Odds and Ends

When I get writer’s block, I use writing prompts to help me get out of the funk. These can come from almost any source, but the ones I use are sent out almost daily by Fictionista Workshop. These are the Daily Wit Fits, and they show up in my inbox like little gifts from heaven. You can sign up for them here: http://www.fictionistaworkshop.com/category/witfit/prompts/

I hope you enjoy my little jaunts into the world of fantasy.

Prompt: dominate

Scenario: You and a friend go out dancing at a new club. The bouncer invites you to follow him into the VIP section. It’s not what you expect..

What?” I screamed again, but Lisa couldn’t hear me either. The bass pumped through my chest with such force that I was sure my heart was skipping beats.

Lisa looked at me and began to mouth the sentence she’d tried for the last five minutes to tell me. Then she looked to heaven for help, grabbed my arm, and pulled me through the bouncing people and past the crowded tables to a small corner by the rest room.

“Can you believe we finally made it!” It was supposed to be a question, but she screamed it with too much force.

“I know! Six years of college was worth it!” I yelled back. It was. After working hard for six long years, having no social life at all for my early adult life, I was finally a lawyer. I was a junior associate, stuck in a basement cubby of a huge insurance agency, but it was enough. And this place was proof. I’d known Lisa since my sophomore year, and being at this club on a Friday night was worth it all for both of us.

We weren’t frumpy college students any more. We were two successful young women on our way up the corporate ladder. And we looked hot tonight!

Lisa gave me a little, excited hug before heading back into the ocean of bodies. We’d danced several times with others who’d come from work. This club was close to the downtown high rise, and most of the young, single people made there way here on a Friday night.  As the new ones, we were desirable commodities, and that felt wonderful.

By midnight, I was in a haze. The excitement still pulsed through me with each beat of music, but my exhausted brain was spinning from exertion and alcohol. That and legs and feet hurt from my two inch heals. I was ready to go.

Lisa found me and sunk down next to me, melting into the chair.

“I’m buzzed, Megan” she giggled.

“I’m beyond buzzed. You ready to go?”

She nodded and we wearily stood and made our way through the thick crowd to the door.

“Excuse me.” The deep, masculine voice cut through the techno pop noise and made us both jump.

“Sorry,” the huge man chuckled. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I work here, and I wanted to say thank you for coming. This is your first time right? I’d remember someone as pretty as you two.”

Maybe it was the drinks or the hour, or perhaps it was my young age and lack of experience, but nothing in his voice or comments made me hesitant. He was cute, and I was single, and that is all that mattered.

Lisa was even less inhibited. “Thanks,” she said with a slurred giggle. She shot him a dazzling smile.

“I know it’s late, or rather very early, but would you two be interested in seeing our VIP lounge? There are some people there who say they know you and would love for you to join them, even for a short while.”

I felt myself blush crimson. We were new to the company, and didn’t know anyone who could be considered a VIP.  Who had noticed us?

“I bet it’s that junior partner from upstairs,” Lisa whispered a little too loud. I had to admit; I’d thought the same thing. His bright blue eyes and dark hair had caught my eye from my very first day of work.

“I think we could handle that,” I said breathlessly to the man. He smiled and led us down a long hallway to a richly decorated room. We could see that people had been here recently, but the place was now deserted. The only things left were empty glasses and dirty plates.

“They are in the game room,” our tall escort assured us. He motioned to an elevator, and we went in without worry.

The elevator went down several floors. When the doors opened, it was as if we’d entered a whole new world. The walls here were paneled in a dark wood, and covered in every manner of ancient weapon and armor.  The metal glinted menacingly as we passed.

“This way,” he said soothingly, and we stumbled out behind him. Lisa gripped my arm and looked at me with pleading eyes as we walked down the hallway towards the only room on the floor.

“Enjoy yourselves, ladies,” said the huge man with a wicked smile.

