Solitary Sky ~ Chapter 2

(For chapter 1, please click here.)

Chapter 2

     Bridgeton is a big city.  Not by L.A. or New York standards, but the fact that the buildings downtown are more than three stories high qualifies it for the title around here.  It sits deep inland from the coast, separated by mountains on the eastern edge.  I was born in Bridgeton, but the over-crowded streets, the constant buzz of activity, and the faint stench of exhaust fumes hanging in the air have never been home.
     Finally heading down the long stretch of highway out of town, I passed a sign that read: “You are now leaving the City of Bridgeton—come back soon.”
     Not likely.

     Gentian is a four hour drive through the mountains, heading east from Bridgeton.  It stretches from the foot of the mountains on the other side all the way to the shoreline.  The drive through the mountains is breathtakingly beautiful, especially in early fall when trees coated in warm fall colors spread out like an elaborate patchwork quilt across the landscape.  Claire used to hate taking off a whole day from work to make the drive to Gram’s.  She’d whine the whole way about steeply sloping roads and “death-beckoning” curves.  I usually ignored her, knowing the ride back to Bridgeton would be my turn to whine.
     I took the last exit off the main highway and veered right onto route 75, guiding the wagon down a rutty two-lane road.  Changing trees towered overhead, filtering late evening sun through patches of leaves already surrendered to fall.  The smell of fading summer blooms mixed with resin from the pines flooded in through the partially-opened windows, refreshing my smog-choked senses.
     I  rounded the curve and saw Gram’s house less than a half-mile down the road.  My stomach went wobbly with anticipation as I neared the driveway.  The small white frame house with black shutters sat beneath sprawling aged oak trees that hung over the roof, creating the perfect summer shade.  Acres of treeless green carpeted the surrounding land down to the tree line in the distance.  Gram was waiting on the front porch swing, her mess of blazing red hair twisted up and held in place with a pencil as she read the newspaper.  Two oversized mutts stretched out like useless sentries at her feet. Both dogs perked up when they heard my tires crunch onto the driveway gravel and came running to greet me.  Gram jumped up and tossed her newspaper aside.
     "Lilah!" she squealed, a huge smile forming creases around her soft blue eyes.  
     I killed the engine and stepped out onto the driveway, enthusiastically greeted by jumping dogs and a warm hug from Gram.
     “You look beautiful,” she said, squeezing me tight.  “Happy birthday, Babygirl.”
     “Thanks, Gram,” I said, straining.
     “I’ve got you a present inside,” she said, releasing me.
     “You didn’t have to do that.”
     “I’d have done more if I could.  It’s just a little something.”
     “Whatever it is, I love it.”
     “Is that all your stuff?”  She pointed to the two large suitcases and one overflowing box in the back of the wagon.
     “For now,” I said.  “A van’s bringing the rest next week.”
     “Oh, okay,” she said hesitantly, “Exactly how much stuff are we talking about here?  I don’t have a lot of extra space, but I suppose we could just move some of it into storage.  Or we could ask—”
     “Gram, relax.  I was just messing with you.  This is all of it.”
     “Did you hear that, girls?”  She glanced down at Bones and Chepi.  “She thinks it’s funny to tease old ladies.”
     Both dogs barked back at her.
     “Guess they think it’s funny, too,” she said, grinning.  “C’mon, let’s get your stuff inside.”

