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Sanctuary: Chapter One

November 5, 2010

Chapter One

The ferry might as well have been a ghost ship. Ten o’clock in the morning and there were more workers than there were passengers. Three cars, including her own, and a handful of walk-ons. Mia wrapped a gloved hand around the paper cup then sipped. The food was expensive but at least edible. The coffee was surprisingly good. But that could have been because she was desperately thankful for something hot to drink.

The din of the gallery behind her echoed off the walls as she crossed through the rows of tables. Each one sat empty except for an older man occupying one of the booths near a window. The small island didn’t warrant many visitors. Maybe she was venturing further into isolation than she had planned.

The ribbon of steam from the man’s cup of coffee danced to the left each time he turned to another section of the newspaper. The scene reminded Mia of her father sitting in the kitchen every morning.
She sipped her coffee as she passed. The sound drew the attention of the old man. He glanced up at her with tired grey eyes and nodded. A pleasant smile tugged at the lines in his face. He’d been handsome in his youth.

“Mornin’.”

“Good morning.” Her voice sounded like his. Tired. Not yet awake. Mia nodded to him in return then left him to his paper.

A cold wall of air met her outside on the deck. It found its way under her long wool coat. An immediate shiver coursed from her shoulders and down her arms. She braced her hip against the railing and reached up with one hand to tuck her scarf in closer.

She watched the lights from the small island come into view. The quiet isolation seemed like a perfect setting to her. Cold and grey skies were something she’d have to learn to deal with, though. As if on cue, light raindrops started to fall. A huge drop slid into the open on the plastic lid that covered her coffee. Mia sighed and wondered if it ever stopped raining in Washington.

Rising wind whistled in her ears and dislodged her scarf. The announcement over the p.a. system was barely audible but Mia made out enough to know the ferry was soon going to reach the dock.

She turned up the heat in her car then reached for her coffee again. Cold. So much for inner heat. Mia shivered again and remembered one of the scenes in “Misery”. She was going to end up constantly chilled to the bone while trying to write her next novel. At least it wasn’t snowing.

The ferry worker waved her forward. Mia drove off onto the dock and hoped her new employer was nothing like Annie Wilkes.

***

A man watched her coming in up the drive and stepped out of the door with an umbrella. He walked over to the car and sighed with relief to see his successor. “Hello, Mia Vincent?”

He waited for her to nod then led her into the foyer. “All of your things arrived yesterday and were put in your room.” Turning he picked up an envelope and ring of keys. “This is the main set of keys for you. The house, boat house, boat, garage. Your room key is in the envelope, along with a cell phone and some instructions.”

The former assistant glanced at his watch. The ferry would be heading back soon. “The chef and groundskeeper won’t arrive until tomorrow,” he continued. “But the kitchen is fully stocked so you should be fine. Mr. Osbourne will contact you by phone or email if he needs anything. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t see him for a day or two, he keeps to himself.”

Pulling back on his coat he thinks to himself then nods and picks up his bag. “Now I will leave you to get settled in and make my way to the ferry before I’m stuck in this museum for another day. Have a good year Miss. Vincent.”

Unable to utter a word in reply, Mia watched, dumbfounded, as the man slung his bag over his shoulder and started out the door. From the window, she saw his call pull out quickly then disappear through the fog as he drove towards the dock.

She stepped away from the window and sighed. He’d left her with more questions than answers. Museum, she mused as she looked around, he got that part right.

The rest of her afternoon was spent unpacking, setting up her computer, and reading through the carefully typed out instructions. Apparently there was a short list of daily duties; nothing out of the ordinary. The rest of the time she would be called at Mr. Osbourne’s discretion to pick up or deliver packages.

Mia looked forward to whatever quiet time she would have to herself. There could be a lot of time to put into her novel as long as her new employer wasn’t too demanding. If the former assistant was right, Mr. Osbourne kept to himself most of the time. She would probably have all the time to herself she needed.

Once settled, she showered and changed then wandered the house. It would have to be a self-guided tour. All the better to go at her own pace. She liked the quiet of the house. But there was a stillness that she wasn’t used to.

The walls were painted a deep red. The overhead lighting was warm and focused on several paintings, mounted artifacts, and sculptures on pedestals. She had some knowledge of art. But it was limited to the research she’d once done for a novel. The only thing they all seemed to have in common was how old they appeared. Mia glanced at one painting, very much like the others except for being painted in sunshine. Not a grey sky or cloud in sight. Wishful thinking?