We both paused, but he pushed us through the doors and into the bright room. We both jumped as the heavy doors clicked shut behind us.

“You came!”

Lisa shrieked and gripped me harder. We whirled towards the thin voice, and slammed back into the wood door when we saw what greeted us.

Around the room stood figures in heavy robes made of every kind of cloth and fur imaginable. The hoods were pulled low over their faces, so that only the lower portion was visible.

My heart thundered out its warning in my chest, but my legs were made of cold lead.  I was suddenly too heavy to even think of moving.

My eyes locked on the huge, marble table that dominated the center of the room. It had dark metal edges with large bolts connecting the metal band to the stone. Heavy chairs made of the same metal sat around the edge of the horrible room.

“You remember me, right?” asked the whiny voice.

My eyes shot to the dark shadow that should have been his face. With immense effort, I shook my head.

“We went to the same school and now work in the same building,” he said. He was excited. “I’ve been watching you since college, Megan. You and Lisa both.”

He pulled the hood back, and we both pressed further into the door.

“Bruce?” I gasped in recognition.

He grinned, looking at me like I was something about to be eaten.

“I’m really glad you’ve decided to join our little game tonight,” he said slowly, breathing far to heavily.

“G-g-game?” squeaked Lisa.

A shorter figure came forward. He took off his hood as well, and Lisa and I both gasped.

“Dave?” we both said.

“Bu-but you guys are math majors,” I said, trying to make sense of what I was seeing.

“Yeah,” Dave said. “Now we are actuaries. This is the actuary department. We party every Friday like this. We were hoping you would join us.”

My gut twisted and I nearly lost the mostly liquid contents of my stomach.

“No!” I whispered. “Please, no.”

All the cloaked figures removed their hoods, pulled their cloaks back and smiled at us. They were men and boys. All of them. They were every age and every shape, but they all had the same, pallid faces. They all had pocket protectors.

These were the math geeks.

“Dungeons and Dragons,” said David with a nod. He handed me a dark cloak that smelled of pizza and beer and a 30 sided die. “You can be the elf,” he said as he wiggled his eyebrows at us.

My own scream of terror was drowned by Lisa’s as we realized the hellish night of torture that was ahead of us.

Today’s promptsJuly 23, 2010

Word Prompt: Wharf

Plot Generator—Idea Completion: Use all three of these words in your story: peel, peal, pell

David Branson took another swig of warm Coke. The drink’s sweetness contrasted well with the salt in the air, and he played with the tastes as they swirled over his tongue. He had always loved the taste of the sea.

D’ya think there’s anything there?” Howell asked over the rims of his glasses. His thick Liverpudlian accent contrasted with his scholarly appearance.

Nope. Course there’s nothin’ there, but there’s also nothin’ wrong with hoping,” David drawled. He had been all over the world in his life, but he had never lost the accent of his native Corpus Christie,. He licked the salt off of his lips again. It was tangy, a mix of sea and sweat.

Normally, the port of Portsmouth was windy and cool, but today, the sun’s heat and heavy humidity reminded David of the oppressive weather back home. Of course, home could only be used in the loosest sense of the word. Corpus was the last place his oil rig Wildcat father had moved them before dying of a heart attack. David had only lived there two years before joining the navy.

Howell wiped his brow again as David threw the can into a crusty garbage bin. The sudden noise scattered the seagulls who had briefly taken up a hopeful vigilance over the two men as they stood on the dock. Neither man spoke. Their minds were far to busy with the possible meaning of this new job.

D’ere they are,” nodded Howell, and David turned to see the research vessel approaching the docks. It was a newer ship, but it still had the rattle-trap look of an underfunded and overworked ship. Set against the gray-blue of the heavy sky, the ship looked less than friendly.

Behind the men, the bells of a distance church pealed ten times, an ominous, and muffled sound that rippled through the morning’s heat.

It’s gonna be a scorcher,” David said into the heat of the day.

