Chasing Summer: How Many Shoes Has My Soul Walked In?

Chasing Summer: How Many Shoes Has My Soul Walked In?

by S. L. Garber-Ortiz


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For the better part of her life, Lynn has concealed her true identity, but now her past is catching up with her.

But that's only one of her concerns. Who is the little girl haunting Lynn, pushing her to the edge of a nervous breakdown? Then there's the matter of her mother's death, the cremation-and the missing ashes.

To unravel the mystery, Lynn enlists a psychotherapist to help. And while she reconciles her past and reclaims her life, a peculiar request in her brother's will places her on the path of A Hero's Journey.

Despite Lynn's disbelief in the afterlife, she becomes the unwitting steward of her mother and brother's lost souls when a sequence of provocative dreams and a few fortuitous encounters intersect to set a divine comedy in motion across the Mediterranean, Indonesia, Egypt, and South America. Though, one mystery remains unsolved-one that will uncover the truths of her soul. Until a serendipitous message leads her to her final crossing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781532050237
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/05/2018
Pages: 222
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.51(d)

About the Author

S. L. Garber-Ortiz is a native of Southern California when not traveling the world. She winters in Arizona and summers in San Deigo.

Read an Excerpt


The Shoe Department

June 21, 2017

What was I thinking? Nordstrom's shoe department ... during a mega sale ... and it's Saturday! I must be out of my flippin' mind.

I'm on the hunt for a pair of red mules. Pushing through the herd of bargain-hungry shoppers, I spot my query and close in. Hmm, good toe cleavage. Uhhh. Wait a minute. Where's the ... other shoe? It didn't walk off by itself ...

Amidst the banquettes and aisles littered with rejected try-ons, sales clerks run relays between the stockroom and their finicky patrons.

I flag a clerk. Overwhelmed by the bedlam, he runs for cover. One mule shy of a pair, I return to the jungle of shoe racks to prowl the floor looking for its mate. The way I went searching for my soul once and found it — amongst the discarded rubble of my past.

Today, I'm on a different kind of mission.

That's when I see you. Well, not your face, your feet, taking a pair of strappy sandals for a stroll.

I look up. Our eyes meet; we smile.

"Lose something ...?"

"Yes, what's left of my mind, and I doubt I'll find it under this rack. Actually, I'm looking for the mate to this shoe," I hold up the mule. "Have you seen it?"

"No, I haven't. But I'll keep an eye out. What size is it?"

"Seven." I slide my foot into the mule to model it.

"Ooh, very sexy. Good choice. I like the color and the sassy buckle, too."

At first glance, I appear easygoing, and a savvy shopper — much like you. You might even take the initiative to strike up a conversation. And I would respond with something like:

"Those shoes look so cute on you! If you don't buy them, I will."

While you try on shoes — and I keep my eyes peeled for the missing mule — we'll kibitz. You'll feel comfortable talking to me, as though you've known me forever. We'll discuss the book I'm writing about my travel adventures. You'll tell me about the vacation you're shopping for, show me the outfits you've purchased for it, and by the end of the conversation, you'll probably buy those sandals. We'll part, and I'll likely leave you thinking:

What a fascinating lady, a world traveler, an aspiring author ... I'll bet she has an exciting life.

First impressions can be deceiving. I know firsthand. I've been the mistress of disguise — a veritable one-woman masquerade ball. It's all a matter of a simple sleight of hand.

Now, this isn't to say I don't live life on the edge, or enjoy the company of close friends. I do. At least I do now. Everyone has a before and after story.

And this is mine.

Although when a dear friend asked if I would be authoring under a nom de plume or my full name, it gave me pause. I had spent forty-two years as Lynn Ortiz. It seemed obvious — at least to me. But nothing about my life has been obvious.

Take my last name, for instance: 'Garber-Ortiz' 'Garber' is my maiden name. And while Ortiz is someone's married name, it isn't mine. I made use of it the way you wrap a scarf or slip on a turtleneck to conceal a scar or birthmark.

But who is Lynn Ortiz? She wasn't born. She evolved into a Holly Golightly personality, never getting too close, always deflecting. Underneath, I was a frightened and fragmented soul. Every fiber violently yanked from its intended circuit board.

I wasn't always that way though. Something happened. It always does.


