Three friends, 33 days, and 500 miles walking the Camino de Santiago add up to one journey they’ll never forget
Piper Rose, Dani Shapiro, and Alexandra ‘Tessa’ Louise De Mille Morrow share a history that goes back to their preschool years in Chicago when their families were still intact. Now Piper lives in Evanston with her divorced dad, her estranged, unstable mother popping in and out of her life at random moments. Meanwhile, Dani’s been living in Santa Fe with a psychologist mom pregnant with her fiancé’s IVF babies. The blueblood Tessa resides on a prominent street in Boston and dreams of a romantic and well-heeled love story like that of her great-grandmother who went to France during World War II. Now that it’s the summer before college, these radically different friends decide to celebrate their history and their future by walking the legendary pilgrimage along the Way of St. James, from the French Pyrenees to the Spanish city of Santiago. Along the way, each young woman must learn to believe in herself as well as in her friends, as their collective journey unfolds into the experience of a lifetime.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Jacqueline Kolosov teaches creative writing and literature at Texas Tech University. She is the author of the young adult novels Grace from China, Red Queen’s Daughter, and A Sweet Disorder, and the poetry collection Memory of Blue. She lives in Lubbock, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
Along the Way
By Jacqueline Kolosov
Luminis BooksCopyright © 2015 Jacqueline Kolosov
All rights reserved.
At O'Hare I breathed in the citrusy smell of Dad's cologne, and bent down for one more slobbery kiss from Dexter, wishing I could bottle his cinnamon-wet dog smell for the trip. "Come on, it's time to get you checked in," Dad said, hefting my nineteen pound rucksack out of the back seat.
I lingered in the front, my fingers deep in Dexter's thick chow fur. "Just one more minute," I said. Yes, I'd been training for this pilgrimage since March, but right now I couldn't help second-guessing the decision to fly across the ocean to a country whose language I barely spoke (I'd studied German all through high school), then walk across Spain with Tessa and Dani.
"Piper —" Dad called again, depositing my rucksack at the curb.
I stepped out of the Volvo, met his blue-gray eyes.
"You know you want to do this," he said. "How many miles have you logged walking?"
"At least two hundred," I said.
"I'd say it's time you put all that training to the test."
Dexter stuck his lion's head out the window, barked.
"Come on, Piper Girl," Dad said, touching my shoulder, "you've been talking about this for months, and you've worked hard. Now, just relax."
Dad's horn-rimmed glasses were typically spotless as was his neatly ironed white shirt. "You think either one of us knows how?"
"Well, we certainly know how to have a good time," he said.
"That's debatable." Dad's idea of a good time was an hour in front of his favorite trio of Monet haystacks at the Art Institute, the latest biography of T.S. Eliot or Piet Mondrian, or a sweaty game of squash; and mine? Quick sex didn't count, nor did double espresso, but running was high up on the list, and so was photography — I'd packed my Nikon and two lenses for the trip despite the weight it added to my pack.
I had to admit Dad was being stellar, not just about all of this pilgrimage stuff, but about re-bonding with the friends I'd met on Sally's Playhouse when I was four, especially since the idea to get me onto the show had been another one of Rebecca's spur-of-the-moment ideas, and thankfully not one that cost Dad financially or in terms of self-respect. As Rebecca, my delinquent mother, told it, on the day of the audition Dad had been buried in the stacks at the Regenstein Library when she saw an ad seeking 'bright, cute children for a local TV program' in the Chicago Tribune. She dressed me up in some Little House on the Prairie gingham, then took me into the city, determined to land me on Sally's Playhouse and get a head start on my college fund.
That drizzly afternoon nearly fourteen years ago, Tessa and Dani were there for the audition too. For god knows how long, the three of us compared toes and talked about Sally's ginger poodle Roxy who growled at Max, the clown, and wound up biting a kid during the next season. Supposedly, the three of us fell asleep in a heap inside the playhouse right after the producer shouted, "Action!" Everyone laughed, except Sally who, despite her kid-friendly pigtails and sunny t-shirt, was actually a major bitch. Only blonde, blue-eyed Tessa got the part; Dani turned out to be camera shy and allergic to Sally's perfume, and my buck teeth gave me an unfortunate overbite on TV. Even so, our mothers found us so adorable tumbling across the plush carpet and leaping over bean bags twice our size that they decided we had to stay in touch forever.