Good day to be at sea,” Howell replied with a smile.

You’re awfully excited ’bout this,” snorted David. He had always been more at home in the water than on land, but Howell hated it.

I’m not looking forward to the trip,” he shrugged, but then broke out in a grin. “Think of it, David! What if this is it? What if we are right?” Howell’s eyes shone. David chuckled at him. “Stop laughing.” Howell scolded. “You’re just as excited as I am.”

David rolled his eyes, and Howell punched him.

That was it? That was all you got? Remind me to teach you how to hit. You punched me like a little girl. That’s just pathetic, man.” David grinned at his old friend. They were an unlikely pair, the burly diver and the lanky anthropologist. Chance had brought them together, but it was a puzzling secret that held them together. Their paths were now joined by a single artifact whose origins and meaning were a mystery. They were bound by an enigma, a tantalizing clue to a past that wasn’t possible.

The old wood beneath them shook and groaned as the vessel docked and two young men leapt to tie it off.

The wooden plank was quickly lowered by a man whose white hair flared out like a mane. It encircled a deeply tanned face that seemed to be made of old leather rather than skin.

Hurry up!” he barked in a rough voice. “I don’t like the feel of this air. There will be storms, and I want to be at sea before they hit.”

Good to see you, too, Manuel,” grunted Dave as he hefted his dive bag and climbed the plank. “You got the gear, right? I didn’t bring tanks.”

We are prepared,” grunted the old Spaniard. He eyed Howell warily as he stumbled up the plank carrying two large book cases in each hand and a duffel bag under his arm. “What the hell is all this?”

Books,” Howell replied indignantly. “I can’t make a good determination without them,” he lied. Howell didn’t need any books to correctly identify pre-glacial European cultures. He was the one who wrote them.

We’ll meet in the galley. I’ll bring you up to speed while we get to the site. The company needs this delay to be short. You understand that, I’m sure, Dr. Howell.” Manuel’s tone left no room for an answer.

I know that the discovery of possible artifacts is delaying the project, yes,” Howell replied smoothly, “and I will do my best to quickly analyze what you may have found. We wouldn’t want invaluable clues to our history to cost your company anything.”

Howell staggered his way to the ship’s galley. Even in calm seas, he had a hard time keeping his feet. He knew all too well what he might cost the international company that was building a power plant to harness the ocean currents. The wave turbines were the deepest ever laid, and were built to take advantage of the current along the ocean shelf that marked the beginning of the deep waters of the Atlantic. Twenty-thousand years ago, that shelf had marked the end of the land mass that had been uncovered during the last Ice Age. The area had been the first to flood as the Ice Age ended.

Something unexpected had come up as the company began to clear the shelf for the turbines. That was why the deep sea diver and archaeologist were here — that, and the tantalizing clues that Howell carried in his “books.”

Howell entered the galley, and lurched into his seat as the ship entered the more open seas. Manuel laughed at him as he entered, a harsh sound, and slapped a pile of dark papers on the table. David easily wove his way into the galley and began pulling the radar images and murky photographs apart.

The first few were the rough shots of the ocean floor, wide pictures taken months ago when the final plans for the turbines were laid out. The wide shelf under the Celtic Sea was the perfect spot for them, and it wasn’t until the last two weeks that the odd anomalies had even been noticed.

Once the site had been chosen, the company had blown away the silt and sand that covered the rock, and in the process uncovered the impossible. The clearer radar images showed both men what the dig team hadn’t seen until they had gotten to the ocean floor; there, under an ocean that had covered the land before humans had built their first town, was a massive city. The roads and square mounds where buildings once stood were difficult to make out, but they were indeed there.

David’s strong hands trembled as he lifted the pictures taken by the rover. Massive stones clearly bore the markings of what could have been writing or decoration. But it was the last photo which caused both men’s hearts to leap and race in their chests. There on the ridge, were the unmistakable stone monoliths of a wharf. Eons before humans were supposed to have inhabited Britain, someone had not only created a city, but they had also become mariners on the seas of an ice covered world. While humans and Neanderthals lived as beasts and fought for their very survival, these people had conquered the oceans.