The Summer Wind

Memorial Day Weekend May 27, 2007

It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside."

Maud Hart Lovelace

No matter where you are in the world, the soft murmur of summer draws you in as no other season can.

Santa Monica Beach is five miles from my house, yet it's been years since I walked the shore or enjoyed the sunset. My excuses were the crowds, the traffic, the parking, but those weren't the real reasons. I had lost someone, someone precious. She went missing twenty-years ago, somewhere between the beach and the arcades. Vaporized, like steam from a kettle.

And it's a mystery I'm determined to solve, though I haven't worked out the "how" part. Hiring a private investigator would be a bit over the top. I have entertained a scene from a Raymond Chandler novel to that effect.

I picture myself at a sidewalk café on the boardwalk of Santa Monica beach. A Philip Marlowe–type has agreed to meet me.

I arrive early and grab a table on the patio, towards the back, in the corner, away from other patrons and the clamor of the boardwalk's roller skaters and bicyclists. The waitress approaches.

"Coffee, please."

Minutes later, he arrives, right on time, wearing his signature trench coat. I wave. He acknowledges and walks toward me. He takes a seat and looks me straight in the eye, brows furrowed. We make our introductions. The waitress returns and asks, "Sir, can I get you anything?"

"No, nothing, thank you, I won't be here long."

He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a pen and spiral notepad. I take a sip of my coffee, lean back in my chair, and give him the particulars. When I finish, he slips his notepad back into his pocket. As he is about to leave, I lean forward.

"You won't have a problem recognizing her. She's the kind of person who stands out from a crowd and sets a room alight. She's bright, funny, and engaging with a daring, uncompromising spirit. The kind of person I want to be. Someone you'd want as your friend."

"I'll see what I can do," he says as he slips his notepad back into his pocket and leaves."

We agree to meet a week later, same place, same time.

My usual seat on the patio was taken. I went inside and claimed a booth at the back of the café. I see him approach the host stand. I wave to him He has a file tucked under his arm. He slides into the booth facing me and tosses the folder across the table, then shakes his head and says, "Sorry, kid. No can do. It's a cold case. You're on your own."

He would be right.



June 1, 2007

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

–Edgar Allen Poe

Anxiety, the bedfellow of insomnia, awakens me from my twisted dream right on schedule. I don't need to look at the clock to know it's 2 AM, too early to get up and too late to take another sleeping pill.

That little girl from my nightmare not only haunts my nights, she torments my days as well. Like the little girl wearing the red coat in Schindler's List, omnipresent. Yesterday, I saw her in line at the market. Those eyes, those soulless eyes.

Why won't she leave me alone?

Daytime is my alternate reality. Work is manageable. I don't have to be personal, only personable. I'm good at that. After all, it's easier solving other people's problems, making them feel special, than focusing on my own. When I'm not working, I'm a recluse. Social interaction makes me uncomfortable. I'm good for an hour, tops. Beyond that, my veneer wears off.

My polite, sociable cover is blown, and I have to leave. There's always an excuse, some emergency I have to attend to.

Worse still is the reflecting pool of intimacy, into-me-see; I can't allow it. I can't even bear to look at my own reflection. I only look in the mirror once a day, long enough to don my mask for work. Under eye concealer, a thick shellac of foundation and a broad stroke of blush does little to hide the ravages of sleep deprivation. I had beautiful skin once — porcelain smooth as a Dresden doll, like my mother's.

Wearing two faces requires rising early, which isn't a problem, given my insomnia. I turn on the shower. With my every nerve ending frayed, the water could be scalding and I wouldn't know. All I feel is the pelting water on my head, cooling the fried synapses of my brain.

I rely on a muted palette to paint my wardrobe: black, grey, khaki, and beige — lots of beige — nothing too bright that would draw attention. I want to fade, disappear into the background.

My mind has been spinning out of control so long I can't remember what normal feels like. This is my new normal, a virtual existence: The underworld of the night and the waking world of the day. As if at some point, while I was asleep, the real me got replaced with an alien pod to fool others. It won't be long before I'm found out.

I want the real me back. I want to be her again. I used to have a wonderful life with beautiful dreams, but not anymore. Now there is only the nightmare. Like a parasitic earwig devouring my brain, it's sucking the life out of me.

I made an appointment with a psychotherapist for 9:30 this morning. How do I explain what's wrong with me when I don't have a clue?