     The warm, chocolaty smell of double fudge brownies greeted me as I walked through the front door.  I paused in the doorway to take deep breaths, almost tasting them with each inhale.  Stepping into the living room, I looked all around to the adjoining kitchen and beyond to the breakfast area.  Everything was the same as the last time I was here.  The small, red couch was still fixed in front of the fireplace and covered with a dozen different patterned throws.  On the walls and nearly every other surface were framed pictures of family—some human, some animal.  The hardwood floor still seemed like a misnomer with its scuffs, scratches, and random accumulations of fur—courtesy of the dogs.   It was the lived-in feel of Gram’s house I always loved so much.  It was more comfortable than back home, where Claire always tried to act like she was a clean-freak even though I was the one who did most of the housework.
     "Fresh baked.”  Gram pointed to the brownies. “Help yourself."
     I went up to the bar and scooped a warm brownie onto a napkin.  A small, white box wrapped in a pink ribbon next to the plate of brownies caught my eye.
    “What’s this?” I asked, knowing exactly what it was.
     “You didn’t think those brownies were your birthday present, did you?  Bring it over here and open it,” she said, motioning to the couch.
     I picked up the box and added one more brownie to my plate before joining Gram in the living room.  The pink ribbon around the box fell to the floor with just one tug.  I lifted the top and pulled out a silver mp3 player.
     “Hope it’s as good as the one you lost.”
     “It’s better,” I said, reaching for another big hug.  “Thanks, Gram—I love it.”
     “I thought about gettin’ me one of those things, but I can’t figure out how to get my Joni Mitchell records in there.”
     I laughed, taking a sip of tea and she looked back at me with her head tilted and a contented smile.  “I’m really glad you’re here, Lilah.”
     “Yeah, me, too.”
     “How did things go with your mom?  Did she give you any trouble?”
     “She’s so freaked out that Tony left I don’t even think she noticed.”
     “He left?  When did that happen?”
     “He moved in last week, but three days later they got into a huge fight and he bailed on her.  I think it might be a record.”
     “Well, I guess it’s for the best,” she said.  “I didn’t much like him. Claire could do better.”
     “She’s definitely done worse.”
     “So, how was the drive up here?”
     “Not too peaceful, I hope.  Driving on those long stretches of highway can get hypnotizing.  Good thing you got plenty rested up before you came.  I had nightmares about you falling asleep at the wheel.”
     I bowed my head and fidgeted with my tea cup.  She couldn’t be more wrong.  Sleep hadn’t come easy for me since I had that weird dream.  Every time I tried to sleep my thoughts went straight to that blinding light.  It got to where I’d just lay there waiting for it to happen.  It never did, but its looming presence kept me from getting any real rest.  Maybe I was afraid of it happening again, but mostly I was worried that it wouldn’t.  No matter how many times I denied it to myself, I wanted to see the vision again…to catch another glimpse of the kiss in the garden.  I wanted to feel that rush of emotion radiating from the girl who looked just like me.
     “Lilah?”  Gram eyed me closely, “On second thought, you don’t look well-rested at all.”
     “I haven’t been sleeping much.”
     “What’s the problem?”
     “I had this weird dream…thing,” I said, already embarrassed for mentioning it.  “It’s so stupid, but I can’t stop thinking about it, even though it was so long ago.”
     “Tell me about the dream.”
     “I don’t know if that’s even what it was.  I was half awake.”
     “Go on,” she said.
     “I was almost asleep, then a huge flash of white light exploded inside my head—like taking a picture, but it lasted longer.  The light faded away and I saw this beautiful garden, full of trees and flowers…a boy and girl were standing right in the middle.”
     “Just standing there?”
     “No…they were kissing—like really kissing.”  I saw her eyes widen.  “I know, it’s crazy, huh?”
     “Oh, honey, no.  It’s not crazy at all.”
     “But there was something strange about the girl.  I couldn’t see her clearly at first, then she turned her head and she looked just like me.”
      “Wow,” said Gram, smiling big.  “This is wonderful!”
     “It is?” I asked, confused.
     “I knew it might skip a few generations, but I always hoped you would be the one.”
     “Gram, you lost me.  What the hell are you talking about?”
     “When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me stories from her tribe.  My bedtime stories were full of Tonkawan legends and tales of our ancestors.  It was your Great Grandma Saqui’s way of staying connected with her heritage and keeping it alive through me.  When she told me some members of our bloodline were blessed with special gifts, I thought it was just another story—but it wasn’t.”  She set her cup of tea down on the coffee table and took my hand in hers, attempting to explain as I sat in stunned, wide-eyed silence.  “Her Uncle Mokee could understand the animals.  He had a special bond with them just like I do.  Her Great Aunt Talah could read the thoughts of anyone she touched, and her cousin, Mayeta, often communed with the dead…but every few generations, someone was blessed with ayayana—like Grandma Saqui and her great-grandfather, on back through the generations.”
     “What does it mean?”
     “Ayayana is a Tonkawan word for the gift of prophecy.  It literally means ‘to see the other side’.  It’s what Gramma Saqui used to call her visions.”
     “O-okay, I think you’re messing with me now.  I get it—and we’re even.”