A hand descended on the photographs, and pounded onto the table. Manuel’s smile was pleasant, but his eyes were deadly serious as he locked them on each man. “Every day we delay is money. Make sure you don’t cost us too much doctor!” With that he stalked out of the room.

David picked up the photographs again, and turned one of what looked to be a flat stone carved with an intricate pattern of rays and curves. He turned it until he recognized what he knew would be there.

Get it out,” he ordered hoarsely. He felt as if there was no longer enough air to speak, as if the truth was suffocating him.

Howell opened his satchel with stiff hands and pulled out a book. A section within the thick volume had been carved out, and he gingerly peeled back the pages, as if the thing within it might turn to dust at any moment. Two items lay inside, wrapped in archival tissue. Howell lay each on the photographs. The first was a piece of circular blown glass into which small marks and curves had been carved. It looked remarkably like the glass of a compass. The second was more fragile and lay sealed within plastic. It was a pelt, the hide of an unknown animal onto which words written in flowing script had been written. In the corner of the hand sized manuscript, was a perfect copy of the pattern on the stone sitting on the ocean floor. The ancient items were dated at twenty-five thousand years ago.

Both men looked disbelieving at the mystery before them. It was impossible. These things couldn’t exist, but they were here. They were real.

A desperate, hoarse whisper broke the heavy silence. “We found them. By God, David, we found them.” Word Prompt: Hot tub
Dialogue Flex: “Bite me!” he teased.

He watched her face glisten in the soft light. The steam from the hot tub and her perspiration from the last two hours gave her skin a beautiful blush under the sheen. He kissed her neck and shoulders softly, relishing the sweet saltiness of her skin. She moaned, a deep, reverberating sound that made him love her a little more, if that were possible.
“You’re beautiful,” he whispered, dipping his head to her hot skin for another taste.
She chuckled wearily. “You’re a bad liar.”
“I’m not lying. I would take you to bed right now if I had my way. You have no idea how sexy you are. You are almost glowing, no, sparkling.”
She reached up and stroked his hair. It was in complete disarray after the night they’d had. Looking at him now, excited and weary all at once, she remembered why it was all worth it.
He pulled her hand down and kissed each finger. “Let me brush your hair,” he said.
She nodded, trying to hide her pain as he turned away to grab the brush. He didn’t need to be reminded of that pain. He felt badly enough for doing this to her, for all the agony he had caused her in the last several months.
She closed her eyes and tried to relax against the tub wall. She tried to let the pulsating jets of heat soak into her body, relieving her tired muscles. She was so very tired. It had been a long and trying night, yet so very magical. Now all she wanted was to feel weightless in the water.
He began to stroke her hair, taking out the tangles the last few hours had twisted into her hair. He was so gentle, always so gentle. That is why she needed to keep the hurt to herself. It would be better now. Now that they had come to the end of the journey, they had an exciting life together to look forward to. But for all he did, the pain remained and would not go away.
She counted the brush strokes focussing on how his hands felt as they pulled each strand. His fingers began to massage her scalp, and his fingers made her skin tingle as they always did. Even now, even in her happily exhausted state, he excited her.
It wasn’t fair.
He had caused her so much pain, and he was getting off without having to feel any of it. Of course, she knew it would be this way, and she had accepted all the consequences of loving him long ago. Still, this was the most unfair thing of all.
He began nipping at her neck again. She shuddered at the feel of his lips and gripped the side of the tub so as not to slip. “You’re not helping,” she said breathlessly.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. He looked at her playfully. “You are just so delicious laying like that. When things get settled, I am going to take you and ravish you like you deserve.”
“No your not!” she hissed through clenched teeth. “You are going to leave me alone. It’s been too hard. The last few months, last night, they were wonderful. But it’s too much. I need you to leave me alone for a while. Let me get over the pain of it all first.”
“I don’t think so,” he purred in her ear. “There is no way I can leave you alone. Not when you look like that. I’d take you here and now if you’d let me.”
“That’s just a little sick.”
“No, you are just that good,” he smiled and gently raked an earlobe with his teeth. She glared at him, too exhausted and too much in pain to play. He didn’t realize what he had done to her, and she was beginning to get mad.
“You really do need to let me focus here.”
He smiled again and softly stroked her face. “I am never going to leave you alone, my love, and that is all there is to it.”
“Oh, yes you are, and you had better get that through your head.”
He traced her lips and laughed at her, still not realizing that she wasn’t sharing his playful mood.
“Bite me,” he said.
And she did.
Her teeth came down on the finger soft at first, but then the next contraction hit, hard and fast. She bit down and moaned again and he screamed out in protest. By the time the contraction eased enough to let her release him, he was nearly crying.
“Sorry,” she gasped.
“No your not!” he yelled as he violently shook the finger.
“Okay, I’m not.” It was finally her turn to laugh, until the next spasm nearly doubled her over.
“What happened?” demanded the red-faced nurse who came running in.
“She bit me!” he yelled again, shoving his finger into the cup of ice chips.
The nurse simply raised and eyebrow and tried not to smile. This happened a lot.
“He told me to!” she gasped as another wave of agony swept over her. They were coming quickly now.
“Sir, there is nothing more stupid a man can do than tell his wife to bite him while she is in labor.” It took all she had not to giggle at him. The other nurses would love this one.
The young man began noisily sucking on his swollen finger.
The nurse gave the young woman an approving smile. There was always a sweet taste of victory whenever a new mother got back at the father “You’re doing very, very well, my dear, and I’m so proud of your progress. I’ll go get you some more ice chips.”

