"FASTER, FASTER OL' GIRL." He spurred the horse on, as the pursuing thundering hooves portended doom. They were gaining on him. He clutched one arm more securely around the waist of the woman sitting in front of him, as the horse galloped along.
"Aaaarrrrggghhh." Suddenly, an agonizing scream burst forth from him as the projectile pierced his back, ripping through his insides with such a vicious force that it also skewered the woman. Together they fell with a dull thud onto the dew moistened grass.
Lance Stevens jackknifed on the bed, cold sweating, trembling and gasping for air, literally feeling his insides being torn apart. He hadn't experienced this recurring nightmare in a while and wondered why it started to plague him again. Glancing out the opened window, he noticed that dawn was breaking. He filled his lungs with the fresh Swiss-mountain air that blew in, as he continued to breathe deeply to slow the erratic thumping of his heart. Reaching over to the night table, he switched on the bedside lamp and saw it. The reason for the nightmare: The book he had been reading, before he became enraged and flung it across the room before falling into tortured sleep earlier: The book in which the whole tragic past was written, and now making Claire's sister millions. The night nurse must have picked it up and put it back when she came in to check on him.
"Will I ever be free of the damned past?" He seethed bitterly. The past that had brought him to where he was now. No matter what euphemisms they may use to describe this place, he was still in a bloody nuthouse ... only a nuthouse for the neurotic rich...
* * * *
MEANWHILE, THOUSANDS OF miles across the Atlantic in her sumptuous lakefront home in Ontario, Canada, Claire stared with hatred and disgust at Dr. James Brandon, her husband. Her head hurt terribly from where he had grabbed her by her hair earlier.
"That was Pete, my brother-in-law. He only came to see how Jeff and I were doing," she said bitterly through her tears.
A brief vision of a dark haired man with insanely jealous and demonic glittering eyes, and mutton chop sideburns popular in the eighteenth century, momentarily swam before her, superimposing itself on her husband's face. Claire shut her eyes and shook her head, as she tried to fight the light-headed sensation of disassociation from the present that threatened to envelope her...
* * * *
"OH MY GOD, NO!" JAMES suddenly jerked backward as though he had been hit. His face drained of all color. Terror, or something akin to it, registered in his eyes as he fled from the room.
The memory flashed by him again. As he had looked into his wife's hate filled eyes, did he actually see her features shift and change into someone else's face, also with bruises that he had put there? It was only a few seconds he'd had the vivid impression of violet eyes, rippling long black hair and full ruby red lips in a face that was similar in structure to Claire's. Again, those memories assailed him -- memories of another place and time he felt he knew, as though he had lived there…
* * * *
KENN MICHAEL HARRISON STIRRED fitfully in his sleep as the violet-eyed, raven-haired woman appeared out of the mists again.
"Richard, mon ami, please help me. Find Ferdie, tell him I need him," she implored as always.
He reached out to grab her hand, but she disappeared into a wisp of mist. The dream sequence changed, and he saw himself standing over the woman joined to her lover by a spear, on the grounds of Cardon Hall. The man, not yet dead, implored Kenn Michael to end his suffering. Then he felt a furry head brush against his face.
Kenn Michael opened his eyes and sat up on the bed, awake as Fred his cat, edged closer and settled into his lap, purring.
"Thanks Freddy ol' boy," he murmured to the cat, grateful to it for waking him.
Glancing at the glowing red digits on the clock radio by his bedside through blurred vision, he realized he was actually crying, as the deep sadness that had engulfed him while in his dream state, lingered. He had been asleep only two hours, and the hum of traffic and sounds of the city outside his opened window signalled that Toronto was still alive and buzzing and would be that way for a few hours yet. Half an hour later, he was unable to fall back to sleep as images of the past he had seen only in his recurring dreams continued to whirl around in his brain. Kenn Michael got out of bed and went to the kitchen to get a drink. He filled a glass with cold milk and took it to the living room, set it down and stepped over to the shelving unit. From one of its drawers, he took out half of an old diary, written by a man named Richard Carlyle, who had been one of his ancestors. Though he had read it many times before, as though seeking new understanding for his recurring dreams, as well as something he might have missed, Kenn Michael sat down and started to read...
THE PAST BASED ON RICHARD CARLYLE'S DIARY
8, October 1799, Cornwall, England.
DUSK DEEPENED THE sky, and the last traces of purple, crimson and orange faded, leaving a chill in the air that went right to the bones. The thundering of horses' hooves along with Christian Cardon's deranged laughter receded as he rode away. With a sinking feeling of foreboding, Richard Carlyle rushed up the hill to the two unhorsed figures, now lying on the dew dampened grass. They were joined together by the spear that had pierced them through like meat on a spit.