With a sandwich from the kitchen, Mia returned upstairs to her room. The satellite reception on the T.V. was lacking. She saw it as a sign that she needed to focus on writing. She was determined to have made some kind of progress before her agent called again with a reminder about the deadline.

Maybe her muse would be satisfied by the large castle-like house, the gloomy weather, the near deserted island. If not those, nearby Seattle had to hold some spark of inspiration. Had to.

Mia set her own laptop next to the other on the desk. One held an email and calendar that would undeniably soon be filled by Mr. Osbourne’s requests. The other, a blinking cursor on a blank page. Prose. Where the hell was it?

Mia typed out the notes she’d been making during the long trip. Two hours later and the plot was no closer to revealing itself. She finished off a cup of tea while watching the news. Mostly cloudy with a fifty percent chance of rain. For the rest of the week.

Mia brushed back a long curl of her red hair as she glanced over at the window. Clouds. Rain. No shit, she thought as she rose  to draw the heavy drapes closed. Turning, she dropped across the bed and tucked a pillow close. The day had been an interesting one, to say the least. Maybe tomorrow she would get a chance to meet her elusive employer face-to-face.

***

Ethan Osbourne watched his new assistant wander along the halls of his home. There was a curiosity about her that reminded him to be cautious. What new thing would this assistant bring to his life. They all left their mark in some way, fresh from their big world into his small one.

With a sigh he turned back to his journal.

Miss Vincent had arrived. It has been a long while since a woman’s touch graced this old manor. She is lovely with crimson flowing locks. How many assistants have walked though the halls as she had tonight?

As he sat back he lifted the crystal glass to his lips. The sweet wine rolled over his tongue. A fat orange tabby jumped up on the edge of the desk. He stroked the cat. “You’ll be in good company, a fellow ginger. I wonder if she is as fiery as her hair.”

With a chuckle he finished his journal entry and went back to examining artifacts. He penned an email with packing instructions and a list of phone calls to make on his behalf. Ethan added a note of welcome.

By the time he finished the sky had changed from black to soft oranges and pinks. Ethan refilled his glass before sitting on the balcony. Another sunrise proof he would live yet another day. What will this one hold?

“Where, Oh where have I BEN?”

November 5, 2010

“Where, Oh where have I BEN?”

 

It’s only BEN since October that I last posted. And would you look at all of the dust that’s already accumulated on my blog? Wow. (btw, yes there’s a reason for BEN instead of ‘been’. No, I’m not going to tell you. “Only my undertaker knows for sure.” Oops…I had a Joker moment there…where was I…)

So, we’ve all done it. We’ve spread our pursuits in different directions. And for one reason or another, we fall behind and have to play ‘catch up’. Lately the general term of excuse is ‘RL’, shorthand for ‘real life’. ‘Cause don’t you know we’re all too busy to actually spell it out.

‘Real life’ is the blanket term used to cover every imaginable excuse for falling behind in a project. Illness, appointments, work, kids, hubbies, wives, friends, or rightfully-deserved-episodes-of-laziness.

So many of us have more ambition than we realize. We’re trying to do it all, be everywhere, do everything, and now Internet networking with everyone. We all make the same apologies and excuses for temporarily ‘falling off the map’. In general, we’ll ooo and ahh over little triumphs, offer sympathies for illnesses and unfortunate incidents, or happily welcome back our Internet friends. But please, no poking. That irks me. Use smilies instead. They’re cuter and don’t leave little fingertip-shaped bruises on my arm.

Apologies and excuses? Hey, I’m not going to be any different. Here‘s my apology and excuses: Sorry I’ve BEN absent. We’re driving/moving across country in December as soon as hubby returns home. In the meantime, I have a ton to do. No, the military does not do everything for you in the move. There is a pile of paperwork to handle. And since Mc Chord AFB and Ft Lewis are now JBLMC (Joint Base Lewis McChord) …everything is out of whack. I’m sure the Army and Air Force will settle on a cohesive way to do things. But, I’m also sure that won’t happen until after I’ve already mired through the mis-directions and outdated information, moved across the USA with a hubby, two kids, two cats, and two cars…and finally come out a frustrated, exhausted mess on the other side.

Oh, an then of course there’s all of the things that have to be done to settle in to a new house. Somehow, most of it gets deferred to me: Supermom. 🙂

In, the meantime, I’ve been sick, had migraines, and repeatedly bark at my son’s school to keep the bullies at bay. And…if all of that wasn’t enough…I’m once again participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Wow, you’ve read this far and finally discovered that I have a point.

I do. Sort of.

All of that is real life. The mundane, ordinary, responsibility-laden drudgery that is only made bearable by the blissfully happy moments of family and friends.