The Five Rules for a Woman

1. It’s important to have a man who buys me shiny things and flowers.
2. It’s important to have a man who can bake me a cake in a kitchen he built with his own hands
3. It’s important to have a man who won’t gag at a dirty diaper and will rock a screaming baby all night
4. It’s important to have a man who will hold me tight and whisper sweet nothings in my ear
5. It’s important to have a man like this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLTIowBF0kE

Who am I kidding? Never mind, I’ll just go read my books.

Multimedia Share: Corset, finger, mounds.

I have chosen finger and mounds.

She could hear his voice the second she got onto the floor. It was a deep bass, the kind that seems to flow from the earth itself and enter your bones. It took her awhile to read the charts and check all the data flowing in from the patient’s rooms, and through it all, the voice sang to her. It was a comforting melody, and even though she could not make out the words, the voice itself overflowed with love so that she knew their meaning.

He almost made her forget the gnawing desire for another cigarette. He even made her forget the feeling of her boyfriends harsh, sticky palms against her body and his fist as it hit her.

Almost made her forget how much she hated her life.

She grabbed her clipboard and began her first round. As a nurse, she always loved the night shift. Patients still needed care, but there was rarely any family nearby to deal with. Besides, some of the best cases came in at night.

Tonight she walked a little quicker, eager to find the singer whose powerful, quiet voice drowned out all the artificial sounds that constantly surrounded her. The deep voice filled the air so thoroughly that it seemed to come from everywhere. It took her a while to find its owner.

When she did, all she could do was stare at him and listen as the beautiful sound flowed into her.

What she saw did not fit the music.

An old man, his eyes closed and mouth open wide in song sat by the bed of what was once a woman. His hair was thin and white as snow. His skin though blotched was almost translucent with age. Gnarled hands caressed the figure in the bed, and the nurse watched in fascination as his ancient finger lovingly traced her collarbone. Just below where he touched, the sheet covered up what should have been the gentle mounds of her breasts, but the sheet lay flat.

