We’re Taking a Little Time Off…

We, your Intrepid Authors are going to take a little break from posting serial stories so we can work on our respective novels and other projects. 

Feel free to enjoy the stories that are here, sorted by title down a bit on the right.  And you can keep up with all of us on our personal blogs, also listed to the right!

Thanks for reading our stories so far, and check back occasionally to see if we’ve jumped back into the writing!

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 320 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The London Olympic Stadium is 53 meters high. This blog had about 560 visitors in 2012. If every visitor were a meter, this blog would be 11 times taller than the Olympic Stadium – not too shabby.

Click here to see the complete report.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

With Honor, part 5

With Honor

by Leigh Townsend

Part 5

Matthew and his fellow sergeants sat nervously in their shared tent.  Once they had gotten a clear idea of the terrain, Captain Harlan had decided it would be better to send Lieutenant Ward’s troop instead of Lieutenant Fisher’s.  All three of the sergeants under Fisher knew it was the best decision; Ward’s troop was entirely comprised of foot soldiers.  They had been trained not only in close combat but also in scouting, and the mountainous terrain made traveling easier without a horse.  No matter how much sense it made, it didn’t relieve the anxiety of the officers who remained behind.

Sergeant Lewis sat quietly on his bunk, channeling his nervous energy into cleaning his tack.  He had already rubbed oil into his saddle and bridle, and he was now focused on shining the brass that decorated both.  A glance across the tent showed Graham and Young to be engaged in similar activities, one oiling his bow and the other mending a pack.  The three sat in silence, concentrating on their chores, until a commotion outside drew their attention.  They all dropped what they were doing, instinctively grabbed their swords, and headed out of the tent.

The noise came from soldiers returning, chaotic and scattered.  The captain and his two remaining lieutenants rushed to meet the first of the scouts as they walked quickly across camp.  One of Ward’s sergeants approached, saluted, and began reporting.

“We found the bandit’s location.  It’s in a fairly secure spot, but we did discover at least one, possibly two weaknesses we can exploit,” he said to Captain Harlan.  The captain nodded and motioned for him to continue. 

“Unfortunately, on our return, we happened on a group of the bandits returning to their base,” he said.  Matthew glanced away from the man as he continued talking.  The soldiers who were returning now escorted wounded compatriots.  “No one was lost, but we do have several fighters with injuries,” he heard the sergeant continue.  The next words made him look back at his captain.

“Lieutenant Ward was injured.”

*** 

The thirteen officers of the company nearly filled the captain’s tent.  Lieutenant Ward was propped up on Captain Harlan’s cot, his presence necessary for their meeting.  Matthew listened closely as the injured man spoke.

“My soldiers made a mistake.  One unit was responsible for establishing a perimeter around the others, to prevent any kind of accidental or intentional ambush.  Once the scouts had found the potential weaknesses, the entire troop was reunited for the return trip.  Those fighters who were responsible for the perimeter somehow failed to maintain it as we left the bandit camp.

“The group of brigands we met on the trail were surprised but not unprepared, much like us.  We fought well; the outlaws are clearly unused to fighting in the open rather than ambush and surprise attacks.  I was grateful no one was killed, and all of the injuries seemed minor in the field.”

At that he looked up at the captain, who nodded.  “You and one other man were hurt badly enough that I am sending you back to the capital to recuperate.  Other than that, the injuries are small and everyone should recover in a short time.”

Lieutenant Ward nodded, his face pale.  His lack of argument for being sent back showed how much pain he was suffering; most soldiers would argue against being pulled out of a fight.  Matthew felt for him, but knew that any officer worthy of his post would rather be injured himself than lose one of his fighters.

Putting his hand on the lieutenant’s shoulder, Captain Harlan leaned close to the man and said something none of the others could hear.  Ward nodded and leaned back, eyes closed.  The captain turned to face the rest of his officers.

