Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Excerpt from BARBARY POINT by Alan Nayes...*Contest*
CHAPTER 1 – A MOTHER’S REQUEST
I was seated behind my desk when my mother called.
“Kelly, I have some awful news,” Mom blurted out. “Your father has passed away.”
A frozen silence coated the office interior like newly formed frost from a winter chill. I no longer heard the morning fashion editor prognosticating on the radio, no conversations from the hall, no sounds of copy machines and faxes.
My father. Dead.
Not the kind of revelation I had grown accustomed to. Up to that time, bad news had been nothing more serious than a speeding ticket, a missed deadline, and once or twice a broken date.
The morning had started out ordinary enough. I was driving into work.
Since graduating from a prestigious East Coast university with master’s degrees in comparative literature and broadcast journalism, I had launched a whirlwind of successes. I called it connecting the dots. My position as chief editor for West Coast Today magazine, a glamour publication with more CEOs and movie celebrities on its board than most Fortune 500 companies, was my most recent acquisition. Seeing my nameplate, Kelly English, mounted on the finely grained oak door always gave me goose bumps, though I would be the last person to admit this. That was one dot. And I’d built the magazine to a circulation of three-quarters of a million readers. Another dot.
I couldn’t resist a brief smile of pride in the rearview. My smile always reminded me of my mother. I looked like her. We both were blessed with high cheek bones and a thick mane of auburn hair. I’m just a younger version. And even though I’d recently turned twenty-eight, I could still lay claim to the title of youngest editor-in-chief of any major publication in the U.S. That was important to me. But I never realized priorities could change so fast when you least expected it.
I’d always believed winning was everything. And it seemed I never stopped rushing. That’s because I loved the game of life and enjoyed all its trimmings--a half million dollar residence, a fantastic job, and glamorous lifestyle--all dots on my future life investment. The sky was the limit and I was fueling my own rocket ship. Not bad for a shy kid growing up in a Dallas , Texas suburb who’d been cut from her junior high school soccer team because she couldn’t run fast enough.
Well, hell, this filly was running now!
I raced my snow white BMW convertible down the exit ramp, through a yellow light, whisked around a corner and moments later pulled to a stop in my own private space in underground parking.
No sooner than I rode the elevator up nineteen floors to my high rise office in the center of Los Angeles ’ financial district, the indicator light on my desk phone reminded me the morning business had begun.
My heart rate picked up a notch, though, when I recognized the voice on the line.
“Kell-bee,” a deep baritone resonated in my ear. “How was the ride in?”
“Wonderful, Thomas,” I replied. “I’m at my desk now.”
“Then I won’t bother you, baby,” he said. “Just wanted to ensure you arrived safely.”
“You mean a lot to me, Kell-bee.”
“And I’m not referring to your position as my editor-in-chief.”
“I know that, too, honey.”
“I love you, Kelly English.”
I kissed him through the receiver and disconnected.
Thomas Gregorian was perhaps the most surprising dot of all. The first time he’d called me Kell-bee, a sobriquet for Kelly and baby, I had blushed. So corny, yet from the CEO and chairman of Mayflower Ltd., a conglomerate of cable, real estate, and financial concerns and parent of West Coast Today, the nickname had seemed as natural as my birth name. After a dinner a year ago, our relationship blossomed rapidly to a flowering romance, culminating in a four karat engagement ring six weeks ago, thanks to his tenacious persistence. The wedding was set for October, a mere five months away.
Thomas Gregorian was rich, handsome, caring, everything a woman could desire. I reminded myself every day I couldn’t have been more blessed. Like Mother constantly cajoled me, when you net a fish that big, you don’t dillydally around and debate how to prepare it, you simply toss it in the skillet with plenty of grease and turn the heat to high.
Thomas liked to describe the physical attraction between us as akin to a finely blended vodka martini, his favorite drink, with all the ingredients measured to perfection -- goes down so smooth, yet leaves one feeling a warm afterglow long after the glass is empty.
Alone in my office, I allowed myself a moment of self-contemplation. My stepfather was several decades older than my mother and my parents seemed quite happy. Thomas’s age didn’t matter either. A fifty-one year old man as virile as Thomas was in his prime -- professionally, emotionally, and mentally. Eight years had passed since his divorce and I was ready to be a first time bride.
“I want a grandchild to spoil,” Mother constantly teased me.
Well one day soon, I thought as I perused the morning’s hectic schedule -- meetings with staff, audits to complete, a gazillion calls to clients, and layout artists for the new Seagram’s account.
Then came that phone call from Dallas , Texas .
“Your father has passed away,” Mother had said.
“Josh!” I exclaimed.
“No, not Josh. Him!”
Instantly, any concern ground to a halt. “Oh, him,” I said. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since my parents divorced when I was three.
Josh English was my stepfather and had been since I was seven. Though as an adult, I addressed him as Josh, he was still the only father I had ever known. He raised me, schooled me, clothed me, and most importantly, Josh deeply loved a woman named Melody, my mother.
In contrast, him was simply a blank slate, devoid of anything human. There was nothing reminiscent of family, and certainly no sense of love and loyalty. I didn’t hate him, though at one time I might have despised his existence. Now there was no feeling whatsoever. He might as well have been a stranger on a deserted island somewhere off the desolate coast of Antarctica . For me, he simply didn’t exist.
“I received the notice in the mail yesterday,” Mother explained. “Gene died almost two weeks ago. The funeral was last Sunday.”
“Why were you notified so late?”
“Well, Kelly, we weren’t exactly in touch. Also, he was living in Wisconsin .”
“I thought you mentioned one time he was from Chicago .”
“I guess he moved back. Anyway, this letter from the probate lawyer states Gene left his entire estate to me and you.”
“I know, it’s absurd. What’s it been --?”
“Twenty five years,” I answered for her.
“Yes, I suppose so, dear. There is one slight problem with all this.”
“One of us needs to fly up there to close out his estate. It wasn’t much, a small house or cottage on a lake, and other miscellaneous items the letter says. Gene never made much money, I gather.”
“So fly up there, Mom,” I said. “It shouldn’t take but a few days.”
“I can’t. Josh is going into the hospital for some tests.”
“Oh no need for worry. Something to do with his colon. You know Josh, as strong as a bull.”
“Can’t Dad’s estate business wait?” I asked, instantly aware of an odd sensation in my chest at using the possessive adjective Dad.
“Not according to the lawyer. He would prefer to close this in person and soon.”
“Like in the next couple of weeks.”
I exhaled heavily. “Mom, you would not believe how busy I am -- the magazine, the wedding, Thomas.”
“How is Thomas?”
“So Kelly, can you do this for me? Like you said, one day, two at the most. Gene didn’t have much.”
“Please, one little favor.”
“Okay,” I acquiesced. “I guess I could get away for a little break.”
“Oh, dear, I knew you’d make time. You’re the best. Josh and I would go if it weren’t for the hospital appointment.”
“You don’t have to say it, Mom. By the way, where will I be flying to?”
Mother paused to read. “It says here, Gene had a tiny place just outside of Oshkosh on Lake Winnebago .”
Lake Winnebago . For some inexplicable reason the name touched a chord, I don’t know why, it meant nothing to me, and I decided this was fitting, as neither did my deceased father.
Alan will give away a print copy of his novel GARGOYLES to one lucky commenter!! One winner will be picked at random once the SPOTLIGHT is over. Please leave your E-mail address so that we can contact you, should you win!
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