You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Tate Publishing (January 10, 2012)
***Special thanks to Jill Twigg for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
- List Price: $17.99
- Perfect Paperback: 232 pages
- Publisher: Tate Publishing (January 10, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1613465610
- ISBN-13: 978-1613465615
- Available to purchase at Amazon
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The panting sounds she heard were getting stronger. Rylee looked behind her to see who was coming. There was no one. She quickly continued her quest to get home. Only a hundred more yards, she could make it. Still hearing panting sounds, she stopped and leaned against the building to confirm no one was coming. She didn’t understand. The sounds were so loud and persistent. She held her breath a second longer to take notice then sighed, realizing the sounds were coming from her own mouth. Rylee breathed a little easier knowing that possibly she wasn’t being followed just yet. In hurrying to get home to see her mother, Rylee knew one thing for sure: the need for calling bluffs had to stop. One day it wasn’t going to work. And she was thinking that it was the day. She was utterly unsure of her future now.
The flight plans were set, and she was to leave to catch the bus in a little less than an hour. That bus would take her to the airport in Dublin, which was at least an hour from her house. Rylee would then catch a plane and a connecting flight to her destination in America—Georgia, to be exact. Where that was? Rylee had no clue. She wasn’t sure of anything anymore. How can someone threaten the life of someone else and get away with it? Never mind that, how can one take the life of another and get away with it? Why was this happening to her? She hadn’t hurt anyone to deserve this warning.
Rylee certainly had her reasons for threatening to cause problems. So now she had to leave her home and her country. Where was the justice in that? With the deadline for her departure almost expired, she wasn’t wasting any time. Prolonging the inevitable only made the impendingmatter worse. She knew she had to go. There was more at stake than just her life, and she wasn’t going to put her mother at risk because of her momentary inclination to stir up trouble.
Her mother was waiting with the luggage just inside the front door. A large tote bag consisting of a few changes of clothes, a toothbrush, and a license were all Rylee had to take on her journey. She was not sure why she bothered. That wasn’t much to start a new life, but she knew she’d get by with what she had. She received from her mother a quick kiss and one hundred dollars. They tried to stay strong, neither one wanting to show too much emotion, for fear they would not follow through with their plan. However, when the time drew near, their watering eyes displayed the melancholy they were both trying to avoid. They each had no indication as to when they would see each other again. Sometimes life was just so unfair. Hurrying back out the door, Rylee headed around the building to the bus stop and her uncertain
future. There was no bluffing her way out of this one.
Rylee Shannon was embarking on a new and scary adventure. A journey, if you wanted to call it that. Or vice versa. And as far as she knew, it could have been a journey right to hell. But anywhere was better than where she’d been. Scary or not, she had to trust that her mother was doing the right thing. Those demons would eventually need conquering, even if it took her last dying breath to do so. But for now, she would suffer in silence until she figured how the next part of her life was going to play out in the scheme of things. The midnight flight from Dublin, Ireland, was scary enough considering the fact she had never been on a plane. Except for her therapy training and the occasional visits to the Wicklow Mountains, Rylee didn’t venture too far from her town of Glendalough.
The flight attendant was not looking very cordial this evening as she monitored the seatbelts down the aisles. Her making sure everyone buckled his or her seatbelts before takeoff brought no comfort to Rylee at this point. She assumed the flight attendant had picked the short end of the stick and received the late night flight as punishment. Rylee also noticed the deep set of dark circles under the attendant’s eyes. She had probably had a long and hard day. Haven’t we all? Rylee added to her thought process.
With eyes wandering about, Rylee noticed there were thirty-five rows of two seats on each side of a middle aisle, A and C on one side and D and F on the other.
What happened to B and E? she wondered. She needed to stop thinking so much. She was getting very anxious for the flight to be over, and the plane hadn’t even gotten into the air yet. The Fasten Your Seatbelt sign came on, and the flight attendant made her announcements. She proceeded to show the routine demonstrations of putting on the seatbelt as the airplane taxied to the runway.
The safety demonstration is a joke, Rylee thought.
Flotation device—were they serious? Did they really expect her to believe that if this big bus in the sky was to have a water landing, she would actually be able to utilize the flotation device? Would she even be able to get over the panic to grab her seat cushion? Nonetheless, when she stood, she would almost certainly knock herself out because the ceiling was so low. And flipping the seat over to attach the straps around her shoulders? Just give me a gun! She laughed at herself.