“With Lieutenant Ward’s injury, I will need to make some adjustments to our leadership before we begin planning our attack on the Wolves’ den.  Lieutenant Carter, I’m going to assign you to Lieutenant Ward’s troop of foot as you have the most experience working with the scouts.  Fisher, you are better suited to a mixed troop, so I’m shifting you to take the team Carter is currently leading.  At the recommendation from all three of my lieutenants, I’m promoting Sergeant Lewis to head up our skirmishers.”

Matthew was so shocked at the captain’s announcement that he almost missed the final words.  “Fisher, Carter, and Lewis, I want you to decide who to promote to sergeant from within our current ranks.  Everyone dismissed.”

The rest of the sergeants standing next to Matthew turned to congratulate him.  Still unsure of the reality of the situation, he thanked them and headed for Lieutenant Fisher.    He needed to find out more about the promotion, and what his new responsibilities entailed, and he knew that Lieutenant Fisher was the man to ask.

Want to read the rest of With Honor?  It will be posting serial-style on Sundays on Butterflies and Dragons, Leigh Townsend’s blog.

Hello From Mexico: Part 10 (The Conclusion)

After Hector said he would show me the reason he left, I almost became frozen to my spot. Of course, I wanted to know, but I wasn’t sure what (or who) I would find. Hector motioned for me to follow him and I made myself walk alongside him. As we went, he talked about the house and his family. Hearing him talk about it all so fondly almost made me wish that I was apart of that. But, he didn’t give me a chance to. There was nothing I could do about that.
We stopped in front of a door at the top of the winding staircase. Hector smiled at me and knocked on the door.  A woman’s voice told us to enter.  When we opened the door, all I could see was a thin woman making the huge bed in the center of the room. She smiled at us and motioned her head towards the windows. Someone was sitting there with their back to us.
Hector went over to the other side of this mystery person and took their hand. I looked down at it and noticed that it looked old like it belonged to someone who had experienced many days.
“There is someone I want you to meet,” Hector said. “Are you feeling up for it?”
The person nodded and Hector motioned his head for me to come over there. Swallowing my fear, I slowly made my way over to the other side. There sitting in front of me was an old man. He was very thin.  It almost looked like a strong wind could take him away.
“Papa, this is Susanna, my daughter. Susanna, this is my father, Alberto. He is the reason why I had to come back to Mexico. He needed me to help take care of him after a heart attack.”
I looked at this man who I learned was my grandfather. He looked up at me with the same brown eyes I had and he smiled.
Alberto held out a shaking hand and said, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Susanna. Hector has talked so much about you.”
I took his hand and felt warmth coming from it. I returned the smile. He seemed like a very sweet man. “It’s nice to meet you as well.”
Hector and I both took a seat in front of Alberto.  He kept his eyes on me. “It amazes me how much you look like her.”
“Like who?” I asked, confused.
This time it was Hector’s turn to smile. “Like your namesake.”
I wasn’t even aware that I was named after anyone. “Who are you talking about?”
Alberto took a photo from nearby his chair and held it in his shaking hands. As he gazed at it with love in his eyes, he said, “Your full name is Susanna Renata Gonzalez, si?”
“It is.”
He handed me the photo. “That is my love, Susanna. Your grandmother.”
I looked down at the photograph and saw a beautiful woman staring back at me. She had the same, long black hair as I did. Her smile almost seemed to light up the picture. You could tell she was happy at the time.
I always wondered where my name came from. When I was a kid, I hated my middle name. It sounded funny and nobody I knew had it. Kids made fun of me for it.
“Did we share the same middle name as well?” I asked, handing back the picture.
“No,” Hector said. “Do you not know what Renata means?”
I shook my head and Alberto smiled. “It means reborn.”
It took awhile for the words to sink and the meaning to hit me. “What happened to her?”
Hector cleared his throat. “She died a year before you born. It was a horrible car accident.”
I nodded and it all made sense. My father wanted to make sure his mother was still involved in my life even though she wasn’t alive to see me be born.  Even though I never knew this woman, I couldn’t be ashamed of my name now.
Emilio and I stayed for dinner that evening. It was nice being surrounded by another side of my family I didn’t really know existed. I had to pinch myself as I saw Hector, the father who abandoned me, sitting across from me, laughing at something Emilio said. It was a surreal experience, but it wasn’t something I was going to take for granted.
My trip to Mexico had to end eventually. I had a job waiting for me in Arizona. Timothy was waiting for me. I had my whole other family waiting and I couldn’t abandon them. No matter how much I wanted to stay and learn more about Hector and where he came from.
I was surprised to see Hector and Emilio at the airport. They walked me through the airport and kept me company as I waited for the plan to take me back home.
“I’m glad you decided to come here,” Hector said. “It was nice to see the woman you’ve become. Your mother did a great job raising you.”
“She wasn’t alone, you know. Gary helped.”
Hector nodded slowly. “Give him my thanks for that.”
They announced the boarding of my plane and we all stood up, looking at each other. Emilio was the first to give me a hug.
“You sure you don’t want to stay here and marry me?” he asked with a grin.
I shook my head. “Sorry. My heart belongs in Arizona with my boyfriend.”
“Pesky boyfriends. They always get in the way. Well, I’ll be here if you change your mind.”
Laughing, I said, “Right. I’ll remember that. Thanks for helping me, Emilio. I don’t know if I could have done it without you.”
Emilio winked. “Of course you could. But, I’ll take the credit.”
Next, it was Hector’s turn to give me a hug goodbye.  He looked emotional as he pulled away.
“Thank you for coming and giving me a chance to explain myself,” he said. “You know it wasn’t an easy decision.”
“I know,” I said. “I forgive you.”
He closed his eyes and nodded. “Just the words I wanted to hear, Susanna.” Hector opened them again and smiled. “Tell your mother I said hello.”
I nodded and walked towards the line where people were boarding. Before I disappeared into the hallway, I turned and waved goodbye to the two Spanish men who were  now in my life whether I thought it was possible or  not.
A few weeks later, I found myself settling into my new apartment with Timothy. It was great to be out of my parents house and living life as an adult. I spread the blanket Alberto gave me before I left. It reminded me of Mexico with it’s bright yellow and orange.  I loved it.
Timothy came home and gave me a kiss. “You have mail on the table,” he said, taking off his tie.
Thinking it was a bill for a student loan, I walked slowly to the table and went through the stack of envelopes laying there. I stopped at a postcard that waited for me in the middle. Smiling, I looked at what was written on the back.