The story of our friendship started there. We've seen each other only once every year or so since we were six when Dani's parents and then Tessa's left Chicago. To this day, Tessa's very proper mum and Dani's intellectual one stayed in the picture. My own did not. Rebecca was the kind of mother who'd let me have Kool-Aid and Cocoa Puffs for breakfast and liked to fill the bathtub with candles, (once causing the terry cloth shower curtain to catch fire).
Then, nine years ago, she was caught skinny-dipping in the dean's pool with one of Dad's graduate students. Gossip on campus soared when she took off for the Ritz Carlton and checked into the Gold Coast Suite where she lived on Mimosas and raw oysters for a week and maxed out the credit card. Within the year, Rebecca and Dad divorced, and there wasn't any question of who I was going to live with.
"You better get going, or you'll have to sit in row forty," Dad said, wrapping his arms around me.
"I'll miss you." I buried my face in his shirt, both of us aware this goodbye was the prelude to the bigger one in September when I left for NYU.
"Me, too. Now," he said, hugging me close before letting me go, "you've got a plane to catch."
After Dad's battered red Volvo merged into traffic, Dexter's lion face was the last thing I saw before a Mercedes SUV cut them off, I hoisted the rucksack onto my back and let the weight settle around my hips where I'd packed my extra lenses and enough shampoo to see my mane of hair through the month. From pretty much this moment forwards, the rucksack and I were going to be constant companions.
Inside I checked in, then stopped for a bagel and jam and a grande tea with extra honey, and did a little people watching. Pretty soon I was fiddling with various settings and photographing the scene beyond the café's glass, intrigued by the way the travelers' faces and bodies became a blur of color and movement.
Once I felt sure I'd gotten at least one good shot, I put away my Nikon and drained my cup. From the far end of the counter, a rangy guy with a morning after shadow (at four o'clock in the afternoon) tipped his latte in my direction and smiled.
After smiling back, I checked my watch, shrugged. It was time to go.
At the row of sinks in the Ladies Room, I stared at my face in the mirror. Sure, I'd inherited Rebecca's ski slope straight nose and her good skin; I had Dad's eyes, his wide smile, and all six feet of his height. Trouble was on me the combination just didn't add up. Big surprise there, given the disaster that had been their marriage. Like my dirty blonde hair, which remained poker straight even in serious humidity, and the smattering of freckles along my nose, I was plain. Only my long legs and my name, which had its own story attached to it — I was actually named for the Pied Piper — set me apart.
It was one of those absurdly romantic stories (that have no chance in this world), and one I had a hard time believing, especially given what came later. "Your mother was browsing the seminary co-op," Dad explained. "She wore her hair in one of those tight dancer's knots, and her feet had that perfect turnout —"
Dad had always been a ballet fan, a serious liability since Rebecca was one of the principals in the Chicago City Ballet (and liked to grand jeté and elongée around the kitchen while Dad made dinner).
"May I help you?" Dad asked, approaching my then twenty-one-year-old mother who sat on the bookstore floor, legs outstretched, toes pointed. She'd pulled out volume after volume of fairy tales, absent-mindedly creasing the pages, a bookseller's nightmare.
"I'm looking for a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamlin," she explained.
"You a student? A teaching assistant?" Dad asked, though to anyone else it would have been too obvious that she was neither.
"No, we're staging the story for the ballet, and I want some background."
And so it began, the love story-turned-god awful marriage that exploded after ten years and led to me and my name. Rebecca was a month shy of twenty-two when she married my thirty-five-year-old father (who, she said, was forty even before his hair began to gray). And really, the Pied Piper wasn't like Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella where the prince ferries the princess off to live Happily Ever After in an air-conditioned castle with a state-of-the-art kitchen, a Jacuzzi, and hired help. The Pied Piper lured little children away, charming them with his lute. Only later, when I learned that the Pied Piper may have been a pseudonym for the Plague that wiped out millions, did the legacy of the story and its connection to my family click into place.