Richard stooped beside his best friend and the woman they had both loved. The woman was already dead but the man wasn't. His pale face was a mask of agony, and his grey eyes were glazed with lingering death that was taking agonizingly long to claim him. Richard reached over one hand and gently shut the lady's staring violet eyes, his green ones almost blurred now by the stream of tears coursing down his cheeks.
"R..Richard, i..is it you?" The suffering fair-haired man asked with laboured breaths,
"Aye, my friend." Richard replied, his voice choked, taking his friend's limp hand in his. In his hand, Ferdinand held a locket that the lady Marie-Claire had given him. It contained a miniature painting of her.
"Ri.richard, I..I i..implore you my dear cousin, t..to end my suffering now." Ferdinand beseeched, as Richard moved closer and held his friend's head in his lap.
"Aye Ferd," Richard said with a choked sob.
He reached for the dagger he had always carried in his left boot. Although he was twenty-one, Richard had never outgrown a boyish penchant for carving names and caricatures on every tree trunk he came across. The rest of his leisure time was spent playing his lute.
"Marie i..is already gone ... God rest her soul. G.g.good-bye my dear friend and cousin," Ferdinand whispered in a raspy, barely audible voice. He closed his eyes in expectation for what Richard was about to do. For a moment serenity filled his face and Richard hesitated in doubt. "Please d..do n..not make me wait any l..longer," Ferdinand implored, sensing Richard's hesitation.
"Good night cousin." Richard whispered, swallowing hard on the constricting lump in his throat as he crossed himself, then held Ferdinand's head back and made a swift clean slit across his pale throat.
With his last breath Ferdinand managed a raspy, "thank you," and with a look of serenity now and the hint of a smile on his lips, he released it.
Richard stood up and flung the dagger away, as though the object burned his hand. He would never again derive pleasure from it. Not after this.
Standing in the deepening dusk, oblivious to the chill in the air, his mind drifted back in time to the events that culminated in this tragedy...
* * * *
RICHARD, THE ONLY SON of a neighbouring baron, was a distant cousin of the Cardon boys, and had literally grown up with Ferdinand and Christian but had always been closer to Ferdinand. Ferdinand the younger of the two Cardon boys, was a year younger than Richard, and the bastard son of Lord Anthony Cardon. His mother had been a stunningly beautiful French woman with fair hair and smoky-grey eyes, named Hélène Etienne. No one knew much about her, except that she had come from Brittany many years before.
Lord Cardon, recently widowed with the new baby son to whom Hélène was a nanny, set his sights upon her. Richard had been only a year old then, but according to local gossip Hélène subsequently bore Lord Cardon a child; the one that lay dead at Richard's feet now. Lord Cardon eventually married again, a lady of his own social background whom he had met on a trip to London. Hélène left the household. However, before leaving, she lured the man into her bed once more, thus getting pregnant again, or so local gossips claimed. Those who had seen her before she departed had claimed that Hélène was breeding and there was no doubt about whom the prospective father might be. She left the first child behind.
The jealousy, and resentment of childhood, intensified as the boys grew: Ferdinand into a personable and adorable child, while Christian became a quarrelsome brat, insanely jealous of his younger half-brother. Feeling that everyone, even his father, favoured Ferdinand more than him, Christian was given to vicious temper tantrums that were usually vented on Ferdinand. Having learned of his position as the Cardon heir at a very early age, he couldn't understand why his father would choose to have Ferdinand educated and treated the same as him, when the latter was only a bastard and son of a servant to boot. The boys were tutored at home. By then Richard, loved by his Uncle Anthony, had joined the two boys, thus saving him from being sent away to boarding school. Richard and Ferdinand became best friends, which only increased Christian's seething jealousy.
In 1793 when the boys reached manhood, an aristocratic French family fleeing the revolution across the channel, came to Cardon Hall. Lord Cardon had been a friend of the Comte Priedieux with whom he had done business on the continent. So it really wasn't unexpected when he opened his home to the family, now in misfortune. For Cardon by nature, was a generous man.
The count had a lovely young daughter, Marie-Claire, with whom Ferdinand was immediately smitten, and she responded in kind to him. Master Christian lusted after the violet eyed, raven-haired beauty, only because Ferdinand loved her. It gave him immense pleasure to take away what Ferdinand wanted, as he had done since they were children. However, Christian hadn't been able to steal his father's affection and Richard's friendship and loyalty from his half brother. Thus Christian despised the young Master Carlyle.
The strife and animosity that had taken root in childhood, intensified among the young men, and could only culminate in a bitter end which was set into motion when Christian demanded that his father let him marry Lady Marie. Women in those days had no choice in such matters, especially a woman in Marie-Claire's position. In her family's now impoverished state, and her father fearing that he wouldn't be able to find a more suitable husband for her, she was forced to marry Christian since he and his father were willing to accept her without a dowry. All she had now was her title and the few pieces of jewelry she had quickly managed to sew into the hem of the dress she had been wearing, when they fled France.
