Monday, December 31, 2012

Tropical Holiday by Brenda Whiteside Chapter Three

 Jump to the first story

Chapter Three
The bus hit a larger than ever rut in the road, and Yuma’s head bounced twice off the window.
“Damn!” She laughed out loud and looked around. Half of the gay couple had fallen from his perch on the edge of the seat. The English single birds were clutching each other. Yuma turned back to the scene out her window, but it had changed. She craned her neck to see the bus stop. No bus stop. No Eirik. Even the village had vanished.
She sighed, a bit disoriented, gazing out the window as the bus picked up speed taking her back to the resort. A flash of metal danced across the chrome on the back of the seat in front of her; the sun broke free from the clouds for the first time since she’d landed in Mexico.
~ * ~
The sunlight soaked her with warmth when she descended the steps down to the white, silky sands of the beach. She wore the yellow swimsuit she paid too much for but clutched the oversized towel around her against the chill of the ocean breeze. Sunbathers were sparse and a choice of lounge chairs available. Choosing one facing the aqua waves, she sat on the edge, huddled under the towel and listened for revenants floating on the ocean breezes. If Eirik were beside her…she closed her eyes and pictured the word ocean.
“You won’t get much sun like that, but you’re probably warmer than I am.”
She opened her eyes to the voice. A man about her age, golden hair reflecting rays of sun, had reclined on the lounger beside her.
“The sun is luscious, but the air is still a bit chilly for me.” She smiled and shivered as a draft of salty air tickled her exposed calves.
In spite of his relaxed position, goose bumps prickled his muscled arms. “Yeah, I kind of had a warm beach vacation in mind myself. Then again, this beats the snow I left behind in Minneapolis. White sand trumps white snow for me this holiday.” He laughed. “You took the Tulum tour this morning, didn’t you?”
“I did. How did you know?”
“I saw you get on the bus.” His hands fidgeted on the arms of the lounger. “Are you alone?”
“Yep, that’s me. Alone.” And she didn’t mind at all.
“So am I.” His blue eyes sparkled like the sun on the ocean. “We’re fellow adventure seekers.”
Her heart thumped. “Funny you say that.” She swung her legs around to the side to face him.
“Someone called me that earlier today.” Under the towel she pinched herself. Ouch. “I’m of the mind that adventure seekers have a strong lust for life.”
“And funny you should say that.”
“Someone used those same words to me earlier today.” He heaved his bronze shoulders off the lounger and sat on the edge, his knees coming into contact with hers. “Do you believe in coincidence?”
“No.” She stared into his face. Moments passed. A seagull sang overhead. A woman called to her daughter who’d gone too close to the water.
“Would you like to take a walk, see what the breeze blows our way?”
“Yes.” She stood, unfurled one of her arms and smiled. “I think it’s actually warming up.”
His glance registered the yellow swimsuit, and she was happy she’d paid too much. He stood, stepped closer and his eyes looked inside her. “My name is Egill.”
“Egill? Is that…Norse?”
“How did you know?” A seagull repeated his call overhead.
She laughed. “Oh, lucky guess.” She glanced at the gull, floating on the air current overhead. Or riding on the shoulders of a revenant. “My name is Yuma.”
“As unusual a name as mine. I bet your name has a story behind it.”
They strolled away from the loungers. “Of sorts. But if I tell you, you’ll have to help me fill some blank pages of my story.”
“I can do that.”
Visit Brenda at
She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at
She blogs about prairie life on her personal blog

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tropical Holiday by Brenda Whiteside Chapter Two

