|Publisher:||Bivens & Jensen Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
Read an Excerpt
A Dream Across Time
By Annie Rogers
Bivens and Jensen PublishingCopyright © 2006 Roger and Mala Burt
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSt. Lucia, West Indies 1980
At the airport's entrance magenta bougainvillea and yellow hibiscus rioted on the median strip, drenched in tropical sunshine. Jamie Elliott's green eyes widened in response to the lush foliage and pulsing colors. She smelled ocean, the salty tang overlaid with the diesel exhaust of tourist laden taxis careening away from the airport. She felt exhilarated.
"Oh, Paul. Isn't it beautiful?"
"Chaotic's more like it."
"Strange ... it feels oddly familiar." The scene before her shimmered, turned dark around the edges.
"Don't go spacey on me now, Jamie," he said.
Paul caught the eye of one of the taxi drivers. "Omega," he called out. "We're waiting for a driver from Omega."
"Oh, sure, that be Emmanuel, then. He over there limin' wit' Portia." The driver waved to a small, dark skinned man in the corner. "'Manuel, these people waitin' on you." The first driver smiled, then moved on to the next group.
A young man hurried toward them. "Welcome to St. Lucia. I be Emmanuel." He grasped their hands like they were old friends, just reunited. "I be takin' you up to the house in Rodney Bay. Mr. Wilkerson, he make all the arrangements so I take good care of you."
Jamie warmed to his open, friendly manner as he led them to his shining, yellow minibus.
"Mr. Wilkerson, he send this for you." He motioned to a small cooler. "I load the bags and you check it out. There be cold beers, soda and rum punch in that water bottle. Oh, and in the bottom, that one is water, Mistress."
Jamie flashed him a smile. "Perfect. I'm really thirsty." Paul opened a beer and drained it in several swallows. "What is this pony bottle crap?" he said to Jamie. "You need three of 'em just to quench your thirst."
Jamie ignored him and took a long swallow of cold water. She lifted her dark, shoulder-length hair and wiped the cold, sweating bottle against the back of her neck, sweat sheening her pale arms.
"We loaded now, so best we start," Emmanuel said as he slid the van door shut.
"Paul," Jamie said, "your seatbelt."
"Lay off, Jamie. Stop acting like my mother."
"Sorry. Say, what do you think that customs guy thought we had in our boxes? He seemed surprised when he pulled out my sewing machine and painting supplies."
"Who knows?" Paul palmed another beer. "It was a pain in the ass."
As the van pulled away from the taxi area and left the airport, Jamie hoped Paul would fall asleep so she could gawk to her heart's content and ask Emmanuel a million questions. She couldn't remember when she had been this excited.
"This be your first trip to St. Loosha?" asked Emmanuel after they had been driving for a short while.
"Yes, it is," she said.
"Well, then, I be the first to show you the beautiful blue sea of St. Loosha before we go norf."
Turning the van off the road, he followed a dirt track which wound through a grove of coconut palms. He finally stopped the van on a stretch of golden sand.
Jamie was spellbound. The water was brilliant shades of blue and turquoise, and the beach seemed to go on for miles. Fishing boats in stripes of red, green and yellow were clustered under coconut palms, which stood like slender sentinels lining the shore. Men sat under the trees, mending their nets.
What an adventure, Jamie thought. A great new job for Paul and a new start for us. Things'll be good again, like they used to be.
Jamie's artist eyes drank in the colors and composition as she reached back and shook Paul out of his doze.
"Paul," she said, shaking him awake. "You have to see this, it's just too gorgeous."
They stepped out of the transport. "Those waves would be great for wind surfing." He slapped a gnat away from his face. "If it weren't for the bugs, I'd think we'd landed in fuckin' paradise."
Jamie ran down to the water's edge, mesmerized by the scalloped trails left by each receding wave. She couldn't get enough of the sea's greens and blues.
"Hey, don't take your shoes off, Jamie. Come on back." Paul glanced at Emmanuel.
"How long a ride to Rodney Bay? I'm beat." Paul's previous mood had improved with the cold beers, the bright tropical sun and a brief nap.
"Yeah, mon, we get to the norf in some couple hours. The road rough in spots. But Mr. Wilkerson, he say take care wit' you and I be doin' that. He be vexed if you not happy."
As Jamie walked back toward the van, a tiny, yellow-breasted bird swooped in front of her, its bright color reminding her of the parakeets she'd had as a child. As they sped up the road, the exotic landscape entranced her, lush vegetation simultaneously tropical and surreal. But most of all, she was mesmerized by the surging sea with its constantly changing blends of blue and turquoise.
"Do you ever get tired of looking at all this beauty?" she asked Emmanuel.
"Oh, no. God give us this island, and he want us to be givin' thanks for the gift. The tourists, they comes an' look for a little while, but us Looshans get to look every day, every day. Always the sea and the island. Different and always the same. We be blessed people, we Looshans," he said.