Meanwhile, Christian had been conducting himself in a most courteous and gentlemanly manner, and had fooled everyone except Ferdinand and Richard into believing he had changed his ways. Ferdinand tried to dispute his brother's claim to the lady, and was cruelly reminded that Christian was the first-born and heir, and therefore, if he wanted the lady, he had first choice. It had been that way for generations within the family, and Lord Cardon wasn't about to break the tradition now. A few days later Ferdinand departed Cardon Hall, vowing to make a fortune, then he would return one day and take Marie away with him. Soon after his departure, Christian showed his true colours again, often given to bouts of drunkenness, licentiousness and cruelty toward his wife. She had no one but Richard, who had stayed on at Cardon Hall for her sake. The second Lady Cardon had died in childbirth as had her predecessor while the boys were in their early teenage years, so Marie had never known her. The child had also died along with her.
Richard would often bring along an old lute that had belonged to his great-grandfather, which he would play as he sang for Marie. While he had barely obtained passing marks in his academic studies, he excelled in the art of music. Any instrument put into his hand, literally became part of him as he played, but he was most attached to his old lute. Like it did for everyone else when he played for them, his music and song would always soothe Marie and take her mind off her troubles. And Richard felt the most appreciation of his music from her.
After his departure from Cardon Hall, Ferdinand returned occasionally, always in secret, to visit Marie, and it was those visits that gave her the strength to carry on.
Since he was the one who would secure a meeting place for the two, Richard was the only other person privy to these secret meetings. When Marie became pregnant with Ferdinand's child, they made plans to leave Cardon Hall together at last, as he now was able to support her. They planned to sail west to America, the New World.
Tonight they were going to put that plan into action, until this...
* * * *
RICHARD LOOKED DOWN once more at the two lifeless figures through tear blurred eyes. Just as he stooped to pick up the locket that had dropped from Ferdinand's limp hand on to the damp grass, a serving maid looked out the window and cried,
Her cry set just about everyone in the castle astir and the next thing Richard knew, the whole household had gathered around him and the two murdered lovers. Through the noise and confusion ... for a hunting party was just returning and the baying of hounds was almost deafening, Richard explained what he had seen; how the two people on the grass had died. Lord Cardon believed Richard's account, and was not taken in by Christian's act of feigning grief over his dead wife as the man got down from his horse and knelt beside Marie, cradling her head in his lap.
Richard lunged at him, grabbed him by the collar, pulling him to his feet. He smelled the stench of spirits on Christian's breath.
"Lying murderer! I saw you kill them!" He slapped Christian across the face.
Christian looked at Richard with an exaggerated expression of shock. Drawing a deep breath as if to summon control, he then replied in an arrogant voice, his eyes dry and hard. "My dear cousin, are you sure it was me you saw? I've been with the hunting party for the last four hours, and haven't been anywhere near here." He turned to one of the men in the hunting party, "haven't I, Simon? Tell them man!"
The man nodded in the affirmative, but his expression said something else.
Christian, turning his attention back to Richard, added with a sneer, "but then again you've always hated me, so it's not unexpected that you would lay blame at my feet. However, my brother had a lot of enemies..."
"You drunken, lying whelp!" Richard's hands moved to Christian's throat as he grabbed him again and would have throttled him, had Lord Cardon not intervened and separated them.
"Now cease you two!" He thundered, turning to his son who started a tirade, berating Richard. "If I should find out that you are indeed responsible for this heinous act, I'll see that you rue it for the rest of your unholy life," he threatened Christian in a deadly quiet voice.
"Father, will you believe this hysterical creature over your own son?" Christian spat contemptuously. Meanwhile, the crowd had fallen silent. "Everyone knows that both he and my bastard brother there, would have liked to take Marie away from me..."
"Silence!" Lord Cardon, a tall and imposing man of fifty, glared at him. "Now leave me," he ordered Christian.
Three days later, following Ferdinand and Marie's interment in the family vault, Richard encountered Christian in the study. Deeply intoxicated, the man was babbling to himself, gloating over what he had done. A new spate of grief and rage washed over Richard, and he wanted to kill him. However, as Richard caught Christian's expression, he saw not just a drunk, but a raving lunatic as well. Richard hesitated, realizing Christian had received his just reward. Even lunacy was too good a punishment for him, but death would give him release.
Richard walked away leaving the drunken madman to his cups. However, an hour later while he was sitting in the library writing in the diary he kept, Christian staggered in.
Christian peered over Richard's shoulder to see what the younger man was writing. Disgusted at the sight of the man, as well as with the malodorous stench of his drunken breathing over him, Richard ordered Christian to leave him alone. A fight broke out as Christian tried to wrestle the diary away from him.