The realization that a tranquilizer would have been appropriate for this trip approached her thought process as well. All that thinking was going to make her insane. She just needed to relax. Right!
Rylee could hear her mother beyond her doom-and-gloom thoughts.
Always the pessimist, Rylee girl. Someday, you are going to have to learn to trust the Lord. Negative thoughts will bring you negative actions! You mind my words. Nothing good will come of it, ever.
Rylee’s mother, Bonnie, was always the optimist. Rylee couldn’t fathom anything positive coming from this journey to the unknown. Her life at home was bleak at best, according to her, but at least she knew it. How was it to become any better, running for her life, basically to an unknown country?
The plan was for her to stay with a childhood pen pal of her mother’s. A pen pal, for Pete’s sake! Not even a friend her mother had actually met.
How could her mother do this to her? She could be sending her to a place worse than which she came from. How could Bonnie be that trusting? However, Rylee had no place else to go. She was as desperate as desperate could get. Again, always the pessimist, she thought.
She needed sleep. If the ride was as traumatic as the takeoff, she didn’t know how she was going to get through it. Not only that, but she was scheduled to change planes in New York, so she would get to do it all over again. It was a good thing she brought her inhaler, because even though the passenger in the next seat explained the bumps from the plane were just “air pockets in the clouds,” she wanted off, and she wanted off now. The stress that manifested her wheezing finally subsided after several minutes, and she was able to breathe normally. However, it wasn’t long until the next bout of bumpy clouds came again. It was amazing to her how a bunch of fluff could make an enormous airplane dip like a roller coaster. The feeling of her heart leaving her chest and moving into her throat was not making a good first impression for this airline. She was quite sure she never wanted to go through the experience of an airplane ride ever again. Next time she would think about traveling by boat. But, then again, she couldn’t swim. She was in a pickle. Either way, she was in a predicament in which she needed to trust, and that was difficult for her.
The last couple of days had been hectic, to say the least—scrambling for a plan of escape, then putting it into action. She was literally running a race of her life. Her mother, bless her heart, had really stepped up to the plate for her. Rylee always told her mother that God had a special place waiting for her, and that was never truer than now. Bonnie managed to pawn some family relics to add to her measly savings to purchase Rylee a bus ticket. It also funded part of the plane ticket from Dublin to Georgia. Her mother’s pen pal fronted the rest with no questions asked, knowing she would not be able to pay it back anytime in the near future. She had to give the McLellans credit for coming to the aid, an expensive aid at that, especially for someone whom they had never met.
She wondered what she would have to do to compensate.
The roller coaster ride through the clouds was not helping Rylee’s nerves or the queasiness of her stomach. It was either due to the stress of the trip or the constant altitude changes; she didn’t know which. Probably both. At this point, she really needed the plane to stop. Rylee figured the pilot drew the short end of the stick as well. Between him and the stewardess, or the flight attendant or whatever they are calling them these days, Rylee didn’t have a chance on this flight.
“Oh my!” She exclaimed aloud, her thought process interrupted by another cloud dip. Luckily, she hadn’t eaten anything in a while, because that last dip would have caused her to lose it all. And it would not have been pretty. If Rylee wasn’t so shy, she’d go ask the pilot if he needed help driving the plane. She assumed he was a novice. She could at least alert him when the clouds were coming.
The woman seated next to her could see her distress and patted her clenched hand on the armrest.
“It’s okay. The plane is built to manage these clouds.”
“I’m not handling this very well, am I?” Rylee stated back to her.
“Don’t you know about the reconnaissance planes that fly into hurricanes to see how strong they are?” she asked. “This is nothing.”
She couldn’t fathom why anyone would want that job. She nodded, appreciating the woman’s attempt to comfort.
The pilot came on the loudspeaker to announce that the turbulence should be over and the rest of the flight would be smooth sailing. He even tried to downplay it and make light of the situation by asking the children to refrain from bouncing in their seats, while the passengers laughed. However, Rylee’s nerves did not dissipate. The woman patted Rylee’s hand again. Rylee smiled at her and then closed her eyes, silently praying that the pilot was true to his word. Her thoughts meandered to a picture of Rylee kissing the ground if she ever got to it.
The Hartfield-Jackson International airport in Atlanta was starting to come alive with the hustle and bustle of family, friends, and patrons waiting to board their flight. The vendors were opening up their gates for business as the early scheduled flights brought patrons yearning for nourishment or reading material before they headed to their destinations.
