and only read the books the first time this year and I was hooked and reread repeatedly which I tend to do with great books. I finally thought there might be some FF like there was with Twilight which I was of course late to also. But I loved the series and that became my first and pretty much only experience with FF. So anyway, over the last couple of weeks I read all of the CPOV books you wrote, at least I thru V and I hope I didn't miss anything and I am looking forward to continuing.
This is just exemplary, though. Original work and the prologue, well now I have to try to decide to research Fallen Angels first or finish this or research the site. Decisions, decisions.
Thank you for writing and good luck with everything. I look forward to continuing with this and any other you might have written.
Laters,
Shawna