Her eyes turned to the figure in the bed. She was gaunt. Her skin held the gray tint of death and her breath came in uneven heaves. Her head was bald, the skin so thin that it was riddled with deep blue veins. The skin sagged behind her ears. In fact, it sagged on every visible part of her, as if she’d shrunk and was now to small to fit into the life she once lived.

Like so many others she’d seen on this floor, cancer was about to claim another victim.

Next to her, a still hand lay, and the nurse could see that the ring finger bore only the permanent dent of a ring. A ring she’d most likely never be given.

It fell off,” said the deep voice.

She startled and looked into the gray eyes of the old man. His eyes were at once both powerful and beautiful, just like his voice.

The ring, it fell off.” He motioned to the woman’s hand. Then, he caressed her face and gently touched her head.

She is so beautiful,” he whispered, in awe of the sight in front of him.

Your wife?” she heard her voice say. She didn’t recognize it.

Yes. She’s been my bride for sixty-two years. She will always be my beautiful bride.” He bend forward and kissed her white lips with such gentleness that the nurse had to look away.

I didn’t mean to interrupt you. Your voice was so lovely that I… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to interrupt,” she stammered.

I’m glad you like it,” he said with a smile. He pointed to a chair against the wall. “I would love for you to stay. It gets very lonely here.”

She didn’t feel worthy of this room, of the love she saw here, but she was drawn to this singer and his dying bride in a way she didn’t understand.

She took the seat and listened as his song resumed. His fingers continued to caress the woman, touching her with a reverence the nurse had never seen.

No one had ever touched her like that. No one had ever looked at her as a bride.

She wondered what it must be like to feel a love so deep. All the times she had known love, it had been riddled with selfishness. Most of the time, lust and love were interchangeable in her life. She’d lived in perpetual fear of gaining weight and graying hair, that she hadn’t even realized that love was supposed to be blind to such things.

Before she knew it, the song ended. She looked up and saw him staring at her.

Why are you crying?”

She put her hand to her face. It came away wet.

I don’t know. I think it is because I like your voice,” she lied.

They said tonight will be her last night, but my children will not come until the morning. I am afraid they will be too late. I am trying to sing to her. I am trying to reach her and remind her what she is staying for. I want the last thing she knows of this earth to be my voice, so I sing tonight for her.”

The nurse looked down at her chart. It was almost too blurry to read, but she made out the woman’s name, and the hospice orders. She was on an immense amount of painkillers. Not trusting a machine to tell her, she walked over to the still form, and listened to the slow thud of her heart. In the silence, it stuttered.

Keep singing,” she said.

The old man gripped the woman’s frail hand, and began another song. The heart beat a little faster, stronger now that the voice called to it.

She was mesmerized by the voice, the hands, and the beating heart. She was amazed by the love she’d never known existed. She stood motionless until the song ended.

It’s working,” she whispered to him. He smiled at her and nodded.

She is my queen. She will stay with me as long as she can,” he said.

A beeping, totally out of place in this room, roused the nurse. She shook herself and looked at the pager.

Keep singing and she will make it until the morning,” she said. She pulled herself away from the old couple to find the patient who needed assistance.

After finishing her rounds, and meeting the needs of others, the nurse returned with two bottles of water. The king in this room was singing to his queen for the last time, and he should not go thirsty.

He greeted her with a smile. “It is indeed working,” he said nodding to the silent heart monitor. The beat remained steady. “Thank you, my princess.”

A lump formed in her throat. Not since her father had left the family had any one called her princess. And now, a king had called her princess.

Thank you,” she said, “but I am no princess.”

You are to me,” his eyes twinkled and he reached over to hold her hand with his own warm, wrinkled one. His hand was soft, gentle and so very warm.

It was nothing like the hands of her lovers.

The old man let go and began his song again. She left the room, giving him the gift of privacy while his voice gave her the gift of love.

She was his princess, and never again would the hands of anything less than a king touch her.