Susanna,
Thank you again for coming here to see me. You don’t know how much it means to me to know that you were curious about your Spanish heritage. You have always been in my thoughts, but now I can sleep easier at night knowing of the person you have become. Please visit again soon and maybe next time you can bring Timothy along. I would like to meet the man who has my daughter’s heart. We just won’t tell Emilio. Be safe, Hija.

Hector

I sighed, thinking about what I just read. It was nice that he sent me something, to let me know that he was thinking about me. I should have known that deep down he always thought of me. Nobody should have jumped to conclusions when he left. I flipped the postcard over and laughed when I saw the front. It simply read:

Hello From Mexico.

The end

With Honor, part 4

With Honor

by Leigh Townsend

Part 4

The little boy sat in a large chair, his legs swinging as he stared at the ceiling.  His face was wrinkled in the endearing fashion of a child thinking intensely.  When his quick negative answer had earned a response of “This is important, think hard,” he had taken the charge seriously.  The room had remained silently as he thought.  Finally, his face cleared and he turned toward Sergeant Graham.  He shook his head and said, “No, I haven’t seen anything like those in the camps.”

A sigh of relief echoed around the room.

Thomas had returned a week ago with his family’s flocks and exuberant stories of his new friends in the foothills.  His horrified mother had quickly sent a message to the army company.  Sergeant Graham, a big bear of a man with children of his own, had carefully befriended the boy and slowly coaxed him to share what he knew about the bandits.   The knowledge he had given them made sense out of some of the events that had seemed unusual when they had first arrived.  Normally, it would not take an entire company of the army to deter banditry in this area.  The need for more fighters became clear when they realized that these were not the typical ragtag mountain bandits. 