 Jump to the first story

Chapter Two
“Oh…no, go ahead.” Yuma turned her face toward the voice in time to see the back of his head as he bent over to stow a backpack under the seat. The empty seat beside her was suddenly overflowing with warmth. His shoulders were broad beneath the waffle-weave shirt. His amber colored hair covered his neck and brushed at his shoulders.
“Man, am I glad there was an empty seat.” Straightening he smiled, raking his hand through his hair. Yuma wished her hair would fall in such full waves around her face. “I missed my tour bus back.” He scratched the beginnings of a beard then stroked downward as if to smooth it into place. “Hi. I’m Eirik.” He offered his hand.
“Yuma.” Eirik’s firm handshake warmed her, his skin just rough enough to prove he had no fear of manual labor.
“Great name! Very visual.” His smile brightened the gray day. “And I’ll bet there’s a story behind it.”
“Of sorts.”
“Come on.” He turned slightly toward her and pushed his shoulders against the bus seat as if settling into an overstuffed chair. “Tell me a story.”
“I was conceived in a rest stop outside Yuma, Arizona,” she blurted without a second thought. “In my parents’ younger days, they traveled around a bit in a VW bus.”
“Wow.” He thumped his chest with his fist. “That’s a great story. It has lust, adventure, romance and love all compacted into two sentences.”
What was this little flutter Yuma felt in her chest? His description sounded exactly the way she had always felt about her beginnings into this world. She stared into eyes, the same amber color as his hair. Although he had to be at least ten years her junior, his eyes were ageless, old and knowing, youthful and laughing. Her heart overrode her head with the notion she’d known these eyes forever.
“What about Eirik? Is there a story behind your name?”
“It’s a Norse name.” He laughed. “That creates a picture, doesn’t it? But the only story is the one I’m creating.” He looked around her and out the window. The bus pulled away from the parking lot. “Tulum was great. So many revenants standing guard on their history, overlooking the sea.”
“You believe in ghosts?”
His gaze swept her face. He traced her lips, looked at each of her eyes. A slow smile blanketed his face. “You do, too.”
Maybe she did. She had never considered the subject beyond the Hollywood movie, rattling chain kind. Why hadn’t she looked among the broken stones to see the ghosts of Tulum?
“Tulum.” He rested his head against the top of the seat and stared into the air above them. “A visual. Large transparent circle with a solid tower rising out of it in a swoop, spreading at the top and disappearing from sight.” Yuma stared at him while he drew the vision with his hands. She smelled the dust of the ruins and a warm woodsy scent rise from his skin. Gazing into the air he drew his vision from, she wondered what he’d been smoking.
“Words are great, aren’t they? Some words evoke great shapes. Like Tulum.”
“Yeah, some words take shape. For instance, mellow looks like a double camel’s hump. Cracker is a little jagged point and then two larger jagged points and then a splintered line. Laughter is a round exploding circle with a dangling tail.”
Yuma laughed. “I’m sorry.” She laughed more. “You’re a little crazy.”
He laughed with her. “Yeah, but you’re the only one who knows.” He touched her arm. “Really, you’re the only person I’ve ever told. Some words have shape. I see them.”
His hand slid down her arm and back to his lap. Feathery ripples followed in the wake of his fingertips. Yuma thought his hand could’ve stayed on her arm longer.
He leaned in closer. “And some words have stories. Entire stories in one word. Like Yuma.”
“Complete stories?” She breathed deeply, inhaling his scent. Her peripheral vision closed to a pinpoint filled with Eirik’s face and the amber color of his hair.
“Not always. Stories in the works. Stories unfolding.”
“So the story of Yuma is still unfolding?”