Richard scarcely remembered what happened until Christian lay sprawled on the floor with a silver letter opener plunged into his heart. In shock, bleeding from the scratches and blows he received during the altercation, with part of the torn diary in his hand, Richard Carlyle fled Cardon Hall never to be seen or heard from again.
23rd July 1950 Chihuahua, Mexico
LAWRENCE STEVENS CONTINUED to pace the room, feeling helpless, frustrated and worried. Glancing at the small alarm clock on the night table, he noticed it was two o'clock in the morning. Beside it the orange flames of an oil lamp flickered within the confines of its fragile glass shade, the top of which was already blackened with soot. The light barely lit the room, throwing distorted shadows on the panelled walls as the flame flickered and danced. Meanwhile, propelled by the high wind, the rain beat relentlessly against the glass panes of the window, sounding like pebbles being tossed against them. Forks of lightning streaked across the angry skies, lighting up the night with daylight brightness, followed by deafening thunder at intervals of every few minutes, as if in sync with Elena's contractions.
Twenty-four hours had elapsed since she went into labour, yet the baby showed no sign of coming into the world. Elena was in terrible pain but she was bravely trying not to show it. Larry sat down beside her on the bed urging her to go ahead and scream if she wanted to. It was one of the traits Larry had always admired about his Spanish-Mexican lover since they had first met in Buenos Aires last year where she was on a concert tour...
* * * *
ELENA WAS A SPANISH folk singer and flamenco dancer, known all over the Latin world.
Larry was visiting his younger brother Frank, who lived in Argentina. Frank's Argentinean wife, enthralled with Elena's music, had insisted they all go to the concert at the Teatro Col n. Having had seats in the first row near the stage, the minute Elena regally walked on stage and addressed the audience, Larry had felt an electrical current surge through his whole being.
Pale under the spotlights of the world famous opera house, Maria Elena de Rivera y Ruy possessed the bearing of a queen, dressed in a red flamenco dress that was her trademark. She was the most beautiful and seductive woman Larry had ever laid eyes on. Fine boned features gave her an overall look of gentility. Thick hair combed back from her high forehead and adorned with a red flower, was blacker than night as it cascaded midway down her back in lustrous waves. Her dark piercing eyes looked as though they could see right through you.
When he heard her sing, Larry knew he was lost. She had that sultry kind of voice that touched the very depths of his soul, and he couldn't get enough of hearing her, no matter what language she sang in. At one point when her eyes met his, Larry knew she had felt the connection between them, and after the performance he followed the compulsion that drove him. Leaving Frank and his wife, he made a swift beeline backstage through the crowd to wait for Elena, when she returned to her dressing room.
Elena, upon seeing him waiting for her as she was returning to her dressing room, dismissed her chaperon and manager, claiming she wished to be alone. Not one to waste time on preliminaries, Larry plunged right in as Elena invited him into the dressing room.
"I think we should have dinner and talk." While mesmerizing grey eyes literally held Elena enthralled, Larry's heart was in his throat anticipating rejection, wondering how he would handle it, but tinder and spark made contact and ignited as their eyes met. If Larry thought he had been dreaming earlier during the performance, the dream had materialized into reality. Elena's dark, limpid eyes spoke volumes, while she nodded her response, too overwhelmed to speak…
* * * *
LARRY WOULD HAVE GIVEN anything to marry Elena, but his avaricious wife refused to grant him a divorce. However, he intended to do everything within his power to give his child his name, whenever the little one decided to make his or her entrance into the world. It was certainly taking a long time, and he continued to worry.
Meanwhile, the storm which had began this morning, continued to rage with gale force, and there had been reports that most of the roads up into the heart of the Barrancas had been blocked by mudslides.
"What time is it querido?" Elena asked her worried lover. Even sweat dampened, she was still beautiful, healthily bronzed from the sun and built like a fertility goddess.
"Two o'clock." While he tried to keep the worry out of his voice, his lined, fatigued face gave away everything he was feeling.
"You think it's breach?"
Larry nodded his pale blonde head. "Oh gawd, I don't even want to contemplate that possibility, because there's no way Dr. Rodrigo would be able to make it up here. The storm's getting worse, and if I was superstitious, I'd be inclined to think this was some kind of omen. Thank God I'm not, but when I hear what's happening out there, I don't know what to think. "
Taking her hand in his, he continued tenderly, changing the subject in a vain attempt get her mind off her pain. "Darling, no matter what, I'll do anything in my power to give our child my name, even if you and I can't marry. In my heart you're already my wife: The only one who matters."
"That you love me and this child I'm about to bear you is enough mi querido." Elena whispered hoarsely, her beautiful long lashed eyes moist. "Ahhhh!" She moaned aloud, then screamed as an unbearable contraction came. Larry took her hand and securely held on to it.
