I know I promised the Avalon sequel for this summer, but though I finished a draft it is still “in the works” as they say. Instead I will publish a few chapters on my blog, which I hope will whet your appetite! This book ended up going in quite an unexpected direction—I hope that will be a good surprise for you 🙂
Why “Antillia?” Antillia is a made up island in the Caribbean, based upon a legendary island similar to Atlantis. It was thought to be a real island right up until the time when Columbus started sailing the Atlantic and more accurate maps were created. Since Avalon was named after a legendary island, it seemed appropriate to find another such place to set this story.
Here are two chapters. I hope you enjoy! (BTW this is still in draft phase — not final version!)
Thanks to all of you who have pushed me to write a sequel to Avalon, something I never planned on doing! And for your love and support through the years — it means the world to me! You’re the best! Gina
I wake to light and rain. How dare it rain on the day of my daughter’s wedding? Here of all places, Avalon, the place where the sun always shines. At least in my imagination.
I roll over, look at my husband, sleeping on his stomach. How does he do that? I never could. I press close to him, my hand gliding over his back, fingernails making white grooves. I see the corner of his mouth curl slightly; he isn’t really asleep.
“Wake up,” I whisper in his ear. “It’s our children’s wedding day.”
His son and my daughter. How crazy is that? We can only imagine what people say about us. Not that we haven’t heard it all before. We had been childhood friends in Avalon, but when we met again—after twenty-five years of silence—I was a widow with a teenage daughter, and he was a man without a family or a home. He didn’t even know then whose father he was.
“Trey,” I whisper again.
“I heard you.” He rolls onto his side, pulling me into him. I press a hand against his chest, pushing away.
“We don’t have time—”
“Wedding’s not until 5.”
“There’s a lot to do.”
He ignores me. I love this about him. He knows when I want to be ignored.
I remember our own wedding day, eight years ago, just him and me and our lovebird children, Ben and Caroline, my parents up from the Florida gator swamps and Trey’s mother with her latest boyfriend. All piled into the tiny sanctuary of St. John’s by the Sea. I had wanted a church wedding. I knew God had made this marriage, that there was no other way it could have happened. The very fact that Trey and I had ended up together seemed to me a fulfillment of fate, of God’s will, of something greater and more mysterious than anything I could have planned.
How strange life is. How often terrible. How sometimes beautiful.
He presses into me and I ache, as I always do, as if it were the first time. Maybe it’s age, arthritis. Maybe it’s a longing still unfulfilled, a need to have all of him, while there is still so much he keeps from me. I try to respect that. I try not to pry. We spent so many years apart. No one can have everything.
He knows every detail of me though, every part of my life before, with Jack, away from Avalon. Jack, his friend too, a fellow lifeguard, Jack who died too young. Jack, my second crush, but the one that would stick.
We waited a long time for each other, here on this beach, in this house. The Pink Poodle, though no longer pink, now a pretty, sunny yellow. I still miss the pink. We don’t have a new name for it yet. The Yellow Poodle just doesn’t work. Yellow…Submarine? Maybe today, in this rain.
The wedding ceremony is supposed to take place on the beach. Our rain option is St. John’s, which is small, too small for the bride and groom’s posse of friends. How will we fit everyone? I run through scenarios in my mind.
“Where are you?” He pauses, pulling away to search my face.
He smiles, brushing hair off my face. We are still a moment, fused. It feels safe. This is where I love to be.
I think of our first time together, on our wedding night, because I am a prude and he is forever patient with me. Seeing his body, the burn scars all along his right side, the memory of the bombing that took his wife and son in Kabul. Another lifetime. How we had both trembled, like teenagers. How I had cried. How he had laughed.
“Mariah…it will be fine.” He kisses me again.
Yes, it will be fine.
My daughter Caroline wants nothing to do with hair stylists and wedding planners. She is going to wear her hair long, unadorned, with a simple veil. Contrary to her mother and grandmother, she’s gone all in for the hipster look, which I think is just an updated version of a flower child, though I’m not altogether sure. Her dress is simple too, lovely on her, plain white silk with a wide pink ribbon around the empire waist. She has one attendant, her friend Monique from her childhood in Raleigh. She is breathless with excitement, unable to eat, to even stand without shaking.
My mother is on hand to direct, her natural role. She is annoyed that Caroline is not spending more time primping. She is annoyed with the weather too.
“What is it with this place? As rainy as it always was.”
I don’t remember that much rain.
“Like the day you were born.”