“I think there are whole blank pages to fill.” He laughed. “How inventive did your parents get with your siblings names?”
“I have one sister we call Setty, short for Settled.”
“Oh, poor Setty.” He chuckled.
“Yes, well, she is their testament to giving up the bus and finding roots.”
“And does Setty live up to her name?”
“Rooted.” Her sister had always been the straight and narrow, stay at home kind. “Do you think it was pre-destination?”
“How can we say?”
Eirik reached under his seat and pulled a bottle of water from his pack. “Drink?”
“No thanks.”
His lips were wet and glistening as he replaced the cap. A small water drop hung from the corner of his mouth, and she imagined wiping the droplet with her finger, feeling the wet softness. He brushed his fingertips across his lips and winked at her before turning his attention to the tops of the ruins peeking above the trees. Yuma wondered if he read her mind. Her face flushed warm as the two English sisters peered at her from the front of the bus. She couldn’t hear what Franco said; the blood rushing to her head was too noisy. Or was that the engine of the bus coming to life?
The bus bumped onto the main road.
“That was great!” Eirik turned in his seat to get one last look at the ruins before they disappeared behind a thick leafy barricade. He smiled, nodding his head as if bidding farewell to unseen friends. “Silent to all but those who hear.” Reaching under his seat he replaced the water bottle in his backpack.
“And what do you hear?” Yuma asked.
“I could say the lives of those before me, but I think it’s more my own inner voice ricocheting off the generations.” He shook his head, and she wanted to touch his hair. “Yuma, you make me say things I say to no one else. Are you a witch?”
“I could be a witch.” Witch and bewitching. This young man with exotic ideas thinks she’s a witch. Could she weave a lusty spell? She wondered what shape he would give to lust.
“I think you are. You know me, and we’ve only just met. It’s difficult to get past the lust and see it, but I’m sure we know each other quite well.”
The witch was an amber-haired man who read minds. “Lust?”
“Lust for life. People who travel alone, especially during the holidays, are adventure seekers, overcome with too much lust to share their road with less romantic souls.”
What if a like romantic soul came along? Could you know someone in a half dozen sentences, have doors open that you had been banging on for years then put to words your vague ideas? Yuma stared into his serious ageless eyes. Romance and romantic. Love and lust. Words with shapes. Now that she understood there were blank pages of her life, it would be easy to write. Easier than erasing – which was what she had been attempting to do. Lust for life.
“Where are you, Yuma?”
“I’m…thinking.” She’d lost her lust somewhere. “The shape of –”
“Lust?” He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “An opaque bubble, opaque because it’s filled with white smoke.” He opened one eye like a young, cute Popeye and smiled. “Go ahead. Try to see it.”
Yuma leaned her head back and closed her eyes. A gigantic bubble floated overhead, the white smoke swirling inside. It fit. She stepped gently into the smoke. When the bus slowed and came to a stop, her eyes remained shut and her hearing deaf to Franco’s words. She felt Eirik stir beside her then his mouth against her ear.
“Goodbye, Yuma.”
He stood and nodded toward the window. She looked out to a bus stop on the main street of a busy Mexican village. As she opened her mouth to question, he appeared outside below the window. The bus groaned as the driver shifted to pull away from the stop. Eirik made writing motions in the air, and she read his lips, “keep writing.” Blowing her a kiss and waving, he disappeared in a faint cloud of dust as the bus pulled away.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tropical Holiday by Brenda Whiteside Chapter One