These outlaws had a leader. 

The man called himself the Golden Wolf, and from what Matthew had heard he was quite a formidable foe.  He was ruthless, relentless, and, most dangerous of all, intelligent.  He had gathered a group of men around him who were fiercely loyal and nearly as vicious as he.  They were known as the Wolf Pack.

Most bandits were driven by laziness and greed; it was easier to steal something than to acquire it themselves.  These criminals were driven partly by greed, but also by an unnatural desire to create fear.  The local people were terrified of them.  Incidents like the burning of the shed, senseless destruction of crops and property, and occasional molestation of young women had only furthered the fear of the villagers.  Unfortunately, this campaign of terror and the ferocity of the band made the soldiers’ jobs more difficult.

While the bandits had been more than willing to terrorize the villages and those farms nearby, they had left the scattered herders and shepherds alone.  There were paths that led into the foothills, worn by hooves and human feet, and the bandits used them freely.  The tales Thomas had told made it clear that the Wolf Pack had taken the time to befriend the boys that tended their families’ flocks in the foothills; a few older boys had even been recruited.

What Thomas had just shared was the best news they had gotten.  While the bandits were well armed, they lacked crossbows.  This meant that, even lightly armored, the skirmishers stood a chance against them.  Matthew pulled out a map as Sergeant Graham began asking the boy to describe where the camp was.  In the background, he could hear his Lieutenant and Captain discussing the information they had just been given.

Lieutenant Fisher’s troop of light cavalry would now be given the task of getting a definite location on the camp.  They were also to scout out possible means of entering the camp, in order to take the Golden Wolf into custody.  Matthew turned his attention back to Thomas’s words, knowing that the more detail they could get from him, the easier their task would be.

Hello From Mexico: Part 9

“Susanna?”

Hearing that voice say my name out loud almost caused my heart to stop. I stood there, staring at his picture on the mantle hearing his voice replay in my head. It was deep and smooth. My mother told me that his voice was how she fell in love with him. She said it hypnotized her.
I turned around slowly, almost afraid of what I might see. Standing in the doorway was the man I had been searching for. There was the man who helped give me life. Here he was, the one who disappeared from our existence. I wanted to know why.
Hector smiled at me, tiny creases forming on the skin around his eyes. He held out his hands towards me.

“It’s been too long, Susanna,” he said. “I never thought I would see you here.”

Before this moment, I thought about all of the things he could have said to me. Those two sentences weren’t them. I looked and saw that his hand was still waiting for mine. After all this time, here he was and I was frozen to my spot.

He cleared his throat and his hand fell to his side. “Please have a seat and we’ll talk.”

I managed to move to the chairs he motioned towards. I sat down slowly, my eyes never leaving his face. He looked like the man in the photograph that was still in my purse. His skin was more wrinkled, but those eyes were still the same. They were like mine. There could be no doubts that this man was my father.

“So, Susanna, what brings you here to see me? How is your mother? Is she well?”

I nodded, finally finding my voice. “She’s fine. Everyone is fine.”

“Good, good. And you? How are you?”

“I’m fine. I just graduated college and my job is about to start in a month.”

“Oh? What is your degree?”

“Communications. I’m going to be working at a television station on the five
o’clock news.”

Hector smiled. “That’s wonderful. I knew you were destined for great things. I knew it the day you were born.”

Hearing Hector talk about that with such a casual tone brought me back to why I was here.
Almost as if he read my mind, Hector asked, “So what brings you here, Susanna? I really didn’t expect to see you again.”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This was a lot harder than I thought. “My grandmother told me I should come and find you. She said before I could move on with my adult life, I needed to see you and find something out.”

The silence hung in the air and stayed there around us. Hector started to pull at a string coming from his shirt.