     “No, it’s real.  She described her visions as a burst of light one-hundred times brighter than the sun, with moving pictures that told a story...and the story would soon come to pass.”
     My breath stopped short as I gaped at her in disbelief.  “You’re telling me what I saw was actually a psychic vision...and my future involves kissing some random guy?”
     “Yep, sounds like it,” she said, smiling proudly.
     “But it only happened that one time—how is that a gift?”
     “Oh, believe me, it will happen again—but for goodness sake, don’t be afraid.  These visions are an inheritance from your ancestors.  I’ll say to you what Gramma Saqui’s mother said to her when she got her first vision: Cherish what you’ve been given and use your gifts wisely…their purpose is to guide your future along the path of your greatest happiness.”
     “This is way too much for me right now,” I said, shaking my head.
     Gram was about to respond, but got cut off by the shrill buzz of her phone.
     “Hold that thought,” she said to me before answering it.
     She listened intently, nodding her head and saying “Uh-huh” a few times.  She excused herself and cupped her hand over the receiver.  “It’s a client.  Why don’t you go on up to your room and I’ll be up there in a bit.”
     “Okay,” I said, rising unsteadily.  I grabbed both suitcases and lugged them up the stairs, thumping the big one on each stair along the way.  I dragged them down the hall and around the corner to the door with the black cursive “L” sign on the door.  My room was just as I left it on my last visit—flowy black curtains trimmed in gray and a super soft black and white damask bedspread…both remnants from my "dark phase" a few summers ago.  The walls were still coated in a soft gray to match the charcoal carpet.  Gram had managed to sneak in a few spots of color around the room since then—assorted shades of red throw pillows piled on top of the bed and a dark red oval rug beside it.  Gramma Saqui’s hand-carved rocking chair stood out from the rest of the décor.  It was in its usual spot by the window with one of her handmade harvest quilts thrown over the back.  I walked over and eased down onto it, gently moving forward an back as I wondered what she thought when she had her first vision.  Was she freaked out? Probably not.  She’d grown up knowing it might happen to her someday.  I never had a clue.
     I stopped rocking when I noticed a vase full of flowers on my dresser.  Fresh chrysanthemums and carnations in golden orange and other shades of fall were neatly arranged in a bronze vase with a maroon ribbon tied around it.  I went to the dresser and ran my fingertips across the petals, inhaling their sweet scent.  My eyes fell closed as I thought of my vision...of his lips that were touching mine amidst the sea of flowers.  If Gramma Saqui’s stories were real, that kiss could happen.  But did I really want it to?  My only purpose in coming here was to get away from Claire and focus on graduating—not to fall for some guy with dark wavy hair and soft, full lips that made me run my tongue across my own every time I thought of them.
     I need to call Val.
     I dragged my cell phone out of my pocket and found the picture of a girl with long, untamed blonde hair and an imperfect smile.  I met Val Spencer during a trip to Gram’s the summer I turned twelve.  Her family had relocated from Florida after her dad bought a used car dealership in Gentian.  They moved into a house about a mile down the road from Gram’s, just past the third big curve.  Gram brought me along when she visited Val’s family with a big plate of welcome brownies.  Val and I have been friends since that day. We saw each other every time I went to Gram’s and she visited me in Bridgeton a few times, but we mostly kept in touch through emails and extra-long phone conversations.  She lived far away, but she was the closest friend I’d ever had.
     “Lilah!” she squealed.
     "Hey, Val."
     “Are you still on the road?”
     “Shut. Up.  You’re here?  When are you coming over?”
     “Leaving now.”
     “Cool!  Let yourself in and come find me—I’ve got a big surprise.”
     As soon as we hung up, Gram knocked on my door.  “Was that Val?”
     “Yeah, she wants me to come over.”                                                          
     “Oh, good.  I’ve got to go and see a client.  Her dogs are all riled up about something.”
     “So you’re leaving?”  
     “Yep.  Have fun with Val, but please be home before midnight.  I know you’re officially an adult now, but that doesn't mean I get to worry about you any less."
     "I promise I’ll be home early.”
     She kissed me on the cheek and ran out the door.
     I’ll be home.
     I pulled into Val’s driveway behind a shiny, yellow VW bug sitting the spot where her dad's old sedan used to be parked.
     Her big surprise.
     I walked up to the front porch and opened the door, leaning my head inside.  "Hello?" I said, but thumping bass from down the hallway was the only response.  "Val?"  I stepped inside and turned down the hallway toward her room.  As I neared her open door, the music stopped.  She burst out of her room and pounced on me with a hug, nearly knocking me to the floor.
     "Sorry," she said, grinning. "I just can’t believe you’re finally here!"
     "I have been here before." I smiled back.
     "Yeah, but this time’s different.  You’re not leaving in two weeks.  You’re staying and going to school with me—which means my senior year won't totally suck!"  She locked her arm in mine and dragged me into her room, chattering non-stop.
Val's room was still the same as when we first met—a frilly pink lace bedspread, pillow, and canopy with perfectly matching curtains; wood furniture painted white with yellow trim; and light lavender on the walls. The only difference was the framed art and posters of her favorite band now hanging on the walls instead of unicorn pictures and ballet slippers.  She hated when I referred to her pastel rainbow theme as “fairy vomit”, but it was an accurate description.  