At that moment Ysabel, the maid rushed in into the room with the necessary basin of hot water and a pile of clean towels. She and Cristobal, Elena's brother, had been hovering outside the door in anticipation of what might be needed, in case the doctor didn't show. Cristobal had sent a messenger earlier in the day before the storm had worsened. Now like Larry, Cristobal was pacing back and forth, his brow creased with worry. This baby Elena was having meant a lot to him too, apart from it being his nephew -- and he felt sure it was boy.
Meanwhile in the room, Larry continued to gently coach Elena as the contractions started coming closer together. He was sweating as profusely as she, feeling her pain.
"All right, just take a deep breath darling, and push ... push hard."
"He continued to coach her for about half an hour. Then at quarter to three, the seven pound ten ounce male baby with a profusion of wet black hair and pale skin, made his entrance into the world. He squalled in protest as his father slapped him on the behind, to make sure he was alive. Larry had taken the time two weeks ago, to ask the village doctor what he should do, should Elena go in to labour and the doctor wasn't able to reach her in time. Initially reluctant, the doctor had suggested that Larry and Elena keep the village midwife up at Las Piedras, but the woman had gone away and no one knew when, or if, she was going to return. Thus the old doctor had taken time to explain the procedure to Larry, in case of an emergency. The knowledge certainly came in handy now, upon the delivery of his son. Needless to say, he was thoroughly relieved it wasn't a breach birth after all and right now he didn't even want to contemplate the idea.
"I say, we didn't need a bloody doctor after all," he chortled complacently, concealing the dread that had been consuming him moments ago. Larry sat on the bed beside Elena, with the tiny baby in his arms. Eyes misting over, uncaring that it was un-masculine to openly shed even tears of joy, he whispered,
"My son, my only son," As Larry looked into the baby's light brown eyes, a shiver coursed up his spine. He sensed this child was unusual, different, but not in a negative way. He tenderly kissed the wet child then passed him over momentarily to Elena. "Thank you darling," he whispered tenderly to Elena. "You have given me the two greatest gifts a woman could ever give her man: Your love, and a son that is truly of my blood. He'll have everything that I could ever give him. He will be our own little prince." The tall, handsome blonde man could hardly contain his joy, as he bent over and gently kissed Elena.
* * * *
ELENA LOOKED UP at him feeling as if her heart would burst. She felt a sense of victory over Larry's wife, knowing she was the only woman who counted in her lover's life. It mattered not that he couldn't marry her, nor could she return to her father's house. Her life was here in the forbidding Barrancas of Northern Mexico with her lover and their child. It would never cease to amaze her, the depth of emotion this man was capable of, considering what she'd heard about Englishmen being detached and emotionally constipated. Well this one was certainly a deviation from the norm, and she still had trouble believing it at times.
"Promise me one thing," Elena said to Larry as she placed the squalling hungry child to her breast to suckle rather than handing him over to Ysabel so she could clean him up.
"If by some twist of fate you're unable to give our son your legal name, promise he will never suffer the indignity of being a bastard. Even in this day and age, life isn't easy for a child born out of wedlock, even one with blue blood on both sides of his family."
"I promise love, but why should you broach this subject now?" Larry's straight blonde brows knitted in puzzlement.
"You know what kind of man my father is, and the business he's in. He has brought shame upon our house and our noble name. I could never return to being Doña Maria Elena de Rivera y Ruy, however, our son must know of his heritage despite what my father has done. I suppose there has to be a black sheep in every family, even genteel ones. Although I'd mentioned to you before about the de Rivera y Ruy family being noble, I never told you that we could actually trace our ancestry back to Queen Isabella..." Just then Cristobal entered the room.
"He's here! He's here! I thought I heard a baby cry," he exclaimed. His brown eyes lit up at the sight of the child suckling contentedly at its mother's breast. "Es muy hermoso, hermana mia. ¡Claro que sí!" He continued in Spanish. "He should be very handsome, after all he is my nephew."
"At least there's no false modesty here," Larry remarked drolly, rather put out at Cristobal's untimely interruption. He was taken aback by what he had just learned about his lover's background. Sure there was gentility in his own background, but it stemmed from a bastard line, traceable only as far as 1796 to a nobleman named Lord Anthony Cardon. But why was he concerning himself with this now? Larry wondered for a pensive moment if some deep feeling of inadequacy might have been born within him after what Elena had disclosed. Well, it didn't matter their son was going to know who he was no matter what, but most importantly, he was going to know he was loved and he was special.
"Well, have you decided what you're going to name him?"
"Tiene paciencia mi hermano. The child was just born," Elena laughed, finding her younger brother's boyish impatience endearing.
"Can I hold him por favor? When you're finished nursing him of course."
"Cris, you are like an over eager little niño."