 Jump to the first story

Chapter One
She had just one wish for the holidays. Peace. Not the world kind of peace. Inner peace. Yuma needed to forget the divorce from a lifeless marriage, to find herself once again. Wow, did that sound corny. But it was the truth, damn it.
Yuma sat at the back of the tour bus and rested her forehead against the window, breathing the cool outside air seeping in around the window seal, trying to avoid the combined breath wafting from the gabby, fat couple in the seat in front of her. It was obvious they’d recently enjoyed the local specialty, salsa rich with cilantro and onions. A fish in an oxygen-deprived aquarium would have more fresh air. Thick green foliage of trees, bushes, and vines whizzed by.
Her sister, Setty, hadn’t cheered her on when she’d announced her vacation. Well-meaning-still-married Setty told her that a trip to Cancun, Mexico, solo, was crazy, yet she hadn’t tried to talk her out of her one-person holiday. In fact, Yuma thought her sister envied her a bit, taking off by herself. It was romantic. There’s romantic and there’s romance. Yuma had insisted reflection was her goal, not romance. Setty had given her that oh-sure-whatever-you-say smile. It didn’t do any good to argue with her sister who believed all the important things in life like sex, kids, mowed lawns and a well-tuned auto required a man. She didn’t need what Setty needed.
But…if a little romance came her way, a slight distraction from reflection, then that would be fine.
The bus slowed as it traveled along the main street of a small town. Franco, the tour guide, gave a running commentary on village life in a Mexican town. Picking up speed, moments later, they approached the entrance to the Mayan ruins of Tulum.
Yuma looked at the backs of the heads of her fellow tourists. And they came in twos; old couples, young couples, a gay couple, and two elderly English ladies who kept asking the guide personal questions and turning around to smile at Yuma every few miles. The empty seat beside her became a neon sign announcing this woman in her forties is alone. Well, she was just very twenty-first century traveling without a companion.
Although, it would’ve been okay to see someone else sightseeing alone, someone that would perhaps have found her interesting enough to chance a…friendship.
But there was no single, middle-aged, American professor specializing in Mayan history who would ask her to his room after the tour to share a bottle of wine; who would find her irresistible long into the night, and serve her breakfast at dawn.
“You will enjoy the tour, even if Mexico is unreasonably cold.” Franco laughed heartily at his play on words as the bus pulled into the parking lot. Day two in sunny Mexico remained chilly and cloudy, exactly like day one. Guaranteed warmth should’ve accompanied the high price of a holiday vacation.
Hugging her jean jacket to her, Yuma stepped off the bus and into the arms of the two English ladies, one on each side, looping their arms around hers.
“Hello, dearie. We saw you were alone and thought you should chum with us. I’m Maureen.” Maureen looked over rectangle gold-framed glasses perched on a nose not quite in the middle of her face. Bright hazel eyes smiled under fluttering white lashes. The warmth of her bony fingers penetrated the jean jacket covering Yuma’s arm. “This is my baby sister, Helen.”
Helen tugged slightly on her, forcing Yuma to shift her attention to the plumper face of the baby sister. Faded blue eyes stared up while a whiskered upper lip curled in a smile, reminding Yuma of a baby seal in a Disney movie she took her niece to see. Helen patted her arm. “We single birds have to stick together.”
The single birds followed Franco around the grounds of Tulum, learning bits of Mayan history sprinkled with tour guide humor, the best of which amused Yuma and eluded the English sisterhood. They stayed at the front of the group for Helen’s sake, partly deaf in her left ear, according to Maureen, thanks to a bloody kick to the head from a mongrel cousin when she was four.
“Have you been single long?” Baby sister Helen asked when the tour concluded for lunch. “You leave him or did he leave you for a younger woman?”
“Helen! Don’t be so nosey!”
Helen’s seal lips pouted, and her round eyes grew watery. “I was only making conversation, Miss Bossy. You came up with the younger woman scenario anyway.” She took a huge, triumphant bite out of her cheese sandwich.
“Well!” Maureen turned to Yuma. “Sorry, dearie, but…”
“No need.” Yuma waved off the explanation. “I think I wear divorced like a badge. Or maybe a scary mask.”
“Oh, nonsense,” Maureen said. “A sweet, young thing like you? There must be all sorts of opportunity for romance.”
Yuma smiled at the sweet, young thing description. “I don’t really care about romance.”
“Romance is highly overrated.” Helen nodded, mouth full of sandwich, hurt feelings apparently forgotten. “In this day and age you can get more than romance if you aren’t careful.”
Maureen clucked her tongue and gave her sister a scornful look.
Yuma knew the middle-aged redhead in the commercial loan department at work would agree with Helen. She would’ve preferred to bring back a case of pineapples from Hawaii rather than her case of herpes. But Helen needn’t worry. This Mexican vacation, solo style, was not a desperation samba. Yuma needed some time alone, that was all.
Still, it would’ve been okay if yesterday, walking the streets of old Cancun, shopping the Mercado, and eating lunch on the patio of a restaurant under cloudy skies, she’d met someone. But there was no young Don Juan plying her with tequila and seducing her into getting a tattoo on her hip while caressing her cheek and murmuring what a fascinating creature she was.
“No more romance for you, Helen?” Yuma crumpled her napkin and stuffed it into her empty paper cup. The notion of romance finding Helen seemed more remote than the idea that Helen could even know what dangers lurked in a careless flirtatious union.
“Oh, if it were true romance, I wouldn’t walk away from it.” She scrubbed mayonnaise from her whiskers. “I’ve had my share though, dearie. It’s Maureen here that’s always on the lookout for a man, the marrying kind.”
“Helen, really!” Maureen stood and carried her lunch container to the trashcan.
More composed when she returned to the table, she didn’t sit down again. “You’ll have to excuse my sister. She has no sense of propriety.” She looked down over her glasses and gave her sister an obviously long-practiced scowl, a speechless language understood between siblings.
“I think they’re loading the bus.” Yuma stood and tossed her lunch remnants into the trashcan. “Thanks for the company. Enjoy your holiday.” Walking away from the sisters, she was glad Franco had instructed everyone to return to their same seats. Chumming with Helen could be amusing, but Maureen – not so much.