I reheat another cup of coffee in the microwave, my third thus far. I hear the beep — that confounded annoying beep, pushing on my last nerve. My body wants to jump out of its skin. I don't blame it. I want to jump out of the nearest window. The digital clock alerts me, 8:30. I'd better leave now, or I'll get stuck in morning traffic.

My hands shake like a detoxing addict's as I push open the door to the therapist's office suite. The receptionist, a young woman in her mid-twenties, smiles. She swirls the sign-in sheet around for me to register.

The lighting at the reception desk reminds me of an operating room. The way it gleams to catch the glint of delicate instruments; the kind for probing and dissecting.

I stiffen my posture to appear indifferent and scrawl my signature. It isn't too late to run. There's still time; my appointment isn't for another half-hour.

No! The inner voice demands. I'm tired of running!

I take a seat and pretend to read one of the magazines provided. I can't focus. My eyes jump from page to page with the attention span of a gnat.

"Hello." A soft voice calls my name. "I'm Dr. Metcalf." I nod. "I'm pleased to meet you. Right this way."

She's attractive, late thirties, early forties. Only her dermatologist knows for sure. There comes a time when we all become "women of a certain age." When bartenders stop carding us and men no longer ogle and whistle at us.

We're expired goods.

I expected a type-A personality. Anxious to examine her newest lab rat, but her serene demeanor reassures. She's not going to judge me.

"Now, Lynn, where would you like to start? What brings you here today?"

"A recurring nightmare." I fidget.

"How long has this been going on?"

"At least ten years. I don't remember exactly when it started."

"How often do you experience it? Every night, weekly, monthly?"

"It comes and goes. Most recently was last night."

"Tell me about it."

* * *

I'm trapped, like a caged sparrow longing for flight, my heart pounds as I race across the sodden ground. A shadow sweeps across my path and bears down on me. It rushes to my right. From out of nowhere, another darts to the left. I sense the presence of the third above me, encircling the net.

A clap of thunder heralds the imminent storm. Lightning sets fire to the rain, unleashing the wind's cold, biting lash across my shoulders.

Pools of mud slap at my legs, impeding my strides.

Another bolt of lightning flashes, illuminating the silhouette of a house, my refuge. If only I can reach it in time ...

Exhausted, soaked to the bone, I climb the stairs to the portico. A little girl paces the wrap-around veranda like a sentinel.

She approaches. I shiver. Her soulless eyes — black as obsidian — slice through me as she holds out a key.

The shadows are stealing my breath; it comes in gasps through jolts of panic. I jab the key at the lock. I can't see the opening and my hand won't keep still.

At last, I hear the click of tumblers, but the door is stuck with the ravages of time.

I throw my full weight against it; and again. It squeaks. The shadows can't catch me inside. I'm safe.

A crack of thunder, another bolt of lightning, sends vermin scuttling along baseboards. The smell of decay emanates through cavities of broken sheetrock. Memories of this house, empty now, haunt me. A child's silhouette projects against the wall. Or is it the shadows looming outside waiting to annihilate me?

The interior is a disjointed assembly of never-ending skeletal rooms. Switchback staircases ascend to landings leading nowhere. Doors open to voids except for one, tucked under the main staircase. It brings me to a long, dim hallway.

To the right, an alcove leads to a steep, winding stairwell. A mysterious locked door appears at the top of the staircase, but my key is useless.

I hear the faint sound of a child laughing. I peer through the keyhole, but the room inside is too dark to see anything. A chill brushes at my side ... I shrill. It's that little girl, holding out another key, beckoning me to follow her through the locked door. I reach for her, but she vanishes.

I'm in the hallway again, wandering and opening doors, looking for the little girl. At the far end of the hall is an antique gilded mirror. It draws me closer. Each step distorts my image. It ripples and morphs into a hologram, laughing in a mocking tone.

It is the host of my incubus.

I run from the mirror screaming, but the hall door slams shut and locks before I can reach it. I drop to my knees screaming and pounding at the door.

I finish. Dr. Metcalf stops writing. Her marionette smile hasn't moved once since we started. Botox. I can spot it ten feet away.

"Do you wake up screaming?"


In truth, I just lie in the end zone of another sleepless night shaking, soaked in a pool of sweat. It reeks of that foretelling stench, odiferous as cat piss; the smell of my soul rotting.