"How can I not be? He is the first of a new generation of Rivera y Ruys. The perpetuation of our line lies solely with you for now hermana, until medical science can find some way of making me a fertile man." A melancholy note crept into Cristobal's hoarse voice fully reflecting the look in his brown eyes, only to be quickly replaced by the hope of which he had just spoken. Despite the irritation at the man's untimely intrusion, Larry felt compassion for Cristobal's plight. He knew how difficult it could be on man not having a son of his own, to carry on his name. At least until tonight he did.
Three Days Earlier, Manchester, England
WHILE JOY ABOUNDED IN the Stevens and Rivera y Ruy household at the birth of the child, thousands of miles across the Atlantic five days earlier another child came into the world in a draughty, sparsely furnished flat in the poorest section of the city of Manchester, England. Materialistically, the future looked very bleak for him with a sickly mother, and a father who was away more often than not, trying to eke out a living as a lorry driver.
However, this child had one thing in common with the one born in Mexico. He too, was born into a union filled with love. Tom Harrison had risked losing his job, although prospects for another looked dim, just to be at home when his wife Sarah delivered their baby. Although he could hardly afford them he had brought half a dozen red roses for her, and when the florist learned why he was buying them, she had kindly included two extra ones.
Where Tom should have felt resentful at having an extra mouth to feed when things were already so tough, he felt only joy as he tenderly held the tiny five pound infant in his arms, sitting on the bed next to his wife. Although she was pale and weak and the work of labour showed in her fragile face, Sarah Harrison's amber eyes were alight and radiant as she looked at her husband and new son.
"I know I tried to talk you out of havin' him, but now I'm glad he's here." Tom spoke tenderly to the delicate and fragile strawberry blonde woman beside him. "'Twasn't 'cause I didn't want him, I just didn't want to risk losing you."
"Oh Tom darling, there isn't anything I wouldn't risk for you. We may not have much, but you have given me something much more precious than money could ever buy: Your love, your caring, trust and honesty. And now I have our son, something of you to remain with me when you're on the road and I miss you so. Thomas Joseph Harrison, I married you for better or for worse. We might be going through the worst right now because of the advantages in life we lack, but there are people out there a lot worse off than we are, because they don't have the love we share which makes us very rich indeed," Sarah declared with spirit and conviction.
"What did I ever do to deserve you?" The big, dark man choked as he leaned over and held her close to him with his free arm. "Gawd, how I hate havin' to go back on the road, leavin' yer and him now. It'll be much more difficult now that he's here. The run is to Bristol this time. I should be back in a couple days..."
"Don't worry about us. We'll be fine. Mum said she'll come over and give me a hand."
"I guess she's finally forgiven yer fer marryin' a bloke beneath yer, eh?"
"Tom don't you ever dare say that again! I would not stay with you if I thought you were beneath me." Sarah scolded in a harsh whisper, withdrawing from him, unable to stand it when he talked like that. "We just had an unfortunate turn of circumstances, but we'll rise above this. I have faith that we will. At least we still have our dignity. No one can take that away from us."
What Sarah didn't tell Tom was that her fiercely domineering mother had actually tried to persuade her to leave him and return home, but when Sarah refused, Janet Carlyle heartlessly turned her back on her daughter and grandson yesterday, before Tom arrived home. Sarah didn't want Tom to worry about her being alone with the baby with no one to help her. She would manage.
"Yer always give me reason to go on luv'. I could 'ave thrown m'self off some bridge a long time ago an' ended it all, but you always give me a reason t'come back 'ome." Tom drew Sarah back close to him and kissed her, long, tender and sweet, until they were interrupted by the baby's cries, as he awoke in his father's arms.
"I almost forgot," Tom handed the child to Sarah who proceeded to nurse him, "what are we going to call the little nipper, after all?"
"I decided on Kenn for a first name and I wanted you to choose the middle," Sarah said.
"I kinda like Michael, after m'dad. What d'yer think, luv'?"
"Sounds good to me, Kenn Michael it'll be," she agreed. "By the way, I forgot to say thank you for the roses."
"`Twas m'pleasure luv," Tom smiled. Her pleasure made spending the money he could hardly afford, worth it.
Five Years Later, Chihuahua, Mexico
"MIRA, MIRA AQUI," THE white skinned Mexican child who was christened Carlos Fernando De Rivera y Ruy, held up the silver cross he had received from his mother. He was only being allowed to wear it for the day. "Madrecita gave me this for my birthday. The stone is a real red diamond, she said. Look, it has my initials at the back of it." Carlos turned the pendant over to reveal the elegantly engraved C.F.R.R. "There are only two like it in the whole wide world. Tío Cristobal has the other one to pass down to his first child, just like madrecita said I must do with mine when I grow up," the boy said proudly.
"Ahh Carlos, your mama is so good to you. She gives you so many nice things." The other child said in Spanish, his dark eyes filled with wonderment as he looked up at the intricately designed silver cross with the red gem.