“You are wondering why I left,” he said. His brown eyes looked up and met mine. “Your grandmother sent you here, so you could finally know why.”

I nodded, a large knot forming in my throat. My heart was starting to race. I had no idea what he was going to tell me, but the whole mood of the room changed. It went from casual to serious in one instance.

Hector stood up and walked to the fireplace. He placed his hands on the mantle and sighed. “I fell in love with your mother the moment I laid eyes on her. I want you to know that first. I ran away to America to be with her because I couldn’t imagine living without her. Then, we found out you were coming and everything seemed to be settling down.” Hector turned around to face me. “Sometimes things only settle down for a little while before they get stirred up again.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked. “Mom says that she thought things were fine. That you were happy and wanted to be there.”

“I did!” Hector exclaimed, almost looking desperate. “I really did, but I had to come back to Mexico. I was needed here.”

“You thought you were needed here more than with your own wife and child?” I asked, feeling infuriated. Who did he think he was?

Hector nodded sadly. “I didn’t know what to do, Susanna. I felt like I was backed against a wall with nowhere to go. I had to come back here, but I always planned on going back to you.”

I sat back in my seat, still not believing him. “Why didn’t you then?”

“The moment I got the divorce papers, I knew it was too late. Your mother was hurt and had moved on. I don’t blame her. I just left and she deserved better than that. If I had just explained to her why I had to leave, maybe she would have understood. But, I didn’t. Because I was young and stupid. I came back home and went back to the lifestyle I had before I met your mother. And I’ll be honest with you because I feel you deserve that. I enjoyed the freedom of going out with my friends and not having to get woken up every night by a crying baby.” Hector shook his head. “I was selfish back then and I’m sorry for that.”

I could see the pain written across his face. There was a deep sense of sadness in his eyes. I believed that he was sorry. “I grew up always knowing that the man raising me wasn’t really my father. Then, I found out that my real father left without a word and you can’t even begin to imagine what that did to me. But, it’s okay now. I just want answers now.”

“I can give that to you, Susanna,” Hector said. “What else do you want to know?”

“What was the reason you had to leave? Why were you needed here?”

Hector rubbed his face hard with his hands and then sighed. “Come with me. I will show you.”

With Honor, part 3

With Honor

by Leigh Townsend

Part 3

Matthew shared a quick glance with the two scouts who accompanied him as they entered the village of Klais. These two were part of the troop that had been stationed here for months, and even though they were on foot he appreciated their presence.  They were familiar with the people of the village, and would be able to spot if someone was behaving oddly. 

Klais was situated on the very edge of the foothills of the northern mountains.  It had taken another day and a half after the fire for the troop to reach the spot where the rest of their company was bivouacked; Klais was the closest community to their encampment.  Although they were in their own country, bandits had been known to hide in a village in order to harass the troops.  The villagers usually cooperated with the brigands only when threatened; if someone was acting strangely it could be an indicator that there were bandits in town.

Today there was no sign of trouble.  The people who the soldiers passed gave them only a cursory glance before continuing about their business.  As he rode through the village, Matthew noticed that most of the homes they passed were well-built; it seemed nearly all of them were a single story with a thatched roof.  One larger building stood out in the center of town, a sturdy, two-story structure with wooden shingles in place of thatch.  This was the village inn; the first floor was a tavern and the second would have a room or two to let.   As in many small towns, the tavern also served as the primary meeting place for the locals.  It would be an excellent place for Matthew to start.

With the ability to read as well as basic arithmetic skills, Matthew was often called upon to act in the stead of the company’s quartermaster.  The army brought a majority of their supplies with them, but it was always worth an attempt to secure a local supply of fresh food items when they were available.  Today Matthew was in search of a possible source for several items, including fresh produce, milk, and eggs.  The two scouts with him were going to stay at the inn, ostensibly to relax and play dice but also to attempt to gather more information on the bandits.