The Montblanc pen rolls between her palms like a diving wand. I cross my arms, waiting for her to render the oracle.

"The symbolism of your nightmare is very revealing. Since this is our first session, I will need to know more about your history. In our next session, we should examine the pivotal character in the dream: the little girl. In the time we have left, tell me a little bit about your mother."

"Umm, let me think about that for a minute."


ess of the Moon

May 26, 2007 10 AM

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

— Buddha

Memorial Day Weekend. I should've been doing ... something, anything other than spring cleaning. Maybe I should treat myself afterward, go to the movies.

By midmorning, I finished cleaning downstairs. As I dragged the vacuum up the stairs, I noticed a stream of light emanating from the hallway's peek-a-boo window above. It struck mother's portrait like a key light.

The angle seemingly lifted the paddles of her cheekbones like boat oars. I paused to admire it.

Mother was a timeless haunting beauty that could've emerged from an ancient epoch. She had a face like Helen of Troy that could've launched a thousand ships and inspired a million masterpieces.

She wore her hair long and drawn back in sections, obscuring an otherwise prominent widow's peak. A sweep of curls gently dusted her alabaster shoulders.

The demure upturn of her smile hinted at the intrigue of a Mona Lisa. I would like to have known the lady in the portrait, now freeze-framed behind glass like a blooming flower cast in resin. Reflecting the time before her soul eclipsed.

I set the cleaning products on the dresser and started vacuuming under the bed. The upright's boxy foot kept banging against something. I knew what it was. I'd managed to avoid it up until now, pushing it deeper and deeper into its catacomb.

But there was no escaping the demons under the bed. Not today.

It was my mother's hatbox and an old suitcase. Both blanketed with dust, rooted like grey moss to a time capsule. I exhumed them from their resting place, sat on the bed and opened the suitcase.

Ah, that delicate scent, an enduring reminder of her physical existence filled the room.

* * *

"Sorry, doctor, I kind of drifted off. You were asking me about my mother."

"Yes, yes. What was your first memory of her?"

"Her shoes, though, that may have had something to do with our height difference at the time. She was the best-heeled person in the room. If she happened to be out of sight, but somewhere in the vicinity, I recognized her by the drop of her heel.

"Then, there was her perfume — soft and alluring as a lover's whisper. It lifted into the air from the sashay of her walk — a walk that could fan a flame and revive a dying ember."

"Sounds like a very vivacious woman."

"She was. But she was also a tiger mother. Southern mothers are a different breed of cat.

"In what way?"

"Well, let's get one thing straight. There's a misconception about southern women being fragile, helpless creatures — damsels in distress. It's a boldface lie!"

"No one could feign helplessness quite like my mother, but make no mistake. There was nothing helpless about her. That aside, there are subtle qualities that make a woman a southern woman. It starts with their manner: quiet, unassuming. Their posture is straight as a book spine. Their voice is soft and demure, but don't let it fool you. Behind closed doors, my mother was a war witch."


Excerpted from "Chasing Summer"
by .
Copyright © 2016 S. L. Garber-Ortiz.
Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Shoe Department, 1,
The Summer Wind, 3,
Dreamweaver, 5,
Goddess of the Moon, 13,
Baby Doll, 17,
Beyond the Looking Glass, 21,
Angel of Death, 27,
Room Full of Stars, 30,
The Garage, 34,
A Long, Hot Summer, 37,
Boulevard of Lost Innocence, 47,
Affairs of the Heart, 51,
Sweet Sixteen, 56,
A Gypsy on Ice, 63,
The Getaway, 67,
Mothers and Daughters, 74,
The Stranger, 78,
Enter the Dragon, 83,
Me, Myself and I, 89,
Sympathy for the Devil, 95,
The Letter, 100,
Brother, Where Art Thou?, 104,
The Sky Bridge, 108,
Paradise Sleeps in the Valley of Regret, 110,
The Accidental Tourist, 116,
Wild Kingdom, 126,
Cruise Control, 135,
The Apartment, 149,
A Woman from Pompeii, 163,
The Cameo, 171,
Two Women on a Train, 174,
Florence of Arabia, 184,
You've Got Mail, 195,
Garber Hill, 198,
Epilogue, 205,

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