"Don't forget my papa too. He's the best papa in the whole wide world. He promised to bring me back a train set when he comes back from England this time. I can't wait to see him."
"Your papa is a gringo. An' everybody say the gringos are bad..."
"Well, my papa is not bad. And don't you ever say that again!" Carlos snapped. His brown eyes with odd golden flecks, fixed Paco a concentrated bleak stare. However, Carlos realized what he was doing and immediately stopped staring at his friend like that. Madrecita had warned him not to do it in public. He could already hear the cracking of a heavy branch in the tree above them. That branch, when it did break, would fall directly on Paco. Carlos was born with psycho-kinetic ability, and when he became upset bad things happened...
* * * *
INITIALLY ELENA AND Larry were justifiably alarmed when their son first demonstrated the ability at the age of four. He had asked Ysabel, their maid, for a cookie, and since it was close to dinner, Ysabel had refused to give it to him. Carlos became very upset and fixed her that same bleak and deadly stare. The next thing Ysabel had known, a picture frame had come flying off the wall right at her, while the little boy had literally held her transfixed to the spot by that frightening stare.
Ysabel had received a wound at the side of her head that required five stitches to close. Naturally, she quit her job following the incident. Claiming that Carlos was the spawn of Satan, Ysabel had fled Las Piedras in a hurry. However, before she left, Elena and Larry had paid her well to keep her mouth shut.
Following that incident, Elena and Larry had taken the child down to see the old village priest to be prayed for. The wise old man didn't curse the child as being of the devil, even if he may not have quite understood Carlos' ability. Instead he had said Carlos must have received his special ability for some reason, which would reveal itself later. However, it was up to the boy's parents to take responsibility and train the child in the Christian way. Teach him right from wrong and help him learn how to control his ability, not kill it. Just let God's will take over, because it was obviously the will of God that the child was born this way. Elena and Larry were astonished at the priest's reaction. They had been expecting the priest to perform some kind of exorcism or something. They learned later though, that old Padre Gutierrez was a very wise and kind man, well known for his rather liberal views and just about everybody in the village loved and respected him....
* * * *
"COME PACO, LET'S play hide and seek. You catch me," Carlos darted away quickly with his friend chasing him. The branch fell, barely missing Paco, and Carlos sighed with relief. Madrecita would spank his behind if she knew he had done it again.
Carlos and Paco became so caught up in their game that they didn't see the shadowy figure lurking by the old wooden shed behind the house, until it was too late.
The man slipped a large white cotton flour sack over Carlos' head and scooped him up, kicking and yelling.
"Let me go you big bully!" Carlos yelled. His screams brought Elena running out of the house to see a large man running down the hill, with her son struggling in the flour sack. "¡Madrecita! ¡Ayuda me! Don't let him take me away!" Elena could hear her son's muffled yelling as she chased after the man.
Elena, at five feet ten inches tall was quite swift on her feet, but she was no match for the man she was chasing. She chased him as far as where the road to the village crossed with Las Piedras. There the man got into a waiting black car and drove off. She caught a glimpse of the licence plate and knew the car was one from her father's fleet.
Elena sat down on the grassy bank at the side of the road, hardly feeling the heat of the blazing sun, feeling totally defeated, and for a while, allowing the tears to fall as memories started to flood her...
* * * *
"HOW LONG DO YOU THINK you will be happy with him?" Her father thundered at her, as they argued in the opulent living room of one of their two palatial homes: This one, a Spanish style hacienda in Puerto Vallarta, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Elena had just found out she was pregnant with Larry's child. "You are aware he can't marry you, and I don't want a bastard grandchild."
"Well that is your problem papa!" Elena snarled back. She was almost as tall as the imposing Don Jeronimo De Rivera y Ruy, and equally strong-willed. The way she saw it, he had shamed them all with his shady dealings that all Mexico City was talking about, and pointing fingers whenever Elena or Cristobal showed their faces in public lately. And old friends from respectable families had started avoiding them. Thus they had lost all respect for the man.
Elena, Cristobal and their grandmother had chosen to leave the home they loved in Mexico City, and relocated here to Puerto Vallarta. Their mother had died while giving birth to a third child that hadn't survived either. So the only mother Elena had ever known was her grandmother, who was rather indulgent for a Spanish lady of that time. The result of that indulgence was Elena turning out bold and daring as she was, where another young woman might have cringed and cowered in terror under the old don's glacial grey stare now.
"Papa, Larry loves me and I love him. It doesn't matter if Penny won't divorce him..."
"¡Puta!" Don Jeronimo slapped her. "We are Christian, and I won't have my daughter involved with a married man..."
"Christian papa?" Elena shot back with sarcastic laughter, rubbing the spot where his hand had just stung her face. "What a sick joke! Everybody in Mexico City knows what you are. Nothing but a filthy hood! Gangster!"