Creative life. Now, this is the part that’s ‘me’. The other side of me that I have to somehow merge with all of that real life stuff. I’ve been aching to write more on my blog, post and research more for my Robin Hood Autism Foundation. Everything has to balance. Priorities have to be shifted.

The kids and I are often without a husband and father…in presence. So, we often toss aside as much as we can so that we can freely dive into holidays and birthdays. This time, it was Halloween. We had a great time, several people took photos of our decorations, and told us our jack-o-lanterns were awesome. (I thought so, too.)

We’re also participating in National Novel Writing Month. It’s my 6th year in NaNoWriMo, Kayli’s 2nd, and Matthew’s 1st in the Young Writer’s Program. Amazing to me since Matthew is not at all fond of writing. This is a huge accomplishment for him.

Much of my online writing & tweeting has been cast aside for now, in favor of novel-writing, preparing for holidays and an achingly long change of address, and I can’t miss the new eppys of Hell’s Kitchen, and Bones.

 

More Jack, please!

 

 

Soon to come: Thanksgiving, gingerbread house decorating at Ft Lewis, PT conferences, volunteer functions at the school and Youth Center, and more and more planning for the move. The military can make things quite complicated as it involves a great deal of paperwork, the house inspection, and the time frame is very limited.

So if you’re reading any of this and want to see more of my writing…I’m busy…you’ll have to wait. 🙂

 

Of course, questions, comments, etc., about Autism Spectrum disorders are always welcomed. I’m so happy to see the tweets, responses and DMs to the Robin Hood Autism Foundation on Twitter. There may be a delay in response, but I will answer! Keep them coming!

 

Go out. Stay in. Read. Write. Play.

“White Linen”

October 22, 2010

My fingertips brushed reverently over the photo. White chocolate was her favorite. Actually, she loved anything white. I’d once peeked in the window to her bedroom and saw it filled with white pillows, linens, and flowers she’d made from paper.

That was our first Halloween together and the first time she’d let me hold her hand. Her smile was what made me fall in love with her. She was pure, like the white she surrounded herself with.

An angel.

She always seemed so happy.

I wish I’d known what’d happened to change that.

I wish she’d told me.

It crushed me when she’d moved away with her family. My first heartbreak. We wrote to each other. But over time, she started to sound different. The letters came less and less. Then stopped completely.

I had to read about it in the paper. The bathroom curtains billowed around her like clouds. The sunlight shone through her nightgown and quietly outlined the length of her body. Her neck had been wrapped with linen torn from her bed. The lace edge of her gown rested just above her ankles. Her feet, still wet from spilled bath water, hovered just above the edge of the porcelain tub.

She would have been sixteen that week.

Then and always an angel.

“Man-O-War” VII: “Microwave”

October 22, 2010

“Man-O-War” VII: “Microwave”

Full Series

October 22nd OneWord prompt: ‘microwave’

“…Stephen peered up from the microscope and muttered something about the ‘iridescent patches on the belly of a Sceloporous.’ As always, I endured to show my appreciation for his enthusiasm for his latest discovery…

…Fortunately Stephen was always forgiving about my attention being taken by my enthusiasm for the sound of the waves that crashed against the hull of my ship.”

 

The sea is calling...

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Man-O-War” VI: Whiskers

October 22, 2010

“Man-O-War” VI: Whiskers

Full Series

 

October 21st OneWord prompt “whiskers”

Jack arched a brow at the intruder now perched atop the papers it had just scattered. He lifted the cat by the scruff of his neck. “On ship you’d be chasing rats to earn your keep. What occupation have you now except to cause mischief?”

The innocent mewl in reply pulled a smile from Jack’s face. “You’re fortunate Sophie adores you so.”

 

"Parley?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Man-O-War” V

October 20, 2010

“Man-O-War” V

Full Series

 

October 20th OneWord prompt “costume”

“…bronzed golden by the sun, her body was round and firm, as supple as I’ve ever seen. Her lush, ample bosom was pressed high by her corseted gown, as was the costume of the day. Though lovely, the temptation of her only called upon the longing for my own dear Sophie.”

 

Longing for home and hearth

 

 

“Man-O-War” IV

October 20, 2010

“Man-O-War” IV

Full Series

October 19th OneWord prompt “table”

“…Sand was tossed to the floor, however not quickly enough to soak up the blood rained down from the table. Stephen slipped repeatedly and I marveled at how steady we was able to remain. Still, the young man succumbed to his injuries. Yet another soul committed to the sea…”

 

Another soul committed to the sea

 

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