     “I’m gonna go get a soda—you want one?” she asked.
     Val bounced off to the kitchen and I sat on the edge of her bed, checking out all the new additions to her walls.  A wave of dizziness hit me out of nowhere and before I had time to wonder what was happening, the whole room was awash with white light.  I leaned back on the bed as another image of a boy and girl appeared inside my head…only this time the girl definitely wasn’t me.  I watched Val run out of her house and jump into the passenger seat of Jason’s car, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek before they sped away.  The image faded and Val’s room slowly returned to focus.  I pressed my hand to my head and tried to cool down the anger rising inside me.
     Jason was Val's boyfriend for most of last year.  I hated him.  He was always mean to her and tried to control her every move, but she couldn’t see it because she was “in love”.   I begged her to dump him, but she never would.  One night he took her to a movie and they got in a big fight.  He called her a “stupid whore” and walked out, leaving her there all alone as she cried into her popcorn.
     “You okay?” said Val standing in the doorway with a soda in each hand.
     “Yeah.” I sat upright. “Are you?”
     “What?”  She looked at me, puzzled.
     I couldn’t hide the anger in my voice. “Are you seeing Jason again?”
     “What—no! I saw him a few times over summer, but we don’t even talk.  
Why are you asking me that?” 
     I glanced across the room and saw Jason’s picture inside a tiny pink jeweled frame on her nightstand. “He’s still there?”  I said, pointing to the frame.
     “That? Oh, it doesn’t mean anything,” she said with a nervous twitch.  “You know me, Miss Procrastination.”
     “He’s gotta go.” I reached over and slammed the frame face down.  “You know what he’s like—promise me you won’t get back with him.”
     “I swear.  I’d never give him the chance to hurt me twice.”
     I decided to let the Jason issue rest for now since I wasn't sure if either of my visions was actually going to happen.  “Let’s talk about something—anything else.”
     She handed me my soda and we settled  into the pile of pillows underneath her window.
     “Can you believe we’re actually seniors now?” she said.
     “I don’t think it’ll be that much different.”
     “Maybe not in Bridgeton, but here if you’re not a senior, you’re nothing.  No one even notices you.”
     “So you want to get noticed?”  I said. “By anyone specific?”
     “Well, there is Jared Slone—he’s so hot.  I’ve been in love with him since eighth grade, but he’s got a girlfriend.  Jason is total history, but there is someone who might have potential—this guy in my art class last year.  He has this whole emo thing going on, but I’m starting to kinda dig it.”
     “Brooding artist…interesting.”
     “I’ve got someone in mind for you, too.”  She lifted the can of soda to her lips.
     “His name is Ian and he’s super cute .”  She ignored my heavy sighs and continued.  “He did have a little drug problem last year, but his parents sent him to rehab.  I saw him over the summer and he’s doing great.”
     “Not interested.”
     “Ugh, you are so frustrating!”  She threw a pillow at me.  “When are you gonna join the rest of the teenage world and give in to your hormones?”
     “Ew—you sound like Claire.”  I tossed the pillow back.
     “Let me give Ian your number.  If you hate him I won’t say another word, but at least give him a chance.”
     “Val…”  I groaned, sliding both hands down my face.  I thought about mentioning future-guy from the garden and my newfound “gift”, but I didn’t want to get her started.  
     “Fine, I give up.  You can be lonely and miserable all year.  I’m gonna go after emo kid.”
     “Then you might want to invest in some black.”  I pointed to her closet full of springtime colors and cheery prints.
     She got up and rifled through the closet, bringing out a black tank top with spaghetti straps.  “Here’s something…hey, I could wear this tomorrow night.”
     “What’s tomorrow night?”
     “Oh, I haven’t told you about the surprise yet!"
     "You mean it’s not that shiny, yellow thing in the driveway?"
     "No," she said. "Well, yeah, that too—it’s awesome, my parents finally caved—but no, there's something else."
     "Guess who’s gonna be in Selinasville tomorrow night?” she said, excitement sparking in her eyes.
     “I don’t know...who?”
     “Modern Myth is playing at Dusky’s!  I absolutely have to be there—will you go with me?"
     “Isn't Dusky’s twenty-one and up?”
     “Not a problem. I got my sister’s ID—and her friend’s for you.”
     "How’d you pull that off?"
     "Paid them fifty bucks each."
     "You are insane," I said.  "She’ll kill us both if we get caught."
     "L, relax.  Anyone with an ID gets into Dusky's."
     “Please, please, please come with me.”  She tugged at my arm.  “Don’t make me go by myself."
     "Okay, I’ll go."
     She jumped up and gave a little a happy squeal, throwing her arms around my neck.  “We’re gonna have so much fun!”
     “What time does it start?” I asked.
     "9:00, so I’ll pick you up around 7:30—don’t forget to tell Gram you’re staying over at my house."
     “I am?”
     “Yes, and I have another surprise for you.”  She handed me a blue gift bag with silver stars all over it.
     "You didn’t tell me what you wanted for your birthday, so I picked something out.”
     I opened the bag and took out a green leather-bound journal with a tree branch and flower design pressed into the cover.
     “I got it so you could write about all the great memories you make in Gentian,” she said.
     “It’s perfect.” I smiled and hugged the journal close to my chest.  “Thanks, V.”