In the bathroom at O'Hare, a girl with white-blonde Rasta-hair stood beside me, trying just a little too hard for the bohemian look with her ankle-length skirts and earrings the size of small Frisbees. I tried not to stare — once again contemplating the photographic opportunities, though I'd need her permission — as I brushed my teeth, meticulously (not a cavity in ten years). On my second go round with the brush it occurred to me that without the dreads, this girl sort of looked like Tessa whose corn silk blonde hair had lost none of its wave, whose skin had never surrendered to zits, and whose eyes remained the blue of cornflowers — at least that's what Dani, who'd taken up flower-arranging, called the color.
Poor Dani. How was she going to manage a three hundred mile journey on foot? Yes, she was sturdy, "the descendant of Jews used to warding off Cossacks," she joked during rough moments, like the time we had to push the colicky triplets she was babysitting uphill in a stroller. But she wasn't exactly athletic. "I've been training," she wrote on the blog — Three Pilgrims — we'd used to prepare for this trip. (Tessa had wanted to call the blog Playhouse Pilgrims, but I warned her that such a name would inevitably bring Hugh Hefner fans — and worse — to our site.)
God help Dani, and us, for we're in this together, I thought, reminded of Dani's retro Mary Janes, her idea of serious footwear. "You did break in your hiking boots, didn't you?" I'd asked in our last online exchange.
"Sure," she typed back, "twice around the block."
These words did not inspire confidence.
As for Tessa, who grew up in one of those two hundred year old "historic landmark" houses with walnut floors and lead glass windows on a famous street in Boston that had been photographed for Architectural Design twice, her ancestors had come over on the Mayflower and included the late actor Montgomery Clift and a second cousin who, Tessa's mum said, mortified the entire clan when she married a gambler prince living in Monte Carlo, and switched from wearing Givenchy silk to Versace sequins.
In other words, Tessa's idea of 'roughing it' was designer jeans, a cashmere sweater, and Italian leather boots — or Uggs. Her hiking boots had been handmade in Peru by people used to living and walking at high altitudes.
Whose idea had it been anyway? I wondered, rinsing out my brush, as Rasta Girl nodded goodbye, leaving in a jangle of bronze bangles. Whose ludicrous, dazzling idea to undertake the Way of St. James, a pilgrimage going back to the ninth century, one that took its name from the saint martyred in Jerusalem whose body was said to have been transported to Santiago via a crewless ship?
"Thanks for the aisle seat," the semi-cute guy with the loose dark curls, Jonathan his name was, told me after we changed places.
"No problem." I hugged my knees to my chest and nearly knocked down the seatback tray in front of me. "I'm way too excited to sleep."
"Yeah?" He grinned, instantly letting me know that 'excited' was probably the wrong word to use with this guy. "I'm going to crash after my second whiskey."
I scanned his face for even a trace of facial hair. "Aren't you underage?"
"Babe, this is Iberian Airlines, not American. After Logan, only international law applies, and in Europe," he grinned even bigger, "there's no minimum age."
Lord, I thought, another guy who thinks drinking is a contact sport.
He leaned close. "Join me?"
I didn't bother to answer, just turned towards the window where the luggage was making its way onto the plane, and kicked myself for not reading the signs with this one, like that Pay Attention to Me Pink polo. Guys like Booze Boy didn't even bother to cut off the Lauren tags, and they always made sure you knew they paid retail.
Sure enough, thirty minutes into the flight, the attendant brought him two Johnny Walkers, which he basically bolted, then switched off his overhead and began to snore.
"Are you studying abroad for the summer?" a nearby voice asked.
I looked up at the person in the window seat in front of me: hazel eyes, a shaggy head of blonde hair, good bones, but a jaw that screamed Ego. "Not exactly," I said.