One of these patrons, Lucy McLellan, was there on a mission. In all her fifty-three years, she had never turned down someone needing help, and she wasn’t going to start now. About a week ago, she had received a disturbing phone call from her childhood pen pal in Ireland asking—more like begging—for her to accept her daughter for a visit. She added that Rylee was in need of protection. Lucy, never one to leave someone in a bind, agreed, knowing that her trusted friend would not have come to her in desperation without probable cause.
“Okay, here’s gate C33,” Lucy said, as she looked back and waved for her son to come over to where she was. Her pen pal’s daughter, Rylee, had gotten herself into some trouble. She was able to get a temporary visa to visit. How she got it in a week’s time was only by the grace of God, for she needed to be out of Ireland—and fast. Bonnie assured her there were no drugs involved; for that reason, she did not have to worry about the headache of not being able to trust someone in her own home. She didn’t want to go through the trouble of having to hide anything that could be pawned for drugs or what not.
Patrick, Lucy’s only child and driver to the airport for this meeting, lagged behind with much trepidation, verifying the gate from the monitor. After much pleading, Patrick agreed to the offering of himself in marriage for Rylee’s protection, at least until he got back from a mission abroad. The offer was made sight unseen and without revealing the motive for the visit. Then when he returned, he could annul the marriage. By that time, things would have settled down at the home front, and Rylee could return to her mother in Ireland.
Patrick agreed with much protest but knew his mother would not have asked without a great deal of praying. She had enough faith for the both of them; however, neither was lacking in that area.
“An arranged marriage? Mom, this is the twenty-first century,” he argued. With her arguing back that the Bible did not stop teaching and providing nourishment just because it was past the death of Christ, he smiled at her, knowing that any argument with his mom was never a winning situation on his part, and she knew he was teasing. And knowing Lucy, there would be more to it than a simple marriage of convenience.
However, Patrick had other concerns. He had to get ready for his trip abroad, which was in ten days. Patrick was a physician working at the county hospital’s emergency room clinic when he was home. On this assignment, he was heading to Guatemala for his church mission field project. He made the trip every two years to help with whatever medical issues were going on at the time. There was usually quite a load. He enjoyed his job immensely, believing the Lord gave him this job for a good reason. He didn’t believe it was for the money, nor the prestige, but for the gratification he got when he could truly help those that couldn’t help themselves—more specifically, the little children who needed medical attention and vaccinations. That brought him more joy than his paycheck from the hospital.
The loudspeaker announced the arrival of Rylee’s flight. Although there were many years of correspondence, Lucy had not received a recent enough photo of Rylee. So consequently, she did not know exactly what she looked like. In that case, they would just have to wait for someone to look lost. Lucy didn’t think to bring a sign to hold up; however, she didn’t want to cause any unwanted attention to her either. Lucy wasn’t quite aware of all the actual circumstances Rylee was really in but enough to elude unnecessary interest.
After witnessing the hugs, screams, and kisses of the patrons coming in contact with their loved ones, out moseyed a pitiful-looking thing with a mess of curly hair, big-rimmed glasses and a “boy, was-she- lost” look. This girl’s weight was by far over the insurance limit for her
height. Patrick watched as she bumped against a chair, thinking she would miss it.
“Ouch.” He winced. “That’s gonna leave a nice bruise,” he said, commenting under his breath.
He continued to watch the opening where the passengers were coming through the Jetway. However, his eyes kept taking him back to the tousled-haired girl.
He wondered who was meeting her. Patrick watched her as she looked through the crowd as if trying to spot someone in particular and caught Patrick’s eye. He smiled a hello, which caused the girl’s eyes immediately to avert to the ground. The compassion he was feeling for this stranger was overwhelming. He continued to watch her as she tugged at the bottom of her too-short top, then crossed her arms in front of her exposed skin. His thoughts took him to a paper Patrick had written for college on the benefits of smiling. He remembered the studies of smiling being contagious and making one feel better even when it seemed impossible, but this girl wasn’t having it. She didn’t look as if she had smiled in a while. Patrick wondered what made her so downtrodden and what her story might be. She might just be feeling alone and didn’t need some stranger smiling at her. He chuckled to himself. The scruffiness of her attire foretold her class, unless it was a disguise, which he sincerely doubted, for that would have only brought more attention to her situation. In addition, Patrick could not figure out if she looked that bad on purpose to make a statement or if she truly did not know how to present herself in public. Either way, he would pray for her. They needed to get on with the task at hand, which was to find Rylee and get going. He and Lucy continued to watch people exiting the plane until there was no one left but the crew coming from the Jetway. The only patron left in the wait area was the lost looking girl who had decided to sit and wait for her party.