Matthew tethered his gelding outside the inn and started talking with the locals.  Sergeant Lewis had found that people were more inclined to talk if you were at their level, rather than staring them down from the back of a horse.  Within just a few conversations, he discovered that produce might be a bit difficult to come by due to some minor bad luck with weather earlier in the season.  He had no trouble securing two providers of milk; not enough for the whole company to drink, of course, but plenty for their cook to use it in his recipes. 

It only took a few more questions before he got an answer about the eggs.  “Go see old man White on the edge of town.  His wife Sarah’s got a fondness for chickens; always trying to find someone to take eggs of his hands.”

With a grateful response, Matthew saddled up, left the scouts in the inn, and headed in the direction of the White’s farm.

*** 

When he rode up to the little farm, Matthew knew he was in the right place.  The garden in front of the house was full of clucking and strutting chickens.  He dismounted and tied his horse to a sturdy fence post.  A path led through the garden and up to the house; although the family was likely working the fields he hoped someone would be home at this time of day.

After knocking, Matthew gave the property a quick scan out of habit.  He turned back toward the door just as it opened.  A young woman near his age stood in the door, her eyes slightly downcast.  “May I help you?” she asked.

Nodding, Matthew replied, “Perhaps.  I am looking for Farmer White.  Do I have the right farm?”

Until she smiled up at him, Matthew hadn’t really noticed the girl.  She looked similar to every other farmer’s daughter he had encountered.  At the question she met his eyes and gave a small grin; the intense green color of her gaze gave him pause.  Her words broke the moment, though, when she answered.  “That’s my father.  He’ll likely be in the barn about this time; you can go on back and find him.”

“Thank you,” Matthew said, and found the small path that led around the house to the small barn.  Farmer White was busy milking the cow, although he looked up when Sergeant Lewis entered.  “What can I do for you soldier?” he asked, and the two began a spirited discussion of eggs.

A short while later, Matthew swung back into his saddle and rode back toward the town.  Pleased with securing a source for fresh eggs along with the milk providers, he gathered up the two scouts and the three returned to their encampment.

Hello From Mexico: Part 8

After awhile, Elisa’s words sunk in. I was actually going to meet Hector after all this time of searching. What was I going to say? The real question was what was he going to say? Maybe he didn’t want to see me. It’s been so long since he has left that he could have came to see me if he wanted to. I didn’t care what anyone else said about it. He could have made an effort. Maybe he just didn’t want to. Maybe he regretted having me as a daughter.
With all of these thoughts racing around in my head, I needed some clarity. I needed some comfort. After Emilio dropped me back off at my hotel, I changed into some pajamas and settled in for the night. There was one person who knew the right words to say to me. I knew I could gain the confidence I so needed. Picking up the phone, I prepared myself for what I was going to tell them.

“Hello?” the voice on the other end asked.

I smiled. “Hey, Mom.”

“Susanna! How are you, sweetie? Gary and I were just talking about you.”
My mom sounded happy but concerned. She didn’t want to come out and ask about Hector, but she wanted to know. I could tell by the tone of her voice.

“I’m doing alright, Mom. I just needed to hear your voice. This is so much harder than I expected.” I sighed. That was the understatement of the year.

“I figured it wasn’t going to be easy,” My mom said. “But I knew you would be strong enough to get through it. How is it all going?”

“Well after running into what seemed like a million dead ends, we finally found someone who knew how to find one of Hector’s sisters.”

“Which one?”

“Elisa. She seems really nice and pretty. I think Emilio has developed a big crush on her.” I laughed as I thought back on Emilio’s reaction towards meeting Elisa. His eyes seemed to smile every time she looked at him. It was kind of cute to see.

My mother seemed confused. “Wait. Who is Emilio?”

I could have hit myself for not remembering that she didn’t know about him yet. “Oh, he’s this guy I met on the beach my first night in Cancun. He was playing guitar on the beach and he agreed to help me out.”

“Oh I see. You’re being careful, right?”