She glanced back at Paul, who had fallen asleep again. He looks so vulnerable when he's asleep, she thought, her former irritation sliding away. He's probably as scared as I am. She remembered customs. Those steely eyes glaring while grubbing hands searched the luggage, looking for Lord knows what. Jamie shivered, in spite of the heat. They'd never even traveled before, let alone lived in a third-world country.
As they left the sea, the road wound up into the hills, through acres and acres of banana plants. Jamie wished Emmanuel would drive slower so she could really look at the large purple flowers which hung from the bottom of what appeared to be the beginnings of a stalk of bananas. She had another unsettling flash of recognition. Where have I seen that before? She closed her eyes for a moment, pushing at the memory, trying to remember.
She felt the van accelerate and opened her eyes to see it passing a flatbed truck overloaded with telephone poles. Chains crisscrossed the load and workmen, perched high on the pile of poles, waved at her as the van pulled abreast. Jamie smiled and waved back.
Suddenly the yellow van swerved toward the loaded truck. She caught a glimpse of a red pickup truck coming fast around the bend.
The flatbed's top heavy load shifted as its wheels went into the ditch. Jamie watched in horror as poles rolled and banged to the ground. Men screamed. Emmanuel pulled onto the shoulder and jumped out. The telephone poles lay thrown across the road, like a giant's game of pick-up sticks.
Jamie saw bodies on the road. She jumped from the van and ran for the nearest man. He was unconscious, bleeding from a gash on his head, one arm folded unnaturally beneath him.
"Don't move him," she ordered as men began to lift the injured man. "His back may be injured." The men looked at her, spoke to one another in a language she couldn't understand, then lifted the unconscious man into the back of a pickup truck.
"What are you doing?" Jamie yelled. "Has anyone called an ambulance?"
"The nearest ambulance is forty minutes away, if it's available. And the closest phone is far down the road. The injured will get to hospital faster in the trucks."
Jamie turned to look at the good-looking man addressing her. "You were driving the red pickup," she accused.
"The injured need help," he said and strode off. Jamie followed, glancing around for Paul, who was standing by the van. She motioned for him to come and help.
A crowd had gathered around an injured man. What's wrong with these people? Jamie thought. Why aren't they helping? She pushed through and knelt down by the victim, pulling back a shirt sleeve to expose a spurting wound.
"We need some clean cloths," she said. If only Paul were nearby, he could get something clean out of their suitcases. Someone handed her a folded shirt.
"Thanks," she said, looking up. It was the man who had been driving the red pickup. "I'm Jamie. I could sure use some help."
"Andre. Tell me what to do."
"Do you know how to make a tourniquet? Otherwise this man will be dead before he ever gets to the hospital," she said. Andre spoke in rapid Patois. As they waited, Jamie glanced at Andre's profile. When he turned to face her, her artist senses took in his calm dark eyes, the distinctive cleft in his chin.
"Are you a doctor?" he asked.
"No, just a first aid course in college. You seem to know what you're doing ...?"
"When you live here, you need to know some basic first aid."
A dirty rope and a stick appeared, quickly formed into a serviceable tourniquet.
Jamie was relieved someone was taking charge. She watched Andre move from one injured person to another, checking them, sending people on their way or telling them to stay. Then he motioned for her help. They worked well together, their movements graceful and coordinated. She watched the power in his muscular back as he helped lift one of the injured into a truck.
"I didn't expect this," she said, gesturing with bloody hands. "We just arrived on the island. My husband's signed on with Omega. Where will these people be taken? There is a hospital here, isn't there?" Jamie asked.
"Yes, quite a good one actually. But there are few ambulances on the island."
As Jamie stared at Andre, something stirred deep inside. She pushed it down. "Well, I hope I'm never in an accident here. People with spinal injuries can be crippled for life if moved improperly. What kind of a country is this, anyway?" Now that the crisis was under control, Jamie's emotions were taking over.
"A rather poor one, I'm afraid." Andre extended his hand to calm her. "I'm sorry this is your introduction to St. Lucia."
Jamie took his hand and looked quizzically at his face. "Do I know you? You seem familiar ..."
The words trailed away as Jamie suddenly felt woozy. She swayed and began to slide to the ground. Andre caught her and pulled her into the shade, where he sat her down and pushed her head to her knees.
"You're awfully good in a crisis, but do you always collapse afterwards?" he asked when her vision began to clear.
"'Fraid so. I should have thought to warn you I'd be on the ground once things were under control." She looked at him again. "Are you sure we haven't met?"
Andre noticed the flush creeping up her neck. He knew the signs of heat exhaustion. "Let me get you some water from my truck."
"Thanks, but we have water in the van that's taking us to Rodney Bay. My husband's around here someplace."
"Let me walk you back to your van, then. Can't have you passing out in the road again." He took her arm as they headed toward the van, his touch reassuring. "It's a small island. We'll run into one another again. Thanks for helping. You made a difference. Next time we meet, I hope it will be under more pleasant circumstances."