The song continued through the night. Every few hours, she would go into the room to check on the king and his bride. Each time the heart beat for the voice. The woman might indeed make it until morning.

Just before dawn the nurse was called away to deal with another dying patient. Her last memory of the couple was of his voice, still powerful, singing to his bride.

And to her.

Word Prompt: Pond

July, 1990

The pizza had better be cheesy and the ice cream double chocolate for this,” I said, as I strained with the heavy box. My feet hit the stairs with hard thumps as I nearly fell down them from the weight. “What is in here?” I demanded from the bottom step.

Books,” yelled Sarah from her bedroom. “Sorry, I should have left that for the guys!”

I blew uselessly on my sweaty bangs. They refused to budge from where they lay plastered to by eyes. “Tell me you got chocolate,” I whined.

She grimaced. “Chunky Monkey.”

Arg! I hate bananas,” I growled and hauled the box out the door to the waiting truck. When I returned to the relative coolness of her small house, Sarah was in the office I had just come from. She leaned on the desk and held the tape loosely in her hand as she looked at an old photo album.

You can look when you unpack, miss ADHD” I said curtly. I loved my roommate, but moving her and her new husband into their first house was a lot of work. I was hot, tired and in the mood for pizza.

These are so old,” she said, ignoring my remark.

What are they?” I grabbed the tape from her and loaded a few more books into a small box.

My grandparent’s wedding pictures,” she said quietly. She turned the page gently, almost reverently, and began searching the black and white faces.

Is that the grandfather that died in the war?” I asked, dropping the tape on the forgotten box. Sarah nodded.

I looked at the dark haired people in the pictures. The bridal outfit was extravagant and highly embroidered, very traditional for a Polish wedding. The words beside the old photographs were in both Polish and Hebrew, so I could read them. Most of them were names — the names of the dead.

I looked at the beautiful bride. Even in the wedding pictures, Sarah’s grandmother had a look of sheer determination on her face. Five years later, that determination would lead her across the Atlantic with a young son at her breast and a daughter in her belly. The handsome man beaming by his new bride sacrificed his life to let his little family escape the Nazis.

Her grandmother never re-married.

Sarah sniffed. “It’s so sad. Look at them, they’re all smiling and happy. They only had seven years to live.”

I placed my arm around her. Like me, Sarah’s family had been decimated by Hitler’s regime. My grandparents had come to America with nothing but the clothes they wore. No one else had survived. It was a strange and heavy burden to know that we were alone, the only members of a once thriving family. It was something we tried to remember without feeling the loss.

I looked at them all, and felt her loss as my own. So many faces, so many lives.

She turned another yellowing page, and the bridal party stood for a portrait by a pond. The newly married couple were dressed in traveling clothes and sat in a small buggy. They were on the edge of the still water, and each one appeared twice in the picture.

Suddenly, a face I knew stared back at me from the brittle page. I gasped and pulled the book closer. I knew that face. I had grown up with it.

What is it Becca?” Sarah asked in alarm. She crowded in to look at the picture. I pointed speechlessly at the kind face I knew so well.

My shock turned to the first flutters of excitement. “I know that man,” I said, my voice shrill.

Which one?” demanded Sarah. I pointed to the tall man with the broad smile. It saddened me to know his smile had once been so huge.

Sarah turned the book to read the name, but I didn’t need her to.

Jakub Dobrowolski,” we both said at the same time. For a moment we stared at each other. Sarah’s look was confused, and I knew mine was exuberant.

He was my grandmother’s brother,” Sarah said, still looking confused.

He is my grandfather!” I yelled joyously. I wasn’t alone. Neither of us were.

Sarah just stood there for a moment.

What?

I handed her the phone, laughing hysterically. “Get your grandmother on the line,” I ordered, “and then go get some real ice cream! After I talk with my great aunt, we cousins will need to celebrate!”

 

 

 

 

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