Yuma was the fifth one back in her seat. The gay couple quietly bickered, sitting as far apart as the bus seating would allow. Gabby fat couple clumped together, silently. Mr. had his head back and his eyes closed, rubbing his bulbous abdomen. It wasn’t that she needed someone in her life. She proved that when she walked away from a twenty-year marriage. She certainly didn't need the arguing or the nursemaid duties all men seemed to require. That was unfair. She’d had one marriage, one man. Maybe they didn’t all need nursemaids. Mrs. Gabby Fat Couple opened a package of antacid tablets, took out two, and placed them on Mr.’s extended tongue.
It’s always easier to figure out what you don’t need. The trick is figuring out what you do need. So what did she need in her life?
Maybe all husbands weren’t selfish, unimaginative, reticent and clueless. She was hard pressed to think of any of the men she knew that wasn’t. Leaning her head back, she stared at the ceiling. Maybe Dr. Tanner, her optometrist. Or Carl in accounting. Not knowing them on a personal level she could imagine them to be different from the husbands she actually knew. Could Dr. Tanner look into his wife’s eyes without checking for glaucoma, could he see the soul without seeing the iris?
What did she expect from this trip? Turning her head, she looked out at gray skies and sighed. She expected to get some damn sun in Mexico and lie on the beach in the bright yellow two-piece swimsuit that cost too much. Then again, if some younger-than-she-was hunk happened to notice her and find her attractive, she’d be like Helen and not walk, or swim, away from him. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the window. A little sun, a little adventure, a little…
“Do you mind?” A deep voice asked as he settled into the seat beside her.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Visit From Santa by Jena Galifany Chapter Three

 Jump to the first story

Chapter 3

Jayme was thunder struck. “Here? In our home?” She’d heard enough. She opened the car door and climbed out. He did the same, and came quickly around the car to stop her before she reached the door into the house.

“Jayme…” He grabbed her shoulders.

She shrugged him off, and placed both hands on his chest to give him a shove. He held his ground, and stopped her.

“Get away from me, Lou.” The tears fell. There was no stopping them now. There was no reason to hold them back. She struggled as he folded her into his arms, more gently than she expected.

“No. This isn’t how it was supposed to play out. I’ve totally blown this and I have to make it right before you walk in that house.” He firmly held her in place, and made eye contact as she looked up at him.

“What am I going to find in the house? What’s missing now, the rest of your things?” She fell against his chest, not wanting to see his face.

“I’d already bought your present. I couldn’t get it under the tree myself. I had to have help. Kelsey…”

“Helped you wrap a gift?” This was making no sense at all. “You already have several gifts under the tree for me. I doubt Kelsey’s ever wrapped anything in her life, except maybe herself in furs.”

She felt his chest vibrate in a silent laugh. “She didn’t exactly help wrap it but she had to be here. It took longer than expected and I’m sorry for that. I wanted to surprise you.”

“You did that,” she snapped.

“Not with what you think.” He pressed her to arms length and looked into her eyes. “Jayme, no matter what you are thinking, I love you. I’ve loved you from the moment I first met you. I don’t intend to ever stop loving you. I don’t always think things through, but I have good intentions. I want this to be a special Christmas, our first one together in our own home. I don’t want it to be the last. Can you give me five minutes to see if I can repair this damage and make you happy?”

Jayme swiped the tears from her cheeks, crossed her arms over her chest and cocked her head to the side. She fought to maintain her calm. “Okay. It’s Christmas. I’ll give you five minutes.