“Mom, are you sure she was even on this flight?” Patrick asked, feeling apprehensive, since Lucy was not very forthcoming in giving him information about the situation. Not that he minded being out of the loop, but he was cautious for his mother’s sake. His mother looked at him smiling and then headed toward the seated girl. Patrick stared after her in disbelief, thinking he may be able to help that girl after all. Lord, I don’t suppose Rylee missed her plane, and this girl was sent to us for help instead?
Patrick was wishing he had done a little investigational work himself before Lucy took on this charitable feat. He was beginning to feel a little leery of leaving his mother alone while on his mission, not knowing what the circumstances might promote. The information given about Rylee was not sufficient enough to satisfy his curiosity. Patrick wasn’t sure if it was for his own sake or for Lucy’s. Either way, he wasn’t going to leave his mother in a situation she may not be able to get out of until he saw Rylee and felt it was safe enough to leave. That would be seven months of alone time with each other. A lot could happen in seven months, and sometimes his mother’s charitableness scared him. However, Lucy always prayed before jumping into things; therefore, she would have said no if she thought it wasn’t in the Lord’s plan. He would just have to trust that fact.
“Rylee?” Lucy asked.
The young girl looked up from the floor into Lucy’s eyes. Nodding her head, she stood.
Lucy grabbed Rylee’s arms and then threw her own around her.
“God love ya, girl! Welcome to America!” Lucy exclaimed.
Rylee was startled at the sight of the woman coming at her. Lucy could come on a bit strong at first, and Patrick wanted to warn her, but he was too late.
“How was the flight?” Patrick asked.
Rylee just nodded. He held out his hand for her to shake.
“Hi, I’m Patrick.”
Nodding again, she took his hand without making eye contact. With her free hand, Rylee pushed her glasses toward the bridge of her nose, for fear they would fall. Her glasses had seen better days, but they were her only pair. And until she had other resources, they would make do. Rylee felt that as long as she was able to see the two people before her, she did not need to worry about a new pair just yet.
“We’ve kind of followed you throughout the years but never actually met. It’s nice to finally meet you,” he continued. Patrick, getting a little lost himself, not really knowing how to handle the shyness, just shrugged. He wasn’t used to that. He didn’t feel it was snobbery by her actions, but time would tell, and then they would deal with it.
Oh, Lord, what did we get ourselves into?
Patrick shrugged his shoulders at his mother.
Lucy rubbed Rylee’s arms.
“That’s okay, baby. You’re gonna feel right at home in no time. Let’s get your bags and we’ll scoot on,” Lucy said sweetly.
Rylee shook her head, and then stated, “No bags.”
Patrick pointed to her tote bag hanging off her shoulder.
“Is this it?” he asked, reaching to take it from her so that he could carry it for her. Rylee looked up at him, but she held tight to the bag so that he was unable to take it. He shrugged.
“Okay, let’s go.”
This is going to be a challenge, he thought. Either there’s something in the bag she doesn’t want anyone to see, or maybe she just needs something to hold on to for comfort. For all he knew, her whole life could be in that bag. Patrick started toward the exit with Lucy trying to keep up and Rylee treading several yards.
“Patrick!” Lucy shouted, before he reached the escalator that led to the parking garage. She was a little out of breath. “I know you’re in a hurry, baby. But I’m getting an aerobic workout here trying to keep up with you, and we’re going to lose Rylee in the crowd.”
He looked back to see Rylee lollygagging along without a care in the world. She had her hands in her hoodie pocket and her head down, as if she were counting the cracks in the floor.
Her tennis shoes, which he suspected were once white, bled gray and nearly tripped Rylee as she sauntered toward him without picking up her feet. Her appearance belied her age, given that he knew she had graduated from college but appeared to be only about seventeen, maybe. I can’t believe I let my mother talk me into this debacle, he thought, as he watched Rylee before taking action.“I’m sorry,” Patrick said. He walked back several yards and waited for Rylee to catch up to them. When she finally looked his way, he pointed to the escalator and then gestured for her to lead. She quickly left her daydream state, pushed her glasses back toward her nose again, and picked up speed to accommodate Patrick’s direction to her. The hour-long ride home was going to be interesting.