I wasn’t sure what she meant by that question. Did she think Emilio was some kind of perverted serial killer? I doubted that guy could hurt a fly.  “Don’t worry about me, Mom. Everything is fine. I need all the help I can get. I came here with your story of how you met Hector and some old postcard Grandmother swiped from you. That wasn’t much.”

“I know it hasn’t been easy for you, Susanna.  But, maybe your grandmother is right. Maybe you have to do this for you.”

I knew this, but I didn’t want to admit it. “I just don’t know what I’m going to say to him,” I said slowly. “What do I say to a man I don’t even remember?”

“That’s up to you. But I know you’ll figure it out. You’ve gone through too much to get there to back out now.”

Truer words could not have been spoken.  I talked to my mom for another hour. We talked about everything except meeting Hector. I wanted to be distracted by other things.  This was my clarity.

Before we ended our conversation, my mom said, “Good luck tomorrow, Susanna.  You can do this.”

I took a deep breath and released it. “You’re right. I can do this. Not only for myself, but for you.  I’m going to get the answers we need.”

My mom laughed. “I’m not sure I need those answers.”

The next morning, I was feeling more refreshed than I had the entire time I was in Mexico. I had found a reliable source who actually knew how to find Hector. I wasn’t going to be sent on other pointless trip. I was going to meet Hector today.  During the drive to meet Elisa, I let Emilio talk the entire time. I wasn’t even sure I knew what he was talking about, but it was nice to hear something other than silence. It kept my mind occupied and not panicking.
When we pulled in front of a house, that’s when my stomach turned over. This was it. My father could be in there right now. Emilio turned to me and smiled.

“So, here we are. Are you nervous?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I just want to get it over with. I want to be done with the whole thing.”

Emilio patted my hand. “Well let’s get you that then.”

Elisa was waiting for us by the front door. She smiled at me. “So, are you ready?”

“I guess so. Are you sure he’s in there?” I asked.

“He was this morning. I don’t think he had plans for today.” Elisa looked me over once more. “I’m sorry. I just can’t get over how much you look like him. It’s pretty incredible to finally be seeing you.”

“Does he know I’m coming?” I asked. I needed to prepare myself for whatever was waiting for me in there.

Elisa shook her head. “I didn’t tell him. I wanted it to be a surprise. Let’s go.”

Yeah, I’m sure this will be a wonderful surprise, I thought sarcastically as Elisa opened the front door and we walked inside.
As soon as we walked inside, three little kids rushed at us in all directions.  Elisa ushered them away with a wave of her hands. Turning to us, she said, “Sorry. Those are Esteban’s kids.”

“Who is Esteban?” I asked.

“Oh, that’s my older brother. Your uncle.”

There were so many people I didn’t know about and it was starting to make my head spin, trying to keep up with them all.  I looked around each room that we walked through. The house seemed really beautiful. The  house looked cozy like it was really lived in and used. You could tell a huge family lived here with all of the photographs hanging on the wall and the toys laying on the wooden floors.

Elisa led us to a room that looked like a sitting room. “Have a seat and I’ll go see if I can find Hector.” She left leaving me and Emilio alone in the room.

I was thankful Emilio was there. He kept me calm and distracted. Without him there, I would have been a complete mess.

“I think you need to do this alone,” he finally said, looking at me. “I’ve taken you
this far and now it’s your turn to figure this out.” He smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll be waiting outside. Come find me when you’re ready.”

I didn’t want him to leave, but I knew he was right. This was something I needed to do alone.
I watched him leave. Now all I could hear was a clock ticking in the room. Tick, tick, tick. The sound was starting to grate on my nerves. Where could he be? What was taking so long.  I decided to get up and look around the room at all of the photographs hanging on the walls. Hector belonged to a big family, but I knew which one he was. I could tell by the smile on his face. He had a smile like no one else. It was a huge toothy grin that seemed to be saying something mischievous or sarcastic.
As I continued to look, I didn’t notice that the door had opened and someone entered the room.

So it definitely took me by surprise when someone behind me asked, “Susanna?”

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