“Perfect.” He stroked her arms. “Umm… where to begin.”

“I’m waiting and it’s getting cold.”

“Okay. I wanted to get you something extra special for our first Christmas here. Something that would surpass anything anyone had ever given you. I found what I wanted about a month ago but it would be tricky to get it under the tree without you finding out about it. Kelsey offered to help me. I borrowed a couple of her friends, too. The party tonight was planned to give me the opportunity to take care of the gift. That’s why I was talking to Kelsey on the cell, to get this set up.” He paused.

“She was helping you?”

“It was more like she was supervising the project. Once you were at the party we all met here to take care of the gift. It took a little longer than we expected but we got it handled. It was perfect that you said you wanted to find something under the tree that wasn’t here before. I think I was able to make that wish come true for you. I hope you don’t mind seeing the gift before morning though.”

Jayme felt like crying again. He’d been taking care of her holiday wish. How could she have been so jealous? But wait a minute. “How does that explain you having Kelsey’s lip gloss on your mouth?”

Lou grinned. “She said I was such a romantic and so good to you that she’d be looking for someone just like me. Then she kissed me for being a good guy. If I’d thought about her lip gloss I would have wiped it off. It didn’t mean anything to me, Jayme. You are the only one who means anything at all to me and I hope you forgive me again for making you so upset tonight.” He held his arms open to her and she flung herself into his embrace.

“I’m so sorry, Lou. I have a hard time believing how lucky I am to have a man like you. I’m so afraid of losing you I can’t help but be defensive when I feel threatened.”

Lou kissed her. “I promise you there is no threat of losing me. I’m here to stay, Babe. I hope you forgive me for making such a mess of this.”

Jayme cuddled to his chest, enjoying his closeness. “I’ll forgive you if you’ll forgive me.”

“Deal.”  He grinned down at her. “Ready to see your present?”

“Actually I’m enjoying this.” She wrapped her arms around his waist, and held tight.

“Come on, Jayme. After all I did to get this set up, you want to stand around in the cold garage?”

Jayme laughed. “I think you’re more excited about it than I am.”

“I am.” He wrapped his arm around her waist and guided her toward the house. “Close your eyes.”

She complied and allowed him to lead her through the house to the living room. “Can I look yet?”

“Not yet. I want you a little closer.” He shifted her across the floor a few more steps. He let go of her and stepped away. “Okay, open them.”

Jayme peeked through her eyelashes and then her eyes flew open wide. In the space where his entertainment center had been now set a white grand piano, the one that had graced Kelsey’s living room at Thanksgiving. Jayme covered her mouth with both hands, stifling the joyful cry that tried to escape. She turned to look at Lou, back at the piano, and back at Lou.

Lou shrugged. “You don’t like it.” He frowned and pushed out his lip in a pout.

Jayme flew at him, wrapped her arms around his neck, and nearly strangled him as they both laughed.  “You know I just hate it.” She laughed again, and kissed his whole face.

“I thought you would. Can you at least play it once before I throw it out?”

Jayme sat down on the bench and opened the cover to the keys. Her eyes popped wide again. In the center of the keyboard sat a small velvet box. She held her breath as Lou sat down beside her. They both stared at the box for several heartbeats.

She cleared her throat and nodded at the box. “Lou?”

“Open it.”

Jayme bit her lip. “I don’t think I can.”

Lou took the box and opened it. The diamond sparkled in competition with the lights from the tree. Jayme gasped as Lou slid to one knee beside the bench.

“Jayme, I only have one wish for the holidays, one thing that I’ve asked Santa for.” He took the ring from the box, placed the box on the floor, and turned back to her to take her hand. “Will you grant me my gift and become my wife?”

Jayme could hardly speak. The tears fell once more as she bobbed her head up and down, and hoped she could muster her voice. It took a long moment to collect her emotions but she was finally able to squeak a timid, “Yes.” Lou slipped the ring on her finger and slid onto the bench beside her. He hugged her and kissed her. A tear slid from his eye as well.

Jayme wiped it away and held his face in her hands. “Looks like we both got just what we wanted.”

The End

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to You All!