At the van, Emmanuel was alarmed. "Mistress, you be covered with blood. You hurt?" His face showed concern as he handed her a wet rag. "Mr. Andre's truck get mashed up, for true."
"Do you all know each other?" Jamie asked with annoyance as she climbed into the front seat of the van. She scrubbed at her hands and arms.
Turning to Paul, she asked angrily, "Why didn't you help?"
"Why'd you jump into that mess? You don't know those people."
"Those people? They're people, Paul. They needed help, for God's sake. How could you just stand there? I kept looking for you, asking for you to come." Tears burned. "Oh, go to hell."
"Emmanuel, let's get going," Paul ordered, reaching into the cooler for another beer as the van started on its way.
Jamie looked across the road, where Andre was inspecting the fender on his truck. He glanced up and gave her a thumbs up sign and a smile, which turned quizzical when he saw her tears. She didn't see him watch the van until it was lost to view.
Blood had dried around the edges of her fingernails, and Jamie picked at it. She sat for a long time, knowing she would have to confront Paul, also knowing it would have to wait.
"Where do all these people live?" she finally asked Emmanuel, noticing people walking on the sides of the road. Men carried machetes, some entire stalks of bananas on their shoulders. She saw women who balanced boxes on their heads, baskets of laundry, even one with something that looked like a gas canister.
"Some live by the road or in the fishing villages. Some up the hills where they be growing some bananas or maybe vegetables for market. That why the men be carrying cutlasses," he replied.
"It's what I call a machete," Jamie said.
Apparently the accident had not fazed Emmanuel, and they swept around the curves, weaving in and out, avoiding one pothole after another.
In one village both sides of the road were lined with children of all ages, all dressed in blue skirts or pants and yellow shirts. Matching blue and yellow ribbons adorned the girls' braids. "Like a flock of little yellow breasts," said Emmanuel.
"Yellow breasts?" asked Jamie.
"Our little banana birds, we call them yellow breasts. You saw one at the beach. One build a nest just outside my front door. The mama let me know how vexed she be each time I go in and out. But I say to her, we can share this place."
The children called to one another, happy to be released from school. Even at the end of the day they all looked immaculate, most carrying book bags or small plastic bags. Only a few of the boys had shirts hanging out, shoelaces untied. Smiling faces lifted as the van passed. Emmanuel honked and Jamie returned the waves of the friendly, open-faced children.
"They're adorable. Do all the children wear uniforms to school?"
"Yes, and each school have a different color. You will see as we go up the road. Some red and white, some brown and blue, or green and yellow. All different. Just like our island birds."
"I had tropical birds as pets when I was a child. Always wanted a parrot. Maybe here ..."
"Our parrots almost gone. They trapped for meat, for the feathers. Only twenty or so left, protected now in the rain forest. We hopin' they come back," Emmanuel said.
The van continued its climb into the hills. Views of the ocean were left behind, and the banana and coconut plantations swallowed the road. It was shadier here, the air cooler. Suddenly rain fell, glazing the vegetation. And just as quickly the rain was gone. To Jamie it seemed that the sun had not even been covered by clouds.
"A little blessing," Emmanuel said.
She looked back at Paul, who was again asleep. He looked so young. Her anger softened. She often wondered if their children would have that same open, unguarded look about them. The best part of Paul. Would they have his ashy blonde hair and soft brown eyes? His square jaw reminded her of Andre's cleft chin. Images of the accident came crashing back. Oh, stop it, she told herself as her stomach rumbled. You just need something to eat and a bath.
And we will be better here. A stable job for Paul. No money worries. He'll be more settled and I'll be the best wife, plenty of time for me to pursue my painting and designing. We can be happy again. I'll make it happen, she promised herself, remembering how she had relied on Paul's strength after her father's death. Before Paul had started drinking so much.
Jamie watched the sides of the road, taking in one impression after another: a boulder strewn river with women doing wash, clothes spread out on the rocks to dry, deep mountain valleys and hills shrouded in mist, little wooden houses with primitive decorative touches in the bright colors she'd seen on the fishing boats. And glorious flowers everywhere. Jamie, sated with the visual joy of the scenery and still reacting to the accident, was suddenly very sleepy.
"Mistress, wake up. We here." Emmanuel's voice reached through her foggy slumber.
The van had stopped in front of a small, one-story house. It was a drab gray, built of cement block with a porch that continued around three sides. Patchy grass and a few bushes with an untended look struggled to survive.
"Paul, wake up. Paul. We're here."
"Is this it, Emmanuel? Are you sure this is the right place?" Paul asked, looking around.
"Yes, Mr. Elliott. Mr. Wilkerson told me bring you to the Fricks' house around the gap from the St. Lucian hotel, and this be it."
The front door opened and a small woman walked out to the van. Her skin was the color of mahogany, her hair plaited in tight cornrows. Huge golden hoops hung from her ears. Dark eyes regarded Jamie somberly.
Excerpted from A Dream Across Time by Annie Rogers Copyright © 2006 by Roger and Mala Burt .
Excerpted by permission.
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