Again, Don Jeronimo slapped her, and Cristobal, hearing the commotion, rushed in and punched the older man hard enough to knock him out. He grabbed Elena and pulled her out of the room.
"I'm not condoning what you did, by rescuing you from him," Cristobal rasped harshly when they reached Elena's room where he led her, and locked the door. "But I approve of what he's doing even less. Now pack your clothes. Hurry! Larry is waiting. I just saw him, and when I heard the argument between you and papa I told him not to come here. ¡Caramba hermana! I knew you always had cojones, but to take on the old man? ¡Jesus Cristo! ¡Estas loca!" Cristobal paced the room like an agitated rooster, but in his light brown eyes, was something akin to admiration for his sister's daring.
Cristobal, even though he punched out his father in his sister's defence, would have never dared to get into an argument with the man. Cristobal knew his father had a very vicious streak, and when he decided to exact his vengeance, which he always did, being family may not matter much. Cristobal was now afraid for his sister as well as for himself.
"Anyway, hurry up. I'm taking you and Larry to a place where papa won't be able to find you two." His expression was bleak now as he leaned against the door, not quite trusting the lock, as Elena frantically packed.
"Where are you taking us?" Elena inquired.
"You remember Las Piedras?"
"Sí, the big old house up in Chihuahua that Abuelo Rivera left to the both of us. How will we get there? And will we be safe?"
"You will be safe. Abuelo said before he died, that papa didn't know about Las Piedras. He had known what papa was involved in all along, and the way he put it, you and I might one day need a place to get away. I guess that time has come. Now hurry up! I'll wait outside the door."
"Cris, what about abuelita?"
"The less she knows the better. It's good that she's away in the city visiting her friends right now. I'll have to come back for her later when she returns."
Elena's singing career wasn't mentioned, but it was an unspoken understanding between her and Cristobal that she won't be returning to singing for a while, if she ever did at all.
Elena couldn't resist hugging her brother in gratitude, for what he was doing for her and Larry. She had indeed shamed herself by getting pregnant out of wedlock, and by a married man to boot. Although they had always been close, she hadn't expected Cristobal to stand by her anymore than papa did.
"Gracias hermano," Elena whispered as she released him again.
"I have my reasons for doing this hermana. Apart from loving you very much, somebody has to preserve this family's honour," Cristobal replied brusquely…
* * * *
ELENA REMEMBERED THE other reason why Cristobal had helped her escape from their father -- the morning Carlos was born.
Her brother was sterile.
Now with Carlos gone, to whom was Cristobal going to look, to carry on the family's name?
Gone. She couldn't believe it. Elena had always harboured the fear at the back of her mind that one day Don Jeronimo would find them and exact revenge. She knew her father well enough to know he would never forgive her for what she had done or Cristobal for helping her.
Cristobal had said papa could never find them up here. Then how did he? She thought for a moment.
Ysabel. Yes, that must be it. Ysabel probably told whomever the old man sent scouting to look for his daughter, where Elena was, even though Larry had paid the girl enough to keep quiet. She was a poor and simple girl who had more than likely been bribed with more money, by whoever she had been forced to tell of Elena and Cristobal's whereabouts.
* * * *
"ELENA," CRISTOBAL WHISPERED with a sudden hollow feeling at the pit of his stomach. Something was dreadfully wrong, as he saw her sitting distraught by the roadside nearly a quarter mile away from the house. He was just returning from Santa Clara where he had gone to get groceries and other household supplies. "Por favor Dios, don't let it be!" He too had always shared his sister's constant fear of being found by their father. He drove the Land Rover closer, got out and rushed to her side.
"¿Elena que pasa?"
"Carlos," she whispered hoarsely, looking up at him through reddened, tear blurred eyes. Cristobal's thoughts momentarily drifted back to the car that had sped past him on the way up, almost running him off the road. It had looked strangely familiar.
"Dios mio, no," he breathed, comprehending the situation.
"They took him Cris." Elena collapsed into her brother's arms, giving vent to agonizing weeping.
"Shhh hermana," Cristobal comforted her. "Larry is expected back later today. I'll follow them now and you can tell Larry when he comes, so he can come and join me. I'll send a cable where I am and he can join me there." Cristobal quickly took out the bags of groceries and placed them on the bank beside the dirt road, for her to take up to the house. He kissed her on the cheek and quickly got back into the jeep, turned it around and raced back in the direction from which he had come.
Elena watched him go, feeling empty inside and totally abandoned. As her thoughts centred on Larry a sudden foreboding engulfed her; a sinking feeling that she was never going to see him again either. Elena prayed and hoped against hope she was wrong as she rose, picked up the bags of groceries and walked back to Las Piedras. However, prayer brought her no comfort now. The sinking feeling didn't leave her. Instead, a sense of resignation settled in.