That was chapter 2...as always, I hope you liked it!  
Please leave a comment and don't forget to come back tomorrow for chapter 3! =) 



  1. Hey Shanon, finally got back to chapter two. Love the Indian heritage and the way Lilah's gift has come from her great great grandmother. Really curious as to what she is going to do with it and how she's going to live with it, if it's going to be overwhelming and way to scary or if she'll actually be able to do some good with it. Like her grandma, the country town, the BF who I'm sure is going to lead her astray. Very curious as to what her mother's reaction to all this moving away is going to be, if the confrontation - there will have to be one won't there? Is going to be the end of their relationship or if them living apart will finally lead to a place where they can both find the space to get on. Looking forward to chapter three, will get back here soon xxx

  2. Hey Sarah! =)
    I'm so glad you got to read chapter 2...it's killing me because I want to answer all your questions, but I don't want to give anything away! ;o)
    I will say that Claire doesn't appear to let Lilah's leaving bother her much...she keeps on doing her thing--keeping busy with work and losing herself in the next guy. =P
    Their confrontation comes later...but not in this book. ;o)

    Thanks for reading...it is infinitely interesting to hear your thoughts and predictions on the storyline! =) xoxoxox

  3. Hi, Shannon, I finally got back to this, sorry it took so long. I am enjoying the story, I'm hoping these girls don't get into to much trouble at the club. and I'm anxiously awaiting the meeting of the mystery guy.

  4. Hey, Marilyn! Don't you WANT them to get in some trouble? lol