Yes, me. Born in the Storm of ’62. My mother has never quite forgiven me for this. Yet I am no stranger to storms. I lived for twenty years in North Carolina; Jack and I weathered many hurricanes in the Outer Banks. I’ve had my share in Avalon too. Hurricane Sandy hit last fall, yet eight months later you could hardly tell there had been a storm. It was a windfall for Trey, who owns the Avalon Building Company, my father’s business. Renovations and repairs kept him busy most of the winter, which was unusual.
The business has not been a tremendous financial success. But neither of us wanted to leave this island. So we stay, we scrape by. My father finally deeded me the house, so at least we now own it free and clear. That part is good.
The rain stops around three, the sun peeks out. Perhaps it will be a beach wedding after all. The reception is at the Golden Inn, scheduled for outside on the terrace. I start to feel somewhat hopeful.
Trey and I get dressed in our bedroom, my grandparents’ room. I still cannot enter this room without remembering them, feeling their presence, seeing them there. I am wearing pink, my favorite color.
“Do you think this is appropriate for a mother of the bride?” I ask him.
He is sitting on the bed, buttoning his shirt. He smiles at me.
“It’s pretty sexy,” he says. He grabs my hips and pulls me down on the bed.
“You’re going to wrinkle me,” I say.
“Then don’t wear that dress.”
There is a knock at the door.
I jump up quickly. I try to fix myself. Trey laughs.
“You okay?” I ask, going to the door. Caroline is standing there in her wedding dress. She is tall, taller than me, and regal, like her father.
“The photographer wants us outside.”
“We’re almost ready. Be there in a minute. You look beautiful.”
“Thanks. So do you.” She gives me a knowing smile.
I feel a blush coming on. “How’s Ben? Have you talked to him?”
Caroline glances at Trey. “He’s good.”
“He’s freaking out,” Trey says, translating.
“Yeah, kind of.”
“He’ll be fine.”
Her smile is tentative, a little sad.
“You miss your dad,” I say.
She nods. They had been so close, she and Jack. But today she is marrying the man she met when I first brought her to Avalon that summer ten years ago, the year after Jack died. Like him, Ben was a lifeguard, which had put me on full alert at first. Lifeguards have a certain reputation in Avalon. Little did we know at the time that Ben had come to Avalon, in fact, to find his real father. Which turned out to be Trey.
When I tell people that story, they think I made it all up.
Ben had been on hiatus from law school at the time, still unsure of his on path in life. That fall he went on a mission trip to Thailand, working for an organization that battles human trafficking, particularly for children. There he found his true calling, and a few years later he returned to law school, so he could be better equipped to fight this evil thing which had become his life’s mission. He was, by nature, a rescuer, like his father.
Caroline had decided to become a doctor, a fixer of unfixable problems, like her father. She went to med school at Rutgers, where she and Ben resumed their relationship after a few years apart. A natural athlete, she managed to get accepted to the Avalon Beach Patrol, and one summer she and Ben actually shared a lifeguard chair.
She graduated from med school this past year, finally. She is doing her internship at U Penn; Ben has taken a job with the Law and International Freedom Enterprise (LIFE) in Philadelphia, an organization that specialized in battling human trafficking all over the world. They will be a good team, I think, if they can survive the stress that her internship will put on their new marriage.
I don’t envy them. I remember Jack’s first year of residency, the eighteen-hour shifts, his perpetual absence. When he was home he was usually asleep. We subsisted on Chinese take out and grilled cheese sandwiches. I had no particular career goals, other than to be Jack’s wife and to be a part of his world. And I was trying—and failing—to get pregnant.
But we survived. Jack got through his surgical residency and began what became a very successful practice. After several miscarriages I gave birth to Caroline and got involved in all the things doctor’s wives are supposed to get involved in, though I never thought I was particularly good at them. All the while I felt like an alien in my own backyard, like Dorothy, perhaps, hopelessly lost, looking for her heart’s desire in all the wrong places.
Then Jack died, suddenly, during a round of golf on a Saturday morning. I was forty years old at the time, too late I thought, to start over. And yet I did—I went back to the beginning, to Avalon, where our story began. I dragged Caroline with me, away from her home and the memories of her dad, dragged her back into my own childhood, where I remembered being nothing but happy. It was a mistake, perhaps. But had it not been for that summer, we would not be here, Trey and me and Ben and Caroline.
Trey comes up to stand beside me at the door. He takes hold of Caroline, hugs her hard. They are great friends, but it is different from being a father. Trey doesn’t really know how to be a parent—Ben was already twenty-four when Trey found out he was his son. Yet I have no doubt he loves Caroline, and she him.
“You know the part where the father gives the bride away?” my daughter says, her brown eyes glimmering with the advent of tears. “Would you do it?”
He nods. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. That’s what Dad would have wanted, I think.”
After she leaves, I throw myself into Trey’s arms and cry.
“You’re going to have to redo your mascara,” he says.