"Just going to bum around Europe then?" he asked, his eyes drifting to my breasts.
What were the odds of an overseas flight on a foreign airline, wedged between two Americans under twenty with about as much class as thumbtacks?
"Well?" he said again.
"If you must know," I said, raising my chin, enunciating clearly, "I'm going to walk the Compostela."
"It's a pilgrimage going back hundreds of years," I said. "People from all over the world come on foot to Santiago —"
"You're jiving me, right? Santiago's a band from the Netherlands."
"Santiago is a city near the Atlantic on the far side of Spain. Four days from now I'm going to start walking in a village in the French Pyrenees."
"No way." His hazel eyes flickered beneath lashes that were definitely wasted on this guy. "You're actually going to spend a month walking. What are you on some kind of weird de-tox diet?"
"The pilgrimage is a spiritual quest," I said, knowing I should quit talking, look out the window, get up to pee — though that would mean stepping over Booze Boy. "A test of strength."
He was grinning, leaning closer, so that I swore I could smell alcohol on his breath, too. "You going to do this on your own?"
"With two old friends. We met when we were four." As soon as the words were out, I wanted to pinch myself. Hard.
"Tessa, you always give too much away to the wrong people," Mum was constantly reminding me.
She was right, and the last three minutes proved it ten times over.
"These two old friends," he said. "Are they as gorgeous as you?"
I clammed up then, leaned back against the seat, squeezed my eyes shut and wished I'd worn sunglasses and stopped at Concessions to buy French Vogue.
"Hey, don't leave me now. We were just getting to know each other."
Give it ten minutes, I told myself, and this one will have forgotten all about you.
Always, it was my luck to attract what Gran would have called the 'Arse-pinchers.' Why? It's not like I ever wore tight jeans or anything lycra. No, I'd dressed in loose olive linen for the trip, a cream silk scarf and pearl earrings my only accessories.
"Just look in the mirror," my little sister Kimmy said. "If you gained twenty pounds (more like thirty), you'd be a twenty-first century Marilyn Monroe."
I tried to deny it, but how could I when, by the time I was twelve, I was wearing a D cup bra. Mum said I had curves where other people just had bulges. It might not have been the in-thing to be voluptuous (though Blake Lively helped me out a little), but wherever I went guys and even men as old as my father ogled me. Some actually did pinch my ass; I mean, my bottom. Once it even happened during my cousin Marguerite's wedding at the National Cathedral right under the archbishop's nose.
"Arse-pinchers, Tessa," my great-grandmother — Gran — said. "You need to give them the what-for. Next time one of these good-for-nothings gives you the once over, tell him to pick up some binoculars and try bird watching. Better yet, reward him with a nice, firm slap."
"Yes, Gran," I always said, for I loved my great-grandmother more than almost anyone else, except maybe Kimmy, for Gran's life had been filled with extraordinary adventures and kindnesses; but she had no idea what guys today were capable of.
Even the escorts at my debutante ball. Gran was so giddy — so to-die-for-happy — about me dancing with that big World War Two general's great-great-grandson that I didn't dare tell her what I'd heard — the great-great- grandson had a reputation for being into bondage: handcuffs, black leather, whips.
"Haven't I told you about that parachutist who thought he could play it fast and loose at the canteen in Paris?" Gran used to say when I so much as hinted at how much things had changed.
"Yes, Gran." There was no denying I was incredibly proud of, more than a little in awe of, my Boston-born great-grandmother who'd volunteered, at eighteen, with the Red Cross at the end of World War II and got shipped over to France where she fought off too many of the homesick American GIs that she was supposed to look after by serving them coffee and donuts and by dancing — the Swing, the Jitterbug, even the Charleston — all of which Gran's mother considered unbearably risqué.
"The Home Front," Gran said of the service she'd helped run in ruined Parisian buildings as well as in the meeting houses of country villages that had just been bombed.
Excerpted from Along the Way by Jacqueline Kolosov. Copyright © 2015 Jacqueline Kolosov. Excerpted by permission of Luminis Books.
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